Shadows and splatters of red and wet are all that's left of my company since the last wave of devices ran through. There's not much left of you to bury when a buzzgrenade goes off at your feet. Mostly just a smell like old batteries and a layer of brown over everything.
I used to think that I'd love to get a machine gun and go share some of my happy thoughts with the pretty rich white toymakers who dreamed these little death-dolls up. If it wasn't for 30-second advertising spots in the middle of Dora the Explorer, my kids and their kids and everybody else's whining little brats wouldn't have given a second thought to the furry little lions and frogs and bunnies that “Does Everything Your Child Does” - or did. Now my children are dead because their favorite toy-walking-kangaroo-cum-Terminator got the notion to push a No. 2 pencil through their temples late one night.
Hey kids, guess what Santa brought you this year? Seven and a half pounds of metal and fur and weapons-grade semiconscious neural network. Just like a cruise missile!
I kick aside the scarlet-hot skeleton of a toy pig with my steeltoes and plunge my fingers into a pile of brown that's had enough time to cool. I get three dogtags for my efforts.
Just a bad combination. That's what the swine-faced company spokesperson said on TV three weeks ago, when the first foam-rubber Winnie the Pooh killed the first toddler with the handle of a spoon. Just a mistake in design that allowed a nineteen-year-old hacker somewhere in Jersey to upload a modified military ghost into the nanoprocessor grid of a Smart Toy. Just a bad calculation that made them decide to add a wireless interface so the toys could “play together”. Works wonders for spreading computer viruses. Not to mention battlefield coordination.
Speaking of battlefield coordination, I think I need to move my troop to a more secure location. This meat freezer is already half vaporized, and I can hear more of the furry deathballs coming now.
The most frigged-up part of the whole thing, at least in my mind, is the stuff that comes out of their mouths while they're turning you to snail fodder. Things like “Are you having fun? I think this is a lot of fun”, and “Let's all play a game!”. One thing is for sure, somebody here is having a ball.
I stick my head up over the side of the of the freezer in time to see the sliding doors way up at the front of the Wal-Mart we're bivouacked in grind open. I can see the tops of their heads – blue, green, yellow, purple, spots, stripes, shiny metal carapaces. They're sort of toddling in. Just little toy toddlers, except there's about seven hundred of them. All of them are carrying something.
For stuffed animals, these little monsters are incredibly hard to kill. After all, they've nearly wiped out the population of Denver in about 20 days. They're mostly synthetic fur and batting, with a bit of cheap wire and a brainbox to make them go. Odds are, the first three or four sidearm rounds you put into them are only going to hit stuffing. Three or four rounds to a kill is way too much; there's ten thousand of them in this city alone.
There's no way I'm going to sit here and let a battalion of stuffed seals and bears and Little Mermaids with scalpels and machetes come to me; it only took one rubber snail with a grenade to take out ten of my buddies this morning; hell knows what kind of weapons this bunch might have.
One thing is good; I've got no lack of firepower. I was able to get a few good shotguns and some hunting rifles from the sporting goods department, and something like 9,000 assorted rounds for them. The rotting corpse behind the counter didn't even run a Brady check on me.
The mixed herd of brightly colored killing machines has begun to break up and wander around the store. They seem to be forming groups by type. A row of five blue penguins waddles single-file past my aisle without looking in my direction. They are chanting, “I love you. Will you be my penguin friend?” over and over. One of them is carrying a wad of bloody, blonde hair between its flipper hands.
The TV ads said that the batteries in Smart Toys never need to be replaced. A radio bulletin a few days ago clarified that to “We think the power supplies are rated to last 70 or 80 years”. Talk about a toy that will last the rest of your life.
I rise to a crouch, both of my hands full of Remington 16-gauge. I feel incredibly vulnerable with my head above the edge of the meat freezer. How many eyes are out there? A thousand? I imagine I've been seen already. I hold the weapon to my shoulder, take brief aim, and let fire. A shiny plastic elephant explodes in a cloud of blue. I pump the shotgun again, and this time I take out a cluster of bright green parrots. The last thing I hear from them before I bust their brainpans is one of them saying, “Oh look! A new friend! Can I play with your toy?” I'll have to remember that one the next time I need a dirty joke.
It only takes a few seconds to reload the dinky two-round magazine once I've done it a few times. The area around my position is littered with chunks of plastic, fur, and electronic parts. I guess some of them had a chance to radio in the good news before I disassembled them. I can see them coming at me now. They remind me of zombies.
My weapons roars again. Three more down. If I'm quick, I just might be able to keep them off until... I don't know what. I don't think they're capable of giving up. Maybe I should thin them down a bit, then run for it. It's only 30 yards to the front doors.
I'm close to the ground again, opening another cardboard box of sharp-smelling ammo when the penguins rounded the far corner of the freezer. I can't see any weapons from where I am. They're waddling in my direction now. They look like a platoon of miniature Grim Reapers.
I finish reloading my weapon, and I take out two of them in a single shot. I pump the handle and take aim to finish the others.
Robot penguin number three lifts his flippers up over his head, tips touching. I just have time to see the glint of metal there before he throws it. Quick little bugger. If I hadn't tried to jump up and move, the unfolded Swiss Army knife would have been in my chest instead of the folds of my cargoes.
No more of this bull, I thought, and ended their penguin misery with an injection of American firepower. The Second Amendment was never intended to defend us from our own toys, but I guess we're stretching it just a bit today. I'm sure Thomas Jefferson wouldn't mind.
I can hear the gibbering critters in all directions now. I can't stay here anymore. I stuff as much ammo as I can into my pockets, and tuck four of the best guns under my arms. I hope those doors don't stick.
No point in hesitating now. I'm up and running before I'm even sure I'm going to move. I can hear the thick clicking of hollowpoints and cartridge caps smacking together in the pouches on my legs.
It's incredible how far a hundred feet can be when there's shooting going on. I get about halfway before I hear gunfire behind me, and I see what's left of the glass doors shatter outward, obliterating a handful of toys standing in the arcade-vending area.
I'm not stopping now. The crumpled frames of the doors are right there in front of me. Either I'm going to get out of here or I'm not. I'm not going to volunteer to die in Wal-Mart at the hands of a toy walrus. Another volley of gunfire erupts somewhere behind me, and I drop to my elbows and skid through the mangled doorway, gouging my arms on the twisted doorframes.
I low-crawl through the arcade, ignoring the smell of rotten coke and burnt popcorn, holding my head below the level of the second doorframe. I hear a “plunk”. Oh my god. Too late to worry what's on the other side of that door. I'm on my feet and out of there in three seconds. Good thing, too, because the grenade goes off in four. I suppose I would have been turned to brown goop too if there wasn't a Pepsi machine next to the door to provide cover for me.
The buzzgrenade bursts with a dry “phump”. Heatwaves whoosh out of the open entryway, shattering car windows in the parking lot and causing the vending machine to sort of droop. I can smell my hair burning. I pat it out without thinking.
I make my way across the long front wall, keeping a foot or so away from the painted brick. Reduces the chances of being hit by a rico. I drop behind a newspaper stand to take a look around. I can't see anything important besides a bunch of burned out automobiles and a machinegun manned by what appear to be Energizer bunnies. They're beating their little drums and saying, “We keep going and going and going and going...” They aren't shooting yet; they haven't noticed me. I can move quietly when I have to...
I holler at the top of my lungs. I bend over, clutching myself and trying not to cry. A baby doll about two feet tall is standing in front of me, gearing up to kick me in the softies again.
You can beat me, you can humiliate me, you can even kill me, but you are NOT going to do that. I rip her fool head off before she knows what hit her.
I have to get behind cover before something worse happens, or my softies aren't going to matter very much anyhow. I see the burnt-out hull of a Chevy pickup parked halfway around the corner.
I slip from behind the USA TODAY machine, and gain the pickup without being noticed. It's a good thing Wal-Mart parking lots are always slanted. I grab the metal stub of gearshift and pop it into neutral. It rolls downhill, past the edge of the store, and out into the open parking lot. No bullet can penetrate fifty SUVs.
It's been three hours now. I'm hiding out of sight in the cab of the truck. I think – I hope – that I'll be able to slip off under the cover of darkness in a little while. I don't know if Smart Toys can see in the dark or not. I suppose it's my only chance.
Something taps the driver-side window. Oh gee, It's Barney the Dinosaur with an Uzi. I love you too, Barney.