Co-Winner: Most Original Story
Co-Runner Up: Best Story
They didn’t look happy.
Kent Ashland had never appeared before the Happyland board before, but then again, he’d never created things like the stuff he’d just submitted. He was actually proud of taking risks this time, really working from his personal passions. He actually thought they were calling him up to give him a raise. But now that he saw them…well, they didn’t look happy.
“Ashland,” said one of the executives sternly through a scowl. “Good.” Kent suspected it was the last positive sentiment he’d hear. “Sit.” He did, at the end of a long expensive-looking table in a large, expensive-looking conference room. About a dozen men and women in expensive-looking suits were already seated. A commercial for Happyland looped silently on the wall’s flat-screen TV.
“It has come to our attention that you have recently developed some new…ideas for the park,” said the exec. “Please explain to the board…” He paused and stared Kent in the eye. “…what you were thinking.”
“Uh, yes sir,” said Kent. “Happyland has many attractions based around three of the four elements. We have a popular water park, exciting fire shows, and award-winning gardens. So it just made sense to me to focus my energies on the fourth element.” Kent’s phone vibrated – an incoming message – but he didn’t dare check to see who it was.
“It ‘made sense,’ did it?” laughed the suit humorlessly. He strode to the giant window and its owner’s-eye-view of all of Happyland below. “Ashland, Happyland has a long, proud history of entertainment for all ages. What part of your ideas ‘made sense’ in a family-oriented theme park?”
“Let’s take a look at your…creations,” snapped the suit, switching the Happyland commercial to amateur camera footage. Kent recognized it even before the sound was turned up. “This,” said the exec, addressing the board, “is test footage of some of Ashland’s creations. First we have this candy he’s created. It reportedly starts out sour but then…well, look.”Kent’s friend Samantha appeared the screen, dressed in a white spandex catsuit with a belt around her middle. “Curvy Candy, test one,” she announced, and popped a small orange square into her mouth. “That’s top; and this is bottom.” She ate a sugary purple square. She chewed and swallowed, making squichy faces as she did. “Wow…sour!” she exclaimed – but Kent could hear more dramatic effects: A hissing, some stitches popping as her clothing pulled. Sam’s breasts grew, right on camera, just a few moments after she’d eaten the sweets. Her hands naturally ran to her inflating chest, only to dart down to her hips, which she was stunned to find were flaring out voluptuously beneath the suit’s belt.
The expression on her face looked like rapture to Kent, but the exec cried out, “Disgusting!” and stabbed a button on the remote. “As if that weren’t enough, this is some sort of new soft drink he’s concocted to sell in the park.” The screen showed a petite blonde take a few swigs of a soda bottle. Kent knew her, too – Anne, from redemption games. She giggled, mumbling something about the bubbles as they went down, then her eyes went wide, and her hands flew to her midsection. Within seconds her belly started to round out and pull her blouse taut; another startled expression brought her hands to her chest as she watched her own breasts inflate like balloons. The audio played back the bursting of buttons and gasps of surprise. Kent thought were exclamations of joy, but nobody on the scowling board seemed to notice. His phone buzzed again, but he knew to ignore it.
“And this…this one just baffles me,” said the exec, shaking his head. “I understand this is some sort of costume you want to rent out to park attendees?” The video showed a brunette – Kent recognized her as Kerri from coaster maintenance – in a baggy latex bodysuit, with several air hoses attached to the back. Kerri nodded to someone off-camera that she was ready; with a whine, the hoses jumped with pressure and Kerri’s expression changed to one of alarm. Her suit quickly blew up as she let out a yelp of surprise. Within a few seconds, she looked nearly spherical, and the whine of the compressors stopped. Kerri winced and a soft “pop” was heard on the recording. “What was that?” asked someone off-screen. “Bra,” Kerri gasped, as a technician moved into frame and started to unzip the outfit. Kent saw her skin pressing out against the latex as the zipper revealed her smooth skin and broken brassiere. The suit hadn’t inflated – Kerri had. “Snapped,” Kerri stammered, flapping her arms helplessly. “Shouldn’t…have worn it.”
“Ashland…” The exec seemed speechless. The board expressed a mix of shock, horror, and repulsion on their faces. Red-faced, the chairman could only spit out two words, barely containing a shout: “Explain yourself.”
Kent was happy to be sitting down; his erection was enormous. All those tests had gone exactly according to plan, but it was clear he couldn’t explain to this crowd. “Sir,” he ventured, “we always talk about new ideas, but we never try them. It’s always another coaster or a new water slide. I wanted to offer our patrons something truly unique – experiences they could never get at another park. I wanted to think outside the box.”
“Blowing up our female patrons like balloons is not thinking outside the box!” yelled the chairman. He paused to gain his composure, then spoke through gritted teeth. “Happyland is not your personal perverted playground. Your ideas are not wanted and your services in R&D are no longer needed – please vacate the premises. Immediately.”
Alex sat for a moment, rose silently, and left the room. Walking funny, he headed for the nearest men’s room, and felt his phone vibrate a third time. There were text messages from Sam, Anne, and Kerri, and they were very detailed. Explicit, even. Kent smiled. Happyland didn’t understand his genius – but there were at least three people who did.