I’m the type of writer that likes a challenge especially if it comes with a bit of a risk.
For The Conversation I set myself about the task of writing a short story that would consist of nothing but dialogue. The challenge was to create an entire world, a room in it, two characters at odds with each other, and have the reader come along for the ride as their imagination filled in the details.
The risk being that this story was for an anthology submission. An anthology submission for a publishing company with a fine reputation. Submitting a story without traditional narrative, in my opinion, was a bold move. I accepted the challenge because if it worked out the submission would stand out. I took the risk because I wanted my work in the proposed book. And really… what is life without some risk?
In this story I never say exactly where we are. The reader creates that. I never reveal the gender of either of the people chatting away in this place. The reader decides that. I also had the control of not telling you everything that was in the room until the very moment I wanted you to know. That made the built in scares more sneaky and intimate.
When the story was completed I handed it over to a high school teacher in Syracuse, New York. She in turn presented it to three classes of her students. They took turns playing the parts in all sorts of combinations. They laughed at the funny parts and jumped at the creepy parts. What more could a horror writer ask for?
I submitted my creation to Angelic Knight Press and they accepted it for inclusion in Satan’s Toybox: Terrifying Teddies which was being edited by the fabulous Stacey Turner. Just over a year after it’s publication I remain proud to be a part of this wonderful book. It’s a fine collection of spooky, touching, and funny tales by some very talented writers who have the kind of twisted imaginations I can roll with.
As always, I’d like to thank the fine folks at Angelic Knight Press for being a class act to work with, for recognizing writing in all its fun forms, and for including my short in this clever and very creepy anthology about the cuddly pieces of plush that have found a place in all our hearts and homes.
In celebration of the anniversary, and with permission from the publisher, I present to you… The Conversation. In its entirety. I hope you enjoy… ;-)
What am I looking at?
A teddy bear.
A teddy bear.
I know that. I’m asking why, am I looking at a teddy bear?
It’s how we’re going to get this done.
With a teddy bear?
These things were banned a hundred years ago.
Yeah. Watch your language.
You’re right. Sorry. Purged.
Yes. They were.
So we’re going to use a purged entertainment to do this?
The powers that be will never go for it.
Why were they purged?
Because an adorable entertainment can make us look bad.
Are you insane?
We shouldn’t even be having this conversation.
Things are purged for a reason.
The messages they deliver are a force for good.
No. I told you. I’m not insane.
But the messages?
We can control those.
I’m getting hopeful just standing next to it.
How do you control that?
It will talk.
Oh my God.
No using the Lord’s name in vain.
Now I’m in violation of the third directive.
It’s okay. We’re alone.
Why would we make it talk?
So it can say wonderful things.
Things that make one feel better about themselves.
Things that make one think that we’re not in control of what they think.
It doesn’t sound that way to me, at all.
That’s my point.
Our message is not on the surface.
Yeah. I see that.
Our message is between the lines.
Between the lines?
In the subliminal frequencies.
Our message is in what you don’t hear.
On the surface it speaks of hope.
Yes. The ridiculous. I understand that.
In between all that pabulum it’ll send a message directly to the brain.
Good. You’re getting it.
And how does that take care of our problem?
By eliminating it at the source.
Children will never fall for it.
Not our children. They have educations.
But their children will.
They’re desperate for any sign of hope.
How does this subliminal message translate into action?
The children will kill themselves.
I like that.
I knew that you would.
Killing unbelievers is always a good thing.
I thought you’d say that.
But, eliminating them at the source?
I was hoping you’d say that.
So how does it work?
The child talks to the bear. The bear talks back.
I get that.
An implanted chip and some mechanics will make that work.
But of course.
We use the same messages we use in our media.
Those messages are not subliminal, at all.
They’re blatant, actually.
Be careful what you say.
I told you, we’re alone here.
Blatant or not our message is strong, unified and clear.
Yes. That’s the party line.
You don’t agree?
We both know they’re starting to tune it out.
I might be inclined to agree.
The ones who ignore our message and go about their lives are not our problem.
No. We’ll come for those later.
True. Our problem is the troublemakers now.
And we’ll strike at them where they’re most vulnerable.
Yes. We kill their children.
With the same messages.
Only this time they’ll be directly implanted in their brains through a teddy bear.
If I wasn’t so paranoid, I’d laugh out loud right now.
We’ll fill them with doubt.
Add a healthy dose of lack of self worth.
And a total disbelief in their belief systems.
Do they have belief systems at such a young age?
They have the beliefs of their parents.
This thing could destroy their families from within.
Icing on the cake.
Rather tasty icing, to boot.
Some children will turn on their families.
Some children will turn to us.
All are welcome.
Well, not all. Really.
Of course not.
I’ve often wondered about that.
Why not accept everyone as long as they believe in what we believe?
Because not everyone is, right.
Don’t you mean acceptable?
Because not everyone is acceptable.
Alone or not you’re about to cross a line.
I’m trying hard not to.
Everyone has a purpose.
Some will go to homes.
Others will go to work camps.
Someone has to drive our economy.
And why is that?
So the rest of us can enjoy it.
See. You’re still very much a believer.
I guess I am.
Good. How will the children die?
The negative barrage will lead to acute depression.
There’s a pill for that.
They have no access to medical care.
So you’re predicting?
With just the right final message.
Suicides. On an epic scale.
I really like this.
I’m glad it’s growing on you.
But it’s missing something.
You think it’s dull on the surface?
It does lack pizzazz.
It doesn’t have flash, that’s for sure.
Funny you should say that.
It’s a microchip.
I know it’s a microchip.
You’re asking why, are you holding a microchip?
Because it’s the latest in micro incendiary technology.
I’m holding an explosive.
Don’t worry. It’s not active.
Take this from me.
It’s not active until I put it in the bear.
Just take it already.
Would you like to see how this works?
It explodes. It kills people. I get it.
No. I meant with the bear.
It explodes. It kills people. I really do get it.
Touch the bear’s eyes.
You want me to touch it?
Yes. The eyes.
I will do no such thing.
Touch the left one first. Then the right one.
Why am I doing this?
You’ll see. Now back to the left one for two touches.
They feel very real.
They’re made from a new form of dense silicone gel.
Now, tweak the nose.
Tweak the teddy bears nose.
I will not.
Just do it.
Well look at that.
Told you that it was something to see.
It’s very disturbing. The way its head pops open.
You get used to it.
What is all that?
A lot of very expensive hardware.
Not that. The pink parts.
That’s brain tissue.
A child’s brain?
No. What kind of question is that?
You’re showing. I’m asking.
You’re making me out to be some kind of monster.
Where’d the brain matter come from?
Remember the zoos?
They were purged seventy five years ago.
Why were they purged?
So that people wouldn’t identify with the plight of animals.
What happened to all the animals?
They were relocated to their natural habitats.
What really happened to the animals?
They were all destroyed.
Not all of them.
Not all of them?
Some were destroyed. Others were kept.
Why were they kept?
You’re looking at brain tissue from a bear.
An actual bear?
Yes, but not just any bear.
Of course not.
It’s from a North American brown bear.
Not very exciting.
It’s the brain tissue of a grizzly bear.
Yes. The last known grizzly in existence.
So I was told.
What are you doing with the chip?
I’m placing it in the trigger chamber.
Is that wise?
It sounds foolish.
I’d like to show you how the targeting system functions.
The targeting system?
This thing doesn’t just explode?
It targets too?
The way the head snaps shut.
The sound doesn’t help.
It’s like a little scream.
They’re just gears.
Why’s it staring at me, now?
You noticed that?
How could I not?
Take a step.
Left or right.
I’m having trouble moving.
Come on. Either direction.
The eyes are following me.
They’re targeting you.
The eyes direct the force of the explosion.
The bear sees its target, yes.
It’s looking right at me.
The size of the explosion can be controlled.
It’s staring at me.
We could take out a child asleep in their room.
Make it stop.
We could take out a whole city block.
Make it stop staring at me.
You need to relax.
I need you to make it stop.
Relax. We’re safe here.
We both are.
It’s not looking at you.
Actually it’s watching us both.
That did not help.
You look thirsty.
You look like you could use a drink.
Sure. Make mine a double.
Ask the bear.
I am not talking to that thing.
Of course not.
You can’t talk to the bear.
I don’t want to talk to the bear.
The vocal mechanics and software haven’t been installed yet.
Well, aren’t I the lucky one.
You just have to think it.
What did you just say?
Just think your request for a drink.
It’s in my head now?
Once it targets, it keys in on brain waves.
It knows what I’m thinking?
Ever since it laid eyes on you.
Yes. Both of us.
That’s not right.
It has to be in the victim’s head to deliver the messages.
No. Not that.
The bear is moving.
Of course it is.
That’s not right.
It’s getting you your drink.
It’s able to walk.
That pitcher is twice its size.
The bear is very strong.
And it didn’t spill a drop.
Another benefit of accurate targeting.
What’s it waiting for?
It’s waiting for you to take a drink.
I have to satisfy it?
Well that’s good.
You have to reassure it.
No. I don’t.
It’s what a child would do.
I am not a child.
Just do it.
There. Are you satisfied?
The bear is.
I don’t care about the bear.
You’re not welcome.
I was talking to the bear.
Are we done here?
Not just yet.
What more is there?
There’s one more thing.
What the hell. Let me have it.
It’s a final solution of sorts.
Some children are pig headed.
I’m sure your mother said that of you.
And I’m sure your mother was much more anal than mine.
My point is, systems could fail.
The messages might not get delivered.
The bomb might not go off.
So what’s the solution?
Hand to hand combat.
The bear is capable of assault?
It’s like a little furry assassin.
Ok. That’s nifty.
You know what I mean.
It’s okay. I think it’s nifty too.
You mean why is there a sleeping baby here?
No. I mean how did you get your hands on a baby?
I found it.
You found it?
It was abandoned.
In a middle poor district.
And what were you doing there?
Looking for abandoned babies.
Oh, we’ve been through dozens, perfecting this mode.
Where do you keep them?
There’s no need to keep them.
Well that’s good.
We just dispose of the bodies when we’re done.
Keeping an eye on the taxpayer dollar.
See that scalpel over there.
The longest one.
Give it to the bear.
No. Not at all.
You give it to the bear.
I have to place the baby closer to the bear.
Why is this thing reaching out to me?
The bear wants the scalpel.
It wants it?
Just give it to the bear already.
It’s got quite a grip on it.
Let go of the scalpel before the bear tears your arm off.
Could it really do that?
Put these safety glasses on.
Because this is going to get messy.
What about my clothes?
Believe me, there’s nothing remarkable about your clothes.
You really should be nicer to me.
Now, will the bear to kill the baby.
You heard me.
That doesn’t make any sense.
What’s to prevent a child from willing this thing to kill?
Only a controller can order the bear to kill.
Yes. The people monitoring the activities of the bears.
So we will have some control?
That’s the plan.
How does the bear recognize a controller?
Each controller will be imbedded with a chip.
I wasn’t imbedded with a chip.
Yes, you were.
No. I wasn’t.
When you swallowed the water.
There was a nano chip at the bottom of the glass.
Why would you do that to me?
Because sometimes you can be a pain in the ass.
Only about anything different.
My point exactly.
How many controllers are there?
At the moment?
Just, you and I.
Very exclusive club.
It’s for control purposes.
Until we work out all the kinks.
Well, it is a very sophisticated bear.
There are many things that could still go wrong.
You’re not reassuring me.
You worry too much.
It’s my job to worry.
What worries you?
I’m worried this could all go horribly wrong.
Yes, says I.
You’ve created quite the Frankenbear, doctor.
Thank you. Now will the bear to kill the baby.
Just think it?
Any particular way?
Well the bear does have a scalpel.
Think about that blade plunging into that sleeping baby.
That’s exactly what I’m thinking.
Think about how much you hate them.
I do hate them.
Think about how much you hate their babies.
They need to die.
Why isn’t the bear responding?
I don’t know. You built the thing.
Think fast. The baby’s waking up.
Will that affect the demonstration?
It’ll make it messier.
Are you sure you’re focused on killing that baby?
Nobody wants that baby deader than I do.
I should say so.
It’s never failed before.
These things happen.
Not at this stage.
That’s why it’s called research and development.
What are you doing to the baby?
Down the incinerator chute it goes.
But it’s still usable.
Well, I’m pissed and I can’t take it out on the bear.
True. Still a waste of valuable tissue.
You did a good job here.
I’ll fix it.
It’ll be perfect.
What’s it’s called?
Yes. What do their children call it?
Oh. Taylor Teddy.
Sounds like a female’s name.
This bear is a female.
See. You are insane.
I don’t think so.
You’re attaching human attributes to an inanimate object.
So that makes you certifiable.
You really think so?
Please don’t tell anyone.
Just don’t say it out loud ever again.
You’re a good person.
Good has nothing to do with it.
Of course not.
Now, when will this be ready to present?
Soon. Very soon.
And the prototypes?
They’ll be destroyed in favor of the final design.
Another excellent decision.
I’m glad that you approve.
Back to work with you then.
You know, my research did find something interesting.
Yes. On the history of teddy bears.
You’ve been doing research?
There is never a need for the confusion of research.
Well, of course.
What? The bear?
No. The research.
What did this research show?
At the time, some people believed that these bears were alive.
To a degree.
A ridiculous degree.
They believed the bears had a consciousness
What kind of mission?
They believed the bears protected them from harm.
Stop calling it a bear.
What if our energy imbues it with free will?
It’s not real. It’s not a bear. It’s a thing.
What the hell is wrong with you?
I’m just asking a question.
Well, stop it.
Because nothing good ever came from asking questions.
Is that really true?
Talk like that will get us tortured and shot.
Lower your voice then.
I thought you said we were alone in here.
Then who just turned off the lights?
Satan’s Toybox has escaped from Hell. In our world, vengeance is unleashed. This time around it’s everyone’s favorite toy. Ever wonder what’s beyond the huggable exterior and button eyes of your beloved Teddy Bear?
Fourteen authors share their stories …
Phil Hickes, Adam Millard, Donald Jacob Uitvlugt, Steven Gepp, Edward Medina, Lisamarie Lamb, Lisa McCourt Hollar, J.G. Williams, Delphine Boswell, Blaise Torrance, Joe Mogel, Rob Miller, Stacey Turner, Blaze McRob
Included in this anthology are tales of a Toy Shoppe where the proprietor might not be quite human, a costume you don’t want to wear, fierce bears who defend what’s theirs, and small children who aren’t exactly what they seem. You’ll never look at Teddy Bears quite the same way after this.
Amazon bestselling author Edward Medina is a native New Yorker who was raised by his mother and grandmother to believe that life is an adventure best lived to the fullest. To that end he has lived his life on the edge of creative possibility.
Over time, Edward has been a radio and voice over artist. He built a significant career as a producer, director and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson. He then went on to become a theme park designer. For fun, he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood, a sometime magician. Although, at this point in his life, the magic he creates is more for the page as an author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic steampunk adventures.
Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.