In another world, in another time, there was a land where Starbursts lived in turmoil with humans. This is one of its stories…
— In the Town of the Bluish-Greens —
The town square was almost empty. A newspaper salesman sat on a stool with his head against a wall, dozing, his feet up on the pile of papers; a carriage rolled by, pulled by horses whose heads were bent against the hot July sun.
Brown stepped out of the side door of the little smoke shop where he worked, beating out a rug into the alleyway. Pigeons gobbled and cooed up on the awning of the roof; a dog lay in the shade of the alley, its head resting exhaustedly on the cobblestones. It was that kind of day where you really didn’t want to be out– all the Starbursts would be inside, for fear of melting into little piles of bluish-green gloop. But the humans still had to work– even in broiling temperatures like this, they were expected to continue on with their duties. Because, after all– humans were not in danger of melting into piles of gloop.
“Brown, get back in here!” Tall shouted from inside the shop. Brown smacked the rug against the wall, and the dog’s head lifted up, startled by the noise. Then it put it back on the ground with a sniff. Brown stepped back inside the shop, closing the door after him, cutting off the thick, horribly hot summer air.
The smoke shop wasn’t very impressive at all. There was a small front crammed with shelves of cigarettes and cigars and pipes, and a glass case with all the more fancy sorts of things displayed. It was stuffy and hot in here, and a fan was rotating with an ominous grinding noise up on the counter.
“If this fan breaks, I’ll go mad,” Tall declared. He was a tall man with black hair and a goatee that he hadn’t shaved right, so it was just slightly off-center on his chin. Brown had to avoid looking at it or he’d get anxious. It was extremely annoying. Tall was sitting on a stool behind the counter, one boot on the display case, a newspaper half-hiding his face. He lowered it to glare at Brown. “It’s too hot to live. I will go mad if this fan breaks. I’ll start eating Starbursts.”
“Don’t say that,” Brown said, nervously. He laid the carpet on the scuffed wooden floor and kicked it straight. He looked around, as if a Starburst was hiding in the shadows, listening. “If you talk like that–,”
“The government will take me in and jail me for life, I know,” Tall said impatiently. He waved his hand at a shelf. “Those things need to be rearranged.”
“Why? Can’t you do it?”
“You’re the apprentice–you arrange the shelves.”
“It’s too hot to arrange the shelves,” Brown said, sinking onto a stool in the corner and leaning into his hands.
“All right, complain all you want, and then I’ll tell the government you’ve been eating Starbursts in secret,” Tall said, his off-centered goatee disappearing behind his newspaper.
“You wouldn’t do that,” Brown said. He figured maybe if he kept him talking he’d get out of the shelf-arranging.
“Yes, I would. I need a new apprentice anyway– you’re too old. And lazy. We’ve got a customer, you take it.”
The door opened and the bell tinged. In a swath of sunlight and hot air, a Starburst entered. Brown got wearily to his feet. As all the Starbursts in the Town of Bluish-Greens were, this one was a bluish-green color; it walked in, turning its vaguely rectangular body to look around the shop. It wore a fine velvet top hat and carried a cane in one bluish-green hand.
“Good afternoon, sir,” said Brown. He eyed the Starburst; its body was melting just slightly at the edges, beads of sugary sweat sliding down its featureless face. It had to be brave– or crazy– to be out today. Fifteen minutes in the sun and it would be a lot of goo on the ground with a hat and a cane floating in it.
The Starburst grunted a reply. They looked down on humans, like a human might look down on a worm; that’s why humans didn’t get real names, like Starbursts did. Brown was called Brown because his hair was an unremarkable, potato-brown color. Privately, he was rather annoyed that they hadn’t called him Blue for his eyes, or Good-Looking, but Starbursts wouldn’t do humans any favors.
“Need help finding anything?” Brown continued.
“I’m looking for a particular brand of cigar. Vaudeville brand cigars? Do you have them in stock?”
“We do,” Brown said. “They’re right over here, sir.”
Brown led the Starburst over to a shelf, and produced a box for him. As he did the door opened again, and another Starburst entered– this one was melting alarmingly, the top of it sagging and gooey. It had a red hat and carried a newspaper.
“Fructose Glucose!” the Starburst Brown had been helping exclaimed. “I say, man, you’re starting to melt pretty bad!”
“I know,” Mr. Glucose said sourly, stumbling over. “Terrible state. I just thought I’d duck in here for a while to solidify again. But fancy seeing you here, John Dextrose! I thought the wife had gotten you off cigars.”
“Well, she doesn’t know,” Mr. Dextrose replied. “How much for this?” he said, turning to Brown, his voice suddenly distasteful as he was addressing the lesser being.
“Ten dollars,” Brown said.
Mr. Dextrose produced a bill, and Brown gave him the box. The two Starbursts turned back to each other, and Brown went over to the fan, inspecting it as he listened. He didn’t expect to hear anything interesting– maybe something about that human who had gone on a Starburst-eating spree and was hanged in the public square, which was a hot topic among Starbursts and humans alike.
“Did you hear about the princess?” Mr. Glucose said to Mr. Dextrose.
Dextrose shook his head, which was really his body, as Starbursts had no head. It was difficult to decide where their head was, exactly– and even harder to decide how they talked, walked, and smoked cigars without faces.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” Mr. Glucose continued. “The princess– a lovely Pinkish-Orange, right, because the king’s a Pink and the queen’s a Red– now you’d think she’d attract the attention of some stunningly handsome Red or so forth, but get this. She fell in love with a human!”
“What?” Mr. Dextrose exclaimed, dropping his box of cigars.
“Yes! I know! It’s basically blasphemy! Now, the queen was going to melt her in a fire, but the king stopped that and they’re letting the princess live. For SOME reason. Anyhow, the human boy is being hunted down, and when they find him, they’re either going to feed him to the Savage Melted Ones, or tie him to a wild boar and see what happens. I like the wild boar idea, myself. Now the princess is raising a stink over the fact that they’re going to kill him, but if I was her, I’d be thanking my lucky stars that the king even let her live after all this.”
Brown frowned at the fan. He couldn’t understand how in the world you’d fall in love with a Starburst. They were squares of sticky sugar, weren’t they? The idea of this was kind of disturbing. How would you… but that couldn’t be possible… right?
“I’ll have to rush home and tell the wife,” Mr. Dextrose said. “This is the most terrible thing I’ve ever heard.”
“I know!” Mr. Glucose agreed. He straightened his hat. “Well, I seem to have solidified, so I’ll be off too. We could walk back together.”
“All right,” Mr. Dextrose said. The two Starbursts walked out of the shop, back into the boiling afternoon.
“Did you hear that?” Brown said, turning to stare at Tall.
“I can’t hear anything over that fan,” he said bitterly. “I’ll die if it breaks. Bury me someplace cool.”
“The princess of the Starbursts fell in love with a human!” Brown said, still not quite believing it himself. He shook his head. “Can you imagine that?”
“Not really,” Tall said, scratching his off-centered goatee.
“Why would you…? How could you…?”
“Is whoever she loves in love with her, too?”
“I think so.”
“He probably just wants to eat her,” Tall said, raising the newspaper over his face again.
“I guess so,” said Brown, examining the fan. He nudged it, and it exploded.
Tall glared at him, shoving one of the fan-blades off his head.
“Sorry,” said Brown, lowering his arms from over his face.
“Arrange the stupid shelves, Brown, before I shove this fan blade through your head.”
He went to arrange the shelf. A human, falling in love with the princess of the Starbursts! It was too hard to believe.
He found himself hoping they wouldn’t find that boy, whoever he was.
To be continued! Stay tuned for more nonsensical adventures in the fantastical land of Starburstria.