Everything was set. Holograms ready to blaze lasers when triggered, actors place strategically in the crowd to aid in the terror, charges were set to create little explosions, and remote-controlled discs that looked like flying saucers. The Wheezing and Winks Novelties company always had a marvelous April Fools Day extravaganza. Always to promote a new product. This year would top every prior event.
War of the Worlds- inspired events. Except, instead of a radio broadcast, the invasion was coming to the tiny town that The Wheezing Winks Novelties operated beside. Marlon Gerry, CEO of the company and took a breath.
“Good afternoon, germs and gentlemen!” he beamed happily to a crowd that shouted back. The residents were in on the joke at this point. They knew there would be some kind of prank, it was hard not to expect it after twenty-nine consecutive years of pranks and gags. This year they had no idea.
“We are happy to be here with you after yet another wonderful year of your children driving you up the wall with our products,” Gerry continued, the crowd laughed. Behind him, Gerry heard his wife even stifle a laugh remembering the jokes both Gerry and his son played on her. “This company has a few new lines of products to announce this-“ he was cut off.
A man in the front row collapsed. He was shaking uncontrollably. Most of the residents laughed, their kids being the loudest, a few visitors and new comers panicked and attempted aiding the man. He stopped shaking.
“He’s dead,” a female tourist shouted in fright. If she had only waited for just a second longer, the woman would have witnessed the man coughing up tiny rubber snakes of all colors. People pointed and laughed at both the prankster and the woman who now stood red-faced and embarrassed.
“Our first new gag for you all,” Marlon Gerry chuckled and held a hand out, “Wheezing Winks Novelties’ Serpent Burper. Available today at any location that carries our merchandise. Make your friends think that you consumed live reptiles!” The audience applauded.
Marlon was just about to speak once the hoopla died down when someone cut him off.
“Hey, what’s that?” someone shouted. A hand in the middle of the crowd extended to the sky. Everyone’s eyes followed.
In the distance, a small, shining disc was flying toward them. Another one appeared, then another. Soon enough, a small fleet of remote-controlled UFOs filled the blue sky above the town.
“Hey!” someone else shouted, “Nice joke, Mr. Gerry!”
“Um,” Gerry said, putting his best acting skills to use to look perplexed, “V-very funny, but we have a show to put on. Could whoever is controlling these please let us get on with our show?”
No one said anything saved for excited laughter. Gerry looked up, the discs were almost directly above the crowd.
“Please,” Gerry began again, “We would like to get on with our annual showcase here.” The audience still laughed Hazel Gerry frowned and looked up, to her, something was wrong.
The first charge went off. It was one placed in a garbage can. A fire of trash and panic erupted from those around the boom. A hologram laser fired directly at an actor. He coughed up a blood packet and squeezed another one under his jacket as he fell to the ground.
A few people gave nervous laughter, others looked around in fear. Another actor pretended to be hit by a beam of light as the first one rose from the ground to be a reanimated corpse. A loud bang sounded to signify another explosion. Full-on terror took over.
The climax happened in a terrific spectacle of blood and anguished screams. It was a far cry from the laughter and happiness intended. People rushed for any exit they could, trampling each other and tearing down the banisters and decorations. Some rushed the stage, causing the background to fall. Gerry was just barely able to dive out of the way.
He got up and looked around. Allowing his eyes to linger just too long, he saw an elderly man writhing on the concrete in a puddle of cherry. More gunshots sounded as everyone began to distrust each other, fearing that anyone near might be possessed by the beings in the saucers despite the fact that most had fallen to the ground as the workers abandoned the remotes to flee the scene. The man attempted to pick himself up, only to have a woman crush his skull as she ran by in shock.
Gerry turned to vomit. He saw the corpse of his wife on the floorboards of the stage, crushed by the metal supports for the background banister that had fallen. Another symphony of bile shot out of his mouth.
One of the strategically-placed actors fought a losing battle to escape with the audience. Marlon witnessed the poor college kid be gunned down by a group of police officers, his body crumbled to the ground in a sickening posture.
I need to get out of here, Marlon thought to himself. I can’t move! I can’t move! I can’t move! His mind started to repeat. He tried to lift a leg to take a step. It was no use. The CEO of the once-beloved company felt his feet cemented to the ground. His body was supported by jelly. Something hit his cheek. Immediately blood flowed down his neck and stained his collar and jacket. That was enough to snap out of it, though.
A flailing leg took a step. Then another. Gerry was running, but getting nowhere. He tried one end of the stage but it was blocked by fire, the other end had a mass of living and dead corpses trying to break free with an ever-increasing casualty rate. The part of the street that the audience was supposed to occupy would be no use either. It was an orgy to hand-to-hand deathmatches, the blood was almost flooded ankle-deep. Hopelessness began to set in again. If he could only make it to his car four blocks away, he’d be safe. But what was safe?
Mental scenes of angry townsfolk storming his house in anger flashed through his mind. The company was sure to go under once news broke out, he would be ruined. The thought of facing criminal charges on what was supposed to be a harmless prank also plagued him. Marlon wretched down the front of his suit again. He wouldn’t let that happen.
Stepping over the steel grates that held his wife crushed under them, Marlon ran. The sounds of gunshots and screams grew fainter. He got to his car and drove. His son was at an uncle’s house out of state. He would be fine. His wife was dead, but he could find another one abroad. There was money in foreign accounts he could tap into once he got to where he would be safe after Mexico. Maybe Costa Rica or Argentina- somewhere they would never find him. How many deaths occurred today, he did not know- didn’t care if he was being honest, all that mattered was making it out of the country as quickly as possible.