I work at Horizon Academy, a school in Kansas City for students with learning disabilities. I’m charged specifically with a group of eighth grade boys, most of whom have dyslexia. Despite the challenges they face, I’m consistently astonished by my students—especially their creativity.
Recently, my boys were prompted to write a short story about a catastrophe of their own imagining; their ideas were absolutely brilliant. It seems as if their eighth grade minds are unsullied by the conventions and clichés of most literature. They don’t restrict their creativity in ways that are often automatic for those more familiar with the discipline of writing.
They’re still just thirteen and fourteen years old, and a limited command of the English language often hinders their stories. Time after time, I read their work and wonder, “What would I do with this story?” So I decided to shamelessly steal their ideas and write the stories myself. Wherever possible, I tried to retain elements of plot and style present in the original text. Enjoy.
This is the story of Zack and how he survived an encounter with a giant chicken. The chicken was 50-feet tall, she had laser eyes, and she destroyed everything in her path.
But this story truly begins with Jack, Zack’s serendipitously named companion. Jack’s primary extracurricular occupation was zoological experimentation. He was fortunate enough to have a fully equipped genetics laboratory in his basement thanks to his father, who was an employee of Monsanto. Jack’s projects started out simple (two-headed snakes, miniature livestock, neon-furred bunny rabbits), but soon enough Jack set his sights on a more ambitious undertaking.
He wanted to create a monster. To accomplish this sinister aim he experimented with a genome already familiar to him—the common chicken. Jack’s basement walls were lined with rows upon rows of cages containing feathered test subjects, each with some unique genetic variation.
One day, Jack returned from school only to find that his house had been reduced to an unrecognizable pile of rubble, upon which rested a chicken four stories tall. The bird ruffled her feathers loudly. She shifted her head with stunning speed, and while Jack reckoned that these jolted movements were typical of poultry, they seemed all the more unnerving and grotesque when executed by a creature of such enormous proportions. Finally, the chicken noticed Jack and fixed her eye intently upon him. Her jet-black pupil struck fear into his heart, and the inability to perceive any intent or disposition in her gaze disturbed him. They held eye contact for several seconds until Jack noticed a dark red glow deep within the chicken’s eye, oscillating, ebbing, begging to be released. He ran away as fast as he could, going where any sensible kid would—his best friend’s house.
Zack was in shock upon receiving the news. He was literally in shock, for Jack had not prefaced his story with a trigger warning, and hearing of the monstrous chicken flooded Zack’s mind with dreadful images and sudden panic. After his breaths slowed and his skin regained color, however, Zack explained himself.
Zack grew up on a farm, and his childhood was magnificently bucolic. The days of his youth were not measured in hours or minutes but by the routine tasks in which he took great pleasure: milking the cows, herding the sheep, and feeding the chickens. On one occasion a belligerent rooster decided to bite the hand that fed it. It mustered all of its strength to jump up in Zack’s face, commencing an enraged assault. Its sharp beak made contact wherever possible: face, arms, hands, legs. The rooster chased him for over ten minutes before Zack's parents regained control of the beast. From that point onward the little boy feared and hated the entire species. Zack refused to perform his duties, at the mere sight of the coop he grew pallid, and each day began with the rooster’s call sending horror down his spine. The situation became so dire that Zack’s parents had to move the family for the sake of their child's psychological wellbeing. Zack did, however, still like to eat chicken.
Jack and Zack informed Zack’s parents of the predicament. They were in disbelief and insisted on seeing evidence, as adults often do. Despite Jack’s protestations, the group drove over to his house—or what was previously his house. The giant chicken was nowhere to be seen, but the demolished home and the trail of smoldering destruction that began there was proof enough.
Jack and Zack called all of the news crews to explain the situation, which by this point had degenerated into utter chaos. They had a plan: everyone would wrap rope around the chicken's legs to trip her, whereupon they would forcibly remove her head. The boys stared into the camera, “if you want to help, meet at the giant chicken tomorrow with a car, some rope, and an axe. You'll know where to find her.” After rallying the townspeople, Zack and Jack went to the store, where they purchased bread, corn, cheese, soda, and all available barbecue sauce.
The next day at dawn, all five hundred citizens descended upon the giant chicken. The monster was initially caught off guard, as her attention was was fully engaged in the pursuit of a squirrel trapped in an oak tree. The element of surprise quickly evaporated, however, once the creature heard the approaching mass of vehicles.
Before the formation could execute its plan, the chicken let loose her devastating arsenal. A laser beam blazed a path of desolation fifty yards long in the instant it took for the monster to cock her head sideways. A scar of molten asphalt glowed for several seconds before hardening, while the tar continued to burn, emitting a toxic vapor that mingled with the fresh bird droppings to create a noxious melange hitherto unknown to man. Several cars were unable to avoid the small chasm, and they were swallowed up entirely.
The chicken’s next volley was directed at a violet Toyota Prius, whose color transcended the visible spectrum to upset the beast’s highly developed avian retina (and whose cosmopolitan ethos may have been equally offensive to the overgrown farm animal). The laser beam compromised the vehicle’s fuel tank, and it erupted in a sizable explosion. This startled the chicken, whose brain had not developed commensurate to her size. The creature skirted off, leaving shattered picket fences and uprooted shrubbery in her wake.
Fortunately for the townspeople, prey instinct kicked in and the giant chicken fled. She was, however, no match for the combined might of Ford, Chevrolet, and General Motors. In short time the pack of vehicles gained on her, encircled her, and felled her. Zack exited his parents’ minivan and lead the charge. He felt faint upon seeing the haunting figure of his youth, magnified. But Zack knew this was no time for weakness. The people managed to incapacitate their overgrown foe, but it took over an hour to finish their gory duty. By afternoon their barbecue was in full swing. The town celebrated their adolescent saviors and mourned their fallen comrades.
With time, everyone came to see the giant chicken catastrophe as blessing. The freezers of every citizen were stocked with meat for an entire year. There was even enough of a surplus to sell, and it fetched a high price due to the fact that it was technically free range (it was not, however, labeled GMO). Sure, there was a price to pay in obliterated homes and human lives, but the reconstruction process enabled the town to move forward with state of the art, energy efficient construction practices. To this day Zack is the most popular name in town for newborns, and the bleached skull of the giant bird serves as the centerpiece of the now-tranquil settlement. In the summer it is a fountain, with streams of water flowing from its empty eye sockets.