The Maniacal Laughter of a Child - flash fiction story
The German tourists huddled together and smiled, the brilliant view of the forest and mountains behind them. The old man in the center of the group held the selfie stick out in front. Everyone’s smiles became strained as the old man waved the stick from side to side to get just the right angle for just the perfect photo.
The boulder crushed all of them.
Their blood and bones and bits were either compacted into the dirt where they had been standing or squirted out like the insides of ripe red tomatoes. The rest had been carried away with the boulder as it bounced and rolled down the mountainside.
It happened so fast that some of the other tourists nearby didn’t even realize what happened. A couple from Winnipeg had even been watching the Germans and their brains couldn’t process the event. One moment, Germans. The next moment, no Germans. Even the further crunching of ancient trees by the boulder on its uncontrolled path couldn’t register in their minds.
One man knelt down to tie his shoe. A rock the size of a $20 pumpkin landed on his head and his head burst open like a $20 pumpkin. At this, a woman screamed and the scream echoed off the mountains. As the scream returned, it touched a place deep inside the bystanders’ brains and they finally screamed back.
Except...for one little boy.
The boy looked at the man-who-formerly-had-a-head-but-no-longer-had-a-head and he laughed. He laughed because that was the funniest thing he had ever seen in his short life. He was doubled over in laughter. When the body twitched and farted, the boy peed a little.
The insane, maniacal laughter of a child unsettled the remaining bystanders more than the there-and-gone Germans and more than the poor sap whose final thoughts had been of laces and knots. They turned to the boy and were shocked, immobile.
Until the next boulder struck.
The poor couple from Winnipeg became part of the mountain and then part of the highway below and then finally parts of them floated down the river. The little boy laughed even harder at this. His pointing finger followed the path of the boulder like a weathervane.
The crowd broke and scattered around him. For a moment as some passed, their hearts spoke “Oh no! Who does this boy belong to? I should help him.” Then with the laughing, the maniacal laughing, their mind firmly spoke back “no,” and they continued to run away.
More rocks and boulders crushed the trees, crushed the ground and crushed the crowd. Soon the projectiles came from all directions. The crowd panicked and cried. The air was thick with the sound and the smells of uncontained urine, terrified vomiting and the nauseating smell a human makes when turned to paste by gravity’s effect on heavy objects. There was no safe direction to escape to.
Heavy, trembling footsteps joined the chaos and the trees rustled with the steps. The boy’s laughter stuttered to a stop as did the barrage. He tried to turn to face the oncoming steps but they seemed to come from all around. God, he hoped it was a dinosaur. They were his absolute favorite.
A humanish head appeared over the tops of the trees and looked down at him. It was not a dinosaur and at this the little boy frowned. Then another humanish head appeared. They looked like bad drawings of people, asymmetrical and unsettling. There was a scream and a crunching sound in the distance. At this sound, the giant staring at the little boy smiled slightly.
One massive fist rose above the treetops into view. In the hand, was a screaming woman. The giant that held the woman brought her close to its face and breathed heavily, blowing her hair back but only momentarily stopping her screams. It then began to squeeze its fist around her.
The other giant reached its gnarled, hairy hand toward the little boy, who took a step back and nearly slipped in a puddle of viscous fluid. At a strange popping sound, the giant and the boy turned to see the head of the woman, propelled by a geyser of blood, fly up and into the eye of her captor and stick. The giant stumbled and crushed another person with its back step, before catching itself.
The giant flicked the head away and wiped the blood out of its eye and laughed, as did the other giant. They were deep, guttural laughs and then a higher pitched noise joined in. The giants looked around confused before looking down. The little boy laughed just as hard as the giants. For a long moment the three of them laughed together.
When it started to die down, the giants grabbed another fleeing human and repeated the squeeze and pop and they all laughed even harder than before. As this faded, the giants stared down at the little boy, who had lost himself in the visuals of the day and was rolling on the ground with his maniacal laughter. They shrugged their massive shoulders and moved on, continuing to stomp and crush their way through humanity. Soon, the laughter was far behind them and more screams were ahead.
Art by Damon Abdallah