A Fudged Quest
By Sierra Blanco and Livia Nelson
A Fudged Quest is a semi-comedic ghost story detailing the misadventures of a possessed mannequin child in search of fudge. For added atmosphere, click play on the accompanying audio file while you read!
Warm circles of light reflected from tall Christmas trees onto the polished wood floors. The guests’ voices floated up toward ethereal chandeliers and the old portraits of robust soldiers, each with a hand on his hip. Music played from somewhere above, but the child couldn’t see a band, just some strange black boxes in the corners of the ceilings. With this in mind, the child really couldn’t be held to fault for possessing the mannequin. After all, somebody had given it clothes, painted its eyes an uncannily-realistic shade of gray, and stuck it in the shadowy corner of the back storage closet where the child’s friends used to play. With laughter spilling from the better-lit hallways and the intoxicating smell of fudge bars being sold to unassuming patrons, the temptation was quite high.
As it scanned the room in search of fudge, something on one of the Christmas trees caught the child’s eye. It blinked again, as it had when it awoke. Rigid glued-together lips cracked, then pinched into a lilting smile. The child was, it believed, at a Christmas party like their parents threw, and they wanted to find the fudge.
The trees in this room were famously decorated with taxidermied peacocks, so it appeared a whole flock of them had walked into this hallowed room in the middle of New York City to roost on some balsam firs. Of course, they were all dead—except for one, the child realized now, who appeared to be winking.
The child approached it cautiously. It remembered, vaguely, someone once telling it that large birds were mean—although the platitude had been about geese. Nevertheless, the peacock winked again and the Christmas tree rustled as his pinned-down wing tried to beckon the child mannequin forwards. The child, though still unsatisfied in its quest for fudge, inched closer.
“Kid, I dun think yer sposed to be here,” the peacock grunted, with a voice more fitting for a walrus than such an elegant bird. The child pouted.
“Yes, I am supposed to be here. Obviously,” the child responded, just a bit whinier than it would have liked. The peacock grunted again, then tilted his wired neck as far as his bindings allowed.
“Ya dun look like those folks there, do ya?” the bird asked, gesturing as best he could with his head-crest, which ended up looking very ruffled and silly.
“Close enough!” said the child. “And anyway I’m not here to talk to big, mean decorations who sound like walruses. I’m here for fudge.”
The child turned its back on the peacock and its tree and marched away, through a crowd of elegantly dressed people standing in the center of the room. A man in tails moved to reveal a buffet table full of silver samovars and chafing dishes. At the far end were several glass pastry towers piled high with truffles and baklava, chocolate covered strawberries and Turkish delights. At the top of one tower, the child could see several shiny, perfect cubes of what could only be one thing.
“Close enough!” said the child. “And anyway I’m not here to talk to big mean decorations who sound like walruses. I’m here for fudge.”
But the child’s limbs were stiff, and when it reached for the glass pastry tower, there was suddenly a great crash that echoed around the hall. The mysterious ceiling music stopped and everyone stared.
The floor surrounding the child was now covered in glistening fabric and smashed glass and unrecognizable piles of shapeless chocolate and sugar and creme. The crowd advanced, as if it might eat the child in place of the sweets, but at the last moment there was a sudden flash of purple, green and royal blue. With a dark shriek, the winking, walrus-voiced peacock had torn himself from the branch and was flying straight for the child. A string of the bird’s taxidermy kin streamed behind it. The child had barely a second to register this strange occurrence before the peacock was lifting it by its thin wool jacket and flying towards the upper floors of the armory.
“Hey, put me down!” the child squealed as the bird carried it up first one, two, then five staircases. Finally the pair reached the doors to the roof. The child shivered as a burst of frigid wind piped through the narrow apertures that peered out over the city. The peacock, having tugged the string of decorations into the alcove behind them, finally set the child down.
“What’re ya thinking, drawing attention to yaself like that, kid? E’rybody knows ya gotta wait for midnight if ya wanna keep away from the dump,” the peacock squawked, exasperated.
“How was I supposed to know that?” replied the child. As the peacock brushed pine needles from his tail, the two creatures discussed what exactly the rules were for their new existence.
After doing a ghost story prompt with Livia, Sierra had the idea to write a story about childlike mannequins she’d seen at The Armory. They wrote the first draft together exquisite corpse-style, taking turns to write each paragraph, then edited it together into a cohesive piece. For the multimedia components, they split up and created artworks to accompany the story: Sierra, an accomplished composer and songwriter, wrote a score to be played for added atmosphere while reading the piece; Livia, a graphic designer, designed a custom promo image.
Sierra Blanco won the Sondheim National Young Playwrights Competition, Writopia’s Worldwide Plays Competition, NYC Write A Play! Competition, and was Guest Playwright to the O’Neill Young Playwrights Festival. Her poetry was published in the New York Times and her play “Bang!” in “A Decade of Shared Stories.” Her play “The Smallest Heroes” received a contract with YouthPLAYS. She received the Perelstein Discover Your Passion Scholarship for Musical-Theater Composition. She is a winner of the National Endowment for the Arts Musical Songwriting Challenge. She had three Off-Broadway productions of her work and maintains membership at the Dramatists Guild, AEA, and MENSA.
Livia Nelson is the Director of Product Design at Ravelry, the internet's biggest pattern database and social website for knitters and crocheters. As an undergraduate at UNC-Chapel Hill, she was in the Honors Fiction program and received degrees in English and German. She enjoys writing short stories, rock climbing, volunteering for political campaigns, and knitting. She has been a mentor at Girls Write Now since 2017.