Chapter One: Thirteen

Jeremy Phillips awoke to the sound of rumbling thunder, and for a moment, reeled in fright. The sky above was a turbulent black mass, occasionally lit by a silver flash of lightning. His fear quickly abated when he remembered his Barney doll lying beside the pillow. He firmly tucked it under his chin, rolled back under his dingy green blanket, and slept on the cave floor with several hundred other children in the cavern.

As he snuggled close to his purple plush companion, he began to think back how he came to know Barney. It all began so many years ago, in a time completely unlike the one he lived in now. He remembered the television show, the feature-length movies and videos, the merchandise, and the ever-assuring presence of the best friend a kid could ever hope for. Most of this happened before the Great Act of Love.

The Great Act of Love was defined by some as a cataclysm, though these were the skeptics. Jeremy had actually heard an adult call it a holocaust, though he never understood what the word exactly meant. All he remembered was one weekend afternoon, and a call to duty that raised the voices and arms of thousands of children to purge the world of a menace that threatened the peace and love between Barney and the children.

They killed every adult they could find that day.

Barney had planned it well. He knew for a long time how all the adults of the world were trying to keep him and the children apart. Instead of giving in, the Purple One arranged a live, satellite-broadcast concert presented from the nation's capitol. The turnout was enormous, as Jeremy remembered it. Across the country, wide-eyed children gaped at the screen in awe and joy at the antics of the fat purple dinosaur and his companion, Baby Bop. Then, in a wise and calculated fashion, the one known as Barney unleashed his will upon the world, calling attention to those who opposed him. Every child carried out the Great Act of Love, as it would soon be called, without hesitation or remorse. The night turned blood red, broken by the screams of adults. By dawn however, a blissful serenity had settled upon the carnage.

Jeremy wasn't sure what happened next. That was all six years ago. Or was it seven? He was so much younger then. He did know that Barney and Baby Bop came again to unite all the children, and took them under his care and guidance. They told stories and played games with the children, and gave each and every child a Barney doll and blanket. The videos were shown every day, and though the children were left to forage for their own food, it was plentiful because of the vast fields of grain Barney raised with the help of his nameless faceless servants, known as the Loved Ones.

Jeremy had never known of or seen a Loved One until well after the Great Act of Love. They were mysterious creatures, who spoke no language and communicated in curious grunts and coos. They were squat, bulky creatures donned in purple and green robes. They frequented the caverns and tunnels that laced the landscape. Jeremy often saw them scampering about with their wooden torches, often carrying odd bundles up to the lair of Barney and Baby Bop. They weren't as loving or caring as Barney. As a matter of fact, they practically avoided all interaction with the children.

The other group Jeremy knew of were the Bad Ones. The Bad Ones were simply adults who had survived the initial slaughter stemming from the Great Act of Love. No one was sure how many had survived, but Barney and Baby Bop assured everyone that they were evil, and would come in the night and put poisonous spiders under your pillow if you so much as looked at one. This frightened the children immensely, and Jeremy hoped to God (Barney?) that he never met any.

But despite all the talk of Loved Ones and Bad Ones, Jeremy cared most for his group, known as the Special Friends. The Special Friends was an exclusive group, for any young child could be a Special Friend. Barney had deemed this early on, and it was a title every child of the caverns carried with true pride.

Jeremy was especially proud this evening. This was the last day he would be twelve-years-old. Tomorrow, he would be thirteen. Actually, so would his twin sister Fran, and his best friend since second grade, Cameron. It was well known that it was a very special day indeed when a Special Friend turned thirteen. The three of them were to see Barney tomorrow night, for a "special gift". What it would be, no one knew. No one ever came back to tell anyone else . . . .

"What do you think we'll get?" asked Fran, as they walked up the glistening cold steps.

"I don't know," replied Jeremy. "Maybe we'll get a life-size Barney doll!"

"No, it's got to be better than that," said Cameron, adjusting his thick glasses and lanky red hair. "If no one comes back, it means maybe we're going on a vacation, maybe to Hawaii or China!"

The three of them hoped that the Loved One clambering ahead of them would say something, but it simply gurgled and kept climbing up the crude rock stairwell. It clutched its torch with a thick, leathery glove.

"I'll bet it is a vacation!" squealed Fran, the excitement rising in her voice. "I hope we get to choose, I want to go to Europe, that's where mom always-"

Fran caught herself. Ever since the Great Act of Love, no child was to ever mention their parents. While it made Fran sad, she wouldn't want to hurt Barney's feelings. He loved her just as much as her mom and dad ever did. Even more, he said.

The three children talked excitedly among themselves as they climbed the immense stairwell. Finally, they came upon a landing which opened out to a great open plain. Jeremy was the first to notice the bizarre sight ahead. He let out a short gasp, which drew the attention of Fran and Cameron.

Across the wide plain stood an ornate building, many stories high, and shrouded in thick ivy. It was apparent that this building was once white, but had been sloppily repainted in varying shades of purple and green. Great flocks of birds flew amidst the rubble, and scores of automobiles littered the landscape, rusting and shattered.

Cameron was the first to identify the structure. It was the nation's capitol.

The Loved One sensed the children's awe and squealed at them. The children followed, their gaze still locked on the grotesquely painted building. When they got to what was formerly the White House, they again reeled in amazement. The whole structure was painted in the same fashion as the capitol, the steps flanked by torches and statues of Barney. The children entered the building, and the huge armored door swung shut behind them.

"Hello, all my friends! Happy thirteenth birthday to you!"

The fat purple dinosaur giggled and wobbled over to the three children. He gave each one a warm, enveloping hug. The children reacted joyfully, and cried, "We love you Barney!"

"And I love you too. I'm so happy to be with my Special Friends. Especially on such an important day! Let's sing a song!"

The children and Barney sang "Happy Birthday" several times, and danced around the room that was once called the Oval Office. From a darkened corner, a small ensemble of Loved Ones played the music, on poorly tuned and rusty instruments. The children didn't mind. They were here with their very best friend, Barney. And who could forget . . . .

"Baby Bop! There you are!"

The green, baby-eyed dinosaur scampered into the room, holding three-small birthday cakes. "I'm here. Oooohhh, I just loovveeee parties!" She proceeded to hug the children and incited them to blow out the candles on their cake. When they did, she ecstatically jumped for joy and squealed with delight. The children blew out their candles and gorged themselves on the cake. Within minutes, they had eaten every last crumb.

Children's enthusiasm has no limit. It came to no one's surprise when the children asked about their Special Gift. Barney and Baby Bop both laughed warm-heartedly.

"But of course you'll get your Special Gift! How could we forget that?" said Barney, folding his arms over his immense abdomen. "Baby Bop, how about taking Fran to see her surprise?"

"Gladly!" squealed Baby Bop. "Come with me, Fran, you're just gonna love this one. It's every young girl's dream come true!" And with that, she took Fran by the hand and led her hurriedly out of the room. Fran could barely get a chance to look back at the two boys and wave goodbye. The next moment she and the bubbly green dinosaur were gone.

The two boys were puzzled, but excited. "Barney, you mean Fran gets a different Special Gift than us boys?" asked Jeremy.

"Why yes she does, Jeremy. But don't worry, your gift is just as special. All I want you to do right now is hold very still." The next moment Barney took a thick slab of charcoal and wrote "13" on the boys' foreheads. He then nodded to the Loved Ones in the corner, and they left the room with their instruments. Only one Loved One remained, and he brought a cloth-wrapped bundle to the Purple One. "Okay, Jeremy and Cameron, I want you to kneel on the floor and close your eyes. Then I'll give you your Special Gift!"

The two boys looked at each other, but both believed in Barney. Why would he do something bad to them? They kneeled on the floor and closed their eyes. Both began wondering what they would be getting. A ticket for a jet ride? An envelope filled with money? The possibilities were staggering to a young child's mind.

From behind them, the boys heard Barney unwrap the bundle. A moment later, there came a curious sound, the sound of metal chafing against leather.

Something wasn't right.

Jeremy flung himself forward, just as a swishing noise came down upon him. He hit the floor hard, and he heard Cameron hit the floor alongside him. He opened his eyes and stared at Cameron. His head was chopped off.

Jeremy screamed in terror, and in his fright rose to his feet and ran straight into a wall. He hit with tremendous force and he felt the wind knocked out of him. He fell back on the floor, and stared into the severed head of his best friend since second grade. He screamed again, and looked up at Barney, wielding an immense, blood-stained machete. The fat squalid reptile looked back with a puzzled look.

"Why Jeremy, you weren't supposed to peek! When you play a game, you should always play by the rules. Rules are what makes a game work." Barney giggled and motioned with his arm. "Now come back here and close your eyes. It'll be fun!"

"You . . . you killed . . . C-C-Cameron!" cried Jeremy, tears running down his face. "You-you're gonna kill me too!"

"Why Jeremy, why would I do that? Cameron's not dead, he's just playing a pretend game! If you had played the game right as he had, you'd be having fun pretending like he is!"

Jeremy stared back at the lifeless head of Cameron. A small trickle of blood flowed out of his nose, and his thick glasses were shattered. Smeared around the dead boy's mouth was pink frosting. Sensing Jeremy's fear, the Purple one returned the machete to its sheath and gave it back to the Loved One.

"There, Jeremy. I've put the scary knife away. I'm sorry I scared you. I'm sure Cameron is sorry too. Now come on back here. I'm not going to hurt you, Jeremy. Don't you know how much I love you?"

"I . . . I . . . I love you too . . . Barney" muttered Jeremy, his eyes still locked upon the battered head on the floor. He slowly rose up, and began walking towards the bloated purple dinosaur.

"There, there, Jeremy, we'll still have fun," said Barney in a motherly tone. He extended his chubby arms towards the child. "I'm not going to hurt you . . . I'm not going to hurt you . . . ."

Jeremy walked between Barney's arms and rested against his fat belly. The Purple One wrapped firmly behind the boy, gently stroking his sandy hair.

". . .I'm going to kill you!"

The next instant the arms locked onto the boy's neck, plump purple talons digging into his throat. Jeremy tried to scream, but the air was cut off and he could only thrash about wildly. Barney began giggling again, and as he proceeded to strangle the child, sang a lullaby:

I love you, you love me, let me kill you Jeremy, In another moment you'll be gone, then my power will continue on . . . .

Jeremy's tongue and eyes bulged tremendously, his feet kicking sporadically. Lights flashed before his eyes, and all he could see in between was the wide, moronic grin and lifeless eyes of the gigantic purple beast choking him. His lungs were bursting, and a roaring sound rushed through his ears . . . .

The next thing he knew, he was on the floor, gasping for air. He looked up and saw the fat bloated beast curled next to him, moaning in pain. He must've kicked Barney in a good spot, to have rendered him powerless. Jeremy began to crawl away, when he noticed the Loved One unsheathing the machete and scampering towards him.

Jeremy quickly picked himself up and ran out the door. The Loved One paused, then dropped the machete and tended to Barney, who was still writhing on the floor in pain. Another time, perhaps.

Jeremy ran blindly through the hallway, he'd been here a long time ago when adults still occupied the building. He and his parents had been here on a tour, and true to a child's memory, he could remember a back entrance that would take him to safety, hopefully. Behind him he heard the muffled cries of Loved Ones, who were obviously chasing him. He knew immediately that he could outrun them all.

When he tried the back lock, Jeremy found it to be open. He flung the door and ran out onto a back terrace. Through the darkness, he ran across an odd, lumpy surface. It was almost like running on a field covered with cantaloupes. It wasn't until he got on the far edge of the surface that he began to realize what the surface was.

They were heads.

Jeremy had never seen a more unholy, dark sight. In the silver rays of the moon above, Jeremy looked upon the hundreds of skulls that littered the terrace area. He gaped, dumbfounded at the scene, and kept running and running until he had cleared the last head by a wide distance.

He was now in the ruins of a city, empty and quiet like a tomb. Jeremy looked back at the sinister silhouette of the capitol building and wondered how soon Barney and the Loved Ones would be out, searching for him. He began to fear for his sister Fran, and wondered what "Special Gift" she had been given by Baby Bop. All the time, his mind raced back to what he had seen crudely scrawled onto each head, and of his own age, the age of impending adulthood:


@ Copyright 1996, Brian Bull

Click here for Chapter 2 of Day of the Barney II