While hiking through wild forest in western China, a young explorer lost his footing and tumbled down a hill. Not seriously injured, he and struggled back to his feet and started dusting himself off, when, between two trees, he spied what looked like a panda holding a baseball.
I couldn’t have seen that right, he thought, and rubbed his eyes to be sure. But when the spots had cleared, sure enough, the panda still stood before him several yards away, and still held a baseball.
He might have stood gawking for several minutes except for what happened next. The Panda cocked its arm and pitched the baseball in the opposite direction. The ball zipped in a blurred beeline, and the distinct crack of wood on leather broke the silence.
Still unnoticed by the beast, the explorer headed into thicker brush and snuck in closer. What he saw astounded him.
Three round markers were placed in a clearing in a traditional baseball diamond shape, and, huddled together near home plate, three panda bears stood nearby. The “pitcher”, the panda the explorer had first seen, stood in the middle of the diamond, though the spot lacked a proper mound. The pitcher waited, its paw once again palming the baseball, for one of the three panda to step up to home. It was at this point the explorer noticed the panda on first base.
He’d just wandered into a panda baseball game.
At this point, he removed his binoculars and focused on the proceedings, and as his magnified gaze panned across the field, he noticed something odd about the bases. Curious, he closed in on one.
It was a human skull.
Startled, the young explorer took a step back. His foot found a loose twig, and a loud “snap” echoed through the forest.
All furry black and white forms turned toward him, each with a look of fury that froze the young man’s blood.
The pitcher panda showed its white teeth, its lips pulled back in a sinister grin.
As the panda drew his paw back, the explorer turned to flee.
The world slipped away into sharp agony.
Cal-doo waited for the next batter to step up. Kra-li always managed to hit a double, but this time, he thought his fastball would get the better of her. As he prepared to throw, his foot pressed upon the new, round, pearly white pitcher’s mound, the one they’d added shortly after the human had stumbled onto their game. Perfect! After all these months, they’d completed their baseball field.
The above was written during a writing exercise (polished slightly for its public debut) given the following prompts / props: a baseball, a stuffed panda bear, and a human skull (rubber facsimile). This story was the result of that exercise, polished slightly for its public debut. Click here to read E. Chris Garrison’s story from the same prompts. Special thanks to Nicole Cushing for assembling the props and running the exercise.