• peterfdavid

Story - Blue Monster Brand Cookies

Updated: Mar 16



Image by twobluecows


I could tell by the way he looked at me that Roger, my editor, was going to give me a pathetic assignment. I get that not every story is going to be a Watergate or a princess in a car crash, but literally every assignment I get is reporting on trivial things like school board meetings and pot-hole repairs. I want to do some actual journalism.

"The cookie factory is shutting down. Give me two thousand words about it."

"That dump next to the bridge? I thought it went out of business years ago."

"Well it's still operating. Until next week, anyway. Here's the number of the manager there. Talk to him about the history of the brand, what it meant for the town, that sort of thing."

"Why their cookies suck," I offered.

"Two thousand words."

"Blue Monster Brand cookies suck. Factory to close. Only 1992 words to go!"

"I'm sure you'll come up with something, Maria. Do some actual journalism!"

I called the cookie factory manager. A guy named Bruce. We set up a time for a visit on Thursday. I spent all day Wednesday doing some "actual journalism" at the library. I found a microfilm of The Monitor from 1952 with a story about the grand opening. Since they were in business for so long, I figured there had to have been something that happened over the years that I could dig up. An industrial accident that was covered up, or some no-longer-acceptable business practice that they clung to for longer than they should have. Something.

I thought I found it in another microfilm. In 1965, an ambitious district attorney brought them into court for false advertising. The issue was the Blue Monster Cookie logo: “The healthiest cookies that exist, made from the same stuff you are.” The lawsuit said this gave a false impression that the cookies were healthful. A laboratory analysis of the cookies found that the logo was true! This is an exact quote from the court documents:

The top ten elements in the cookies, according to fraction by mass, occur in exactly the same proportions as elements found in the human body. For example, the human body is 3.2% Nitrogen, 1.5% Calcium, 1% Phosphorous, and so on for the elements Potassium, Sulfur, Sodium, Chlorine, and Magnesium. The ratio of elements in Blue Monster Brand cookies matches these ratios exactly. Except for the water content, if you were to eat 150 pounds of Blue Monster Brand cookies, you would ingest precisely the same mixture of elements as if you ate a 150-pound human.

The ambitious district attorney lost his case, and Blue Monster Brand Cookies kept the logo “made from the same stuff you are” until 1973 when the movie Soylent Green was released.

On Thursday, I showed up at the factory with nothing. No uncomfortable questions about some shady part of the company’s past. No old accusations of wrongdoing on the part of management. No ugly union disputes. My research uncovered nothing but saccharine nostalgia about the brand and how great the factory was for the town’s economy.

Well, I had almost nothing. The Monitor’s photographer, Sam, came along. He was planning on taking artsy black-and-whites of the crumbling factory, the rusty blue monster sign on the roof, the last batch of cookies to come out of the ovens.

When we arrived, I thought we somehow missed the closing. The gate was padlocked and nobody was around. The parking lot was completely empty. Shouldn’t someone still be working here? I called Bruce, and he met us at the gate. He was an old guy – in his 70s for sure. “Sorry. Forgot I locked that!” He fumbled around in his pocket for the key to the gate, and eventually managed to let us in.

He walked us back to his office – a second-floor room with a window overlooking the production floor. Some of the machinery on the floor was running, although nobody was around to tend it.

Bruce sat behind his desk. “It’s a shame we’re closing huh? Cookie?” He offered Sam and I each a Blue Monster Brand cookie.

I took the tan disk and bit into it. It was exactly as gross as I remembered from when I was a kid.

“These are great cookies,” Sam said. “I’m really going to miss them.” Sam was such a tool.

“Made from the same stuff you are!” I said cheerily.

“That’s right,” said Bruce. “I never changed the formula. It’s just the same as when we started production in 1952.”

“Wait,” I said. “You never changed the formula? You personally invented these cookies?”

“That’s right. They flew me here straight from New York. Told me to make cookies that … uh … met the specifications. And here we are! What a ride.”

“What were you doing in New York?”

“I was a nutrition specialist. For the Bronx Zoo, believe-it-or-not. Formulating balanced diets for the animals there.”

“Mind if I take a look around?” Sam asked. “Take some shots of the factory?”

“Feel free! Just be careful. If a door’s locked, it’s for a reason. We’re shutting down, but there’s still a lot of active equipment here.”

Sam left Bruce’s office, camera already at-the-ready. I began my interview. Time for some actual journalism!

“Bruce, Blue Monster cookies never really took off nationally. Or even regionally. They’ve always been a local brand. Why do you think that is?”

“Well, we never really did get the hang of marketing, I suppose. Budgets were always tight, and there was always some capital expenditure – new equipment or maintenance – that had priority. I guess we just weren’t that good at business.”

“And the brand name itself. Why call it ‘Blue Monster’? What is that?”

Bruce smiled. The smile of someone with an inside joke they weren’t going to let out. He never answered. We were interrupted by a strange, deep, sound that came from below. It sounded like the rumble of a passing truck, or a huge engine starting up. But it also sounded like a word. I swear the sound was a powerful, impossibly deep voice saying one word:

“Cooooooooooooooooooooooooooooookiesssssssssssssssssssssss.”

Bruce’s eyes widened for a moment. Then he regained his composure and stood up. “Sorry Maria, it sounds like some of our equipment might be misbehaving. Hell of thing to happen on the last production run, you know? I’ll be right back.”

Bruce left the office, moving quickly for an old dude.

Five minutes later, he still hadn’t returned. I decided to look around.

I walked down to the production floor. A long, serpentine conveyor moved the product from one end of the room, where it presumably came from ovens, through packaging and boxing. A half-filled palette of cookie boxes sat at the end of the conveyor.

I wandered past the conveyor and exited the production room, following a hallway. Workplace safety and labor law compliance posters were pinned prominently to bulletin boards in the hall. I heard another mechanical sound up ahead. This one didn’t sound like a word, though. Just an ordinary heavy-duty motor starting. Another twenty feet up the hall I came to the freight elevator – the source of the new sound. The elevator clanged to a stop and the vertical sliding doors split open. The freight elevator was empty, except for a small object on the floor.

I stepped into the elevator and examined the object – it was a camera lens. Sam’s camera lens. The glass was shattered and it had had a huge dent in its side. I picked it up. It was wet. I dropped the lens and saw that my hand was covered in blood.

Another sound – the same impossibly deep vocalization as before. This time it was louder. The sound came from below. From where the freight elevator had just been.

“Cooooooooooooooooooooooooooooookiesssssssssssssssssssssss.”

I smiled. This was my chance to do some actual journalism.

* * *

The poorly-maintained elevator made a symphony of clangs and squeals as it lowered me to the basement. The doors split open. Bruce was waiting for me immediately in front of the elevator. He was holding a live chicken.

“Stop right there, young lady!” Bruce thrust the chicken at me. “He’s going to think you’re a cookie!”

“Coooooookkkkkiiieeeeeeeeeeeeessssssssss” sounded from somewhere behind Bruce. The voice was much louder in the basement.

What’s going to think I’m a cookie? What happened to Sam?”

“The photographer? I’m so, so sorry about this.” Bruce slumped a little. He took a step sideways, giving me a clear view of the basement hallway.

The corridor was fifty feet long, tiled with ancient and cracked black-and-white tiles. Bare lightbulbs in cages, like you might see in a gymnasium from 1960, were installed every few feet along the ceiling. For its age and decrepitude, the hallway was certainly well lit.

The corridor ended in a huge metal door. A door that was slightly ajar. A puddle of blood – there’s no way that it was something else – pooled under the door. Gorey remnants of recent and extreme violence dotted the hall. A Converse, just like Sam wore this morning, sat on the floor in front of the door. The broken body of Sam’s camera lay in front of the elevator door. Streaks of blood dripped down the walls in four or five spots.

“Sam got crumbed.”

“Wha– “ I started to ask Bruce what he was talking about. But I began gagging uncontrollably and couldn’t finish my question.

“I know. It’s hard when this happens. When someone gets crumbed. That’s what we call it when he thinks you’re a cookie. You get turned into cookie crumbs.”

I stared at him. I couldn’t figure out what to even ask.

He must have read something into my face that wasn’t there. “Okay fine,” he conceded (although I don’t know what he was conceding to). “Sixty years. Sixty damn years, we managed to keep this a secret. To keep journalists out of our hair. Now, the day before we close, I end up with a young, hot-shot reporter just outside its room, and a dead one inside. Go ahead. It’ll be a relief to get an actual journalist involved. To get this all off my chest. To tell my side of the story.”

Bruce turned and began walking towards the gigantic metal door. He held the chicken in front of him like a priest holding a cross while approaching the subject of an exorcism. “Follow me, closely.”

Halfway between the elevator and the door, the voice asked us “Coooookkkiieeesss?”

“It’s afraid of chickens,” Bruce whispered. “Don’t know why. Just stay behind me and the chicken and we’ll be safe.”

At the door, Bruce thrust the chicken through the opening. Whatever was behind the door gave a shrill cry. Bruce opened the door all the way with his elbow and stepped inside. I followed.

The space beyond the door was a large concrete cell, lit by an array of the same caged-bulbs that illuminated the corridor. The blank concrete walls were stained with ancient black grime. The floor was a mess of blood, flesh, and cookie crumbs. The thing that called for cookies, that “crumbed” Sam, was cowering in the corner, apparently terrified of Bruce’s live chicken.

The thing. The creature – I can’t even call it an animal, because animals make sense and this didn’t – was gigantic. It was furry. It was blue. A beautiful shade of cerulean blue. Its fur was matted and stained in places with the same black grime from the walls of its cell. It had four limbs and a head, arranged in basically the same configuration as a primate. Two enormous hands and two enormous feet with furry fingers and furry toes.

The head, though, made less sense than its body. Two eyes bulged out of the top of its furry head. Two milky-white domes the size of softballs, with pupils that darted about crazily, independent from one another. Bruce brandished the chicken towards it and it let out another wail. Its mouth was an enormous black hole. It had no teeth, just ridges of bone where a normal animal would have lips. It had no tongue. It moved its arms up to protect its head from the chicken. Each limb was easily the size of my body.

“What.” I said, stunned. “The actual.” I stopped mid-sentence, then started up again. “Fuuuuu….”

“Good question,” said Bruce. “That’s what I said when I saw it for the first time.”

“How…?”

“How’d it get here? Another good question. The family that owned the factory pulled him out of an archeological dig in one of the Soviet Republics in the 60s. Broke an insane number of laws doing it. Broke even more laws smuggling it into the US.”

“What is it?”

“Darwin’s worst nightmare. An inexplicable lifeform. A monster.”

“You’ve gotta tell someone about this. Scientists. The President.”

“Nah. I’m just going to kill it.”

“It’s scientifically important.”

“I don’t care. I hate it. Besides, there’s a lot of liability tied up in this thing. Sam’s family alone could sue the pants off me for harboring a dangerous blue cookie eating monster. There’ve been a lot of, shall we say, cookie accidents, over the years. The statute of limitations on the crimes it took to get it here might have passed. But there’s a lot of potential litigation related to the some of the things its eaten. The term criminal negligence comes to mind, frankly.”

“It talks. It’s sentient.”

“It’s an asshole. The only word it says is ‘cookies’.”

“COOOOOOOKKKKKIIIIIIEEEESSSSS.”

Bruce thrust the chicken at the blue monster, and he shrank back into the corner.

“Blue Monster Brand cookies. The factory was created to give it a substitute for human flesh. One that would give him the same nutrition he got in the wild where, we assume, he preyed on people. The family got greedy and decided to market them. Stupid idea. They’re basically dog biscuits for animals that eat humans.”

I know I’m a journalist. And I was in the basement of the factory on a journalistic visit. I’m not supposed to become part of the story. But when the blue monster shifted its pose in response to Bruce’s renewed threat with the chicken, I saw that it had been sitting on Sam’s other Converse. This one still had Sam’s foot and part of this leg in it. At that moment, I decided to quit journalism. I wasn’t very good at it anyway.

“Just shoot it.”

“Bad idea. Its organs are in weird places. Its skull is thicker than an elephant’s. I doubt we could kill it with a rifle before it killed us.”

“Blow it up.”

“I’m 82 years old and I run a cookie factory. I’m supposed to somehow be a demolitions specialist? Do you know how to blow stuff up?”

“No.”

“Well don’t worry. I have a plan. A good plan.”

At that moment, the chicken started to struggle. Bruce tried to adjust his grip, but slipped on the blood-slicked floor. The chicken squirmed out of his grasp and ran out the door.

The monster was on Bruce in an instant! It snatched up the old man and shoved him into his mouth in one blindingly fast motion. The creature’s jaw moved up and down with the speed of a machine. Bruce didn’t even manage to scream before he was crushed and torn apart in the death-chamber of a mouth.

I ran.

I slammed my way through the metal door and sprinted to the other end of the hall. The elevator door was closed. I pushed the button to call it. The sounds of Bruce being devoured flooded the hallway.

The elevator still hadn’t come when the creature howled again. “COOOKKKKIIEEESSS!”

There was absolutely nowhere to hide in the hallway. Either the elevator came or I died. The creature poked its head through the door. “COOOOKKKIEEESS!”

The elevator dinged and the doors opened. I spun myself inside and jabbed the “G” button over and over like a maniac. The monster ran towards me. In the movies, the elevator door always closes before the thing that’s chasing the main character gets there. This wasn’t the movies. The monster ran full-speed into the freight elevator and crashed into the back wall. Then the doors closed, trapping me in the elevator with it.

It regarded me for a moment – both pupils faced me at the same time. I was about to get crumbed.

* * *

I looked into the creature’s eyes. I saw nothing. No curiosity. No suffering. No rage. Even cats expose more of their personality and thoughts through their eyes than this furry blue death-machine. A clucking sound came from behind me and the monster’s eyes turned derpy again; his pupils started swirling independently. The chicken was in the elevator with us!

I spun around and saw the bird standing behind me. I dove to grab it and it ran. The monster retreated to the corner of the elevator, seemingly as terrified of being stuck in an elevator with a chicken as I was of being stuck in an elevator with it. I lunged, trying to grab the chicken but stay as far away as I could from the cookie monster.

I dove at the bird and missed. From my post-dive position on the floor, I snatched at it and missed again. I stood, grabbing at the bird and missing again while struggling to my feet. The elevator doors opened. The bird ran out in a flash and was instantly gone from sight.

“COOOOKIIESS!”

I sprinted out of the elevator, searching frantically for the chicken. Why didn’t Bruce have a back-up chicken somewhere? That was a fatal mistake, not having a back-up chicken.

The chicken was gone. I kept running at top speed, back into the packaging room. Behind me, I heard the creature pounce out of the elevator. I risked a glance backwards, knowing it would slow me down. The ceiling on the main factory floor was tall enough for the monster to stand up. It was fifteen feet tall.

Its pupils spun wildly about the white hemispheres on its head. They both came to a stop fixed on me. It started after me with an awkward, shambling, four-limbed gait that moved it forward surprisingly quickly.

I took a diagonal path through the packaging area. I slid under the conveyor belt and darted between two large packaging machines. The monster came skidding to a halt at the end of the conveyor, where dozens of boxes of cookies had accumulated.

It bellowed the only word it knew and slammed its face into the conveyor. Its jaw flew open and shut with a machine-gun-paced slams. Cookies, crumbs, boxes, and parts of the conveyor belt flew in all directions. I can’t imagine a less efficient method of eating. Did it even swallow any food?

It finished its meal in only a few seconds. Shot up to its full height and fixed its eyes on me. I ran.

The packaging room is basically an industrial version of American Ninja Warrior. I dove under segments of the conveyor and vaulted others. I scrambled over piles of packaging supplies and did parkour-like maneuvers to get over other obstacles. The monster did not have my finesse, it plowed through the machinery of the room. It used its jaws to tear away the parts of the packaging machinery that didn’t go flying when it ran into them. Bits of broken machines, conveyor rolls, and tools fell around me. It was gaining on me.

I made it to the other side of the room. Praying that the metal door I was aiming for was open. It was. I slammed through the door and tried to whip it shut behind me. The automatic door closer took over and turned my attempt at a door-slam into a slow, gentle closing motion.

I screamed and threw my body into the door. It clicked shut an instant before the monster crashed into it. Does it know how to work a doorknob?

My question was answered a microsecond later. A deafening thump sounded and a bulge approximately the same size as the monster’s jaw formed on the metal door. I heard its rapid-fire jaw slam shut and the door shook. Another slam and another monster-face-sized deformity was pounded into the metal door. The top door hinge bent.

I turned around to see where I was. If there was any way I could hide, or run, or fight. I was in another large factory space – the space where the cookies were made. The centerpiece of the room was a huge industrial mixer with a bowl that was just about the size of my living room.

I ran up the short flight of metal stairs to the platform surrounding the mixer bowl. This got me away from the door, which was about to give in. And I had the crazy thought that I could hide in the mixing bowl. Running from the monster, I decided, was not a winning proposition. But the blue beast didn’t seem very smart. I thought I might be able to hide from it.

The mixing bowl was full. Flour, eggs, butter had all been dumped in, but not mixed up. An industrial-scale pile of eggs sat in a puddle on a literal ton of flour and sugar. A chunk of butter the size of an engine block sat near the edge of the pile of flour.

Was this part of Bruce’s plan to kill the monster? Was it just part of the last run of cookie production?

“COOOKIEEESSS!” The monster slammed on the door. The upper hinge fell onto the floor.

I had an idea. It probably wasn’t as good as whatever Bruce had come up with. But, unlike Bruce, I didn’t have the luxury of sixty damn years to come up with a way to dispose of the cookie monster. I ran down the stairs to the mixer platform and looked for the controls. I like to cook, and, frankly, I’ve spent a lot of money on kitchen appliances at Williams Sonoma. But none of my advanced “home-ec” skills prepared me to operate an industrial-sized, 10,000-gallon mixer. The control panel consisted of a bunch of switches with labels like Motor-fan and P15-underride. They might-as-well have been Egyptian hieroglyphs. I had no idea what they meant.

But there were two big buttons next to the Cherynobyl-control-room mess of switches. A red button labeled Emg-Stop and a green button labeled Mix. I slammed my palm onto the Mix button.

Good God that thing can mix. The mixing paddle, or whatever you call the chunk of metal that spins around and combines the ingredients, moved swiftly and effortlessly through the pile of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. The machine made a low hum as it worked, like it was casually letting me know that throwing 2,000 pounds of cookie batter around was no big deal.

“COOOKIEEESSS!” The door finally gave way. It fell on the floor and the monster stepped through. It stood up to its full height, eyes spiraling like mad. I slammed on the Emg-Stop button and ran up the stairs to the mixer platform.

One pupil fixed on me. Then the other. “Who wants cookies?” I asked.

The monster launched itself towards me. It charged through a palette of fifty-pound bags of flour without slowing down. It made an amazing, cat-like leap to the top of the mixer platform and stared at me.

I pointed into the bowl, at the partially-mixed batter. “Cookies!”

It dove into the mixing bowl. Dove. Like you’d dive off a dock into a lake. Its entire head plunged into the mixture. I could hear its jaw working furiously from under the dough.

I jumped down the stairs and slammed on the Mix button.

The mixer mixed. But it didn’t mix casually, like when it was full of normal ingredients. The motor whined, and the paddle moved in fits and starts. Clouds of flour erupted from the bowl. The lights next to the incomprehensible control switches lit up in yellow and red. Alrm Ack. Ovr Amp. Pad Bal.

The monster screamed. A high-pitched squeal. I heard a cracking sound from inside the bowl. For a moment, I thought the mixer broke. But a furry foot, detached from the rest of the monster’s body, spilled out from the bowl and landed on the top of the control panel. The monster shrieked again.

Adrenaline and cortisone and dopamine and God-knows whatever other chemicals spilled into my bloodstream. I was amped out of my mind. I screamed at the mixing bowl – stupid things like “journalism, bitch!” and “how do you like them cookies, motherfucker!” I made no sense, but I didn’t care.

More stuff spilled out of the bowl. A tuft of blue fur. A glob of cookie batter, died red from the creature’s blood. A series of cracks and crunches came from the mixer. The cookie monster was silent. The mixer’s motor returned the casual hum that said it had no problem mixing the stuff in the bowl.

I slumped to the floor. I felt sleepy. I wanted to take a nap right there, at the base of mixing bowl. Your body can only handle so much stress, and after you hit your limit, your reactions don’t make sense to anyone else.

I was about to doze off when my phone rang. It was Roger, my editor.

Oh shit, I thought. Mentally, in the basement, I quit journalism. I advocated for the execution of the subject of my journalistic inquiry. Then I fought for my life against that same subject of journalistic inquiry. And won – I killed one of the most important discoveries of the century. They don’t really cover this kind of situation in the Topics In Modern Journalism course at the community college.

“Hi Roger. Uh. Hi. How’s it going?”

“Hey Marie! I’m just checking on the factory story. Everything going well?”

“Have I got a story for you Roger! Greed. Gluttony. Criminal Negligence. You name it, it’ll be in there.”

“Great. Just keep it to 2000 words.”

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