National Hippo Day Prompt Writing
February 15th, 2022: National Hippo Day
On this day, my friend Megan McCarthy held a writing stream on YouTube where we wrote to hippopotamus themed writing prompts. It was so fun and helped me to break my burnout I had slumped into for the past 3 months. Thank you Megan. I've decided to post my three pieces of writing and the prompts associated with them below for your enjoyment. I had a blast, and I hope you do to while reading them. If you would rather watch me write them live and read them aloud, here is the recording of the stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNnIyoy8bkI
PROMPT #1: Hippos are quick to anger. Write a scene where your character's emotions rapidly change from one to another.
The twisted, gnarled branches of the deformed tree reached towards me, whether to ensnare me or ward me off, I did not know. Leaves decayed at the base of the exposed roots, shed by rot and wind. Like me. Cast off by a dying family, back to our roots. Great-great grandfather and his derelict mansion.
Heart in my throat, clogging it with its viscous, pulsing blood, I knocked on the huge wooden doors. Their ornate engravings were wearing away, slowly being lost to time. Like the man inside.
I bowed my head as I waited for someone to answer. The wind whipped at my peacoat, shearing straight through my stockings. They were the warmest things I owned.
Crack! The doors parted as pieces of dead vines and clods of dirt fell into my braided hair. A woman peered out.
“Is that all you brought?” asked the live-in nurse, Ms. Josephine, staring at my single piece of hand-held luggage.
Of all the things to start with.
“Yes,” I snapped back. The one thing I hated being brought up, our family’s lack of money. “It’s everything I need and more.”
Ms. Josephine bristled, but stepped back, ushering me inside. As my feet crossed the threshold my mercurial mood shifted once again. There was no furniture in the foyer. Just cobwebs so thick They looked like suspended snow. The mosaic floor was coated in a layer of grime. The skittering of rat feet echoed, belaying their size. They must be about as big as our old dog Lucy. She died last year, when I was seven, just after my brother died.
“Come along then,” Ms. Josephine said, while climbing the crumbling staircase to the next floor.
The carpet running down the center of the once grand staircase was moldy and missing pieces. Those enormous rats must have taken some for nesting.
My foot went straight through the wood, up to my hip. Adrenaline pumping in my ears, my fear transformed. Who cared if my family wanted me to live here, this place would kill me!
It took a few moments of both of us heaving me away from the hole, but I was freed. I took my suitcase and marched right back out of that hell hole, took one last glance at the dead tree and stuck my tongue out at it. It could keep my dying family. I was starting a new one.
PROMPT #2: Hippos are one of the most dangerous animals in the world. Write a scene where your character is in physical danger they aren't sure they can escape.
Pure light engulfed Harold. A pulsing in his ears drove him to his knees, vertigo assaulting him. Where was the ground? He was falling, but not landing. Head over heals, knees over elbows, crown over tailbone. Insides over outsides.
Bang! His side slammed into something solid, unyielding and cold. He was laying down. Finally.
Chitter, chitter. Click. Chitter.
“What?” Harold asked groggily, opening his eyes now that the all encompassing, blinding light had faded to a more natural mid-day intensity.
Large bug-like creatures were leaning over him, examining his face.
Click, chitter, click.
One mantis type creature pushed a button on its armband. Harold was once again weightless, now floating at thorax height. His brains slowly stopped swimming around his scrambled head. “Where am I? Who are you? What are you doing?” he asked, unsure if they would even understand him. “Please let me go. I want to go home.” Tears came unbidden to the corners of his eyes, and slid down the sides of his face into his ears. It was uncomfortable to hear the saline enter and creep towards his eardrums. More tears welled against his will, compounding the problem.
His clothes disintegrated, ashes falling to the metal flooring, only to be swept away by a small electronic contraption.
Harold was let down onto a bed of some sort, but where his skin stuck to it. Some type of viscous, yellow sap. He was sinking into it. An inch. Two inches. The yellow substance crawled up the sides of his face.
Chitter, click, click.
Harold’s body went ridged. All non-essential muscle function seemed to have been turned off. He could not close his eyes. The world tinted amber as his eyes were slowly encased, his nose sealed. It oozed down his nostrils towards the thin plate protecting his brain. His breathing brought the substance into his airways, coating the finger-like membranes lining his lungs.
No more air.
There was nothing he could do, vision darkening. The last sight imprinting on his retinas, grinning insectoids chittering in laughter.
PROMPT #3: Hippos secrete a pinkish substance that acts as sunscreen. Write a scene where your character either secretes a substance, or slathers sunscreen on themselves.
The pneumatic hiss of the spacecraft’s inner door filled the small room. Time to gear up to go out into the void.
Ryan dipped his hand into the container of pink protectant and slathered it on his face, ears and neck, it’s oily texture unpleasant but necessary. It would shield him from harmful rays that pierce through the tinted visor of the spacesuits. He shimmied into the rest of his equipment and locked the helmet into place. Time to go do repairs.
The outer door whooshed open; the air being pulled out of it into the vacuum of space. Ryan stepped out onto the side of the ship, his magnetized boots allowing him to traverse the exterior of the hull. His target valve was on the other side. He would have to walk 180 degrees around the circumference of the ship.
As his head rounded the edge of the docking bay, half way there, his eyes widened and breath escaped his lungs. There, floating in silence, was a being the scanners had not picked up. Its large yellow eyes peered out from a mass of boiling tentacles. There was intelligence there, but not human. As the tip of a purple, writhing appendage approached Ryan’s helmet, he could feel the pink protectant begin to bubble and peel away from his skin. The Geiger counter on his suit was lighting up like a yule log; yellows, oranges and reds, no air to carry it’s screaming.
As the tentacle came into contact with his helmet, it passed straight through to his head, then inside his head. He could feel it rooting around for something. Memories spilled out his eyes and the future filled him instead. Civilizations would rise and fall, vast nebulas form and die, universes expire. Just like he would in three seconds. Two. One. Blackness.
PROMPT #4: Imagine you have a hippo purse that turns into a real hippo when wet. How do you use it?
Angelica had always loved My Neighbor Totoro. The large fluffy creature that would hold a leaf as an umbrella and wait at a bus stop with their human friend. She wanted one of her own. Every night would wish on the north star that she would have a large animal friend too. But, that night, after Angelica went to sleep, the north star shivered and fell.
It careened down the heavens, it’s tiny light illuminating the way. Past the atmosphere it fell, through the open window, and directly into the open mouth of Angelica’s hippo purse.
That morning, Angelica awoke to the pattering of gentle rain hitting her face. Groaning, she rolled over and closed the window. Her blankets were soaked. Ugh. No use trying to fall back asleep. Sighing, Angelica got out of her soggy bed and got ready for elementary school. Before dragging herself out the door to wait at the corner for the school bus, she grabbed her hippo purse that doubled as her pencil case.
“Let’s go Megan,” she said dejectedly to her plush purse friend.
Squish, squish, squish, she shoes sounded against the sidewalk.
Squish, squish, boom!
Angelica screamed in surprise. Her purse was no longer small, and soft and full of pencils. It was a ginormous hippopotamus! And she was riding on its back!
“Megan!” Angelica cried. “You’re real!”
Megan, the 3,000 lb creature merely huffed and waggled her ears.
“You can wait at the bus stop with me!” Angelica said, triumphantly. “No one else has a friend hippopotamus!”
As they lumbered along, Angelica reached over and pulled a giant leaf off a tree and held it over her head, just like in the movie! Life was perfect. Soon the street corner came into view. There were three boys there already waiting for the bus.
“Hey! Look!” Angelica called out. “I have a friend!”
But Megan took one look at the boys and charged. Snap. Snap. Gobble. All three went down her gullet.
“Megan!” Angelica cried, “why did you do that?”
But the newly animated hippo just shrugged Angelica off her shoulders and into her awaiting jaws as well. For, as we all know… to wish upon a fallen star, is to land it the ivory jaws of childhood dreams.