Two well dressed men made their way through the police line surrounding the dorm room building of one Christopher Browning. The older of the two briefly flashed an ID card identifying him and his compatriot as members of the recently formed Arkham Research Center, and they made their way toward the room the young man’s body was found in.
“So, what do we know?” asked the younger of the two as he got his bearings.
The older replied with a trained look around the room, and ran a hand through his prematurely graying hair. “One Christopher Browning, majoring in advanced mathematical theory. The last month or so he started exhibiting the symptoms a few of those others were showing before we found what was left of them. A low fever, sensitive hearing, sleep walking, abnormal behavior. Claimed he was seeing things. Some of his roommates said he was obsessed with this girl with glasses he kept dreaming of, and a white rabbit.”
“White rabbit? I’m pretty sure that’s narcotic related slang. You sure this isn’t a drug related incident?”
“Hold on, what’s this.”
Raising an eyebrow, the younger of the two prowled around the room, stepping gingerly through the sea of junk, and was soon crouching down to study the ex-college student’s book case. “Hm… heavy stuff. Nothing he shouldn’t have, though. Non-Euclidean Calculus, Quantum Physics, Nature of the Physical World…” he trailed off, his tone turning guarded,” Great. How the heck did a college student get a hold of this?”
The grey haired man leaned over, and winced. “Unaussprechlichen Kulten, of von Junzt. That’ll be going in the vault. This kid was into something deep. I wonder what he and the others found out that would leave them like this.”
Letting out a low impressed whistle, the crouching agent produced a plastic bag from his jacket. The bag was lined with more than just a biohazard warning. Strange ancient runes crisscrossed the clear plastic surface forming a mystic seal. Gloves were donned as he carefully slipped the book in question out from its resting place, the cover throbbing with a palpable energy that gave the younger of the two a cold shiver before he had it sealed off in the bag. “What on earth is going on? This is the sixth one we’ve found like this, isn’t it?”
Nodding slowly, the older agent grimaced, “In the states. We haven’t checked with any of the other countries for similar cases.” he took a measured look toward the body of the young student stretched out on the bed. The room wasn’t all that strange, aside from the few questionable books. It had the typical arrangement and furnishings of a young college student trying to live as frugally as possible. A single, small bed squeezed into one corner, book shelves made of bricks and wood planks, one modest work desk covered with various papers, which were covered in scribbled formulae of the sort that either of the two investigators, thankfully, couldn’t make sense of.
Up until his most recent episodes, the young man had been almost infamous for the clean state he kept his domicile in. During the end, he started locking himself in his room, and was almost never seen leaving. The other students had assumed he’d snuck out at night, because every morning he’d wander back in wearing his pajamas, and looking haggard. Soon the clean floor had become littered with food wrappers and leftovers, and empty bottles of Smirnoff vodka that were hard not to kick over as one moved about the room.
Like many of the others the two grim investigators had been briefed on or personally performed the reconnaissance for, he’d insisted he was on the verge of some great discovery, and that he couldn’t be bothered to attend classes because his research was of paramount importance. In a manner not unlike the others, the way he’d been found one morning in his room absolutely baffled the efforts of the local Police Department. Indeed, the only real similarity between this particular case and the cause of death of the others happened to be the absolutely indefinable manner in which they’d died, and no two had been found in the same way.
The remains of Christopher Browning were half naked, strewn across his bed amongst a sea of empty Smirnoff vodka bottles, his body twisted in a curious spiral normal human biology made near impossible to accomplish through earthly means. He resembled some morbid piece of twisted man taffy, or a mime very effectively doing a barber pole imitation. His bones had, as near as anyone could tell, turned malleable at one point, and then solid again once they’d finished warping about, for the flesh and bones underneath gave no signs, other than their strange shape, of being forced or stretched or broken. This process had apparently divested him of his eyes as well, for two vacant dark voids stared back out from the hollowed cranial and ocular cavities, which several flies had already began to show a keen interest in.
Finally having been able to examine whatever they could without further help, the older of the two took out a pair of dark glasses and put them on, scanning the room once more.
Obviously the younger agent was still rather new, for he gave his elder partner a curious look, and quipped, “Isn’t it a little dark in here for those?”
Shaking his head, the grey haired gentleman tapped the sides of the glasses. “They’re Tillinghast glasses. They’ve been fine tuned to pick up the disturbances left by Class-X entities.” He grimaced, “just like the others. This place is saturated with it. It’s dripping off the corpse. We’ll have to quarantine the whole building until we can get a team in here. Have someone bag everything in the room.”
Procedures were followed, and excuses were made. The official story was that there had been a gas leak, and some swamp gas had reflected off of an ascending Venus and caused the peculiar death of the young man while he was smoking marijuana cigarettes. Condolences were sent to his family, and anti-drug posters posted up in the colleges hallways. The more occult items of the college student’s room were confined to a vault buried very deeply within the bowels of the Miskatonic Valley. Unofficially, the cause of the strange pattern of deaths couldn’t be determined conclusively. Some of the doctors at ARC suggested it to be a failed attempt on nature’s part at a new form of mutation, as yet unseen, others felt it to be a result of brilliant young minds coming into contact with a fourth-dimensional entity and suffering the inevitable outcome, as the effects of fourth- or higher-dimensional physiology on simple, three dimensional entities, was rarely pretty.
Tuesday Morning, March 6, 2007
It had taken me a while to get back to bed that morning, and I’d gotten just under the bare minimum of rest my body needed to be of the fabled eyes of bright and tail of bushy. The insistent alarm clock did little to sweep the sleep fog from my mind, but it was only the first of the mighty warriors on the line drawn between consciousness and dream land. The great gladiator of awake land happened to be my mom, who bustled into my room fearlessly, only taking a few moments to chide me quietly for the muddy bare feet I’d stumbled on top of my bed with, and pierced through my groggy half sleep with perhaps the best alarm known to mankind.
“JOSHUA ANDREWS GILLMAN, if you don’t wake up THIS instant, I’m getting the bucket of water! You’re going to be late for school!” came the not so idle threat of a mother’s voice. I say not so idle, because she’d used the bucket of water before. Just once. You only really need to feel the arctic chill of motherly vengeance once in your life to know it’s no longer a bluff.
Despite my earlier activities I was up like a bolt, my body moving faster than my mind could follow. Suffering that same odd sense of reality jumping I’d exhibited the previous several nights, I tried to ignore the feelings that everything I looked at was only half real, and the lines of geometry and the universal language of mathematics that made it all seem so simple - even the kung-fu mutant-busting action grip of my Knights of Purity action figures on the desk! It was also much later than I thought it had been, and I had less time than normal to grab my glasses and rush to the bathroom to clean up, grab something portable to eat, and heft up the bulk of my backpack over one shoulder and take off for the mind numbing bliss of public schooling on my recently rectified bike.
Yah, I de-dildoed it.
About half way to school with the piece of bread safely deposited within my rumbling belly, I noticed the oddly off weight of my backpack. Public school bred pack mules, forcing kids to haul around enough books to populate a college library, and backpacks had to become steadily stronger and sturdier to keep up with this. So I was slightly suspicious when the usual feeling of bricks stacked on my back as I rode felt somewhat lighter. It was inconsequential however. If I’d forgotten a book or two, I could just borrow one from someone else. Or, if it came down to it, share. But that was a bitter last resort.
My mind turned to other thoughts as the combination of the brisk morning air cooling my overheated body, and the exertion of peddling like a madman did much to clear my head. One of the things I liked to do in the morning was to make lists in my head. I found forming mental checklists during the day made things exceedingly simpler and did well to combat those slothful moments between classes and after school when you’re talking with your best friend, and the inevitable “so what do you want to do?” is asked, and the even more inevitable “I dunno, what do you want to do?” is answered. So, I had a checklist going for the day.
Somewhere on the bottom of this checklist was the math test we had scheduled for today, and the expected cramming and studying I probably should have been doing beforehand, all two or three minutes of it. This didn’t particularly fill me with feelings of dread and awe, however. That was probably going to be the highlight of my day, if anything.
Somewhere near the top fighting for first place were my two greater goals, prompted by the talking-to I’d gotten from both my best friend and my father the night before. I had to lay down the law with Ray, or I was going to become his punching bag.
Bullies were perhaps the simplest of high school wild life. Someone once said that human beings are hard wired for two things: sex, and violence. Ray exhibited the latter sort of wiring towards me, rather than the former (thank goodness). He was the sort of animal that was always looking around, testing his fellow students for ones he could pick on without getting too much flack for it, and who he could no doubt pass on the highly suspected (on my suspected part, anyway) familial beatings to. (I thought his dad beat him furiously every night. For being a dick.) Once you got marked as someone who could get beaten on without any sort of repercussions, or without anyone of your peers caring, you got tagged as a “bitch”. (We talked about this earlier, remember?) Being a bitch is the worse thing in the world. Eventually you get used to it, like an abused puppy - which is applicable doubly so because of the aforementioned terminology of being referred to as another’s “bitch”. No one wants to be a bitch, but once you get stuck as one, you have to swim upstream to change the impression.
I had the feeling my own status was slipping steadily into the category of bitchdom, and I had to fix that right quick.
That thought was sharply interrupted as something very fast, and very white darted out in front of the wheel of my bike. I skidded to a stop sharply, gasping. Now, I had been getting a very good work out trying to be on time for school (narrowly so), but I found it odd the second something went weird and unexpected, and jumped out at you, that your heart beat REALLY started to race. Try as I might though, I could not locate that strange cat-sized blur of white. However, I did have school to get to. Pushing the thought to the back of my mind, I put foot to pedal and the much vaunted metal once more and heaved off to school with the intentions of running through the details of my other goal.
The other goal of the day, prompted by advice from my good friend Clark, was to ask out Beth. Oddly, this struck me as the more difficult of the two tasks. You’d think dealing with someone who had no qualms about re-arranging bits of your anatomy with his fists wouldn’t have been as intimidating as asking out a girl you’d had a heart stopping crush on. I suppose the girl represented the sort of possible internal injuries you just weren’t sure you could recover from. Emotional castration aside, I resolved to follow Clark’s advice, and at the first opportunity, ask her out to do something irresistible and magnificent. The kind of date no girl could turn down! Between now and the next time I saw her I’d have to figure out what exactly that was. Somehow I got the feeling that another trip to the coffee shop wouldn’t make my intimate intentions all together clear.
About the same time that I was freaking out and taking the shortest shower in teenage history, thus beating the time of 14 year old Meril Snogsmore’s time back in 1987, who discovered a snake had snuck into their water pipes, a large and white colored SUV was pulling to a stop in front of Russel Public Junior High-school, somewhere in the sweaty hot suburbs of Southern California. There were many other cars such as this. More than one self assured soccer mom will attest to the greater sense of security they feel behind the 8 cylinder wheel of a four wheel drive beast of American manufacture while they go through the dangerous daily deeds of shopping, child transportation, and mid-afternoon soap opera surveillance and discussion.
This particular vehicle, however, was driven by one Mister Chylds as he deposited his daughter into the educational jungle in the manner that he had done every morning that year on his way to work in the finest offices for a junior assistant manager that the local chapter of “Humanity First!” had to offer. The proud father gave his little princess a peck on the cheek and gruffly spoken well wishes for the day, to which the daughter replied as her role required being the sweet and loving daddy’s girl that she was indeed that with a returned, brief cheek peck, and an assuring smile, then skipped out to go meet her waiting minions.
Daddy then honked the horn of his car and took off, the variety of bumper stickers gleaming on the rear of the vehicle as he took off. Such classics as “My Child is an Honors Student at Russel High School!” shined proudly right next to another depicting a stylized red ‘S’ in a yellow diamond shape, all crossed out in one of those ‘no smoking’ circles done in bright red. Besides that, it would appear that Mister Chylds wished anyone who also loved canines as much as him to honk their horn in agreement, right besides a rather large sticker showing a noose around that cute darwin fish with the legs. Yes, Mister Chyld’s SUV had many an opinion to share with those who followed too closely behind him.
The icy blonde would-be queen of the school had an irritated and tense hint in her early morning stride through the school, her two dark haired school-mate wings trailing more than the usual half step behind, having an actual time trying to keep up with any sense of comfort or unity.
Suzan was significantly less satisfied with herself than she had been the day previous. That day, she’d been on top of the world. The other contender for top dog had fallen from her pedestal, and while she’d been gone the gossip and rumors surrounding her had just plummeted to humiliating. It hadn’t even taken til lunch before her assured position on the top of the social hierarchy had been shaken by some glasses-wearing twerp with grabby hands. She shuddered, remembering the mess of the kid’s lunch on her chest, and the two hands squeezing so blatantly her perfect bosom. And she’d just had it waxed, too!
Her two friends could tell something was wrong, and they had a pretty good idea of what it was, having witnessed the whole noxious event themselves. A blow against Suzan was a blow against both of them, since they’d socially attached themselves to her to ride those glorious waves of popularity. So it went without saying that something had to be done to rectify the blow to their collective pride.
“Gosh Suzan, I’m so sorry about what happened yesterday. That jerk was totally out of line! Someone needs to put that kid in his place,” insisted the girl hanging on Suzan’s right flank who was already breathing a little hard from the uncomfortable pace. She hadn’t noticed when the blonde had flinched just a bit at the mention of the previous days events.
Quick to follow up her peer, Becky amongst her dark curls parroted the sentiments, “Oh yah, totally! We- I mean, someone should totally do something about that, Suzy!”
So annoyed Suzan was, she didn’t bother to correct the brunette. However, her prettily painted lips did give a slight twist of annoyance. This was a touchier subject than either of her female goons knew. “Don’t worry about it, girls. I’ll have it taken care of, personally.”
Brunette number one and Becky exchanged uncertain looks behind the blonde’s back. “Um… are you sure, Suzan? I know some guys, we could have them do bad things to him in P.E. like trip him up or something.” Although, having to go to P.E. was almost bad enough. Few people knew the state of the women’s locker room was just about as bad as the men’s. “Or, maybe he could have another accident at lunch? I got my allowance the other day, I could bribe someone…” The wheels in her head were spinning. This sort of task was usually the duty of the subordinates. You know, traditionally. It seemed out of place that the blonde princess herself would deal with it.
Suzan appeared to consider this, slowing her pace to the more sedated, assured walk that was more typical for her. “No, save your bribe money for shopping, girls. I have something special in mind.” She didn’t really. However, circumstances called for a more personal meeting between herself and that kid. Preferably after his sensibilities had been tenderized most thoroughly by the most convenient brute she could find. Ray might fit the bill. He seemed to have something personal against the little geek.
Naturally, he had to be put down fast. And just after, she had to speak with him to find out just what he knew. She couldn’t be sure what he knew, but she’d known she’d let something slip during that fateful lunch time trip into the face of nerd. There had been a moment when he’d fallen on her and ruined her blouse, where she’d let her usual tight control slip, and as she’d tried to force the stunned jerk off her she’d felt his shoulders go cold. And then, he’d given her that odd look.
Suzan couldn’t fathom how she of all people had become a mutant. But she knew with the utmost certainty that no one could ever find out. She knew her world would fall apart if anyone knew. All that proud love her father shoveled on her would turn to disgust and revulsion, or something equally expectant of being in a shovel, and all her peers and classmates would excommunicate her - if she was lucky. Jennifer’s party accident might even be linked to her if the truth came out. So for more than her social status, she had to deal with that kid, Josh. And she had to make sure he would be too afraid to talk about anything he could have found out, or just THOUGHT he’d found out.
She soon found Ray talking with that odd round kid who sometimes followed him around (Hen, or Henry, or something), and paused within listening distance, waiting for him to notice someone more important was waiting (impatiently) for his attention. It took the slow boy a few moments before he noticed the impatient blonde and the pair of glaring brunettes flanking her, and when he did, his demeanor turned from boastful to worried.
Clearing her throat, Suzan put on her most business like poise and smile, “Raaay.” she began, drawing out his name.
The tall boy answered sheepishly, giving a furtive glance to his companion, “Oh, er. Heya, Suzan. What’s up?”
Suzan’s finely honed bullshit detector went off. Ah, he was hiding something. Maybe her status in the eyes of her peers had already fallen further than she’d thought, and he knew more then he was letting on? That’d be something to look into, later. “Ray, I have a favor to ask.”
“Sure, I am the man!” he said with a nervous chuckle, finding the cool railing he was leaning against less than comfortable all of a sudden, while thinking to himself ‘dontfindoutItrippedthedorkdontfindoutItrippedthedork’.
Hm. Yes, something was definitely up. But if she could get this one thing done, her shaky status should be cemented somewhere in high school lore. There were probably even tablets of stone, and a dirty kid with a chisel and hammer waiting to do just that. If not metaphorically. “Remember that kid with the glasses? Yesterday, at lunch?” she asked with a thin smile.
He winced just a tinny bit, “Uh, yah…?”
“I want you to break his leg.”
“…Huh?” the jock’s expression went from worried to confused. It wasn’t a great leap as far as facial expressions go for Ray. His emotional range usually didn’t express more than ‘horny now’ and ‘angry now’.
“Eloquently spoken,” she sighed. “I want you to mess him up.” Her attention turned to her nails, the girl pretending to find their consistency to be of more interest than the conversation. “And I want to be there, to make a point. If you do…” she drew out the sentence for maximum effect,”… I’ll consider going out with you.”
Ray blinked again. Wait. So, he got to beat up someone he rather enjoyed beating up (ah, his knuckles did tingle in anticipation of a righteously deserved thrashing!), AND he got to go on a date with one of the hottest girls in school? His confidence reassured, Ray’s expression shifted to something half between his horny face, and his angry face (an interesting thing to see in the zoological sense, for certain). Sneering at the blonde, he eased back. “You got it. We can probably get away with it at lunch time. See you then?”
She smiled prettily, briefly flashing her white teeth in a feral glint. “It’s a date.”
The withering head ache I’d had yesterday didn’t seem to be bothering me today, but my ears still stung with sensitivity. I’d hoped that meant I was getting over that weird fever. Sleep walking isn’t such a bad thing either, when one considers all the strange diseases and disorders out there one can contract. There are far worse things than getting exercise while you sleep! However, I was still crossing my fingers and holding out for a case of elephantiasis of the penis. I still found myself wincing now and again when someone spoke too closely to me, and all the teachers that morning seemed especially sharp in their tones. It wasn’t so much a surprise either that my black eye still lingered, making seeing out of my right eye a puffy perplexing problem. I felt it was relenting, though.
Classes that day went by much the same as they had the previous. Social studies, English, history, all seemed that much more difficult with the fever heating my noggin. The trick was to try to force an interest on my part, instead of the growing boredom and frustration I was feeling. More curiously, I appeared to have procured a certain luck with my backpack. I never glanced at it once as I focused on the class work, but every time that I reached into it to procure the book I needed, it was the first thing I touched. I secretly looked forward to the remedial interest of math class.
However, in the so called “passing period” between classes where we’re all supposed to shuffle past one another and not make that dreaded eye contact, I noticed Beth, for once, before she noticed me.
I probably don’t need to once again describe that strange contradictory feeling of intense attraction and the evasive problem I have with trying to meet her eyes, or really looking anywhere in her general direction. At least, when her attention was directed towards me. Since it wasn’t just then, I couldn’t really help staring at her like a horny freshman in the girls’ locker room. Hey, what do you want? I WAS, er, am a freshman. More to the point, I’m a teenage boy, and the current fashion the female gender wears these days was quite expertly geared towards transforming proper, polite gentlemen (such as myself), into drooling zombie like entities mumbling “boooobies” instead of “braaaaains” as they dumbly stumble between class periods.
More specifically, the target of my secretive affection was wearing the kind of clothes you didn’t pick up at Hot Topic, and most certainly weren’t designer label. She had her own curiously off-key dress style, and today she was wearing a tank top with an instinct inducing black and orange tiger pattern that was just short enough that it showed a peek of a couple inches of smooth tan belly before the snug hip hugging cutoff shorts she had on began (and promptly ended there-after). They were apparently used, but they had so many interesting little patches sewn on to them that you hardly noticed. Thankfully they ended in frayed threads part way down exquisite thighs, and long smooth bare calves, and a pair of clever sandals with slight heels to them. Her long, honey blonde hair was pulled back past her bare shoulders.
Sadly for me, it was while I was ogling and not even realizing I was doing it, that she took noticed of me. Erk. Was I drooling? Casually I ran my sleeve against my chin, while she had a curious half smile and an arched eyebrow.
Oh yah. She saw.
“Hey, Josh. You don’t look all the worse for wear. I guess Clark got you a ride yesterday?” She began, approaching me with a smirk.
Fearing my inexplicable skin condition from the previous day was fading, and that the heat I felt rushing to my face wasn’t all due to my fever, I attempted my very best to laugh it off, “Ah-hah, yah, thanks for that. I guess you asked him to give me a ride, huh?” I said, trying to by myself time by stating the blazingly obvious.
She had her backpack slung half way on one shoulder, and shrugged the other indifferently, “It seemed the thing to do. I saw him before you did.”
“Well um, thanks for that! That was like real thoughtful, and I really like your pictures!” I found myself blurting out.
“Thanks Josh, have you seen any of my new stuff?”
“O-oh yah! Man, if I could draw like you, I’d do it every day…!”
She gave me a curious smile, saying again, “Oh, thanks. I try to do that myself, actually. Sometimes I try to imagine what my life would be like if I couldn’t. I’d probably get into a lot more trouble… you know what they say, idle hands are the devils plaything.”
Okay, good, good… conversation’s been struck up. The next thing to do was to casually see if she was doing anything later! Yes, that’d be the thing to do.
However, like a magnet finding a similarly polarized end, my gaze dropped to my Converse shoes and thusly was rendered unable to look upon her again, and my eyes were moving far too quickly to appreciate her excessively fine form in the brief space of time between admiring her eyes and noticing the smudge on the toe of my shoes. “Ah, so…” my mind suddenly turned blank. “….We got a math test today…!” Once more I found myself stating the intensely obvious, and wishing I could recall exactly what it was I really wanted to ask her, and how on earth I was supposed to do it when just talking to her was a savage kick to my IQ.
She looked at me oddly, and then said, “Huh? Oh, yah, we do. I think I’ll do alright on it, you helped out a lot on Sunday.”
Her voice was totally at ease. Somehow, that made me even more nervous. My heart was racing in my chest, the beat thumping in my ears like indian war drums demanding results, or quite possibly scalps of white men. My breathing started to quicken, and I looked up, stealing all my courage away to look her in those… beautiful, dark blue eyes… my mouth opened to speak, and then stayed that way. The horny mental uniformed cops in my brain set up yellow and black road blocks on all major rails of thought, slowing the traffic to monosyllabic mutterings. “…Uhr. So. You. And. Me…”
My embarrassing attempts at speaking were cut short, and part of me was glad. The other part of me, the fight or flight part, was hitting the ‘flight’ button with all the gusto and energy of a 6 year old stomping on a Dance Dance Revolution Pad.
Ray passed between us with ease, looking down at me like a shark, and showing all the teeth. He didn’t have to say anything more than “You’re dead, twerp” as he went by, making sure he shouldered into me hard enough to make me fall back a step, to switch my own mental track from the fabled, hard wired “sex” drive to the “violence” one.
What the hell! My momentary confusion at his sudden appearance, threat, and disappearance faded as I watched him walk away confidently, then looked back to Beth. I was perplexed, she looked worried. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something ground level and white dash out of view.
Doubly so caught off guard, I turned back sharply to see Ray turning around a corner, and the hind quarters of some critter vanish. No one else was watching after it, and I looked back to Beth with a frown,”…Hey, did you just see something weird?”
An even odder look was my reward, “You didn’t?”
This seemed the opportune moment, somehow. Things were off balance, and I grabbed the chance to take advantage of my own sudden lack of reverence for the female form to say, quite quickly, “Hey Beth, do you wanna go out sometime?”
That IS what I said. However the thrice cursed hellish shrill peel of the bell signifying we should most definitely be in our next class and in a seat with our hands folded and our attention on the teacher went off, right around the time I got to saying her name, and echoed long after I finished. We both suddenly realized just how empty the hallways were getting. Abashed, and feeling my usual sense of humility and awkwardness return, I didn’t even try to repeat what I’d said. The moment had passed, and I’d lost my chance due to scholarly intervention. (And one of the most annoying noises known to the teenage experience. Right above “who farted?”)
“I’ll catch you later,” she said, shrugging again, and moving off at a sedate pace.
“Uh, yah. Later!” I mimicked, and scurried off to hide the hot flush of embarrassment that colored my face. Ah, regret and disappointment, my familiar friends. Once more we ride together in my sleek Converse shoed form along the bland institutional gray hallways and highways of life.
Of course, by the time I got to my math class, I was getting a glare from the teacher just as he started to pass out the test sheets down the academically stagnant rows of desks, unenthusiastic student passing the stack along to another.
“Mister Gillman. How nice of you to join us,” he said curtly, and I felt clichés jab me between the ribs and hit that sweet spot. Was there a teacher hand book somewhere that they got all this stuff from?
“Err, sorry, Mister Maxwell,” I lamely replied, and slunk into my seat trying not to notice the titters, giggles, and snickers amongst my esteemed peers and classmates. I’d suffered worse humiliations, but I was still somewhat off balance from my previous catastrophically lame attempts at picking a girl up in the school halls. You just know this was going to come back and stunt my social growth, and make me into one of those creepy old guys who live in apartments and send letters dusted in flour to everyone in my high school year book. What? I had a weird uncle.
Thankfully, the test went much smoother than my peculiar appearance had gone. So smooth in fact, I was finished with it by the time he finished passing them out.
That wasn’t right. I’ve never finished a test that fast before!
Then I glanced down at my test sheet in doubt, and sat up with academic erectness, catching a subtle gander around myself in uncertainty. Everyone else it seemed hadn’t even gotten started. Some were just finishing dotting the i’s in their name and period at the top of the page with little hearts.
I felt a pair of eyes focused on the back of my head and the attention of a certain tweed wearing teacher on me then, and I quickly lowered my head and picked my pencil up once more, trying to figure out just what exactly had happened.
The thing to do then, apparently, was to chew at the rubber eraser on my stock #2 school pencil, and re-read through my hastily written answers. Aaah, I hadn’t put my work. Yah, that really pisses them off. I took a deep breath, and tried to slow myself down enough to be able to fill in all the gruesome steps of each equation. To me, this felt like being told to write about my weekend, and then being told to explain just exactly how I walked from point A to point B, in what manner I chewed my junk food, and how exactly my clothing fit on my body, and why I didn’t just go streaking through the town instead. Well, maybe not that last part. So, I hunkered down and tried to focus.
This did not go as I planned. My mind wandered. My mind wandered like President George Double-Yah Bush in a room full of shiny objects and bottle caps. Before I knew it, when I looked back down, I’d started to doodle and extrapolate on those odd theories and queries I’d read in my great Uncle’s journal the night previous.
I set my jaw, and furrowed my brow with all the honest intentions of setting right what my wandering imagination had once set wrong (not too long ago, mind you - please don’t sick Samuel Becket on me). Hunching over my paper I tried to find room amongst the errant thoughts of mine that pondered eldritch equations and non-Euclidian calculus in the same spaces that most people would draw little stick figures holding capital L’s shooting dots at one another.
Nervously, I glanced back over my shoulder towards the teacher’s desk, and much to my own gut twisting displeasure, I found him looking back at me with such an intensity that I thought I felt my own brain squeezing tighter.
With no small reluctance I broke eye contact and lowered it to my paper hastily, trying to control my breathing. It seemed like infinity had drifted by before he finally said, “Alright, class. Lower your pencils. If you aren’t done now, that’s just too bad.” He got up, seeming to me at least, to be somewhat more attentive and lively as he gathered up the test sheets.
There were more than a few suspicious glances on his part in my direction, and I comforted myself with the depressing thought that at the very least he wouldn’t think I was cheating, or copying from anyone. There couldn’t be a student in the school who had screwed up as badly as I had!
Ah, lunch time.
Never before had I dreaded a chance to eat more than this, except perhaps Thanksgiving dinner with the family. And all the cousins. I can only be kissed on the cheek so many times by overweight aunts with poodles in their purses wearing too much makeup before I’ll wretch, and that number of times is just the once.
Yesterday hadn’t gone all that well for me, and I had the feeling I’d have to keep a wary eye cast over my shoulder. That Suzan girl would no doubt have it out for me, if not everyone she happened to hang out with. Ray was among those people, and I didn’t want to get into anything or even cross his radar while he had a table full of like-minded jock types behind him.
If I kept my head low and my mouth closed, I might make it out alive. I resolved to get through the lunch line with as much haste as possible, and find some quiet hallway far away from prying eyes and chattering mouths, to fill my stomach and just avoid everyone else for as long as I could. I didn’t want to think about the events from yesterday with that food dropping and public groping, and I didn’t want to make eye contact with her ever again, if I could help it.
I shuffled a step forwards, dumbly noting the oddly familiar tiger striped pattern on the slim tank top of the girl in front of me. It didn’t strike me who it might be, until rather instinctively I glanced down those breath stopping curves and noted the familiar cut off shorts hugging the more familiar rear end of one eccentric and extremely hot painter. Realizing I was staring at her rather shapely posterior, my posture immediately righted and I relented to looking at the back of her head as though I were a military man snapping to attention. A lump worked its way down my throat, and I dared the impossible, “…H-hey, Beth!” Oh possibly existent celestial deity that may or may not be a supremely tall bearded man living in the clouds, did I squeak when I said that? I pray to your plausible and muchly argued existence that I did not.
The girl turned, and sure enough - it was her. My heart stopped somewhere up in my throat and gave the lump working its way down a decisive uppercut.
“Oh, Josh! I didn’t see you back there!” At least she seemed glad to see me. And at least she didn’t see me seeing HER back there.
“Yah!” then, looking into those soul capturing blue eyes of hers, I decided to circumvent all the awkward, tension building idle conversation that I’d no doubt lose myself in and find myself trapped and linguistically impotent thereafter. Taking a deep breath, I gasped, “Wanna go out tomorrow?” then held that breath. My eyes were nearly closed, but well, that one black eye was almost perpetually squinted.
Beth looked at me, taken aback almost. I probably had surprised her as much as I’d surprised myself. The imperceptibly slim slice of silence following my question was killing me, and I was almost certain time had slowed down. Worse was her actual response.
“Oh, geez Josh. I’m really sorry, I can’t.” She pitied me with an apologetic smile.
“Ah… that’s cool.” I found myself lamely replying, my insides going hollow and cold. It was probably shock. Although, if I were being honest with myself, I’d probably have admitted that I never really expected a girl like her to be interested in a guy like me. There wasn’t much to me, I guess. I definitely didn’t have the build, or the muscular body that attracted the attention of the wandering girl eyes at this school. I certainly couldn’t be considered ‘cool’, even amongst the more conservative groups (i.e., the Role-Playing-Games club). And then, there was that time just the other day when she’d intervened on my behalf and saved me from a vicious jock-fueled thrashing. I’d heard somewhere that women can’t respect a guy they’d all but saved. Oh, and I klutzed out in front of the whole school and dropped pasta and myself on a girl.
Suddenly, I wasn’t so hungry. That sinking feeling seemed to overrule that hungry feeling, and my stomach was now quite filled and brimming with my own excessive show of lame. I started to take a dizzy half step back, considering just vanishing out of the way, somewhere I wouldn’t be able to draw another pitied look until I graduated.
“I mean, I really can’t,” she said with a little urgency. “I got an art show after school. You can come if you want! I’m free Wednesday too, if you still want to go out. Oh, and Thursday and Friday. Most of this weekend too, really!”
My heart thumped so hard in my chest, I thought Ray might be punching it (you know, just because he might feel like a work out). Overwhelming feelings of dread and failure turned to elation and bliss, the hollow and cold feeling in my chest swelling into a heat that warmed my face with a sudden rush of heat.
“…Yah? I mean, yah! I mean…” Okay. This was awkward. I hadn’t thought this far ahead. When you tell yourself you’re going to ‘ask someone out’, you don’t really quibble over the why’s and where’s. Or at least, I hadn’t. Shoot, I hadn’t even thought she would have agreed! More so, I half expected I wouldn’t have been able to actually ask, “Um… how about the coffee shop, then?”
I mentally kicked myself in my brain nards. Arg, that’s a great idea. Invite her to the place you’d been hanging out in before, as friends. That’d definitely send a crystal clear message.
While fretting about my suggestion, she just gave an easy smile, “Sure, sounds alright. Maybe we can do some homework again, you were a great help last time.” I opened my mouth to reply, but she had already turned to pick up a pre-packaged salad and a drink from the lunch line, and filtered into one of the shorter lines before the cash registers to pay, saying before she left, “I’ll see you later, Josh!”
Man, that had happened so fast, but it felt like time had slowed down. I was surprised no one behind me had gotten impatient and started pushing.
“Y-yah! Later!” I realized as I got to the end of the line that I’d been too distracted with her to actually pick up any food. Hastily, I grabbed a muffin and a soda, paid, and sifted out of the lunch line to the shady outside and the rows of long tables.
My earlier plan of vanishing into the school still felt like a sound and good plan. Making a point of not looking up to catch anyone’s eyes, I shuffled off away down towards one of the more vacant hallways, stuffing as much as the muffin into my mouth as I could, my brain still hot and my spirit elated. Alright, I may have botched the location, but the point of the matter was that I’d actually done it!
Then I saw it again. It was that blur of white, the creature the size of a cat, or a marmot (which looked sort of like a beaver with a squirrel tail)! It dashed across my feet, took a 90 degree turn, and headed straight for the men’s bathroom. For a moment it looked rather like a lapin, to me. It struck me that it might have been some escaped experiment from the science class labs. Had they gone from dissecting dead frogs to live rabbits? Was Easter a season early? Perplexed, I moved towards the bathroom to follow it, my steps cautious.
I was so distracted with those thoughts of Beth, of what we could do, of the magnificent coffees, decaf and regular, that we might sup upon, and the strange creature I was following, that I didn’t notice as I turned one sharp corner that blocked my view of the expanse of lunch tables and chattering students that I was being followed.
There wasn’t just one person behind me, either.
Ray loomed in the vacant hallway like a hunting beast within its element. A shark in water, a lioness on the savanna (the male lions didn’t really hunt, so using such would make quite the ineffective comparison). He moved swiftly, and silently, bodily harm on the part of young Josh written in his swift gait, sneering lips, and squinting eyes. An attractive icy blonde leaned comfortable against the wall further down, watching with all the lazy confidence of a jungle cat. Josh in comparison might have been a feeder mouse amongst all this animalism. A fat yummy looking one, with tiny cute mouse glasses.
Both of them were so intently focused on Josh that when a blatant violation of three dimensional space decided to free itself part way from the confines of Josh’s backpack, their attention regretfully, and immediately, switched to it.
Many things can happen to regular, happy go lucky, average folk of our own simple dimension when something that stretches a little beyond it is exposed to them. The nature of something not entirely of this natural world has a way of infecting everything around it, of making it more like something it understood, like a child taking a crayon and paper and making pictures of the two. There are many cases documenting these various reactions, as well. Possession isn’t unheard of, and neither is spontaneous implosion. Most simply go mad in the various ways that one can, and are never quite the same again. Luckily for both Ray and Suzan, this particular violation of reality could hardly be considered even an infant, having been born just the night previous.
So when the curious black tendrils had extended from the rather mediocre confines of Josh’s backpack, and the barest curve of an unsavory eye leered at the two for a few moments before pulling itself back out of sight, both violence-bent jock and revenge-twisted blonde went petrified, their eyes wide, and their pupils dilating to unheard-of, unnatural depths within round milky white pools.
They were really quite lucky, considering what could have happened, and that insult to contemporary reality left Ray standing there, too scared to think. Suzan stood there as well for a good period of time, utterly shocked and feeling a strange revulsion and horror that shook her down to the very core of her sickly soul. She stumbled back a few steps, shaking. Her feet took her back towards the crowded lunch area, perhaps subconsciously seeking out support, requiring something more wholesome and warm to erase the otherworldly vision of something so completely wrong that a glimpse had frightened her beyond anything she had ever experienced, even after having gone to public school, which is really saying something. Have you seen the food they give kids?
She stood there before her friends, peers, and the rest of the jabbering gathering of students, some of them turning to look at her peculiarly as she stood there in utter shock, and she ruined any chance she ever had at regaining that elusive sense of sovereignty and superiority she so desired.
Suzan Chylds, before beloved god, not so beloved peers, and the entire collective school present, let out a soul curdling scream with tears streaming down her face, snot dribbling down her nose, and ran through the crowd grabbing at the nearest persons she came across, grabbed at them, shook them frantically while stammering and gibbering random syllables, and her eyes rolled back into her head, before she fainted in a pile of discarded and dropped lunch leavings.
Concerned as I was with that odd white animal that had darted into the men’s restroom, I followed it steadily while trying to block off any exit it might have taken. Thinking myself just the fox’s ridged nipples of cleveritude, I set my backpack down by the entrance and started to move in.
When I then heard a sound behind me, the likes of which I’d never heard but in dreams. The sound strained reality as I knew it, and when I looked down, mystified, I saw a horror crawling out from my pack.
“Tekeli-li!” the thing chittered.
“You’re that… thing! From my dream!” I blathered in terror, backing against the cold hard unforgiving tile wall of the empty men’s restroom. “You don’t exist…!”
Now the Shoggoth Lords were originally little more than the driver-less construction equipment of the Greater Old Ones. However the inconceivable way that they were made left them without a means to really control themselves without another entity telepathically guiding and giving them instructions. Like a bulldozer. They were also very versatile, like an octopus and every Autobot all wrapped into one black tar-colored explosion of tentacles and fourth dimensional space. At some point in their history, however, they grew brains, called themselves Shoggoth Lords, and rebelled rather unsuccessfully. The advent of greater intelligence changed some of their attributes, but others remained the same. A Shoggoth Lord’s offspring tended to psychically bond to its parent after whatever means of giving birth it had, and often snuggled inside nice safe little pouches while doing so.
This particular baby Shoggoth Lord had been bonding to something that was growing similar to something it could talk with in the meantime, and had found itself something that felt nice and snugly and pouchlike in a certain young student’s backpack. So as I sat there horrified (but apparently not as horrified as two other students of which I had no current knowledge of), and backed against the bathroom wall trying to flee away through solid tile and cement with frantic scrambling of my legs and arms, the big eye with the black calamari-like legs scrambled cheerfully across waxed floor and said in a high pitched tone that stretched across neighboring dimensions and strained my ears,”Tekeli-li!” Then after an instantaneous mental question that was not unlike copying and pasting its entire existence into another being’s soul to read it, and vice versa, said… “Mama!”
My frantic scared little schoolgirl like movements to crawl away into solid matter halted when in the back of my head, I suddenly understood the little 4th dimensional horror lunging into my lap and whirling tar-colored tendrils about, and at the same time felt the worst headache I had til this point experienced. It cooed. As my hand went to rest atop its topmost… areas in an uncertain manner, petting it reflexively, my brows stitched together in confusion. “…Wait. I’m NOT your mama!” I suddenly felt the need to insist, and more to the point clarify, as that sharp sudden headache abated.
It peeked up at me with that adorable little black eye in the pearly white orb, and resumed its cooing that, while adorable and endearing to me, was probably an affront to all known laws of reality, and if there was a god or gods anywhere, they were most certainly shuddering in revulsion and vomiting in their cosmic spittoons. Indeed, actuality and existence itself shuddered around it when it spoke in ways that left ripples, much like the way a grizzled mountain man who voluntarily extracting himself from society might respond to seeing two grown-ups dressed up as latex Hello Kitty kids and feeling one another in ways that were not entirely wholesome. It was this sort of terror that I had in my lap. I realized then, that this spawn of my dreams thumbed its nose at our reality. And I also realized that it didn’t bother me all that much.
Almost as if to prove this, the little critter peered into my head again with something like a thought in that queer way it apparently could do. Then its little tentacled body quavered, limbs yanking inside in ways that blew cherries at the two respective scientific concepts of volume and density, and turned into a small black kitten that appeared to be made of tar. It took it a few moments to get the two eye thing, and I watched in rapt horror and amusement as one eye first tried to squeeze itself into two. Then a second, tiny one grew, and the two fluctuated in shape rapidly until finally forming two tiny kitten-like eyes of vaguely equal size. It looked like something Brer Rabbit might stop and chat with, honestly. I suppose master shape changers are grown, not born. Oddly, I had the impression that the little critter was trying to mimic my family’s old and long deceased pet cat, Mister Snugglesworth. (My older sister had named it, not I!)
Feeling a strange kinship in the place I’d normally feel a craw full of vomit and revulsion in equal parts, I picked up the newly form Shoggoth-Kitty-Lord and stroked its squishy back with an uncertain shudder. “…I’m starting to think those dreams weren’t just dreams.” Or maybe they were dreams, and this was still a dream. Ugh, what a waste of a perfectly good dream it would be if I really was still asleep. What kind of loser spends his sleeping hours dreaming about going to school, when he was just going to wake up and go to school right after?
Sensing there were more questions ahead than I even knew, I resolved to see if there was anything like this mentioned in my great-uncle’s journal. It was filled with insane unbelievable things, and this was both of those. Or it could hold a hint of something like this that may give me an idea of what the hell was happening. There was a curious mix of myth and spellcraft in those curiously bound pages that I hadn’t completely delved into. In the meantime, this little ball of chaos wasn’t quite the mind-shattering horror I might have first thought.
Getting up with the creature contentedly resting in my hands, I retrieved my backpack and attempted to fit it back in. I was pretty sure walking around with a “one of these things” wasn’t going to get me any more popular than I already wasn’t. More so, pets weren’t allowed in school, and I didn’t want to get in any trouble. Oddly, the creature seemed to rather like the confines of my backpack, and slipped into it with a cheerful sounding “Tekeli-li!”
Stranger still, the interior of my rather cheaply purchased and decidedly normal backpack was now dark. In fact of the matter, it was ink black, and no light source seemed to be able to shine a light on the subject within. I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t noticed how weird the inside of my backpack had been all morning. Maybe it just wasn’t something I really looked at this late in the school year. I could usually find what I needed without even looking.
It was while I stood there in the men’s bathroom perplexing over this strange middle finger into the face of conventional physics that the bell signaling the abrupt end of my lunch period screamed. Loud and as annoying as it was, it didn’t have the sense of spine-shuddering wrongness that my new little pet had, when it did something as little as cooing.
Still, my trained student responses kicked in, and I grabbed the backpack and ran out of the bathroom with much urgency. “I’m gunna be late!” is what I started to say, when I ran face-first into the dazed front of my goodly torturer, Ray.
I almost fell back but caught myself this time, and looked up with a growing sense of dread to the unfocused gaze of the friendly neighborhood bully. Then a strange resolve took me, and I pinched off the sinking sensation in my stomach with a scowl. At some point over the last few days I’d given the impression to this dimwitted oaf that I was happy and willing to be his little bitch. My father’s ultimatum of standing up for yourself not withstanding, I wasn’t about to put up with that if I could help it.
“Listen here, dildo breath,” I found myself saying, not so surprised as I may have been to hear such smooth obscenities flow from my oral cavity, as I was giving my mouth free reign for once. I figured I could cash those checks later. “You mess with me again, and I’m going to find strange and creative ways to make your life hell.” Which wasn’t a lie, I could probably spit in his Redbull or something. “Sure, you can probably kick my ass.” A proven understatement. “But I’m not putting up with it anymore. You got it?” Unconsciously, I attempted to seem as tall as possible with the full range of testosterone driven responses; puffed out chest, shoulders thrown back, head tilted back for the purpose of sneering down your nose at the target (in this case, it was so I could look up at the target).
I felt I must have slipped off into another world once more. A world where everything was going right for me! Because as I made that demand, Ray just stood there with an even blanker look on his face than normal, his eyes unfocused and jaw slowing slipping open. Normally, I’d expect him to laugh in my face and attempt to compromise the state of homeostasis my body kept with its surrounding environment through intense blunt force trauma. Instead, he slowly looked down at me and glanced a little past my shoulder where his unfocused look finally sharpened. His eyes then doubled in size, straining the bone ridges of his skull, and he let out a blood curdling, high pitched scream not unlike that of a cat suffering the inevitable results of being in that room full of rocking chairs. He then promptly took off at an athlete’s pace in the opposite direction of me. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I saw the front and inside of the legs of his pants darken slightly.
Well, that wasn’t what I expected. I stood there, stunned and stupid as students started to flow around and past me, heading to their next class, oblivious to the perplexing triumph I’d had.
But, maybe my father was right. Maybe my usual methods of throwing insults and avoidance weren’t doing me any good. Maybe I should be throwing insults, and confronting my problems? You know, like Spider-man. Shrugging, I put on a tentative smile and hiked to my next class, holstering the secret thing in my backpack.
Yes, I was pretty sure it had SOMETHING to do with my miraculous escape from high school conformity and a savage beating. It was an obvious and perplexing link to that dream world I’d found myself stumbling into night after night. It was also terribly out of place. Once school was over, I resolved myself to trying to find out what it was, where it came from, and how I could safely return it back. If it was the creature from my dreams as I guessed, it had an angry extra-dimensional Mommy looking out for it.
Suzan awoke to the chemical clean smell stinging her nostrils and blaring white walls and sheets of what was the tiny nurse’s office of Russel High School. Wincing, she raised a hand to her forehead and slowly sat up, her thoughts sluggish and difficult to focus. What had she been doing before she got here? More importantly, what was the last thing she remembered? The only thing she could recall with any sense of certainty was talking earlier this morning with Ray, and those two girls. Some things happened after that, but as she tried to recall, her memory just drew a great blank. Or, it refused to remember. There was a certain sense of repulsion that made her stomach churn. She felt behind her head for any kind of bandages or blood. It was possible she’d hit her head and suffered some kind of amnesia!
White sheets were drawn up to her stomach, but she seemed free of bandages. Frowning, Suzan pinched the edge of the white sheets and lifted them, peeking under. Okay. Why was she in the nurse’s office, in her underwear? That glasses kid better not have stolen her pants!
Just as she asked herself these strange and important questions, a fat cheerful woman with a clipboard came bustling in, dressed in something like the sterile whites of the medical profession, “Ah! Our little angel is awake! You feeling better now?” A pen light was produced with the efficiency of a Jedi knight, and Suzan soon found herself wincing as it was flashed point blank into her eyes.
“Um… yah. Why am I here…?” she asked, still dazed.
“Oh dear, you don’t remember? You fainted at lunch time, almost two hours ago! You poor, poor thing,” clucked the prolific girth of towering nurse. The next thing Suzan knew, she had a tongue depressor crammed in her mouth. It depressed the tongue, and it was starting to depress her along with it.
“Two HOURS ago? What happened?”
“Hm. I thought it was food poisoning, but everyone I asked told me you hadn’t had anything to eat. Maybe the heat’s been too much for you!” She leaned back with all the confidence a school nurse can muster, “heat stroke could have caused your breakdown.”
“Oh…” Then she turned white. “W-what!? Breakdown? What, I don’t even remember, what the f-”
The plump woman clicked her tongue, “Such language! Yes, just before you passed I was told you’d had a bit of a breakdown and were… crying and screaming things! You even managed to make quite a bit of a mess of your clothes, but they should be clean soon.”
“Oh god… did… did anyone see?”
“Hm, you’re looking very pale all of a sudden.” She trained the light in her eyes again, for some reason, squinting at the bedded blonde beauty. “Oh, I suppose so. It was out in the food court, they had to have some students carry you back here, you poor thing.”
The world dropped out from under Suzan’s feet, and her mind raced to gain ground that just wasn’t there. “Oh god, oh god, my life’s over…!”
“Nonsense! You’re looking a bit clammy, but I think you’ll be alright! Here, have a salt tablet!” Blindly cheerful, the rotund nurse handed over a couple pills and a tiny plastic cup of water to Suzan, who numbly took them both.
Oddly, the salt tablet didn’t really help her sense of life-shattering loss and shame. Why should she suffer for something she didn’t even remember doing? “I… I need my pants. What time is it?”
“Oh, it’s just ready!” She busied herself retrieving the recently cleansed pants, and Suzan rushed to dress herself. “And, I’d say about ten minutes after the last bell.”
She couldn’t get out of that office fast enough, but much to the aversion of her current urgency, she did have to linger behind to sign some release papers stating how great she feels now. Only one of her girls were waiting for her after school, and Becky was no where to be seen. To make matters worse, every kid in the school she passed in such a rush was pointing and laughing at her under their breath, telling jokes she couldn’t hear that had her face turning red.
It was bad enough, that she was beginning she could just faint again and shut it all out. “Where’s Becky?!” she asked of her other friend sharply, who was giving her a worried look.
“She hasn’t shown up yet. Suzan, are you alright? They had to take you to the nurses!”
The corner of her eye twitched. “Yes, I know, I was there.” She gritted her teeth, and hissed, “And I’m just fine. I don’t know, the lady was saying it was heat stroke, or something.”
“Are you sure?” The brunette asked pensively, her lips pursed. “I don’t remember anyone saying heat stroke makes you, um…” the girl looked downwards meaningfully, and Suzan thought for just a moment that she was trying to repress a tiny smirk.
Suzan’s face turned even more red, “I… I don’t know! Okay? I don’t remember anything…! I don’t remember anything from lunch!” She chewed at her lip worriedly, a hand coming up to shield the side of her vision from the rest of the school. Watching everyone laughing at her wasn’t really what she needed just at this moment to help her think. A flash of something important dawned in her mind. Hadn’t she had plans to curtail that wimp from the other day at lunch? “Has anyone seen Ray?”
The brunette opened her mouth to speak, then closed it, frowning. Confused, she shook her head, “You know, it’s weird. No one’s seen him since after you freaked out at lunch. You think maybe he ditched… oh! There’s Becky!” She smiled, pointing.
Becky walked over with a slightly dazed look (which wasn’t new for her, she always had that space case thing going on), wearing what was clearly a pair of gym shorts and a shirt that signified that she was number 11 of the Russel High School Girls Volleyball team. Seeing the two girls, she smiled vacantly and waved. “Oh! Hey you two! Oh my gosh, are you alright, Suzy? At lunch you-”
“Yes. YES, I know, I heard. And it’s Suzan. Not. Suzy.”
The curly haired girl licked her lips awkwardly and corrected herself. “Oh, right, sorry! Suzan. Hey, where is everyone?”
Suzan paled slightly, looking at her friend. “…Becky, it’s been a good twenty minutes since the bell rang. And I thought we agreed you weren’t joining the volleyball team,” she finished, a glare bringing to attention the obvious piece of evidence the little brunette had on.
“Huh? Oh, yah, but… Mister Maxwell seemed to think I had real talent for it, and it’s such good exercise, you know?”
The blonde touched a pair of fingers to her temple in an effort to curtail the headache she was sure she was going to have with a gentle massage. It wasn’t working. There were too many things going at once. She knew there was no way she was going to live down whatever happened at lunch that day, and she also knew that even though she didn’t remember any of it, she’d be hearing it enough that pretty soon she was going to have a very vivid mental image of what had happened. However, no one was screaming and pointing at her, shrieking ‘mutant!’ and running, so things weren’t as bad as they could be, just yet. Her mother pulled up in the family van finally, and she looked at her two friends, worried.
“Becky, I can’t tell you why, but I don’t want you meeting with Mister Maxwell anymore. And I sure as hell don’t want you going to anymore volleyball meetings.” She wouldn’t blame them if they bailed on her after the day’s embarrassment, but much to their credit, the two girls appeared as worried for her as she for them.
“Alright, Suzan,” Becky said, smiling meekly, “If it bugs you that much, I won’t. I guess I just forgot we had a shopping date today, I can be such a ditz sometimes.”
Suzan and brunette number one both exchanged looks of silent agreement, before they all climbed into her mothers van for the pre-scheduled shopping adventure. Just as they pulled away, Becky made a face, and said, “Anyone have some water? I got the weirdest taste in my mouth.”
The classroom of Mister Maxwell, Math Teacher and Volley Ball Coach
Mister Maxwell leaned back in his reclining desk seat once the last of the students had scurried out of his class long after the last bell of the day had rung. The latest being a young girl named Becky, who he’d been trying to recruit for the girl’s volleyball team. For some strange reason she’d been avoiding him, but once he’d explained to her how useful she could be, and how she had a certain talent for that sort of sport that he could just sense, she’d given in. Which was good, they could always use more talented girls on the team.
He wasn’t concerned with any of the rest of them this time, his attention was focused primarily on the test sheet of one Joshua Gillman from one of his morning classes. He’d already faxed a copy of the test, and the boys in-class worksheet from the previous day, to an old colleague of his.
Something was telling him that this particular child was special, and he needed to take special steps in response to it, or he’d be wasting away at a school like this.
He had the phone up to his ear then, and smiled when the man he was trying to reach answered curtly. “Yes, it has been a while. No, I’m working in a public school down in Southern California, now.”
He paused, considering the other end of the conversation, a slight smile hinting behind his faint, tightly shaven beard. “That’s one of the reasons, yes. But to the point, did you receive the fax I sent you? I thought it might be something you’d be interested in.”
He glanced down at his desk, tapping a pencil against the test sheet. “Of course, I couldn’t make much of it. That’s why I sent it to you. So you’re interested in him? I imagine the young man’s talents are wasted here, anyway. Perhaps I can persuade the parents to put in a transfer. I’ll talk with them as soon as I can.”
I was reluctant after lunch to continue school. There was a weird shape changing tar baby living in my backpack, after all. However, I strangely feared my parents’ reaction more so if I were to ditch early more than I feared the exposure of my strange new companion. It was with some trepidation that I slumped off to gym, keeping a nervous eye on my backpack as I went. I found myself packed like a sardine once more among the cyclopean lockers that towered above me, and the stench of packed meat and mildew all around me as fellow students tried to change into tiny shorts with as little humiliating exposure as possible. Finding a rare space to sit on in that slim splintering bench that stretched between the lockers along the sparse area in between I parked my butt, and stared intently at the backpack. Would it really be safe to leave that thing in my locker, on its own, for a whole hour? Cautiously I lifted it, testing the strange lack of weight, and carefully positioned it as comfortably as I could at the bottom of the rusty metal box. Watching it intently for a few moments, I slowly began to close the locker door… it didn’t appear to move, or wiggle in defiance, so maybe the little dream octopus was sleeping.
I lingered around long enough that most of the students had filed out of the locker room wearing the ugly grey cotton t-shirts and perhaps even less appealing gym shorts that probably would only have qualified as shorts back in the 80’s. Vaguely I recalled my parents watching films from that era with men with big fros, large mustaches and tiny shorts. Soon I was one of the last few left lingering around in dread, while most of the exiting kids were giving me funny looks as I stared so intently at my locker. The burly coach with his whistle ushered us out with a few sharp trills that I heard exceptionally well with my sensitive hearing.
Sometime after another humiliating round of gym class and musty eldritch stinking lockers that may have been have pre-dated most of my teachers, I made my way to Earth Science, backpack safely in hand. Luckily, nothing odd had happened. Strange runes weren’t decorating the inside of my locker as I left, and I was pretty sure no one had made any human sacrifices while I was out running in circles like a high school hamster. Although one really couldn’t smell the stench of dying man over the tangible waves of puberty lingering in the air and testosterone dripping down the walls.
But after a rousing hour of attempted running, discovering that I couldn’t climb a rope half as well as most of the kids in the class, and once more coming to the inevitable conclusion that were I to be forced to do push ups to save my life, the noble line of Gillman would become extinct, I was very relieved to be at the nice quiet desk in the most boring science class public education had to offer.
The voice of the short man in the brown suit (that he must have kept a closet full of identical copies in, considering how no one ever saw him out of it) droned on in a slight nasal accent that seemed evolved in the burrows of Boston to induce sleep in defenseless students. To compound the matters, he had leftover slides from the previous day he decided to share with us. The combination of that particular voice and the lights having been turned off to better showcase his pictures of various rocks turned out to be more than the majority of the class could handle, and most lost consciousness. I was attempting to follow suit, removing my glasses and closing my eyes, then comfortably resting my head in the nook of my crossed arms.
However, half way through the class the lights miraculously turned on! Someone may have been snoring. But what do you want, it’s the last class of the day. 25 groggy students raised their heads in no particular order, myself being one of the last. On opening my eyes I stared ahead, blinking stupidly and realizing as I was allowing them to attempt to focus on the room that my glasses were still on my desk. So it was with a growing sense of unease that my vision came in perfectly sharp and clear. Mystified, I took a slow stock of my surroundings. Yup, I could even read those odd motivational posters on the far wall without squinting. Clearly, the words “I don’t monkey around, I do my homework!” were visible beneath the face of a bewildered ape, or a picture of the president.
What became even stranger than my suddenly perfect vision, was that as I was surveying the class I took sudden notice of strange lines glowing in the ground and crawling up the walls of the school like the veins of some resting behemoth. A strange colored haze began to surround my fellow students making them seem more alive (even the slow speaking teacher that most of us would swear was at least part zombie). Frowning, I rubbed at my eyes. Obviously, I’d tried too hard in gym class and something popped in my overworked head.
Tentatively I peeked between my hands, my odd behavior going unnoticed by the teacher as he started to write on the chalk board in even strokes that scratched at my ear drums. Nope. Still seeing underground power lines, or something. And judging from the slack jawed drooling of the rest of the kids, I was the only one.
As I pondered this, the teacher asked us all to take out our Earth Science textbooks and flip to some page or another that I wasn’t really paying attention to. Moving on auto-pilot as I tried to discover just what was wrong with me, I reached into my possessed backpack without recalling just what was hidden within its nylon Chinese manufactured depths.
Much like all that morning, I didn’t have to feel around for very long. The moment my hand entered that pouch, the exact book I wanted slipped into my fingers. I froze part way, a strange suspicion dawning on my perplexed squinting face. Could this have been what was happening all morning, with my books? Could that strange creature have been handing over exactly what I needed all along? It was a curious idea, and I didn’t really feel like school was the proper place to test out my theory. No, tentacle beasts hiding in bags aren’t to be toyed with anywhere near young under-dressed school girls.
If there was anything I learned from watching Japanese porn on the internet when I thought my parents were asleep, that was the lesson. I also learned that in Japan, people have colorful square mosaics in place of genitals.
Breathing deeply in an attempt to calm myself, I set the Earth Science book on the table and looked down. And I went still again, my face turning interesting shades. Obviously, that little critter hadn’t just been snoozing all day. Apparently, he’d been doing some impromptu redecorating, for the usual dull brown and orange printed cardboard cover of my standard issue text book had been redone, somehow. The title still bared some resemblance to the original color, but it looked like someone trying to copy symbols in a language they didn’t quite understand. Also, somehow the flimsy cardboard cover had been redone in a queerly black, stretched, leather like substance with tiny things like gems studding it, and gold lines forming rather familiar geometric shapes and lines of power. Having none of those raw materials stored in my backpack at any point in time, I had to wonder where it had gotten them. Also, I had to hope that it wasn’t the monster equivalent of a baby smearing poop on everything it sees. Bees made honey with their butts, right? Maybe dream squids upgraded books the same way?
The color in my face all but drained to some strange dimension that saps the blood from folks when they’re absolutely freaked out, because I can’t imagine where it might have gone. Hesitantly I lifted the cover and started to flip through the pages. They were still mostly similar to what it had been, though somehow all the writing had been redone in the same unfamiliar hand writing as the cover had been.
As I tried to figure out what I was supposed to be doing in the class while trying to hide the fact that something a bit worse than drawing stick figures in the columns of my school book had happened to my text, I looked up again with a lost expression, trying to see where everyone else was. That’s when I witnessed something a step worse than the magic book transformation trick, and the glowing floor lines.
Quite plain as day, there were strange otherworldly creatures, and I wasn’t making reference to the puberty-twisted forms of my classmates. They were things the like of which I’d never laid eyes on, and they seemed to be ignoring all semblance of gravity as they drifted through walls and people like semi-transparent space fish. Some had legs like spiders, if indeed they were legs, some had as many appendages and wings as I’d seen on any number of things duct taped together. I couldn’t quite tell if they even had a color, because the things seemed to have a hazy phantom-like existence. My eyes must have been getting bigger as I shrunk in my seat, because more than a few people were glancing in my direction with raised eyebrows. However, I wasn’t as concerned with what they might think of me as what those odd half-phased things would want. Because sure as shoot’n, some were starting to notice that I was noticing. Oddly, no one else was noticing!
A phrase I’d heard from before ran through my head just then, as I stared back into the hallow skeletal-like recessed eye patches of something that looked like a great black transparent nightmare cross between a prehistoric fish and a daddy long legs, “When you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”
Luckily for me, I didn’t have long to ponder this phrase, as the final bell pealed into the air with a shrill pitch. This time, I didn’t linger behind, nor did I dilly dally, or shoot the guff with my fellow school mates. My freaked out science book went into my backpack as fast I could fit it, and my ass was out the door at a dead run to the bike racks.
I rode home as fast as I could, not even waiting to see if I could get another ride from Clark. I didn’t even think to go check out the art show after school that Beth was talking about. This was the kind of fast a person gets when the unknowable was breathing down their necks like a panting hungry wolf. My headache was gone, but I was clearly seeing strange things that should not be there, and they quite clearly saw me. It all inexplicably vanished when I put my glasses back on, but once I knew they were there, and that no one else could see them, I couldn’t help but to keep peeking around the thick black rims.
It had been a strange day. If I hadn’t had come to terms with carrying an alien tentacle baby in my backpack, I probably would have gone straight to the nurse’s office, or even security, when I started seeing mysterious lines of energy and shadow creatures stalking around just outside my peripheral vision. My vision now was strangely reminiscent of the odd dreams I’d been having, like I was seeing multiple realities all stacked on top of one another at once, but the further some of them got from me, the hazier they were to my eyes.
Yes, I probably should still have gone to the nurse’s office, but I felt I probably shouldn’t with an honest-to-god creature from another dimension nesting in my pack. For one thing, I was starting to like the little critter. He was cute, in a kitten-spawn-of-Cthulhu sort of way. So it was more prudent to get home and stash him away, then tell the parents how batshit insane I was, and that I was in fact seeing things and hearing voices, and all those other grand things parents love to hear. (Right above “I’m gay!” or “I’m a mutant!”, but slightly under “I hope you liked the spaghetti, I made it with real neighbor!”)
More importantly, I had to figure out what the creature was and find out a way to get it back to where it came from. If it came from my dream, then my dream had to have been real. If it was real, then there was a big interdimensional tar-black space squid out there missing one of its babies, and I wasn’t willing to fool around and see just how attached it was to its offspring.
Luckily no one was home by the time I got there. Dad was at work still, probably, and I expect Mom was out shopping. Both their cars were gone, so I just pulled my bike into the garage and hauled off to the house with my backpack and its otherworldly contents in tow. Idly, I started to wonder what a star-spawned-tentacle-horror from the abyss dines on. If sailor scouts were part of its diet, it may be time to put him up for adoption. Or try to give him back to that creepy dream girl with the rabbit.
Just as I got to my room and put the backpack on the bed, and saw the calmly waiting journal of my great uncle, the doorbell rang.
I grimaced, watching my backpack squirm, and wondering what I should do next. Sure, answering the door is very important for a teen trying to prove to his parents that he could be in the house alone for extended periods of time without turning it into an opium den, or an alien hive of indescribable horrors with nubile wide-eyed Japanese school girls glued to the walls and impregnated (that last one was becoming increasingly possible). But I had a strange possible answer before me, and I felt like I’d just downloaded a new patch for my favorite shooter game, and wanted to see just how some naked 0’s and 1’s could get a simple polygonal terrorist with an AK-47. As you can imagine, I was going to ignore the doorbell.
When it rung again.
I straightened up, my shoulders shifting back, a strange sense of responsibility starting to overwhelm my more selfish reasoning.
Before I could talk reason to myself, the doorbell started to ring like crazy, the rhythm of the chimes not unlike a kid in an elevator mashing at buttons. Sighing to myself, I slumped out of my room and stalked doors to the front door to answer it.
“Hello!” Chirped the overly optimistic person in the tone of the religious and pre-maturely-enlightened on the other side of the door, managing to greet me almost before I got the door the rest of the way open to inform them dutifully that NO, I wasn’t interested in saving my soul, and that YES, I knew that Jesus was my savior, and that he died for the many sins that I committed nightly behind the thin magazine paged veils of Victoria’s Secret catalogues and all the web sites I assured my mom I never visited while rapidly trying to close pop up ads proclaiming their possession of images of what, they assured me, were the dirtiest grandma sluts in the interwebs.
I was also very prepared to tell them that nightly I gleefully worshiped Satan and other unsavory deities in the nude, and that I couldn’t speak with them very long because I had a baby to go sacrifice to the thing living under my stairs, and my pants to go burn. “Have you heard the revelations of our savior, Glaaki? I have pamphlets and Kool-Aid!”
“Huh?” was my truncated reply. I was further shocked when I got a good look at the girl waiting at the doorstep. She wasn’t any taller than I was, really, though she was wearing similar glasses. She had dark shoulder length hair, and a brown colored suit jacket, tie, and ankle-length skirt that seemed straight out of the 50’s (or earlier). As the grinning face leered at me ghoulishly over an array of brightly colored handouts depicting what looked something like the cartoonish offspring of a slug that had a drunken memorable night with a Tijuana porcupine, surrounded by halos and angle wings, happy rainbows and cartoon children with apparently no eyes praising the great spiky space slug.
The hand-outs I hadn’t seen before, but the girl I recognized right away. It was that girl from my dreams! The creepy one with the starfish people, and the one catching shots from a squid baby cannon in that space vagina!
“…Glasses thief,” the girl said showing off two rows of glossy white teeth in a broad grin, somehow her clear glasses blocked her eyes as they caught the glare from the sun, making her look all the more menacing. Also, she appeared to have a thermos of Kool-Aid by her feet.
“You!” I gasped, pointing at the creature a yard away from my face, “You don’t exist!”
Suddenly she was pushing past me into the house like she owned the place, confident in her stride as she took in the homey decor. “You know, it took rabbit a while to track you down, glasses thief. You’re lucky I found you first!”
“What?! I’m not a …stop calling me glasses thief! My name’s Josh!” I probably shouldn’t be yelling my name at imaginary dream stalker girls, but she’d crossed the line! Also, she crossed the threshold of my house! That was just invasive! Especially for something that didn’t exist!
Suddenly that strange white rabbit that was so hard to look at, that seemed more like an outline of a rabbit done in rotoscope than an actually bunny, was atop her head, the long ears attentive and upright, giving the odd girl an even more ridiculous appearance.
She sighed at me, as though I was being difficult, and turned to eye me while removing her glasses. Her eyes, at first glance, were disappointing and ordinary, and dark. But when one got a closer look, one noticed her eyes weren’t dark because they were some deep shade of brown or dark blue. Where most people had those neat colored circles and the black dots in the center, hers were one big black circle in a squinty pond of white. The longer one looked at them, the more unsettling and deep and boundless they seemed, drawing one in like a pair of tiny nerd-sized black holes. “Right, pleased to meet you. I’m Ecila. Really, we don’t have time for this. You’ve been popping up in places, following me around in your dreams. If this keeps up, you’re gunna end up someone’s cosmic snack. Or your head’ll explode.” She mouthed a soft imitation of an explosion and made a spreading gesture with both hands, dropping her pamphlets.
My own eyes widened, and all my odd symptoms of late felt all the more ominous. The constant fever, the odd headaches, the interstellar tan jobs, the weird creature that showed up in my backpack that looked like Cthulhu himself had taken a crap in it. I rubbed a nervous hand against my forehead, and cautiously slipped my glasses off.
As soon as I did, the strange things came back. Lines like veins of energy in the earth coursing through everything throbbed into view, little floating dots, some of which were taking the outlines of vague unknowable creatures, flittered about, darting in and out of things I knew were solid objects, shadow animals stalked on the corners of my vision. Several layers of reality all sandwiched in front of my own trembling eyeballs. Part of me wondered if she had something to do with the dildo bike seat incident. Taking into account all this, the crazy girl’s claims didn’t seem all that crazy anymore.
“Well… what do I gotta do…?” I finally relented, looking to her helplessly.
I felt a slight twinge in the back of my eyes and the base of my skull, my head throbbing with pain to the beat of my own quickening heart beat. This little girl wasn’t at all what she appeared to be. She wasn’t simply a small insane gibbering dream girl. I could see strange overlays, sense she stretched out into directions and dimensions I only had the barest of inclinations existed. Though on the outside of it all, she still was that terrible, unimpressive little girl who was starting to impatiently check her gold pocket watch.
“Oh, before you start to wander off again and end up an inter-dimensional order of rather bland bread sticks, I have to introduce you to some people. Then we’ll do some signing, and it’ll all be gravy! No exploding heads, no tasty Josh bites.” Then she worriedly chewed her lower lip. “Just one thing though.”
I felt with the stickiest part of my guts a growing weight of cautious fear, “W-what?”
“You still can’t go anywhere while awake, see, and I don’t really have the kind of time to wait for you to fall asleep again, or wait for you to figure out how to do it when you’re awake. So we’ll have to take a short cut.” The little white rabbit sprung from her head, darting off.
“A shortcut?” growing more and more nervous, I squeezed the pair of thick rimmed glasses in my hands, feeling the attention of creatures I couldn’t conceive of taking notice of me. Obviously this strange girl meant to guide me somehow, to open up a door into that other world where everything made sense and non-sense at the same time, and the math turned to poetry and flowed like air. I took a deep breath, waiting for her to open the way with that familiar blast of purple light.
“Right!” chirped the girl, smiling at me. Then her look turned to utterly shocked, eye-rolling horror, and she raised a trembling finger to indicate a space just past my right shoulder. “Oh my GOD! What is THAT!” she gasped, face going white.
Terrified, I spun around to see that little white bunny staring up at me, wriggling its cute little bunny nose inquisitively.
Then I felt something solid slam into the back of my head, and I fell forwards, unconscious…
The girl stood there behind me spinning her gold colored watch on its chain in a lazy circle, fixing her glasses back atop her little button nose. I wouldn’t have imagined something that small could knock a person out, if I weren’t on the ground and knocked out in clear proof of its reality defying powers.
“A shortcut!” she said, and then huffed onto the glass panel of the pocket watch and buffed it against her sleeve, satisfied.
A familiar purple light enveloped me as my consciousness, or my soul, or whatever the heck it was of me shifted to wherever I was after. The void about me was as it had been those initial two evenings when I’d started seeing it. Geometrical creatures, organisms that could never exist where I had come from, were abounding today.
Something caught my attention however, and I recognized the blur of fuzzy white-tailed butt of that critter that had been playing hide and seek with me all day long. Resolved now, I followed after it until I felt some sort of reality solidify, and my feet touched ground in some strange recess of what was like a slice of dream space. There were no real definitions about me, and an illumination like a spot light was brightening a broad circle of solid white ground under foot. Standing in front of me was the girl who had introduced herself to me as Ecila.
Ecila looked back to me with a smile, holding up a finger to draw my attention, “Now, normally you meeting these sorts of things would be very very bad for you. I can’t even tell you how bad! But I could draw a picture, I guess.”
As she turned, and started to draw diagrams in the air behind her, I hastily raised my hands, “Ack! No no, please, that’s fine, I-whoa, is that supposed to me? Umm… My eyes are kinda big, aren’t they?” I scrutinized her diagram and the tiny figure that looked like me flailing and screaming while being penetrated in ways I care not to describe by something like a great sky spaghetti monster.
“I think it’s called ‘really deformed’,” she pondered. Then the details of the room changed. Or should I say, the room gained details. We were now standing in what looked like a strange study, not unlike something Vincent Price might be waiting for you in. There were book shelves that reached a high vaulted ceiling, a ladder on wheels to accommodate the unnatural height of the book shelves, a red padded reclining chair, and a table, all of which made from what appeared to be some polished old-fashioned oak. There were of course, stacks of books, and… things of impossible description littered about the area, and a few ancient-looking doors stuck away in unexpected places. I followed her dumbly, looking around at the dangerously high stacks of books that didn’t quite tip over, and accidently ran into something. It was something very hard of course, and it felt like kicking a fire extinguisher.
“Son of a b-!”
“Now now!” she cut me off, looking over her shoulder at me with the slight scowl of a diminutive mother, while she thumbed through a key ring that was suddenly attached to that weird gold chain her watch had been on, apparently trying to find the key for a hovel of a door she was facing. “There’s no need for that kind of language! We’re all well behaved and polite entities here, you know.”
Biting my lip, and cutting off the rest of the creative string of curses, I cast a hateful glare down at the apparent mortal enemy of my big toe. Then I tilted my head, looking at it again from another angle in an attempt to identify the strange object. I picked the peculiar looking cylinder up. It was much wider than a fire extinguisher, but felt just about as thick and heavy with a screw on lid. It was also made of some curious shiny grey metal, and a piece of duct tape was slapped across its front with the words [Browning] written on it in marker.
“Hey, what’s this thing?”
She gave a triumphant ‘ah hah!’ as she found the right key holding it up gloriously to the light. Then she peeked back at me, “Huh? Oh, nice guy. Lost a game of twister with a Shoggoth. Terrible tragedy. Terrible. Well, I hope you’re ready for this!” And she swung the door open.
Nothing could have made me ready for that.
What happened next could never be described properly in words, or pictures, without causing the sort of insanity you get special long-sleeved jackets for, with lots of pretty buckles that keep you from chewing off your own arms and plucking out those troublesome eyeballs like grapes, then making a delicious grape juice medley and dancing from door to door in your neighborhood dressed as a brownie scout trying to sell it at a nickel a cup! The human mind is just not hardwired to understand just what transpired. So for the sake of the sanity of corporeal existence, I’ll try to describe the following events in the nearest, and most sane equivalent, as altered through the perception of Miss Ecila. Honestly though, it didn’t bother me as much.
This pocket dimension was somewhat like a never ending tea party. The time was always six o’clock, and something approximate to a canopy of black and puce trees arched above a small enclave. A round table constructed from cleverly floral metal vines had four seats about it that four of us occupied in the center of all this, and on this table was a steaming pot of what was probably tea. (Approximations and all that, you recall - it could have been distilled and bubbling souls from a thousand different worlds, for all I knew!) Some tasty looking snack cakes were on a tray, and they looked ever so tempting as they screamed in tiny voices things like “eaaat me!” and “eat him!”
The “hatter” looked like he’d eaten a bug. He was an impossibly tall black man even while sitting - and no, I don’t mean African (er, African American?) - I mean black like the night, black like onyx, black like things that were really really dark! His features however were oddly Caucasian with a strong, straight nose, a square chin, and no apparent eyes. A tall black top hat adorned his pharaoh-like statuesque head, and similarly matching black robes and a tie covered his form.
As I said before, he didn’t look happy. He really didn’t feel like anything I didn’t want to make unhappy, either, as just looking at him chilled my soul in ways that’ll no doubt having me pooping ice cubes in the afterlife.
Large hands steepled together in front of the dark man’s chin, and he glared at my guide. “Ecila, I hope you realize how very much this pisses me off. Your perception of existence is causing me horrible, horrible headaches,” said he in a dark, rumbling voice, before he sampled one of the squealing snack cakes.
“It’s not my fault!” protested my guide, the short woman already sitting across from him without the slightest hesitation. She didn’t quite explain why it wasn’t her fault just yet, though, busying herself with filling a cup with steamy other-dimensional tea, much to the dark man’s growing… well, it wasn’t a growing sense of annoyance, I suppose it had been pretty regulated at a really high level since the moment all of this started to exist. A couple squares of sugar were dropped into her drink, and she stirred it up right quick with quavering spoon, and then glanced up. ”Huh? Oh, right! He needs to sign the book.”
“Aaaah,” purred a sleepy looking creature sitting across from me, to the dark man’s right, a head raising from two crossed things like arms to grin. “The BOOK! To sign the-” suddenly, she yawned, and her head crashed back down into her folded arms to snore soundly. I couldn’t even make out what she was. Looking at her was like trying to see behind the mosaic pixilation in censored porn.
The closest description of what I did next in this strange place, was that I blinked. But I must remind you once more, were I to describe this blink for what it truly was, your sanity would shatter as a tiny glass poodle under a garbage truck. It struck me that there were things about this place and beyond that I would never, and could never properly comprehend. But it still struck me as odd, and rather rude, the sporadic actions of the creature-woman.
The dark man wasn’t quite grinning, but I sensed a slight sense of elation amongst his elevated aggression, “Ah, the book.”
“Yes, the book!” piped up Ecila.
“…What Book?” I ventured to ask, the first thing I dared say during this whole mind boggling… tea party.
“Ah, so he can speak. Marvelous.” A massive dark tome appeared before the black man as he stretched out his hands, what I realized was something like human skin because there was a face stretched across the cover of the book, and tiny, screaming faces trapped in the horrible book’s binding. The twisted bastardization of existence flipped open on its own, pages racing to turn past lists of names written in peculiar reddish brown substance flashed before my eyes until it settled on what appeared to be the end of the list in this strange face book.
As you may expect, a sense of trepidation overwhelmed my senses, and I gulped nervously a lump of the oddly comforting tea on reflex. “Uh… w-why do I need to sign the… the book?” I asked, feeling oddly small at the table with the dark man, the snoozing woman thing, and Ecila, rabbit perched atop her noggin.
“The book…” Ecila started to say, before being interrupted as the sleeping creature raised its head again, startled from its snoring to hiss in response.
“…The boooook!” before her head slammed back down into her arms.
“…Right, the book-”
“Ah, the book,” chuckled the dark man.
“…Yah, well…” Ecila paused, glancing between the other two at the table that kept interrupting. She stared at them for a very awkward and very long period of time before nodding to herself, and turning to me, satisfied, “That’s the book.” She gestured at the book on the table.
I glanced at it. “Right. So… you know, I kinda don’t wanna sign that. It looks… creepy,” I said, wincing, and trying to make eye contact with it. Hey, that was one CREEPY book.
“Ah, but you must sign it,” Ecila explained with a smile, no doubt going to follow up on that bit of advice, “You see, the book-”
“THE BOOOOK!” hissed the sleeping creature, this time not even bothering to raise her head.
I gave a spiritual groan, rubbing a palm against my forehead quietly.
“…You see, the book is an agreement. It’s a pact, of sorts! Most dreamers don’t get as far as you without their hearts exploding, or their brain turning into a curious orange jello, or interesting things like that. But you’ve sort of elevated yourself over all that - you’re starting to wake up.” She gestured towards me with her tea cup, closing her eyes and taking a sip. “Aah, nummy. So, you’ve got the keys to the universe now, Josh! The contract is just to make sure you don’t use those keys on the Yellow King’s bathroom and catch him taking a dookey!”
“MUST you say ‘dookey’?” growled the dark man. I think he liked that snack cake, because he was nibbling on a second one, his pinky extended regally. “It’s so… elementary school.”
The girl’s lips straightened out into a thin grimace, and she shot the man across from her a sharp salute, “Right!” And she turned to me, “The point is, you’re dumb. You’re really, really, really dumb. And you’re swimming around in a pool filled with sharks with laser eyes with steak strapped to your belly. We’re just trying to… help you!”
Feeling just a tiny bit defensive at being called so dumb, I slumped down in my seat and grumped, but twitched when my knee accidently brushed against the dark man’s. When his attention turned to me, that cold numbing sensation returned, and I gulped, “Yah, yah, I’m stupid, I get it. So, the book…?”
“The boooook…!” echoed the slipping woman expectantly.
“Oh!” she chirped, as though she’d forgotten what was she talking about, sipping daintily her tea once more, “Well Josh, you sign the book, and those sharks won’t take a bite of your tasty tasty meat parts unless you kick them in the nose! For doing certain jobs here and there for us, you get a crash course in where you can go, where you shouldn’t go, and the sorts of rules you’ll have to follow so you don’t accidently cause all existence to fart!” She gave me a patient smile, “And I’ll be helping you out! It’s a really good deal. You really don’t want to make existence fart. There’s not enough air freshener in the universe to cover it!”
I considered my options. It seemed I couldn’t avoid venturing into places like this on my own - heck, it almost always happened when I was sleeping now. So, if my choices were between having my soul sodomized by laser sharks, and signing a book with screaming faces on it and with an oddly copper scent, it seemed to me like my actual choices were, like, none.
On a completely separate note, this tea was awesome! “Alright, um…” I eyed the dubious tome in question, “So, I don’t have a choice?”
Ecila yawned, “Look…”
And the sleeping creature snapped awake, “Boooook!”
She chided it, wagging a finger, “I said ‘look’.”
The sleepy thing expressed an indescribable apology for bad timing, and rested its chin on its crossed arms, watching me in a pregnant silence. That sort of creeped me out, just so you know.
“…so, look, uh… no, you really don’t have a choice. But I’m totally helping you out here! You’ll just have to trust me.” She would have inspired a bit more confidence if she hadn’t dumped the rest of her tea out of her cup and right into mine in a sneaky, smooth motion. Suddenly, I didn’t really want any more of the tea.
Blanching, I murmured, “…I hate sugar in my tea…”
“Yah, I’m trying to loose weight myself. Look, I guess I can understand you being a little worried about all this, and I have a solution.” She beamed, folding her hands politely on the table and peered across it at the dark man, who was apparently zoning out. Well, sor-reeee for not being interesting! “Nyaaaa…”
“Ugh, don’t CALL me that.” This time, he blanched, showing my rabbit-headed guide a sneer, “You… oh me, please don’t…”
He apparently knew what was going on, but I was properly mystified when Ecila reached across the table and poked the book of horrors beyond reason with her pinky finger.
What passed for reality in this place burped. And in the aftermath, the ancient tome with its blood-lettered pages, and the nuggets of suffering strewn about its hardbound cover was gone. In its place was a bright pink Hello Kitty notebook.
The dark man just buried his face in his hands, groaning, “This is so undignified - all the corporeal beings are going to be laughing at us when they hear this. You realize that, don’t you? They never stop talking…”
Ecila rolled her eyes in those dark black rimmed glasses and picked the little notebook up, opening it up to a page, and setting it down before me, the kind of pen you buy in packs of 10 for under a buck laying besides it. “There! Isn’t that so much better? It’s the same deal as before, just sign your name, and we’ll be in business,” she assured me, suddenly turning to snag up the last of the tasty tea cakes the dark man had distracted himself by snacking on.
He scowled, and returned his attention to the transmogrified book, “…It’ll take me days to put that thing back right.”
My guide straightened out, and glanced at the sleepy creature that was watching me. Its eyes were drooping slowly, and it looked ready to pass out once more when Ecila said, in a soft whisper, “hook.”
“THE BOOOOK!” hissed the sleepy creature, eyes snapping awake.
“ALRIGHT!” My patience was finally worn thin. That wasn’t even funny anymore, seriously. I picked up the pen and scribbled my name down, and the second I did the dark man snatched it up and slammed the book shut. “And this better not be one of those ‘damn your souls to eternity’ deals, either! I’m not sacrificing any babies!”
Eyes rolled across the floor. Ecila quickly retrieved them. “Well, you don’t have to sacrifice any babies unless you really want to.”
The dark fellow agreed, “But it does help.” Looking at Ecila, he sighed for better days, “Your great great great great great great grandmother was so very eager to please, too.”
Ecila replied by crossing her eyes stupidly.
“Right.” He muttered, “I’m getting out of here, I have people to destroy, and things to destroy.”
Ecila beamed and looked up so fast the ears of the rabbit atop her head bounced, “Toodles, Nya!”
“Fuck. You,” were his last words before writing himself out of that place with a flash. The sleeping creature just sort of drifted away, vanishing, leaving me and my would-be helper alone.
“So… what… is this place…?” I ventured to ask, curious as I stood up to leave.
“Oh, I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t tell you without causing the sort of insanity you get special long sleeved jackets for, with lots of pretty buckles that keep you from chewing off your own arms and plucking out those troublesome eyeballs like grapes, then making a delicious grape juice medley and dancing from door to door in your neighborhood dressed as a brownie scout trying to sell it at a nickel a cup!” She all but gasped out those last words, and I stared at her until she snickered under her breath, and slapped my shoulder hard, “You’re so naive, Josh.”
Sometime in 1971
Earlier in his career of super villainy, the young man that hadn’t seen the need to pick out a supervillain nom de jure for himself had only been caught on camera once. He wasn’t the flashy kind of thief who’d throw on a cape and mask to conceal his identity, because up to that point he hadn’t thought he needed to do so. Nonetheless, the choppy black and white video of the security system belonging to the National Bank of New York caught on grainy film the image of an as yet unidentified figure.
This young man wasn’t remembered by a single person at the location of the theft, which was strange as the camera clearly recorded him walking calmly in through the bank’s front doors with a briefcase during their less busy times of the day, past several security guards. The unknown person then walked up to one of the tellers, and without saying a word between them, the teller emptied her register into a small sack and handed it to the young man. He then proceeded to hide the bag in his briefcase, turn around and just as calmly walk right out, without a single alarm going off.
The teller would have been charged with aiding in the heist, if it weren’t for the many peculiar facts that surrounded the mysterious and abrupt mid-day robbery.
Not one of the very few people that had been working that day, or any of the customers, could ever recall the event had even happened. Stranger still, the bank manager himself had been approaching the female teller during the transaction, and was shown clearly on camera just stopping in his tracks and staring blankly ahead of him when he’d gotten close to the two.
It soon became apparent to those investigating the case that the perpetrator had made use of extraordinary means to acquire the money. However, the means by which he had managed to coax the cooperation of a loyal employee of the bank to provide him with all the cash she could get her hands on without raising the slightest of a ruckus, with the bank manager himself at her elbow, could only have been imagined. There wasn’t a sure way they could find out how long he’d been doing this, or who he’d been stealing from in the past. Going door to door and asking if anyone was missing money, and if they didn’t remember how they’d lost it just wasn’t prudent. If it wasn’t for the brand new security system the bank had set up, evidence of the crime would never have been discovered at all.
To the criminal’s credit, after the bleary image of his face had been posted in post offices, and the mysterious aspects of the incident reported on the news, he was never caught again stealing money from a bank.
It was suspected that, perhaps, the perpetrator had moved on to more subtle methods of larceny. Whatever the cause for his change of MO, that particular thief wouldn’t come to the attention of the enforcers of the law until a much later date, and even then, no one would have suspected the mysterious young person without an identity on the tape to be him.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
I woke up groggily in bed with all the astute alertness of Helen Keller when she was still on the sauce. Blindly I reached for my glasses and fit them on, giving a tired look about my room. Part of me was surprised I was waking up in my own bed, for once. A glance at the alarm clock told me it was a little after 6:00 am the next day.
Everything about me hummed and glowed with the unusual sharpness that sometimes followed me from my dreams these days of late. The little Knights of Purity action figures guarding the black monolith of my monitor looking particularly dull and plastic, and not up to their cartoon counterparts’ reputation that aired every Saturday morning just after that show with the mutant green sewer ninjas. The Master Chief action figure sneaking up behind them with the unsharpened pencil could totally take them out. My backpack was on the floor at my feet, and I cast it a suspicious glance, while my hair stuck up at a funny angle in response to the grievous insult of sleeping on it wrong. The completely mind-shattering bizarreness of my dreams of late shed doubt on the strange events from the previous day. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more ludicrous it seemed. Squids in my backpack? Dimensional bunnies following me around? A crazy girl from the last century popping up and taking me out to… my mind shuddered when I recalled the meeting from my dreams, the details of it beyond any kind of earthly description. I’d had less weird dreams before that had seemed more real than any of that.
Deciding to prove to myself that I had just been having a bad reaction to Mom’s mushroom meatloaf surprise, I extended my foot out to the mouth of my backpack, the ominous zipper teeth lining the opening glistening like hundreds of very real looking tiny metal incisors. My breath caught in my throat, my eyes squinting, and I had the feeling that I was watching the heroine of some horror movie who just decided to open Dracula’s coffin. Except, the heroine was my foot. The coffin a backpack. The darkness within that bag was thick, like the absence of light could be a tangible thing, and as my big toe lifted the upper flap I let out an immense sigh of relief. There was no tar-like black tentacle beast within, just some school books and stray sheets of paper.
Feeling bolstered by my discovery, I lunged out of bed and picked up a change of clothes from the top of my clean clothes pile that mom would no doubt harp on me to put away when she saw. Then I strode confidently to the bathroom while something under my bed awoke and cooed. A black shiny cat silently padded off in pursuit. I didn’t even notice it follow me into the restroom and sit with the curious, observant eyes of a child. Apparently it had seen a child at some point, and figured out how to do its eyes. It was kinda creepy, honestly, seeing a weird slick black latex cat with human eyes watching me, and I would have said that out loud if I even noticed it was there. Mind you still, I’d just woken up.
However, the week’s earlier activities had cast doubts in my mind. Pausing as I removed my shirt, I considered the reflection of the dark haired, mousy-looking fourteen year old with a receding black eye looking back at me. There was only one thing I could really think of, other than mom’s meatloaf, that could really explain the complete insanity that had become my school and home life. However, being a mutant didn’t make all that much sense, either.
Considering the possibility, my reflection frowned dubiously. A mutant? Could that really be it? Could I be turning into one of those superheroes, or evil villains with the long stylish and curly mustaches with the keen love for spandex? I looked at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, harder. Somehow, mirror me seemed even more doubtful.
If it were true, I decided, that might not be all that bad. In fact, it would be pretty awesome! Having super strength, flying around, shooting lasers from your extremities! It was every nerd’s dream, right? No one wanted to be one of the evil brain eating mutant types (or Aquaman), but for every one of the inhuman violent terrors you saw causing havoc in the news, there seemed to be a mutant that represented the very ideal of humanity to fight back against it. Being able to free yourself from all worldly difficulties, and everything else including gravity itself, definitely had some appeal to someone like me, who had obviously been shirked on the more physical attributes and gifts the alpha males of my species boasted. I grinned at the mirror and the dopey looking kid with the glasses in it grinned back at me a moment later.
Huh, I must still be tired.
But if I was turning into a mutant, what kind of powers would I have? What kind of powers might the strange dreams and hallucinations I’d been having be representative of?
That gave me pause.
I certainly didn’t have super strength. I wasn’t running any faster than even the slowest spit wad, or able to jump even the smallest of photo-mat kiosks with even my greatest bound. Standing in front of a speeding train didn’t seem the expedient thing to do to find out of I were more powerful than it, because those suckers are fast. Flying also didn’t appear to be in my near future, or at least my existing power portfolio.
On the other hand, my ears did hurt a lot lately. My hearing was sharper, but it most certainly wasn’t super hearing. Sneaking a finger in under my glasses I pulled down one of my eye lids, trying to get a better look at the round juicy eyeball beneath. I couldn’t quite tell if I had super vision, or anything, either. I wasn’t seeing anything all that much better than I could previously. Maybe I could see a little sharper without my glasses, and I didn’t really need the glasses anymore unless I didn’t want to start seeing stuff that interfered with my vision more so than assisted it. Weird phantom monsters, crazy lines of energy in the ground, and weird auras around people didn’t really feel useful to me, nor in the least bit super. Quite frankly, it had been annoying. The more logical conclusion was that the fever I’d been running was numbing my ears and causing me to hallucinate wildly.
Licking my hand and trying to smooth down the cowlick of hair protruding from my skull, I recalled the incident or so when I’d woken up in some place other than the bed I’d gone to sleep in. Was my super power… sleepwalking? Or super dreaming? The only area I was noticing any real improvement in the waking world was my mathematical comprehension. Everything else seemed to be suffering despite it, however. Though, even I was starting to realize that my comprehension for the logical, mathematical aspects of just about everything was way beyond my earlier limits. It was easy before, sure, but recently that understanding had turned exponential in its depth and gravity. The concepts and theories presented in my late great uncle’s journal were something I was fairly certain I would have never been able to comprehend several months ago.
That’s when a rather depressing thought struck me like a week old carp in the face.
If I really was turning into a mutant, and if I did have a budding super power, it could only be that I was getting really good at math.
Suddenly, being able to talk to fish and breathe under water wasn’t sounding so lame.
Glaring at my reflection, I tried to think the situation through. If this mutant theory of mine was valid, I was becoming one of the lame ones. Like Arm-Fall-Off-Boy. Or the Red Bee, with his mighty trained belt bee, Michael. Maybe the whole mutant thing explained all the hallucinations and weird things I’d been seeing. I studied myself intently in the mirror, trying to look for some clue, or some difference that might peg me as possibly being of the spontaneously evolved variety. One thing was certain as I perused the shabby looking boy in the mirror, I wasn’t getting any buffer. My body definitely hadn’t started its miraculous transformation into He-Man, so I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be drinking buddies with Champion any time soon. Point of fact, I’d say the opposite. Most of my classmates were starting to gain a few inches (upwards), or at least some mass and/or muscles. On the other hand, I appeared to be doing the opposite. It seemed my fate to remain scrawny and skinny through the rest of my schooling career, however long that might be. Despite the torture I went through in P.E. every day, my lank frame did its absolute level best to remain as unimpressive, skinny and soft as ever. My genetics were a profoundly squishy round peg that refused to be pushed into the square manly hole. Hm. That sounded kinda dirty.
Then again, maybe it had all been crazy, insane, vivid hallucinations. I took my glasses off with a sigh, and started a shower while I finished undressing, happening to glance at my reflection another time before I started to see the strange stuff.
There was something odd about my reflection, I noticed with a gradual uncertainty. My eyes before this point had been an unremarkable, dull brown. Not something sexy like hazel, or chocolate. They were brown. Maybe dirt brown, if I felt the overwhelming urge to toss some adjectives out there. They had been, anyway. At that moment, I noticed a distinct lack of brown in my eyes. The change was so subtle I hadn’t even noticed. As I got closer to the mirror, I discovered the black pupil of my eye had apparently decided to have a late night snack and devour the yummy dull brown of my irises like a great corneal donut. The reflection was telling me my eyes were black. Big, solid, black dots. It still might have been my lack of sleep, and it was such a little difference that I didn’t think all that much of it.
But then, there was a curious aspect to the pupils in the mirror too, as I looked into my eyes. A sense of other worldliness and infinity showed back at me, the dizzying sort of depth you might experience if you were to hold two mirrors up to one another.
Confused now, I backed away from the mirror and climbed into the shower hoping the hot water would clear my head and wash away strange thoughts and the crazy dream senses that had followed me out of bed, and the little black creature that had followed me jumped in as well. Once more, I didn’t notice it. The slick black cat moved with a complete absence of noise that transcended silence, and I was sleep muddled and full of heavy thinking.
My thinking however, was not on the social habits of the strange elder race known as the Shoggoth Lords, nor their earlier evolutionary roll as unholy forklifts from beyond made of tentacles. For if I had known such things, I would never have stripped to my birthday suit and gotten in a shower with such a creature, nor would I have exposed my back side to such a tentacle prone species. More to the point, I would have thought twice about the bar of soap I dropped.
An ominous sense of dread tainted my thoughts as I stood there motionless in the shower, staring at the offending block of white soap that drifted across the porcelain shower basin and came to settle around the drain as the shower waters trickled past it. It was a strange sensation, and I couldn’t help but to mentally flash back to any prison movie I’d seen, and the avid rumors and insistent advice freely and frequently given by my peers that, were I to be in such a situation in the future, in a prison, also in a prison shower, and I dropped the soap, that I never bend down to pick it up.
Standing there in the happy warm shower water that was, if anything, a bit too loud to my ears, such worries felt out of place. Shrugging, I started to lean down to retrieve the rectangular block of innocent whiteness.
Sometimes in a Shoggoth Lord’s earlier life cycles, when they aren’t suckling and relaxing within their parent creature’s birth pouches, they sometimes like to ‘meld’ with the parent. This gives the baby Shoggoth a sense of well being and a place within their social structure. And it aided in the exchange of genetic and intellectual information, and sometimes intellectually genetic information. This particular Shoggoth Lord baby bubbled in its feline form, and peered up curiously at the implied offering of ‘melding’ on the part of its adopted mother figure as flesh slabs shifted, and a small hole of dubious origins was presented to it. Obviously, an invitation to meld had opened up! Instinct took over. It surged forward in a mess of writhing wriggling cords of steel strong black alien horror.
The Shoggoth-baby-kitten-Lord initiated docking procedures.
A girlish, terror-filled scream later, and I was bursting out of the restroom sopping wet, with little more than a towel I’d grabbed on the way out to hide my shame. If there had been a human written manual on the caring and feeding of a Shoggoth Lord, the first sentence in the first paragraph would be something like “watch your ass.”
My reaction then was the reaction of most mammal children, I ran to my mom in the kitchen in all due haste, trying to not slip on the tiles as I dripped and scrambled over them. The Shoggoth’s reaction was somewhat similar, as it chased its mommy in concern.
“MOM! Mom there’s SOMETHING in the shower!” I began to say, but my eagerness to convey this most urgent of messages died off, and I stood there in my towel looking wet, shocked, and stupid.
Mother was there in the kitchen, her actions not unusual with what I knew of her. She was cooking eggs and bacon, with a side of toast. My father was there at the small breakfast table, a steaming plate of breakfast already half devoured beside a black cup of coffee and a newspaper held up for his morning perusal. That was not so strange, really. What was strange was the glasses-wearing girl in the brown clothes sitting at the table, munching contently on a bit of toast with jam on it, and sipping tea.
When my mother finished setting out a plate for me and took a seat for herself, my mind flashed back to that strange indescribable dream from the night before that, where were I to grossly simplify the concepts and lines of communication that barely summarized such an impossible event, might have looked like four people sitting down for a cup of tea. In the place of the dark man was my father, contentedly sipping the blackest of coffee. In the place of that weird creature I couldn’t quite identify, my mother was starting on some bacon. In the place of the crazy girl, there was that crazy girl.
“Josh!” said my mother in exasperation, finally noticing me. “What on earth are you doing? You’re dripping all over the floor!”
“I… What’s going ON here?!” I demanded.
My father raised an eyebrow at me over the drooping edge of his newspaper, “Breakfast.”
“Huh!?” I blurted, I hadn’t even realized how many times I’d said that word in the last few days, and I did so hate to repeat myself.
“Breakfast!” chirped the brown haired girl, “Lovely toast, Mrs. Gillman!”
“Oh, you’re quite welcome! We’re always happy to have friends of Josh stay over,” my mom said with a smile, apparently oblivious to the true nature of the transdimensional horror she’d just given snacks to.
“No! I mean what’s SHE doing here!” exasperated, I pointed insistently at Ecila, who was giving me the stink eye by now. “She’s giving me the stink eye!”
“Oh Josh! Don’t be so rude!” my mother said with a sigh, apparently growing impatient with me, “Ecila here said she’s been helping you study, and you fell asleep on her yesterday! At least show a little gratitude.” She took a bite of bacon, and then said, “I’ve seen your grades. I for one am happy you’re finally getting some help in your other subjects.”
“Gratitude?! She’s full of lies! She’s-” and just then, that little black tar kitty brushed between my ankles in a manner that had me clenching my rear cheeks in response, and causing a cold shiver to run up my spine. Then it scampered over to my mom’s feet, and let out a pitiful sounding mew that almost burbled.
Much to my continued horror, my mother in a contrary action to all that was sane and self-preserving, fed the creature the rest of her bacon without so much as a second thought.
“Mom! What the hell!”
“Joshua Andrews Gillman!” she said, exasperated. “We don’t use language like that in this house!”
“He does kind of have a dirty mouth, doesn’t he?” agreed Ecila, eyeing me as she took a bite of her bread.
“When you finish getting dressed,” my father intervened with a deep tone, dominating the conversation with the not so subtly implied order, “AND since you haven’t woken up ten minutes before school starts once more, we have some things to discuss. A Mister Maxwell called yesterday while you were sleeping.”
My math teacher? Ugh, did I fail the math test too? Starting to feel the deck stacked against me, I glared at the three at the table, and the little critter beneath it begging for table scraps. “Fine. Fine! Whatever!”
I turned my back and towel wrapped backside to them, stalking to the bathroom to finish my shower (making sure I wasn’t followed this time), I got dressed in quite the huff. As I pulled the t-shirt on my top I felt a weird abrasiveness and sucked in a gasp of air. Frowning, I reached a hand up to feel at my boney chest through the cloth. There’s no way I could ever lay claim to being a young Mister Universe, but there was a peculiar softness there. Maybe I was getting a little flabby? I dearly hoped some push ups in gym class could clear that up, as being both fat and scrawny were the last things I needed to go wrong. Having moobs would not make me a popular outcast.
Speaking of things going wrong, that crazy dream world I’d been wandering in and my real life had somehow met in a bar while I slept, like two girl friends who suddenly found out they had a lot more in common - like the guy they were seeing. What was more maddening was that my mom and dad didn’t find it the least bit strange.
When I returned to the kitchen, the scene was much the same, however Ecila had moved on to prodding the hairless cat with a pencil as it sat on the table contemplating her with half lidded, very feline eyes. I’m glad it finally got that bit right
Giving up to frustration, my shoulders slumped and I gestured towards them. “Okay, NO one finds this weird.”
Several pairs of eyes regarded me questionably.
“Well, the cat is rather strange. I’ve never heard of a black hairless. Is it a Rex? You should have asked before bringing a stray into the house, though” chided my mother. Then admitted, “But it is rather cute.” That said, she stood up and moved on to clear the table and do the dishes.
“He never asked me if he could keep a pet,” grumbled dad. “And as I was saying, your math teacher called while you were sleeping the other day.” The newspaper in his hands was briskly folded and laid on the table in a manner that indicated it was time to discuss business.
“Oh, dear!” My mother interrupted, looking at me with concern, “You’re not coming down with something, are you? Maybe that little temperature you had was worse than I thought… you’re usually up all night playing those games of yours!”
Taking a seat at the table, I started to pick at what was left of the breakfast she’d left for me. Hm. The bacon was gone. Suspiciously, I eyed the cat-like entity that just looked back with a bland expression. “Uh… no mom, I just had a rough day at school, I guess.” Like hell was I going to tell her the crazy stuff I suspected was happening, especially not with that crazy girl at the table right next to me. She was ignoring me for the moment, making nice with the space cat. “I… I feel fine, really.” I hadn’t really lied to her. I felt a little out of sorts, but this was the last day I wanted to call in sick from. I had a date!
“That’s good to hear”, my father said with a rough smile. “Now, about your teacher.” Unconsciously, I held my breath. “He says we should consider a special instructor for you, some kind of private schooling.”
“Huh? What like, at a Catholic school?” I mumbled, not really interested in joining an all-boys institution. The mental image of a stinking gym locker room the size of a school ran through my mind, and it was the least pleasant image I’ve had of late - barring the anal intrusion of the backpack demon.
My father shook his head, glancing at the clock, “No, he suggested a man back east that he knew. He said he could provide you with…” he looked off to one side squinting, “An education more fitting to your abilities? Some private teacher, like an apprenticeship. I told him we’d think about it.”
“Back east!? Dad! My Earth Science teacher comes from back east, and it’s ruined him! He teaches Earth Science for god’s sake!” was my immediate protest.
He let out a pained sigh, watching me. “I told him we’d think about it,” he repeated patiently. “I didn’t tell him we’d go through with it. Besides, public school builds character. There’s no rush to send my son off to apprentice himself to someone on the wrong side of the country. That’s what college is for.”
Having kept herself busy giving the unknowable horror in feline form back scritches, Ecila decided to speak up just then, “I totally agree! Besides, I came all the way here to help tutor him. It’d be a shame to send him off now.”
“Where are you from, Miss Ecila?” asked my mom, elbow deep in suds, water, and dirty dishes.
“Oh!” she appeared to think it over. I folded my arms, waiting to hear the answer with rapt interest. She appeared to be thinking, still. I tapped a foot. She pursed her lips, and finally settled for pointing to the east wall.
“Ah, you’ve just moved in down the block? I thought I saw some moving trucks.”
Ecila just smiled back at my mom, and that seemed to satisfy her curiosity.
Letting my arms dropped by my sides I groaned, “Oh come on! Look at the way she’s dressed! That isn’t normal!”
“It’s refreshing, is it what it is,” said my father as he got up to leave, gathering his keys. “Most girls her age dress like hookers.” Which earned him a sharp look from my mom. “It’s about time you made a friend with a sense of decency, son. Keep it up, you could become a respectable member of society.” I didn’t miss the grin he wasn’t trying too hard to hide.
“Gee. Thanks, Dad. I guess I better go get ready for school. That marijuana and crack cocaine isn’t gunna inject itself,” I replied in a dry tone, already tapping the veins in the crook of my arm.
Suzan checked herself in the small hand mirror. Everything looked alright in her eyes. Bright red lip stick? Check. Red spaghetti strap, snug fitting tank top? Check. Tight denim capris, and sandals? Check and big ole check! “I’m looking pretty respectable,” observed the blonde with some satisfaction that didn’t quite show in her tight-lipped frown.
Girlfriend A and Becky both watched pensively, wringing their hands. All three of them were worried, but only one of them was trying her best to conceal it.
The corner of Suzan’s mouth twitched as they stood together out on the sidewalk in front of the school, a caravan of parents’ cars behind them dropping off their precious little ones one by one. “It isn’t as bad as it seems,” she said in a cold tone, watching some students walk past them while they snickered behind their hands. “This will all blow over soon. It was… it wasn’t that bad. All we have to do is lay low for a few weeks, and everyone will have forgotten anything embarrassing even happened.”
“Y-yah!” agreed girlfriend B, trying to smile, “it’s no big deal, accidents happen!”
Suzan winced at the word ‘accidents’.
She still couldn’t remember what happened yesterday. Somehow, that made losing all the status she’d built up over the school year that much harder to bear. Why should she be made a laughingstock for something she didn’t even remember doing? Even worse, when her parents had found out about it, they’d rushed her off to the hospital for an immediate checkup from a doctor with very cold hands. It was hard enough hiding her mutation from everyone else, but it had been down right tricky concealing it from a trained medical professional. Luckily her body hadn’t done anything weird yet, like grow horns or nipple torpedoes, and Suzan intended to keep it that way with sheer force of will.
The platinum blonde brushed a hand through her hair, closing the compact with an audible snap that had Becky jumping with nervousness. “Don’t even bring it up,” she remarked sharply, then glared as a few more kids walked by them, snickering behind their hands and making whirling motions by the ears with their fingers after looking meaningfully in Suzan’s direction.
She added in a sullen tone, lips twisting, “This couldn’t get any worse… if we don’t bring it up, people’ll get bored and talk about something else.”
“Y-yah! It’ll just be one of those things we don’t talk about!” Becky said in a sunny voice. “Like the time you said we should practice kissing, for when we have boyfriends!”
The blonde twitched again, glaring at the brunette. “So DON’T talk about it.”
“Talk about what? Your psychotic breakdown?” questioned a familiar voice.
Suzan let out a low hiss between her teeth, like an alley cat bumping noses with another. Her ice blue eyes narrowed, finding a dark haired latina girl standing not too far away from the trio. She had a cute pink bandage wrapped around her ankle, and an assortment of the more popular kids in school behind her, all of them not even bothering to hide their smirks of constant amusement. Suzan spoke her name as though it were an insult, “Jessica.”
“Sure,” laughed one of the guys behind her, “you heard about that right?”
Jessica put a hand to her chest in mock surprise, “I don’t believe I have! I’ve been at home all week nursing a sprained ankle!”
Becky looked on in honest shock. “Ohmigawd, Jessica! I thought your leg fell off! Didn’t Sean say he saw you limping to the STD clinic the other day?” she said with the total conviction of someone who believes everything they heard.
The guy who’d spoken before coughed some when Jessica turned to raise an eyebrow towards him in regal judgment. “Uh, must have been the other Sean…”
Her tone turning snide, the ebon-haired teen eyeballed the three girls standing before her. “What are you two doing hanging out with this head case, anyway? You don’t want to catch her crazy, do you?”
The blonde once queen watched the dark-haired girl through a gaze that cut like knives. “I was just feeling a little lightheaded the other day. That’s all it was, Jessica. So where have you been, anyway? Did you have a nice trip?”
“Cut the shit, blondie!” Jessica growled, her tone turning equally sharp. “I know you had something to do with that, and I’ll find out what it was. Until then, consider yourselves up a skip and a jump away from the mental ward! Let’s get out of here,” she hissed, turning to her followers, “before she gets all ‘mad dog’ on us.”
Three pairs of eyes glared at the group as they walked away, laughter fading the farther away they got.
The fist Suzan had made during the altercation tightened, her knuckles cracking. There was one thing that was becoming very obvious with the clarity of steel within her mind. She needed a scapegoat. Someone was to blame for her fall from grace, and someone had to suffer for it. The last thing she remembered before everything went to proverbial pot was moving in on that nerd kid.
“That little twerp…” growled Suzan, shifting her focus elsewhere.
“Huh? Who do you mean, Suzy?” Becky asked, confused.
Suzan twitched, eyeing Becky. She was going to let that one go, this once. “That kid with the glasses, from the other day. He had something to do with all of this…” A singularly cruel scowl creased the girl’s brow. “Ray and I went to teach him a lesson yesterday, and the next thing I know I wake up in the nurse’s office, and all of this crazy shit happened.”
“Are you really going to the mental ward, Suzan? If you are, I can look after that pretty pink dress you have! You know, to make sure it doesn’t get, erm, lonely-”
A glare shut Becky off before she could continue. “As I was saying. There’s something weird about him. I don’t know if he’s some kind of anarchist and making drugs in his basement and he blew them in our faces, or what…” She worked her lower lip worriedly, chewing at it. “We need to find Ray, then we need to get some backup and beat that little jerk to a pulp. Whatever he pulled yesterday, or whatever happened, it can’t work against a big enough group,” she reasoned. “What’s his name, anyway?” Suzan looked off into space in an attempt to jog her memory. “…Jack …John …Jim …Josh? Josh. I think that was it… Once he gets put in his place, we can show up the rest of this school. And Jessica.”
Contrary to Suzan’s cool planning, Becky looked worried, “Suzy, are you sure about this? Maybe we’re going too far. Maybe we should just, you know, like… let it go? I think it was just an accident when he fell on you!” However, when Becky said ‘I think’ it usually invalidated anything that followed those two words out of her pretty mouth.
Suzan looked down at her hand, working the fingers slowly to get warmth back into her veins and fight the strange chill that had spread while she was plotting. Images of Jessica laughing at her, of the whole school pointing and making jokes behind her back filled her mind. Her hand went cool again despite her efforts, and she pushed it into her pocket, scowling. “No. Nobody messes with me and gets away with it.”
“I’m tired of people messing with me!” I said with annoyance as I walked my bike to school, Ecila short on my heels and managing to keep up in that long brown skirt. “So just tell me what’s going on!”
“I have no idea what’s going on,” she said to me with all sincerity.
“You so do! What about this!?” Angry, I turned to her and gave the infested backpack a sharp yank.
Feeling my impatience as I did so, perhaps, the thing inside it let out a curious “Tekeli-li?”
“Yes, that!” I thumbed back towards it again.
“It’s kind of cute, isn’t it?” she mused, tickling a pencil pouch.
“What is it!?”
“Oh, that!” Grinning widely, she poked me in the nose, “Why didn’t you just say so!”
“Arg. Yes, THAT.”
“It’s a baby Shoggoth Lord.” Folding her hands behind her back as we walked, she continued, “Usually they just split up, but me and that one’s real mom…”
I twitched. “I’m not its mom.”
“Well yah, obviously. I guess the short answer is, we thought it’d be ‘cool’.” The way she spoke the word ‘cool’ told of a certain unfamiliarity with the lingo. “You know, trying the whole mammal birth cycle on for size. Shoggoth’s are funny that way, they love to goof around. This one time I saw one do the entire play of ‘The King in Yellow’ with just one person!”
Apparently I was supposed to be greatly impressed by this declaration, but all she got was a sullen look. Clearing my throat, I asked as cautiously as possible, “So, is she mad? And when are you going to take this thing back to her? …What the hell is a Shoggoth?”
Ecila gasped, “Never! I wouldn’t bring it back!”
“But…! It’s her baby! It’s not mine!”
“Of course not! But I was talking to her, and she thinks it’s a great opportunity. This dimension is kind of like the public school in a third world country for them, and she figures spending a few centuries in this dimension might build character.” The strange girl tilted her head some. “That, and I think it’s probably your familiar.”
“S-so you’re not gunna take it…?” I asked her, worry working into my voice. “Wait, what’s a familiar? I’m not that familiar with it, I just met it.”
The girl in glasses scoffed at me, “What, take it from its new mommy? I may be eccentric, but I’m not crazy, Josh.”
“I’m not its… okay, fine. What do I do with it now? I can’t go around all over the place with a creepy tentacle beast strapped to my back!”
“Sure you can!” she chirped energetically. “It’s sweet on you! Just be a good mom, and everything will be juuuust fine. Trust me! All us real good dreamers have familiars like that. I got Walter the thought rabbit, my greatest grandma had that rat with the face, and you got, um…”
My backpack spoke, “Tekeli-li?”
“Yes, that! Though, I wonder if maybe you’re the familiar in this case.” The thought amused her, and she quirked her lips, “Hm, that’s something to think about.”
Groaning, I just shook my head. “So I’m stuck with it?!” I cast a nervous look back towards the ominous pack in question. “But… but what do I do with it? How do I feed it? What if it kills someone?” More importantly, “What if it kills me?”
“Show a little faith, man!” said the exuberant woman with a slap to my shoulder that made me grunt. “It’s just a kid! All it wants is mommy to love it, and all it needs to eat is… Um. That is, all it eats is, uh…” Her expression turned vacant. “You know, I haven’t the slightest clue. But I’m sure you’ll figure it out!”
Somehow that did very little to assuage my mounting fears. More so, I hoped to god it didn’t poop. I wouldn’t know whether to chase after it with a diaper, pooper scooper, or a flame thrower. And after that, I wouldn’t know whether to dispose of it in a trash bag, or to find the local biohazard waste disposal and hope the feces didn’t turn sentient and attempt to overthrow humanity. “…Okay, well how about all these crazy dreams, and when I woke up at the school the other night?”
Adjusting her glasses, Ecila smiled at me. “Aaah! I was wondering when you’d ask the good questions.”
Grumbling under my breath, I did my darn best not to interrupt her again. I had the impression that if I sidetracked her anymore than I already had I’d be late for school, and as important and fascinating as discovering the secrets of the universe and my own sanity and all that really was, I’d just as soon not do so while at the same time ending up grounded because I couldn’t walk fast enough.
Ecila had apparently been expecting me to interrupt as well, seeing as she was watching me intently over the rims of her outdated eye-wear. Disappointed, she continued with a ‘hrmf’. “Um. Sometimes when a person dreams, they use different parts of their head. Some of these people can go into other shadowy-like dimensions when they do it, but totally forget about it when they wake up. A lot of folk like to call them dreamers! Well, some of these dreamers can do a little more than dip, a very select few…” she raised her finger in the air, “…can actually dive right through to the other side! And into other sides!” She added after a moment’s thought, “Lots of sides, besides.”
“Besides the sides, you’re telling me all those dreams were real?! For reals?”
“For reals, Josh! Well, except the one where you were dreamed you were a dreaming butterfly that thought it was a boy in the girls’ locker room.” She started to fiddle with the brakes on my bike, causing me to almost hit my head on the steering bar. “Oops.”
“Gah, can’t you stop fiddling with things!” I exclaimed, uncertain if I wanted to even know how she knew about that particular dream.
She managed to look somewhat sheepish, “Gosh, sorry. I thought it was kind of neat and wanted to put my hand all over it. Oh, well, to continue… there was some folks here before you and me that set up a kind of transportation network thingy on this planet and a bunch of others, to make it easier to get where they wanted to go! But they high-tailed it off this rock, or they got kicked off, or something. No one else really knew how to use it, because you kinda had to think the way the folks who made it thought, and be enough like them to jump through it. So, you and me can kinda think like them. Or at least, you can think like them when you’re asleep and not thinking about it. That’s why we can use it to hop around.” Smiling patiently at me, she said, “Got it?”
Her bland general reference to ‘folks’ in the past had me annoyed. This woman had no respect for names. “I don’t get it. You’re saying I’m falling asleep and using some weird elder race freeway? Do you really know what you’re talking about, or are you just making this up on the fly?”
“Of course I know!” she said defensively, “It’s like… using a door, right? People here make doors all the time. They’re always there, and they’re everywhere we wanna keep animals and stuff out. An owl’s a fancy flyer, and a cat’s a cute critter, but neither of them even know the doors there, let alone how to work it, do they? They just have no conception of what a door is. More to the point, they lack the opposable thumbs needed to turn a knob. You and I just grew opposable thumbs in our brain, and figured out someone left doors all over the place that no one else can even see. SOME people besides us have been able to figure out there’s something else there, but it’s mostly harmless. Most of the time…” her voice trailed off, and she chewed worriedly at her lip.
I eyed her, waiting patiently for her to continue with the rarely interrupted monologue that was doing very little to calm my apprehension. It wasn’t until I watched her tip her glasses down the bridge of her nose and start to follow something in the air that wasn’t quite in this dimension that I figured out she had no intention of continuing. “Ahem. Most of the time?”
Frowning, she slipped the glasses back up and gave me a curious look, “Hm?”
“You were saying?”
Feeling a grand old headache sneaking up on me, I put a finger to the side of my head, massaging my temple, “…You were saying.” I said with a pained calm, “That most of the time, something doesn’t happen to people that use the… uh. Transporty thing?”
Her dark eyes widened, “Really! So I was. Well, they, err, poop out.”
“Poop out?” I prompted. The sense of soul-wracking dread and apocalyptic doom appeared to be a standard constant one had to endure when speaking with the mousy-looking little horror in the tiny girl package.
“One guy blew up! Another guy kinda imploded. This other guy ate his heart out! Well, something else did. Anyhow, you’ll be fine, really! I got you on the list, and I’m going to watch your back. Nothing bad can happen to you with Ecila on the case!” A confident thumb jabbed at her chest, and she grinned pearly whites in my direction, just as she ran into a bright blue mailbox.
My shoulders sunk some while I waited for her to fix her clothes, give the box a dirty look, and walk around it with a composed manner. “Okay, that doesn’t really help me at all. Why am I seeing crazy things whenever I take off these glasses?”
“Ah ah ah! You mean the glasses you took from me!” she poked at my chest, that accusing tone in her voice.
“…Yah. Sure. Whatever, those.”
“Hmf! They happen to be one of the cooler little toys I’ve made!” a broad grin took over the young girl’s face. “I made them because when you start jumping between dimensions like we do, some of it kind of lingers between them, sort of. It makes it really hard to maintain a conversation with someone when you’re seeing them and a few of the other neighboring dimensions that stack on top of it! So I came up with these so I’d just see the one I was mostly in. Genius, huh? You’re just lucky I had a spare set.”
That was, I had to admit, fairly impressive. I ran a finger over the thick black rims on my glasses, “You made these? Wow… how’d you do that?”
“Wow, we’re at your school already! This place is great! My school was so tiny,” she remarked, beaming.
That was just all well and great. Not only did I have to haul around a crazy backpack monster, but I’m going to walk into school with the ADD princess. If my controlled efforts to escape the general notice of the student body, that admittedly of late had been somewhat insufficient, were to continue, there was no way this could go on as is. “Yah, uh… you aren’t going to follow me around all day, are you?” Nervously I adjusted the shoulder straps as we got closer to the campus.
“I thought that’d be obvious, Josh! I gotta keep a real close eye on you in case you accidently mess something up! You’re real inexperienced still, you know. You got no idea what’s out there.” Her attention was already wandering, and soon she was marveling at the stop lights.
Racking my brain, I tried to figure out how I could sidetrack a transdimensional crazy girl for seven hours or so. I gasped suddenly, and pointed just over her shoulder, “Oh my god, what’s that?!”
Alertly she spun around all the way once, then part way again until she was facing behind her with wide eyes and outstretched arms, “Your god, really? What? Where? What is it? Oooh ooh, what am I missing? Does it bite?”
Looking back from about a block away, I marveled at how long she could stay trying to look at absolutely nothing while I was making my ever-so-clever getaway. It wasn’t that I didn’t want a self-imposed interdimensional guardian looking over my shoulder, I didn’t want her doing it while I was at school trying not to be noticed!
The other kids today were out and about in full force, and it’d been a while since I’d shown up early enough that there were students still around and talking. Most were still getting dropped off by their parents, but some early semblance of social circles were starting to form up. Oddly, I didn’t spot the familiar shape of a certain blonde bitch queen milling about with the more popular, well-dressed kids. However, as I made my way through the halls I did spot a familiar tall figure speaking with a less tall, and more rounded one.
Nearly running into both Ray and his reportedly heterosexual sidekick Henry, I took a sharp turn into a conveniently placed bathroom, hiding just inside the doorway. Hey, I wasn’t afraid or anything! I was just exercising a strategic withdrawal, as they outnumbered me somewhat. Also, it was way too early to see if he actually had taken me seriously the other day, when I’d laid down the law. It was more my style to lay low and out of sight.
“Where the hell where you yesterday, man? You missed some weird shit!” spoke a voice that was most certainly the shorter of the two.
“I… dunno, I just… I guess I zoned out.” said a voice that was most certainly Ray’s. “It’s no big deal. I must have been wasted, or something…”
“Oh Yah? Well, while you were zoning out this morning, that Suzan girl came looking for you again. But she was totally tripping out yesterday, she must have been eating some bad shrooms, because she totally ate the wrong side of the-”
“Yah, I heard… So what did she want now?”
“She just said something about you and her having some unfinished business with that Josh twerp. Did you ever find him at lunch?”
Ray’s voice sounded confused, “Huh? Oh… yah, I was gunna beat him down the other day, I… I forgot. Weird. Well I don’t care about that other shit, but I’m still feeling like pounding that little twerp.”
“You ever think that talking about ‘pounding’ a guy sounds kinda ga-”
Someone smacked someone else in the hallway.
I swallowed, bumping against the swinging door to the bathroom accidently, and went still. Hey, I used up my allotment of stand-up-to-bully yesterday, and that apparently hadn’t done me any good. Who knew bullies had such terrible long term memory? There was no way I was going to try to bluff two of them just before class! The silence I heard, er, well, didn’t hear just after, had me thinking that they MUST have heard it. A moment later I heard a pair of foot steps making their way towards me, so I scrambled back into the main room of the bathroom and locked myself away in one of the stalls, sitting on a toilet and pulling my feet up.
At some point I forgot to breath, and once the footsteps faded I suddenly remembered. It took me a few seconds to catch my breath back, and a familiar urge struck me. Conveniently enough, it was the kind of familiar urge that being in a bathroom was very appropriate for! I dropped my pants and made myself comfortable on the white throne and leaned forwards, relaxing. I glanced down, frowning at a bit of anatomy that was looking more reluctant than usual. “Huh, must be cold in here,” I said out loud.
“Boy, I’ll say!” said a voice above me, shivering.
Defensively I looked up, and was somewhat assured that they couldn’t really see anything from their angle, with my pants where they were and myself sitting up. “Hey! It’s a good size for… my age!”
“Ooh, what is it?” Ecila (her top half, anyway) was hanging over the top of the stall door, arms dangling down.
I balked, “What… what the hell! You’re not supposed to be in here! This is for boys!”
“Boys, and top heavy triangles balancing balls!” she remarked with a knowing smile, her tail end no doubt dangling on the other side.
Blushing I yanked my pants up in a hurry, certain important business for the most part finished. “Look, I need to be alone for a while!”
“Huh? Why’s that? I need to be watching you!” said the girl, insistently. While watching me.
“Can’t you like… watch me from far away? Where no one can see you?”
She frowned, scratching at her nose, “But why? What if you start to implode? I can’t help you from far away very well if you implode, you know.” Squinting upwards, her frown deepened, “I could save your brain, I guess. I got a spare pickle jar at home. You could be brain buddies with Chris… hey!”
The interdimensional horror let out a squeak when I opened the stall door in annoyance and shuffled out. For some reason, I just couldn’t go anymore. “You can’t follow me around all day at school! You just… can’t! I’ll be made fun of!”
Scrambling behind the door she managed to drop to the ground and knee the door closed, dusting off her ancient clothes. She sighed, and eyed me with annoyance, “But… I’m supposed to watch after you! Horrible things could happen, just horrible! Do I need to draw more pictures for you?!”
I clawed at the air with one hand in attempt to make her see reason, “Horrible things’ll happen if you follow me around! The… other kids will make fun of me! The teachers aren’t going to let a kid that isn’t a student wander around as she pleases! I have classes to go to, insipid pointless facts to learn!”
“Alright…? Uh, really?”
“Yah, I guess I can sightsee for a little… I remember this dimension having the most fantastic crumpets. But I’ll be finding you again at lunch, young man!” she said while wagging a finger.
Clutching my backpack to my shoulder, I nodded as seriously as I could. “Fine, alright. But don’t show up until then, you’ll just cause more trouble!”
I was in such trouble. It was bad enough I had a crazy girl following me around, and some weird demon calling me its mommy, but now that jerk from the other day had apparently completely forgotten me telling him off. So I was back to square one once more, and candyland wasn’t giving me a break, nor were the chocolate caverns and sugar drop hills!
Slumping into the hallways between classes and clinging to my backpack in case someone accidently bumped against it, or peeked inside, I made a conscious effort to prioritize. A list was what I needed, now. Some means of simplifying my goals and troubles to better deal with them.
First off, I had the growing suspicion in my mind that I may in fact be a mutant. This went contradictory to my goals of attracting as little attention from my fellow classmates as I could. As of yet, it didn’t seem too pressing a matter as I wasn’t growing horns nor exhibiting any behavior extremely dangerous save when I slept. It didn’t seem to be giving me any innate advantage that would do me any real good, either. So, that possibility wasn’t anything I figured I had to really worry about. As long as I kept my glasses on, the situation seemed to be squared away, for the most part. In fact, I could probably keep the whole big deal a secret if I was careful. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be something I’d end up having to tell my parents about and giving them yet another reason to be disappointed in me.
Secondly, I had extraterrestrial terrors following me around and harshing my corporeal groove to a cosmic extent. One of them put forth the impression that she wanted to be of help, however her immediate presence in my non-dream reality was something that could and no doubt would cause me many headaches. She didn’t have the common sense that is required of a kid, or even an adult living in modern times, and she was ever so insistent about being as much of a goober as she could while standing right next to me. I had no idea what her plans for the future were, or how she planned to keep me from imploding, exploding, or side-ploding. Thus far, however, she had failed to alleviate any of my difficulties. In fact, she was making having a semi-normal life unforeseeably difficult. I suppose I’d have to play that problem by ear.
The other extraterrestrial terror was somehow less of a problem than the first one. It kept mostly quiet and spent most of its time hibernating in my pack, and even when it was out on its own it had taken to using a form that wasn’t inducing mass insanity in the general populace. My biggest concern with that critter was making sure no one else stuck their hand in my backpack and pulled back a creatively severed stump. In all honesty, it was levels cuter than my other dimensional guide.
Apparently the more pressing concern was my good friend Ray and his spontaneous change of mind-like organ. That is, he’d changed what passed for his mind the other day when we’d had that apparently forgettable man to man talk, and changed it again this morning when he’d decided it never happened. Which was something of a problem. If you couldn’t talk a person like that down without them forgetting it happened the next day, that didn’t leave a person with many civil means to deal with them. Facing me was that age old question of survival: fight or flight? Seeing how as the powers that be saw fit to equip me with physical abilities substandard to those as my peers, I decided avoidance would be the best course of action until I could come up with a better one.
On another note, jerks of his caliber always seemed to be willing to do what women asked them to do. He was hanging around that popular girl Suzan Chyld often enough. Maybe in the future I could have a nice civilized talk with her and apologize for the whole falling incident, then converse as intellectual peers might do and ask her to talk him down for me. That was a problem I could deal with.
Last and foremost on my list of problems was the imminent approach of that date I’d managed to somehow corral out of the gorgeous honey blonde Beth through a force of will I hadn’t known I possessed. Imagine, me talking to a girl! It boggles the hormone-soaked adolescent mind. Just thinking about her as I shuffled through the halls had my heart racing and my face feeling flushed. Though I could rationalize my way through dealing with the other problems, my mind hit a brick wall when I tried to plan out how I was going to deal with her.
I’d been freaking out about the date so much, I was starting to hear her voice! I lifted a hand to my massage my forehead with a low mutter, “Back to dream land fever voice, the earth is unprepared for your hotness.”
I stopped in my tracks in surprise, and she almost walked into me from behind. “Beth!” Quickly I spun around with eyes wide and my heart nearly stopping, “H-hey! Hi! Uh, h… hot.” She was wearing something that hugged her curves in ways that had certain extensions of my anatomy standing up to take notice. It was the sort of notice that one might try to conceal with a convenient text book. Instead, I awkwardly folded my hands in front of me in a way I thought might look more casual than pitching a tent.
An elegant eyebrow arched over her dark blue eyes, “You okay…?”
“I mean! It’s… it sure is hot today. I mean, it probably will be, later.” I heard myself giving a nervous laugh. “S-sure, I’m great! Just looking forward to… you know, tonight.” By then I didn’t have that unsightly sun burn concealing my blush, and the half moon of the lingering black eye could barely count as cover.
She smiled unexpectedly, shrugging her shoulders, “Yah, I am too. Hey, you look a little out of it. If you want to do it some other time, that’d be alright.”
“N-no, I’m feeling great! Honest! Just got a lot on my mind. Besides, it’s just a coffee shop, right? No big deal…!” Ah, the boy scouts with that pup tent in my pants have gotten the poles up. I sure hope they don’t start roasting s’mores any time soon.
“Oh… alright.” I thought she might have had on a look of concern when she said that, and that just made her all the more sweet. “Say, you didn’t come to the art show yesterday. I was sort of hoping to see you, then. Did something happen?”
I felt the color drain from my face, “Oh, yah… uh, THAT time I wasn’t feeling well. But everything is totally fine now, it’s under control. Totally under control. I mean it’s nothing contagious or anything! But it’s completely-”
“Right, under control. Well, I’ll see you after school then.”
“Great! Yah! Right! Then!” And I was back to the monosyllabic responses. Gosh, I really hoped I’d have that problem fixed by the time of our date.
Having seen her off with the drum-like thumping of my heart, I somehow managed to get to math class before the bell rang. It was a small comfort, however, as Mister Maxwell was watching me with the all the focus of a hungry house feline eyeing a skittering rodent. Self-consciously I sat up straighter in my chair than I might have liked, and did my best during the class period to avoid the sorts of distractions I’d let myself fall prey to during the previous few days.
That didn’t seem to be enough. If I’d done something wrong, I couldn’t fathom what it could be. For some inexplicable reason that elderly man with the grey van dyke beard kept looking back in my direction off and on through the remedial simplicity of the so-called ‘lesson’. After a while of trying to figure it out, I guessed it had to be something to do with the call I’d completely missed the previous night. By the time the class had ended I was far too worried to have gotten bored enough to let my mind wander on the assignments like I had been. The class felt like it was twice as long as usual, and I was sighing with relief by the time the bell had rung.
“Mister Gillman, might I have a word with you before you leave?” he asked in that chillingly calm voice of a teacher ever so comfortable with his position and lordly superiority over we weak-minded and numerous kiddies.
Hesitating in the door way, I winced and took a step back to let the other kids filter out, “Uh, yes sir?”
He waited for me to approach him. He gave me a cool smile, “I talked with your parents last night. I assume they told you about my suggestion?”
“Oh, er. Right. About that apprenticeship out east…?” Warily I cast a glance across the room, making sure there weren’t any other kids lingering around to hear us talking. The last thing I wanted was everyone around the school talking about just how special I was. The last thing I wanted was everyone around the school talking about me, period. Hopefully they’d forgotten the whole lunch time boob grab by now. “I don’t really think that’s for me, Mister Maxwell. My dad wants me to finish up regular school before I go out and, errr… whatever it is I’m going to do after regular school.” You know, if I survived it with my soul intact.
“That’s a shame,” the elderly man said with a frown. “You have real talent, it shouldn’t go to waste.”
“Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to waste here, sir.” I looked around the room again, the corner of my eye twitching when I took notice of the imperceptible few degrees off the alignment of the various posters and displays on the walls of the room were placed. Gosh, you’d think a math teacher would have respect for parallel lines. “I’m told public school builds character.”
I eyed Ecila suspiciously, sitting down in one of the unused hallways during the lunch period. Honestly, I was surprised with how fast she’d found me. Staying out of sight still felt like the thing to do with all the strange things happening to me of late, and I had no desire to attract any more attention to my person than I already had. Being tailed by the creepy insane girl from lords know where, and trying to hide the fact that my backpack was infested with an other worldly organism would, in my humble opinion, attract the aforementioned unwanted attention. If she was going to do strange things, it was probably best she do it away from the general attendance of students. I’d discovered the fame I’d suffered from dorking out and falling on top of the hottest girl in school at the time had abated greatly. Personally, I blame video games and the short attention span of kids these days.
“You sure don’t eat a lot for a growing kid, Josh!” Ecila commented with a critical eye to the bag of chips and soda I’d procured for my lunch.
Giving her a suspicious look, I struggled with the bag of chips to pull the infernal thing open. “I eat plenty…!” I mumbled defensively, “but all the good stuff was grabbed up by the time I got there.”
The girl’s expression turned speculative, and she tapped her chin, “Oh, well that’s no good. You’re a growing boy - growing into what, I don’t really know, but growing, none the less. For some reason, you also act like I’m being a bother!”
Groaning, I tried not to look at her past the rims of my glasses. Every time I’d gotten a real good look at her without the lenses of those things to filter it through, I got a terrible headache. “Where would you get that idea?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea!” she chirped, and then smiled at me. “What would you have gotten to eat if you had a choice, then?”
An ominous sense of foreboding shadowed my thoughts. Still struggling to open the bag of partially hydrogenated potato-like snacks, I continued to watch her in that suspicious manner, my eyebrows stitched together. Ever so cautiously, I said, “Well… I wouldn’t have minded a hot dog, I guess…”
“A hot dog!” she clasped her hands together, beaming, and looked around. “I think I remember what those are like! Let’s see… oh, there’s one!”
Raising an eyebrow, I leaned forwards enough to follow where the little dimensional crack pixie’s attention had been diverted, hoping to the gods someone hadn’t set a basset hound on fire. A pair of students were visible briefly, talking with one another in low tones and passing out of sight a moment later as they walked behind another building. “Yah, one of them was eating a hot dog. So?”
She gave me an oddly mischievous grin that sent a chill up my spine, and proceeded to crack her gloved knuckles systematically. “So, just watch this little trick.”
That sense of foreboding caused an sinking sensation in my chest, my flesh feeling chilled and cold, “Uh… h-hey, Ecila, you don’t gotta do anything weird… I’m really not all that hungry.”
“Pfft, don’t be such a worry wart! I know what I’m doing!”
Now, Ecila did indeed look like she was barely a few years older than I did, but she had the strange mannerisms and feeling of a person many times older. However, anytime on a TV show when some impetuous kid says “I know what I’m doing!” something usually goes horribly, horribly wrong. With Ecila, I really didn’t want to see what classified as ‘horribly wrong’. I protested promptly, post-haste, “Now hold on a second!”
Far too late to stop the natural force that was my self appointed guide, there was a flash of purple light in mid air as she reached her arm into it. The appendage vanished up to her elbow in nothing but a corona of violet energy, the rest of it presumably caught up in that curious space between dimensions. Almost as quickly as she’d executed this perversion of natural law, she yanked her hand back holding a perfectly formed hot dog in her gloved hands. In a manner and grace that would have impressed Vanna White, she made a magical waving gesture towards the produced food item, “Ta daaaa!”
Staring in awe, the bag of potato chips finally burst open in my lap, “…Whoa! How’d you do that?”
“Haha, elementary my dear high school student. It’s- oops.” She squinted, and flicked off a queer little interdimensional organism that didn’t look quite like how it knew what shape it should behaving, and so was phasing between being a fly, an indefinable geometrical structure, and a tiny horse. “Must have held on. Flutter off, little critter!”
Staring in horror, I witnessed as she released a questionable organism of undeterminable existence into the world, and then handed me a hot dog. Really, I do hope my desire for processed hybrid meat substances in long buns didn’t doom all life as we know it, because that’d be a real appetite killer.
“Well?” she looked at me, arms crossed, waiting.
Mumbling with worry I took a small bite out of the confection, “…Oh, that’s pretty good.” That struck me as rather odd. I gave the hot dog a curious look, tilting my head. Could that be a new cooking technique? Could giving food a light interdimensional glaze add a new and yummy kind of flavor? It’s certainly not worth it if it causes Armageddon, but if you could start a fast food joint that did this kind of thing, you’d have a huge edge on the competition! “You’re a genie! You can pull food from mid air!” Pausing in my marveling, I noted, “But I hate mustard.”
She huffed a little, “I didn’t- um well I guess it looked that way. I just borrowed that one from the other guy.”
Blinking, I heard a yell around the corner from those two students, one apparently having just noticed his sudden lack of pork tube.
“Uh… you probably shouldn’t be stealing food like that, out of thin- HEY!”
“Wuh?” mumbled the girl innocently, as she leaned towards me with the meat from my hot dog lewdly hanging half way out of her mouth in a suggestive manner that had me cursing my hormones.
“You… you stole my weenie!” I glared, nibbling at what was left of the bun. “You’re not a nice genie. You’re a genie that stole my weenie!”
Ecila sighed, snapping off the bit that was dangling out of her mouth, and killing any perverse sexual fascinating I might have had watching her, “Calm down… what’s a weenie?”
“That thing in your mouth you just…! Agh, why did you bother grabbing it for me if you were just gunna steal it right back?”
“To teach you a lesson!” she replied, crossly, taking another bite of the rapidly shrinking weenie.
Doubtfully I raised an eyebrow, “…Oh yah?”
“Well what’s the lesson?”
Frowning at me, she stood up, and took a step. Then she turned, and started to pace, testing my nerves and devouring the rest of the hot dog meat mix. It wasn’t until she was done eating that she faced me, her expression serious, “The lesson is…”
As she left the dramatic pause in the air, I banged the back of my head against the wall in impatience, “…Yah?”
“…Always guard your weenie.”
I eyed her, and said rather dryly, “…Profound.”
“I know, huh? Oop!” Checking her watch, the maddening extradimensional headache of mine started to walk away. “You got 69 seconds to finish eating! I’ll see you after class, Josh! I gotta see a man about a crumpet.”
Dumbly I watched her as she walked away so calmly, and then looked down at the half eaten hot dog bun and the pile of chips in my lap that I’d barely had a chance to eat while she’d been distracting me. Feeding the rest of the bun to my grateful backpack, I muttered, “Ugh. I worry for my future.”
“I worry for your future, Joshua Gillman,” the elderly man muttered to himself absently.
The aging math teacher leaned back in the swiveling chair enough to make it creak in protest, watching the ceiling impatiently and getting lost in his thoughts. He waited patiently for the last student to shuffle out of his classroom after the last bell of the day, paced around the room closing all the blinds, and then opened the files on that kid in his class. Joshua Gillman. His grey eyes scanned over what little information the school kept on the growing child genius once more.
Giving a frustrated sigh, the math teacher picked up his phone and dialed a number from memory. It was the same number he’d called a few days ago, and a click he heard on the other end assured him the call couldn’t be traced, tapped, or recorded.
“Yes, it’s me again. There’s been a problem.” A grimace crossed the man’s face, “We may have to cheat some, yes. I tried to convince the parents to transfer him under your tutelage, and I believe they passed me up on the offer. I can still deliver, of course.” Sounding annoyed, the elderly man trapped a pen against the folder, “You’re the customer in this particular instance. All you really need to worry about is my payment. I’ll have the child shipped to you by the end of the weekend, and you’ll have your apprentice.” He paused, listening, “Why not? A runaway is much easier to deal with in the long run, when the parents stop hearing from him … Very well, you’re the expert on these matters. Nothing will be done to alter the child’s mind.” He rolled his eyes, “Yes, I could just make the parents give him to you. But as I said, eventually they’d start to wonder, and instead of the regular cops being brought in on it, they’d call the MCO, or worse. Trust me, we’ve known one another long enough to respect one another’s abilities.”
An uncertain knock broke Mister Maxwell’s concentration, and he smiled as a curly haired little brunette poked her head into the classroom.
The man gave a lazy smile, “I’ll call you back when I have the boy. There’s some other business I’ve to attend to.” He gave a low chuckle in response to something heard, “I had told you that was one of the main reasons I became a teacher. If you’ll excuse me.”
Hanging up the phone quietly, Mister Maxwell turned to face the young girl in the Volleyball Team outfit, his eyes flashing hungrily. “Please lock the door behind you, Becky. We wouldn’t want to be interrupted.”
The girl’s eyes glazed over, her movements slow and dreamlike when she turned to the lock the door, and dumbly walk over towards the teacher with a distant smile on her otherwise vacant expression.
Mister Maxwell let her unzip his pants, and gave the girl the mental command to fall to her knees in front of him. With a lustful grin he leaned back to enjoy himself, muttering, “Ah, I love teaching.”
“I love it when an eviiiil plan comes together!” Clark chuckled, rubbing his palms together, his lab coat spotted with red, and his eyes wild and round. “And it’s so simple! Soon the world will be MINE!”
A bound girl with black hair with white strips through the sides, wearing a lightning theme costume struggled on one of the student desks, tossing her head back and forth, “Dead-elus, you won’t get away with this!” she insisted. Her spandex costume and iconic lightning bolts gave her no protection against dime store twine ropes, it would seem.
“Of course I shall, Lady Lightning! You’re helpless when you’re bound with the magical ropes of Zanthar, and unless you’re plugged into a wall, or using those batteries of yours, you can’t use your powers at all!” Clark gestured wide with his hands, tossing his head back to laugh, and expound, “And now that you’re out of the way, NO one can stop me!” Merrily the boy danced over to the head of the desk, leaning over the struggling head of the would-be superheroine, inching down until they were nose to nose and he hissed, “Because it’s already happened! First, I controlled all the teachers at the school! Then, the students! Soon, every parent in town will be my drooling obedient mind slave! Mwahahaha!”
Gasping, the bound brunette stopped struggling, “What?! That’s impossible! How can it be?!”
“I’m so glad you asked me that! Allow me to monologue!” dancing about like a bad madman, Clark reached behind a curtain and pulled out a chalk board detailing the many stick-figure illustrated steps of his plan. Most of them appeared to have happy faces at first, and frowny faces by step 3. “First step, I send DVDs to all the teachers, claiming them to be required TEACHING aids by the school board! And once they are under my control, the second step of my INGENIOUS plan, I make them show all their students the videos! They won’t be able to resist! No student in their right mind leaves a class when there’s a VIDEO showing! Kyahahaha!”
Realization dawned behind the orange lenses of her mask, “Of course…! Once you use your subliminal messages in the videos to make everyone obey your command, the students then take home the DVDs… no, these Dastardly Villainous Deeds to show their parents! It’s so insane, it might work!”
“It has worked!” cackled Clark, “And it’s genius! DVDs are so cheap to make and reproduce, I’ll be unstoppable!”
“But… why! Why would you want to use your DVDs to control the world Dead-elus!? WHY!”
“Because… I love you.”
Gasping a second time, the bound heroine tilted her head to look, with shock, at the mad scientist.
I had finally had enough, and let a groan out in one of the comfortable theater style seats before the stage.
Clark folded his arms indignantly, glaring at me, “What?”
“Please. It’s a love story? A love story between a supervillain and a superhero?”
The girl in the Lady Lightning costume shrugged off the ropes, sitting up with a sigh. “Well I thought it was clever. Clark’s great at writing plays!” She purred then, smiling at him. “And it gets better after this part, honestly!”
Beaming, the mutton chops wearing drama club kid made another wide gesture with his hands, “Don’t you think my plan is sheer elegance in its simplicity?!”
I griped, “Not really. Where did you get the idea for this one, anyway?”
He added in a strange accent, hunching forwards and making mystical gestures with his hands, “Oh it must be dreamy to have a costumed nemesis chasing you, wringing his gloved hands in concern of your every move! It just seems so romantic!”
“…Huh. I think you watch too many cartoons, though.” Impatiently I looked at the clock on the wall, and back at Clark. “Uh, I got that thing in about a half hour, maybe I should get going.”
Tapping his foot in annoyance, Clark got out the script and started to jot down a few notes, “I suppose it could still use some work… well, thanks for watching anyway, man. Do you need a lift?”
I thought about it. Get a lift to my first date with Beth from my best friend. No, that may come off as more gooberish than showing up on my bike. This was something I wanted to do alone. Well, it was something I wanted to do alone, with her. Obviously I was still feeling nervous, despite having killed a few hours watching Clark show me the new play him and his drama friends had been working on. It was impressive, I had to admit. Seeing his girlfriend on stage acting out a sexy superheroine in little more than a bathing suit, skin tight grey leggings, and a cape made from some colored sheets was very entertaining. If anything the play would be popular for that.
It was also a great distraction from how weird my life had been the last few days. I didn’t want to be thinking about Ecila and Ray and Suzan and strange aliens living in my backpack and dreaming myself into weird places all the time, really.
Taking a deep breath, I scooped up my unholy backpack, “No, that’s cool. Maybe the ride over there will calm me down some.”
Beaming at me, Clark gave me two thumbs up. “Good luck!”
His girlfriend disentangled herself from the ropes, adding a bit of advice along with a knowing look, “Try to look her in the eyes. Girls like it when you look them in the eyes.”
I wilted a little. Maybe my attention had been wandering somewhat during their little presentation. But you show me a teenage boy whose jaw doesn’t drop at an attractive girl wearing a swimsuit on a stage, throwing cardboard lightning bolts and high kicks, and I’ll show you a teenage boy that’s really into show tunes and alternative lifestyles.
“Oh, hey, Clark.”
“You might want to keep to just one type of evil laugh. You kyahaha’d just after you mwahaha’d. It felt spotty.”
“Must have been caught up in the moment…” he mumbled making further notes on his script paper as I left the theater building and made my way to the bike racks. It was getting to be almost four, and the girl of my dreams was waiting! At… the coffee shop. If things went well, I really would need to come up with a better location for the second date.
Some of the research I had done about the school on that subject on and off through the day hadn’t been helpful. I’d tried listening in on conversations, asking people who looked like they wouldn’t hit me, and I’d come to the conclusion that if I were to suggest to her that we meet again soon, and then gesture towards my crotch and say ‘In my pants’, I might be the subject of female violence. So no, not that many great ideas for future dates from my so-called peers. In retrospect, the locker room in gym class wasn’t the best place to try to bring up casual conversation.
My hands were clammy when I got to the bike racks, and I had some trouble getting the lock off. The contents of my backpack shifted some, responding perhaps to the intense feelings of apprehension I was giving off.
“Aw, look at the little fairy boy! He’s all scared and sad!” A familiar voice said in a proximity to my person that I did not desire.
Turning my head sharply, I saw Ray standing with a bit of a slouch by his rounder shorter friend Henry, both of them leering at me in an idiotic fashion that suggested I was an unwitting insect trapped in the mighty intellectual web of his wit and seconds of planning. Which he might have, this time it wasn’t just the two of them. There were four of them. So, he did have an advantage, there were more of them that had managed to sneak up on me while I was otherwise distracted. Not that he particularly needed to outnumber me to inflict physical harm on my person, but creatures of his intellect level did tend to travel in packs.
“Yah, Ray! I bet he misses that little seat toy he had on there yesterday! Little faggot!” snickered the rounder one, eyes round and intense with the hope of perpetrating violence upon something smaller and weaker than he.
I took a long look at the four them as they closed in, the fear building up in my gut and circumventing that usual block between my mouth and my brain that instinctively stops me from saying something suicidal and aggravating to people bigger than I was. I’m pretty sure Spider-man didn’t have that block either.
“Right. I’m the faggot. I’m the fairy… who’s about to go have a date with a hot girl, and you’re the ones walking around in big tightly packed groups with other dudes. That totally makes sense.” Pushing my thick rimmed glasses up the bridge of my nose with my middle finger, I gave the short and tall figures a skeptical look. “So do you guys shower together, too? I hardly see you two apart.”
Henry and Ray both paused, exchanging glances as if for a second that they did actually doubt their own masculinity. They then exchanged glances with the other two jocks that had probably just followed along for the jollies of it. Their heterosexuality thus threatened, the only real course of action left to them was to prove just how disinterested they were with the bodies of other men by driving their fists and feet against another one in a repetitive, completely non-sexual fashion.
They probably would have beaten me down right then and there, rather hard and fast, and in a totally non-gay way, if I didn’t have a bike in my hands. I took off like a bat out of some mythological hot place where bad people go when they die, my feet hitting the pedals hard and my shoulder slamming into one of the stunned hench-jocks as I took off. The immediate reaction of the four was to take off running after me as fast as they could, but the advantage was briefly mine. It took them a solid block of running as fast as they could to realize that there was no way they were catching up to me while I was on a vehicle of superior speed, and I left them to ponder the impotence of their dirty feet while I high tailed it down the street.
Almost immediately I barreled past a familiar and bewildered looking girl in formal brown clothing and dark glasses, with a bizarre purple and orange pastry halfway out of her mouth. Normally I suppose the polite thing to do would have been to stop and speak with her, but I hadn’t put nearly enough space between myself and those four to stop and get comfortable and chat anyone up about how lovely this dimension was looking, and how it was about high time I let a baby tentacle beast crawl up my butt.
My heartbeat trumpeted in my tender ears like my own private school marching band, my body shifting from side to side while I pumped the rigid metal pedals to my sturdy little mountain bike. It wasn’t until I’d gotten a few blocks further that I eased back into the bike seat and sat up, coasting until I caught my breath. I was feeling somewhat more secure and safe, and more than a little proud of myself when I heard a familiar voice as a vehicle passed by me on the street.
“Hey faggot! Where the hell do you think you’re running?”
“Actually man, he wasn’t running, he was on a bike, and-”
I heard someone slap another person upside the head.
Grunting in frustration, I looked over to see a beat up mini-van cruising along side me with an enraged passenger list of four or so rather pissed-looking meatheads. It was to be expected, verbal hit and run tactics tend to really piss off the mentally slower classmates of mine. Oh, right. Also, they had a car. Suddenly I found I wasn’t racing ahead of them quite as comfortably as I had previously.
Gritting my teeth I made a sharp turn down a parking lot just as they coasted past me. I heard breaks suddenly, cussing, and the vehicle taking off again when they realized they couldn’t hit reverse in the middle of downtown traffic without making a spectacular wreck of what I strongly suspected was in fact his mommy’s van.
Not long did I have to ponder matrilineal vehicular dominance in the role of a high school alpha male, because I was finding with some immediacy that I had my own logistical difficulties to work out. One being that I’d just turned into an equally busy parking lot. Horns blared and screamed at me as I struggled to gain control of my bike, just barely weaving in and out between parked and moving cars that swiftly became parked as well, with the screeching of rubber tires across pavement. On one side of me a large black SUV with a bewildered mother just barely missed my back tire, and I jetted between two parked compact cars only to find a hot red little corvette almost plowing into my side. My foot actually glanced against the hood of the car, and guy with his long hair in a pony tail poked his head out long enough for me to hear him screaming obscenities no gentleman would repeat in polite company at me as I exited the other side of the busy parking lot.
My heart was racing in my ears again, and I had the impression it might very soon be bursting out of my chest and hailing a taxi the rest of the way home without me. I spotted as I put some further distance between myself and those idiots in their van a small park, and started to make for it. Nervously I took a quick glance back over one shoulder, and saw a beat up mini-van jetting through one of the cross streets I’d just passed, but continuing on by as though they hadn’t seen me.
I breathed a sigh of relief. It looked as though I had, at last, lost my juvenile pursuers. As I turned back to track my course to the park, my ears were assaulted by the sudden screech of tires and the peel of a car’s horn. This was probably something I might have noticed if I wasn’t biking for my life just then. When it happened, I noticed the rapidly approaching plastic grill of a mundane compact car seconds too late.
Through sheer force of adrenaline I barely managed to avoid getting hit by that grill, but the bumper of the car hadn’t stopped fast enough and it just pegged my back tire enough to send my whole course and direction off. My knuckles went white around the handle bars, and my bike wobbled at a speed that had me holding my breath, and, I think, freezing my heartbeat all at once. Unable to control it any longer, the front tire slammed hard against an abnormally high curb surrounding the tiny chunk of park, and I went flying high and fast into what I for an instant thanked the gods to be a rather plush looking bush. To this day, I wish I’d only found the fabled two birds in the bush when I landed, for fate had given me but one birdie in the hand to flip at it. Soon I discovered rather abruptly with a searing white mind-numbing pain that the rather comfortable expanse of verdant green bush housed a thick solid steel hump of pipe that, no doubt, had something to do with the plumbing of the park. My own plumbing was what was suffering however, as I landed on this concealed Judas to the Jesus of my pants, and I blacked out before I even slid to the ground.
Somehow I felt like I’d awoken from another of one of my strange traveling dreams. Somewhere in my mind I knew there was something wrong, because I was lying on my back, and when I looked up all I could see was the sparse ceiling of branches of a few city-mandated trees clawing at the evening sky with scraggly branches. The sun hadn’t quite gone down, and my mind was rather foggy when I let out a groan and tried to move.
“Oh, thank god you’re alright!” said a strange and distant masculine voice.
Taking the effort to roll my head to the side and glance around, I noticed Ecila squatting down next to me with her hands in her lap and a smug look on her face. Farther away there was a middle-aged man in a suit looking worried. Ecila turned to him, “Yup! I’m totally the- I mean a doctor today. You don’t gotta worry about it, he’s just great! In fact, he’s better than ever!” Somehow, she sounded proud, and I caught something out of the corner of my eye scuttle into my backpack which lay a few feet away on the itchy green grass.
Blinking dumbly, I responded with an articulate, “…Wuh?” The oddness of my situation started to seep back into my awakening consciousness. I remembered my impromptu landing just a little bit ago, and my legs pressed together reflexively in response. Stranger still, was that I wasn’t in a state of mind-numbingly paralyzed pain. I did in fact feel better than ever. Experimentally I started to sit up.
The man sighed with relief, “I’m so glad to hear that. My car insurance- I mean, I’m so relieved, yah.” Looking anxious he started to back towards his car, muttering, “If you’re really alright, I’ve got a wife and kids to get home to.”
Staring at him in an equally mystified manner I noticed my glasses were still on my face, and gave him a nod. “Yah, I’m… fine, I guess.”
Obviously he was very concerned with my wellbeing, because he couldn’t get in his car and take off fast enough. No doubt he was going off to file a report with the police, and possibly get me an ambulance!
I rolled my eyes. Yes, there was a grand chance of that being the case. On the plus side, I didn’t feel like I just landed groin first on a protruding metal object. Which puzzled me. “Why… AM I fine? Didn’t I just land on my…”
“Your no-no’s? Yup! But like I said, I’m looking out for you, Josh! I got your back, as you kids say!” Then she got up, and gave me a withering look as she brushed grass off her skirt while chiding, “Honestly, you should have trusted me more. If you’d have just let me follow you more closely none of this would have happened.”
Curiously, I moved my legs around. There really was not a twinge of pain. My pants look slightly scuffed up, but there wasn’t a spot of blood. Moments later I started to get up, brushing off some of the leaves and twigs and berries that had settled on me while I was rolling through bushes and grass, and found everything in nominal working order. “…Wow!” It was a humbling experience to think of Ecila as anything but a nuisance sent by existence to make my bitter shadow of a life an even deeper level of hell. This time she’d actually done something useful, “That’s amazing! How’d you even do that?”
Beaming that smug look, she folded her hands behind her back, “Aw, shucks. It wasn’t all me. Your little adopted baby helped me out! I could sort of tell what was supposed to go where by looking at you from one of those non conventional angles, but it provided all the raw material! Your kiddo’s really talented at making stuff. The real tricky part was…” As she started to go off into what I was certain would be a fascinating and enlightening explanation into the secret workings of the universe that no mortal mind had dared comprehend on this planet for ages past, I happened to notice her pocket watch.
“Holy crap!” my voice interrupted, cracking in pubescent frustration.
This caused her to look at me strangely, and adjusted her own glasses. “What? No, I didn’t use any feces, deific or other. But I guess you could say it was Shoggoth excre-”
“No, not that! Is that really the time!?” Momentarily the shock of waking up after experiencing the greatest pain of my life was muted, and I remembered with a jolt one of the most important events of my adolescent life. I had a date!
She regarded the watch for a moment. Then looked up at the sky, shielding her eyes. “That’s a good question.” There was a pause. “No clue. I guess it could be that time somewhere. Somehow.”
Unable to deal with the girl’s eccentricities just then, I started to panic. “I’ve got a date! I’m late! I’m late for my date!” I located my bike while I was looking around all frantic-like.
Ecila pursed her lips while that ethereal white outline of a rabbit appeared from behind her feet and turned its ears up at me attentively. “Is it a very important date?”
It was amazing how quickly a person’s priorities could shift when one realized that they weren’t in imminent physical peril. Turning pale, I snatched up my backpack and scrambled towards my bike. “It’s a VERY important date!”
“Oh! In that case! I guess I can tell you all this stuff later. What are you still doing here!?” My worry was contagious; the mousey out-of-date-dressed girl soon pushing me onwards and brushing the twigs and berries and grass from my person.
Somehow my mountain bike had been spared the catastrophic destruction I feared it might have suffered, and looked not much the worst for wear with a few scratches and dings and bent spokes. Hopping on the bike seat I tested the gears quickly and found to my relief that they were for the most part in working order. “Uh, I’ll see you at home! Just… just tell my folks you’re spending the night again, or whatever it was you did.”
She gasped, “But I’m supposed to be watching over you! Remember? Remember that thing that just happened? Just now?” She raised an arm and pointed at the bushes. “Right over there?!”
“I know! But… this is a date! I’m not gunna get ambushed at the coffee shop! And… and I really can’t have you following me around, Beth might get the wrong idea!” Somewhere in my irrational mind, and no doubt in that little mind in my pants, I’d figured showing up with her in tow, no matter how useful she was, would probably ruin my date more so than me showing up as late as I already was going to show up would be. I took a deep breath, and started off as quickly as I could for the coffee shop, leaving Ecila behind and looking rather annoyed. I could deal with her being annoyed at me later. Calling back over my shoulder, I yelled, “Thanks for fixing me up!”
As I got peddling towards the coffee shop, the more troubled I became. It occurred to me that this could have been planned ten times better. For one, it might not have been such a good idea to bike ride to my first date - that tended to leave a person out of breath and sweaty. Sweaty dates aren’t the kind of dates that encourage a person to get close and snuggle with. I might have kept a change of clothes in my backpack, too - assuming it wouldn’t eat them or turn them into some fancy wizard’s robes and a hat. Putting on a wizard’s robes and a hat was not something you do to turn a girl on. Unless she’s a Harry Potter fan, maybe.
There was the option to change my clothes at home, but then I had to bike all the way there, then clean up, then change, then put up with my mother and/or father asking me why I was getting dressed up to go back out again, and bike all the way back to the coffee shop. Honestly I was nervous enough about all this without dealing with that ‘Oh my baby’s so grown up!’ look in my mom’s eyes, or my dad patting me on the back proudly and then describing how condoms work. Internal shudder.
Finally I pulled up in front of the coffee shop. The sun was still out, barely, and a glare off the windows in the front of the building obscured its customers. Taking a deep breath, I walked my bike over to a light post and chained it up. I considered leaving the backpack there. Having an infantile indescribable horror kept near me at all times might just make my jittery feelings worse. Though it had been behaving itself rather admirably lately. Also, I should keep an eye on the backpack during the date. If anyone did try to steal it, I’m fairly certain they wouldn’t get too far. However… I would then have to explain how my backpack found its way back to me, and hope it didn’t do a great deal of structural or mental damage on its way back. Well, it was probably better keeping it as close as possible, in case something did go wrong.
Steeling myself and my courage away, I sucked in a chest full of air, hung my backpack over one shoulder, and strode bravely into the coffee shop. I hoped as I walked in the front door that I wouldn’t humiliate myself, or trip, or run into anything else as painful as I had on the way there, or any other hundred horrible possible things I could do wrong that were running through my head.
That breath caught in my throat when I saw her sitting at a table for two, flipping through a book, and looking almost as annoyed as Ecila had been when I left her in my dust. Crap, how late was I? Quickly I made my way over and set my pack down by the empty chair, “Gosh, Beth! I’m so sorry! I had some uh, real trouble getting over here!”
She looked up, and might have been about to complain when saw the state I was in. “What the… have you been rolling in the bushes or something, Josh?”
“Err, I took a shortcut through a park.” I offered to her sheepishly, folding my hands up on the table. Then, fidgeting, I dropped them under the table to my lap and wrung them together nervously. Swallowing the lump forming in my throat, I tried to smile and look up at her, “You look… really… really great.”
She’d changed into something else that was dress-like between when school was out and when she had gotten here, and it made her look amazing. She was stunning, statuesque, shapely, and all those other words that described the sort of perfection of body and mind the Greeks reserved for goddesses like Athena, or Artemis.
Smiling at me almost impishly, she set her book down and leaned forwards. “Thanks. You’re looking pretty…” She briefly eyed my scuffed school clothes, still slightly damp with sweat, and she leaned back in her chair cautiously, “…alright.”
My face turned that embarrassed shade of red that it had a habit of doing around her. One day I had to figure out why I could so easily mouth off in the face of certain thrashings as I had two Ray and his flunkies, but couldn’t think of a word to say when I was sitting across from a single girl. Mechanically I started to stand up and stutter, “Uh… I’ll get us some coffee!”
“But… you just sat down,” Beth said in a curious voice, watching me.
“Eh heh, yah. I’ll be right back!”
Going to the counter gave me some time to collect my thoughts as I impatiently waited for the barista to prepare a beverage for me that a McDonald’s employee would have had ready in less than half the time, for less than half the price. By the time I balanced the two steaming cups back to the table I was feeling at least a little bit more focused. “So um…” Or not. The moment I laid eyes on her my mind wiped blank once more.
Smiling at me, she took the cup of coffee in front of her and half turned the cup, raising it up to take a sip. “Well… I was having some trouble with some of the math homework again. If it isn’t too much of a bother, maybe you could go over it with me?”
That was at least something I could wrap my head around. Leaning forwards in anticipation I smiled back at her saying, “Y-yah! I’d be happy to! Show me what you got.”
As I slipped into the familiar world of numbers and equations, I was rather glad for the neutral topic of discussion. It was significantly more relaxing than trying to think up something to talk with the girl of your dreams about. Sure, I could ask her about what she was interested in, like art and all that, but I’d come off as an adoring ignorant idiot. At least with this, I could sound somewhat like I knew what I was talking about.
“Okay, how about this one,” she asked, her brow furrowed cutely like two baby caterpillars kissing.
I peered at the problem. “Oh… well in this one, on the one side you got XY as two variables next to one another, and to simplify it you were supposed to figure out how to substitute the Y with an X over here…”
Time slipped by, and it occurred to me just how odd it was that I was so relaxed. Usually when I was just being around her, I couldn’t stop the little guy downstairs from trying to poke his head up and say hi. Now I was sitting just across her, probably closer than I’d ever been, and my pocket pal was utterly disinterested. There wasn’t even a stir of curiosity betwixt my nethers!
Three cups of coffee and an hour later, and more pressing matters came to my attention. I mean, other than the fact that I’d ordered more coffee from this place in a single night than I had the whole time I’d spent loitering around in the back. I began to stand up again, grinning apologetically. “I’ll be right back, gotta use the restroom.”
“Riiight. I’ll be here.” She returned an easy smile, and turning her attention down to the sheets of paper and sprawled math texts strewn about the little table. If there was anything hotter than an attractive woman studying math, the language of the universe, I couldn’t conceive of what it could be.
Unless she was… more naked.
The pressure of liquid within my bladder was more pressing than I’d originally thought, and I quickened my pace to the single restroom the little coffee shop had to offer. It was just my luck that when I got there, the thing was locked with a light on inside. Impatiently I stood outside it with my arms crossed. Soon, I was pressing my lips together in a firm line, and then I was pressing legs together in an awkward fashion, tapping a foot.
Minutes later a muted flush sounded, and then the rush of water from the sink. That was always a good sign. It meant the person on the other side of the door was cleaning their hands after handling their genitals while refuse spewed forth from them in a public restroom. It was just such a reassuring thing to know. However, hearing rushing water wasn’t something a person with a bladder filled with insistent and expanding fluids really wanted to hear. The moment the girl inside opened the door and shuffled out I rushed in and locked it behind me, scrambled for the toilet to stand before it, dropping my pants and underwear in the greatest of hurries. I let out a sigh of ultimate relief, tilting my head back to stare up at the ceiling with contently fluttering eyelids.
The pressure gradually ebbed as I stood there, however I didn’t hear the usual tinkling of my magnificent golden arch striking the placid waters of white porcelain bowl town. Instead, I felt a spreading wet warmth down between my legs and wetting the floor at my feet that absolutely flummoxed me. Slowly looking down, I noted an absence of genitals.
That is to say, my minute man was a minute late. Mister Johnson had checked out of the office, and his desk was empty. Richard had taken the Twins, and left the Levi’s apartment! As sudden a change as you could imagine that to be, I was taking it all in stride.
Gaping, I squelched, “What the HELL! Where the HELLING HELLS is my dick!”
Almost afraid to do so, I moved a shaking hand down to feel around the offending area hoping against hope that this was all some horrible trick of the eyes that my prick wasn’t before my eyes, like the time I’d mistaken the skinny guy with the mullet as a girl from behind. The whole thing was gone, missing, absent. In its place was something the like of which I hadn’t seen anywhere but in my raunchiest searches through the mighty vaults of porn of the internet on a pixilated two dimensional screen, or loosely illustrated with labels and arrows in the pages of my health text book.
Having just pissed my pants didn’t register as one of my more pressing problems when my most precious Groundskeeper Willy was missing, and somehow had just been replaced by the plumbing of a catholic school girl.
Hey, it’s a good analogy! They both wear flannel skirts!
I groped the area stupidly for a few seconds longer in the off-chance that it was hiding from me, or perhaps just feeling shy tonight. Realizing it wasn’t an illusion, I tried to take stock of the situation. There was only one reason I could conceive of that the common rules of reality would hiccup, and the patriarchal majesty of my Y chromosomes be circumvented in a matter of hours by the double X assassin of matriarchal vaginal dominance.
Somehow when I’d landed in all my albatross-like grace on that pipe and thought myself ruined forever, she’d done a little more than just ‘fix’ things. Not that I wasn’t feeling fixed just then, in a completely different sense of the word. Somehow she’d completely warped my outie and left me with an innie, and she had to be the only person who could fix it.
Doing my level best not to just break down sobbing on the floor and go completely insane, I tried to assess my position further and stop my mind from racing.
Alright, I was in the bathroom of the coffee shop. My date was waiting out there, but I was in here with piss-soaked pants and a mighty mangina betwixt by legs. It might have been possible to continue the date after this if I hadn’t completely missed the toilet and emptied my bladder on my pants and floor. It struck me as odd that I was more worried about showing up with urine on my clothing than the present extinction of the population of one-eyed trouser snake in the ecosphere of my trousers, but I was near certain that if Ecila could repair the damage caused to me in such a fashion that it would leave me with a spontaneous reversal of genders, she could most certainly do something to resurrect the crucified and buried status of my little pants deity the next morning.
More than somewhat frantic, I pulled my soaked pants back up. Hey, wet pants were better than no pants. Taking a deep breath, I about-faced to face the restroom door. I had to make an excuse, and I had to get out of there and to my bike as fast as I could, without anyone noticing my apparently critical lack in the knowledge of liquid trajectory. Out like a bolt, I rushed out of the restroom door and swooped by the table Beth was patiently waiting for me at. As fast as I could, I grabbed up my backpack and stammered a quick excuse to her without even looking back, “Uh sorry gotta go, something just came up! I-I mean it didn’t, and that’s the problem! I mean, I gotta go, really sorry!”
Several bewildered looks were turned in my direction while I tried to shield my eyes, tilting my head down and rushing out the front door to retrieve my out of sight bicycle. It was possible I’d heard her stunned reply when I left, but there were enough embarrassing eyes on me when I bolted that I didn’t really stop to chat.
If you thought I was hauling butt to get away from Ray and his creeps earlier with the threat of a beating was implied, you should have seen how fast I was riding when I was threatened with a life of talk shows and doctors trying to solve the ultimate vanishing trick of the year. You would have thought I’d learned my lesson just hours ago when I had that little accident with the car and the bike and the bush, but once more my priorities had drastically shifted and I rushed to accommodate the change.
My bike pulled up to the front of my house moments later, and my chest was heaving with the labor my beleaguered lungs were suffering to keep oxygen in my sweating limbs. Much to my relief, I spotted Ecila right away. She was sitting on the steps of the front door of my home, sharing a carrot with her insubstantial pale lagomorph, and looking like she hadn’t a single care in this world, or those adjacent to it.
“You! You… you weenie thief! What did you do!” I growled, letting my bike fall on the lawn as I stalked towards her with a complete indifferent to the moistness darkening the front of my pants.
She gave me a perplexed look, tilting her head. “What did I do when?”
“What did you do to my manhood!” My voice was sounding strained.
Chewing silently on the bit of carrot in her mouth, the brown haired girl started to look downwards. Her nose wrinkled up sensibly. “Oi, Josh, you’ve gone ‘n wet yourself.”
Sweat from my urgent ride down here dripped down my face as I screamed in a frantic manner, “I KNOW! It’s all your fault!”
She scoffed, “What, do you want me to hold your hand while you go wee wee now? I thought you didn’t WANT me following you about everywhere. You really should make up your mind!”
Doing my level best not to scream at the top of my lungs and draw the attention of all the neighbors, I took a handful of her collar and pulled her towards my face, my eyes round with intensity and my voice strained. “My PENIS! Give me back my penis! You did something in the park, now undo it! Undo it right this second!”
“No butts! Penis!”
Exasperated, the girl in the brown suit-like affair prodded at my fingers. “This is extraordinarily rude, Josh! You were really hurt back there, and I just fixed it how it’s supposed to go!”
“This is NOT how it’s supposed to go! You gave me girl parts! Girl parts! I’m a guy!” Wheezing with effort to speak, I let her wrinkled collar drop from my grip. My expression desperate, I pleaded with her, “Please Ecila! Make it better, make it how it was!”
“But… that IS how it’s supposed to be! I fixed it up just how your body… echoey bits were saying it was supposed to look like!” Then she paused, tilting her head. “Wait, what’s the difference between guys and girls, again?”
Fuming, I said slowly, and with icy cold precision, “What. Did. You. DO!?”
Around 2 hours prior
Ecila leaned over the prone form of Josh as he lay sprawled awkwardly on the park grass, a finger pressing to her chin in wonder. “Oh, geez. This looks bad.”
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god! Is he alright?” an elderly man said as he rushed out of his car. “My insurance doesn’t cover this! I got marks on my license! He… he just came out of nowhere! I’m totally sober! There was a stop sign! You saw it! You all saw it, right!?” Frantically he spun about, noticing no one else present but the kid he’d nearly hit, the girl hunched over him, and himself.
“Oh sure! He’ll be fine!” She beamed, “I’m kind of a doctor sometimes, I helped deliver a baby just the other day! Uh…” Eyeing the dark bloodstain growing on the unconscious youth’s pants, and the stirring of the boy’s backpack that had somehow managed to get flung a few yards away during the surprise landing, she turned to give the gentlemen a polite smile. “I’m sure I can handle this. But do you think you could turn around, and give my friend a little privacy?”
His face near white now, the man turned around reluctantly, hands wringing together nervously as he started to pace back to his car.
That done, Ecila turned her attention back to the unconscious boy, and started to work on unbuttoning and unzipping his pants to get a better look at the damage. She drew in a low hiss when she saw the results.
Ecila had experienced things no mortal man, or woman, could claim to have experienced while retaining any semblance of sanity. She’d been to peculiar places, catapulted across the cosmos, traversed trans-dimensional trails, and had spoken with spatial species the likes of which few could even conceive. Indeed, during her extended existence, it could be said that Ecila’s knowledge of beings beyond human comprehension and the many secrets of the universe of how it works, how it interacts with other dimensions, was exceptional and unique. That all said, she had never seen the likes of this before.
“By Cthulhu’s faceticals, what is THAT!?”
The main trailing closer and closer to his car glanced back nervously, then looked at his car and began to finger his keys.
For although Ecila Mason’s knowledge was cosmic and extensive, she had a pitifully low understanding of her own species. Having left all things human and normal some eighty years ago, her anatomical knowledge was that of the sheltered six year old girl she’d been when she’d discovered she could go to much more interesting places and talk to much more interesting creatures. That knowledge being that girls have what she has, and boys are icky. They might possibly have cooties.
The bruised, crushed remains of what were once Josh’s genitals and the leakage of various fluids (from them) were beyond icky, and they cemented all of Ecila’s suspicions. Even stranger was that when she removed her glasses to get a better look at the damage, there was the subtle overlay of hints of reality about him telling her that this wasn’t how he was supposed to look. Even the tiniest cell in his body was indecisive about what repairs should be made, and the overlaying blue prints that echoed his existence in a string that stretched out to eternity had something completely different written in the subtle movements of energy than what was there before her very eyes.
The baby Shoggoth Lord that had adopted Josh as its very own was out of its little pouch then, and was sniffing around its prone mother figure with an air of concern that was obvious with the frantic wriggling tentacles that were beginning to emerge from its sides.
Cracking her knuckles, and wincing, she turned to the scrambling ball of tar and eyeballs. “Well. Uh. I think I might need your help fixing this up. It’s a lot worse than I thought! He’s got some kind of a space leech grafted to his groin!”
My voice cracked as I screamed, “SPACE LEECH!? It was a wiener! A penis! It’s normal for a GUY!”
“It is?” questioned Ecila with a scientific air. “That explains the mysterious fluids my father always left around the toilet seat…”
“Just put it back! Put it all back the way it was!”
The girl with the glasses winced, “Uh, small problem.”
“It was a GOOD size problem!” I insisted.
“Well, be that as it may, um… are you sure that thing was normal? I’m pretty sure you’re how you’re supposed to be, really!”
My hands were trembling with the strain, and it was all I could do to keep from choking my potential savior. Growling, I struggled to speak between clenched teeth, “I’m sure, I’m sure! I had it since I was a kid! Now can you fix it, or not?!”
“Hm. Okay. So how badly and how urgently do you need this ‘penis’ to operate in normal everyday society?”
What was more annoying was how calm and matter of fact about all this she was being. My dark eyes narrowed. “It’s of PARAMOUNT importance. I just had to bail in the middle of a date with the hottest girl I’ve ever known because of this!”
She looked to me pensively. “Very well, Josh. I understand you feel you need this ‘penis’ to date this girl. For you, I shall endeavor to study the penis, to improve on it. But I’ll have to get back to you about that.”
“Study!? Improve?? Just give it back!”
“Well, I could try to ask your baby for help-”
I didn’t even try to correct her on that one, that was how infuriated I was!
“-but I don’t know anything about it! I’ll have to do some research, so I don’t mess things up!” Then she leaned in, an eyebrow arching as though she were talking with her best friend about a well known problem. “But honestly, it’s got some obvious flaws in its design! You never see a girl miss the bowl, and pee on the floor.” Her gaze flickered downwards briefly and she added, “Or their pants. Unless it’s on purpose.”
The color drained from my face, and I collapsed to my knees. “But… but… w-what do I do until then!? I can’t go to school, they’ll figure it out…!”
“Not if you don’t go around flashing it! But if it’s really that big a deal, I guess we could graft something on in the meantime.” Her lips quirked to the side, her expression turned adventurous.
I peeked upwards at her, my position and face making me look as though I were praying on my knees and had just seen an angel to answer my fevered prayers. “R-really?”
“Oh, sure!” chirped the brown-haired girl, and she reached into nothingness, her arm vanishing up to the elbow in purple light. She stuck her tongue out of her mouth at a curious angle while feeling around. Then, finding what she was looking for, yanked her hand back and held up a horrible, gibbering, vaguely phallicly shaped terror that flailed tentacles about in the air like a fish flopping out of water. “We can graft this thing on until I figure it out! All these space leeches look alike, right?”
Gaping up at her, I couldn’t think to respond.
She turned to heed the thing as it let out a multi-lunged screech, and she shook it in annoyance. “Frank! Shut up, Frank! Stop moving around! This is for Josh’s sake!”
My lower lip quivered, and my body shook. Barely able to speak, I managed a mousey response. “Uh… n-no. I… think I’ll wait.”
Shrugging indifferently, Ecila stuffed the thing back into whatever pocket, world, or dimension she’d yanked it from. I half suspected it was her fridge.
“Whatever you want, Josh! You can always just pee sitting down till I figure this all out. Trust me, once you get started you’ll wonder why you ever bothered doing it standing up!”