Ben2Times eyelids fluttered furiously in his sleep. Stephania perched on the edge of the cot. They were in the storeroom closet of the Burger Bop.
Ever since they’d gotten back from that Duplicate Planet, Ben’d been nodding off, off and on, throughout the endless night.
It wouldn’t even day anymore. The letter “d”s had left the building, drifting, floating through the air at a laconic droopy pace and nobody even swatted at them or said goodbye.
When the last one left, he had snapped close his briefcase (how’d he even get that in here, Stephania had thought, but then she thought of the pink flamingo rocker dance and the cage rock fury and thought yeah, well, why not). He’d drifted breezily but curtly by her through the door. His look of disdain was almost audible so Stephania was sure to slam the door right behind him as he had tried to compress it ever so gently.
“Fucking asshole “D”s…” Stephania mumbled as Ben2Times eyelids fluttered even faster and his paws swiped sleepily in the air.
Since the endless night and the departure of the “d”s, things had taken a turn. Smithann and Fitz had been spending ever-increasing lapses of time in the walk-in freezer and she knew they were up to something in there. Everybody knew. Even Natalianese, who could be a lot of things, but unobservant was not one of them, Stephania could tell. She was watching her. Close.
All was quiet in the Burger Bop, she could hear the swipe of the soapy towel that Natalianese was using the wipe the door-paneled windows in the lobby. The whole place was see-thru in the lobby area and they had used this to their advantage before, able to notice if any weird entities were creeping up even though none had ever tried it. All that time and not a visitor. Well, except Fitz, and that one little girl that no one will talk about yet, and the bug. And the meat.
But now the night and Ben2Times spent most of his time sleeping and Natalianese wouldn’t stop washing the windows in the dark. It was creepy. You could hear the dead silence of nothing and then the creak or whine of some type of pulley or contraption from the freezer and the hum of its engine kicking in ever so often. Then the squeaks from the glass as Natalianese made her dumb-ass karate kid circles. Stephania could see her stupid red eyeballs pinpointing down on them when she was suspended and floating, washing from the outside.
Stephania decided to see what she was up to. She waited until she seemed to not be looking and eased through the door. Then she crept around and kicked over her wash bucket, but something strange fell out.
It wasn’t water.
Suddenly Natalianese shrieked soundlessly and air-glided toward her lightning fast at a horizontal angle of quickened oatmeal. Quite impressive, Stephania thought, and mentally saved that move into her repertoire.
“You don’t touch that bucket bitch.” Natalianese spat.
“Whoa whoa whoa? What bucket?” Stephania smiled and looked at her with as much doe eye as she could muster.
“I was just out for a stroll… oh, you mean this bucket?” She picked up the bucket and tossed it over her shoulder. It fell quickly toward the polyurethane sidewalk panel but stopped mid-air right before it could crash.
Stephania eyed it floating there, pursed her lips in a half grin and looked back up at Natalianese.
They glared at each other in a deathlock of fury.
“You mean this magic bucket?” Stephania said into Natalianese’s brain.
“I can still talk like this too you green cow.” Natalianese thought back at her.
Neither of their lips moved but their eyes shone into the night, Natalianese with more of a red hue that Stephania noticed was starting to jump vision on the glass and project little red dots everywhere.
“Damn right, you green menace!” Natalianese blared into her brain and Stephania felt her eyes began to wobble as the high-pitched warble reverberated between her ears. She ripped two tufts of the sidewalk panel up, balled it up in little bits and shoved them in her ears like two earplugs.
That didn’t help.
She had forgotten the old ways. They had gotten used to using the new organ voices and now this crazy loon was inside of her and she even had the magic bucket. She had forgotten all about these devices.
She ripped the plugs out of her ears and yanked the bucket from the air. Some more of the strange substance fell out but Stephania ignored it and slammed the bucket down over Natalianese’s big stupid head.
She withdrew her pointing stick and unsheathed it from its ultra sound-absorbent scabbard.
“Aaaayyyyyyyyeeeeeeeee!” she screeched and reigned down a series of furious thumps on top of the bucket covering Natalianese’s head.
With each thump Natalianese kinda sunk down through the polyurethane ground board until finally she was drilled waist deep. The shrilling stopped echoing in Stephania’s head and was replaced by a sad sad sobbing.
“Wha? Wait, stop that. Stop that crying.” Stephania said and Natalianese whimpered even more sadly in her head.
“C’mon, it’s not that serious. I was just… I was just trying to get you to stop. You know how we are, I… uh…”
“Don’t worry about it,” Natalianese said and used the soppy towel to wipe the front of the bucket. “It doesn’t even matter anymore. Just help me with my feet, it tickles.”
“Okay.” Stephania said and punched a hole through the sidewalk panel next to the Natalianese-shaped screw hole.
She punched again until the hole was wide enough to peek her head in and peer down there.
“Oh. Hey guys. Sorry about that,” she said. “Didn’t know you were next to us down there… it’s complicated…”
“Just fix it. Fix it now.” One of the blue creatures wrote on a card and held up to her head so she could read it.
Stephania figured these were the guys she had heard of before, but she thought they were located on the other side of town, through a sky ceiling at least, not the sidewalk.
It was magnificent down there. Brilliantly blue with shimmering hints of pink, orange… any color you could think of really.
And the things looked like furry seahorses but with huge wide soccer ball eyes perched on long tendrils sticking out from their shoulder pockets.
They would have been scary, with the huge eyes and no mouths and all except for the funny looking cards that they wrote on with big sparkly glitter pencils. Everywhere stickers. Bright neon colors and dancing, happy stickers and bright pencils with fuzzy things attached and sparkly streamers.
The creatures bumped about and greeted with tails but Stephania noticed a few of the placards floating in the air had really, really disturbing messages. She looked around at the huge eyeballs of some of them and wondered which ones had written them. Sad, sad disjointed writing with glitter mounded on top but the stickers were awesome, very bright.
“Well how do I fix it?” Stephania asked one of them who happened to be floating by.
“You don’t,” it wrote and pulled out a small vial filled with red, blue, and green confetti and tossed the contents into its eyes.
It sighed and stared at her with most of its whites now sparkling and twinkling in the night.
“You just throw a bunch of this shit on it.” it wrote, and tossed her a bottle.