“Sucked out by the vacuum of space” -a short story -part 14

Ben2Times stared down at the letter and then back up into the bathroom mirror.  He looked at himself.  Then he looked at himself again.  It’s me, he thought to himself, it’s definitely me.  He looked at his eyes, nose, mouth… the way his hair touched the top of his fuzzy ears and sparkled silver in the bare light of the bulb, the way his checkered skin gleamed matte in the mirror, he chuckled.

Definitely me, he laughed and shook his head. But the note.  But what about the note?  He read it again,

Dear Mr. Times,
 All is lost.   sorry to report all is lost.  
And Benny
Bl .  k got     ty, and last Tuesday I fo . rgot             g. 
I’m afraid we have disappointed you.
The i HUMAN, as of now.  I therefore void the dog,
  • escape potential ,
  • refrain from
  •         thermore, I have been ignored. Bluntly put, I am probably notxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxd let me dry overnight, xxxxxxxxxxxxe.  Seven dollars.  So easy. 
She will keep asking you x
xxxxxxxxxxxxx
xxxxxxxxxxxxx
xx cheaper,
but it is not.  Sincerely yours,
EmClog
 
p.s. We need all seven.

 

What Ben2Times couldn’t understand was how the letter got under his pillow in the first place. He would have woken up at the slight.

What kind of face was this?

A leech looked up from the dirty basin under the faucet and gave him a hurt look. It had taken him forever to crawl.

Can he hear me? Ben2Times spoke in his head.

“Yes, yes I can.” the leech replied.

Ben2Times didn’t have the heart to answer him.  What a life.  He didn’t know what was worse, his situation or this leech. The black slimy started to scoot across the grimy basin. It sipped up a drip of rusty faucet water.

“Sucks.” the leech said.

He tried to ignore it and not get sucked into a long super-depressing conversation.  He needed time to himself to think.

“It’s just hard, you know?” the leech said and scooted up toward the slope of the basin.

Ben2Times moved his hand away from the edge of the counter and looked around the bathroom for something to stare at in order to look busy.

“I know you’re not deep in thought,” sighed the leech, “you’re trying to find ways to ignore me.  It’s okay, I am used to it…” the leech said.

It struggled sadly in it’s crawl but finally made it to the top of the basin and squished there with a sort of sploosh sound.

“Ahhh.  That’s better,” it said and looked up at Ben2Times, “say… what is your name?”

Ben2Times ignored it and opened the medicine cabinet.  He rifled through the pills and band-aids. The leech started to make a low whaling sound.  He ignored it.  A band-aid fluttered down slowly from the ledge and landed on its noisy head.

“I like my hat,” the leech said sadly, pausing his pitched whaling.

It stared up at Ben2Times with two big saucer-like eyes.  They were blue, extremely light blue like very, very blue.  They were like a vast Atlantis ocean, clean.  They felt so clean.

“….what?” Ben2Times woke with a start.  He had been staring directly into its big beautiful eyes for he didn’t know how long. “What is it that you want from me, exactly?  Ben2Times crouched down eye level to the basin while the leech readjusted his position and sighed.

After a time, he felt a cold slime begin to spread over the back of his hand.  Ben2Times didn’t move.  Didn’t even open his eyes.  Why bother?

After a while he felt two sharp pierces in to the inner fold of his elbow but he didn’t move then either. His legs buckled slowly down onto the floor and he leaned his back onto the wall of the dirty bathroom.  He listened to the staccato drip of the faucet and felt the cold crawl up his arm and now to this neck.  It sat there for a moment.

The smell of old eggs on a motel room hotplate wafted from under the flimsy bathroom door and mixed in with the stale but not altogether unpleasant smell of the leech as it slid up and around his body.

“I’m going to eat you…” Ben2Times muttered half asleep and reached up his paw to swipe the leech into his mouth, but missed and only swatted the empty air.

Why would he want to eat a leech anyway? he thought and he felt the cold slick trail of it make a turn towards his heart.

 

“Ben!!!!” Stephania yelled as she pounded on the bathroom door.  Ben2Times eyes fluttered open and closed.  He tried to wake all the way up but couldn’t seem to do it on his own.  “Help…” he muttered weakly.  Stephania heaved the door open with her shoulder and burst into the bathroom.

“What in the-“

The leech slowly turned his head in her direction.  It was 15 times its actual size and was now sitting on his chest, throbbing and wet and super, super gross.

“oh…Hello there.” the leech said wetly.

Stephania pursed her lips and marched toward both of them.  She stepped right over them and reached under the basin of the sink.  Grimacing, she reached behind the pipes.

“Er, excuse me miss,” the leech said, “I was just helping this lad here wake up but I need soooo much assistance as well,” his bright blue eyes grew even larger, “Can you help me-“

“Ah snap! Found it.” Stephania said and ripped the package out from behind the pipes.

“Is that for me?” the leech asked, “no one ever gets anything for me, I am very sad and I-“

Stephania punched her fist directly into the leech’s big mouth while she used her knee to balance the package and open it with her other hand.  She ripped it with her teeth.

“Yes!” she yelled when the package finally fell open.  “Ye…es?” asked the leech and looked down at the wiggling substance on the floor.

“A beauty!” Stephania said and backed slowly out of the bathroom door.

The small wiggling beige putty slowly pulled itself together on the floor and started to move around and form itself on its own.  It looked like what a kid would do to a mound of play-doh if a kid was there but there were no kids and the putty was forming itself.

It was also getting bigger.

How it came to grow or even form Stephania didn’t want to know and didn’t care.  As she eased the door shut she could see the final stages of the putty form into a life-sized hybrid Toad Dog type thing and it barked and then croaked and then smoothed out its cowlick in the back.  Steam rolled off of it in waves.

“Ewww….” Stephania muttered and locked the door.  The last thing she heard was a slurp and a burp, a swoosh and then someone furiously taping up the back of the pipes. Then there was nothing for a while.

She waited to see what would happen but nothing did.

Eventually she ordered a pizza and watched some T.V. but finally clicked it off and dozed in the chair by the bed. Still nothing.

Finally, she heard Ben2Times wake up and shuffle to get his feet under him. She put the remote down as he walked into the room.

“What happened?” he demanded. Ben2Times looked around the battered motel room, “Why’d you leave me in there?”

Stephania folded her arms and rolled her eyes at him. “Because I always leave you in there.”

Ben2Times looked at her and then sat down on the bed.

“Stephania,” he said, “You have to tell me everything.  Start at the beginning.”

 

“Sucked out by the vacuum of space”

“Sucked out by the vacuum of space” -a short story. (Part 2, Chapter 1)

coming in your television boxesPlanet BlinkA happy and you know this“Sucked out by the vacuum of space” -a short story, Part 7, section 2  What’s wrong with Ben2Timeshey you asked me and I gave it to you

“Sucked out by the vacuum of space” -a short story

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“Sucked out by the vacuum of space” -a short story

“Here,” Fritz shoved a tiny square shaped card into Smithann’s hands, “Take this and read it.”

Smithann looked down at the card.  There was a naked woman wrapped and huddled in a comfy looking beige sheet with a shell like a snail on the lower half of her body.  It looked like she was sleeping with the sea behind her and there was a staircase leading to nowhere and it was the dumbest looking card Smithann had ever saw in her life.

“Ahem…” Fritz cleared his throat, “Out loud.  Read it aloud please.”

“Re..Rejuvenation,” Smithann said, “and what does that really mean anyway?”

“My god Smithann!” Fritz exclaimed, “You do not know this word?  What were they teaching you here…I do not understand how…”

“Hey wait, we learned about all kinds of stuff.” Smithann looked at him and furrowed her eyebrows.    “The Generals of the Third Planetary Mattonorn and the Battles of Artheaver 76, The Kill Links, Math… you know, important stuff.” Smithann said.

“Oh I see,” Fritz replied, “important stuff hmmm.” He took the card from her hands and threw it up into the ceiling of the Burger Bop freezer.  They were standing by the stacks of frozen fry mix and had been contemplating taking another trip.  There were brochures scattered all over racks number 6 and 7 and this time they would be sure not to be “taken for suckers” as Fritz had put it.  Planet Blink had been a bust.  They never found the legitimate scrap in that big empty warehouse and had to actually sneak out of there while no one was looking.  Not fun.

“Do you think Ben2Times and Stephania know about all of these planets in here?” she asked Fritz.

He looked at her gravely. “We should not worry about these things.” he said.

“Besides, what is a life full of worry? Here, read this one.” He thrust another tiny card in her hand.

This one had a woman with a red draping robe kinda like a Greek or something but she was sitting on a clump of rocks outside at a weird sunset.  She was sprawled over the stones with her head bent into the crevice of her arm. There was a pool of water in front of her with a huge red flower bigger than her body floating on top.

“Release.” Smithann said, “I know what that means…”

“Uh huh, so now you see…” Fritz replied

“See what?” Smithann asked and looked at him quizzingly. “What does it all mean? … I’m confused.”

“Those are the cards.” Fritz said. “It means what it says.  And you picked them.”

“I don’t like this game,” Smithann replied, “it seems kind of boring.” She threw the final two cards up into the ceiling where they stuck and then froze into the wall.

Then to their surprise the women on the cards got up and walked off of their grid, upside down onto the ceiling, dodging icicles and making their way to the walls.

“Where are they going?!” Fritz yelled.

“Calm down… calm down.” Smithann said as she watched the regal women slowly make their way across the frozen ceiling and down onto the walls,

“Maybe they got bored of all that flower and pond action…” Smithann chuckled and continued to stare mystically at the tiny women.  They were even smaller than Fritz, and he was only 3 inches tall!

Smithann wondered if either she or Fritz should go talk to them first and concluded that since she would probably seem huge to them like a golly green giant that Fritz should go say hi.

“Go say hi.” she said, “and be nice.”

Fritz walked over to the furthest wall of the freezer where the first woman was headed.  It was the wall way at the back of the walk-in freezer, isolated and partly submerged in the dark.  The light bulb shaped square flickered and Smithann wondered why it would do that.

“And Fritz,” she called to him, “I don’t know why I’m saying this, but be careful okay?”

Fritz nodded but as he neared the tiny woman she suddenly let out a wild banshee shriek and leapt from the halfway point on the wall.  As she flew through the air towards him her red robe fluttered massively behind her and her face screwed up tighter and tighter.  Her red-clawed hands were stretched out in front of her and Fritz wondered if they were what was helping her glide so awesomely.

He moved quickly to the left and she slid in a few feet past him like she was sliding into home base.

“Um… hello there,” Fritz called down hesitantly to her, “…and how might you’re day be going so far?” he asked.

She curled up into a loose ball with her arm draped over her knee and her head resting on top of that arm.  It was kind of like how she was before on the her card but without all that other stuff.

“Er…I umm…noticed the fine material of your garment,” Fitz said, “It is very…”

“I wish everyone I knew was dead.” she mumbled down into her arm.

“Um… pardon?” Fritz leaned over closer to her, “Surely you do not mean-“

“I wish…” she looked up suddenly into his eyes and Fritz jumped back, “everyone… I knew…was…dead.”

Fritz just stared at her. Stunning! he thought.  Simply stunning.  Her wild and dewy emerald eyes twirled in her head and her red, red lips glistened as tiny little icicles froze on her lips and drifted away into the freezer.  Fritz leaned in a little closer.

“Well,” he said, “uh… I guess me too.  I wish they were too.” He couldn’t believe what he was saying.  Why was he saying this?

“DEAD!!!!!” she shrieked and leapt up into the air and did a little uppercut hook and then another jab into the air.  Then she went suddenly still and dropped her arms flat onto the sides of her body.

Fritz watched as all the emotion drained from her face.  “Dead.” she whispered and he nodded and walked closer.  “Me, too.”

“Fritz!” Smithann yelled, “whadaryou doin’ back there?”

“Oh, oh!” Fritz snapped out of it and shook his head, “Yes, yes, we are conversing.”

“Good!” Smithann yelled back, “because I can’t find the other one.  I lost her!”

“Mmmhmm…” Fritz nodded absently and walked slowly toward the red flowing creature. Beautiful! He reached out to touch her bare shoulder but she knocked his hand away and hissed at him. Somehow, her eyelids opened even wider and her eyeballs bulged from her head.  He waited a moment and tried again and this time she let him keep his hand there.

“Are you okay?” he asked her.

He noticed her shoulder was covered in dust, which was weird.  “Are your troubles from anxieties?  Fears?  Do not worry,” he said and tried to massage her shoulder.

“And what is your name?” he asked.

AHHHHHHHH” she screeched and reached inside her robe and pulled out a collection of huge gold moons.

“Wait… how did those fit in there?” Fritz asked.

AHHHHHHHHH” she screamed and hurled a huge gold disc toward the other end of the freezer but it shrunk down as it traveled and eventually disappeared into a point.

Suddenly the temperature dropped a few thousand degrees and none of them could move.

Fritz couldn’t really figure out how it had happened but they had somehow moved past the frozen point to some kind of beyond frozen point that was just very slow moving still.

But Fritz had jumped inside his sudsy wheelbarrow right before it happened. Now he cut through the cold with his mind.

“LADY!” he yelled at her in her mind, “you must be very frightened and I know that is why you are acting like this…” he said, “But for us, please, leave this aggression and put your angry moons away.  We will not retaliate to you or your fellow beings, please! We insist.” he said.

Fritz peeped his head up from his wheelbarrow and noticed that things were back to normal.  It was not one hundred thousand times below freezing and he could move again.

“Whew,” he said, “well that was something.” He got out of the wheelbarrow and squeezed some grey and floppy suds from his pants leg.

The woman was seething in a corner, twisting the corners of her red robe until her hands were raw.  Smithann came running up from the other side.  “What was that?” she asked.

“I am unsure at this moment,” Fritz replied, “but maybe it is unnecessary to find out, or rather, unwise… we must ensure that it does not happen again. That is the most important thing.” He reached into his wheelbarrow and pulled out a red book with gold lettering.  There was a smiling large bald man on the cover with a fancy gold watch.

“What is that?” Smithann asked, “…and how is it dry?”

“Do not concern yourself with that, I must read to this woman and it will calm her and encourage her to speak.” Fritz leafed through the book and came upon a battered clump of pages.

“This book has been proven effective with similar beings I’ve encountered and I am certain it will work again.” Fitz nodded and looked in the woman’s direction. “I must proceed. Excuse me Smithann.” He nudged his way past her and walked straightaway to the seething woman.

“Hello my friend,” Fritz said down to her loudly and slowly, “I will begin reading to you now.”

He cleared his throat, “I am reading to you from the book “SELF MATTERS, Creating Your Life from the Inside Out, by a Mr. Phillip C. McGraw, PH.D.” he said loudly, “It will help you.”

AHHHHHHHHH” the woman screamed and barreled at him full speed.

“Smithann!” Fritz yelled, “At the ready!”  Smithann swooped in and swooped the tiny woman up into her cupped hands and held her there.  She bent down toward Fritz and then opened up a little crack between two fingers so that they could peep in and she could hear them.

An angry hand burst through the opening but Fritz just prodded it back in and commenced his reading.

The Role of Choice.” he began, “We don’t begin life with the privilege and responsibility of making choices for ourselves. Typically, we don’t even begin to differentiate ourselves from other living forms until the age of two.  Your dependence on your parents or other adult authorities means that, during your crucial years of growth and learning, they were the people who made your choices for you.  Questions about what to eat, what to wear…”

After a while, Smithann could feel the thrashing in her hands quiet down and even her own eyes got a little drowsy and the last thoughts she had before she fell asleep was of piranhas and badgers, an African fish eagle that swooped down to grab a small monkey, it flew high above the water into the air and a ferocious wolverine bringing down a deer many times its own size.  Oh and a box jellyfish, shortening tentacles, and a killer nervous system, in that order.

 

“Sucked out by the vacuum of space”

“Sucked out by the vacuum of space” -a short story. (Part 2, Chapter 1)

coming in your television boxesPlanet BlinkA happy and you know this“Sucked out by the vacuum of space” -a short story, Part 7, section 2What’s wrong with Ben2Timeshey you asked me and I gave it to you

“Sucked out by the vacuum of space” -a short story, Part 7, section 2

What the hell are you listening to?” Ben2Times asked Natalianese.

She was wriggling in her chair and nodding her head to some unknown beat and it was starting to annoy Ben2Times how happy and content she seemed while tied up.  He was the one that should be that happy and here she was all tied up and having a grand time and he was free and miserable.

“I mean… can you hear it in your head or whatever or what?  Because I can’t hear it.” He said and pulled up a straight-back chair in front of her.  He looked down at the two twisty ties connecting her wrists together.  They had eased up on the rope and now he was wondering about that.  She seemed fine though.

“What do you care?  You wouldn’t understand anyway…” Natalianese said and closed her eyes and smiled a little real smile.  He couldn’t believe it.

“Well, it’s just that… Listen, I wanna know okay?  Is that good enough? All of this stuff is happening and I need to know some things.  Starting with this. How can you hear things in your head that we can’t and… and… what are they saying” He asked and leaned forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees, looking straight at her.  “Will you just open your eyes?”

“Why” she replied.

“Natalianese… don’t be difficult.  It’s me, Ben2Times.  You know me, we have history okay?  Now wait- first of all no one has to know about that and don’t go being a radio reporter all skitzed out and shit telling everybody about it, but listen, you know me.  Look at me.”

Natalianese opened her eye.  The other three stayed shut and that bothered him but he kept it to himself.

“Ok, that’s good,” he said, “That’s a start. Now…”

“I don’t know you.” Natalianese said.

“What?! You know me, what are you talking about?” Ben2Times replied.

“I don’t know you.  Who knows anything these days? Who knows when the bumblebee will?  Who knows when the working and THE BEST EPIC army strong theme song composed by Hope and IJa…”

“Let’s not do this again.” Ben2Times interrupted.  “I don’t wanna hear all of that crazy shit and I definitely don’t want to have to body slam you again.” he said.

Ohhhhhh Ben….. are you gonna give me the whatfor?” Natalianese said sarcastically and opened a few more of her eyes.

“Oh I see, now I have your attention.  Do I have to make you angry to get your attention?” he asked her.

“Oh I see, now I have your attention.  Do I have to make you hangry to get your attention?” she sneered back.

“Oh My God what a child.” Ben2Times said and got up, exasperated.  He accidentally knocked the chair over and it landed, really only slightly grazed, Natalianese’s wrist.

“OHHHHH OHHHH it hurts.  YOU HAVE INJURED ME!” she cried while all of her eyes flew open in a series like some sort of weird Jurassic dance.

“That doesn’t even make sense…” Ben2Times said but he did feel a little guilty for hitting her while she was still technically tied together.  He leaned over to touch her hand gently and inspect it.

She stopped crying and looked at him deeply. “Ben2Times… I need you to do something for me” she said and pursed her lips in a quiver.

“What is it?” he said and looked up into her eyes.

They were watering.

“I…I feel kinda silly saying this but nobody’s brushed my hair.  I need you to brush my hair, it’s so much easier.” she said and looked demurely away.

He felt his gut cringe and couldn’t really identify what he was feeling.  “Sure Natalianese, let me go find a brush, I mean… I haven’t seen one since we’ve been here and now that I think of it, I’ve never seen any of us brush our hair or brush or teeth or anything.” He paused and looked into the distance of the lobby of the Burger Bop. “It’s like it’s not even there or we skip over that part or I keep waking up and doing other stuff but not little stuff like that.  Do you?  Do you dream about brushes?” he looked at her and blushed just a little. “I know that’s probably a weird question and all right now..”

“I do.” she replied.  “I dream about brushed all the time.”  She looked down at the twisty ties, “…in fact, that’s all I dream about…. brushes.” She looked up at him again. “You gotta help me Ben2Times, you’re the only one I can count on…”

“Okay, I’ll go find one, don’t worry.” he said and strode off toward the utility closet. d

A lone letter ‘d’ crept up behind Natalianese and tapped her on the shoulder.

“You again,” she sighed, “you know I can’t turn all the way around.”

“Yes you can, what are you saying?” the letter replied.

“You know what I mean.  What do you want anyway?”

“I wanna play gin rummy again.”

“They’re not supposed to know, okay?  I’m tied up.  That’s all there is… go away.” She replied.

“But I’m bored.”

“Git Outta here!” she hissed, “and I mean it.”

“Fine.” the letter replied.  “But you will rue.”

“What?” Natalianese asked, “what does that even mean?”

“You know… rue.  Your body will definitely rue.  I will make rue happen to you.  Expect it.  Like Hans Zimmer.”

“WHAT the fuck does that even mean?” she replied and then looked at him suspiciously, “Appalachian?  Are you the Appalachian I’ve been searching for?”  “Are you a muscle inspiration?”

What? That’s ridiculous,” the ‘d’ responded, “I doubt I will ever have the chance to zimmer or even…”

“Natalianese,” Ben2Times said as he walked up and surprised them.  “Why are you talking to that ‘d’?”

“She will rue, that’s why.” the ‘d’ responded.

“Rue what?” Ben2Times looked confused.

The ‘d’ turned away without responding and Natalianese shifted in her chair.

“Where’s the brush?” she asked him.

He looked despondantly around the Burger Bop.  “I couldn’t find one, Natalianese I’m sorry.”

“Well here…. just use your fingers” she said and looked at him curiously.

He walked over closer to her and began to run his fingers through her hair.  There were tangles and a few rough binds but they snapped through and Natalianese moaned softly, closing her eyes.  But then all of a sudden her eyes snapped open and she glared up at him.

“Hey. Who are you?” she asked.

“Hey, it’s me, Ben2Times… you know me.  What do you mean?”

vacuum of space

“Sucked out by the vacuum of space” Part 5

“Well, how did we get here in the first [place]?” Ben2Times yelled down at Fitz.

“My good sir, please do not begin yelling assaults at me…. You were the one who opened the door, you were the one that walked into the Bubble, and you were the one who bid us all kin. Do you not remember?” Fitz shot back at him as he hopped between buttons on the raised control panel of The Bubble and shot worried glances at Smithann.

“Guys, guys, don’t fight. We’re all in this together,” Smithann muttered as she reached for the knobs and levers near Fitz, expertly dodging him while she experimented with the knobs.

“Smithann, you gotta slow down,” yelled Stephania. She was standing over a bin in the most extreme right corner of The Bubble, washing her lingerie in a sink.

“Why aren’t you helping and how did you get your dirty lingerie here anyway?” Smithann yelled over her shoulder at Stephania as she pulled down on one big red lever that said “Do Not Pull Here!” and shuddered.

“Oh save it Smithann…” Stephania mumbled. The kneaded fabric in her hand dripped liquid dots up her shoulders and over her head until they coalesced onto the interior curve of the transparent bubble right in front of her. Some of the liquid drops hung suspended in the air all around her and some climbed up the curve. A few sparkling pearly ones floated over near Ben2Times and he swatted them out of the air.

He was adept.

“Anywho…” Fitz half whistled, “Let us all continue to focus on the maintenance of this bubble while we are here and not get distracted as some are want to do in these days of our age and such trivia.”

They were all inside of a 60 diameter bubble, it was kind of like a hamster ball, except they didn’t have to run to make it roll, it just hovered about five feet off the ground and whished and wooshed to places silently in that manner.

No one knew how to work the control panel and meanwhile they could see all the people that looked exactly like them walking about on the green hills outside of the bubble. It was weird.

And Ben2Times didn’t like it.

“Why is he, I mean, am I, singing like that??? And what is he doing?” Ben2Times cringed, “Oh my god, look away… look away.” The goth him did a little sad head roll and grabbed a microphone from thin air. Ben2Times banged on the wall of the bubble trying to get him to stop that lackluster head bang thing but all of them inside the bubble seemed to be invisible to those on the outside, or maybe these object things outside just didn’t care. Ben2Times gave up and slid down the wall. He put his head in his hands.

“Don’t worry, it’s not a big deal… I’m not looking,” Smithann said without looking up at him. She pulled down a black handle and grimaced. “Besides, it’s not like it’s really you anyway… it’s just someone that looks like you, well… a lot of someones who look like you. And look, there’s me. And me. And me again. And look there’s Stephania, except she’s purple. Oh and there’s Fitz. Hello Fitz.”

“That is not me,” Fitz interrupted, “My dear, if you are going to label anything, you should consider beginning with…”

“Watch out!” Stephania screamed as all of the water shot up out of the sink, twirled in the air like a water hurricane, hovered over the control panel for a few seconds, and then splashed down on top of it like someone had pulled away an imaginary wall or something.

“Look what you’ve done!” Smithann cried. Sparks and fizzes erupted from the control board and then fizzled out with a boring nothingness.

“Uh oh.”

“Who said that?” Ben2Times yelled.

“Said what?” Smithann asked and they all turned to look at him.

“Where’s Natalianese?” he gasped.

They all looked at him in a strange way. “Don’t you remember? We left her tied down at the Burger Bop…” Stephania said, “Are you okay?”

“No. I am not… okay.” He said and put his head back in his hands. He peered down through the bottom of the bubble and stared at the blades of green strips that fluttered as they whished by. “I’m not okay at all.”

“It’s ok Ben2Times, cheer up!” Fitz chimed in and hopped down off the control board to pat him on the leg.

“No… go away Fitz.”

“I will not. I’m your friend now and I demand that you cheer up my good sir. Things are not so bad as they seem. They are looking up!” he said cheerily and did a little hop.

“Ohhhhh god. Kill me. Kill me now.” Ben2Times muttered into his hands.

“Ahh my dear chap… you do not mean it, I’m sure of it, c’mon, let’s all..”

Ben2Times leaped up from his depressive spot on the floor and ran full charge toward the nearest wall of the bubble.

Nooooooo…” he heard from all around him but he didn’t slow down. The next thing he knew, he was flat on the ground of the bubble, still on the inside, with blood dripping down from his forehead. He got up and charged for the other side, elbowing Stephania out of the way as she tried to slow his roll.

This time though, something different happened. He looked up expecting to find more blood but instead he was standing outside of the bubble! He reached down and felt the green blades and they were soft and pleasing. He looked up into the distant ball of fire that seemed so dangerous when he was inside the bubble but now didn’t seem so dangerous after all. It felt good. He reached up and wiped the blood from his forehead and ran his paw through his short silver hair. His checkered skin glistened. He felt good.

“Hey guys!” he yelled as he looked over to the bubble. But then he stopped short. 2 Things. First of all, his voice. That was weird. He had never heard it like that before. It was heavy and seemed to catch into everything around him. He could smell it. He reached out in front him to see if he could touch it too but was distracted by the distance of the bubble. Somehow, he was about 40 to 50 unts away from the bubble. How could that be?

He started running toward his friends and he could see them small like the small bugs not the big ones and he saw their faces worried, and Smithann was banging her head against the bubble, but nothing was happening.

“Shit.” Ben2Times said and tried to speed up.

“Shit” Ben2times said and looked over at himself.

“What? Who are– never mind, listen man, don’t bother me right now… I gotta go get my friends.” Ben2Times said as he picked up the pace… but his breathing felt weird, different.

“I have to go get my friends too, man…” Ben2Times said and peered over at himself.

Oh… fuck… it… all I… do not have… time for… this” he gasped as the bubble seemed to get nearer.

Nobody….asked…you…about…the ..t ime” he gasped as the bubble got way closer than he imagined.

Ben2Times reached over and stiff-armed the guy right near the jaw. He saw him veer off to the left but still keep a steady pace.

“Ah shit…” he muttered.

“Ah crap…” he muttered.

They both got there at the same time, but nobody noticed.

Ben2Times saw that they had somehow made a new hole but had covered it with a torn off section plate from the control panel. They were speaking to another guy that looked like him through an empty buttonhole.

He banged on the outer wall.

Stephania and Fitz turned around and saw him there along with the other and Fitz tapped Smithann on the shoulder. She took her lips out of the buttonhole and turned around to face him and the other. He saw her mouth move but couldn’t make out the words. He pointed to his chest in the universal symbol he thought was to say hey guys it’s me, you know me.

Smithann turned her back to him. So did Fitz and Stephania.

“Oh. My. God.” he thought and watched incredusly as his friends talked to this other guy on the other side that looked exactly like him. They must think it’s him. And what was he saying?

He trotted over to the other side of the bubble and immediately tried to stiff-arm this one but he seemed ready for it. His body felt like steel.

“Not a good sign” he thought.

“Not a good sign, he thought…” the other one said to him as it turned its head away from the speak hole with a crazed but determined look in its eye. It was scary. Unnerving.

“ohhh…. Extremely unnerving….” the fiend said as he kicked his leg out and slammed Ben2Times in the shin. It was all a blur. Smithann didn’t see it. No one saw it.

The imposter’s face instantly changed from pure hatred to some kind of puppy-dog desperate look while still staring at Ben2times. Then it snapped it back toward the hole.

“You know it’s me Smithann,” the thing said, “…come on, remember back at the Burger Bop, when me and Stephania burst threw the door and started helping you with all the letter ‘d’s and then…” the imposter said.

“Hey how do you know all that stuff?” Ben2Times yelled as he shoved it away from the hole. He put his mouth up to the empty space.

“Listen, Smithann. It’s me. I know. I know how these things go in the movies when the person has to convince the other person and there this whole big deal but listen to…”

“I can’t listen to this,” Ben2Times said and shoved him out the way.

“Listen. Stephania. Hey Stephania back there! It’s me. Ben2Times. You know what’s up. What color are my te…”

The third one ran around to the other side and started banging his head against the bubble.

Ohhhh that’s a good one… shit…” Ben2Times thought, “that looks like something I would do… fuck” and he ran around to the other side to start doing the same thing. Only better.

“Dear god! What do we do?” Fitz said as he removed a few of his filthy rags to reveal a black topcoat and caveat underneath.

“Fitz!” Smithann said “Why are you so shiny?”

“It’s…it’s who I am, my dear,” he replied and he whipped off his throwaway rag pants to reveal crisp creased black tuxedo pants underneath, “It’s who I’ve always been.”

Smithann ogled him and thought of fancy parties and top hats with dances by a bubbling fountain at moonlight and long rustling dresses and witty jokes and blushes and demure eyes and long handholding events and kind of got lost a little bit in the daydream.

So did Stephania.

So did all the other Stephanias and Smithanns outside of the bubble and they all stood stock still for exactly four minutes staring off into the distance.

At about three minutes thirty-nine seconds Ben2Times and the others were able to start banging on the bubble and yelling at the main Smithann and Stephania to snap out of it while Fitz just brushed imaginary lint off of his pants. What was wrong with them?

Then the Smithanns and Stephanias snapped out of it but started to faux dance with partners, all of them moving through the rolling green hills and…. ewww creeeepy… dipping themselves with flirting eyelashes. But then the ball of yellowy fire flipped around into a flat white disc. The sky darkened.

A cow trundled down from the top of the white disc with the help very shaky stepladder. It waddled up to the outside of the bubble.

It stuck its cow mouth up to the speak hole as they stared at it in amazement.

“Hi there. I’m here to help you get stuff done. But I need more info to help.” It said and then sat back on its haunches. It was chewing something in its mouth in a bored or distracted way. Was it gum?

Ben2Times yelled down into the bubble and banged on the outside, “Fuck that cow! Stephania… help me…let me back in. DO NOT leave me out here…. please…” He felt real actual tears well up in his eyes and he couldn’t imagine being left in this place like this with all of these Ben2Times.

Smithann seemed to snap out of it. “Why…why is this cow here?” she asked Fitz and bent over to shake Stephania’s shoulders. Stephania’s eyes rolled back to the forefront of her head and she looked down at Fitz. She thumped him across the bubble.

After he trundled back from the other side of the bubble Fitz steamed and glared at her. “Just look at my suit,” he demanded as Stephania readied her hand to thump again but Smithann grabbed her.

“Stop it, Stephania. Just stop it. We don’t need this right now we have to figure out what this cow wants and how to find the right Ben2Times and get the hell outta here.” she said.

“Ok…ok… let’s see. Let me talk to the cow… I’m good at this kind of thing.” Stephania said.

She walked over to the hole and stuck her finger through it, pointing to the cow who was actually standing right in front of it so that was weird, why’d she do that?

“You. Cow. Listen to me… WHAT THE FUCK do you want here?” she said and leaned back with a look of accomplishment on her face, nodding at them with smug eyebrows.

Smithann shook her head. “That was ridicu…”

“I can learn to understand you much better if I can get familiar with the way you talk…” the cow interrupted, “I need your permission to help.” It said and then sat up from its haunches to get closer.

“Tell it we need to find the right Ben2Times!” Fitz yelled a safe distance from Stephania but not near enough to the hole.

“It needs our permission!” Smithann shot back over her shoulder to Fitz. She was starting to get a little annoyed with his high and mighty ways.

Well give it to him Smithann,” Fitz replied and squinted his eyes at the eyes of his love.

“Uh oh.”

 

 

“Who said that!?” Ben2Times yelled by the bubble but no one answered.

“Who said that!?” Ben2Times yelled.

“Shut up!” he yelled and the cow looked over at him and spat a crumpled Fitz out onto the green soft shards.

That Fitz was still covered in filthy rags and Ben2Times noticed that the Fitz in the bubble now had on a shiny suit. Was he an imposter too?

The bored cow continued, “I need your permission to help. I can help keep you on time and help you to remember what’s important, but I will need more info. Let me help you.”

“Just give it permission.” Stephania said to Smithann.

Smithann leaned back over into the speak hole and said loudly, “I give you permission cow.” She looked back over to them, “I’m not sure if it worked…”

“Hey there.” The cow continued, “Can I be of assistance? I can learn to understand you much better if I can get familiar with the way you talk. Ask me anything. Need something?” the cow said.

“Maybe it can’t hear us…” Stephania said.

“What’s up? What would you like me to do?” the cow asked, “Anything I can get started? Hello there. Oh hey!”

“Oh wait… did you see that?” Smithann yelled as the cow started to foam at the mouth and turn in small baby step circles, “And look at the little sparks shooting out of its ears….”

“What are cow’s ears called? Ears?” Stephania asked as Fitz walked back over to the controls. A dim spark lit up near one button but he couldn’t quite decipher what the word next to it said.

“Yes, Stephania, ears…” he muttered as he walked closer to the dials.

“Hey guys we need to get outta here… and fast,” Smithann said as she eyed the now fast spinning cow. Steam poured out of the top of its head and from a widening seam in its neck. A high squealed shriek overwhelmed them and they all instinctively covered their ears, but it didn’t help.

“Is it in our brains?!” Fitz screamed, “It must be inside our brains!” he yelled and bear crawled slowly through the squeal toward the unknown button.

“Quick, Smithann, grab both of Ben2Times and pull them in the bubble!” Stephania yelled as the pain filled her head. “We’ll take them both with us!”

Smithann removed the broken board from the hole and both Ben2Times leapt inside the bubble. She put the board back and secured it as best as possible.

Fitz fought through the sound and the pain and finally reached the button. Now he could see the words.

“Hit Me Hard!” he yelled as he stamped the palm of his hand down on the button.

“It says HIT ME!” he yelled back to Stephania, Fitz, Ben2Times, and Ben2Times. “I pressed it!” he yelled and the bubble started to vibrate uncontrollably and lift higher into the air.

Ben2Times fell down off the side of the vibrating bubble and landed in the green blades right next to the electrical smelling cow. He couldn’t believe his eyes as he looked up into the air. “They’re leaving me!” They’re actually leaving me…” he cried as the bubble picked up speed, whooshed from his eyesight and vanished into the horizon.

“Hey there.” the cow continued, “I can learn to understand you much better if I can get familiar with the way you talk. What’s on your mind?” the cow asked him.

Ben2Times put his head in his hands and wept softly.

The cow suddenly stopped spinning and looked over interestingly in his direction, “Hey man… don’t feel bad. It’s just life man, get used to it.” it said and chomped up another Fitz who happened to be walking by.  Then the cow stood up and walked slowly back toward the stepladder.

Ben2Times lifted up his head just in time to watch it climb up into the dark and starless night.

What’s wrong with Ben2Times :sucked out of space

He readjusted the knobs on the milkshake machine, again.

“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong.” he replied and looked in the drawer. He wouldn’t even look at her.

Finally, Ben2Times stood up. “Listen, Stephania,” She felt her eyes start to water and tried not to let it show. Ben2Times kept talking.  “I…and then when… … to think that we may be trapped here in the Burger Bop for ever…”

 

“Well that sounds fun..” she giggled. “Don’t be so serious,” she said and slapped him on the arm.

He smiled.

She smiled.

All the letter ‘d’s smiled.

 

Natalianese frowned.