“I don’t know… I feel like something’s off.” Smithann scratched her head and looked down at the floor.
“I don’t know…I feel like something’s off.” Ben2Times said to Stephania and looked down at the motel room floor.
“What do you mean?” Fitz asked.
“What do you mean?” Stephania asked.
“Well, if I listen to him talking in my head it sounds like him but not really, it sounds like someone took over his voice, or maybe I’m talking to two people and… and I know… it sounds crazy.” Smithann said.
“You’re not crazy,” Stephania said.
“You’re crazy,” Fitz looked up at Smithann. “Why in the world would someone try to intercept Ben2Times soul and if they did then why even bother with the mystery? Why not just tell you?”
“I don’t know,” Ben2Times glanced around the room suspiciously, “It’s like they’re all here, all the time… saying different things.”
Stephania listened to the drips from the bathroom faucet. She vaguely heard Glen’s breath rasping in and out from outside the door but choose to just ignore that. He had stopped tapping on the window for now… so at least they had that.
“Oh I’m sorry I mean Ben2Times, I’m just gonna start okay? I’m gonna tell you what I know.” Stephania said.
She cleared her throat. “First of all, your name’s not Ben2Times, it’s Ed-“
Stephania rolled her eyes and fell back on the thin brown comforter. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to imagine something more fun to do. Oh, that was nice.
“Stephania!” Ben2Times yelled, “Stop ignoring me… you…you…..you’ve been lying there for 3 millenia blinking your eyes and making up stories, tell me what you were going to say!” Ben2Times pleaded.
“Oh,” she sat up and adjusted her buckle, “you’re still here.”
“Wha- you’re goddamn right I’m still here,” Ben2Times looked at her in astonishment, “I’ve been listening to you mumble on and on about sprites and ugly princesses and oars and far-away lands and I’m sick of it.” He stared at her dark green lips and thought of kissing her even though he was super pissed.
Just then he remembered the other Stephania, the real Stephania. He had to get back to his friend but he couldn’t help but wonder…were her lips as plump as this? Were they exactly the same or slightly different….Could he forget that she was just a replica? Or version? (he still couldn’t figure out what). He looked back from her lips to her pretty red eyes. “Snap out of it and just tell me.” he said.
“Fine.” she said.
“Okay, fine.” he said.
“Well?” he heard in his head.
“Oh shut up Glen!” Ben2Times roared.
“Whoa, whoa…” Glen said, “I’m just tryin’ tah figure out this mystery business going on…” Glen pressed his huge eye against the window and started tapping again.
Ben2Times leapt from the bed and charged toward the bathroom door head first.
“Wait!” Stephania yelled and as he came within two inches of the door.
And just like that, he was gone.
“Oh. Well I knew that was gonna happen.” Stephania said to the empty room.
“I didn’t.” Glen said.
“Ah… just get in here Glen,” she said and started to move the furniture away from the door.
“Good, it was getting cold out here.” Glen said as he saw the last wisp of Ben2Times dissolve in the air.
“You can take it.” Stephania said.
“You’re one to talk you get to be inside the room every time,” Glen said and removed his mask. “I gotta be out here in the cold groaning and tapping… it get’s old Stephania.”
“Oooohhhh…. it gets old Stephania… I’m so weak from the cold… I’m so aloooone…”
“Oh shut up you crazy bitch…” Glen strode through the door and plucked his eyeballs back into his head. “Whew… good to see again… ahhh you’re a sight, awfully green today I see..”
“Save it you old eye bag,” Stephania shot back.
Glen smirked. “You’re coming up with new ones, I see…”
“You’re eye stint gets cornier every time. And where’d you get that awful hand?” she plopped down on the bed and started unbuttoning her blouse.
“Can you take that in the bathroom? I think we’ve all had enough of your green tits… and you know Jenny#7 don’t like me seeing that, c’mon.”
“Ah, she likes to watch too.”
“No, no she doesn’t.” Glen massaged his eyeballs and walked toward the bathroom door. “And what’s with stripping down and all that hopping business? You’re taking it a little too far, I think. One of these days he’s gonna catch wise and figure out how ridiculous this is.”
“No… he’s not.” Stephania laughed. “I mean, every single time. He’s the same every single time.” She curled her body like a cat and took her shirt between her teeth. “It doesn’t matter what I do.”
“Well, I think it does,” Glen replied. He bent over and picked up a few silver hairs from the carpet. “Look, he’s shedding hairs now? That’s never happened before…. I think something’s changing.”
Stephania smirked and bounced around on the bed. Glen stared.
“Oh put your eyeballs back in your head…” she said, “He can’t catch wise, how could he?” She stopped bopping and jumped up suddenly. “Oh shit.”
“What? What? I knew it was something.” Glen dropped the silver hairs from his fingers and watched as Stephania ransacked the dresser drawer.
“The movie…” she muttered as she fumbled things around in the drawer. “There was a movie here and we didn’t watch it, didn’t even talk about it.”
“Oh yeah…. I forgot.”
Stephania kept searching. “Even if we don’t watch it, he usually pulls it out and we talk about it. Or we just watch the beginning before Tomboy barges in.”
“Wait, which movie?”
Stephania groaned. “Hmm…. I’m not sure. I don’t know if it was the one about the guy who starts investigating a writer and falls for her or the one where the waiter turns out to be the stalker or… oh yeah there’s one with a dead fairy. It’s usually one of those three except for that one time…”
Glen walked over to the dresser and then looked under the bed. “Maybe it fell down somewhere. Is this the only time you guys didn’t do that?”
“FUCK IF I KNOW GLEN-“
“Hey don’t get mad at me because you screwed up the-“
“Hey what are you guys doing in here?” Ben2Times stuck his head through the door.
“Oh hey Ben, we’re looking uh… looking for Glen’s money. Have you seen a blue duffle bag with a cross on it anywhere?”
Ben2Times shook his head slowly and his eyes got slightly bigger. “No… can’t say I have… was it a lot of money Glen?”
Glen looked at Stephania and then back to Ben2Times. “Hey, Ben umm… how’d you get here so fast?”
“What do you mean? And it’s uh… Ben2Times remember?”
“Oh yeah, um sorry Ben… 2Times um… where’d you go?” Glen asked.
“Oh I just went down to the vending machine to get some sodas and talked to Stacy for a bit, she’s-“
“Where’s the sodas?” Stephania asked.
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Where’s the sodas Ben?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Ben2Times ducked and dove underneath Glen as he catapulted him toward him in the doorway. Glen’s head slammed into the wall and he passed out while Stephania tried to make her way to the bathroom sink. She knew if she could just reach behind the pipes and get the package she could fix this.
“Not this time you crazy bitch…” Ben2Times pulled a fisher’s net out from under his shirt and trapped and tied her. She tried to dissolve or morph or spin but nothing worked. What kind of material was this?
“Wait Ben, I’m your friend! Remember?” she pleaded with him.
“Oh really, Stephania. So what was all that I hear about me not catching wise? Hmm?”
“No, Ben, you have to understand. We have to do this. It’s to protect you!” her eyes started to well and drop huge puddle tears, “If we don’t you die, not dematerialize, not just jumping planets, but really die, it happened once and you almost didn’t come back…” she sputtered.
“Is this your real tearjerker drama or you got an onion in your cheek?” he hissed as he tightened the net.
“I’m telling you the truth. This is what we have to do so you’ll get to the Burger Bop on time. You have to be there on time. The 1st. …and Emclog already ate the egg. So that means you only have three options left.”
“For the last time, tell me who’s Emclog.”
“I don’t know… he just signed the note…” Stephania stuttered.
Ben2Times tightened the net even smaller.
“Ahhh! Ow that really hurts. Okay, okay… he’s your partner okay?”
Ben2Times clinched the final space out of the ropes.
“Ahhh! He really is! You’re… you’re…”
“I’m what, Stephania, hurting you?” Ben2Times hissed and he noted real tears coming from her pores.
“You’re a spy! An interplanetary spy!” she sobbed. “There’s eleven of you….now… that we know of. Something happened… something keeps happening… and we don’t know how to fix it!”
Ben2Times dropped the net and sat down heavily on the bed.
Stephania blinked up at him through the net and reformed herself.
“Well, don’t just sit there… come on out.” he said.
She slid out of the net and crawled toward him. Then she curled up next to him on the bed.
“Let’s just take it easy for a while.” she said and patted his hand.
His eyes felt drowsy and he couldn’t stop himself from rubbing them.
“Look, there in your paw, let’s watch that movie and take a little nap or something….” Stephania whispered.
“Alright, well, wait… why do I have paws?” he mumbled sleepily, “…they’re so furry…” he chuckled softly “And how’s this movie in a box and not up in the air and where’s Glen…” he mumbled and leaned back on the bed.
“Shhhh… shhhh…” Stephania murmured and caressed his head. “Shhhh, let mommy kiss you there….” she crooned and put her lips against his warm and pulsing neck.
“Stephania.” Glen said firmly. He was raising himself shakily from the spot by the door. “Stop that. You know you can’t screw him.”
“Oh… Glen. You’re up.” she said and rubbed her body closer to Ben2Times.
“Maybe this time I can? He’ll wake up and let me, right? Just this once?”
“Exactly. You know the rules.”