Chapter Two: The Hobbit

Julia here, with Chapter Two of This is a Book Too! A reminder that Mel’s chapters are from zombie-ghost-pirate Rose’s perspective and my chapters are from on-the-run assassin Mary’s. Thanks for reading!

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Chapter Two: The Hobbit

Randy’s expression is unsettlingly confrontational.

“Don’t you have some bunnies to go hide from or something?” I ask as we descend below deck. Thank God PWNBEIBER—the top-secret spy organization that was top-stupid enough to pair the two of us together in the first place, a year ago—decided to supply a boat for our voyage to the United States.

Or is it a ship? I haven’t had reason to learn boat lore with Rose around, luckily, but the further from London we get, the more proportionally prissy and grouchy she becomes, so I’m going to have to start Googling things soon so I don’t sound like an idiot.

Ugh. She’s so selfish.

Randy doesn’t respond so I continue, “The bunnies too fierce for you? Still having Monty Python nightmares? How about some nice little squirrels or mice. It’d be pretty easy to cower from those.”

Randy spins. His form takes up the entire narrow stairwell even as he hunches, since he’s too tall for any of the areas below deck, and his light eyes are livid. “Mary. Are you really going to talk to me about mice after what you told me about that imaginary talking mouse back at your imaginary evil castle?”

I roll my eyes and step down a stair towards him until only one lies between us. Randy’s eyes dip from my face to my feet—his skin pale in the dim light—and he turns and stomps his way to the bottom of the stairs, unable to take such close proximity to me.

I brush past him in the hall and head straight for the living room-type area that’s really just a couple of ratty beige-ish couches bolted to the walls. “How many times have we discussed the fact that these things are not figments of my imagination, Randilyn?”

“How many times have we discussed the fact that you shouldn’t be going to America, Marilyn?”

“You basically just called me ‘Maryland,’ as in the US state. Proof that I should be back in my home country, AKA the best and only worthwhile country in the world.” I flop back on a couch and a cloud of dust poofs around me. I cough. “Say, Randy—my good man tied for least favorite companion with one un-ghost-like ghost—where are you from, exactly, anyway?”

He stops in the doorway to the living room. His mouth pops open like he is surprised by my taking an interest in his life, which I guess he has good reason for, seeing as Randy is an exceptionally boring individual for a professional thief. “Canada.”

“Aren’t Canadians supposed to be super un-confrontational?” I snap my fingers. “Oh! That explains it!”

“You’re lucky no one just pushes you over the rail.”

“Based on how worried you are about the US government coming after me, I think we both know you’d stop that from happening, Jack.”

“I will let go of you, R—” His mouth snaps shut before the rest of the name can escape.

I raise my eyebrows. “Seeing as how ‘seeing is believing,’ with you: You now know Rose is real. Why can’t you believe me about the rest of it?”

“Why do you simply not understand how dangerous letting you roam free in New York City will be, when the entire country is out to kill you after you ran over that politician with a double-decker bus?”

“Hey now,” I retort, unable to hide the offended tone from my voice. “The tourists thought it was pretty cool.”

“Actually,” he furrows his brow, “based on the police reports PWNBEIBER collected, most of them explained the event as ‘horrifying,’ ‘terrible,’ or ‘unbelievable.’”

“‘Unbelievable’ sounds like a pretty horrifyingly, terribly, awesome adjective to me. Depending on context. And, you know, I thought it was a pretty epic alien-related assassination. So context points to good.”

“They called it an international tragedy. Hallmark made a new holiday out of it.”

I wave a dismissive hand. “Everyone’s a critic.”

“Mary,” he intones, “you aren’t taking me seriously.”

I sit up. “You aren’t taking me seriously.” I rest my hoodie-clad elbows on my sweatpants-clad knees and stare him directly in the eye—for the first time in a situation such as this, Randy does not look away. My glower deepens. “Someone tried to blow us up a couple weeks ago with a bunch of newspapers from the future in our apartment. Rose and I went to an alternate dimension, time traveled, and met freaking aliens. A pixie told us to find a magical frog in New York City.” I take a breath. “PWNBEIBER obviously believes me that all this happened. Well enough to supply a boat-ship-thing. They’re a faceless top-secret organization that barely even knows me. You have been eating the delicious meals I make for you every day for nearly a year now. Why don’t you believe me?”

“Need I remind you that your ‘delicious meals’ consist of what you think of as the only one necessary food group in the world, which is ice cream?”

“So?”

“So,” he throws his hands in the air, “you are certifiably insane.”

“Don’t push me, Can-aye-d-aye.” I wag a finger at him. Before I can complete my beautiful diva move, though, the ship rocks to the side and my arm flies off course. I shout to the porthole window above the slightly shabbier couch perpendicular to mine, “Way to ruin my swag, Mother Nature!”

Mother Nature responds by tilting the boat in the other direction. Randy braces himself against the doorframe, but that doesn’t stop the side of his (practically empty anyway) head from smacking against the top of it. I flop sideways across the couch like a Squish out of water, or air, or whatever it is those darn aliens like.

Randy is paler than ever, but the angry clench has not left his jaw.

My tone is drier than toast. “Going to go hide in your cabin until the giant squid or whatever this is passes?”

Randy glares and steps into the hall, but then he turns back. His finger shakes as he points at me. “While I might not be amazingly brave, at least I recognize the dangers in my life rather than running straight for them with a bull’s-eye strapped to my forehead because, because I’m, well—you’re too scared to face the truth. Which is that you are afraid.”

“Hey now, brotha, when did this analogy stop being about you and start being about me?”

He shakes his head, brown hair bouncing. “You know, you deserve whatever you get.” Randy’s clomping footsteps disappear up the hall.

“What are you even doing here?” I shout. “Why did you even come if you don’t want to be here?”

The only answer is another Titanic-style tilt of the ship. This time I roll right off the couch. I yelp as something falls off the table in the corner and takes up residence on my stomach.

“Get off, you lousy bag of potato chips!”

“Tsk, tsk,” a small voice says. “Surely you Ugly is not dumb enough not to know I am not greasy American snack food.”

On my stomach rests a very cross-looking Pixie Stick.

“What are you doing here, Pixie Stick?” I ask. A second poof and Pixie Elvis appears with his butt planted on my kneecap. I roll my eyes. “Great. I’m like a freaking Pixie Park Bench now.”

I flail all my limbs and both the pixies take off flying as Pixie Stick lets out another angry, “Tsk, tsk!”

Leaning against the wall, I work my way into what hopefully passes as a perfectly dignified standing position, despite the ship’s apparent confusion about which way it should lean, and brush floor and Pixie-nastiness off my sweats. “Gah, Pixie Stick. What is it now, anyway?”

“The flower—the warrior approaches. You Ugly must intervene.”

“The only thing I got out of that is that you still don’t appreciate my gorgeous, chocolate-y trusses.” I flip my hair over a shoulder, but my fingers catch in knots brought about by the ship’s decision to act like a mechanical bull.

“Yes,” says Pixie Stick, tennis ball-wide eyes widened even wider. “You are the Ugliest of all the Uglies.”

“Well, at least I’m the best at something.”

“You must intervene,” it reminds me.

“Warrior. Flower. Got it. Can you try speaking in English now?”

Pixie Stick groans and smacks its face at my apparent stupidity. Pixie Elvis chirps, in a rather Elvis-like voice actually, “Rose is a pirate.”

“Ohhh. Rose. Flower. Well that’s one half done.” I try to untangle my fingers from the knots, but they just get even more stuck. “Wait, did you say is? No, that’s wrong. Rose was a pirate. Now she’s dead and works for me.” I scrunch my nose. “Wait again. That came out wrong.”

“The warrior! The warrior, the warrior, the warrior!” Pixie Stick squeals.

The ship lists so far to the left, there’s no saving myself as I crash face first onto a couch, my fingers still irrevocably caught in my hair. They should market this stuff alongside Chinese handcuffs.

Lips pressed to musty, stained fabric, I ask, “Pixie Elvis, do you know who the warrior is?”

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it for a time, but it ain’t going away.”

“Not exactly helpful.”

“Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.”

“What are you, an Elvis Presley quote machine?”

“Until we meet again, may God bless you as he has blessed me.” Pixie Elvis winks out of the rooms.

I turn my head so I can see Pixie Stick. “Well that was weird.”

It simply stares at me. “The. Warrior.”

“Okay,” I say, thinking it through. “Rose is a pirate. The flower is Rose. The warrior must be referring to another name—another pirate? DANG IT, PIXIE STICK, I DON’T HAVE A BABY NAME DICTIONARY ON ME RIGHT NOW!”

It sighs—a little, breathy sound. “Must. Intervene.”

I’m so tempted to strangle the thing, I might just rip my fingers out of my hair. “I can’t rightly intervene with whatever’s going down when my hair’s in the process of digesting my fingers, now can I?”

With a snap of its little pixie fingers, Pixie Stick releases my fingers from my hair’s death grip. “Intervene!” it shouts.

“Fine, fine, fine.” Using the wall, I stumble back to the stairs up to the deck, Pixie Stick fluttering along behind me. I climb with bloodless fingers clenched around the handrail. Out in the salty air with nothing but the open water all arou—wait, we aren’t surrounded by water anymore.

There’s a second ship.

Rose leans over the rail, a smile on her face for the first time in days while she—what is that? Is she flirting, or just trying not to cough up a lung?

Either way, Rose is chatting it up with a guy leaning over the rail of the ship opposite. This one is ancient compared to ours (for all I know, it actually could be ancient). It seems oddly familiar, but since I know so little about watercraft, they all sort of do.

“The warrior!” Pixie Stick shrieks.

That dead boy talking to Rose must be the threat I’m supposed to intervene. His name must mean “warrior” (lucky duck).

Oh my gosh. Dead boy. That boy is dead. Like Rose is dead. He’s a zombie-pirate-ghost-thing, too!

“What am I supposed to do, Pixie Stick?” I ask, but it just shakes its head.

“Too late.” A pop and Pixie Stick is gone.

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