We’re black from our short (unplanned) hiatus! Hurray! Without further ado, here is the next chapter 🙂
There are two of them; two Randy-s. My head is nearly as twisted as my stomach as I try to process this new information. The woman from the doorway ushers us in and I’m sure I must look like an escaped convict, or at least a perturbed goblin, because I can’t stop the fear from encroaching on my stare. She’s going to be able to tell that I’m not fully alive. I can feel my skin becoming more translucent by the second as panic threatens to crawl up my throat. I look down at my arm: pale but definitely not see-through. I sigh in relief.
“What did you say your name was?” I say to Randy Number Two as I pass him in the entryway, clinging as closely to the wall as possible to avoid any physical contact. Whether or not he can touch me is one thing, but it’s still pretty hard to explain the whole ‘my body temperature is forty-seven degrees colder than the average human’s’ thing. And I don’t think “I used to be a ghost” is a good explanation for when the question eventually does come about.
Inside, we are ushered into a room with faded blue carpet and pale robin’s egg walls. The furniture too, though covered in a visible layer of dirt and dust, must have—at one time—also been blue. Now it’s a dingy gray that does nothing but make me sad. It reminds me of overcast sea days; nothing but a memory of clear, blue skies.
“James,” he says, as the woman mutters something that only Randy can hear.
“And you know Randy how?”
His eyes narrow at me as though this fact should be obvious. It is but I want to hear him say it.
“I’m his brother.” The words come from behind me and I spin around to catch Randy’s face caught up in a strange look—almost like fear—before it settles back into the I-don’t-care-about-the-world motif that is so familiar.
“You have a brother? And a mother?” I ask glancing at the woman behind him.
“No,” both boys say.
The woman folds her arms over her chest. “I’m their babysitter.”
An indignant cough arises somewhere to my left and a small voice cries, “You sit on babies!”
The woman and James grow visibly pale as a small figure swoops down from the ceiling. “Is that a—what is that?”
I make eye contact with Randy who looks like he might turn into a puddle, and so I do the only thing I can think of. With a quick reaction that can only be attributed to whatever ability is leftover from me being, you know, dead, I pinch two fluttering wings between my fingers and toss the small creature to the floor.
“This is my uncle,” I start. “Um, Elvis.”
“Was he just—?”
“Flying?” I supply. “Of course not, that’s ridiculous. He simply enjoys wings. He likes the way they are, uh, shiny.”
“Glisten!” The little creature says, dusting off the rump of his tasseled pants from his rather hard meeting with the carpet. “My wings glisten they do not shine you ridiculous child.”
I force a smile. “He also has a great personality.”
James nods but I can’t tell if he believes me or if he is merely attempting to understand what is happening. I can relate.
Awkward silence swoops in to fill the empty spaces, and it’s Randy, surprisingly, who is first to break it. “So you’ve both met Elvis,” he says, gesturing to the pixie who (thank the heavens) doesn’t attempt to fly again. “This is Rose.” He tilts his head toward me in gesture and I cringe inwardly. I didn’t realize until now exactly how much I could miss the anonymity of being invisible. “And over there, smoldering in a corner is William.”
Oh, right. William.
I glance over my shoulder in time to lock on to his eyes which are searing fire-tipped daggers into my back. I suppose it was my fault (kind of) that we ended up in this situation, but not a whole lot. In fact, the stare really is just too much. Of course I’m not going to tell him that because as much as I hate to admit it, I really would like to keep my new aliveness.
Will takes a step forward and my mouth becomes suddenly dry. Not good. Not good. Not—
“What now? There are two of you suddenly?”
James frowns. “There have always been two.”
“And what about this one?” He points to the Babysitter. “I may be from the eighteenth century, but even I know that what you call a ‘babysitter’ has a purpose among children. Unless you are referring to your mental state in which case, I fully agree.”
“Randy, why are these people here?” James no longer looks confused, merely irritated at the entire situation, and once again I can’t help but to relate. When I said on the ship that we needed to get to wherever we were going, this definitely was not what I had in mind. I hate everything about this America land so far, where people can replicate themselves and keep nannies far beyond the appropriate age.
“We’re looking for the Frogg,” Pixie Elvis squeaks, stroking his feathers with the tips of his fingers. His wig lies listlessly on his head, not quite centered enough to be believable, and his wide eyes practically glow against the dull walls.
Babysitter clears her throat. “The Frogg?”
“James Frogg,” I say, turning toward The Other Randy. “That’s you.”
His eyes flash wide. “No, you’re mistaken.” His voice shakes as he talks. “I’m only James.”
Randy sucks in a lungful of air, making everyone jump. “Except, believe it or not, it is you that we’re looking for.”
“No, Randy.” He looks pleadingly at his brother. “It’s not.”
William steps forward until his hand is close enough to mine that they could (just maybe) brush against one another. “Listen, kid, we know it’s you. You might as well admit to it before I decide to force it out of you.”
“Yes,” Pixie Elvis cries excitedly, “he’ll make you talk to the Ugly One.”
Randy’s eyes narrow. “Mary?”
The little thing huffs in annoyance. “That’s what I said.”
James glances between them, his eyes easily passing over me. Sure, no, I’m fine, thank you. “Who is Mary? Wait.” He pauses. “Mary, Mary?”
“You know Mary?” I ask and William glares at me from the corner of his eye.
“Clearly he does.”
“What are you doing, Randy?” James looks like he might lose his dignity in a moment and flounder to the floor in a dead faint. I look at Randy who stands firmly in front of his brother. Twin brother.
I cannot get past the oddity of the whole situation.
“Just tell them, James. We don’t have a lot of time. My partner’s been kidnapped by pirates, and I’m walking around with two that would love to kill me at any moment.”
“Wait, whoa there, Bucky.” I point to my face. “Are you talking about me? Am I one of the two, because when have I ever—?”
He doesn’t bother to listen to the rest of my mini-rant, turning back to his brother who looks more than a tad confused.
“Pirates, Randy? Pirates?!”
“Yes, well, they’re dead pirates if it makes you feel any better.”
“D-dead?” Babysitter mumbles.
“Ghosts,” I correct her. “We’re ghosts. And zombies.”
“And pirates,” James says, finishing the list.
“Yes, right.” I narrow my eyes at him, the green frog on his neck bouncing around as his Adam’s apple bobs up and down. “And you are?”
In a flash of bright, green light that is more than a little alarming, James disappears, landing gracefully on the coffee table a few feet away. He is no longer wearing the blue breeches and red shirt, but a skin-tight, green layer of slippery fabric that hugs his muscles tightly and disappears into a pair of equally strange and scaly black pants. A black mask is strapped across the bridge of his nose, and I can’t help thinking that he no longer looks like Randy, but a more powerful version of Randy.
He runs a gloved hand through his hair which stands spiked on his head, sighing. “The truth? Here it is.”
William scowls. “This must be a joke.”
“Quite the contrary,” Randy mutters. “Everyone, meet James Frogg. My brother and superhero extraordinaire.”