Chapter Fourteen: Old Yeller

An apology for how inconsistent we’ve been getting chapters out lately. (Ew. Finals.)

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Chapter Fourteen: Old Yeller

Yells and shrieks rise from the floors below us, and Rose’s father bangs on the door again. “It’s time to go, lass! My men will not be able to hold them off for long!”

I stare at the old, withered, Southern-belle-of-an-alien clasping her knitting needles so tight her knuckles go pale. Hopefully I sound much braver than I feel as I ask, “Who are ‘they’?”

She shrugs. Her knuckles go paler. The captain shouts an obscenity from the hall.

I am an assassin who has seen far too little violence as of late so—weirdo alien or not—I lunge at the old woman and knock away her knitting needles. I close a hand around her throat. I squeeze. “Tell me who ‘they’ are, Batty McBat Pants. Now.”

She clucks her tongue. “You will not hurt me.”

I squeeze harder. Her skin is hard, scaly; like a snake’s. “Perhaps you’ve forgotten what I do for a living?”

She raises an eyebrow. “Perhaps you’ve forgotten I examined your mind?” Despite the way she’s shaking, she grins. Her teeth are crooked, and five shades of yellow, and suddenly look not at all human. “I know you better than you do, Miss Mary. You don’t have enough anger in ya to harm me.” Her milky eyes narrow. “I guarantee it.”

“Ugh.” I step back, throwing my hands in the air. “I really do not have time for your creepy mind games, lady! And who are you, the Men’s Warehouse guy? Just tell me who the bloody hell ‘they’ are so I can go defeat them and the pirates can get on with the Sacrificing Me Thing! Okay?”

She cackles. “Darlin’, you cannot defeat them. No one can.”

The pirates are screaming bloody murder downstairs. Idiots—just because some mysterious enemy is destroying you, that doesn’t mean you have to deafen me. It’s not like it’s my fault.

The captain shouts something from the hall again, then bursts through the door. His blue eyes are wide, unwashed beard all atremble.

“We need to go, lass.” He glares at me, even though this clearly is all the alien lady’s fault, not mine. “Now.”

He grabs me by the arm and pulls me into the hall. The floor is made of creaky wood that tilts at a thirty degree angle so I keep sliding down it into him.

“What, is this the French’s idea of a fun house?” I pull my arm from Captain Delleray’s grasp, but his grimy undead hand clamps right back on again. He drags me towards a narrow, winding set of stairs.

His glare is as sinister as a Disney villain’s. “Hush up and keep moving.”

The pirates still sound like a band of dying cats downstairs, but the captain and I are the only two in the hallway. We reach the stairs, but instead of going down, he takes the adjoining flight up.

“Where in the world are you taking me, Jafar-Scar-Hans?”

“What?”

“OH MY GOSH HOW DARE YOU NOT KNOW DISNEY.” I yank out of his grasp again. This time he shoves me in front of him and blocks the way back down the stairs.

“I don’t know what type of blasphemous creature this ‘Disney’ is, but now is not the time for bickering.” He moves a step closer to me and I inch a step upward. “If ya don’t move now, we’ll both be goners. So git!”

The not-at-all manly screams of the pirates are getting closer. I take Rose’s father’s advice and sprint up the stairs.

Two flights later, the ceiling growing closer and closer until we practically need to crawl in order to continue up the steps, I come to a door barely big enough to fit an overweight Chihuahua, let alone a human. I shove it open and shimmy through it, but get stuck at the hips.

“Move, girl!” Captain Delleray hisses.

“I can’t—” My voice is a wail, and he shushes me.

Everything has gone quiet below us.

Even horror movie music would be a comfort right now.

I push forward, digging my toes into the top step. I wriggle in an attempt to dislodge my hips. But still I won’t budge.

Perhaps my ice cream addiction has finally come back to bite me.

Goodness, what I wouldn’t do for a tub of Ben and Jerry’s right now.

“A little faster, perhaps, Miss Hart?” Captain Delleray hisses.

“A little help, perhaps, Soon to Be Even Deader Than He Already Is Pirate Man?”

With a low growl, he shoves a shoulder against my butt and I sail through the doorway—into a place not at all like the roof I saw on the other side of the door a moment ago.

I’m standing. The room is bright, full of mirrors and computers. Rose stands across from me.

“Hello, Mary,” she says. Her tone is annoyingly tentative, like she has no idea what I’m doing here, when clearly she and her father worked together to make it happen. Or maybe this is just one of those stupid alternate dimension things again and Pixie Stick caused it. Who cares.

I cross my arms. The pirates’ screams still ring in my ears. My hips burn from scraping them raw against the doorframe.

I open my mouth and she rolls her eyes. She says, “None of this was my fault.”

“None of what?” I ask. “Abandoning me with your father’s crew so that they could drag me to French New—” I stop. Rose is clearly resisting the urge to spit. “You’re kidding me. You too with the ‘French’ thing?”

She shrugs. “We just very much dislike the French.”

“You’re a lot of bleeding idiots.” I step towards her, straightening my posture. “Anyway. I save your life, getting you off that ship, and how do you repay me? You leave me with the zombie pirates. Who then take me to F-R-E-N-C-H Guiana. Who then make me undergo this freaky mind reading thing at the hands of an alien—oh yeah, by the way, the Squishes ARE NOT THE ONLY ALIENS. And then some random ‘they’ people attacked, and all the pirates were screaming like sissies, and Daddy Dearest and I were finally about to get away, and now you drag me here?” I spin. “Where in the name of all that is good and American is here, anyway?”

“Here,” says a voice that is oddly familiar yet new, “is my superhero hideout.”

I turn and my heart leaps to my throat. “Wait, wait, wait, are you James?! ARE YOU THE TWIN?” My eyes widen. “Dude, it’s like an even weirder version of Randy!”

“I resent that,” says a voice that is perfectly familiar, and I turn a little further.

“Oh my gosh, Randy!” I have to resist the urge to leap at him, since any sudden movements could send him to the fetal position. “You’re alive! They told me you were dead!” I clap my hands together. “Thank God. Now I don’t have to feel bad for you anymore.”

“Um.” Randy scratches the back of his head. “You’re welcome?”

“So how did I get here?” I ask the room at large. “And where exactly is ‘here’ beyond being James’s superhero hideout? Also,” I wag a finger, “when exactly did you become a superhero, Thing Number Two? You didn’t mention that in your Christmas letter.”

James doesn’t answer, though.

I turn towards where he just was, and he’s disappeared.

“Oh no.” I stumble a step back. “Not this again.”

I blink and I’m gone too.

I blink again and I’m standing on a crumbling sidewalk in the middle of a dead little town. Randy and James are to my right. Rose and William are to my left.

“Uh, where are we?” asks Randy.

I glare. “So you decide to believe in teleportation now.”

“But seriously.” He stares at the town around us. A few pedestrians are out and about, but that’s it. The air is heavy with the moisture and electricity of a coming thunderstorm. “Where. Are. We?”

A kindly looking woman with curly white hair and creases at the edges of her lips stops in front of us with a smile. “You’re in Hell—”

Rose squeaks. My shoulders sag. “Great.”

“—Michigan.”

“Even better.”

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