August 2016

“Oh my god, your nose!”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s just a nosebleed. I get them sometimes.”

“That’s not what I meant. It’s purple! Your nose is bleeding purple!”

“Oh, don’t worry about that.”

“I am. I am worrying. This is me worrying! Why is it purple? Blood is supposed to be red!”

“If you must know, one of my grandfathers was a brachiopod. I inherited hemerythrin-based purple blood from him.”

“That’s really gross.”

“You should talk! Your blood is bright, bright yellow!”

“It’s not my fault my dad was a sea squirt! Leave me alone!”

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CARL: This is Carl Drake, play-by-play commentator for NBS Broadcasting, coming at you live from the 20Ω6 R’lyeh Olympics.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. This is Tom Hicks, color commentator for NBS Broadcasting, and it’s my honor to be providing color commentary for the Women’s 100-Meter Wizard Fencing.

CARL: We’re being broadcast tape-delayed by an hour in the continental USA, so everyone with an internet connection already knows how the match turns out.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. And let’s not forget that events are being held simultaneously, which means we’re only commenting on the ones the network thinks that people want to see. We won’t be saying a word about Demon Curling.

CARL: Not a peep. So it looks like Ignatia Verçescu of Transylvania is up in the first match. She’s an up-and-comer for the Transylvania team, and silvered at Stonehenge in the last Olympics. Looks like she’s warming up a Danube Disarming Dance.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. But Verçescu is up against a veteran with three golds: Attilia Aechylus of Atlantis. She took gold in ’88 at Tunguska, in ’92 at Lemuria, and again in ’96 at El Dorado. She was out for a few years due to the breakup of Atlantis and the civil war there, but now she’s back and hungry. See the Petrifying Petroglyph she’s warming up?

CARL: And there they go! A nasty hit by Verçescu on Aechylus. Looks like the Petrifying Petroglyph has fully fizzled and the Atlantean is vulnerable!

TOM: That’s right, Carl. Could this be the end of Aechylus’s run for another gold?

CARL: Don’t count her out, Tom! Looks like she’s got a little Protean Metamorphism up her sleeve. Verçescu could be letting her youth lead her into overconfidence.

TOM: That’s right, Carl, though at 21 she is a wizened old hag by Olympic standards. Aechylus, at 33, might as well be an Olympic lich.

CARL: Wouldn’t that mean she won her first gold at the age of five?

TOM: That’s right, Carl. Oh, and it looks like Aechylus got that Protean Metamorphism off!

CARL: Yes, it looks like Verçescu has been trasnmogrified into a squirrel and Transylvania is out of the running!

TOM: That’s right, Carl. Atlantis advances to the next round, where Aechylus will face off against R’lyeh’s native daughter Aesnath Phraim, a husk inhabited by the ageless spirit of a 1000-year-old ancestor. Stay tuned.

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BAJA BEIGE: So tell us about the special ingredients.

“PINK” ALLEN: Well, as you know, it’s tough to use a Doom Eye in cupcakes, as it corrupts whatever it touches yea unto seven generations. And the requirement that the flour had to be ground from the unbreakable shell of Xeper the Dawn-Beetle was a little daunting. Oh, and they wanted us to use pineapples. Those are the worst.

BAJA BEIGE: What about the handicaps?

“PINK” ALLEN:Well, I was forced to use my left hand as a special ingredient, so I tied a whisk to the bloody stump and kept at it. Then of course there was the 12-minute period where I couldn’t cause any chemical reactions or generate any heat. But I’d have to say that the most challenging was not being able to use real sugar.

BAJA BEIGE: And the final dish?

“PINK” ALLEN:I have wrought upon this wretched orb the curse of the Direcakes: a light and delicate vanilla cake, filled with the essence of the void and topped with human teeth for a delightful crunch. It has a dense chocolate filling sweetened with sacrificial blood. That’s what keeps it moist you know.

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Okay, so.

The animal control people felt really really bad about running over Mr. Snugglepuss. I guess I get that even if I didn’t like him that much, since he was a mean cat and likes to scratch Mom just for fun.

Mom had them come out to the back patio and gave everybody drinks from the fridge to thank them for taking the golden tiger away and for, I guess, giving Mr. Snugglepuss a quick death.

We were all talking and laughing so much (I think Mom was kinda relieved to be free of Mr. Snugglepuss too) that we didn’t notice the new guest on the patio.

Okay, so our neighbor, Mrs. Duddmore, is nuts. Crazy. Also old, but mostly crazy. Mr. Duddmore died before cellphones were a thing, and the little Duddmores never visited. So Mrs. Duddmore was all about her pets, which she kinda killed. On accident, usually from too much love. She had a mouse, a cat, a dog, a mini horse, a ferret, an iguana, and each time she got a new one they kept getting, well, weirder.

So the latest one was Crinkles. Crinkles was a skunk. And I know what you’re thinking, but no. He wasn’t one of those skunks they somehow cut the stink out of. He was a live skunk.

Oh, did I mention that he was dressed up like an armadillo?

Okay, so Mrs. Duddmore always wanted an armadillo as a pet. But you can’t have an armadillo as a pet because they give you that disease that makes your pieces fall of. Leopard something? Anyway, yeah, so Mrs. Duddmore always dressed her pets up like an armadillo. Little costumes she sewed herself. And I don’t know about you, but I’d be mad about being buckled into a silly costume too.

So Crinkles walked up, one of the Animal Control guys tried to pet him–why, I don’t know–and we all got sprayed. All of us.

And that was the worst night ever.

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Okay, so.

The golden tiger that escaped from the zoo was on my roof. I don’t know why, but it got up there and it couldn’t get down. Mom was kind of upset about it, even though I was all like “Mom, come on, there’s a wall and a window between it and us. It’s just a tiger, it’s not Superman.”

Anyway, she took me out of my room and called Animal Control. They took forever to get there. Mom wouldn’t let us go outside, but she seemed really worried about Mr. Snugglepuss more than us.

Okay, so, Mr. Snugglepuss wasn’t the tiger. Maybe he was a snugglepuss but that wasn’t his name. I forget his name. But Mr. Snugglepuss was our cat. He was 17 years old, mostly blind, mostly deaf, and mean. Like, the meanest cat ever. Like if the tiger ran into Mr. Snugglepuss I’d feel sorry for the tiger. Mom wouldn’t let anyone but her touch Mr. Snugglepuss and she still always had claw marks on her from trying to snuggle the unsnuggleable.

So anyway, Animal Control eventually came by with people from the zoo. They shot the tiger with a tranquilizer and got it down safe. I wish Mom had let me see the tranqulizer gun but she wouldn’t. And then they got the tiger packed up and put away and the Animal Control guy comes to the door. He says it’s safe and we’re okay and the tiger’s okay. But then he kind of stops and looks at his shoes.

Mom asked him what happened and he said that there had been some “collateral damage.” I guess he hit something? Yeah. The Animal Control truck ran over Mr. Snugglepuss. They didn’t even notice until they were going to leave and they saw his tail sticking out.

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Okay, so.

I was up in my room, right? It was nighttime, but it was still pretty bright because you could see the moon and Space Station V all lit up in the sky. I was up in my room on the second floor of our new house, okay? It has this little window that looks over the street.

And I heard this weird noise, right? Like a little kid sneezing, or maybe one of those little model railroads my uncle has. It sounded like chuff-chuff. I kept on hearing it fromt he brambly bushes between the house and the street that the old guy who lived in the house before us put in to keep kids off of his lawn. Then he died.

I kept on hearing that sound again and again, chuff-chuff chuff-chuff chuff-chuff. I called Mom but she didn’t believe me and told me to stop making stuff up.

Well, eventually, I heard a bang on the roof, which is also my ceiling in my new bedroom, and then that sound was super close, like on the other side of the wall close. Chuff-chuff chuff-chuff chuff-chuff. So I look out my window, and what do I see?

It’s a big cat, like a tiger but with sort of yellow blond stripes instead of normal ones. I screamed and it roared. It was the golden tiger Goldie that had escaped from the zoo a month ago, and it was trapped on my roof, right? Trapped and too scared to get down.

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The message appeared at 11:49:17 AM on Thursday, August 11, 2016. It was writ across every computer screen, every television set, every bank teller, every cell phone. People with headphones in heard it in an unrecognizable voice. Printers, from reciepts to inkjets, also conveyed the message. In short, unless you were asleep in Deerton, you heard the message.

It was this: “I’VE CHANGED.”

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