Chapter 10, "A Crummy Thing and a Not So Crummy Thing"
If school was weird before, it was even weirder now. Hector had stopped showing up all together. I had no idea why. When I asked Christopher about it, she only grunted non-commitally.
It started to get pretty irritating. I mean, I didn't do anything wrong! All I did was use them for their knowledge of aliens. Hardly a cardinal sin, I thought. So what if they got the wrong idea? They should know better than to think I have the capacity to be decent to another human being.
So why is this bugging me so much, I wondered? Christopher and Hector's pain meant nothing to me. Maybe it's because I'm the one who's supposed to be the cold-hearted bitch, and not the other way around.
Finally, in a fit of confused fury, I stopped Christopher in the hall.
"What the heck is going on, Christopher?" I asked her snarkily. I noticed, with a slight bit of regret, that she no longer wore her name tag.
"Nothing, Frig," she replied lamely. Her reply was lame because I totally didn't believe her.
"I totally don't believe you."
"Well, you'll have to." She didn't say anything else, but she didn't try to get away from me, either. That could be due to my death grip around her arm, but I'm not entirely sure.
I stared at her meaningfully. I'm not sure what the meaning was, but you can bet it was there, and Christopher felt it. With her face.
Eventually, she sighed. "Listen. Hector is going through a really tough time right now. It's not just you - dad is putting some pressure on him, those jerk-faced bullies are harassing him hardcore...it'd just be easier for everyone if maybe you didn't come by so much."
Processing this information was sort of like trying to fit a gopher into a blender. It would go, but it would also make a lot of weird, painful screaming gopher noises in the process. See, as long as I've known her, Christopher always tried to be close to me, and that was creepy and stuff, but I got kind of used to it. This sudden shunning felt...strange.
But I didn't want to push her. I don't know. I had all these strange feelings mushing themselves around in my gut, and it made me not want to piss her off.
"Fine," I said, releasing her arm.
I thought maybe she might say something else, like, "Ok, well nice talking to you," or "See you around," or even "Bye," but she spoke no words. She merely walked off.
I tried to throw myself into some hardcore grumping in an effort to feel better. When that didn't work, I let Lou play me a few songs that he and Larry had been working on. They seemed to be getting better at synchronizing their musical efforts. So far they had a new song about toadstools and their effects on regional marsupials, and also a love ballad dedicated to trash can lids.
But nothing seemed to kick this obnoxious aching in my solar plexus region. In desperation, I turned to an activity I had never in my life practiced before: I decided to do some homework.
I had a backpack, but it mostly served to store things I needed, rather than transport learning materials to and from school. That seemed a silly concept to me. But I took the thing to my plywood reinforced room, sat on the floor, and dumped out the contents.
Books. Papers. Some chips I'd forgotten about that were all crushed into tiny little particles of chip dust. And a map.
A map to The Place.
I picked it up, realizing that I'd never actually opened the thing. It looked a lot like the maps we handed out at Amazing Land, except more yellow.
What the hell, I thought. Maybe it will at least tell me what The Place is. Christopher never gave me a straight answer. And maybe, if I was feeling super adventurous, I might go look for it again. I mean, how hard could it be to read a dang map? And probably neither of the Haberdash siblings wanted me anywhere near The Place now that they were arbitrarily shunning me, so I couldn't invite them even if I wanted to. Which I didn't. Because they're jerks.
It seemed like the perfect plan to me! So I opened up the map.
And I knew instantly why Christopher could never find it.
The map was freaking moving. Like it couldn't quite make up its mind on where things should go. It made me dizzy to look at it. I flipped it over, where it had a teeny tiny paragraph in the bottom left-hand corner labeled, "So you want to go to The Place?"
I read it: "This is your map to The Place, an intergalactic melting pot of time, space and dimensions. A hot spot for alien activity, The Place is frequented by many alien species looking to gain access to the many delights Earth has to offer. Due to the chaotic nature of The Place, it's never in the same location twice. So good luck with that!"
I snorted. "Way to be completely unhelpful, crappy map blurb," I sighed aggravatedly. I folded up the worthless piece of paper and crammed it in the pocket of my jeans. I was wearing jeans, yes, I'll admit it. Sometimes I wear jeans.
So I went to the park to try and find The Place, okay? Is that so wrong? Stop giving me a hard time about it. It's what I felt needed to be done. Probably I wouldn't find it, especially without Christopher, but whatever. Aliens are aliens. Part of my heart wondered if maybe...but I dared not dream that dream. That slimy, tentacled dream. That "X" rated dream. If you know what I mean. You see, because his name started with "X". It's very clever.
I prepared myself for a long, arduous trek to nowhere. This seemed a stupid endeavor, even for me, who did stupid things all the time. But about two seconds into my journey, I found myself standing in front of an ornate, flashing marquee reading "WELCOME TO THE PLACE!"
"Oh," I muttered to myself. "That was easy."
Glancing around, I could see why Christopher was so pumped about bringing me here. There were tons of space ships lying around, looking as though they crashed here and got stuck. It appeared as though a small, come and go sort of town had set itself up around the wrecks. The Place looked pretty empty right now, but there was still tons of intergalactic mishmash to futz around with, should one feel so inclined to futz.
However, all this space crap did not enthuse me. Rather, it made me upset. Upset that I'd somehow pissed off people that were nice to me, upset that I no longer had a sexy boyfriend because he was a moron, upset that I hadn't eaten a big lunch, because my stomach was starting to grumble.
I gave up, deciding to go home. The Place was too depressing. I mean, there weren't even any live aliens here right now to talk to and bother. I turned away from the flashing marquee, from my hopes and dreams-
-when I heard a cough. It was a very tiny cough. A microscopic cough, if you will. I turned back around, cautiously, in case the cougher had malicious intentions.
"Hello?" I called foolishly, because if the cougher had malicious intentions, extending a friendly greeting may have been unwise.
"Friggen' Gorgeous?" a small, barely audible voice replied.
"Yes? That's me?" I probably should have been concerned that some invisible being in an alien hot-spot knew my name, but whatever. I was bored.
"It is I," the voice sputtered weakly. "Your arch-nemesis."
"Really?" I cried. I'd always secretly wanted one of those! "I can't see you."
"I'm down here," the voice instructed carefully.
I looked down at my feet and saw nothing. "Down...where?"
"Oh, for pete's sake..." the voice grumbled angeredly. I heard a small pop, and jumped back as an itsy little baseball-sized sphere appeared at my feet. "Better?"
"Who are you?" I asked, still not sure what the crap was going on here.
The little sphere whizzed up to my face, and I was now eye to eye with the tiny creature inside. "I am Cliff!" the creature proclaimed, thrusting its teensy arms in the air. "I am here to seek my revenge!"
"Cliff?" I repeated needlessly. "Revenge? For what?"
"My parents are dead because of you," Cliff yelled accusingly. He waggled one of his tiny fingers at me. Man, he was so freaking cute! His little body was completely covered in lavender fur. His eyes were way too big for his head, and over-sized eyes are always adorable. He had a tail that wiggled when he got all excited about talking revenge and stuff. Oh, I wanted to tickle his widdle feetses! SO CUTE.
"I'm pretty sure I don't remember killing anyone's parents," I told him, resisting the urge to add "Coochy-coochy-coo!" at the end there.
"They died, fighting the good fight, in a noble Tallybonker war."
My brain clicked. Things made a little more sense now. "You're a Tallybonker?"
"Aren't Tallybonkers...um...really really small?"
"I borrowed my father's magnification bubble. He doesn't need it anymore, since he's DEAD and all."
I snickered a little. "Magnification bubble?"
"Yes, what of it?"
"It's just that...you're so cute!"
"Please, do not belittle me," Cliff harangued.
"How can I belittle you?" I snorted, trying to keep a straight face. "You are already so little!" It's a funny joke that I made. A shame Cliff did not laugh with me.
Instead he yelled, "SILENCE!" So I got silent. "Because of you, my parents are dead. It is now my unceasing goal in life to end your existence as well. I hope you are prepared for a world of pain and suffering, the likes of which you have never experienced."
I grinned. The more riled up he got, he did this little hopping thing. I wanted to pinch his cheeks.
"Okay!" I cooed patronizingly.
"I hate you so much, Friggen' Gorgeous," Cliff growled passionately.
"Okay!" I didn't know what else to say! I mean, what do you say when a microscopic being in a dang magnification bubble is threatening your life? I don't even know! So I patted him gently on the top of his bubble, and walked out of The Place, Cliff hollering the best his weensy little lungs would allow.
The "Other" Chapters
You guys, I don't know about you, but I had an Awesome Time this weekend. We had that whole extra hour, into which I crammed an hour's worth of Good Times. I hope you too also had Good Times! But it is now time to throw ourselves headfirst into that most harrowing of annual events, NaNoWriMo. I haven't even started yet. THIS SHOULD BE AWESOME.