Stupid. Dumb dumb dumb.
What do we do?
Maybe we jump out of the car?
The car cut across the empty lane and careened around a corner, surging in acceleration through the next intersection, tires screeching as the car slid around another corner and then wrenched to the side of the road, slamming to a stop at the curb.
“Ge’tha fuhckout an’ walk.”
Kid looked up from the door handle to which he was clinging to see the gaping barrel of the gun in the monster’s fist staring at him, as the holder leaned over to snarl.
In the mirror Kid could see the three guys in the back slipping out onto the sidewalk, not looking at him, and closing the doors. The car plunged back into traffic, the gun not wavering at all.
Got to jump! Got to!
He is going to fucking shoot us.
We got the ropes!
The gun is pointed at our head.
I don’t want to die. I’m not done, yet!
Done doing what?
Ok. Plan one: don’t die. We can sort everything else out later.
The car swerved hard into a dark parking garage, down underground, where tired lights flickered behind little iron cages. Pulling into a spot in the empty corner of the garage, Ilk cranked the stick until the light in the dash read a dark red ‘P’, and twisted to lean close to Kid, hot breath in Kid’s face.
Like a dog.
A hungry, angry dog.
“I thaw fuggen Petey hit you witha’ blade,” the gun barrel flicked a wave from Kid’s waist back to his face, “Wha’tha fuck’th up.”
Kid reached to down to grab the hems of his sweater and shirt and dragged them up to his ribs, holding still as Ilk leaned close, Kid trying not to flinch as Ilk ran his fingers up the coils and failing.
“Ropeth,” He sat back, gun resting more relaxed in his grip, let out a short laugh, “fuggen ropeth.”
Maybe he was just curious?
He’s relaxed. Maybe we bolt now?
Faster than Kid could track in the dim light, Ilk shot out a hand, snatching Kid where his shoulder met his neck, and clamping down like a set of bladed pliers, wrenching Kid around, smashing his face into the corner, where the seat met the hard, cold glass of the window. Kid flailed an arm, tried to jab his heel at Ilk’s face, his balls, his throat as the window fogged in the flare of panicked breath.
Ilk smashed the butt of the gun into Kid’s upper leg once, and twice. After a moment he smashed Kid’s leg a third time, and Kid fell limp, and he heard.
Wa-as that a whimper?
I think th-tha-at wa-as u-uh-uss-ss.
Kid’s waist jerked, as Ilk tugged where the rope coils tucked into his pants.
“Le’th thee ha’far them fuckerth go.”
A hard jerk pulled the waist of Kid’s pants past his hips, shoved down to his knees, binding them together before they were pinned to the bench seat by a shift of Ilk’s knee, freeing the hand that wasn’t pressing Kid’s face to the window to work at the buckle of his own pants.
Wh-what is happening?
What the guys warned us about.
But what is…
Kid felt his body get bent in half, squeezed from the pincer grip at his neck while his legs got shoved closer to the door by the knee holding them in place, one bare hip sliding up the velvety back of the seat while the other received a bruising grip from the hand no longer busy with Ilk’s buckle.
The knife! Isn’t this exactly why we got a knife?
On the belt, trapped beneath our legs and his.
Gah! Is that a finger?!?
DOES IT MATTER?
The hell with this. Block it out, we’ll hide in the memory cavern.
The interior of the memory cavern crystallized from the haze, the three internal representations of the boy being scrunched into the corner of a car seat standing, exchanging glances for a short moment, too short.
A crimson wave flooded through the cavern, shaking the walls and rattling the portraits representing all the books Kid had read, rippling the waters of the pool. Shady dropped to one knee, while Whiny looked like he had been punched in the stomach from the inside. Fuzzy looked from the walls, to his two comrades, and back.
Ah, this is probably a dumb question
It is. No. Not ok.
Agreed. That was rough.
What was that?
I think that was the
A second tide crashed through the cavern, deeper red and thicker, stronger, cracks showing in the walls, memory holders on the shelves bouncing and rolling. Fuzz reached out to keep several of the book-portraits from falling, turned to see the two others collapsed on the ground.
Can’t. Block. This.
I don’t know how much of this the cavern can take. What happens if it breaks? If our memories break?
Don’t want. To. Find out.
We need to go deeper.
You two go! I’ll do something here.
Shady shoved himself to a knee, and leaned over to help Whiny to the same. They staggered to their collective feet and fell against each other, arms flung round shoulders, lurching toward the door like the saddest impersonation of the game other children of a similar age played, legs tied together as recreational collaborative challenge.
Fuzz turned his eyes and attention to the challenge at hand: preservation of the memories, and the cave. And the others. If he could. The memories first. He turned a slow circle, eyeing the concept clusters represented by the topical organizational grouping of the portraits. A deep breath and a hard set to the shoulders, Fuzz dropped as deep into the well of his existence as he ever had, the way they all seemed to as a group when the world slowed around them, but more so, and he was alone.
In the depths of his innermost being Fuzz strained, going even deeper yet, until he seemed to be floating in aether, thickening around him like cooling soup, but brightening at the same time with a light that seemed fluid and tactile, moving in response to his motions in littles floating eddies and whirls. Fuzz flowed toward the area where the aether light got more dense, like the golden heart in the midst of an egg.
When his hand reached into the dense orb of fluid light, Fuzz disintegrated.
Observed: Shady and Whiny, staggering down the long hall, too long, why did we ever think we wanted a long winding pointless hall in our personal internal space, leaning against each other and with a reach, here, and a press, there, walking a little easier, heads lifted higher and Shady began to speak and Fuzz
Observed: the structural integrity of the memory cavern did not depend on the rules of physics and architectural distribution of gravitational forces through a series of supports, rather held from the inside out by threads and beams of this same fluid-light like so many nerves and sinews, bonds and buttresses degrading in each crimson flood, not so much of a difficulty, now, here, Fuzz
Observed: standard conceptual categorizations failed, floating above a field that was a globe that was a well that was a web, a network that was a node that was comprised of nodes that were networks, flickers and flares of filaments that were at once firmament of their own focus, some faint and fickle, others brilliant beacons burning bold and bright, and there, one of the smaller lights, a deeper hue the color of blood and fury, surged and Fuzz
Observed: the surging and swirling tide of the same kind of liquid light bathed the memory cavern in resentful reds, eating at the bonds holding the cavern together, driving Shady and Whiny to their knees and then all the way to the floor, cracking walls and shaking foundations, loosening the mounts holding memories in mind. Fuzz reached into the dense kernel at the heart of who he was, of who they were, and he pressed, held, tweaked and the water in the pool stilled, the portraits stopped rattling, and the tide passed, leaving the room intact, and the two others curled in the hall, and Fuzz
Fuzz knelt in the center of the room they had modeled after a cave buried and forgotten by the city above, feeling the disorientation fading as he surveyed the portraits which had all survived the last angry swell. Aware of Shady and Whiny collapsed in the hall, and the fading recollection of his inward delving, Fuzz rolled his neck, set his shoulders, and then smashed a fist into the floor by his knees, knuckles depressing the stone with uncharacteristic elasticity for a short moment as gleaming black ribbons unfolded, blossoming around his fist to wriggle and writhe like a dozen pinned octopi before stretching and snapping into place against the the walls of the memory cavern, crawling and climbing, elongating as they intertwined, crystallizing at each point of intersection into silvery mirrored tacks affixed to the representation of stone that comprised the wall, rising to meet again at the apex of the domed ceiling, settling into a sparkling lattice holding the portraits secure.
Fuzz rose to his feet and thrust a hand out to each side as though shaking off an unneeded cloak and the room flickered around him, bookshelves now shielded by a translucent cover that trapped all the memory representations safe within the confines of the shelves. Without even a glance at the modifications Fuzz accelerated through the door and down the hall to rejoin the others, who were struggling to regain their feet.
What. The fuck. Did you. Do.
Took care of the memories.
Later, grab Whiny.
Shady reached over to grab Whiny and haul the shivering body to stand more or less upright. Fuzz placed his hand over Shady’s, and the three felt a surge of reconnection, lingering wisps of illuminating aether swelling within them, taking the edge off the agony and leaving them with renewed strength.
Wow. Um. Thanks.
Still not great.
Where were you heading?
Good call. Let’s go before we have to deal with another attack.
The trio managed to reach a kind of jog, curving down the long hall toward the small, collapsed room at the bottom of an old concrete drainage pipe, where all of their recollections ended. Or began, depending on the perspective one took toward such things. Upon reaching the congested space the three figures settled on the rubble as improvised chairs.
Is this, are we . . . safe?
I doubt it. Fuzz, what the hell?
I’m . . . not sure? I think I figured out how to change the cavern, not just the kind of surface, cosmetic changes like adding a chalkboard, or moving the crates around, but like, REALLY changing it. I think I can change it to be stronger, and maybe survive . . . this.
Can we seal this room?
I can try.
Shady and Whiny turned to watch as Fuzz concentrated on sinking into their shared depth. Telltale reverberations announced the imminent arrival of the next tidal assault as Fuzz shimmered iridescent and discorporated. The two bodies still in the space rose to their feet as the rubble upon which they had been seated dissolved, melting into the walls which were smoothing and hardening and thickening, a door emerging and reaching across the opening to the hall, closing the room off from the rest of the memory cavern just as the wave crashed over them, rattling the entirety of the cavern and blasting open the door, rushing into the space and felling Shady and Whiny on impact before the door snapped shut and Fuzz emerged from a sparkling iteration of their usual haze.
I don’t know! I discovered this shit like four moments ago, haven’t figured it all out yet. Can’t seal the room without a door, can’t hold the door closed while trying to fix walls.
I’m trying! When I’m working on the walls I can barely even sense you guys, and when I’m helping you I can’t work on the walls.
I don’t know! Can you two try to hold the door closed? I might be able to hold the rest of the walls, and we might be safe in here.
We can. Try.
Fuzz turns again to the wall, shimmering and sparkling while not abandoning his form altogether, two brilliant extensions where one would expect arms to be raised to meet the now smooth sides to either side of the deepest corner of the room. Shady rose to half crawl toward the door, while Whiny just shoved himself into a roll, flopping against where the door met the wall.
No sooner had they settled in place than another piercing tide crashed through their space, tearing the door away from the huddled pair and flashing over them to hammer Fuzzy into the wall, wrenching at his shoulders but failing to dislodge his connection with the surface. The pulsing liquid aether whirled around the no longer so cramped space, tossing the two lying prone against each other, and together into the wall next to the door as it rushed back through the doorway, and down the hall, having left a trembling, crumpling trio in its wake.