Victor had passed the cheese, deli, and miniature appliances (a small exhibit for the small consumer), as well as the expired deli, and a room full of vending machines-- and he was now amidst refrigerated human beings as still as death: the Horror section. The aisle directly to his right had its end covered with what looked like the vault door of a bank. Above him, breakfasts and multi-colored cinderblocks rained down from the sky thudding against Null-Mart’s roof.
"Geeze!" Victor flinched, as a red cinderblock came crashing down to the floor through a hole in the ceiling some thirty feet from him.
His cart was almost twice as full as before with all sorts of cheeses due to his grandiose plans, similar but different from the modest breakfast food tastes of Mr. Greary. The wrinkled, classy gent strolled through the Horror Section on the store fringe, content with his future purchases.
He looked down affectionately at his stockpile, "..cheese.."
In front of Victor some feet away was none other than Malluso, who was holding up the arm of a body for a second before dropping it. A leaping caravan far behind Malluso went making some noise as it busted a crevice in the ceiling open further, chasing after a miniature hot-air balloon that was drifting up towards the sky. The marble-headed man turned his head over to the cheese enthusiast and stared, his face unable to do much more.
The army of people in medieval and military outfits, of various degrees of authenticity, had all but vanished, scattered across the store in battle with the caravans. Only one would-be warrior remained near, in kevlar, laying sideways on the floor, and running in a circle like his left arm was the bottom end of a top.
Victor pushed his cart next to Monsieur with a faint smile that subsided at the sight of the bodies stacked across the refrigerated shelves, “Sleeping in cold places can never be good for dreaming.”
Malluso nodded before his jaw crackled upon, “It is good to put bread on cookies to keep them soft, and bread’s sponge-like properties help toothaches. I occasionally come here and dump bread on these people with hopes it may help in some positive attribution.”
Victor eyed the various bread products which were sprinkled about the dreamers.
“Your savior complex proceeds you Monsieur Malluso.” Victor chuckled, opening up a bag of cheese, pulling out a slice and dangling it in front of him. “But are you a fan of cheese?”
“I would buy all the cheese here if it would stop the protests outside. Why do you have so much of it?”
Victor straightened out his spine to an uncomfortable verticality in conflict with his utilization of a cane, “I have thoroughly planned out a Haunted Cheese Party.”
Malluso took out a red handkerchief with thin black patterns proceeding to wipe his mouth, though it seemed he hadn't ate anything. “It sounds like quite the idea. What prompted it?”
“I am not sure,” Victor shrugged, pulling some warm string cheese out from his pocket. “I have always enjoyed the exquisite nature, texture, and taste of cheese."
"Something to contemplate." Malluso replied, his hand on his chin.
"It leads me into contemplation.." Victor held up a cheese string from the main string, both in his right hand and dangling in his gaze, "That there must be some underlying intelligence in our existence which governs my taste and tastebuds. But I think the terms of consciousness are something else entirely. What do you think of these things I speak of, Monsieur Malluso?"
Malluso searched his mind under a particularly pointy, softball-sized light-bulb; the dangling light gave holographic-like visibility to surrounding bacteria, luminescent heat in the vein of the star.
“I am only sure of practices altruistic and sweet, which bring about a grand contentment.. and well.. high blood sugar.” Pieces of Malluso’s jaw hit the floor like rocks and pebbles.
Victor tilted his head slightly, bending his back to its normal place, his string cheese eaten. He placed both hands on his cane and took on a full smile, “Somewhere in all that marble is a little boy clawing and gasping for air."
“Ha ha ha ha!” Malluso laughed heartily slapping the edge of the shelf with his leather-bound marble hand. “Not quite."
* * *
Syll and Lacie made their way through the inside of the underground fortress’s narrow halls. Electronic torches pointing in all directions lit the corridors, some torches going inside indents in the walls as if forcefully placed there. The walls were slanted inwards as they traveled up with large triangular bolts for each tall section. Empty picture frames dangled off of the ceiling from kite strings and tiny fragments of mirror glass trailed between the floor and walls. The two women went on their way determined to find Ecila and the aisle of mirrors.
Meanwhile Cuithbeart stayed behind to take Same up in his wash-bucket apparatus, and have her repaired with the help of The Midnight Brigade.
“So.. are you and Victor an item?" Lacie asked.
“Oh no, we just came here to buy those." Syll replied.
Lacie‘s left eyebrow went up. “...”
To the girls’ right there was an enormous-sized, plastic bear-shaped container a little less then half-filled with honey. Seeing as the technacles didn’t have mouths, Lacie wondered who would’ve used it.. and on what dish. There were scratch marks on the face that read, “DO NOT TOUCH. Abdon's honey.”
The two eventually came to a shut door on their left.
“Well.. should we go on in?” Lacie asked Syll.
“After you microscope spectacles.” Syll said warmly.
“I forgot all about these.." Lacie replied feeling her protruding eyes. "I guess it doesn’t matter if I leave them attached.. I hope.”
Lacie wasn't sure if she could even unattach her eyes. Slowly, the girl turned the knob and pushed open the light-blue door.
They ventured into a medium-sized room with crab grass that was growing out of soft soil floor. There were walls made of rock, excluding where the doorway was, with a silver and white checkerboard ceiling, and a glimmering pond with rainbow fish. There was a large dry-erase board up behind a hefty, pale, middle-aged man with his badly-dyed brown hair combed to the side. He sat on a lowered, padded stool with a white dress shirt and light beige pants with black dress shoes. He had a disturbed face, was facing the empty space and doorway, and stared without blinking.
“Uh.. hello?” Lacie raised her hand in the air as if to wave but not actually moving it beyond that.
The stranger had a raspy voice, “Hello Lacie and Syll. I knew you were coming because I am a book. Come, have a seat.”
After looking around for chairs and not finding any-- and being afraid to ask their host about it, the two visitors reluctantly sat down on the organic ground.
“So you are a book?" Syll asked.
“Historians are prone to the end of their history. I am a history book. One of N’Quevna’s five. I was drawn into creation rather than written. Drawn as a book. Posing as a man. Neither, nor.” The man adjusted his small glasses, his big nose pointing out downwards from underneath.
Syll posed a hand on her chin, strips of cloth dangling from her arm, while her blank face showed eyes of interest, “How strange.”
The history book looked at Lacie with a gleam of urgency, “You live in this madness until it has lived in you.”
“How do I leave this place?” Lacie plead, unsure in asking.
Syll dropped her arm back down to her lap with the other one. She sighed as if being insulted.
“One way might work, it also might not. Based on history, you simply must tell yourself firmly and out loud,” The man or book got up from his seat with a lean, and the rest was whispered into Lacie's ear discriminately before he sat back down.
“But why.. why that way?” Lacie’s voice broke and her eyes would’ve welled up with tears again, but it was too hard with them being lenses.
“I make no guarantees. After all, I'm balding.”
“Well then.. where-- where is Elizabeth?!”
“Elizabeth is where you first found her. But do not be fooled. You will both be in great danger if you do not stop the fearful events of fear which have been put in place by The Black Cloud. Though there are different results for different choices, calories and all.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your best bet will probably be continuing to do whatever it is that you intend. I cannot predict the future and have no more information or suggestions for you. Please leave.”
“But--” Lacie returned.
The man went back into a stare at the doorway and his form shifted into a drawing on the board behind him.
Lacie stood up dumbfounded.
Syll slowly got up having been silently thinking to herself while the two talked. She placed her hands on Lacie’s shoulders and looked her in the lenses, “Stop worrying, we’ll find a way. With little to no security.”