Vibrant Night - Chapter 24

Chapter 24

“Thanks for letting me use your catapult.” Lacie said to the medieval futurist.  The space suit was now flying through the air towards the kingdom to which they all were planning to head to.  Lacie supposed she might soon find herself in a castle of some sort, but didn't look forward to the journey there by the appearance of the thing Greary had been working on.  The town above and below bustled with confusion and certainty, in each blackened and colored entity; and the lens-eyed girl noticed some odd entities in particular who were bricklaying across the road she had first walked down with Elizabeth, building what looked a wall.

The bucket-headed swordsman began untwisting a bolt from the wooden contraption, “Now I just have to fit it back in my pocket.”

Greary kicked around moon-dust as he nailed produce together into an onion-shaped escape pod with pasture pumpkins and painted squash.. and a “squarecrow” who came out of nowhere and volunteered.  The squarecrow was different from a scarecrow: dressy clothes, glasses, not meant for the crucifixion pose of his former stock.

Lacie looked around for Memory, but he had disappeared.  The patchwork man was the type to wander as he talked on the phone, and though the moon was small, Lacie sensed that he had maybe, entirely left it.

“A copy machine.” The squarecrow smiled and repeated, his straw limbs stuck to the outer layer of a sphere.  He had a pickaxe umbrella stuck in his shoulder, with the umbrella unfolded and facing outward.

“Yes.  I'm sure there's one down there.” Mr. Greary said, trying to feel innocent about the beaming squarecrow's request.

The scarecrow merchant, who had just sold a robotic farmer, shook his head in disapproval at the nailed-down squarecrow.

“So are you sure about taking the kingdom's way back into Black Stock?  Even after you almost perished?” The bucket-headed swordsman asked.

“There's something I want to do there, just quickly.” Lacie replied, one lens-eye further than the other, looking for Memory. “And then I have to look for Ecila, and someone else who thinks she's a bird.. and Elizabeth.  Or I'll..”

“Lets get in and waste no more time.” Mr. Greary opened the door, two men in overalls next to him who'd helped with the contraption backed away towards the vines that were holding it down.

The three got in; the swordsman was last, and bumped his metal head against the top; how he had gotten an entire catapult into his pants pocket.. remained unknown.

The two helpers cut the vines, and something in the produce made the contraption leave the moon with rocketing might.

The force was such that there was much screaming from the ugly escape pod.  They finally came to their destination, the momentum overpowering their nausea as they crashed through the roof of the Kingdom of Wanderers; and the escape pod bashed and bounced against the ground.

* * *

The door wouldn't open at first, until some mysterious force began pushing the escape pod over.

The first thing Lacie saw was a tall, scruffy, and hefty man in his late-twenties, holding the compartment's door open with one hand and holding a half-gallon of liquor in the other.  A large crossbow was strapped around his back with a quiver of arrows whose heads were half foam.  He stared blankly at the trio with small eyes, grey paint around his face, and a long, lit cigarette dangling from his mouth.

The medieval futurist bumped his helmet against the top of the escape pod, “Ridderack!  Ow..”

Since he was closest, Greary got out of the onion-shaped pod with smashed and rolling produce all around.  Then he helped Lacie out, followed by the bucket-headed swordsman-- who once again, banged his metal head against the top of the contraption.

Lacie was disappointed and surprised to see nothing castle-like in sight, instead she took in what looked like a former grocery store.  The black and glass automatic doors of the store were locked and barricaded with an entire aisle division; the entrance to the realm was also covered to the top of the doors with a pile of strange canned goods, and stacked boxes of normal canned beverages like beer and soda.  Metal bars had been welded over the nearby large glass windows in the front, two of which were shattered and covered with taped-down plastic that fluctuated with the night breeze.

“You made it back, Russ, brotha.” The tall man puffed.

Russel rubbed the top of the bucket like it was his head. “Thanks to these people.”

Lacie noticed two girls around her age talking.  The taller girl had an eyepatch and a steel halberd (a combination of spear and axe) where the half with the axe jutting out was real and the back half was foam.  The other girl had on a knight helmet, and two short swords: one sword was painted yellow, white and black.. the other sword was yellow and orange, each with blades similarly half covered in impenetrable foam.

The girl with the knight helmet rose the outer piece of the helmet which covered her face, “Did you hear about those lost teenagers that are supposed to be at All-Mart walking into walls?”

“The ones at the Lawn and Garden Department?  I heard they were all in their twenties, not teenagers.” The girl with eyepatch replied.

The escape pod rolled over and the squarecrow got up, glasses missing; he made his way to some other medieval-dressed people who were standing next to an open armory.

“How do we get on the roof?” Lacie asked Mr. Greary with intentional loudness, in reference to the space suit she wished to give to the nude weirdo in Black Stock.. if he was still alive.

* * *

In another aisle in the Kingdom with cluttered food next to and inside cages, Midnight stealthily unfolded like origami from out of thin air; shaping from and into a real person.  He had a single crutch under his arm-- it was just for show, he flicked it to the ground.  Then he grabbed some Vietnamese salad dressing off the far back of a nearby shelf, and poured out a decently-sized, “Nobody Was Here.”

* * *

Greary turned to Ridderack who flicked his cigarette butt to the ground, “Is there a way?  We need to get a space suit.”

“Well with the spamurai, its too dangerous to go outside.” Ridderack explained.

“There's a stairway in the back.” The girl with the halberd cut-in.

Some average-built guy was leaning against the aisle with a couple sheathed swords on his back and his head down under a brass fedora; he rang into the discussion like a telephone with bad news while pointing to something hard to see. “The steps are full'a pissed-off strays..  Not to mention some lethargic band of familiars, barely keeping their eyes open-- thinking they own where they rise, and just as moreso where they collapse.”

“Strays and familiars?” Lacie asked.. following his gesture to see an oddly placed staircase that blended with the wall in back, rising towards a closed patch of metal roof. “There's no-one there.”

“Used ta be.” The stranger replied. “..used ta be.”

Greary's curiosity got the best of him while he was starring at the weapon on Ridderack's back, “Pardon me, are you an archer?”

“Oh hell no.  I'm a Crossbowist.” Ridderack replied, a glossy look in his eyes.

The wide window to a higher room for employees only, showed a half Caucasian, half Japanese girl in a grey suit, smoking weed in an opium pipe, talking to a portrait of an Anime schoolgirl. “There's high spirits in my pipe telling me about your oppression.  Or is it mine?”

Her voice echoed through the speaker system, which she quickly turned off with embarrassment; though from inside of the room, the window to the side of her was black, and she could not see through it.

Something clashed loudly against the front doors followed by the sound of glass shattering.

“I'm going to go grab that thing.” Lacie said, reverting her attention back to the chameleon stairway, now mysteriously lit with black light edges, badly shining in the brightness of the realm.

Lacie made her way to the stairway, passing aisles half-full or scattered with food.  The temperature in the room would go from normal to colder or hotter, like hidden thermostats jesting anything nearby.  To the left of the stairway, a phrase had been scrawled out with the medium of rotted fruit and vegetables, “POISON IN THE SUPERMARKET.”

From the front of the stairway, the steps and their lighted ends were all crooked, like they had changed in the time she made her way there.  She decided to stay in the center; save the two steps where there was a hole in their center, a pit that couldn't easily be climbed out of.  At the top of the steps and hunched over, she tried to lift the patch of roof, but it was far too heavy for her.

Luckily something else lifted the roof up for her.. like a spring, the tower of top hats on her head stuck to the ceiling.  The hats forced the the hatch open and it all crashed against the roof outside with the end of its rotation.  Lacie had forgotten the hats were even on her head.

“This place is so strange.” Lacie said to herself, feeling more sane since her visit to the moon.

The snow had stopped falling; it had melted into puddles of water that looked like leaked anti-freeze, over-reactive with color and reflecting the vivid sky.  In one of these puddles the space suit rested.  Further off, the multiracial girl was walking along the roof towards the furthest edge, with square envelopes in-hand.

“Wait!.. where are you going?” Lacie yelled to the half Japanese girl.

“Crater Park.” The girl replied, standing on the edge of the building with the thin pipe dangling out of her mouth, and then disappearing down what appeared to be an outdoors escalator..

Lacie left the hats underneath the hatch.  She took the suit, dragging the bulky outfit as she made her way back inside.

Down the steps Mr. Greary and the bucket-headed swordsman were waiting.

Mr. Greary motioned frantically with the words, “You have to get out now, the spamurai have raided.”

“Where will you guys go?” Lacie asked.

“To help the others and buy you time.. since apparently you need it.” Russel said, unsheathing his sword.

“He would know, he's a futurist.” Mr. Greary added, with his egg carton missing from his person.

Lacie made her way down the stairs, hugging the side the store.

When Lacie got to the back she met an array of refrigerated furniture which was disproportionately displayed on her left.

She arrived to dented, metal-sheeted, double doors-- with a metal plaque above pronouncing the weird, “Stifferent Apartment Dore's Black Stock!”

“Don't look at me.” A woman's voice rang out from behind the doors.

“Who are you?” Lacie inquired.

“Something like Imagiption.”

“Wha--”

“They destroyed my caravan.  They destroyed my masks.”

“Who?”

“Malicious grey kids!  That's who.  Oh, don't come in here.  I don't have a solid face..”

“But I need in there!” Lacie put her hand on the door and inched it out.  Meanwhile, metal clashed with war cries over the kingdom's food supply, near the automatic doors.

“Well I guess I could wait in the restroom while you pass by.  I'll be holding the door shut.” She changed her tone to misunderstanding at the second sentence.

Lacie looked behind into the easiest-to-see aisle-way, where frozen foods were.  She saw the squarecrow with a sword and shield.  He was dueling someone in samurai armor who was holding a hockey stick instead of a sword, and wearing a mask made of meat.  Not far from Lacie's feet was the umbrella pickaxe that had been stuck in the squarecrow's straw clavicle.  She thought it dually useful, picked it up, and folded it.

With the heavy space suit in her left hand, and umbrella pickaxe in her right, Lacie opened the metal door with her boot, and ventured away from the fight.

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