Lacie and her newfound accomplices found themselves in a massive parking lot expanding over a vast area of land (with All-Mart due North of they're general direction). The store itself was one-story but expansive, with red and blue brick, and the name "All-Mart" in huge, black-outlined, white lettering. Fake birds and copper nests were perched atop the store sign, with parts of the birds’ machinery showing as they twitched or rotated their heads and wings.
There were thick, black clouds looming with distance above the area and blocking out the colorful sky. Enormous fissures in the parking lot could seldom be seen, far away and next to a run-down mini-mall where all the businesses appeared closed for the eternal night. Near the center of the parking lot was an empty trailer with rust on one end and a fresh coat of black paint on the other. A group of six, fancy-dressed, older people were sat down at a black, metal-frame table chatting in front of the store. There was an identical table next to the old people three times larger that was vacant and seemed to be more enshadowed.
Elizabeth spoke quietly, with anxiety, "Well it seems we're in company."
Mr. Greary turned to Elizabeth and smiled, pointing his finger in the air which made him seem like some sort of cheesy superhero. "There is always company at All-Mart young lady. Now to the Dairy aisle!"
Elizabeth's ocean-blue gaze widened for a second as though Mr. Greary had lost it.
Lacie suddenly noticed rips and scratches at random intervals in her vision of the world around her and she became fearfully preoccupied with them. She reached out at one of these rips out of nervous curiosity and gently teared it. Her vision went starry black and she was filled with a feeling that she held an unstable piece of some cosmic structure. As her hand slightly pulled at what was a paper-thin wall, there was a sensation as if she was dreaming and the dreams were switching so fast she could barely process them. She quickly released her grip in more terror than wonder, as though having just touched a hot stove-top.
The table that was three times its size fell over and crumbled into pieces of debris, and the black clouds above ceased allowing return of the colorful sky. The bricks making up the store were completely white with the logo lettering gone black. Now in the center of the parking lot, there was a shouting man in suspenders and a pink hat who stood next to a pile of pink hats that towered at least a hundred feet into the sky from the trailer that was in the middle. The six old people sitting at the adjacent table were now all in their late twenties. Mr. Greary had simply disappeared.
Lacie felt her knees weakening, "I feel dizzy. I think I just need to-- where is Mr. Greary?"
"He's.. waiting for us inside the store." Elizabeth replied unknowing of what had just happened.
The girls attempted to pass by the unstable tower of pink hats without being bothered, but the man in overalls and a hot-pink fedora boomed at them, "The end is near! Get a pink hat to protect against The Fifty! Giant bunny rabbits descend upon us! Fifty giant bunny rabbits will wreak havoc upon our world!"
Lacie was sucked in by the idea of defending herself against any aspect of this town, "How much is a hat?"
"I have a bad feeling Lacie, we should probably go." Elizabeth whispered peering in fear at the unstable tower of hats as though they could fall at any moment, as a gathering, black cloud appeared some distance away. Upon seeing this dark cloud, the young people conversing at the table from in front of the store all vanished simultaneously in puffs of grey smoke; Lacie didn't notice.
"Well they are free of course, as a measure of survival for a universe void of towels; and my hats are worn as high as the moon." The hat man made his statement with certainty, though Lacie didn't understand exactly what he meant by the last bit.
Lacie took a pink sombrero, put it on, and then stared blankly at Elizabeth from behind her spectacles. "Aren't you going to take one just in case?"
"I--" Elizabeth seemed frustrated for some reason. "I guess."
The Gothic girl went for a pink trilby, similar to a fedora with a shorter brim.
The man with a pink fedora grabbed her wrist, "No! One from the outside, this whole tower could fall!”
Lacie's face changed to concern and she froze for a second from the man's sudden outburst.
Elizabeth stood meekly as the man continued, holding herself to keep warm against the undecided breeze.. she whispered again to Lacie, "Please can we go. I have a bad feeling."
Unbeknownst to the donut shop employee who now kept her eyes shut, a treadmill had materialized in the ground underneath of her; this caused her to move backwards at a slow crawl.
The man had quite an attentive attitude to his tower of hats, "I'll help you find just the right one. Let me see, hmm.. The cloche seems too much like you've got a bag on your head."
From the black cloud a man appeared in solid black: a longcoat with a sash, gloved hands, boots and a head made of similarly dark marble. He began treading clomp by clomp towards Elizabeth with a trail of thick, ebony cloud behind him.
The man in suspenders paced around looking through his extensive hat collection. "This cowboy hat is too tom-girl, that baseball cap is too common and the top hat over there would clash with your personality.."
Lacie crossed her arms and spoke with anxiety-laced optimism, "Whatever works, so we can be prepared."
"Machinagess! THE NEWSBOY!" The man seemed extraordinarily excited about hats. "Or newsgirl as you would probably have it. The question is what news do you have to bring?"
The marble headed man was behind Elizabeth now and cupped his hand over her mouth covering her scream. Thick, black clouds surrounded them both (and the treadmill).
"Elizabeth!" Lacie reached through the jet black cloud frantically as its whole trail dissipated.
It was too late. Elizabeth and her captor were gone (and the treadmill).
The man in the pink fedora sighed, "Its my fault, I spent too time trying to find the perfect hat for her."
Lacie deduced the captor was probably the blue-silhouetted stranger that the two girls had seen earlier.
"No its mine." Lacie's voice broke in unison with a crackle of thunder in the sky. "I left her without seeing it."
“Was she your friend?”
“No, she was my guide to get out of this weird place.” Lacie replied.
"Its only a parking lot.” The man offered up the newsgirl hat, “Take her hat, maybe you'll find her."
Lacie took the hat, "Thanks."
The student descended past the man and his tower, past the solid table, and table rubble to All-Mart's crooked entrance.