Vibrant Night - Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Lacie and Cuithbeart made their way past countless registers and respective aisles with the rap music behind them abnormally dissipating.  One further aisle had countless balloons rising from it, going up through one of many crevices in the ceiling.  The registers were all open and filled with soda-soaked confetti, junk food, and small bells.  The floors were covered with green and violet tiles; the tiles were stained with black and white paint and popping out at different corners.  From the holes in the popping corners, smoke rose, and from behind the smoke came distant, echoing screeches from some unknown form of life.

More jump ropes of neon colors dangled from the ceiling, some of them knotted together and swinging.  Other jump ropes worked together to swing a third jump rope, though there didn't seem to be any form of mechanics powering them.  Lacie was aware enough to duck.

"Ah!  Damned jump ropes!" Cuithbeart tried to navigate the ropes while keeping his beers from shaking up. “What a bunch of magical bullshit!”

Lacie giggled somewhat mutely at Cuithbeart until her laughter was cut short by the loud rushing sound of water.  From afar she could see a group of ceramic frogs playing instruments in melancholic melody atop thin, white shelving.  Further back, a huge tidal-wave of green water was approaching.  Cuithbeart, Lacie, and Cuithbeart's beers (which spoke through bubbling) all yelled in unison, unable to run or evaporate.  The ceiling-high wave of emerald water rushed over them with a lidless plastic pitcher or two.

Lacie was hit by the wave with great force, and forced to swallow some of the water, which tasted like a Lime-flavored drink.  The tide rushed her across the store ceiling until it finally subsided, dropping her alone in a new aisle with the newsgirl hat next to her.  She lay on her back looking around at her blurry surroundings, quickly realizing that her glasses had fallen off of her face.  Lacie rolled around and slowly got up as something strange handed Lacie her glasses.

Towering in front of Lacie was a large, fluffy rabbit who appeared to be wearing an adequately-sized, patterned, black Victorian vest.  He was holding a human-sized cigarette in one paw and glass of some darker liquor in the other.  She noticed a sign above the distinguished bunny which read, “Aisle 3.”

"To whom do I owe the pleasure?" The giant rabbit asked, patting the watch in his vest to make sure it was securely ticking.  The shelves around the rabbit and Lacie were filled with what seemed like stylized, yet clunky, odd devices from the Victorian era.

"Uh.." Lacie gasped. "Are you Herbert?"

The rabbit sipped his liquor, "And you, some sort of green fanatic?  With your tee-shirt and your lime drink?"

Lacie ignored his observation, "Your niece has been kidnapped."

"I don't believe you." The rabbit was smug.

"Why not?"

"Because most refer to me as 'my dear Uncle Herbert.'"

"But.. why?" The girl's face crumpled with curiosity.

Lacie had noticed the small, tar writings on diversely tiled aisle-floor, but not the one behind her which read: 'Heavens its eleven of eight on the nineteenth fate of four, then down and around to seventeen, almost zero, seventeen again, till twenty-four for sure.  Thirteen is bad luck maybe, fourteen a bit better than thirteen say thee, eighteen a time to run, four should watch out for the sign of thirteen, eighteen might have weight next to more of four.'

"I'm an aniecetheist."

"Wha-- So you don't even care?" Lacie asked.

The smoke billowed from Herbert's cigarette as he took a puff and followed it with a kind of sip that would be precocious to the average giant bunny.  The bright lights caused Herbert's white fur to glow, but that was the only part of him doing so.  His eyes looked of someone who hadn't slept much, his long, puffy ears perched downwards to the side.  The rabbit's nose was wet, but his stare had a dry enthusiasm which seemed unable to falter, "Who kidnapped who?"

"A marble-headed man took Elizabeth!" Lacie exasperated in frustration.

"Oh.. the donut girl," The large rabbit laughed. "That was no kidnapping..  First of null there were no kids involved."

"Uh..  Who's they?"

"They, are the reason skeletons litter the streets."

As Lacie took a breath to speak she felt her entire body weaken intensely.  She peered down as her brain and face felt like it was tingling.  The floor beneath her was dissolving into gas following with her lower torso.  Somehow she did not lose height.  As Lacie looked up her vision dissipated into a strange kaleidoscope of her surroundings.

Just as it seemed she might go insane from this alien sensation-- her being was restored.

The aisle had expanded with a road appearing over the floor and glowing so intensely with light that it seemed dangerous to stare at.  Rainbows came off of the road everywhere as though it was some sort of intense prism.  Lacie could feel slight heat around her feet.  She quickly collected herself to whatever degree she could and asked Herbert, "What is going on?"

Herbert (who's fur now shimmered even more intensely) sipped his drink and puffed on a new cigarette, "This is The Ultra-Violet Road, once a prominent grid-work of unspeakable beauty.. all that is left of the road remains in remote, flickering fragments."

Lacie could feel warmth and intrigue stirring within her which misplaced some of her previous fear.  She was mystified by the rainbows all around her which reflected in the brassy instruments and inventions closely sprinkled around the shelves.  But the road began flickering like a dying light fixture, and each time it turned off the normal tiled floor appeared.

Moments later, the road was gone.

“Who made it?  Can it lead me back home?”

“The answer to both of those questions is no.” Herbert replied.

Lacie sat down, cradling her head with her hands.  She moaned in distress, "Oh.. what's going on?"

One of Herbert's long ears twitched as he let out some sympathy with a large puff of smoke, "It seems you are the one in need of saving, dear.  That is all that is going on..  Tell me, do you play croquet?"

"No." Lacie almost whined.  Herbert chuckled heavily to himself before taking another sip of his liquor.

A long-faced gentleman somewhere in his forties with an expensive robe on and a cane in-hand stood at the end of the aisle with his face to someone hidden.. "Well Syll, are you able to find Muenster?"

"Get up.  Take a deep breath.  Have a glass of scotch." Herbert remarked looking down at Lacie.

Lacie had rose her head and dropped her arms, catching a glimpse of the distant old man; he had dim blue eyes between slicked-back, greying brown hair and a similarly brown, thin mustache.  The middle-aged man suddenly stepped forward talking to whoever 'Syll' was and disappeared from sight.

"I think I've been drugged already." Lacie sulked, returning her attention to herself.

Herbert pulled a scotch bottle from the nearby shelf to fill his glass.  He poured himself a refill and chuckled dryly, "Not in this world you haven't."

“Is there any way out of here?” Lacie asked, lifting her gaze from the floor.

“The exit.” Herbert replied with dry snark.

“Will that take me out of this world?” Lacie asked in frustration.

“I suppose the question is, do you really want to leave yet, or do you feel a strange, driving mixture of terror, curiousity, and guilt?”

“..is this girl.. Elizabeth, in danger?”

“She could be.” There was a pause before Herbert spoke again, where he gulped down a bit of alcohol. "I can help you search for Elizabeth if that's what you want."

“Elizabeth says you know how to leave this place.” Lacie said sternly.

“From my observations, scant as they are, each person's exit is different.” Herbert sipped his liquor with his bunny paw hiding most of the glass.

Lacie had tilted her head up and lowered her arms. "How do I find my exit?"

“Curiousity and guilt.”

Lacie paused for a second before speaking again. “So if I find Elizabeth I can leave?”

"If you tried to find her and it was a waste of time, you would risk getting stuck here-- from there, here.. going mad or dying are the greater possibilities.  Or you could look for an exit on your own.  Its really your choice.  But when that 'She' completes The Nocturnal Migration, you will be out of time."

"She?" Lacie asked, standing up with fervent curiosity.

"That smelly, leathery-faced hag 'She' is the leader of The Nocturnal Migration, and the migration is said by some to power 'here.'" Herbert replied before going into a short coughing fit.

As much as Lacie wanted to leave, she decided to go with her gut and let her guilt and curiosity lead her.  At least temporarily.  She picked up the pink newsgirl hat and placed it snugly on her head, "Alright then, where do I begin?"

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