“So, everybody about ready to go?”
Linkara stood by the door, tapping one foot impatiently as he waited for the others to arrive.
“Yeah, yeah. Hold your horses, kid,” Harvey said as he and Ninja Style Dancer made their way over to him. “You know Karaoke Night doesn’t truly start until the man with the golden pipes arrives.”
*Where’s 90s Kid?* Ninja Style Dancer held up on a card as he looked around for the teen. *He hates missing singing Nirvana songs all night.*
“I don’t know,” Linkara said with a shrug. “I haven’t seen him all day. Maybe I should be worried he’s been captured and replaced by an intergalactic force of evil again.”
He said it lightly, meant as a joke, based on how they all responded by laughing. 90s Kid knew that his friends would never say anything to intentionally hurt him. Linkara simply had no idea that the mere mention of the Entity made 90s Kid freeze on the stairs in terror, as his pulse started to race and horrible, nightmarish images flashed through his mind.
Images of his friends being sucked up into a black void of nothingness, where countless other innocent beings were held captive before disappearing. Images of staring into a mirror and looking back at a face that should be familiar, but wasn’t, not with eyes made of static and a mouth curved into a cruel smile that laughed an unearthly wail. Images of himself, falling to his knees and sobbing as he floated in a world he could not understand, desperately pleading to be freed, to regain control of his body, and failing every single time.
90s Kid still heard the word “Huuuuumannnn” in his darkest dreams. These nightmares had become a weekly event for the teen ever since being freed from the Entity. It was common for him to wake five or six times on one of his bad nights drenched in cold sweat and terrified that he was a prisoner of that monstrosity again. 90s Kid would find himself tangled in his covers, heart pounding in his chest, as he screamed for the monster to free him and stop using his form to fool the world and harm those he loved most.
But no one knew of the torment he faced on those miserable nights. 90s Kid did his best to hide the fact that he was having nightmares from his friends, even if it meant waking up extra early to shower and throw his dampened sheets and pajamas into the washing machine. He didn’t want to be seen as a baby who couldn’t deal with his own imagination. Only babies had nightmares. So 90s Kid pushed his feelings back down and tried not to remember his terror, nor imagine the Entity returning without warning to capture him and wreak havoc on his life once more.
“H-hey, dudes,” 90s Kid said after managing to calm down enough to join them by the door. “Uh, like, I was thinking of maybe skipping this week-”
“Aw, come on, 90s Kid, it’ll be fun!” Linkara insisted. “Besides, you could use a night out.”
Harvey and Ninja Style Dancer shook their heads in agreement, so 90s Kid sighed before reluctantly shaking his head.
“O-ok, sure. I bet this night will be… totally awesome.”
Hours later 90s Kid was sitting by himself in the back of the club, nursing a soda and wishing he’d just stayed home. There was a contest going on and Linkara and the others were very into their singing, not to mention their drinks, at this point. They hadn’t even noticed that 90s Kid had left their table yet, let alone that he was troubled.
“It’s totally better this way,” 90s Kid muttered into his glass. “They don’t need me. They… they didn’t even notice I wasn’t here before. The Entity totally replaced me… and they couldn’t tell at all.” Hot tears started to form in his eyes but 90s Kid didn’t care. “How… how could they not tell it was me? I would, like, never do the junk the Entity did! I wouldn’t!”
But 90s Kid wasn’t so sure about this. Maybe it had been his own fault he’d been possessed by the Entity. Maybe its powers were so great, it could see into his heart and recognize how awful and pathetic 90s Kid really was. Maybe his many weaknesses made him the most deserving target for having his form used by the monster.
90s Kid sniffled as the tears started to spill down his cheeks. He gripped the handle of his glass tighter, trying to keep a hold on something, and didn’t notice at all as a man in a white suit headed toward his table.
“Hey, my friend, I didn’t expect to see you here!” 80s Dan said with a grin as he slid into the seat across from 90s Kid. “You weren’t over at the table with your friends, so I thought you’d skipped tonight. Anyway, want to do a duet together? Help me choose one. I’m in the mood for something nontraditional tonight, since really any song can become a duet when you sing it with some else!” Dan chuckled, always one to be amused by his own words. “So for the two of us, I have a few ideas in mind, but I just can’t seem to decide between those classic ocular hits ‘Angel Eyes’ and ‘Hungry Eyes’. Now, I know what you’re thinking and yes, ‘Angel Eyes’ was release in 1979, but-” Dan cut off when he noticed 90s Kid’s tear-stained face. At once, his brows scrunched together in concern. “What’s wrong, 90s Kid? Did something happen?”
“It’s nothing,” 90s Kid said, quickly turning to face the wall and trying to brush the water from his eyes. “I-I was just having un-radical thoughts. Totally stupid stuff.”
“What kinds of thoughts?” Dan asked, voice filled with unease. “Whatever they are, I’m sure they’re not stupid. Maybe you’ll feel better about them if you tell me.” 90s Kid truly didn’t want to bother people with his worries, but the way Dan was looking at him made everything he was feeling come spilling out of his mouth in one giant spray of words.
Dan blinked a few times once 90s Kid stopped to take a breath.
“Wait, if I understood that at all… you feel like you deserved to have been possessed by a monster from outer space?”
“Uh… yeah,” 90s Kid said with a weak nod of his head.
“But that’s ridiculous! How could you have deserved that?” Dan cried, looking utterly confused. “You never did anything wrong, 90s Kid! For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve always been trying to help people! Aren’t you always telling me about those monsters you fight with your friends? You’re trying to protect the Earth, not hurt it! And that makes you incredibly cool and brave, my friend!”
“R-really?” 90s Kid asked with a small smile.
“Of course!” Dan said, nodding. “Just because the Entity managed to fool people doesn’t mean it’s your fault. That could have happened to anyone. In fact, it probably chose your form in the first place because it knew what a good, courageous person you were! You were perfect for making people never suspect you’d be evil because you’re, well, totally awesome!”
“I-I’m not that awesome,” 90s Kid said, blushing a bit.
“You are to me,” Dan said, smiling warmly at him. “And I hate that you’re having nightmares. Why don’t you try talking to Linkara and the others about it? I’m sure they can help.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” 90s Kid admitted. “I just… feel, like, embarrassed admitting it.”
“Well, why don’t I come with you when you do it,” Dan offered. “Would you feel better then?” 90s Kid shot him a grateful look.
“You’d do that for me?”
“Of course, my friend. And afterwards, if you still feel embarrassed, you can come to my place for a sleepover. I have a VHS collection guaranteed to destroy any and all nightmares!” Dan’s eyes widened as he thought of an idea. “I think you’d be especially interested in my Care-a-Lot collection, right 90s Kid?”
“Dude, I totally would!” 90s Kid jumped up and pulled Dan into a hug. “Dan, you’re totally the most awesome, radicalacious dude in the whole universe!”
Dan merely smiled and offered his hand for 90s Kid to take as they walked back to Linkara’s table. Though 90s Kid knew his nightmares wouldn’t be over that very night, he felt like he was finally able to start pushing away the things that haunted him so he could focus on the people that cared for him instead.