I can never sleep when I have to wake up early for work.
You know the situation. Lying in bed, back sinking into the mattress, eyes drilling holes into the ceiling trying to expose the moonlight. The eternal, internal countdown, "I can get three hours and fourteen minutes of sleep, if I just drift off right... Now..."
You close your eyes, feeling the weight of your body drift, further and further away. You are about to become one with nothing, and then,
A leg hair brushes against the sheets and it feels like a spider.
The good news is, you can still get three hours twelve minutes and nineteen seconds of sleep if you just pass out right exactly now.
Hearing my stomach grumble, I decided a trip to the kitchen was in order.
Undertaking the laborious task of standing up and walking didn't seem like the best idea at first, but you can get the hang of it after a few steps. Trust me.
The refrigerator stood broad and magnificent, the end of all my worries. Just stuff myself into a food coma, wake up late and rush out the door to Wally's. I grasped the handle, swinging the door open quickly enough to make the untouched and very past date, bottles of salad dressing shiver and clink against each other.
Except they didn't. Nothing was in the refrigerator.
Let me... Amend that statement. There was something in there, but it looked more like an inter-dimensional portal than my ham and cheese cold cuts.
I just went fucking grocery shopping earlier today, goddamnit that is like, seventy bucks down the drain. All because some shitwad alien or demon or... FUCKING WHATEVER needs to dick my day up, always my day, not someone else's. I have work in like, three hours.
There was only one thing that had any chance of helping this situation. I called John.
"Dude, it's four in the morning, what gives?"
He's gonna play that one on me, really?
"Yeah, it's opposite day, also, there's a portal leading to another dimension and/or universe in my fridge. In case you're interested."
"Oh shit, I left some beer in there!"
"You mean you drank half a six-pack that I'd bought."
"Yeah, there were still three left, what a waste."
"So you want to head over then?"
"I do. This sounds cool."
He hung up. I took a can of tuna out of the pantry for sustenance while I waited.
About a half an hour passed, Molly woke up when I was getting dressed, I showed her the portal. No idea why I did that, but it seemed prudent. Dogs know things. She stuck her head in and sniffed around, nothing seemed amiss. As she had finished her inspection John pulled up, we went to the door to meet him.
"Hey man, thanks for coming over, you gotta see this."
John threw his keys on the coffee table and the three of us walked over to the refrigerator and opened the door. I hadn't taken more than a glimpse at this other world before, really taking it in, it's strangely beautiful.
The land was a deep red, clay looking substance, flat-topped mountains shot up at direct right angles from the ground; there were no slopes, just extreme left, right, up, down. It's like someone sent a blurry fax of the American Southwest to an Icelandic cartoonist, all like, 'here, draw this'.
As John and I stepped through we took in more of our surroundings, the flora and fauna were out of a weird, acid trip cartoon. Giant sliding boulders with faces on them, purple trees with the trunks of palms but a circular wreath of also purple shrubbery on top, with varying numbers of large orange fruits hanging precariously, which, gun to my head, looked like bowling balls.
Every new direction I turned was something unfathomable. John pointed out a multi-level orange mushroom, like, a duplex of fungus the size of a small tree, sporting aqua-marine colored gills under the orange caps and stalk.
In the distance to our left, we saw some rolling meadows. Tall, bright fuchsia grass, it looked far more forgiving than our current mountainous surroundings, we decided to head that way. I called for Molly... Who wasn't with us...? John and I exchanged a semi-meaningful look,
"I had her sniff around in here before you pulled up, she seemed fine, but now I'm not so sure about this place."
John let the thought rattle around in his brain for a second before responding,
"Yeah, she can see stuff man, more than we can, let's get out of here."
As I poked my head through the portal, it immediately smacked into Amy's, who was making her way into the new dimension.
"Ow. And hey, you're up late... Or early?"
I backed up as Amy stepped the rest of the way in,
"What? Molly went next store and saved me from that awful book club, I can't believe I let our neighbors convince me that was a good idea..."
I then asked a question I didn't really want the answer to,
"You have book club at four in the morning?"
"Dave, it's like, oh wow, eleven at night, I could have sworn it was just about quarter after five..."
Great, time is way faster here, I may as well start applying for new jobs when I get back out to the real world. Wally's isn't going to tolerate another no call no-show with no excuse. Perfect. Amy seemed to read my change in expression and, bless her for still trying, tried to get my mind off it.
"Well, it's the four of us now, besides this place seems cool, I mean, look at that weird bird... thing."
Amy pointed to the sky at a large featherless bird, it had a deep blue, leathery body with no feathers, bright red feet detailed with shiny onyx black talons, a matching black beak. It looked like a kindergartener's attempt at a pterodactyl with a shaved crow's head attached to it.
As we were basking in its magnificence I realized something... It was heading straight for us; also it had been further away than we thought when we first spotted it. The thing was enormous. It recognized Amy as the easiest target, swooping in to snatch her. There was no time to think.
I tackled Amy to the ground covering her with my body. Maybe I could fight it off, or maybe it would kill me, but it will never get Amy, not today, or any day, this battle is mine to win or lose any way I choose and I'll be damned if... um... wait... Nothing is happening, nothing at all happened.
I pushed myself off from Amy, feeling slightly embarrassed. We both got up and dusted ourselves off; I turned to John and saw something impossible. Which was really par for the course around here.
That giant bird was now the size of an insect and strutting around in the palm of John's hand as he used his other hand's index finger to gently pet its head.
"Look, he's friendly! I want to bring him back with us."
I knew he wasn't entirely serious, but he was wasn't entirely not serious as well,
"John. You know how that can go, you have to leave it here."
He did look genuinely sad for a moment, I honestly felt a little sorry for him.
"Fine. Be free my young chi-
John had flicked his hand upwards mid-sentence, trying to cue the little thing to fly off, and fly off it did, becoming regular size, i.e. gigantic, as soon as it leapt from his hand. Knocking him flat on his ass in the process.
Molly jumped on top of him protectively. I swear to god that dog was mocking me. We'll see how she likes it when I hide the snausages... Sarcastic bitch. John for his part scratched Molly behind the ears, got himself up, and lit a cigarette.
"That was a hell of a thing,
let's go check out that purple shit."
John pointed back over to those inviting looking meadows, the four of us started to make our way there.
Ch. 2 -
The alien grassland was the softest thing I'd ever felt. Each individual blade of the 80's neon colored flora felt like million thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. If I laid down here, I don't know if I'd ever get back up again. To be honest, my brain was working overtime trying to find a scenario where it'd be smart for John and Molly to split up with Amy and me... Not too often you get to bang your girlfriend in an alternate dimension... Just saying, and don't give me that look, if you were in my shoes you would do the same damn thing, you judgmental prick, sorry...
Either way I couldn't find a good reason, and I bet she wouldn't have gone for it anyway, so we continued exploring. I was certainly fired from Wally's and none of us had anything better to do. After about a half hour in bizarro time we stopped to take a break, none of us would be mistaken for athletes, but I'm definitely the least in shape, one of those purple palm tree looked nice to lean against.
I thumped my back against the tree and slouched down slightly, I heard John saying something, but couldn't make out what it was; he was running over to me pointing upwards. I glanced skyward and saw one of the bowling ball fruits slowly detaching from the thin vine holding it in place. Before I could react, the vine gave and the fruit fell.
I felt a shove.
I heard a wet crack, but it wasn't me.
It had hit John. Oh my god!
Scrambling to my feet as soon as my ass hit the ground, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I stood up face to face with John about an inch away from me.
"How are you not hurt!? That thing like, snapped your neck!"
"Yeah, I thought it was gonna hurt. It just cracked open on my head and spilled this... stuff... on me."
I realized his shirt had a large wet area surrounding the collar, it smelled like an exotic juice drink, dragonfruit or some shit. Amy picked up one half of the shell to examine it.
"It seems the outer part and that liquid are protection for these little berries."
She showed the inside of the shell to us, there were three small green berries inside, attached with one small tendril each to the shell, much how the whole fruit had clung to the tree. She threw it back on the ground,
"I assume some little animal around here will be glad we opened this for them."
A shadow cast over us, the gigantic bird thing was back, repeating its routine from before, it swooped down, became tiny once it landed, and started walking around. It climbed up the outer shell of the bowling ball fruit and tumbled down into the center. After gorging on all three berries it flopped on its side and went to sleep. John had a thought,
"Ah, I bet it eats when it's tiny, digests the calories, then gets big again, and burns them off. Man, sometimes life is so cool."
Amy couldn't help but interject, despite knowing better than to debate John on anything, it's like playing tennis with a brick wall, you're gonna lose eventually,
"It would use up that bit of energy becoming large again, it doesn't make sense."
John just stoically peered into the distance and said,
"Life finds a way."
I tried to motion them to follow me, I don't think it did anything but Molly had caught back up with us and trotted up to my side, they seemed to follow her. Good enough. We made it about a quarter-mile through the meadows when we stumbled upon one of those living boulder things we saw earlier by the mountains.
"You think this guy is lost?"
I asked, wondering how I expected John, Amy, or Molly to have an answer to that question. No one said anything, we all just looked at it. A jagged semi-circular boulder with a completely smooth bottom. Its large features took up an entire side. Huge eyes, a deeply set nose which seemed mostly for show, it wasn't breathing. Weirdest of all, a mouth, with regular looking, albeit gigantic teeth, and a really creepy black tongue. It started to look anxious,
"Guys, I think we're scaring it,"
It grit its teeth and clenched its eyes shut, hot air started venting out of the nostrils, the ground starting shaking, it felt like an earthquake after nary a second.
The rock launched into the air with the force of a Howitzer, made specifically to launch really big rocks really far away. Behind it a Sandworm as wide as a four Cadillacs are long and as big as a skyscraper came screaming out of the hole in the ground the boulder had covered up. A mouth that could swallow Rhode Island and ask for seconds, teeth the size of ancient Roman pillars, each sharp to a perfect point. Its enormity was baffling on enough levels that it would have driven a normal person insane. This was horror on a Lovecraftian scale, and it was big enough to smash all four of us without a second thought to our complete insignificance.
Bodies frozen in fear, waiting for the release of death, this brown and green tube of shit-building shook this dimension, and possibly ours, to the very core.
Huddled together with Molly caught in the middle of our tangled legs, this thing erupted into the darkening sky and just... Kept going. It shot straight and true like a turd colored rocketship traveling at half the speed of smell. Headed... Somewhere... Not one of us could muster an appropriate reaction to what just happened. Did this place have some sort of bio-mechanical missile defense system? Was that an actual animal that can survive space travel? How far can it go? Is it going to come back down and crush us later?
All I know is, wherever that thing's destination is, it means fucking business. I'd like to not have a repeat encounter since I didn't have the foresight to wear my brown pants today. I heard Amy chuckle quietly and turned to see what was up, she just smiled and said,
"So, which one of you guys was gonna tackle me that time? Both maybe?"
John saw the chance and took it,
"I mean, if Dave's into it we can work something out, right dude?"
He winked at me, that motherfucker; he thinks he's sooo clever.
It did make Amy blush, which is always cute. She tries to hide it, but I know it's happening. Of course I won't say anything about it, it's like her temper... If it needs to come out, don't make it a big deal. Which is fine with me, I prefer not talking about things like that. Probably isn't healthy for our relationship, but it's how we like it, so fuck you buddy.
Molly was luckily on hand to break the tension, she surprised Amy by bumping her snout against her phantom hand, then licking it, which for some reason in this dimension, she felt.
She unflexed the muscles in her wrist, like she had been able to do with the Scooby Doo glasses on, and reached down to pet Molly on the head. Invisibly scratching behind Molly's ears, in a quiet tone so Dave and John wouldn't hear she said,
"Yeah, you'd have saved me and those two idiots, wouldn't you have. Good girl Molly."
Ch. 3 -
We walked further into the changing wilderness, trying to keep as straight a path as possible. It was imperative that we could get back to the refrigerator. The purple meadow had turned back into dusty red clay and mountains, trees were more scarce, but there were those sliding boulders everywhere. None of them were sitting idle, so no more Missile Shits for now.
John had taken one of the bowling bowl fruits off the last tree we’d seen, claiming he 'wanted to try something'.
"Dave, Amy, stop for a second, this looks like a good spot."
He cracked the fruit open and laid the two halves on the ground, some of the nectar spilling over. I had no idea what he was doing.
"John... Is the atmosphere getting to you or something?"
"I wanna see if that bird thing will come back, haven't seen him in awhile. I hope he's okay."
Wow, really John,
"You can't bring him back, remember..."
"Yeah, I know, I just want to see him again before we trek out of here, it's probably been a few days back on our world by now. We shouldn't stay too long"
Oh shitting cock balls, he's right. I mean, no one gives a shit about me or John, but people will start to look for Amy soon, if they haven't already.
"We can give it few seconds so you can kiss birdbrain goodbye or whatever, but even if we re-trace our steps exactly, it'll double our time in here."
Before anyone else could add to the conversation, John's bird friend came careening down from the sky, before it could land and shrink down John held his hands up in a 'Stop' type of motion, it caught the bird thing off guard and it started hovering in front of him.
"Good boy, Bird Thing, stay still..."
John rubbed its head. I hadn't seen its face up close, but hovering level with John, I could make out its finer features clear as day.
Those eyes, Jesus I will never forget those eyes in my life.
What would have been the 'whites' were a green and orange... plaid? Not quite as offset as that, but not a checkerboard. The iris a circular mirror, seriously, it was straight up reflective, and the cornea was a pale yellow. When it blinked, four triangular eyelids came in, each covering a quarter of the surface before quickly sliding back outwards.
I have to admit, all that small detail on its face mixed with the brash simplicity of the rest of its body's color scheme, it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. It was so fucking cool. Oh my god, like, fuck my job, I got to see this thing instead of stocking DVD's today.
Hey kids, sometimes drugs let you do magic and travel between universes! Ask your local Rasta magician about Soy Sauce today!
As John was playing with the bird thing, Molly darted off, in the opposite direction from the fridge. I figured she was just jealous of John's new 'friend', but Amy and I calling her wouldn't break her stride, she just kept freaking running... So then we were running, which sucked, a lot.
What felt like a few years later we finally stopped at the lip of a somehow equally dry and dank cave. John being emboldened by his new local companion, decided to step inside. There was a light *click* and a whirring sound... Shit! John set off a trap! Only doing what I know he would do for me, I jumped in front of him, a small, sticky projectile came straight at my chest, attaching directly over my heart. I knew it, I was done for, oh god it's going to start burrowing any second now, the pain won't last, you saved your friend's life and...
Okay, what the fuck is with this place. It's just sticking there, like a wad of translucent pink jell-o bubblegum.
All I could do was look at John and Amy and shrug.
John walked in front of me and tried to pick the thing up on his finger, which apparently frightened it. It slid down my shirt, down my leg, and onto the ground, leaving a trail of cold, wet, blue slime the whole way down my person, and marking its trail along the desert. We all walked into the cave, Molly going up front again to lead the way. A few labyrinthine corners later, and we'd found it. I didn't know it was what we were looking for, but it's what was there. What Molly had led us to.
I almost cried tears of joy at the sight of them, preserved somehow, they were cold even... Actually, the whole cave was pretty freezing. As the terrible thoughts filled my mind, the distant sound of heavy footfalls echoed through the cave's chambers. Whatever lived here was home.
Ch. 4 -
There was some obvious way this wasn't a real danger. So far every pantshittingly insane moment we'd gotten into completely diffused itself around us. Up close, I just couldn't see how this ended any other way than certain, messy, horrible, death.
The best basis I can give you is that this thing looked like a weird bear. Sky blue, bristly fur stuck out of its skin, almost like needles, it walked on all fours, except that it had an extra two 'arms' mounted on each side of its head. They were wrapped around its neck like a scarf; he unfolded them once it spotted us. I can only surmise those extra, albeit smaller 'arms' are for grabbing prey and shoving them in its gaping jaw.
Oh yeah, that's the other way it is WILDY different from your average Kodiak. The gaping jaw. What should have been bone and tendon were flesh covered elastic and hydraulics, the entire top and bottom of its mouth were covered in teeth. Imagine a 'tobacco' grinder from your local head shop, those interlocking spikes that grind up your 'tobacco' for your 'cigarettes', like that, but in a nine foot hell-beast trying to eat me and my friends.
The weirdest part, of all the really fucking weird parts, was that it looked like it had on a back brace, like for Scoliosis, or a super thin backpack with a million straps connected over his chest.
Though who am I kidding, you all know that wasn't a backpack, and bears don't get Scoliosis. It was the bear's pal. Which all on its own was damn near indescribable, it detached itself from around our larger problem's chest and... Started doing cartwheels.
"John, Amy... You guys are seeing this right..."
Neither one responded, but they weren't looking at me, that's for damn sure.
The giant bear creature was holding back, letting his little buddy showboat. Giving it a good once over I could see it was a flat, fleshy circle, with no eyes, a mouth, and two small dots for a nose. It's only form of motion seemed to throwing its many, many legs around itself in a circular fashion, little suckers on the ends would adhere to the ground, then pop off once the next leg came over.
For the life of me it looked like a really gangly, decapitated octopus doing its best impression of a tire being rolled around.
John and I non-verbally decided it was time to get out of here, nothing was attacking us, and nothing today actually had. So fuck it. We strode back towards the entrance to the cave, immediately regretting it. The bear threw its front paws up and slammed them down on the ground, letting out a deafening roar as he did so. It then used its left face hand to point at the still spinning... Thing. It then did something even stranger, it used its right face hand to point at Molly.
Molly seemed to understand before we did, and trotted closer to the spinning skin-wheel, octopus, mouth-circle.
And for once, I'd actually like to know where that stupid bird thing is, it followed us into the cave, but of course flew away at the first sign of danger.
Molly gave a low *whuff*, seeming to indicate her readiness, the little wheel thing jumped in the air, threw all its legs forward towards Molly, making it now seem like a creepy faced flesh flower with vacuum attachments instead of petals. The ends of its appendages started violently sucking air in, forcing Molly into its jaws, the bear grabbed John and I, knocking our heads together, probably trying to render us unconscious.
Well buddy, you don't know just how thickheaded we are, still hurt like a fucking ass shit bitch fuck though.
In my daze I heard whining and skin being torn into beside me, not being able to right myself after getting my bell rung so thoroughly, I got on my hands and knees to see who was winning between Molly and the thing I'm running out of adjectives to describe.
Turns out, neither of them, Bird Thing had climbed into the throat of The World's Worst Fleshlight, and jumped up, causing him to grow rapidly and that other fucking thing to explode into a bunch of wet disgusting pieces. This angered our bear-like captor, who left John and I alone to go contend with Bird Thing.
I scooped up Molly, who was mostly just being a drama queen and wasn't too badly hurt. I had to hold John back from trying to fight the Were-Bear to get to Bird Thing. After some physical convincing the three of us left the cave.
We waited for the noise inside to stop before going anywhere. After the shrieks and roars died down, we peeked our heads in... No sound from Were-Bear or Bird Thing... John turned his head around to ask Amy her thoughts on re-entering the cave. Knowing my stance would be a hard no.
He looked back at me without saying a word, and the look on his face told me everything, as did the thin air standing where my girlfriend wasn't. Shit, when did we lose track of her? Before or after Baloo's Angry Blue Cousin clocked us?
I said what he was thinking.
"We have to go back in."
Ch. 5 -
John and I hurried back into the cave, not sure if we were running head first into absolutely nothing or certain death. Rounding the last bit of cavernous tunnel we found what could be called a pyrrhic victory for team 'Earth'. Bird Thing had been victorious over Bear Thing, but got itself badly wounded in the process. John ran over and crouched by its side, trying to assess the damage.
I hate to admit it, but the thing I was most worried about, for the second time since this whole dog and pony and nightmare show started, were my groceries. They were everywhere, apparently the fight in here had been very animated. After all this, I still need to food shopping.
God. Fucking. Damnit.
The biggest reason I was loath to admit that fact a second ago, is because Amy was still missing. I tried not to think too far into that and went to see how John was doing with Bird Thing.
"Is it bad?"
When John turned his head towards me, he looked so hurt. I have no idea how he bonded with that stupid thing so quickly, but he had, and this looked like it sucked.
"It stopped breathing. It died for us, man. It saved our lives."
I didn't know what else to do, so I dug a grave. Bird Thing deserved a proper burial at the very least. It would pass the time until I could figure out what the hell happened to Amy.
With Bird Thing buried, we stood silently around it for a bit, not really knowing when the moment was over. Molly reared her head and howled, marking the occasion. The only thing left to do was find Amy.
Who was... walking back into the cave?
Holding a half empty six-pack of only the finest mass-produced piss water domestic beer.
"We were about to go looking for you... what happened?"
She was anxious, not exactly frightened, but definitely on edge.
"Korrok had some questions for me."
I have no idea what kind of stupid expression became plastered on my face, but I bet it would have made a great picture.
"You... spoke with Korrok? How?"
"I was just... There. One second this whole situation was getting out of control, the bear thing had you and John, the other thing was getting Molly. The next second, I'm standing in front of Korrok."
As concerned for my girlfriend as I was, John asked an important question,
"What did he want to know?"
Amy looked puzzled for a second before answering,
"That's the thing, it was stuff about you guys, but, not anything important. Not that I could tell anyway. He asked your favorite colors, movies, TV shows, video games, authors... Just weird first date kind of questions. I have no idea what he wanted with the information."
My day had gone from bad, to worse, to confusing, to worse again, and now, finally, to full-blown What The Fuck. That's a hard thing to do to me anymore. I've seen some shit man, you don't even know. Another thought struck me like a brick upside the head,
"All of this. Korrok made all of this? This was all an elaborate ruse to kidnap you and ask you stupid questions about me and John?"
"Yeah, he created this alternate dimension, and the portal to it, and all the things and situations we saw and were a part of."
Stunned at the magnitude of the charade, I could barely react,
"That was... a long way to go. He could have just snatched you for a second at our house. What gives?"
"Yeah, apparently he gets bored, wanted to do something 'interesting'. His word, not mine."
Nothing making any more sense than when we'd first gotten here, we headed for the refrigerator.
Once back on the 'other side' so to speak, John cracked open the three remaining beers, handing one to Amy and myself. After taking a sip, I had to ask,
"How did you end up with these anyway?"
Amy scrunched her nose trying to think back to the moment she zapped from that alternate dimension to some other alternate dimension to meet Korrok,
"I had bent down to pick them up, it was all I could find to whack that stupid bear thing with, when Korrok beamed me to his dimension, I guess my hand was still on them so they came with me."
John and I nodded at each other, seemed as reasonable an answer as any.
Things wound down shortly thereafter. John went to scoop his keys off my coffee table, but realized they weren't there. The gateway was still open; if it came to that we'd check there. He patted down his person, we looked everywhere in the house. The only place left before going back to Refrigaland was to check in his vehicle.
We needn't have bothered.
His keys were definitely on my coffee table.
This wasn't my coffee table.
We stepped outside to the warm green sun in a beautiful pale red sky, dotted with spherical, solid white clouds.
John's car was a Horselion, you know, a grey horse with a ginger mane all around its head like a lion, duh.
We were still not in Kansas anymore.
Well, not in [Undisclosed] anyway.
And fuck you Korrok.
Seriously. Fuck you.