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Vengeance

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The back of the script page was blank.

It was a plan to which Marshall kept returning. He'd rewritten reality once. Maybe there was enough weirdness still left in that piece of paper in the Evidence Locker he could do it again.

What had stopped him so far wasn't compassion and it wasn't his own sense of right and wrong. It was that he didn't think there was enough real estate on the back of a single page to plot a convincing demise for Dash.

If he was going to write his enemy out of existence, he wanted it to at least be a good story.

Maybe this was a job for the cops. Not that they'd believe Marshall about that particular form of attempted murder, but that was far from Dash's only crime. Marshall could follow him with a video camera until he got recorded evidence of the grey-haired menace to society breaking the law. Then it would just be a matter of mailing it anonymously to the Eerie P.D.

No, that wouldn't work.

Dash would catch wind of his surveillance and figure out a way use it against him. And probably somehow still escape justice. Besides, the whole plan revolved around Marshall trusting an authority in Eerie and that was something he was loath to do under any circumstances.

If only Ned hadn't taken that remote control with him. Dash had wanted to go through the intergalactic zapping portal. If Eerie wasn't big enough for the both of them, there was something poetic about the thought of opening the thing again, dialing up the nearest barely inhabitable planet, and shoving Dash through with no way of getting back to Earth.

But the remote was gone and Marshall's dad claimed not to even remember creating the first one.

Still, Ned's wasn't the only race of aliens out there. His wasn't even the only race of aliens to have visited Eerie, as more than one blurry photo in the Evidence Locker could attest. Somebody out there in the vast universe might want Dash.

Marshall smiled at the thought of Dash tied up and staked to the ground in one of Eerie's prime UFO-watching spots. Maybe with a giant "Abduct Me" sign stuck to his forehead. If aliens didn't want him, there were all sorts of things out there both supernatural and mundane that were known to steal away unlucky kids and it wasn't like anyone would miss—

Marshall froze.

What was he turning into? He'd never wished this kind of vengeance on anybody. Not even his worst enemy.

Then again, he'd never really had an enemy before Dash X.

Not a real enemy. Not someone he hated personally with a kind of white hot rage that twisted his stomach and made him contemplate the unthinkable.

It wasn't just that Dash had tried to kill him. Though the trying to kill him part alone was probably enough to justify all of Marshall's anger.

It was so much more than that.

It was that Dash had tried to kill him in one of the worst ways possible, taking away everything he'd ever loved and turning his entire life into a fiction first. Making it so that 'Marshall Teller' was never anything more than a TV character written away in a cheap plot twist and disposed of by the final commercial break, un-mourned and unloved.

It was the ways Dash messed with his life even before trying to end it.

It was that the World O' Stuff, Marshall's one safe refuge in Eerie, was still recovering from its midnight madness sign-your-soul-away sale. Marshall worried that neither it nor Mr. Radford would ever be the same. And that was mostly Dash's fault.

It was that he could never show his face in the Bank of Eerie again. And that was mostly Dash's fault.

It was that Marshall was still sporting a razor cut on his face from the last full moon two nights ago.

It was that his tongue still ached from when he'd bitten it with elongated canine teeth.

It was that this latest lycanthropic transformation had happened at Janet Donner's party, which he'd had to leave early—correction, had to run away from in a hurry without saying goodbye—when he'd come to himself and realized he was upstairs in Janet's sister's bedroom, about to eat Janet's sister's pet guinea pig.

And that was mostly Dash's fault.

But even beyond that, it was the way Dash had messed with Marshall's family. With his friends. With all the citizens of Eerie.

It was that Dash, even after everything he'd done, still had the nerve to show up outside the World O' Stuff this afternoon. Where Marshall found him talking and laughing with Simon Holmes.

Marshall didn't know how Dash was planning to mess with Simon's life, but he knew he had to be stopped before he did.

Marshall had never had a real enemy before.

He had one now.

He weighed the pros and cons of the alien abduction idea again as his eyes focused back on his dinner plate.

To his horror, he realized he'd been rearranging the green beans and carrots into distinct straight lines so that they now formed the stupid plus and minus symbols that haunted his nightmares.

He brought his fork down on the rows of vegetables again and again, mushing the evidence beyond recognition until he was left with nothing but a smashed, gory mess of green and orange.

He wondered if any of Dash's insides were either of those colors.

He wondered what color Dash would bleed.

Then Marshall realized he could no longer hear the buzz of the Teller family dinner conversation around him.

He unclenched his teeth, arranged his face into what he hoped was a neutral expression, and looked up.

His mom, dad, and sister were staring at him with identical expressions of concern.

"Everything okay, Mars?" his father ventured.

"Fine, Dad." He shoveled as much of the mush into his mouth as he could in the hopes of avoiding a follow up question.

"How are things going in school?" asked his mom.

Marshall gave her a nod and a thumbs up, and signaled he was still chewing.

She nodded in reply, seeming to accept that answer, and after a long moment of silence, Marshall finally relaxed enough to swallow.

"Is it a girl?" Syndi asked.

Marshall practically choked.

"No!" he almost shouted as reached for his water. "No! Why would you even ask me that?"

"I don't know. You seemed upset, and I thought maybe—"

"No," Marshall repeated. "It's not a girl. There's no girl." Especially because Janet Donner was probably never inviting him anywhere again. "It's—" He stopped. He couldn't very well tell her it was a guy. Besides, what was Dash anyway, besides a thief and would-be killer? An alien? A malevolent force of weirdness? Just some homeless kid with weird hair? "It's nothing," he finished, aware the pause had gone on slightly too long. "Why don't you mind your own business?"

"I don't know!" Syndi snapped, throwing up her hands. " Why don't you eat your vegetables instead of trying to murder them?"

Marshall flinched at that, but couldn't pretend to ignore the hurt in her eyes. She'd been genuinely worried.

"Mars," his father said in a warning tone.

"Could everybody leave me alone, please? I'm trying to eat!"

"Okay, Marshall," his mother said. "Finish your vegetables and go to your room. We'll talk about it later."

Great. Now Marshall's entire family was mad at him and he was probably in trouble.

And that? Was mostly Dash's fault.

Marshall was going to kill him.

No.

No, he wasn't.

Not because Dash didn't deserve it, but because—a few hapless vegetables aside—Marshall wasn't the murderer here.

He did, however, have some very detailed ideas involving fire ants.