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80s Yacht Rock Haunted Cruise Ship

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“Can I open my eyes yet?” Julian mumbled, spreading his fingers a fraction only for Albert to swat them shut again.

“Not yet- Just one secondddddd, alright. You can open them.”

“Oh wow! What am I supposed to be looking at,” Julian squinted, “This piece of paper? Jeez I know it’s traditional but I was, expecting a little more-”

“It’s cruise tickets!”

“Ohhh, the paper is tickets. Okay. I love you again I guess. Where’s the cruise to?” Julian cocked his head.

Albert gesticulated grandly, “To an exotic Caribbean getaway, I mean really you spend most of your time on the ship so the destination is kinda just a bonus thing since after a day you have to pretty much turn around and go back home. But a boat is a pretty cool vacation anyways, this ship should be a really relaxing break from spending all our time on buses and planes; I’ve already packed our bags.”

“Oh Al, I don’t know how I feel about this, aren’t cruises usually places where a bunch of old people die?”

“Yeah I guess,” he shrugged, “But we’re not mondo old, soooo we probably won’t die.”

“It’s not that- I mean we all gotta die eventually but, what if it’s HAUNTED?”

“We’ll request a not haunted room.”

 

“Welcome to Jimmy Buffett’s Return To The Escape From Margaritaville Booze Cruise ™ ! Come aboard!” a hired Jimmy Buffett impersonator and or animatronic double, or possibly Jimmy Buffett in the same way there’s always a chance the Santa at your mall in suburban Ohio is the real Santa Claus and not just your cousin’s alcoholic uncle the one time a year he actually works, smiled, waving them towards the gangplank. Julian smiled weakly, adjusting the sunglasses resting uselessly on top of his head and checking if his other pair hanging from his collar and the ones in his breast pocket were still redundantly there. Albert held up an 8th pair to show him he still had his back just in case. He was sweet that way, Julian squeezed his hand and they climbed aboard.

“Can I see your tickets?” the conductor looked up from his clipboard, a tall man with thinning hair but a friendly looking face that reminded Albert of the same warm emotion he got from eating mashed potatoes. Looking back down and studying the paper he bit his cheek contemplatively, “You must be the couple who paid with a Groupon… Sigh, come aboard.”

“I am the first mate here on the S.S. The Lawyer and The Asshole,” Albert and Julian giggled, the first mate raising a wispy wait does Trevor have eyebrows lemme check… well I guess but ehh there’s not really much there to work with ok. Eyebrow at them, “Anyways I am first mate on the S.S. The Lawyer and The Asshole so I’m in charge of all the passengers; if you have a problem, just ask for Trevor.”

“Who’s Trevor?”

“I’m Trevor.” he continued in a softer voice,” Most of our patrons are older so I will ask that you keep it down in the evening and not go poking around places you shouldn’t on my Asshole-”

They burst into a fit of barely stifled giggling again, Trevor giving them a sharp look. “Hereareyourroomkeyshaveanicestay.”

As they walked away Albert leaned in close to Julian, still giggling, “Hey Jules, go back and tell him where he can stick his keys.”

Hehehehe- In his Asshole.”

“Hahahaha! In his ASSHOLE.”

Trevor stamping another customer at the boarding dock gritted his teeth, trying to compose himself. “Thank you, everything seems to be here. Is there any other questions you two have?”

“Jah,” one of them scratched his scalp, brows knitted, “About the pool, there is a pool on deck, the rooms are underneath it? I am concerned about the leaking in the ceiling, I don’t want a wet Asshole.”

“Nein,” his partner shook his head, “Even when your Asshole is surrounded by water, I do not think it would be very comfortable to have that water inside the Asshole. That can’t be healthy.”

“No the structures are very well sealed there are NO leaks inside the S.S. Lawyer and the Asshole. There are no cracks whatsoever in my Asshole. But thank you for your concerns, enjoy your cruise.”

“Keine Risse in seinem Arschloch? Wie scheißt er?”

 

Finally in their private cabin which only smelled a little bit like cadaverine and week-old shrimp scampi, Albert threw himself back onto the bed spread which was charmingly reminiscent of the 80s in a way that was popular and socially acceptable now, knocking his suitcase back onto the floor where it exploded open. Julian glanced over and a wide smile crept across his face picking up his partner’s clothes, “Oh my Albert, how risque,” he stretched a tiny red speedo between his fingers, Albert covering his face and batting his eyes playfully, “Tell me you’re not trying to seduce some sugar grandaddies with that adjective behind of yours!”

“Nope, those are just for you, but I don’t mind if a few wandering eyes get a look teehee. You should see what I bought for you, open your bag.”

“Gasp! Oh you shouldn’t have!”

“Happy anniversary babe,” he leaned down kissing Julian, holding his face close in his hands as the scene conveniently changed.

 

“Finally we get a chance to get away,” Kasim sighed deeply, cuddling up to his hunky boyfriend, “Just the two of us.”

“Correction, just the four of us,” Todd pointed out, Greg and Roger poking their heads out at Kasim whose dreamy expression flattened into abject unamusement.

“Right… just the… four of us…” he agreed through clenched teeth, the others blissfully going back to fawning over the musician. “Todd- a moment with you please, alone.”

“Alrighhht,” he stood, walking into the bathroom and locking the door behind him, “Hit me.”

“Todd, when you said Michele wasn’t coming because this was a slashfic and this ship had a strict no hets allowed policy, I thought this vacation was going to be for us!” Kasim held out his hands in frustration, “What are those two doing here!? I mean, I’m glad to see Roger again and I’d love to spend some time with him but, I thought this was going to be special…”

“Kasim,” Todd held his chin between his forefinger and his thumb, raising it to look him in the eye, “It is special, but Roger is special to me too you know that. And ever since he can’t play with us anymore, it’s hard for me to find the time to show him that he is to me still.”

“...Then why is Greg here,” Kasim sneered, expression souring.

“Haha, I like Greg. He’s cool,” Todd smiled polyamorously. “Just because I have feelings for other people and chose to act on them when they return those feelings doesn’t mine mine for you are any less strong or important. Damn I thought you would’ve gotten used to this after 40 years you demanding little babyman crydevil.”

“I’m needy!!! I need constant direct attention or I will die!!! Do you want me to die Todd!?”

“I never said you couldn’t get attention from other people, this is a mutually open relationship. You signed a contract Kas,” Todd clarified, ready to stop regaling the other and get on to getting shitfaced at the waterpark and making out with a handsome stranger or maybe a handsome octopus. “Let this be a good experience for you, or maybe you’d rather go back to Meatloaf, no way he’ll ever let you leave him again for the rest of your life, probably take you away… probably make you his wife-”

“NO! I would do anything for love BUT THAT!!!”

“Suit yourself… What a way to pick your friends,” Todd shrugged, leaving Kasim to his flashback montage, “I’m gonna be at the pool if you need me. Something about lying in a body of water while surrounded by a body of water always appealed to me. That’s why I’m bringing my floating pool floaty with me. I’m gonna make that terrifying asshole the ocean soooo jealous, look who’s enjoying a body of water AND IT’S NOT YOU!,” he thought out loud.

 

//“Why are we here Flori, you know I hate these things, I cannot even ride my bicycle on deck without some old man in a lab coat telling me ‘there’s a time and place for everything but not now’. Wouldn’t let me ride my bike on the SS Anne, wouldn’t let me ride it here- I have never been happy at sea. Bunch of overrated wet nonsense.”//

Florian frowned, upset that Ralf wasn’t having a good time, but unable to do anything about that given they’d left port and he couldn’t very well bike back to land. Maybe there was a time and a place for that. //“I accidentally clicked a box that said I won a free cruise thinking it was going to be a fun virus but it turns out it was just a free cruise after all. And well I felt bad if I let it go to waste. There’s got to be something you’ll enjoy doing here,”// Florian attempted to cheer him up, touching his arm gently.

//”Maybe there’s a standing bike in the exercise room,”// Ralf hypothesized desperately, numb to the world.

 

“Oh boy that sure was something something by which I mean sex which we just had we are gay. And in love,” Julian panted sitting up, “Do you think we should get ourselves cleaned up down the hall?” Their groupon hadn’t included a bathroom, that kinda shit: bathrooms, towels, cabin service, windows, furniture- all that cost extra. It was their first anniversary not their billionth, Julian wasn’t too good for mattress on the floor glamping.

“Pshh, nah, let’s just go to the pool, it’ll wash off there. No one will notice. Public pools are nothing but other people’s piss and cum anyways. Mmm swampy.”

“Nghhh, I don’t know. I’m gonna take extra care in practicing correct sexual hygiene, densely populated closed environments like cruise ships are breeding grounds for disease.”

“So what,” Albert gave him a look, acquiescing, “You want me to use two condoms?”

“No, the friction actually increases your chance of them breaking, as well as each party’s discomfort. You should however use another condom when engaging in oral sex! STDs, especially bacterial ones can be contracted and spread orally as well.”

“Wow! I didn’t know that. Thanks for educating me, I feel more comfortable knowing I’m practicing safer habits. If it’s just you and me though and we both are well informed and honest with each other’s sexual history, is that necessary?”

“Not necessarily, condoms are primarily for the prevention of STDS- though it’s not always 100% so it’s still important to regularly get checked if you do think you may be at risk, so if you know you are not in any risk it comes down to personal preference. Many people actually prefer wearing them out of theirs or their partner’s personal comfort and the fact it makes less of a mess.”

What if I like the mess?”

“You should still always pee after sex and wash to reduce possible infection, now I’m headed to the showers, at least try to clean up a little.”

“Sigh, fine,” Albert nakedly followed Julian down the hall since towels were not included in their room on this Jimmy Buffett I Am Not A Hobophome Would Someone Who’s Homophonic Do This? Charitable Trust approved LGBTQ+ -S friendly cruise. Weird. Swabbing his belly button with Lysol outside Julians’ shower while guarding him from possible ghost attacks when he invariably dropped the soap, Albert noticed a ruggedly handsome older gentleman walk out of the stall next to his. He ran his sausagey fingers through his long wavy hair that smelled like a field of daisies, or, nice smelling chemicals depending on how insecure customers’ masculinity was for the brand. “You’re very attractive for your age,” Albert blurted, drawing the attention of the nonthreatening stranger, “Not that I am hitting on you, I am married and respect the wishes of my husband that our relationship remain exclusive.”

“Oh, why thank you. That’s fine, men should be able to compliment each other’s physical appearance freely without being interpreted as sexual. You don’t make my eyeballs roll back into my head and melt like that one scene in Raiders of The Lost Ark that made it the first PG 13 rated movie for sheer gore factor either.” He thanked him and walked over to the hand dryers where he noisily attempted to dry himself off.

“Okie dokie, nice and clean. You still wanna head to the pool?” Julian pulled on his new speedo which read ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’ on each cheek.

“Nah,” Albert stared somewhat distantly still, “I’m kinda hungry now. Lemme get some clothes on, I hate being seen eating naked. Makes me feel like I’m some kind of wild animal.”

“I understand, I feel the same way whenever I go to Arby’s, that’s why I always have to call ahead to rent out the whole restaurant whenever I’m there.”

Over the ship intercom, the daily announcements rang out: “-Yoga classes will be held at 4:00 pm today instead of the customary am due to violent protests which claimed the lives of dozens, all other workshops will occur at their regularly scheduled time as shown beside the classrooms and on the website, which is accessible to anyone on our wifi package, available for three affordable payments of $19.99. Help yourself to the Jimmy buffet, brunch today is cheeseburgers in paradise, gumbo, mangos, grapefruit, dreamsicles, peanut butter, fruitcake, bananas, coconut, shrimp, lobster, crab, spongecake, french fries, pineapple, sweet potatoes, black eyed peas- *gasp* please don’t make me look up more lyrics- perrier, wine, gin, champagne, beer, rum, tequila, margaritas, and all the cocktails your corroded livers can handle you geriatric dipsomaniacs- and like... probably cereal or apples or whatever but we can’t put it on the menu unless there’s a Jimmy Buffett song that goes with it or there will be a lawsuit. Remember, we all wish brunch could last forever, but I guess our cooks’ labor union demands that they sleep or something- so buffet hours are 5 o’clock to 5 o’clock and 12 am to 1 am when chef Rick gets hungry in the middle of the night-”

“Can I get some muenster on my cheeseburger?” Albert smiled at the cook, who gave him an empty glare and dropped the burger from his tongs directly into his bowl of cheerios. “Uh, okay I guess thanks.”

Sitting down beside Julian, he looked over at his plate, “Whadja get on your cheeseburger?”

“Root vegetables.”

“Oh man, same! How wild is that?”

Around the room the ship’s antediluvian population were complacently having brunch while an early-afternoon tier soft rock band played onstage. An angry hoard of maybe 6 or 7 who had been expecting a rookie magician or partially staged improv were vandalizing their equipment already whipped into a frenzy. “Donald-” their guitarist hissed, “I thought you said this was gonna be an easy gig! You know these guys aren’t used to playing live, Michael McDonald’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown and he’s gotta play again in an hour and a half with the Doobies while wearing a different shirt so the audience thinks it’s a totally different band. How do you think he’ll be able to perform if he’s been traumatized? P-T-S-D man, it’s fuckin seRIOUS! Marines get that shit!”

“I don’t know what you expect me to do? I’m playing as smooth as I can man, you can’t reason with these people! Give them drink tickets or something!”

“We can’t just give them our drink tickets!” Walter’s recording of himself played the drums cried, “That’s our salary for the week!”

“I’ve got a point,” he sternly said, “Don, you gotta offer yourself to them as a human sacrifice-”

“Okay that’s it I’m takin’ 15. Show’s over, acclaimed solo artist Donald Fagen don’t gotta put up with this malarkey.”

Walter held his face in his hands and groaned as an audience member gnawed through his power chord, frothing at the mouth. “Ooohhhhhhhhhhhhh,” Michael McDonald warbled nervously as the crowd got closer, clawing and groping at him. He glanced panicked from Walter to Don, disappearing out the door, and his slightly flat quavering grew more frantic and out of key for this song.

“Michael McDonald,” Donald’s recording sighed defeatedly, “You’re demoted from backing singer.”

“Whoa-who-whaddya mean?”

“I mean you’re fired.”

“From… backing singer?”

“Yes Michael McDonald,” flesh Donald snapped, popping his head back into the room and shutting the door behind him.

Julian munched on his turnip and parsnip burger watching a man in an electric wheelchair ram the stage repeatedly, amps falling off with horrible screeches and shrieking feedback. “Wow, I wasn’t expecting much from these kids but I. Am. Loving this.”

“Eh, it’s no Jimmy Buffett,” Albert waved his hand dismissively.

 

The was a harsh rapping at the office door, Captain Squire reluctantly got up to answer, wondering who on earth could it be. This person knew the secret knock, which was actually just a normal knock but a real tool would try and play it cool and identify themself as such, but they either didn’t know better than to disturb the captain’s me time or simply didn’t respect it- another identifying symptom of a tooool. “Who dares disturb my me time?” he bellowed with what he hoped was authority.

“I need to see the ship psychologist,” Kasim demanded, “I’m having a major emotional crisis right now and I need constant intense attention and genuine caring…. Or I’ll die. -It’s a very rare medical condition but it’s very serious and very not made up.”

“We don’t, have a ship psychologist… I can send you to medical,” the Captain suggested.

“No- I need trained skilled psychological assistance, someone with at least a 4 or higher on Yelp. This is an emergency I don’t think you understand. I could DIE.”

“People die on cruise ships all the time, eh, no big,” he shrugged indifferently. Kasim fumed back in what he hoped was a persuasive yet attractive manner.

“Wellll… I’ll see what I can do. Hey Jon! C’mere!”

“Zoom wee, whoosh. What seems to be the problem?”

“Are you the ship psychologist?” Kasim stared skeptically at the odd little man, “Can I see your license.”

“Oh hoho, I for…got my license. In my wallet. On land. You don’t need a license when you’re at sea silly!” the man chuckled mirthfully, “Here, here sit down, please. Have a biscuit. Oh no an American, let me translate- have a cookie. They are a delicious chocolate coated shortbread unique to England, I’m sure you have nothing like them in America but English food is a true delicacy you should be glad to experience anyways!”

“We do,” Kasim said humorlessly accepting the cookie, “I need medical help. My boyfriend is ignoring me.”

“Oh no, that is quite a problem. Do you think he might be cheating on you? It’s very common when husbands go on cruises to be unfaithful.”

“I like how you automatically jumped to that, but no. He’s in a committed relationship with two of his more twinky and submissive keyboardists which I like as individuals and admit to finding attractive myself but-“

“Buuuuuuut-“

“Buuuuut I want him to pay more attention to me. By which I mean all of it. Those other guys can watch.”

“Chasm,” Jon warbled, “I think your dependence on your partner is a lit-tle unhealthy, you sound like your insecurity about your relationship or rather yourself is manifesting in a forme of borderline disorder, as characterized by this need.”

“Kasim- K-A-S-I-M.”

“Oh, sorry. Kahseem, I feel you need to resolve your personal confidence issues before you can have confidence in your love. Ocean. Movement. Future.”

“Ka-zim. Ka-zim. Are you tellin’ me Todd abusing me through neglect is actually MY fault?”

“All suffering stems from want,” Jon nodded sagely, “Now have you tried yoga, or the marriage a juanas? If that doesn’t work, convert to veganism or Buddhism and see me this time again next week. That’ll be $180 thank-you!”

“You can’t be serious,” Kasim blinked incredulously.

“I could try to kiss it better. Smooch!” Jon beamed and patted him on the spot on his crown chakra where he’d just kissed him.

“Thanks...so much. I feel bettah already….” Kasim turned and left forever.

“Is he FINALLY gone GOd,” Chris exhaled dramatically, spinning his chair back around and reopening his browser to check on his neopets, “I thought he’d never stop talking. Honorary doctor of the arts Jon Anderson, you, are a miracle worker.”

“Oh thank ye, I’m certainly not a medical worker.”

 

Roger laid out his moth-eaten official merch Utopia beach towel on the pavement of the Jimmy Buffett The Dead Gays Memorial Would a Homonym Do A Thing Like Dedicate The World’s Only MOGAI Friendly At Sea Waterpark To A Bunch of Randos Who Died Huh I Bet Not Got You There Waterpark, relaxing in the shadow of Todd’s junk. “Don’t you wanna go in the water Rog?” Todd asked, crouching down to grab another bottle after already emptying one himself to coat his boyfriend’s disgusting pale body in sunscreen.

“Nah,” he adjusted his prescription sunglasses and turned to where he’d left off in his book, “You go have fun in the water.”

Todd sighed, his shoulders sinking, “Kasim always loves to go to the pool with me. I guess I shouldn’t have made situationally appropriate Meatloaf jokes at him. I hope he knows I didn’t mean it. My sarcasm and bitter wit is part of what makes me so endearing,” he kicked the water, splashing weakly.

“I’ll play with you Todd,” Greg chirped, “I see some guys over there who look like they’re trying to find someone to challenge to a game of Chicken.”

“Oh well let’s get over there and make it Gay Chicken before someone else doesn’t,” the taller man brightened, lifting the other onto his shoulders and charging towards the other team. “Aw,” Roger smiled, lowering his shades to stare at the vague shapes and fuzzy colors frolicking merrily, “See I knew he’d perk right up.”

“Get ready to go down Tears for Queers!” Todd smirked engaging the couple.

“Kurt you better not fucking wimp out on me this time,” Roland snapped getting in position.

“I’m not gonna wimp out godddddd, it was your fault we lost last time anyways, you always lift with your back instead of your knees. Idiot.”

“Hey watch what you’re s-blflgllglglglgg,” he sputtered at Todd splashed him in the face. “Hey! That was really rude!”

“Yeah? And what are you gonna do about it, shout? Shout?” Todd splashed him again, Curt shrieking as a drop of water got on him.

“STOP spLASHING ME! That was a really weak attempt at referential humor AT best, I’m gonna make you eat those words!”

“Make me!” And the four of them locked lips making out passionately. Something about that overused and overly simplistic trope just seemed to work every time. There was a reason he was undefeated Chicken but Gay champion.

 

“Wow, you’re pretty hardcore,” a voice spoke impressed from behind Ralf. He couldn’t bother to turn his neck to see who it was because they would’ve increased his drag, although he was on a stationary bike so that really wasn’t a thing.

“Do- I know- you,” he huffed, pedaling harder now he knew he had an audience that thought he- him! Was hardcore.

“Well you should, I’m Kenny Loggins, the K Logg.”

“Ah yes, I know of you, I had your cereal for breakfast this morning! It’s very edible.”

“Unless it can be tracked by Google Analytics the means of which you know my greatness is of no importance. However, if I may have a moment of your time, I have an opportunity for someone as extreme as yourself.”

“How long of a moment are we talking?” Ralf continued to stare straight ahead pedaling, “I am only on my 60th kilometer for today, I can’t be going soft just because my foolish but loving husband entrapped me on this vacation of his.”

“Wow- you really are hardcore,” Kenny gushed not knowing what a kilometer was, “Take the job please, you’ve already gotten it. I was initially looked for back up dancers for my performance tomorrow night but then I thought that’s not really representative of my brand, and then I saw you and your amazing drive and commitment- That passion truly reflects the Kenny Loggins creed of being truly extreme. I think you- what’s your name?”

“My foolish but caring husband wrote it on the inside of mein underwear,” Ralf stated, undeterred.

“Hm… Flar. Well Flar, I think you’re perfect for the job. See you tomorrow super star.”

“Okay, wie auch immer.”

 

“Let’s take it from the top again, Michael McDonald. Michael McDonald?” A member of the Doobie brothers who isn’t Skunk Baxter glanced over at Michael McDonald, the backing singer’s eyes glazed over in horror as the events of an hour and a half ago played over in his head. Getting fired in cold blood, and like Walter Becker getting eaten alive by old people or something idk tbh it was a bit of a blur. “Michael McDonald, what’s wrong? We can’t play if you’re just going to stand there.”

“I- I got fired,” he choked out.

“Fired!? By who? Nobody fires Michael McDonald and lives to tell the tale!”

“Donald Fagen,” Michael McDonald mumbled unassertively, staring at his feet.

“Ooooh I’ll show him! Where is the bastard?”

“Iduhnuh,” Michael McDonald shrugged.

“Well-,” the other man bit his lip, “Where’s Becker then? I can talk some sense into him.”

“Oh, uhhhhhh…”

Michael McDonald?”

“He uh, kinda got eaten alive I guess.”

“Typical Becker. Well I guess I’ll go look for Fagen then. I’ll tear apart the whole Asshole to find him if I have to!”

Skunk watched his bandmate run out of practice and glanced over at Michael McDonald, “Well he’s fired for skipping rehearsal. This is all your fault Michael McDonald. Now let’s take it from the top again.”

 

“What do you wanna do next Julian? Ooh- there’s a shuffleboard tournament at 3:35, and here there’s bingo! Bingo! Just can’t get that kind of entertainment back on land.”

“I was hoping we could kinda see another concert since the last one got cut short after that one guy left and the other one was eaten. It says The Doobie Brothers are playing at the Jimmy Buffett Dead Gays Memorial Waterpark stage, maybe this time we’ll get to hear Michael McDonald sing!”

“Don’t you think that name is, I don’t know, kinda offensive,” Albert cringed, much rather preferring to go one on one at some heart pounding shuffleboard than listen to some Scooby Doo cover band. Michael McDonald didn’t strike him as either a Scooby nor a Scrappy. His encyclopedic knowledge of Scooby Doo ended there. Maybe if he knew more things about Scooby Doo he’d be more interested in seeing this band, and would know how to protect Julian from ghosts better.

“Michael McDonald? No way, that’s a perfectly normal name,” Julian shook his head.

“No I mean, the waterpark… Dead Gays? Sounds really homophobic to me.”

“Al,” Julian put a hand on his shoulder, “I know where you’re coming from, but Jimmy Buffett meant it as a way to honor those who have lost their lives to intolerance and neglect- The Jimmy Buffett I Am Not A Hobophome Would Someone Who’s Homophonic Do This? Charitable Trust has contributed millions towards proving Jimmy Buffett is not a homophobe, or homophone… or homo...nym? Jimmy Buffett, a homophobe? That’s What A Fool Believes!”

“...The way you said that last line capitalized make me think you’re trying to reference something.”

“The Doobie Brothers,” Julian frowned, “Dammit it’s the only one of theirs I know Albert, I thought the rest of them were Steely Dan songs and that “China Grove” was actually “Whoa-oh Domino”, which made me think that was by Derek and The Dominos, who apparently have songs other than “Layla” but not many, and none worth listening to. Is “Wonderful Tonight” on that album? I will never forgive Eric Clapton for writing that, or really anything he’s done. But especially that. Is he dead? I think he’s dead.”

“He’s not.”

“Oh good, then I still have time left to kill him for that. Oh look- they’re starting!”

“Hello everybody, I’m Jeff Skunk Baxter, former member of The Doobie Brothers- hey hey! No splashing! We’re a little short staffed tonight because someone decided he had to seek revenge-”

“Understandable,” Julian nodded.

“-So we’re asking on you, our… sigh… fans, to come together to help us out. Who thinks they have it in them to play with us for this one special show?”

“OOH OOH OOH, ME M-M-M-MEEEEE Me ME pick- PICK ME!” Julian waved his hand frantically jumping up and down.

“You thereeeee you, chipper one in the candy red bikini bottoms. You. Come on up son.”

“EEEEEEEEEEE,” Julian glanced at Albert excitedly, holding his hands to his mouth unable to contain his excitement. “Go get em tiger,” he patted him on the back, ushering him up towards the stage.

“What’s your name son,” Jeff pulled the mic towards Julian. “Julian Casablancas, I’m a huge fan, I mean, I’m a huge Steely Dan fan but I thought all your songs were actually Steely Dan songs so I liked them then but I guess they’re still okay even if it turns out they’re actually not.”

“Okay, so you think you can help us play them?”

“Sure can! I’m in a band of my own I-”

“That’s cute, everybody applaud for the little guy. Alright, let’s take it from the top- oh, and Michael McDonald? Don’t fuck it up, you wouldn’t want to end up like your friend Walter. If you thought that was an accident, well that’s What A Fool Believes.”

 

Greg wrung out his ponytail, wading out of the pool while Todd went down the waterslide for the 22nd time. “How’s your book Roger? Any good?”

“Almost done actually, ‘Pioneers of Electronic Music In The 20th Century’. It’s all about people who paved the way in technology and the arts like Suzanne Ciani, Delia Derbyshire, Laurie Speigel, Clara Rockmore, Laurie Anderson, Daphne Oram, Else Marie Bade, and Bebe Barron. This last chapter’s all about Wendy Carlos.”

“Oh wow, she’s my hero. I wanna be just like her when I grow up.”

Roger squinted over his shoulder towards the concert going on, “I think these guys should take a lesson from Wendy Carlos. They’re alright, but their music is too smooth, it could really benefit from some bleeps and blorps.”

“You said it brother, after all, without some nice squared waves, isn’t a keyboard just a piano without parents?”

“I can’t help overhearing your conversation,” a fellow sunbather comment, lowering his newspaper, “I too, am an aficionado of the electronic arts.” He approached them, extending a hand, “Florian Schneider.”

Greg stared at his hand and slowly fist bumped it, “Ker chowww.”

“Roger Powell. I’ve since left the darkened bowels of the EA, but I still dabble here and there. One does not give up electronic wizardry and soundcrafts so easily once lured in by it’s siren song-”

“Which sounds like bleeps and bloops.”

“-Exactly. So are you two planning something perhaps mischievous here?”

“That depends, are you in?”

Florian hesitated for a second, wondering what Ralf would say in this situation ‘Don’t speak to me until I’ve gotten in my 100 km for the day’. “Oh… Yes, I am.”

 

“Are you dumb motherfuckers ready to Listen To The Music? I’ll take your screaming as a yes, I don’t really care what you think, I’ve already been paid,” Skunk shouted over the crowd, “Alright Julian, Tom’s busy trying to restore Michael McDonald’s honor or something so I need you to take the reigns on this one, think you can keep it together?”

“It’d be an honor Guy Who Is Not Walter Becker,” and they charged into the song with the passion and confidence of a middle aged drunk person at a cruise karaoke, but with the talent of someone who was paid to be there. Julian had never sung so intensely on his own music, but he found a well of emotion deep within him founded upon the love of what he had initially assumed was a Steely Dan song. Albert, towards the back of the crowd, touched his face, discovering it was wet, tears of awe streaming down his cheeks. “It’s so b-beautiful…” Yes, he’d certainly heard it before, but for the first time in his life it seemed, he was truly Listening To The Music.

Nothing could ruin this perfect moment, everyone completely spellbound by this Doobie Brothers song sung with the ardor of of a Steely Dan cover. That is of course, until the noises started. “Bleepblorp BOOP beep bwarhhhhhhhhhhh-” Julian froze in cold sweat, “What was that sound?” The noises continued, their unearthly music creeping through the band’s playing. “STOP STOP Where are those noises coming from!?” he panicked, frantically looking around for their source. Nobody seemed to notice but him, but he knew for a fact none of those otherworldly acoustics were part of any of this song he knew by heart except for the bit where it was actually by The Doobie Brothers. As the sounds grew louder and more obtrusive, he dropped to his knees screaming (it was an instrumental section, no one cared what the singer was doing even if this stage show stuff wasn’t really very Doobies, they had to give the new guy a chance before they eviscerated him in their Yelp reviews) and began tearing up the floorboards, the noise, the noise! Blorping ever louder in his head until it became an earsplitting din and he bolted off the stage, the sounds stopping almost immediately as he did.

“Well good to know the Powell Probe’s still good for something,” Roger leaned back satisfied. Florian and Greg threw off the curtains covering their set ups and attempted to shake hands/hi five/fist bump. “Wait- I think I hear somebody coming! Hide!”

As Julian trepidatiously attempted to return to the stage in time for the last verse, he eyed the tarped over equipment backstage suspiciously, trying to reason with himself that maybe those sounds were actually part of the song after all, that he’d merely just been listening to the Steely Dan version this whole time. Greg tried to stifle his laughter as he made out the shifting shape of the singer from behind the mesh of the fabric, and his hand accidentally slipped from its knob, making quite possibly the spoooookiest sound he’d ever managed, sending Julian leaping six feet back screaming about ghosts. He never made it back in time for that last verse. Neither had Tom. They’d finally made the last step into transitioning to some kind of jam band. Having fallen so far, they were no better than the Grateful Dead now, and there was no turning back; All of them were going directly to hell.

Oh wait no I forgot about Michael McDonald, he was there too. And he even sang a little.

 

“Jules, Jules are you there? Come on out, it’s okay, it’s just me, there’s no ghosts to worry about,” Albert softly called. Julian pulled back the sheets on his mattress on the floor, staring at the other waiting in the doorway, “Did you hear their ghostly wailing? Did you witness their phantasmagorical forms? Feel the beating of the old man’s heart beneath the floorboards???”

“Yeah, not really, maybe?” It was hard to say, but obviously some yahoos thought it’d be funny to interrupt the concert with their synthesizer noodling, which it was but he had to be supportive of his husband to. He supposed. Whatever. “Listen, I made sure on Travelocity I got the non haunted room, but remember, as long as you’re with me, I’ll make sure you’re safe. I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghost!”

“Oh gee Al, thanks, it really means a lot to me. You must be so embarrassed having to deal with me and my totally logical fear of ghosts all the time, I wish I could make it up to you. I wish I wasn’t so scared,” Julian nestled close as Albert sat down with him.

“You don’t have to, I love you. I’ll bust a hundred ghosts if it means you’re okay.”

“Aww… …. What about a hundred and one.”

“Oh no that’s goin’ past me limits there.”

“Would you rather fight 100 small ghosts or one really big ghost.”

“The small ghosts for sure, I could take on a little one no problem but I’ve got no clue what to do when a ghost scares even me. You’d have to take it out for the both of us, otherwise we’d be screwed. Ghost food.”

“Well…. Let’s not let that happen.”

 

Don sipped on his Jimmy Buffett sanctioned cocktail in the comfort of the crew bar, relaxing in the relative peace afford to him by $1 beers and people who’d long since been washed of any novelty a cruise had. “You know Donald, you’re pretty alright. I had my doubts about someone with more than one charting single but I’ve had a great time talking with you,” one of the senior officers wearing his shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the topmost buttons undone in a way that said ‘I’m a professional but I too like to have a little fun with a wine cooler by the pool with my second wife’.

“Why thank you Bill, I’m glad you enjoyed hearing me complain about the modern music industry and everyone younger than forty as much as I enjoyed you detailing the life and times of some obscure delta jazz musician whose name sounds like either a regional dessert or a sex act.”

“It’s actually both.”

“Well anyways, I’ve got to get back to the engine room, Steve’s keeping watch for me right now but he’s only staff if you know what I mean.” Ship hierarchy was a very serious thing apparently, the caste system regulated their parochial little lives, officers being akin to the lords of old, the staff, the serfs and villagers of their retainer, and crew, wait were crew even human? Maybe? Mr. Mister certainly was even if everyone knew he was actually a seal, he had two misters in his name. That was tantamount for personhood. They weren’t allowed to fraternize with the public, a privilege reserved only to ranking officers, as was edible food and sleepable beds and liveable checks.

Donald settled back, waiting on his early dinner, enjoying himself finally- until of course, the initially ignorable screaming in the distance grew louder and Tom Johnston attacked him with a deck chair. “THIS IS FOR MICHAEL MCDONALD!” he yelled at Donald’s unconscious body.

 

Down in the din of engine room, Steve glanced over his shoulder and slipped around the corner. “WE CAN’T KEEP MEETING LIKE THIS,” he shouted to his secret lover, John Wetton, who was about 6 inches away.

“I’M SORRY BUT I HAD TO SEE YOU AGAIN! I HAVEN’T STOPPED THINKING ABOUT YOU SINCE WE MET BACK IN THE EIGHTIES. ISN’T IT DOPE HOW THEY’RE BACK IN FASHION, I CAN WEAR MY OLD PASTELS WITHOUT BEING LABELED A HARLOT.”

“YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE A HARLOT WHEN I’M WITH YOU.”

“THAT’S SO SWEET YOU DIRTY SLUT,” John leaned in and kissed Steve’s purplish lizard lips.

“I NEED TO HAVE YOU IN MY ARMS, I KNOW OF AN UNUSED ROOM WE CAN ESCAPE TO TONIGHT. I’M SICK OF HIDING IN THE CLOSET- IT’S REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE, I’D MUCH RATHER HIDE IN A DIRTY ROOM INSTEAD. COME TO ME IN ROOM 666 AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT.”

“HAHA, THAT’S THE SEX NUMBER I GET IT.”

“NO, THAT’S 69.”

“OH YEAH. HAHA, I’LL STROKE YOU AT MIDNIGHT.” And they kissed again, embracing within the belly of the beast.

 

“Dangit, where’s Steely Don, he should’ve been half an hour ago to rehearse,” First Mate Rabin paced back and forth backstage while the others were still setting up, “He nudzhed and kvetshed until we agreed to let him perform solo and the guy doesn’t even show up!”

“Well Fagen could be mourning, you know Walter Becker was eaten alive today,” Bosun White suggested eyeing over the scene.

“Who’s Fagen?”

“Donald Fagen, you were just complaining about him,” Alan pointed out.

“Then who’s Steely Don?” Trevor was now thoroughly puzzled, he’d seen the man’s name written in his passenger logs just this morning. Was Steely not even on the ship? And who was this Fagen guy.

“Walter Becker and Don Fagen are Steely Dan.”

“Wait, both of them!? Well then it makes since why their fusion can’t be here if one of them was shattered,” Trevor pieced the situation together in the only way he could- Steven Universe references.

“But this is Donald Fagen’s solo show, I need to know where he is.”

“I asked you first.”

“Well I asked you second… Have you had a steward go to his cabin yet?”

“I don’t know what cabin he’s in, I don’t have him on my logs,” Trevor showed his board to Alan who scanned through it coming up with nothing, “You’re right, he’s a ghost in the system. We need to find him, the Jimmy Buffett Smooth Sailing Booze and Cruiseline has already had enough bad press! Another incident like this and we could be out of business for good!”

“What about Walter Becker being cannibalized?” Alan noted concernedly.

“Show me where he had a successful solo career and I’ll care.”

“Guys,” the stage manager popped his head back to check on them, “Show’s gotta be on in twenty Steely Don or no Steely Don.”

“Wait- lemme look at something,” Alan ran out onstage and looked up at the banner hanging overhead, “You even put it on the sign Jesus Christ Trevor.”

“That wasn’t my job, go tell it to Pat.”

“You can’t tell Patrick anything Trevor, I’ll go change it myself, I’ve got a magic marker in my desk…”

Trevor turned to the stage manager, Trevor, and pinched the bridge of his nose, “Donald Fagen’s gone missing and nobody can find him, flip the banner over and put someone else on. Go grab Kenny Loggins, I just saw him walking past the gym on my way here. Come with me Alan, we’ll go search for Fagen before anyone else gets news of this. Have you got the $25 ‘sorry you got murdered/stabbed/robbed/assaulted/the wrong variety of bread on your sandwich’ drink certificates on you?”

“Always do,” Alan pulled a fat stack of them out his breast pocket.

“Excellent, we’ve got some sleuthing and mediating to do.”

 

Kasim rested his head in his arms, staring sideways at his virgin Shirley Temple. There wasn’t much exciting to do on a cruise for a recovering addict who was married and incredibly attractive without his man. Sure the touch of another had been nice, but it seemed increasingly obvious that honorary doctor of music Jon Anderson wait let me check- whoops guess not- was not in fact a doctor of anything. “Why the long face partner?” a voice asked from beside him.

“Oh nothin’ it’s just my boyfriend is too busy payin’ attention to other losers to pay attention to me,” Kasim groused, stealing another cherry out of the jar while the bartender’s back was turned.

“Sounds like he’s really missing out, you’re a real catch. Since he’s not in the picture, maybe you can come back to my room.”

“You know what, I will,” Kasim faced the stranger with vindictive confidence, “Wha- Todd!?”

The other man laughed at his confusion and facile gullibility, brushing off his irritable pinches. “Todd you cuckold. Where were you all day?”

He looked down at his damp sun burnt body, feeling it should have been obvious, “I told you I was gonna be at the pool, cucking the ocean. I thought you would’ve joined me at some point, you love it whenever our hotels have a pool. I went down the waterslide soooo many times- I’m banned for life!” Todd announced proudly, “It reminds me of being reborn. Long, fast, dark, terrifying, then suddenly you’re thrust face first into the light, leaving the water of the womb.”

“Then I look at my disgusting body and remember I’m still an old man and I have to try again. All in all it’s good clean fun even if it cannot rinse the years and sins from my earthly vessel.”

“Aren’t public pools full of piss and cum though,” Kasim wrinkled his nose.

“All bodies of water are full of piss and cum, it’s just refined at different levels. The ocean however is the worst of the worst. Nothing but fish shit and deadly microplastics, the ocean is a terrifying place.”

“Todd you live on an island.”

“And I live in fear of it every day of my life.”

“Some things… I’ll never understand about you,” he shook his head, twirling his novelty drink umbrella between his fingers contemplatively.

“I’m a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, swaddled in a ‘why did the chicken cross the road?’ joke.”

“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”

Todd.”

“Todd who?”

“Todd you to stop makin’ knock knock jokes,” Kasim rolled his eyes but couldn’t help but smirking, “I made that one up on the spot.”

“That’s pretty good.”

“Thanks,” Kasim leaned in and hugged him, ignoring the dampness seeping into his clothes, “Where’s Roger and Greg? You didn’t have to leave them behind just to try an’ please me.”

“Oh, they didn’t want to join me on my spiritual journey, I think I last saw them at a concert this afternoon from my view in the heavens- at the top of the waterslide- but my third eye’s closed since I left an ambient water temperature of 87 degrees fahrenheit. That’s 30.5 C for ya’ll foreigners.”

“Oh… well I hope they’re having fun… Were you serious about taking me back to the room for some adult entertainment?” Kasim raised the question again, his gaze dropping to his banana hammock, which was covered by a censor bar in the film adaptation of this fanfiction.

“I would never joke about our love.”

And then they f***** (fucked).

“Ah, another marriage saved by Dr. Jon Anderson,” Jon smiled watching the couple head back to their cabin, hands affectionately in each others’ pants. “All in a day’s work…. But I’ve still gotten no one to sign up for my yoga class, I guess I’m simply too good at my job.” He frowned and took down the sign for his class tearing it in half and chucking the pieces sadly into the ocean, adding to the sea of microplastics to be biomagnified in non-autotrophs, ultimately poisoning all marine life that don’t care about yoga. The defeated little man slunk back to the captain’s quarters to self-medicate with step 2. Frodis may not be able to fix his career, but it sure fixed everything else. Wheeeeeeeeeee(d).

 

“Captain we have an emergency-”

“H-wha-gET OUT GET OUT!” Captain Squire feverishly covered the screen with his big meaty hands. Trevor held his breath for a moment, waiting for his boss to come to his senses before continuing.

“Our headliner for tonight has gone missing, we don’t even have him in our logbook for passengers so I don’t even know where to begin to start trying to track him down.”

“Well it’s clear isn’t it, he’s been erased from history!” the Captain stated precipitantly. Trevor sighed heavily.

“We need you to keep this under wraps, we can’t have the rest of the crew or passengers finding out about this. I’m only informing you because it is my duty to my commanding officer.”

“Oh Trevor,” he grinned warmly, “You’re such a goody-goody boy.”

He tried not to smile and bowed his head blushing, “Me and Boatswain White are taking full responsibility of this search, but I will need your master key, just in case.”

“Fine, take it,” Squire pulled his necklace out from under his shirt and relinquished it to Trevor, “But don’t lose it! The only other one belongs to Bill in engineering and if that one goes missing, we’re sailing with our life in our hands!”

“You need not worry, I won’t let you down,” Trevor nodded, donning the key around his neck and heading towards the heavy metal cabin door, “Oh, and Captain? Can you at least try and close your Neopets tab when you have guests in here, it’s a little unprofessional…”

“It’s not Neopets!!!” he scrambled to hide more of his computer, red in the face.

“Fine fine, porn, whatever.”

Chris waited until he heard the lock click shut again before logging back into Insaneaquarium. “Grumble grumble, idiot wouldn’t know Webkinz from Club Penguin…”

 

Donald wearily opened his eyes, blinking as his vision slowly came to focus. A blurry figure standing over him, hard to make out their features against the comparatively harsh light behind them. “Ughhhh, where am I OW!”

“I ask the questions Donald Fagen! Or should I say, Donald FAGEN!

“Wait whu- who are you again?” he squinted, reaching to rub his head where he’d been hit again by a folded deck chair as if this were a WWE beach episode and his kidnapper was the heel to his bruised face, but discovered his hands were bound behind his back.

“Tom Johnston of The Doobie Brothers, the guy before Michael McDonald? You should know who I am, Steely Dan and The Doobies are practically the same band!” Tom threatened with the chair again, casting a shadow over his face from the bare lightbulb that swayed overhead precariously close to its legs.

 

“We are nothing alike!” Donald spat, inviting the +2 strength improvised weapon’s bite again.

“Oh I think you’ll realize we’re more alike than you can possibly imagine!” Tom Johnston lifts up their shirts to reveal matching birthmarks. Donald is frozen in shock and awe. They have a weird reunion and decide to put their differences aside and focus on what makes them the same, Michael McDonald. “You do remember Skunk Baxter was also in your band don’t you?” Tom knitted his brows in bemused concern.

“Wait, he was?”

“Yes he was a founding member, god dammit Donald.”

“To be honest the extent of my familiarity with him comes from a few Doobie Brothers songs and watching a concert of an extremely short-lived and humble super group called The Best from when I was super into John Entwistle. Don’t worry I’ve since gotten over that and am back to stanning Pete Townshend even if his politics are questionable and he’s a bit of an ass.”

“A bit? Listen I know this is an author self insert blurb right here but you can be totally honest with me, most of us are total assholes and our fans will forgive us for it anyways, or more often, totally overlook it. In fact I’ve already forgiven you for firing Michael McDonald, I didn’t know Steely Dan had gotten back together as a live band.”

“Oh, we’ve disbanded again, Walter was eaten alive.”

“Oh, that’s sad to hear. I’ll send his family a set of The Doobie Brothers greatest hits in consolation. Friends?”

“Friends.”

 

“Loose, foot loose. All of your feet are loose. Feet, loose feet, you’re going to lose your feet.” Kenny was hard at work jazzercising in front of the studio mirror whisper-singing to himself again when the door abruptly swung open with a clatter, “Lease, loose feece, everybody’s geese loose feets. Feet, foot feet, get on your feet skeet skeet- What is it CAn’t you see I’m busy PRACticinG?!” He tore off the headphones to his walkman furiously.

“Oh I’m sorry it’s just, we need you onstage in 15 minutes, there’s been a change in scheduling and we want you as our headliner for tonight,” Trevor bumbled.

“Headliner?” Kenny’s rockstar eyes gleamed, “Out of my way nerd, Kenny’s got a show to save! Get my assistant Flar right away!”

“I- I don’t know who that is… Sigh, get back together with the band Trevor, expand your horizons Trevor, what the hell was I thinking,” he trotted out, now apparently in search of some person named Flar. Not knowing where to start only given 15 minutes notice to discover this mysterious being, he starting shouting their name Marco Polo style. How had a multi-multi platinum producer fallen to these lows? Friendship. ‘Friendship is tragic’, he’d once heard on a talking horse show, but nary he believed it then, disregarding it as mere words designed to disenhearten youth and darken their spirits, but now here he was. Trevor was finally starting to believe in it, and to think, he had heard it straight from the horse’s mouth.

“Flar. Flar… Flar? Fla-ar…”

“Ja, I am Flor,” a man approached him holding a synthesizer and a vandalized bedsheet.

“Oh you are?” Trevor’s eyes brightened from behind his enormous glasses, shocked this person even existed, let alone that he’d found him so quickly.

“Well, Flor-ian.” his brow wrinkled, “I didn’t think I know any Flar.”

“F-L-A-R,” Trevor enunciated, refusing to give up what may be his only lead, “Kenny Loggins told me to go looking for his partner to perform with him up on the main stage, I could really use your help. Anything would be of assistance at this point, I’m practically begging.”

“Flar… Hmm, still no one comes to mind. Strange name, reminds me of Ralf in a way. Wait- did this man mention anything about this Flar? German man, more interested in bicycling than spending a soothing vacation with his husband?”

“No,” the shorter man tapped his chin, “He didn’t really mention anything about them, I just walked in on him jazzercising and he started yelling at me. It was really unprofessional.”

“Halt- Was the stationary bike empty?”

“Why, yes it was, but what does that have to do with anything-”

“freilich! I know just where he is!” and Florian darted off, in hot pursuit of the orphic Flar, or should he say, Ralf.

Albert zipped up his pants, finishing up at the urinal and turned his head, only to notice a handsomely distinguished seasoned sportsman beside him and was overcome with a sudden emotion. “You have a beautifully cultivated body for your advanced years,” he blurted.

“beglückwünschst du mich?”

“-Ralf!” Florian barged into the restroom panting, “Put your schwanz away and leave that young man alone, you’re needed on stage right now!”

“On stage?” Ralf retorted as Albert tried to sneak away embarrassed at himself.

“Ja! You and the Kenny Loggins man- are headlining!”

 

“Hello my friends. I hope ya’ll are having a bodacious first day on our Jimmy Buffett’s Return To The Escape From Margaritaville Booze Cruise ™,” a hologram of Jimmy Buffett flickered at the microphone, “We’d like to invite to the newly rechristened Jimmy Buffett AIDS Memorial LGBTQIA is for Ally I Am A Woke Bae And That’s Tea Hunty At Sea Waterpark Stage, Donald Fagzzkklltttblrpzzzzztk Kenny Loggins!”

There was a brief murmuring in the audience but that was curbed by Kenny breathlessly sprinting out onstage and launching into his most top hittiest song, with Ralf climbing onto the bicycle mounted on a pedestal behind him and beginning to pedal to the beat- if it were a nightcore song, which was almost exclusively all he listened to these days. It was like doing harder and harder drugs, after a while, dubstep and EDM just didn’t quite cut it.

Roger squinted up at the stage trying to figure out what the hell the other guy was doing while Loggins pranced about losing his feet. “Greg, what’s goin’ on with that guy? I don’t remember the 80’s well but I don’t think that scene with ET in the basket was part of Footloose.”

“No, no you’re right, it’s some dude on a bike… weird,” he craned his neck, ignoring whatever stage show Kenny was attempting, putting his interpretive dance lessons to work as he acted out a medley of movies he did soundtracks for. Slowly, at first, the platform the bike was locked into began to move, spinning and torturing Ralf as he embraced a never level of extreme cycling.

“Wait! Dude! He’s stealing Willie’s thing! Stay here, ohhhhh I gotta go find Todd and Kasim!” Roger put his hand on the other keyboardist’s shoulder and navigated his way out of the crowd.

Back in their room, the two were bare naked booty ass fuckin’ and raised the rating on this story from PG-13 to straight up NC-17 with their nasty vanilla grandpa sex. Sure the water slide thing had failed to rejuvenate Todd’s wrinkly old ass judging by his slight programmer’s paunch and the way his forehead just kinda yeah, but they were banging with the vigor of men half their age. And when Kasim faced away from Todd’s sweaty sagging face, he could always pretend it was still the sexy svelte minx who’d made him question his unwavering heterosexuality all those years ago- or himself, more often than not.

“TODD TODD TODD TODD!” Roger slammed the door open, “You gotta get upstairs right now Kenny Loggins is stealing our thing!”

“Stealing our thing?” Todd barked, “Well we can’t have that! Kasim, greg my stuff, we gotta go see this in person and then end up doing nothing about it because we’re a somewhat obscure alternative band whose ambitious contributions and exploration of styles are overlooked by generations of critics and music fans alike save for a small dedicated following of fans who would probably die for me or drop me like a sack of hot shit as soon as I voice my opinions in plain language despite having done that for the entirety of my more than 5 decade career!”

And the two of them left post haste, Todd shoving what he could into his skimpy bathing suit and Kasim laying on the bed flaccidly like a stranded jellyfish for several minutes until he worked up the nerve to figure out what the hell they were going on about that was so important Todd had to stop paying attention to him.

Flying head first into the Danger Zone, Ralf found himself holding onto the handles of his bike for dear life as it gyroscoped at worrying speeds, propelled by the kinetic energy of his pedaling. He could always stop, and slow its frantic motion to a manageable level and get off- but that would be admitting weakness, no, he would best this machine! Man was still indomitable! He would never be defeated by a mere object, and he raced on.

“Wow… that dude sure is hardcore,” Jeff gazed in awe behind his rockstar shades, forgetting his notes for a moment. He’d been sent here on assignment from the agency to do a full analysis report on Buffett’s notorious cruise line, but he didn’t know he’d find himself acting as a talent scout as well. Mostly these sort of deals were your typical corral of no name performers and dated easy listening oldies. It was rare indeed when a true talent was discovered out here on the high seas. He had to find out who this Evil Knievel was, unlike actual racing, in rock and roll, people actually preferred if you were on drugs. Now to simply cut out the middle man, somehow he’d have to catch him alone to offer him a contract without Loggins’ interference. He didn’t know the potential superstar he was dealing with here. Jeff looked down again and added another note to his journal, ‘also the shrimp scampi was bad. What’s the deal with all the root vegetables? Hippies I swear’.

“Out of the way, pioneering artist coming through, wizards only fools,” Todd shoved his way past the hoards of casual fans who vaguely recognized this singer’s name, Roger and Kasim in toe, each of them trying to process just what exactly they were witnessing. “Awh man, you’re right, that is kinda like the Trapparatus on a superficial level, but like, cooler, but with less drums or any musical skill involved.”

“It-It wasn’t doing this earlier,” Roger argued, “Is he okay in there?” It was hard to tell, the gyroscope was spinning so quickly now, the figure inside was but a blur, the gravitational and momental forces compounding faster and faster. The G forces inside could have been tearing the man apart for all they knew, which wasn’t all that much about physics, being mostly musicians, writers, programmers, and electrical and acoustic engineers by trade. Physics were for nerds, you know, real nerds. They were the kind of nerds who still scored smokin’ hot babes. With their personalities. And also their popularity and subjective good looks.

Evaluating the crowd’s reactions, Roger noticed a familiar face, one of the few looking more afraid than wowed or actually paying attention to Kenny’s rhythmic frolicking, and shifted closer. “Florian! Isn’t that your husband in there?”

“Ja, I don’t know why he would do this, because if he’s trying to impress me, it’s not working,” he huffed, lying to himself.

“Is there any way you could get his attention?”

“No,” Florian shook his head sadly holding his hands to his breast, “When he’s riding his bike, it’s like nothing else in the world exists to him. All I can hope for is that he doesn’t push himself too far. Hopefully there’s still some part of him in there, right now he’s mehr Maschine als Mensch.”

“Alright, for this next song I’d like to invite to the stage a near acquaintance of mine who co-wrote a song I! originally released, Michael McDonald, “What A Fool Believes”.”

“Oh my gosh oh my gosh, Albert they’re actually gonna do it!” Julian gushed, shaking him.

“I’m so happy for you,” he rested his over his, watching Michael McDonald wonder what to do with his hands while he and Kenny sang. The most definitely had been one of the nights of their lives.

“https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/kennyloggins/whatafoolbelieves.html,” they sang.

“Wow, so beautiful,” Albert wiped a tear from Julian’s eye as they finished out the song. And then Ralf’s bike exploded.

“Oh- guess there’s no encore then huh. Well let’s go get some dinner, I know the kitchen closed at 5, but it’s 5 o’ clock somewhere so they’re legally required to serve us under jurisdiction of the Buffett loophole!”

“I don’t know any Johnny Bouffant songs but I appreciate your effort,” Julian looped an arm around him.

 

“Bill!” Trevor shouted, spotting their chief engineer down the hallway, “Have you seen this man but ravaged by the winds of time?” He held a Steely Dan gatefold photo up for reference.

“Why… Are you asking me?” he squinted, “Yeah I think so, we were having adult beverage in the employee lounge a couple hours ago. Haven’t seen him since he was being kidnapped out the back door of the bar.”

“What!? Kidnap- that’s ridiculous whotoldyou. Where is he now?” Trevor panicked.

“Probably down in the engine rooms, it’s where kidnappers have given the best Googlemaps reviews in the past and kidnappees the worst. Too loud, dirty, it’s all the same crap over and over again really, you’ve read one review you’ve read them all,” he shrugged and carried on his way. Alan and Trevor stared at each other and bolted towards the stairwell, hoping they weren’t yet too late.

“We should’ve gone here first argh, of course they’d be in the deepest dankest part of The Asshole, god knows what sort of unclean goings on occur in there. I feel nasty just thinking about it,” Trevor shuddered.

Alan struggled to keep up beside the long-legged man, “I’m not saying he is, but IF we find him and he’s dead, can we use the drink certificates instead?”

“I think we should burn them out of respect personally.”

“That’s dumb!” Alan huffed, turning another corner, “We should at least use them, then say we burned ‘em!”

The two of them skidded to a stop too late, colliding with another unexpectedly and ending in a heap on the slick steel floor. “Watch… cough… where you’re going,” Trevor groaned, closing his eyes.

“Oh, I’m so terr’bly sorry, you see I was very high and wasn’t watching at all.”

“Jon?” he opened one again. It was in fact the other man, bouldered out of his gourd; it would’ve been unlikely he would have noticed a train coming around the corner. “What are you doing down here? This is nowhere near medical.”

“Whale, I sometimes come down here for a little bit of a smoke y’see. Take me mind off things.”

“Jon I’d love to stay and spend some thyme with you but you see we’re very busy right now, we’re trying to solve Don Fagen’s murder.”

“Alan!” Trevor hissed.

“Oh sorry, kidnapping, suspected murder.”

The first mate palmed his face. “Oh! I’ve seen him!” Jon piped up, granted this was to be taken with a grain of salt usually when he said he saw something, “he and some other feller with a beach chair just went up the E stairwell, if you go now I think you can still catch them.”

Alan and Trevor scrambled upright and bolted without another word. “Hmm,” Jon sat still and tapped his chin, face in deep concentration, “Or was it B… E, B, they’re both so similar, but they’re different. Oh look! I’m in the basement!”

“Stop right there!” Trevor shouted, throwing the metal doorway open side, “By the authority invested in the United States Coast guard invested in the Jimmy Buffett Return To The Escape From Margaritaville Booze Cruiseline ™,” he stopped to catch his breath, Alan popping up beside him and raising a single finger to do the same, “invested in Captain Christopher Squire invested in me, First Mate Trevor Rabin, you are hereby placed under custody for the kidnapping of Donald Fagen.”

“Actually, we’re friends now, it’s cool guys,” Donald piped up, waving down at them.”

“...God dammit!” Trevor cried, stomping his foot.

 

Todd, Greg, and Kasim stared dumbfounded at the smouldering remains of the Trapparatus knock-off but not really. “Well I guess some problems just solve themselves, let’s go get some bread kings.”

Graced by the most uproarious applause of their lives, Kenny and Michael McDonald gazed in amazement at each other, then made out. Meanwhile Trevor charged on stage, frantically spraying his fire extinguisher, “Oh my god oh my god my Asshole’s on fire!” Florian shoved past him, knocking the smaller man to the ground with a clunk, hitting his head against the canister and passing out as it rolled away, spewing foam uncontrollably like a lockjaw bubble bath in the washing machine full of dish soap of life. “Ralf!” he shouted, frantically searching through the haze for him, worry growing more and more every second he couldn’t see him. “Ralf? Gasp-” he spotted his prone form, leaned up against the twisted form of his broken bike, but who was the other person? “Ralf mein gott! I was so worried!”

“Oh great! Just who I was looking for!” the other man beamed, straightening a stack of papers on top of his slightly singed briefcase, “I need a witness for this contact signing, do you mind?” He clicked his pen and held it up for Florian whose momentary relief was replaced with confusion.

“Wha- Contract? What are you talking about? Let me see my husband, is he okay?”

“He’s better than okay, he’s just been offered the opportunity of a lifetime! Just sign on the dotted line and I’ll leave you alone,” Jeff pointed.

Florian’s eyes darted back and forth nervously and went ahead and signed it. Jeff offering to shake his hand then being ignored did as he promised and packed up his briefcase, leaving the two of them in peace. “Pleasure doing business with you!” He called through the mist of CO2 and soot, and was gone. “Oh Ralf! Speak to me,” Florian dropped to his knees, cradling his body.

After a long second, he coughed, opening his eyes towards him, ”//Flori? What happened? Cough cough. I was riding my bike and then-//”

“//Sh, save your strength. Let’s get you washed off in the pool.//”

“//Uegh, aren’t pools all full of piss and cum?//” he wrinkled his nose at the thought, his partner helping him upright and looping Ralf’s arm over his shoulder to support him.

“//Oh so this is how it is now, you have a tiny brush with death and now you’re Herr I’m too good for a little water. What shall you have me do? Lick you clean?//”

“//Wow, really? I thought you’d never offer.//”

“//Actually I’ve got a moist towelette in my back pocket now I remember it.//”

“//You’re no fun.//”

 

“Alright Donald, let’s see how Kenny’s managed to hold the fort down for y- Oh my god,” flames reflected in Trevor’s horrified eyes, and he turned heel and walked away, “I’m just so done with this shit.”

“Oh- finally, someone responsible,” Joe Strummer, one of you said you liked Joe Strummer so I guess he was there and stormed up to them noticing Alan’s uniform, “I came here expecting some smooth music and my senses have been bombarded with this heavy metal pandemonium. Why hasn’t your captain done anything about this madness, I demand to see him right now.”

“Oh, well, I can’t quite just get the Captain you see, there’s a hierarchy and First Mate Rabin is my commanding officer I have to report to him and he reports to the Captain,” Alan hemmed and hawed.

“Then get him so he can get the captain, so I can call the captain a shitty little bitch,” he snarled through clenched teeth.

“I probably wouldn’t do that,” Alan advised nervously, “Captain Squire’s known as the Fish of the ocean for his fish-like fierceness, he has Rabin in his pocket. He wouldn’t say anything against him.”

“Who’s Rabin.”

“Trevor.”

“Who’s Trevor?”

“The First Mate.”

“Which one’s the first mate again?”

“The one who reports to the Captain.”

“...”

“The Fish.”

“Your captain’s a fish?”

“...I’ll just go get First Mate Rabin…”

“Excuse me excuse me!” another person waved to try and get Alan’s attention, “I need to speak to Mr. Rabin, he told me to talk to him if I had a problem.”

“Well I’m Boatswain White but I could probably do something about your problem too,” he knitted his fingers trying to keep it together.

“Hmmmmmm, I’m not sure I shouldddd. My mother told me not to talk to strangers but I guess I’m already talking to you so it’s too late,” Albert tapped his chin, “We were trying to go to the Jimmy buffet for something to eat but when we got there, it was closed! I tried talking to someone there explaining it was always 5’ o clock somewhere and they legally had to serve us but he didn’t seem to care.”

“Well I-”

“So we tried to break in but Julian thought he was being haunted by the ghost of Walter Becker-”

Yeah about that-”

“And now his hand is trapped in a vending machine, can you get him out?”

“...That uh, sounds like a job for engineering. I’ll go get Bill or- Steve! Steve! Come over here, we have a task for you to do. Another guy got trapped in the vending machine.”

“Again? That’s like the third time this day,” Steve groused, stomping off.

“Don’t worry,” Alan tried to be reassuring, “Julian will be okay.”

“Boy, I sure hope so,” Julian mumbled eating a Charleston Chew. “...Hi.”

 

“Up and down up and down, all day long,” Trevor grumbled to himself getting in his cardio. Taking the master key off his neck, he unlocked the portal, inviting himself back into the captain’s chambers, “Chris I have some good new and bad news; the good news is we found Donald Fagen and he’s not dead yet. And he made a friend, he wanted me to tell you that. The bad news is Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald brought down the house tonight.”

“And how is that a bad thing?” Chris replied, not looking up from his virtual pet game.

“They literally brought the house down. I think the stage is still on fire.”

“Fire?” he intoned skeptically, “Shouldn’t that be Trevor’s problem Trevor?”

“I didn’t see him when I was up there, granted it was very smoky. And he’s very short.”

“So now you’re trying to make it my problem.”

“The passengers are panicking, at least make an announcement over the intercom or something! They don’t listen to me, I’m just a lowly First Mate. Please, it’s the only thing I’ll ask of you for the rest of the day. Just, say something about everything being fine and totally under control. For me?”

“...Aw, well how could I say no to that face,” Chris smiled bashfully and pushed the intercom button, “Attention passengers of the S.S. The Lawyer and The Asshole, this is your captain speaking. Chill the fuck out dudes, go smoke a bowl or something, haven’t you ever seen fire before or are you a bunch of Australopithecus? If you haven’t seen fire before, again, return to your cabin in a calm and controlled fashion and go light up a bowl. Peace out. Laters.”

“You know what, you’re right, I should just relax. I’m clocking out, bye,” Trevor retired, el done-o with this caca de vaca. He’d go find Jon hiding in the air ducts or something and buy a couple grams then dutifully follow Captain’s orders. He was right, this shit was Trevor’s problem and if he was truly MIA then there would be another strike on his record and they would easily find another tiny man with a high tenor to replace him.

In the interim, Trevor was busy playing the old unconscious violin while Rome burned. Kenny and Michael McDonald would have done something if the word fire didn’t rhyme so good with desire, they were already embroiled in the flames of romance, thinking of new songs to make together then release separately. Donald didn’t want to come across as desperate, so he waited until they were done macking on each other to attempt to finish what he came here for. “-Michael McDonald, we need to talk.”

“No Donald Fagen. We don’t! I’m not doing this to try and make you jealous, I’m doing this because I’m in love!” “Yeah!” “So leave me alone, you’ve already made up your mind and now I’ve made up mine: I’m never singing backup for you again, I’m my own man now, Kenny’s man!” and he got down on one knee and pulled out his wedding ring he took off whenever possible in order to hook up with people who believed in nonsense like the sanctity of marriage, “Kenny Loggins-” “K Logg.” “-Will you marry me?”

“Oh Michael, I Scooby Doobie Do!”

“What the fuck honestly,” Donald decided not to bother and left.

As Captain Squire’s voice reverberated throughout The Asshole, the addled audience gradually dispersed leaving the crew to handle the mess. Since Julian was no longer imprisoned in a vending machine forever, he and Albert decided to retire early for the evening after one last sunset walk around the artificial beach designed to cuck the actual beaches they happened to pass in their hebetudinous travels. Alan took out his magic marker and added onto the back of the banner where they’d written Kenny Loggins ‘The Wedding of _ and Michael McDonald, tomorrow 8 o’ clock in the Jimmy Buffett Gay Marriage For All 2k15 Would Someone Who Hates Gays Have A Chapel For Them Take That The Court And Smoke It Non-Denominational Ceremonial House of Worship and Crabshack ™ ‘.

Julian sighed dreamily, “Really makes you believe in true love all over again. The reception better have unlimited crab legs or I’m rioting though.”

 

“Wanna watch a movie?” Greg asked, kicking his feet behind him as Todd braided his hair.

“No I do not want to watch a movie,” the other stated.

Aw Todd, why not,” he pouted, half rolling over to face him.

“Every time you suggest to watch a movie all you ever wanna watch is Cars.”

“I DO not!”

Todd glared. “Roger tell him how suddenly all of our DVDs go missing and the internet’s out so we somehow end up with nothing to look at- but oh wait, what’s this? My copy of Disney Pixar’s 2009 CGI animated film starring Owen Wilson as racing superstar Lightning McQueen with a valuable lesson about selflessness and community to learn, Cars!??”

It’s a good film,” Greg mumbled irritably.

“Yeah Todd, just let him watch his movie,” Roger gently thumped him, “You’re not gonna pay attention anyways. Put some headphones in here.”

“Fine, we’ll watch the dang movie again. But just know I’m using this as a bargaining chip when you complain you don’t want to go to another museum- even when they’re super educational and really fun. What does this movie teach you?”

“-A valuable lesson about selflessness and community Todd.”

“Yeah. Shut up and learn from a master Todd.” Kasim threw a pillow at his head and dialed room service again, “Roger what do you want on your half of the pizza again?”

“Oh, the usual, onions, mushrooms, the heart of a child.”

“Todd said we can only get toppings from the one dollar sign section,” Kasim covered the mouth of the receiver.

“Fine, just mushrooms and the heart then. What about you Todd, Greg?”

“When you say half do you mean we’re getting 2 pizzas or do you just not know the word for quarters?”

“Don’t get all higher education and mighty with me, I know what I said. Todd if you’re gonna get pineapple on your pizza then get your own.”

“I don’t eat carbs.”

“J-then fucking fine! Just get a whole fucking pineapple and fucking eat that!”

“I want pepperoni^2, ricotta, and microchips on my half.”

“One dollar sign only,” Todd interrupted.

“Pepperoni...1.” Greg sighed.

Roger threw his pool shoes at Todd, “Let’s just watch Cars.”

“Okay.”

“And make out during the scary parts.”

“Th-”

“The scary parts.”

“Of Cars.”

 

Steve, finding no one lodged up inside the vending machine trying to gnaw both of their armses off like a stuck coyote for once, took this rare opportunity to steal away to his secret rendezvous. Even though relationships between the crew and their passengers were forbidden, he knew here, he would be safe, within the austere walls of the economy cabins. It was a little known fact that they’d made budget saving measures down here, cutting almost all electricity save for the emergency lights that cast the halls in a sickly green that truly made you feel you were underwater or soon to be. This protective darkness however, was not so much to keep prying eyes out, but to prevent himself from being seen.

It was high time he come out of the closet, if only because he felt he’d been getting too much competition from the brooms and mops inside. If John could see him now, there was no way he’d still love him. There was no disguising the fact he wasn’t the same man he’d fallen for all those years ago. But for a brief beautiful moment, he would be safe in the shadows, and the two of them could be together again like old times. Resting alone in the dark gave Steve plenty of time to think and reflect on these things while he waited for his mister of the night. ‘Maybe one day I’ll feel confident enough about my body to show it to Johnathan. I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately in the staff lounge, I feel it’s really been boosting my core’.

John gave himself another once over with a healthy spritz of Axe, repeating the room number over and over in his head as he studied his reflection for any remaining imperfections. Albert tried not to notice him so much this time, quickly glancing away when he felt the man almost caught him staring. Whoever he must’ve been getting ready for was a lucky guy, Albert had already done as much as he could to clean up and snuck back to his room where his own lucky guy would soon await him.

Opening the door just a crack as not to disturb him, John slipped into their room, staggering towards the bed where his lover await. Kneeling down on the somehow simultaneously too hard and too soft Goldilocks nightmare they called a bed, he reached out to touch his face and gently pulling him into a kiss. His lips were so soft, it was almost like- wait! He backed away, “You’re not Steve!”

“Who’s Steve!?” Albert shouted, feeling around uselessly for a lightswitch. The both of them clumsily stood, heading for the door, then colliding and knocking each other to the floor again, now feeling around for the wall or anything to support themselves and grope for a way out. After grabbing what was definitely someone’s moob, Albert twisted the knob (door) and gasped as the two of them stumbled into the hall. “The handsome stranger!?” he stared wide-eyed recognizing the man from his robust dad bod.

“The guy who ogles me in the bathroom?”

“... … No?”

“Oh, sorry then. You looked familiar under those bruises.”

As a beam of light filtered into the room then disappeared again as the door clicked shut, Steve sat up on their mattress. “I thought you’d never get here, please, I need you now. I’ve decided I can’t accept myself as I am if I keep living in the past, John, neither of us are getting any younger, so let’s make the most of what we have while it lasts. I’m ready for you!”

Julian, still too transfixed with his Charleston Chew to possibly think about anything else felt something grab for him, closing around his pleasantly soft thigh. Cold and hard, bony fingers gripping ever tighter with need. His blood ran cold, panicking as this thing drew itself nearer, it’s undead moaning growing louder. “AhHH S-SCARY SKELETON!!!” he screamed, flailing blindly at the monster, struggling to get away. Rattling the door frantically, he finally opened it and bolted, leaving Steve squinting at an empty room, empty inside, his burgeoning confidence shattered. John would never love him. “Skeleton? He thinks I’m.... Scary?”

As John left to find his partner, deeply embarrassed by the mix up, Albert sat forlorn in his room. Where was Julian? Had he seen what had just happened and left heartbroken that his husband should cheat on him with a rugged older man? It was just a simple mistake! But he couldn’t argue he didn’t have a wandering eye, what with so many beauties on board, it would be like telling the world’s greatest chef to stop eating all the free samples. The couple next door started screaming and he banged on the wall yelling at them to shut up. He should be the one wailing, knowing how badly he bungled things up this time.

Meanwhile Julian was busy screaming about ghosts and the ship being haunted or something.

Finding a shred of strength in him to leave his room, Albert slunk outside, only to stumble across an extraordinarily handsome man leaving the room next door. “Oh my god, you’re the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen in my life!”

“Don’t mock me, I already know-” Steve grumbled defeatedly.

“No, it’s true. That bone structure, your girlish figure. The way you kinda look like Doc Brown and the Cryptkeeper, it’s really sexy- not that I’m trying to come onto you I am married… although I can’t find my husband and now I’m afraid I might’ve done something to scare him away.”

“You don’t think I look like a scary skeleton?” Steve asked trepidatiously.
“Oh no, only a sexy skeleton! Hubba hubba. Are you having body image issues, here, let me show you something that always helps. Let’s go to the bathroom, my room doesn’t have a mirror. Or lights.”

“See that man in the mirror? If you saw him on the street, would you say something nasty to him? Or would you brighten his day by maybe mentioning his lovely dress sense, or perhaps the alluring way he has all his skin? I’ve got a secret for you pal, that guy is you! Now if you treated yourself the way you would others, maybe you won’t feel such a need to hold yourself to impossible standards. It’s easier to accept the flaws of others, but it’s just as important to accept what makes us great.”

Steve stared at his reflection, eyes starting to water, “Thank you I d-”

“OH MY GOD IT’S THE SKELETON, IT’S COME BACK TO LIFE!” Julian shouted then ran back outside.

“Oh no, now Julian thinks I’ve hooked up with you too! This is a disaster! I can’t imagine how this possibly could get worse!!!”

To be continued… in chapter 2: And Then It Did

Chapter Text

“Toto is here and ready for the big cruise we- wait… where’s the cruise ship?”

“I- Is it invisible?”

Don’t be stupid it’s not invisible.”

“Aw shucks, old Toto’s been left behind again. Gosh darnit, I’m sick of our musical achievements being overlooked! I wanna be taken seriously! And not just that band that wrote “Africa”!!!”

“Whoa Steve, calm down! We don’t need others’ validation to be an indispensibly influential band, I mean, Hydra was pretty good too.”

“Sniff, yeah it was pretty good. Thanks other Steve. I guess I shouldn’t base my own self worth on the opinions of others. I’m not gonna sit here and cry about it!”

“That’s the spirit!”

“I’m gonna go after them and sink their ship as payback for ignoring us!”

“They left yesterday though, they’ve already gotta be like halfway to Africa by now! We’ll never catch up to them!”

“I curse the rains down in Africa,” David growled.

“Fear not my Toto brothers, my grandma’s faster than most cruise ships. We’ll just take the Toto Boat-o!”

“Yay!!!”

“Let’s go right now, Time Is The Enemy.”

“I think we can Make It Tonight if we do!”

“I Can’t Stand It Any Longer, All Us Boys should Kick Down The Walls and aim Straight For The Heart!”

“This is for Rosanna!”

“Shut up David, not everything has to be a song reference.”

“...I Will Remember…”

“Go go Toto go!”

 

The blinds slowly rose with the sunrise over the ocean, an aria softly playing over the surround sound speakers as the coffee pot began to percolate. Daryl removed his eye mask, lashes fluttering as he awoke to his private suite, which he shared with his heterosexual life partner, John Oates of Hall and Oates. “John,” he tapped the man lying next to him who simply grumbled and turned over, then tried again, shaking him violently, “You weren’t in our shared dream last night, care to explain?”

“Hngh, what?” he squinted, adjusting to the light, “Daryl? What are you going on about.”

“When I reached the temple of the unknowing demon god, and I was asked to relinquish my powers to reawaken them from their eternal slumber, you weren’t there to supply the full psychic force to break their seal! Have you been forming telepathic bonds with other people behind my back?” Daryl fumed.

John rubbed his forehead and shook no. ‘If I had been forming telepathic bonds, wouldn’t you know already?’ he thought.

Well if you weren’t dream sharing with anyone else last night, then what was so important you couldn’t join mine! Now I’ll never get another chance to summon a fully fledged demon lord.’

Well maybe I don’t want to summon demons with you Daryl, did you ever think about that?’ “I’m going to hit the gym. See you later,” he huffed pulling on a pair of shorts and walking out.

“Wait you forgot to eat breakfast! Ugh, he just doesn’t appreciate the effort I put into this for us.” Daryl crossed his arms and laid back against his goose feather pillows (5, I need proper support). This day was just not going to go well, he could tell from his 2nd sight. Their agent had convinced them to take this gig, because they offered a ship load of money, why else, but Daryl had ulterior motives. Checking the scheduled route of the cruise, they would, albeit briefly, head directly through the Bermuda Triangle, where at the intersection of its ley lines, his powers would be at their zenith, well if Oates would bother committing for once. He swore that when they first came together as a duo, the man was all gung ho about forming a psychic blood pact for all eternity while moonlighting as singers, but nowadays his head was just somewhere else, even his mental imprint was weakening, though Daryl was afraid to admit it.

Times were tough, getting older, they only had a few last shots at forging their souls with an eldritch entity to ensure some form of immortality, and even he was starting to feel it was a bit of a waste of time. The singing thing had gone shockingly well, but they had let that eclipse the importance of their real mission- untold power and control over life and death itself. He couldn’t let himself go soft, he was not going down this way! Singing on a cruise ship. The indignity.

“Mr. Hall, your breakfast is ready,” a steward peaked into his room with a serving cart.

“Awwwh, the eggs are overdone… Can’t you take them back and cook them less? “

 

While some the crew had already been awake for hours working, most of the ship was just waking up. In the Utopian polycule’s room, the extras screen was still playing, long since burned into the monitor while they snored in a heap that was both too warm and too hot and everyone was accused of hogging the blankets. Roger had devised an arrangement where everyone who wanted to be spooned could and thermoregulate themselves, but then somebody wouldn’t stop farting so that plan quickly fell apart. Kenny and Michael McDonald were saving themselves for marriage while John and Steve slept alone again out of shame and confusion. Julian never returned to their cabin, leaving Albert to ponder the situation alone. The Strokes singer ended up sleeping in the Non Denominational House of Worship/Crabshack, feeling it was probably the least haunted option he had, plus a pew was sort of like a futon, even if they all smelled like melted butter.

Trevor (large, whole milk) found himself in a storage closet in the bottom of the hull with Jon and Tony, having hotboxed themselves in there for the evening and now wearily attempting to shuffle themselves back to their posts smelling like a skunk junior high wrestling match. Trevor (small, triple shot espresso) eventually came to, but wished he hadn’t witnessing what he and his thoroughly incompetent crew had to put into useable condition by tonight. Jimmy Buffett was still asleep hundreds of miles away and somehow making more money than anyone else actually on the ship. And Florian, hadn’t slept a wink, spending all night in medical, watching over Ralf’s slightly charred, but mostly clean body. “//How could I have let this happen//,” he rested his head in his hands.

“Flori?” Ralf lifted his head, “//Where am I, I don’t remember a hospital//.”

“//Ralf! Don’t try to get up yet, I brought you to the medical bay after the fire. The doctor told me you need to relax and not stress yourself, but I haven’t seen him yet this morning. There’s a nurse in the next room if you need anything though. How did you sleep my love?//”

“//I am not so fragile, I’m fine//,” he pushed himself out of the bed, cringing as he got to his feet, “//Well maybe a little. It was all such a blur; I was so dizzy but I couldn’t stop going, and then, boom! A flash of light, the next thing I knew some man was pulling me off my bike before I could even log my kilometers for the day! And then you were there I guess...Thank you for taking care of me, you should get some rest, you look tired//,” he touched his partner’s face.

“//Just worry about yourself, you did spectacular though. Everyone was very impressed.//”

“//Impressed? Hm, finally my real talents are getting some recognition! I should quit music completely and pursue cycling full time!//”

“//And you see where you are now.//”

“Spaßverderber.”

Jon snuck in as much as he could, slipping past the front counter into his own rarely frequented office, piles of boring papers still blocking his desk. He exhaled sharply and shoved them onto the floor to be dealt with later, with a vacuum. Recovering his name badge and donning his very professional looking white coat, he stepped outside clearing his throat loudly.

“Oh, Dr. Anderson, I didn’t notice you come in this morning,” Jon jumped, trying to look alert.

“And I notice youuuuu’ve been slacking off again haven’t you my boy, never fear. How is our ah, patient doing?” he reached in the candy bowl, grabbing a handful.

“Well, he seems to be stable, none of the burns seem too severe, I changed the bandages half an hour ago and his IV drip is still pretty full. I don’t think he has to stay in here but I would encourage it until the wounds have fully scabbed over. Maybe prescribe a mild painkiller but otherwise just leave it alone and let it heal on its own,” the nurse went on entering the room with Jon.

“Um yes, very good. Very good. Hello there Mr….hehhh,” he squinted at his own terrible handwriting, “Waffle Hutt.”

“Ralf Hütter,” Florian snapped.

“Hutter,” Jon shuffled about eying him up and down and pretending to write notes as if he knew what he was doing, “You seem to be doing extraordinary well for someone who exploded yesterday, got all your bits and everything. I think we can let him go early.”

“Doctor! I know he’s in good condition considering, but don’t you think we should wait just a little just to see if there are any complications?”

Ugh, it was hard work pretending to be a doctor. When he agreed to take the job on recommendation, he thought it would be more fun like in the shows, and that Web MD would be easier to use. For some reason suggesting pregnancy as a possible ailment never seemed to go over well with patients. The weed and yoga usually did, at least in his personal experience, but too often dead passengers didn’t show up to his classes and he ended up having to cancel due to low attendance. He just wanted to head back up to Chris’s room and play video games, it wasn’t his fault all these people kept getting sick all the time! Maybe if they really wanted to feel better, they should’ve thought about that before deciding to get sick in the first place. “Fine, we’ll keep him a while longer, but I have an important meeting today so I’ll need you to stay here and keep watch. Can I entrust you with that Jon?”

“Of course sir!” Jon the younger replied.

“Okay byeeee, zoooooooom,” Jon the elder left, shoving another handful of candy into his important doctor pockets and heading upstairs.

“Chrissss, open up! I brought candy,” Jon chirped bouncing up and down at the door.

“All right! Bring ‘er here!” The two of them laid down on the rug and turned on the tv, switching to the Saturday morning cartoons, each with their bowl of ‘cereal’ in front of them as they watched. Chris gave his bottle another shake, sprinkling that delicious flaky ass fish food onto his bowl. “Sho dya think Aquaman just gets a bad rap because too many episodes of Justice League, and honestly life in general are too land-centric, or is he really just a lame superhero? I mean 2/3rds of the surface of the Earth, covered in water, dontcha think, if anything, his protection is being spread too thin? I mean when was the last time you saw Superman doing anything for aquatic beings? Not being very representative of all Earth if you ask me, and don’t even get me started on Batman, he’s as insular as it gets!”

“Doesn’t,” Jon swallowed his damp, milky jolly ranchers with a horrifying gagging sound, “Superman get his powers from the sun? Kinda hard on the bottom of the ocean.”

“Eh, I don’t see how that would make a difference if they never show him being incapable of anything at night. I just think Superman doesn’t care about sea people. Aquaman has to take on all this responsibility himself, and for what, land dwellers to make fun of him when he lends his time and effort to them?”

“I like that he can talk to fish. What do you think they think about, I’d, I’d ask one uh, ‘hey, how do you uh, feel about those new taxes on foreign made cars’?”

“...I believe the saying goes ‘needs it like a fish needs a bicycle’.”

“What does that have to do with anything? Oh, that reminds me, Trevor asked me to tell you about the bicycle guy who blew up, he’s fine, so you can put the lawyers back in cold storage.”

“Thank god, those guys cost us $7 a minute every second they’re out of cryogenics. I was just about to thaw them out last night when that guy came in here all strung out about Donkey Kong or somebody but then I remembered I don’t really care.”

“Aw, it’s not Trevor’s fault, he just cares a lot about his job. Y’know he’s doin’ this for you, we all are,” Jon stated idealistically.

“That’d be so sweet if it were true,” Chris scooted over and hugged him, “But we all know why we had to pursue ‘alternate career choices’.”

“To make this story more interesting?”

“No- I mean, yes, but we’re not speaking on a metatextual level here. How’s medical these days Jon?” Chris sat up, putting his bowl outside the door for someone else to deal with, “I saw you cancelled yoga yesterday, is something wrong?”

“No no, everything’s… amazing. Beautiful… Magic… I just feel, maybe this job isn’t right for me. I want to help people, but sometimes it just seems there’s nothing I can do,” Jon sighed defeatedly, Chris jumping to his friend’s side.

“Don’t say that, you are an amazing… beautiful person with so much love in your heart. And with that love, you can do anything.”

“Anything?”

“Anything. If you set your mind to it,” Chris pointed out.

“Wow… I never thought I could be capable of that much,” Jon stared in awe and horror and his palms, flipping them over and back again, “Thanks so much for the advice Christopher! I’m going to go try again, all I needed was a more positive outlook!”

Chris put his hands on his hips and smiled, watching his little go-getter take a new lease on life. Well, that was his one good deed for the year. Now it was back to a life of hedonism, online gaming, and 3 hour baths.

 

“Wot’s all this then?” Sir Paul McCartney said waiting a beat for the studio audience to laugh, “I was tryin’ to get a wink o’ sleep and you lot all start hammering like you’re Fixing A Hole where the rain leaks in. How am I supposed to get my beauty sleep with all the noise?” Paul bats his eyelashes with a tinkling sound effect, the audience laughs again.

Trevor squinted at the man, pushing up his hard hat, “And who the hell are you supposed to be? You’re standing in the middle of a construction site without proper headgear, eyewear- you’re not even wearing shoes! This is a major OSHA violation sir.”

“Ho ho ho, why I’m Paul McCartney of The Beatles of course, I can go wheree’er I like. I’m practically a god to you people!” The audience cheers zealously.

“Never heard of them,” Trevor ignored the man and returned to his work reconnecting the damaged cables with Steve.

“N-Never heard of, ohhhh I see what you’re doing, you’re being a real silly! Mind if I help, you know I was quite the crack in the studio back in the day.”

“Yes I do mind, go away before I call security on you.” The camera pans to a man wearing a black ill-fitting shirt with the word ‘security’ across the front, he cracks his knuckles menacingly then shakes them frantically with an expression that suggests pain moreso than intimidation.

Paul began shuffling away blubbering, “Well I can see when I’m not wanted! ...Wink,” and he quickly slipped on a hazard vest and a hard hat, effectively disguising himself as one of the crew. “Oi,” he did his impression of a working class Joe, “Pass me that allen wrench!”

Billy looked at him suspectly, “That’s an hex wrench, what the fuck dude? Pat! Have you been hiring your drinking buddies again? This idiot doesn’t know a hex wrench from an allen wrench.”

“Hm?” The Swiss leaned over to get a better look at Paul, devilishly snickering as he replaced Trevor’s power drill with a banana, “Never seen him before-”

“It’s me!” Paul threw off his disguise, legendary songwriter Paul McCartney! The Beatles!

Everyone just stared at him and made him feel rather embarrassed. “I’ll just… show myself out then…” Sad trombone noises play as Paul pathetically slinks away, feeling irrelevant. Either this was some kind of cruel joke or maybe The Beatles finally had fallen from relevancy, what was his legacy now? How would he be remembered? What kind of s-

“Oh my god everybody drop the fuck what you’re doing it’s Ringo Starr!”

“Ohhhhh yessssss, it is Ringoooooo.” Ringo struts with confidence past the crew smiling and everyone shouts and cheers, excited to receive a surprise visit from the world famous artist. Paul’s previous interactions are immediately forgotten. Let’s never speak of this non sequitur again.

 

Meanwhile, everyone in the Loggins-McDonald household was aflutter about the wedding tonight. Unsure of what to do on such a short notice, they’d have to make do with what they had. Short of a justice of the peace or member of the clergy to ordain their wedding, they might have to go with the next closest thing however, which was unfortunately Rick the cook, who had once played a dirty priest in a show. “I thought ship captains could,” Michael McDonald assumed stiffly waddling in a circle as the tailor took his measurements to let out a waiter’s uniform they’d ‘borrowed’.

“Mmm, ‘fraid not,” Kenny removed his glasses, “I’ve been researching marital law and that’s not actually true in any state without being officiated by the church or state… Unless it’s New Jersey, everything’s legal in Jersey.”

“I don’t want to get remarried by a caricature of a pervert, can’t we just wait til we’re in international waters and just get the captain… It just feels sort of thematically appropriate,” Michael McDonald tried to avoid the tailor’s finger, poking him to relax his gut. “You only get married once or twice or several times, let’s make this special. No creepy priest please.”

“It’ll be hard breakin’ it to Rick but okay. For you.” Kenny clucked ironing his good bathrobe and nearly burnt himself as the door flung open. “Alright, explain this nonsense,” Daryl demanded holding up one of their flyers, red in the face and looking more like someone who swallowed a bee than usual.

“We’re getting married!” Michael McDonald chirped.

“Yeah Dar-yl,” Kenny sneered, “It’s 2018, some straight men get gay married, jeez louise grow up.”

“You scheduled it the same time as my ceremony- I mean show. What’s the big deal I’m headlining.”

“Pschh, you’re not headlining,” Kenny rolled his eyes in disbelief, “I did yesterday, and KILLED it.”

Daryl flipped the poster over and jabbed his finger at the top of the list of performers, “Does that look like your name.”

Coming over, Kenny squinted, “Uhhh, I don’t know Hall and Oates is a weird way to spell Kenny Loggins but you know how promoters are some times.”

“No, I’m asking you once to holy shit what the fuck what kind of bug is that get away from me postpone your shindig or I will bury you at sea,” Daryl requested politely.

Kenny leaned over to Michael McDonald and whispered through the side of his mouth, “Whoa, think he’s serious. Should I lie to him, I can’t get a refund on my rental the day of.”

“Okay Daryl, we’ll call it off, we wouldn’t want to detract from your show,” Michael McDonald replied, noting the singer had not been at any of the 3 shows he’d played yesterday. Note to self: Do not include Hall on the guest list. Oates can stay, he’s cool. Tonight they’d find out what would have more draw: the best selling music duo in history, or true love and free unlimited (until we run out) crab legs. Michael McDonald’s money was on the crab legs. And for those who’d pick neither, there was always the third option, jumping overboard, though two crabs in the sea was not worth nearly as much as one in the hand. Although if he remembered correctly there were probably more than two crabs in the sea. Maybe three.

As the blonde left, they finally relaxed. “Daryl’s the antagonist.” Michael McDonald commented. Kenny agreed, “Daryl’s the antagonist.”

 

It wasn’t hard finding Steve, you could hear them hammering and pounding on the Asshole wherever you went. John however was still apprehensive about approaching him and waited until he seemed to be on his own, busy collecting the damaged cords into a bag. “Hi, how are you? I… have some questions about last night,” John sheepishly rubbed the back of his head as Steve looked up, recognizing the voice that sang hits like ‘The Heat of The Moment’ and ‘Don’t Cry’ and ‘The Heat of The Moment’, “Where were you last night? You never came…” He neglected to mention Albert, they hadn’t done anything, it had merely been embarrassing, although a little entertaining he seemed to have a bit of a stalker. Just like the good ol’ days, he’d just shoo them away with a broom if they became troublesome.

“Oh crap John,” Steve palmed his forehead, “What are you talking about? You never showed up, it made me feel really insecure… I think you went to the wrong room.”

“No, no I made sure, 669, the sex number, like you said,” John shook his head determined.

“No, 666, the devil number. Oh John did you just sneak into someone’s room? Tell me you didn’t,” Steve groaned, tossing his package aside. “You big dummy.”

“Oh...I think I did. Sorry, maybe we shouldn’t try to be so secretive about this,” he touched Steve’s wiry arm, “Can we at least not be in the dark?”

“No I-” Steve hesitated, “Do you… Think I’m ugly. Be honest with me, does my body repulse you John? I’ve been so anxious about you seeing me and, not wanting me anymore.”

“Of course I think you’re ugly,” John exhaled, “But that doesn’t matter! I do want you, and I still find you attractive in a weird way that I guess just comes with getting older and being with people an appropriate age for you. Your physical beauty doesn’t define your worth, but I still think you’re a beautiful person too.” Boy that was a confusing answer. So… Both. Okay. Good talk.

Steve concentrated trying to understand what he meant, “You do think I’m ugly but you’re still attracted to me?”

John nodded awkwardly, that was as close as they were probably going to get although in normal cases he wouldn’t use such frank language even if Steve wasn’t so thin skinned. “Well, just a little bit ugly, like a cat that would be popular online. Are you upset at me for thinking that? You did say you wanted honesty. You look terrible with a beard though.”

“It’s fine,” he rolled his eyes, “Well, it’s a start. I could use some verbal validation though, I was trying to build some confidence in my self image.”

“Oops, sorry…. Handsome.”

“Like I said it’s a start.”

 

Julian awoke to the sounds of furniture being moved around and people preparing the chapel/crabshack for this evening. Not wanting to be mistaken for a stowaway, he snuck out best he could. He didn’t have the courage to tell Albert he wanted to get off this haunted cruise ship, but he didn’t know how much more he could take of this. Having survived alone on Charleston Chew since yesterday’s brunch, Julian migrated to the buffet, where he’d seen the eerie spectre of former former Steely Dan guitarist Walter Becker.

The hall seemed relatively ghost free this morning if you didn’t count the numerous corpses who hadn’t gotten the memo they’d died yet known commonly as pensioners. Soon they’d take the long vacation, moving from one Florida to the after-Florida (hell (well probably)). The surly root vegetable-fixated cook was here again, today appeared to be carrots. Out of all the phallicly shaped vegetables, they were probably the most socially acceptable and tasted the least like nothing. Checking the room once more for Albert, he sighed, sitting alone with his back to a corner in case of ghost attacks.

“Hey, is this seat taken?” Someone asked. Julian looked up, “Huh? Oh, um, sure, I mean no it’s not taken.”

The man sat down and brushed the pile of carrots off his plate and into a napkin. “Traveling alone?”

“No,” Julian strained his eyes just in case he’d missed his partner but still came up empty handed, “First anniversary with my husband… but I can’t find him. I wonder if he’s angry I didn’t sleep with him last night- there was a skeleton in our room you see I’m not cheating on him… Unless he’s cheating on me with the skeleton,” Julian mumbled to himself suspiciously.

He stifled a laugh, “It’s probably just your imagination, you know we’re in the Bermuda Triangle, there’s all sorts of rumors of aliens and ghosts and things so it’s not unrealistic your mind might be playing tricks on you. Sorry to burst your bubble.”

“Thanks a lot jerk…” Julian grumbled regretting opening up to a stranger, first he was being ghostlighted now he was being gaslighted, just super.

“Actually it’s pronounced Greg but I can see where you’d make that mistake,” he ignored the comment and continued with his french toast. “First anniversary, you’re awfully young to be here with all us greys and gays. I can’t exactly use heteromonogamous patriarchal terminology like anniversary or married, but I’ve known my guys since the 70s.”

“Wow you’ve gotta be like… a million,” Julian said in awe although he wasn’t about to put up with some ‘elder gay’ horseshit. “Why aren’t you with them? You’re not trying to hit on me are you, I know what you’re thinking but we are both very happy. I’m only here because Al’s got parrotitus or something and the only cure is the same thing as its cause, Jim Buffy,” he furrowed his brows.

“That’s very heteronormative of you to say. No, I’m just an early riser I guess, I think I fell asleep early watching movies last night. All night long I dreamed about changing tires… disappointing to be honest. Ric was driving but he was also the car, but sometimes he was both at once, or maybe they were the same thing, anyways, do you think it means something?”

Julian stumbled, not paying attention but was saved by the bell as he finally spotted Albert and rudely excused himself, “Oh look I gotta go it means you’re a bottom bye.”

“Hm… Maybe…. Maybe I am.”

Fantasy Ben appeared in his mind in a very saucy pit crew outfit with his bare chest exposed and the cap placed very jauntily on his head as he filled the Ric car with gas in a very phallic manner, ‘Of course you are you dumb sl-’ Fantasy Todd showed up with a much larger pump and threw down his hands seeing he was too late, ‘This is the fucking problem with poly relationships I swear,’ and stormed off, ‘baby on board’ readable across the behind of his NASCAR approved booty shorts (minimum of three inches showing if you were cute, maximum of 0 if you weren’t). ‘Wait!’ Ric car called, ‘I have more than one hole! Come back! Fill me up, I’ve been a dirty b-’ and then his engine caught fire, ‘Aw shit not again, Greg wake up.’ “What? Oh no my bagel!”

As the cranky crowd dealing with their low blood sugar waited for the staff to let them back into the dining hall after putting out a minor (relative terms) fire, Trevor rubbed his face wearily. So much for smooth sailing, it had barely been a full day and he was exhausted from putting fires (literal and figurative) out. “Trevor, Is Geoff still in there?”

“No I’m right here,” Jeff Lynne announced.

“Um I think he’s talking to me,” Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter argued.

“Why do they call you that?” Jeff wondered.

“My mother liked the name Jeffrey and I didn’t have the nerve to stand up to her.”

“No, not you,” the smaller Trevor pinched the bridge of his nose, “Geoff, our crewmate.”

“We don’t have any crew named Jeff,” Trevor deluxe disagreed, “My ledger never lies, except when it’s wrong.”

“What are you talking about, you know Geoff. Oh here he comes, did you find out the culprit?”

Geoff held up a charcoal briquette that allegedly once was a bagel. Meanwhile Trevor XL put two and two together and shouted in shock, “Oh my GOD that’s pronounced Jeff?!”

 

Ralf glanced across the room again, checking on Florian, faintly snoring in his chair, exhausted from staying vigilant all night. The nurse had left to get something to eat but the dining hall catching on fire and another person getting their arm stuck inside the vending machine meant he had a wide window of opportunity. He made his escape, and then he carried his crispy body back to the gym to go cycling again. Like a sloth to a game, he couldn’t resist the call.

Usually this time of day it was pretty empty, save for maybe one or two anal retentive GILFs. Right now it looked like just him and a short man going at a punching bag like it was a healthy outlet for some seriously repressed anger issues. “Are you using this?” Ralf asked dumbly, gesturing towards an empty bike beside him before climbing on, wincing slightly as his thighs chafed.

“No,” John shrugged, “I’ve been here all morning.”

“Preparing for a big match hmm?” Ralf began pedaling, doubtful he’d reach his usual mileage for the day but eager to try.

“No, just venting offline, my partner’s been really annoying me. I’ve tried putting a blonde wig on it before but it kept falling off,” he stopped the bag holding it still for a second, “And Daryl found it in my luggage and thought it was for role play, and that I’d discovered his secret selfcest kink. That I’d been reading his mind again. I wasn’t willing to explore that fantasy with him and after getting the silent treatment I threw it out.”

“Ah, husbands can be frustrating sometimes, mine dragged me on this trip and trapped me on a boat, although it hasn’t been all bad.”

“Oh we’re not married, he’s my business partner. Wait, did you have first degree burns before coming on this trip?”

“Hey, it is okay to be open about it, this Asshole is a safe space, would the Jimmy Buffett: Not A Homerphobe Advocacy Group lie to you? Times aren’t like they used to be, it’s hip and relevant to be gay, especially if you had a number of hits in the 80s. It’s like high-waisted pants, very chic,” he demonstrated his own cycling shorts pulled up to his wrinkled nipples grandpa-style.

“No it’s not that, I’m just straight,” John pushed his rock n roll hair back frustrated, “It’s not homophobic to be heterosexual.”

“Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” Ralf cocked his head suggesting otherwise.

John.’ Daryl thought, ‘Come backstage, we need to talk about some things.’

I told you I don’t wanna deal with demons-’

Not about demons, some tool is trying to ruin our concert.’

Well that’s different let’s go send them to the shadow realm.’

As John left and Ralf could finally focus on his cycling, pumping up with his favorite Christopher Cross thrash metal cover album, his new agent snuck in. “Hey there champ,” Jeff with a J spoke up, “Feelin’ better? You know last night I was real concerned about you, you’re special, but I don’t want you to be a liability. Now if you can get off the bike for a sec, we need to go over suing Jimmy Buffett’s Revenge of The Return to the Escape From Margaritaville Booze and Cruiseline ™, or Kenny Loggins, whoever you think we can win a personal injury case against but Buffett’s got more money and plus wouldn’t that be something to put in my review!”

Ralf turned his head directly toward him, but didn’t stop biking. Speaking slowly and coldly, he replied, “I don’t think you understand what is really important here. I am thinking I might like to rescind my contract.”

 

Albert dragged a somewhat reluctant Trevor towards the pool, “He just keeps going up and down the slide, over and over again. I wanted to but this guy’s got like a fast pass or something and the grating on the stairs is hurting my toesies.” The first mate sighed, wondering what his job was actually supposed to be like.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: “Daryl I came as fast as I coul-” John panted, avoiding the construction crew all standing around while one guy worked.

“Oh- it’s fine now,” The blonde turned around, “I took care of it, they’re calling off the wedding.”

“What?” John frowned, “What are you talking about?”

“The tools who were trying to steal our spotlight, duh,” Daryl gestured, crossing out and rewriting ‘Private Eyes’ on the set list for the fourth time. “You can go back to doing whatever now.”

“Wh- you could have told me that before I came all the way here!?” John barked.

Daryl stared at him then reached into his robe and pulled out his flip phone, hitting the speed dial beneath the Hall and Oates Emergency Hotline and watching as John’s pocket light up and play 30 seconds of ‘Out of Touch’ on repeat. John merely turned it on silent and walked away blankly.

Reaching the top of the stairs of the Jimmy Buffett AIDS Memorial LGBTQIA is for Ally I Am A Woke Bae And That’s Tea Hunty At Sea Waterpark, Trevor got the attendant Peter Banks that’s right he was in Yes ‘s attention. “Alright, what’s this about a fast pass,” he asked breathlessly, only to be immediately cut off as a skunk-haired septegenarian hoofin’ it like a kid hopped up on sugar barrelled past him and back down the slide. “Stop! Shit… grr,” he decisively stepped forward and slide down into the darkness, now locked in a high speed chase.

This may not have been how the Buddha would’ve done it, but if he’d ever had the opportunity to go down a water slide, Todd had his suspicions. As he closed his eyes, letting the slide embrace him, he found himself interrupted by someone coming up behind him and overstepping his position of authority. “By the power invested in blah blah blah- Stop doing this! You’re acting like a five year old and other people want to ride!”

Todd tried to wrestle him away as much as he could while slipping around in the dark before he could imbue this experience with too many negative psychic energies and ruin it for him forever. “Five’s good but I’m trying to aim for being completely reborn not regressed, leave me be, my journey must be made alone.”

“Stop being stupid! It’s- just a slide!” Trevor grappled him, his uniform totally soaked but refusing to provide him nearly enough friction to stop moving.

“Argh- It is now! You spoiled the mental state it allowed me to access, Happy!?” the other man snapped, pushing and shoving as they continued to accelerate, their combined mass contributing to the momentum of their downhill descent.

“Excuse me assaulting an officer is a crime I’ll have you know!”
“That’s only police officers you wet idiot-” And then they shot out and hit the side of the pool like a bat outta hell.

“ARGHHHHH! MY SPLEENS!”

 

As Trevor was reclaimed from the water like an old boot, Jon scurried over, parting the crowds. “Wait I’m a doctor I’m a doctor I’m a doctor I’m important wait.”

“Jon?” Trevor stared up weakly, and coughed. “Shhh, don’t speak, save your energy!” he hushed him.

“Jon this job su-” “Spleens be gone!” And then Jon laid his hands on him suddenly and more than a little aggressively, making Trevor’s eyes bug out, biting back a scream. And the he relaxed, blinking at the man, “I- I actually feel a lot better now? Hah- ha this is amazing, thanks a ton, you’re a real miracle worker.”

As Trevor got up and walked away, Jon’s eyes widened as he stared at his hands in awe, and everyone else stared with him. “Oh just what we need on this ship, another fuckin’ cult,” Peter rolled his eyes watching Albert go down the slide for the fourth time.

 

Julian wandered the deck, munching half-attentively on a singed English muffin. “No no no, argh, and after all that effort.” “Hm?” he craned his head, overhearing someone despite the noise of construction and the usual sounds of the waterpark and boatstuff. “Oh my gosh, famouse magimusiciaman Donald Fagen!”

“What?” the other man faced him, “Oh, hey, I recognize you from the other show, it’s always nice seein’ kids in the audience even if they were dragged along by their parents, gotta make sure the fans don’t all die off before you do… Jeez Louise will you take a look at this mess, a guy can’t get kidnapped without somebody giving his spot away to just anybody, it’s a tragedy honest.”

“Uhhh,” Julian stared nervously, teeth clenched ‘what do I say what so I say ohmygod’. “I’m… Sorry for your loss.”

His shoulders relaxed, “Eh, I’ll just probably headline some other night this week, I should just take the day off and relax like I’m really on vacation. Daryl owes me a big one, though you’d think he’d be all fairy law and shit about contracts and favors but most of the time he wriggles his way out by ‘oops, I forgot hahah my bad’, it’s a disgrace to magic.”

“Oh um, I meant sorry about Walter Becker getting eaten and stuff…”

Donald’s expression sombered, rubbing the back of his head, “Oh, yeah, right. Almost slipped my mind. ...Sigh. Guess it’ll have to be a solo show however it goes.”

“I,” Julian vacillated, deliberating as to how much to tell him, “I actually saw him, last night.”

“You what!?”

“-His ghost,” Julian added, “And, oh I don’t know if I should tell you this but I feel it’s my responsibility, I think we had a brief but torrid affair. I know the rate of decay is not even remotely that fast outside of being dipped in acid as to remove the fleshy remnants of the corpse, but I have all reasons to believe this ship is being haunted and I did in fact encounter his skeletal form. I probably have ghost STDs,” he hung his head ashamed.

“What the fuck are you talking about,” Donald squinted, “You don’t work for the tabloids or some shit do you?”

“Does… fanfiction count? No, I’m totally serious about this! Come with me, I can show you!” Julian took him by the arm, hasty to prove himself.

“HEY NO RUNNING,” the hunky lifeguard, John Lees of Barclay James Harvest shouted, looking up from his grain entrapment clickbait listicle.

“Sorry,” they slowed to a brisk walk before taking off again.

“You there! Noooo running!” Jon confronted them a second time, forcing the two to skid to a halt on the freshly waxed floors. “Now what seems to be the problem skippy that y’ two are in such a hurry!”

“His partner was eaten alive yesterday and I keep seeing his ghost and may or may not have an accidentally affair with it,” Julian clarified, Donald mouthing things behind him.

“Oh! Well I can help you with that, ha!”

“Wait,” Julian’s brows knitted, “You can?”

“Oh yes,” his eyes gleamed, “Anything is possible if you just believe in yourself enough. He probably died because he didn’t believe in himself, it’s probably the most common cause of death behind sea monster attacks and being fooled by a witch’s curse. But don’t worry, I can fix everything, I’m valid.”

Skeptically, the two looked at each other. It sounded sketch af, but this man was the best hope they had left.

 

“There you are, we’ve been looking all over for you!” Kenny and Michael McDonald ran up to First Mate Rabin, being carried to medical on a gurney. “Yikes what happened?”

“Oh,” he gazed blankly towards the sky, “You know, I thought I had been healed but it turns out I was just in shock, yup I’ve got internal bleeding and they’re gonna have to reinstall a new spleen to soak up the blood.”

“That doesn’t sound right but I don’t know enough about spleens to dispute it. We actually needed to see you about getting you to talk to your superior about talking to us so we can get married.” They flashed their matching engagement ring pops.

Trevor exhaled shallowly and blinked, “That sounds great but I think I’m gonna be kinda indisposed of for a little bit. You’re just going to have to go talk to the captain directly. It’s the room at the top of those stairs over there, talk the key from around my neck to get in.”

“Oh,” Michael McDonald glanced down at his new bling, “Thanks I guess. Get better?”

“I am soooo gonna enjoy this free morphine,” Trevor emptily cheered.

“H-Hello?” Michael McDonald opened the latch to the captain’s quarters, “We uh, need to speak to the captain. Are there any captains in here?”

“AH!” Chris fell out of his swivel chair attempting to cover his screen again, “What do you want!? All the money is under my mattress! Just don’t touch my account!”

“Actually we were trying to get you to officiate a wedding tonight,” Kenny asked.

“Oh? Really?” Chris pushed himself back up, “Really? That’s what you came here for?”

The couple exchanged an anxious glance. “-Of course I will! Marrying old homos is practically one of the only things I actually ever do as a captain! I’m so excited, let me just get ready. Gotta take another bath, so much to do so much to do.”

“We thank you for your blessing, well… Ollie outies I guess,” and they waved goodbye.

Back in the infirmary, Florian was coming to and noticed Ralf, was nowhere to be found. There was a commotion in the hallway, as nurse Jon ushered in Trevor into an empty bed and began checking him out. “Ra-Ralf!” Florian bolted upright, “//He’s gone!// Doctor- doctor! Help, my husband is missing-”

Jon held up a hand to him, “I’m a nurse, not a doctor, I know, it’s a common mistake since we do most of the work. Now if you’ll excuse me I have another patient I’m tending to now and I’ll be right with you. There’s magazines in the waiting room.”

‘I do not have time for this! I have to find Ralf,’ Florian thought to himself, darting out. It was obvious where he’d be, but it still felt serious as he busted into the gym. “Ralf!” he ran to the exercise bike, “//What are you doing out of bed, your skin, it’s so irritated! Here, let me help you back-//”

“//I am fine//,” Ralf frowned, moving his arm away, “//Everyone today, you’re all so obsessed with me, I wish you’d just let me cycle.//”

“//Is that promoter man making you do this//,” Florian spoke concernedly.

“//No, I told you, I am doing this for myself. And my beautiful thighs. I dealt with him.//”

“//Wait, you did?//”

“//Ja, I think he was using me, he never really cared about what I cared about. Honestly Flori, you are no better//,” Ralf spoke coldly.

“//Leib, how could you say that! I do care about you//,” he restrained himself from throwing his arms on him, “//I know- I know I may seem I am trying to stop you from bicycling, but I just want you to be happy. Remember all the other things you love, look at yourself, you’re all pussy and still here! I think the biking has taken hold upon your psyche and is eating away at your soul. I used to think this was just an overzealous hobby but this, this just isn’t right.//” he looked at him worried,gently touching a shoulder and messing with his drag, “//I don’t think a doctor can help you.//”

“//Awesome, I’ll be on my bike if you need me.//”

 

John put his hands on his hips, craning his vision towards the top of the stage set up, “Wow, you guys really pulled this together at the last minute, I can’t believe it looks this good! Whatever they’re paying you it’s not enough.”

Trevor smiled bashfully, “It never is. -Are you just saying that to say that or are you actually going to tip me or put in an actual request to my supervisor?”

“Ha ha, let’s not get too big headed, you are just crew,” and he left for backstage, where Daryl was busy freaking out over the fact his jumbo shrimp were too jumbo.
“OhmygodthisisadiSASTER!” he held up a prawn showing it to John, “Look at this, tell me what’s wrong with this picture.”

“Uhh, it’s a shrimp? You’re more of a crab man? I’m not readin’.” John regretted his entire life.

“I asked for jumbo shrimp on the roster, I always thought it was like a roxy moron or something but these are WAY too big. I told them to take them back and bring me smaller jumbo shrimp, but they told me everything else had already been prepared for a WEDDING banquet tonight! Do you know what that means, those tranches LIED to us,” he collapsed to his knees cradling his slightly larger than average shrimp, “No one’s going to show up, I can’t get a reasonably proportioned crustacean, you won’t even summon demons with me anymore… I don’t think I can do this.”

John frowned, getting a little uneasy about the normally absurd and easily panned situation. “I’ll see what I can d-” he rubbed his arm, “No- Daryl, I’m sick of this hooey. Pull yourself together and let’s get through soundcheck without you running off to seek revenge and destroy true love again.”

“Wh-what? Don’t talk to me like that! Remember whose name comes first here.”

“-I’m really fine with that it doesn’t matter, it probably just sounds better that way. I feel the & is actually the most important part.”

“Oh you sound just like you do when you try and talk yourself into believing it’s okay to be a manlet too you mutant. Don’t try to mitigate this, John everyone knows you’ve gone downhill ever since you shaved your moustache,” Daryl snarled from his jumbo shrimp pity pile.

“Wow that’s just like super uncalled for and totally untrue,” John backed away covering his mouth with his hand, “I’ll see you onstage but after that we’re through and you can see just how successful you are without me Hall. I’m taking that & too.”

“Hmm,” Daryl watched his empire falling apart around him while smelling of shrimp, “Shitty.”

 

“Higher higher lower lower lower higher more left wait no your other left. Lower. No higher again. I give up lets just lay it on the ground,” Kenny stared at his handiwork and called for his bride. “Okay, I’ve hung the banner, we’re ready.”

“Oh my gosh I’m so nervous,” Michael McDonald glanced around the corner, his husbandmaids tending to him.

“It’s okay, you’ll be fine,” Tom Johnston patted his arm, “Here,” he placed a flower crown on his head like all those hipsters is that still a thing, “Gasp. You’re beautamous, like a beautiful angel made of beards.”

John Lees the lifeguard from Barclay James Harvest nodded in agreement, making a second appearance in this fanfiction. “Are you ready? The procession is about to start,” Captain Squire approached them, “Listen, we gotta make this kinda quick, I gotta get back to my aquarium, yunno important captain stuff, plus this flaming arrow with a note just came through the Nondenominational House of Crab Worship.”

“A flaming arrow!?” Michael McDonald pulled it down in a hurry reading the letter before it completely disintegrated.

Dear- is dear really the right word here, I mean you’re not really dear to me but I’ve never started a letter with anything else so I guess it’s the law- Dear Boring Soft Rock Guys,

This is Hall and Oates in case you haven’t already guess, what the fuck man, you said you’d call off the wedding so we could play without being interrupted by capitalist patriarchal traditions of exchange of human property, what gives? Anyways, stop this immediately or we will be forced to use force (set you all on fire). Laters XOXOXO

P.S. Save me some shrimp, regular sized ones. But not too small, I’m a grown man I need my protein.

P.S.S. John wants some too but he’s being a real turd so you don’t have to.

“Oh no this is terrible! I have to tell Kenny immediately!” Michael McDonald shook the embers off his hands.

“Are you really going to let yourself be intimidated by this Michael McDonald of The Doobie Brothers and that other thing he did fame?” John Lees of Barclay James Harvest stood up, slapping him across the face, “That is the man you love out there, best selling duo Hall & Oates can’t come between love, what else would they even write about, it would be an abomination. Now go out there, get married, play a good clean game, and bring home the state championship! Alright split!”

“That was a great pep talk coach,” Michael McDonald sniffed, and got out there and got himself married.

 

“I swear he was just there,” Julian frowned, Jon frowning harder as he didn’t get his chance to bring back the dead with his new found confidence. “Oh hey Jules whaddup,” Albert waved, dripping over to the three of them. “Concert’s about to start, wanna check it out?”

“Oh, hi, sure,” Julian hesitated, rubbing his arm and looking down, “About…. Last night.”

“I’m sorry, it was honestly a huge misunderstanding-”

“Me and the skeleton only touched, I swear.”

“What.”

“What, enough about me let’s talk about you instead.”

“Let’s…. Let’s not- wait, do you hear someone crying? We should come to their aid like heroes, c’mon Jules,” Albert dashed off, grabbing his hand.

“Boohoo, boohoo…” They rounded a corner, finding who else but Daryl, curled up in his dressing room with a plate of uncomfortably large sramp.

“Why are you crying? Is there anything we can do-”

“Is there anything I can do,” Jon interrupted, threatening to use his confidence on him.

The man sniffed, looking up at them, “Oh, it’s nothing, it’s just, tonight I was going to have a big concert, but,” he gestured, “Hardly anyone’s even shown up. We’re on a boat! In the middle of the ocean! What else could they possibly have going on in their lives!?”

“Wait, you’re headlining?” Albert looked puzzled, but more disappointed, “I thought Jimmy Buffett was gonna play. I paid all this money and I don’t even get to see the king of smooth music?!”

“Who cares about Jimmy Buffett? Look, right at the top in the big front where if you can’t read it at the doctor’s then they declare you legally blind.” he waved a flyer at him, Albert’s expression growing redder.

“What the dank honestly, not there at all,” he showed Julian the paper, showing him right where it didn’t say Jimmy Buffett anywhere, “Look at all these has beens: critically acclaimed legends of the studio Steely Dan, best selling duo with over 40 million records delivered Hall & Oates, award-winning songwriter and composter Kenny Loggins, a band named after weed The Doobie Brothers- What a bunch of losers! I thought-”

“You’re really cheering me up, honest. Doin’ a super job here. You know I am having the worst day of my life right now you could have a little respect: my partner doesn’t want to do what we set out to do anymore, he’s threatened to leave me for reals after tonight, literally no one came, AND they gave me jumbo shrimp when I really just wanted slightly larger than average shrimp? I don’t even know what I’m doing here anymore. What’s the point, I can see I’ve really hit rock bottom, nowhere left to go.” Tears and snot began flowing freely down his bee-stung looking ass face which made them uncomfortable.

“You could drown,” Albert suggested, as they were on a boat.

“As if this stupid cruise couldn’t get any worse!”

Julian bit his lip, feeling the need to be the voice of reason, “I thought you had a pretty good gig! What are you talking about?”

Daryl had that dead look in his eyes as he spoke, as if coming to terms with his own morality, moreso than he had this morning with the threat of never being able to harness the power of a high demon. This was real self reflection hours. “It’s just the same with the musicians as it is the passengers,” he inhaled sharply preparing to explain,” When you get contracted with a cruise line, you’ve basically signed your own death papers. Where’s my doggie mommy? Oh mister mister’s gone to a farm to chase bunnies and be free. Where’s Elvis? Oh he’s just gone to play in Vegas, he’ll be happier there!” his grew more strained, unable to hold back his tears, “Where’s old Darrell Halls playing these days, I always loved hearing him on the radio. OH,” his voice cracked as another sob broke, “DON’T WORRY, HE’LL BE PLAYING JIMMY BUFFET’S REVENGE OF THE RETURN TO THE ESCAPE FROM MARGARITAVILLE CRUISES THE SEQUEL NEXT MONTH……. TEE EM…. We won’t EVER have to worry about not being able to buY A TICKET AGAIN!!!” *dissolves into ugly crying* “W-When you increase something’s accessibility- you d-d-drive down the value!”

“But Daryl, one could argue a cruise ship is far more exclusive than more site specific local venues! Your audience here would be more curated, fans who’d make that extra effort to come all the way to see you perform 2-3 times a week on a ship in the middle of the ocean where you can’t escape,” Albert argued, Mr. Buffett may not have been like a good singer or musician or songwriter or performer but he was a man of business acumen.

“Sniff- that’s not true, an environment like this isn’t designated for true fans; they’re here for the cruise experience, skilled musicians like me are merely toppings on this urinal cake of a shitshow! These, people a-are normies, casual fans! Look, look at their faces, the majority of them are... parrotheads,” he hissed, “Blindly bottlefed the belief that this bland approximation of a inept appropriation of a tropical vacation is an acceptable imitation!!! ”

Damn! Cool it on all the extraneous assonance and alliteration,” Albert shouted at the call out.

“I apologize… I assumed it was apt for the apparent situation…”

“You’re doing it again, snap out of it,” Julian slapped the aging rockstar across the face, “Pull. Yourself. Together. You are the Elastigirl of Hall & Oates. I see through this momentary struggle of being upstaged as a masquerade for your deeper conflict of a fear of aging and becoming irrelevant like The Beatles.”

“Who’s that.”

“Okay maybe that wasn’t the best example, but no one can stay as vital as they were at their peak forever, that’s impossible unless you like sold your soul to the devil or something,” Daryl brightened up at this possibility, “But even that comes to an end,” his smile fell away again, “Change is inescapable, synonymous with the passage of time itself. One can try to fight it, but the struggle is a sisyphean ordeal, as that which one desires has since become a page in the annals of history; true happiness comes from adaptation and acceptance. Accept your fate Daryl Hohl. Not everything is about you dude, now get out there and play some smooth fucking music.”

“...Shitty. Well,” he pulled himself up, shrimp coats falling away like autumn leaves, “I guess I’ll go out anyways. It’s not every day some randos get married, me they can see whenever for the right price. Oh jeez, I better apologize to John then. I said some pretty hurtful things when I lashed out in my fear and now I realize he was right after all, plus this would be a real fuckin shitty final concert. You gotta charge people like a thousand bucks each for those.”

He gazed intently at the two of them and put his hands on their shoulders, “I’m so glad you two came to the show.”

Julian and Albert clenched their teeth looking at each other, already worried they’d be late to the wedding/all you can eat crab contest. “You, wouldn’t… Leave me would you,” Daryl stared emptily at them, his grip tightening, “I won’t be around forever you said, better love and appreciate me while I’m here. But I guess love is just as ephemeral as anything else isn’t it.”

“Sure, we’ll… Be in the back row buddy. Just make sure to play Sara Smells and stuff.”

“Oh thank you boys,” he pulled them into a hug and let out a long rattling hiss, “Avenge me.”

 

“Do you, Kenneth Middlename Loggins-”

“K Logg!”

Chris glared at him and went back to reading the words off his phone, “Take Michael McDonald here as your lawfully wedded husband.”

“I do.”

“And do you Micky take K LOGG as your lawfully wedded husband?”

“I scooby dooby do,”

“Does anyone have any final objections as to why this union is worse than the 1991 album literally none of us were feeling? Then by the power invested in me, I now pronounce you husband and hubsan-”

“Wait!!!

All the heads turned towards the sound of the shout. Shockingly, it wasn’t Daryl, but Trevor, being a real buzzkill. “What is it, what is it now Trevor,” Chris squinted at the stage manager who was busy neglecting to stay in his lane as an altar wasn’t exactly a stage.

“I hate to break it to you, but no states actually certify a ship captain to ordain weddings. Except for Massachusetts but even then you need the governor to sign off on that. You’re going to have to wait til we’re in international waters to pull this kind of bullshit. It’ll only be a minute or two according to Mr. Kaye-”

“Arghh, I can’t wait that long! The two of us had prepared a song together which we were going to perform for the first time for a live audience,” Kenny put his gelly sandaled foot down, “-Which you can buy on my next album coming out this nondenominational winter holiday slash shellfish eating season, Loggins & McDonald: More Than Friends.”

“Uhhh, actually Kenny-” “K Logg.” “K Logg, my recording’s already up on the soundcloud. I contacted Jimmy Buffett and he agreed we had to get it out there as soon as possible to market off of the wedding. I used the cash advance to pay for it, also some soft pretzels, about $100,000 worth.”

“WHATTTT!?” Kenny fumed, “How could you do this to me, on the night of our wedding!”

“I know what you’re thinking but yes I will eat that many pretzels-”

“I don’t CARE about the pretzels, you released OUR song before me? Before we even had the special opportunity to play it together? And you snuck behind my back to do this with, with Jimmy BUFFETT!?” Kenny was livid, it was really awkward for everybody there, “You took something beautiful and defiled it.”

“Please Kenny, lower your voice, you’re making a scene. Let’s just calm down and get marriaged up,” Michael McDonald smoothly spoke, more than a little embarrassed. Kasim nudged Roger in the audience with a crab leg, “This is getting good, my money’s on Loggins to win.”

“I’m going the dark horse route and placing bets on Squire.”

“A bold move but I respect it.”

“Calm down? Calm down!? I’ve had it, this wedding’s OFF. I HATE Jimmy Funfetti and I HATE YOUUUU!!!!!!!!!!”

“Oh shit!”

“Well my job here is done,” Chris closed his phone and left, taking a bowl of crab dip and a bag of Walkers with him. Kenny and Michael McDonald launched themselves at each other and began to fight to the death. Kasim was so excited he knocked over his chair as he stood up and soon everyone was cheering them on.

 

MEANWHILE: back at the ranch. ‘John, I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you when you said you were unhappy and didn’t want to summon demons anymore,’ Daryl approached his partner, ‘I want to just focus on the music with you, I was reminded what’s really important, and it’s us.’

You really mean it?’ John thought while attempting to keep singing although they’d done this song so many times it was practically a parasympathetic response, ‘It would be financially disadvantageous for us to break up I mean, but I still feel hurt over some of the things you’ve done to me and said.’

Was this about the moustache comment, you do look a lot better with it, it’s sorta become your brand, but one’s attractiveness shouldn’t determine their personal worth when you’re an old fart.’

Like you?’

Daryl winced slightly, reminding himself to be patient, ‘Like me.’

Hah, I’m glad you stopped being an idiot and remembered what’s important.’

Right,’ he plugged into the amp, “Hey John, switch guitars will ya, I think you’re flat.”

John squinted at the instrument he was pointing at, a hellish looking axe covered in spikes and sigils and symbols and eyes, and grimaced, “Aw Daryl, not that one. You know that’s my old arcane focus…”

“Relax it’ll be fine, I’ve got mine it won’t be weird, it’s aesthetic.” And John hesitantly proceeded, and the pentagram of cords and electrical tape they happened to be standing in the middle of began to crackle and glow as their eyes reflected that energy. As the sky grew dark and the waves started crashing hard against the boat, John stared wildly at Daryl shouting, “You tricked me! Why are you doing this!?”

“This John, this is BIGGER THAN BOTH OF US.”

 

It had been a long day, Toto holding the line and pushing on towards their target, finally in sight. “Yayyy!!!!” the all cheered excitedly.

“This is what you get for disrespecting Toto!” Steve revealed a big red button that he’d been eager to press since they totally legally boarded this military grade vessel.

“Ready the torpedoes!”

“Damn the torpedoes!”

“David… that’s a Tom Petty album, not one of ours.

“Oh… Well, I guess fire the torpedoes then.”

“FIRE!!!”

As Kenny prepared the final karate chop to the neck as a circle of people cheered their death match on around them, everything lurched sideways as something hit the boat like a battering ram. “Fuck!” Michael McDonald moaned, falling to his knees, “What was that?!”

“I think we hit a yacht rock!” Kenny panted, having the air knocked out of him.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Alan steadied himself, picking up his walkie, “This far out in the Bermuda Triangle? It’s nothing but ocean out here, this is no man’s land, I think we’ve been hit!”

The line crackled emptily and he smacked his device trying again, ”Quartermaster Kaye, I can’t reach the Captain, did you see what hit us, you’re in charge of keeping watch on these sort of things!”

“Ummm,” the other line came through, “Not really, I’m super super blazed right now, it’s sort of an inconvenient time for me if you could call back later okay???”

“Dammit!” Trevor was probably two tits to Mars right now in the infirmary and if Chris wasn’t answering that left him as the next in the line of command. Which was very very scary and frankly more than he signed on for. Alan pulled at whatever he called hair pacing, “Argh what do I do what do I do, I know-”

But he was cut off by another impact, and anyone who’d previously merely been stunned and confused about bumping into something, was now properly panicking and screaming as if they were in hell. “Anybody please do something, I’m really freaking out right now! Okay bye I love you,” Alan put his walkie down and looked around for anyone who looked like they knew what they were doing. “Oh my god Steve,” he ran up to the baffled looking half-skeleton (the inside half), “We need to get down to the hull and see what’s going on. Don’t freak out but I, I think we’re being attacked by pirates,” he rasped, holding him. “They’re going to plunder our booty…”

“I’ll be right down there, you need to focus on these idiots up here and getting them to safety- you’re the safety officer right?” Steve glanced back into the jumbled crowd for John, worried.

“I, I guess? Maybe???” Alan sweated.

“Then let me do my job, and you do yours. Get the lifeboats inflated ASAP, we’re counting on you Alan… Since obviously all the other commanding officers are just total wastoids,” and Steve disappeared, busy doing his actual job.

Alan wiped a tear away and straightened himself up, inspired to do the same. Lifting the wedding megaphone to his mouth he addressed people who were most definitely going to die. “Alright, I’m going to need you all to follow these instructions, there are boats and life vests lining the sides of the deck in the long compartments marked with orange lines, remove them and pull the tab on the side allowing them to inflate fully. Place your vest-”

Oh no! They replaced the life vests with souvenir tee shirts! ‘What Happens In Margaritaville, Stays In Margaritaville’ he flipped it over to check out whatever was airbrushed on the back ‘FOREVER…’. Ahhh!

“Hi five!” “Nice job.” “Excellent shot bro.” Toto smiled and sat back, proud of their work, watching the ship, tossed around on a patch of rough sea, begin sinking. “Well…. What do we do now?”

“Turn Back and flee the scene of the crime?”

“I don’t wanna be On The Run, let’s just go for margaritas.”

“Oh I like that let’s do that. Just make sure they Hold The Lime.”

“Seriously David, we’re revoking your witty reference privileges starting immediately, you are on thin fricking ice.”

 

“YOU LYING SACK OF SHIT!” John howled against the roar of the waves and blaring alarms, struggling to wrench himself from the dark magic’s hypnotic pull, Daryl cackling like a cartoon breakfast cereal witch as the vortex of water grew wider and deeper. The circle filled with an unnatural blue light and opened to reveal something truly indescribable, according to a popular racist, that most people conceded was kinda like a buncha squids all glued together. The famous racist probably didn’t know the word for them, or he could have very easily described it as- Big Squid Guy.

A massive tentacle ripped through the roof of the nondemoninational chapel/crabshack like wet tissue paper, Jeff gawked up in awe, furiously scribbling notes as the ship sank into the water. “Oh man!” he laughed, getting dragged away by its tremendous suckers, “This is great material, Buzzfeed’s gonna love this listicle.”

 

As Steve rushed below deck, things looked exactly as bad as they were; water was coming in pretty fast from about a foot diameter entry hole. Saving grace had it that the missle stuck in one of the dense support beams before exiting the other side and leaving a nasty exit wound for even more water to rush in. The other torpedo only had grazed them, but getting grazed by a torpedo from close range was no laughing matter, the proximity of the impact left a huge dent in the hull that burst one of the rear generators. There was no way they’d be able to get this thing to land in time to salvage it, but if they could get the pumps working at full power, it might buy them enough time to get everyone to safety.

Rushing to the engines, Bill barrelled past, looking unusually frantic even for a sinking ship, given it was Bill. “Howe!”

“I wish you’d call me Steve…”

“We’re not that close, do you have my master key? I can’t get into the control room to activate the emergency overdrive idk man I don’t know anything about modern ships.”

Correction, they were fucked.

“N-no?” Steve knitted his brows. For fear of mutiny, the cruiseline had only provided them 2 keys that would lock and unlock anything on The Asshole including the emergency air locks, additional safety blocks, and the emergency ‘in case of pirates and or aliens’ champagne and cyanide pills. To subsidize the mandatory aloha-wear and commercialized luau decorations that covered the entire ship but were not mentioned until now, Mr. Buffett had taken some cuts in areas ‘no one actually cared about, you know, real dumb stuff we’re never gonna use can you believe this, a life vest for EVERY passenger? Get real, this ship is unsinkable!’ although it was fully insured and if Steve or Bill knew anything about insurance maybe something might’ve eventually clicked in their heads, but that would’ve made for bad comedy.

“What do you mean you don’t have it, nobody’s listed as having checked it out or anything.”

“It’s not a flipping library book Howe- I think I lent it to Jon,” Bill wracked his memory.

“Why!?” Steve sputtered, Jon was a medical officer, and he wasn’t even any good at that. But they all loved him so much so they had to give him some kind of job as an excuse to have him onboard.

“He’s my dealer and needed a place to do his business in private… I didn’t want to pay him so, tradesies, I offered the control room since only me or Squire ever goes in there. But he should’ve given it back immediately!”

“We don’t have time to find him and play his mind games, get the Captain’s key from Chris then!”

“That’s the other problem, he doesn’t have it either! When I spoke to him earlier he said he gave it to Trevor, but he’s passed out in medical and doesn’t have it- I have to find Jon,” Bill was adamant.

Steve bit his lizard lip, worried, things weren’t looking good but they had to do something. “He might’ve been at the wedding, I don’t know where I saw him last. You go Bill, I can take care of the generators. Send any engineers available down here, just them, make sure nobody else comes down here. There’s a good chance none of us are coming back up,” he steadied himself, resolute, “Everyone needs to focus on evacuating. Now go solve Jon’s riddle or whatever the fuck and come back with that key!”

As Bill nodded and climbed the stairwell, Steve pinched the bridge of his nose. Why’d he ever quit Asia, well, he knew why but times like this really made him regret it. He was almost glad the ship was going down with him in it. Better make it count. Better make it hurt. Better kill me in one shot.

“Jon! ...Jon!!!” Bill barked, calling his channel. “Pick the fuck up you’ve got my key and I really need it so I can get into the master control room and save our asses!”

There was a crackling on the other line and he finally came through. “We will all be saved if we just believe,” and crackled out.

Bill bleached his fist to keep the vein on his forehead from bursting, “This isn’t bible study camp, on the bottom deck there’s already over a foot of water or rather half a meter since we use metric now but for some reason refer to imperial even though it’d honestly be better for everyone to just phase it out.”

“I need you to come to Stairwell B Immediately.”

“Say the magic word.”

“Come to the fucking stairwell 5 minutes ago please.”

“No silly, the magic word.”

Jon had gotten really insufferable ever since he started his cult this afternoon.

“You seem awfully hesitant to let go of your material possessions Jon. Oh or should I say mine. Didn’t The Buddha say the greatest crime of all- the only true crime, was stealing?” Bill psychologized.

Jon looked at his stylish necklace. Bill was totally paraphrasing but he was right. “Okay,” he spoke into the receiver, “I’m coming.”

Handling his personal affairs before abandoning this responsibility, he addressed his followers. “Remember, this monster is a manifestation of man’s fear and greeds; All you need to do is believe in goodness and healing and your pure heart will be your armor against the evils of this world.”

His flock muttered amongst themselves as he left in a hurry, astuter and surer from his wisdom. Daryl, through his haze of madness and magic noticed this impressive display of mass manipulation and couldn’t help but be a little impressed. Maybe this one would make a fitting partner, and then his disciples were eaten by Big Squid Guy.

Big Squid Guy! We beseech you!” Daryl cried, “We offer you this banquet of human lives and eternal souls in exchange for everlasting life and divine power- Each mortal morsel, easily worth one hundred years of our time- For you my lord!” blue flames crackled around him, his soulless blue eyes gazing up at the beast of a thousand dead worlds, one of them, maybe another different dude, they all kinda looked the same to be honest, “We have proven our devotion and called you here! Now return that commitment to your abettors and let us serve you at our full potential FOREVER!”

The beast ceased its devastation a second, judging the two pop singers locked in a circle of arcane energies much like its own, and began to draw up a pros and cons chart. “Oh man, I hate being judged,” John grimaced, “Makes me feel like a piece of meat.”

I hear you,” Daryl agreed, “I’ve never listened to anyone else’s opinion of me in thirty years.”

 

Kenny ran to the lifeboats, quickly releasing his to be inflated and lowered into the water when Michael McDonald ran up behind him, pushing and shoving to get inside. “Watch what you’re doing! Get out, this is my raft and I don’t want to share it with you. Why don’t you go ask Jimmy Buffett to rescue you in his private yacht.”

“Please! Those lifeboats are for 10 people each!” Boatswain White fretted, glancing around at the chaos. Most passengers had gone below deck to their rooms to grab their bags despite literally every evacuation procedure telling you not to and the fact they were filling up fast with seawater. Noticing someone approaching, Alan gasped, “Mr. Mister! Thank god you’re here! Quick, I need you to help get these people into the boats, I can barely get anyone to even listen to me and there’s just too many to help on my own!” Mr. Mister sniffed the air and waddled towards the boats barking loudly. “Oh thank you you don’t know how much of a help you are-” The officer kept going and jumped over the edge into the water below. “Mister! You traitor!” Alan spat, “I am definitely putting this incident in your quarterly employee evaluation! Good luck getting your bonus this year!”

Where was Chris, people listened to the captain, even Trevor they respected, he’d know what to do. Oh why did I skip the sea monster seminar! I didn’t think we were going to be tested!!! “Chris? Chris??? Please, if you’re there Chris, it’s me, Alan. If you were a real friend, you’d just tell me the answers.”

Chris frantically was unloading the shape shif… jesus, Ship. Safe. Into his murse with his laptop and wifi hotspot, preparing for the worst. Glancing outside the window and seeing that big ugly mollusk again, he ducked his head back down, doubling his pace, getting sloppy as he shoveled what he could in, the excess spilling over the floor. “No no no no no no no-” “-Chris! Come in! Jesus, Chris, we need you down here! Only you can lead these people!”

He eyed his intercom again, evaluating the situation carefully, and pressed the bigger redder button.

“SCHHHHHHEEEEEEEEch-” everypony stopped as this booming voice seemed to emanate from everywhere, as there were in fact speakers, everywhere on this ship, covertly piping in subliminal Jimmy Buffett music, recording and monitoring the samples in the study, totally unaware, like unaware sheep. “Hello… This is… your Captain speaking. Ahem, I know things may look bad, but, we still all have each other- except for you guys who got eaten. RIP in piss fellas.”

“I have some news for you all that might be a little distressing. I am retiring.” There was a chorus of whispering, squid monsters and people alike gossipping concernedly. “Having served as this Asshole’s captain throughout the best years of my life- about a month total out of this year and a couple weeks before that, I feel I have run my term, and must return home. To the ocean. I promise you, like any good captain, I will go down with my ship. Because I forgot this door locks from the outside too whoops. But, at least I’ve got this cask of Amontillado, of an excellent vintage. Impossible! And in the middle of the ocean?”

“I have my doubts,” Eddie Jobson quipped flatly.

“Did I say you could stop playing? Thank you…. Anyways, y’all fucked. Toodle-loo, this fat lady’s sung- click.”

“...”

“Wow. What a real cock in the ass, I guess we’re on our own.”

 

Jon frantically packed his med bag full of supplies while Florian fretted on who he was to save- his beloved husband and partner of over 40 years, or this stranger he barely knew. “Ralf, let me carry you to the boats! It’s not safe here, we have to leave now. I’m sorry doctor, I don’t think I can come back to rescue this man too. He will have to die, it’s best to just move on-”

Ralf stood up and went over to Trevor’s bed, hoisting him much to Florian’s surprise. “But your burns! Ralf, how!?”

“I lied about how bad they were so you would pity me. I snuck out while you were asleep to bike this morning, how else would I be able to carry this load?” His power legs flexed. “Let’s blow this Wurstwagen.”

Meanwhile, Jon below decks followed Bill down to the control room, moreso swimming than wading at this point especially from Jon’s perspective. A flood of water rushing in as the chief engineer unlocked the door to the previously bone dry dusty chamber. “Alright,” he called over the intercom from the master panel, “I’m going to engage the locks, Steve, I need you and everyone else to evacuate this floor and get to the lifeboats as quickly as possible, you’ve done what you can.” Turning to Jon, he added, “That includes you, go. I know you want to save me too, but this boat was poorly designed, I have to stay.”

“Bill no! I can help, please! I promise, you just need to believe. You’re too sexy to die!” Jon pleaded, grasping his coat with his hands.

“Seeing is believing Jon,” and he pushed Jon out the door, locking it behind him.

“Billllll!!!! That was really sexy of you.”

 

“Bill!” Steve shouted over the walkie, “There’s still seamen trapped in The Asshole, how much longer are you going to wait to close the locks!? I need your help out here!” It was hard convincing some of the crew to leave in this hour of need, working still to try and ameliorate the situation or evacuate the crew instead who were busy packing the things back in their rooms. The generators were barely working at this point anyways, Steve glanced around and pounded on the control room door, the water almost past the door handle. The amount on the other side was considerably lower, too hard to pull against the pressure on his own, but that wouldn’t have made a difference as it was locked. “I need you to open up, either lock the gates or let me do it!”

Bill hesitated and looked to the panel, “Alright, but I need to know if everyone’s out yet, that includes you,” he shouted through the door.

“And let yourself die I don’t think so!”

“This is dumb, this is the single worst trope in any movie, fine we’ll both die like idiots,” Bill slammed his hand down on the button, but nothing happened. “Shit!” He tried again, over and over but nothing. “The power’s not working!”

“What!?” Steve slammed on the door, “Well isn’t that great, I’m going back to try the generators again to see if we can possibly do this together or die working like dark OSHA would’ve wanted it.” Trudging back through, he tested starting up the massive machine again, struggling to move the parts with all the water. “This is useless… I can’t do this on my own, Bill can’t get the locks to shut on his own and can’t even leave at this point, I’m gonna die alone drowning in this stupid ship and every other stupid person is going to as well-”

“No you’re not-” someone spoke.

Steve awkwardly sloshed around to face them, “-John!?”

“Well, you’re not going to die alone anyways,” he waded over and embraced him.

Steve hugged back, face wet, “Oh I hate this dumb trope too,” and they kissed as the water rose up around their necks, feeling almost weightless as it enveloped them. Eventually, things balanced out it seemed.

 

“O-kay,” Daryl crossed his arms leaning back as he read off the list: So we’ll start with the pros. - Reliable,” he smiled and nodded at John, “Multiple #1 hits including the relatable ‘Maneater’ which spent 4 weeks in that position,” Squid Guy snatched up another vacationer sneaking him into its beak, “Massively influential, notorious, ubiquitous, efficacious, prosperous, and- And, Daryl is a real snack- need I say any more, Mr. Squid,” he extended a hand, “We would be honored.”

“I don’t know…” John spoke up. The others heads turned, now listening to him, rapt in attention. “I’m honestly just not feeling this, I think I’m gonna go.”

And then he left.

“What. ...What you can’t- you can’t just do that JOHN WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” Daryl shouted to the night, Big Squid Guy growing restless. “- Your Squidliness, ignore him, I was the real mastermind behind this the whole time, you’ve said it yourself, I’m ready to serve you in my full capacity! Let’s not hesitate any longer, the decision has been made.”

He braced himself for awesome monster powers, but nothing happened. Big Squid Guy liked Hall & Oates, sure, he owned a few of the more popular records although his tape of H2O had gotten kinda scratched up so he didn’t really listen to it any more, but that was Hall & Oates, without Oates, Hall was revealed for who he truly was, and Big Squid Guy had dealt with enough men just like him before. Rearing his Squidliness up once more and raising his mighty tentacles, he tore through the ship like a piece of wet bread and disappeared back into the depths to catch the last few minutes of House or whatever it is eldritch beings watch, CSI Miami? ...Leaving them all to drown at sea the end.

 

The survivors watched from their dingy yellow dinghies in their matching Jimmy Buffett tee shirts as the halves of the already sinking ship slid into the water, giant thrashing waves overtaking it completely. And soon the skies cleared and the water was calm again, souvenirs and tacky furniture slowly bobbing to the surface. “Wow,” Albert squinted at the wreckage, “What a fucking rip off.”

Chapter Text

Julian wearily opened his eyes, stinging with salt, shutting them sharply again as the sun bore into them overhead. He rolled over in the sand and horked up a hunk of seaweed really attractively and gasped, “...Albert? ALBERT!?!” Shouting, he frantically searched around blinded by the sun and sand.

“Will you stop screaming I’m literally 5 inches away from you,” his partner bolted upright.

“We’ve landed on some island, are you ok?”

“Yeah I’m fine whatever,” he brushed some grit away,” I’m sorry this has been such a lousy vacation. What between being haunted, the ship sinking, being stranded here to die, and Jimmy Buffett never showing up.”

“It’s okay, I still had fun. Do you know who else made it?”

He shook his head, “I literally just woke up why are you asking me questions.”

They wandered up the shoreline a while, Albert glancing at Julian getting increasingly frustrated with his iphone. “Put that thing away, there’s no service here, we’re too remote. -No I said put your phone away.”

“-Hey you guys!”

Their heads jerked around at the audible mirage, one of the old fucks from the ship ran, well jogged, towards them waving them down. “Oh hi…….. Craig???” Albert wrinkled his brow trying to force a memory.

“You know what, I’ll take it,” Greg shrugged, “Are you alone? There’s a whole bunch of guys not far from here, I was just getting in some beachcombing.”

“Oh thank god I’m starving,” Julian pushed forward.

“-Yeah I got some sand dollars, a conch,” he looked up at him from his finds, “...Seaweed? I didn’t exactly come across any bags of cheetos in the sand, sorry.”

“Yeah you better be,” he grumbled, and trudged along the shoreline.

 

Todd took his glasses off and squinted down the beach, “Oh, you’re the guy. Two guys, you are two men coming closer. Annnnnnd now you’re a blob okay,” he put his glasses back on, “Oh, wait no thought you were somebody else, bye haters.”

Many had evidently fallen asleep in their boats, strewn across the sand, disoriented, irritable, hungry, sober. There was some wreckage that had washed up with them but beyond that, there was no trace of civilization visible- dense underbrush lined the dunes giving way to a spindly scrub forest, bird calls ringing through the salty air. The endless expanse of ocean behind them. It was peaceful… Fuck.

“Alright, since the Captain’s dead, I hearby nominate myself leader and King of the Island which I shall name after myself,” Daryl announced shirtlessly upon an outcrop of coral.

“Actually,” Trevor corrected, “There’s a very specific pecking order- Trevor is the first mate so that would go to him but as he’s incapacitated Alan is the senior most officer which puts him temporarily in charge. And after him it would be Tony, then Jon, then Jon then me then so on. ...Plus aren’t you responsible for destroying The Asshole?”

“... It was a number of factors.”

“Trevor’s still unconscious, Alan, what’s the plan?”

“Oh. Me? Jeez, I don’t know… I think we should have a funeral… It’s important to help all of us move on…”

There was some mumbling amongst them, but ultimately decided it was for the best. “Rick,” Trevor addressed the former cook, “You played a dirty priest once. How about you do the honors?”

 

“Ladies… Gentlemen… Todd,” Rick began presiding over this congregation holding a coconut effigy with a smiley on it to embody the deceased, “We are gathered here in remembrance of those we lost in the sinking of The HMS The Lawyer & The Asshole- Officer Steve Howe, John Wetton, Mr. Eddie Jobson, Chief Bill Bruford, Water Becker who was eaten alive, our Captain Christopher Squire, and some randos.”

Everyone’s faces were solemn and grey in the tropical sun, “-But all in all pretty much every named character survived so I’d say we came out on top!”

No one seemed to share Rick’s optimism.

“I can’t believe he’s dead,” Trevor mumbled. Pat patted him on the shoulder in consolation. “Pat should have died instead.”

“Hey!”

“I know it is easy to wallow in sadness like a bunch of sorry ass bitches but this should be a time for celebration of their lives, as they would have wanted. So does anybody got a drink?”

“No, we barely escaped with our lives!”

“Okaaaaaay, how about food, can’t have a party without snacks.”

“No?” John answered in confused disgust, “We have nothing left, you saw the giant squid right?”

“What I saw was a feisty piece of undercooked calamari nobody took advantage of. Seriously, nothing at all? I’m a growing boy, Ricky needs his munchies!”

“We should split up and search the island for food,” Trevor stood up, taking coconut Chris like a talking stick, “Gather coconuts, we need potable water most importantly.”

“Coconut water?” Kenny wrinkled his nose, “That’s real bougie.”

“Oh and would you like to die of thirst? You can survive without food for weeks but without water you’ll last a few days at most.”

“Ha if you’re trying to threaten me it’s not working,” Kenny scoffed, “In case you haven’t noticed, there’s water everywhere dumbass!” To prove his point, he ran into the surf scooping up the salt water and just fuckin’ chugging it.

Everyone just watched as he hollered face red and retching in anguish. This went on for several minutes.

“Wow. What a dumbass.”

 

Albert and Julian were paired with four of the other stranded passengers who they’d briefly met before as Greg and Greg’s boyfriend Roger lifted a log searching for cheetos… Still no luck…

“I can’t believe they killed off John and Steve. Way to bury your gays honestly.” Albert complained.

“/Everyone/ in this story is gay,” Todd interjected, “It’s a self indulgent fanfiction. We’re not even real people, we’re just characters based off some people’s public personas at /most/ and I’m just lucky I even remotely resemble that person- instead of an archetype or plot device tacked onto an individual. Or worse- a vehicle for a bad joke.”

“...”

“Jeez Todd, have a little respect for the dead.”

“Hey look over there! Fruit!” Kasim exclaimed as he began eating berries indiscriminately. Berries were an expensive delicacy he knew from his years of experience in the wilderness of Staten Island, scavenging its super markets, living off the land.

“Well?” Roger and Todd watched, “Feeling poisoned yet?”

“Uhh, maybe a little gassy but I think that was all that crab I had last night.”

“Oh man you really went to town on that crab.”

“Free all you can eat crab, I would’ve been a total idiot not to.” Kasim shrugged blase.

“Whoa careful you leave some berries for the-” Greg counted on his fingers, “2 dozen ish of us adult men… Yeah I think we’re gonna have to continue searching for food.”

They walked around the periphery of the forest for about another hour, trying to gauge how large this island exactly was, and if there was any chance anyone else was living here. And had a phone. Or Twitter.

“So how long do you’ll think it’ll be before our first human sacrifice?”

“ROGER!?”

“Come on! You were thinking it! Who wasn’t thinking it?!”

“I wasn’t thinking it,” Julian raised his juice stained hand. “Are these berries vegan?”

Todd had been a boy scout, but now he was like a million years old so those kind of plants probably all died out since then. None of them were really any good at identifying plants by trade. Kasim kept swatting Todd’s hand every time they spotted some mushrooms though. “Digest, die, get high,” he argued, “2 out of 3 ain’t bad.”

“No!” snapped Kasim with the certainty of someone whose career largely relied on one person.

“We can’t just wait for the perfect vegan gluten free paleo shit, we can’t come back empty handed.” Todd crossed his arms adamant. Although he’d been the one to pull them away from those tasty lookin’ sea turtle eggs whining about conservation or whatever.

Greg hunkered down on a rock taking a breather. “Maybe we should start heading back, we don’t know how much further we’d have to go before we loop back around.”

“Pff, wouldn’t an island of considerable acreage be inhabited though or at least privately owned, it can’t possibly be that large.” Roger protested as he continued around the bend.

Rising out of the dunes like the sole rotted molar in its sandy gums, a dilapidated hotel stood, sun bleached and wind beaten. Burnt out neon read above the deck- ‘Welcome to LOVE BEACH’. Todd reached down and let a handful of sand fall from his fingers ominously, “Something terrible happened here…”

“Whoa, spooky,” mouthed Julian. Albert slapped him on the back, “Last one inside’s gay!” and bolted for it. “We’re all gay! Don’t do this to me!!!”

As Albert charged up the stairs, a plank gave way, his foot shattering through with a sickening crunch. “SHIT!”

“Oh my god are you alright?!” Julian came after him, helping his partner back up.

He drew a sharp breath, “I don’t think it’s broken but it’s gotta be sprained or something.”

“We should go back,” Roger stated getting a look at him.

“No, we already came all this way,” Albert protested, rising to his feet gingerly, “I’m not gonna look a gift haunted house in the haunted mouth, let’s go.” Julian looped his arm over his shoulder to help support him. Out of the haunted frying pan and into the haunted fire he supposed.

Todd, being the biggest and least likely to believe in ghosts, went first, Kasim ever eager, following close behind, Roger and Greg trailing, and them in the rear- which of course, was prime ghost attack real estate. “This place is a real shit hole,” Kasim ran a finger along a counter, scooping up a mound of dust and flicking it away, “Do you think anyone’s actually still living here? You think they’d clean up every once in a while.”

“Hmm, probably not,” Roger squinted at the faded tiki decor, “I didn’t see any other signs of development here- if someone was they probably left or were rescued- which reminds me, what did the others say they were doing back at ‘camp’?”

“Building a giant ‘HELP’ out of branches and stuff,” Greg replied.

“Oh real original. Like someone would want to rescue a bunch of unimaginative losers. We’ll probably die here.”

“I wish you’d stop saying that,” Julian whined, “Wait, did you see that?” He stopped abruptly.

“What?”

Pointing down, there was a set of footprints criss-crossing the dusty floor.

“Those are ours, come on.”

“No, they came from over there! Someone else is here,” Julian protested.

“They could be old,” Greg went over to inspect them.

“He’s got a point though I think we should follow them, see where they go,” Todd suggested before noticing Julian’s apprehension and sighing, “Ghosts don’t make footprints, they’re a man’s… or a woman with a large shoe size… Unlike ghosts though they can harm you.”

“Oh thanks thanks a lot.”

The further they proceeded, the more it reminded them if The Addams Family went into hoteliering and had nothing to go on but a number of especially tacky style guides from the 1950s. Someone had really played up the cheesy name of the place, a few rooms had those honeymoon suite beds and former jacuzzis that overflowed with mold. Oh, and mirrored ceilings, for like, perverts. Todd trodded across the faded shag carpeting and eyed up the mini fridge, producing a dusty but overwise untouched bottle of champagne and uncorked it.

“That’ll be $60,” Kasim quoted to which Todd paused to shoot him a look then downed it. “Charge it to the room.”

“We should stay here,” Julian bounced on one of the beds, “Instead of some crummy lean-tos on a freezing cold beach.”

“No,” Greg sighed, “They wanted to be seen, plus we still don’t know for sure if this place is truly empty.”

“Of course it’s empty,” Roger retorted continuing down the hallway , “Why would anyone waste their time cooped up in a musty hotel when they could sleep under the tropical sky, or not exist-”

“I exist!” a voice called.

Everyone froze.

“...I think.”

“What is existence anyways,” the unmistakable croon of Michael McDonald spoke, “What if we’re all just a hologram, or a dream had by some guy somewhere.”

“Do you have time to listen to mein Computerwelt theory?” another sharply accented voice added. “So anyways all of zis is just a simulation-”

“Well Occam’s Razor would state-”

Roger poked his head around the corner to find Kenny, Michael McDonald, the German couple, and Donald Fagen, who wasn’t having any of this conversation that had undoubtedly gone on like this for hours. “Wait- Tell me more about this computer world…”

 

“-Since you went the other way, I guess we found the other side of the island. Any luck finding food and water?” Donald caught the other group up to speed. Sending two groups had been a rare stroke of intelligent foresight from the remaining crew, or maybe they were just trying to get rid of them so they’d die and have less mouths to feed.

“We found Ralf is bad at catching crabs if they don’t live in your pubes.”

“The monster tried to touch me with its evil pointy hands.”

“...Anyways. I think we’ll have better luck scavenging this place for food,” Donald eyed Todd’s [BRAND OF CHAMPAGNE] “Give me that.”

“Alcohol only dehydrates you more-” Kasim started.

“It’s mostly grapes. Grapes are. Healthy?”

“Maybe we can become moisture farmers and lick the condensation from the pipes-”

“Kenny you lost your idea privileges.”

“A guy drinks seawater ONCE and suddenly everyone thinks you’re crazy.”

“-We should look for a vending machine on the map,” Florian quietly quipped, dusting sand from a worn card.

“A treasure map!?” Albert ogled.

“Nein… just… a regular map of a regular hotel.”

“Oh-”

“Let me see that, hey! The kitchen, we should check there next. If we can find anything here worth taking, it’s gonna be here.” Roger tapped the paper and they journeyed deeper into the heart of the building.

After knocking a vending machine over onto its face when it ate Florian’s last dollar, they managed upon the wide double doors of the kitchen, and with a deep breath, pushed in.

 

“Alan, we need more sticks, this says HELL.”

“Alan, I have a sunburn, my pasty English skin can’t take much more.”

“Alan Alan, I have sand in my shoes… :^(“

Alan paced frantically around the beach covering his ears with his hands. “Hey Alan-”

“WHAT!? What is it now!?” He whipped around clenching his fists frightening Trevor who took a few steps back.

“I was just going to ask if you’re doing alright, you seem a little stressed and I thought it’s probably because you’re dehydrated. Coconut?”

Alan stared for a long second but held out a hand and accepted the green fruit, grimacing at the taste. “Sorry it’s not very ripe.” “It’s okay, I’ve had worse. Thanks anyways, I’ve got a hell of a headache… sigh I don’t think I’m really cut out for leadership- has Trevor come around yet?”

Trevor shook his head, “Slackass.”

“Let him rest, it’s hard being in charge… I don’t know how Chris ever did it.”

“I don’t know if Chris ever did it.”

Alan hurriedly covered Coconut Chris’s ears, then noticing the chopped open fruit beside him, placed a hand over its eyes. “You’re setting a bad example for our son.”

 

It had been a long day for Daryl as newly crowned king of Daryl’s Island (he’d considered New HallandOates but the other man had been oddly evasive today and such displays of generosity were unlikely to be appreciated). Similarly, he’d so far failed to command any respect from his subjects either, who all seemed to blame him for the ‘deeply unfortunate and totally coincidental events which occured’. You couldn’t be a king with no subjects, at that point you were just a guy with a dumb hat.

Logicially, the first step to take would be declaring war on the current supposed leaders of his land: Alan, who had the most authority but didn’t really want the job and was enough of a pushover he could probably just take it from if it weren’t for his crewmates backing up any legitimacy, the other, was Jon, who had for some reason, formed a cult around himself. Whether he realized he was doing this was unsure, but a number of people who rejected the formal rule of the ship officers instinctively looked to him for guidance after rumors of his strange powers and vague mysticism that could pass for religion if you and your friends were bored enough. Without anyone on his side however, Daryl, to make any move, would have to infiltrate one of the other parties, and overtake them from within, Jon was an easy target, and with his abilities, a potential replacement for John. He’d even overlook that issue of the missing h.

“And we take a deep breath, and think of all the good things and thoughts you know how to think. Feel all your earthly troubles fade from yer mind.”

Daryl stepped gingerly into the circle of people sitting in the dunes, all joined in some bizarre ritual or another. A few were struggling to get into the meditation, fidgeting too much from those earthly troubles like hunger and thirst that this was supposed to cure them from. “-Do you mind if I join you?” Daryl spoke up, Jon opening his eyes at him.

“Oh. Of course sure. We were just ridding ourselves of material concern. You see, this experience is actually a blessing to help remove us from the problems of the world so we can free our souls from want like the Buddha says.”

“That must be hard,” he crossed his legs trying to get comfortable and scooting a little closer to him. “Teacher, I’m so used to wanting, how do you do something like that? Such power intrigues me-”

“-Can you shut the fuck up, SOME of us are trying to reach nirvana over here,” one of the Doobies snapped, lotus posing very stiffly.

Daryl held his tongue and inhaled, turning his attention back to Jon who softly spoke in that warbly little voice of his, “You need to understand, true power comes from within. Love, hope, magic- let yourself be free.”

This wasn’t exactly the advice he was looking for, and the ache in his throat gave him little patience for whatever technique was going on here. As he closed his eyes again to meditate about maybe dying here and how nice that would be since after that last show his life was obviously already over, there was a shriek and a muted thump nearby. Skunk scrambled up shouting, “Seriously!?”

“I will fix you,” Jon approached not saying ‘are you okay’ or ‘hello, how are you doing’. John coughed, righting himself in the sand, “Leave me alone. ‘m fine, I just slipped.”

“HEY CATCH!” Geoff yelled from up in the palm before tossing down a coconut and hitting Oates square on the head, knocking him out. Daryl stifled a laugh but felt a little bad (a very small bad). “What are you doing?”

“Gathering coconuts,” Geoff stated the obvious as Jon the younger checked over John in a panic.

“But why. Seems like you’re just creating more trouble than it’s worth, it looks like your ‘crew’ are just pushing you around for the hell of it.”

“There’s, uh, water inside of them. Annnd we need water.”

“Didn’t they send out two groups to get water, this obsession with water, seems a little suspicious huh?” Daryl sowed his seed of doubt.

Geoff knitted his brows, scratching his head, “Well I heard you like need water to live and stuff so I thought that was pretty important.”

“If you free yourself from want,” Jon started on his spiel, “You will be provided with everything you need!”

“Yeah but like, we need water-”

“But do you need it or do you just want it?”

Geoff was getting visibly frustrated, looking around for someone else to back him up. “Well- what are you doing? At least we’re trying to do something instead of just- shitting around or whatever and waiting for it to come to us. If this is supposed to get me to join your cult it’s not working!”

As Jon frowned, there was a crack of lightning across the blue sky, and talk about scattered showers, out of nowhere, drops of rain began to spatter the beach. Daryl held out a hand, feeling it hit his palm, Geoff in a similar state of shock, and Jon too, more than surprised, beginning to truly believe his powers. Unfortunately, before they were able to really take advantage of this small miracle or wild coincidence, the clouds parted again, leaving them in the same situation as which they started. “...” “...Sure. Cult. It’s basically a band. Why the hell not!?”

 

The kitchen in contrast with the rest of the hotel they’d seen so far, was shockingly clean. It had recently been used, as evidenced by the distinct lack of roaches and the lavish buffet of dishes still warm on the table. Sure, this seemed highly suspect, but when they’d already started salivating there was no questioning this opulent gift and they tore in. Albert laughed and dug both hands into dishes, shoveling a sampling of souffles into his mouth. Ralf nibbled here and there as Florian and Todd helped themselves to an expensive selection of wines. Greg and Roger worked their way through the pasties, taking a bite of each and putting them back while grabbing another. Kenny was nearly sobbing as he choked down a comically large turkey leg mumbling, “Tish ish the best taking mirage I’ve hav in years!” “Oh my god I thought I was going to starve to death!” It had been literally less than a day.

Despite his stomach audibly growling, Donald held himself back at first, eying this feast warily before eventually allowing himself a conservative taste while overfilling his pockets with anything he could get his hands on. “Lighten up a little! Enjoy yourself!” Todd slapped his friend on the back, encouraging him to dig in, “Here,” he offered an adorable tiny taco, “In case you’re worried about spoiling your diet.”

He brushed his hand away turning it down, “I’m fine it’s just- aren’t any of you worried about this. Doesn’t it seem just a LITTLE bit suspect?”

Kasim stared blankly mouth to the brim with crab (he hadn’t learned a damn thing) and the others gaped likewise. Fagen glanced around, “Food doesn’t just show up out of nowhere, if this isn’t some kind of trap this has got to be someone else’s stuff- think about it!”

Scowling, Julian swallowed. “Great, now you made me lose my appetite. Supposing there is people, if they didn’t want us to have it, why wasn’t there anyone in the kitchen huh? I rest my case.”

Albert addressed him under his breath, “Uh- the ghosts?”

Julian paled and moved a hand to his stomach, feeling a little green. Todd gestured back with his mini taco, standing his ground as some of its contents fell to the tiles, “Well I don’t care if it is a trap or not, we were sent to find food, we found it. We should be focusing on preparing this to bring back to everyone else and if there’s a trap, we’ll find a way out of it. Now eat your goddamn horse divorce Don.”

Todd had a point, at the consensus, everyone now focused on finding a way to transport this bounty, hardly caring where this gift had come from, the rest of the party wouldn’t. Their luck ran out when trying to find some inexplicable but convenient tupperware, but for now wrapping them up in bindles would suffice, and granted them some additional pleasure in some folksy LARPing. Now to just find a train to hop, and a circus to run away to. I mean, like a real one, in some peoples’ advanced years their imagination muscles had atrophied severely in addition to their greater desert island hiking group and bindle carrying complex. One could dream, it cost zero dollars and zero cents to do so, but reality, as it seemed, was never a free lunch.

When they exited again, it was a very different hallway; dust still buried the floor, but the walls were lined with scaffolding, the furniture shrouded in white tarps like dead ghosts- this part of the hotel was under some major renovation. The sharp smell of paint pervaded the air, and distant copyrighted music crackled over the PA. They were not alone, not any more.

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air

Glancing around at each other, they proceeded further down the hallway, drawn to whatever or whoever they might find at the end of it.

 

Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night.

There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself
'This could be heaven or this could be Hell'

There was a different entrance, or exit, than the one they’d entered through- furnished and clean in a way that belied the building’s age. With no electricity, it was still dim but they could make out some features in the faint light filtering through the curtains, figures loomed at the door, waiting. Julian held Albert tighter, braving himself to approach.

Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say

“Welcome to the Hotel welcome to the hotel,” the concierge addressed them.

“Such a lovely place,” his compatriot gestured to their renovations.

“Such a lovely face,” a third caressed Ralf’s Germanic square of a visage.

He recoiled grabbing Florian’s hand hissing, “Ich denke, wir sollten gehen.”

“-Plenty of room at the hotel,” their bellhop interjected.

“Any time of year.” “-Any time of year.”

“You can find it here.” he smiled not exactly reassuringly.

Kasim backpedaled a little, sizing up the situation, “We… don’t need a room, we’re just- stopping by-”

“Actually we were just leaving. Sorry to bother you- we thought this place was abandoned-” Todd cut him off, not wanting them to think they were friendly or interested or easily swayed, you could see the hunger in their eyes, it wasn’t natural.

“Leaving?” There was a flash in one of their eyes as he stiffened his expression solemnly hearing this. “Oh you won’t be leaving any time soon.”

“You have partaken of food within our realm,” a fourth person stepped from the corridor behind them, closing them in followed by a fifth.

You can check out any time you like,” the concierge spoke once more rising from his desk, the shadows in the room growing longer by the second. Donald steeled himself, knowing what was to come.

And all spoke in unison as the doors slammed shut, “-BUT YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE.”

Oh fuck oh fuck oh shit…”

 

The Eagles descended upon them like a flock of hungry vultures, tearing into them with a ferocity mirroring the feast they had laid as a trap. Kenny tried to swat them away ineffectively, shrieking as one snatched him up and began to drag him back into the hotel behind Michael McDonald whose dash for the door had been slowed by his desperate attempt to save the food first. “RUN FOR IT! DON’T LET THEM CATCH YOU!” Donald hollered to the others and he broke away, chasing after the members who were quickly replaced by two more of their number.

“I never expected it to end this way,” Kenny sobbed as he struggled uselessly against his restraints.

“I did,” Michael McDonald replied soberly. “Dying as I lived, being cannibalized by The Eagles.”

“You know,” he blinked back tears, “I’m really sorry about the things I said at the wedding, I felt so insecure and those words came from a dark place.”

“No… you had every right to say them,” Michael McDonald sighed watching Timothy Drury and Scott Crago sharpening knives. “I shouldn’t have gone to Jimmy without consulting you first, we had a special moment between us and I ruined it out of greed and ego.”

“You sure did. Now we’re gonna die like Walter Becker.”

No you’re not-”

Kenny sniffed looking around, “Who said that? Was it my common sense? I haven’t heard from you in years, I thought I had lost you forever.”

No, it’s Walter, but if it makes you feel better yes.” the voice resigned.

Kenny stared wide eyed at his fellow prisoner and mouthed, “I think the ghost of Walter Becker is trying to communicate with me.”

Actually it’s just me Walter Becker, living human hello.”

“-Walter, why do bad things happen to good people?” Michael McDonald asked Kenny’s conscious.

I can’t answer that.”

 

Donald Fagen held his breath as he snuck into the banquet hall, there wasn’t a lot of places to hide but for the moment, the Eagles’ touring support had their backs turned to him. He had to move quick. From his position behind one of the tables, he peeked his head around, surveying the scene- lighting on a set of knives laying out on the tablecloth, just sharpened. Like he’d seen in a movie once, he rolled across the carpet until he was underneath the buffet then gingerly lifted the cloth to peer out once again. He could see a pair of feet move closer and quickly dropped it hearing the shifting of metal above his head. As the lighting subtly changed, and the shadow left, he very carefully reached up and around till his fingers closed around a cool handle and drew it to his hammering chest. Licking his lips, Donald practiced a few quick jabs and nodded before taking his shot.

Frey stepping through the entryway followed by Henley and the others carrying the rest of their subdued party didn’t inspire any hope in singer Michael McDonald’s heart. “I’m so glad you could join us today, it’s not often we get visitors, especially ones so easily… welcomed. When we finish reviving the Hotel however and turn this island investment into a hit vacation spot for rich white people with dogs that have instagrams we shouldn’t have to worry about that ever again.”

“Did we eat people? Did you feed us people? Have I eaten people!??” Albert panicked.

“You should wish to be so lucky, however I will permit you to witness your friends’ final moments as they are.”

Henley motioned for them to take their steely knives and finally shut Kenny up for good but as the men surrounded him, a cut formed across their necks instead and both men collapsed to the floor. “What-” he gasped and suddenly his restraints broke the sharp edge just touching his skin.

Posed opposite each other in a lunge, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker brandished their blades, the crowd in speechless shock. Everyone was shocked, but none more so than Fagen himself, “Y-you’re alive?” “You’re ALIVE!?” Henley roared.

“Yeah,” Becker smirked, glasses shining white shonen style as the reflection danced across his knife, “But you won’t be for much longer.” And in a flurry of strikes, Steely Dan drove the Eagles to extinction in a death of one thousand cuts.

 

“I have the power of god and anime on my side!” the last member standing choked, clutching his side as he prepared to activate a deadly final attack.

“That may be,” Fagen began and Becker finished, “But I don’t need to have seen Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure to know how this is going to end-”

“Note: go fuck yourselves- signed, Steely Dan Gang.”

Twin blades extended out the man’s backside with an execution unparalleled to any other work in or outside the studio. So the rumors were true, Steely Dan had reunited for one final farewell, it just hadn’t been theirs after all. “It’s finally over,” Fagen observed giving the body a kick.

“We don’t know that for sure,” Becker wiped the blood across his tongue, “You just can’t kill the beast.”

His partner looked up at him wordlessly searching his eyes for some sense of relief, “I can’t believe you’re alive- how did you do it?”

“When the audience mobbed the stage, I managed to escape by hiding underneath,” he cued a cinematic flashback, “I survived by drinking the champagne that was stashed under there, there must’ve been like 20 bottles!”

“That was supposed to be for the entire cruise on the last night! You drank ALL of it!?”

“Hey I was under there for like a day and a half, I could’ve starved to death.”

“Are you drunk?” Don narrowed his eyes.

“I’ve had nothing to eat for a days but champagne of course I’m drunk. By the way do you have my glasses, I can’t see a goddamn thing. Your friends are lucky I didn’t stab them, all you white men look the same.” The others blanched slightly at what was otherwise, a touching reunion.

“Let’s blow this popsicle stand,” he swaggered and fell down the stairs into the sand, “Or I could stay right here either works.”

 

Jon stared wistfully into the sunset, not yet willing to lose this staring contest. “It’s getting late,” Alan commented sheepishly. “Shhh.”

“-Neither search parties have come back with food or water yet…”

Rick cleared his throat from nearby, “Maybe we should have looked for some ourselves instead of spending all this time deciding on which font to make our HELP in.”

“I told you, if we had used Comic Sans for it, they wouldn’t have taken us seriously and no-one would have come to rescue us!” Trevor protested

“Times New Roman though- really? I mean, this isn’t middle school language arts, it’s a bit tired.” Rick crossed his arms unimpressed.

Alan drew a breath, trying to remain professional. “I think we should look for them, I mean, what if something happened?”

“What- if they got rescued without us?” Tony entertained the thought to the group.

“Those bitches!”

 

Alan cut them off again, holding out his hands. “I don’t want everyone to get lost, we’ll send... 2 people, it can’t be that big of an island, we’ll find them eventually. Whether they’ll still be alive, well, that I don’t know.”

“God you’re so morbid.”

“-I’ll do it,” Jon stood up.

“Wait no! You’re too valuable!” his flock argued rushing to him, “We can’t lose you too!”

“If anyone can do it I can!”

There was some murmuring and Daryl took this opportunity to make his move. “I too am heroic and important.”

“Well… Get some cheetos while you’re out.”

It was good to get away from the goat rodeo that had become of the stragglers, Daryl swore he hadn’t been on a tour this bad since the 90s. Mercifully, they’d get away from this horrible place sooner or later, he wasn’t terribly concerned as to how or if they found these people after all. The misfortunate was that this probably would have been a lovely little vacation if not for everything and everyone else. As they traversed the island, he made his subtle attempts at proselytizing Jon, had to strike while the iron was hot; if Big Squid Guy let it get out that Hall & Oates had broken up again it was unlikely any other extradimensional superbeings would take him on as an apprentice being just another washed up singer from the 70s.

It was hard to decide whether he’d pursue his plan to get Jon to replace John in his eternal psychic blood pact, or to take out his only competition here while they were alone. A meaningful intimate relationship with another person was only temporary, but dying was forever. Still, he couldn’t act just yet- if he could find a way to use the man’s power for himself, he wouldn’t have to use his own against him. Probing into his mind didn’t get him very far, mostly nonsense about rivers or oceans or something, if he was blocking him out, maybe he already knew. No, he had to be careful, and very patient. Maybe even use techniques of ‘friendship’ and ‘persuasive essay writing’, this was going to be harder than he initially thought.

Coming upon Love Beach its timbers shuddering in the ocean breeze, they cautiously stepped through following the footsteps. Up ahead, Daryl glimpsed a number of figures strewn across the floor, the floor soaked with a pool of fresh blood. “They’ve been through here.” He stated and quickly turned Jon around before he could get a look. “Let’s ask those people sleeping over there-” “Actually let’s not.”

 

While it had been pretty warm here during the day, the tropical sun beating down on their heads, the heat dropped fast when it set during their stay at the shambolic remains of what had been Love Beach and what would never be the Hotel California. To make things worse, a storm seemed to be rolling in, the isolated showers they had early were being succeeded by something much more powerful and much less isolated. “We just take a shortcut and go through the jungle,” Walter, who he and his knife everyone decided best to agree with, declared. And while that might’ve been a good idea at the time, the dense undergrowth and growing darkness reduced their progress to a crawl.

“We should just retrace our steps and go back into the hotel, at least we had a roof over our heads,” Roger griped, shoving a frond out of his face, “I can’t see five feet in front of me, admit it we’re lost.”

A booming crack of lighting briefly illuminated the woods, faces pale white and eyes wide for a second before plunging back into darkness. Then came the shiver of a heavy downpour of rain crossing the island towards them, and then was something no one had expected. An eerie cry echoed from far away, then another, and another, much closer, and several pairs of glowing eyes. Damn, those pesky Caribbean wolves.

Donald and Walter readied themselves to fight off the impending attack but this time is was Todd who threw himself in harm’s way. “If you’re going to hurt them you’ll have to go through me, they’re probably like an endangered species or something!” As he moved closer, holding out a hand he addressed them. “See, they’re more afraid of us then we are of th-” And Todd was mauled.

“Oh my god-” Todd’s boyfriends leapt after him, stopping him from trying to pet any more strange dogs. A sharp whistle pierced the snarling and growling and the animals froze before running towards the noise. The four looked at each other and back to the trees, another figure the wolves ran to, sitting and panting. “Who the hell-”

The person motioned to follow them and given their options, they followed. In the strange shelter, it was a tight fit getting a dozen grown ass adult men and a number of wolves inside, but proved more spacious than initially expected. Some sparse decoration covered the walls, a combination of plant matter and flotsam, evidence that this person had been here some time. They gestured to sit down and after shaking off some of the rain, removed their hood revealing a somewhat avuncular, kindly face. “Does anyone want any tea? It’s mostly sticks and leaves in water but, ah you’ll get used to it.”

“Steve Hackett? What are you doing here?” Julian squinted.

“Why I’m stranded on a desert island of course, have you come to rescue me? I thought those blokes who showed up a few weeks ago were going to but they wouldn’t let pets into their hotel,” he exhaled, “So I’ve gone back to this.” He sipped his tea pensively.

“Yeah about them…” Donald drawled, “Are you alone here, I mean, how did you get here anyways?”

“Alone until you came along I suppose, there had been a few of us at first but ever since Morris Pert went native I haven’t seen him or anyone else. I probably would have died from loneliness if not for my friends; they taught me the ways of the wild, how to hunt, to relish the taste of a fresh kill. I’m sorry, you must be hungry, can I offer you anything?”

“Uhh, no thanks, we just ate,” they looked skeptically at the wolves nuzzling their packages.

“Well it still stands if you change your mind,” Steve shrugged and continued his story.

“It was many years ago, on my first “Cruise to the Edge”, I was a young naive child of 63 but then a freak storm struck! I think they’re called hurricanes, really rare in the Gulf of Mexico, and our ship capsized! And was attacked by a kraken! The crew had plenty of kraken fighting gear on board to take care of it, but wasn’t prepared for how long Alan Holdsworth’s guitar solo would go on for and none of the passengers would budge until they’d gotten the whole thing on their phones! I was the only one who managed to escape, apart from everyone else, who wasn’t eaten by the kraken, which was everyone, except for the other members of Genesis who were secretly there planning a surprise reunion- they all perished so here I am confined to this island, never for Genesis to ever play together again.”

“I’m pretty sure all the members of Genesis are still alive.”

“Yeah I think I saw Phil Collins in an advertisement the other day trying to sell me sea monster insurance with a catchy jingle.”

“Did it work?”

Julian glanced furtively over his shoulder,“....Yeah….”

“That’s pretty wild actually,” Albert cocked his head listening, “Something similar happened to us. We were on Jimmy Buffet’s Revenge of the Return to the Escape from Margaritaville Booze Cruise when we were shot by torpedos and attacked by a kraken.”

“-Tee em.” Kenny interjected.

“™. Right.”

Steve scratched his head, that was a strange coincidence. That or sea monster attacks were really as common as the commercials suggested, he’d always imagined they’d just been some kind of insurance scheme like funeral or kaiju insurance, of course, until it happened to him. It’s always that way, people thinking ‘it could never happen to me’ and then you’re regretting not calling that toll free number on the screen. Surely the cruise companies couldn’t be planning these attacks themselves to commit insurance fraud? “So they all survived and didn’t try to rescue me?”

“Even Tony. I don’t know them personally, maybe!”

He hung his head taking in this information, “Great.” It was fantastic news knowing that his friends were still alive and gave him renewed hope in reuniting, but the potential reality that they didn’t care that he was made him wonder whether he should give up on trying to leave the island after all. Another peal of thunder shook the walls of his home making the wolves whimper and everyone draw closer concerned for the building’s soundness. “You should rest, no point in trying to wait the storm out with your eyes open.” Steve leaned over to his small flickering fire and scattered a palmful of dirt across to put it out. As everyone shifted about in the cramped darkness trying to get comfortable without stepping on any tails one made strange bedfellows in no man’s land.

The next morning Ralf awoke early and deeply sweaty to the sound of barking. Evidently Steve had heard it too because he was nowhere to be seen in the mass of tangled bodies crusted with mud and sand. He shook Florian awake before slipping out to investigate what was going on, “
Aufwachen. Flori. Wir müssen hier raus.”

“Ich hatte einen schrecklichen Traum, ich war auf einer Insel gefangen,” he yawned stretching, “Oh…”

“What are you going on about get this animal away from me!” Daryl shouted kicking at the wolf tearing at his pant leg.

“If you’re with the men from the hotel I’ve had enough of you gentrifying my island, you need to take your business somewhere else!”

“Excuse- Excuse me, your island? Since when is this island!?” he swung at another wolf ineffectually.

“I was here first,” he proclaimed.

“-Well I was here second. You can’t just watch while these monsters tear me apart! Jon, JON!”

The smaller man caught up tumbling into the clearing surprised. “I’m coming I’m coming- oh, hello. Hello doggies.”

“Jon?” Steve perked up with familiarity, “Are you with this guy?”

“I am Daryl HALL, best selling singer-songwriter, HONESTLY?”

He ignored him and moved over to Jon excitedly. “I heard about how your boat got attacked by sea monsters from your crewmates- come, come here.” He bounded back towards the bungalow where everyone was starting to rise, the air already hot and misty with transpiration. Daryl collapsed in the dirt as the wolves quickly lost interest, chasing after their master. With some difficulty he righted himself and trudged behind them.

 

“Ah, we’ve been looking for you,” Jon tiptoed in between the bodies, “Did you find any cheetos?”

Albert sat up groggily and rubbed his eyes, “No? -Though we did find-” he looked around for their bindles. They’d all been torn into and eaten for the most part while they’d slept. “Actually nevermind. No. We’re on a desert island there’s no cheetos.”

“Not with that kind of attitude.”

Steve and Daryl caught up, by now everyone up and more than a little disappointed at the lack of breakfast. Only Jon seemed especially chipper, happy to have found his friends like he said he would. Now to just get back to camp empty handed and injured. “You should come back with us Steve, I’m sure everybody would be glad to see you especially the congregation.”

“Congregation- what?” Michael McDonald knitted his wiry brows.

“Mhm, I’m a spiritual leader,” Jon professed. “I feed the hungry, heal the sick, perform miracles. The usual.”

Some of them snorted in disbelief but a few were curious as to what exactly this meant. “You’re the medical officer on the ship right? I sprained my ankle yesterday,” Albert spoke up, “Can you do something about it?”

Everyone held their breath as Jon prepared to demonstrate his abilities, Daryl watching and waiting confidently. Leaning down and kissing his foot Jon then smacked his leg and stood back up. “You’re cured.”

“Huh, just like that?” Albert got to his feet and tested his leg shifting his full weight onto it, then fell to the floor with a shout. “JESUS FUCKING- shit! I think that broke it? Oh my god is it broken?”

The crowd turned their eyes towards Jon who simply stared at him on the ground. “Hm, well it worked last time. Let me try it again.”

As he repeated himself, Daryl’s smug grin faded, the possibility his new route to unlocking his omnipotential was actually just full of shit dawned upon him and rather than embarrass himself he slowly slunk away while Jon made things worse. Julian exhaled sharply, pushing his hands through his hair as he paced around. “Let’s just, let’s get back to the beach and get Jon to try and bandage him up- the OTHER Jon.” Jon frowned and put his hand down. “...I wanna go home…”

“I’m sorry for bringing us on this trip in the first place,” Albert winced, trying to balance himself on his one good leg.

“-No no! It’s not your fault,” Julian held him, “Although it’d be pretty fucked up if it were. Here- put your arm around me, we can walk back together. Got me?” He took his hand searching his eyes and Albert nodded. “Good. We’ll go as slow as you need to, I’d never leave without you.”

“Heh, where would you go?”

 

In the blurred space between sleep and consciousness, Trevor wasn’t entirely sure what of his senses suggested was real save for the dull stabbing pain in his side. That was real. The warmth of the sun on his skin, the shifting ground beneath him, a crisp breeze, the smell of salt- all of this familiar, his vision, a wide blue expanse that extended into a cerulean horizon. Waves crashed upon the sand, the foam rushing towards him then pulling back out of reach. “-Oh, you’re awake. Careful!” Jon the younger moved to his side assisting him and handed him some pills which he gratefully accepted though struggled to get down, his throat dry and rough.

“...The boat sunk,” He summarized to put it succinctly.

“Yeah that I gathered,” Trevor rasped, “How- actually no I don’t want to know. How long have I been out, my throat feels like the Sahara.”

“Two days?” he shrugged and passed him one of the remaining coconuts the crew had picked.

“This tastes terrible.”

“I could hit you with it and knock you back out. It rained last night though so if you want to lick some leaves help yourself.”

“We should gather food still,” Trevor stood up shakily surveying the scene, a few of the remaining crew already up and checking on their SOS, replacing rocks that turned out to be crabs overnight.

“We sent out two search parties yesterday, but neither have come back yet. Trust me we’re trying. My infirmary is already at its limit with coconut related injuries, if you feel good enough to give up your bed you should.”

“Okay. Where’s Chris, I need to see what orders are from him,” Trevor stated, Jon’s face darkening. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m sorry Trevor, I know how close you were to him- Chris drowned when the ship went down. Steve, Bill, not everyone made it.” As was evidenced by the fact there were only about a dozen people on the beach and not several hundred, but they didn’t really hang out so-

“I-” Trevor was paralyzed by thoughts racing through his head, it was as if someone hit him with a torpedo, dizzied by the impact of those words.

“You’re in charge now, though I guess it’s hard to be a captain without a ship.”

 

“Alan, wake up.” Trevor stood over his mate, casting a long shadow over him, coconut alarm clock poised in his hand. “I need you to help build me a net.”

“Hmmn? I’m awake don’t- oh, Trevor! You’re alright.”

“Well not quite considering I just had my spleen removed, am going through withdrawal, haven’t eaten in days, am stranded on an island, no longer have a job, and my friends have died- but, given things, can’t complain. ...Do you know how to make a net?”

“It’s truly times like these I wish I’d done something with my life other than drumming in a prog rock band.”

“Oh man, big mood.”

Between the six or so crew who hadn’t be absorbed into the disciples of Jon or perished at sea, someone who could tie knots managed to construct a rough netting from the fronds and vines procured from the edge of the forest. One would think a group of sailors would know a thing or two about knots, but cruise ships seemed to have a curious lack of sails and such. Usually when one of their cords got tangled, they’d just end up throwing it out rather than try and figure out its secrets, knots 2 yes 0. To craft something remotely usable was a true feat of engineering and teamwork, now as to whether any fish would be dumb enough to get caught in it, and whether any of them knew how to make a fire was another question altogether; fire’s were even less commonly needed upon cruise vessels.

Casting it into the surf, now it was only time to wait for that pull to bring it back in. Fresh meat, any vegetarians here could go fuck themselves- go suck seaweed. Squinting into the water it looked mostly like seaweed. Tony got very excited for some reason as they mentioned this. Approaching the others stranded on the beach, Trevor waved over Pat and Geoff to held tend the net but neither of them seemed very focused on whatever they were doing. In fact they seemed to be lost in some sort of trance, or trying very hard to. “What are you doing? There’s work to be done.” He stood at their feet, Geoff squirming and forcing his eyes tighter.

“Jon said to focus on freeing ourselves from earthly desires, can you leave, you’re making this harder than it has to be.”

“Excuse me? Where is Jon I need to talk to him.”

“Ummm,” they fretted, not entirely sure themselves as Trevor grew impatient.

Miraculously, this question was eventually answered, a bedraggled group of people stiffly making their way out of the thick copse of tangled vegetation. “Hello!” Jon waved amicably towards Trevor, who as they grew closer, didn’t seem quite as enthusiastic to see him. Steve was there too, so that was good.

“We came back with- well, hm no we didn’t. ...Do you have anything to eat?” Michael McDonald twisted his hands.

“If you want to eat you have to work for it,” Trevor stated plainly, “Go check the net and see if there’s anything in it yet. If you can cook it, you can eat it.”

A number of them groaned at this news, not wanting to have to try harder than they had to for something that should have been provided for them. “I don’t want to make anyone feel this situation is unfair, but somebody has to put their foot down at some point if we want to get anything done. Rick? See if you can start a fire while these boys bring in our catch. Alan… Take a break, you’ve done enough already. Get Tony to sort things out with Jon’s… friends or whatever… Chop chop!” He clapped his hands, moving swiftly in his first day as captain without a ship. Speaking from his heart rather than his employment history, his ship had been Squabin, but, well you know how things went. It’s always you and me and the giant sea monster between us. He wished he could have had one last chance to tell Chris how he felt but, part of him knew he knew and he could rest a little easier living with that promise.

There was a shout behind him from where a number of the beach party were struggling with the net, the roughly woven fibers snapping apart under the weight of its bounty. Calling the jungle crew to aide, together they managed to haul some enormous mass of seaweed and marine life into the sand, the net completely ripping apart with that one final tug onto ‘mostly’ dry land. “Wow.” “Oh yes let’s eat-” “-You’re welcome.” A number of heads turned towards Jon after his declaration. “For what? You didn’t do anything?”

“It’s a miracle!” he piped. At this, the mass began to move, everyone jumping back afraid to find out what it was they had really caught. “Oh… yeah you’re right I had nothing to do with that.”

“Not again!” Trevor cried out grabbing a piece of driftwood to defend himself, “I don’t need another sea monster in my life! I’ve lost enough friends already!” And bravely, or very stupidly, he charged at it beating it back into the water.

“OW! WHAT THE HELL!?” The monster yelled. “I think I liked it better at the bottom of the sea…”

Trevor panted wildly, his wet hair plastered across his forehead. “GO AWAY!” He swung at it again. “HAVEN’T YOU DONE ENOUGH HARM ALREADY!? ARGH.” Chucking the piece at the creature, it bounced off its hide and splashed into the waves ineffectually. God he wished Chris were still here; he was barely into his new position of leadership and already it felt like everything was falling apart. What was he doing even, he couldn’t fight a sea monster, not like this.

“Stop hitting me already!” It stumbled back towards him, “ Jesus. Rude. Some people I swear. ”

Trevor, exhausted and out of ideas sunk to his knees as it lumbered towards him. Inhaling sharply, he prepared himself for the worst, better to sacrifice himself than let his crew fall prey to another monster. However, nothing seemed to happen. He opened an eye and a clump of seaweed splatted against his leg, then another as the creature pulled tangles of it away from its terrible form, gradually diminishing, separating, until it turned to be two, incredibly haggard looking humans. He blinked slowly trying to understand just exactly what he was seeing and lifted a hand to touch them to make sure it wasn’t a mirage. Then balled it into a fist, rising up, and clocked Chris right in the face.

I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!”

“Me too what the hell, this is how you greet me after I nearly died? I should’ve stayed dead,” Chris rubbed his jaw irritably. On a nearby outcrop, he spotted their little coconut effigy and stared uneasily a few seconds before quickly looking away ‘Who is that?’ Trevor ignored this, too overwhelmed with everything already going on to try and make a good impression, adrenaline was still coursing through him and he had half a mind to pick the stick back up and swat him again for scaring him like this. Maybe it was asking too much to check and see if they could troll the deeps for their other lost friends, it was unlikely anyone who had been in the belly of the ship when it went down would have made it out dead or alive. Again, they were lucky themselves to have escaped with their lives, but Eddie was also there too, so, not a total loss.

“Another miracle thanks to the living messiah of the Island of Life!” Jon lifted his hands cheering. Trevor pinched the bridge of his nose and approached Chris again, voice slightly strained. “Chris. What did you tell him, why did you do that.”

Chris shrugged. “I thought it would be for him for a while.”

They shook their heads and dispersed leaving them in the tide together smelling like fish and poor decisions. “Hm. Hey Jon buddy, I think you should call it quits on the cult thing, that’s peer pressure, gang violence. Yeah, that’s not cool.”

“Oh…” Jon frowned, thinking things over. “Hi- Hello um, can I get everyone’s attention?” His followers attentively turned towards him, waiting on bated breath. Jon looked around and scratched his head, “Ummmmmmm. I think, I don’t want to be your leader any more. I think I’m gonna quit. Yeah.” He looked at Chris and dug in his pocket for his ID badge and handed it over, “I’m going to quit my job Christopher and pursue my lifelong dream of not being having responsibilities.”

“Wait you’re quitting? I just meant to knock off the whole weird religious leader bit cos it was pissing people off.” Chris seemed confused as to where this relationship was heading, it had been a wild few minutes.

“Mmmmmmmyeah,” he chirped kicking the sand, “I really only did it for the free marijuanas.”

“Ain’t that just the way. So what are you gonna do now?”

“Probably another solo album, I think I’ve got a lot of good material as soon as I can get into the studio.”

“Yeah, I should probably return to my day job too… Dude… Jimmy Buffett’s gonna be so mad when he finds out we sunk his boat.”

“That sounds like a problem for someone other than Juan Yderniño and Christo Galan,” Jon smirked shrewdly holding up a finger. Chris slowly beamed and laughed in agreement, ready to run away to a circus in Mexico where responsibility couldn’t find them and reform the legendary tax shelter known as Sí.

 

After the reunion, everyone discussed plans of what to do next over a meal of seaweed and mostly seaweed. Building a seaworthy vessel big enough for everyone was out of the question and while the small island was big enough to support Steve and his fur babies for some time, it was currently far beyond its carrying capacity. “You know what, those guys in the hotel ruins, they probably had some way to get here, we need to go back and search for their ship!”

“But then how will they get home?” Jon furrowed his brows as he chewed his weed.

“Uhhhh, I don’t think that’s gonna be a problem-” “They decided to stay. It’s their forever home. They’re happier here.”

“Oh. Well. Okay.”

Daryl sat through this whole exchange in silence, patience growing thin as his options were whittled away. There was still a fresh blood offering sitting in there cooling, if he could claim it as his own and summon a willing ear, he wouldn’t need to worry about petty issues like food and boats. He could still do it, and he didn’t need John or Jon or anyone. So while the crowd deliberated, he made his way back towards the hollowed halls of Love Beach one last time.

Footsteps echoed through the empty building as Daryl drew closer to the former ballroom battleground. Crouching, he began to draw his pentagram in the thickened sticky blood when he heard someone speak. ‘Daryl, we talked about this already…’ No one there, he continued.

Daryl. Stop it. I know you can hear me, you are not doing this again,’ John’s voice echoed inside his skull. Daryl now gritted his teeth as he completed the circle. ‘You abandoned me, if I have to do this on my own, I will, but I have to do it.’

“No you don’t…”

John stepped behind Daryl and placed a hand on his shoulder, “You don’t want to spend an eternity alone, admit we’ve lived a full life already, whatever it is you’re seeking- I know regardless it’ll feel empty in comparison. You don’t want to condemn yourself to that, come with me, make the most of what we have left.”

Daryl looked at him eyes wide, frozen between rage and shock. John merely let him sit in silence and closed his arms around him. Sometimes you had to take that leap of faith for those things you kept faith in.

Together in this circle, they shared a quiet moment before breaking away, eyes still locked in one anothers, hand in hand, heart in heart. “Let’s get off this damn island.”

 

A strange rumbling thundered overhead and the beach was cast into shadow as an enormous object inched across the sun. Wondering what new threat this might be, they braced themselves, the wind whipping around them as it drew ever nearer. It seemed as if everything was trying to kill them, that they were supposed to perish in a shipwreck and they would never get off this album if the universe had anything to say about it.

The ship’s gangplank lowered and in a cloud of vapor, one of the alien beings made first contact. “Oh Steve, there you are. Would you and your friends like to come aboard my fantastic airship?” Peter Gabriel spoke.

“... .... ...Can- Can my dogs come?”

“Of course.”