|20.20|21|22|22.2|22.22|22.222|23|24|25|Those Extra Four…|1|2|3|4|Back Cover|
Breakfast With Bigfoot
A Beautiful Morn’ In Treering
A cool morning breeze rustles through the last bundle of wilted leaves that remain attached by a single fibrous strand of wood to the branch of the tree, one of the innumerable and identical trees that proudly make up one of Quarryville’s many forests. It’s a beautiful morn’ in Treering, not a cloud in the sky! The various songbirds are chirping away, singing a song not even nearly as beautiful as one composed by a pair of birds locked away in a cage. The bunnies are dashing between burrows and the foxes are chasing them down for sport. The osprey, now a proud mother, happily sits on the eggs in her new nest, eagerly waiting for the hatching so she can teach all her new hatchlings how to divebomb those surprisingly filling little chipmunks, just like she and their dad do. Somewhere amongst all this bustling springtime activity, Tiny Tim the Quatchfut steps over a river in a single stride, the second river he’s had to cross today, with a cup of steaming herbal tea in his hand.
He comes to a nexus in the trail, not one that’s perfectly obvious though. An abrupt left fork seems to be his only option; the trail is continuous, starting from the Monta’s house and leading all the way to the summit of Bored Mountain, the only mountain accessible from this point in the trail. Then Tim WHOOPs, and where there was once a fallen tree there is now a right fork to match the left, a zig where there is normally only a zag. Tiny Tim takes the zig and a moment later, after the whitetail deer that’s been following him curiously sniffs the clover sprouting from the overgrown dirt path, he WHOOPs again and the zig might as well have been a figment of a very confused fox’s imagination. Red isn’t perturbed though, weird stuff always happens ou– HOLY FUCK A BUNNY!
Tim-nah’tee ascends Mount Drase quickly, holding a steady pace as he bounds up the rockslide that overtook the trail ages ago. The clippity-clop of the deer’s hooves follows close behind him, it’s always nice to have company. After another long, long night of pursuing a human adolescent through the twilit forest, a habit he certainly isn’t going to keep up forever, Tim’s happy to have some peace of mind, happy to have someone trailing behind him for once.
The soft, uncut meadow that is the summit of Mount Drase feels like pillows on the leathery soles of Tim’s bare feet, he almost lays down in it to bask in the sun. There’ll be plenty of time for all of that later, though; right now, he has a human to stir.
Gently lifting a zonked-out Sam from the bed in the guest room of the old man’s cabin, Tim carries the boy out to the pasture and lays him down beside the flattened bed the deer’s made for itself. Tim holds a finger up at the deer, communicating his wish for the ungulate to wait a moment before doing anything, then goes inside.
Some Damn Good Mushrooms
Sam is woken up by the feeling of a deer’s tongue exploring the slightly skunky taste of the various oils seeping from his skin pores.
“AHH!” he shouts in a half-conscious daze. Sam’s not sure what startles him more, the fact the deer woke him up on this weird, semi-existent mountain, or the fact that the deer didn’t prance away at the sound of his semi-conscious screech. He’s certainly startled though, and groggy… everything feels so heavy this morning. ‘What even happened last night? There was the fight, I took off, and then…’
He shakes his head, unable to remember the exact details. It all feels like it happened so long ago, the memories are so far away. The deer licks his face again, apparently enjoying the trace amounts of THC in Sam’s sweat.
The deer can’t be very old, judging from its size; definitely could be called a scrub buck. Or maybe a spike would be more accurate, considering the little antler spikes protruding from behind its ears. Regardless, it’s definitely no Boone & Crockett; Sam feels at ease knowing nobody will attempt to shoot it for at least half a decade, no matter how tasty the resulting venison (vealison?) would be.
Slowly, apprehensively, very carefully, as to not startle the often timid variety of creature, Sam reaches a hand out to pet the deer’s head. The deer pushes its head into Sam’s hand like a cat, it would be purring if it had the capability of generating such vibrations.
‘Well this is definitely new.’
After watching the young buck shake its leg as the result of Sam scratching it between his antler and his ear, our mentally hilarious twentysomething stands, cracks his back, and takes in the morning. There’s not much to take in though, the crack’a’dawn fog is so dense he can’t see past the treeline. No reservoirs, no valleys, no mountain ranges poking out of the surrounding forests, no surrounding forests. Just… white; Sam is castaway and stranded, an isle unto himself. And the deer, of course. Can’t forget about Spike of the WhiteTail Tribe.
Sam can see the old man’s cabin though, that archaic wooden structure is as clear as the sky isn’t up here. In fact, now that he’s walking around a little bit, it seems as if the clouds are a physical wall, a blanket of fog lightly stapled to the rim around the plateau he treads across, held up like his tent under the bendy carbon fibre support poles that keep the flimsy poly-whatever from gently caving in on him. He knocks on the door, hears a shuffling of feet away from him and, after a couple minute’s courtesy, he walks in.
There’s not much going on in here, although how much would be going on in an isolated mountaintop cabin? A hot cup of tea sits on the table, all the chairs are tucked in underneath. The doors to the bedrooms are shut, as is the garden door. Wait… how is there hot tea up here? The old man doesn’t have a stove or anything, and Sam didn’t see any semblance of a fire pit outside. There’s definitely nothing of the like out back in the garden… maybe it’s Sam’s. His memory is pretty foggy, maybe he made himself some tea before his family woke up and he scooted up here for… another nap?
‘Nah, that doesn’t make sense.’
Sam sniffs the tea and, recognizing the sweet, rooty fragrance, takes a sip. Yep, the subtle aftertaste leaves no room for doubt – this is licorice root tea. His favorite, the very same tea that Sam keeps a constant stash of in his bedroom and kitchen. Maybe the old man abducted Sam from his attic bedroom, stopping to raid his supply of tea bags on the way?
‘Nah, that makes even less sense.’
There’s only one way to find out what really happened, as far as Sam supposes – to go out into the garden and confront the old man. He steels himself, taking a few deep breaths so he comes off as calm and not as a lunatic. This is silly, why would the frail old man try to abduct him? The dude could hardly lift himself out of lotus when they meditated together the other day, there’s no way his elderly bones would have the strength to haul Sam up the mountain, even if the old man dragged him on a sled behind him. In fact, using a sled would only make it harder – nobody could have brought Sam up here but himself, yet here he is. This situation is just silly.
There’s a knock at the front door, making Sam jump out of his skin. Once he zippers himself back together, our hippie answers the knock, stepping aside as the WhiteTail trots in. The ungulate is on a mission, not even taking a moment to sniff the tea before it laps some up and immediately proceeds out the back entrance.
‘Well that’s not something you see every day.’
Sam follows the deer outside and balances on the edge of the doorframe, stopping dead in his tracks when he sees the creature eating berries out of the hairy hand of a bigfoot. Sam’s blood stops dead in its veins when the bigfoot looks over to Sam and passively waves hello. Sam thinks to himself, ‘Oh my god, I’m seeing things. I’m out here hallucinating right off the bat. This is so not good.’ The electricity in Sam’s brain stops dead in its neurons when the bigfoot says…
“You’re hallucinating only as much as we all hallucinate our daily waking consciousness. Good morning Sam, how did you sleep last night?”
“Uh… g-good, I uh, I think. I was pretty tired, from uh, from…” gulp “from being chased all night by uh… you.”
Bigfoot chuckles, patting the head of the deer as it polishes off all those delicious wineberries from the palm of his hand. The eight-foot-tall bipedal creature then reaches down and picks up a woven basket filled past the brim with stacks of a sulfur-smelling orange fungus and menacingly walks over towards Sam. The boy flinches as Bigfoot passes him without a second thought and proceeds back into the house, the deer in tow.
For a few minutes Sam stands there in the garden by himself. He looks around, there are so many different plants up here – a few that he recognizes, sure, but more that he doesn’t – berries, herbs, ferns, vegetables, there’s even a fruiting pawpaw tree with dazzling white flowers still bloomed off near the back gate. The sky’s blocked out by the fog but everything seems to be growing just fine, ahead of season, even… ‘How is any of this possible?
‘Maybe it’s not, maybe I’m just dreaming right now… but, I certainly feel awake,’ as he looks down at his arm, feeling the urge to pinch himself, just to make sure. ‘OW! Fuckin’, yeah I’m awake. Could… is this all a hallucination? Am I dead? Did I trip on a rock and crack my skull open again when my mom was chasing me? If there was a heaven, this would totah–’
“SAM!” Tim-nah’tee shouts from the other side of the cabin, his booming voice rising over the roof like the plume of slightly gray smoke. “This is all real, you’re not dreaming or hallucinating, and you’re definitely not dead. You don’t have the proper understanding of life and death, or consciousness, or reality in general for that matter, to even comprehend how ridiculous the inside of your head sounds right now. Please, pick yourself some berries, eat a cucumber or something. Then, come join us. Or better yet, just come join us now! The old man needs all the food he can get, the toothpick.”
Flustered, Sam thinks to himself, ‘How are all these mystical cryptid motherfuckers gonna keep reading my mind this week, what the hell?’
“Because,” Bigfoot shouts back in perfect English, sounding like he’s trying to make a point, “we mystics don’t waste our time trying to copulate with various mothers of the literal or potential variety!”
Sam hesitates for a moment. ‘I mean… cool? I feel like that has nothing to do with anything, but whatever.’
Sam trudges back through the cabin, noticing a second cup of tea sitting aside the first one on the table, the pair of herby brews so scaldingly hot that steam drifts from their surfaces. They could have been poured just a moment ago if the old man had running water up here, the observation of which raises a whole lot of questions in and of itself. With a mug securely hooked by the fingers on each of his hands, Sam takes the teas out front and almost drops them when the smoke from the campfire bumrushes into his nose and mouth, the battalion of carcinogenic combusted wood fragments clawing and stabbing at the contracted pores of his lungs where they burrow in and set up little shops to try to make lives for themselves. He’s safe though, they’ll all be promptly evicted when he smokes up the day after tomorrow. Don’t worry.
“Uh, here’s your tea, mister… uh…”
“Ah, so you no longer see me as the cryptic monster of Native American folklore so poorly adapted to your modern human society. I suppose I should be flattered.”
Sam chuckles at this. “No, you definitely shouldn’t.”
“I know, I was being cheeky. You humans are unfairly asinine with your whole fear of the unknown thing you all so desperately cling to. When the few members of my kind who were capable of voyaging did happen across early man, we were celebrated. A branch of your ancestors, they’re called the Native Americans by your kind, they saw us as guardians of the forests, as deities. Then your white-skinned second cousins convinced everybody to put on those abhorrently sweaty leather bodysuits and ten-gallon hats and you all started roping cattle around their necks, and suddenly, we were the monsters.”
“Oh, I… I’m sorry, I shouldn–”
Tiny Tim bellows a mighty laugh, then, “Sam, why are you so remorseful of your own existence? You don’t even know if what I just said was true. Please, sit. I’m cooking us a meal.”
Sam sits, placing the teacups beside the mushrooms and oil-filled canters on the section of log the bigfoot’s using as a table. The ape creature has a metal spatula in its hand, adorned with a carved wooden handle, and he’s using it to repeatedly flip and toss around diced up little cubes of orange and yellow fungus. With Sam quietly sitting at attention, just like the deer on the other side of the dug-out fire pit that definitely was not there when Sam woke up earlier, the bigfoot makes a show of dashing the mushrooms with salt, pepper, some chopped garlic, more cooking oils. The dude could have a TV show if he wouldn’t make the audience appear at the studio doors with lit torches and pitch forks. It would be called…
“Wait, what was your name? You didn’t answer me before, we just kind of made fun of humans together.”
“No,” Bigfoot says, correcting Sam. “I made fun of humans. You apologized for your humanity, which I proceeded to make fun of. My name is Tim-nah’tee of the Quatchfut. My tribe once inhabited the Isle of Fut off in the bowels of what you know as the Specific Ocean. You may call me Tim.”
“Wait, Tim? As in Tiny Tim? That shit was real?!”
“If by that shit you mean my being abducted and converted into a circus act against my will, then yes, that shit was real. As were the lives of the clean-up crew that I regrettably ended after a brilliantly calculated ambush.” Tim goes silent for a moment, stirring his oily ‘shrooms. “I’ve done some things I’m not proud of, crossed some lines whilst prodded into a fiery rage by this electric baton or that napalm bomb, but that can be said of any of us… you know, in a metaphorical way.”
“Yeah, I definitely feel that.”
“I knew you would. Existence is weird, Sam, and life is even stranger. We’re all just trying our best; there’s not a right or wrong answer to any of this, not one we can read off the pages of a book, nor one we can carve into a stone tablet after accidentally tripping off the Dee-eM-Tee enriched fumes emanating from an acacia bush that was set ablaze by a haywire lightning strike.”
Tiny Tim grabs a little wooden bowl full of chopped-up herbs from the old man’s garden, probably basil or parsley or something, and sprinkles them over the mushrooms. He then partitions the batch into three equal servings, dumping each helping onto one of the three wooden plates that are now stacked up on top of the tea mugs.
“Woah, how did you do that?”
“What, you mean distribute the meal so equally? It wasn’t hard, I just thought of how much I wanted and broke that much off twice.”
“No, I mean the plates. Well, like, all of this; the campfire, the cooking utensils… the deer, I assume.”
Tim smiles and places the first plate on the grass in front of the bedded deer. He then hands Sam a plate and, after both of his friends have tasted their meals, Tim-nah’tee serves himself.
“Well, what do you think?”
Sam pulverizes the admittedly delicious fungus and swallows it before shoving three mouth’s worth of morsels down the hatch.
Once the wildly caustic acid in his stomach begins to dissolve the fungus and some of its nutrients are absorbed into his body, Sam says, “Honestly? I think I tried to run up Frick Hill on the one day the volunteer gun-toters watch it for escaped mental patients from that awful group home that everybody in Quarryville loves to tell themselves is just a normal house. I think the cops pulled me aside, thought I was nuts for trying to run up the hill, strapped me in a straitjacket, and locked me inside of a padded room. I think this is all some type of fucked-up fever dream that I’m experiencing as a side effect from the strange experimental medications they shot me up with because I tried to explain to them that I was running to keep in shape so I could outrun the aliens that my brother brought home. Yanno, and the bigfoot that’s chased me through the woods twice now. Hey there buddy.”
Tim-nah’tee, with his fork held precariously on the cusp of his open mouth, holds an uneasy and shocked stare at young Samuel. “Sam… I was talking about the mushrooms.”
“OH! Oh god, I uh… I’m so sorry. They’re actually really, really good. Kinda tastes like chicken, if I’m being honest.”
“Well it should, it’s called Chicken of the Woods. Its mycelium doesn’t bear fruit around here until what you know as late summer-early autumn.”
“Huh…” Sam says, looking down at his almost clean plate that suddenly resembles the porcelain plates his mom serves dinner on. “WHAT?! OH-kay, what the hell’s going on here?”
Tiny Tim smirks at the human, as does the whitetail deer when it’s not wondering, ‘If chicken tastes this good, why does my species stay herbivorous?’
“No, stop laughing. You’re not laughing but stop it. Gah! What’s going on, where did all this stuff come from? There’s nowhere to boil water, so you couldn’t have made the tea. There wasn’t a fire pit here when I woke up. I have to assume you didn’t pull all these cooking utensils out of your anal cavity. There’s a freaking grill over the fire Tim, and the mushrooms! It’s the end of April, we’re still firmly in the spring season! Or, I’m sorry, what I know as the spring season, whatever that’s supposed to mean.”
Sam rubs his eyes and gets lost in the sensation for a moment. Then, “And then my plate changed to something that only I would know, something that has emotional significance to me. Like, how do you expect me to not think that I’m hallucinating all of this right now? Even you! I’ve believed in Sasquatch since I was a little kid, I’ve seen every episode of every tee-vee show about finding bigfoot that was ever produced up until the moment I stopped watching tee-vee. What gives?”
Tim, after shoveling the rest of his breakfast into his mouth, stands and approaches Sam. Sam stands too and starts backing away, overcome with not only visions of his own gruesome demise, but also the unshakable fear that once he’s done becoming the breakfast variant of dessert, he’ll wake up sweating in a very soft room. Tim backs the child against the front wall of the cabin, the deer watching with amusement from his comfy grass bed.
Sam closes his eyes and waits for a tragic ending that never comes. He feels the arms of the mighty Tim-nah’tee close around him, embracing him in a hug of such a high caliber of love that Sam can’t say he’s ever been embraced in something like it. Tim then releases and places a single finger on Sam’s forehead, right on the spot where humans of the Hindu persuasion decorate with that tiny little dot, the name of which doesn’t matter to the story but is called a bindi for anybody who comes across the question in a word search or something.
“In that spot,” Tim says, mesmerizing Sam with his words, “I feel a constant pressure. As if someone was holding a finger against it like I am to you right now. Ever since my family, my home… ever since my life was taken from me, I have felt the pressure, and I’ve been capable of incredible things. To a certain point, reality can be whatever I want it to be; but only up to that certain point. If I ever try to bend it too closely along the curvature of my own skewed bias, something gets in the way and I am stopped.”
Tim removes his finger and the pressure lingers inside Sam’s forehead for a few miraculous seconds before dissipating. Tim has no way of knowing this, but he smiles knowingly all the same.
“I could stand here and tell you about my own theories regarding the pinecone-shaped organ sat in the middle of my brain that I once saw on a voyage as a young Quatch’, but I am not familiar enough with the anatomy of the Quatchfut to know that said organ exists, nor am I familiar enough with the anatomy of your species to say it has any bearing on you. And I do have these theories, so, so many of them… but none of that matters. At the end of the day, something within me was awoken and it allows me to do incredible things that benefit other beings. Sam, I’m so powerful that I can summon this mountain unto the Earthly plane from somewhere else in Existence entirely, all by making a simple noise with my mouth. And I chose to spend my morning cooking breakfast for a deer and a HairlessFut. And now, instead of maiming you like you thought I was going to, I gave you a hug and a talk. And… you’re not following any of this, are you?”
Sam, his mouth just slightly open, stands with a dumb look on his face as he stares up at the mythical creature before him. “Uh, I uh… no, I have no idea where you’re… just no.”
A moment of silence ensues. The deer almost gets up and walks over to lick the skunky ape’s face again, but it gets distracted by the ‘shroomy gristle stuck to the frying pan and licks that instead.
“You know what I do know though, Tim-nah’tee?” Sam asks in an optimistic voice.
“Those were some damn good mushrooms.”
Tim-nah’tee blinks a few times, then smiles at his new friend. “Yes, those were some damn good mushrooms. Thank you.”
“No, thank you, Tim. I will definitely mention all of this to my therapist when I wake up from this very powerful sedation they have me under!”
Tim grimaces but Sam quickly tells him that he was joking and not to worry, if only to quell the nerves of this potential figment of his fucked-up imagination.
With a snap of Tim’s fingers all the breakfast utilities disappear, much to the disappointment of the friendly deer, and Tim leads his friends down the mountain. As soon as they clear the clearing, the old man emerges from the forest behind his garden after embarking on the hike of his life.
A Local Yokel
Back at the Monta household, Jack awakes with crust in his eyes, the remnants from yet another night of crying himself to sleep after his brother disappeared off into the woods. That sounds pretty bad but it’s only happened with such negative energy two or three times in the almost seventeen years that Jack’s been alive to witness it, so maybe it’s not such a bad record after all.
After a bit of stretching, Jack checks the storage compartment in his ottoman that’s blocking the entrance to the Dirt Eater Mk I – yep, the jars are still there. Good. Maybe Samuel finally learned his lesson.
It is at this point that Jack checks the clock – ‘Oh fuck, it’s ten-thirty! I’m late for school again!’
The whirlwind of an American teenager trying to haphazardly dress himself wakes a sleeping Daisy who, for once, does not have a hangover because she made herself tired enough to fall asleep after spending all night searching through the dark forests surrounding the one of Sam’s campsites that she’s let him take her to.
“Jack?” she calls out, struggling to pull all the blankets off her drenched body. “Jack, is that you?”
Uh oh, code red in the most scarlet, burgundy, and mahogany way possible. ‘Oh no… Mom’s up, she knows I’m here. She knows I missed the bus and that I’m late for school now. I’m gonna get a detention or another suspension, did I even tell her about the first one? Oh my god she’s gonna flip, I am so dead. So fucking dead. Great job Jack, you ruined everything again, why do you always do this to yourself? Sam. Fucking Sam, why can’t he just be normal? If he never ran away last night…’
Jack begins to hyperventilate and, after breathing himself to the brink of passing out, he slows his breath to a steady stream of deep, calming inhales and exhales.
‘Okay, hold on, nobody’s yelling. Maybe she won’t be furious, I haven’t asked her to drive me to school in a couple years. Maybe if I buy her breakfast she won’t mind.’
“Yeah uh, h-hey Mom. I just woke up, I’m sorry. I uh, I guess that uh, I guess that I slept in. I’m sorry. Hey if uh, if you’re up and stuff and I uh, if I buy you some break–”
“What?” Daisy calls out, unable to hear Jack’s whining through the insulation between the walls of his and her bedrooms. “Honey just come in here, I need help getting out of bed.”
Jack’s in his Mother’s room before the disturbed air behind him can catch up. She’s sitting upright on the edge of her mattress, feet planted on the floor and hands planted on the sheets. They exchange a smile, a rare commodity at such an early hour in this household, the shared hour even rarer than the smile shared within it, and Jack pulls his Mom up off the bed.
“Thanks Jacky… I’m a little uh, I’m a little sore from running through the woods last night,” Daisy understates, feeling the hairline fracture that developed in her hip after she tripped over that tree root getting slightly worse with every step.
“Are you sure you’re okay Mom?” Jack asks as the two climb the stairs together. Daisy winces in pain every time she pushes up with her left leg.
“Yeah, I’ll be… maybe I just, um… lemme sit down for a little bit.”
“I guess you can’t drive me to school today, huh?”
Daisy smiles, again, and even laughs to herself a little bit. Smile through the pain enough and it goes away, right? “After last night, you really want to go to school?”
“I uh… I guess not.”
Jack guides his Mom over to the sofa and, as she sits down, the lock of their front door clicks and Sam and another much heavier set of footsteps cross over the threshold. He calls out a, “Hello?” as he takes off his muddy sneakers and Tiny Tim sneaks down the three-quarters of a staircase and short-distance teleports himself onto the ladder in the chute leading down to the Dirt Eater Mk I.
Daisy goes to get up, but the scowl on her face tells Jack to sit her back down. He goes over to the top of the half-staircase, hands on his hips, and stares down at a mid-step Sam.
“Good morning brother,” Sam says innocuously. “I am home.”
“I see that. You can’t do that again Sam, you just can’t pull that shit anymore.”
“You mean going for a night hike? I alway–”
“No, I don’t fucking mean going for a night hike! I mean getting high and then flipping out on Mom for literally no reason, dude!” Jack throws his arms up in the air and continues, “How can you not see the problem here?!”
“I do see a problem Jack, last night was an isolated incident and the first thing I get when I come home is you throwing your hands around and yelling at me, man! This is the problem, right here! I’m sorry that I freaked out last night, but trust me, it had nothing to do with the Canna–”
“WEED! It’s, it’s fucking… it’s called weed, Sam. Why can’t you just call it we-”
“What, you mean the stuff that I didn’t even smoke with Harley yesterday? Is that what you want me to call weed, Jack?”
“What? B-but, I, I saw you guys, when you were leaving, y–”
“You saw Harley smoking, she offered me a hit of her joint but said no because I’m taking a break. Just like I told you and mom the day before! You can’t just, like, not listen to me and pretend that I never said what I said, or whatever. I’m really trying my best here, last night was just… that had nothing to do with the Cannabis, okay? That was something else. Something else entirely.”
Jack isn’t sure what to think right now. “I… I don’t know what to think right now, okay? I just…” he trails off.
Suddenly, he feels Sam’s thin and disproportionately hairy arms wrap around him in a hug which he instinctively pulls away from.
“Dude you need a shower, yuck.”
Sam snickers to himself. “All right, that’s a start.”
“Boys! Can you please stop fighting? Please? For me, for dear old mom?”
Sam climbs the half-staircase and walks over to his mom, giving her a hug that doesn’t require her to stand up. “We weren’t fighting mom, it’s all good.”
‘For now,’ Jack thinks to himself, keeping a close eye on Sam and all of his Samanigans. Oof, kinda butchered that one, but it’s okay. Definitely a start.
Just then, Jack’s phone starts buzzing in his pocket. He excuses himself and goes down all one and one quarter staircases to answer the call he’s getting from an unknown number.
Jack lowers the phone from his head, looks at it, then says, “Uh, hello?!” with slight urgency.
“Oh right, I called you. Waddup kid, it’s Chuck. We uh, we have a special visitor for you to meet down in the ol’ Dee-Eee; think you can join us real quick?”
“Uhh,” Jack says, looking at the ceiling in the direction of the footsteps he hears going into the kitchen. “Yeah I think so, hold on.”
Jack runs back upstairs and checks on his family to see Sam cooking their mother breakfast.
Sam, his hair bound in a ponytail so it doesn’t get splattered with grease, turns and spots a hungry-looking Jack. “Hey man, you want a sandwich? I’m making tee– I mean, Taylor Ham and cheeses.”
“Uh, no thanks Sam I’m okay. I’m just gonna, uh, go into my room for a few minutes. Or a while. Probably gonna be a while. Just uh, just gonna catch up on some homework or something. Yeah, homework, for sure.”
Sam, a crooked smile on his tilted head, says, “Okie dokie, I’ll make sure not to barge in on ya.”
“Thanks,” as Jack runs down the stairs, slamming his bedroom door behind him. He shoves the ottoman out of the way, kicks the rug so that it rolls itself up, and slides down the ladder.
Jack is met by not only Chuck, but also Sigmund. Sitting on the second level of the couch, which now offers stadium-style seating, is the one and only Tiny Tim the Quatchfut, no pun intended.
‘The gang’s all here.’ “Hey guys. So, like, what’s up?”
Nobody says a word, Chuck opting to just point at the eight-foot-tall
Zerocian warlord standing in front of the television. The being is draped in a robe, his flowing silver-gray hair unrestrained by any ceremonial headdresses or war bonnets that Jack doesn’t assume he should be wearing.
“You must be the boy they’ve mentioned. Jack, correct?”
Jack says nothing, awestruck by the impressive cross between an extraterrestrial and a Native American chieftain he never realized he so desperately needed in his life.
“Well, it’s a pleasure to share a patch of Existence with you. My name is Jolon, Chairseat of the
Zeroc Council of Life. After much deliberation with the Council, it has been decided that I am to join these humans, and their hairy friend, in the search for an anomalous existential signal that sporadically broadcasts itself from the forest behind your house.”
Jack still doesn’t know what’s going on, who came in the house with Sam? Tiny Tim or Jolon?
“And furthermore, I heard you won a contest. Would you like to join us? We need a local yokel to guide us through the trails.”
“Then it’s settled!” Jolon says with a clasp of his hands. “We’ll embark at once Jack, and you shall guide us to our destination. Now, everybody up the lah–”
“No wait,” Jack cuts in. “We have to be sneaky, I don’t want my Mom to see all of you. We gotta climb out my window.”
Everyone trades annoyed glances, but eventually submits; at this stage in the game, who else are they going to find that knows their way around these woods?