First Draft

Page 10

Quickly, without allowing further time for the beast to fight back, he pulled the jeans on and buttoned them. One tentacle was holding up an old pair of maroon dockers. No, these wouldn’t work, either. It grumbled, and in an act of concession, held up three different belts for Ben to choose from to wear with the dark blue jeans.

Ben grabbed the nearest one – a black belt with a silver buckle – and snatched a pair of dress shoes form the closet. Frantically, the creature snatched them from his hand before he could scurry away, holding up two other pairs in exchange.

thump-Thump-THUmp-THUMP-AHHGH!/THUMP-OHH!/THUMP-WAGHH!/THUMP

The gelatinous metronome was up, back to life, stomping and screeching. Ben scrambled to choose between the pairs of shoes, his hand flitting back and forth between the pairs, one black and the other brown. His blood pressure surged with each scream, thump and flash of that blinking red heart. In a panic, he snatched the pair that was nearest and then ran for the door, nearly hurling himself down the stairs. And then he stopped, mid-flight. He jogged back up the stairs, into his room, and to the closet, where a tentacle was digging out a pair of socks. They were black. He glanced at the brown shoes in his hand, which were stealthily being tugged at by one purple appendage, whilst another was standing by with the black pair; an apparent effort to swap the shoes without his notice. Benjamin took the socks, dropped the brown shoes, grabbed the black ones, and launched himself back towards the stairs – all the while the stomper on his tail, marching and screaming.

A pair of black eyes studied Ben from the shadowy space above the kitchen cabinets as he stood in front of the open refrigerator, awkwardly pulling his socks on. The Thump-Thump-Thumper had stopped screaming for the moment, and was now only stomping and flashing, with an occasional CLIP-CLOP/TICK-TOCK thrown in for good measure. She watched as Benjamin, already exasperated and weary, gave up on trying to find any tangible breakfast foods in his refrigerator, and instead reached for the carton of milk. Her eyes, hidden deep beneath the twisted black hedge of hair, widened as she lurched from her perch, heaving herself down to the fridge. Clinging to the smooth side of the appliance as best she could with one set of claws, she scraped at the milk jug with her other as Ben uncapped it and brought it to his mouth. Her eyes were locked onto his, pleading for his attention. But Benjamin was in no mood, and he stared zombily at the cabinet above the fridge as he chugged from the bottle, the rhythmic drone of the stomping wearing at his mind.

Benjamin lowered the carton, smacked his lips with an autonomic frown, and wiped the chunky white stickiness that clung to his top lip. For the briefest of moments, a tiny silver spec of light glimmered from the corners his eyes. Even the thumping had ceased. Ben whispered the words, “Of course it is.”

Mara timidly retreated, using both claws to shrink herself back into the space between the wall and floor cabinets.

“OF FUCKING COURSE!” Benjamin screamed in a volcanic uproar, as he swung the plastic jug in a wide, vertical arc, up over his head, and down onto the floor just feet in front of him, where it burst into a hundred tiny shards of plastic, and sent a thousand noxious, globular curds flying into every far-flung corner of the kitchen.

Benjamin dropped to his knees and lowered his head, eyes fixed on the expanding puddle of watery white that spread across the tile floor. The Thumper, which stood behind him in a sort of awkward stupor, had been bedazzled in an array of tiny flecks of cheese, which were now dribbling down its translucent skin. It wasn’t thumping or screaming, though it need not be – Ben felt his chest with his hand. His heart was beating twice as fast and seemingly twice as loud as the thick-soled boots of the Thumper ever had. The creature gave out one more heaving yelp, and then once again went limp, crumpling into a mushy pile on the floor.

Mara was contorted into a wild position on the kitchen counter, having successfully dodged a number of nasty curds that had flown in her direction. Now that the dust had settled, she quietly clicked her way down the cabinet face and over to Ben, who now stared through the grout lines in the floor before him, and a thousand yards beyond. The tiny silver specs had grown, and the sound of his breathing had a slight, momentary oscillation. Gracefully, Mara weaved around to his other side and removed the plastic cap from his hand. With civility and silence, she floated across the milky pond and dropped the cap onto the twisted pile of plastic scraps that lay at its vesuvian center.

“Thanks Mara,” Ben murmured. His sarcasm would have been detectible, had it not been for the quiver in his voice.