Most things make sense. Most things are reasonable, normal, run of the mill phenomena, and they roll on by as they should—day after day—with little or no fanfare whatsoever. The sun goes up, the sun goes down. Coffee in the morning, tea at night. Or maybe it’s a muffin in the morning, and a Twix in the bath.
Whatever your routine, it all makes perfectly good sense. Most of the time.
But sometimes… sometimes you stumble over one of those things that doesn’t quite fit so neatly into a box. Or a crate. Or a marmot….
These oddball things are the Edge Cases: the whispers in the hall at night, that sudden urge to take a different route to work, that marmot staring at you through the window….
Sometimes they come in pairs. Other times in threes. Or in my case, by the shit-load. In fact, nearly everything that’s happened to me since I intercepted that humble little signal in that tiny sliver of the universe, has been one of those things: time travelling, transgenic fish; inter-dimensional man hunts; an imaginary “friend” assisting me in the wholesale slaughter of good, decent fishermen; a rabid virus tearing through my flesh like so many microscopic piranhas; and to top it all off, a near-death experience in probably well-deserved fashion.
But frankly, as fun as all that shit was (read:sarcasm), I think I’m growing a little fucking tired of it. Maybe it was the whole dying thing. Who knows. Who cares? Whatever it was, I’m here to tell you… Shit’s about to get Real.
I opened my eyes.
Spegg, Yumi, and the boy stood, hands joined, at the foot of my bed.
Spegg was smiling like an asshole.
“I thought you’d never wake up, Wayney-Wayne!” Spegg said, dangling a clear plastic bag over my bed. It was filled with thousands of little black things that buzzed and shrieked when he shook it. “We had to yank these little bastards out of you one by one by one. It was a real mess!”
The boy nodded in agreement and pointed at the bag. “Thems things were eatin’ you aaall up,” said the boy. “I was a powerful scared. A powerful scared!”
I frowned at him.
Yumi laid a comforting hand on the boy’s shoulder, then tapped the handle of her sword, which she had strapped to her left hip. “Ain’t nothin’ but a thang.”
“We brought you some Fla·Vor·Ice,” Spegg said excitedly. “Do you like Fla·Vor·Ice in bed, Wayney?”
The boy nodded his head even faster. “Yeah he does! I knows he does!”
I narrowed my eyes at Spegg. “No. No, Spegg. I don’t like Fla·Vor·Ice in bed. I don’t like Fla·Vor·Ice out of bed.”
“How about in a chair!?” The boy howled.
“No. I don’t like Fla·Vor·Ice in a chair. I don’t like Fla·Vor·Ice anywhere.”
“Woo. This sounds like fun,” Spegg said, licking his lips.
Yumi suddenly drew her sword and pointed the blade at my face. The boy yelped. “Sounds like someone’s a little ingrateful,” Yumi growled.
I took a breath. “Ungrateful.”
“What?” Yumi said.
“Ungrateful. You said ingrateful. Ingrateful is not a word. It’s ungrateful. Ungrateful.”
“Ungrateful,” she repeated.
The boy nodded. Spegg looked at me nervously, then back at Yumi, then back at me.
“Sorry,” Yumi said, sheathing her sword. “My English… it no good.”
“What now, then, Wayney?” Spegg said, tossing the packet of Fla·Vor·Ice over his shoulder.
I eyed the leather straps binding my hands and feet. “Hrm. How about playing a game? You like games, Spegg.”
“Boy do I!” Spegg shrieked.
“Oh oh oh, I like games!” The boy said.
“Okay, here’s the game,” I said. “See these leather straps?”
Spegg nodded solemnly. “Them’s fer your protection, Wayney.”
“That’s right,” I replied. “But the crazy thing is, guys, is that these mother-fucking straps that are holding me down? They aren’t even real!”
Yumi rolled her eyes.
Suddenly, the straps vanished.
The boy let out a gasp.
“He’s a witch!” Spegg screamed.
Yumi went for her sword, but found nothing but an empty sheath. Her mouth dropped open.
“Ah ah ah!” I said, shaking my finger at her. I slid out of bed, wielding her katana.
“Whoooa. It’s like the Matrix,” said the boy.
I nodded to him. “Kind of. But instead of a giant computer program that millions of people are simultaneously and unwittingly plugged into so that evil robots can harvest their bio-energy, it’s just one guy with an ass-load of mental problems.”
“Oh,” the body replied despondently, kicking the bed post. He took a deep breath, then looked up. “Wayne?”
“Am I? Am I part of the ass-load of menchal problems?”
I grinned. “I’m afraid so, kid. ‘Fraid so.”
“Oh.” A tear escaped his left eye.
“Look, you’re making him cry!” Yumi sneered. “You’re bad man!”
“And youuuu have a sword sticking out of your chest!”
“What? Are? Nani? Kore nani???? Itaiiiii!”
Yumi pawed at her katana, which was suddenly embedded up to the hilt in her chest. She fell to her knees. Yumi looked at me, her eyes tortured, then whispered with her last breath, “I always loved you, Wayne Robertson.” Then she collapsed sideways and slowly faded away.
“All right, WAYNE!” Spegg said, clapping his big, gray hands together. “Finally we got rid of the skirt! Now do the sword thing to the kid, and let’s boogie!”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Spegg.”
“You’re a fish, Spegg.”
Spegg’s tone grew serious. “Well, not exactly, Wayne. While, yes, a majority of my DNA is based on a number of hybrid, highly specialized fish, I am also human. In fact, at my core, I am a transgenic—”
“No, Spegg. You’re a fish.”
He laughed nervously. “N-no really, I’m not.”
“No, Waynege.” Spegg said, his voice suddenly garbed. “Aahhhne? Ahhhhnh?”
Spegg’s head started to flatten. It was as if it were a bulbous, gray balloon, suddenly losing it’s air. His arms and legs began to shrivel, his eyes parted and moved to the sides of his head.
“Aahahghhg! Ahahghaghgh!” Spegg howled as he grew smaller and smaller. Soon his voice was lost entirely. Spegg’s body, only a quarter of it’s original size, toppled over onto the ground and started to flop around as it shrunk even further. Eventually, Spegg was just a fish.
The boy looked down at the fish and grinned sheepishly.
I smiled at him. “Go ahead,” I said.
A look of glee crossed the boy’s face, then he snatched the fish from the ground and shoveled it into his mouth.
“Good boy,” I said.
The boy chewed and chewed. “Soo guph!” He said, his mouth completely full of Spegg.
I stared out the window, listening to the boy chew. The sun was coming up. A helicopter appeared over the horizon. I thought I recognized….
“Is it time for me to go now too?” The boy said, interrupting my thought.
I turned back to the boy and nodded. “Yes boy,” I told him. “Go and never come out again. Not ever, no matter what you see, no matter what you hear.”
“I understand,” said the boy. He threw his arms around me and squeezed. “Hey Wayne?”
“Earlier when we were all talking and I said I knew you liked Fla·Vor·Ice? Well, I actually knew you didn’t like Fla·Vor·Ice. I was just saying that.”
I laughed. “I know, boy. I know you were. Fla·Vor·Ice is gross.”
The boy gave me one last, tearful nod, then like a thunderclap, slammed against my chest, knocking me several feet backward into a side table.
It took me a moment to catch my breath. Gasping, I looked around the empty hospital room. No machines. No doctors. No doors. Just a solitary window overlooking a barren, morning landscape. The helicopter was getting closer. I shrugged and closed my eyes. I floated around in there until the sound of the helicopter blades filled my ears. Suddenly, they stopped. It was quiet again.
Then, a pair of hurried footsteps. Anxious voices.