Enough Is Enough
Shaking off his grogginess, he suddenly remembers something. The cobweb was gone yesterday! Had it been rebuilt in one night? That must be it, he thinks. History can’t really be changing. He feels silly for having entertained the idea for so long already. Looking back at the cobweb, he sees a large, black spider with a large, round, shiny abdomen. It has claws at the end of each foot. The abdomen has swirls of many colors. It is certainly not a cob spider. Nate remembers much arachnid trivia, but is unfamiliar with this species. It scurries away and slips through a hole in the wall. Then he notices the wastebasket near his bed overflowing with tissues. Where did all those come from? He doesn’t remember using them. Had someone snuck in while he slept and placed them there? Nate doesn’t want to think about these things now. He wants breakfast. He makes his way to the cafeteria hall and finds himself sitting with Derek again.
“Morning, Nate,” Derek greets.
“Hey,” Nate responds.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” Derek asks.
“No, I do – at least from yesterday. I don’t remember you before yesterday,” Nate says.
“Oh. Well, you told me you were starting to get better a few days ago. I guess you were right,” Derek says, “Man, I love the French toast here.”
Nate examines his own pieces. They are over-soggy and squashed on one side. They have no cinnamon and seem rather plain. “Hmm,” he says. At least the blueberry sauce is good.
Derek cuts off a piece of his toast and drags it through his blueberry sauce. “So, did you solve the mystery of the stuffed animals yet?”
“Almost, I think. The truth is, I’m having some trouble making the equations come out right. I thought the anomaly might be caused by overlight engines with anti-polar modality, but as far as I’ve been able to figure out so far, that’s impossible except at very small distances. I would practically have to be directly in the spacetime wake to be affected. Still, there are some manifold configurations I haven’t tried. I’ll work on it more tonight,” Nate says.
“Don’t worry, I’ll fix you up,” Derek says. Then laughing, he continues, “Fix you up!” He keeps laughing hard. Nate just eats his meal.
Returning to his room, Nate waits for Alisha to arrive. Finally, she does. She sits down and opens her blue notepad. “How are you today?” she asks.
“I’m fine. I’ve certainly had worse days,” Nate says. Had Alisha always had that wart on her nose? Nate had never noticed before. Then again, he had been awfully distracted lately; he probably just didn’t notice.
“Oh good,” Alisha says, “So Nate, do you know why I’m here?”
“You’re letting me talk about my childhood memories as part of my therapy,” Nate says. Mumbling under his breath, he adds, “Or at least we were last time.”
“Very good,” Alisha compliments, not noticing. “We left off with your parents – or parent, I suppose – catching you and Allison on planet Candy. What happened next?”
“Well, nothing much of note. We were punished. I got into trouble a lot. Allison bothered me. We visited the same planets over and over,” Nate reports, “We did finally visit the planet Soda. I drank soda for the first time. That was an interesting discovery…”
For almost ten weeks, Nathaniel, Allison, Haticat, Fred, Matilda, Doctor Bill, and Sarah travel in The Mama-And-Daddy as it continues to visit the same parts of the same planets over and over. Everyone is bored. The Mama-And-Daddy still has vivid yellow veins all over the ship. It still has enlarged eyes, ears, and teeth. It is still cantankerous. One day, it lands somewhere different. “Kids! We’re going to the planet Soda today,” Daddy announces.
“There’s lots of soda to try,” Mama adds.
Nathaniel is curious, but afraid to ask questions that might be against the rules. Allison asks instead, “What’s soda?”
“Soda is a type of liquid candy. The planet Soda is a Candy Wizard planet,” Daddy says. Allison’s eyes widen and she smiles.
“Everyone sit on the couch,” Mama orders. The children run to the couch and settle on, taking care to avoid touching each other. Seconds later, the doors open and the couch-unit floats out. Nathaniel had not realized that they had already landed; he had been busy playing pirates. The air smells like that on the planet Candy, but Nathaniel sees that this planet is otherwise very different. The gravity is only half as strong. The sky is yellow. There are blue (non-candy) plants as far as he can see. The strange, grey clouds seem to be made of thousands of discernible specks. The larger specks resemble pillows, parts of them glinting in the sunlight.
The couch-unit eventually enters a vast, well-groomed garden of strange, blue plants and bright flowers in every color. They are managed by yellow-brown humanoids with enormous, curly, black mustaches on boy, girl, and adult alike. They wear white, loose-fitting clothing. One of the creatures stands and turns around to look at the couch-unit as it glides past. It has a narrow head, narrow shoulders, wide hips, lower legs that flare-out, and very large feet, giving it a sort of pyramid-look. “Hi,” it says. Scattered throughout the garden are fountains short and tall of different-colored liquids. The mustached humanoids drink from these. Some use straws. Some use cups. Some simply stick their heads underneath to catch falling droplets. Candy Wizards hand out bottles of the liquid while they stand in line. The couch-unit comes to a stop at the end of one of the lines.
Seeing a boy nearby, Nathaniel asks, “What kind of creature are you?”
“I’m a Mymmonian,” the boy answers.
“Oh,” Haticat says, smiling.
“Do you like soda?” the boy asks.
“I don’t know. I haven’t eaten soda yet,” Nathaniel answers.
“You may get off and taste the different kinds of soda, kids. Tell us which kinds you want us to buy,” Mama and Daddy say together.
All the children climb off. Nathaniel takes a moment to take in his surroundings. It looks like a nice planet to explore. He walks around, looking at the blue plants and yellow sky. His Gruezhlings follow. Coming to a fountain, he makes his way through the crowd of Mymmonians gathered around it. Looking into the pool around the fountain, he sees it is full of tiny bubbles. He sucks up a bit of the substance. It stings and tickles! What an interesting feeling! The bubbles and cold combine with the sweet-sour lemon flavor in such a way in Nathaniel’s mouth to maximize the sensuality of the total experience. Soda is amazing!
“Let’s try some more!” Nathaniel says, running to the next fountain. This one is light brown. Around the rim of the pool, it is labeled “cream.” Funny, it doesn’t look like cream. Nathaniel tastes some of the cream soda and immediately spits it out all over the nearest flowers. “Yuck!”
“Don’t say ‘yuck.’ That’s not nice,” an adult Mymmonian scolds.
Nathaniel ignores him and walks away. He tries several other sodas. He enjoys orange, grape, raspberry, ginger, black pepper, and even chocolate-flavored sodas. He does not dare try the pea-soda or tea-soda. One soda he does taste is aspirin flavored. It is very yucky – almost as bad as the cream soda. Of all of them, he likes the lemon the best.
The couch-unit approaches Nathaniel from behind and Mama asks, “Well, what kinds do you want us to take home?”
“Oh! I like lemon!” Nathaniel says, jumping.
“Stop jumping,” Mama says sternly.
“Don’t make us tired,” Daddy says.
Nathaniel stops. After a pause, Mama and Daddy ask, “Is there a second kind you want?”
“Lime, if they have it,” Nathaniel responds.
“I think they do,” Mama says.
“Let’s find your sister first and then we’ll look for lime soda,” Daddy says. Nathaniel and his Gruezhlings hop on the couch-unit and it rises above the crowds. Quickly seeing Allison, Mama and Daddy lower the couch-unit next to her.
“Come on Allison, we’re going,” Mama and Daddy say together.
“No!” Allison shouts.
“Don’t talk back to us! Get on now!” Mama says. Allison and her Gruezhlings are teleported onto the couch-unit. Allison screams and screams. Hardly able to think with the horrific noise, Nathaniel attempts to push her off, but Haticat and Fred stop him.
“You’ll get us all in trouble,” Haticat whispers.
The couch-unit soon settles at the store where Candy Wizards sell bottles of all kinds of soda. “Hello, how may I help you?” a tall Candy Wizard asks.
“Hello, we would like eight bottles of lemon soda, eight bottles of lime soda, and eight bottles of apple soda,” Daddy states.
“They have apple?” Nathaniel asks excitedly.
“Don’t interrupt, Nathaniel,” Mama says.
“What flavor do you want, Allison?” Mama and Daddy ask together. Allison just scowls.
“Fine, you’re not going to get any,” Mama and Daddy say. Allison starts to scream.
“Stop screaming! What kind do you want?” Daddy yells. Allison scowls again, but says nothing.
“Give us eight bottles of cherry soda, please,” Mama says.
“Okay, that will be one hundred money-dollars, please,” the Candy Wizard says. Mama hands him the money and the soda is teleported to the ship.
Instead of travelling back to the ship, the couch-unit heads in the opposite direction. “Hey, the ship is the other way,” Nathaniel says. Are they taking a Cartop-style trip again?
“Shut up!” Mama says.
“We know that. We’re going to visit the soda springs and go swimming,” Daddy says. Swimming? Nathaniel hates swimming. Hopefully, he can just walk on the beach and look for crabs like he does on Earth. Allison loves swimming. She smiles for a second before catching herself and returning to her scowl.
The couch-unit arrives at a catapult and settles on it. “Hold on, kids,” Daddy says. The catapult throws the couch-unit ninety meters up and three hundred twenty meters forward. The couch-unit’s antigravity generators kick in and maintain its orientation perfectly. It lands directly on another catapult, the arm’s spring absorbing its momentum, making a relatively soft landing. Immediately, they are thrown again. This repeats several times. Nathaniel, Haticat, Fred, and Doctor Bill see the vast, blue landscape move past. Other catapult-travelers (mostly Mymmonians) fly through the air past them. Catapults are scattered everywhere. Travelling this way is so much more fun than travelling on Cartop. The kids (and not the adults) must be in charge on planet Soda, Nathaniel reasons.
Gradually, the landscape changes from blue forest to fields of brown and black dirt. Beyond this are the soda springs. Pools of every color move past. The boys see what look like strings hanging from the clouds here. Finally, the bouncing stops and the couch-unit dismounts from the last catapult. It hovers just centimeters from the ground, travelling between the large, bubbling pools. The races are more varied here. There are roughly equal numbers of Mymmonians, Humans, and dromaeosaurs. There are also Longhair Monkeys, riding down long cords dangling from the strange clouds above. Haticat is very curious about this, but his questions have to wait.
“Go change into your suits in the changing room,” Daddy commands. Swimsuits are teleported onto the couch-unit. Nathaniel sees two small buildings. One is marked boys. The other is marked girls. Separate changing rooms? Why is there only one changing room on The Mama-And-Daddy? Nathaniel is sure he doesn’t want to swim but doesn’t want to start an argument or ask a question. He enters the boys’ room and grudgingly changes into his suit while talking to his Gruezhlings.
“I think those monkeys live in the clouds,” Haticat says.
“That would be very strange,” Doctor Bill says.
“I remember reading something about Longhair Monkeys in a book, but it didn’t mention living in clouds. I remember they live in about forty-eight star systems and don’t use artificial gravity in their ships,” Nathaniel says.
“That’s interesting,” Haticat says, “Do you think the clouds might be their ships?”
“No,” Nathaniel says, “I’ve seen pictures of their ships before. They’re shaped like long cylinders, not like clouds of small pillows.”
Finished changing, Nathaniel leaves the small building with his Gruezhlings and leaves his clothes with Mama and Daddy. The girls run into the nearest soda pool while the boys walk along the perimeter. This pool smells like ginger and cinnamon. Bubbles continually rise from the sand below. Leaving the perimeter of the pool, the boys walk among a group of hanging ropes, looking them over.
The longhair monkeys are easy to tell apart. Boys are blue, adults are yellow, and girls are red. They all have extremely long, fluffy fur. The boys and girls play in the soda nearby and the adults are too busy talking to each other for Nathaniel to ask them a question – not that he is eager to ask any adult a question. He decides to examine the ropes himself. They are made of a very tough material. At the bottom of each is a strange machine with a handle and a dial. “What do you think this does?” Nathaniel asks Doctor Bill.
“I’m not sure,” Doctor Bill says.
Nathaniel gingerly touches the dial. Suddenly, the machine is ripped from his hand as the rope yanks it up into the sky. Nathaniel falls down. Haticat and Fred step backwards. “Oh,” Haticat remarks.
Nathaniel gets up and looks around. No one saw him. “Let’s all take one and go up to see what those clouds are,” Nathaniel suggests.
“Yeah,” Haticat agrees.
“Okay,” Doctor Bill says. Haticat ties his flexible arms in a knot around one of the handles. Fred jams his stumps into a handle and flexes until he is tightly wedged. Being smaller, Doctor Bill says, “Let me ride in your pocket. I don’t think I can reach the dial from the handle.”
“Okay,” Nathaniel says. Haticat and Fred take off, accelerating upwards. Doctor Bill climbs into Nathaniel’s swimsuit pocket as Nathaniel tightly wraps his claws around his handle. He reaches for the dial with his foot. He suddenly realizes that these machines are made for creatures with prehensile feet. He will have difficulty controlling the speed. He clumsily kicks at the dial and takes off.
The leap takes him by surprise and he gasps. The ground falls away rapidly. The Mymmonians, Humans, dromaeosaurs, and Longhair Monkeys below form an artistic mosaic of many different-colored specks. Above, the cloud gets closer. Four seconds pass. Five seconds pass. The cloud resolves into separate objects, each looking like a giant, square pillow. Nine seconds pass. Ten seconds pass. Nathaniel and Doctor Bill pass some of these lower objects, seeing now that they are floating buildings, complete with windows reflecting the sun. Nathaniel starts to worry about how to slow down. He kicks at the dial again. Fifteen seconds pass. Finally, they arrive inside one of the buildings, riding the ropes up through holes in the floor. Inside are grey ducts and potted plants. Seeing Fred and Haticat nearby, Nathaniel hops off onto the grey floor. “There’s nobody here,” Haticat says.
Doctor Bill climbs out of Nathaniel’s pocket. “Let’s look around,” Fred says.
Through the first door is a kitchen. They notice that the shelves, counters, and tables are at all different levels, requiring a lot of climbing. The next room is a large dining room. The boys are drawn to the large window. Looking outside, Nathaniel says, “This must be a flying city.”
Climbing up a pole with pegs and branches, the boys enter a sort of hallway heading back toward the center of the building. Holes in both the floor and ceiling lead to small bedrooms. “These bedrooms have no doors,” Haticat comments.
Reaching the other end of the building, they enter another large room with a large window. This room has couches, trampolines, and balls of all sizes and colors. Unable to resist, Fred and Doctor Bill start jumping on a trampoline while Nathaniel and Haticat start jumping on a couch. Then the boys hear a loud thud. The thud is followed by several more at regular intervals, almost like footsteps. “What is that?” Haticat asks.
“Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum!!” a loud voice booms, the noise reverberating through the floating building. “I smell the blood of a dromaeosaur!”
Normally curious, the boys decide not to investigate this time and run from the play-room as fast as possible. Returning to the rope room, they waste no time in grabbing the machine handles and turning the dials the other way. Fortunately, nothing seems to be following them. They land on the ground twenty seconds later. Nobody seems to have noticed their departure or their arrival. “Could it be some sort of security system?” Haticat asks.
“I suspect that is exactly the case,” Doctor Bill says.
“Let’s explore those rocks over there, instead,” Nathaniel suggests, pointing to a large area of rocks in between two pools. The heavily eroded red rocks have many cracks and open pockets, but there seems to be no life inside. The boys are disappointed. They decide to have fun by hopping from rock to rock.
Soon, The Mama-And-Daddy announces that they are leaving. After changing, Nathaniel’s and Allison’s swimsuits are teleported away. “Why…” Nathaniel starts, before realizing he shouldn’t ask questions. Rephrasing his thoughts, he says, “If you teleport us back to the ship, we won’t have to ride together and fight as much.”
Daddy grunts but says nothing. Mama ignores him completely. Not sure he was heard, Nathaniel says, “Hey, if you teleport us back to…”
“I don’t want to hear it!” Daddy cuts him off.
“You can’t always get your way, Nathaniel,” Mama barks.
What a strange thing to inform him of! Nathaniel already knows this. He is well aware that he almost never gets his way. “Clearly,” he says.
“Get on the couch!” Mama yells.
All the boys and girls climb onto the couch-unit. The girls giggle. They are wet and smell funny. Nathaniel growls. Taking the catapult system, the couch-unit returns to The Mama-And-Daddy spaceship. Once inside, Nathaniel and Allison run to the kitchen. Looking around, they do not see the soda. Where did Mama and Daddy teleport it to if not here? “Where is the soda?” Allison asks.
“It’s being kept cold in here,” Mama and Daddy answer together. A closet door that Nathaniel had never noticed before opens up, releasing a blast of cold air. Inside, the shelves are stacked with bottles of soda.
“Only take out what you are going to drink so the rest can stay cold,” Daddy says.
Allison grabs a cherry soda. Nathaniel pauses for just a moment, trying to decide between lemon, lime, and apple. “Don’t leave the door open; it wastes electricity,” Mama and Daddy warn.
“Okay,” Nathaniel says. He decides on lemon, but before he can move his arm to reach for a bottle, he is struck by a lightning bolt. He is half-pushed, half-jumps in surprise. His arm flails around for support. In doing so, he slams the refrigerator/closet door half by accident, half in surprise and anger.
Sitting on the floor now, he is struck again. “The first one is for not listening to us. The second one is for slamming the door,” Mama and Daddy tell him.
Nathaniel starts to cry just a little before catching himself. “Crying is against the rules!” Mama yells. Nathaniel is hit three more times as he runs from the kitchen. He tries to run outside, but is teleported to his room. “Stay here!” Mama yells before deactivating her polyp-head. Still in the kitchen and deprived of boy-play, the boy Gruezhlings slowly lose consciousness as the girls laugh.
Nathaniel is not kept in his room for very long and he is used to longer periods of boredom now more than in the past now that he is more experienced. Suddenly, Daddy’s polyp-head activates. “Do you promise to behave?” he interrogates.
Not knowing what else to do, Nathaniel nods. Daddy replies, “Okay, come out of your room and drink your soda.”
Nathaniel walks to the kitchen and chooses a lemon soda. Allison sits at the table with Matilda and Sarah, giggling. She, Mama, and Daddy have already consumed several bottles by the look of things. Nathaniel sees Haticat, Fred, and Doctor Bill leaning against the wall all upside down. Fred and Doctor Bill have their pants on their heads and their legs stuffed into their shirt holes. That is strange. The girls must have done it to them after they lost consciousness. Just then, the boy Gruezhlings start to wake. Nathaniel sets down his soda on the floor to help them dress.
At that moment, all the girls start singing, “La, la, la, we’re best friends. La, la, la, we’re best friends.” They dance around the room.
“Shut up,” Nathaniel says. Realizing he has used a bad word, he then yells sharply, “I mean be quiet please, stupid!”
The girls stop singing. Allison takes a step backwards. Her tail gently touches Nathaniel’s soda bottle on the floor, knocking it over. Nathaniel runs and snatches it up. A small amount has leaked onto the floor. In anger, Nathaniel rushes to attack Allison, but stops. He realizes it was just an accident. He backs off. “What’s going on here?” Daddy demands.
“He almost hurt me!” Allison declares. Nathaniel never gets a chance to say anything.
“I saw that!” Daddy says.
“Go to your room,” Mama and Daddy say. Nathaniel is teleported right to his room. This time, the Gruezhlings go with him, but he loses his soda.
“Aaaaaah!!!” Nathaniel screams.
The boys are not released until evening mealtime. The family eats clear jelly in silence. Nathaniel finishes his old lemon soda, but it has lost all its bubbles and seems rather bland. Allison drinks a lot of soda. When the food is gone and Mama and Daddy leave, Allison turns to Nathaniel and declares, “One day, I will have my revenge on you.”
“Yeah,” Matilda and Sarah add before breaking out in giggles.
“On me? What did I do?” Nathaniel asks.
“You wanted to attack me,” Allison accuses.
“But I didn’t attack you,” Nathaniel counters.
“You wanted to,” Allison claims.
“I was already punished for that. I got punished and I lost soda on the floor. You didn’t lose anything. If you attempt to punish me, the balance will be uneven. I will then be obligated to take revenge on you,” Nathaniel explains.
“No, then I’ll have to take double-revenge,” Allison declares.
“Then I’ll have to take triple-revenge,” Nathaniel says.
“Then I’ll have to take…uh…double-double-revenge,” Allison replies.
“It’s called quadruple, stupid. You can’t take it if you don’t know what to call it,” Nathaniel snickers.
“I’m not stupid! You’re stupid!” Allison yells.
“You’re stupid!” Nathaniel yells.
“You’re stupid!!” Allison yells louder.
“You’re stupid!” Nathaniel yells.
“You’re stupid!!!” Allison yells even louder. It is almost as if she believes yelling louder makes her logic more appealing.
“You’re stupid!” Nathaniel yells.
“You’re stupid!!!!” Allison yells even louder. Allison gets up and runs from the room, stopping at the doorway for a moment to shout, “Revenge will be mine,” while shaking her claw in the air. Matilda and Sarah follow her, mimicking her actions exactly.
“She’s so stupid,” Nathaniel declares.
“Girls are all stupid,” Haticat claims.
“Very stupid,” Fred adds.
The next day, after Nathaniel eats a breakfast of kitchen jelly and lime soda, The Mama-And-Daddy lands on a different part of the planet. The sky here is more grey than yellow. A fresh, centimeter-deep layer of snow covers the blue plant life, which is fewer and smaller here. The landscape is dotted by large, black domes. Leaving the ship, the children follow the couch-unit toward one of the domes. It follows a circuitous route over a maze of pavement divided by brick-lined sections of mulch and blue plants. The children simply walk over the mulch and end up ahead of The Mama-And-Daddy’s couch-unit. “Don’t walk on that!” Mama yells.
“Mulch isn’t for walking on,” Daddy says.
“Walking on the mulch is against the rules,” Mama says.
Allison immediately starts crying. “Don’t cry. It’s okay. We just had to yell at you to get your attention,” Mama and Daddy placate her.
“Nathaniel, why aren’t you crying?” Daddy asks sharply.
“I…uh…I thought crying was against the rules,” Nathaniel answers.
“Don’t argue with me!” Mama yells.
“I don’t think you’re sorry for what you did,” Daddy says.
“Uh…I’m not,” Nathaniel says, “Am I supposed to be?”
Daddy frowns and throws a lightning bolt in Nathaniel’s direction. Nathaniel jumps out of the way but gets the end of his tail zapped. Daddy then teleports Nathaniel onto the couch-unit. Stay here until we tell you to get off,” Mama commands.
“Ugh!” Nathaniel exclaims.
“Don’t say that word!” Mama and Daddy yell. Nathaniel is forced to sit while Mama and Daddy tediously guide the couch-unit through the maze of pavement. They move slowly and hit several dead ends, forcing them to backtrack. Eventually, Allison and Matilda sit down, scowling.
“Don’t sit on the ground; it’s wet,” Daddy says.
“I’m tired!” Allison whines.
“Stand up!” Daddy orders. Allison just scowls. Daddy teleports her onto the couch-unit and she screams.
“Stop it,” Nathaniel begs, covering his ears.
“Shut up, Nathaniel,” Mama scolds.
“Ugh!” Daddy says.
Eventually, they all arrive at the entrance of the first black dome. There is a heavy, black curtain across the large archway. The couch-unit lands on the ground three times, creating a knocking sound before it enters anyways. Nathaniel had always been confused about when to knock and when not to knock. He knows one doesn’t have to knock at stores, but he doesn’t always know what is and isn’t a store from looking at the outside. He knows to knock at homes – but not if the door is already open (usually). Sometimes one had to knock at offices, but usually not. He is now totally confused. What type of place is this that Mama and Daddy first knock, but then just go right in without being invited? Why are the knocking rules so complicated?
Inside the dome is a network of branching tunnels. The tunnels are full of strange, grey, wooly creatures running back and forth. From past library books, the boys recognize them as Blentites. They average one and a half meters long, not including the two long, straight tails each has, adding nearly another meter to their length. They each have six legs, each ending in prehensile, four-digit claws. These legs have incredibly flexible hips, able to swivel in any direction, and the creatures are capable of using any two of them at a time to act as arms. They have cat-like heads with ram-like horns. One large, adult Blentite walks up to the visitors. “Welcome to N’durat city,” she says.
“Thank you, I am Mama,” Mama responds.
“I am Daddy,” Daddy says.
“We want to show our children the city, please,” Mama and Daddy speak together.
“Great idea,” the Blentite adult says, “My name is N’n’brekel. Just follow me down this tunnel.” N’n’brekel leads them all on a tour through the winding tunnels, lit only by dimly glowing yellow crystals imbedded in the concrete-like walls. She shows them the dump, the services sector, the “park” (really just an empty, grey room), and the sleeping apartments. The boys start out fascinated, but soon are bored out of their minds. Nathaniel plays with his fingers instead.
Finally, they leave the city. “Goodbye, N’n’brekel,” Daddy says.
“Goodbye, Mama and Daddy,” N’n’brekel says.
The couch-unit floats slowly over the pavement back to the ship. “Hey! Can you play?” two boy Blentites asks, walking alongside.
Nathaniel is unsure whether to ask his parent the question. “Nathaniel, why don’t you play with your new friends?” Mama says. Friends? Were they friends already?
“Go play,” Daddy orders. Nathaniel hops off the couch-unit, his Gruezhlings following. The shorter Blentite has a small, koala-like Gruezhling clinging to his back with greatly oversized fingers. Walking next to the longer Blentite is a small, sloth-like Gruezhling with an oversized head. Mama and Daddy move on, taking the girls with them and leaving the boys behind.
“Race us!” the Blentites beckon. This will be fun! Nathaniel remembers reading that Blentites are very fast.
“Where?” Nathaniel asks.
“To that tree with the spiky leaves,” the shorter one says.
“Okay, go,” Nathaniel says, taking off down the winding paved path.
“Hey, that’s the wrong way,” the longer boy calls. Nathaniel turns to see the Blentites walking on the mulch islands.
“Walking on the mulch is against the rules; we’ll get in trouble,” Nathaniel says.
“Don’t worry, the adults never go outside, so they won’t see us,” the longer boy answers, “They get cold too easily.”
“Um, I’ve already been in a lot of trouble today. I don’t want to risk it,” Nathaniel says.
“Ugh!” the shorter boy says.
“Fine, let’s go play in the fields instead,” the longer boy says.
The boys walk to the nearby field, careful to only step upon the pavement on the way there. “Technically, since everything has snow on it, we’re really walking on the snow, so we can’t follow the rules anyways,” the shorter boy points out.
Finally reaching the field’s perimeter and passing a bush, an adult Longhair Monkey jumps out of it, yelling. “I saw what you did! You’re all in trouble!”
“We didn’t do anything,” the sloth-like Gruezhling denies.
“You all walked on the mulch islands. I’m going to tell your parents,” the Longhair Monkey claims.
“I didn’t walk on the mulch islands,” Nathaniel protests.
“Don’t lie to me! I saw you do it!” the Longhair Monkey says.
“But I didn’t do it!” Nathaniel yells.
Not listening, the Longhair Monkey blows some sort of whistle and runs for the dome. Adult Blentites begin to slowly emerge. One of the boys starts to cry. Nathaniel isn’t sure what’s going on, but decides not to find out. He and his Gruezhlings run into the brush and keep going.
They run for several minutes until exhausted, finally collapsing in a small field. “I don’t see them following,” Doctor Bill says, arriving last.
“Good,” Nathaniel comments.
“Why did they build a bunch of mulch islands there?” Fred asks.
“To catch people walking on them in order to punish them of course,” Haticat says.
“I can’t think of any other reason,” Nathaniel says. Fred gets up and starts shuffling through the snow.
“We need to get away from adults forever somehow, especially The Mama-And-Daddy,” Haticat says.
“Indeed,” Doctor Bill says.
“And Allison,” Nathaniel adds.
“Allison is so annoying,” Haticat comments.
“I want to have revenge on her, but she wants to have revenge on me. We can’t even agree on when the balance is reached, leading to perpetual fighting. I don’t understand how she can be so stupid that she can’t see that everything is all her fault,” Nathaniel complains, “Threat of revenge is important so that people are scared into knowing not to keep hurting each other, but we end up fighting either way, and I get hurt either way. It is better if we part ways and never see each other again.”
“But what of justice? If you just leave, she’ll never get hurt for being bad to you. That’s not fair,” Haticat objects.
“I don’t think we have a choice. I’m sure it must be against the rules to kill her,” Nathaniel reasons.
“Probably,” Doctor Bill comments.
“Right, and we can’t fight The Mama-And-Daddy,” Haticat adds.
“It is quite the conundrum,” Doctor Bill comments.
“Look, I wrote my name in the snow,” Fred proclaims. He stops shuffling.
“Nice,” Haticat says. Haticat, Nathaniel, and Doctor Bill all start shuffling their feet through the snow to make their names.
“This is fun,” Doctor Bill says.
“We need to figure out how The Mama-And-Daddy is able to track us,” Nathaniel says.
“Well, since we are far away so they can’t hear us right now, we can discuss an idea I have,” Doctor Bill says.
“What?” Haticat asks.
Doctor Bill removes an electromagnetic scanner from his lab coat pocket. He switches it on. “I hypothesize that you have a signal tracer inside you implanted during your creation,” he says.
“Of course!” Nathaniel exclaims. Why had he not thought of it before?
“If I can just find the correct frequency,” Doctor Bill says, adjusting the knobs on his scanner and moving close to Nathaniel. A few seconds later, he says, “I found it. It’s in your belly, but it’s not currently transmitting. It’s possible that a signal from The Mama-And-Daddy inhibits it and that it only becomes active when you move out of range.”
“That makes sense,” Haticat muses.
“So if we take it out, I could escape and hide,” Nathaniel says.
“Yes,” Doctor Bill says.
“Let’s make a plan,” Nathaniel says. The four boys spend the next hour plotting an escape. Eventually, they return to the ship for mealtime.
Entering the kitchen, Nathaniel walks straight to the refrigerator/closet for a soda. It is empty! He turns around. “Where is all the soda?” he asks incredulously.
“I drank all of it,” Allison says flatly. She sits at the table with several bottles around her.
“But I hardly had any! I didn’t even taste the apple soda or cherry soda yet!” Nathaniel protests.
“You didn’t drink fast enough,” Matilda says.
“Well, now you’ve had your revenge. We have to be even,” Nathaniel declares angrily.
Allison seems surprised. “I didn’t drink the soda to hurt you. You hurt yourself by not being fast enough. That’s your fault, not mine. I’m still planning my revenge,” Allison says.
Without thinking, Nathaniel grabs the nearest bottle and throws it at her. He misses. “Double-revenge!” Allison screams. Allison, Matilda, and Sarah pick up bottles and throw them at Nathaniel. He dodges them all. Allison runs towards Nathaniel with her claws raised, but Haticat trips her. Getting up, the girls run screaming from the room.
“Enough is enough!” Nathaniel yells, “We engage our plan at the earliest opportunity!”
“Agreed,” Haticat, Fred, and Doctor Bill say together.
“Nathaniel, why is Allison running and screaming?” Daddy suddenly asks, his kitchen polyp-head activating nearby.
“I don’t know. She does that a lot. She probably needs a punishment,” Nathaniel states.
“Hmmm…You’re right, good idea. Behave yourself,” Daddy says, deactivating again.
Also check out the first episode of The Nathaniel Series (Terror Of The Fun Sponge), the series based on Nate's childhood memories.