In desperate times desperate people head here – an online journal of Apocalyptic-themed fiction and commentary.

The Sharpest Tool in the Shed

Copyright © 2012 by Jessica Wineteer. All rights reserved.

The Sharpest Tool in the Shed

     They wore small computer screens like Halloween masks. On these screens they played earnest faces of humans, some of them in 3D. Their real faces made her vomit. Too many eyes. It gave her vertigo. She couldn’t figure which ones she should make eye contact with, so she tried to be polite and look into all of them. This made her dizzy and she retched. In order to communicate with her, they wore these masks.

Claire knew she was in a coma. She could tell because the dream never changed much and it was kind of boring. She also figured out she was in a coma dream because the sun rose on the wrong side. She wasn’t sure which direction that was, but it was opposite from where she lived near the border in Southern California. It wasn’t a mystery how she had come to be in a coma, obviously she had a reaction to the anesthesia during the procedures. 9900! That was the advertisement. 9 Procedures, 900 Dollars. It seemed expensive until she figured in the cost of gas to go across town where it was offered for $200 less. It worked out to be cheaper to go to the Center nearer to home.

She felt her lips. She did this often since she didn’t have a mirror. The ridges around the edges of her lips were hard and puffed out. The inside part of both lips were now exposed to the air. By gently palpating her puffy new mouth she could tell just how far her lips stuck out now. She could tell just by feel alone that they looked good. It would help to have some lipstick, lip balm, anything to ease the chapping of her inner lips which were now part of her outer lips and exposed to the air all the time. This sensitive skin on both lips rubbed across each other and it kind of hurt. She could no longer make her lips fold in to a straight line to keep them moist like she could before the surgeries, so her lips were constantly irritated and chafed. For relief, she developed a system of gently spitting over her lips to keep them moist. It gave her a bit of a drool. She palpated her lips again.

“Chh!” A sharp whispering grate came from one of the masks. She stopped feeling her lips. For some reason her fondling her lips really bothered them. She would feel her lips again when she was alone.

“Comida.” The other mask said.

This really irked her. Like everyone else who lived on the border with Mexico she spoke no Spanish. However, just like everyone else who lived there, she also recognized all manner of Mexican food items. In the beginning, when Thing One was scrolling through an interminable list of words trying to determine which language she spoke, she made a mistake, but only because she was hungry. She made the mistake of perking up to “mariscos” which means seafood. To her great annoyance, ever since then Thing One and Thing Two have been addressing her in Spanish. For awhile she only replied in English but they didn’t seem to know the difference.

“I don’t speak Spanish!” She yelled.

“Comida,” the mask said again, more firmly.

She was hungry. They only fed her once a day. She knew what she had to do. She jumped up and down twice, mostly because she liked to feel how heavy her boobs were now, and she liked to show them off, even if it was just to the things. Next she turned around in a circle, smiling, wiggling her new badonka-donk, junk in the trunk. The right side of her butt wasn’t quite right; it was too close to the middle. The Center for All Things Beautiful was going to have to fix that when she came to. The next trick was to run in place, knees high, with her fists pumping really fast for about three seconds. Then she stopped and looked to the place on the floor where they would put the bowl down. She finished the routine by pointing to the floor and saying loudly, “Mmm, mm Comidas. Mmm, mm Comidas.”

Suction cup kisses were another one of the ways she knew she was in a coma. Her name for Thing Two was Chuy. Chuy always reached one of his limbs toward her. They had a lot of limbs, all attached just before their head to a disc-shaped shoulder joint that arced around their body in a circle. He stuck his small suction cups located on the underside of his limbs around her face and neck. She quickly wiped her chin and neck against her shoulder. There was just no way to explain to them how much she had spent to get her face resurfaced. It really pissed her off but there was nothing she could do about it. And since it was just a coma dream, she didn’t worry all that much.

The other way she knew she was in a coma was that her face didn’t hurt at all. Not even her nose hurt. Her eyes were fine. No pain, maybe a little difficulty blinking, but no pain. It was as if everything had already healed. No pain was proof positive she was definitely a coma. That and she was still wearing the hospital gown. The Center for All Things Beautiful promised Class 5 pain medications in their brochures. Claire was very worried the coma was going to rob her of her Class 5 meds. She had worked out what she would say if they didn’t give her the drugs she had paid for once she woke up. She had even made up a little scene she would act out for her GoogleFace page to let everyone know the Center for All Things Beautiful did not deliver what it promised. They had another think coming if they thought they were going to send her home without her Class 5 pain meds. Every now and then she worried she was in this coma dream because she was already on the Class 5 meds. Either way she was getting her money back or better drugs because this coma dream sucked.

Thing One, whom she liked to call Eduardo, placed the bowl of food on the floor and Claire dropped into a squat and dove in. While she ate, Thing One and Thing Two interlaced a couple of limbs and watched her. It was weird, but she couldn’t shake the feeling they were proud of themselves. Of course, if she did not do what they wanted her to do those limbs could whip out and strike her with a sting. The food, as usual, was routinely gross, like babyfood. Everything mashed together. She ate quickly but she was still hungry so she picked up her bowl to lick it clean.

“Sueltale!” One of the masks spoke.

Still holding the bowl close to her face, her eyes peered over the side gauging just how serious they were about her licking the bowl. She decided to risk it and began licking again.

“Suel-ta-le,” a mask said slower, but in a lower tone of voice.

She licked faster.

One of their limbs whipped out and gave her a little sting on her shoulder, like a snapping towel. “Sueltale!”

She dropped the bowl. There was some chittering behind the masks. “Afuera!” Both masks said in unison.

She popped up from her squat.

After she ate it was their routine to walk the grounds together. She was allowed to leave the shed to go into the trees and evacuate her bowels or her bladder. But there was a distinctive limit to how far she could go without getting into trouble. That’s why she loved going on these walks because she got to see more and do more.

She looked at her keepers. Their limbs fell from their shoulder like a round curtain around their body, and as they moved their limbs, every now and then she got a glimpse of their center leg. Over time she noticed not every one of the things had the same number of limbs. Of course, she only saw the other things either from a distance or when she was with them on their walk. She never looked up because the other things weren’t masked and all those eyes nearly made her pass out from queasiness. Their limbs were very agile, like an elephant’s trunk. The larger a thing was, the more limbs they had. Thing One and Thing Two had about the same number of limbs, one 12, the other 13. She wasn’t quite sure but she thought the 13th limb was new on Thing One, new just since the Thing Two got here. In the beginning it was just her and Eduardo, Thing One. But when Thing Two came, it seemed to her that’s when Eduardo’s new limb grew. Claire wondered if this meant she was having a coma sex dream. She stared at their limbs. She walked over to them. They were a good foot and a half taller than she was. She nuzzled her face and her shoulder against their limbs.

On the front, their limbs were incredibly soft. It was like velvet under a thin, smooth coating of jello. Jello that flowed under your fingers no matter which direction you rubbed. She had never felt anything like it before. Underneath their skin she could feel the supple hardness of their muscles as the limbs moved, and it was pleasing. The underside of their limbs had rows of suckers graduating in size and the last sucker had a sharp point, like a needle, hidden, retracted within that they used to pierce and inject to stun. At the beginning she learned about the hidden needles the hard way. But now they were mostly happy together. One or maybe both of the things, picked up a couple of limbs and stroked up and down her back with the soft side. This was her favorite part. It felt like a massage. She sighed. She stood, happy, with her face pressed against their soft irresistible skin while they moved their limbs up and down her back and over the top of her head. Claire had named them after the royal couple, Thing One was Eduardo, the Prince, and Thing Two was Chuy, the plucky commoner beloved by all.

“Afuera!” Eduardo’s mask said brightly, “vamos afuera!”

Their limbs hid their leg which was the center of their bodies. Unlike the limbs attached to their circular shoulder blade which were rounded at the end, the end of their center leg was sharply pointed. Once balanced on their center leg, which is how they normally stood, they had 360 degree freedom. They could pivot in any direction and they did. In the beginning, Claire liked to run circles around them to get them spinning as fast as she could but that game had grown old. It always ended with her getting sick from running in circles and falling to the ground. In their own environment, the domed colossus which dominated the landscape and dwarfed the ramshackle remains of the house at the top of the hill, they were extremely graceful.

At night their dome went from opaque to transparent. Claire sat outside her shed and watched them. Of course she could only see those who came close enough to the seamless outside wall. They would fix their center leg into the side of the wall and stand straight out from it, their limbs entwining and working as they spun around, connecting and disconnecting to others. Inside their dome there was no direction. Up, down, side to side it was all the same. Even if they were fixed on the top of the dome or on the side, nothing dropped to show gravity. When they were ready to leave a location, the first thing they did was retract their center leg, then in a concert of movement, all limbs pushed together and they glided away, limbs streaming behind them. Some moved with purpose, others more languidly. Her favorite was when they twirled after push off, like a corkscrew flying across space. She figured they were twirling so that their bank of eyes could scan in all directions, except up. She didn’t think they had necks. They never looked up.

Outside, on the ground, their mobility was limited. Walking was a process and it had a very specific pattern. First, the bottom portion of all of their limbs flicked rapidly against the ground, side to side, roughly twice, then all appendages bent at the same time more or less 12 inches from the end on flat ground. Their appendages formed a secure base to hold themselves upright. On uneven ground where their limbs bent depended upon how uneven the ground was. They always maintained a level position for their head. Once they were securely balanced on their limbs their center leg popped out through its screen of limbs. Jointed twice, it unfolded once to reach forward and unfolded the second joint to plant the point. Their leg was a different color than the rest of their bodies. All of the things seemed to have a dark brown center leg. Sort of like a table leg, Claire thought. Once the center leg balanced itself on its point the rest of the limbs flowed around it and the flicking began all over again for the next step. When they bent and stiffened their limbs against the ground to hold themselves up they lost about a foot of height. It gave them the appearance of bobbing when they walked. Flick, flick, drop down, reach, balance, release limbs, rise up, flick flick, do it all over again. Their footprints looked like someone drew flowers in the dirt. A circle of big petals with a small circular center. They reminded Claire of somebody on crutches.

Claire bounded out of the shed. She liked their exercise routines. To adjust for their slower walking speed they played a game. First she would wait by the shed while they got some distance away. Their screens would always say the same thing in Spanish, “Quedate!”

She didn’t know what they were saying since she didn’t speak Spanish but she would wait. They would take a few steps away, sometimes repeating “Quedate!” Once they got to the distance they wanted it was Claire’s job to catch up to them. She always could, it was never a challenge but she thought it was cute that they thought she couldn’t catch them. She didn’t want to spoil their fun, so she always waited until they gave the signal. “Corre!”

And she ran. She ran as fast as she could up to them. Sometimes she would run up to them and then run back to the shed and back up to them. They would tell her “Quedate” again and walk off even farther then their screens would shout “Corre!” And off she’d go at a dead run.

Their running game was only good for about 2 – 3 times then she was free to do whatever she wanted as long as they could still see her. Sometimes she would stop and do sit-ups or push ups and wait for them to catch up. Other times she did a series of lunges while she waited. But when they got close to the dome, she knew she had to fall in behind them.

“Junto!” The screens said. “Junto.” She didn’t know what “Junto!” meant but she thought it was something like, “stick close to us.” She would drop in directly behind them, slow way down and stay close matching their pace.

When out walking with Eduardo and Chuy she instinctively avoided looking up when they encountered other things and was diligent about keeping focused on the ground. Only Eduardo and Chuy wore screens. The unscreened faces of things with all those eyes made her reel with nausea. If Eduardo and Chuy stopped to chitter with them, Claire spent her time studying the ends of their limbs. She liked the colorful patterns of their skins. Eduardo was a yellow green with light blue striping, Chuy was a light green with blue striping. She memorized their stripe pattern. The other things were different, some yellow and orange, green and pink, or red and purple. If Claire liked the vibe she got from the other things they encountered, she touched their limbs. Frequently she was rewarded for this touch by the thing responding and rubbing a limb over her back and head. When this happened Eduardo and Chuy would exchange purring chitters with the owner of the limb while Claire got to touch their soft skin. Inevitably she would hear “Bien, muy bien,” from a screen. But there was one thing, a yellow and brown striped thing, she didn’t like. That thing was always standing too close to Chuy and accidentally on purpose touching Chuy when they walked. Yellow and brown thing would flick his limbs over Chuy’s limbs making Chuy pull his limbs in closer. It made him unsteady. Claire didn’t like yellow and brown. Her nickname for him was Tonto del culo. She may not speak Spanish, but after all, she did live on the border with Mexico. There wasn’t a vulgarity she didn’t know.

The big delapidated one story house at the top of the hill always drew her to it. She was kept in a shed, probably the gardner’s tool shed, about halfway down the slope. Sometimes when Eduardo and Chuy were being particularly slow, she amused herself by pulling weeds. Recently, she had taken to clearing weeds that crept into the paths where Eduardo and Chuy had the easiest time walking.

Claire knew she could run away at any time. There were no fences, there was nothing but trees but where would she go? After all, she was in a coma. Claire thought she remembered hearing somewhere that walking into the woods while in a coma was a symbol for becoming more and more unconscious. Claire was not going to be a vegetable so she avoided the woods and stayed to the premises. She was going to wake-up. She just hoped the Center for All Things Beautiful knew she was going to wake-up and hadn’t shipped her body somewhere else. And she really hoped they hadn’t moved her car because she didn’t have that much gas.

Once they got to the closer to the house Claire always stopped to investigate it as much as possible before one of them made the screens yell at her in Spanish again. They never let her go inside. The house was truly a pile of rotting wood, various debris and the immortal puff of pink insulation. Occasionally she got a glimpse of some items through the gaps. It puzzled her that most of the items she could see in the house weren’t hers. Some of the items she didn’t even recognize. Everyday she looked in the house to see if the house had a secret, an item that belonged to her, that was from her life. After all, it was her coma, her dream. She didn’t understand why her coma dream didn’t have more things in it from her life. But today, the coma god answered her question, through the gap in what might have been the garage, a ray of light winked off a metal shaft. She blinked. She stared. Was that really? It was! A Lady Liberty Fiber-X with Kelmac grip. She burst into tears. She grabbed anything in her way and flung it behind her. She yanked wood slats, and electrical wiring, and drywall. Her hands got splinters and fiber burns and a deep metal gash as she tried to dig her way to the golf club.

Behind her at a distance, Eduardo and Chuy’s screens were blaring Spanish. “Dejale! Non, Dejale! Mal! Muy mal!” She ignored them, her single focus on reaching her driver.

“Ven! Ven Aqui! Alto! Dejale!” Their masks sounded tinny.

She was well into the house by the time they got to her, the golf club almost in her grasp when soft jello covered ropes wrapped themselves around her arms and legs and she was airborne.

“No!” she screamed, twisting and turning as much as she could, yanking her body violently. Slowly and with careful deliberation for each step now that two of their limbs were no longer available because they were holding her, Eduardo and Chuy extracted her from the detritus of the house. With exacting care they removed her without her incurring another injury. Then equally as fastidious, they took her back to her shed, swinging her between them, face down, nose nearly touching the ground.

She screamed the entire way. “No, es mi cosa! Es mi golf club!” It’s my golf club! Just get me my golf club. This dream sucks! It sucks! I hate you! I want my golf club! Mal! Mal! Muy mal! You are bad people! Mal! Bad Gente! Bad gente! You’re not even gente!”

Gently, suckers moved up onto her face, patting her. She could tell by the touch it was Chuy.

“Stop doing that!” She struggled against them. “Resurface-o mi face-o.” “Mi cara! Mi cara! Suckers Mal!” The suckers crawled over her hair and down onto the back of her neck. The limb tip moved her hair away and suckers touched the skin on the back of her neck.

“NO! Nooo! Don’t!” She felt a sharp quick pierce into the skin on the back of her neck.

When she came to it was dark out. Her hands were bandaged in some kind of jello and the jello took away the pain. She had a bowl of water and her amorphous rubbery blanket that kept her warm when she curled up around it. What she didn’t have was her golf club and that made her cry. She just had to wake up. She hated this dream.

She went outside to pee. Nobody was around. While she was crouched she looked up at the moon, bright and full in the sky. There was a ring around the moon. The moon was dead center in a bright ring of fuzzy light. It looked like someone had blown off the top layer of the moon and all that dirt was circling the moon in orbit because it didn’t know where else to go. Several of the lights surrounding the moon pulled away and Claire knew it was their ships. That was no ring of dirt or fluffy clouds. It was likely a ring of colossal domes just like the one up the hill. Claire stood and looked at the dome. Shadows of things moving glided across its surface. The things were making a hexagonal snowflake pattern at one spot. Things were anchored to the side and touching each other on all sides with their limbs. As more and more things joined the group the pattern spread out like a snowflake. It was beautiful. She felt her lips. This time it gave her no pleasure. Claire studied the house. Not only was the moon full but the light from the dome illuminated it as well. Her Lady Liberty Fiber-X Air with Kelmac grip was in that house and she was going to get it. It was hers. She studied the property. The tree line ran unbroken right up to the house. She turned into the trees and walked up to the house.

She didn’t run out into the open when she came level to the house. Instead she stood in the shadow of a big fir and waited. The snowflake pattern the things were making in the dome grew as more and more of their bodies joined the patterning. She listened for the sound of limbs flicking the ground and heard nothing. Satisfied no things were out walking she made straight for where she had been digging earlier. It made her mad when she saw that if Eduardo and Chuy had only waited another moment she would have had it in her grasp. She sidled into the house through the path she had dug. Her Lady Liberty winked in the moonlight. That was a 125 mile per hour club. The flex in its shaft adjusted for wrist break in the backswing. She loved that club. As she picked her way toward it, she wondered if her toe lengthening would change her stance all that much. Her toes were now a delicate quarter inch longer to be more attractive while wearing foot jewelry. Finally! She closed her hand around it. The heft, which was practically nothing because it was a Fiber X Air model, felt good. Gingerly made her way back out. She was almost back to the trees before she heard the flicking. She darted to the big fir and stood motionless in its shadow not even daring to breath.

The sound of things chittering to each other began softly then got louder as they drew closer to where she was. She could hear the flick, flick of their slow steps approaching her position. She sneaked a peek around the fir. She recognized Chuy immediately. But he wasn’t walking with Eduardo. She was shocked! He was walking with Tonto del Culo. They were moving slowly away from the dome and he was chittering to Chuy. What was Chuy doing with him? Then it dawned on her, Chuy was coming to check on her. She had better be in her shed when they got there. She felt panic and cautiously edged herself deeper into the shadow of the trees and ran back to her shed, the Lady Liberty pumping up and down in her hand.

She stopped when she was across from her shed. There was a patch of open space between the shed and the trees. She could see Chuy and Tonto bobbing their slow way to the shed. She darted from the shade of the trees to the shadow the shed cast by moonlight. The moon was bright tonight and they would see her entering her shed. She peeked around the corner. They had stopped. Chuy’s posture looked odd to her. She hoped that meant he was distracted. She decided to just go for it. After all, she was allowed to go outside to pee.

The shed was only four walls. She had no place to put her club. “Stupid, stupid stupid! She hissed to herself. She should have hidden it when she was in the trees. What was she thinking? They would take her club away. She had to get it back to the trees and hide it for safekeeping. She put her head outside. They were closer. Chuy was walking funny, like he was hobbling. When he bobbed up and down he was akimbo. Tonto del culo looked like he was crowding Chuy. She wondered where Eduardo was. There was no way she could make it to the trees without them noticing she had a club. They had too many eyes. She ducked back inside.

Her breath was noisy and she wanted to cry. She wasn’t going to let them take her club. She blew out her breath in exasperation and and looked to the heavens which was the unfinished ceiling of the shed. they were close enough for her to hear them. Flick, flick. Flick, flick. “Up!” They wouldn’t look up. She put her back to one corner and inched her way to the ceiling with the soles of her feet and only one hand. The other hand held the Lady Liberty. She slid the club across two beams and dropped down just as Chuy appeared in the doorway. He had put his mask on.

Softly Chuy’s mask said, “Cachorro. Hola cachorro. Estas bien? Ven aqui.”

Dutifully, Claire moved toward him as Tonto crowded in behind Chuy. This forced Chuy all the way into the shed. The pushy Tonto was almost halfway into the shed himself. It felt very small in the shed. Chuy tried to negotiate himself into a corner. She saw Tonto had donned a mask. It looked like Eduardo’s.

“Sientate,” Tonto’s mask said.

“I don’t speak Spanish, you asshole!” Claire yelled. “And I don’t take orders from you! Back up! Get back! She paced in front of him waving her arms at Tonto trying to shoo him out of the shed.

“Callate!” Tonto’s mask said. Tonto continued to move purposefully forward farther into the shed.

“Fuck you! I don’t like you. I don’t like your colors. I don’t like how you treat Chuy. You move back!” Claire waved her arms and kicked at the end of his flicking appendages yelling “Move back! Move back!” He whirled around to try and catch her.

“Echate!” Tonto’s mask yelled.

“Lie down yourself!” Claire kicked harder. She was too quick for him. She trotted around him kicking all of his limb ends. Tonto wobbled.

“Non! Non! Ven aqui cachorro! Ven aqui!” Chuy’s face mask was loud and pleading.

Claire ignored him. She put even more anger into kicking Tonto. “Get out of my shed. Move-i-tay! Vaminos! Get out!”

“Ay cachorro! Nooo! Alto! Ven!” Chuy cried.

Claire felt tentacles on her back and she whirled around grabbing blindly for the offending appendage. It was dark so she couldn’t see the colors of the limb. She grabbed the silky rope and bit it.

What happened next was a blur. There was a shrill sound that didn’t seem to emanate from anywhere but still came from everywhere. It made her stand stock still. Her heart dropped. She knew it was Chuy. Immediately she was contrite. She looked up at him. His mask wobbled crazily on his face, the pictures of humans blinking in and out. Something sharp and painful stabbed her in the back. She whirled on her attacker and dropped face first to the floor. “Resurface-o mi face-o,” she mumbled.

When she came to, she could tell by where the light was it was afternoon. There was a bowl of food in her shed. Her head was pounding. Her body was sluggish. She was telling her muscles what to do but her muscles weren’t cooperating. She stumbled outside to pee. Once she was relieved she looked toward the dome. It seemed bigger. She steadied herself against the rough bark of a tree and puked. She felt better. She doubled over just to regain her wits. Then slowly she straightened up and let the tree take most of her weight. Her head lolled to one side. She blinked hard to see if it made any difference. It didn’t. She looked at the dome again. It definitely looked bigger. Hand braced against the bark, she rested for a moment. Idly, Claire wondered if the large dome was a symbol for something, like an anuerism. She wondered if Tonto del Culo was a sign she was getting worse and not better. She began to cry. “I just want to wake up,” she said to no one.

After a minute she felt steady enough to go back to her shed and sleep some more. She looked again to the dome and the sight brought her fully awake. The house was gone. The dome looked bigger because she could see everything the house had blocked. The house was completely gone. “Oh, God,” she breathed out. “Maybe this means I’m getting better?” Somehow, she didn’t think so. She went into the shed, kicked her food to the side and curled up with her rubber blanket.

When she awoke again it was night. She scuttled outside to pee. She looked at the dome, bright against the sky. With the house gone she could see where it ever so slightly kissed the ground. Figures of things glided around the inside, limbs propelling them to and fro. Occasionally one or more would plant their center leg into the side of the dome. She didn’t care. She went back to her shed. Now that she was hungry, her food was crusted over. She ate it anyway.

She sat down and stared at nothing for a long time. She sat down and stared at nothing until even she could feel the world was asleep. She walked to door of the shed and peeked at the dome. There was very little movement. She listened hard and could hear only insects and the occasional night bird. No flicking. She looked up at the ceiling beams. Her club was still there. She shinnied up the corner and grabbed the club. It felt good just to hold it. She went outside to practice her swing.

She was rusty. She couldn’t figure out why her club seemed a little too long for her. She rocked in her stance, checked her grip, the women’s grip, left thumb to the right side of the shaft, head down, she arced back and swung through. The club was weightless. She loved this club. “I still got it,” she said aloud.

The club energized her. Claire ran around looking for pine cones. She teed up and hit off pine cones until the sky grew rosy. “I have to find another place for you,” she told her driver. She looked around. Bury it? No. She checked out a clump of bushes to stash it in and dismissed them. Up. It had to be up. She walked around some of the closer trees looking for the perfect spot and found a good one. A nice ‘vee’ in the branches to set her club with foliage that hid it from below. Not that they would look up, but just in case. Plus, this tree was a quick and easy climb.

She awoke midday to Eduardo stroking her back. She knew before she woke up it was him. She could tell by his touch. She could also tell there was something wrong. If she didn’t know better, she thought Eduardo was sad. She rolled over and exposed her belly to him. Eduardo gently rubbed her belly.

“Pobrecito” his mask said, “que no fue tu culpa.”

“I still don’t speak Spanish,” Claire said grumpily. “How is Chuy? Como se Chuy?”

“Chuy?” his mask repeated in a puzzled tone. “Ven afuera. Es el tiempo para tu camina.”

Eduardo took her out for a walk, but this time away from the dome. She kept darting into the trees collecting pine cones and running them back to make a pile near the shed. She collected quite a good pile for practice tonight. She wasn’t sure but she thought Eduardo was amused by her activity.

That night she sent a pine cone 50 yards. She ran down to mark the spot. She grabbed some stones and made as tall a pile of rocks as she could. Tomorrow, during the day, she would figure out how to measure it. That’s what she was doing the next day when Eduardo came to take her for her walk; she was pasted against the outside of the shed with her arms outstretched as if she were giving it a big hug. She stepped back, arms still outstretched and looked side to side at her fingertips, trying to judge how many feet it was. She was trying to find a measurement to mark off how far her shot went. She confused herself, so she stepped back to the shed and pressed herself against the wall again. Eduardo stopped and watched her. Finally she felt the eyes on her and looked up surprised to see him there. She bounded over to him, babbling, “I think I hit 50 yards. I really do. I know that’s not supposed to be possible, but I really think I did. Do you think it’s possible? I think so. It’s the club, it’s really just the club. Lady Liberty Fiber X with the Kelmac grip. I’m telling you, best driver ever made. How’s Chuy? Como se Chuy?”

“Chuy?” His mask said again in puzzlement.

Claire stopped and looked at Eduardo. She was genuinely sorry she had hurt his companion. She walked over to Eduardo and touched his appendages. Then she gently lifted one of his limbs and then another of his limbs and twined them together. She said “Chuy” and pointed at his two intertwined limbs and then pointed at the dome. “Como se Chuy?”

The next day Claire heard something funny. She popped out of her shed and there was Eduardo laboring to push a large shallow bucket that floated above the earth on its own toward her shed. He would step, find his balance, give a little shove to the bucket to propel it forward and then step again. Claire was puzzled until she realized the green and blue mass filling the top of the bucket was Chuy’s head peering out over the edge. Claire whooped and headed straight for them at dead run. She was happy to see Chuy again. She danced around the bucket, and danced around Eduardo making him spin.

“Are you okay? I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to bite you, I meant to bite Tonto. He’s such an ass. I’m sorry. Does it hurt? Are you alright?”

Several of Eduardo’s limbs came up to stroke Chuy. So Claire reached over the bucket and stroked Chuy, too. Chuy lifted one of his limbs and rolled it over the top of her head. Pink stuff dripped out of Chuy’s eyes. It was disgusting. Especially since he didn’t have his mask on. She looked at Eduardo who did have his mask on and pink stuff was dripping down underneath his mask. Claire wiped her face. Tears were coming down her cheeks. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Lo siento.”

Days went by and Chuy got better. Claire felt her swing was becoming a thing of glory. She wished for a proper golf ball. Soon, it was back to the their routine. They added a new word to their repertoire. Ever since Eduardo saw her collecting pine cones he had made it his mission to help her find pine cones. He scanned the treeline with his many eyes and when he found one, he’d lift a limb and point it out to her and say “Trae!” Off she ran to fetch it.

One moonless night she was out practicing her swing, as usual. It was very difficult to see where the bits of her pine cones were landing. She had taken to hitting uphill toward the dome because the dome provided light. Her eventual goal was one night to be able to drive a pine cone all the way to the dome. Her lengthened toes helped her swing by giving her a little extra stability. These procedures were just a gift that kept on giving. She could hardly wait until she woke up and could show her friends. They were going to be so jealous.

She lined up her pine cones in a row and was driving them successively at the dome, “poof, poof, poof.” The sweet spot connected every time and they sailed off nearly without a sound. “poof, poof, poof, flick, flick.” She froze and looked up at the dome. She listened. Two things, two different sets of flicks. She listened some more. One was definitely Chuy. She could tell by the slight drag in the limb where she had bit him. The other one wasn’t Eduardo. Eduardo’s flicks were different. She dropped into a squat to make herself a dark bump and waited in silence as Chuy and the other thing appeared over the rise of the slope and began their slow way down the hill toward her. Chuy wobbled. “Tonto del Culo,” she hissed under her breath.

As quietly as possible, keeping as low as possible, she crab-walked her way to the treeline and stood in the near complete dark of the trees, waiting for them to do whatever it was they were going to do and let her get back to her practice. Even without the moon she could tell Tonto was invading Chuy’s space. As they made their way down the hill Chuy kept getting moved further and further toward the treeline. Claire was getting angry. Chuy hated walking in the trees because it was so uneven. They were close enough for her to hear them chittering. Chitter chitter chitter. Chitter chitter back. She did not like Tonto’s chitter. It sounded rough.

They were just a bit upslope from her. Chuy was right next to the treeline. He planted himself. Tonto planted himself next to Chuy, again, too close. Chuy chittered at Tonto and spun toward the dome. He then took a step back toward the dome. Tonto’s appendages reached out while Chuy was in mid-step, several limbs grabbing Chuy to hold him in place, and one limb slipping in-between Chuy’s limbs into the private part of Chuy’s body. Chuy made a weird noise that scared Claire. She ran out of the shadows yelling at Tonto.

“Get away from him asshole!” She whipped her club down onto the end of one of Tonto’s planted appendages flattening it against the earth. Yellow goo spurted out.

Even Claire could tell Tonto’s shriek was enraged. His limbs dropped from Chuy. She danced back, her club up like a baseball bat. “Leave him alone!” she screamed.

Tonto whirled toward her. She danced back again making him step toward her. She waited until his center leg came out and then she swung straight at his first joint. The sound of the contact was what she had been craving, the perfect hollow ping of hitting straight through a ball. He crumpled into a mass of writhing limbs with an ungodly screech.

She heard Chuy moving away. She risked a glance toward him and was surprised to see how fast he could move. She was relieved he was getting away. Her eyes were on Chuy and off of Tonto long enough for Tonto to pull himself toward her. She didn’t notice until a limb coiled around her ankle. She felt the suckers and knew the needle bite was next. Lady Liberty whistled through the air and laid waste to his head with 125 miles per hour of flex-torsion. She could feel bits of slime blowing back onto her arms and legs. A loud guttural cry she didn’t recognize came out of her as the Lady Liberty flew again and again and again.

Claire stopped swinging when it penetrated her fog that Tonto had stopped moving some time ago. Up the hill she heard flicking coming toward her. She didn’t know what to do. She ran to her shed. Inside she took her water bowl and washed Tonto off of her face and hands as best she could. Next she washed Lady Liberty. There was nothing she could do for her hospital gown. Tonto’s brains stunk. She whipped off her gown and was completely naked, not that she ever wore much anyway. Better than wearing Tonto. The flicking was getting closer. She was so scared she was frozen to the spot. She ran out and around to the back of the shed and hid behind it peeking out to see how many were coming. There were only two of them. Her heart was pounding. She knew they would hear her heart pounding and find her it was so loud. She had to run.

Softly, she heard Eduardo’s mask whisper, “Cachorro! Cachorro! Ven, ven aqui. Cachorro!”

She stole another look. She could see the light from Eduardo’s mask illuminate Chuy’s face when they came across the bludgeoned Tonto. Rapid fire, high-pitched peeping sounds erupted. Their limbs flailed up and down in alarm. Chuy didn’t remain at Tonto’s body. He moved with great purpose toward the shed with speed she didn’t know was possible. Eduardo was right behind him. She was afraid. She was afraid they would hurt her. She was afraid they would let another thing hurt her. Mostly, she was afraid they wouldn’t take care of her anymore.

They reached the shed and looked inside. They chittered very, very softly to each other upon discovering she wasn’t inside. She moved from hiding spot and placed herself directly behind them to face the music. “Estoy aqui,” she said.

They spun to her voice. In the light of Eduardo’s mask they saw her naked arms and legs flecked with Tonto’s brain and blood and still holding a weapon. Their limbs quickly reached to steady each other. Claire could feel their horror. “Violacion,” she said and pointed at Chuy. “Tonto violacion.”

Eduardo reached a limb to her and gently wiped down her arms removing Tonto’s brain matter. He then moved to the other arm. Pink goo was streaming from every ocular on Chuy’s face.

“Violacion,” she said again, trying to somehow make it right.

One of Chuy’s limbs reached for her and cleaned one of her legs. When both of her legs were clean, together, gently, Eduardo and Chuy turned her around, away from them, facing her to the trees. Slowly, they stroked her hair and her back, gentle, soft, liquid velvet.

“Corre,” Eduardo’s mask said. They gave her a little push.

She stubbornly resisted and turned back to face them. “I don’t want to leave,” she said. They were the only friends she had. “Please don’t make me leave.”

Chuy’s limb ran over her head. The ambient light fromt he screens showed the pink staining his beautiful blue and green stripes.

“Corre,” Eduardo’s mask said again.

She looked at both of them and then she turned and ran, straight into the dark woods, the Lady Liberty still in her fist. She ran, branches snapping under her bare feet, barely dodging the trees for the darkness. She ran and as she ran farther and farther away from them Claire realized she had to accept the fact she was never going to wake up.

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