Angelina sat beside Chelsea on the couch, eating cheese and crackers from a plate Chelsea had brought her. Belfry was snoring softly, curled up in the corner of the couch like a cat or dog.
Belfry had done a surprisingly good job bandaging her considering how tiny his hands were, but her bandages still felt uncomfortably loose. Luckily, the nightgown Chelsea had found for her was several sizes too large, so it didn’t rub against the bandages too much. The fabric was very thin, though. Angelina shivered, pulling her blanket up to her chin and moved closer to Chelsea.
Chelsea shifted position, moving further away from Angelina. Angelina scooted closer again and noticed that Chelsea’s face had turned pink again.
Oops, she must have been moving away because she was overheated again. Angelina mumbled an apology and moved back to the center of the couch.
It was surprising Chelsea was so overheated when Angelina was freezing. Oh well, Canada was a lot colder than Italy, she guessed.
“So we’re in a town that disappeared four years ago?” said Chelsea. “How is that possible?”
“I don’t know, exactly,” said Angelina. “Naomi wouldn’t tell me anything, but Falcon said she told Melanie about a pit between realities where CPSI can send people and stuff and it gave me an idea.”
“I think I see where this is going.”
“Yeah! Everyone thought the town was destroyed, but when I heard about the pit thing, I knew the town must be there. And here it is! And here you are!”
“Here I am.” Chelsea smiled. “I’m glad you found me.”
Angelina lifted her arm to hug Chelsea, then remembered she was overheated. She patted Chelsea’s arm instead. The pat felt awkward, but if Chelsea noticed, she didn’t show it.
“I’m still a little confused, though,” said Chelsea. “A pit between realities?”
“I don’t really know what that means, if I’m being honest,” said Angelina. “I think Naomi knew, but she wouldn’t tell me.”
“What about this little guy?” Chelsea gestured to Belfry. “Did he tell you anything?”
“Not a lot about this place,” said Angelina. “He mostly talked about you. He said you saved his life, and you’re very brave and beautiful.”
“Aw,” said Chelsea. “That’s so sweet. I don’t know how brave I was, though. All I did was whack a monster with a broom.”
“I stabbed a monster with scissors,” said Angelina.
“See? That’s so much braver than my thing,” said Chelsea. “The fearless warrior, Princess Angelina, plunges her migthy sword into the beast’s heart.”
Angelina smiled. This was one of the reasons she loved Chelsea so much.
“It was one of her necks, actually, and it wasn’t really that brave and cool,” said Angelina. “Belfry seemed to think you were really brave, though. He kept calling you an angel.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that.”
“It’s funny, because when I first saw you in this place, that’s what I thought too.”
“That you were an angel.”
“Oh, I, um…” Chelsea laughed. “Okay, wow.”
Her face turned pink again, and this time, Angelina didn’t think it was because she was overheating.
“Sorry,” said Angelina. “Was that weird? Should I not have said that? I just meant because I thought I was dead, and because you’re really pretty like an angel. But now you look embarrassed.”
Chelsea’s face went from pink to red.
Oops, maybe Angelina shouldn’t have pointed out how embarrassed Chelsea looked. People tended not to like it when she did that.
“Oh, no,” Chelsea fanned herself with her hand. “Just, um, overheated.”
“Oh, okay!” said Angelina.
Well, that was a relief. Chelsea wasn’t embarrassed after all.
“Do you see that?” said Lachlan. “That little speck on the horizon?”
“I have 20/100 vision,” said Sam. “So, no.”
“What do you think it is?” said Lachlan.
“I can’t see it,” said Sam, “so I don’t know.”
Sam’s voice sounded strained. Lachlan wasn’t sure if it was from pain or annoyance. Possibly both.
“If you want my not-so-humble opinion–“
“I absolutely never do,” interrupted Sam.
“Ahem. Incredibly rude. As I was saying, if you want my not-so-humble opinion, I think that we should head toward it.”
When Sam didn’t respond, Lachlan continued.
“And why do you think we should head toward it, Lachlan? Tell me more,” Lachlan said, mimicking an American accent. Then he switched to his normal voice. “Well, I’m glad you asked, my Samurai friend. I think we should head toward it because it’s the only thing on this featureless plane as far as we can see. Maybe it’s just a lump of concrete, maybe it’s another person–“
“Maybe it’s another monster,” said Sam.
Lachlan patted Nikola’s side. Nikola wagged his tail.
“If it’s another monster, we’ll have Niko the wonder dog here for our protection.”
“Not Niko,” said Sam. “His name is Nikola.”
“Oh, come on,” said Lachlan. “Nikola is a shit name for a dog and you know it.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“I’m shortening his name to Niko and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“See?” said Lachlan. “He hates the name Nikola as much as I do.”
Nikola growled again, his hackles bristling. He began to bark.
“I think that’s dog-ese for ‘I hate my name’,” said Lachlan.
Sam pointed at the concrete in front of them. It was splitting open, cracks splintering outward as though something massive was rising from the room beneath. Black tendrils erupted from the cracks, reaching toward them.
“No,” said Sam. “It’s dog-ese for ‘we’re in trouble’.”
The concrete burst open around Lachlan and Sam as more and more tendrils spilled forth.
Lachlan whipped around to run away, and saw more cracks in the concrete in front of him, more monstrous limbs writhing toward him.
Dozens of figures rose from the concrete–masses of skeletal faces melted together into vaguely humanoid shapes with short tendrils trailing from their lower halves.
“I hate this place,” Sam muttered. “I hate this place. I hate this place. I hate this place.”
Nikola growled, looking back and forth between the figures as though he wasn’t sure which threat to focus on.
“Hello again,” came a voice from behind him.
Lachlan felt a jolt of panic as he recognized that voice–the voice that sounded like a demon possessing a TV commentator.
“Not the fucking skull squid again,” he said.
“I’m afraid so,” said the skull squid, “and this time, I brought company.”