I didn’t want to step into that bathroom. I could tell that Jamesy didn’t either. Yet, as we exchanged a quick look, we both knew in our hearts that we were going in. Sometimes the only way out is through. I gulped loudly and then nodded silently to Jamesy, and we both stepped forward.
As I took a step, the glasses I had clumsily and hastily shoved into my pants fell down my pants leg and clattered to the floor, tripping me up immediately. As the glass crunched beneath my foot, I pinwheeled my arms for balance but found none and went tumbling through the doorway in a heap.
“See?” Jamesy said from above and behind me, “you’re just going around busting doors all willy-nilly. I told you it wasn’t me.”
Instead of arguing with him, I looked around quickly, making sure I hadn’t accidentally tumbled headlong into a trap. I hadn’t. At least, if I did, it wasn’t an apparent one. Not yet.
The room was bigger on the inside than it seemed on the outside. Instead of the usual sink and couple of stalls, there was a long, parallel hallway containing transparent glass doors, all of which housed a single, clean, porcelain toilet. I looked both left and right. Either way I turned, I saw glass doors containing single toilets. It was, at the same time, relatively normal but also extremely unsettling. There was something off about this room. Something not right.
I got to my feet just as Jamesy was taking the doctor off of his, forcing him down to the ground in a seated position where he could keep an eye on him.
“Okay, spill it doc. What’s the deal with this bathroom?”
The doctor smiled the small smile of a man who was just asked about one of his favorite hobbies; as if we had just asked him for a tour of his model train sets. The smile didn’t match the situation, just as the toilets didn’t seem to match this room.
“Vhat, you don’t like it?” The doctor raised one eyebrow inquisitively. He was toying with us. Behind us, I heard the clatter of the office door swinging crookedly in its frame. Whatever those massive moving shapes out in the hallway were, they were getting closer. Too close.
I fought hard to keep my lunch down as the room began to spin. I felt a cold sweat break out across my forehead. I was scared that I was going to have another panic attack. I did my best to hide it, but it didn’t work.
“Beej, what’th wrong? You look like you’re gonna be thick,” aLizardbeth asked me from above, her perch on the ceiling giving her the perfect birds eye view of my oncoming panic.
Before I knew it, Jamesy was next to me too, putting a comforting hand on my shoulder and giving it a reassuring squeeze. “Hey man, we’re gonna be okay. We’ve got our friend back, and that was the hard part. Now we just gotta get out of here.”
I put my hands on my knees and breathed; in through my nose, out through my mouth. Trying to regulate my heartbeat. I almost had it back under control, until I heard the laughter.
It started out quietly, then it gained speed and volume until it filled the entire room, like gas dissipating in an open space. The doctor, still seated on the ground, was giggling like a crazed school girl. Gone was his calm, professional demeanor. His eyes were streaming tears down his reddening cheeks, his smile was huge, unleashed, no longer restrained. He laughed and laughed and laughed until my head spun and I leaned against the wall to prevent myself from hitting the ground.
This is bad, this is so so bad.
The doctor’s laughter filled the massive bathroom and, when there was no more room, began to seep into my head and bounce around until I felt that I was on the brink of losing my mind.
Jamesy, perhaps seeing the effect it was having on me, or perhaps just fed up with the noise, I don’t know which, but he did something about it. He gave the doctor a swift kick to the side of his face, the force of which tore my drawing from the mans cheek, flying away in a miniature mixture of blood, paper and staple.
As the doctor coughed and recovered, Jamesy picked up the drawing, crumpled it up, and shoved it in the doctors mouth. “Eat a dick, doc, this is no laughing matter.” As the man sputtered and coughed out the flecks of wet paper, Jamesy fixed me with a hard stare.
“Beej, we’re going to be okay. I promise. You just need to keep it together, just for a bit longer.”
I nodded that I could do that, although I felt rather differently in my head, and Jamesy turned his attention back to the doctor. aLizardbeth looked down at me with what I think was concern in her eyes, but it was hard to tell as her eyes rotated and flitted about the room on their convex axis.
Jamesy squatted down and looked at the doctor with nothing but contempt in his eyes, all the vigor and joy gone from him, all drained by the twisted hospitality we had received in this Pet H el.
“Are you all out of laughing gas now? Good, because you have a choice,” Jamesy said with malice in his words. “Either you can tell me what all this is about, or I can punch you so hard that your nose turns upside down and you’ll drown in the next rainfall. What do you think?”
The doctor sniffed, coughed, then cleared his throat. His little smile returned to his face. “Choices,” he said, swirling the word around his mouth, slowly, as if studying it. “Vhatever you zink you know about choices is fery, fery vrong.”
I could tell by the way that he was standing that Jamesy really wanted to clock the doc again, but he restrained himself. “And just what do you know about choices that I don’t, huh doctor?”
One more short burst of a giggle escaped from the doctors mouth, but he quickly quelled it with his hand.
“You probably only zink about ze choices zat you make, nein? Vell, vhat about ze ones zat you do nacht make, huh? Vat do you zink happens to zem?”
Jamesy frowned. “Are you a doctor or a philosophy teacher? What the hell are you getting at?”
A darkness seemed to cloud over the doctors eyes. The size of his smile increased and the left corner of his mouth twitched. “Vat i am gettingkt at, as you say, iss ze fery koncept uff time itself.”
When none of us uttered a response, he turned to me and squinted. Whether it was from emotion or nearsightedness, I didn’t know. “Vat do you know about ze many-vorlds zeory? About parallel uniferses?”
Again, the room began to spin, rotating around and around, threatening to carry me away, take me down, like waste floating in a toilet that had just been flushed.