My panic increased so much that I stopped even feeling it. I went numb. Cold. Like I had antifreeze in my veins. I watched as the doctor smiled, his lips and gills stretching as he did so. His rows of teeth clacked and dripped when he spoke.
He told us that each toilet in that huge, expansive room, was linked to a different universe or timeline that had been discovered. He said that sometimes, when a world is found and connected, a different, unrelated toilet can pop up on the curbs somewhere in town. A second, temporary portal. A second doorway. Those, however, disappear after twenty four hours. They don’t know why yet, but the data hints at a pattern.
That was a lot of information, strange information, to take in. From her perch on the ceiling, it was aLizardbeth who asked the first and most obvious question.
“Uhhhh, why toileth, though?”
The doctor shrugged. As he did, a large protuberance pushed at the clothing on his back. It looked like a fin rising to the waters surface. It was as if he had a dorsal fin taped down on his back and the gesture had set it loose.
“I know zat you americans haf read ze reason before.” He shrugged once more. The fin threatened to tear through his expensive fabric. “Eferybody poops.”
The noises from the office sounded closer now. Angrier. I snuck a peek and saw large, dark shapes beginning to fill the room right behind us. I shuddered and looked forward once more.
“How do they work?” Jamesy asked, his face telling me that he heard the noises too.
“Around each toilet zere iss a red sqfare. Schtep into ze konfines uff zat sqfare undt flusch.”
Jamesy frowned, confused. “What the hell is a sqfare?”
“I think he’th thaying thquare,” aLizardbeth said helpfully.
Jamesy tapped his foot and stroked his mustache, thinking. “Sqfare, thquare,” he repeated the words a couple times and then snapped his fingers. “Square! Got it. A red square.” He walked over and looked into the first stall. Sure enough, around each toilet, there was a thick red square painted around the base. Like the safety lines at a subway station, letting you know where the transportation was going to be.
“It looks like a regular sized toilet. How would you travel in one?”
“Zee flusch actifates a tiny vormhole in ze toilet, vhich iss made uff lead instead uff porcelain. This keeps ze vormhole from gettingkt too big. Ze vormhole sucks you through by kompressingkt your atoms undt sqfeezingkt zem through.”
The doctor got to his feet and stretched up to his full height. He gestured with one arm towards the first stall.
“Vy don't you try ze first one? It's one zat iss similar enuff to our vorld. Ze biggest difference iss ze veazzer.”
Jamesy frowned again. “The what?”
I had this one. “The weather,” I said from my spot on the floor. Jamesy nodded and looked at the toilet, concern etched deeply into all the facets of his face. He tapped his foot as he thought. After a moment of contemplation, he looked up to aLizardbeth.
“I’m gonna need your help with this one.”
At his words, aLizardbeth skittered across the ceiling and then swiftly down the wall, changing direction without slowing down. It was creepy, but also a little bit cool.
“What do you need?” aLizardbeth asked him.
Jamesy frowned. Before answering her question, he came over to me and helped me to my feet, made sure I was steady. He looked me in my eyes. “You have to keep an eye on doctor psychopath here.” Jamesy then turned and addressed aLizardbeth’s question. “I’m sorry, and you know I wouldn’t ask for this if it wasn’t the only way.” Concern played across her face, the scales of her cheeks turning from red to black to blue to brown to green with her emotions. “I need your tongue.”
“Ethcuse me?” The scales on her face were all red at that moment.
Jamesy pulled at the ends of his mustache, something he did only when he was extra stressed out. “If I go into this..this..portal potty, I’m going to need a way back. We don’t have any rope, so your tongue is our only option.”
“You want me to thtick my tongue down a toilet?”
“It’s not a real toilet, it’s a wormhole. It sounds cleaner,” Jamesy said, trying to convince her.
“It thtill hath the word ‘hole’ in it, I’ll bet ith thtill groth.”
A low rumble was heard in the other room, just mere feet away from where we all stood. We were running out of time.
“Dang it aLizardbeth! It’s your job to build what we need. So unless you think you can fasten something in the next ten seconds that’s longer, stronger and more rope-like than your tongue, I suggest you crawl back up that wall and wrap that ridiculous piece of Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape you call a tongue around me and let’s get this show on the road!”
There was silence for a beat. The scales on her face darkened for a moment, but then lightened from a crimson to a red to a pink as she accepted their fate and their roles in it. She quickly scaled the wall again and then flipped upside down to creep across the ceiling until she was hanging over the first stall. “This thucks,” she said, but then unraveled a large chunk of pink tongue, which spilled and spooled out like the red carpet at a blockbuster premiere.
As I watched, I remembered an article from one of my National Geographics. It said that on average, a chameleon's tongue is twice the length of its body. Since aLizardbeth was human sized, that meant she probably had about ten to twelve feet to play with. See Jamesy? I couldn’t help but think to myself, I do look at more than just the nude tribes!
Jamesy walked into the stall, within the dimensions of the thick red square. He tied aLizardbeth’s tongue around his waist and fixed me with a hard stare. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. I promise.” He sighed. “There’s got to be a good Villa Park out there somewhere. A safe one. A better one.” His face looked way older than his actual age. It wasn’t even from the premature mustache, it was from the weight of responsibility.
Knowing he couldn’t waste another second, he flushed. A roar of sound emitted from the toilet. It wasn’t the rush of water. It was the rush of something else all together. A moment later, Jamesy was gone.
I looked up at aLizardbeth. I could see in her rotating, convex eyes that she was scared too. To lighten the mood, I said, “If Jamesy was still here, he’d say something like ‘I’ve heard of being tongue-tied, but this is ridiculous.’”
She rolled her eyes. It was hard to differentiate but I could tell that they rolled just a bit more.
Now that Jamesy was gone, I felt the responsibility of keeping it together fall to me. I had to stay in control of my nerves, so I did it the best way I knew how. I distracted myself with idle conversation.
“So, you’re half shark then?” I asked the doctor. He nodded his streamlined face. “I am a great vhite after all.”
I couldn’t tell if that was a joke or a brag. I didn’t get a chance to ask.
From the shadows of the office, a multi-colored, scratchy yarn loop flew into the room, tightening with deadly accuracy around the doctors neck, just above his rigid fin. In a blur of furry motion, the cat-woman monstrosity bounded into the bathroom and, with one swift motion of her clawed hand, tossed a crumpled ball of yarn up and over a thick metal pipe running across the room. With speed and strength that surprised us all, she ripped down on the yarn with all of her weight, causing the noose to cut into the doctor neck. A tight red line of blood immediately dripped off of him as he rose steadily in the air, gurgling and bleeding as his feet kicked feebly at the air.
Cold yellow eyes locked on mine. She extended the digital pads of her hand, the sharp claws catching the light emanating from above. She gave me a wicked, toothy grin and then focused her attention on the dangling doctor. Clutching the yarn in one furry fist, she lashed out savagely and repeatedly with the free one, ripping large, flapping flesh wounds all across his body. She shredded him one stroke at a time, working on him like a scratching post that could scream and cry and bleed. She scratched and scratched until the doctor stopped doing two of those three things. Then, with a sickening wet squelch, she allowed the body to drop to the floor, its entrails and skin hung in loosely twisted red ribbons.
She lapped at the dripping red droplets on her claw with her bumpy tongue, as if she were drinking warm milk from a saucer. She purred with pleasure from the metallic taste. With one long nail she gestured that we come forward to her, to come and get more of the same.
“Here kiddy kiddy kiddies,” she taunted, her smooth voice vibrating with her purrs. “What’s the matter? Cat got your gun?”