I felt glued in place. It felt like every last shred of control I had was now gone. I wasn’t cut out for this. I didn’t ask for this. Shark doctors, evil cat ladies, I had never been so scared in my life. I also had never been so sure that I was going to die. I looked over at the squishy red pile that used to be a doctor and I felt my legs turn to jelly.
The cat lady purred and licked her paws. She removed one of the pencils from the furry bun on her head and used it to pick free a piece of flesh that was stuck beneath a claw. When she had finished her preening, she pointed the pencil straight at me, pure menace in the gesture. Its lead tip was glittered with deep red flecks.
“Now, where werrrrrrrrre we,” she purred, taking a padded step towards me. Luckily, before she could do anything, there was a rush of noise from the first stall behind me. Accompanied by the savage roar of a tornado-level wind, Jamesy came flying out of the portal potty.
He tumbled head over heels, smacking into the ceiling and narrowly missing the spot where aLizardbeth was perched. She let out a surprised yelp, which caused her tongue to unravel from around Jamesy’s waist, sending him spinning like a top down to the hard tile floor. He hit with a bone rattling thunk.
My feet unglued and I immediately ran over to check on him. I didn’t expect him back so soon, but I was glad he was here. I was in over my head. When I was only a step or two away, he coughed loudly and sat up. He seemed dazed, but otherwise miraculously unhurt. He shook his head a bit to clear it of fog and then he checked his ears for blood, finding none. “This really blows,” he joked weakly. After he spent another moment collecting himself, he stood up on wobbly knees and looked around at the scene he had returned to. He stared at the lady-cat monster, who stood with her pencil extended, and he frowned. “So what’s going on, guys?” Jamesy asked. The cat lady re-examined her pencil thoughtfully.
“I was just about to stab your friend with this pencil,” she said casually. She licked her lips, the protruding fangs snagging on her tongue as it passed.
“Wow,” Jamesy said, “talk about taking a number two in the bathroom.” The furry fiend rolled her yellow eyes and hissed. I stood shoulder to shoulder with Jamesy, crouching just a bit to make up for the height disparagement. Soon enough we were joined by aLizardbeth, once she had finished reeling in her tongue. Slowly, moving as one, the three of us began to walk backward. Back, away from the cat creature. Away from the other shapes filling the doorway behind her.
As she asked her question she stuck the pencil back into her bun. She brushed some lint off of her sweater, quickly licking at some blood that had fallen on the basket of babies portrayed on it. Once satisfied with the cleaning job, she pulled the sweater a little bit up her torso, revealing the Desert Eagle tucked into a fashionably crocheted belt. “I don’t think you will get very farrrrrrr.”
Jamesy nudged me in the side with his elbow. I leaned in to hear what he had to say. “I think she’s bluffing,” he said. “Bluffing?!” I whispered back, incredulously. “You missed it earlier but she shredded the doctor like paper. She’s not bluffing.”
“I don’t mean she’s bluffing about killing us,” he assured me, “I mean she’s bluffing about shooting us. Think about it. She shredded the doc. She was going to stab you with a hair pencil. I don’t think she can shoot. It’s probably the lack of opposable thumbs.”
“I don’t see how that helps us,” I admitted, while taking another step back. We were getting deeper down the row of stalls. I didn’t know how long they went on for, but I didn’t want to end up with my back against a wall and the cat lady towering in front of me.
“I don’t have a full plan yet,” he said, “but I think I can get the gun back. I need you and aLizardbeth to get the doctor’s files from his desk and then we’re all getting out of here. We’ll go down one of these toilets and away from here.”
I shuddered at the thought of going to another world. One which I wouldn’t know the first thing about. “Which one?” I asked him. For a moment, he had a faraway look in his eyes. His blue eyes seemed cold.
“Any of them but that first one,” he said flatly. I didn’t ask why. Not only did I not want to know, but I had a job to do. Jamesy told me what we needed. Now, it was up to me to come up with a plan, and aLizardbeth to work it out. Jamesy stopped moving, deciding to hold his ground, ready to test his new theory. I didn’t like it, but I understood it was our best shot at getting out of here in one piece.
I continued in reverse until I sidled up to aLizardbeth. After spending a moment trying to locate her ears, I gave up, as she didn’t seem to have any. I just whispered toward her in general and assumed that she would hear me.
“Jamesy is going to go for the gun. We have to get the doctor's files from his office.” I think that aLizardbeth frowned, but I wasn’t entirely sure.
“How are we thuppothed to get the fileth from the offithe?” Her eyes rotated around, taking in a whole 360 degree view, scouting all the possible angles.
“I figure we slip past the cat while Jamesy distracts her,” I told her, a plan slowly starting to form in my head. “We get you up on the ceiling, by that security camera so you have a good straight shot into the office. Then you grab the stuff, hand it off to me, and we run like crazy.”
“What about her friendth in there?” aLizardbeth asked, drawing my attention to the hulking forms that projected distorted shadows all over the walls of the inner office.
I gulped. “Element of surprise?”
She sighed, the scales around her eyes changing to a deep blue, almost a black. “Alright, I guethh. They’d better not bite my tongue, that doesn’t grow back you know.”
She fluidly slunk over to the wall and traversed it in a flash. She crawled above the rows of stalls, taking a path that was well clear of the killer cat lady. I wished I could do the same. She took up a prime position on the ceiling, curling snugly next to the camera. She had a clear and upside-down view into the doctors office. “What kind of thtuff should I get?”
I rapidly flew through the back catalogue of National Geographic magazines that I stored in my head, pulling out anything that I could about lizards.
“Anything that looks important. Grab whatever you can and we’ll sort it out later. Your tongue should be able to go from 0 to 60 in about a hundredth of a second. So you should be able to get about nine or ten shots for things before we have to book it.”
She nodded her scale-plated head. “Whatever you thay, nerd,” she said playfully, reminding me just for a moment of the old Elizabeth. Back before everything in our lives had changed so much and so quickly.
“Feeling lucky, arrrrrrrrre we?”
The words jolted me back to the present in a flash. With aLizardbeth in position, I turned my attention back to Jamesy and the cat. I hoped, and also didn’t, that there was something I could do to help. Until that time, I just had to wait.
Jamesy stroked his mustache and then his chin, taking full stock of his fuzzy opponent. “I don’t know about luck,” he said, “I prefer to call it talent. And my gut is telling me that you’re not going to shoot.”
The purring sound stopped emitting from the mutated knitter. Her large yellow eyes were wide, the hint of surprise in them. She looked Jamesy up and down, appraising him in return, before she started purring again and licked her lips hungrily. “Is that rrrrrright?” Jamesy spared a brief glance over his shoulder, taking in where aLizardbeth and I were at. He faced forward again and nodded in satisfaction.
“That’s right. Not only are you not going to shoot, but I don’t think that you’re even able to, you hairy, no-thumb-having, ugly sweater wearing, overgrown piece of dog food!”
The purring cut off again. The silence left in its absence was full of evil intent. “You have quite a tongue on you,” she sneered, baring her fangs as she spoke. “Just you wait until the cat’s got it.” She brandished her claws, unsheathing them to their limit from her tufted paw. Instead of having the desired effect, which I assumed was to scare the bejesus out of Jamesy, the gesture made him laugh.
“You see? Now you’re bringing out your claws, because you know you can’t shoot.”
She quickly shouted back, “I can too!” For a moment, she sounded more like a grumpy infant, a whiney kitten, instead of the monster that she was. Jamesy shook his head and wagged his finger condescendingly. “I don’t think so,” he said, his confidence gaining strength with each word spoken. “I think if you could, you would have already.” He gave her the most nauseatingly smug smile he could, one that I had been on the receiving end of more than once. It’s the expression that most makes you want to claw his face off. She hissed and rose up to her full height, arching her back and settling into an attack stance, ready to pounce at any moment.
With her attention fully on Jamesy, I glanced up and exchanged a nod with aLizardbeth. It was time. She quickly flicked her long tongue out, returning with a floppy disk and an Oxford spiraled notebook on her first grab, which she handed down to me. I switched my attention back to Jamesy. The amount of unreal things happening all at once, and in so many places, it felt like I had died and gone to Dr. Suess Hell.
I saw Jamesy straighten, his head snapping into position like a Pez dispenser. I knew what that meant. It meant that he had most of an idea. He took sudden step back, closer to me. The angry yellow eyes watched him unflinchingly. He took one more step back and then crouched into a runners starting block stance. Over his shoulder, he shouted to me, “BJ! Black guy from Police Academy!”
I felt a static shock all over. It was my body readying for action, knowing what to do before my mind processed it all and caught up. Jamesy was talking about the great Michael Winslow, the sound effects master. Jamesy and I had watched all seven Police Academy movies over one lazy weekend. After that, we had spent months doing sound effects that annoyed everybody but us. I understood quickly what to do, glad to see that all of that time watching those movies hadn’t been a waste after all.
“NOW!” Jamesy shouted as he took off from his invisible starting blocks, making a direct dash for the crocheted gun belt. I took in a huge breath and then I began following. As I trailed a few steps behind him, I bellowed out rudimentary sound effects as loudly as I could manage. I tried out every sound I knew cats hated. Fireworks, airhorns, car alarms, blenders. I beeped and screeched and boomed and barked; the noises bounced off of the ceramic tiles and the metal stall doors, pinging around the bathroom acoustics like a pinball with Tourette’s.
The cat lady let out a pained caterwaul, dropping from her attack stance into a defensive one. All of the noise reverberated into her large feline ears and she hissed with distress.
I belted out a screech of tires and a large crashing sound. As I launched into my eagle call, Jamesy got within grabbing distance of the gun. He harshly stamped on her tail, catching her by surprise. With a yowl of pain and shock she leapt straight up, high into the air, her defensive reflexes setting her off like a rocket. As she blasted upwards, Jamesy got a hold of her belt and it unraveled easily in his hand. It unspooled more than halfway before the mutant cat landed back on her feet. Just as she raised a paw to strike, I closed the distance and baseball slid across the floor, barreling into her hairy haunches. She toppled over and I quickly employed a classic bully move that I had suffered on the playground more than once. I pulled her ugly sweater up and over her head, temporarily thrusting her into closely knitted darkness.
Overhead, aLizardbeth’s tongue continued to flick in and out, returning with papers and tape recorders and printouts, which she clumped clumsily in her dactyl hands since I was no longer there to receive them. Her hands were already nearly full.
“Time to go!” I shouted overhead as Jamesy and I turned and ran, back down the alley of stalls. The cat lady howled and curled into a ball, kicking out with her sharp hind claws until she had shredded and torn and ripped her way free of the sweater. Above us, aLizardbeth skittered across the ceiling, dropping bundles of paper and random unidentified objects to the floor as she tried running with half of her hands full.
The cat lady got to her feet, clutching the mess of yarn that had once been her favorite sweater. Her yellow eyes were filled with intense hatred. “Seize them!” She shouted commands to the shapes in the office, who now squeezed their way through the doorway, entering the bathroom that had once seemed like it was too big. Now, I wished that it was infinitely larger.
One by one, she called her comrades into the room. One by one, they appeared. Their appearances were so twisted, so terrifying, that I had to avert my eyes, I had to force myself not to see them. I knew that, if I saw them, I would freeze. And if I froze right now, I would die.
Although I couldn’t see them, I heard each and every one of them as they entered. When she called for FrankenSwine, I heard powerful, heavy hooves shattering floor tiles with each lumbering step. When she summoned HellGrazer, I heard a demonically deep mooing sound fill the expanse of the room. It was followed by the slow but steady footfalls of four evil cleft feet. She called out the names of a whole herd of Paindeer; Basher and Thrasher and Lancer and Dahmer. As the sounds of hooves and hatred filled the room to overflowing, I grabbed Jamesy by the arm and shook him in a panic as we ran.
“Where should we go?” I shouted at him, fear making me lose control of the volume of my voice. “We need to go, we’re going to die!”
Jamesy took another few long strides and then skidded to a sudden halt, leaving a swatch of shoe rubber on the otherwise pristine flooring. “Screw it,” he said, “one’s as good as any. Let’s go! Come on aLizardbeth, move it!” He kicked the door to the nearest stall open, the label on the door stating that we were going into stall Q7Y, whatever that meant. From above, aLizardbeth expelled her tongue full force and hit the flush lever. Once again, there came a rush of sound. Not water, but not unlike water either. The portal potty shuddered and shimmered and pulled. Bravely, aLizardbeth dropped first, straight down the expanding hole, clutching her loot as closely to her chest as she could. Her tongue flapped and trailed behind her like a living, squirming kite tail. I grabbed her tongue shortly before it disappeared down the drain completely, insuring that we wouldn’t be separated. I was forcefully pulled down after her. I gripped Jamesy by the arm, dragging him down after me. The last thing I saw before the world we knew disappeared forever was Jamesy flipping the bird to a bathroom full of monsters.