From a Rock to a Hard Place: Part Four
“Not now; we’d probably be caught. I think we’d better follow them.” There was a crowd of mutants walking to the back of a cafeteria bar. We joined them and started ladling multicolored gelatin out of a huge, bubbling vat and into trays by using ladles that had cups bigger than my head.
“How’s it coming along, boys? Eh, sorry, forgot that there are some girls, too. Are the trays full up?”
“Almost, Mister Wilts,” the mutants ladling said in a monotone. We joined in.
“Hey! Back off!” A Buzz that came out of nowhere pushed me aside.
“What was that for?”
“For not getting out of my way.”
“Are you late?”
“I knew someone was missing! No dinner for you, Grub! Get ladling!” The Koi, Wilts, slapped him off.
“Thank you, Mr. Wilts.” I grunted.
“Eh, I always have a soft spot for the new guys. Grub is always late anyhow. That’s all the trays. Everybody, take a tray!”
Redd and I each took a tray and water bottle and sat down at one of the cheap tables. I felt a strange tingling in my neck.
“I think I need to use the bathroom.”
Redd nodded, darted his eyes around in search of the restrooms, then pointed at a set of doors. I slithered off.
Soon after Vivily left, I felt the need to use a toilet, too. So I trotted up on my Yurble legs, trying to be in a cheerful mood, as hard as it was in the colony. It was important to be cheerful, however, as work would probably go better. I lost these senses and thoughts about cheerfulness when I heard a faint sobbing from the girls’ side of the bathrooms.
I hoped nobody would see me as I pushed the door open and sneaked inside. My fur was already starting to fall off (as a transmogrification effect), though, so the mutant washing her hands that DID see me didn’t register me as a boy.
The sobbing had turned to a soft wail, which was coming from the handicap stall. I knocked.
“Who’s in there?” I was answered by moans of pain.
“Is anything wrong?” More crying came as an answer.
“I’m coming in!” I was small enough to slide in under the door of the locked stall. Vivily was lying on the floor, arms gripping an area next to her neck.
“Is anything wrong?” I asked her. She rolled over, moaning and groaning.
“It hurts!” she whined.
“I think I might know what’s going on. Let me see...” She flipped back over, a stream of tears wetting the floor.
“What’s wrong? Why is it there and giving me so much pain?” She burst out in a bawling fit.
“Have you ever seen a mutant Hissi?”
“No, why do you ask?”
“It has two necks with two heads, and I think that the second one is starting to grow.” My response didn’t help much, as she only rolled over again and gave a monotonous wail. She seemed to have forgotten her physical pain, as instead of a hurt expression on her face she had one of fear.
“I’m not sure if there’s much I can do to help, but if there is, this is what friends are for.”
“I don’t know what you can do! If you can prevent me from having another upper body, then please do so!” She sighed. “Who am I kidding, why am I getting mad at you? I might have somebody else grow on to me in the near future, but who knows what other pets’ stories are? The entire thing just depresses me. There is no hope. There isn’t.”
“If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.”
“There isn’t- ooh, ow, oh, AAIEE!” She collapsed on the tile floor in another fit of pain.
“I know what will lift your spirits, no, make you overjoyed, and you aren’t stopping me from doing it.” Vivily didn’t answer; being too busy trying to get through the pain. I got on all fours and crouched close to her head. “I promise you that one of these days, we will conquer Lord Xarone. Just the two of us; together, we can do it, no matter how difficult the task is. And I promise that that promise will be fulfilled; someday. Someday.”
I left the bathrooms.
‘So I guess one of the pros of being new here is getting to begin eating earlier.’
Funny. How did that enter my mind?
Redd looked up at me, his head cocked to one side. “Did you say something?”
“Umm, no. Did you?”
“I thought you said, ‘What just happened?’.”
“I thought that. Somehow, something you probably would’ve said popped up into my mind.”
“This must mean we have telepathic communication!”
‘Wait, you mean we can speak to each other through our minds?’ I said without opening my mouth.
‘Precisely. I’ve heard this happening to very, very close people.’ We held a conversation while eating. Nobody heard us.
Not much was heard except gulping and slurping of food and the chatter of a select few mutants (such quiet folk. Or maybe they were too busy wolfing down food to even consider hosting a conversation). Then I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and heard a few faint voices from above...
“Oops, I think I put in the ingredients for the wrong spell for the gases!”
“You mean the gases that we let lurk, in places the mutants use most, which helps transmogrify them?”
“Yes, those gases.”
“Let me see... I think you put in the ingredients for the riddle spell.”
“You mean the one that makes you say whatever you’re asked... in riddle form? And also makes you know stuff you shouldn’t?”
“That’s the one.”
“SHUT UP, YOU BUFFOONS! The gases are probably starting to take effect on some mutants! Don’t forget to remind me to lower your ranks, you two! That spell is contagious, you know!” Somebody stuttered, and then continued talking. “You didn’t hear anything! And if somebody starts talking in rhyme, just walk away!” He shouted through the loud speaker pipes.
‘That solves our lack of a plan.’ Redd mind-spoke.
‘Tell me,’ I asked.
‘Eat faster, because we may need some time. We just wander around the cafeteria once we finish eating, listening in on conversations. If somebody says something in riddle, just find a way for me to talk to that person alone. I could get the location of HIS lair out of him or her. I know, Xarone said the spell is contagious. I’m sure the spell will wear off. If it doesn’t, well, there’s still telepathy. Look!’
“Excuse me sir, I’m new here, do you know where the restrooms are?” You could barely tell the mutant was a girl by the way she skipped.
“Perhaps your destination
Is in that direction?”
said a mutant Zafara janitor. The Kougra immediately sprinted off, having heard the order over the loudspeaker pipes. It wasn’t much of a riddle, but Redd grabbed my hand and pulled me over anyway.
“Quick, go to the janitor’s closet!”
We dashed to the other end of the room. Thankfully, some mutants were also hurrying around, so we didn’t look suspicious. Also thankfully, the janitor’s closet was unlocked. Nobody noticed us as we slipped in. Inside, there weren’t any illumination tiles. Then, the janitor stepped inside to get some sponges or something.
“Huh-” Before he could finish speaking and quick as a flash, I coiled around him. Redd closed the door behind the janitor and pulled a rope coming down from the ceiling, which turned on a light bulb.
“Is there a chance you know where exactly Lord Xarone resides and how to get there?” Redd questioned. The spell hadn’t had time to spread to him yet.
“You shall never get the answer from me,
Whatever would you like to see him for?
A loyal minion I be,
As far as janitors go.”
‘He’s resisting, I think it’s starting to affect me,’ Redd mind-spoke.
Redd stopped to think, then further questioned.
“Did you not hear the mages speak?
Spell’s power must make you tell
Spell’s power must make the secret leak,
Does the wizard’s spot not ring a bell?”
It was truly a showdown of words, the ever-so-loyal janitor versus the greatest mastermind I had ever known.
‘Mutants outside may be getting suspicious of the janitor not coming out, Vivily. I will try to mesmerize and calm him to help get the answer out faster, just keep holding on to him, Sister.’ Did Redd just call me sister? He started walking in circles around him.
“We must know, we must know,
Where and how do we get there?
Is it far, near, high, or low?
Please just tell us where?”
The janitor took a deep breath.
‘I think it's working! He can’t tell us the information head on, though. He still needs to speak in riddle.’ Redd took the lid off a canister of sweet-smelling cleaner. The janitor seemed to be getting calmer.
“Oh no, tell I am forbid,
In the dungeons I may lay,
For revealing where it’s hid,
I may toil and suffer day after day.
You cannot bribe the janitor,
He bows before our king.
He shan’t tell of the place of lore,
He would rather stay here and clean.”
He refused again.
‘Trust me, sister. Don’t loosen your grip.’ Why in the world is he calling me sister?
As usual, he paused to think before his next questioning.
“You can’t resist any longer!
Just tell, tell,
We know you know the location of the spell monger,
You may then return to giving things a wonderful smell.
Tell you may be forbid,
Worship the king you do,
But you shall be understood,
The spell could not be resisted by you.”
The janitor did something completely unexpected. He laughed.
“I was testing you,
Him I actually despise.”
At that bit he lowered his tone.
“You are brave and true.
I would love to play a part in his demise,
So here is a riddle for you.
Very, very far away from here
Is the lair of you-know-who,
Yet the entrance is very near.”
‘I don’t understand...’ Redd thought to me.
“Tell more, tell more,
You are not done yet, I do deplore!”
The janitor looked at the floor, then back at Redd. He took a deep breath before continuing.
“To get there you must not laze,
Nor must you daze,
You must conquer a magical maze,
Walk through a magical haze.”
Just then, the door slammed open. A hoard of mutants barged inside. Thankfully, the closet was very large.
“We thought you were taking too long, Mr.-Zafara-Janitor-guy!” called Visom from the crowd.
I hastily grabbed a mop and stabbed Visom with it. I then swung it at another group of mutants; however, I must have given Visom whiplash because he had stayed on the mop head until it stopped moving. So in other words, I’d basically thrown him at the cluster of mutants. Meanwhile, Redd had chucked at them the canister of cleaner that he had previously removed the lid from. They started coughing and wheezing, a few collapsed; some ran off; the ones with dulled senses from their transmogrification just looked around, confused. Either that or they just carried on with shooting lasers at us.
I gave a huge sweep with the mop (I know, bad pun) and some other mutants collapsed from the blow. I was feeling it. Rage. Nothing could stop me now. Nothing in the world could stop a raging Hissi.
I purposely knocked over a large can of cleaner beads. I batted my wings, screaming a war cry of random syllables all the while, throwing the beads at them like the wind. They made them hack and wheeze even more. I then felt claws gripping my back.
To be continued...