Chapter 2: You don't feel weird?
The night passed gaily, with nary a drop of rain, but when the inhabitants of Berquist’s house awoke, they were afrighted by a loud, ponderous crack of lightning. Berquist opened his eyes. His lobster claws rested beneath his lobster head, whose antenna-eyes stared straight at the ceiling. The lightning cracked ponderously again, as if it were thinking some very deep, very super serious thoughts. “Hmmmmmmmthwack!” went the lightning again. He could almost hear the thunder put its pointer finger and thumb under its chin. He had yet to hear the thrumming of rain on his tin roof, which bummed him out a little. Rain on his roof was loud and kinda scary, but it was great at giving him something to focus on other than his own thoughts. And it pulled the dang humidity out of the air. He sighed and waited for the rain. After ten minutes, the rain did not come. He rolled on to his side.
“Where did ya’ll go?” he said, to the near-dark of the dawn. “Hey, Sub-Guides, where in heck are you?”
He heard a whimper.
“Sub-Guides! Where did ye go?”
He followed another whimper that seemed to be coming from the bathroom.
The door was open and he saw no one. Another whimper issued from the bathtub behind the curtain, and when Berquist pushed the curtain aside, he let out an “Awwwww” sound that you’d make if you saw a cute puppy dog cowering in fear in a bathtub during a thunderstorm.
The Sub-Guides had morphed into a single puppy dog who shook with fear each time the lightning cracked ponderously. After much cooing and coaxing, Berquist was able to lure the Sub-Guides downstairs to the breakfast nook.
The Sub-Guides ate raisin brain and Berquist opted for a boiled sandwich with heaping helpings of bacon, and they ate without speaking for a time. The thunder and lightning increased to the point where it was difficult to maintain a conversation. Every time the air snapped-crackle-popped, the Sub-Guides flinched, and Berquist occasionally had to coax them from out beneath the kitchen table. He took a bit of boiled bacon sandwich, and said, “Why are you so afeared of lightning? Ain’t gonna get us in here. I got a lightning rod that’ll protect us.” Berquist then tried to remember how lightning rods work, and if they do, in fact, work.
“It is very ponderous lightning,” said the Sub-Guides, who had morphed into a pack of German Shepherds, tough-looking but still cowering under the table. “I remember last time when the Big Reset happened that it was preceded by big, ponderous lightning. I asked the Many Cosmic Guides about this, and they said that it meant that Things were starting to Crack. I think that we’re running out of “time”.”
“Things are starting to crack?”
“I don’t understand.”
“You said that things were starting to crack. What does that mean?”
The Sub-Guides all rolled on their backs to show their bellies. “Things”, they barked, “Y’know. Everything. All Universes and Times and Spaces and Pocket Eternities and Nooks and Crannies and Entities and Grathersmites and Tesseracts and All Pieces of Chewing Gum and all Manifestations, etc,” it said, flopping to their many sides, and then suddenly as one cat-shape. “All Things are cracking, which means that they are going to break, which means that they’ll Bounce Back and Reflect off of the Other Things (from a separate “Somewhere” from the “Things” that we’re talking about), resulting in the Mirroring, and then a Chargeback, which will trigger the Followup by the Manifestations, causing The Appeals Process, leading to the Kill Screen (a nasty bit of business), making way for Mark Gormley to make an appearance, then Ten Events Will Happen, allowing Other Events, Ominous Stuff, then the Big Reset.”
“Sounds like we don’t want that to happen?”
“Yeah, we don’t want that to happen.”
Berquist leaned back in the chair, tapping a claw on his dome.
“Alright, let’s do something about it.”
The Sub-Guides snapped into a crowd of seven, child-sized figures. “Let’s do it!”
They jumped in the air for joy, clapping their hands and shouting “teeheehee”.
Berquist placed the dirty dishes in the sink, looking out the window. Streaks of lightning filled the sky every 5 seconds or so, and they seemed to have increased. They were quick, and he thought that he saw punctuation out there in the sky: the lightning would flash quickly upward in and arc in the middle almost like a sickle, or a question mark. He even saw a dot at the bottom. Another flash showed a relatively straight line and another dot. An exclamation mark. Then three dots like an ellipsis.
“Say, why are you acting so funny now? And what’s with the lightning?”
The Sub-Guides stopped. They frowned, separately. “It appears that we’re regressing and losing a bit of our maturity as the Big Reset nears. We’ll do our best to refrain from silly business.”
“And the lightning?”
“That is the system realizing that there’s something wrong. It’s like a Blue Screen of Death.”
Three exclamation points in a row. Berquist squinted: he thought he saw three giants birds in the far distance. He put his eyes against the glass, which was uncomfortable, and he could definitely make out the shapes of three enormous birds coming from very far away. They appeared to be vultures, and they were headed directly toward the house. It was hard to tell just how distant they were, because they were so large, but they grew so quickly in his perspective that they had to be traveling mighty fast.
“Vultures,” he said.
The Sub-Guides yelped. They gestured to Berquist to duck, and he did.
“Do you have a cellar, or somewhere below ground where we can hide away from those creatures?”
“Yeah, follow me.”
Berquist rushed to the back of the kitchen, placed his claw on the doorknob that conceivably led to the basement, and stopped. The lobster man turned and ran upstairs to his bedroom franctically. The Sub-Guides stood stock still, four of them following Berquist around the corner and up the stairs. One of them tripped on the runner carpet. Three more from the kitchen ran to the rescue and helped it stand up. All seven of them arrived at the top of the stairs next to the lintel of Berquist’s bedroom. The lobster man was sitting his desk with his back to them. He had booted up the laptop.
“What are you doing? The Carrion of Consciousness are almost here! They’re going to eat us.”
“Hey hold on now. This is important, feller.”
“What could be so important that it runs the risk of all Sentience in the Universe? They’ll eat our minds.”
“Hold on. I gotta make sure it’s synced up,” said Berquist without looking up.
One of the Sub-Guides ran into the room and tugged at Berquist’s arm. It looked over his shoulder.
“Are you seriously syncing your iPod right now?”
Berquist looked up angrily.
“It’s an iPod classic. 160 gigs. They don’t make them anymore, and you gotta buy a iPhone or somesuch if you want to listen to music. I need my Sia.”
“Oh you’ve got Sia? Do you have Elastic Heart on there?”
“Of course I do, dummy.”
“Ok, carry on. I’ll see how far away the Carrion are.”
The 12 Sub-Guides scampered down the stairs, all of them rats. They put it into their minds to ask Berquist why there was a doggy door leading out of the kitchen if Berquist didn’t have a dog, but there wasn’t time for that now. They had to do some reconnaissance. Maybe the Carrion just happened to be here on this planet at this time, not related to the Big Reset that was soon to happen.
“Don’t forget to bring the laptop!” they shouted upstairs. “It could come in handy. And bring the charger!” A horrifying screech filled the air as two large claws the size of tree trunks came into view of Berquist’s window. It appeared that one of the big birds was perched on the apex of the roof, and its claws hung down. The roof sighed and bent under the weight and it was obvious that it would not last long. Another horrifying screech as Berquist pulled the laptop into his bag and raced down the stairs. He had also brought the iPod, so don’t fret over that particular detail. And his shotgun, in case he needed to do some gun-shootin’ later on.
He leapt down the stairs as the second floor flattened to a pancake, in a pretty cool way, considering how dangerous it was. The first floor didn’t stand a chance either, so Berquist rushed to the kitchen, where the Sub-Guides had changed to a single, adult human-like form. “He” held the door to the cellar and gestured downward toward the depths. The walls creaked and groaned under the weight of the cosmically large bird. “I hate the cellar!” shouted Berquist as he rushed through the door, tumbling into the Sub-Guide down the wooden steps. In that same moment, the first floor succumbed to the same fate as the second: it crunched down into the ground in a nice flat square, pressing the door and the wreckage into the place where the door had been. Like a lot of violent, it would have been pretty neat if it hadn’t been so horribe.
Berquist coughed in the darkness. “Hey, are you able to turn up your lights? I can’t see a darned thing,” he said. The Sub-Guide put their thumb in their mouth and blew into it, which gave life to the pinpricks of light that covered their entire body. Berquist and the Sub-Guides looked down into the gloom below.
They were stuck in the cellar.