The Kids are Alright
Hunter was perched on the edge of Bart’s couch staring at the blank television screen. Hunter sat cross-legged on the couch catacorner, with a flute across his lap, looking at Hunter. Billy cast a curious frown at them both as he sipped from his bong and readied a stopwatch. He blew a dense cloud at Hunter’s head. Hunter waved a hole through the smoke as it froze around his head.
“Alright, stop trying to distract me,” Hunter rubbed his hands against his face and clapped them against his cheeks a few times. He threw his hands to his sides and balled his fists, “Okay. Hit me.”
Ian raised his flute to his lips and wove a meandering improvisation. Hunter’s face clenched. His eyelids clamped as he bit down hard on his bottom lip. He let out a long, low grunt. Then is face became expressionless and his eyes drifted over toward Ian. He gazed on Ian, his eyes relaying an empty head. Ian lowered his flute and smirked at Hunter shaking his head. Billy giggled had extracted prodigious wads of cotton from his ears.
“You got him again,” Billy chuckled.
“He held out a bit longer this time,” Ian said.
“23 seconds. Three seconds better than his record.”
Ian regarded Hunter’s dead eyed stare upon him. He reached out with his flute and gave his cheek a nudge, turning his head away, “That can become unsettling.”
“My turn,” Billy cheered.
“Let’s see if you can beat 13, big man,” Ian raised his flute and began to blow.
Billy fists shook under his chin as his face compressed to a small point around his nose.
“Oh my god, Roland, would you tune that thing or something,” Cheryl said from the open front door.
Ian stopped playing a turned around to see Cheryl looking tortured and Sophie looking sedated. Cheryl snapped her fingers in Sophie’s face.
“When did we…” Sophie blinked and rubbed her eyes.
“Just now,” Cheryl replied, “Listen up, we have another small problem...” she noticed Hunter staring at a blank television, drooling. She sighed and gestured to him, “Could you?”
Ian smacked Hunter on the brow with his flute, knocking his glasses off.
“You son of a motherless goat, I’ll…” he groped at his hip and rolled off the couch. He reemerged reseating his glasses on his face, “Band meeting?”
“Band meeting,” Cheryl said, “Sophie was just accosted on the street by some comicon refugee calling himself Van Helsing.”
“Our list of challengers grows,” Ian said.
“Sophie has a nemesis,” Billy wiggled in his papasan, “That’s so romantic.”
“I already have one,” she replied, “You can have him.”
“Except this one isn’t getting paid to do it,” Cheryl said, “His cribbed-whole-cloth-from-4chan worldview has him feeling a little personal about it. He’s kind of a goober, so I don’t anticipate too much trouble from him specifically. Just a heads up.”
“We don’t really need a wildcard right now,” Hunter said.
“Agreed,” Ian said, “Perhaps we should deal with him sooner rather than later.”
“Sounds like a great idea,” Sophie said.
“Great,” said Cheryl, “Sounds like you guys found a project to do together.”
“Us guys? What are you going to do?” Sophie asked.
“Check on Carl. He’s been incommunicado for the last two days.”
“We could use a little zappy zappy,” Hunter said.
“I believe in you,” Cheryl smirked and put her hand on Hunter’s shoulder. An arc of electricity leapt between them, knocking him to the floor.
“Dammit,” Cheryl shuddered.
“I can’t feel my arms,” Hunter shouted, flailing his arms and legs, “I’m crippled.”
She crouched down beside him, “You’re not crippled, asshole. Get up,” she took his hand and smaller spark jumped between them, “Shit,” she fell back on her rear.
Hunter grabbed his sword and pointed it at her, “Back, foul witch.”
She slapped the blade away and electricity reached from her hand and wrapped itself around the blade. The sword began to shake in Hunter’s hand. He yanked it away and wobbled in an effort to hold it still. He pointed it toward an outlet and the crawling arcs shot into it. The lights flickered and died. The sound of several descending hums came from the neighborhood outside. The ambient sound of electrical machines gave way to the sounds of birds and cars. An explosion followed, then the sound of car horns and collisions. Then came the shouts and screams.
“You blew a transformer,” Billy snickered.
“Okay, Cher?” Sophie said, “You’re not fine and even if you were the rest of us won’t be for long.”
“I’m just experiencing a little discharge,” she said getting up off the floor.
“Not funny. This could be serious.”
Cheryl reached out to Sophie and she jumped back. Their hands made contact, but nothing happened.
“I must be empty,” she said, tapping Sophie’s hand, “See, I’m fine.”
“You’re eyes don’t look fine,” Sophie said.
“That’s how she looked earlier,” Ian said.
“Like a goddamn Nosferatu,” Hunter said.
“Twice it’s happened,” Sophie said, “Do you even know why?”
“Maybe it’s you people always stressing me out,” Cheryl replied, “I’m going to see if Carl is okay, if nobody minds.”
Cheryl made for the door and Sophie grabbed her hand, “And I want to know you’re okay.”
Cheryl held their clasped hands up, “See. Fine.”
“I’ll see you later.”
Carl awoke and saw the floor of his garage. The floor wasn’t were he usually kept it. It was in the ceiling now, high over his head. He became aware of an intense pressure in his head and eyes and found it difficult to breathe. He looked down at himself and realized he was looking up at himself. The floor was exactly where he had left it, on the floor. He was bound in chains and hanging upside down from his engine hoist. The small Japanese girl stood, pigeon toed in front of him, laughing. She began a silly dance, swinging her hands back and forth. The gentle swinging Carl experienced to this point became more violent as Ichiko danced.
“What do you want, you little weirdo,” Carl said.
Ichiko stomped her foot, held her arms stiff at her sides and let out a disapproving grunt. Carl swinging came to abrupt halt, aggravating the pressure in his head. He released a nauseated groan.
“Look, can we skip to the part where you kill me?” Carl moaned.
Ichiko shook her head and giggled. She perused Carl’s workbenches like she was browsing a candy store. She picked up a screwdriver and regarded it for a moment, before shaking her head and placing it back down with ginger fingers. She picked up a lug wrench and examined it. She slammed the workbench with it. Her face showed great consideration, before she shook her head and returned the tool to its place on the bench. Out of corner of her eye she found her prize. She dragged Carl’s arc welding rig closer to him. To him, it seemed like an eternity as he watched her struggle and fight to move the apparatus twenty feet.
“Where’d all your strength go?”
Carl sighed and she flipped on the welder.
“Oh for fuck’s sake, Carl,” Cheryl said from the garage door, “How old is she?”
“Jeezus, Cher,” Carl said, “Get me out of this.”
“So, I’m not interrupting a private moment?”
“C’mon, Cher, I’m not screwing around here.”
Cheryl approached Ichiko who beamed a gleeful smile at her, holding the lit welder.
“Did this little thing hand your ass to you?” Cheryl said.
“Whatever you do, don’t hit her,” Carl said.
“I’m not going to hit a child.”
「ブロンドの女性は離れるべきです,」 Ichiko said and poked the welder toward Cheryl.
“Did this little harajuku shit just threaten me?”
Ichiko giggled and nodded.
“Go ahead, Ayu.”
Ichiko jabbed Cheryl in the gut with the arc welder, laughing. Cheryl smirked back. She threw open her hand and electrical currents raced around them. Ichiko’s ecstatic expression collapsed into unpleasant surprise. Cheryl zapped her and she flew back, slamming into the wall. When Ichiko made contact with the wall she bounced off and sailed back to Cheryl delivering a flying punch to her jaw.
“Son of a…” Cheryl twisted around and held her jaw, “How did this little ankle biter hit me so hard?”
“She uses kinetic energy somehow,” Carl said, “Best I can figure.”
“This isn’t kinetic,” Cheryl resumed zapping her.
“It could still cause her cells to bounce around. That could build up her kinetic charge.”
“Let’s hope it hurts too much to do anything about it.”
Ichiko was frozen by the electricity coursing through her. She winced and screamed.
She dropped to her knees and punched at the floor creating cracks and craters. The flopped toward the garage door and lurched free of Cheryl’s rays, crawling away toward the pine forest that surrounded Carl’s house.
“So, you found your counterpart?” Cheryl said, as she helped Carl from the chains.
“She found me. Do we go after her?”
“No. Maybe we scared her enough to change her mind. You should come back to Bart’s with me.”
“Why are your eyes all black?”
“It’s something that happens now. They’ll go back.”
“How long have they been like this?” Sophie asked, studying Cheryl’s eyes.
“Since I had to fight off J-pop in Carl’s garage.”
“It’s been a few hours now.”
“They’ll go back to normal. They always do.”
“You don’t have a large enough data set to start throwing around ‘always’,” Ian said.
“Is everybody a doctor now? Why don’t you ask me about my jaw?”
“Who is this kid?” Sophie asked
“Looks like she’s Carl’s ‘Mirror Mirror” counterpart. Packs a lot for a skinny, little thing.”
“Do you have an archenemy yet?”
“Not so far.”
“Neither do I,” Hunter chimed.
“And I’ve got two, what the heck is that crap,” Sophie said.
“I’m jelly,” Cheryl smiled, holding an ice pack to her chin.
“Psamurai,” a voice bellowed from the street downstairs, “Come out. Our beef isn’t finished.”
“Ha,” Sophie yelled, “About time.”
“There’s a teenaged boy outside,” Ian said, pulling back a curtain.
“Ha ha. Carl and Hunter’s nemeses are kids. At least mine are an alien and somewhat of an adult.”
“Psaaaaamuuuuuuraiiiiiii,” the voice called.
“You gonna get that?” Cheryl looked at Hunter.
“Yeah, I can’t to find out who it is,” Sophie laughed.
“I know who it is,” Hunter said. Hunter raised his blade, “Did I ever tell you guys about Dethmetl?”
“Dethmetl. No a’s.”