Sour Sweet's eyes opened.
<Rise and Shine!>
She rose out of bed. As Sour passed her bedroom mirror, she gave her reflection a smile. Her reflection didn't smile back.
<Such a disgusting body>
Sour realized she was naked. Her robe was hastily picked up and put on to hide her "shameful" form. She opened the door. The hallway walls were melting with puddles of wallpaper amassing on the floor.
<The puddles will kill you>
Sour began hopping and dodging so her feet would avoid the wallpaper. She let out a sigh of relief when she cleared the hallway and went downstairs. She began to open all the curtains to allow the morning sun in to brighten up her happy home.
<Statistics say that over 150,000 people in the world will die today>
Sour headed into the kitchen. There was breakfast to make. She placed a skillet onto the stove. Out of the refrigerator, she retrieved the eggs. She opened the carton and was about to pick up an egg.
<No, no. Not that one.>
Sour promptly chose another egg.
The smell of cooking wafted upstairs and under Bitter's bed. Her empty stomach jolted her awake. The toddler crawled out. Bitter stretched and wiped away the dust bunnies, her languid mind momentarily forgetting the reason she was even under there in the first place. Remembrance quickly hit her, though.
She rushed downstairs to the kitchen. Her mother appeared completely normal at first glance. Bitter went over and took her seat at the table. Sour placed a plate of scrambled eggs in the center. Bitter looked up to meet the intense gaze of her mother.
"Are we worthy?" Sour asked.
Bitter blinked. "Uh... yes?"
Sour slid the plate over to her after a moment of hesitation. Bitter frowned. Nothing had changed. As Bitter ate her breakfast, Sour sat across from her, completely silent.
"What do you want to do today, sweetie?" Sour finally asked.
Bitter's eyes widened with the memories of yesterday flashing before them. The laughter at others' misfortune, the road rage, the screaming...
She nervously gulped down a bite of egg, before answering, "Watch TV."
Sour and Bitter sat on the living room couch. Sour picked up the remote, switching the TV on. She then began furiously flipping through the channels. Bitter glanced over at her mother, wondering if she was even trying to find something to watch. Finally, she stopped on a certain news channel reporting on a certain recent natural disaster.
Sour scoffed loudly and obnoxiously. "What a bunch of PONY PUCKEY! There is no flooding. All that water the FAKE NEWS is showing is CGI courtesy of their HELLYwood elite buddies! All apart of the NWO's plan to bring a God-fearing red state to its KNEES!" She turned to her daughter and asked with a warm smile, "Don't you agree, Bitter?"
Wide-eyed, Bitter simply put on a fake smile and nodded. When her mother looked away, she sighed.
I wonder if daddy is having more fun than us? she thought.
Second Person straightened up his tie in the mirror.
This is it, he mentally pumped himself up. Time to take the literary world by storm.
He grabbed a copy of his novel, Chocolate Eyes and tucked it under his right arm. He marched towards his hotel room door. He placed his hand on the handle, then stopped. His head shot down in shame.
"Really, dork?" Second sighed to himself. "You were seriously about to go out carrying around your own book?"
Yes, Second's social awkwardness had never fully gone away in all these years. He turned and tossed the novel onto his bed. He was about to leave once more before he suddenly let out a frustrated groan. He quickly went to his suitcase. Out he pulled a pair of reading glasses.
"Okay, one dorky move and that's it," he muttered while putting them on.
With that, he finally left his room.
Second kicked off his career at the Canterlot Gazette, starting out as a coffee-getting intern before being assigned the fluff pieces. Following his passion, he decided to take it up a notch with fiction. Novels about life's ups and downs, childhood, adulthood, parenthood, those kind of deep, philosophical topics. Okay, one novel featured space aliens. But only one. Chocolate Eyes was his fourth so far.
He wasn't a household name. He had no calls from Hollywood moguls wanting to butcher his vision and slap a cash grab up onto the big screen. What he did have were a decent amount of positive reviews on Amazon, a few 'thank you for this' e-mails by readers who found themselves touched in one way or another by his work, and not to mention a couple of uproarious podcast interviews.
Of course, his career may just be about to get a significant boost.
He arrived onto the floor of the Vanhoover ProseCon to be greeted by the sight of busy show booths and autograph areas. Tonight would be the ceremony for The Perdita Finn Award. Awards of any kind always sound impressive. Especially when there was a chance that a Goliath such as Anon could be defeated.
Their "rivalry" all started when Second first broke into publishing. Anon had been on a convention panel when the topic of that year's debut novels came up. Being the prick that he was, Anon brought up Second Person by name and mocked his work, stating that it was the worst debut he had ever come across. Not only was this in front of a large audience, but the video was up online still to the present day. The internet never forgets, and neither did Second by golly! From that day forward, it was "on like Donkey Kong" as Second told Sour before she chastised him for using such a dumb expression. Second and Anon had been trading insults ever since.
Speak of the devil...
Heading his way was Anon, who was strolling along and laughing with his posse of groupies. Society at large wouldn't buy such a thing was possible. Most authors would even deny such a phenomenon happened. Second, though, was observant enough to know better. If an author had at least semi-good looks, the bestsellers (i.e. money), and enough audacity, they could get laid from writing books.
"Anon, tell us about the magic system from Fogbirthed again, please," one of the women gushed.
Anon chuckled pompously. "Love to. It all started one thousand years ago in the world of –" He cut himself off as he saw who was in front of them. "Well, well, well. Second Person."
Trying to play it cool, Second simply nodded. "Anon."
"I understand that your new book is up against mine for the award tonight. Congratulations." Anon pursed his lips and brought his knuckles up to his chin, feigning deep thought. "But I just never knew that the judging committee regards substandard plots driven by Gary Stu-ish self-inserts so highly."
"'Self-inserts'?" Second repeated, his blood pressure already surging. So much for playing it cool. "I do not write myself into my books, Anon."
Anon crossed his arms. "Really now? Let's take your latest protagonist for example, shall we? He's Japanese American, very socially awkward, a liberal embarrassed by his far right parents, has a femdom fetish, marries his high school sweetheart who happens to struggle with mental issues..." He smirked while pointing. "... and often wears reading glasses in public because he thinks they will make himself look smarter."
Second blushed deeply as the groupies all burst out in laughter.
I really need to stop being so honest about myself during podcasts, he sighed mentally.
"Well, nice running into you, Second, but I really must go now. I have a book signing to get to. The line must be growing very long and very rowdy with impatience. You know how that is." Anon snickered. "Oh, wait. You wouldn't. Ta-ta!"
Anon led his groupies away, a few of them continuing to giggle and even encircling their fingers around their eyes to mock Second as they passed.
Second let out a defeated sigh as he took off the glasses.
"I wonder if Sour and Bitter are having more fun than me?" he wondered aloud.
"RATS, RATS, RATS, RATS, RATS, RATS, RRRRAAAAATTTTTTSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!"
Bitter ran up to the top of the stairs. From a safe distance, she watched as her hysterical mother began trashing the living room. Sour stomped and threw things in an attempt to kill the nonexistent rodents running all over the floor.
Bitter sighed. "So much for just watching TV."
Unbeknownst to Sour and Bitter, at that moment three shifty individuals had stopped outside and looked upon their home with great intention. One was a bright-eyed eighteen-year-old boy holding up a defective vacuum cleaner. He was fresh from high school and eager to begin his first day at being a door-to-door salesman. Hovering over him were two old-school "pros" at the sales game.
"Boy, oh, boy, Sham, my boy!" Flim announced exuberantly.
"This is it, nephew!" Flam said. "Your first bell ring!" He slapped Sham's back. "Ready to seal the deal?"
"Bat a thousand?" Flim added with his own back slap.
"Bleed a blue hair?" Flam added with another.
"Hook 'em and clean 'em good?" Flim added with yet another.
"I sure am, Papa Flim, Uncle Flam!" Sham beamed.
"Now go show the world why the Skim Family is best in breed!" Flim cheered, giving him one final slap to go on.
With a hop and a skip and a sore back, Sham went right up to the front door. He straightened his bow tie and rung the bell. Inside, Sour halted her assault against the rodent menace at the sound. She hesitantly inched over to the door and peeked through the peephole. She couldn't see an up-and-coming con artist holding up a vacuum cleaner. All she could see was a giant, snarling, disease-ridden rat holding up a vacuum cleaner.
Sham was about to ring a second time when he heard the sound of a window opening. He turned his head to see Sour Sweet popping into view.
"BEGONE FOUL PLAGUE OF THE EARTH!!!!!!" she screeched as she began to pelt Sham with wrapped cheese slices straight from the fridge.
Caught off guard, Sham took off running, dropping the vacuum on the lawn in the process. He joined back up with his mentors who were taking off as well.
"Sure, sometimes you encounter hostile territory, but that's what danger pay's for!" Flim assured through his panting.
"Why would salesmen get that kind of reaction?" Sham naively asked. "Don't they know we have a license to do this?"
"Heh, license," Flam chuckled. "That's a good one."
As Sour threw out the very last cheese slice, Bitter ran down the stairs and up to the window.
"Wait, come back!" Bitter called out to the escaping salesmen. "My mama needs help!"
They never looked back. Bitter sighed as she turned around.
Then, she saw it. Sour's cellphone on the floor, being one of the objects Sour threw at the rats. Bitter's eyes lit up. Of course! She had seen it being used before. She was sure that she could remember the right buttons to push and if she couldn't, she would be able wing it. She could call her daddy, Grandmama Person, Grandmama Sweet, Gretchen's mama, either one of her Aunties Sunny, Sugarcoat, Indigo, or Lemon, somebody! Anybody who could help!
Bitter rushed over and picked up the phone. She was just about to begin tapping at it before her mother's hand suddenly snatched it away.
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!?!?!" Sour yelled.
Bitter then witnessed Sour taking the phone, tossing it out the window, and then slamming it shut.
Sour whirled back around. "DON'T YOU KNOW THAT NICOLAE CARPATHIA DIED FOR YOUR SINS?!?!?!?!?!?!"
Once again, screams from the mother produced tears from the daughter. Sour stood there as she watched Bitter run away from her. Slowly, she then walked over to a wall, leaned her back against it, and slid all the way down to the floor.
"You're scaring your daughter," Sour muttered to herself.
She hauled back and gave her right cheek a hard, stinging slap.
Bitter had spent a couple hours once again hiding under her bed before she got fed up with it. She was not going to have a repeat of yesterday, she had decided. Crawling out, she went to her window. She wondered if she could leave the house for help. The old man next door was nice.
A shiver went up Bitter's spine as a thought came to her. What would her mother do if she tried that? She saw how she reacted when she was about to use the cellphone. If she went to leave the house and was caught... would her mother punish her?
A rumble in her tummy interrupted her fears. She turned to face her door. If her mother couldn't be relied on for food, then she would just have to get some herself. Bitter walked out.
She saw her mother in the living room. She appeared catatonic. Bitter tiptoed around her.
Bitter glanced around the kitchen. A cooked meal was out of the question, so she tried to think what she could whip up. She knew there were jars of peanut butter and grape jelly in the refrigerator along with some bread on the counter.
She went over to the dinner table, picked out a chair, and pushed it to the fridge door. She climbed up to open and retrieve the jars. She did the same with the silverware drawer to retrieve a table knife. Finally, she pushed it to the counter where the bread was.
To say Bitter's peanut butter and jelly sandwich was sloppy would be an understatement, but she did succeed in self-sufficiency. Before this, she had only watched adults prepare them. Speaking of which, she remembered her mother. Surely she would be hungry, too. A second sandwich was made.
Sour was still sitting on the floor, blankly staring off into space. Bitter climbed down and hesitantly went up to her, wary of getting screamed at once more.
Sour didn't move.
Bitter held out one of the sandwiches. "Want something to eat? I made it myself."
Sour's eyes lazily shifted over to her. Her brow began to furrow as if anger was slowly building up.
"They're not poison, I promise," Bitter quickly assured. She took a bite. "See? Mmm."
"Is the grape jelly grape?" Sour hissed.
"Umm... no?" Bitter took a shot in the dark. "The grape jelly is pineapple."
Apparently that was the answer Sour was looking for. She eased up and held her hand out. Bitter gave her the sandwich. Sour bit into it and began chewing at a snail's pace.
Bitter sighed with relief. She then sat down beside her mother so they could enjoy their dinner together.
When she finished her last bite, Bitter let out a satisfied, "Mmm." She turned to her mother. "Do you want me to make another for you?"
"Don't be like me," Sour suddenly whispered.
"Don't be like me when you grow up, Bitter."
Bitter gave her a small smile. "But mama, I want to be just like you."
"Never say that." Sour shook her head. "You don't want this. Be like your daddy and be a charming nerd." She chuckled a bit.
Realizing her mother was being coherent, Bitter asked, "Mama, are you feeling better?"
"Yes. No." She buried her face into her hands and let out a muffled, "I don't know."
"You need pills."
"I need sleep. What time is it?" She looked up at a clock. "Eight. You need sleep, Bitter."
Bitter pouted. "But I wanna stay up with you. Make sure that you're okay."
Sour wiped a tear from her eye and smiled. "I'll be fine, sweetie. I promise."
Sour got up, scooping the little one up into her arms. She carried Bitter to her room and tucked her into bed. She read her daughter a story until her eyes began to close. Just like any normal night.
"Now get some sleep," Sour spoke quietly as she stroked Bitter's head. "I've got to go check in on little Tarty now."
Bitter's eyes instantly opened back up. "Wait, little who?"
"Tarty Hito," Sour said matter-of-factly as she walked to the door. "Your baby brother."
"But I don't have a baby brother."
Sour giggled as she clicked off the light. "Of course you do, silly. Only he's not going to be like you where I hallucinate him once and then years later I actually do give birth to him. Nico-Stone's a sucky writer, but he's not that much of a hack to try pulling the exact same shit twice." She waved. "Okay, good night, Bitter."
Sour closed the door, leaving her wide-eyed daughter in total darkness.
Second Person took his seat in the packed auditorium. All around him authors, literary critics, and other assorted guests were buzzing with excitement, waiting for the award ceremony to begin. A couple rows in front of Second, he could see Anon with each arm around a groupie. As if feeling Second's gaze on the back of his bald, green head, he turned to shoot back a smirk.
"Hope you win," Anon sarcastically said.
Second tried to breath out his anger. He had to focus. His thank you speech was being mentally rehearsed with the notes on standby in his pocket.
Of course, he was prepared to lose once again as well. In his right hand, he clutched his cellphone. In the event that he won, he would immediately call home. Sour would be informed of the awesome news, there would be the promise of celebratory nookie upon his return, and all will be well. In the event that he lost, he would still immediately call home. Sour would be informed of the disappointing news, there would be the promise of consolatory nookie upon his return, and next year will be looked forward to.
Music began to play and the host of the event took the stage.
"And the winner of this year's Perdita Finn Award is..."
A cellphone vibrated and rang out into the night unanswered. It's only company was a defective vacuum cleaner and bunch of cheese slices scattered out along the front lawn.
Inside, Sour Sweet was on the living room floor. She was naked, her clothes having been tossed away in random directions. She was staring up at the ceiling, watching numbers fly around, the bigger ones catching and eating the smaller ones. Screams of bloody agony filled her ears.
"I'm broken," she uttered. "I need to be thrown away..."