• Published 18th Nov 2016
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The Truth Behind My Little Pony - Opium4TmassS



The places we will take you. The sights we will show you.

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Chapter 2

Josh sat quietly in the booth at The Bluebird, a twenty four hour diner that was a great place to eat after the bars closed. When sober though it lacked in many areas. The place wasn’t dirty so much as it was old and tired. At two in the morning Josh understood tiredness all too well.

If it wasn’t for that phone call an hour ago Josh wouldn’t be there at all. However, when he’d gotten that phone call from Mel he couldn’t say no. If there was one person in the world Josh would drop anything for it was her.

Melanie Ross. There were plenty of nights Josh went to bed thinking of her. Some mornings as well for that matter, typically in the shower. They’d met in college and dated for about a year. Her long blonde hair, bright blue eyes and lithe form were more than enough to keep a dopey smile plastered to his face. She was like the summer sun and smelled of its flowers.

Josh never understood why she dumped him junior year. From what he could remember they’d always gotten along. Even after the break up they’d periodically get together for pizza at the campus cafeteria and touch base. It was a routine that became less frequent over time until eventually they quit speaking at all.

Slowly a grim smile crossed his face and he closed his eyes. Josh wondered how long he would carry that torch for Mel. As he sat in the small booth with his eyes shut as the pungent odor of cigarette smoke and old ham started to crawled up his nose. Josh coughed and opened his eyes only to see a gaunt, pale woman sitting across from him.

He was about to ask if he could help her when he gazed into those same bright blue eyes that he remembered from college. Everything else about her had changed. Her face was now pock marked; her teeth had started to rot away, her once blonde hair was now frizzy and an unnatural shade of black. Yet, those eyes told him who she was. “Mel,” he said questioningly even though he knew the answer.

“Long time no see Josh,” she said, her face twisting into a grotesque smile, “Well short of a byline here or there.”

“Yeah,” said Josh regretting that he’d shown up, “If there’s a story about the up-tick in sales for electric fans in July I’m the guy they have write it.”

“Well I have a story for you,” she said reaching under her long tattered coat, “A big one. You watch cartoons right?”

Josh leaned back as she pulled out a small brown book and laid it on the table. Mel tapped it multiple times and slid it over to him, “This right here. This is the story of the century. In here is how a failed cartoon show is going to destroy the world.”

Josh stared at her and did his best to twist his face into a smile of interest. “Oh yeah,” he said his voice cracked as he said it much to Mel’s displeasure.

“I know it doesn’t make sense,” she said her eyes narrowing, “But this is the truth. I’ve been documenting all of it for the past three years.”

“Well, gee Mel….”

“Don’t start that,” she grunted curtly, “I got enough of that from the councilors. Just read.”

Josh sighed and cracked open the book and began to flip through its pages. Aside from various notes she’d written down there were news articles in which children and sometimes entire families had disappeared. Occasionally photos of the apartment were provided showing the potential crime scene and the toys the children had at the time of their disappearance. It wasn’t until he saw a picture of someone he recognized that he gave more than a polite scan. “Is that Travis,” Josh asked looking up at Mel.

Mel shakily rubbed her nose and nodded, “Yeah that’s right.”

He looked at the date of the article and his eyes widened, “This … this was around the time you dumped me. Is this why…”

Mel sighed, “It wasn’t just this. Mostly this though. He used to live at Patrick Air Force Base. You knew that right?”

Josh nodded. Mel looked down with forlorn as she spoke, “I was on the phone with him that night. We were just chatting about this and that. He invited me down for Thanksgiving, said mom and dad would be there too and it would be nice for Tiffany to see her brainy aunt. He always thought the best of me.”

“Well he should.”

Mel bit her lower lip as she briefly considered what he’d said and shook her head, “No. Not really. If I were so damn good maybe it wouldn’t have come down to this. Anyway when I got there the place was a mess. There was blood everywhere.”

“Mel…”

“Some nights I can still hear the screams over the phone. I remember the sound of glass and… other things. I can’t remember the drive or when I called the cops but those sounds, but the blood….”

“You don’t have to talk about it…”

Mel sighed and looked Josh square in the eyes, “And when the cops came to investigate there wasn’t a drop there.”

Josh blinked, “What do you mean?”

“What I mean,” said Mel pointedly, her frustration with the question slowly rising to the surface, “Is that when I walked in there it was practically a slaughter house. But when the police walked in it was as if my brother and his family had just stepped out. No blood. No carnage of any sort. It was like someone hit a big reset button. The only difference was some weird toy on Tiffany’s bed that I’m telling you she never owned. It was some sort of weird looking horse thing. It’s the same sort of horse thing that pops up in those photos of the other disappearances.”

“It’s a toy kids have them,” replied Josh, “Not that I’d know but, if a bunch of kids have the same toy that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a connection.“

Mel sighed softly and looked out the window as she began to recite the names places and dates of each disappearance down to the final detail. With each new name her unblinking gaze slowly shifted from the window to meet Josh’s, never faltering or wavering. Her voice was dispassionately robotic as if she were running through a shopping list. When she finished with every name she tilted her head, “Are you saying there isn’t a link to all of those names?”

“If-if it were like Pokémon would you say that was a link?”

“The block… an entire block disappeared in St. Petersburg but those toys were there? No link?”

Josh shrugged, “It’s Russia. It could be made up. Hell, they disappeared entire villages under Stalin. You think they couldn’t make one block in a city disappear?”

“Josh, you’re being stupid.”

Josh slowly began to stand from the table in response to what she’d said. Clearly Mel had gone off the deep end thought Josh. “Well, it’s been fun,” he said as he began to walk toward the door.

“Wait,” replied Mel as she grabbed his wrist.

Josh tried to jerk his arm away but, Mel held firm. In spite of her wiry frame she held his wrist much tighter than he would have imagined. “Let go,” he shouted.

Mel forced the small brown book into his hand, “I know what I look like. I should have known you wouldn’t believe me. Nobody else has who I’ve brought this up to. Shrinks, dealers, bums they all same the same thing, even when they don’t say it outright.”

“Mel…”

“Take it please,” begged Mel as her voice cracked, “Hold onto it for a bit it’s got my address in it and if you want to drop it off later fine. But at least read it first!”

“Let go!”


“Not until you take it! If something should happen to me...”

“Nothing is going to…

“… if it does I want it to survive me. That’s all I ask. If you go after it at that point it’s your business.”

“Fine. Let go.”

Mel released his wrist and mouthed a thank you that Josh didn’t see. Whatever desire he’d had for his ex-girlfriend left town on the same crazy train she’d ridden in on. When he got back to his apartment, the small brown book hit his end table and he began to try to forget everything he could about that night.


Three weeks passed before Josh thought about Mel or the book again. When he did it was because he’d been called to the morgue to identify a body that was found tucked away in an ally under a pile of boxes where, according to the coroner, it had stayed for the better part of four months.

****

The pages were thick and at times stuck together due to the glue used to secure the various news articles. Yet with a little jimmying Josh was able to pry the stiff yellowed paper apart as he settled into the secondhand recliner with sigh. As he continued his cursory appraisal of the book a small shadow grew in his periphery.

Josh turned his head quickly in the direction of the shadow. Yet, when he looked he could see nothing. The air grew thick and Josh chuckled to himself. “Great,” he muttered, “I haven’t even begun to read this yet and I’m starting to panic over nothing.” He flipped on a small fan on the end table and began to read.

Mel’s book read like a diary. Thoughts were picked up and dropped at varying intervals often followed by long thoughts about what lay in darkness. She wrote of her attempts to “see beyond this reality,” by ingesting various cocktails of illicit substances. Each attempt was recorded in terse frustrated notes after the news clippings. She then recounted how she’d posed as a journalist at one point and spoken with various members of the Hasbro corporate office and the animation team all of who credited the latest attempt to create a My Little Pony show to one man, Simon Kuklachelovek.

It was Kuklachelovek who spearheaded the return of Transformers and with the aid of Hollywood types had returned it to prominence. He’d also done similar with two other floundering franchises and with the aid of former animator turned assistant Laura Stern he’d managed to purchase the rights to a monster themed high school toy line. He was described as being generally happy and open to new ideas. It wasn’t until the reboot of the My Little Pony toy line that anyone noticed a change in his demeanor.

Sometime between the line of prototype toys being generated and the shows negotiation Kuklachalovek became sullen and withdrawn. After an incident at a mall in Beverly Hills California he disappeared as did the files of the show. With no show and bad publicity Hasbro scrapped the relaunch and moved on with other projects.

Josh yawned at this new information and slowly stretched in his chair. It was well after ten at night and flipped the last page to see only three lines of text: They watch from the shadows. Tor the spidersewell_smile_ smile_ smileWV37.9973n81.0209W. Call Stern about Simon us number on page thirteen, sorry Josh. “The hell is that supposed to mean,” muttered Josh as he settled back into the recliner.

The TV clicked on and hissed. Josh spewed several rapid swears as he jumped out of his chair and glanced at the set then back to his seat. He sighed in relief when he saw the remote sitting against the back of the chair. “Scared myself silly for nothing,” he said with a chuckle and grabbed the remote before shutting the set off.

He uttered a groan about the old television as he began to walk down the hall to his bedroom when he heard it click on again, its light and low hiss echoed through his small apartment. Josh paused and gritted his teeth. He turned about and grabbed the remote from the end table and turned it off again. In response the television popped back on almost immediately. “Cheap piece of shit,” he growled and crossed the short distance to the television and unplugged it, satisfied that that was the last of the shenanigans as he headed toward his bathroom to get ready for bed.

Half way down the hall it happened again. The familiar click and hiss of the television forced Josh to slowly turn around and stare into the dim white light that filled the living room. His heart pounded as he stared into the gloom. Josh slowly backed into his bedroom and grabbed the loaded shotgun he kept by the door.

He clutched the pistol grip tightly and slowly inched toward the living room holding his breath. Upon reaching the edge of the hall he shouted in his deep voice, “The cops are on the way and I’ve got a shotgun. Dead or alive this ends now!”

Silence filled the apartment as Josh listened to every creak and crack that it made. The muffled complaining of one of his neighbors about his dog echoed outside of his door. The hiss from his TV continued unabated. Nothing moved.

Josh counted to three and spun around the corner, his shotgun lowered ready to fire. He quickly walked about the small room, flipped on the lights, but found no one. In an instant Josh spun about and dove into the nook that passed for a kitchen. When he found nothing in there either he sighed and leaned against his fridge. “Just what I needed,” he muttered, “scaring myself for no good reason.”

He sighed and slowly walked back into the living room and unplugged the power strip from the wall. “Probably just undid the stupid Blue ray,” he said to himself as the TV flipped off. “There. No more haunted TV or missing cartoon show.”

Before he turned the rest of the lights in the apartment off Josh flipped the hall light on. He stood in the hall for a few minutes and listened. He looked into his room and at his alarm clock and saw it was now almost eleven. Josh cursed himself for staying up as late as he had but, paused as he reached for the hall’s light switch.

He stared into the darkness and even though he’d found nothing, somehow he could feel someone watching him. Josh felt fear’s cold sweat dampen his brow as he slowly backed his way into his room and shut the door just enough to let the light in. He sighed and pulled back the covers on his bed and laid down, pulling them over his head as he trembled. “I’ll call her in the morning,” he whispered to himself and hoped that whatever it was that he feared in the darkness didn’t come into his room while he slept.

****

Stuffy. That was the only word Josh could use to describe the meeting room in which he waited. The crimson wood furniture was highlighted with green cushions as several utilitarian black files sat at either end of the room.

On the far wall Josh noticed the small cameras mounted in the room’s corners. He wasn’t surprised. Many conference rooms he’d been in had security cameras to monitor the goings in the building. Josh shrugged as he pulled out his laptop and set it on the table and started it up before looking for a plug.

Josh wasn’t surprised at the lack of available electrical outlets. His shoes clacked along the tile as he walked around the table toward the “front” of the room. Yet, when he reached the front of the room the sound of he steps slowly became out of sync with the actual steps. He paused as the final to clacks fell behind him. He gulped as he looked over his shoulder to see if anybody had entered the room. They hadn’t, he was alone.

For the past two weeks whatever it was that was following him had let itself be known. Whether it was the phantom footsteps or the strange diminutive shadows on the edge of his vision, something was following him. Josh rubbed his tired eyes as he resumed plugging in the whirring laptop and began setting up his presentation for Laura Stern.

Josh found it odd that she’d been so receptive to this meeting and that she’d sounded almost giddy when he’d mentioned he was a friend of Mel’s. The amount of questions he’d been pummeled with as to her wellbeing and what she’d been up to had caught him off guard. Yet, when he told Julie about Mel’s passing the silence that followed was just as telling.

“Mr. Flynn,” asked a familiar voice from the doorway.

Josh looked up from his laptop to see a moderately built brunette in a charcoal pantsuit standing in the doorway. Her hair was straight and rested at shoulder length framing up her oval face nicely. She had large friendly brown eyes and a pleasant enough smile. “Yes,” replied Josh.

“I’m Laura Stern,” she said crossing the conference room quickly and shaking his hand, “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I just wish it were under better circumstances.”

“Likewise.”

“Ahem,” coughed a new voice from the doorway, “Are we forgetting something?”

Josh looked over to see a short blonde woman with very short hair and high cheekbones standing in the doorway. Her eyes narrowed as she strode forward with purpose, her gaze as icy as her tone. “I’m sorry,” replied Laura, “This is Donna Nixon. She’s…”

“I represent Hasbro legal Mr. Flynn. You do realize of course that any matters regarding Mr. Kuklachelovek are to remain here and not printed in your local rag correct?”

“Well I hadn’t any intention of saying anything to my boss. Frankly, I’m on sick leave currently.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” replied Laura, “Like a head cold or something?”

“Debilitating… insomnia.”

“Oh poor thing,” replied Laura sympathetically.

“Yes,” replied Donna, “Tragic. What is it you wanted to share Mr. Flynn?”

Josh recounted his meeting with Mel at the diner leaving out the various details regarding the strange shadows and sounds. He discussed in detail about how he’d been called to identify Mel’s body. In lesser detail he discussed his investigation of the book limiting it to the most mundane notes about Kuklachalovek the show and the appearance of several toys that might be connected to it.

Donna frowned at the mention of the toys showing up in odd places around the world and stated, “Yes, it’s been an issue. So you think he’s been the one behind the black market selling of our property?”

“Oh he wouldn’t…”

“Just because you worked under him Ms. Stern does not mean you knew him,” chided Donna.

“Anyway,” interjected Josh, “At the end of Mel’s book was a list of phrases. They were nonsensical but, one of them seemed to be a website.”

“A website,” asked Laura.

“Not one you’d find using Google.”

“Wait you don’t mean…”

Josh nodded, “We’re going to be swimming in the deep end of the internet.”

“How deep are we going,” asked Donna.

“I don’t know. I just know that I had to use a search engine I’d never heard of to get there.”

Donna leaned over Josh’s laptop and began to write down the address quickly. Laura looked to Josh and asked, “So this is why she died?”

“No,” replied Josh as he pressed the enter button, “I believe this is.”

The laptop whirred and whined as it loaded the page. After a minute or two a live camera loaded and the image of a thin young woman tied to a chair, had hung low her face obscured by her long hair. Laura’s eyes widened and she gripped Josh’s shoulder. Donna leaned in closer to the screen instinctively. “She looks familiar,” she replied quietly.

Off camera a man’s voice could said, “Come on now look at the camera and show them how you smile.”

“No,” she replied, “I-I don’t want to if that’s okay with you.”

“Come on now,” he goaded, “Show them how you smile.”

Slowly the woman raised her head. Her long hair fell across her right eye as she stared at the camera the left side of her face exposed revealing a series of surgical staples from her upper cheek down to the corner of her lips. “You- you won’t put me in the goo again will you?”

“Just smile.”

Donna pulled back from the laptop, “Jesus Christ,” she muttered.

“What,” asked Josh.

“That’s Catherin Wilson.”

“Who?”

“Shut it off,” commanded Donna as Laura looked away from the young woman as she began to remove the staples, her smile growing wider by the second.

“Hang on,” replied Josh who then clicked on the spot where the fourth staple once was. Upon doing this the screen briefly froze and went black before some cheerful music started to play and a purple cartoon unicorn came prancing over the hill. “You have to wait until that point to gain access to the show.”

Laura looked back, “It-it still exists, but that girl…”

“Who is Catherin Wilson?”

Donna sighed, “She was the actress who was supposed to be in the Fluttershy costume at the mall when the incident happened.”

“What happened,” asked Josh.

Donna’s cellphone rang and she quickly exited the conference room. Josh looked to Laura, “Seems I’ve hit a nerve.”

“Do you think she’s alive,” asked Laura.

“Who’s to say? I mean it’s an old video. For all we know she’s dead already. If it makes you feel any better I responded the same way the first time I saw it,” replied Josh, “So you worked on My Little Pony?”

“Laura pulled up a chair and nodded, “Yeah first four episodes. It was fun. Then Simon, er Mr. Kuklachelovek offered me a new job in marketing.”

“If it was fun why did you quit?”

“Five figure salary versus six figure with options. Doing what you love is fine. Paying off your student loans and getting a house though is better. Once you’ve got enough cash I can always go back to it. Maybe even do my own thing.”

“I see. So what’s the story with the white screen that pops up periodically on this show like right here when Twilight meets the pink one,” replied Josh as Donna slowly walked back into the room, “Did your boss like the video?”

“Where is it coming from,” asked Donna pointedly.

Josh shrugged.

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

“Hey,” interrupted Laura as she paused the video, “Take a look at this.”

Donna rushed to her side, “What is it?”

“Well Josh mentioned a white screen that pops up and we never had anything like that on the show. Yet, when I stop the video and scroll frame by frame,” she said, “Look what pops up.” Laura paused the video feed and scrolled until a white spot popped up. In the white screen were a series of, what appeared to be runes and a faint, uneven outline of a map. “What do you make of this?”

“Well, the lawyer may know weird runes but I don’t however,” said Josh as he tilted his head, “That almost looks like a map of West Virginia.”

Laura nodded, “It sort of does doesn’t it?”

“Okay but where?”

“Get off this page and go to a regular search engine,” replied Donna, “I want to try something.”

Josh did as he was instructed. “Okay now type in 37.9973 N and 81.0209 W into the search line,” replied Donna.

When he typed in the numbers and hit enter a map of West Virginia popped up with an arrow pointing into the heart of it. Josh blinked and looked at Donna as Laura covered her mouth in surprise. “You’re saying it’s actually….”

“Yes,” replied Donna.

“More specifically Sewell, West Virginia, if you look below you can see that it’s a specific town, if abandoned.”

“Someone’s going to have to go there to check it out,” said Josh.

“Congratulations then to the two of you. You get an all-expense paid trip to West Virginia.”

“Wait, why,” asked Laura, “Shouldn’t we call the police or something?”

“And risk Simon and possibly Catherin escaping again? No. The last three times we had leads and they were gone well before we had a chance to nab them. But, you Laura know Simon very well and Josh here seems to know more than he’s letting on. Now, we are prepared to pay you for any expenses you incur on this trip.”

“What if he kills us,” replied Josh.

“We’ll take care of that too,” said Donna emotionlessly, “Besides, Josh if you ever want to be a big name reporter. The type of reporter that gets to be on television and win Pulitzers you have to take risks.”

Josh closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead when he heard a small tapping coming from the screen in front of him. When he opened his eyes he saw Twilight looking up at him her hoof on the bottom of his screen. The two ladies looked at each other and back to the screen where the cartoon pony continued to tap it. “Excuse me but, do you think you could unpause our show? We really would like to continue on with our adventures. We were just getting to a good part.”

“What the hell is that,” asked Donna, “Did you animate that?”

“No,” said Laura, “I’ve never seen that before in my life.”

“It’s probably a corrupted computer file or something. I’ll shut it off. It probably has a virus now anyway,” said Josh as he powered down the laptop.

“So I’ll have your flight booked right away,” said Donna.

“It doesn’t seem like there is much of a choice in this matter is there?”

“Nope,” said Laura, “None at all.”

****

Josh snored in the passenger seat of the much like he had on the plane. For the first time in a couple weeks he’d finally been able to catch some peace and quiet. Not once during the flight did he notice a bizarre shadow or hear the out of place clacking that had dogged him for weeks. It was only when they’d stopped for toiletries that he woke up, only to promptly fall asleep again once he sat down in their rented SUV.

After a few hours of driving Laura prodded Josh and called out his name. When that didn’t rouse him she poked him harder repeated his name more forcefully which prompted him to sit upright. “We’re lost,” she said flatly.

“Aren’t you using the GPS,” asked Josh.

“The trees and mountains are blocking it.”

“Well,” said Josh with a yawn, “We should have bought that map.”

Laura shot Josh a sour look, as she pulled over, “It’s your turn to drive anyway.”

After some adjusting they were off again. Josh stopped by an old gas station and asked for directions to 64 and picked up some road food and drinks along with some gas and were off. An hour of backtracking later Josh found the highway just as the sun began to set behind the mountains. “The sun goes down early around here.”

“It’s pretty,” replied Laura, “Hey Josh...”

“Yeah?”

“How’d you know Melony?”

“We dated in college,” he said as he set the cruise control, “At one point I thought we were going to get married but, that fell through for all sorts of reasons. How’d you know her?”

“She’d said she was a reporter but she totally wasn’t,” answered Laura, “There was just something about her though. Something good that, I don’t know, I just wanted to help her.”

Josh nodded. “She was a good egg.” He sighed quietly to himself before launching into a few stories about Mel and him. He recounted the story of how they got were able to get back stage at a Lordi concert and how the band never got out of costume while they were present along with a few other funny stories in which he’d made a fool of himself. “What about Simon,” Josh asked, “What was he like?”

“He was kind and great at negotiations. He could be absolutely ruthless but, when away from the ...,” Laura blushed and looked out the window.

“It’s why you had no choice isn’t it? You fell for him.”

“The money was good,” said Laura, “But marketing and negotiations aren’t fun, at least not for me.”

“And…”

“Simon had a way of making things enjoyable. You’d be neck deep in a contract negotiation or an advertising plan and he’d say something like, ‘I could go for sky cotton candy right about now’ or something just as ridiculous.”

“Was he on drugs or something?”

“No,” she replied flatly, “I think he just liked to occasionally shake things up a bit.”

The sky became sackcloth as they drove into the darkness. The closer to Sewell they got the darker it became. It wasn’t long before even the glow of the headlights was swallowed by it. Josh flipped on the brights but, it did nothing to light the way in front of them as the limitless void stretched on. “Jesus it got dark fast.”

The low rumble of thunder shook the car as Laura wrapped her arms about her. Josh continued along what felt like the road as he grumbled, “Just great now it’s going to start raining.”

“Josh,” said Laura as the lightning flashed above, “We should head back.”

“Why?”

“I just,” Laura began with a shudder, “I don’t like this. There was something else Mel mentioned before we stopped talking altogether.”

“What’s that,” asked Josh as the lightning began to flash more rapidly and the thunder rolled louder.

Laura closed her eyes. “The darkness has things in it,” she began and closed her eyes, “This flashing I can’t take it it’s it’s…”

“Wait. What,” replied Josh as he looked over at Laura. His eyes widened as he watched her slowly convulse next to him, “Jesus,” he shouted as he looked for a place to pull over as the lightning flashed more and more until finally midday sun blasted Josh in the eyes. He slammed on the brakes bringing the car to a screeching halt.

Josh put the car in park, unlocked the passenger side door, and ran to check on her from that side. By the time he reached her she’d begun to moan and rubbed her head sitting up. “Hey are you okay,” he asked quickly.

“What was that,” asked Laura, “Those lights…”

“The lightning got really bad and you started convulsing.”

Laura blinked and shook her head slowly, “Epilepsy. Wait. Did you drive all night? How long have I been out?”

“I don’t know,” responded Josh as he rubbed the back of her neck, “It was as if we went half way around the world in twenty seconds. None of this makes sense.”

Laura looked at him confused, “Josh, where are we?”

Josh looked about at the pristine greens of the trees and fields and inhaled the dewy sweet air as his gaze drifted toward a small town not too far away, “Well, I have to assume that that’s Sewell over there.”

Laura slowly climbed out of the car and stood by Josh. Her eyes became saucers as she gazed at the nearby town, as the distant sound of a train echoed across the land. “Josh that’s not Sewell. There’s no way it could be Sewell.”

“Okay. Then where are we?”

“A place I once helped to draw and animate a bunch of years ago. Josh, that’s Ponyville!”

****

Josh parked the car as close as he could to the bridge that lead to “Ponyville” as he could after Laura insisted that there wouldn’t be any place to park it within town limits. His mind spun at a million miles a second as he muttered under his breath about the impossibility of the situation. Something like that couldn’t happen. Maybe some how they were suffering from drug induced hysteria. It could certainly explain away the shadows and other things he’d been seeing.

“Perhaps this is all a hallucination,” said Josh as they crossed the bridge. His stomach immediately flipped causing him to grab the rail for support.

“If it is it’s more potent than that stuff they had at Woodstock I’m sure,” said Laura who looked back at Josh, “Are you alright?”

“Fine just… I had a moment was all. I guess travel and all has me beat. We should find a place to ditch our stuff. There has to be a Motel 6 or something around here right?”

“We never designed a hotel or an inn or anything for the show.”

“Oh perfect,” sighed Josh, “Just perfect.”

Laura continued to look around the square a smile quickly spread across her face as she slowly twirled about. She closed her eyes letting the sun warm her face. “It’s just so perfect,” she whispered.

“Perfect,” asked Josh, “There’s no inn according to you and if this is a world of rainbow colored equines where the Hell are they?”

“I don’t know.”

“Great. You know what I think? I think this is a set up. I think this Simon guy made a ton of cash on the black market and had this place made. I think somehow we got slipped something and all of this that we’re feeling right now is a lie. We’re probably still sitting in that SUV…” said Josh as he turned and pointed to the bridge, but only the bridge. The SUV was gone. “What in the ever loving…”

“What is it?”

“The car’s gone!”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean it’s gone! We got jacked! In the middle of the damn mountains we got jacked, and probably by some brother cousins who are gonna do God knows what with it!”

“Okay that is messed up,” said Laura as concern crept into her voice, “Let’s see if we can find a phone or something somewhere. Get sorted.”

Josh growled, “Fine. Let’s start at that weird giant ginger bread house looking place. Maybe I can at least get coffee or something there.”

“That’s Sugar Cube Corner.”

“Wonderful,” Josh muttered as they trudged through the empty street up Sugar Cube Corner.

When Josh opened the door the scent of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies caressed his nose and tickled his taste buds. He involuntarily began to salivate and had to catch himself from drooling on the floor. He walked up to the counter as Laura lagged behind and rang the bell. “Just a minute dearie,” called out a friendly voice, “I don’t want to burn any of them now.”

A minute later a plump middle aged woman with blue skin and a puffy beehive hairdo walked out of the back. Josh’s eyes widened and he gawped unable to find the right words. “I’m sorry dear but you’ll have to speak up,” said the blue lady, “I’m a pretty good baker but not so good at reading minds.”

“We’re sorry he’s rude,” replied Laura, “We were just wondering if you knew where we could find an inn and possibly use your phone. Ours haven’t worked right since we got into the mountains and our car was stolen on the outside of town.”

“Your cart was stolen? Oh dear.”

“No car,” muttered Josh finally finding his tongue.

“Oh. Well you may want to go to city hall if anything has gone missing. All town functions are handled there. As far as a phone or an inn we don’t have either of those. We’re pretty isolated here.”

“That’s just great,” muttered Josh.

“Oh, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Um but maybe I can help. We do have an extra room or two available if that’s okay.”

“We don’t want to impose,” replied Laura.

“We can pay you,” added Josh.

“Oh nothing of the sort,” said the blue lady, “It will be nice to have guests. I’ll have my… um… Carl can bring your things up. Excuse me.” The blue lady smiled as she walked to the back and after a minute or two of muted discussion a lanky man in a striped shirt came out and showed them to the upstairs bedroom at the end of the hall.

“Well this is it,” said Carl, “The Bathroom is across from you.”

Laura thanked him. While she set up her things Josh pulled Carl aside, “I’ve got two questions that I hope you can help me out on.”

“Do what I can,” replied Carl.

“First, have you ever heard of the name Simon Kuklachelovek? Supposedly he moved here awhile back.”

“No, can’t say I’ve heard of the name. But with a last name like that you’d think I would have!”

“Fair enough,” responded Josh, “Second and if it’s too personal…”

“Why’s she blue?”

“I’ve just never…”

“It’s called methemoglobinemia. Doc says she doesn’t have enough hemoglobin in her. We’re hoping to get it fixed soon as possible.”

“Oh, sorry to ask.”

“It’s fine. You’re not the first.”

“Your wife said you don’t get visitors over here.”

“She’s mistaken. Had a family not long ago come through. Nice people.”

Josh nodded and shut the door behind him and turned to Laura, “What did I tell you? It’s a sham. We’ll come off of this … whatever it is… and find ourselves in a shed some place.”

“I don’t know,” said Laura, “I mean they weren’t ponies but… I think those were The Cakes.”

“The who now?”

“The Cakes. They own and operate Sugar Cube Corner. Carl seemed a bit off though. Certainly wasn’t the right shade.”

“They were human. Just like you and me even if one of them was blue.”

“I guess so.”

Josh sighed, “Look, we have a base of operations for whatever that’s worth. You know this town right?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay then. Let’s get to town hall and get things squared away.”


Josh and Laura walked through the still eerily empty streets of town as a light breeze tossed their hair in the midday sun. Josh continued to glance about as if waiting for someone or something to jump out at any moment. Laura gripped his arm and gently led him along the main thoroughfare to a large round building near the center of town. “There it is,” she said quietly.

Only a few stately trees circled it. It was the largest building he’d seen in town and stood several stories taller than any of the others. The deep red roof and pointed windows combined with the timber laden walls reminded Josh of something he might have seen in Germany in the time of Barbarossa.

As they slowly walked toward the doors Josh heard a hiss from behind him. He looked briefly at Laura and turned around to see a young blonde girl with short hair standing behind them. Her ashy skin was almost gray in the sun as she frantically gestured to them. “What do you want,” asked Josh.

“You aren’t supposed to be here,” said the girl as she beckoned them to step away from the building, “Not you not that family before you. Why do you people keep coming here?”

“None of your business why we’re here.”

Laura approached the girl, “Why shouldn’t we be here,” she asked as a loud, angry scream echoed across the empty square all of them to jump.

“No time,” replied the girl, “We have to hide!”

Josh followed the girl a few feet before turning to see Laura standing stalk still watching two middle aged farmers approach the front doors from a side street. He hurried to her side and grabbed her wrist and pulled as hard as he could yet, she wouldn’t budge and growled at him the more he tugged profanity.

“Give them back to me! You had no right to take them from us,” shouted the dirty man in flannel. His wife lowered a shotgun at the door as they got closer.

Slowly, as if someone behind the door had been listening, the front door slowly creaked open. On the other side of it stood three children, two girls and a boy all dressed in their Sunday best. The youngest girl’s yellow dress was accented by with pink bows while her older sister wore a similar dress but had a hat that matched. The son stood just as still in a crimson blazer and dark pants, a gold chain sported around his neck.

“Kids get away from there!”

The door quickly shut. The woman screamed and fired a shot at the door. The noise of the gun blast was enough to shock Laura back to reality and she slowly began to back away with Josh as the doors swung open again this time revealing a man.

He was tall, thin middle aged man. His brownish gray hair was neatly combed above a set of bushy eyebrows. His smile was as dark and cold as his suit and the more he gazed at the two farmers the more they backed away.

Josh felt the ground begin to tremble, “We have to go! Come on,” he shouted dragging Laura away from the scene.

The low rumble they felt was soon punctuated by the screams of fear and pain echoed through the streets of the previously quiet town. Josh pulled Laura behind some boxes and covered their heads until it had subsided. When he looked up it was as if nothing had happened. The air was dewy sweet, the sun warm and the breeze played lightly with their hair.

Josh looked about quickly to see if anybody was still there. He called out as he walked the perimeter of the square but stopped when he saw the tattered remains of the couple’s clothing hanging from two of the nearby trees. He covered his mouth and ran back to Laura, “We have to get out of here now,” he shouted.

“That was him,” said Laura as her voice trembled.

“That was who?”

“Josh,” said Laura as her eyes welled up with tears, “That was Simon in that building.”