“What the hell’s going on?!” Dale demanded as he took in the scene before him.
George gaped at the new arrivals for a moment before raising his hands defensively. “I know this looks weird but there is a perfectly good explanation for this.”
Sam pulled out her box-cutter and waved it threateningly in George’s direction. “Well then, you better start explaining.”
“Alright, alright. You guys know how much this place means to me, right?” George said.
“Yes,” Everyone replied in unison.
“Right, well, when we opened, business was good, really good! The customers were coming in droves; I loved it! In the beginning…well, back then we were unstoppable.” George looked off towards the ceiling, a small smile played across his face, his eyes twinkling with memories.
“Get to the point!” Dale yelled.
“Okay bud, okay, so, as I was saying, we were killing it! Then something happened.” The nostalgic happiness which had just lit up George’s face moments ago had been replaced by a dour mask. “I don’t know if it was a case of customers getting over the fact that we were new. Or maybe they realized that a catchy name and garish colours don’t actually make the product any better. Whatever the reason, business began to drop.”
With an exasperated grunt, George said, “No matter what I did I couldn’t get the sales back up. I tried everything! So, I turned to alternative routes.”
Dale looked at Sam who in turn rolled her eyes. “And?” Dale asked.
George coughed and looked away from the accusing stares. “Well…I turned to the dark arts.
“I bought every bit of black magic paraphernalia I could find online,” George continued. “As soon as the spell books arrived I went to work. Most of the early incantations were minor ones, but this morning I tried something a little bit bigger.”
Dale couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “What about this room?” he asked.
“Oh this,” George said as he waved his hands around the room, “all Fresh Choppers have a secret room underneath them. Except most of them are used as place for the store manager to hide when employees begin asking about raises or benefits.”
“That’s just sad.” Danny chimed in.
“So, what was this big thing you tried earlier today?” Dale asked.
“This morning, I attempted a very complicated spell, if done correctly it would increase business ten thousand times…” George let the sentence trail off.
Dale shook his head, it all made sense. “So, you did this—this spell which is supposed to make business go up ten thousand times but instead you messed it up and created ten thousand Dales!”
George nodded. “That’s right. I must have misread the spell, which would have resulted in nothing, but then you were hit by lightning and somehow that electric energy mixed with the misread spell caused…unexpected results.”
“You stupid bowcyat! I should beat your ass!” Even though the others didn’t know what Alton had said, they assumed it was nasty and just nodded in agreement.
“Enough! How do we get rid of all them?!” Dale exclaimed.
George hesitated a moment before glancing towards Alex. “Well…I was just about to do that before—before you all barged in.”
“How?” Sam inquired.
“This may seem a bit extreme but the most foolproof way to stop the Dales is through…human sacrifice!” At that George pulled a long, curved knife from the sleeve of his cloak and lunged for Alex.
It all happened so fast. George’s actions had taken them all by surprise. Dale had been listening to the man’s explanation of the day’s events one second, then watching him plunge a wicked looking knife deep into Alex’s chest the next.
Alex bucked and thrashed atop the alter; his naked bits quivered. He opened his mouth but nothing came out. Within seconds, he was dead.
“What did you do?!” Sam screamed as she flew towards George. She began swinging the box cutter at him in a crazed fashion. Even though George was holding a much bigger weapon, he dropped it to take up a defensive posture.
“No, wait! You don’t understand, it’s was the only way!” George stammered.
As much as George had it coming, Dale found himself restraining Sam. As he wrapped his arms around her he directed Alton and Danny to try and find something to tie George up with.
Once Sam had calmed down, Dale found a large cloth to lay over Alex’s body. Across the room Danny was just finishing the last knots on a rope which was binding George’ hands and feet.
“So…you guys t’ink it worked?” Alton asked the others.
“What?” Danny replied.
“George’s magic shit. He said if he killed Alex it would get rid of dem Dales.”
It was a good question, they all quieted down and listened. The last they had seen or heard from the Dales had been in George’s office. It hadn’t seemed like the door would hold out against them for long, yet nearly ten minutes had passed and still no sign of them.
“Of course it worked,” George piped in.
“Shut up! I swear if you open your mouth again I am going to cut out your tongue,” Sam sneered.
George opened his mouth for a reply then wisely let it fall closed.
Dale scratched his head. There was only one way to know for sure, somebody would have to go up and look. When he said as much he was relieved that Danny had volunteered. If there were any Dales left up there, he wanted no part of them.
Danny grabbed the knife George had been wielding and disappeared from the room. Dale did a quick calculation in his head and figured that it should take him no more than a few minutes to learn if they were free of the tiny nightmares or not.
“What are we gonna do wit’ him?” Alton asked as he pointed towards George.
“Leave him,” Sam answered coldly. “He can stay down here with his handy work until the police show up.”
“Shhh, I hear somebody coming,” Dale injected.
They all watched the door to the room closely. Dale had grabbed a candle stick as a weapon, as he glanced at the others he noticed he was not the only one to arm themselves.
Moments later, Danny appeared in the doorway. A wave of relief flooded Dale and he started towards his friend, something struck him as odd. Danny was an emotional guy; whether happy, sad or angry he always wore his feelings on his face. Not this time. This time his features were flat. Dale slowed his pace and watched as Danny took one shaky step into the room. With a small sigh, Danny toppled face first to the floor. Dale recoiled as he noticed the sacrificial knife sticking out of the base of Danny’s neck and then the dozen-or-so Dales which had hitchhiked on his back.
Sam screamed as both she and Alton turned to run, but Dale knew that there was only one way in or out. To make any kind of escape would mean going through the army of Dales coming down the stairs.
“This is it!” Dale shouted, as he charged the Dales scrambling off of Danny’s corpse.
“Wait! Untie my hands and give me that book over there!” George nodded his head to a small table holding a stack of ancient looking tomes.
“Eat shit!” Alton spat.
“I think I may be able to stop them.” Something about the tone in George’s voice made Dale consider his demand.
“Just do it,” Dale said.
Dale went on the attack. He swung the candle stick with wild abandon. Each swing sent a tiny Dale flying. He felt confident that he could take on the ones which had rode down the stairs with Danny, but judging by the ruckus echoing down the stairwell, the rest of the horde was on its way and against those numbers it would be a losing effort.
George—with his hands freed—flipped through the book frantically. “I’ve found it!” He bellowed triumphantly as he launched into a series of otherworldly words and phrases.
“Good! But you better hurry because the rest are here!” Dale hollered.
It was just as he was grinding the last Dale under his foot that the rest arrived. They poured into the room like water, filling every nook and cranny. Dale felt himself being covered in the things. Hundreds of stabs of pain danced through his body as the tiny Dales bit and scratched him. To his horror, Dale realized that he was going to be literally ripped to pieces.
Alton went down and was instantly covered in Dales. Sam had climbed atop a cabinet full of strange relics but she wasn’t able to escape the Dales either. Even as she scurried up the antique furniture, Dales had latched on to her legs and were pulling themselves along for the ride.
Dale kicked and punched, each time he did he hit several Dales but for every Dale he took out of commission a hundred more were there to take its place. “Help, George!”
George let out a sinister laugh. “Help? You idiot! You thought I was going to save you? Why? So I can go to jail and worse, lose this store. The spell I just read is a repulsion spell. No matter how much they try, these little monsters can’t come near me.”
Dale tried to tell George off but the weight of the Dales on top of him had driven the air from his body. He could feel the world around him begin to fade to black. It was over.
Suddenly, the weight began to lessen. Dale was able to scramble up through the horde and get to his feet. Across the room, he could see something bizarre happening with George; the man was glowing. And more than that, the Dales were slowly making their way towards the store manager in droves.
“No! What are you doing?!” George swung his hand at the nearest Dale. He reached for the book and began to read over the spell he had just invoked. “Oh damn…the writing was blurred, I didn’t cast a repulsion spell, I cast an attraction spell!”
The Dales pressed forward towards George in a zombie-like state. He tried to push them away but there was too many and soon he was covered head to toe in Dales. The magic aura surrounding George spread to all the Dales and soon they began to bond with him. The man screamed as Dale after Dale fused with him. Finally after an agonizing couple of minutes the last Dale disappeared into George’s body. George himself had been transformed into a mass of quaking flesh which bleed and oozed from countless places. A fleshy patch which had been his face still was home to one sunken eye and a twisted hole of a mouth.
“Help…” was all the George-lump was able to say before he died.
Dale hurt all over but he was happy to see that both Alton and Sam had made it through their encounter with the tiny Dales with nothing worse than superficial injuries to show for it.
“George…is really…bad at magic.” Sam’s voice trembled as she spoke.
“I think it’s time to get out of-“ was all Dale could say before the room began to shake violently. Jars smashed along the floor, books flipped off shelves, cracks raced along the walls and ceiling.
“What’s happening?” Sam yelled.
“I think…I think all of George’s magic is causing the building to collapse.” Dale said as he glanced around. “We should probably leave right now!”
Dale led the way as the threesome bolted from George’s secret room. The building continued to shake but it was not the only thing moving, the fleshy lump which had until very recently been the store manager of Fresh Choppers, also began shake. Something inside the misshapen corpse pushed against the bruised skin. With a pop the skin broke and a massive hand reached out. A large mass pulled itself from the cocoon George had become. It stood so tall that it had to bend nearly at the waist to fit into the space of the secret room. The monster swung its humongous head towards the doorway, the movement caused its black curly hair to bounce. With a gargantuan roar, it pushed through the doorway—taking a large chunk of the frame with it—and headed towards the stairs. The Über Dale wanted blood.
End of Part 4
TO BE CONCLUDED (For real this time)