By Christian Laforet
Carol stared at the wall. She wore an oven mitt on one hand, a baseball glove on the other, and a Kiss beach towel wrapped around her face. Clutched in the oven mitt was the biggest knife she could find in her silverware drawer. She wasn’t sure what she would do with the weapon if the ball-thing returned. Thanks to the fact that the towel kept sagging, blocking her vision, she was just as likely to stab herself as anything else.
The wall were the thing had disappeared looked the same as ever, sunflower yellow with a framed picture of a horse wearing a stovepipe hat hanging off to the left. But she knew what she had seen, and whether it was visible now or not, there was a hole in her wall.
She edged closer to the spot and slowly leveled the knife until the tip of the blade was half an inch from the yellow surface. Taking a deep breath, she pushed the rest of the way. The point of the knife did not stop at the wall, but slid right in. At first she told herself that the knife had cut through the wall itself, but there was no resistance. Besides, that theory was put to bed when she retracted the blade only to find the end of the knife gone.
“Fuck this!” Carol stumbled backwards. Her intent had been to retrieve her phone from the counter and call the cops—something she should have done in the first place. Unfortunately for her, the movement loosened the towel sending a loop of cloth adorned with Gene Simmons bloodied tongue over her eyes. She spun to reset the towel-helmet, but only made things worse.
With a frustrated grunt, she dropped the half-knife, pulled off the oven mitt and baseball glove, and yanked the towel from her head. Free of her protection, she ran to the table and snatched up her cell phone. She dialled 9-1- and stopped. What the hell was she going to say? She couldn’t tell them the truth, they’d never believe her. No. She would try somebody else.
The first number in her contacts belonged to Aldo Tabus. She had went on a couple dates with Aldo a few years back, but had called a stop to their relationship when she had caught him wearing her underwear. Even if his number hadn’t changed, it was probably best not to call him.
Her father was not an option. That was the last thing she needed. He would come a running alright, but then would start trying to hit her up for money.
After that was Domino’s Pizza. Of all the contacts this was the one she called the most. Her commitment to eating healthy could only last if she had a cheat day. It just happened that her cheat day came more than once a week.
Finally, some hope. Sara-Jane. SJ was her third cousin. They had gone for tea a couple times about a year ago, so she felt that the relationship was fresh enough to make the call. Rocking on her heels, Carol nervously bit the skin around her fingernails as the phone began to ring.
A minute and thirteen seconds later, Carol discovered two things. First, a year was too long. SJ was not happy to be woken up in the middle of the night. And second, it sounded like her cousin had one of those yappy dogs which yipped all the time. Had SJ had the dog when they went for tea? If so, why hadn’t she mentioned it? Either way, Carol doubted she would learn the answer as Sara-Jane ended their brief conversation like this: “You’re a fucking lunatic! Get a life!”
Okay, so she was on her own.
First things first, she needed to map the area of her wall that was…broken? Infected? Several options presented themselves to her, but in the end, she choose the quickest.
Armed with a glass full of tomato juice, she stood before the spot. She had thrown some newspapers on the floor at the bottom of the wall, but there was no way around it, this was going to be a mess. Quickly, before she had time to change her mind, she splashed the thick contents of the glass along the sunflower yellow surface. It worked. Smack dab in the middle of the splat, stood a perfect circle of clean wall.
Now with the invisible hole made viable, she felt a lot more comfortable. She pulled a chair from the kitchen and placed it facing the wall. While she was getting the chair, she was struck with a memory. Whatever the red ball-thing had been, it did not like salt, so as she sat, she clutched her salt shaker—it was shaped like a white whale (the pepper was a tiny Ahab)—tightly.
“What am I going to do?” The question, completely rhetorical since she was asking herself.
“You’re going to help me.”
She jumped up from the chair, whipping the salt shaker at the wall. The chair tipped and the shaker vanished(at least Ahab could finally give up the hunt).
“Hey! Watch it.” The red jelly ball pushed through the hole and plopped to the floor. It landed on the crumpled newspapers.
Carol fell over the toppled chair. “Stay away from me! Help! Help!” she screamed.
A loud thump came from her neighbor’s wall. “Shut the fuck up! I’m trying to sleep!”
The ball rolled closer to her. “Hey, relax. I’m not going to hurt you.”
This is so crazy, Carol thought, which was followed immediately by, fuck you, next door asshole! “What are you?”
The thing stopped moving, and suddenly changed shape into a much larger cube. “The name’s Gary and I’m a Thurd.”
“A third of what?”
“Huh?” the cube rippled.
Carol shook her head. “Never mind. Why are you here? Are you going to kill me?”
Gary, now an inverted pyramid, hopped around her apartment. “Probably not.” When Carol gasped, he quickly added, “I mean, that’s not my intention, but I don’t want to make any promises.”
Talking to…Gary, somehow calmed her nerves. His voice was gentle, and he certainly didn’t seem aggressive. She butt-scooted her way to her sofa and hoisted herself onto one of the seats. “Then why are you here?”
Gary hopped up onto the coffee table before the couch, melted into a puddle then solidified into a ball once again. “I’ll have to simplify it for you, if I tell you everything, your tiny brain won’t be able to handle it. You’ll most definitely have an aneurism.”
True to his word, Gary explained everything. He told her about the portals and also about his realm and of course, his goddess Tanya. When he spoke of her, his gelatinous skin rippled, like the surface of a puddle on a windy day. Finally he revealed that if the portal stayed open for too long, it would attract unwanted attention.
“What kind of attention,” Carol asked.
“The Cloh.” His voice barely a whisper, as if even saying the name would be dangerous. Before Carol could ask, he elaborated. “They’re the cops of the multiverse.”
Carol thought about that for a moment. “Well, cops aren’t bad, right?”
“You’re meat-bag cops maybe, but these guys are true-blue killers. Trust me, the last thing either of us wants to have is a Cloh on our ass.”
“Fine. Close the portal and be done with it then. You said you can make them, so can’t you un-make them as well.”
Gary rolled around the table. Carol wouldn’t have though such a thing as sentient jelly could so strongly convey annoyance, but he managed. “I can’t! Portals are funny things. Only the portals creator can close it. That’s why I was here earlier tonight. I had come across the open portal to your apartment and decided to investigate.”
“What?” Carol shook her head. “Why would somebody want to open a portal inside my apartment?”
“Not just open it, but leave it open.” Gary morphed into a tall cylinder shape. “It seems like it’s been open for quite some time.”
A gentle knocking interrupted the conversation.
Gary immediately reverted to a ball and began rolling around in a panic on the coffee table. “It’s them!”
Fear shot through Carol. Rising from the couch, she slowly made her way to the door. “Who’s there?” she called.
The voice from the other side was not what she was expecting. “So sorry to interrupt your evening, ma’am, but I believe you may have an unregistered portal operating in your habitat.”
Carol almost laughed. The cloh on the on the other side of the door sounded like the kindest old lady to ever live. A thought struck her; what if Gary’s race found genteel old women scary?
She didn’t have a peephole in her door, but had heard enough to waylay her fears, and unlocked it. Before she could open it, the door burst inwards, almost smashing her face.
One thing was for damn sure, the cloh had the most misleading voice ever in the history of voices. The thing filled the doorframe. There was almost too much to take in, but Carol did make note of four very important features. The first was that it had three mouths placed—what seemed to be at random—on its face. She wondered which had produced the old lady voice. Second was that it had a scorpion-like tail, complete with ball and stinger on the end, except instead of protruding from its backside, the appendage jutted from the front. This raised a very distressing question as to whether or not it was a tail at all or something much worse… Three was that, although it had only two hands (that she could see), each one was home to dozens of tiny, baby sized fingers. And lastly, gripped in those hands was a gun so large and menacing that it ranked above the three previous observations as being the most worrisome.
“Quit gawking! We gotta jet!” Gary shouted from somewhere behind her.
The cloh leveled his weapon and fired a blast. A column of blue energy erupted from the barrel. The beam narrowly missed Carol before blowing a hole the size of a Shetland pony through the wall separating her apartment from her neighbors.
Even under the dire circumstances, Carol took a moment to wish that the laser had hit the asshole who lived there.
Without waiting for the creature to get off another shot, she spun around and headed back towards the living room. When she got there, she saw that Gary had transformed yet again, this time into something resembling a stretched towel standing up straight.
“Quick! You have to get inside of me!” Gary howled.
Carol put on the breaks. “I’m doing no such thing.”
“No need to fret dear, I just want to have a nice conversation,” the cloh piped in from behind. As the words left the terrible thing’s mouth—mouths— she heard the sound of the gun being cocked for another blast.
Gritting her teeth, and closing her eyes, Carol ran for Gary. “This better not be as awful as I think it’ll be.”
It wasn’t. It was much worse than she thought it would be.
Enveloped in Gary, she became nothing more than a passenger. She could only watch as he moved them towards the portal. Another blast of blue blew the fuck out of the stovepipe hat wearing horse picture. Carol felt a pang of sadness. That picture had belonged to her grandmother. And then they were through.
As soon as they landed, Gary melted off Carol and reformed into a ball.
“That was awful!” Carol spat.
“Really?” Gary rolled around her feet, his voice gone demure. “I found it rather…erotic.”
She had had enough. Her foot raised, she intended to stomp Gary until nothing but a stain remained. Her foot never came down though as she noticed her surroundings.
They were in a huge laboratory full of high-tech equipment. Robots moved with purpose along the floor and catwalks. Jutting from the machines were dozens of glass tubes. Some of the tubes were empty, but most of them were occupied. Exact copies of Carol floated in the green liquid suspended within them.
“You have no idea how long I’ve waited for one of my Carols to find their way home.” A voice came from above.
Carol watched as woman approached the railing of the catwalk and looked down on her with a smile.