Excerpt from Young Republican, Yuppie Princess
J.B. opened his mouth to reply, but then we heard the familiar buzzing sound and the strange cartoon noises, and I bolted up from the bed as the first of the horrible beasts flew through the bathroom and into the boys’ room. The suites in Tramski Hall were connected by a bathroom so that neighbors shared the same facilities. Apparently the other guys had opened their windows and then gone out.
J.B. grabbed a set of nunchucks on the nightstand—yes, that’s normal for him–and started swinging at the creatures, his impeccable aim catching the first squarely across the face and sending it careening into the wall with a sickening thunk. I threw up my arm to cover my face, fully expecting the creature to explode in a gaudy shower of flesh and blood, but to my immense surprise it bounced and fell down, just like a kickball, and rolled over the blankets and took to the air again.
Raven was shrieking hysterically and beating at the air with her arms, and I felt a kickball seize my ponytail – with its teeth, I guess. Hacker knocked the thing off me like he was serving a volleyball. This creature, too, bounced off the ceiling as though made of rubber and then off each wall before disappearing through the bathroom. They seemed indestructible.
“Follow me!” Hacker ordered, and he pulled Raven off the beanbag chair and pushed us toward the bathroom. I thought he meant for us to escape through his neighbors’ door, but J.B. guided me toward the shower.
“Are you crazy?” I screamed. “Those things are trying to kill us! What do you think the shower’s going to do?”
“Just get in there!” he commanded, and he pulled back the cheap white plastic curtain. He was about to push me into this tiny little space barely large enough for one person to comfortably shower, let alone hold four bodies under attack, but as I didn’t want to trip on the porcelain abutment in front of me I stumbled over it and felt J.B. push me hard towards the cold tile wall, and I cringed to feel my face smash against–
I fell, and my hands flew out to meet–what? A blinding light filled my eyes as I rolled over and over on grass, and J.B. rolled after me, and I pulled myself up to see Hacker and Raven stumble gracelessly through–thin air?–and then fall on the ground next to us.
“What in hell is going on?” I demanded. I sat up and looked around. I began to think I was caught in the middle of a truly abysmal nightmare, as the events of the evening were just too fantastic and horrific to be real. Kickballs, last time I checked, don’t fly, and I suspect Hacker and J.B. did not initially accept their dorm room with a meadow in the shower.
Because that’s exactly where we appeared to be.
And that was, mind you, a bright glade with brilliant green grass, fluffy white clouds, a forest of trees, and a multitude of birds’ songs emanating therefrom.
I checked out my companions’ reactions to this. J.B. sat with his elbows resting on his knees, casually playing with a blade of grass. Hacker lay on his back, cleaning off his eyeglasses with his shirttail.
Raven, on the other hand, clearly noticed that the shower had expanded considerably since the last time we’d visited. She craned her neck in all directions as she drank in the vision with wide-eyed wonder. Not that either of us had ever been in their shower, but I think the boys might have mentioned it earlier if they’d discovered an alternate universe in the twa-lette.
“Love what you’ve done with the bathroom, Hack,” I finally remarked. “The landscaping is really boldly avant-garde. Do you think you might install an Olympic-size swimming pool in your closet?”
“This is what I wanted to show you,” he said.
I nodded. “Apparently. But really, Hacker, the forest is a bit much. I think you should have saved that for your underwear drawer.”
“What is this place?” Raven demanded.
Hacker sat up and put his glasses back on. “The best I can tell you right now is, welcome to Chassadril.”
I began to suspect J.B. had added some funky herb into our tea, as he was the only one among us who knew of such things, except he wasn’t the type to slip people unknown drugs. But I knew there had to be a logical explanation for this.
“Chassadril,” I repeated. “Lovely name. But I don’t recall seeing it on the map. Then again, I don’t recall ever seeing your shower on the map, either.”
“Near as I can determine,” Hacker began, and his tone was deadly serious, a state which one rarely saw in the goofy computer nerd, “Chassadril is an alternate universe I somehow opened up with a program on my computer.”
I nodded silently, my face blank and impervious. I suppressed my first urge to strangle my friend until his brilliant blue eyes popped out of his head.
“J.B.,” I said calmly, “I know I can always count on you to be a breath of reason and rationality when Raven and Hacker go out of their minds, as they are wont to do from time to time. Judging by your reaction, this isn’t your first visit to–uh–Chassadril. Please tell me where we are and how we can get back, and if you still have some time, maybe tell us what the hell those goddamn kickballs were.”
J.B. sighed and slapped one of the nunchuck rods into his palm. “I don’t know what the kickballs were,” he replied, “but I suspect they came from this universe. And to the best of my knowledge, the explanation is exactly as Hacker has given it.”
Ordinarily, I would expect this kind of nonsense from Hacker, who once thought it was funny to program Raven’s typewriter to talk back to her, and which scared the living crap out of her (she was sure it was haunted or afflicted with gremlins or some such poppycock), but J.B. and I have always been of similar nature, as he is more serious than his whacked-out roommate, just as I am more reality-bound than mine. Heck, he’s a fellow Republican.
“I want you guys to know I don’t find this the least bit amusing,” I announced, and I punctuated my words with a withering look. “I don’t know what you’ve done to produce Shangri-La in the lav, but I suspect at the very least you’ve been mucking around in something dangerous and if I find out it’s drugs, I know two guys who are going to get slapped upside the head with a two-by-four!”
“Joyce, we’re not playing with you. What I say is true,” Hacker replied, and his face was as serious as mine.
“Hacker, that’s crazy!” I shot back, and I threw a disgusted look at J.B., who had decided to go delusional for no apparent reason. “People don’t just have alternate universes pop up in strange places. There isn’t even any such thing! That’s all a lot of science fiction hokum! It’s like time travel and E.T. phoning home–it makes a good story, but let’s not confuse fantasy with reality!”
“Joyce, don’t assume just because you’ve never seen something, that means it doesn’t exist,” J.B. admonished.
“Come on, J.B.–you’re the sensible one! How can you buy into this ridiculous story?”
“Because,” J.B. explained, and I could see my reflection in his ever-present sunglasses, “I think, therefore I am. It is, therefore it exists.”
“Is this really an alternate universe?” Raven exclaimed as she jumped to her feet. Hacker nodded. “This’ll make a great story idea! COOL!”
The temperature was definitely warmer than it had been in the boys’ room or the outside. The time of day appeared to be either early morning or late afternoon, depending on whether the sun was rising or setting, (make that late afternoon – no dew) and the meadow had all the familiar outside smells one would associate with it–the rich earth, the occasional whiff of wildflowers, the aroma of lush greenery. It was solid enough–and at a different time of day than it had been a few moments ago. Or had it been a few moments ago? My sense of time was completely hosed.
“I discovered this yesterday,” Hacker explained. “I opened the portal in the shower with a program I saved on my floppy disk. I went exploring and left my Swiss Army knife here. I also brought back a rock from this universe. It appears that the knife and the rock are acting as ‘anchors’ and opening the portal from both sides.
“I showed it to J.B. and we spent half the night talking about it. Joyce, I think this may somehow be connected with Stephanie Oliveri’s disappearance! I think she may have somehow discovered how to open a portal to this universe, and either got lost or met with foul play here. I don’t know what to do. Should I bring in the police? What would happen if the people in our world found out about the world’s first alternate universe? What kind of impact would we have here? Or vice versa? Would the government try to use or exploit the native life-forms here? There are all kinds of ethical questions. I wanted to show this to you and Raven and get your input, because I respect your opinions.”
“It’s kind of like Star Trek,” J.B. added. “Like the Prime Directive.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to say that both of them had consumed far too much Saurian brandy. Raven appeared to have accepted this explanation completely.
Gee, now there’s a surprise! It’s no wonder she’s a liberal.
There were only two possible explanations. Either Hacker really had produced colossal weirdness with his computer, or that all three of my friends, two of which had a tenuous grip on reality at best, had flipped out and somehow managed to pull me into their delusion. At the very least, I was convinced that Hacker and J.B. truly believed what they were saying, and were not conducting an elaborate joke at our expense.
“Well, this is all very fine and dandy,” I began, “but just how do we get back?” I waited tensely, half-afraid Hacker was going to tell me he didn’t know how.
“The portal is open on both sides. Just step back through,” he shrugged.
“Step back where?” I didn’t see anything around me resembling a portal. I hadn’t seen anything in his shower that resembled a portal, either. In fact, I had no idea what a portal looked like.
He pointed behind me. “See those two rocks on the ground, about a yard apart?” he asked. “I put those there yesterday to mark it.”
“These two here?” I walked up to two large gray rocks. Hacker nodded.
“And if I step between these rocks I’ll be back in your dorm room?” He nodded again.
I half-expected nothing would happen, but when I stepped between them, damned if I didn’t find myself back inside the shower. And I was promptly dive-bombed by a couple of kickballs!
With a shriek of terror I leaped back into the meadow. Only now I’d shown the kickballs our escape route. Raven and I began flailing. J.B. swung ferociously at the kickballs with his nunchucks, while Hacker issued karate chops which stunned several of them.
“Nice going, Joyce!” J.B. sneered as we all broke into a run. “Head for the trees!”
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