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“Ex-candidate for U.S. senator, John Janglehorn, thirty one, was found dead in his hotel room late this morning. Police claim that the alleged rapist was unquestionably murdered, but they have not yet determined who was responsible for the act. Suspects are being actively collected as we speak.”

“Wake up, slumber-bum,” Scéléra’s voice dripped into one of my dreams. Her voice reached deep down inside of me and pulled me back up into consciousness.

“What? Suspects?” I frantically opened my eyes. I was immediately fully alert.

“Silly, you heard the TV from all the way inside of your dreams? You’re a paranoid slumber-bum too,” she teased. But she was right. I doubted that there was such a thing as a killer without paranoia…it was a logical fear, considering that the society generally frowned upon killing. Didn’t some people deserve to be murdered? It’s a dog eat dog world, you know. It isn’t as if they’ll avoid death forever anyway.

It’s a well-known fact that everyone dies, and I think dying all at once seems to have a few benefits over dying in little bits and pieces over a long period of time. Janglehorn would never have to feel old and decrepit. He would never have to spend years and years watching himself deteriorate into oblivion. That sounded alright to me…I didn’t want to have to go through all of that either. Maybe in a couple of decades some kind gent or gentress would stop by and off me too. One can always hope.

“I guess I am paranoid, honestly, but a little paranoia isn’t a bad thing. A little paranoia can be a savior. One can never have too much security. In other news, I think I’d rather be killed than die of natural causes. It would be a more memorable and less painful way to go.”

“That it would! You can murder me, love.” She used a sultry sensual voice.

“Maybe I’ll accept the challenge.”

“Police believe that the killer may have been using the name ‘James Jingle’ at the time of the murder, although it is likely that this name is an alias. We will have more information about the murder later tonight! Be sure to tune in tonight at eight! We need those ratings!” The reporter on the living room TV babbled loud and clear.

“James Jingle! Ha! I know who the killer is! Pick me, pick me! It’s you!” Vera popped up from behind the doorway. Only her head was visible. We hadn’t told her about the incident yet because we weren’t sure how she would take it. She watched me while I rose from the mattress and took a bow.

“Hooray! Soufflé! You’re a celebrity of death! Except for the fact that the media doesn’t know who you are. It would be best to keep it that way, you know. Bleach, ketamine, a bashed in skull and everything! Ya did it right! I’m glad that you two sociopaths are here. You bring excitement into my life. That’s a great feat, you know. I wouldn’t say that about most scallywanks. I’ve seen a lot of shit…it takes a lot to get me going. Murder, though, that’ll do the trick every time!”

Wow. Vera was okay with it? That was sort of surprising too. I wasn’t shocked, I was relieved. Sometimes I could be sort of pro-murder myself, as most would probably assume now…but I wasn’t for pointless murder. I was still ashamed for buying into the whole ‘rapist’ bullshit. I imagined that Vera had probably killed someone before too, but I’d save that question for another day.

“I hear Heffles!” She announced. Scéléra perked up too, understandably. “Mistah Woozly is here,” Vera concluded before flitting away. I supposed that we should follow her. Was I more notorious than Heffalump now? He had a lot more cash I did, but I just killed a politician. Oh well. Surely Heffalump had killed before…but it wasn’t like we were keeping score. We arrived at the kitchen just as Vera was making an announcement.

“Tea time! Time to tea! Tea party! A party with having tea! I made some yesternight! Our young miscreants will be pleased!”

“I think I might be too,” Mal replied.

“We shall be pleased? Do please us,” I said as we entered the room. Holy damn. The table was set with an incredibly posh looking tablecloth, and in the center of that was a large ornate Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland themed teapot. There were seven places set with purple ceramic teacups that were all accompanied by regal black handkerchiefs. Those seemed quite fitting for all of us, except for maybe Heffalump. I wasn’t quite sure what colors would suit him best…but why had seven places been set? There were only five of us. Was Drake coming back and bringing a friend along?

“No!” Vera yelled loudly. “This simply won’t do! We must wear something else! Wear something perfect for a tea party! That means you too, Mally! Heffalump, you’re ready already. Lookin’ fly, guy.” She snapped her fingers and spun around. “Ivan, wear your bloody murdersuit! And Scéléra…hmm, surprise me!” She was absolutely serious about all of this. Whatever was about to happen wasn’t going to happen until we all agreed to play dress up. This was okay with me. Scéléra and I would probably get something out of it, knowing Vera, and a fancy tea party sounded kind of fun anyway.

Soon everyone was back in the kitchen. I was wearing my bloody murdersuit, as requested. Heffalump was simply dressed as himself: a real-life gangster. Mal had donned a cheap yet captivating Riddler Halloween costume. I assumed that Vera hadn’t asked Heffalump to dress up was because ‘Heffalump don’t follow fuckin’ orders, bitch’. Plus the fact remained that he was quite seriously a dangerous thug.

Vera wore a frilly lacey black and white dress with her sparkling red slippers. She pulled Lolita off well. Scéléra had chosen a pair of large black boots, a small black dress, a pair of matching cut-off gloves and some huge circular purple spirally glasses. Oh, and a pointy witch hat. I was instantly reminded that I was in love. She looked perfect.

Vera hadn’t come alone. With her was a ragged but well-dressed doll girl who had her shade of white hair and an eerie sparkle in her eye. She also brought a neon green little teddy bear. She carried them over, one in each hand, and set them in each of the two extra seats at the table. After this she sat down and indicated that we could now do the same.

“Lovely, lovely, we all look so lovely!” She chimed happily as she poured herself and our two inanimate guests some delectable tea. They were sitting on either side of her. “Bonezie Bear and Madame Marmaladeous will be joining us on this fine pre-afternoon. Say hello to them, everyone!” She grabbed an arm of each one and made them wave to the group. This pre-afternoon was off to a fun start. “Sit down and tea yourselves, lovelies! The time has come to savor Villainess Vera’s magical homemade brew! Come now! Commence! Drinky-drinky, lift your pinky!”

We all sat down and poured ourselves some piping hot tea. There was just enough in the teapot to fill all seven cups. It was like magic. I raised a cup to my lips and sampled a taste of it. Ick! The taste was far worse than I was expecting. It was drinkable, just…

“What did you put in this?” I asked.

“Hmm? Oh! Psilocybin, mhmm!”

“Shrooms,” Scéléra whispered to me. Holy shit. Okay. That would have been nice to know. But it was fine. One more experience was about to be added to the experience junkie’s collection. I brought the cup back up to my mouth and gulped the rest down. Gulp. The hour was now toony-buffoon time. Scéléra’s cup was already empty and so was Vera’s.

“This tea party is sooo wonderful!” Vera said in an extremely high pitched voice as she grabbed the doll girl and wiggled her around. Madame Marmaladeous was talking. “And the tea, oh so delicioso! Glug, glug, glugitty-glug!” Vera gulped down all of the tea in Madame Marmaladeous’ cup. Damn, she was doubling up. “I concur!” She said in a very low voice while shaking Bonezie. “Delicioso! Virtuoso!” She roared in a deep male voice and guzzled all of Bonezie’s tea as well. Jesus Christ. What would she be like on a triple dose of mushroom tea? We would soon find out.

“God damn, Vera. I’ll be trip-sitting soon!” Mal said with a laugh.

“Yes! Thank you, Your Maliciousness. Trip-sit while I sit tripping, won’t you?” And then suddenly kaleidoscopes were everywhere! Peeew! Whoosh! No…not really…it wasn’t quite like that. First the individual fibers of the living room carpet turned into flesh-eating worms that began to swarm and squiggle-squaggle all around me. Somehow Scéléra and I were now in the living room. How we got there I shall never know.

It may sound like the beginning of a very bad trip, but it wasn’t bad for me. I thought the flesh-eating worms were pretty neat, and they weren’t even eating my flesh. They told me that they only munched the flesh of those who were frightened by them. It was a good thing that I wasn’t frightened then. Scéléra must not have been scared of them either, for all of her flesh was still attached.

I looked up at the ceiling. Okay, now the neon shit was starting to come onto the radar. The entire ceiling had become one single pulsing flowing entity and was now merged with all of the walls around it. Vera was here too, smoking out of the bong in addition to her three cups of tea. God damn. I looked down at her shoes, red and glittering like Dorothy’s…Dorothy…Dorothy Dahlia. Bing, bing, bam! Her name was triggered by the shoes and now I was going to have to think about her.

What would it have been like to be her that morning? She stared blankly into the TV screen while it announced that the love of her life had been murdered. The killer even thought that he was avenging her because he had believed the culture. In reality, he destroyed half of her soul. The society didn’t give a shit about her soul, but I did and felt deeply ashamed. The rest of humanity still tried to convince the young girl that she had been raped, because apparently being one day away from eighteen years old meant being one day away from being treated like a human being.

The hours passed and the world rearranged and rethought itself every couple of seconds. Scéléra and I had both partaken of the bong’s smokiness by now. Vera was lying on the floor laughing hysterically and moving around a steering wheel-shaped videogame controller. She was street racing in another galaxy. Sometimes she would scream in fits of insanity.

“Out of my way, bitches!” I wondered if she was winning. Mal was actually playing a street racing game on the TV. They must have had an Xbox or something. I randomly felt an overwhelming urge to be outdoors.

“Scéléra, come along with me and we will see what nighttime nature’s mood shall be.”

“Aye, aye, fancy guy. Let’s go and pay Mother a visit.” And so we ventured out into the darkness. We were the only ones around apart from the trees and the silent Crown Victoria. Heffalump had gotten paranoid, for some reason that I no longer remembered, and sped away back to his apartment. Scéléra put both of her hands, that were still covered in the finger paint we had been using inside, on my chest and kissed me gently. She as stayed close to me as possible and we listened to the sounds of each other’s life forces. Soon we were lying down in the back yard, comfortably floating around in a world of our creation.

“All of the stars seem to mean something tonight,” she began. “I guess that they’ve watched me for a while. Sometimes I watch them back. A lot of the stars are over a million light-years away. We see only their ghosts from a time that’s now just a faraway faded memory. I suppose they don’t really see us either. But someday, millions of years from now, they’ll see what we look like at this very second. What shall they see, love? I’m sure they’d love some entertainment, being all alone out there in the void of outer space and all. We mustn’t disappoint them.”

“No, we mustn’t. I see something up there too.”

“Ooh, what could it be?” We pulled each other closer.

“You see, the moon is the great teleporty-telephone of the cosmos. When we’re apart again, all we have to do see each other is just look up at the moon. If we look at the same time then it will turn into a portal, a scrying stone through which we can see into each other’s worlds.”

“Oh, I think you’re right! What if we use the moon to look into each other’s worlds right now? Would we see the same thing? Would the two of us lying here look the same to both of us?”

“Maybe, but probably not. We’re individual people after all. We don’t see things in exactly the same way. That would make things far too boring. But all of our worlds that we see through the moon have something between them that is constant. In all of them we’re together.”

“Mhm, I like that.” But Shadowshade had something to add.

“The world sees you as a monster, Ivan, because you are unique. To them you are a ‘drug addicted vile miscreant’, not the ‘revolutionary social philosopher’ that you and I believe you to be. You’ve chosen the preservation of your soul and being over social acceptance. They’ll never forgive you for that. Are you still content with your choice?”

“Of course,” I said aloud.

“What?” Scéléra asked.

“Oh, nothing. I just heard something. It sounded sort of like a Shadowshade.”

“Like a ghost, or a demon maybe? A spooky spook? I think I might have one of those too.” And maybe she did, but her words brought Veia was here. She was naming my demon inside of the school.

“…A ghost, or a demon maybe? A spooky spook?” No matter who asked that question now, it would forever lead back to her. “It’s a shadowshade then, a shady-shady shadowshade…”

“Mr. Terrible, let’s go to sleep right here…yet not quite here at the same time. Let’s go somewhere inside our minds.” Scéléra dragged me back into the present. This sounded wonderful to me. I was incredibly adept at losing myself in my fantasies. It was one of my favorite pastimes.

“Where shall we sleep?” I asked.

“What about in an indoor playground, where everything is black and white. We’ll spin on the stripy merry-go-round as it turns into a circular bed with velvet pillows and a big swirly blanket. Then we’ll be free…” I was there with her instantly. The merry-go-round slowly spun, round and round, growing steadily slower with each passing moment.

“No one will come looking for us here,” I said. “No one will barge in and tell us what they think we should be doing. It’ll be just us…”

“Mmhmm.” She gently closed her eyes and fell asleep. I was right behind her. Slower, slower, slower…and the merry-go-round was perfectly still.

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