Eugene (the Witness, in case you forgot) was on the verge of panic as he was walked out to the spacious chamber where the PEN sat. He was walked out onto a platform on the end of a long walkway that seemed to be out in the middle of space. The nine members sat on thrones, suspended seemingly by nothing over nothing.
“Eugene! My friend! We are nearing Jupiter, so we were wondering which of the moons the shorty was planning on going to.” Magnus asked in his superior English tone. Eugene swallowed hard. Things were going to get serious pretty soon. “Uhmmm…. I think he said it was… Triton.”
Melinda typed the name into her armrest and a 3d map of the Jupiter system appeared in the air between all of the thrones. It spun around several times, highlighting each of the moons, before blaring a loud klaxon. “EHHHH! Wrong! No moon of Jupiter is called Triton. That would be one of Saturn’s moons.”
Eugene whispered under his breath “Jesus, what an asshole….”
Magnus leaned to his side so he could see Eugene around the 3d projection of the planet. “Eugene… That was apparently incorrect information, my friend. Maybe try again?”
Eugene took a deep breath. “He really did say the moon Triton around Jupiter… Maybe he didn’t know his planets. He does have a small brain…”
Marcus had his chin in his palm, annoyed by the whole thing, and pretty sure that the J&J Witness was full of shit. “Shorties are known for their physical and mental acuity. Try again.”
Eugene started to stammer, panic quickly overtaking his reason. Marcus grinned. “Reginald. Would you care to give Gene here some incentive to speak the truth?” The Zombie King smiled widely, white goo dribbling between his broken teeth. Marcus shuddered and looked away. Reginald always made him think of a rancid booger come to life.
Reginald wiggled his fingers at Eugene and then drew a squirt-gun and fired some water on the man. “That is unholy zombie-water. It wakes up the zombie meat you have been ingesting for the past few days. Oh yes, those were zomburgers.”
Eugene went pale. “Curse you, delicious zombie meat…”
“It will slowly turn you into a zombie king like Reggie here…” Marcus motioned to the rotting mess that was Reginald.
“Howdy!” Said the cheery corpse-master.
“And it hurts. Ohh it hurts a lot. It can be reversed, but we need incentive to do that. Where was the shorty going? Be honest; we’ll let Mickey here eat you limbs, so you will be a limbless zombie king. Then we will toss you out of the ship.” Marcus grinned.
Eugene started sobbing. “Godamnit, I didn’t want any of this…. I just wanted to spread cleanliness and talcum powder…” The last word trailed off in a wail. The PEN collectively tried to stifle a snicker. They now knew that Eugene was lying, which put them way off their track, and they would have to do some serious detective work to try and track down the shorty, but this one was even more resourceful than the others, so now they REALLY wanted him.
“Eugene, we may yet have a use for you… Go back to your room, and have some more burgers.” Melinda almost fell out of her seat with laughter as the sobbing Witness was escorted back to his cell.
Several days after leaving Vhoorl, the Foie Gras entered the atmosphere of Fantasia, and holy crap, was it ever a paradise. Even from up in the sky, they could see endless fields of perfect green grass, beautiful bright blue springs bubbled forth with crystal clear water, and damn it all if those mountains were pure purple amethyst. The crew stood in awe watching the landscape speed by as they came in for a landing. Piper was becoming concerned that Shorty had apparently been hiding for the past few days, but was afraid to mention it out loud to anyone quite yet.
Not that it would have mattered by then; they needed to get Melvin taken care of soon or he was probably going to get shot or eat someone. As they flew over the rolling hills, they passed a herd of unicorns. Bert was taking pictures, while Henry just kept saying “No shit…”
“Maybe we should go for a dip before we get too busy…” Henry punched Bert in the side. “Can you shut up, please?” Melvin gave her an appreciative squeeze on the shoulder, and Piper quietly cast a diuretic spell on Bert. Bert smirked.
“Come on, have sense of humor about it. We’ll have him cured in a bit and then we can… OH GOD!” Bert had his hand flat over his butt crack and ran as fast as he could toward the bathroom. Henry and Melvin looked over at Piper. She smiled coyly. “Faith has its benefits.”
Brandy announced that they were coming close to the outskirts of the village where the zombie curist was supposed to be, and that she was going to park outside the limits as to not scare anyone.
She needn’t have bothered, as the five companions walked up to the village, they were met by cheery smiles and friendly waves. “Hello strangers! Hi! HI! How are you?!”
Melvin suddenly stopped in a strange, completely out of the blue non sequitur; “Hey, where the hell is Shorty?” There it was, after days of assuming he was simply avoiding them, they finally acknowledged that, yeah, no one had seen Shorty. Which meant he was several days of faster than light (deal with it) travel away on a planet populated with countless nameless horrors. Shit.
They ran back to the Foie Gras. “Brandeh! Wee ‘ave a question for yoo!”
“Yes, LeDouche?” Came the sprightly reply.
“Where eez Shooreh?”
If a ship could hang its head in thought, Brandy did just that thing. “I have no idea. Probably Vhoorl, now that I think about it…”
“What?!” They all shouted in unison.
Piper moved in front of everyone else. “Oh my God! You left him?!” The Foie Gras backed up a few feet. Brandy’s bubbly voice had a nervous, guilty edge to it. “I didn’t know…”
Piper was getting desperate. “You said ‘I got him.’ though!” She was almost crying.
“I meant ‘I shot that stupid monster in its face or whatever’…” Brandy said.
Piper fell to her knees, her breath coming in rapid, shallow gasps. Melvin stepped forward with a hand up. “It’s okay, Brandy, you had no idea. We need you to stay put. We need me to get a cure, and we need to get the FUCK back there and get Shorty. He’s a tough bastard, but Cthulhu left that place. How bad is that?”
“I need to be cured so I don’t kill anyone, and quite frankly, I don’t want to die. Especially now that I have found someone worth living for.” Henry blushed, pretty sure that after days of just hanging out with Melvin that he was not referring to the more portly, but more buxom Piper.
Brandy nodded, which was weird, because large ships covered in blades don’t usually nod. The whole group seemed sufficiently placated, so they headed back toward the village so that they could get Melvin fixed and go find Shorty.
Shorty watched as another group of deep ones, fish-men worshippers of Cthulhu, stepped through the portal into another world. According to Barry, who Shorty had threatened, annoyed and harassed help out of, the portal opened to R’lyeh, Cthulhu’s once sunken city on Earth. Shorty was actually pretty excited, never figuring that he would ever get a chance to see Humanity’s home world.
He was waiting for an opportunity to go through the gate, because Earth, regardless of the state, had to be better than Vhoorl. He figured his scatter-brained friends had either forgotten him, or figured he was taking an extended shower. The only one he expected anything from was Piper; she was sharper than the rest. If they were having a hard time finding him, it had nothing to do with her. He found himself making excuses as to why she would not be responsible for him being stuck there, which simultaneously disturbed and comforted Shorty.
Once several minutes had passed, he ran toward the portal; the deep ones only seemed to come in or out every ten minutes or so, probably some sort of other-worldly shift work, so he knew he was likely safe travelling through it on the off interval. He stepped into the shimmering light of the portal and everything went crazy. Up became down, black white, and a bunch of other tropes used to describe the indescribable, then he was standing on spongy ground under clear sky.
So this is fabled R’lyeh, he thought. Smells like dead fish and the angles are all wrong. There must be a boat to get off the damn island. He had his shotgun in his hands and started off in the easiest to walk direction. While the creatures did speak, he had no clue how to interpret the Elder language of times long forgotten, so he didn’t bother trying to figure out what they were saying. All he knew was that when Cthulhu’s sunken city was not sunken, it was just an island, and that he would likely find a boat off of it. Especially since Barry had said they were working on trade with some earthbound cultists.
He started off, hoping like hell that he would find a boat or something and get as far away from the evil one and his minions as possible.
Mickey was losing it. He was dying to eat some fresh meat, and the werewolves were hiding in the prison wing where he wasn’t allowed. He wanted to eat the Witness Eugene so bad he could taste the guy, but the rest of the PEN had agreed he could prove useful, so he couldn’t even eat him.
He ran into the meeting room where the rest of the PEN was sitting around discussing where to start looking for Shorty. “Let’s go to Earth!” he shouted with no prelude or preamble. “What?” Snapped Melinda, who, despite being dead for decades, still seemed to have a monthly cycle that made her really bitchy. “Well, we know the shorty is not on any of these moons, but he may be in this solar system. What better place to look than earth? It has more people than any other place around here…”
“And more food!” chimed Reginald. Marcus sighed. It was as good an idea as any. “Fine, let’s set a course for Earth. Magnus did some checking, and then said “It looks like mighty Cthulhu has woken from his slumber. Maybe we have an ally on earth. Let’s give it a shot.”
Marcus growled; the last thing he wanted was that Limey prick agreeing with him, but he didn’t have much of a choice. They would go to humankind’s home world, and get the cannibals some food in the process. The Leviathan started toward the tiny blue dot in the distance.
Melvin was at the head of the group as they walked through the perfectly laid out city of Beauty Falls. They were near 100 Happy Street, which meant they were very close to the person who could cure Melvin. The streets were made of beautiful alabaster cobblestones that amazingly did not hurt their feet after walking miles on them, and the houses all looked a lot like old Bavarian homes, with white plaster walls broken up by dark wooden beams. Flower boxes lined every window, and smiling villagers waved on every street corner.
They were beginning to understand why Barry hated the place; the people were so fucking happy, you just wanted to punch them.
123 Happy Street was a quaint little shack covered in cedar shingles and smelled of cinnamon. They knocked on the front door, and after a few seconds, received a welcome quite different from the one they got from Barry on Vhoorl. A small man wearing a tie dyed shirt, a long skirt and John Lennon glasses answered the door. “Oh, hi, yeah, nice to see you all, yeah. Can I help you? Yeah…”
“Our friend was bitten by several zombies and needs help.” Said Henry.
The little man’s eyes widened. “Oh, yeah… Bummer, yeah… I can, like, totally help with that… Yeah…” He waved them inside. “Yeah… I’m Clem. I cure stuff, like the sniffles and the depressing, yeah… Zombie stuff is like, out there man! But I can fix that, yeah….”
Melvin was considering, if only for a second, just walking out of the place, but one look at Henry changed his mind. He was now chalky white. His skin had a gooey texture, like milk aspic, and his facial features were becoming sunken. “Can you cure me?”
Clem looked at him. “Whoaaa! You’re HUGE man! Yeah! I bet I have enough Unicorn Horn and Fresca, man; we’ll get you fixed up. Yeah… In a jiff… Yeah…” He rummaged around for a bit and got some ingredients together. He then put them into a blender and pulsed it a few times. When he took the lid off, the contents smelled like orange creamsicle with strawberries. He lifted it to his lips and took a long drink.
“Yeah, that’s great! Yeah….”
“Uh… Clem?” Asked Piper. The little man looked over a blinked, a vacant look crossing his face. “You were going to make a zombie cure?”
Clem looked at them with a startled, deer in the headlights expression, smoothie dripping from his bushy mustache and beard. “What?” He coughed then laughed. “Oh Yeah! The big man! Zombie cure! Yeah! I need Unicorn Horn and Fresca… Oh Man! Yeah. Here it is! Yeah.”
He pulled out a mortar and pestle and broke off some horn chunks with a hammer. “Don’t worry, man, these horns are harvested when the Unicorns drop them in their spring molt. They are 100% organic and cruelty free. Yeah. Plus, the Unicorns are compensated with hay, oats and lavender. Yeah.”
“This will cure his zombism?” Asked Piper.
“Yeah… No… Yeah… This will totally hold it at bay, and stuff… Each dose will, like, majorly hold it back for like a week… Yeah… But he needs to have a like, Necromancer totally reverse it or eventually he will die and yeah… you know… yeah….”
The group watched for the better part of an hour while Clem mixed, ground, blended and poured ingredients, seemingly from memory, until the end result, which looked and smelled a great deal like honey, was poured into a tall, beautifully blown glass carafe.
“Yeah… Okay now… Yeah… You need to drink a tall glass of this stuff once a week… Yeah… There should be enough for, like, 2 months man… But after that time, you need to be cured by a necro or you’ll totally die. Like totally. Dead. Yeah…”
Melvin eyed the concoction warily; he barely believed this scatter-brained stoner was capable of creating a magical healing solution, but at the same time, it really looked good. “Hey, man… Yeah… Drink the first one here! HAH! Yeah….”
Melvin didn’t move quite yet. “What do we owe you?” Clem looked surprised. “Owe? Yeah… Fantasia doesn’t have money man!” He said with a huge smile.”But, yeah, you could say you owe me… Dinner! I see your friend here is a Frenchy… Yeah… French people make the best food, man….”
LeDouche bowed low. “Ah wood be honoared to sehrv ah fihn meal to de mahn who sav’ed ourr frend.”
Clem’s eyes stared widely at LeDouche. “Yeah… I didn’t understand a word of that man, but that is so groovy…”
Piper patted Clem’s shoulder. “He said ‘Yes’.”
The hairy little man smiled ‘Oh WOW! Far out! That is so awesome! Man! Yeah!”
Despite their desire to get right back out and find shorty, the group stayed true to their word and LeDouche provided Clem and his friends with an exquisite meal; Steak Au Poivre, delicate baby greens from Clem’s own garden, fine Champagne and a desert of chocolate mousse. Of course, the Frenchman provided enough food for everyone to have seconds.
Clem patted his now rounded belly and asked. “Yeah… so, how’d you all find me?”
Piper, who was sipping an espresso, answered. “We found a mystic on Vhoorl who did a search for zombie cures and you came up.”
“Yeah… A mystic eh? We had one of them around here for a year… Dude’s name was Barry. Yeah… Nice guy, total drag though… Yeah…”
“He’s actually the one who pointed us this way.” Said Bert.
“No way! Cool, man! Yeah…” Said Clem as he stood up. “Yeah, small universe, man… How was ol’ Barry? Yeah…”
Piper answered. “Crotchety, crabby, pissy, uncooperative.”
“Oh man, that’s old Barry… Yeah…. We should visit him…” Melvin snorted “Yeah that would go over well, yeah…” Henry laughed and elbowed the big man in the ribs. They stayed late, finishing off all of the leftovers and making small talk with Clem and his friends. They were friendly, affable, and so god damn friendly that the crew of the Foie Gras was pretty sure that if they did not get going, they were going to strangle the smile off of someone.
Clem was reluctant to let them go, the little hippy apparently bonded very quickly with new people and had a hard time letting go. Melvin had to peel him off of Bert’s arm as the guard tried to get on the ship.
“Yeah… Oh man… I am gonna miss you guys SO MUCH! Yeah…” He was crying. Melvin just shook his head. The group waved and promised to visit some day, if they survived. Then Brandy pointed them toward the stars and blasted up out of Fantasia’s atmosphere.
“We need to head back to Vhoorl.” Said Piper, having a hard time keeping the desperate edge out of her voice. LeDouche did not need to be told twice, and the Foie Gras was soon heading back to the grey-green planet.
Meanwhile, not on Vhoorl, but on Earth, shorty was considering how he should have gone the other direction since he had apparently walked directly into the heart of R’lyeh and was hiding in the non-Euclidean angles of the star-spawned city’s buildings just barely avoiding the many probing eyes of a multitude of Lovecraftian horrors.
He managed to find a building that looked a great deal like a giant sarcophagus and seemed to be generally avoided by the other creatures, so he figured that was a good place to go to not get eaten. The entirety of the structure was covered in runes and bas reliefs of cyclopean horrors, of fabled Kadath, ancient Sarnath, and a bunch of other places you probably have heard of if you are familiar at all with the Cthulhu Mythos.
He found an entrance; a pair of doors, slightly ajar, each the size of a football field, and still only a third the height of the apparent tomb. Shorty snuck inside the gap, which was large enough to drive a car through. The inside was dimly lit with giant braziers and glowing gems. Shorty found some bas reliefs that were Giger-esque ribs built into the wall, but doubled just nicely as a ladder for someone his size. He figured if he could get to the roof of the structure, he might be able to get a better feel for where he needed to go, and maybe even hitch a ride on one of the many flying monsters that inhabited the city.
It took him well over 25 minutes to get to a set of elevated catwalks that hung from the ceiling, probably for the deep ones that populated the city. Down below was a large, green, pulpy, pulsating mass. It shifted every so often, and at one point made a loud, flatulent sound that was followed by a rank odor so awful that Shorty nearly threw up. He was watching the thing, whatever it was, below him so intently, that he failed to notice the fish man walking across the catwalk toward him.
Since the deep one’s eyes were on the sides of its head, it also didn’t see Shorty directly in front of him. The two collided and fell back. The angry fish man croaked at Shorty then grabbed a horn it wore around its neck and inhaled deeply. Without thinking, simply reacting, Shorty drew his shotgun and pumped two shots into the deep one’s chest, no doubt sounding off much louder than the horn would have been.
The creature had a stupid, strangled look on its face as it toppled over the railing of the catwalk and fell to the green mass below. There was a deep inhaling noise, followed by a loud rumbling. Whatever was sleeping down there woke when the fish man fell on it. Shorty watched with a mix of curiosity and more curiosity as the hulking mass sat up, then turned and got on its knees, before standing up, its tentacled face directly in front of Shorty.
Shorty put his hand on his hip and shook his head. Literally any other race would have gone insane or simply died of fright if faced with the awesome, horrifying spectacle in front of him, but Shorty just said “No shit, it’s The Cthulhu. I’ll be damned.”
The Great Old One roared at Shorty as its tentacles slithered over the catwalk toward the small man. Showing his typical attitude toward loud noises, Shorty shot the mighty Cthulhu in the face with his shotgun. This surprised the elder god. Never before had anyone defied him in such a manner; they usually cried and peed themselves shortly before being devoured or smashed.
Shorty realized that he had bought himself a second or two, so he simply started running in the direction the deep one had come from, assuming that however it got in was a way out for him, and hoping like hell that it was not just another ladder like the one that had gotten him up on the catwalks.
He saw an opening, and his brain processed that he saw light from outside, and what looked like stairs going up. He ran as fast as he could toward the exit, as Cthulhu screamed an otherworldly roar behind him, and an army of godly tentacles raced toward the small man. He dove as he reached the portal, and was more than a little surprised what he saw on the other side.