The Scariest Bird

What would you say,
Is the scariest bird?
What avian can most frighten,
Without saying a word?

Is it the vulture,
With its bald little head,
Who swoops down from a branch,
To feast on the dead?

A crow or a raven,
Perched on a dead tree?
Don’t say it’s a bat;
Those are mammals, you see.

The scariest bird,
That I’ve ever known,
Is the rooster that sits,
Right outside my home.

When you see him,
You better beware,
You can’t help but shudder,
At his ice-cold stare.

He never flies away,
He never goes,
And worst of all,
He never crows.

But he will crow,
And when that day comes,
It’ll be too late to hide,
Too late to run,

For believe me,
When I say,
He’ll crow on Earth’s
Final day.

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Animal Superheroes

snakesss

The laughter will stop, I told myself. The laughter will stop because he will die, and after he dies, the others will as well.

Every time I was certain the laughter would stop, every time I thought it was safe to leave, it just got louder, as did the havoc it was complimenting. Still I lay under my desk – it wasn’t cowardice, I thought, it was common sense. ‘I’m not afraid, I’m not,’ I whispered.

The laughter did stop briefly, but only because the laugher had a message for me:

‘Come out, come out wherever you are.’

The laughter again. He sounded like…

A villain.

And wasn’t that what I was supposed to be?

So many years I had called myself evil, boasted about how I was the most malevolent being to ever walk the Earth – and why? Who in their right mind would actually call themselves evil? Well, I was being honest for one thing.

That, and I wanted to be feared. If people feared you, you had power over them, and people feared evil things. If they were terrified of those who were evil but thought they were good, they would be even more terrified of someone who revelled in being evil, someone less likely to be reasoned with.

I set out to be feared. I set out to have power.

I stood up, wielding my gun, my heart still pounding.

‘We know you’re in there, come on out!’ He laughed again.

‘Stop laughing,’ came another voice, ‘this is serious.’

‘We want to do this, Blake! Why not have fun doing something we want?’

I couldn’t let them have power over me.

As they bickered, I kicked open my office door with my foot, striding among the remains of my robot soldiers.

‘Well, well,’ said Whitman the adder, showing off the axe at the end of his tail, ‘look who showed up.’ Blake, the bulky viper next to him, only snarled at me.

They came for me. They came to punish me for my most heinous crime: their creation.

I readied the gun.

With another laugh, Whitman sprung towards me, axe-end first. I instinctively leapt out of the way, only for Blake to slam his tail on my foot, making me drop the gun.

They were agile. They were strong. I made them that way.

Whitman wrapped himself around my gun, clinging to it tightly as if it were a teddy bear. ‘You know, I wish I could use one of these,’ he said, ‘wouldn’t it be neat if we blew his head off?’

‘You remember what Tennyson said,’ barked Blake, ‘we can’t kill him until all of us are present. He and Shelley should be here soon.’

Upon hearing the names of the others, I ran, kicking away circuits and decapitated robot body parts. My robot army, which I spent so much time constructing and assembling, destroyed in an instant.

As I turned around a corner, I saw one intact, still walking the halls with its arms outstretched and its laser guns bared. Before I could let relief wash over me, the robot seized me by the throat, and from behind its back slithered a boa constrictor, one with two thin mechanical arms, her eyes narrowing as she looked at me.

Shelley. The snake I had given my knowledge of machinery and robotics. I did that so she could help me build more robots, not turn them against me. Even those arms of hers were my creation.

‘I’m not going to kill you yet,’ sneered Shelley, as the robot loosened its grip slightly ‘I want you to have a good look at me. Have a good look at your little freak.’

Don’t give them power, I told myself, don’t give them power…

‘How dare you do this?’ I cried, ‘I created you, you do what I command!’

The robot’s grip tightened again, and Shelley spat in my face. ‘That’s why you made us like this, isn’t it? So you could have more little toadies. That’s all we are to you.’

No, I wanted to say. I took such pride in creating you, changing you from simple snakes into intellectual creatures. Your rebirth was like poetry, that’s why I named you after poets…

Whitman and Blake slithered towards me, and as soon as Shelley saw her “brothers”, she made the robot slam my head against the wall. The ringing in my ears and the throbbing in my skull was nowhere near as painful as the sound of Whitman’s laughter.

‘Look at the mighty evil scientist now,’ said Blake, ‘look how terrifying he is surrounded by his loyal henchmen!’

‘I celebrate myself,’ chortled Whitman, ‘and sing myself!’

‘Shut up!’ snapped Shelley, ‘We aren’t to be celebrated! We shouldn’t even be!’

‘Hey!’ said Whitman, ‘We are doing something good here!’

Before I could respond in any way, Blake sprung off the ground and launched himself at my head. As soon as he did, I found myself back in my precious laboratory, where I took an adder, a viper, a constrictor and a cobra, attached wires to their bodies and minds, and remoulded them into strong, intelligent creatures, willing to obey my every word.

I thought I had made them loyal.

The first thing I saw upon re-opening my eyes was Whitman smiling proudly as he looked at my severed leg. He shook his axe tail as he hummed a “neh neh neh neh neh” tune.

‘You made us like this just to scare people,’ Shelley said, ‘Well, you look pretty terrified.’

‘Great work.’ There came Tennyson the cobra. A family fully reunited. Me and my sons and daughter.

‘Can we kill him now?’ snarled Blake.

‘That’s why I came here,’ said Tennyson, holding a syringe in his tail, ‘You see this, Doctor? You wanted us to use this on your enemies? Shelley, will you do the honours?’

‘With pleasure,’ she said as she snatched it away.

She plunged it into my heart and I died.

I died and went to Hell.

I still saw the four snakes, all of them cheering at my death. ‘From this day forth,’ said Tennyson, stretching himself, ‘we will do the opposite of what we were mutated to do. We will spread hope instead of fear, stop crimes instead of causing them, and in time, the people will accept us.’ Shelley smiled – a rather forced smile – and used her mechanical arms to hug them all.

They were not the only ones who saw me die.

The next thing I saw was that my death was televised, and cheered by everyone who watched it. Cheered by children as they feasted on sugary cereals on Saturday morning.

 

Fun With Henchmen

This story directly follows on from Flab and Glob.


For my sixteenth birthday, I asked for nothing but money. I daydreamed about what I was going to spend it on during the days leading up to my birthday but when I received the money, I suddenly had no idea what I was going to spend it on. I ended up just blowing it all on junk food and DVDs of bad movies I never got round to watching.

That’s how it felt when I suddenly had, for lack of a better word, henchmen.

I had two monsters – Flab and Glob – at my beck and call, for painting them into my world. They said they could turn my aunt’s house into a monster and, seeing an opportunity to get back at the kids who made fun of it, Aunt Fiona and me, I allowed them to. At least for a moment, mind you.

When they returned the house to normal, they asked, ‘Is there anything else you would like us to do?’ and I didn’t have an answer.

‘Well, for one thing,’ said Aunt Fiona, listening in to our conversation, ‘you could make yourselves useful by cleaning up the place.’

‘We serve only Emily,’ said Glob, ‘she brought us into this world.’

‘What is your command?’ Flab asked me.

‘Um, do the…cleaning thing?’ And they did, though Aunt Fiona had to tell them how a vacuum cleaner worked. ‘Maybe we’ll keep them,’ Aunt Fiona said as she watched them follow their orders, ‘they clean the place better than you do.’

‘Ha ha,’ I replied, ‘remember they only listen to me.’

‘Just don’t ask them to do your coursework.’ I smirked, but I also felt like slapping my forehead and saying, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’

You have two little monsters at your command, I told myself, you have power. You scared the crap out of those kids but you can do more. You can start a reign of terror with just a word…

‘You done with the cleaning?’ I asked Flab and Glob.

‘If you say we are,’ they replied in unison.

‘Um…let’s play some video games.’

As soon as I said that, I inwardly berated myself for being an idiot. Then I thought, well, just starting off small. Then I thought it was too late to be starting small when I had a living house stomp down the street.

Up the stairs went Flab and Glob and I showed them my console and how the controllers worked (I only had one extra controller, so Glob and Flab had to take it in turns being second player). We played a few games of Monstrous Motorbike Racer and as we did, Glob and Flab told me about racing in their world and they used to watch their people riding “Tralalops”.

When they spoke of their world – the inky skies and twisted trees, the people and creatures – I hung onto every word, and they seemed interested in what my world was like as well. When one virtual motorbike race ended, they instantly wanted another, and they said the beers I served them were the best thing they had ever tasted.

This is going to sound corny, but I never really had any friends. Never really spoke to anyone at school, spent playtimes and lunchtimes alone reading, known solely as “that weird girl” by the other kids. Now I had two little monsters in my bedroom and not only were they willing to do what I told them to, but they were the closest things to friends I ever really had (told you it was corny).

They slept in two empty cardboard boxes in my cupboard that night. Monsters in the cupboard; how fitting.

As I slept, I dreamt about their world. A sky like a blackboard with the mountains, trees and ground looking like they were made of chalk. I was sure that I even saw a Tralalop saunter by.

No, it wasn’t a dream. I felt the chilling, yet soothing breeze against my skin. I smelled the bizarre pongs of the plantlife. I wasn’t imagining this world, just like I didn’t imagine Flab and Glob. They existed before I ever painted them; they just popped into my head.

Their world was cold. Their world was bizarre and monochrome and dizzying.

I wanted to stay.

I couldn’t, for my dreams were interrupted by Flab and Glob bouncing on my bed. ‘What can we do for you?’ they asked.

‘Just get me some breakfast,’ I said, ‘get me some honey nut cornflakes and some toast please.’

They got me some honey nut cornflakes – still in the box – and a dead fly – ‘Don’t you say things are toast when they’re dead?’ So my plan of having breakfast in bed was ruined when I got out of bed and taught them about cereals. It was worth it, I thought at the time, to see their smiles when they tasted honey nut cornflakes.

‘Huh,’ said Aunt Fiona when she flicked through the morning news on her phone, ‘nothing about our house turning into a monster. You’d think that’d be front page stuff.’

‘Maybe they all thought it was some mass hallucination or something,’ I replied, but deep down, I wanted to act like the sort of cartoon villain that’d have henchmen called Flab and Glob and yell ‘Curses!’

Yes, I wanted to be feared. I wanted everyone in the town to know it was the house I lived in that turned into a monster, and it was because of me that it became a monster.

That’s it, I thought, I always wanted to scare people. That’s why I painted scary pictures.

‘We’re going to have a little fun,’ I told Flab and Glob.

I took them outside where it was a clear day without a cloud in the sky and the birds were singing and the world seemed so dull and twee when I had spent some time in their beautiful home.

Both Flab and Glob had their own little powers, and while they did nothing as big as bring a building to life, they conjured up some impressive scares. They created an illusion of a spectre to spring out of corners, startling several people. Little worms with giant fangs squirmed around the streets. Even Flab and Glob personally joined in on the fun, dancing down the pavement, screeching at anyone who saw them.

All the while, I hid, watching the whole thing, snickering away like a schoolchild watching a teacher react to a rubber spider. This, all this, it could not be dismissed as an hallucination or a trick or whatever.

As soon as the coast was clear, I came out of hiding, and I, Flab and Glob ran away from the town, into the woods.

‘Now that was fun,’ said Flab as we ran.

‘It was, wasn’t it?’ I replied, ‘Hey, I have something else I want to ask…’

‘What?’

‘Well,’ I said as we stopped running, ‘since we need to lie low for a while, can you take me to your world?’

Flab and Glob laughed.

‘Just what we wanted you to say.’

All colour from my surroundings faded. The pale blue sky darkened into that blackboard sky from my dreams. Chalk trees and bushes surrounded me as I heard the high-pitched chirps of this world’s avian lifeforms. I felt the chilling, yet soothing breeze against my skin. I smelled the bizarre pongs of the plantlife. I wasn’t imagining this world, just like I didn’t imagine Flab and Glob.

Flab and Glob had disappeared. Aunt Fiona stood before me.

Though Flab and Glob were absent, I still heard them.

‘We were in your debt,’ I heard Flab say, ‘until you said that.’

‘Now we get to stay in your world while you have to stay in ours!’

‘You tricked me!’ I snarled.

‘We don’t make the rules.’

‘If someone brings you into their world by painting you,’ explained Glob, ‘you owe them. That is, unless they agree to go to your world, through which they will take your place.’

‘Thanks for showing us your world,’ laughed Flab, ‘and I’m sure you’ll enjoy ours. You painted it enough.’

Of course, Aunt Fiona’s response was to turn to me and say, ‘You really should have painted nicer things!’

 

 

Flab and Glob

emily

‘I suppose I’m not helping,’ I often said to myself while looking around my bedroom. Staring at my posters, the pseudo-bats and pseudo-skulls, and my own paintings, depicting surreal, undead creatures and swirling monochrome worlds.

Aunt Fiona often tells me that I shouldn’t focus so much on the macabre. So many times she’s said ‘I wish you would paint nicer things’ and suggested I depict cottages and sunflowers and bright green fields. I couldn’t blame her – she and I lived in a house that the neighbourhood kids thought was haunted. Often when I went out, I would see some brats whispering to each other about how Aunt Fiona was a serial killer or that I was a ghost.

Auntie’s house, even after a coat of paint and some new flowers planted in the front, looked like that spooky old house at the end of the road from countless ghost stories, and I was filling the interior with ghastly ghouls and monstrous fiends. Scary paintings were the last thing that house needed and yet I kept on painting them. Painting a haunted monochrome forest while listening to my favourite songs always calmed me after a long day at school, and I even managed to sell a couple online for some extra money (money I spent on a few new flowers for the front, even).

Also, I very well couldn’t get rid of Flab and Glob. Two paintings hung above my bed, two ghosts among grey wisps of smoke. Flab was a fat ghost with crooked teeth, Glob was a crocodile-like creature with a wide grin. These two were the closest thing I had to friends. Whenever I felt a lack of inspiration, all I had to do was look at them, and the ideas would pour forth.

I painted a picture of giant fangs dripping blood onto a landscape. That was their idea.

A twisted room where every wall had a sinister shadow cast onto it; I wouldn’t have painted it if I didn’t look at them.

Then one day, after I collapsed onto my bed after school, looked around and said, ‘I suppose I’m not helping,’ I took a good hard look at Flab and Glob. Both of them seemed to be grinning wider than usual.

As per usual, when I stared at them, another idea for a picture came into my head.

If people were going to say my aunt’s house was haunted, why not give them what they want?

First, I decided to do something I hadn’t done in a while, both to help my painting and to get the creative juices flowing. I sat outside my aunt’s house and sketched it. I used to do that all the time – just go out and sketch any buildings and statues I saw. While I was sketching my aunt’s house, I wondered why I ever stopped.

Then I went back inside and put my sketch near my canvas. A painting of my aunt’s house, with several new details. Where there was a large window, there was an eyeball. The front door had become a mouth with large teeth and a tongue hanging out. The roof had sprouted wings.

All the while, I kept looking back at Flab and Glob, hanging over my bed, grinning. I looked at them as if they were whispering words of encouragement in my ear. It made me feel like a cartoon villain keeping an eye on her two idiot henchmen – not really a bad feeling like you may think. It felt like I had power.

Perhaps that’s why I liked art so much, I thought. Creating my own worlds and characters gave me a sense of power.

To reward them for their support, I decided to add Flab and Glob to my latest painting. My initial depictions of them just showed their heads and upper torsos, but this painting showed their full bodies as they ran out of the haunted house, their skinny arms raised in the air. Flab had a large stomach, but skinny arms and legs.

When I had finished painting them, they leapt off the canvas.

That’s what they literally did.

They hopped onto the floor and immediately inflated in size until they were just slightly smaller than I was.

They weren’t ghosts. That’s what I intended them to be when I painted them, but the beings standing before me were of flesh and blood, with their odour filling the room as soon as they materialised.

‘What?’ blurted out Flab, ‘You didn’t think of us, you know.’

‘You thought about us, Emily,’ said Glob, ‘but you didn’t think of us. There’s a difference, you know.’

‘You had a vision of us and our world,’ said Flab, ‘but you thought you made it up yourself. When you painted part of us, we could make stronger contact with your world, but we couldn’t get in.’

‘You had to paint our whole bodies for us to come here.’

‘And now,’ they said in unison, ‘we are in your debt.’ When they said that, all my confusion and fear melted away.

When they said they could turn the house into what I depicted in my painting, I agreed.

So my aunt’s house transformed into the beast I painted, eyeball and tongue and all. Every kid, every little brat that mocked it, my aunt and me, it stalked and roared at. Flab and Glob watched as it stomped down the streets, and said to me, ‘I hope this pleases you.’

It did. These creatures may not have been my creations, yet I truly felt like I had power.

All Aunt Fiona could say, however, was, ‘I really wish you would paint nicer things!’

The Return of Frollo

I know you’re tired of hearing stories of writers looking for inspiration, but the most curious night of my life came about after such a search.

It happened after my third novel about ace detective Martin Morworth was published to great acclaim and sales, and I pondered on what a fourth one would be like. In order to write a fourth one, I needed inspiration, and what better place, I thought, then my own writings.

Of course I had to read my previous Martin Morworth novels to remind myself of the world I created and its continuity, but before that I decided to revisit some of the stories I wrote as a child, if only to remind myself of how much I had improved.

I wouldn’t really say I was an imaginative child, as most of my stories were retellings of other famous stories, assembled from what I learned about them through osmosis. I didn’t read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or see any of the movies until I was a teenager, yet before that I wrote my own story entitled Frankenstein. Here, a lonely ghost lives all by himself in a dark castle, so he decides to literally make a friend and create a monster. Yes, before you ask, in this story, the monster was called Frankenstein.

My Phantom of the Opera was an actual phantom, one who wanted to be a singer. In my Christmas Carol, all Jacob Marley had to do was threaten to scare Scrooge and Scrooge instantly loved Christmas.

Then there was my take on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I remembered that there was one time when all I knew about the story was that there was a deformed man who rang bells. Then when I learned that the man was named Quasimodo and that there were other characters, I suddenly felt like I was an expert on the story without reading the book or watching any movies.

Everyone is scared of the ugly Quasimodo except for Esmeralda who sees his inner beauty. A knight called Phoebus loves Esmeralda too, but she thinks of him, and I quote, ‘You suck.’ Then there comes the evil Frollo, who zaps lasers from his fingers and terrorises everyone. Phoebus tries to stop him but Frollo zaps him and turns him into a sausage. Quasimodo then uses the power of love (a laser that comes from his heart) to make Frollo explode. Quasimodo and Esmeralda marry and live happily ever after while Phoebus remains a sausage forever. The end. (I would later learn that Quasimodo and Esmeralda did have a wedding in the book, but not in the same way my story had.)

Remembering those stories gave me the idea for the next Martin Morworth tale – he would deal with a killer whose murders would mirror those from classical gothic novels. He would kill someone with a falling chandelier like in The Phantom of the Opera, kill someone and frame an innocent woman like in Frankenstein, and maybe throw someone off a church like what actually happened to Frollo at the end of Hunchback. In fact, that church death would be the prologue.

After I put my childhood stories away, I brewed myself some coffee and worked on the prologue. A man walks into a church, observing and admiring its architecture, blissfully unaware that he’s being watched. In his most vulnerable moment, he’s grabbed from behind and before he can scream, chloroform is placed over his mouth…

Someone was in the room with me.

I turned around and came face to face with a man in a black robe…at least he looked like a man at first. He towered over me, and he looked down at me with a smile that revealed rows of jagged teeth. Before I could react, he raised a bony hand and shot out a laser that singed the wall behind my laptop.

It was Frollo. My Frollo. The villain from that stupid story I wrote when I was a kid, now given flesh and blood. Though I wanted to attack him or run away or even scream, I froze, unable to process what was before me. I had never shared the story with anyone, and something within me told me this was the character I had written about, even though he exploded at the end of my story.

All I could say was, ‘You’re not real.’

‘I’m as real as you are,’ he replied, ‘at least sometimes I am.’

He walked over to my shelf and picked up the folder containing his story.

‘I’m real now because you read me. Because you remembered me. My predecessor…people read about him and remember him all the time, so he’s always alive.’

A chill ran up my spine. Of course, I thought, if my Frollo could be real, then so could Victor Hugo’s.

Almost immediately after he said that, the room grew even colder, and in entered a balding priest. ‘I may have died at the end of my novel,’ he said, ‘but people still read my story. People still adapt it, like you loosely did when you were a child. So not only am I kept alive, I see several versions of myself pop up from time to time.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘Don’t be,’ said Dom Claude Frollo, looking up at his childish counterpart, ‘I remember this fellow from when you first wrote about him. Yes, he indeed did try to destroy everything when he first materialised, but when I managed to get him to sit down and have a conversation, I found him most amusing.’

‘You…’

‘I come from a land where characters from literature all live and thrive, including those you write about. Not only did I find your Frollo amusing, so too did Erik the Phantom of the Opera enjoy the company of your Phantom, even though he was a bedsheet with eyes. Frankenstein’s Monster was so forlorn due to his very being, so he always welcomes happier versions of himself.

‘It’s better than what Wonderland usually gets. Did you know there’s a character naming himself the Mad Hatter for malicious purposes? Vile creature, that one.’

‘So…’ I said, trying to regain myself, ‘is…is Martin…’

‘Oh, your detective character? He’s a bit tiresome. Nowhere near as good for conversation as this other me, and yet since his stories are actually published, he thrives more. If I could choose which of your stories would get published, it wouldn’t be his stories…’

Both Frollos disappeared, and I turned back to my computer screen, unable to convince myself what I saw was just a dream.

So I typed out my old childhood stories, without the spelling mistakes and edited slightly and sent them off to children’s books publishers. A new series I called “Crazy Classics”. Sadly, they didn’t sell as well as I hoped, nor were the reviews all that kind. One said ‘A childish ruination of great stories. Imagine what the characters from the original books would think if they saw themselves being written like this.’


Frollo also appears in The Day Frollo Took Over Wonderland and Karl Kangaroo’s Christmas Extravaganza.

Derek in Wonderland Part 3

The first thing I saw when the darkness cleared was Jenny. Jenny the shark, looking at her fins, feeling her sharp teeth. ‘Jenny…’

‘You wanted this to happen, didn’t you?’ snapped Jenny, ‘You wanted me here like this.’

‘Jenny, no…’

‘How could…’

How could he? That’s what we want to find out.

The darkness fully cleared and Jenny and I, along with Karl, now stood in a monochrome courtroom. Karl looked around before pointing at me and saying, ‘Not a word.’

‘Typical,’ came a female voice, and in floated a yellow furry creature with fangs almost as big as those of my dark side.

‘You!’ snarled Karl.

‘Yes,’ smirked the furry thing, ‘Me. Thought you were rid of me, didn’t you?’

I’ve only met her recently, said Dark Side as he put on a judge’s wig, but I find we have so much in common.

‘Don’t worry, Karl,’ said the creature, ‘this is more for Derek’s sake than it is for yours. For Derek…’ She put on her own little wig. ‘…stands accused of lying about what a good little pacifist shark he is.’

‘You know,’ said Karl, eying the exit, ‘if this isn’t for my sake, may I leave?’

‘No, you may not,’ laughed the yellow creature, ‘part of the reason Derek isn’t as nice as he says he is is because you’re still alive.’

Yes. Your workers will say you’re much worse than my friend the Lemon Possum here. If Derek really wanted to help others, he would do away with you. Or perhaps Jenny would like to.

Dark Side gestured to Jenny, who cringed at him mentioning her name. Even Karl flinched.

‘Leave her alone!’ I cried.

Dark Side chuckled. I want to do you two a favour. The Hatter here has such power and he abuses it. Join me and we can use that power to better the world! To improve it! Us three working together to give everyone what they deserve!

‘Oh, give me a break!’ snarled Karl, rolling his eyes.

‘Nobody asked you,’ replied the Lemon Possum, ‘Anyway, you two,’ she continued, gesturing towards me and Jenny, ‘didn’t you see the power Dark Side has in this realm? The power I have?’ She demonstrated said power by making herself disappear than reappear and conjure up cakes and sweets from thin air. ‘Don’t you want…’

Before she could finish her sentence, Jenny sprung up towards her and knocked her into a wall. ‘Shut up!’ snarled Jenny.

‘Finally, someone did it,’ said Karl.

Ah, maybe you would make a good shark after all then, laughed Dark Side. You…

‘You…you…’

Yes?

‘You can cork it too!’ cried Jenny.

That was exactly what I needed to hear. That was what made me wrap my fins around a courtroom chair and hurl it towards Dark Side. It missed, but I couldn’t help but smile at the bewildered expression on his face. It did shortly get replaced by a grin. Well, looks like you have some courage after all, Derek.

‘You’ve been bugging me for too long…’ I said as Jenny and Karl stood to the side of me.

Why be angry at me? Why not be angry at Gwen? She doesn’t care about you or Jenny, she just wants to prove her genius. And Karl, the only reason you got any form of success is because the human race sees you as a novelty. Why not be angry at them? Why not direct your rage towards the Mad Hatter, who exploits the tragedies of others so he can be more powerful?

I took a deep breath and stared my Dark Side in the eyes. ‘You’re no better than they are.’

Again Dark Side laughed. What have you been telling Acacia, Derek? Have you been trying to make her as weak and pathetic as you? I made her human too, hoping she would do a better job, but she’s reluctant and you must have done something to make her that way. No matter. I’ll keep trying with her. I’ll mould her into a lovely little killer and…

‘About that.’ A chair actually came into contact with Dark Side’s head. Before us stood a purple creature in a black dress with horns and a pointed tail. ‘Acacia can’t come here, but I can,’ she said, ‘and she’s pretty annoyed with you.’

As soon as Dark Side growled in irritation, the courtroom doors burst open, revealing none other than the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the creatures that earlier attacked me and Karl. ‘Objection!’ cried the Hatter, before adding, ‘I like saying that.’

Dark Side smiled. Glad you could join us.

‘Huh, some creature you are. Derek and Jenny and Acacia were supposed to be making you more powerful and you were supposed to be making them make you more powerful. A fine job you did there then.’

Don’t talk to me like I’m your inferior.

‘But you are. You’re as useless as that demon there.’

darksidehatter

The demon snarled at him. ‘Listen to Mr. Big Shot. Not even that kangaroo deserves you.’ She clicked her fingers and Karl disappeared.

‘He’ll be back,’ said the Mad Hatter, ‘and you don’t scare me. You lost your powers once, you’ll lose them again. I’m certain that Dark Side will become completely powerless one day too.’

At that, the Hatter’s creatures charged towards Dark Side, digging their claws into his skin as he tried to shake them off. I flew out of the courtroom and I was followed by Jenny and the March Hare. As she flew, Jenny took a look at the March Hare and said, ‘What in the world is that thing?’

‘I’ve been looking for him,’ I cried, ‘I think he can help us!’

‘What makes you think that?’

‘I can!’ replied the March Hare, ‘I can change you back, Jenny! I’ll make you human again and make it so you can never come back here! Follow me!’

We did as he told us to, darting down a hall of doors through one that led towards a perfect recreation of the machine that turned me human. After taking a moment to catch her breath, Jenny said, ‘That’s Gwen’s machine.’

‘Yes,’ said the March Hare, his finger hovering over a control panel, ‘a few presses of these buttons and you should be human again.’

‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘The Hatter mentioned it, Dark Side mentioned it. It was meant for me, I think. If it could make me human again, and could make Acacia human, it could do the same for you.’

‘Well, I’m willing to try anything…’ Jenny turned to me. ‘Derek, if this works, come back with me.’

‘Jenny…I…’

‘Just forget about this place,’ said Jenny, ‘Just leave him to starve. You’re not him, Derek. You’re more human than anyone I’ve met. Go in there with me.’

Immediately I remembered my days as a human, the plans I had made. I remembered the feeling of the wind against my face, the taste of food, the energy I felt when I ran and jumped. Then I thought of the Mad Hatter’s eyes lighting up with glee as I took his offer. He wanted me to do it.

‘Jenny,’ I replied, ‘I have to stay here…I think I’m supposed to stay here.’

‘I understand.’

At that, she bowed, moved her face closer to mine and we kissed. Though we couldn’t hold each other as we did so, we kissed and tried to make it last as long as possible.

As soon as she pulled away, a tube dropped down from the ceiling and sucked Jenny into the huge tank that made up the bulk of the machine.

From outside, I could hear thumping. ‘Quick!’ I yelled.

The March Hare frantically pushed buttons, but the door burst open to reveal the Mad Hatter, accompanied by two of his little creatures. ‘Traitor!’ he snarled, ‘And have I not been good to you?’

‘I…’ The March Hare turned away from the control panel and towards the Hatter. ‘I don’t know.’

‘We’re not through with Jenny,’ said the Hatter, ‘She can still be of use to us, as can Derek.’

I growled at him.

‘Oh, look at this, trying to be brave.’ The Hatter cackled, a laugh almost as painful to listen to as that of my Dark Side. ‘I know you. I know everyone, Derek. I know that you’re a coward and you always will be a coward!’

I growled again, baring my teeth.

‘Oh, you want me dead, do you? You want to murder! You’re feeding your Dark Side, Derek! He’s going to grow more powerful, you know! When he does, I’ll be the only one who could stop him and then you’d have no choice but to join me! And Jenny!’ He turned to Jenny behind the glass. ‘Jenny, do you really want to be a weak little human! Don’t you like the strength this form grants you?’

‘Mad Hatter…’ she said, ‘Whoever you are…’

‘Yes?’

She spat in his direction.

‘Ungrateful little…’ At that, I slapped him with my tail and the March Hare pressed the final button, bathing the room in white light. ‘No!’ barked the Hatter, ‘Stop it!’ I charged towards the two creatures that he brought, and the March Hare joined me, gnashing his oversized teeth.

As I held back the Mad Hatter and his little army, I turned to Jenny. I saw her body shrink. I saw her fins stretch and her tail split in two.

The Mad Hatter reached for the control panel. I knocked him into the wall with my snout.

Jenny’s hair sprung up from her head. Her dorsal fin shrunk into her back. She looked like she was screaming, but no sound came out.

The two monsters dug their claws into their flesh as they did with my dark side, and though I wanted to scream myself, I let them torture me, for the more they did, the less they focussed on Jenny.

‘Turn that machine off!’ cried the Hatter, ‘I made you what you are, I am your master!’

‘But the other hares…’

‘What about them! It’s not my fault they’re ungrateful! You’re protecting them! Now turn it off and make her a shark again!’

‘No!’ cried the March Hare.

Jenny grew back her hands and feet. Her body absorbed her gills. As the light faded, she did too.

‘You imbecile!’ the Mad Hatter decked the March Hare across the face.

The monsters took their claws off me and turned to face the Hatter with frightened expressions on their faces.

Then I chose to leave Wonderland. At least for a while.

I returned to the town where I had spent my human days; to be specific, the beach where I went to return to Gwen’s home. There I found exactly who I expected to find there. A young woman with a brown hair – she was a different species than when I first met her, but I knew who she was as soon as I saw her. Acacia.

‘Derek,’ she said, ‘you’re here. I can still see you.’

‘Yeah,’ I replied.

‘You know,’ she said, ‘I guess you were right. About you know, some things. Being human actually isn’t that bad. There’s some nice perks to it, and I even made a new friend. Did you ever try beer?’

‘No, I don’t think so.’

‘Well, you should have. Also, that Dark Side of yours was a right nuisance. You were right about that too.’

‘Well,’ I said to her, ‘I’ll make sure he never bothers you again.’

‘Well,’ laughed Acacia, ‘hopefully you’ll do something right for once.’

I was just about to leave when I noticed some red stains on Acacia’s clothes.

‘Acacia,’ I said, ‘what did you do?’

THE END?

Derek in Wonderland Part 2

karlder

I found Jenny.

I flew around this world so many times, and found myself face to face with this strange being. A furry creature with big pointy ears popping out of its head. I saw something like that in one of Gwen’s books, I was certain. Oh, something called a “kangaroo”.

He was like the March Hare. If I could trust the Hare, surely I could trust the kangaroo.

‘Oh, great,’ he said, ‘one of you was enough.’

‘You saw another shark? Did he have glowing eyes?’

‘It just gets worse.’

‘So, did he?’

‘No,’ sighed the kangaroo, rolling his eyes, ‘she didn’t.’

‘She?’

‘Yes. Oh wait, you were once a human, weren’t you?’

‘How did you know that?’ I asked, feeling my stomach twist.

‘Because that’s apparently what happened to her! Now, if you have no idea what’s happening to me, please leave.’

And leave is what I did, in the direction towards where the kangaroo was gesturing. I didn’t know whether to be irritated at his attitude, grateful that he gave me some help, or relieved that he apparently had no contact with my dark side.

When he mentioned seeing a female shark, my mind immediately went to Acacia. The kangaroo said the shark he saw said she was once human, so I began wondering if, even after my death, Gwen continued her experiments.

The shark I found in this land, however, was not Acacia. When Acacia was in this world, she could manoeuvre through it confidently and smoothly, yet this shark could do nothing but writhe on the floor. Writhe on the floor and weep.

Jenny.

Jenny was a shark.

I had done this to her.

‘Jenny!’ I took her by her hands – her fins. I don’t know how I held onto her, but I guess it had something to do with the fact that I once had hands. Still she shuddered.

‘Derek? Is that…’

‘Jenny,’ I said as I rubbed her face in an attempt to calm her, ‘yes, it’s me, Derek.’

‘Derek…’ she sighed, attempting to cover her face with her fin.

Well, isn’t this nice?

Him.

He just appeared.

‘Leave her alone!’

Selfish Derek. Don’t you want Jenny to share in our fun?

‘I wouldn’t wish this on anyone!’

Oh, really. The Mad Hatter is catering to your whims here, Derek. You wanted Acacia here, she came. You wanted Jenny here, she came. You wanted her a shark, that’s what happened.

Jenny shook.

Yes, Jenny, Derek wanted you to see what it was like to be a shark. Because poor little Derek wants everyone to feel sorry for him…

Jenny leapt off the ground and soared away from us.

‘Jenny! Come back! Don’t-‘

Don’t what? “Don’t believe that monster?” You know it’s true. I know it’s true and so does she.

‘Shut up!’ I cried, slapping him across the face. He only laughed at that. ‘Why couldn’t you just let me be? Why did you have to turn Jenny against me?’

I turned Jenny against you? Weren’t you listening to what I said?

‘So…’ I had to force it out of my mouth.

You went to see the Hatter to see if he can help you get rid of me. How precious. He’s killed more people than any shark, you idiot. If you seriously think you can redeem yourself with his help…

I was speechless, as much as I wanted to respond to him.

You really think he’s ruling this world well? He treats humans like his toys, giving them nightmares and driving them to madness, all for his twisted pleasure. He’s a leader but he’s the type of leader who calls for less bread and more taxes.

‘How’s he any different to you then?’

I’m necessary. We’re necessary. We help regulate the ocean’s population. If there were no frogs, there’d be too many flies. Without us there’d be too many fish. Too many to feed those useless humans. But I digress. Derek, you want to help people? You want redemption and acceptance? Then help me dethrone the Hatter.

I knew what he was trying to do. He wanted to rule this world himself. To make everyone killers like he was.

I did have a sense that he might have been right about the Mad Hatter. That March Hare of his, with the mouth for a head. He looked so uncomfortable, and the Hatter had to be behind his discomfort.

Some people deserve to die, Derek. Being a goody-goody little pacifist will do nothing. Didn’t you read the news when you were on the surface? Didn’t you hear about people being killed for no reason? Didn’t you think the people who killed those people should die?

His grin widened. I bet that’s why you became human, isn’t it? To feel power from being the dominant species? Speaking of which, there’s someone I need to see. Think about what I said, that is if you can think.


if you can think.

Gwen had come in. She hadn’t completed the process to reverse Acacia’s transformation, she just wanted to check in on her. ‘Oh,’ said Gwen, ‘I see you’re enjoying the old boob tube there.’

Acacia admitted to herself that the television had a hypnotic hold on her; once she sat down and stared, she couldn’t stop staring. It gave her a little sting in her gut, now that she was doing the thing she had criticized so many humans for doing. Part of her felt that such a rest was well-deserved, given how long she had moved and hunted non-stop. So perhaps the voice did have a point then, she thought.

‘If only Derek had listened to him,’ she mumbled.

‘What was that?’ asked Gwen.

‘Oh, nothing,’ said Acacia, ‘just want to try this human thing out a little longer.’

‘Oh, g…that’s fine with me,’ said Gwen, ‘I mean, just because you were like Derek, doesn’t mean you’ll end up like him.’

She thinks she knows how you became human. She thinks she did it but just didn’t remember it. Can you believe it?

‘I can still have a successful transformation, you know. With you, you can go out and blend in. No different from the rest of them, you’ll be.’

Of the two voices she heard at that moment, it was the dark side’s that was the easiest to listen to.

‘I’ll take you out for a night on the town, even. Look!’ Gwen herself became human, but instantly, without the painful transformation. ‘It’s a hologram!’ Acacia could only stare blankly. ‘Ah, that’s one thing you don’t know about, but you will. I’ll make you completely indistinguishable from any human being.’

Now that is something we don’t want, is it?

The disguised Gwen helped Acacia off her seat, and she winced as her feet hit the ground, remembering a condition with this form.

Gwen then led Acacia to a tube, which sucked Acacia right up to the surface. It reminded her of the currents she had experienced back when she was a shark, yet when she dropped onto the beach, the air was nothing like she had experienced before. It chilled her, but soothed her at the same time. It was as cold as the air from Gwen’s house, yet she embraced it, forgetting about the pains on her feet.

The beach was empty, but there were still other humans out there for Acacia and Gwen to interact with. The lights in the distance hypnotised Acacia like the television did, but while the television made her sit still, she couldn’t stop herself from walking towards the humans.

Your victims.

‘Wait up!’ cried Gwen, ‘I know you’re excited but you have to take it easy. You have to exercise self-control.’

Acacia laughed inwardly at Gwen talking about self-control, yet she wasn’t sure if it was her laugh or the dark side’s. All that was forgotten, however, when she made her way up the stone stairs away from the beach and towards the town.

Gwen took a quick look back at the beach. ‘Maybe if it’s nice weather tomorrow, we can go have a walk across the beach. Maybe even build a sandcastle.’ She laughed at her own joke. ‘No, tonight we’re going to do something adult. We’re going to have a beer. Just a couple mind, don’t want to deal with a drunk shark, eh?’

Looking at the town filled her with energy, the same energy that made her keep moving when she was a shark. She wanted to run, yet her body would only allow her to walk. Whether it was so her feet wouldn’t hurt as much, or to keep up with Gwen, or because the instinct wanted it she didn’t know.

‘It’s going to be hard getting used to the human world,’ said Gwen, as the duo approached the pub, ‘but you’re an adult shark who’s become an adult woman, so I should treat you like an adult.’

Gwen pulled her into the pub, which wasn’t that much brighter than the outdoors. It was mostly darkness with only a few lights for illumination, but while the lights outside made Acacia want to walk, these lights made her as languid and stationary as the television did.

Gwen pulled out an ID and bought two lagers; Acacia could think of no other way to describe them but “like the sea but orange”.

Then she tasted it.

She brought it to her mouth without really thinking. When she took a sip, her hand forced herself to  glug the entire glass down. It seemed to cleanse both her body and mind, washing away everything distasteful from both. Her brain felt lighter than it did when watching television, and yet it gave her an energy as strong as that obtained from the lights, yet somehow different.

Like the woman said, don’t drink too much. You want a clear head for what you’re about to do next.

Acacia almost said ‘Shut up’ out loud, but before she could do that, Gwen said to her, ‘Are you alright?’

‘Yeah, I’m fine.’

Just look at all those potential victims. Pathetic wastes of space. You’ll be doing them and the rest of the world a favour by killing them! I mean, don’t you hate humans? Don’t you like it when they drown or they struggle?

Derek was pretty much a human himself even when he was a shark. When you sent him to Gwen, weren’t you hoping he would die?

Acacia ran.

Not caring how her feet felt at the moment, she ran outside and breathed in the air, the refreshing, cool air.

You’re as pathetic as Derek was! Go back in there!

‘Well, it’s just…this is a bit too fast.’

Excuses, excuses.

‘I mean, I don’t think I’m really used to this body…and Derek…’

What about him? I won’t let you die like he did.

‘Why don’t you just leave me alone? Just…don’t bother me until I’m ready or something!’

She didn’t notice Gwen beside her.

‘We need to talk.’

‘No!’ After pushing Gwen aside, Acacia ran again. Ran hard and fast, despite the pain in her feet. As soon as she was sure she had gotten away, she took another good look at the lights, the buildings, the sky.

The human world.

Her world.


I didn’t bother going after Jenny, I didn’t even go after my dark side. Instead, I went for the kangaroo. He seemed somewhat smart.

‘Leave me alone,’ was what he said, but I stayed.

‘Look,’ I said, ‘we’re in the same boat here. I don’t know this place, you don’t know this place.’

‘And?’

‘Maybe we can help each other, you know, understand?’

He sighed. ‘Look, I consider myself humble, but I can tell that I’m smarter than you are, thus I don’t need you to understand this place. I’ll figure it out myself, thank you very much.’

‘Come on!’ I cried, ‘This is what he wants! He feeds off this type of attitude!’

‘Oh, what is this? Why can’t everyone get along? Why must everyone be so mean?’  He froze, apparently lost in thought.

‘Well, anyway, I think there’s someone who can help us. He’s like you only he’s a hare.’

The kangaroo raised an eyebrow. ‘Like me in that he’s actually smart, or like me in that he’s an anthropomorphic animal?’

‘Well, a bit of both, I guess. He at least seems nicer than the Hatter.’

The kangaroo snorted. ‘Well, you make more sense than most people here, so take me to the hare. My name’s Karl, by the way.’

Karl and I looked for the Hare, only to find the Hatter. He saw us approaching and walked on over.

‘Ah, Derek, I’ve been looking for you,’ said the Mad Hatter, ‘Ah, and you’ve made a new friend.’

‘Can you tell me what this is all about?’ barked Karl, narrowing his eyes.

‘I am simply trying to help,’ replied the Hatter, ‘you need me more than anyone, and yet you’ve never once tried to summon me.’

‘That’s because I don’t need you!’

‘Oh really?’ replied the Hatter, ‘Most people would disagree.’

‘Just take me back home this instant!’ Karl rolled up one of his sleeves.

‘What arrogant behaviour!’ cried the Hatter, ‘Derek! Attack!’

‘What?’

‘You want to feel like you’re doing good, do you?’ The Mad Hatter pointed at Karl, his hand shaking. ‘Kill him and not only will everyone be happy, he’ll be happy as well!’

‘Why should I?’

‘I’ve rebuilt the machine that Gwen used to make you human, Derek! With it, I can make you human again, and unable to ever enter this realm again! You’ll live a peaceful life with Jenny, isn’t that what you wanted? All you have to do is kill that kangaroo!’

With that, I slapped the Hatter with my tail, sending him stumbling to the ground.

Killing Karl is what he wanted me to do. Not he as in the Hatter, he.

‘That was a foolish thing to do,’ growled the Hatter as he got back up, ‘You may have had power in the oceans…’ I wanted to say ‘Don’t remind me,’ but I kept quiet. ‘…but this is my world, and you are but an insect compared to me.’

All he had to do was snap his fingers and an army of sharp-fanged creatures dove from the forests, each of them slobbering and snarling. They were like sharks with limbs, reminders of what I could have been.

‘Damnation!’ cried Karl, as he pushed aside the Hatter, knocking off his hat in the process. As the Hatter darted off, Karl grabbed a branch from the ground and held it up like a baseball bat. A beast pounced towards him, and before I could leap in front of it, he wacked it on the head with the branch.

I flew in front of him, and some of those monsters dug their claws into my flesh.  Even though I was already dead, they stung and my whole body throbbed. I shook them off, only to see Karl struggling against another grinning beast. In seconds, I roared. Up I floated, and I rapidly soared towards the cat fighting Karl, knocking it off.

I held out my fin to Karl- which reminded me of how much I missed having arms – and he grabbed on as tight as he could. Though he didn’t really weigh me down, I was certain he would slip off and thus fall to his death at the claws of the creatures. However, he held onto me and looked for all the world like a child holding a balloon, grabbing tightly until we found a safe spot to land.

‘Well, thank you,’ said Karl, dusting himself off, ‘you’ve done more than what most people would do for me.’

I had a quick look around to make sure we had lost the monsters, and then we went off again to find the March Hare. Most of this world seemed to be just the same old fields littered with trees, and it was hard to tell where it all began or ended. It took us a while, but finally we stumbled upon a house, or at least something that looked like one. It was just a colourless blob among colourful surroundings, and its bricks were as black as ink.

Hello, Derek.

Oh no.

Out from the front door of the house came my dark side, grinning his toothy grin. Karl jumped backwards slightly.

This is the Hatter’s house. Here’s where he keeps all his little plans. Plans to spread nightmares, plans for murders. Doesn’t that make you angry, Derek? Doesn’t that make you want to tear his minions to shreds?

Kill them, Derek, lessen the Hatter’s numbers so we can rule Wonderland. Use anger, use righteous anger.

Karl turned to me. ‘You know, he has a point. Why didn’t you kill those…whatever they were? You have big teeth, don’t you?’

Indeed.

I opened my mouth, but I had no answer.

Oh, let me guess, if you killed them, you’d be ashamed at how malicious you were, how could I do this, blah blah blah. You shouldn’t be all sad about the way you were born, Derek. He pointed at Karl. He’s a kangaroo yet he is proud of who he is, aren’t you? Karl was as silent as I was. You wouldn’t want to be a human, would you?

‘Certainly not!’

‘Karl!’ I cried, ‘You actually agree with him?’

Karl raised an eyebrow. ‘I agree with him somewhat. I’m certain I don’t agree with whatever he thinks completely. There’s a difference.’

Well, we see eye to eye on some things, don’t we? I think that’s enough for me to reintroduce you to an old friend of yours, Karl. We see eye-to-eye on some things too.

Darkness consumed us.


‘So,’ she said, ‘I see you like being human then.’

A young woman that bore quite a resemblance to Acacia in her human form, wearing a black dress and having purple streaks in her hair. She leaned against a lamppost, smiling a friendly smile.

‘I know you’ve met Dark Side,’ said the woman, ‘and he’s feeding off you. You’re nothing but a food supply to him.’ Acacia looked at her arms, with the woman chuckling as she did. ‘Not the sort of food you’re accustomed to, mind. He feeds from anger, murder, bloodlust, what defines a shark.’

Yes, and don’t you want to kill her right now?

‘If we feed Dark Side, he will conquer Wonderland, so we have to starve him. To do that, we must make you less of a shark and more of a human.’

Acacia grabbed her by the arm and snarled at her. ‘What business is it of yours?’

‘I simply want to help,’ said the woman, ‘just think. That loathsome little creature will be defeated, and you’ll have a happier, more fulfilling life. Look in your pocket.’ Inside Acacia’s pocket was a wallet, with ID – her human surname was apparently “Surstone” – and a few £20 notes. The woman gestured behind Acacia, and there before her were more lights. Different lights from what she had already seen.

A building lined with purple lights, with humans her age stepping into. Risings, was the title in big purple lights above the door.

Ah, it seems that she did have a good idea. Just think of all the potential victims in there.

‘People need friends, Acacia,’ said the woman, ‘so let’s be friends. Let’s have a fun night out together. My name’s Patty, by the way.’

Acacia entered the building with Patty. As soon as she reached the man at the door, she flashed her ID – which strangely came as naturally to her as swimming – and the man let her in.

For a moment, she actually felt like a shark again. In the old days, she would sometimes come across human teenagers having a party at night. There’d be a big bonfire illuminating them, and they’d be guzzling beers from a big blue box, dancing like idiots and making out. When Acacia saw them, she’d snort at them for wasting their lives, for she was sure they didn’t earn that beer. They seemed people who had never worked a day in their lives.

Now all around her were people drinking beer, dancing and making out, and Acacia was certain none of them had earned this. She could only roll her eyes.

That’s it. If you kill one of them, you’ll be doing him a favour. Now, you need to keep awake. I hear cola has some caffeine in it.

Acacia went up to the bar and ordered a coke, though she didn’t know if it was because the dark side ordered her to, or if it was her own curiosity. After she paid with the money Patty gave her – though doing so made her shudder slightly –she dumped the cola into her mouth. It felt like her throat was eroding. She held her stomach, certain she would vomit all over the floor.

Don’t be like that. You have work to do. See that man there?

There was a man in a polo shirt sitting all alone. He wasn’t dancing with anyone, he wasn’t drinking with anyone, he wasn’t making out with anyone. Just sitting all by himself thinking.

He was all alone. He had no-one.

No-one would miss him.

Now I’ve seen what humans think. Do what I say.

Acacia leaned on a pillar near the man. ‘Hey there,’ she said with a smile, ‘you wanna dance?’

Both of them went up onto the dance floor, and as they did, the pain in Acacia’s feet stung even more, and her “dance” was her leaping up and down as if she had suddenly found herself on hot coals. The man laughed. ‘You’re great.’

Acacia had only been human for a few hours, yet through those few hours and observing humanity when she was a shark, she was certain she knew more about humans than anyone. This man, she knew, was laughing with her, dancing with her, complimenting her just so he could say he could. It was for his sake, not hers.

The idea came into Acacia’s head to grab a nearby glass and smash it, and then plunge it into the man’s heart. No, do it to everyone there.

She heard the Dark Side laugh.

She ran into the bathroom.

As soon as she entered, she ran the tap and splashed water on her face. She closed her eyes, imagining her days as a shark, manoeuvring through the waves, hunting her prey.

Derek. Stupid Derek.

Or was it Gwen? Her machine put thoughts into her head, not those thoughts of Dark Side, thoughts preventing her from reaching her full potential.

But why listen to Dark Side? He was a part of Derek, and any part of Derek was a part not worth listening to.

‘You know, you probably should have killed him.’

Acacia opened her eyes to see Patty behind her.

‘You probably should have,’ laughed Patty, ‘just not while everyone was watching. Lure him to a dark alley and do it there.’

‘You’re sounding like him, you know,’ replied Acacia, ‘how do I know you’re not one of his friends?’

‘Well,’ replied Patty, ‘if I were the one turning you human, I’d have asked first.’

‘Yeah,’ sighed Acacia, ‘I’m going to believe that.’

‘I’m certainly more honest than he is,’ replied Patty, ‘in fact, I’ll prove it right now.’

After she took a deep breath, Patty let her hair be sucked into her head, her skin turn a sickly purple and horns and a tail spring from her body.

pattydress

Acacia was not at all surprised.

‘Now I have less reason to trust you.’ Acacia had heard about demons from her days as a shark, stories about them told to her by other sharks who had overheard them from humans. Derek compared his dark side to a demon, and Acacia admitted to herself that she saw why.

‘Yes,’ said Patty, ‘I’m a demon, but we’re like sharks in a way. We’re a necessary evil. We’re here because life would be boring without us. We make the good days seem better in comparison. We make sure bad people, truly bad people, get what’s coming to them. We don’t do it for the sake of it, like that shark and that Hatter.

‘You know that world you were just in, “Wonderland”? That came about because of demons like me. This man made a deal with demons to have his own afterlife where he could bring others into. It was thought that such a thing would provide another way to make the world more interesting, let virtuous people prove their virtuousness by them rejecting it, and maybe even offer release to some people who deserved it. We gave the man his world and he paid a price for it, but it wasn’t enough for him, no. He studied and practiced other forms of magic, ones even us demons are vulnerable to and…’

Patty then noticed the door opening and so grabbed Acacia by her arm and took her into a stall.

‘The “Mad Hatter” as he is now known, it should be that we gave him the power, we could take it away, but the other magic he studied made that more difficult. We’ve debated about whether or not letting him keep his afterlife is a good thing – I mean, he did help that Edward guy get what was coming to him – but he seems to have plans for this “Dark Side” shark.

‘He wants Dark Side to get more powerful so he can unleash it on the world. If that doesn’t happen, Dark Side will take over his land and then unleash himself on the world. If we can’t stop them, we can at least weaken them.’