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July 11, 2013

I Hraet You (73)

Beat 73: The Path to the Future is Paved with Podiatry

“Hey, old lady!  Ya wanna warn a gal ‘fore ya go tossin’ guns all over the place?”  Trixie considered herself -- and the others, by proxy -- lucky that she’d made a decent catch; otherwise the room would need a deep scrubbing and a few body bags.  But by the looks of things, no one had bothered paying attention to her or the threat of death.  “Y’all just keep on ignorin’ me then…I don’t even care…”

And they did.  Mrs. Overdose in particular; with a few swings of her legs, socks and shoes went flying through the room.  She folded her arms tightly across her torso, and took a seat on a Lloyd statue with a thunderous drop.  With the proper positioning assumed, she dropped a foot atop Sheila’s lap, and looked up at her with an intense glare.

An intense glare, and an excited smile.  “Let’s get this party started.”

“Party…?” Sheila could hardly bring herself to look at Mrs. Overdose’s elated face for long, so she tilted her head toward her lap.  “Oh.  Oh.  Oh…oh God…oh God…”  She stared blankly at her lap -- at what lay atop it -- for a solid minute.  And with a furious toss of her head, she flung her glasses off her head and into a corner.  “…Oh GOD!  I can still see it!”

“Yeah, and you’re about to do more than just see it, Elsie.  Now get --”

“Elsie?” Lloyd asked.  “The reference is lost on me.”

“It’s the name of a cow.  Jeez, what’re they teachin’ you kids in school these days?”

“I wouldn’t know.  I haven’t been.”

“Excuses, excuses…you’re all just lucky I’m in such a good mood.”  She tapped her foot against Sheila’s lap.  “Get to work, girlie.  I’m itchin’ to see what you can do -- and now that I think about it, I got an itch between my middle toes.  Start there.”

“B-b-but your feet -- they’re so -- they’re NASTY!  Oh GOD, I can’t get them out of my head!”

“Oh, hey, guess what?  I don’t give a crap about your head.  You got workin’ hands, right?  So work ‘em.  I could go for a woman’s touch here and there; the kid’s good, but until he gets some practice in I wanna see what others can do.  Especially if it means taking care of this here --”

“NO!  DON’T DESCRIBE IT!”

Mrs. Overdose slid her reed back into position.  “Got some pipes on you.”

Sheila started to squirm, but thanks to her bindings she was lucky to move even an inch from that chair.  And even if she did -- even if she found a way to crawl to freedom -- Trixie still had a gun aimed at her.  Not threateningly, of course (she still looked more than a little regretful), but just enough to make her presence known.  “This can’t be happening.  This can’t be happening!  Lloyd, help me!”

“I am helping you, Miss O’Leary,” said Lloyd.  He lifted his head, bringing it a few inches away from the back of Sheila’s.  “I came here to help you.  I remained here to help you.  And I sit here now, orchestrating this situation, to help you.  It remains to be seen how effective this will be, but I’m confident that the revolution we both need starts here.  This is the birth of a new art…and with it, a new star!”  Lloyd couldn’t hold back a smile.  “This is my secret technique!  Sonnet of Un-Logic Number One: The Shotgun Foot Rub!”

“The what?!”

“Aha, so the confusion has taken you, I see.  Excellent; everything is proceeding as planned.  Now then, I’d recommend you start with the foot rub; otherwise, milady may become cross with you.  To say nothing of the threat of violence you may face -- from a frontal assault to an attack to your flank.”  He gasped sharply.  “Flank?  Oh, now I get it -- she’s Elsie the Cow because of flanks!  A clever joke indeed, milady!”

“You’re one hell of a trip, kid,” said Mrs. Overdose.  She glared at Sheila, the cheer of a potential foot rub giving way to a hardening eye.  “Hey, you.  Better get on with it.  You may have some big airbags, but one kick from me will leave you all crumpled up.”

“Wha- you can’t be…!”  Sheila tried turning back toward Lloyd.  “Y-you’re not serious, are you?”

“Miss Walters?  Start taking aim, if you would.”

That got a yelp out of Sheila, but not much else -- likely because she caught a glimpse of a rising blob of gunmetal.  She lifted her hands up to Mrs. Overdose’s foot, but kept them at bay as they started to chill and quiver.  She couldn’t see the foot at all -- much less describe them -- but she figured that was for the best.  The memory of that foot burned its way through her brain already; she could only begin to imagine what sort of nightmares she’d endure if she --

“Yup.  Pretty sure you’re supposed to be givin’ me a foot rub right now,” said Mrs. Overdose.

Sheila took a deep breath, and took hold of the foot.  And almost instantly, tears started pouring down her face.  It only took a minute for a sheen of fluids thick enough to stop a bullet to cover the bottom two-thirds of her face, and the leakage that followed looked primed to give her a suit of sticky armor.  But through the sobs and snorts she tended to the foot, running her fingers across whatever she could (thankfully not) see. 

“You’re not bad, girlie,” said Mrs. Overdose.  “Don’t be afraid to press a little harder, though; that’s the only way you’ll be gettin’ deep enough for a good rub.”

Sheila gave her a mechanical nod, and as told she dug into the blurred abomination.  For minutes at a time it looked as if her face started peeling from the bone; at the very least, it sagged and sank in tandem with her tears.  But even then, she kept on rubbing that foot; she shivered, and sniffled, and sputtered out the occasional half-muted mantra, but she just kept on rubbing.

“Uh, Lloyd?” Trixie asked.  “Sheila here ain’t lookin’ too good.  How long’re ya gonna let her go at it?”

Mrs. Overdose jerked her head at her.  “What do you mean?  She keeps goin’ for as long as it takes.”

“I wasn’t askin’ --”

“Actually, that sounds about right,” said Lloyd. 

“Ya gotta be kiddin’ me, pal!  If she keeps this up, she’s gonna --”

“Just wait.  This is all a part of the plan.” 

Trixie groaned, but her dismay went unheard; Sheila’s whimpering hit a crescendo, as did her chanting.  “Somebody save me,” she said in a loud whisper.  “Somebody save me.  Somebody save me.  Somebody, save me.”  Her fingers twitched atop the foot -- and she looked as if she’d taken a sledgehammer to the skull.

“Lloyd?” Trixie asked.

But Lloyd just shook his head.  “Wait for it…”

Sheila’s pleas had long since hit fortissimo.  She looked as if the only thing keeping her in place was the chair she’d been bound to; her body swayed and wobbled, and her head rolled atop her neck like a misfired marble.  “Somebody save me…I don’t know what to do!”  She might have said more, if not for her sudden bout of gagging and retching. 

“Lloyd, she looks like she’s about to die!” Trixie bit down on her lip.  “Oh my God.  We’re killin’ a hostage.  We are KILLING a hostage after breakin’ into her house and shovin’ a gun in her face!  We’re all gonna get the chair!  Lloyd, if ya don’t say the word, then --”

Wait for it…”

“Dammit, Lloyd, this ain’t the time for --!”

Suddenly, Mrs. Overdose raised a hand.  “Hey, you know what I’m in the mood for?  A pedicure.”

Trixie froze.  Lloyd froze.  Sheila froze.  No one moved.  No one spoke.  No one thought.  Nothing came of those words but a complete cessation of activity -- of life, and existence itself -- for precisely sixty six point six seconds.

It was the only way to prepare for what came next.  Sheila’s scream.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” 

That sonic blast nearly bowled everyone -- Sheila included -- over.  The lady in question clenched her teeth tight enough to bite through a rhinoceros, and thrust her hands atop her head.  “I CAN’T DO IT ANYMORE!” she wailed, rocking about as if trying to tear a poltergeist from her brain.  “I CAN’T!  I JUST CAN’T!  I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO DO HERE!  IT’S TOO DAMN GROSS!  JUST SHOOT ME NOW, PLEASE!”

“…Okay.  Now,” said Lloyd.  “Lady Overdose?  That’s all for today.”

“What?  But she barely did…”  The gunwoman grumbled and shook her head, but dropped her foot regardless.  “Fine.  But I’m gettin’ a FULL foot rub from somebody before the day’s over.”   She stood up and started putting her socks and shoes back on.

“And you will.  That, I promise you.  But for now, Miss O’Leary is finally in the proper state of mind.”

“You call this ‘proper’?”

“I do indeed.”  Lloyd leaned his head back, letting a few of his hairs brush against Sheila’s.  “Miss O’Leary.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, why not ask your friend for advice?  Surely she can help you out with such a perilous situation.”

“Don’t you think I’ve tried that?” Sheila snapped, slamming the back of her head against Lloyd’s.  “That’s the FIRST thing I tried!  And it didn’t work at all!”

Trixie tilted her head.  “Friend…?”  She turned to Mrs. Overdose, but all she could do was shrug.

“Yes, I figured as much.  After all, it was all a part of my plan.”  Lloyd nodded to himself.  “Perhaps it’s due to my sleep-deprived state; perhaps it’s due to my natural foppishness.  But whatever the case may be, I’ve started to see a connection.  The chaos and happenstance I’ve endured hardly seem befitting of a regular, reasonable girl.  Massive leaps in logic are -- or were -- my territory; only someone with a brain as addled as mine could make such choices so recklessly.  At least, under normal circumstances.”

“You followin’ this?” Trixie asked.  But once more, she didn’t get much more than a shrug.

“I made a call to Arjuna last night.  He said something along the lines of you receiving advice from someone he himself hadn’t met, but whose influence he could make conjecture about.  And I’d be more than happy to make further conjectures.”  He raised his head, thankful that Sheila had calmed down enough to let him speak unabated.  “The Shotgun Foot Rub is a technique designed solely to overwhelm -- overwhelm the senses, and eventually, if not simultaneously, overwhelm the mind.  Simply put, it’s to be a situation in which there is no easy answer.  No salvation, even from the sagest of advisors.  With that in mind, I wonder if you’re beginning to understand.”

Sheila turned her head as far back as it could go, giving her a murky glipse of Lloyd from the corner of her eye.  Lloyd did the same -- and a smile slid across his face.

“Miss O’Leary.  Do you understand it now?  Everyone has their limits -- even the friend inside you.”

“Inside her?” Trixie asked -- and immediately after, she turned a deep shade of red.  “L-Lloyd?  Ya wanna be a bit more specific, pal?”

Lloyd laughed.  “Sorry, that was my fault.  I should have used ‘friend’ in quotation marks.  Though it’s hard to be sure of how accurate that might be.”

“That’s not what I -- aw, forget it.  It ain’t important.”

“Right, then.  Back to the matter at hand; it was by good fortune that I noticed your phone was sorely lacking in contacts worth calling.  By that logic, one could argue that you have few, if any, friends to call your own.  A brutal thought, to be sure, but likely a true one if my guess is right.  If we take that to be true, then I wonder just who would agree to give you advice -- and even then, how you’d go about contacting them without physical proximity OR any means of communication.  No phone, no computer, not even a personal conversation…it smacks of impossibility, under normal circumstances.”

Sheila’s lips quivered.  “So what are you trying to say?”

“What I’m trying to say, Miss O’Leary, is that I’ve gained a bit of insight.  Elements about you that once remained obscured by unknowns and scenario-bred imbalances have given way to the truth…or at least a potential to see it for myself.  But to answer your question more directly, I think I can sum it all up in one line.”

He pointed boldly at her -- or at least he would have if he hadn’t been tied up and facing the wrong direction.  “In order to save your life, I’ll have to end the life of your other self.”

The room went silent.

“…Was that not a cool enough line?  Hold on, then, let me give it another try.”

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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