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July 29, 2013

I Hraet You (78)

Beat 78: Oh, Assist Will Work Nicely -- That Starts With A

Just seconds ago, Deirdre looked furious enough to roundhouse-kick Lloyd’s head off his neck.  But seeing Lloyd fumble with that quill pen turned her grimace into her typical sultry grin.  “Having a bit of trouble there, boy?  Come on, now -- getting into action shouldn’t be that hard, now should it?”

Lloyd’s eyes darted between Deirdre and the pen in his hands.  As long as Deirdre was caught in those vines, he still had some breathing room -- at least a few seconds’ worth of it.  “Er, if I could ask that you allow me a minute or twenty to find out how to use this, I’m almost certain you’ll be well-rewarded.”

Deirdre waved her hand, and the vines around her legs sank into the audition room floor.  “I’m coming for you, boy,” she said with a chuckle -- and sure enough, she floated towards him at a steady clip.

“I don’t suppose this is the feather of a silly cap?” 

“Are you asking me that?”

Lloyd’s shoulders slumped.  “I figured I might as well.”

“I guess you’re what they call a ‘brainless beauty’, aren’t you?  Well, it makes no difference to me, sweet cheeks.”  Deirdre spread out her arms, ready and waiting to embrace Lloyd like an amorous bear.  “If all you’ve got in your head is mush, then molding you into my slave will be easy.  I hope you’re ready for a mind-blowing experience, my little pet.”

“Lloyd Beatrice Hoigleheimer is no man’s pet!”  He turned to the left.  “Servant, yes, but pet?  Inconceivable!  I don’t even have a collar, much less the fur and tail expected of the common --”

“If it’s a collar you want, I’d be glad to strap one on you…among other things.”

Lloyd stared blankly at Deirdre -- and then strangled the quill with all his might.  “Work!  Work!  WORK, BLAST YOU!  My gentlemanly heart won’t last a moment in her grasp!”  But in the midst of his assault, he caught a glimpse of the desk, and the papers scattered across it.  “Wait a moment -- of course!  Am I some sort of idiot?”

“Are you asking me that?”

“Well, I’ve always believed it’s good to have a second opini-WAIT A MINUTE!  THAT WAS RHETORICAL, I’M SURE OF IT!”

“Oh.  Well, as long as you’re sure, that’s what really matters.”  Deirdre eyed the desk, and pressed a finger to her chin.   “Ooooh.  I can think of about eighty different things we can do with that table.  And to that table.  And what that table can do to you.  Want me to give you a little taste test?”

Much as Lloyd would have liked a free sample (preferably of some cantaloupe), he wouldn’t allow it.  Without a second or even first thought, he spun the quill in his hand -- and he stabbed the papers with enough force to break the average pen.

This one didn’t break.  But nearly everything else did.


A wave of green light burst from the quill, rushing over Lloyd, Deirdre, and in seconds flat every last corner of the audition room.  The two humans slid back from the force, shielding their eyes from the light; the inanimate objects didn’t fare quite as well, with the outlines that formed them breaking down.  Disassembling.  Shifting out of alignment, like pipes sliced apart.

“What the hell did you DO?!” Deidre asked.

“Something good, I hope!” Lloyd answered -- all too aware that at the moment, he floated in the air like Deirdre.  The two of them watched with mouths agape as the audition room’s parts churned and rotated; lines that had once been a solid black took on green hues, with their innards filling like pitchers of lemonade.  But one by one, the lines began rearranging themselves -- connecting, one after another, with an audible snap and a visible gleam. 

And then the wave returned.  It swept back toward the quill, dragging Lloyd and Deirdre forward and downward.  Deirdre landed on the ground atop one knee; Lloyd’s forehead slammed into the desk.  As for the quill…

Lloyd lifted his head from the desk and took in the surroundings (while ignoring his throbbing brain).  In terms of layout, nothing had changed -- the audition room he’d come to expect still stood before him in its usual splendor.  To some extent, at least; the colorless world he’d frequented wasn’t quite so colorless anymore.  Shades of green splashed across the room, giving leafy props the proper pigmentation.  The curtain’s lines and trim welcomed the new paint job; though its fabric remained predominantly white, the colors were unmistakable -- and for moments at a time, Lloyd thought he saw them shift in the wake of some unknowable wind.  The exit, the floorboards, a number of wires, and even a few spotlights had all taken on new hues; even Lloyd’s desk, though still mostly white, now stood on jade legs.

And the quill itself?  The one responsible for it all?  It stood upright on the desk, vibrating and letting loose a muted chime.  “Is this it?  Is this what I’ve been waiting for?” Lloyd asked. 

Deirdre grimaced.  “Are you asking me that?”

Lloyd didn’t bother with an answer.  He just seized the quill and dragged its tip across a sheet.


Lloyd would have expected a streak of ink to appear on the page.  It didn’t.  A trio of circles appeared instead -- shining green rings that spun all over the page…and a moment later, they leapt off of it.  “What in the name of Athena’s war helmet?!” he shouted.  The rings spiraled around him at top speed, but slowed to a halt after what had to be their twentieth lap; the three of them stopped on his left, hovering in place and waiting to be touched.

He certainly had every reason to touch them.  They weren’t just circles anymore; they were portraits.  Three hovering photos, carrying images of people.  The one on the left had a picture of Mrs. Overdose.  The one on the right, Trixie.  And atop the two of them, a picture of --

“Madam O’Leary,” said Lloyd.  “But what are these three doing here?  Unless…could it be --?”

“You little bastard -- if you think I’m going to let you come out on top, you’re even dumber than I thought!”  Deirdre slammed a palm against the ground -- and barely a foot away from her, a dozen thorny vines erupted from the ground.  With teeth clenched into a canine scowl, she sent the vines rocketing forward, each one more eager to strangle the life out of Lloyd than the last.

But Lloyd had long since made his move.  He tapped the quill against one of the rings -- not that Deirdre could have seen it, thanks to her thorny assault. 

She could only look dead ahead -- and watch as the thorns stopped dead.  And shattered into pieces.

“What the hell?”  Deirdre leapt to her feet, clenching her hands tightly enough to bend a steel girder.  “How in the hell did you --?!”

“That’s a lot of foul language coming from a girl your age.  Is somebody gonna have to clean your mouth out with soap?”

The shards and debris dissipated rapidly, revealing the truth.  Lloyd had fallen back into the director’s chair, staring with wide eyes at the once-deadly vines that had rushed his way.  On his left stood a new entrant; she had a single palm raised, and primed to hold back anything that came her way.  She might have looked like every soccer mom in the world rolled into one homogenous form, but that look on her face -- that cocky smile, and the fire in her eyes -- would have made a pro wrestler take pause.

Jane let loose a biting laugh.  “Or would you prefer a spanking instead?”

“M-madam O’Leary?” Lloyd sputtered.  “What are you doing here?”

“Didn’t I tell you to call me Jane?”  She turned toward Lloyd -- and flashed a smile so pleasant he could feel his heart melt.  “You don’t have to be so formal with me.  We’re friends, after all.  I’d be glad to make some more cookies for you anytime; you’re always welcome for a visit.”

Lloyd nearly burst into tears.  “Someone’s actually being nice to me for once?!  I’d forgotten what that feels like!”

“I’d be glad to treat you nice, sweet cheeks,” said Deirdre.  She tried to wear her sultry grin once more, but couldn’t quite manage it; she had to strain herself to even smile, and sweat started streaking down her face.  “Come on, now.  Why don’t you leave behind that plain Jane and have a little fun with me?”

Jane shot an eye back at Deirdre.  “What did you just call me?”

“I just called you a plain Ja-”

Jane snapped her fingers -- and a bar of soap the size of a honey baked ham burst from the ceiling and lodged itself in Deirdre’s mouth.  “Learn your place, little girl,” she said with a smirk as Deirdre writhed and scrabbled across the floor.

“Madam O’Leary?  How in the world did you --?!”

Jane smiled at Lloyd, and pointed above her crown; sure enough, the same green ring that had borne her picture floated overhead.  But it had lost a bit of its light -- a whole segment of it looked as if it had been sliced out, and as Lloyd stared, the dimmed segment stretched further and further.  “We’d better keep this quick, Lloyd.  You and I are working on the clock -- but I should have more than enough time to lend you a hand.”

“But the soap, and the thorns --”

“Please.  Don’t you know who I am?  I’m Jane O’Leary -- who do you think Sheila inherited her wild imagination from?  Her father?”

Lloyd tilted his head.  “That…doesn’t explain very much.”

“All right.  I’ll try to keep things simple, Lloyd.  I’ll give you the information you need, and I’ll be sure to protect you from her tricks.  You just make sure you finish her off.  That’s easy enough to understand, isn’t it?”

“Well, I suppose, but -- but how are you doing all of this?  Even for my life, this makes no sense.”

“What’s so hard to follow?  You’re in my daughter’s heart.  You’re facing off with her imaginary friend.  You summoned me here.  And as a lonely housewife, my imagination is ten times more powerful than the common man’s which -- coupled with my already-incredible mind -- gives me powers rivaling the average god in this alternate space.  Easy, yes?”

Lloyd stared blankly at her.

“This is the part where you say ‘yes, ma’am.’  Clock’s still ticking, sweetheart.”

“Y-yes, ma’am.”  Lloyd sat up in the chair.  “So simply put, you’re here to assist me in overcoming this opponent?  I thank you for your efforts, but…”  He covered his mouth.  “My goal here isn’t just to overcome this friendly facsimile, and certainly not to erase her outright.  I need a way to reconcile with her.  I need to bring the two halves together, and have them reconcile in turn.”

“That’s your plan, huh?”

“Relatively speaking, yes.  But it’s proven to be a true challenge.  It seems as if every step I take ends with rejection or failure.  Try as I might, I just can’t seem to make any progress with Miss O’Leary.  I might have actually gone backwards more than I’ve gone forward -- and if I’m to succeed here, I need to break out of this stalemate.”

Jane folded her arms and nodded.  “So your problem is that Sheila’s a hard nut to crack.  Too hard for even you.”  She glanced around the room, and then let loose a heavy sigh.  “Sorry.  Guess I’ve put you through a lot, haven’t I?”

“Eh?  How do you mean?”

“It’s a good thing you called me here, Lloyd.  Because now, I get to help fix the mess that I made.”


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