or: The Big Catch Up! (Episodes 2-7)
Tati and Tony had decided to meet at the Greater Cachalot Mall, which was more akin to a bustling mini metropolis than an actual mall. Located on an island in international waters, it lay somewhere between Ukraine and Australia, and required no Visa to visit. Tati travelled there via the Trans-Zhmerynka Portalway while Tony took the TUMS Oceania Tube.
Tony arrived first, lugging three huge suitcases behind him. They were filled with god knows what, and the hotel staff were understandably curious. Who could possibly need that much crap? What the hell was it? Was it clothes or something nefarious like money for a drug drop? Tony did have the bedraggled appearance of a dealer after all.
Tati appeared twenty minutes later with her habitual backpack and a mint lollipop. She slapped Tony’s back, causing him to choke on his soda. “Are you drinking that slop again?” Tony winced at her pointed question. “You boob! When will you drop dead from diabetes? I won’t be coming to your funeral! And don’t complain that I didn’t warn you!”
They were looking at each other with a mixture of love and hate, and therefore didn’t notice a mysterious man in black slipping quietly behind them and making a beeline for Tony’s suitcases…
Tati sighed. “Okey dokey. Let’s go to reception. I’m dying to take a shower.” She pulled a map from her pants pocket and unfolded it over a nearby café table.
“Why couldn’t we have met in front of the hotel itself?” asked Tony, scratching the top of his head with a quizzical look.
“Conspiracy?” Tony blinked in confusion.
After ascertaining the most confusing and circuitous route to the hotel, Tati rummaged through her backpack and withdrew a couple of items. “Now, take this moustache and cap. No one should recognize you!”
Tony took one of the moustaches from her hand and put on the green cap. “But I already have a moustache!”
“It doesn’t matter. Stick that one over it.”
Tony blinked slowly at his reflection in a nearby store window showcase while Tati put on a moustache of her own, and a red cap too. “Seriously, we look like the Mario Bros.” She giggled at Tony’s comment. He had two moustaches on his face, and he did rather look like a famous, portly, videogame plumber’s brother.
“Does this make me Mario?”
Tony blushed. ” A female Mario, yes.”
Tati folded up the map and stowed it away. “Okay, you can stop scratching your mushrooms, brother. Let’s a go!”
Rolling his eyes, Tony turned to retrieve his suitcases…
Right in front of their very eyes was the mysterious man in black, and he was trying to make off with one of Tony’s suitcases. Tati didn’t even need to think. She immediately dug into her pants pocket and withdrew a mint lollipop. In one smooth over-the-shoulder movement, she lobbed it at the man in black and hit him squarely between the eyes. He crumpled to the ground like a tarpaulin full of bricks.
“You! Hey, you!” Tati lightly kicked him with the tip of her shoe. “Are you alive?”
“What the hell?!” hissed Tony like a goose. “There’s no need to sink the boot in! Isn’t it enough that you knocked him down?! What was that anyway? A candy cannonball? Jesus!”
Tati stood there confused. She thought she had done the right thing. “It was just a lollipop I bought in Zhmerynka’s Duty Free. Do you think it could be expired, and that’s why it’s so hard?”
“Either that or it’s got a tiny anchor in the middle of it.” Tony kneeled beside the man in black. “He’s out cold.”
“No, look, he’s coming around.”
The mysterious man in black opened his eyes, but the sight of two squabbling Mario brothers made him go faint again. And who could blame him? Anyone in his place would have done the same. One brother was strangely effeminate, and the other had two moustaches, one of which was stuck to his brow.
“Nope. He’s out again.”
Tati looked around. “We need a bucket of water.”
“What? Are we gonna drown him now? I think the guy’s had enough!”
Losing patience, Tati shrugged her shoulders then grabbed the man in black by his shirt front. She yanked him into a sitting position. “Who are you?” she growled to his face. ” Why were you stealing Tony’s suitcase?”
“I don’t think he can hear you, Tati.”
Tati pulled a vial of acetone from her other pocket.
Tony regarded her with a not unwarranted degree of suspicion. “Erm, why are you carrying stuff like that with you? And how the hell did you get it through customs?”
Tati gave an annoyed tut. “Don’t ask questions you wouldn’t like the answers to!” And, with that, she shoved the vial right into the man in black’s nose. With an almighty fit of spluttering and coughing, he opened eyes.
“Good sir,” asked Tony politely, “could you please let us know why you need my suitcase?”
Before the man in black could respond, Tati shouted, “I’d just like to know who the fuck died and left you stealing other people’s suitcases!”
The man in black whispered, “Please, don’t kill me, mighty Mario brothers. Let me live and I’ll reveal a big secret to you.”
“Okay!” crowed Tati. “Now we’re getting somewhere!”
Tony was concerned at how forcefully she was shaking the man in black. He wondered if he should intervene.
“Um…” he began carefully. “I think maybe…”
Tati looked at Tony, raising her eyebrows in challenge. They began a furious discussion with their eyes. Obviously, Tony wanted to help the man in black to a hotel, offer him bed and breakfast, but Tati wanted to systematically torture and break the man. They managed to convey all of this to one another without any words at all.
But destiny, as always, had other plans. A huge meteorite for example.
When Tati and Tony finally concluded their silent (yet no less heated for it) argument, they looked back to the mysterious man in black. Or, to be more precise, to the place where he’d been some moments ago. There was now a smouldering crater with a humungous orb glowing an angry orange in the centre.
Tati dropped the two seared scraps of fabric that remained of the man in black’s shirt. Tony just fell on his arse. They were both in shock.
“What the ever loving…” Tony didn’t have it in him to complete that statement, so he let it trail off.
Tati shook her head, scratched her moustache, gave a defiant grunt then grabbed Tony by the scruff of his shirt. “Get up.” Her tone indicated that he’d better do what she said, or else. He got up.
“That was my favourite suitcase too.”
Turning away from the crater, Tati counted the rest of Tony’s suitcases. “How many bloody suitcases have you got, Luigi?”
“My name’s not Luigi!” Tony bristled. “And I don’t need to justify what I bring on our trips to you!”
But Tati wasn’t listening. “Three? Okey-dokey. It looks like all of them are here. Let’s go to the hotel!”
Tony gestured helplessly at the crater. “Well, minus one.” He was sure that one of the suitcases had gotten disintegrated along with the mysterious man in black. “But I guess you’re right.” He gestured at the ones that remained. “There are three others here.”
Tony winced. How had he pissed her off this time? “What now?” he moaned.
Tati pointed. “Does this one have a slightly different hue, or am I dreaming?”
Now Tony wasn’t even sure of his real name. He squinted at the offending suitcase. “I don’t know. Yes? Maybe? Or we’re in a group hallucination.”
“No.” Tati gave her moustache another thoughtful scratch. “I think all of them are similar.”
“Sure,” sighed Tony. “Whatever floats your boat.”
He just wanted to get away from the crater. The police and emergency services were beginning to arrive. Names would be taken and questions would be asked. He didn’t have the mental wherewithal to cope with that.
“Erm, Tati, we should get the hell out of here, don’t you think?”
Tony tugged at Tati’s elbow. She yanked it away, more than a little irritated.
“Hey! What gives you the right to paw at me, you old pervert?”
Tony eyed her in a mixture of apology and wild-eyed fear.
“You can hold my hand, okay?” she said, her frown softening to a look of concern. “Let’s get out of here!”
Tony grabbed her whole arm again. “Let’s!”
Tati poked at Tony’s ribs with a huge, colourful umbrella. Tony winced, reeling in surprise. Where the hell had she suddenly pulled that from? It wasn’t anywhere a moment ago!
“Is that a…” Tony blinked dramatically. “Is that a fucking umbrella? You do realise it’s not about to rain, don’t you?”
Tati hoisted it, pointing the tip at the clear blue sky. “It’s a fucking whatchamacallit!”
“Huh? Could you stop saying words that I can’t comprehend?”
Tati grimaced at him. “Your Messiah won’t save you, but I will. Grab tight!”
Tony glommed onto Tati like a vice. “Does that make you my ‘Missiah?'” He grinned like an idiot at his own stupid joke.
“Do you want to fall?” Tati asked with a hint of menace in her voice.
“Wha—?!” Tony shook his head in panic. “No. Of course not!”
“Then hold on!” Tati jabbed at the sky for emphasis. “Less words. More action!”
And with that, her umbrella popped open with a puff of air, and they shot off into the sky like a bottle rocket. Tony screamed as he tightened his grip. He hadn’t expected their lift off to be so… well, sudden!
“Shit!” squeaked Tati.
Tony blinked. That’s all he seemed to be doing lately. “What?”
“Suitcases!” Tati looked angry. “Did you bring your fucking baggage?”
Tony refused to look down as he was scared of heights—but he knew the suitcases were still scattered around the lip of the crater. Tati looked down, and her scowl deepened.
“Do you really need your suitcases?” Then before Tony could muster an answer, she added, “Never mind. It’s too late now anyway.”
Tati was right. The ambulance, police and fire service had arrived on the scene. People in various uniforms were already striding about with purposeful resolve, pointing at things, crossing things off lists, and getting shit done. And yet, Tony had to whine, “But I need them!”
“Why?” Tati pretended that her question was dictated by common sense, not curiosity. Tony gave her his best, saintly, longsuffering ‘martyr’ look. She rolled her eyes, but he wouldn’t let up.
“All my good underwear’s in there!”
Tati found it difficult to imagine Tony wearing undergarments. The thought made her giggle. “Nice try, you silly boy.” She lightly kissed the top of his head. “Do you have other options? You’re going to need them.”
Tony realised that the reason was going to have to be more serious than the one he’d offered. Otherwise, this nasty girl with fake face fungus was never going to agree to return and get his suitcases back. Tati could be quite difficult to sway once her mind was made up.
He thought a little bit, and then said, “Well, I suppose I can tell you, but it’s a big secret. The reason I want to go back for my suitcases is because they contain my stash of hamster porn. God, I hope no one manages to get one open. I can already feel the shame!”
Tati snorted. “‘Mr Fleek ‘Puffy Cheek’ & His Lewd BBW Wifey’? ‘Crazy Hawaii Weekend in the Boom Chicka Wheel Wow of Love’, huh?”
“Okay okay!” hissed Tony with embarrassment. “Keep your voice down, would you?”
“‘Hamster Bros Doin’ Doxies Fur Dog Style’?”
“Look, I don’t have that issue, okay? It got lost somewhere a while ago.”
Tati felt Tony shudder involuntarily. The memory of such a loss seemed to trouble him deeply.
“Hey!” he suddenly beamed. “Does that mean you happen to have a copy of your own?”
Tati blushed momentarily, but then quickly regained her usual look of jaded scorn.
“Are you an idiot?” she sneered. “I joke, of course. I had no idea that this existed. You’re a dirty weirdo!”
Tony looked disappointed. “That was a pretty good guess then!”
“I wonder which direction the wind is blowing today…”
Tati fidgeted with the trigger on the umbrella handle, demonstrating her complete indifference towards the hamster porno industry. Tony looked at her with suspicion. It was obvious that she was trying to change the topic, but he figured it’d be better if he didn’t challenge her on this. At least not now while she was gripping him by the shirt collar some one hundred feet above the ground.
“So,” he said carefully, “where are we going to go? We’re fugitives now!”
Tati ignored him, continuing to fiddle with the trigger. Now she looked genuinely concerned, her fake moustache trembling in the wind like a bad omen. Okay, now it was time to worry, and so that’s what Tony did.
“Erm…” he squeaked. “Is everything okay?”
“Just shut up, OK? I’m trying to cock this fucking hamster.”
Tony blinked. “What?”
“Oh, hell!” spat Tati. “Damn you and your sexual preferences! I meant ‘cock the hammer’ of course! Not the hamster! This fucking umbrella doesn’t work!”
Then there was a sudden gust of wind. It slapped into them from the side, nearly wrenching Tony from Tati’s grasp. He shrieked with fear, tightening his hold on her.
“We’re gonna die!”
Dear Readers, now it’s time for us to explain ourselves. We decided to create this post in the hope of killing two birds with one stone. (Poor birds though!)
Firstly, we wanted to refresh your memory with the story so far, and to present it to our Newer—but no less important—Readers. You see, this is an experiment in interactive storytelling. We tell the story, and you vote for the direction it should go in. We’ve had a lot of fun with it. Hopefully, you have too.
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