I was awoken not five minutes earlier by a dream wherein a young girl, about my age, had asked me to come halfway around the world to the town of Threed because she and another friend I've never met were in grave danger. None of it was logical. None of it was scientific. But for the first time in my life, that didn't seem to matter; I was compelled to investigate.
I crept to the door and opened it as slowly as I could. A noisy floorboard proved to be my undoing.
Tony stared at me through the darkness. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
"I'll never understand why you sleep with your hat on," I said.
"Where're you going?"
"It's against the dorm rules!"
"I don't care."
"Then... let me help you, Jeff. You're my best friend."
Tony rolled out of bed and walked up beside me.
* * *
Tony got down on his hands and knees in front of the gate.
"Use me as a stepping stool!"
There wasn't time for a long goodbye. Instead I hoisted myself up and over the gate and waved solemnly back at Tony.
"Never forget, Jeff. We're best friends!"
I don't really know what "best friends" means. I'm not sure I ever had a friend before. But from my many nights spent repairing broken machines instead of sleeping, I know what devotion is. Tony's got plenty of it.
I walked down the road a ways and, when I reached the local drug store, I instinctively looked back at the school. I got the feeling that it would be quite awhile before I set foot there again.
When I reached the local drug store, I swung open the door and heaved myself through to get a some sanctuary from the frigid morning air - and perhaps grab some breakfast before I set out to Threed. I still had no idea how I was going to get there.
The second I stepped in I was accosted by a huge-haired woman who had apparently been layering make-up on her face since early last night. She looked like she was half beauty product and half human; a cyborg made of flesh and Cover Girl.
"Wanna buy some gum?!" she screamed, shoving the jumbo-sized pack in my face. The shopkeeper manning the cash register frowned.
"Ma'am, I've got two dollars and I need to get thousands of miles away from here," I replied. "I haven't got the time nor the funding to deal with people like..."
"If you buy this pack of gum for a buck, you'll get a FREE bubble monkey!"
"I'll get Michael Jackson's monkey, Bubbles?!" I exclaimed.
"Well, no, he's just a bubble monkey, see, because he likes blowing bubble gum bubbles and -"
I still don't know what happened, but something in me was very excited at the prospect of owning a fallen pop star's ridiculous pet.
"HERE'S A DOLLAR WHERE'S BUBBLES?!"
"But he's not... you know what, never mind," said the woman. "Here he is."
"Kiki ko ko," said Bubbles, biting off half the pack of gum and chewing it with the wrappers on.
I squealed with what I believe to be joy, though I cannot be sure without further testing.
* * *
Bubbles and I trudged down the path away from the boarding school, unsure of what to do next. I knew I needed to get to Threed and the only way to do so was to cross the lake. But how?
"Sooo, what's Michael Jackson's room like? Does he have copies of his Sega Genesis game, Moonwalker, lining the walls?"
"Ko ke koko," said Bubbles.
"That's what I thought," I replied.
Ahead I spotted a group of tents, surrounded by men with binoculars staring into the ocean. Hints of beef stew wafted towards me. I began running towards the men, glad to see a speck of humanity out here in the bitter cold wilderness.
As it turns out, they were members of the "Tessie Watching Club," a group devoted to catching a glimpse of the legendary sea monster, Tessie. The men were more than happy to share their food with me and Bubbles. With a full stomach and a warm monkey by my side curled up like a cat, I believe I fell asleep by the burner's warm glow.
* * *
"What's going on?" I asked.
"It's Tessie!" exclaimed the man. "She's here!"
Bubbles tugged on my blazer, dragging me out to the edge of the lake. The wind nearly pushed me in as he grabbed a piece of gum from the pack, blew a bubble and floated out over the water. I was pretty sure that I had just killed Michael Jackson's monkey.
But then, something emerged from the water right under him. The head of Tessie slowly rose from the depths and Bubbles came to rest on top of her.
I poked the man standing next to me.
"That's Michael Jackson's monkey, you know."
* * *
"Now what?" I asked. Bubbles pointed to the entrance of a cave that was marked "Brick Road." I shrugged and walked in.
I'll say just one thing about the experience: I didn't know that ducks hang out in caves.
Bubbles and I made our way past the primitive-looking locals, pressing on towards the lab. About half way though, I noticed that Bubbles had gone missing.
I looked back to see him talking to a female monkey who was about his age. He caught my gaze and nodded his head. I knew that was the last I was going to see of him. I smiled. I think he knew that I was happy to have his company for the time he was around. He disappeared into the wilderness with his new mate.
A rock formation that I recognized as Stonehenge from my readings spread out before me. Even though it intrigued me, I had better things to do. I ignored it and continued on.
Something gleamed in the distance. It was a light. A light from a lab.
I knew where I was. I opened the door and stared at the scientist standing in front of me. He looked a little confused, but perhaps happy to see a visitor.