I've spent most of my life inside this gift box, happily whittling away the days in darkness and delight. Five minutes ago, this Charlie Brownish kid came along and stuck his stupid red hat right into my business. Before I knew it, I'd been taken hostage in his cute yellow backpack.
"Hey! Is this one of those... what are they called again, Paula? Calorie Sticks?" he asked.
"Hey! Is this one of those... what are they called again, pink idiot? Home invasions?" I replied, though I knew he couldn't hear me.
My house became smaller and smaller as the red ruffian sauntered toward Saturn Valley.
From what I could gather by looking through the small opening in the bag, there were three of them: The pink one, the nerd and the red ruffian. I had no idea what my abductors were up to, but I could tell that the sun was starting to set.
"If these kids have a plan as to where we're staying tonight," I thought, "they'd better implement it now."
"Those tunnel zombies went down really easy!" said the red ruffian. I could hear him tapping his baseball bat on the ground, emulating - one might assume - his attacks on the "undead." Great: Not only had I been abducted, but I had been abducted by a group of delusional mental patients.
"Be careful with that," said the nerd. "You know what I had to go through in Winters to get that bat for you."
"The zombies might have gone down easy, but so did Jeff's radio," said the pink one.
"Dr. Andonuts probably thinks we're dead," said the nerd.
"From what you've told us, how is that any different than the entire last decade?" asked the red ruffian.
"Ness!" the pink one chastised, "That's mean!"
"But it's true. Truth is all we can count on in the end."
I doubt anyone else noticed, but the nerd's lips quivered a bit after saying that.
They continued on in silence.
The sun had almost set, sprinkling the sky with reds, deep blues and violets. It was starting to get so cold I was shaking my calories off. But the pink one and the nerd didn't seem worried; the red ruffian I couldn't see from the bookbag prison. I guess I was as relaxed as a guy who's just been abducted by weird looking 13-year-olds can be.
But make no mistake: I knew what they wanted me for. My life as a Calorie Stick was nearing an end; an acidic end inside the hormone heavy stomach of a nerdy teen. Or a pink one. Or *shutter* the red ruffian himself.
Suddenly, the nerd spoke up: "In here," he said. All was dark for a moment. Had we taken a wrong turn?
Judging by the bizarre world that stretched out before us when the darkness subsided, the answer is "Yes. Yes we did."
"We're here!" yelled the pink one.
I was doomed.
* * *
We continued along for awhile, with the teens fighting their way through alligators, magic bugs and armored frogs. Maybe they knew what they were doing. But it didn't matter.
I knew that ultimately, I was on the menu anyway.
I heard the waterfall before I saw it. But I knew we were approaching it thanks to what I was able to view from inside the backpack. The sound didn't hit us until we were almost right on top of it though; I believe that was less because the waterfall was quieter than most other waterfalls and more because I WAS TRAPPED IN SOME CRIMINALLY INSANE CHILD'S NOISE CANCELING BOOKBAG FOR HOURS ON END.
My captors approached the waterfall, which I was able to steal glimpses of when the red ruffian would turn around to speak with his crazy comrades. I was pretty sure I was about to witness some kind of Happy-Happiest style cleansing ritual, or perhaps a sacrifice wherein a pink girl, a red ruffian and a nerd all drown a defenseless-but-delicious Calorie Stick. Or maybe they were just here to practice their jumping uppercuts like that karate guy does every few days; I guess already seeking the next challenge, ceremony means nothing to him.
But something told me that I was about to be wrapped in a blue sheet and sacrificed to the blue water.
"Now what?" asked the red ruffian.
"Say the password," replied a voice from beyond the waterfall.
"Is it Justin Bailey underlined with dashes?" asked the red ruffian. "Or is it Narpas Sword? No, wait! I got it! It's up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start!"
I couldn't see him, but I knew that the veins were pulsating on the nerd's forehead.
"Ness!" he exclaimed, "remember what Mr. Saturn said?"
"HeAlThFuL aNd dAnDy! BoInG?"
"No, the other thing!"
"I hAvE nO SoMeThInG...?"
I'm pretty sure I could hear the blood vessels pop in the nerd's eyes. Thankfully, the pink one intervened before the nerd could use his science to destroy his red hat.
"Ness, we're supposed to wait three minutes without saying anything!" she yelled, putting herself between the two.
"Oh, that," the red ruffian replied. "I'm not sure I can be quiet that long."
* * *
The pink one and the nerd removed their hands from the red ruffian's mouth once the door opened from behind the waterfall. Sprawling out before us was a huge factory. A wet mist danced in the air, fogging up the windows. I could barley see inside the factory; all I could make out were a few foreboding lights.
I wasn't too keen on going inside, but I knew where the terrible teens were about to take me. The best I could hope for was that whatever ate my kidnappers would forget to check the backpack and I could spend the rest of my days in the delightful darkness, just like my old gift box home.
Minutes later, my absentminded abductors were bashing, frying and shooting their way through loads of bizarre vomit villains and moronic walking footballs who's main method of attack was getting stepped on. Within ten minutes we stank of puke, and within a half hour, I was sure I'd never be able to wash the funk away. The pink one unchained a few of those Mr. Saturn things along the way and they waddled off, presumably to find a bathtub and some industrial strength soap.
At what appeared to be the final room of the factory, the red ruffian kicked down the door and the trio rushed in.
"The jig's up, Belch!"
It was unoccupied.
"This has got to be it," said the red ruffian. "This is last room in the factory!"
He turned around. I started at the strange electronics attached to the wall.
Suddenly, a vile voice boomed through the tiny room.
"So you are Ness? ...I see... Gyork! Gyork! Gyork!" it said. I felt the red ruffian ready his baseball bat. "I'll take you down big time, so get ready for the worst fight of your life! Get ready to feel the pain of true nausea!"
I never saw the source of the voice, but I could smell it. Through all the burping and expelling of stinky gasses from the the monster, I heard the sounds of combat. I could tell they were getting nowhere against the beast.
Then the red ruffian took a heavy a hit and fell on his back, nearly crushing me.
"We're fresh out of options!" the red ruffian exclaimed.
"Nothing is fresh around here," replied the pink one.
"Wait!" said the nerd. "You know what to do, Ness!"
The bookbag opened, bathing me in subtle light and overt stink. The red ruffian reached into the sack, brushing up against me. I figured it was my time to be eaten, to recover hit points like I had been made to do. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Maybe where I was going, I'd finally be able to see Grandma and Grandpa Bread Roll again.
Instead the hand grabbed the jar that had been sitting next to me since my abduction.
"Chew on this, you freak!"
I couldn't see what had happened, but I knew the tide of battle had turned. With one final, massive blow, the red ruffian splattered puke all over himself, his friends, the walls, and probably people living as far away as Winters.
All was quiet for a moment.
"Let's head back to Saturn Valley," said the pink one.
* * *
When we reemerged in Saturn Valley, the first thing we did was clean up in the nearby hot springs. The Mr. Saturn were happy to see the teen trio and expressed their gratitude as best as their odd vocabulary would allow.
While my captors enjoyed a cup of tea with Mr. Saturn and reminisced about how their power had grown, my eyelids became like cinder blocks and slid down over my eyes.
* * *
When I woke up, I was surrounded by darkness. The horrendous stench was gone; so was the incoherent chattering of 100 Mr. Saturn. For a moment, I forgot I had been kidnapped. Had it all been a dream?
That's when I sensed motion. We were on the move, but I could hardly see. Cool and humid, the moisture stuck to one's skin. We must have been in some kind of cave.
Soon the light shone again without warning, blinding me. It took a few moments to readjust. When I did, a valley of foliage stretched out before me. This place wasn't like the path to the factory; it was surrounded by mountains on either side. Despite the relaxing scenery, something felt horribly out of place and I was stuck smack dab in the middle of it all. There was nothing I could do by hang on for dear life.
I could hear them stalking through the meadow, watching. Then they surrounded us.
The nerd said they should conserve their power for the battles to come. They ran into another cave.
Then I saw it.
* * *
My kidnappers were exhausted. The ancient evil kept pounding away their energy and nothing they did was enough to destroy the monstrosity. The red ruffian reached into the bookbag.
"I think I've still got a bomb in here!" he said. I knew he didn't; he had used it earlier to fend off an alligator attack.
His hand wrapped around me and the next then I knew, I was sailing straight towards the monster's massive mouth.
"Take that!" he yelled.
My tiny body smacked the fiend right between the eyes. The dirt holding him together collapsed and his mouth disappeared into the avalanche. The red ruffian - Ness - picked me up, dusted me off, and put me back inside his bookbag.
"That's the best Calorie Stick ever!" said the pink one.
Soon, we stepped through the final entrance to a calm place. I'm not sure what it was, but it made me feel reborn. Maybe my captors weren't the crazy, evil kidnappers I thought they were. Maybe it was my destiny to aid them on their weird and wonderful journey. Maybe my life had a purpose after all.
"Well, after all that, I'm a little hungry," said the red ruffian.
The plastic wrapper of a big chocolate chip cookie crinkled beside me, but then I could feel his hand clasp around my neck. The last thing I remember seeing were his fangs bared against me, his insidious mouth gaping with crazed anticipation.
I hate it when I'm right.
I hate it when I'm right.