Down the Rabbit Hole: The Never-Ending Story

Thanks to everyone who participated in this contest.

The winners are as follows:

First Post: Renee Miller
Best Post: Amelia Sides (for her entry: "He was perfect for my experiment.")
Most Posts: Paige Ray
Last Post: Michael Keyton

Please contact me at rita@ritajwebb.com so that we can discuss your prizes.



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I looked at the sign and sighed. The man had no shoes, his toes a sickening color of green, like burnt snot, and his hair had things crawling in it. I wondered what good my dollar would do anyway; he'd probably just use it for booze, not a bar of soap or even a loaf of bread. I continued walking, deciding to use my shoe dollar to by a lottery ticket. If I won, I'd come back to this spot and give him a thousand dollars.

Then a bullet winged past my head, thudding into the wide-toothed smile of a tooth-paste advert. The Bill-board was ruined, and so was her smile. I ducked then turned in time to see a punk dancing on asphalt. Veering around a corner, he vanished.

I started running, like I did the night war was declared in December 1941. As I ran the wolf ran alongside, and somewhere along the line the two of us merged and became one, the supreme predator, the beast from the primordial swamp. A fierce howling burst out from foam flecked lips, the howl of the hunter, the howl that rejoiced in the warm trail, the scent of a kill.

Another minute and the punk would be finished. Doomed. Yeah doomed, because I would get to him before the law and its lily-livered liberal guardians arranged for him a mink-lined, padded cell. It was hard to contain that final howl, the howl that proclaimed to all the world—that goddamned punk is mine

Surely that's not what I remember. Finally awakening in a hospital room after days spent in a coma, I was told that my light turned green, and I proceeded to make my turn and was broadsided. Where do these dark thoughts come from, am I someone else living in this body? My head hurts, as my thoughts drift once more to the man holding the sign on the street corner if I'd only given him my last dollar would I be lying here now?

My thoughts moved with the traffic. Just this once I didn't want to pretend like I didn't care for this person, these kinds of people. I pressed the break and came to a stop. Stopping traffic, I got out of the car, turned around and yelled to the man with the sign. "Come on!" I waved him on. "Come on!" He looked at me with trepidation. Gauging from his demeanor, he probably gazed on the entire world with trepidation. Then he started my direction. No, I didn't want to give him money. I had a better idea.

He was perfect for my experiment.

He edged toward me, still unsure whether he should trust me or not. I smiled, batting my eyelashes prettily and allowing a slight blush to dot my cheeks.

He ran to my car. Worked every time.

"You should buckle," I said as I reached behind the steering wheel to the hidden red button.

He glared at me, sighed, and then obeyed. The belt clicked into place, and I hit the button.

The car lifted into the air, the wheels tucked underneath, and we flew away. Nobody paid a whit of attention to us. Just as I knew they would.

And there we were, the Universe at our fingertips as the dash transformed into something that resembled the Starship Enterprise.

We darted through black empty space until we reached my lair.

"What's that?" He asked, sounding a little panicked.

"Oh, don't worry. I'll have some food for you in no time."

I stomped on the gas pedal and flipped the switch to my automatic garage door opener, size quadruple X for those extra large spaceships.

I'd also have to remember to make a stop at The Universe Emporium later; I was out of Peanut Butter.

"Why do you need Peanut Butter?" The Bum asked me when he was cleaned up, and we were on our way to The Universe Emporium, Galactic Department.

"Well, I happen to like it," I replied.

Then, accidentally, it escaped me, a guilty, freakish chuckle that I suppressed with a cough. I saw him watch me suspiciously from the corner of his eye.

"I do love me some Peanut Butter," I whispered under my breath.

He glanced at me, his eyes wide, and he placed his hand on the door. "You know, I do love peanut butter too, but I never thought I'd find a woman who also enjoyed that sticky brown goodness."

All at once, the absurdity of the situation struck me. Hard. Like a mallet right into my skull. We were not in a futuristic space cruiser, the dash was just the same old dusty, cracked dash it had been when I bought the car from that guy in Winnipeg four years ago. It was an awesome deal—all he wanted was a Snickers and my socks. I obliged.

I didn't even like peanut butter due to the severe allergy that would render me, well...dead. I forgot to take my meds that morning and now I sped down the highway, dollar in my shoe, bum in my passenger seat making cow eyes at me while he imagined doing all sorts of disturbing things with the jar of peanut butter he imagined I was buying.

I knew I'd forgotten something this morning. The question was, did I turn around and go home to take my meds, or just enjoy the ride?

The question was decided for me.

From the corner of my eye, I noticed a glint. Metal has a certain reflection, and that metal reflects very specifically.

I was being followed, and if I turned my head just so, I would likely see something I really wished I wouldn't.

I took the next exit, ran through the cloverleaf, and headed back the other way. Unfortunately I was JUST fast enough to see what I'd hoped I wouldn't.

Gay Deceiver was following me.

Damn him! Of all the people, in all the universes, why did Lazarus Long have to follow me home, now? It had been eons since our last encounter, and I hoped never to meet him or his precious Sharpie again. Or Deety. Especially her—she was a poison I would rather not deal with.

I ignored my instincts and looked.

There were four of them in the Gay Deceiver—all of them—same as they were 8 years ago when we'd last tangled.

Screw this. I would NOT let them interrupt the experiments this time.

"Here, hold this," I told my passenger as I placed his hand on the steering wheel. His look of horror suggested we might have about six seconds to live.

As he screamed and flailed his free arm, I busied myself fishing for it. The thing I hoped no one in that other rat-trap knew I had. I couldn't remember most of the control commands, and I certainly was not sure if they hadn't locked me out, but it was the only thing I could think of at this point that could buy me precious seconds.

They were gaining on us. Fast. Faster. They'd overtake us.

I raised the gray, cylindrical metal tube to my mouth and spoke.

"Gay Deceiver! Bounce, bounce, bounce!"

I waited until they came up close, real close, and leapt out, all thoughts of peanut butter forgotten. Three of them I took out with a single shot. Call me lucky. Then I went for recreation. I threw the gun aside and smiled at the one remaining guy.

He screamed for mercy, or maybe he just liked screaming. Then I heard the word 'Pardon'.

Pardon him? I’d not stop till he screamed for absolution. I hate punks, and this guy had punk written all over him in bright flashing lights. Hell, I was about to enjoy myself for the second time that night.

“Hey, punk, just who gave you permission to breathe?”

“Piss off, yank!” His last act of defiance was destined to be his epithet—shit—epitaph.

Goddamn commie! I hate reds and I hate punks and this guy was both.

I moved in close, and he squeaked. Then I saw his face full on. It was the pan-handler, the one I'd first ignored and then beaten up. I'd do a better job this time.

It was so easy; I almost felt guilty. Only who gets guilty squashing a louse?

I pushed away a feeble left handed jab, caught a quick glimpse of teeth beaded in sweat, and then my foot was up so hard he passed out on impact. I kicked him again and felt boot and flesh grinding into pelvic bones that no specialist would ever set right again. Then he was down, and I was kicking him, a wild and crazy music rushing through me as I worked.

And then there was no resistance, just a cloud of sour smelling dust and a shape that could have been anything. He’d had enough. Teach him to pick fights with strangers!

I then remembered the peanut butter. Something screwy was going on. I hate peanut butter, but somebody else was writing my script. I hoped they'd be kind.

"That's a wrap!" shouted the Director.

I shook my head. Man, I am such a great actor. I get really into my characters.

I waved at the crew, then walked to my trailer, hoping that my favorite entree, spaghetti, waited for me.

But it wasn't spaghetti. It was another peanut butter sandwich. And without jelly or honey or even banana either. Creepers, I hate peanut butter sandwiches. It sticks in your mouth like glue.

I sat there, eating my peanut butter sandwich with a look of disgust on my face.

All I could think to myself was this:

Why am I filming a Robert Heinlein book? And we're not even sticking to the storyline! Jeepers, how did my agent rope me into this? This will be worse than Starship Troopers!

What. The. Hell? Four corpses and a mouth sticky with peanut butter. Somebody was writing my goddamned script and I didn't like it. Time to find out what was going on. I began searching pockets starting with the stiff nearest too me. One good thing about cadavers—however badly they smell, they don't argue or struggle or do anything much at all.

On the third pocket, I struck lucky—a note with the low-down I was after:

Why am I filming a Robert Heinlein book? And we're not even sticking to the storyline! Jeepers, how did my agent rope me into this? This will be worse than Starship Troopers!


I sat there immobile for a moment, my screwy left eyeball going berserk.

Agents. Commie agents. And the Bolsheviks had starships. America was in trouble and there was only one man that could stop them—with or without peanut butter

I looked into the sky. "Why me? What the hell is going on?!" I yelled.

"Well, I'll tell you, but please stop yelling at the sky, you look like a madman," came a soft voice in my ear.

"Who's that?" I asked as I turned around and around looking for the source of the pleasant voice.

"Me."

"Who's me? And where are you?" I asked, stupified.

"Well, now, would'nt you like to know."

Now, I was getting irritated.

Which as you know isn't exactly a rare thing. I am an irritable person. It's difficult when you're as talented as I am to maintain the accepted level of sanity.

So say the voices anyway. This voice was new, and I didn't like her. She sounded like that bitch in high school who used to stand in the hallways snickering with her clones while I walked by. I showed her, didn't I?

No, they never found her. But that's not what we're talking about here. The voice was messing with me.

"Stop playing games," I said. "If you don't tell me who you are right now, I'm outta here. I have better things to do than play guessing games with some ghost."

"But I'm not a ghost, silly."

"Okay, what are you?"

"Your worst nightmare."

I sat there for a moment or two, taking it in. Maybe I'm a suspicious guy—gal—whatever I am; maybe I had every right to be suspicious. First the questions: Why the peanut butter; why the goddamned voices, and why the hell was I speaking like a goddamned woman? Those were a lot of whys, and I reckoned they were all kind of connected: your worst nightmare, the voice had said.

Thank you, you commie pervert bastard, I snarled, wiping my lips feverishly, wiping them free from Stalin's wet dream: How many American's ate this filthy stuff that made men dames and women punks, punks who heard voices, voices that taunted and mocked. Had peanut butter always been a commie perversion, sucking the soul out of America—and what would be next—apple pie?

And what the hell was going to happen to me? One thing for sure, a high velocity slug would be tearing into the guts of anyone who tried opening the door for me, yours truly, Clay Cross.

Wait, Clay Cross? Who the hell is Clay Cross? Certainly not me, last I checked my name was Isabella, and I wrote about sandwich games with my roommates and the occasional love story that I gave away for free.

Something happened to me after I let that homeless man in my car; something really bad. Since when did I go on manic rants about commie peanut butter? Since now, apparently.

I clutched my head, closing my eyes and hoping that this insanity would soon start to make sense. The dollar, the bum, the peanut butter...when did everything go so far off course? I just wanted to buy a damn lottery ticket.

Isabella...the pieces were beginning to fit. Isabella—my controller—the Kremlin broad who thought she was going to take over my mind. She sounded nice, kind of ditzy and cute, but I knew the reality...a hardnosed dame from Lubyianka, cropped haired and booted, with those tiny metal-framed glasses the butchers of Krondstadt tended to favor. Isabella...well okay, Isabella, this private dick is going to lay low for a while, spy out the land, bide my time before the final strike.

I decided it was bad luck to carry the dollar. What good was it anyway? A useless, germ infested piece of paper not nearly as nice as my gleaming piece of plastic in the form of my debit card. I did the only thing I could; I threw it out the window as the traffic began moving. How was I supposed to know the dollar would land on the windshield of the car behind me, momentarily blinding the driver and causing an eight car pileup?

From the rear view mirror, it didn't seem like there were any injuries. Nothing was reported on the news that night. Despite the nagging ache of guilt, I went to sleep peacefully, knowing I was right. That damn piece of paper was bad luck.

I woke to snoring. Whose snoring? I wasn't sure. Momentarily disoriented, unsure whether my name was Isabella or some Clay fellow, I knew one thing—

I lived alone.

Turning my head, trying to make as little noise as possible, I found the source of the snoring.

The bum.

In his hand, that godforsaken dollar, and a peanut butter sandwich.
Every man has his price, but sleeping with a bum for peanut butter and a one-dollar bill...I gritted my teeth, wondering how this goddamned story was going to pan out.

I eased out of the bed, careful not to wake the sleeping bum. He snorted, licked the jar of peanut butter and slipped back into his not-so-peaceful slumber.

I had hit rock bottom. I mean, how much lower could a guy/girl sink?

That's when I noticed the elf sitting next to the window. The look in his beady little eyes told me stories I didn't want to know. This story had completely gone off the rails, and I wasn't sure what I'd do about it.

He snickered at me.

"Ya know, you two make a cute couple." Then he burst into laughter.

"SSShhhhh!!!! You'll wake him. Who are you, and how do I get out of here?"

"Well, that would depend on where here is exactly, my dear."

I just stood there with a dumb look on my face.

He sighed.

"Follow me." Just like that he hopped down from the windowsill and grabbed my hand and yanked me to the closet door.

"Through there, we will find your answers."

So, I followed him. I jumped in head first, which was an awful idea.

We plummeted down through a black tube, the elf laughed hysterically as I tried not to scream at the top of my lungs.

We landed on a stack of mattresses. The smell from the dust as we hit was enough to gag me, the smell of an unwashed ass.

"Where are we going? I need some real answers if I'm going to keep going along with this." I shouted through my gagging, holding my nose.

"We're almost there. Hurry. You don't want to wake up Fluffy."

He pointed in the direction of the pitch blackness to our right. I heard a faint scratching and decided it was time to move it away from this particular spot. I didn't want to find out what Fluffy was.

On top of everything, the ass smell had stuck to my clothes. I groaned and ran after the elf.

Too late. Fluffy had got there before us—only I didn't know where. Something in Fluffy's demeanor told me I would never find out.

"Mr. Cross...or shall I call you Isabella?

Goddamnit, Fluffy's voice had the oiled precision of a Smith and Wesson .44, its tone casting a spell of devastating yet subtle potency, each sentence spun with a wily spider’s art, every silken syllable a snare to the unwary, a web of lies and ugliness made to appear as the very essence of beauty and truth.

I felt a sudden upsurge of a strange, unnatural emotion that I didn’t quite recognize or trust. Although quite alien, it jarred my memory, revealing a glimpse of another world. A world fifteen years younger. Fifteen years wiser. A world viewed by eyes not knowing yet grayness and waste.

And I remembered.

It was love.

I loved Fluffy. I loved his mind, and I loved his poetry. I glanced out of the window that hadn't been there before. Two stately cedars paddled in a pool of incipient sunlight whilst I bathed in the rich and satisfying warmth of this new experience. Love.

If some goon hadn't just bound and gagged me to a chair screwed to the floor, I’d have rushed, sobbing with gratitude, into his arms, a prodigal son. But the elf had tied me up, the lousy punk. So now I was trussed up like a turkey and with as much hope of survival. I’d get even with that smooth talking snake. I hated the bastard. I hated every last fiber in his evil twisted body. Most of all I hated his strangely familiar eyes.

Why the sudden feeling of utter love and devotion to that man? Powerful yet fleeting emotions, gone so fast one would doubt it was ever there.

True, his eyes were familiar, but since when did I have feelings like that for a man named Fluffy? Or any man for that matter?

I smelled a rat, and it wasn't the one chewing on the rope that tied my hands.

Wait...a rat chewed the rope that tied my hands! Perhaps my odds of escape just went up a notch.

Nice rat. The ropes around my wrists loosened. Any minute now, they would slip right off. The room was empty, and I could sneak right out. Nobody would notice.

Finally the ropes fell to the floor.

The door swung open with a loud bang. Framed in the doorway stood my one-time friend and now most hated enemy Reeves. The last time I won the lottery, I had hired him to be my butler. I thought it was cool to have a butler named Reeves until he robbed me every cent, every article of clothing, every bath towel, and every pot and pan in my house.

"So you're behind this!" I gasped.

Reeves just cackled like the evil witch that he was.

"You still don't get it, do you?"

He sauntered off into the next room and waved his hand for me to follow.

Why was I still in love with him after all he did to me?

Silly question, I was in love with him because of all he'd done to me. In fact, I practically begged him to do more. So I followed.

Down a darkened hallway that smelled faintly of Mr. Clean and Jimmy Dean Sausage. Why did that combination always put a hop in my step?

I sniffed loudly, remembering many fun nights with Reeves. I smiled.

He laughed.

"I see you remember our time together."

Oh how his accent always got to me.

This was the total loss of control that I had thought I had lost a long time ago. Well, here it was. I had totally lost it all.

"I've missed you." He turned around and stopped me, facing him. I could feel his heat radiating towards me. My breath raced along with my heartbeat. Who would win that race?

He laughed again. He gave me a quick kiss on the forehead then turned around and kept walking. I couldn't help myself. I followed.

Grrr. I was biding my time. Pretty goddamned soon, there would be a goddamned bloodbath, and I'd be the one holding the knife and the sponge.

Reeves turned right, and so did I, right into a wall. What the—?

Okay, either I was dreaming or this adventure just went from weird to completely unbelievable.

Running my hands over the wall, I hit a switch and the room flooded with light. I blinked and looked around.

Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle, (and if things continued the way they were, that was a possibility), just when I thought things couldn't get worse.

Things did get worse.

I stood in a hallway with nothing but myself and a mirror. It was cold, I had had an incredible, if not insane, adventure, and I was all alone. My reflection smirked at me.

I turned around in a circle three times, repeating that rhyme the girl with the ruby slippers chanted when she was hopeless.

Nothing happened.

Until...

Heh, heh, heh; I was back and everything changed...for the better. The walls disappeared revealing a winter-black forest, and crows, lots of them, circling lazily, some drifting eastwards as though giving directions.

A hint was all I needed. I hefted the Wesson Smith .44 and kissed its cold metal barrel and whispered, “Okay baby, your time has come.” I was after that little pervert Reeves, and I wasn't going to need the goddamned help of Kansas Dolly and her goddamned ruby slippers!

Wait...I needed a reality check. I pinched myself, and yes, it hurt. What the hell was I talking about? Crows, winter-black (is that new?), and ruby slippers?

Yeah, I hefted that gun with the wonky name, and I aimed it, at myself. I would jump off this crazy train. Only one thing would make sure I stayed off.

The silver manacles encasing my ankles snapped me back, enraging me. The leather masked gimp beside me cackled, enjoying my distress as I realized that I was again in an intolerable situation.

What? Where am I? Oh, shit, I'm sorry. My brain wandered away for a moment. That was a different story, a different time...sometimes they blend together. But when you live a life like mine the crazy moments are bound to happen.

Where were we? Right, I turned the gun to my head, and then I saw him. Reeves, the dirty, sexy bastard, sauntering across the field, his shape outlined by the setting sun. So, he thought he could just screw with me and walk away. Not this girl...

Not this girl. Jeez, I guess I was going to have to get used to having this dame in my head for a time. Least I could do was give her a reality check. If you're going to point a gun at anyone's head, first rule is make sure it's not your own, and if you're going to point it at anyone else—especially a dumb-onion pervert like Reeves—you're going to be aiming it at his goddamned balls. The head can come later, when he's registered what you've just done.

The shot was perfunctory. The screaming was not. Then the screaming stopped as a head turned into a red and grey pumpkin.

A red and grey pumpkin? Jeesh, I had to stop licking postage stamps. There's a reason they're all batshit crazy you know.

Acid trip or not, I still had to deal with the situation. What I had now was a ballless...balless...ball-less? Ahem, a castrated pumpkin head that was headed straight at me. Fast. Amazing with all that blood...

...and seeds, dripping everywhere. His laugh reminded me of an old movie I watched as a child.

I grew up... I wasn't a child anymore, and these silly imagination worlds that I went to had to stop.

I tried to do my fool-proof move that would knock me out of whatever world I had ventured to, punching myself in the temple, and fell down.

When I looked up, I was still there. This was real, one of my imagination worlds had come true, and for some reason, I could still hear Reeves.

"Come now, darling; you're going to mess up that pretty face hitting yourself like that."

I looked up, his pumpkin mouth curled into a creepy grin. Blinking, I tried to will the image away. Not only was he a pumpkin, but he was a messed up pumpkin. He wasn't even the right color.

The gun...in my hand. Feeling it in my palm, I closed my fingers around it and smiled up at Reeves.

"I didn't know you cared," I said and raised the gun.

I fired. Pumpkin guts sprayed over my face. God, that stuff was disgusting. Reeves crumpled into a heap next to me. His body rippling into a slimy mess.

"Oh no, you shouldn't have done that."

I turned toward the voice, pushing myself off the ground. For crying out loud, what else could go wrong?

"Reeves was the one man who could have gotten you out of here," the voice continued.

"What the hell, this place don't seem too bad to me. Leastways, plenty of crows to eat."

Now that's what I shouldn't have said. You ever see kamikaze crows? Let me tell you—if the Pacific War could have been won on bird shit, we'd be cleaning our teeth with Sushi, eating noodles in MacDonald’s. Hell, we'd be doing a lot of things different.

I tried to tell the crows that, but they seemed more concerned with keeping me topped up with crap—like some kind of goddamned crow hors d'oevre, hoping I'd fill up before the main course.

I wasn't going to give them the satisfaction.

The piece of cardboard in my hand would be the perfect shield. I held it up, covering my face. The sound of beeping grabbed my attention, and I peeked out over the top. A black, sleek, seven-door limo pulled to the curb next to the road where I stood.

The chauffer—looked a lot like Reeves—opened the back door, and the bum, dressed in a three piece suit, his hair was pulled back in pony tail, stepped out. I shifted uncomfortably as I waited for him to approach.

“Nice sign,” he said and handed me a dollar.

I read the cardboard in my hand. Will work for food, it said.