(This chapter, it uh…It got longer than I thought…)
(Warning! Suicide is attempted, a character has a seizure, and more icky Builder antics!)
Alma drummed her fingers on the table, contemplating what Dennis had just asked of her. Dennis himself was becoming increasingly nervous the longer he went without an answer.
“I see,” was all she said when she did speak, before properly resuming. “Are you sure about this?”
He nodded. “Believe me, Miss Alma. I’m so sure about this, that I don’t think I can be any more sure.” He gave a sheepish smile to try and lighten the mood. “But since you’ve known her for far longer than I have, I felt it was best to bring it up with you first.”
She returned his grin. “Well, there was no need to be fearful about it. Blaise’s happiness is my happiness, and…” She stood back up, and offered her hand to him. “I know this will make her very happy.”
“You think so?” She nodded as he took her hand.
“But unfortunately, she isn’t here right now for you to ask. Perhaps you should wait until she returns home from her current job, all right?”
“This place smells like sad people,” Sinbad remarked as he joined Marc at the rather old-looking computer. “Why are we here again?”
Marc looked up at him rather desperately. “I gotta order some things Mister Clay needed next month. He usually does it himself, but he isn’t here right now, so…”
He browsed a site offering various types of fireworks. Sinbad couldn’t help but find this suspect.
“And buying a load of those is important? For what?” Marc just waved him off and pulled out a list of various types of fireworks.
“A few of those, one of those…” Each time he managed to order an item, Marc checked it off the list. To pass the time, Sinbad peeked at the spines of old-looking books.
When that quickly grew boring, Sinbad tried to initiate conversation once more. “So what do I need to know about this ‘Mister Clay’ guy? Other than him being a pyrotechnics buff?”
“Uhhhhh…” Marc drew out the sound as he tried to think of what to say. “Well, he’s a sculptor. A retired sculptor, technically, but he still does it a lot. He’s…”
He stopped scrolling through the website. “Well, he’s not super creepy. But don’t be fooled. He is weird. Like, really weird.”
The image that formed in Sinbad’s mind now was that of a snooty, pretentious hack.
“So…Ox-Head,” Annette started as he turned the oven off, “You’re a cambion. That means you’re half-demon, right?”
Ox-Head nodded vigorously. His fairly unsettling grin cracked open with widespread, perhaps unwarranted joy. “Half-demon, half-human! Or is it half-human, half-demon? Does it matter what comes first?”
Annette shook her head. “I don’t think so. It has the same components either way.” She then watched as he tried scooting over to the bowls of ingredients. “Um…Do you need help?”
“Nope! I done it before.” As if to spite what he just said, Ox-Head reached over farther than he could, and once again fell off the chair.
“Seriously, are you sure you need help?” Annette’s question didn’t get answered verbally. Instead, Ox-Head stood up again. His facial expression remained unchanged, albeit with his cheeks now stained red.
He waved her offer away once again. “I can do this myself. I’m okay.”
Waiting until she finished eating her dinner, Shark gently pet Sagebear’s head.
“I bet that tasted good, huh?” He still made certain to lavish love on her every opportunity he got. “How about you watch TV while I go take a shower?”
Shark then moved over to turn on the television for Sagebear. He patted the couch cushion to entice her to jump up onto it. Flipping to a channel he deemed fitting for a dog, he pet her again.
As soon as her plate was in the sink, Shark quickly entered the bathroom. Sagebear was left alone as the bathroom door stopped just short of closing.
The shower was indeed being turned on, but then came loud banging noises and screaming:
“I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!”
The sound of a cabinet being yanked open followed, along with things being scattered onto the floor. Sagebear could hear Shark alternate between breathing heavily, and shouting unintelligibly.
Jumping down from the couch, Sagebear proceeded to sniff the floor. She stopped when water began to leak out from under the door, then pushed her head inside.
After the last item on his list was checked off, Marc logged off the computer and met back up with Sinbad. At some point, their conversation petered out, and Sinbad wandered into the adult book section.
“Okay, got everything ordered. Need anything from here, do you?” Sinbad put away the filthy, filthy book he was scanning through, and shook his head.
“The more I stand here, the weirder this place smells,” he muttered. “Can we go now?”
Marc nodded, then turned to walk ahead of him. “May as well. I don’t want to be in here when the inevitable swarm of townsfolk come in here and-”
He stopped suddenly, causing Sinbad to be perplexed.
“Uh…You all right, man?” Marc didn’t answer. Instead he fell to the floor, and began shaking uncontrollably.
This sudden turn of events frightened Sinbad immensely. Falling to his knees, he looked around wide-eyed, not certain what exactly he was supposed to do.
Staring at the bowl before her, Annette looked on as Ox-Head mixed the ingredients with an unexpected grace.
“I’m rather curious as to how you got all this stuff. I can’t imagine those things being in abundance here.” He looked up at her, showing that he’d yet to wash his cheeks off.
Ox-Head then looked into the bowl, then made a quizzical sound. “Just found them! In a fridge I think. I think it was a fridge.” He stopped stirring. “Do fridges usually have body parts?”
“No, not usually,” Annette responded while leaning on her hand, “but given this place, I’d say it could happen.”
He was about to reach for the spoon again, then stopped. He looked down, tracing indeterminate shapes on the table.
“…Something on your mind?”
He looked up again, this time jamming a finger into his ear. “My daddy was the demon. He was a…I don’t know the word. He was an ‘inky’ something-”
“An incubus?” She answered for him. Ox-Head nodded.
“Yeah, an inky bus! That’s why I’m a…” He stumbled over many of his words. “Cam…bion? He’s why I’m only half-human, and…”
His face fell. “I think my mommy died because of me.” The tone his voice took on now was an unusually somber one. Were Annette not afraid of causing him to scream again, she’d pat his hand.
“Is that so?” Not wanting to make him nervous, she instead looked at the contents of the bowl. “Uh…I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Don’t be!” His voice returned to its usual unsteady chirp. “I don’t remember her, so I don’t feel too sad knowing she’s dead!”
He then began twiddling his thumbs together. “Though sometimes I do wonder if she’d like me. Since I’m not all human…”
Ox-Head then noticed where Annette was staring, and pulled out a spoonful of the Salad Olivier to offer to her.
“Hm? Well, if you want me to try it…” Gingerly taking the spoon from him, Annette took a taste of what he’d been making. Much to her surprise and delight, it wasn’t awful.
“That’s…” She finished what was on the spoon before talking. “That’s pretty good.”
Her praise was enough to put another big smile on Ox-Head’s face. He slapped his hands onto his cheeks, and his already large blank eyes grew even bigger.
“Yay! Thank you, Andromeda!” It was clear he was pleased at doing well. Unfortunately, the happy moment was cut short by a loud crashing sound from above them.
Considering the loud cursing that followed, it was clear that The Builder had returned. Annette stood up and motioned for him to follow her back to his room.
“I’m home!” Blaise called out as she entered her and Alma’s house. “Did ya miss me?”
Alma approached her and hugged her warmly. “You’re home earlier than expected. How your latest job go?”
The smile that Blaise gave appeared to be a little tight around the edges. “Could’ve gone better. I’m thinking it’s about time I start going into the firefighter business officially. What do ya say?”
“If you think it’s time to do so, then…go right ahead.”
Both women then noticed Dennis standing outside in the dormant garden. Or at least, Blaise did. Alma knew the entire time he was there.
Dennis himself was leaning on the picket fence, staring at the limited scenery before him. He was a bit startled when Alma came outside and called out to him.
“Well, here she is! I commend you waiting so patiently for her return.” She gently pushed Blaise toward him. “Go ahead and say what you need to say to her.”
When she left them alone in the backyard, Dennis’ face flushed a deep red.
“So…” Blaise clasped her hands behind her as she stepped forward. “Alma says ya got a few things to say to me?”
“I did, but…” Dennis then pinched his nose and turned away. “Ah, hell. I forgot now. Excuse me…”
She got up behind him, and put her hands on his shoulders. “Take all the time ya need to.”
Hearing her say that, and he took a deep breath. “Well, in that case…I did have everything I wanted to say planned out, but I trust you’re all right with a summarized version, madam?”
The sight that Sagebear was confronted with was a frightening one.
Shark was kneeling on the increasingly wet floor, struggling to open a pack of razor blades. His tears flowed as readily as the water from the still running shower.
No matter how hard he tried, Shark just couldn’t get it opened. In a bout of frustration, he flung the pack against the wall. He then curled up against the shower tiles, and sobbed.
“I can’t do anything right!” He wailed as his face pressed onto the disgusting floor. “It’s bad enough people I cared about lied to me! Now this!”
Shark’s crying got to the point where he was hiccuping. Much like before, Sagebear was sitting nearby, this time sniffing the arm that he’d outstretched above his head.
Once he realized that Sagebear was in the room with him, Shark tried calming himself down for her.
“No, puppy. Don’t look at me. I’m filthy and sick,” he whimpered out to her. “You deserve a better owner than me. I’m not worth anything to anyone.”
It was clear Sagebear didn’t agree with this last sentence. Her tongue stuck out to lick his face clean of tears. Then she curled up beside him, as if to keep him company.
“You’re a good puppy,” he whispered to her over the sound of the shower.
All Sagebear could say to that was an equally quiet, “Boof”.
When Marc came to, the first thing he saw was Sinbad’s petrified stare.
“Dude!” Sinbad interjected when Marc sat up from the floor. “What the fuck was that?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing,” Marc groaned out as he tried making sense of what happened. “Were we about to leave, or did we just get here?”
It took him a few moments to get to his feet, keeping himself steady. When he realized what had just transpired, his eyes widened. He then grabbed Sinbad by the shirt.
“Don’t tell Mister Clay I had a seizure!” Sinbad’s arms flailed at being grabbed so suddenly. “Whatever you do, please don’t tell Mister Clay when he gets back!”
Trying to step away, Sinbad pried Marc’s hands off and assured him. “All right. I won’t tell him. Jeez, I don’t even know what the fuck you did there.”
“That was…” Marc leaned up against a bookshelf and took a deep breath. “That was a seizure. I got epilepsy. Sometimes they happen even if I take my meds.”
Sinbad glanced around to make sure no one was eavesdropping on their conversation. “So…You got health problems, and you don’t want me to tell your landlord this happened today.”
“Pretty much. I already had one seizure a while back while he’s gone. The last thing I need is him knowing I had another one. So…Just don’t tell him?” Marc began crying, presumably out of fear.
Thinking that keeping a secret from someone important would mean serious problems, Sinbad agreed anyway. In order to keep from causing a scene, both men left the library to go back home.
The whole time, Sinbad let Marc lean on his shoulder for some kind of support.
Taking in what she’d just heard, Blaise was quiet as she bit her thumbnail.
“Not gonna lie to ya. That’s a pretty tall order yer asking of me, Denny,” she stated finally.
“I know,” Dennis quietly said while scratching his shoulder. “I do realize it may be too much at this point, so if you need some time to think about it…”
She then turned to face him and playfully slapped his arm. “Well, I never said no, did I?” She laughed, which was shared by him. “Well, of course! I just have one condition I hope can be fulfilled.”
“Now what would that be, madam?” He asked, feeling all tingly inside from her answer.
Blaise put up a finger to point to herself. “I get to keep my maiden name. Can that be done?” Taking her hands, Dennis nodded.
“You know, I think that be arranged.” Beside himself, Dennis felt a tear of joy escape his eye.
He knew he still had to confront Shark on the Rackets’ past, but at least he was able to have this to look forward to in the future.
“Ewww. Well, at least you won’t kick and scream like Moony did.” The Builder was carefully lining up the detached limbs on the operating table. Behind them, an assortment of instruments gleamed in the surgical light.
Staring at one of the arms, The Builder grinned devilishly as they bent a finger on the hand. They casually whistled as they stuck it up the cadaver’s nose.
“There! That should keep me amused while I put you back together,” they giggled as they began sewing the arm back on. “Ohhh, won’t the wife be surprised to see you?”
Poking his cheek, they then turned their attention back to the job at hand. When it was finished, they snipped the thread, and switched to the other arm.
After they finished there, The Builder pulled the body upwards to sit it up. They however, pulled too quickly. With a heavy thud, his head came off and fell to the floor.
Their response to this was a somewhat insensitive “Whoops.” Grabbing it by the hair, they held it up and inspected it closely.
“If it were up to me, I’d strip the skin off your skull and go Hamlet with it. But since I need you as intact as possible…”
The Builder then set the cadaver’s head back onto his neck. To ensure that it didn’t fall off again, they stabbed their needle in the ideal spot, and got to work reattaching him.
The next morning, Sinbad was up early and busy admiring the pieces in the atelier. In the other room, Marc could be heard rearranging a few things.
Sinbad was still dumbfounded as to why Marc would want his seizure yesterday to be kept under wraps. He said it was so that Mister Clay wouldn’t worry about him, but that didn’t seem to be the whole reason.
The phone call from last night didn’t reveal anything either. All Marc had disclosed over the phone was that a new man was living at the house. Beyond that, it was mere small talk.
He was so preoccupied, Sinbad didn’t hear the front door of the house open. It was only when Marc was talking that he realized someone else was here.
“You’re home! A lot earlier than I thought,” he could be heard saying. When Sinbad peeked out the window, he saw a cab driving away from the house.
The voice from over the phone could now be heard, this time more clearly and in person. After this point, Sinbad couldn’t make out most of what they were saying.
“So where would this new roommate of ours be?” The man he figured to be Mister Clay asked Marc.
Not wanting to be caught listening in on them, Sinbad went back to busying himself by looking at the sculpting equipment. He tried to keep himself composed when the door to the atelier finally opened.
Hearing the sound of a cane tapping on the floor, he internally braced himself to see who his new landlord was.
(An extended version of where the chapter title came from: )