(Warning! Implied suicide involving drugs and alcohol!)
The location they were now in was a haunting one. Annette bit her lip as The Builder forcibly yanked through the warehouse.
To the left were chains hanging from the walls, and numerous broken sticks on the shelves. A chalkboard was also seen, though it apparently had not been used in quite some time.
Seeing what was on the right was even worse to her: A square, fenced in area with a few chairs surrounding it. There was another chain-link fence at the back, separating the place unevenly.
Annette was finally pulled one last time toward a steel door. The Builder raised their free hand, and banged on it three times.
Waiting a few moments later, a sliding piece on the door moved away, revealing a pair of glowing eyes.
“Password,” A deep, gravelly voice requested.
The Builder pouted their lips out, presumably in thought, before questioningly replying with “…Swordfish?”
A tired-sounding groan could be heard, before the sliding piece closed, and the door itself opened.
Flashing a toothy grin, The Builder seemed delighted at the obvious answer.
“Thank you, Marx Brothers!” Then they pulled Annette closer to them, and then shoved her in ahead of them.
“Ladies first, dearest wifey!”
Sinbad felt like an idiot, dressed up in the gear he’d gotten from the shop earlier. He felt even more like one now that he had to argue with the bouncer preventing him from going in.
“Look, man! Who cares if I’m not on the list? You really gonna turn down a guy who bothered to get dressed up?”
“Sorry, kid,” the bouncer said again. “You ain’t gettin’ in without a list unless you have connections.”
Hearing the word ‘connections’ gave Sinbad an idea. Taking a glance around the room, he was able to place just who sculpted them.
Pulling out his phone, Sinbad pressed a few buttons to call Harwood. He waited for him to pick up, and relayed his issue.
“Sup, old man? Yeah, I’m trying to get into a place here, and some jackass won’t let me in, and-what’s that? Yeah, hang on…”
Sinbad then handed the phone to the bouncer. “My dad wants to say a few things to you.”
Never in Sinbad’s life had he heard someone screech so loud through the phone. Harwood was clearly irate as he shouted into the bouncer’s ear through the other side of the phone.
Sinbad held back his laughing as listened to the insults alternating between English and Hakka Chinese. As soon as Harwood’s tirade was over, the bouncer handed the phone back.
“My mistake sir,” he now said in a humble tone of voice, “go on through.”
Sinbad was happy to oblige. When he got in, he spoke into the phone again. “Thanks, old man.”
“No problem,” Harwood said, sounding much more tranquil now. “Have fun, now!”
Finding herself surrounded by menacing-looking individuals, Annette quickly scrambled to get back onto her feet.
“Well, well! Now what do we have here?” A voice sounding much like a noblewoman’s rang out behind them. “It seems we’ve been granted a most rare delicacy.”
The woman speaking then appeared before Annette. She made a show of licking her lips as she looked over Annette’s blue skin.
“We’ve heard about you, Miss Waverly,” she went on. “It sounds as if you’ve started becoming something of a legend back in that backwater boondock town known as Twinbrook.
“How lucky are we, then,” she said as her voice dropped in pitch, “that we may feast on the blood of the blue woman!”
Before any of them could lunge at Annette, however, The Builder intervened. They grabbed hold of the apparent leader in charge, raising their blood-stained knife above her chest.
“Don’t even try it, D-cup Draculaura! She’s mine! And I’m here to discuss things with you.”
Upset at the lost opportunity, and fearful of the weapon trained to kill her, the woman called off her cohorts.
Annette breathed a sigh of relief, only to be grabbed by the hair when The Builder joined her again.
“Ow! Let me go, you creep!”
The Builder only tightened their grip when she shouted at them. They then lifted her head up to look directly at them.
“Shush, honey,” they said to her in a condescending manner, “the grown-ups need to discuss something very important. Now go sit next to that kid who looks like he’s about to kill himself.”
Once again, Annette was thrown against the wall, making the still healing wounds on her back hurt immensely. She cried out in agony as she slid down the wall.
Gritting her teeth, she looked over at the teenager sitting next to her. He did indeed look like he was near death. In his lap was a bottle of whiskey, and an empty pill bottle.
“Are you all right?” She asked him. He didn’t look in her direction, or even acknowledge she was there.
With shaking hands, the teenager opened the bottle of alcohol. As he did, Annette could see the track marks on his arm.
Before she could stop him, he put the bottle to his lips, and drank the entire bottle. When it was emptied completely, he slumped back to await an apparent death.
Grabbing the pill bottle that he had, Annette tried to see what exactly it was he’d consumed. Her blood went cold when she saw a dreaded word labeled on it:
Ox-Head was sad that Annette had disappeared so suddenly.
After leaving the music room in search of her, he found himself wandering into another familiar room. There was no sign of Annette in the base, but no Builder, either. He was at least thankful for that.
The girl from last time still sat in the same place as before. The ring on her hand still shone beautifully.
“Hi again,” Ox-Head whispered in his usual shaky voice. Just like before, she didn’t answer him.
He still felt bad for lying to Annette about the ring. Ox-Head felt as though he needed to actually take it and give it to her this time.
“Uh, so…I think I need to take your ring from you. Can I do that? It’s really important that I do it.”
Waiting for an answer that never came, Ox-Head then reached over and slowly pried the ring off the girl’s finger.
“Sorry,” he said to her. “I don’t want to let Andromeda down again.” He bowed to her, and left the room.
Checking to make sure the other assistants didn’t see him, Ox-Head snuck back out to his own room. Approaching his bed, he hid the ring under his pillow.
“I hope she won’t get mad if she finds out I lied to her at first,” he said to himself as he patted his pillow.
By this time, Shark was certain his parents were asleep now. They finished talking some time ago, and the house was now eerily silent.
Still, no matter how much he closed his eyes, once again, he couldn’t get to sleep. This time, he sat up in bed and pulled on his slippers.
Shark tried to remain quiet, but he still ended up waking Sagebear. When she looked up at him with her sleepy eyes, he reached down to pet her.
“Didn’t mean to wake you up, girl,” he said to her. He then padded out into the living room, with her following behind him.
Presuming he wasn’t going to sleep again tonight, Shark looked down at Sagebear, who maintained the eye contact with him.
“I know it’s really late, but…” He then picked her leash off of a hook on the wall, and showed it to her. “Go for a walk?”
-About a minute later-
With a coat thrown on over his pajamas, Shark was outside in the very much asleep town. Sagebear trotted by his side, just happy to be outside again.
“This way, Sagebear,” he said as he pointed to the bridge in town. As the two of them crossed it, he could smell the filthy creek water beneath them.
In the year since Sinbad left, the mutant fish that once stuck out of the water after the floods had decayed and vanished.
No one knew what exactly happened to it. All the town knew was that it was in bad shape, and one day just disappeared. It was like it had never been there.
When Shark reached the place he had in mind, he sat down onto the front step. Sagebear sat next to him, her plump figure stretching upward.
Even though he never actually saw Sinbad living at that address, it was still the last place that claimed he was ever there.
Looking up at the sky, Shark tried to make out the constellations in the brightly-shining stars. He frowned, feeling the ache in his heart again. When it proved to be too much for him, he began sobbing and clutching his chest.
As if she could sense his feelings, Sagebear tilted her head back, and howled alongside his weeping.