Before everyone now on the stage, while all of them were stunned into silence, stood The Builder in a completely different attire than before.
Now, she wore neither her usual shirt and shorts, nor the bandages from earlier. This time, she was wearing an elaborate black dress. The wrapping covering her eye sockets was clean, as if she’d just changed it. On her neck was her heliotrope brooch.
“What, are we being subjected to a low-budget adaptation of Amadeus or something?” Marc said in bewilderment.
In The Builder’s arms, she carried an enormous bouquet of morning glories. She reached to pluck one out from the others, and twirled it about her fingers.
“Hey, what’s your face!” Sinbad called out to her. “If I wanted to be put through song and dance, I’d go to a production of CATS!”
The Builder just ignored him, and began to open her mouth. Annette covered her ears, preparing to block out the horrific, tuneless shrieking that was sure to follow.
Instead, what was heard turned out to be quite transcendent. The Builder’s voice was now that of a well-trained contralto. Everyone else couldn’t help but listen. Then, Dennis interrupted everyone’s focus by clearing his throat.
“Shouldn’t we be looking for the boy?” To this, the others agreed. But just as they all started to move from their spot, The Builder became louder with her singing.
Now all of them, including Annette, were too scared to move. And yet, The Builder didn’t come after them.
Rather, she kept pulling out the morning glories, and then dropping them to the floor. When the bouquet was completely on the floor, she snapped both of her fingers.
Once he found a decent hiding spot, Horse-Face looked on as the flames from the torches intensified, much to the group’s shock and displeasure.
“Just what is she doing…?” It all seemed rather grandiose to him, with The Builder going the lengths she was going to for it all.
All of the heat from the dozen flames was starting to make him perspire underneath his mask. Reaching under it, he tried to wipe away as much sweat as he could.
While he tried getting himself wiped clean, Horse-Face caught sight of someone else behind the stage curtain.
He then watched and listened as The Builder turned and sang at the curtain, in a way that seemed like she was calling someone.
Then, the curtain parted.
Harwood was the closest to the stage, and was likely the first to see the new actor enter the stage.
“Ai…I have a bad feeling about this,” He said to the others. Somehow he wasn’t drowned out by the Builder’s singing.
“What was your first idea?” Marc said, with a tremor in his voice.
The newcomer kept his head down, his face obscured from view. He wore a black robe that didn’t quite reach the floor.
When The Builder approached him, she placed a hand under his chin, and then led him to the front of the stage. The both of them stepped on the fallen morning glories, crushing them into the floor. Upon reaching the end, The Builder ceased singing.
“Now now, no need to be shy,” she said to him. “You know who they are, but in very different ways. But you remember Annette, right?”
“What’s she talking about?” Blaise whispered to Annette after stepping behind her to get her attention. “How come yer the only one he’s s’posed to remember?”
Annette couldn’t answer her, and just swallowed in fear and anticipation. When The Builder raised his head up, her worries were confirmed.
Sagebear growled and whined at what she and the others were seeing.
It was certainly Shark before all of them, but not in the way she knew him. Something about him felt hollow, as if his soul had been consumed.
The eyes that Shark gazed upon with now were dull, and lifeless. His face betrayed little, if any emotion, except for an occasional twitch of facial muscles while scanning the group. He then turned to look at The Builder, seeking any sort of answer from her.
“Why’s that dog here?” He asked her in a rather plaintive voice.
“You don’t remember Sagebear?” She said in a tone of mocking shock and sadness. “Oh, that’s right…You want to know where Meechum and Rose Quartz are.”
To this, Sinbad looked to the others for possible answers.
“What’s the bodyguard from House of Cards and the pink chick from Steven Universe have to do with this?”
No one knew what to tell him. Annette could feel herself beginning to sweat from fear now. She still could only watch as The Builder directed Shark in another direction.
“I’m sure they’re around here someplace. Maybe they’re batting around some yarn or washing their whiskers, or clawing your older cousin’s eyes out. But in the meantime, look!”
She then pointed toward Harwood, now putting on an air of pleasant surprise. “There’s your sweetie. Your aunt gave him back, just like you wanted!”
Something could be seen in Shark’s facial expression now, a subtle change to a vaguely noticeable joy. With a slow gait, he began walking toward Harwood now.
Giving an attempt to snap him out of it, Sagebear started barking at him. Sadly, it didn’t have any effect.
Dennis and Blaise now stepped forward, trying to figure out what had gone wrong with their son.
“Boy! What’s gotten into you?” Shark didn’t seem to hear him, and just kept walking. The Builder then turned to face Dennis, and walked toward him. The look on her face was one of perverse amusement.
“Why should he listen to you?” She crooned with a sense of delight. “The two of you weren’t close. And besides, you’re dead!” Then, she pointed to Blaise. “And you’re not even in his life at all!”
These declarations caused Blaise and Dennis to stare aghast at each other. Then they glanced at everyone else. Sinbad and Marc both just shrugged and shook their heads. Neither of them understood what this meant either.
Annette was still keeping her thoughts to herself. Already, she was dreading what The Builder was presumably going to do.
By this time, Shark had reached Harwood, and now had him in a rather tight-looking embrace. Harwood already was looking quite pained at this.
When Shark opened his eyes, he found himself in a very different place than before.
Instead of a dingy hallway, everything was pure white. And rather than see Annette and The Builder, he was alone.
Shark sat in place for a little while, before getting to his feet. Trying to make sense of this new location, he began walking forward.
“Hello?” He called out, but only received his echo in response. He tried again. “Is anyone there?”
All there was ahead of him, as far as he could see, was an empty, white expanse. Still, he pressed on.
“Where is everyone? Sinbad? Mom, Dad? Sagebear? Harwood, Marc? Miss Annette!”
After what felt like an eternity of walking, Shark finally saw a person in the distance. Feeling relief wash over him, he started running towards whoever it was.
When he got close enough, he then stopped abruptly. Shark didn’t recognize who was before him, but put a hand on his shoulder, anyway.
“Hello? Who are you?” The man turned to face him, and his appearance was what surprised Shark the most. Opening his mouth, he answered Shark’s question: