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Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by newsmanfan, Sep 12, 2011.
Oopsie! (And yes, I was thinking about the way Uncle Deadly said it....)
I'm like five reviews behind here!
I most definitely love the fact that Gonzo, of all people, is hip to what's going on and is completely chill about it! I got to his first sentence and immediately sat back in my chair, laughed, and said, "OMG Gonzo!"
Oh Rosie! Why didn't you spill your guts when you had the chance!? I so see the big guy saving our blue weirdo at the end or hoping that Gonzo realize, "hey wait a minute! I'm the sacrifice! Cool! Wait...no. Not cool!"
Eagerly awaiting the final stroke of midnight!!
Is okay, join the madness. There's popcorn for whoever wants some. *Puts the bowl next to the bottle of tabasco sauce and the little tub of garlic butter.
Somehow I think cake and ice cream more fitting than the simple "beer, good" at this particular ascention.
Just out of the lights on the rebuilt-yet-again platform, Snookie Blyer took a deep breath, straightened his plaid sports coat over his thin frame, and told himself, Last time. Last time ever for this particular little slice of heck. He glanced over at the judges’ table, where Behemoth and Beautiful Day were busy throwing Shakey Sanchez back and forth, playing a game of keep-away with Gorgon Heap in the middle as the returning guest judge. He supposed all of them were as keyed-up as he was, although he was sure their own emotions ranged more toward excited and not so much nauseous or terrified. His eyes darted to the surging, snarling crowd; it was crawling-room-only tonight, with every inch of the nailed-back-together bleachers filled to creaking capacity. Snookie fully expected the risers to collapse again...not that such expectations bothered the audience, apparently. They’d been promised a reunion of all the contestants and a final winner; Snookie was fairly sure he knew who’d come out on top of this sordid little trash-heap, but he wondered how the frog it would even be possible to reconstruct any of the departed daredevils as easily as they’d slapped together the bleachers. Probably best not to even think about it.
He saw Carl, the Big Mean Fan in the front row again, still rooting for the sheepfighter despite his elimination (in more senses of the word than one, Snookie thought with a shudder). Carl couldn’t see him at the moment, which was at least a small relief. The fact that Snookie had spent all afternoon sleeping in a pie crust without becoming something savory or sweet was unheard-of, and frankly the whole thing was weirding him out. Maybe he didn’t get around to eating me because he was...full, he suggested to himself, then shook his head. Are you kidding? Since when is that greedy-guts EVER full? What the frog exactly is he playing at? He jumped when Pew yelled right behind him.
“Thirteh zeconds! We are live in twenty-nine, twenty-seven...oh, ze heck with zis, whair is mah caffeh!”
Staying well clear of the lurching director as he roamed in search of the perfect cup, Snookie slicked back his hair one last time (Carl offering to grease it with some Grisko earlier was unnerving only because he didn’t seem interested in immediately plunging Snookie into the frying pan afterward), steeled himself, and stepped out into the light. “Ladies and gentlemen – oh who are we kidding – nasties, beasties, ghoulies and freaks, and Jonny Coyne!” he shouted over the roar which greeted his appearance. Pew had mentioned some celebrity fans the show apparently had following them on Oblitter (some sort of torture-fetish social media thing), and asked Snookie to mention a few of them by name in tonight’s broadcast. Giving the camera his best strained smile, Snookie continued, “Because none of you asked for it: a contestant reunion, just for you the fans – you know who you are, and I hope you’re all deeply ashamed of yourselves! Followed by the moment we’re all awaiting anxiously so we can finally stop this trainwreck – the announcement of the season winner! That’s all tonight, right here, right now or as soon as we indulge the truly scary corporations who give us money to do this, on Break a Leg!”
The audience roared, and the show immediately went to commercial break. Snookie found himself panting lightly, and forced himself to keep smiling. “Almost over,” he muttered to himself, grabbing a bottle of water which seemed a little more gray than usual and swigging it anyway.
Overhearing him, Pew grinned. “Zat’s rrright! Oh, ah am so zorry, mon frere – although ze show has been renewed for a zecond zeason, you weel no longair be ze host! Ha ha ha ha!”
Snookie gave him a blank look. “See this? This is my vastly disappointed face.” He smoothed down his hair reflexively, then frowned and grabbed the director’s arm. “Wait. Not that I want the job, but why am I being replaced?”
Pew shrugged. “Oh, uh, ah am zure ah do not know! You weel have to speak to ze head of ze network!”
“No thanks,” Snookie snapped. “It probably only means I’ll be too busy with twenty other things!” He briefly considered all the tapings he’d missed today...wait. Why didn’t anyone complain? Why wasn’t I dragged off anyway? Did Carl scare them all off? He shivered. If so, it could only mean that Carl had something even worse planned...suddenly he realized he still had to do the ‘Monsters Tonight!’ Halloween-night show tomorrow. Shuddering, Snookie glanced into the roiling crowd, once again seeing the huge gray-green creature with his shaggy arm around a huddling, nervous Whatnot’s shoulders. She was wearing the fake horns and glasses again. Snookie glared at that. Maybe she PREFERS the company of monsters! WHY did you stick your neck out for her again? Feeling betrayed, he tried to shake it off; it wasn’t as though that was a new quality down here, after all. People sold one another out every day, sometimes two and three times over, in this monstervore’s jungle, where the rule was eat and be eaten...
Forcing himself to focus, Snookie plastered a strained smile on his mouth again as the cameras went live once more. “So, guys...do you wanna see something really scary?” The crowd roared. “Well in that case, I give you...our contestants!”
The whole stage lit up, revealing small raised columns; each of them had a contestant perched atop them...though most looked a great deal less lively than they had the last time they appeared on the show. “Jimmy Joe Bob Fred Eb...oh, heck, just plug your ears, folks,” Snookie grumbled, doing so himself. A dazed-looking tall Whatnot in overalls blinked at the audience, and then launched into a song...although only a muffled sort of warbling got past the face-hugging insectoid larva currently sucking on his head. However, the hillbilly’s attempt at singing made the monster curl up its octopoid legs in alarm. It reared back, and Jimmy Joe Bob crooned, “Hoooome, hooome suuure is straaaange, where th’ feeeear and th’ cantelo—“ The facehugger used its sucker-laden arms to slap him silly, and as the Whatnot’s head lolled, the monster glommed itself back over his mouth and nose, sucking contentedly again.
“Artemis Kookulboofer!” That column seemed empty. Snookie consulted a cue card handed him by a stagefrackle. “Er...apparently Art has gone into the Game Show Contestant Relocation Program.” He glared offstage at Pew. “We have one of those? Is this a joke? Do they accept hosts?”
The director gestured randomly, then pointed at the laughing audience. Sighing, Snookie returned to the roll call. “Montrose the Mouse!” He glanced up, saw what was on that column, shivered, and hurriedly moved on. “Er...Sylvester Stoatlone!”
Two legs sticking from under the wriggling, giant tuna shuffled atop a column, quickly losing their balance and toppling off. Muffled angry sounds came from inside the thrashing fish as it flopped on the stage floor. “Oooookay,” Snookie murmured, moving on. “Roberto the Magnificent!” A very large alligator waved, then gestured like a foot model at the lovely feathered boots she was wearing. “Uh huh...” Snookie sighed. Were any of the rest of them NOT eaten?
He was surprised when he turned to another column and saw a vision in swirling silk. “Er...Jasmine Fatwah?” Then he saw why he or she was here: a very large troll stood right behind him or her with a large chain-leash fastened around the exotic dancer’s neck. Snookie blanched. The bronze bikini and gauzy veils somehow didn’t go with the bushy moustache...
“Grrrrabba magga blagga!” Rosie McGurk growled, turning purple with jealousy. He almost ran onstage, but a goblin grabbed his ankle, tripping him.
“Wyatt Slurp!” Snookie continued. A small spiral shell sat unmoving atop a pedestal. Snookie paused, but the shell didn’t move at all. “Er...Wyatt, buddy, you in there?”
“Oooh, we should order more escargot tonight,” Hem rumbled, saucer-eyes widening.
“Aaaaaah rabba zgagga!” Heap agreed, proceeding to eat his microphone.
“Philistine,” B D growled. “At least put some garlic butter on it!”
All that appeared on that column was a frilly paper garnish and a mostly-empty jar of mint sauce. A stagefrackle hurriedly ran over and deposited a pair of black woolen knitted socks next to it.
“Aw, maaaaan,” Carl groaned. “They couldn’t have at least made a hat too? Now that’s just greedy!”
“Mungus Mumfrey!” Snookie had to peer hard at the tiny thing glopping around in a tiny specimen jar; he hoped the camera was catching more of it in a close-up. “And finally...Gonzo the Great!”
Gonzo waved, basking in the cheers and violent applause. This is spectacular! I’m at the top of my game! London Twenty-twelve arrhythmic darenastics, here I come! I just wish...I wish Camilla were right here accepting this accolade too...if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have... Feeling mushy, Gonzo sucked in a breath, and made himself keep waving and grinning. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll see my chickie tomorrow...
“Now, let’s have a word from our judges!” Snookie was supposed to bound eagerly over to the judges’ table; it ended up more of a listless stroll, and the camera had to backtrack to find him plodding across the stage. Snookie didn’t bother trying to smile for the monsters lined up at the table. “B D?”
“Hmmm...” B D thought hard; small wisps of smoke began curling off his flat head. “Well, y’know, Snookie, I guess I’m gonna have to go with...Toledo.”
Snookie stared at him. “Toledo?”
B D nodded firmly. “Toledo!”
“Uh huh.” Snookie turned to the next monster. “Our returning special guest judge, Gorgon Heap! Mr Heap, what say you to this magnificent lineup of brave-if-not-especially-keen-on-survival players?”
“Aaaahhhm nom nom nom!” Heap yelled, proceeding to chew on B D’s arm.
“Hey! Get off me!”
“I see,” Snookie sighed, turning to the last judge. “Hem?”
“Wow, Snookie, that’s hard to say,” the tan monster rumbled, putting a thoughtful hand to his round head and drumming his thick fingers; hollow tock-tock-tocks came from his skull. “I guess...I’d have to say...I’ll go with frabjuous.”
“No, no, wait – no never mind. I was thinking maybe scabbified, but frabjuous really is a better word. Yep. That’s my word.” Behemoth looked very pleased with himself.
Snookie shook his head, facing the audience again. “There you have it...some words from the judges, and I can’t believe even they would use a joke that lame. So up next, farewell performances from our contestants and the announcement of the winner of this inaugural, and inarguably horrific, season of Break a Leg—but right now, straight off a successful tour of the world’s biggest waterborne trash slurry, Barbie Sargasso!”
Snookie retreated as a shiny-skinned, blonde, petite thing with a permanent wide smile (with that many teeth, Snookie doubted she could ever close her mouth) skipped to the center of the stage. “Wow! Hi! This is just so exciting! I want to thank all my fans who’ve endlessly copied my excessively simplistic song for their own videos that look exactly as low-budget as mine! If imitation is the sinsy...uh...the sinnest...no, that’s not it...um...what I mean to say is you love me, you really really love me!” the perky little monster chirped. As the crowd roared, she gestured at the backup band. A Mutation stepped out of the wings, repeating two guitar chords over and over, and another pressed the playback button on a Boog keyboard. The pop star launched into her only hit. “You won’t kill me...you’re so crazy! Makes me so sad...eat me maybe?”
Gonzo hopped down from his pedestal, running to the holding pen. “Rosie! Rosie, did you remember the shoes? Rosie?” He looked around, not spying his assistant anywhere...and then heard snarling and loud thumps. Peering past the corner of the platform, he saw the pink-skinned, three-eyed monster trading punches with two squealing Frackles as a bewildered Jasmine Fatwah watched, her chain still gripped by an oblivious troll. The enraged Rosie knocked aside the Frackles and leapt with a wild war whoop upon the troll. “Uh...Rosie, what are you doing?” Gonzo called up. McGurk thwapped his fists over and over at the bulbous cone-head of the troll; after a moment, the troll frowned mildly, reached up, and scratched his head, dislodging Rosie.
“Bleaagh,” the lovestruck monster groaned. Gonzo sighed, and went over to help. Rosie grabbed the chain holding Fatwah captive, and yanked on it with all his might, trying to free it from the troll’s meaty grip. The troll didn’t even notice, his gaze turned up to the bigscreen where the musical performance had entered the endless chorus. Gonzo looked at all of this, and plucked a feather from the alligator wearing Roberto boots.
“Pardon me,” he apologized; the alligator shrugged. Gonzo used the feather to tickle the troll’s rear end. He tickled one side, and the troll reached back to absently scratch that spot. Gonzo darted to the other side, tickling there, and sure enough the troll used his other hand to scratch, releasing the chain. At the sudden slacking of tension, Rosie’s angry tug sent him sprawling. Gonzo sighed, tossing away the feather. “There ya go. Now can we please get back to the act?”
Abashedly the pink-headed monster nodded, turned to Fatwah, and threw aside her chain-leash in a grand flourish. “Gabba freega!” he proclaimed.
Looking irritated, Fatwah smacked the knee of the troll. He leaned down, puzzled, and Fatwah handed him the end of the leash again, then snuggled against those hairy legs with a contented sigh. Rosie’s jaw went slack. Gonzo nudged him. “Eh, c’mon, plenty of other...um...things in the dungeons, right?”
Rosie stared another second at the fading chance of lost love, then sighed and nodded at the Whatever. “Ah-kayyy...”
“Chin up, Rosie,” Gonzo urged. “Hey, y’know, there are other chickens back at the Muppet Theatre...if you’re a leg man like me, it’s Thanksgiving every day! Maybe Camilla could set you up with a friend? We could go on double dates! Wouldn’t that be great? Just picture it: the night air rushing through your fur, riding with the top down, heading out to the drive-in, your arm snug around a plush little ball of white feathers while her cute little wattles flap in the breeze...” He shivered all over happily. “Man! I have just gotta see her again soon! I’m a dying man here, Rosie!”
McGurk sobered fast. Gonzo had no idea how true that was. As the daredevil changed into his costume, for once not involving spandex, Rosie looked around. No one was paying them any attention; the judges were busy arguing among themselves over French or Italian food for dinner later; that slinky, sly flunky of the underboss’ was nowhere in sight. Rosie took a deep breath, about to tell Gonzo that he needed to get out of here and now – and Pew suddenly careened past, having fallen off the rear of the platform, and his flailing cane whacked Rosie across the back of his furry skull.
“Okay, this should be pretty simple, I’m only going to do one verse and a...” Gonzo turned, and saw his assistant passed out on the ground. He shook his head. “...chorus. Geez...you’d think the guy would figure out that late-night parties and hard work don’t mix...” Gonzo shrugged. “Well, probably better to let him sleep it off. I’ll tell him about my seamonkey-and-Tang hangover cure when he wakes up.” Gonzo checked his appearance in the monitor of the backstage camera feed. “Not too shabby! Hah! Camilla sweetie, here comes your loverboy!” With a quick tug of his Hawaiian-print tie, Gonzo got in line at the edge of the platform, waiting his turn to go on for his last performance of the show. When Pew tottered past again, Gonzo had a brilliant idea; he grabbed the director’s cane. “Gonna borrow this just a minute, ‘kay?” Pew growled, tried to snatch the cane back, pinwheeled and crashed under the platform.
In the audience, Constanza la Whatnot scrunched down as low as she could get without actually putting her bottom on the frog-only-knows-what-encrusted bench of her bleacher seat. She was less than thrilled about having a shaggy monster’s arm around her, but given that any of the other creatures in the crowd might have decided to have her instead of another hot dog, she was grudgingly tolerating Carl’s guardianship. As Blyer came back onstage to announce another commercial break, she watched him; when his spotlight turned off and the big screen behind the stage played the network’s ad block for the in-house crowd, Blyer’s smile vanished, his shoulders slumped, and he looked right at her with a hard, neutral expression. Constanza wondered why, and then felt Carl tighten his grip around her as he gave a nasty grin to a five-armed thing leaning just a little too close to her. Uncomfortable, Constanza looked from the rebuffed thing to Carl’s smug eyes to Blyer, who turned away and didn’t look back at her again.
Now what the heck is his...oh, she thought. She glared at Carl. “Do you have to keep me in a deathgrip, buddy?” she complained. “I’m a big girl! I can take care of myself!”
Carl turned wide, curious eyes to her, his giant pink nose twitching. “You didn’t have a problem with it last time! What, did I forget to leave off my eau de compost aftershave again?” He sniffed himself experimentally.
The pink-blotched Whatnot scowled. “No! And last time, he wasn’t – er...”
Carl stared at her. “He?” He noticed her face turning even pinker, and his horns perked up. “Waaaaaiiitaminute! Ooooh! Do you have a little bit of a thing for Snookums?”
“I...don’t be stupid!” she snapped. “’Course not! I just don’t like being Muppethandled all the time!”
Carl chortled. “Oh-ho-ho! Stinky’s got a cruuuush, Stinky’s got a cruuuush...” That singsong tone in his scratchy voice was even more annoying. Leaning closer, he whispered at her (she assumed that raspy, hoarse voice was supposed to be a whisper, at least), “Well ya know what? He likes you toooooo!”
“What?” Constanza said, startled.
Carl bounced up and down on the bench. “Oooh, ooh, Muppets in loooove! Oh, I am gonna have to work that into the show tomorrow! You’re comin’ with me, scrumptious!”
“What? Your stupid talk show? Oh no. No no no!” Constanza pulled away, alarmed, but Carl hugged her shoulder tightly, yanking her face into his thick, matted coat. She coughed, unappreciative of his vaguely dirty-dishwasher smell.
“One lovebird pie will be served up tomorrow night!” Carl crowed, and squeezed her tight. “Oh, this will be so cute I can hardly stand it!”
Constanza looked back at the platform. Blyer had returned to center stage, waiting while the stage manager counted down the seconds until they were back live; his eyes wandered listlessly over the howling, shoving, excited audience...and lingered just a moment more on her...as Carl scrunched her against him. Blyer’s gaze narrowed, and he turned all his attention toward the camerafrackle at the front of the stage.
Carl choked, startled, when his ward shoved him hard in the belly. “Let go of me, you jerk!” she snarled.
The monster rubbed his tummy. “Wow! If you can hit that hard from the outside of me, maybe I made the wrong choice in letting you stay out here instead of seeing what a kick you’d make going down!” He chuckled. “That’s better than hot sauce!”
Constanza made no reply, glumly sinking down on her seat again, completely forgetting about the gunk she didn’t want to touch until she sat right in it. She grimaced. This was not one of the better nights of her life...
Gonzo waited as the host introduced the toucan-feather boots; the alligator wearing them did a runway walk to a hot Brazilian tune, to the cheers and wolf-whistles of the crowd. Then the snail shell was tossed onstage with a fanfare, but although a paper shooting gallery of targets paraded across the front of the stage, the sharpshooter never emerged to fire off a single shot. Gonzo paced, going over the dance moves in his head; his skills, he knew, loaned themselves better to tightrope walking than graceful softshoe, but he was determined to demonstrate his versatility...and besides, he knew Camilla had always secretly liked his silly old Fred Astaire routine. When finally he heard his name announced, he straightened his shoulders, marched right onto the stage, and conferred with the bandleader—he’d decided to change the tune he’d dance to. He grinned at the audience, swept the trilby hat from his forehead with a bow, and announced, “Although I have the most wonderful chickie a guy could ever hope for, I know some of you aren’t as fortunate. Kinda like my friend Rosie. So this song is for all you folks out there who feel unlucky in love!”
The audience grumbled, uncertain; they wanted something dangerous and deathly. Gonzo nodded at the Mutations, and they began a slow shuffle of a tune with banjo and double-bass. Gonzo slid his feet along the stage, using Pew’s cane as his dancing prop. Spying a big gray monster cuddling a smaller one with Groucho glasses and moustache, Gonzo pointed to them with the cane, and sang:
“They may walk hand in hand
like lovers through the market square
selecting leather goods
pretending that they just don’t care...
They say all the boys are monsters...”
Snickers and chuckles spread through the audience; Gonzo laughed too.
“And all the girls are...” He paused, realizing they probably wouldn’t let him say that word, then noticed a piglike goblin holding the paw of a large tusked thing. Inspired, he finished, “boars!
so when you lose the one you love
there’s always plenty more!”
He did a pattern of stylish little footfalls across the stage, twirled, and began the next verse. Getting into the spirit of it, a few of the audience monsters began swaying along.
“They may be in a club
all dressed up waiting to meet you
or in some garret bleak
despairing over what to do...
All the girls are monsters
all the boys are boors...
So when you lose the one you love
there’s always plenty more!”
He danced, feeling a little out of breath, trying to master that tap-and-slide thing that Camilla always sighed happily at. The band wound up the last chorus with him:
“So when you lose the one you love
there’s always plenty more...plenty more...plenty moooore!”
The crowd laughed, cheered, and threw things. Grinning, Gonzo bowed, sweeping up one of the grungy socks which had landed close by, and waving it over his head as he cheerily trotted offstage.
Carl applauded with everyone else, and elbowed the Whatnot girl; she coughed, startled. “Aww! Wasn’t that a sweet little song? Hey, what would you like to sing tomorrow night? I’ll let you and Snookums do a duet, even!”
Constanza glared at him, readjusting her disguise. “You’re a jerk, hornbrain! I don’t sing! Except for folk-rock protest songs.”
“Hmm, nope, don’t think that’ll work for what I have in mind.” Carl grinned at the way she scrunched up her nose in contempt at him. “Ya know, I can almost see it, when you squish your face all ugly like that.”
“What it is that makes Snookie want to get all gushy with you. Do you Muppety things do that? Get gushy? See, when a ghoul and a guy love one another very, very much...”
“Spare me,” Constanza growled. “And I do not get gushy!”
“Bet you would if I used the acidic tenderizing rub,” Carl mused.
Alarmed, Constanza argued, “You – you made a deal with Blyer! You’re not allowed to eat me!”
“That’s right,” Carl agreed. “I made a deal to only eat him! And tomorrow night you will help me demonstrate how to bake a lovebird pie! Hah hah hah!”
“The frog I will, you big furry creep!”
“Oooh, language!” Carl chuckled, and suddenly yanked her tight against the side of his bulging belly. “I like a girl who’s not afraid to get dirty! Hey, if ya ever change your mind about Snookums, maybe we...”
“I am not changing my mind!” Constanza shouted, then froze, realizing dozens of curious eyes were upon her. Thinking fast, she kept yelling: “Uh...I’m not giving you any of those wasp eggs! I want ‘em all for my cookies!” The surrounding monsters chuckled, looking back at the stage; one of them rumbled at her to keep it down so they could hear the contestants scream.
Carl smiled, but felt a twinge of something...some uneasy feeling deep inside, at the thought of making this defiant young lady watch while he prepared Snookie with apple cider, allspice, and centipede-egg stuffing and baked him in sweet pastry dough...forcing her to help him cook the hapless talk-show sidekick and then hand out samples to the audience... He glanced uncomfortably from Snookie onstage to the miserable Whatnot huddled next to him. His stomach turned over slowly.
Ahhhh...you’re just hungry, he told himself, trying to feel convinced.
Gonzo looked around for Rosie during the last commercial break. The pink monster had vanished. “Huh...wonder if I embarrassed him,” Gonzo muttered, peering under the platform. He blinked at the sight of the show director tangled in a crossed pile of electrical cables. “Oh, hey, thanks for the cane! Here ya go,” he said, handing back the stick.
Pew struggled, and tried to say something, but another facehugger crawled out of the cables, found a warm body, and eagerly splorched its entire body over Pew’s snout. “Wow,” Gonzo murmured, backing away with wide eyes. “Geez...” He shook his head, and commented to a stagefrackle, “Talk about needing to get a room! Does he ever think about what he’s doing in public?”
The Frackle shrugged. “Eh...he ain’t even da woist of ‘em, sad ta say.”
Onstage, Snookie did his best to ignore the way Carl was snuggling with the pretty blue-and-pink Whatnot. Shoulda known she was a freak. Everybody down here is. Did you really think you were gonna find a normal girl anywhere belowground? He scolded himself silently for thinking like a stupid teenager and allowing himself to entertain for even one second the notion of something which wasn’t horrendous and painful. As the stage manager gave one grim nod, Snookie forced a thin smile to his face and addressed the main camera. “All right, fiends, we’re now down to the moment you’ve all been drooling for – the awarding of the title Most Broken to our most fearless performer! Judges, can we have another wo—no, scratch that. Which contestant do each of you think most deserves this dubious honor?”
B D hummed thoughtfully. “Well, there have been many stupendously braindead acts across this stage, Snookie, but I gotta tell you, there’s really only one which impressed me as being worth my time at all the entire season!”
“Mungus or Gonzo?” Snookie asked.
“Huh? Oh, well, yeah, them too I guess. I was actually thinking how delicious that sheepfighter guy was...but yeah, Gonzo has amazed me by how long he’s gone without losing a vital organ.”
“Are you kidding?” Hem growled. He gestured angrily, waving a half-squashed Shakey over his head. “Gonzo all the way, Snookie! That guy has done more suicidal stuff all season than alla the rest of ‘em combined! Plus...I’m really curious how blue fur tastes...”
“You really are disgusting,” B D muttered, crossing his blue arms nervously over his plain white t-shirt.
“Shakey?” Snookie asked. “You seem kind of...uh...quiet tonight.”
“Gluggga,” Shakey choked; Hem absentmindedly stuffed him into a cheek pouch and chewed slowly.
“And our guest judge...oh why do I bother,” Snookie grumbled, turning away while Heap stuffed the ribbons for the runners-up down his gullet. “So it seems among our judges, the Great Gonzo leads the way, but what did you, the gullible voters out there in tv-land think? What was the final popular tally?” he called over to the table where the double-header and the triple-header quickly abandoned the game of sheepshead they’d been playing. Cards scattered and pencils rolled off the table, and the monsters at least had the decency to look a little sheepish themselves.
“Labba vaggiggo mugabba foo!” proclaimed Horns-up.
“That’s right!” the middle head of the triple agreed.
Snookie paused. “Er...for those of us with actual working speech centers in our brains...can anyone translate?”
“Waggoo!” Horns-down protested.
Shaking his head, Snookie looked behind him at the enormous screen, where each contestant’s name was listed, along with the judges’ final scores and the results of the call-in voting. The numbers were all out of order, the names listed by first-to-die, so it took a moment of squinting for Snookie to read it all. “Uh...looks like our winner, and recipient of the most outrageously insulting trophy ever contrived on a game show, is...”
A muffled yell accompanied the director reeling past, fighting with an octopoid thing on his head, dragging a sparking lighting cable knotted around his ankle. Everyone stared. Pew lashed out with his cane, trying to hit himself over the head and dislodge the facehugger. The flailing stick smacked into the bottom of the screen: it fizzled, warped, and popped back on, showing Gonzo clearly at the top of the standings. “Like anyone didn’t see this coming like a class-four tornado –the Great Gonzo!” Snookie shouted. The crowd exploded in wild cheers and howls. Pew roared in frustration, smacked himself hard with the cane, and teetered for an instant on the edge of the platform. The facehugger looked equally dazed as the director. Then the monster slid off his head, and Pew toppled straight over. The sound of crashing trash bins and breaking bottles rattled the studio even over the whoops from the crowd.
“Ow,” muttered the goblin Pew had landed on.
Gonzo found his assistant groggy, with a bump rising from his skull the size of New Jersey. Gonzo grabbed him and hugged him hard. “Rosie! We won! We won! Come on! Get up here with me! Woo hoooo!” He dragged the half-conscious monster onstage, where applause, whistles, and thrown Chihuahuas added to the general air of celebratory mayhem. “This is awesome! Thank you! Thank you!” Gonzo yelled, waving to the whole crowd. When Snookie placed the dead-spider tiara on Gonzo’s head, the Whatever felt suffused with glory. “Yes! Yes! Camilla baby, this is for you!”
Snookie waited a moment for the cheering to die down, but when, if anything, the audience became more rowdy – he ducked a chunk of thrown bleacher—he made the call on his own to wrap the show up as fast as possible. “Well Gonzo you’ve won the prize and earned for yourself the privilege of being personally killed by the underlord!” he barked out in one breath. “What’re you going to do now?”
Eyes wide, Gonzo shook the dazed Rosie like a teddy monster, and threw his other hand in the air in a fist-pump. He threw himself forward at the nearest camera, and screamed triumphantly, “I’m going to chickie-land!”
...and this is the song Gonzo did his softshoe dance to, by the fabulous Squirrel Nut Zippers:
Hi Kris. Me dead tired from going through spambot posts all day long. But thank you for posting, me love as always.
Awesome le possum! Oh Gonzo, you have no idea what you're in for, buddy! Oh NMF, how I love when you use music I know and love. I thought those lyrics sounded familiar and then I said, "Of course! It's the Squirrel Nut Zippers!" This is actually one of those 'meh' songs for me, but I always support the spreading of SNZ songs!
I consider the song one of their humorous one-offs, not a genius work, but I specifically wanted something which Gonzo could do a softshoe to, and this is the one that sprang to mind...plus given poor Rosie's letdown, it seemed apropo. If I had to go for a fave SNZ it would be "H-ll" or "Blue Angel", though "The Ghost of Stephen Foster" is fun (and has a great video), and "Suits Are Picking Up the Bill" is great fun. Wish they hadn't experienced ego problems which broke up the band!
Ed, buddy...sleep more...
Soon: the Charity Walk through a real live haunted house! Sort of...
Lovers well met and friends reunited! Kinda...
Baddies getting a much-deserved comeuppance! Maybe...
Snookie: That's right folks! All this and more, or not, coming your way soon, so don't change that channel unless you actually value your brain cells intact! Stay tuned!
Uh....thanks. That was lovely.
Snookie: I'm a pro, kid.
Sleep? To sleep!
*quietly: Sleep. To sleep.
Hey buddy, you mind throwing in an adverb in there somewhere?
The impossible dream!
So you're a chicken for not killing your uncle for murdering your dad, there, that's all you had to say!
Oh great, now I'm stuck in MST3K's Hamlet.
Things I liked, and I might miss some of these nods here and there.
1 Parade of Former Contestants. *Hands out ramchips to every one who passes by.
2 John Coin? Okay, there's two ways that could work. Either it's a Whatnot with coins stuck to its body or forming its body like metal discs stacked on top of each other... Or it could be the guy who got trapped in the winnings jar as the money poured in from the casino tables. That's an example from an 80's/90's episode of G.I. Joe where Cobra's got a secret base in Vegas. Funny how that could've given greater defining detail to Oogie's casino lair what with the one-arm shooters.
3 A few words from our judges. Yes, I got that joke. And another ramchip for properly choosing "frabjous".
4 Gorgon Heap as a guest judge. Although, for some reason, I feel like you may have confused him for some other inarticulate Muppet monster. The Gorgon Heap I know can speak, short sentences as in the bit where he ate Pierre Lacousse, but speak nevertheless.
5 Rosie getting Gonzo to help free Jazmin. And they say chivalry's dead.
6 As for Jazmin's predicament... Channelling your Slave Leia manifestation are you?
7 Lovebird pie? Carl, buddy, that's not until Valentine's, and that's four months away.
8 Barbie Sargasso. Recognize the name of the octopus band from TMS. *Approves of this cameo and her ditzy persona/stardom. If it could be done with a facemask/costume hood—only much less cumbersome than the entire fish upper body halfsuit worn by whatever actress from that sketch where Tim Conway turns her into a maidmer for Rodney Dangerfield's merman character—then I could see Barbie as portrayed by Julie Brown similar to her character Candy from Earth Girls Are Easy.
9 Snookie's starting to figure a couple of things out without really figuring it out.
10 "I'm going to Chickyland!" Classic.
Now if you'll hexcuse me, I gots to get some rest.
*Hopes Gina will be all right.
*Hopes this is the acid drop.
*Hope we can get Snookie to host Alas, Poor Who? next season.
Heh heh heh...no, Jonny Coyne is an actor. He played the sadistic warden on "Alcatraz", whom I suspect would have appreciated most of the shows on MMN. Just an in-joke for m own amusement!
Pinky: Oh, well, there you are then. Traz!
*Switches over to the Van Ghoul scareathon on another channel.
Frog help me. I couldn't stop it. I just couldn't...
*tossing mouse-flavored muffins aplenty*
*Fatatita snatches one of those mice-flavored muffins.
Don't let Rhonda know you actually found some place that makes those.
Countie--you get points for Hamlet, but a thumb's down for NOT referencing Yorick.
Um, would those ramchips be made of former contestant, John Lamb?
What about “oddment” and “tweak”? I know you know what I'm talking about....
It’s not DEAD—it’s just passed out under the table.
Okay, so I’m not the only one who thought that outfit seemed familiar…. And love comes in strange packages, so you never know what will happen!
Now, as to the story…I love the succession of interruptions that keep keeping Rosie from telling Gonzo what he needs to know, but it IS making me bite my nails. I’m ready for Gonzo to come home and sleep in his own, um, featherbed. My guess is he’ll be more than welcome when he does.
I am dreadfully anticipating (or anticipating dreadful things) when the haunting begins in earnest. Here’s hoping that there will be limited damage to Kermit and Piggy and all of the others—I’m not so much worried about the rats. As Rhonda pointed out, they’re survivors!
So much going on and so many things to go wrong. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next!
Dear Aunt Ru...
1 Failing to mention Yorick? Apparently you failed to read my post all the way to the end as we now have the game of identifying famous dead celebrities or personages by fragmented pieces of their skeletal system, phrased in the form of "Alas, Poor *Insert name*".
2 Sorry... That's supposed to be RAM-chips, the bots favorite snack, earned by good behavior which means they rarely get any. Except for Gypsy.
Could munch down some barbecue-flavored ones about now. Especially to tide over till some good fic gets posted.
3 "Oddment" and "tweak"? Mmm, I'd say "twas brillig" instead.
4 As far as getting Gonzo back into his welcome, er, featherbed... Don't you have some work on that front to do yourself?
5 *Pours vile of poison down Fortinbras' ear after he complains he didn't even get included in the movie. Meh, at least people know who you are, it's not like you're Rosencrats or Gildenstern who get shipped off to England and never even heard of again after that.
Excuse me?? Have you not seen "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead", one of the funniest surrealist plays of all time? (The film was decent too.)
Working on it. Appreciate patience, all!
, to George, you're my patients, but what she wants with you I'll never know.
Dr Bunsen Honeydew pottered cheerfully among the server racks, reams of cables, and command center desk with its two monitors and keyboard controls. One computer screen would show commands entered into the intricate system of motorized contraptions, motion sensors, night-vision cameras, and video and audio output channels; the other had nine tiny windows open showing some of the various video feeds throughout the decrepit hotel. “Oh, Beakie, isn’t this wonderful? Here we are, after weeks of hard work and intricate tactile-hypokinesthetic programming, finally at the big night!”
“Mee mee meep might,” Beaker corrected, his eyes flicking from readout to readout as he tested the conductivity of the tiny electrosensitive pads which each participant in the charity walk would be wearing. He wiggled his arms, shook his head, and rubbed his hands together to make each of the dozens of round, sticky sensors on his felt spike a small reading on another monitor.
“Well, yes, the day of the big night, I mean,” Bunsen replied, annoyed. He saw what Beaker was doing, and with a huff corrected him: “Beaker! You’re not going to get an adequate test run like that!”
“Mee mee meep?” Beaker wondered. He tried to point out that each sensor was indeed registering the subtle changes in his electromagnetic field from the physical activity, and even transmitting properly to the receiver, but Bunsen grabbed his arm, steering him toward the open panel-door from the old manager’s office to the front lobby of the hotel.
“Here, why don’t we do a full test run of all the equipment! Each participant tonight will have one of these...” He jammed a small red-hued LED lamp on a headband over Beaker’s fluff of red hair. “And one of these...” He clipped a small wireless mic to Beaker’s shirtcollar; it stuck up high enough to rub the edge of his mouth uncomfortably. “And one of these!” He smacked a glow-in-the-dark panel of fabric with a number painted inside concentric circles right across Beaker’s chest. “There we go! Now you’re ready for a test run!”
“Muh...muh muh meep?”
“Well, we should test each and every little gag we’ve installed, don’t you think? After all, tonight, the whole world will be watching! We wouldn’t want any of our little spooooky pranks to be a whopping dud, now would we?” Bunsen insisted, waggling his fingers again and chuckling. “All right, I’ll stay here and check the readouts to make sure everything is picked up by the sensors, the mics and the cameras!” Beaker stared at him, unhappy with the idea of walking through the whole building; although it was a clear, if chilly, day outside, very little of that light penetrated the walls and boarded-over windows. The interior hallways, in particular, would be pitch-black.
“Meep mee meek mee mee!” he pointed out.
Bunsen snapped his fingers. “Good point, Beakie!” Beaker relaxed a little; in order to test out all the equipment, Bunsen would have to accompany him with another microphone, and they’d – he froze, startled, when the scientist turned back to him with an armful of wireless mics on clips. “Here you go!”
Beaker could only try to stammer a protest while Bunsen quickly fastened the mics all over him; soon a small electronic forest of microphones crowded his shirtcollar and tie, making it almost impossible for Beaker to even open his mouth. “Meef moof?”
“Oh, don’t worry, each of them is on a slightly different and distinct audio channel! You know I always think of every possible contingency so nothing will go wrong!” Bunsen beamed at his stunned assistant. “And here’s an earphone for you, so you can hear my instructions! Off you go, Beakie! Just start out here in the lobby, like the walkers will, and wander around randomly – but try to hit every room. We need to make sure every single trap and trick is working right!”
With a heavy sigh, Beaker trudged out of the command center and into the lobby. He paused, looking around. Bunsen’s voice made him jump. “Testing, testing, can you hear me, Beaker?” With an exasperated look, Beaker turned and nodded at the scientist standing ten feet away in the office. Bunsen smiled. “Wonderful! All right; to replicate the exact conditions for tonight as nearly as possible, I’ll shut myself up in here, and you get started walking around! Remember: every room!” Cheerfully, Bunsen closed the panel in the wall behind the old reception desk, and it was as if Beaker was alone in the hotel. Beaker took a deep breath, looking around glumly. His eyes fixed upon the darkened arched entry to the formal dining room, and he shivered. He craned his head to see the ceiling; nothing moving showed in the reddish light from his headband among the tattered wisps of webbing overhead. Reluctantly Beaker walked across the immense lobby, peering fearfully at every broken chandelier, the paper streamers draped everywhere not lifting his mood in the least.
When he reached the dining room entrance, he paused again, shining his light into the gloom. Round tables and silent chairs sat everywhere, with darkened centerpieces and silverware still laid out for guests among the dust and decay. Beaker took a step inside, another, another...as he passed the first couple of tables, the skulls sitting among the dead flowers and broken candlesticks laughed eerily, their eyes lighting up. “Meef!” Beaker squeaked, jumping again at Bunsen’s chortle through the headset.
“Good, good! That’ll give them a little start, don’t you think? Go on, make sure they’re all working!”
Irritated, Beaker tried to calm himself, and walked all around the room, his fright dying to annoyance as one after another of the motion-sensor skulls lit up and laughed or said boo or some other cheap-scare contrivance. When he’d walked all around the room, Beaker headed for the swinging doors to the kitchen. He stopped at one of the doors, trying to peer through the dusty, round glass porthole set into it, unable to recall what gags they’d wired in here; Bunsen had taken care of this room while Beaker was upstairs. Hesitantly, he pushed on one of the doors. It swung open, but as he crossed the threshold, a pressure-trigger underfoot made the door thwop back, sending him sprawling. “Ooh hoo hoo, yes! Perfect! Was that enough force, do you think, or should we amp it up just a touch? The servo-motor can withstand another ten pounds of pressure from the compressed air pump, I’m sure...” Bunsen mused.
Beaker muttered under his breath about kicking some foot-pounds up someone’s amp, and shoved the other door open to enter the kitchen. He swiveled his head around slowly, the red light sweeping over an enormous dormant grill, rows of dirty steel countertops, and racks of pots and pans. As he cautiously made his way down the first aisle of prep counters, the pots and pans overhead began to quiver, then jangle, then swing wildly. Nervous, Beaker reached up to still them, but before his hand touched them they stopped on their own. Beaker gulped, reminding himself this was all motorized and triggered by his own weight on floor-pads or by motion detectors. Peering closely at the nearest counter, he saw one such detector, and relaxed a little. No ghosts here, he thought, trying to reassure himself. No ghosts, this is all our stuff, all tricks...
“Beaker, you’re supposed to let the swinging-pan gag play out all the way!” Bunsen complained. “It’s supposed to rattle and clang a while until you move away from it! Why did you make it stop? Was the noise too loud?”
Frozen, Beaker stared at the perfectly still pans hanging overhead. “Meef mohh...” he gulped, still muffled by the army of mics. Nervously he hurried past that counter, heading for the grill.
“Oh, goody! The ‘Flaming Pork of Doom’! This is one of my favorites!” Bunsen exclaimed.
“Morf?” Beaker asked. Just then, the grill burst into green flames, and the image of a twisting, struggling, ghostly pig trussed like a roast, with a small skull stuffed in his mouth instead of an apple, appeared atop the metal grates. “Meeee!” Beaker shrieked. He stood there shaking, trying to tell himself it was only an illusion, a projection, why see there, if you look you can see the laser light behind it! He took a breath, uneasily watching the illusion snort and shudder, trying to free itself from the flames. Just as he’d begun to calm down, the ghost-pig turned its head to look directly at him, and it spat the skull. The projectile bounced off Beaker’s nose, startling him.
“Oh my goodness, Beakie!” Bunsen laughed over the headset. “I had no idea you’d snuck in there and modified the animation program! And using an air cannon and a physical skull – that’s genius, Beakie! Bravo!”
Beaker stared at the image. It glared back, and slowly stood up on the grill.
Beaker hadn’t even known what programs Bunsen had installed in the kitchen.
With a choked-off scream, every carroty hair standing straight up, Beaker fled.
“Beakie, wait! You didn’t even look in the ‘fridge yet!” Bunsen protested.
Newsie awoke with a shiver, nearly crying out at his reflection before he remembered where he was and how he was dressed. Clapping a hand over his beak, he stared at the image he cast in the mirrorlike side of a steel counter across from the niche he’d wedged himself into. Gradually his heartbeat settled, and he exhaled. Did I fall asleep? Frog, that’s not good...what time is it? He unrolled the black velvet glove from his left hand to check his watch. Nearly ten in the morning... He slumped, dismayed. Gina, where are you?
He’d run as hard as he could from the raggy monsters attacking Deadly; if they could shock a ghost with their tentacles of terror as Newsie had seen, what might the awful creatures do to a simple Muppet? When he’d slowed finally, panting, to look over his shoulder, there was so sign of Deadly, or the weird jellyfish monsters...or anyone, actually. Hoping to find his beloved, the Newsman had roamed what seemed like an endless catacomb of prison cells, searching for hours. When he’d come across a rough ramp leading down, he followed it, winding up in what seemed to be the production studios for MMN. He’d cautiously peeked into every room along the rough-hewn corridors, but most of them were dark and deserted...until he’d wandered into this kitchen set, and before he could exit, a group of Hideous, Deformed Things had bustled in, each one wearing a poufy chef’s toque. Frightened, Newsie had wedged himself into this storage area under a prep counter, but then a large lizardish creature with dripping fangs spotted him.
Frantically Newsie had yanked on the sliding panel to shut himself in the steel cabinet, but the lizard screeched and ran right for him – and brained itself, running face-first into the opposite cabinet, chasing Newsie’s reflection. Then a monster with big orange eyebrows and clawed, furry hands had grabbed the dazed lizard and thrown it into a gigantic Roc-Pot pressure cooker. “Right! Giorgio, we never let the main course run loose in the kitchen; it disrupts everything!”
“Yes, Chef,” mumbled one of the Hideous Things. Newsie had listened in utter shock while the monsters began what apparently was a kitchen competition called ‘Boredom Ramslay’s Kitchen Frightmares.’ Newsie huddled in the half-closed cabinet, not daring to breathe too loudly, but the monsters, intent on not displeasing the snappish head chef, never noticed him while they hustled around fixing appetizers and learning the proper way to serve raptor á la Provençale. The clean-up afterward had gone on for what seemed hours...and Newsie, exhausted and forced to remain motionless all that time, had nodded off.
Disgusted with himself, he craned his neck out of the cabinet. The kitchen was dim and silent. With a soft groan, he climbed out, stretching from his shoulders all the way down to his ankles, hearing quiet creaks and pops from joints cramped too long. Looking around, he saw the kitchen set was indeed empty. His stomach growled. Hopefully he crept to the large ‘fridge and locker-style freezer in one corner. However, what he saw upon opening the ‘fridge made his guts churn. He shut the door hastily. Oh frog. Oh frog oh frog...were those...toes in cocktail sauce? Don’t want to know, don’t want to know, he thought, shuddering. For once, his reporter’s instinct to dig into everything was quiescent. Some things should remain a mystery! A muffled thump from the freezer made him jump. “H-hello?” he asked aloud, his voice hoarse, his throat dry and fuzzy. The thump sounded again, and the freezer shook a little. Someone’s alive in there! Oh my frog, they stuffed someone in there alive! Quickly he grabbed the handle of the lid, straining his shoulders; he had to put all his sore muscles to work just to break the frozen seal and thrust the lid upward. “Hello? Are you okay?” he asked, standing on tiptoe to peer inside.
Something coughed. A clawed hand curled over the top, followed by the icy nose of the same lizard which had been the featured menu item last night – or perhaps its cousin. It glared at a very startled Muppet, then tried to growl, but its jaws were frozen shut. Before it could jump out, Newsie leaped up, caught the edge of the lid, and slammed it down hard, whacking the thing on the head and catching its claws in the door. It gave a muffled snarl. “Ungh! Ungh! Ungh!” Newsie puffed, slamming the lid down repeatedly until the claws slipped back inside and he heard the lock catch. Gasping, he backed away. The freezer thumped again. Newsie left in a hurry.
He entered the next room down the hallway, another deserted studio. This was dripping and cavernous, and when he stopped to take a breath, he heard a strange, soft sound. Waves? What on earth... Puzzled, he fumbled through his knapsack for his flashlight, and carefully shone it around. A huge structure like a rainbarrel took up most of the room, with raised wooden bleachers perched in a semicircle around its rim. Newsie walked up to it, locating a simple wooden staircase, and climbed up to look into what had to be the biggest indoor water-tank since that terrible Kevin Costner global-warming-post-apocalyptic flick. What the heck do they do in here? He shone his light up and around, picking out stage lights and boom mics suspended from ceiling trusses overhead. He was familiar with such things from the television newsroom and the movie sets he’d been privileged to stand on for a few minutes’ work. They definitely film something in here. Ripples coursed over the black water, and he heard them lapping softly against the lined sides of the huge container. Nervously he stepped well away from the edge. An odd smell filled his nose; he raised his mask a moment to take a deep sniff unhindered by the fake beak. Salt? Is that salt water?
A memory instantly came to him: Gina examining tiny crystals on a cracked tunnel wall. The ConEd tunnel leak! Am I near there? He had no way of knowing...but as he sniffed again several times, he became convinced it was indeed the exact same mix of moisture and pungent salt that he’d smelled in that other tunnel, what seemed like months ago... Only weeks, he realized, dismayed. The memory of being stuck in bed with a bad sniffle hit him then, and he yanked the mask back down, hoping it would block some of the dampness of the room. Have to be a hundred per cent right now! Can’t save Gina if you’re so stopped up you can’t even breathe!
Depressed, he sat down on a warped bleacher bench. What if she’s not even down here anymore? What if...if they...NO! He refused to even consider that possibility. He sat there, shivering in the damp chill air, listening to the quiet sounds of water. So hungry...so tired... He hadn’t eaten anything since last night’s hasty supper of soup and sandwich while he packed the—the knapsack! Didn’t I pack some peanut-butter crackers? Eagerly, he rummaged through the bag, bringing out a coil of plastic rope, the mousetrap (nearly catching his fingers in it), a package of tiny jacks and a rubber ball, a small bottle of water, and some lint. In dismay he checked again. Frog it! Must be in the other pack...which is back at the apartment, he realized. He opened the water bottle and allowing himself two small swallows. Better conserve supplies. Gina might need it. Have they allowed her any water, any food at all? Feeling a sniffle trying to creep down his long nose, he shook his head angrily. Have to go on! Keep looking! She has to be down here somewhere! Keep going! But his stomach rumbled again.
Hopelessly, he nevertheless stuck his hands in the pockets of the costume, thinking perhaps he’d tucked a mint or a candy in there the last time he’d worn this, at the Bears’ Halloween party. Something scratchy met his questing fingers, and surprised, he drew forth the iced sugar skull he’d won at the costume contest. He blinked at it, a little uneasy; he wasn’t a big fan of death symbols...But Mrs Bear said it was supposed to be good luck, he recalled. And it is made of sugar...
He popped it into his mouth, crunching carefully. The confection dissolved quickly on his broad tongue, and he swallowed what tasted like pure sugar. Almost immediately his sensitive Muppet system jolted awake. “Whoa,” he muttered. “This stuff’s better than coffee!”
Feeling energized and more determined than ever, the Newsman climbed down from the tank. He heard a splash behind him, and whirled, training his light at the noise. Large black eyes blinked at him. Newsie stared, recognizing the curve of the mouth, the fin standing up behind it as it leaned over the side, before it even spoke and revealed multiple rows of jagged teeth.
“Hey,” said the shark, “We filmin’ today or what? I’m hungry!”
The door slammed behind the Newsman. Goompah stared after him. “Well...how about just a bite, then?” he yelled. The black bird-creature didn’t return. Goompah frumped, slapping a fin against the top wall of the tank. “Aw, c’mon! Just a nibble? Somethin’? I’m dyin’ in heah!”
Beaker tossed aside the extra rubber calipers, the fifty yards of cordless extension cord, the Y-hooks they hadn’t needed after all...it had to be in here somewhere... “Meep!” he exclaimed, pulling from the junk-box the exact instrument he wanted. He held it up, turned it on, and checked the screen. Only background energy showed on the portable psychokinetic scanner. Tiptoeing to the half-open panel of the old manager’s office, Beaker cautiously stuck his head out and looked around. Bunsen was still out fetching lunch; he’d elected to take on that particular task while leaving Beaker to “sort through that junk-box and find the rest of the power couplings for the centrifugal farce generator – that scary bouncy-bed in room three-fourteen needs some extra oomph.” Beaker had been less than thrilled about remaining alone in the defunct hotel, even in daytime, but as soon as Bunsen had trotted out, Beaker realized he might have the means to prove to his colleague that he hadn’t imagined scares throughout the test run which neither of them had actually programmed! He glanced down again at the readout screen, but so far, the PKE meter wasn’t showing anything out of the ordinary.
Stepping slowly out of the relative shelter of the command center, Beaker held up the scanner at arm’s length and swept it across his line of sight. Nothing...nothing...beep...nothing... wait! He swung it back toward the grand staircase, and another small beep sounded. Beaker gulped, and with his head down into his shirt, trembling, he advanced across the lobby. He pointed the scanner up the stairs, thinking of that awful spider which had attacked him on their first day here...and of the creepy kissing things he was positive he’d seen in a room upstairs, despite Bunsen’s insistence that they hadn’t rigged any kissing creeps, just ones that swung down and yelled “Boo!” However, nothing registered from that direction. Confused, Beaker stepped closer, checking the meter again, tweaking the settings a bit to pick up lower levels of energy. Now he did get a reading...but it seemed to be coming from...down... Beaker moved even farther from the comfort of their tech gear in the office, casting a longing look back at it, but he needed actual proof, something Bunsen couldn’t sneeze at! Carefully, Beaker eased around the newel post, sweeping the scanner ahead of him. Another blip: he oriented on it, and realized it was emanating from the stone steps behind the main staircase, the ones heading down to the basement...
Beaker gulped again. Maybe...maybe it’s just something that Van Neuter guy is working on? He hoped so. Wait. Maybe he didn’t. What would a vet and bioscientist be messing with which would throw off measurable levels of psychokinetic activity? The front door crashed open, and Beaker jumped, squealing. “Meeee!”
“I’m back!” Bunsen announced. “Drat that wind...nearly blew the hinges off! Give me a hand, would you, Beaker?”
Anxiously looking back at the shadow hiding the lower stairs, Beaker went to assist Bunsen in bringing in an armload of takeout bags. “I got that ‘moo goo gone wrong’ you always order!” Bunsen said, waggling a white carton at Beaker with a smile. “I know that’ll perk you right up! You’ve been so worried all morning...” He carried the food into the office. “And although I appreciate and share your determination to make all of this go off tonight without a glitch, Beakie, I must say I think you’ve been a little overwrought. So, here’s some hot green tea and some won ton soup to cheer you right up!” He paused, seeing his assistant’s anxious stare wasn’t going away. “Beaker? Why the long face?”
“Mee mee meep mee mee,” Beaker explained, and thrust the PKE meter at Bunsen. “Meep meeper mee mee mee! Mee meep, meep meepie...”
Bunsen cut him off with both hands upraised. “Now, now, we’ve been over this! Just because that silly Rick Steves claimed this hotel was haunted does not mean it’s any such thing! You know these tour guides always exaggerate in order to get more visitors!”
Beaker protested vehemently. “Meep mee-mo meemee meeep!”
Bunsen sighed, unpacking his own bag of goodies from Cowboy Feng’s. “Well...that could have been caused by any number of things! Suppose our friend Phil is working on a cosmological reverse-mitosis perpendicular-chronophysiological bypass of terabytical proportions?” Beaker stared at him. Bunsen shrugged irritably. “Well, you never know, he might! All I’m saying is, a reading that low doesn’t signify anything important!”
“Mee mee meep,” Beaker argued weakly, seeing Bunsen’s mind wouldn’t change.
“Well of course we’re still going ahead tonight! Honestly, Beakie...one tiny, itsy-bitsy little peak on the meter and you’re convinced the boogeyman is about to jump out from behind those servers!” He chuckled; Beaker cast an uneasy look at the rack of hard drives. Bunsen dug a pair of chopsticks into his carton of fried squid in peach sauce. “Mmm-mmm good, as they say! Come now, Beakie...eat up while it’s still nice and warm.”
Reluctantly Beaker picked up his paper cup of hot tea, and made several attempts at drinking through the tiny spout on the lid; his nose kept blocking it. He sighed, and checked the PKE meter again: only background-level energy. Noticing this, Bunsen patted his shoulder. “There now, you see? You’d get a reading like that from simple subway activity crossing an electrical conduit! Nothing to worry about.”
“Meep mo mo mee,” Beaker said glumly.
Bunsen shook his head tolerantly. “Tell you what...keep checking it throughout the evening, if it makes you feel any better. But don’t worry about any reading under two-point-two megajoules! All right?” Beaker nodded, and Bunsen resumed his lunch. “Lots of good antioxidants in that tea,” he reminded Beaker. “As much stress as you’re creating for yourself today, that should be just the ticket. Drink up now.”
Sighing, Beaker popped the lid off the cup, tilted his head back, and poured the tea into his mouth. Immediately his eyes turned red, steam whooshed out of his ears, and his tongue shriveled into a tiny burnt strip. “Woo-woo-woo-meeeeeee!” he howled.
Startled, Bunsen checked the cup, then looked at another identical cup he’d just pulled from the bag. “Oh...oh dear! I think the kitchen mislabeled our cups! That was my hot-hot-so-hot-and-extremely-sour soup... Here’s your tea, Beakie!”
Beaker crumpled into a steaming heap, groaning. Concerned, Bunsen leaned over him, still holding out the correct cup. “Beaker? I really think the tea would help...you’re falling apart over nothing today, honestly!”
Noise, applause and music, drew Newsie to a door. A blinking red light outside notified him that taping was going on inside. He crept close to the narrow window set into the studio door. Inside, he could see a small audience of monsters clapping and whooping as lights came up in the center of a black platform, its edges marked in strips of blue neon. A Muppet walked down a series of black risers at the back of the stage, and an announcer snarled from hidden speakers: “It’s the All-Meal Challenge today, and our latest contestant will soon discover there’s more to worry about than staying alive, right now – on Meal or No Meal!” The audience roared. Stunned, Newsie stared at the host, a man of yellow felt with sleek black hair and broad shoulders clothed in a tasteful brown plaid check jacket. “And now here’s your host, Snookie Blyer!”
“Oh holy frog,” Newsie gasped, pressing his beaked nose to the glass. “Chester!”
“Welcome to Meal or No Meal,” Snookie said, his tone one of extreme contempt. “Today’s contestant is facing double-meal-points, whether he likes it or not...let’s say hello now, and goodbye soon enough...Pembroke Tonkin, hello there and welcome to the last game you’ll ever play!”
Newsie gaped. A large tan-furred cat, looking much less suave and debonair than the Newsman had last seen him at Nofrisko, was shoved forward onto the stage. He stood uncomfortably while Snookie put an insincere arm around his shoulders and glanced at a cue card. “So Pembroke...I understand you used to be the head of a major snack company, but ran afoul of upper management and wound up drugged and dragged off in the middle of the night by slimy monster bugs, is that right?”
The cat grimaced. “Really, must we continue this appalling charade? Do be a chap, and let me loose...”
“I see,” Snookie continued, ignoring the cat’s request. “Well, that was abysmally stupid of you! But maybe you’ll get the chance today, if you guess correctly, to go home in one piece...and maybe centipedes will fly. So, let’s bring out the girls! Girls, come on out here!”
As pumping techno music played loudly, almost drowned by the cheers and whistles of the mostly-male audience, rows of presumably female monsters of all shapes, colors, and levels of hideousness in sequined miniskirts walked down the risers, and each displayed a beat-up miniature coffin to the audience. “All right Pembroke...choose your coffin!”
“This is a travesty!” the cat protested.
“Look, it’s not like it matters, but wouldn’t you rather have thirty extra minutes of life? Just play the frogging game,” Snookie muttered.
The cat sighed. “Number fourteen,” he said, gesturing disdainfully.
“Fourteen, huh? That your birthday? Lucky number?”
“She has fewer warts.”
“Okay then!” The blobbish ingenue, midriff flowing over her skirt as she moved, wobbled down the stage to deposit the coffin (and a fair amount of yellow slime) on a table at the front of the stage. “Let’s get right to it! Pembroke, choose your first four coffins, and remember, this is double-meal today, so instead of starting at one per cent of your total body mass, the stakes begin at two per cent! Name your coffins.”
Newsie looked at the audience between the door and the stage. I have to make contact somehow! Will they let me pass? Do I look monstery enough? Carefully, he eased the door open and slipped into the studio. A stagefrackle with a clipboard and a headset glanced at him, then jerked a thumb at the audience seats. Newsie nodded, and climbed onto the edge of a bench. So far so good... The monsters sitting nearest him barely looked his way before returning their eager attention to the show. Newsie waited while Tonkin picked four more coffins from the monster-girls and each was opened to reveal a percentage figure; the corresponding numbers on a huge chalkboard hanging stage left were scratched out by a grinning webbed-toed thing clinging to the top of the board by its prehensile tail. When Snookie turned back to the audience, Newsie tried to wave at him surreptitiously, but just then the lights all turned red, and a phone rang loudly.
“Well, well, we all know who that is!” Snookie said, and the monsters laughed. Snookie picked up the phone; Newsie noticed a shadowy figure with hunched shoulders and what looked like two heads in a glassed-in booth above stage right. The host listened a moment, then hung up. “All right...the Butcher says...and I gotta tell you, this is the biggest first offer I’ve ever seen him make...he says, he’ll give you one internal organ to walk away from that coffin right now!”
Boos and cheers filled the studio. Tonkin looked worried and angry. “Why would I want that?” he demanded.
“Because it’s one whole organ you’ll get to keep inside your body,” Snookie explained.
The cat turned pale under his fur, eyes widening. “So...Meal, or No Meal?” Snookie asked.
Desperately Newsie waved his arms, realizing suddenly that in costume, in this dim reddish light, he probably looked like just another weird creature cheering. Oh frog...but I can’t take off the disguise! If they see me...
“Uh...No Meal!” the cat said. The lights came back up, and the crowd cheered loudly.
“Okay...then you will have to pick another...three coffins!” Snookie said. Shivering now that he realized the seriousness of the game, Tonkin was more careful in picking numbers; Newsie wondered how he could possibly tell which case held what percentage. Is this just a random drawing? Just blind luck? I’ll bet not one of those horrible little coffins holds a chance for him to go free! Feeling somewhat sorry for the former Nofrisko exec, Newsie shook his head. Guess they don’t spare their employees either. I wonder if he ever understood what he was in for. Snookie called for each girl to open her coffin, and three more varying numbers were revealed and chalked off. The phone rang again, and the lights turned red. Annoyed, Newsie glared up, then suddenly realized this might be a chance for him to reveal himself without being too obvious, as every monster’s attention was on the booth upstairs. Quickly, Newsie pulled off his mask, and waved again. Snookie turned toward the booth, however, completely missing Newsie’s gesture...but Tonkin saw him. Feline eyes turned wide, then narrowed down to slivers. Hurriedly Newsie pulled his mask back on, fumbling with his glasses.
“All right, if you do not accept this ridiculously insulting offer, you have to open three more coffins,” Snookie informed Tonkin, “but if you want to, you could be carried on a stretcher out of here with...three internal organs and your ribcage still intact!”
“Well...” Tonkin said, taking a breath, but Snookie interrupted with a wide, patently false smile.
“And we’ll hear your decision when we come back, on Meal...or No Meal!”
Newsie waited. Snookie walked offstage to get a drink of water. The crowd argued among themselves about how many body parts should be enough to tempt the contestant into taking the offer. Tonkin’s gaze remained fixed on the Newsman, who fidgeted anxiously. Would the cat rat him out in an attempt to save his own neck? Would he tell Chester there was a Muppet in disguise in the studio? When the director cued everyone, Snookie fastened the smile back on his face, though his brown eyes held no trace of the excitement he tried to project in his voice: “So, Pembroke Tonkin has an offer on the table...along with salt, pepper, and some other basic condiments. Pembroke, tell us: will you take the meal offer and be our next tasty entree, or will you keep playing? I’ll point out here, the one-hundred-per-cent coffin is still in play!”
“No Meal, Snookie,” the cat huffed. As the lights shifted and the girl monsters clapped and blew kisses, Tonkin spoke up again, “I’d like to confer with my family before I pick the next coffins, if I may.”
Snookie looked startled. “Your...your family?” He looked offstage. “You kidnapped his family too?”
“My...nephew...is sitting right up there,” Tonkin purred, and with a languid paw pointed right at Newsie.
Snookie looked again at his director, shrugged, and beckoned. “Well, great! Hey, folks, another first – living next of kin! Whaddaya know.”
Newsie was hustled by the stagefrackle down to the platform. “And who do we have here?” Snookie asked, genuinely curious, looking from the raven to the cat.
Tonkin smoothed down his whiskers sleekly. “This is my nephew...Murrow. He works at the Health Department,” he said, smiling.
Snookie gave Newsie a skeptical look. “Really? How odd. I met another guy with the same name and occupation just this morning. Wonder if they’re related.”
“Possibly,” Tonkin purred. “Small world, and all that.”
Newsie did his best to stand upright and look imposing, but his nerves quivered terribly at the sight of a few dozen monsters all staring right at him...and drooling. It’s the costume, it’s the costume, they think you’re a bird, he told himself...but then realized his species probably wouldn’t matter all that much. This crowd looked ravenous enough to eat each other after they’d finished off the contestant. “All right, let’s move on!” Snookie said with a shrug. “Choose your coffins!”
Tonkin leaned close to Newsie, and hissed, “What the slimy frog are you doing here? That is the most ridiculous disguise I’ve ever seen – worse than your inspector act!”
“They have my girlfriend,” Newsie muttered in reply. “Have you seen her? Red hair, tall, lovely, could kick your sorry furry butt into next week’s litterbox?”
“No one like that, no,” Tonkin murmured. “Will you get me out of here? I can make it worth your while.”
“I doubt you have anything I’d want,” Newsie growled. “But I’ll do what I can if you’ll help me.”
“Fair do,” Tonkin said, and turned back to Snookie. “Numbers twenty-two, fifteen, and forty!”
The coffins were opened with much dramatic flourish. Every monster in the house groaned when the one-hundred-per-cent figure turned up and was marked off the board. The phone rang just as Newsie was trying to signal to his cousin with a nod and a waggle of his fingers, out of direct sight of the audience. Newsie stood frustrated while Snookie talked to the mysterious monster on the phone. Tonkin noticed. “What are you trying to do, make it obvious you’re not a turkey?” he hissed.
“That Muppet’s my cousin!” Newsie whispered. “He’s the whole reason I started this investigation! He’s been missing for a long time!”
Tonkin looked between them. “I do see something of a family resemblance...you’re both stupid enough to get involved in monstrous affairs.”
“So what does that make the guy who worked for them?”
“Wiser now,” Tonkin muttered. “Talk to him!”
Snookie turned back to Tonkin and Newsie. “Well, it’s not a fantastic offer...after all, the hundred-per-cent number is now out of play. But I think you should consider it! You’ve got a lot of coffins to go, and anything could happen...” He smiled at the cat, his eyes turning puzzled as he saw Tonkin and the raven elbowing one another and glaring. “The Butcher’s offer is—“
“Uh, ahem,” Newsie said, trying to make his voice sound hoarser and lower than normal, “Uh, Snookie, is it? Tonkin says No Meal, and I’m going to choose the next coffins for him!”
“Er...hey, buddy, getting a little ahead of the game here,” Snookie said, his eyes narrowing. “Heh, heh, it’s considered polite to at least allow the host to run the show! So, Pembroke, the Butcher’s offer is...what we’ll hear when we come right back! Stay tuned to Meal or No Meal!” The audience clapped and began talking loudly, arguing whether the cat’s nephew was considered part of the entree or just an appetizer or a separate course altogether. Newsie shuddered, but then Tonkin shoved him forward, giving him a significant look and nod when a startled Newsman glanced back.
Newsie cleared his throat, opened his mouth, and suddenly Snookie was in his face, angry. “Listen, you featherbrained jerk, so far today I have been smeared in mud on Wipe-In!, nearly had my nose clawed off on Leopardy!, and I’m scheduled for something positively horrific that I don’t even know the details of yet for Monsters Tonight! This is the one taping I have today which doesn’t involve me being eaten, mauled, or humiliated – that’s the stupid cat’s job here, and yours too since you stepped up to the plate! Now the least you can do is shut the frog up and let me run my show, okay?”
“Chester!” Newsie said hurriedly, “I’m your cousin Aloysius!”
The weary, angry Muppet’s jaw fell open. “What?” he choked.
“Hey! He’s gettin’ away!” someone yelled.
Newsie whirled, frightened, and saw Pembroke Tonkin leaping for the nearest set piece, trying to climb it to the ceiling trusses. “Son of a...” Newsie growled. He looked back at Snookie, who was staring at him. All the monsters in the audience were roaring, howling, and scrambling out of their seats, trampling the stagefrackles to reach the set. Newsie grabbed Snookie’s hand. “It’s me! Did you get my note?”
“What kind of sick joke is this?” Snookie demanded, pulling away. “Carl put you up to this, didn’t he!”
“Who? No!” Desperate, Newsie pulled off his mask, jamming his glasses back on his nose. “It’s me, Chester! We have to get out of here! Quick, while they’re all—“
“Muppet!” Tonkin yowled from the ceiling, clinging by two paws and trying to heft his weighty bottom over the edge of a truss. The monsters climbing one another to reach him froze, and the cat pointed frantically at Newsie. “Muppet!”
Half the crowd turned, saw Newsie, and gaped. “Oh frog,” Newsie and Snookie gasped together. Then Snookie gave his cousin a hard shove toward the door. “Run, you idiot! Run!”
“But—“ Newsie cried, stumbling, but then a snarling thing took a swipe at him. He ducked, and looked back. Snookie was clambering into a big metal cage labeled For Host in Case of Unruly Audience. He gestured at Newsie to go, his eyes wide and desperate. “Eep!” Newsie gulped, nearly clobbered by a swinging chunk of bleacher; the ogre wielding it overbalanced and toppled, but more monsters rushed toward him. Newsie yelled at Snookie, “I’ll find you! Stay alive! I will find you!”
The door slammed in the face of the first monster to lunge after Newsie; the others crumpled atop him, and it took them a couple of minutes to untangle and wrench the door open. Snookie shivered inside his cage, watching as the cat was summarily knocked down from the truss with a thrown, screaming goblin. He turned his head, unwilling to see the results; the munching sounds were bad enough. The show director, a particularly large Frackle with an upward-curving snout, poked him through the bars, making him jump. “Say, who was dat bird guy, anyhow?” the director asked.
Snookie took a deep breath, trying to calm his frantic heart. “That was...the bravest, dumbest Mohican ever to try a rescue mission down here,” he said.
“Ah,” said the director. He scratched his topfur, indifferently watching cat fur raining down center stage, and admiring the girls as they giggled and jumped into the fray. “Say, you, uh...ya think ya can get him back? We seem ta be kinda short a player now. Mohican, ya say...ya know, da boss been sayin’ we needs more diversifyin’ around here!”
Snookie closed his eyes, ignoring it all as best he could. Someone yelled for another bottle of catsup.
Author's Note: There are several silly references in the above chapter. Two of them are rather Six Degrees of Sam Neill. I defy anyone to name the more obscure one. Anyone actually managing this feat will have my undying admiration and a batch of chocolate pumpkin cookies personally baked and sent by me!
Oh, how positively vonderful was this last chapter.
Delighted in Beaker's exploration of the dining room and kitchen areas above ground.
*Wonders if the plates and saucers were moved to create a Hidden Mickey, as that's the more infamous one in that haunted portion of the attraction.
Bordom Ramsley's Kitchen Frightmares... That sounds awfully similar to the Nightmare parody they did on Mad the Animated Series. And yet I'm intrigued as I don't rully know who this personality is, he doesn't have a show on Food Network does he?
The raptors, are those holdovers from the attack last summer at the museum? Leftovers are okay by me, so long as they're heated up, but I usually don't eat live food anyway.
*Laughs at the mix-up with the scientist's take-out orders.
A much more monster-based parody of Deal or No Deal than the one we saw on Sesame Street.
Er, what's an "ingenue"?
*Tosses bottle of blood to the one who called for catsup. The last time we used ketchup we ended up with a vegetarian vampire duck.
*Defies someone to identify that reference.
And Chester and Newsie finally met, only to have the journalist be put on the run as his disguise has been shattered.
Please, continue when possible. *Leaves some black cherry lemonade.
Separate names with a comma.