A hand grenade bounced off the wall behind Spongy Hahnemann. He couldn’t believe his eyes. What kinds of maniacs were they dealing with? He twisted and grabbed the little pineapple, expecting to be able to toss it back down the stairs.
Timing is everything.
Chunks of Spongy Hahnemann flew everywhere. Tiny Morrison and Light-Fingered Louie were sprayed with pale gray brain matter and liver, gobs of intestines, vivid organs of all sorts, and large pieces of limbs. Fiery red buckets of blood splashed over the two men as they cowered beneath the explosion. Shards of bone and the spine of the house flew in every direction.
Tiny Morrison scrambled to collect his sanity and his gun. Louie was knocked unconscious.
Downstairs, two new guns began firing from far across the house. Then, there was silence.
Silent footsteps came closer and closer to the bottom of the stairs. Tiny could hear the occasional thud of a boot against a corpse. A pistol shot rang out. Then, a familiar voice called up, “Anybody alive up there?”
“That you, Arizona?”
“That you, Tiny?”
“Looks like we got here just in time. Hey, man, we gotta get outta here. This is a crappy neighborhood, but the cops might come, what with all the racket.”
“It’s just me and Louie. And I’m not sure about him.”
Tiny rolled a four-by-four off of his partner and wiped some of Spongy Hahnemann off Louie’s face.
“Let’s get outta here, man.”
Tiny got up to his knees and tried to lift his partner off the blood-stained floor.
“He’s too heavy for me. Get up here.”
Arizona and Arturo Alvarez climbed the stairs and helped Tiny Morrison to his feet.
Louie was still out.
“Grab his other shoulder,” said Tiny.
Art joined Tiny Morrison and the foursome staggered down the steps.
The downstairs was a picture from Dante’s Inferno. Bodies lay stacked like cordwood. The furniture was all broken and tumbled helter skelter. Blood pooled on the linoleum and soaked the dirty carpet.
Arturo and Tiny Morrison grunted under the weight of Louie DeMarco. He was just coming to his senses and shook his head. “You shouldn’t a killed that broad, Tiny. You shouldn’t a.”
“Shut up,” said Tiny Morrison. “Shut up”.
Meanwhile, Freddie Jacobs and Spongy Hahnemann were trying to assess their status. Their eyes had finally adjusted to the blinding white light surrounding them.
The two men were sitting in a diner. Their porcelain coffee mugs rested on a sparkling tabletop that glowed with internal iridescent lights that seemed to flow upwards
Freddie’s beady eyes got a nasty shine in them. “Okay,” he said. “If you’re positive. Let’s do it.”
“This is going to be so cool,” said Spongy, rubbing his hands together. “Everybody will be scared of us. C’mon, let’s go.”
Freddie reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a crumpled five-dollar bill and slapped it on the table. The two men hurried out the door of the plastic-and-chrome restaurant.
Out on the street, they found themselves in another world, a world of dripping menace, a world of undulating caves and tunnels consisting of what appeared to be organic material. It looked like the inside of intestines. It smelled of sulfur. Each footstep sent the men reeling. It was like walking in quicksand. Their feet were quickly encased and they had to keep moving for fear they would sink into the foul-smelling soup. They reeled and stumbled, the vile effluence sucking away at their feet. It was like a thick tide, pushing them back, back into the restaurant. Far ahead, almost inaudible above the sounds of their breathing and the splashing of their footsteps, they heard a hissing sound, a sound that a giant snake might make.
Freddie turned and struggled and finally pulled his right foot from the slurping, drinking roadbed. He planted it behind him and wrenched his left ankle, turning it around in the muck. Wherever he looked, orbs of multi-colored light flickered and died. He could scarcely make out the neon lights from the restaurant.
He looked back over his shoulder at his partner, wiped perspiration out of his eyes and whispered, “We gotta get outta here.”
Spongy spun on his left heel and raised his right. This motion drilled his left foot deep into the slime. He pushed himself out slowly, pressing into the waste with his right foot. He was afraid he would need to kneel and press his bare hands into the horrifying ooze. He took ten impossible steps, each one threatening to pull him down, and then found himself back inside the restaurant. He turned and looked for Freddie. He could not see outside the doorway. It was like looking into tar.
After seconds that seemed like hours, Freddy’s hand materialized before Spongy’s terrified eyes. Its fingers grabbed the rail at the center of the door and Freddie pushed his way back inside the restaurant.
The two staggered back to the booth they had been sharing and reflected for a time regarding the peculiar situation. A rolling blob of slime foamed up against the door of the restaurant, like waves on a beach.
Diners walked past them and left the restaurant. Freddie and Spongy could not focus on the double and triple images they were seeing. Outside the door, on the one hand, was the serpentine and twisting mass of viscous mud that had nearly trapped them. At the same time, they could see those others who had left the diner, chatting together, getting into cars or walking down a sidewalk, acting as if nothing was odd. There was also a third vision, somehow unfocused, somehow shining, hidden from the men’s view.
Inside the diner some of the other patrons pretended not to have noticed the pair’s odd behavior. Others glared at them. One man, clearly entertained, chuckled and waved at them as he departed. Freddie and Spongy could see all of them through the glass doors and through the mostly-glass front of the place, entering cars, driving off, doing what people do after leaving a restaurant.
Freddie and Spongy, two low-grade criminals without any great amount of intelligence or imagination were bewildered, frustrated, and more than a little frightened. It was just like when they were born. Once again, they found themselves tossed into a bizarre world they couldn’t comprehend and that they couldn’t adjust or conform to. It was just too weird.
Had they discovered a portal into a different universe? It could be that they were facing the destruction of their world by an onrushing, incomprehensible alien force. Were they in Hell? Without question, there were other explanations for the peculiar events of the day. There were, however, no simple answers.
They sat and watched their fellow diners pass them and walk out onto the sidewalk, into sunshine. Freddie and Spongy were frozen in place. The two of them were just stuck, somehow. Why had they been singled out for this? They didn’t dare move.
Spongy said, “You want to try it again?”
Freddie’s eyes widened and he shook his head violently. Dumbstruck, defeated, and miserable, he sagged back into the bench-seat and pulled his hat down, nearly covering his eyes.
After a few minutes of silence, though, Spongy sat up. He was grinning. He said to Freddie, “You’ve got a hundred bucks in your pocket.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Freddie.
“Just look,” Spongy suggested.
Freddie pulled out his wallet, opened it up and discovered five twenty-dollar bills.
His mouth fell open and then it was as if a light bulb flashed on in his brain. A smile twisted upwards on his thin lips.
“Well, at least we’re okay until this place closes,” said Freddie.
“Let’s get a burger,” said Spongy. “You know, I’m beginning to remember.”