Don't Go Anywhere
It didn't feel like a dream, thought Max. Even with all the craziness, everything was clear and sharp.
The only thing that really felt unreal about it was her own reaction. Her life was bone-crushingly normal, and now she was in an other-worldly trip through something she could never have imagined, and she was just rolling with it.
And now they were away again, off and racing. Without even thinking about it any further, Max found herself running down a city street, following Skin blindly as a huge crowd of policemen, soldiers and nuns chased after them, screaming in rage and waving garden implements at them.
Skin leaped over a parked car and made a stand.
“Come on then!” he screamed at the advancing crowd, taunting them forward. “Let’s see what you’ve got!”
“Let’s not and say we did!” cried Max. She didn’t slow down and ran right past Skin.
But she only got a few more steps before everything shifted again and she lurched into the seat of a packed passenger aircraft. A stewardess scowled at her as she cried out with the shock of a sudden stop.
“Please,” she said, the lines at the corner of her eyes showing with her displeasure. “You’re disturbing the other passengers.”
“Yeah,” agreed Skin, leafing through an in-flight magazine with the absolute minimum of enthusiasm. “Calm down, Max. It’s all okay.”
Max smiled weakly at the stewardess and pretended to look out the window. Down below an unfamiliar landscape was passing by, but it could have been anywhere in the world from this altitude.
Max waited until the stewardess had moved on before replying to Skin with a hiss. “Okay? How the fuck is it all okay? Last night I sat around at home getting fucking stoned and fucking watching fucking zombie movies, now I’m getting fucking bounced around from one fucking place to another like a fucking cosmic fucking pin fucking ball!”
“Oh dear,” said Skin, looking up from his magazine. “I wish you hadn’t mentioned them.”
“Fucking mentioned fucking who?” whispered Max harshly, only to get her reply straight away as a zombie lurched out of the darkness around her and tried to bite her face off. “Oh fuck me!”
“Relax” said Skin, that insufferable grin still on his face. He pulled the dead man off Max, stuck his hands in the zombie’s mouth and ripped its rotting jaw right off. The zombie backed away, clutching uselessly at the space where its mouth used to be and Skin kicked it even further away for good measure. He held up a spade and offered it to Max.
“C’mon then,” he said with a grin. “Let’s get into it.”
Max looked around to see more zombies shuffling out of the dark corners of the rundown warehouse. Standing in the middle with her back to Skin, Max felt the reassuring weight of the spade in her hand and made a decision. This wasn’t anything dangerous. This was just another game and she could continue to resist. Or she could play along.
“Come on then, you rotting motherfuckers!” she snarled at the approaching undead. “Lets see what you’ve got!”
“That’s the fucking spirit!” laughed Skin, dashing forward and attacking the nearest zombies with his bare hands, ripping into them with his fingers and kicking apart their decaying bodies. He ducked and weaved through their feeble attacks, more than a dozen of them falling apart in a matter of seconds.
“Yeah!” yelled Max, taking her own attack to them. She started smacking them over the head with the spade, but soon discovered the sharp edge of it could cut through the flesh with little effort and she started swinging it wildly at them, taking off heads and limbs with ease.
“They’re such a fucking cliché these days!” howled Skin from the other side of the vast room as he flipped over and crushed the skull of the nearest zombie with his heel. “But that doesn’t mean they still can’t be a lot of fun to beat the hell out of!”
“I can dig that,” said Max, moving back over towards Skin, getting in a few more decent headshots as she went. She had been watching zombie films since she was a teenager and there had always been some part of her brain that had thought about how she would survive a zombie apocalypse. She was actually pleased to discover that all that idle thought had not been wasted after all.
She reached Skin and the two of them, mirror images in a way that could never be limited to something as crude as gender or physical appearance, fought back to back again.
“One thing I don’t get,” said Max, slicing through a zombie’s face at eye level. “I make a mention of zombies and next thing we know we’re facing off against the motherfuckers. Is it really all that simple?”
Skin paused to rip out a spine before replying. “Well, one thing my travels through the multiverse have taught me is that things are usually much more simple than they look.”
“So,” said Max thoughtfully. “If I had mentioned scantily, clad Amazon warrior princesses instead of zombies, would we-“
“Oh crap,” said Skin as the zombies vanished and they found themselves at the top steps of a huge Greek temple, surrounded by thousands of scantily clad Amazon warrior princesses. “That wasn’t such a great idea.”
“Really?” said an unconvinced Max, gripping her spade just a little bit harder. “I think it worked out all right.”
The amazons began to march up the steps towards them, raising their weapons.
“We can’t fight women!” said Skin. “Beating down on the undead is easy enough, but I can’t fight females!”
“That’s very sexist of you, Doc.”
“Maybe, but at least I don’t have the libido and fantasies of a freakin’ 16-year-old.”
The first of the caramel-skinned warrior women reached the top of the steps and brandished her blade, snarling in a language Max had never heard before.
Skin suddenly stepped forward. “Ladies! We don’t need to fight! Can’t we all just get along?”
An arrow flew out of the crowd below and embedded itself in Skin’s right shoulder.
He looked at the arrow sticking out of him. Then he looked at the crowd. Then he looked at Max. Then he looked at the arrow. Then he looked back to Max. Then he looked at the arrow again. Then he screamed.
“Oh god! Oh man, that hurts! Take it out, take it out, take it out!”
The warrior women nearest the two of them stifled some laughter and Max joined them until she heard another deep male voice snickering along with them.
Max stopped and turned to see a man in a dark red suit standing in the middle of a vast wasteland laughing at Skin.
“You really are terrible at this, aren’t you?” he said.
As well as the amazons and temple, the arrow had vanished from Skin’s shoulder along with the pain it had created. But Skin barely noticed. He recognized the man. The suit had changed colour again, but the face was the same.
“Let me guess,” said Skin slowly. “You must be Mr Red.”
Mr Red nodded slightly. “You’re getting better at this, Doctor Skin.”
“So I guess you’re here to offer some ridiculously cryptic advice before we move on?”
“No,” said Mr Red calmly. “I’m here to stop you.”
“Whatever,” yawned Max, moving forward with her spade and swinging it at Mr Red’s head. But he caught the blade of the spade, yanked it out of Max’s hands and with little effort, snapped it in two.
“I see,” said Max, just as Mr Red casually slapped her away. Max found herself flying through the air, hitting the ground hard, her face screaming in agony.
“Jesus Christ!” she cried. “Motherfucker broke my jaw!”
“Hardly,” said an unimpressed Mr Red. “You wouldn’t be talking if I broke your jaw. So just lie there and do nothing, you useless piece of shit.”
“Okay,” said Max meekly. She glanced at Skin. “I guess this means we aren’t playing a game anymore, huh?”
“Game over, man,” said Doctor Skin grimly as Mr Red advanced towards him with clenched fists. “Game over.”