I don’t know how long Martialla and I sat there with the dead man. If you told me it was two minutes that wouldn’t surprise me. If you told me it was three hours that wouldn’t surprise me either. It’s funny how time kind of goes away when you’re in pain. Not funny ha-ha like Daffy Duck but you know what kind of funny I mean. Eventually we struggled to our feet and started trying to figure out a way to get back aboveground. We couldn’t come up with anything. Even with the fairy ring in the middle of the room the . . . not ceiling, the edge of the hole? Not sure what to call it. Point is that we couldn’t reach whatever you want to call it.
I tried to yank a piece of metal off the dead man’s bike so I would have a club in the case of giant centipede attack but I couldn’t get it to budge and pulling on it hurt so badly that I stopped breathing for a second. I soldiered on empty handed. One time at Sharon Stone’s birthday party, Phil Bronstein gave me shit for not bringing a gift. She’s Sharon god damn Stone, she doesn’t need a present from me, asshole. Did you know that her real name is Sharon von Stone? Crazy.
We shambled out of the car showroom area towards another patch of light in the darkness. It looked like it was once a huge fancy atrium that they have in office buildings sometimes. For reasons. We were up on the second level of the atrium shaft and on the floor below us there was a fountain that was clogged with mud. Mud that one hundred percent had something writhing in it. I’m going to guess an eel with the face of a walrus. Or a beaver with the snout of a crocodile and the tail of a grey whale. We looked around for a way out, there were stairs down but nothing that seemed to go up.
I’m pretty sure I looked past/through her at least twice before I realized that there was a woman standing on the other side of the walkway across the atrium from us. Martialla didn’t sing out so she must have done the same. Maybe because of the concussions we both probably have, but maybe just because your brain sometimes doesn’t notice things when you’re not expecting them.
She looked like that girl from Lizzie McGuire, Hilary something. Muff maybe. I swear she was the spitting image of Hilary Muff, so much so that I thought to myself “why is the girl from Lizzie McGuire here? Also why does she have a gun? Is Hilary Muff going to shoot me?” I don’t think it was Hilary Muff though, I think it was just someone who looks like her. Or maybe Hilary Muff survived the collapse of society and this is her granddaughter. Great granddaughter? Great great? I’m not good with generations.
Once I noticed that Lizzie McGuire had a gun on us, I let out an involuntary squawk of alarm and Martialla and I both ducked down below the waist-high “wall” railing around the atrium shaft. Lizzie didn’t fire at us because I think she was as surprised to see us as we were to see her. Although she still had the presence of mind to go for her gun. Which is commendable. I peeked out from behind the wall at her, the fact that she was shaking like a leaf made her seem even younger and she already looked like she was fourteen.
“Hey . . . there. We don’t mean any trouble. No need for guns.”
She spoke so softly I could barely hear her from across the room, I think she was more afraid of us that we were of her.
“Are you from above?”
I poked my head up a little more “Uh . . . we fell down here from the surface if that’s what you mean. We’re not from Mars or anything.”
I could see her little Lizzie face screw up in confusion “Mars?”
I glanced at Martialla “See, I told you they hadn’t colonized Mars while we were asleep.” I stood up with my hands outstretched to show her that I was no threat while Martialla got the POS gun she took off the biker ready to blow Hilary Muff away if need be. “You look not ugly, are you from our time? Did you get frozen like the Indian doctor we were talking to? I didn’t catch her name.”
Her face showed even deeper confusion “Are you English?”
“Uh . . . American.”
“American?” She waved her gun up towards the atrium-hole. “What’s going on up there?”
“We were giving the doctor some blood samples when these people called the Invincible attacked. A lot of them attacked. We helped your guys try to fight them but it didn’t go great. I think everyone up there is dead. Like I said, we fell into one of your tunnels during the battle. Is it safe down here? Seems like they can just throw ropes down here and . . . hey wait, where are you going?”
That’s what I said when her face became even more pale and she started scurrying off. Martialla popped up like she was going to shoot at her and I had to grab her arm to stop her.
“What the hell are you doing?!”
Martialla shook me off “I wasn’t going to kill her, I was just going to wing her!”
As if. We ran around to Lizzie’s side of the balcony (is that what you call it when it’s inside?) as she disappeared down a hallway and we saw a giant metal door clonk shut behind her and a big red light above it come on.
“Well that looks sturdy, I guess it might be safe down here, if you’re on the other side.”