Sean is startled by who two white-haired, humorless assassins he presumes is the (are the?) Arcanans. They want what Sean has, what Sean was given. His only hope is getting his hands on the Computronium he has hidden for safe-keeping. But, can he get it, and can he use it, and will it really help when the chips are all down?
This one makes my top ten. The Two Stacy’s parents, white-haired, probably in their sixties, severe-looking, and humorless. They had snatched me from my bed and marched me to my kitchen. Their adult daughters were still in my bed, tapping on their phones like two influencers hard at work. Top ten weirdest moment ever!
The mom looked like someone who might fall in love with Voldemort. She said, “Give to me the Computronium and in reward I shall kill you quickly.”
I’d met them before, could not forget them for sure. I suspected they were from the Arcana. Or, they were the Arcana. Who are the Arcana? No clue. Not even The Google could tell me.
Of course I had googled “Aracana”. There was a lot of stuff about tarot cards. Some anime. And that was it. Maybe I spelled it wrong, or heard it wrong. I was just going on what the Train Platform Man told me. He said, “Beware of the Arcana!”
And Victor and Ivan had spoken about them, too. Then, last week in the courtyard, this Spartan pair were treated with wanton fear by the FBI and Secret Service. So, yeah. Whomever are the Arcana, I was bewaring them.
And I was sharing my apartment air
With them staring and glaring
Aware I wasn’t wearing a thing
Aware I did not have the Computronium
And without the Computronium
I was a square peg
And this situation was a very round hole.
The fact that I wasn’t currently touching the Computronium was a major problem. I wasn’t currently touching it because when I came home with the Stacies, I hid it. I hid it because I actually had the thought, “What if they try to steal it?” I felt like it was good opsec.
Good opsec would have been to come home alone.
Then the woman said, “Last week, you told us you did not have the Computronium, but you very clearly do. For this lie, you will pay a handsome fee.”
I said, “Look, I just wanted to see what it was, alright? Now I know: It’s just a useless rock. Take it. Here I’ll get it — ”
Severe Woman smiled. Here was my moment. At least, I hoped it was my moment. If I was holding the Computronium Rock, if I was in physical contact with the Rock, I would know if it were my moment. The Rock would have given me a kajillion options in a heartbeat, worked it’s magic, simulated all the outcomes. Highlighted the best one.
My own brain could muster but a single choice. In a feeble voice, I said, “Can I first put on some pants? I’ll make some coffee…”
Severe Woman shook her head curtly.
The man, her husband I presume, had so far just sat there, placidly. With muscles carved from ancient stone, welded by effort, outlining a long-sleeve mock turtleneck.
I had a plan. I said, “Come on, what kind of host am I?” I moved toward the kitchen —
The woman swifty removed a gun from her purse. The man stood up.
I heard the pistol cock. The gun already had a silencer attached.
And I thought, Shit! Okay, new plan. New plan.
I said, “Okay, nevermind. The Rock’s over here by the couch.” I put my hands up and walked toward the couch. I said, “I think I stashed it between the …” (106) But, as soon as I was even with the bathroom door, which was next to the couch, I pivoted, leapt into the bathroom, slammed the door and locked it.
As soon as I locked it, two bullets pierced the door as though it were made from paper.
Then I heard Severe Woman bellow, “Dammit, my gun jammed again. Stupid Glocks. Rufus, knock down the door!”
I heard the man say, “Yes, dear.”
I had maybe ten seconds. I pulled the top off the toilet’s reservoir tank and dunked my hand in. Last night I hid the rock in the tank. Also, Ivan’s phone was in there. The one he told me to take, told me the password. I had sealed it in double zip-locked bags.
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As soon as I had hold of that rock, this happened:
First, I relaxed. I felt calm. I felt like I knew exactly what would happen, when it would happen, and how it would turnout. I thought, okay, I have more time than I think. Take a nice deep breath. Breath out. Okay, grab the toilet-tank cover. Climb atop the vanity by the bathroom door. Wait for Rufus.
And I did. And then the man called Rufus easily kicked in the door. It flung open, Rufus stepped in, and I brought the porcelain tank top down on his head as hard as I could.
Rufus went down in a crash.
Landed on his ass.
He was out cold in a flash
and I went out the door just as fast.
Severe Woman was slapping her gun, tugging on the slide, and I bum-rushed her. She screeched as I knocked her over. I bounded over to the kitchen, catching a glimpse of the two Stacies still in bed, but now pulling out guns of their own. I thought back to last night. Where in the world had they stashed guns?
I saw my jeans on the kitchen floor. My phone was still in the pocket. I grabbed them, bolted for the door and danced into my pants as I hopped down the hallway. I ran past the elevator, to the stairs, down the stairs and into the street. I was barefoot, in jeans, no shirt, running down the icy sidewalk. Snow was falling.
How far did I need to go until I was safe? (fwing!) A bullet flew past me, telling me I needed to go a little farther. I looked back and saw Severe Woman coming out of my building, her long jacket billowing in the wind like a gunfighter from an old Western. (fwing, fwing!) More bullets. From the front doors, emerged one of the Stacies, I couldn’t remember which. She was wrapped only in one of my bedsheets, firing her gun errantly.
I took off running. I ducked around cars and tried to blend in as well as any shirtless, barefoot man clutching a rock and two cell phones, sprinting over the snow and ice could blend in.
After six blocks I was tanked. I stopped, caught my breath, and my bearings. My intuition said to go into the building I had stopped in front of. I obeyed.
And it looked familiar. Where was I? Ahhhh….
This was Jan’s building. Jan had a Fourth of July party here two years ago. We shot bottle rockets out this big window in her living room. The cops busted us. I forgot about that. I had only lived in my flat for about six months. I didn’t realize Jan lived so close. I couldn’t remember her apartment number, but I did remember it was on the seventh floor.
There were tons of people leaving for work, and I went against the flow, saying, “got locked out! So awkward. Just moved it! Locked myself out on the third day! My bad…” No one stopped me.
I got in the elevator, punched the number seven, and just as the elevator doors closed, through the front window, I saw the two Stacies and their two parents, looking down, examining the snow in front of the building. Looking in the exact spot I had been standing moments before.
The doors closed and I hoped I would find Jan’s apartment, quickly.
Written, Produced and Narrated by Hans Anderson