Every story and fortune ever told is just a window into the multiverse by way of kaleidoscope and funhouse mirror. Crossing the great interplanar divide, the signals and actions reverberate until they are recognizable, but just barely. The where might be right, but the when is years or decades or centuries off. The players are seen clearly, but their circumstances misunderstood or misinterpreted and thus things get decidedly…muddled. It’s all left to the receiver of these visions - be they writer or seer - to figure it out and everyone ultimately leaves their own fingerprints on the retelling.
That being said this is either a true story that a certain writer and director with the initials J.H. completely misinterpreted, or my own mind has warped events that have happened or will happen across the multiverse even further. You be the judge
December 24th. The Chicago Suburbs. 671 Lincoln Avenue, to be specific.
Eight fifty-five P.M. The sun had gone down and the streetlights had come on hours ago. Everyone who wasn’t on third shift working was partying, already passed out early from too much eggnog, or out of town for the holidays. Nobody was around and if they were they wouldn’t see or hear jack.
“And while the cats are away,” Marv said, “the Wet Bandits will play!”
There in the van, Harry cast a disgusted look sideways at Marv. “Who the hell says that?” Though shorter and stouter than his literal partner in crime, Harry was infinitely more intimidating. It might have been the Napoleonic complex. “Who the hell are you talkin’ to, huh? Me? I know what we’re doin’, and it sure as hell ain’t playin’!”
As tall and hairy and wild as Marv looked- he could easily be a knife wielding maniac on any given subway car, the kind of stranger that children were warned about, the kind that left hook hands dangling from car doors- he was really just a big kid who hadn’t bothered to properly groom himself. He slumped down and said. “Sorry, Harry, I’m just trying to build the mood, ya know? It’s Christmas!”
“Yeah,” Harry grumbled. “But we ain’t no Santy Claus.”
“That’s right! We’re the Wet Bandits.”
Marv pumped the brakes and stared at his companion. “What is it with you, huh? Wet Bandits? Is this a joke to you or somethin’?”
“What?” Harry replied, confused. “Everybody’s gotta have a gimmick these days. It’s our calling cards.”
Marv shook his head. “You are sick, you know that?” Harry just smiled and hissed laughter. Marv pointed to the house, tonight’s target. “Alright. You ready?”
“Yeah. Let’s do this.”
Harry cut the engine and the pair opened the doors of their van.
Marv shut it less than a second later. “I mean, are you sure about this Harry?”
Harry paused. “Yeah. I’m sure I’m sure. This house is the whole reason I started casing this neighborhood. I want that house!”
“But there’s a little kid in there, Harry,” Marv said. “And he’s all alone. And it’s Christmas.” He was quickly losing his nerve now that it was go time.
“So we’ll gift wrap him and then rob the place!” Harry tried to go but Marv’s hand on his shoulder gave him pause.
“Come on, Harry. He’s eight. And he’s home alone…do we really wanna do this?”
Harry shirked off Marv’s hand. “He’s eight friggin’ years old and still in diapers. He’s a spoiled little rich kid whose Mommy and Daddy couldn’t even be bothered to toilet train him. What was your life like when you was eight?” Marv wobbled his head to the side, seeing the logic in Harry’s statement.
They’d done their research and tailed the kid, from a far enough distance so he didn’t suspect, keeping him just on the horizon. No one else was coming in or out of that house, and every other house in that culdesac they’d already scouted and hit. That was a fact.
Having spent so much of their life in and out of prison, the two ne’er do wells were still novices at social media, but had struck lucky when they found a twitter account with shots of the house. No pics of the family, no pics of anyone, but lots of talk about diapers, video games, scout meetings, Mommy, and the like. Kids’ stuff mostly. Something about con for bottle cap collectors or something. The kind of stuff that kids who got beat up were into.
They didn’t know what terms like ABDL and AD and NSFW meant. Who did anyways? Kids these days were always shortening things. And what was “Ageplay Age?” Was that like a playgroup thing or something like 7 and up? The kid definitely wasn’t doing himself any favors by saying “8 but still in diapers”. Sheesh!
What they did know is that this Kevin kid was frequently alone, and that he had no. Scouting and his social feed.
“What I don’t get is why hasn’t anybody called the cops,” Marv wondered aloud. “That’s child neglect.”
Harry adjusted his ski cap over his nearly bald head. “Who knows? Maybe he’s got like a roomba babysitter, or his parents ‘zoom’ or whatever. Rich folks are friggin’ strange and can get away with just about anything.” On that, Harry had no idea just how right he was about to be proved.
Clad in trenchcoats and with crowbars in hand, the pair of thieves finally climbed out of the van, just outside the targeted house.
“So how do you wanna go in?” Marv asked the brains of the operations.
Harry spoke quietly and confidently. “We’ll go to the back door. Maybe he’ll let us in. You’ll never know.”
“Yeah,” Marv agreed. “He’s a kid. Kids are stupid.”
Inside the house a grandfather clock toned the hour, and both Harry and Marv salivated with greed and anticipation. Fancy clocks meant fancy furniture. Fancy furniture meant so much more. This was going to be such a great score.
From the outside, their silhouette’s loomed large and intimidating. Good thing that brat already wore diapers. He’d need them tonight.
Harry rapped on the outside of the window. “Merry Christmas little fella…” he sang. Even he didn’t think he sounded sincere. He continued anyway, cupping his hand to the back kitchen window while Marv grinned quietly to himself. “We know that you’re in there…and that you’re alllllll alone.”
“Yeah kid,” Marv added. “C’mon, open up. It’s Santy Claus…” he looked to Harry. “And his elf!”
That made the shorter of the two chuckle lightly. Trouble is they were both envisioning themselves as St. Nick and the other as the little helper.
“We’re not gonna hurt you,” Harry lied in the same sing-song cadence.
Harry kept piling it on. “No, no. We’ve got some real nice presents for you.”
“Be a good little fella now, and open the door!” Harry was smiling, to be sure, but not because of the Christmas spirit in his heart.
The smile didn’t last long.
Pain! Sharp! Stinging! Pain! Like a mosquito made love to a dentist drill and the bastard love child played left tackle for the Bears. All concentrated right in the short man’s dick. “Mother! Fffu…raggan maggan ruzza! It hurt so much he couldn’t even properly curse, and Harry knew how to cuss in two different languages. Waddled and wobbled out into the backyard, hoping on some instinctive level that the snow would numb the incredible burning pain he was being subjected to.
Marv bumbled after his compatriot, trying to parse out Harry’s hoarse, mumbling, whispering non-curses. “What?” he asked. “What? What happened?”
“Get that little-!” Harry managed to grunt out and thumb in the direction of the back door, before continuing to tend to his privates. Why was it hurting so much?
Marv turned from his friend back to the rear entrance, trying to puzzle things out. Where had the attack come from? Aha! They hadn’t paid the doggy door any mind, but it was so obvious that even a Marv could figure out the logical course of events that had transpired.
As Marv ‘smartly’ got down on his hands and knees, Harry grabbed a hold of something sharp and pointy. He’d thought he’d been shot downstairs with a b.b. but the tiny cylinder he pulled out of the front of his pants said otherwise. A needle? Like from a tranq gun? Who the hell gave a kid a tranq gun?
Meanwhile, Marv stuck his head through the flap of the doggy door and got his first good view. Straight down the barrel of a gun. “Hello,” a new voice said.
Pain! Literally blinding pain! Like somebody loaded a tattoo gun with a railroad spike and drove it right between Marv’s eyes! Marv flopped backwards and started writing on the ground, screaming in agony, gripping at the needle that had embedded itself in his forehead.
It might have been the excruciating stabbing sensation, something inside the needle’s payload or just Marv’s natural lack of mental acuity, but in that moment, Marv completely forgot everything about the previous two seconds beyond the barrel of that gun and the excruciating pain. It didn’t occur to him that the “hello” he’d heard didn’t sound like it was coming from an eight year old or that the person holding the gun, even at a glance, was much much too big to be in diapers.
What Marv did realize was redundant and stated too late. “The little jerk is armed!”
“That’s it! That’s it!” Harry shrieked. “I’m goin’ around the front! You go down to the basement!”
It was a rough trip for both of them. Literally.
Harry found out that the walkway up to the front door had been iced over the hard way. He didn’t stumble as much as completely fall flat on his back, spread eagle, resembling a certain cartoon coyote. It was like those bad comedians who slipped on banana peels. Nobody slipped like that!
Evidently they did. Harry was in no mood to do bad pratfalls, yet here he was on the icy pavement…
Ka-THUNK, Ka-THUNK, Ka-THUNK, Ka-THUNK!
Marv likewise discovered that the steps to the basement had been tampered with to similar results. He skidded down them, his ass and then the back of his head meeting each and every step on the way down.
The closed basement door stopped his slide, and for a sweet second he was only semi-conscious on the ground, curled up in the fetal position. The impact with the door caused a light smattering of snow to dust itself onto Marv’s still frame.
If they had chosen at that moment to leave, they might have been able to lick their wounds, cut their losses and burgle another day. It was a potent mixture of pride, greed, anger, and perhaps something in those needles that made them press on.
On wobbling, newborn deer legs, Marv climbed to his feet at the bottom of the icy stairwell leading to the basement; using his crowbar to grab ahold of the indentation on a window pane and pull himself up. Grunting and groaning, he struggled up until the soles of his feet were touching the ground instead of the door.
Any relief he felt was incredibly short lived. He barely had time to peer through the less than paper thin curtains and get a lay of the inside before his feet slipped again and he plummeted back down.
His face got a minor case of road rash, skidding down door and scraping against the cement at the bottom. A low moan leaked from his lips. This was going to be one of those nights…except he’d never had to go through a night like this in his life. He felt like a one-year-old trying to learn to walk. At least the first time around he didn’t have so far to fall…
Also he basically had a pillow in his pants to cushion his fall back then.
Harry whipped around to all fours, growling and grasping at the iron hand railing. “That smart alek!” he hissed to himself. His hands were sure but his feet were doubly the opposite, making his top and bottom halves at war with each other, scrambling and skidding around. It might have been easier to just tromp through the grass and snow up to the front door.
Such a thought didn’t have time to register to Harry, however, as like his compatriot he was sent slipping backwards, ass over tea kettle and legs to the sky onto the back of his noggin. Folded like a book, it’s a good thing the wind was knocked out of Harry’s lungs. The words that would have come out of him would have been something that no child should hear.
As his kneecaps came away from his chest and he laid there spread-eagle on the street, Harry resolved right then and there that he was gonna get the little so-and-so for putting him through this.
The doorknob! Marv used his crowbar to pull himself up by the door knob! Success! Struggling and slipping, he regained his standing position, and as he had done nearly a hundred times before, he leaned in and tried to force open the door with his crowbar.
No locks or hinges snapped.The wood cracked and splintered but barely creaked, as if the door wasn’t putting up any resistance.
It wasn’t putting up any resistance. At all.
That’s when Marv remembered to check the doorknob.
And found it unlocked and the door to the basement open…
It was dark inside, but to Marv’s eyes it looked like your average suburban basement: Ladders and gardening supplies, and power tools, and such. Even in the dim light, Marv could make out the large blocky shapes of either old or half done projects. He saw highchairs and crib railings leaned against the far wall. Was that an unfinished rocking horse? Kids’ parents must be trying really hard for another baby or else they were just hoarders.
Quiet as a cat he slid through the darkness until he found a lightbulb. He pulled the cord gently and was more than a little befuddled when the entire light fixture hit the floor. Weird. He hadn’t pulled it that hard. A length of cord was falling down right behind it, coiling up like a snake. The bulb hadn’t been in the ceiling but dangling from the cord instead.
What was on the other end? Marv looked up into the old laundry chute directly above him.
The flour sack that rammed into his skull hit him like a clothes iron, exploding and bursting all over him while sending him sprawling back to the floor. It wasn’t particularly hard, but anything dropping from the height of two stories with that kind of mass was going to be a piledriver.
A man relying on more of his brain to function would have been killed. But not Marv. Bruised as he was, the powder in the sack masked it nicely. It wasn’t flour though. It was sweeter smelling, of flowers and lilacs. And for some reason, it reminded him of a baby’s bottom. Through his throbbing headache, the thief felt like he’d had thick sunscreen overdone all over his head and face. He opened his eyes and coughed out a mushroom cloud of the stuff. Disgusting!
At least he smelled good. The raw chafing marks from where his cheeks had dragged across the doorframe felt better too.
Harry had not yet given up on sieging the front of this suburban castle. His likely concussion only emboldened him. “All right! That’s it you little…you little…son of a-…”
Wow, it was hard to even think of a swear world. Harry must’ve hit his head harder than he thought. “Little brat.”
The shorter of the two burglars was no more graceful in his second attempt, but much more determined and stubborn besides. He leaned hard to the left on the railing while his legs splayed hard to the right. It was hard work but he eventually got all the way to the door, growling and panting for breath. It’s amazing what determination, a low center of gravity, and good upper body strength can accomplish.
Forgetting his tool of choice, Harry went for the doorknob and instantly regretted it. Though to be fair to him, who would have thought that a car battery would have been hooked up to the other end.
Sparks leapt out from the metal knob and lines of lighting arced up and down Harry’s arm causing his entire body to seize and quake like an old time preacher channeling spirits. For some reason, his arm refused to let go and the electrified smell of burning, charred flesh embedded itself into Harry’s nostrils.
A final bit of voltage trailed from Harry’s fingertips when he finally managed to let go, still vibrating on the ground like a cheap windup toy. “Uguguguguguugugugug!” Drool started to leak out of the corners of his mouth and drip down.
As he lay there on the cold pavement convulsing, and shaking, unable to control any part of his body, he knew right there that he would murder the child tonight. The first bit of control he regained allowed his hand to spasm up to his lips. The only thing shaking worse than his limbs was his mind and Harry was afraid he might swallow or bite off his tongue and was trying to make anything as a barrier. Better to lose a thumb than his tongue.
He popped his thumb in just as the shaking stopped, and sucked on it for a moment, trying to get control of himself.
The old, infantile gesture was oddly comforting right then and there, even though Harry was grateful that no one could see him like this. Out of context he looked like some kind of bozo instead of a poor mook who’d had his circuits fried.
Speaking of comfort, a comfortable warm sensation began to spill out over the front of Harry’s winter pants. He allowed himself a silly smile before he realized that warm wet stuff coming out of a body usually wasn’t good. “Mmmph!” he exclaimed over his thumb.
Blood? Was it blood? He’d been shot in the dick? Was he bleeding out there, too? He dashed to his feet and started pressing his hands against his pants trying to stem the tide of blood. What a terrible way to go! His cousin Louie had gotten his throat stabbed in prison and Harry was gonna bleed out through his dick!
He held up the palms of his hands and saw the wet glisten they held, yet no trace of crimson presented itself anywhere on his person. Gingerly he sniffed his fingers.
In reality, it was nothing to be frightened or upset about. Just a muscle spasm. He’d been electrocuted and all his limbs were flapping and his heart was jackhammering. Why wouldn’t his bladder get in on the act? Of course he’d pissed his pants. Who wouldn’t? He’d still tell Marv that it was melted snow or something.
The first step up the basement had taken Marv’s left shoe. The second had taken his right. The third had taken his left sock. The fourth, his right.
Tar. Gross, thick, sludgy, disgusting, sticky tar! The little brat had coated the stairs with the stuff, and each step up claimed another piece of foot adornment from him.
Marv wasn’t going to let that stop him. Even as he winced with every successive step, the black morass clinging to his bare feet. It was almost like wallowing in pig shit.
Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. Marv was really good at not thinking about things. Harry told him that kind of stuff all the time. Just don’t think about it. Just keep going. One step at a time.
One. Icky Sticky. Gooey. Gross. Disgusting. Mucky. Careful step at a time.
Left foot. Right Foot. Left Foot. Right Foot. Left Foot. Right-
The metallic snapping sound of something like a bear trap closed in around Marv’s left foot. It didn’t hurt, but it sure as heck got his attention. His problem was, it didn’t close until he’d already planted it and picked up his right foot, which he also promptly set down on the next step.
Stuck! Trapped! Booted! He couldn’t move. He leaned forward and gritted his teeth straining to take that next step up the stairs, but the box clapped around his ankles was some combination of too heavy or too stuck to the tar.
“Hrrrrrrn!” He struggled against his new bonds, looking like a two bit mime fighting against the wind, but his feet stayed frozen in place. Stubborn as always, Marv leaned forward and grabbed the underside of his right knee. If he couldn’t step out of these beartrap box shoes, he’d yank himself out.
When his arms failed, he started throwing his whole back into it, wrenching his head back like an old school rocker….if only he looked so cool. “Gotta! Get!”
Things came loose and gravity kicked in. Momentum did the rest. Marv tumbled through the air, screams bouncing off brick as he jackknifed off the stairs and onto the back top of his skull. The impact had been so hard that several crib railing clattered from their spots leaning against the wall. The unfinished rocking horse across the room seemed to whinny and mock him, judging and staring at him, even though no one had painted on its eyes yet.
At least the trap boxes had broken off in the fall. What kind of psycho doomsday prepper did that kind of thing? Wouldn’t just using a really sharp nail have been easier?
Free though he might have been, fresh air did not lap gently at Marv’s ankles. Something yet remained. Something that had been inside the trap boxes and were now stuck to his feet.
“Socks?” Marv wondered aloud. But based on the gentle pink and blue colors and the duckies stitched in, ‘booties’ would have been a more apt descriptor. The lanky, bearded thief tried to peel the new garments off of his feet, but his soles were too heavily coated in tar to get them off.
Marv got his feet underneath him and stood up….for approximately three seconds.
They weren’t just booties. Something was sewn into the bottom of them; something round and spherical, like tennis balls. Marv’s knees shook and his arms splayed out trying to keep balance while he weebled and wobbled on his own two feet.
He tried again, this time grabbing onto a nearby shelf. It was easier…but not good. Experimentally he let go and automatically reverted to the same awkward, barely standing stance.
“Heh!” He laughed to himself. “Heh-heh!” He had this. He totally had this.
Marv lifted up his foot to try and take a step. He didn’t have this! His body titled violently to one side like a boppo doll, only there was nothing automatically popping him back up. Desperately, he flailed and tried to latch onto the tool case to catch himself.
The heavy wooden case avalanched down on top of him with a cling, clang, and a clung. Marv found the tool case the hard way. With no choice left to him, Marv dug himself out and crawled on hands and knees back the way he came. There was no way he was getting up those awful tar covered steps and he didn’t want to see what other surprises lay that way.
What if his hands got stuck in more booties? Hobbling around on all fours, he looked and felt ridiculous “Harry!” He cried out. “Harreeee!” He sounded like a baby calling for his Mommy.
“Rasanfrasanmasan…friggin…rasan…muther…cruthathat…!” Feeling like he was still sparking like a firework and smoking like a cigar, Harry abandoned the front door assault and doubled back shaking as he walked. The cursing made him feel better about the state of his pants, but only a little. “I’ll rip his head off!”
Swiftly, smartly, Harry kicked at the doggy door at the back entrance, standing to the side lest another volley of darts whiz through. He exhaled when nothing happened.
“Ptew!” He spit on his hand and reached for the doorknob. He stopped himself and instead tapped it quickly and gently. He jerked his hand all the way back to his chest, fearing a shock and another round of horizontal break dancing. When he felt nothing he tried it again, a little braver this time.
“Heheh!” Alright! This door wasn’t booby trapped. That must have been why the kid was posting guard there. Now he’d run out of ammo or gotten scared or both and ran away. Harry did a few more taps on the door knob just in case and was pretty much rattling the brass knob before he was confident enough to give it a full grip. “You’re dead, kid.”
Confidently, he turned the knob and stepped inside.
Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick! Christ on a cracker! Burning hot wax squirted out of seemingly nowhere right on top of Harry’s noggin. The ski cap offered minimal protection, it’s fibers singing, sizzling and dissolving with close to a bucket of scalding hot goop poured on top of it. He was a fresh candle put under a blow torch! He was an action figure getting put under a magnifying glass and his head was starting to melt!
Most people believe in a thing called a “Fight or Flight” response, and that when presented with danger, a person will either get aggressive or run away. Harry found out the hard way that there was at least one additional option: Freeze.
He stood there in the threshold face contorted in agony, screaming while more and more of the clear white lava sprayed on his head. The scene was something out of a B-Movie when he was a kid: “The Wax Museum of Corpses”. Harry didn’t think it was so impressive watching back then. Now he knew why the people in it screamed.
Adrenaline and something resembling bravery finally kicked in and Harry pushed his way forward and was rewarded with the sound of mounted knick knacks coming loose and hitting against the kitchen floor.
The world went dark and gray. A bucket of wax had been sprayed onto his dome, so it only made sense that a literal bucket had been perched to fall on his head as soon as he’d pushed past the door. Oldest trick in the book, right out of the funnies, no less. Harry should have seen it coming…
He didn’t see much of anything at the moment, what with the bucket on his head. His curses and muttering only echoed back at him while he stumbled around blindly, spinning like a drunken tornado and bumping into kitchen cabinets.
He folded himself over what must have been the kitchen table.
“GRRRRR…”Finally, he was able to pry the bucket off his head and send it clanging across the room. “Grah!” He looked around at the kitchen and the havoc that had been wrought. Some messed up cross between a super soaker and a hot glue gun lay on the floor, still attached to white ropes and a pulley system meant to go off as soon as anyone was unlucky enough to burst through the kitchen door.
No more traps though. Not in here, anyways.
The burning sensation had stopped. The wax had cooled. Gently, Harry patted the top of his head to inspect the damage that had been done. He was gonna use this kid’s baby teeth as a chisel to get this stuff out.
“Hm?” He’d been expecting a hard outer shell, still dripping, or the remains of his cheap knit cap, or even parts of his own scalp. Imagine his surprise then, when instead of any of that, he touched upon something rather soft, with frills on it. “Wha?”
Angry and confused, he slammed the door and caught a glimpse at his reflection in the window. There hadn’t been nothing in that bucket….
Hot glued, practically fused to Harry’s head, was a big, frilly, adorable, teal baby bonnet. He looked kind of cute, too.
Harry roared! “Where are you, you little creep?!”
Marv clambered back up the stairs on all fours, his crowbar in his mouth like a dog with its bone. Foolishly, he tried to stand back up once he reached the top of the stairs, and that only resulted in the same manic flailing and futile spasms moments before he was plopped back down on his butt.
Dejected and frustrated he crawled on hands and knees through the snow, past decorative trees and ferns. Briefly, the thought occurred to him that he may be able to get in through the doggy door, even though realistically there was no way he’d fit more than his head through.
The glint of festive lights caught Marv’s eye and he looked up. A Christmas tree lit up inside the house! By an open window! A first floor window, no less. Something low enough to the ground where even a crawler might be able to shimmy his way up and over with relative ease.
“Harry!” Marv called from his knees. “I’m coming in!”
Harry tromped through the house looking for the damn kid. Huffing and puffing, he closed in on a closed panel door. “Oh no, I’m really scared!” A voice called from behind the kitchen door. Odd. It sounded high…ish. Falsetto almost. Like it was an affection or something.
Maybe the kid was on puberty hormones or whatever…
“It’s too late for you, kid,” Harry sneered. “We’re already in the house. We’re gonna getcha!”
“Okay,” the voice taunted back. “Come and get me!”
Fortune favors the bold, or so Harry believed. He’d already been dinged by being cautious and slowly opening the last door. It made sense to charge forward.
Harry flung open the door and dashed straight into-!
The world went blurry. Hands and face went sticky. It didn’t stop Harry, but it made him slow down to peel the massive sheet of fly paper off of his upper body… “Ptew! Ugh! Now you’re dead!” It also distracted him from the trip wire until his shins had already tripped things.
A mechanical whirring. A hot wind and then…
The trip wire had led to a high powered fan posted right outside the dining room door. The tray of pea green gloop directly in front of the fan sailed through the air, finding a home by splattering all over Harry’s face, hands, and part of his chest.
Add wet and sticky the amount of textures that Harry was being forcibly exposed to tonight.
He licked his lips, and tasted hints of actual vegetables. This was literally baby food! And now it was dribbling down his chin, with no easy way to wipe the stuff off.
Harry looked like a tot that had gone a couple rounds in a highchair with a jar of gerbers and either lost or won depending on whether or not eating it had been the objective. He looked like he didn’t even know how to feed himself. The only thing missing was a bib.
Peeling back the curtain with his crowbar, Marv peeked in to make sure the coast was clear. No kid in sight. No Harry, either, but one thing at a time. He coughed up a little more of what he’d decided was baby powder, and pulled himself up over the ledge, being careful not to put too much weight on his now useless feet.
Leaning forward, he tipped over the ledge towards his next painful mistake. Marv had seen the tree. He’d seen the window. He saw no kid, or Harry. He also didn’t see the small mountain of tiny legs perched just beneath the window sill.
Anyone with a child will tell you that those tiny bricks are suburban caltrops and hurt like all get out when coming into contact with unsuspecting feet. As it turns out, they’re not that much better on the palms of one’s hands or the knee caps.
CRUNCH. CRUNCH. CRUNCH CRUNCH
Blonted pins held up by square beds burrowed into Marv’s cold and weary skin, and the lanky intruder’s mind bubbled over with rage at the grave injustice that was being done to him.
“GAH!” He screamed. “I”M GONNA KILL THAT KID!” He shuffled over to the carpet to pick yellow, red, blue, and green miniature mines out of him.
Harry was swatting and the bits of mashed pees, wiping away the bits that hadn’t been completely smeared in. If he hadn’t been looking down at himself and trying not to fall for any more tripwire traps, he might not have noticed his best friend whimpering, drenched in white powder and crawling on the floor.
Marv looked up, surprised. “Harry?”
“Why the hell are you crawling around on the floor for?”
“Why the hell are you dressed like a toddler?” He noticed the stain running down the middle of Harry’s pants… “Did you pee yourself?” All the cold got chased out of Harry’s body and any part of his skin that wasn’t peppered with baby food was very obviously blushingly pink.
The third voice broke in from the stairs. “I’m up here you morons! Come and get me!”
Instinct preceded thought. The two thugs rushed to meet each other in the middle and get to the stairs. Harry did another banana peel slip worthy of the great Vaudeville legends. It wasn’t ice this time; just those little toy cars that are in every toy aisle across America. Of course the brat had toy cars.
Marv? Marv couldn’t walk and just forgot. Standing, rushing, and then toppling like a shoddy block tower that had been stacked too high. The toy cars might as well have been more lego bricks crunching underneath his frame.
Nevertheless, they thudded in stereo, the bass of their falling forms adding to the soundtrack of an otherwise silent night.
“You guys give up? Or are you thirsty for more?”
Room was spinning. Vision blurry. Head throbbing. Harry and Marv followed the taunting voice up the red carpeted stairs. The kid was sitting there at the top, smiling cockily down on their prone forms.
He wore red footie pajamas with a Santa Claus logo on them, and his blonde hair was cut in a dorky bowl. Between his legs, the bulge of a likely wet diaper gave a rounded shape to the lower portion of the jammies.
The only thing that was even slightly intimidating was the tranq rifle slung over his back.
And he looked damn near thirty. They let that sink in while he waddled just out of sight at the top of the stairs, his crinkle still giving away his position.
They’d screwed up. They’d really screwed up! How had they gotten this so wrong? This wasn’t a kid at all! Just some…some…some weirdo that liked dressing up as one and playing pretend! This was supposed to be child’s play, but it was somebody else who’d been playing child with them!
Harry and Marv looked at each other. Their pride had been wounded and it demanded vindication. There was no turning back now! This padded prick was really going to get it.
Harry was the first to his feet. He shambled over Marv, forcing out popping farts when he stepped on the taller man’s gut. Marv was doing his best to crawl up after Harry, quickly getting used to skittering on his knees.
“Duck!” Harry called out.
After everything they’d already been through, the pair shouldn’t have been surprised that this madman whose home they’d invaded had more than a few packs of adult diapers in his possession. Neither should they have been surprised that the diapers weren’t just plain old medical Depends like what old people wore and had colorful cartoonish designs. Neither one was surprised by that.
What had surprised them, equally, that several of said packs had been bound together and swung down on a rope from above like a plastic backed wrecking ball.
They’d both been surprised. But Harry had been quicker to duck.
Harry looked back to see Marv moaning and groaning back on the floor, his legs and bootied feet raised slightly off the hardwood floor. “Don’t worry Marv, I’ll get him for you!”
Marv looked further up the stairs, and pointed, “Harreeeeeeee!”
That’s when Harry got nailed with the second load.
The shorter thug spun through the air and landed face first, belly flopping straight onto Marv’s prone body.
Marv’s intestines groaned with the sudden added pressure and gave out without a fight. It was as if a bomb exploded inside Marv’s belly, and the resulting shock waves were making themselves known. Without warning his bowels violently emptied themselves into the seat of his pants, spreading wet much everywhere dripping down his boxers and clinging to his thighs, all while Harry lay uncomfortably atop him. It was over before he could so much as inhale.
Marv let out a pained, pathetic whimper. The fact that he couldn’t so much as stand to get his damned pants off extra salt in the wound.
One thief with wet pants, the other with a full load in the back. Now both of them were decidedly and definitively in need of those diapers.
“He’s not a kid, Harry,” Marv quietly pleaded. “I don’t think we can take him.”
Harry was still chest to chest with his cohort. “Aw, shut up, will you?”
Marv winced. “You’re missing some teeth.”
“Where?” Harry started feeling around his mouth with his hands, and ignored the taste of baby food that he was adding to his palette. He found the gap. “It’s my gold tooth! My gold tooth” He clambered off of Marv. “I’ll kill him!” he bellowed. “I’ll kill him!”
Insensate with fury, Harry limped up the stairs with Marv crawling after him, wincing with every jiggle in his hindquarters. He was still wary enough to hold his hands out in front of him lest another nasty surprise swing down from the rafters. He couldn’t see it, but the gesture only added to the guise of a baby who hadn’t quite mastered the art of the stroll yet.
“If you bean me one more time, you freak, I’m gonna snap off your cajones and boil them in motor oil!”
Marv looked around for imminent threats. To the right of the stairs, the pair caught a bit of red and a crinkling sound. “There he is!” Harry shouted, charing after their prey.
Another trip wire, this one more sturdy and not connected to any gadget or gizmo, lived up to its name. With all the grace of a pregnant giraffe Harry tripped and somersaulted through the air crashing once again on his back. By this point, both criminals had spent more time prone than upright.
Marv had learned from his time closer to the carpet, though, and easily outmaneuvered the trap. Getting good at moving on all fours, it was relatively simple to push off the balls of his feet and leap forward and tackle the so-called kid at the knees.
“I’ve got him, Harry!” Marv yelled. “I’ve got him! Get up!” Marv closed his eyes and braced himself for a flurry of panicked blows to the head. Nothing he couldn’t take. No fists came raining down, though.
Instead their adversary was reaching for something.
“I got him!”
Harry barely stirred, the events of the evening more than taking their toll on his mind and body.
The ‘something’ was just out of sight.
“Come on, Harry! Give me a hand!”
Something up on the attic stairs.
“Harry! Help me! Get up!”
Something got wedged in between Marv’s lips. Something big, round, and rubbery, with a plastic guard on it so that he couldn’t swallow it. The little ring from the middle flopped slightly. A pacifier?
Except not! Marv would have just spit it out, but the bulb inside was inflating somehow, expanding to take up most of the room in his mouth, turning a children’s soother into a ball gag with no key!
“MMMMMMMPH!” All of Marv’s panicked screams as he wrenched and yanked at the pacifier failed. “MMMMMPH! MMMPH! MMMPH!”
Their victim forgotten, Marv tried his best to revive Harry, who seemed to be dozing peacefully, a baby taking a nap after a big Christmas Dinner. Marv shook Harry’s shoulders, but the shorter man only ragdolled.
He started patting Harry’s cheeks.
“MMMMPH! MMMPH!” Which was supposed to mean “Harry wake up.”
He gave a tap. Slp.
Some more taps. Slp-slp-slp
Harry rose like Frankenstein from the slab. “OWWWW!” He shouted. “What gives?”
Marv did his best to try and explain, but only muffled mumblings made their way past the plastic shield guard.
THWACK THWACK THWACK!
Harry repaid the pain triple fold onto Marv. “See? How do you like getting slapped in the face? You like it? Eh? No?” He blinked and finally noticed the gag lodged into Marv’s mouth. “What do you got that for?”
Marv pointed to the pacifier and tried to explain. “Mmmmph! Mmmph mmph mmph!”
“So spit it out!”
Harry shook his head in disgust and tears started to form in Marv’s eyes. “Ugh. You’re just as bad as he is.”
He climbed to his feet and hustled up the attic stairs; a weeping, pathetic Marv crawling up behind him.
“Oh crap. Will you look at this?”
When the two climbed to the attack, they came upon it: The thing that must have existed considering all the crazy, yet they never expected. A giant nursery, painted baby blue with cutesy animal drawings stenciled along the ceiling’s edge.
A giant crib. A giant rocking chair. An adult sized walker. With everything to scale as it was, both grown men felt decidedly smaller than they really were.
“Check the closet,” Harry barked out. He went over to a large wooden chest painted in primary colors; a toy box of some kind.
Marv sighed behind his paci-gag and started trudging on hands and knees to the wide open closet. The freak probably wasn’t in there anyways. Everything was on hangers and there wasn’t anything long enough to hide a pair of feet. Just a bunch of onesies and too-short overalls.
He stopped by the giant changing table and looked longingly at the stacks of diapers. It might be nice to slip into one of those. It’d be embarrassing but a lot more comfy than what he was stuck in now.
Harry slammed the lid down on the toybox. “Where the hell did he go?” he wondered.
“MMMPH MMMPH MMMPH MMMPH MMMPH” said Marv which was supposed to mean. “Maybe he committed suicide.”
From outside came that same taunting voice. “Down here, you horse’s ass!” The two followed the sound to the window. Sitting in a tree house (because of course he was) was the padded maniac who had been tormenting them this whole time. Between the real house and the tree one, was a thick line of rope. Diaper boy had obviously ziplined it down to the tree house. “Come and get me before I call the police!”
“MMMPH MMMPH! MMMPH!” Marv started to crawl away, but Harry grabbed him by the belt.
“Wait. Wait.” He peered out the window, staring down at the not-so-little boy. “That’s just what he wants us to do. To go back downstairs through his funhouse so we get all tore up.” He took out a couple of handkerchiefs that he used to wipe fingerprints and started wrapping them around his hands to prevent blistering. He looked oddly wise, and awfully dangerous, despite the frilly bonnet, goop covered face, and missing teeth.
“MMMMPH MMMMPH! MMMMPH!”
Harry waved the objection off. “He’s not calling the cops. Do you know how much we could sue for with all these booby traps? This is a game to him.” He stepped out the attic window and onto the roof, using the rope as a balance. “So I say, let’s play!”
Marv was protesting all the way, even as he crawl-climbed out of the window and followed Harry, even has his partner taunted him. Funny that the taller of the two was scared of heights.
Slowly, inch by inch, the two went out on the rope, more than a story up above the snow covered ground. Marv couldn’t stop whimpering or looking down. His whimpers became a groan when something leaked out of his right trouser leg. So gross! Then the thought of how far it fell made him grip on tighter.
“Keep going!” Harry urged. “Keep going!”
When they were about half way, the duo heard another catcall that made them look up. “Hey guys!”
In his hands, the maniac in the red jammies now held a pair of hedge clippers. Like a psychotic Tweety Bird he opened them, positioned them just beneath the rope at his end and smiled wickedly.
“Go back!” Harry yelled! “Go back!”
The rope went slack and the pair went free falling, this time, they knew, to their deaths. They land and break their necks, and only one of them was so much as physically able to scream.
Something broke their fall. Something round, and plastic, and click-clack-cluttery. For split-moment, each one had thought they’d died, and that Heaven (or the other place) was rainbow colored. When their heads breached the surface and the world made sense in terms of up down left and right again, they realized what had happened.
“A baww pit?” Harry lisped. “Why awe we inna baww pit?”
Through the snow, their adversary approached, seeming so much bigger and more confident than they were. Brushing his bowl cut back, he smirked and said. “Aaaaand I think that’s about enough time. That was fun though. Thanks.”
“Huh?” Harry mumbled. “Wha?” Getting harder to focus. Words were making less and less sense. Maybe it was the balls, but everything seemed to be spinning.
“Did you already forget the little darts I stuck you guys with?” the child said. Holy crap, how did he suddenly turn eight? “Fun little cocktail. Tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, a taaaaad of LSD.”
“Bluh bluh bluh bluh?”
Marv just sucked silently on his pacifier, looking at birds made out of stardust.
“Oh yeah. It’s hitting you guys good. Really good. Not surprising. Get your heart rate going and that stuff spreads like crazy.”
“Yeah. I remember the first time I hit on that stuff. Wooof. Really good headspace, though.”
Both of the “Wet Bandits” were now living up to their namesake and not caring. The words that the “kid” was saying weren’t even registering.
“So I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you guys. The good news is you get to spend Christmas with me and some friends. They love taking care of big dumb babies with no thoughts in their heads. It’s good practice.” He dug into a pocket hidden in the jammies. “The bad news is, by the time you two sober up, you’ll be in jail and there will be some very embarrassing pictures of you online.”
With that, he took out his cell phone and clicked the first of what would be many, many pictures.