June 7, 2021
Scarlet’s whole undeath flashed before her eyes during that trip down Barnaby’s gullet. Her world had always been full of dark and ordinary things, but it was only now, at the end, that she truly appreciated them.
How her bedroom leaked shadows. How Chucky Moldfish greeted her grumpily each morning. The way mold bloomed on walls. The scritch of a quill on paper. All Plainfield’s clatter and quiet. Chunk Jr. and Moldylocks and friendships she might have had. And her mom and dad. The could be so annoying. And so kind. Scarlet grieved it all.
She landed with a squelch on the spongy floor of Barnaby’s stomach. As she struggled to her knees, stomach juice splashed her feet. Scarlet felt herself sway. Barnaby must be moving through the house. For the moment, Scarlet was too curious to panic. She felt about her for something useful, guessing at the objects she touched. Watermelon rind … fish skeleton … squirrel … well, part of a squirrel … zombie?
Amid the sour stomach stench, Scarlet smelled something familiar.
Low Tide No. 5.
“What the fungus!” said a voice in the wet dark. “Is that you, Braindrop?”
“You’re still undead?”
“You betcha, Picklebutt! I just dozed off and didn’t hear you come in. Happy unearthday!”
Scarlet hugged her Grandmother in the squishy dark.
“So how do you like being a grownup so far?” asked Grandma Bone.
“It’s horrible! Chores, lines at the market, my jacket has a tear, my boa is a mess and … wait, what am I saying? What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know, Scardy Girl. Whatcha got in mind?”
“Me? I thought you would have an idea!”
“Hmm. Let me think for a minute.” Grandma Bone was silent for about two seconds. “I got it.”
“Yes,” Scarlet leaned in closer.
“Ow!” Scarlet felt a finger poke her chest. “I think Pokey got out.”
“No, that’s me,” said Grandma Bone.
“What’s your answer?”
“That’s it. And who’s Pokey?”
“Your answer to getting us out of here is to poke me? He’s a stray. A friend, I mean.”
“Ah. Maybe he can help. You gotta stop thinking with your head.” Grandma Bone poked Scarlet’s forehead. “And think from HERE.” She poked Scarlet’s chest again. From the inside. From your dead center.”
Scarlet was skeptical. “How?”
“Just let the answer happen,” said Grandma Bone. “Is that the cloak I felt? I don’t remember it having feathers.”
“It’s a feather boa I got today,” said Scarlet.
“That’s a nice touch. It’s a good cloak, but it needed some modernizing.”
“Well, it was a feather boa.” Scarlet pictured herself and suddenly started to giggle. The cloak now smelled like wolf stomach, as well as squirrel pee. Her boa was a limp string of damp feathers. Her hair a sodden tangle. Her nosehole a snot factory. Her shoes shorn of sequins. She shook with laughter.
“What is it, Scarlet?” asked Grandma.
“I was just imagining what the Threadheads would think if they saw me,” she gasped. “They’d hurl.” Grandma Bone started to laugh and the two held each other, shaking at the absurdity of it all.
Suddenly Scarlet shouted, “Grandma! That’s it!”
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