Stevie finished making his circuit around the block, having successfully led the zombies on a good chase, and was now circling back toward his own house. Up ahead, he could see between his house and Stacia’s, and he saw Tom, Stacia, and Mr. Gunderson walk out from behind Stacia’s house. He couldn’t help but grin. Mission accomplished! It wouldn’t be long before they saved everyone and got rid of the space ninjas for good!
He was just about to start running when he noted that Mr. Gunderson was heading for the cellar, and Tom and Stacia were following him. Why were they going there and not to the woods? Maybe Mr. Gunderson needed something…
Then he saw the two black shapes slinking down around the corners of the house. Then he saw Mr. Gunderson look up at them and nod. Tom and Stacia didn’t see it. They didn’t know!
“Mr. Grunderson is still bad!” Stevie said to himself. Only a moment later he realized he should have shouted it. He did so, but it was too late. Tom and Stacia went down into the cellar, and the space ninjas dropped down and slammed the doors shut.
“Oh man! Oh man! Oh man oh man oh man ohman ohman ohmanohmanohman!”
Stevie started jogging down the street, starting another circuit of the block, just to give himself time to think. “Whole town is zombies, space ninjas everywhere, Tom and Stacia are captured, and Mr. Grunderson is a bad guy. I’m on my own. What in the world am I going to do?!”
A thought came quite unexpectedly, a recollection of something Mr. Gunderson had told them early on. “They’re more like a virus,” he had said. A virus. Like a cold? What do you do when you have a cold? He had it! “Time to go grocery shopping!” he said to no one in particular.
Tom shook his head and lifted it slowly, trying to focus his eyes in the dim room. He wrinkled his nose as he recognized a foul smell in the air, then realized that the smell was secondary to the fact that he was bound hand and foot and hanging from the wall. The shooting pains in his shoulders and knees suddenly made sense as he recognized that he had ropes digging into them.
To his right he saw Stacia, tied to a chair and gagged as well. Her eyes were wide and staring, and tears were leaking out of them.
Movement caught his eye. Mr. Gunderson was working on something, but Tom couldn’t see what. His back was turned.
“So,” mumbled Tom, “that nasty smell was you all along?”
Mr. Gunderson turned and chuckled, the black pools of his eyes glistening in the dim light. “Brave young man, with just enough courage to make jokes, hiding the fear you really feel.”
“Fear? What do I have to be afraid of? A hardware store owner? His pet squids? Gimme a break.”
“Tsk tsk. Such lip. No respect in the younger generations these days, that’s the problem. I had to put a gag in your girlfriend’s pretty mouth. She was having a similar problem.”
Tom glanced at Stacia. “I’ve watched enough movies, Mr. Gunderson. I’m not going to do something stupid just because you get me angry.”
“Oh, you are clever.” Mr. Gunderson went to the source of the dim light, a small propane lantern he had burning on the workbench. “I think I ought to show you what is about to happen. I know it’s a little too classic villain, but let’s be honest, it is sort of fun to watch you squirm.” He turned up the light, and the room became brighter.
In the upper corner of the basement, clinging to and surrounding the sewer pipe that descended from the main floor bathroom, was a mass of glistening black… something. Tom thought it looked alive, and almost seemed to be pulsing. If he had to guess, that would be the source of the smell.
“Congratulations! You’ve grown a fungus!”
“Oh, it is so much more. It’s why I haven’t had you and Stacia turned yet. The secretions of the chollomorphs – what your imbecile of a brother calls ‘space ninjas’ – are able to make willing slaves. But this is going to be something different. This has the power to consume both body and mind. You and Stacia will be the first, and from there you will grow. A hundred minds. A thousand. A hundred thousand minds. Such energy… I will no longer be an exile. I will go home. And I will rule.”
Tom fought back laughter despite the circumstances. Monologuing? Really? But it bought him time to think.
“What do you mean home? Not from around these parts?”
“In a manner of speaking. Didn’t you wonder why the chollomorphs’ didn’t just turn me into a mindless zombie?”
“No, that question never even occurred to me!”
“Enough of your sass. It’s because the rules of this world don’t apply to me.” He squinted shrewdly in Tom’s direction.
Tom frowned. “So you’re saying…”
“Yes, you’re getting it, I can see it. Oh, I knew I started with the right mind!”
“Are you from their world!?”
Mr. Gunderson waved dismissively. “Does this world belong to your dogs? Your cats? My world is no more ‘their world’ than this world belongs to your animals. They are beasts, useful, and intelligent, but beasts nonetheless. They do have a certain effect on me, though… brings out something in me… a kind of…”
Mr. Gunderson shrugged. “That’s a relative term.”
“You’re planning to turn me and my girlfriend into The Blob so that we can consume a hundred thousand people so you can channel the energy from our minds to somehow dominate your world. But you say that’s only evil from a certain point of view?”
“Enough of this talk! We have more important things to do!” Mr. Gunderson went over to Stacia, and with impossible strength lifted her, chair and all, in one hand, and carried her over to the side of the basement where the mass was even now growing down the sewer pipe. “Time to begin!”
“No! Wait! Mr. Gunderson, I have more questions!” Tom cried.
Mr. Gunderson laughed. “Yes, yes. I’ve seen movies too, young man. You keep me talking so you can stall and then… what? Some master plan? Fine, out with it! What are you going to do? Tell me, so I can laugh one last time before we put an end to this!”
“I, uh… erm…”
“Maybe you’re not as clever as I thought,” he said bitterly, then turned his back on Tom. “Time to begin!”