Sand, as far as the eye could see. Heat beating down from the terrible light above, and only the quiet breeze which moved across the sandy expanse could provide any relief.
...it uncovered something.
A prone figure, his black hair matted with sand, and his yellow shirt drenched with sweat.
He opened his eyes.
~Can I help?~
~Um, does that mean 'yes' or 'no'?~
The boy blinked. 'Oww... that /hurt/. ...Thanks.'
The boy blinked again, and stared at the little girl who'd spoken.
Small, sandy-blonde hair, blue eyes, wearing a brown cloak with sleeves which buttoned at the neck, and a brown and white bodysuit underneath...
...oh yeah, and compsed entirely of smoke.
~Hi there~ the girl said.
'Hi.' the boy said.
~Um... how'd you end up there?~
'I think it's called "Hey! That Egyptan programme was cool! Let's try making someone a mummy!".'
The girl frowned. ~I thought only girls could be mummies.~
'Not this type of mummy...' the boy said.
~Oh.~ the girl said. ~So boys can be this type of mummy too?~
'Yep.' the boy said, wiping himself down.
~Does that mean they can have babies too?~
'It's not the sort of mummy that gives birth. It's the sort of mummy that stomps round pyramids.' the boy explained.
~Oh. Do /they/ have babies?~
The boy frowned. 'I don't think so...'
A toddler mummy lumbered across the sand behind him.
~Uh-huh.~ the girl said.
'Robot. Doesn't count.'
The girl blinked. ~A /robot/ mummy? If someone can build a robot, why'd they need you?~
The boy considered this. 'Because they really, really, don't like me.'
'That's what I said.'
~What'd they say?~
'They buried me in the sandpit.' The little boy gestured at the sand around them.
~Oh.~ the girl said. ~Um, I'm called Suzie.~
'Adric.' the boy said. 'Not that I'm wondering or anything... but how did you get me out?'
~Would it make any sense to you if I said I took the sand into me and released it elsewhere?~
'Okay...' Adric said. 'But how'd you find me?'
Suzie looked distinctly uncomfortable. ~You were in the Hole.~
'Well... /yes/. I got buried in one.'
~No, I mean you were in the Hole.~
~It's a... dark place.~ Suzie said. ~I know when people are in it.~
Adric digested this. 'Okay... You're new around here, right?'
'That explains it. I was wondering why you hadn't shown up before.'
Suzie frowned. ~Why?~
'Because I'm /usually/ in a dark place...'
~That's not good.~
Adric nodded. 'I know. And I'm trying to work out /why/ I end up there...'
AH, GOOD. YOU'RE BACK. the two-foot skeleton in black said.
SQUEAK. the tiny black-robed skeleton on his shoulder added.
Suzie eeped, and hid behind Adric.
WON'T YOU INTRODUCE YOUR FRIEND? the skeleton asked.
'Suzie, Death. Death, Suzie.'
~Hi...~ Suzie stayed firmly behind Adric.
HMM. Death said.
SQUEAK, the Death of Rats suggested.
TRUE. Death agreed. SHE IS A SENSITIVE... I SUSPECT WE ARE SCARING HER, BECAUSE OF WHAT WE REPRESENT. SHE CAN FEEL WHAT WE REPRESENT, WHAT WE PERSONIFY.
SHE CAN SEE THE REALITY BEHIND THE PERSONIFICATION. IT IS ABSOLUTELY NATURAL, YES... BUT HUMANS STILL FIND IT TERRIFYING. Death said. EVEN IN THE FORM OF A TODDLER. AND EVEN TODDLERS CAN SENSE SOMETHING OF THAT REALITY.
SHE IS SCARED OF US BECAUSE WE ARE DARK AND SCARY.
'Oh.' Adric's chubby face fell.
IT'S NO ONE'S FAULT. WE /ARE/ DARK AND SCARY, AND SHE HAS REASON TO BE AFRAID. Death explained.
'Maybe this wasn't a good idea.' Adric thought for a moment. 'I know! Come on!'
~It was nice meeting you, even if... well, you know.~ Suzie said. With that, she followed Adric across the play group.~
NICE GIRL. Death said.
SQUEAK. the Death of Rats pointed out.
WELL, OF COURSE. WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?
THE MORE FRIENDS SHE HAS, THE BETTER. Death pointed out. BESIDES, I CAN'T ALWAYS BE THERE.
IN A MANNER OF SPEAKING.
'Hey, Adchan! How- Oh my-'
'Don't say it, don't say it...' Adric looked around nervously. 'I think we got away with it.'
'Um...' The little toddler - in a toddler-sized version of an okonomiyaki chef's outfit - plopped onto the ground.
'Oh, sorry. Suzie, this is Ukyou. Ukyou, this is Suzie. She managed to dig me out of the sandpit.'
'Nyssa bury you in there again?' Ukyou asked.
~Who's Nyssa?~ Suzie asked.
'Over... there.' Ukyou pointed at a little girl with long curly brown hair, and an innocent expression on her face. 'Don't be fooled. Behind that face is the biggest wedgie-giver this side of the playgroup... although that might not matter, given, um...'
~It's okay.~ Suzie said.
'Oh, she'd find a way.' Adric said gloomily. 'A hand-vacuum? High-speed fan? She'd find a way...'
~And she's the one who doesn't like you?~ Suzie asked.
'Ever since I first came here.' Adric said.
~That's odd... Did you do anything to make her angry?~
'Nope. I just happened to be the first suitable target - and once she did it, it was so fun she decided to do it again, and again, and again...'
~That's not nice. My big brother Billy's like that, and he's not nice at /all/. To me /or/ my friends.~ Suzie said firmly. ~He's over there - that boy with all the facepaint, an' that nasty plastic sword.~
'Oh great, more hatred.' Adric looked as if he were on the verge of tears.
~He just wants to terrorise me. I think he likes it.~
'Great... We should get him to meet Nyssa sometime. They'd get on like a doll house on fire.' Adric moaned.
~Why don't we?~ Suzie said.
'Two minds plotting to wedgie us?' Ukyou said. '/Not/ what I was looking forward to today...'
#Hey there, sis...#
'Oh no...' Adric moaned.
Ukyou readied her plastic spatula.
Suzie looked between Nyssa and Billy, both advancing on the little group.
Then she closed her eyes. ~Here goes nothing...~
'Here goes what?'
In a cloud of smoke, they disappeared.
On the far side of the playgroup...
Suzie, Adric and Ukyou popped out of thin air, and landed on the ground.
'Wh...' Ukyou gathered herself. 'What /was/ that?'
'The Hole,' Adric and Suzie said in unison.
Then they double took on each other.
'I did say...'Adric said.
'That bought us some time,' Ukyou said. 'But you know those two aren't gonna be happy unless they do a wedgie.'
'Preferably on us.' Adric added.
'Obsess much?' Ukyou wondered. '...What?'
Adric looked innocent. 'Who, me?'
'Keep that up, and they won't be the only ones giving you a wedgie,' Ukyou threatened.
~Guys!~ Suzie screamed.
'Okay, okay... We need to come up with something...' Adric frowned. 'Um, Suzie?'
'Um, you /are/ made of smoke, yes?'
~It's a /gas/, I know that much.~
'Okay... can you change what type of gas you're made of?'
Suzie nodded. ~But it won't work on Billy.~
~He doesn't breathe.~
'Your brother doesn't breathe?' Ukyou said incredulously. 'Everyone breathes.'
~Not Billy.~ Suzie said.
'He's not a robot, is he?'
The girls stared at Adric. He blushed.
Then Ukyou turned back to Suzie. 'You were saying?'
~He doesn't breathe.~
'Okay, how about dropping /them/ in the Hole? Give them a little taste of it?''We can't fig
~I couldn't do that!~
~We're the nice ones!~
'Yeah, so why not?'
~I might not be able to get them out. And the Adults would wonder where they were.~
'That was a risk?' Adric said.
~I kept you outside the Hole.~ Suzie said. ~You wouldn't have fallen in... probably.~
'Okay... we can't drop them in the Hole,' Ukyou mused. 'And we can't knock both of them out...'
'Probably?' Adric repeated.
'Can't hide forever - especially not from Nyssa, believe me.' Ukyou continued.
'We can't fight, we can't talk, and we can't run.'
~But we're letting /them/ decide what we do!~ Suzie said.
'Because they wanna do nasty things to us, and we don't want them to, 'cause the things they wanna do *hurt*.' Adric said.
'So why don't we make it so they're not able to do bad things to us?'
'Great idea. How?'
'If we do bad things to ourselves...'
~...they'll only enjoy it all the more.~ Suzie observed.
Adric grinned. 'I think I have an idea...'
'Hey, swamptot!' Nyssa said.
'Oh. Hi, Nyssa.'
Nyssa frowned. /This/ wasn't like Him...
'Anyway... I wanna play Frankenstein, and guess who gets to supply the brain?'
Nyssa's mouth fell open. '/WHAT?/'
'Sure. Go ahead. My brain should be ready for use in about five minutes.'
'It's not like you ever use it...' Nyssa sniped. 'What's so important, anyway?'
'That boy-' Adric pointed across the playgroup at a toddler with entirely too much face paint and long black hair. '-is going to give me a super double-quadruple wedgie sometime in the next five minutes. You can use it after he's done.'
'He-' Nyssa began.
Nyssa's eyes narrowed. 'How do I know you're not just making this up?'
'You'll find out in five minutes. Or you could go ask him.'
'Alright...' Nyssa said. 'I think I will. You're /mine/, swamptot. What makes him think he can beat on /my/ punching bag...'
'Punching bag?' Ukyou observed. 'Really possessive, that girl... say /nothing/.'
'Don't need to,' Adric said. 'You already did.'
'I /warned/ you...'
~Is this a Bad Thing?~ Suzie wondered.
'We're not doing a Bad Thing.' Adric said. 'We're telling the truth. And the Adults're always on at us to tell the truth.'
'Big risk we're taking here.' Ukyou commented.
'Not when Nyssa gets possessive. When she gets possessive, /nothing's/ going to stop her going after anything that threatens it...'
~And Billy /does/ threaten you.~ Suzie observed.
Arguing from the direction Nyssa had gone in.
'What would have happened if she'd given you a wedgie?' Ukyou asked.
~Then Billy would have first laughed - and given /her/ a wedgie to make himself feel better.~ Suzie sniffed. ~Baby supervillains...~
'Your brother's a supervillain.' Adric repeated.
'It'll be a fair fight, then.' Ukyou observed.
~Isn't not stopping a fight an evil thing?~
'Not if they'd do something worse if they weren't.' Adric pointed out. 'In this case, having more people get hurt by wedgies - specifically, us.'
~It's a grey area.~ Suzie said.
'Mm-hmm. We're gonna have to come up with something better for next time, you know that, sugar.' Ukyou said.
'They're going to get... preventative,' Adric agreed.
'Attacking us before the other does, so the other can't get us.' Adric said. 'But they'll /also/ be spending more time on fighting each other, rather than wedging anyone else.'
~So we've got some time.~ Suzie deduced.
Something was still on Adric's mind. 'He's a /supervillain/? Does that make you a baby superheroine?'
~I... I don't know. I'm not /normal/... I don't know.~ Suzie said hesitantly. ~It's something secret.~
'Wedgie,' Ukyou said. 'Your brother can /scream/, Suzie honey...'
~It runs in the family.~ Suzie said.
'You should meet my family and friends sometime,' Ukyou said. 'Well, check that...'
'You've /met/ what friends I have.' Adric said. 'Those who aren't at home or in the playpen...'
~You could meet mine,~ Suzie suggested. ~They wouldn't mind.~
'Wow.' Ukyou said. 'That girl has an impressive set of lungs, I'll give her that.'
'Don't I know it,' Adric said. 'Usually when she's shouting something like "Die, swamptot!".'
'You know, Suzie hon, meeting your friends sounds like a really good idea about now.' Ukyou said. 'How 'bout it?'
Sounds of a massive scuffle coming from the general direction of the screaming.
~Okay.~ Suzie finally agreed.
'You know...' Adric began, as the three toddled off.
'Don't say it.' Ukyou said.
Suzie's expression was confused. ~Say what?~
'Come on, Ucchan. I wanna. IwannaIwannaIwanna!'
'This could be the start of something big.'
~I don't get it.~
'Me neither,' Ukyou said, eying Adric.
'Aw...' Adric moped. 'No one ever gets those.'
~Never mind. I thought it was sweet.~
Adric finally grinned, at that. 'Thanks, Suzie.'
And, as the trio toddled off in search of new friends, the sound of two /other/ toddlers looking for new enemies could still be heard from behind them...
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat