The Man in the Box Chapters 5 & 6

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Vol 1, No 5: The Healing Lake

Treading the warm water, Robby wallowed on the irony that he had ended up actually killing the girl when he had originally meant to save her. He waited and watched the rolling water, but she never surfaced. The only movement came from his own wading as he worked to stay afloat.

Panic grew in his chest as the realization—therealization, his new reality—slowly pooled in his brain like fresh blood on the asphalt: He was a murderer. A childmurderer. That wasn’t something one could just shed like old skin. That stuck. Forever.

It was self-defense!he assured the cynic voices screaming out in his head.

Doesn’t matter,those voices retorted. You took a life. You can’t go back. It cannot be undone. You cannot go back.

But if he hadn’t kicked her, she would have drowned him for sure. Her strength was unreal! He triedto get away, but he was about to die himself. He did the right thing, damn it! It was self-defense! But . . . was it reallyself-defense if it meant killing a child? Robby strongly doubted it, as much as he tried not to. And he knew no jury would ever see it that way.

He ducked his head back under the water, but he couldn’t see any sign of her below. She was gone. He would have rescued her in a heartbeat, but she was nowhere to be seen. And by this time she was surely dead. No one could hold their breath for that long.

He re-emerged, and just as he inhaled, he felt a cold spot on his lower back that caused him to swallow another mouthful of water. He turned around, and a ball of hair met him face-to-face. It was the dog, of all things. And, stranger still, his face was no longer bashed in, and the water wasn’t red around him. He wasn’t whimpering or whining or struggling for life. Instead, he was just a dog paddling in the water next to Robby, seemingly happy as could be.

“Pup, if you can live through that, then surely you can talk, so you mind telling me how you’re still alive?” Robby said as he rubbed the dog’s face. “Come on,” he said, swimming toward the shore.

When he got to the edge of the lake, Robby noticed that there was no bottom for his feet to step on. Instead, the shore was like a rim, like he was swimming in a crater. He recalled seeing the water from above as a perfect circle about a hundred feet around. Surrounding the water were trees of all kinds, painting the landscape with a deep, lush green. The air was warm and moist like the water. There was no wind—it was as if the air were holding its breath. It was so muggy, Robby wondered if there was any more oxygen outside the water than in.

After helping the dog out of the water, he pulled himself up. The dog shook himself dry as Robby sat facing the lake. He needed a minute to breathe, and think. He petted the dog on the head and examined the small canine. Robby couldn’t be sure, but there was a vague resemblance to him that he simply couldn’t put his finger on, like a word you were trying to recall but was stuck, invisibly, on the tip of your tongue.

The dog was only about a foot tall, his white mustache and beard still dripping water. The more he sniffed Robby, the more excitable he grew. He began tickling Robby with kisses and jumping in and out of his lap, barking a few times.

Robby laughed while he tried to get himself into a playful mood. He just couldn’t understand how the dog had healed so miraculously—then it hit him. The water. It had to be like a fountain of youth sort of thing. “Looks like I saved your butt taking you in the water with me,” Robby said.

Behind them a thick wall of jungle trees rose up and blocked out the sun blazing in the clear sky. He hoped he would soon dry off even though he was sticky with sap-like humidity. He turned his head forward and looked up at the mouth of the cave he had jumped from, which was a hole about five stories up the side of a sheer wall of rock that jutted two hundred feet into the sky. A smooth ribbon of water streamed down out of the mouth, peaceful and serene, making a quiet trickling sound as it dipped into the lake.

As he sat by the water trying to get dry, he couldn’t shake the confusion and the guilt. But what scared him most wasn’t so much where he was, but where he’d come from. He had no recollection of any part of his life from before appearing in that tiny little tunnel. He’d have to find answers eventually, and he took solace in the fact that if there was one person here, then there were bound to be others. Of course, he would have to resolve not to kill them too if he wanted to have his questions answered.

Not knowing where he had come from was a sort of claustrophobia in and of itself, because he couldn’t follow a trail of memories that specifically led him here. However, he could recall his favorite restaurants, his favorite airline, and the cars he drooled over. He could even list off movies he’d seen and books he’d read. But for the life of him, Robby couldn’t pin who he was, or clearly see any memory of his life divorced from cultural norms. He knew that Ronald Regan was president. And, as an average middle-class American citizen, he had a social security number, but he couldn’t determine how he earned his income or what his home address was. Did he live with anyone? Was he married? It was as though he could only know the most basic biography of himself: Robby Lake, thirty-nine years old, likes meatball subs and Lay’s potato chips, hates olives and mushrooms, has knowledge of Western civilization, speaks English, a little Spanish, bites the inside of his mouth when he’s nervous, and isn’t afraid to use the women’s bathroom if the men’s is occupied. But outside of that, he could recall absolutely nothing.

He began to freak out at the loss of memory thinking that some fatal disease was overtaking his brain. He quickly began doing math equations in his head to keep from losing all semblance of reality.

He made it to the sixes on the multiplication table when he saw a form rising up from the water. Robby rubbed his eyes to make sure that what he was seeing was real. Sure enough, it was the little girl emerging. His ecstasy over her resurrection—and more so, him not being a child murderer—was cut short, though, when she growled at him (which caused the dog beside him whimper) and swam toward him in rough, splashy strides. He pulled his feet back and stood up, grabbing the dog.

When the girl reached the edge of the water she glared at him with murderous eyes, her bushy eyebrows merging together and her eyes narrowing. Fountain of Youth, thought Robby, answering the question of her mortality before it could even fully form in his head. This lake is the Fountain of Youth.

As she pulled herself out of the water he firmly stood his ground. He wasn’t going to run from her. Maybe he could talk to her. He’d kill her again if he had to; he’d just toss her back in the Fountain of Youth and run. But first, he was going to have to try handling this diplomatically.

“I don’t know what you’re so mad about, and I’m sorry for whatever happened to you, but I think we can help each other out.”

The girl didn’t hesitate to state what she wanted. “One, kill that dog.”

“But why—”

“And two,” she said with enough force to cut him off, “you’re coming with me. That’show you can help me.”

“Okay,” said Robby. “Those will be up for discussion. Um, really all I want is to know where I am. Where are we, exactly?”

“Badass Island.”

Robby laughed a little. “Okay, yeah. I’ll admit that any island that has a healing lake is pretty badass. But really, are we talking the South Pacific? The Maldives? I’ve never been, but I kind of felt like we were in some deep African jungle. But you look white, or tanned, so . . .”

“This is the Jungle of Rad. Dude, you should knowthat. It’s yourisland, after all. You made it.”

Robby cocked his head in confusion. He may not have known where he came from, but he was certain he had never been herebefore.

“Now are you going to kill Giga, or am I?” asked the girl.

“Giga?” He looked down at the dog, who buried his face in the bend of Robby’s elbow. As he did so, a slow petal of remembrance dawned on him. “Giga . . .” He stroked the top of the dog’s head. “Giga . . . the dog who—”

“Never bites,” the girl said along with him.

“Like Gigabyte,” Robby finished almost to himself. Why did that sound so frustratingly familiar?

“Good job, Einstein. You know the name of your own dog. Now kill him.” She said this as she walked toward them while pulling a dagger out from her dripping wet fanny pack.

Robby took a step back and Giga wriggled and jumped out of his arms, running into the trees.

“Well, damn,” the girl said.

Angry now, Robby asked, “Why are you trying to kill that dog? Do you know how sick that is?”

“Because he keeps getting himself hurt. It’s yourfault anyway,” she said, standing just a few feet from Robby now, and, Robby noticed, not putting her knife away.

Myfault? What are you talking about?”

“Because, dummy, you decreed that your dog would never die.”

“That makes no sense! And besides, what’s wrong with that?” The questions swirling around Robby’s head were too numerous to count. What should it matter what he decreed? Who didn’twish that about their dog? Since when was Giga hisdog? How did that lake heal everyone, and why didn’t everyone in the modern world know about it? Where did this girl want to take him? How did he get here? And why wouldn’t she put that damn knife away?

“Because, dipwad, when you said he should never die, you didn’t say anything about him not getting hurt.”

Robby shook his head. “Let’s back up here. That doesn’t explain why you’re trying to kill him.”

“To put him out of his misery,” she said as she gripped her dagger tighter in her hand and brushed past him.

He grabbed her arm forcefully and said, “He’s fine now, so just leave him alone.” He hated the way she glared at him with those murderous eyes. But he could take her; the dog couldn’t.

“But he’ll keep getting hurt, and I’d rather he just die already,” the girl said through gritted teeth.

“Well, he’s mydog . . . apparently . . . and you don’t have my permission to touch him anymore.”

This seemed to cause the girl to loosen her tension a little. “Fine. Asshole. But you’re still coming with me.”

Robby had already decided that going anywhere with this miniature psychopath was out of the question. She’d already tried to kill him once; she was completely unpredictable. Being near her was only putting himself at risk, and he wasn’t willing to fight her again.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “But I can’t do that. I’m just going to find my dog and we’ll go our own way.”

She narrowed her eyes at him and he could see the wheels spinning in her head. Then, without a shadow of a warning, she swung her knife at him hard and sharp. It all happened too fast for him to know what happened for sure, but he must have jumped out of the way and put his free hand up to defend himself, because next thing he knew, blood was pouring from his right palm. The pain was surreal and he wanted to smack the bitch, but she still had the knife and she clearly wasn’t afraid to use it.

“What the hell!” Robby yelled.

“You don’t have to come with me,” the girl said calmly. Robby had released her arm and she slipped the knife back in her fanny pack, buckling it in place. “But you’re going to need to get medical attention for that, and Iknow the only doctors around.”

Robby seethed in anger for a moment, hating to be outsmarted. Okay, she was right about that. He had no idea where he was and he couldn’t possibly hope to find a hospital on his own. He could wrap his hand up in some plants and do the whole jungle-survival thing, but he didn’t know nearly enough about surviving in the wild, much less with a deep cut like this. Plus, there was the risk of bacterial infection . . .

But then he perked up. Maybe she hadn’t outsmarted him at all. He turned and ran back to the water, that mystical healing water that made Giga whole and healthy, and obviously brought the demon girl to life. He plunged his bloodied hand in and watched the water around his wrist swirl into a dark red cloud.

God, the stingfrom that cut. It hurt so badly, but the tropical water put his pain at ease a little.

“What are you doing?” the girl asked.

“I’m healing myself. And if you cut me again, I’ll just jump right in, and I’ll keep doing that until you leave me alone.”

“You realize that water doesn’t actually heal you, right?” She asked this as though he were the biggest dumbass on the planet.

But Robby just laughed and said, “You’re trying to trick me and I won’t fall for it. I’ve seen what this water can do. I saw with my own eyes how it healed my dog from your communist ways.”

“He heals on his own. The water had nothing to do with it. Like I said, he’s the dog that never dies. He ran away from home last night, so I went looking for him. He apparently got attacked by an animal or a deadbeat or something—”

“I’m sorry, a what?”

“A deadbeat. Oh! They weren’t around when you were here last. Yeah, get ready to shit yourself, they’re scary as hell. But anyway, I followed Giga’s blood trail up the steps to the cave.” Robby looked where she was gesturing, and sure enough there was a steep stony staircase engraved on the side of the mountain, which led up to an opening in the side. “I followed the trail up there,” the girl continued. “And found his side ripped open, and he was just lying there. I tried cutting his throat with my knife, but that didn’t kill him either. I hated to see him suffering, so I just started beating him with the rock, hoping he’d just die already. It would have been the best thing for him.”

“Why did he go up there?” Robby asked, afraid he already knew the answer.

“Because he must have known you were here. He’s been waiting for you to return longer than most of the others.”

“And you’re saying he just magicallyheals on his own?”

The girl nodded.

“But what about you?” Robby pressed. “You obviously couldn’t die in that water, but you were under for a really long time.”

The girl, who was beginning to lose her demon-ness, took a dark piece of bark out of her mouth and handed it to Robby, who took it with his free hand. “It’s breathing bark. It comes from trees that are filled with air. With one of these in your mouth you can breathe underwater for quite a while.”

“Weird. I’m sorry for kicking you so hard. I don’t make it a habit to go around kicking little girls.”

“How’s your hand?” she asked.

Robby had almost forgotten about it. He pulled it out of the water, expecting to see it completely healed, but it wasn’t. Instantly fresh blood spilled out of his deep wound, saturating his wrist with red streaks dripping all the way down to his elbow.

The girl didn’t even have to look at his hand to know. “You ready to go?” she asked, handing him a piece of a bamboo leaf to wrap his hand up in.

Robby sighed. “Yeah. Let’s go,” he said, taking it. And she led him into the dark jungle trees ahead.

 Vol 1, No 6: Hail

But it wasn’t a jungle, as Robby soon discovered. As they walked, they had to brush low-hanging vines and branches out of the way. “So what’s your name?” Robby eventually asked, keeping a sharp eye on her knife, pun intended.

“Hail.”

He nodded. They continued to walk, him following her.

“I need you in front,” she said, turning around to face him. “I don’t want you running off.”

“I don’t want you stabbing me. I’ll follow.”

“I can stab you just as easily from the front,” Hail insisted.

“Oh, yeah?” said Robby just before he followed her eyes downward. Sure enough, she was holding her dagger at his stomach.

“In front. Now,” she demanded.

Robby rolled his eyes and gritted his teeth as Hail got behind him.

“My name’s Robby, by the way,” he said after they had walked a few yards.

“No duh.”

Robby wondered how she would have known his name as he moved a giant leafy vine out of his way, but bumped into something solid when he tried passing through it. It wasn’t a tree like he had initially thought. Instead it was a glass window. At first he only saw green moss clinging to its dirty surface. Then he saw himself, his suit a wet and bloody mess, his hair matted down, his face haggard and stranger-like. He cupped his face in his hands and leaned in to peer inside. “What is this?” Robby asked.

“I dunno,” Hail said. “Probably a bank or a control center or something.”

Inside was a dark room, worn by years of neglect. Chairs were tipped over on their sides and desks held old computers—those fat desktops that weighed sixty pounds and had strangles of cords and wires spilling through the back into holes in the desk and then plugged into power strips no one bothered to hide.

So this place is civilized, thought Robby. Or at leastwas.

“You just going to stand there all day?” asked Hail. “Come on, we’ve got some walking to do.” Robby pulled himself away from the glass and asked where they were going. “To Nirvana,” Hail replied.

“Well I’m not Buddhist, but I think that sounds pretty good right about now.”

Hail took the lead now since Robby clearly couldn’t walk without running into things. As Robby looked more closely, he realized that he was indeed in a jungle—not one made of trees, but of buildings and skyscrapers. Roots and vines had grown so lush and plentiful around them that the buildings were hardly visible through the shrubbery. It was as though not a soul had set foot around here in ages. And the small pieces of buildings he could see were rusted orange steel or bricks faded to a near-perfect white or wood that was rotted away by water and time.

“Call your dog,” Hail commanded. “He might not trust me anymore because of what I did to him.”

“You think?” asked Robby, horrified at the image of her beating him so badly up in the cave. “Uh, Giga. Come here, boy,” he called. It was eerie, hearing his voice echo through the empty apocalyptic streets.

“They said you’d be wearing funny clothes,” said Hail, leading him around a corner where they were able to walk on a large street. A few beat-up cars parked along the side of the road, several of them with wings jutting out of their sides. “That’s how I knew it was you, because they said you’d be wearing old man clothes.”

Robby looked down at his stretched-out suit and disheveled tie. He didfeel out of place. At this point Giga ran up to Robby and started jumping up and down on his leg, but Robby ignored him. “Who told you what I’d be wearing? And I don’t feel like I’m an old man . . .”

“How old are you?”

“Um. Thirty-nine.” How the hell could he knowthat, but not have a clue about anything—? An idea sprung on him and he was already reaching for his wallet in his back pocket. He opened it up, dripping water all over his feet. The cash was damp, and he found a zoo pass, three credit cards that confirmed he was indeed Robby Lake, and then his driver’s license.

He examined it closely. His mug was on the left-hand side. Across the top was scrolled the word “Kentucky” in blue, with the little horse logo above the CKYportion. His license number was listed below that, then the expiration date, then his birthday: May 26, 1979. He also pulled his phone out of his front pocket but wasn’t surprised to see it wouldn’t turn on. He quickly did the math, if he was born in ’79 and he was thirty-nine, then it was—

“What year is it?” Robby asked.

“We lost count. Why?” asked Hail, taking his license from him and examining it. “You look like a sex predator in this picture.”

Ignoring her, he said, “What do you meanyou lost count? That’s impossible! You’re dressed like the girls I used to play with as a kid, yet we’re in a city that’s clearly been taken over by aliens—”

“Deadbeats. It was taken over by deadbeats. The aliens left here when you left.” Hail stuffed his license in her fanny pack, which Robby didn’t really care about at the moment. He could always get it back from her later, but he had a feeling he wouldn’t be needing it here. He slipped his wallet back into his pocket.

He studied her for a minute. “So, like, all the dads just stopped working? The economy plummeted? Everyone’s a deadbeat now?”

She studied him back. “You really don’t know what’s going on, do you?”

“Humor me,” said Robby. “Pretend I don’t know a damned thing.”

“Keep walking,” she said. “We’ll talk on the way.”

Robby complied and Giga finally settled down as soon as they started resuming progress. Of course, the pup remained closer to Robby for his own protection.

“So without you, none of this would be here,” Hail started. “I’m not paying you a compliment, I’m just stating facts based off the stories I’ve heard my whole life. It’s Robby this, Robby that. Great adventurer and future king. Personally, I think that’s all bull, but I’m just telling you what I’ve heard.”

“You’re not the only one who thinks that,” said Robby. “But did you say ‘future king’?”

“Yeah, but don’t lose your fancy pants over it. Apparently you were a pretty righteous kid back in the day. I’m not sure what happened to you since then, but here you are now, so many years later, as promised.”

“Who promised I’d be back?”

“You did.”

“Okay. So back from where?”

“Dude, I don’t know. You apparently always left the island to go take care of other things. But one day you said you wouldn’t be back for a long time, but if we built you a castle while you were gone, you’d come back to sit on your throne and become our king.”

“Sooooooo . . . did you build it?”

“Yeah, it got built,” said Hail. “But you were gone for so long that people grew impatient waiting for you.”

The street was overgrown with weeds that grew up to his shoulders. The air was as dead as the city. It was still, unmoving, and deafeningly silent. It seemed even their footsteps didn’t make a sound on the cracked and broken street. As they walked, Robby tried making out the ads on the faded billboards. From what he could tell they were posters for concerts or movies soon to be released. There were Taco Bells with the old brown square sign and the yellow bell in the middle; on one street corner was a Virgin Megastore, and across from that, a Blockbuster (and was that a faded poster for the movie Mac and Me?).

Hail jogged up to the side of a phone booth where there was a toy that looked like planet Saturn. The planet being a bouncy ball and the rings, well, just that—a plastic ring around the ball that Hail stepped on and began bouncing herself up and down.

“A PogoBall,” Robby said to himself, a distant memory threatening to break through. When Hail bounced back over toward him, he asked, “So my throne was built, I didn’t come back, and people got impatient waiting for me. Then what?”

The bouncing ball made Giga nervous, so Robby bent to pick him up.

“Well, people started thinking that if someonewould sit on the throne, then Badass Island would have a king or a queen.”

“So what happened when they sat on it?”

“They became deadbeats. Speaking of which, we’ve got to hurry if we’re going to be back before dark.”

Robby waited for her to explain some more, but she was more interested in bouncing along on her PogoBall., even though she was supposedly in such a hurry. He snapped his fingers at her, saying, “Hey. I don’t know what deadbeats are, remember? Can you elaborate a little bit?”

But Hail stopped bouncing suddenly and put a finger to her mouth. The buildings had grown smaller and fewer and more trees started to surround them. With her other hand she gestured toward a thick group of trees about four yards off.

Robby strained to see what had caught Hail’s attention. There, through two trunks, he saw a brown squirrel. Robby was about to ask what the big deal was, but then a lizard twice the size as the squirrel bounded out of the bushes on its hind legs and attacked the squirrel from behind. It stretched its long neck over the rodent’s head and bit its face as the squirrel squirmed and shrieked like a piece of cloth flapping wildly in the wind.

Robby did all he could to keep from vomiting at the sight of the lizard flipping its meal over to devour it from the neck down in just a few large bites, tugging on the meat that stuck to the bones with its long, sharp teeth.

Hail grabbed Robby’s arm and pulled him along. “Let’s go.”

“That looks like a dinosaur,” gasped Robby in disbelief.

Duhh. That’s a pretty bitchin’ observation for someone who’s supposed to rule our island. Now, let’s go,” urged Hail, pulling Robby along at a fast pace, leaving her PogoBall behind.

“Wait. You’re telling me that was a dinosaur?”

“It’s an eoraptor,” said Hail, not slowing down. “There will be others around and if they attack us in a group, they’ll kill us. They get bigger the deeper into the jungle we go.”

“How big?” asked Robby. He was on the verge of laughing at himself for having this ridiculous conversation.

“Huge. You don’t remember them?”

“No,” he answered. He couldn’t figure out how dinosaurs could suddenly be in existence. Did evolution come full circle? Did the people die off and the dinosaurs return to take their place? “What happened here?” Robby asked. “Where is everybody?”

“I bet a lot’s changed since you were here last,” said Hail. “So we’re leaving Gnarly Town.”

Gnraly Town? So what happened to it? Was there a virus or something that wiped everyody out?”

“No,” said Hail. Then, as an explanation she said, “The whole island went to shit after you left. People got tired of waiting, so they sat on the throne they built you, and because they weren’t you, they turned into deadbeats and the island’s been cursed ever since.”

“All because I left?” asked Robby. “You’re making it sound like I’m more powerful than I really am.”

“Trust me, that’s notmy intent.”

Robby was struggling to keep up with her now because the trees were growing denser and closer together as they left the abandoned city behind. “Badass Island. The Jungle of Rad. Gnarly Town . . . Where are we now, the Trees of Awesomeness?”

“That’s a stupid name. No, this is just The Jungle.”

He shook his head in frustration. “None of this makes any sense to me.” He put Giga back down because he was kicking his feet and wanted to walk. “Do you understand what I’m saying when I say I’ve never been here before? I’m telling you, as flattered as I am that you think so, I’m not your king apparent.”

“And do you not understand what I’m saying when I say you’re a dumbass?” asked Hail over her shoulder. “I don’t want to have to tell you this again. Youcreated this island.  Yougrew up here. One day you left. And that’s when everything started to rot and go to hell. Anyone who knew you said that you’d be back because apparently you promised you would be. So now you’re back, and we expect you to save the island so that we can go on living peaceful lives.”

“And how am I expected to save the island?” Robby asked, trying hard to keep up with her increasing speed.

“Sit on the throne, dummy. Become our king, and everything will be back to normal.”

He wouldn’t admit it, but Robby was kind of let down by the simplicity of that. “Is that where we’re going now? Is that what’s in Nirvana?”

“No. Nirvana’s just a pit stop before we start crossing the island to get you to your throne. I want everyone to know I found you.”

“So why are we walking so fast?”

“Because we don’t want to be caught out here after dark. If we do, we’re dead. Now hurry up.”

“Dead? How? Like we’ll just fall down dead?” asked Robby, his heart beating from fear now and not just because the walk was taking a toll on his body.

“The deadbeats will come out and kill us. That clear enough for you, small brains?”

“You mean the people who sat on my throne?”

“Dude! Yes! Can you ever zip it? When they sat on your throne, they became monsters that can destroy pretty much anything, and they can only come out at night.”

“Great,” mumbled Robby, checking to make sure Giga was keeping up with them on his short legs.

After putting some distance between them and the dinosaur, Robby was able to soak in the vast beauty of their new surroundings.

The jungle was completely cut off from the fading sun by the canopy of leafy branches stitched together overhead. The many tree types varied between massive kapok trees with their unearthed roots stretching along the ground to the dazzling gallitos showing off their red leaves as if displaying their diversity amongst all their green-leaved neighbors. Some were huge and bulky and others as small as the average fig tree. A majority of the trees were completely covered with winding vines and moss, like the buildings behind them. The leaves and plants were the jungle’s carpet that stretched out before them, some leaves as big as Hail. The busted branches that lay scattered crunched under their feet as they walked. It was like herbs mixed into a jungly soup that cast its mushy aroma into Robby’s nostrils. It reminded him of something . . . but his memory sensors claimed only a blank slate.

Screeching birds and chirping insects from all around made it hard to hear their own footsteps. Monkeys screamed from up above the trees where Robby couldn’t see them. Small shafts of light shone through the treetops illuminating a fog that seemed to be closing in, but was always ahead, as though forbidding them to come further. But Hail pressed on and Robby did his best to keep up.

As they walked, Robby sang under his breath, “O-wim-o-weh, o-wim-o-weh, o-wim-o-wey . . .”

“What are you doing?” “Nothing,” Robby said, pursing his lips together. The most famous version of the song by the Tokens came to mind and he couldn’t help but sing it. Just another random thing he could remember as some distant memory that would probably do him no good here.

“Were you singing?” Hail pressed.

“I was trying to,” said Robby.

“Fine, weirdo.”

He continued half-singing, half-humming: “In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight.”

“What the hell’s a lion?” asked Hail.

Another useless fact that he recalled: lions actually don’t live in the jungle. So of course Hail couldn’t be expected to know what one was.

“A big hungry cat,” said Robby.

“Like a panther?”

“Sort of.”

“Panthers are freaky. I haven’t seen one, but I’ve heard all about them. Keep singing about this sleeping cat.”

Robby continued to sing the parts of the song he knew, and soon he heard Hail say, “We’re here. Nirvana.”

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About Andrew Toy
Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

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