Better than the California Hotel.

My head felt like a rotten watermelon filled with rusty razor blades, and invisible gnomes were pumping highly pressurized poison into my ears and stabbing my eyes with dental drills.

It must have been quite a night.

Now where the hell was I?

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Sure, it looked like a normal enough street corner, albeit a normal enough street corner I had never seen before, but there was something off about it. I don’t think it was the way that random objects were missing. Things just looked… blank. Buildings with no windows, doors, or anything. Street signs with nothing written on them. Roads that lead to flat fields so it looks like they just disappear into an empty abyss.And how long had that rabbit just been openly staring at me?

I head over to Max, bent over the sewer. “How drunk did I get last night?”

Ugh.

“Max!”

Urrh… I dunno, Sly….. passed out…

Great. “Do you know where the hell we are?”

Why I can tell you that Mister, says this completely flat voice. Funny, sounds like it’s coming from above me. It’s this squirrel, painting a wall. Looking pretty intense about it, too. I move over to him from the manhole and the little voice calling up from it: Help, a mouse threw up on me!

You’re in the little town of Valley Lodge with the rest of us now. Prettiest little town you ever did see. He keeps painting and painting, going over the same spot a dozen times.

“Is… that a fact.” Better not rile this guy.

Why yes it surely is if I do say so myself. He hasn’t looked at me once since he started talking. He hasn’t looked at anything but that wall. The little town of Valley Lodge is surely the most distinguished town there ever was. Founded fifty years ago on the spot where our masters from the outer void come every new moon.

“……….oh do they.”

And we offer them whatever they ask for because it makes us happy. Very happy. Very very happy. If he presses any harder with the paintbrush he’s gonna start scraping off the bristles. Why just last night we delivered unto them a bicycle handle a windowpane a manhole cover a ladder rung-

“Yeah, that’s great,” I say, hoping my voice doesn’t sound as oh-holy-crap-get-me-out-of-here as I feel, “Your parents must be so proud. So… which way is the bus station?”

Next we’re a-planning on giving them a fox and a mouse.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I want OUT!

“Oh,” I say, “Well… that should… be a big hit with them. Anyway, I’ve got some urgent business, so if you could just give me directions out of here.”

There is no way out of here. It’ll be dark soon. There is no way out of here.

Why is he putting red paint on a wall that’s already red?!

I look around. The rabbit is still staring at me. He’s not the only one, I can feel it. I rush past Max, grab him by the wrist, and head for the edge of town.

Aw Gawd Sly, yer killin’ me!

“Better me than them, kid. We’re getting out of here. Now.”

Well that don’t matter none, comments the squirrel as we pass by, Noone can’t never leave Valley Lodge. We’ll be seeing you again Mister soon enough.

“Just walk it off, Max,” I hiss, trying to think about nothing more sinister than gleeful aliens with a scavenger hunt list, even if I do happen to be on it. We hit the edge of town, and just keep walking.

I hope I never see that place again. Even in my nightmares. Suddenly I realize I’m not at all curious about last night anymore, and for me that’s saying something. Let’s hope what happens in Valley Lodge, stays in Valley Lodge.

…my head! Max moans.

No, I think, my tail.

The Final Word.

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