The Beast, Pt. 92 (Chapter 23a)

My friends stand over me, silent sentinels. I push myself up into a sitting position, taking care to keep the sheet carefully arranged so as to cover the lower half of my body. Finally, I can take the silence no longer. I put a fake smile on my face, trying to hide behind bravado as I have so many times in the past. But of course it doesn’t work. My friends have known me too long and too well. Still, once the machine’s been set into motion, there is no turning back.

I smile and look each of my friends in the eyes in turn. Their faces are wary, distant. They’re not angry, but it’s possible that that’s just because they haven’t made up their mind about how they feel. “So,” I say, dragging out the syllable, letting it hang in the air. “Do we have to talk about what happened last night?”

“Two nights ago,” Papa Chub says noncommittally.

I frown. “Whatever.”

“It was two nights ago, though,” Erb adds. “We weren’t here last night.”

“Okay, fine. Two nights ago, then. Do we have to talk about it or not?”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I do if we need to.”

“What does it mean to ‘need to?’”

I roll my eyes, ready to jump to my feet so I can argue and debate the nuances of ‘needing too’ better. But then I remember that it’s difficult to argue effectively when your genitals are on display to the world, so I just grumble and remain where I am. “Look, I’m just asking, did I make an ass out of myself the other night?”

“Oh, most definitely,” Monk says, breaking into a grin. I glance back at Papa Chub and Erb, who do not share his enthusiasm, at Googe, who is somewhere in between the others.

“What’d I do?”

“You picked a fight with a Cat Berry impersonator, for starters.”

“Dude, I’m telling you, she was the real thing.”

“Why would Cat Berry be at our crappy party?”

“Uh, because our party was awesome and not crappy?”

“There’s no way it was really her.”

“Well, why would an impersonator have a real body guard, huh?”

“Wait, seriously, who’s Cat Berry?”

“She wrote that song. About blood. Horrible Hemoglobin or something.”

“That doesn’t sound right…”

I clear my throat. “Guys. What else?”

Monk’s grin returns. “At one point, you tried to kick everyone out of the villa saying that you had to duel a magical space ghost, but no one would listen to you.”

I wince, simultaneously disappointed in myself both for trying such a thing and for not commanding the fear and respect necessary to actually accomplish it. “Anything else?”

“Ooh!” Googe says, suddenly excited. “You gave a big long speech about the nature of humanity to a bunch of people that were high on mescaline. That was pretty funny. You walked by, and they said something like, ‘Hey, man, come learn the truth,’ and you spun around and shouted, ‘Truth? I already know the truth!’ and then… Oh, wait! I have it on my Conncomm!”

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the device, pushes a few buttons on its face, and my voice, preachy and slurred and struggling to be heard over the din of the party. “We are never as great as we think that we are, nor as horrible as we fear. We are all simply the same, trying the hardest to make sense of a world without any discernible meaning or purpose behind it, making things up as we go along, inventing perceptions of reality that we can understand and find comfort in.” A pause. “Oh, shit, is that pizza?”

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