Something’s not right, Olivia thought as her gaze swept around the hideout. Everything was in its place. The chairs were around the table, the refrigerator was where it last was, and her beanbag was where she last left it. Everything was perfect, but something felt off. The worst part was she couldn’t place it. Just a feeling she had. A feeling she could muse over later. Right now, it was time to focus. There was a card game to play.
In a strange turn of luck, Olivia was winning. Actually winning! It was hard to believe. So much so she had to give a celebratory squeal each time she put her cards down. The utter look of defeat on everyone’s faces was much more satisfying than she could have believed. It must have been all that time I spent practicing bluffing in the mirror, she thought to herself, a small smile appearing on her face.
That and every hand she had thus far had been a winner. Every single one. It was statistically impossible, but it was happening. And even if it was a fluke in the universe, Olivia was going to take it. Until a terrible thought came over her. “You guys aren’t letting me win, are you?” She was in the middle of raking in her cash, and paused, meeting everyone’s eyes.
“I like my money too much to lose it on purpose,” Miya replied.
Amanda, who had been dealing the entire time said, “I don’t know how to stack a deck.”
Rob just shrugged his shoulders. “Pseudo-beginner’s luck?”
“My money,” was all she could get out of Ben, who was staring at the increasingly large pile of cash between him and Olivia.
Everyone tossed their cards back to Amanda, and she started to shuffle them. “Another round?” she asked, pointedly making eye contact with each person.
Miya shook her head. “I’m done. I can’t lose any more money to her.” She pushed her chair away from the table and headed toward her room. “It’s late, anyways. We should probably get some sleep.”
Ben stood as well. “I’m with you on that one.”
That didn’t sound right, thought Olivia as she stared at him. “What?” he asked, displaying just as much confusion as Olivia was.
Olivia shook her head. “I don’t know. Just sounded weird to me for a second.” Standing, she stretched her wings. “Maybe I just need to get some fresh air.” She had been cooped up in the hiding place since… sometime. She didn’t really remember specifically, which must mean she was overdue for a going out.
“Have fun on your flight!” Rob exclaimed, standing the same time Amanda did. “You want to go work on that… thing?” Even Rob looked confused now. As if he couldn’t remember what him and Amanda were working on. Not that Olivia remembered. They worked on so many projects it was hard to keep track of them all.
Or was that some secret code word for sex or something? Olivia didn’t want to know. Didn’t need to know. She would gladly run away and leave.
“Yeah,” Amanda perked up, excited. “Let’s go work on that! See you, Olivia.” The pair headed for their shared workshop, arm in arm.
Amanda’s excitement was contagious and Olivia practically ran through the door, nearly forgetting to duck, so she could go flying. When her feet touched the gravel outside, she pumped her wings a few times and jumped, rising higher and higher in the sky. Soon, she was flying over Westward, taking in the sights and sounds of the lively city.
Or what was supposed to be the lively city. Except there was only silence. No cars honking, or even running. No people talking or even walking. Not even the hum of the electricity which was even more weird since there were definitely lights on.
And the lack of smells was disturbing as well. It was as if there was no one or anything in the city. But she could see specs of people as they walked down the sidewalk. She knew something strange had been going on. Maybe that was what she had noticed in the hideout and didn’t think about it. There were no sounds and no smell.
But that wasn’t true. She could clearly smell the others, had taken in each one of their scents unconsciously. So, it must be outside of the hideout that was affected. But affected by what? A strange power? That was possible. They could be trapped in a dream world like they had been with John Doe.
For several seconds, Olivia flew in the air, trying to decide what she should do. Really, she should fly back to the hideout and tell the others. But what if they didn’t believe her? What if they wanted to go out and see for themselves, and everything was perfectly fine? They might think she’s crazy then. Or that her feral powers went all wonky for a minute.
Olivia shook her head. They’re your friends. They’ll believe you. Why wouldn’t they believe her? There was no reason for her to lie. Unless she was playing some kind of prank, but she had never done it before so why would she start now? That was Rob and Ben’s territory.
As quickly as her wings could take her, she flew back to the hideout, nearly crashing into the ground coming in too hot for a landing. Rolling on the ground, surprisingly not crushing her wings, she got back to her feet and ran to the entrance. “Guys!” she called, rushing inside. Amanda and Rob were the only two still up, and they stared at her as she rushed in. “There’s, um, something wrong?” A bout of self-conscious came along and stole Olivia’s confidence.
Amanda was the first to react. She set down her soldering iron and asked. “What’s going on?”
“There’s no sound outside.” Olivia pointed toward the door. “And no smells.”
“What?!” Amanda shook her head incredulously, sending Olivia’s heart sinking like the Titanic. “That’s not possible.” Olivia’s heart rose when her friend got out of her seat and headed for the door.
“You serious, ‘liv?” Rob asked as he stood from his chair. Olivia nodded, and he followed after Amanda. He got halfway when Amanda rushed back into the room.
“Holy shit, she’s right!” She grabbed Rob’s wrist and started to drag him outside. “Come on!” They were gone for several minutes, before bursting back in the door, Rob a little paler than when he went out. “Alright, we need to have a meeting.”
*** *** ***
Fifteen minutes and everyone had gathered around the table, staring at each other, no one really knowing what to say or do. The silence started to get uncomfortable and Olivia was avoiding everyone’s gaze, afraid they would make her start off since she was the first to discover the problem.
“Alright,” Amanda said, breaking the silence. Olivia sighed in relief. She wouldn’t have to talk after all. “It appears we have a problem.” Amanda met everyone’s gaze. “We might be stuck in some weird power, again.”
Miya groaned and slapped her hands to her face. “Really? We seriously have to deal with this again?”
“Sounds like it,” Ben replied, making Olivia uncomfortable. Her tail started to swish back and forth as she shifted in her seat. “Liv, What’s wrong?”
Olivia looked up from her hands and everyone was staring at her. A blush crept up her face and her eyes fell to her hands once again. “You guys… um… don’t sound right?” It was really hard for her to talk to them about this. They might not have even noticed. Her fears were confirmed when she took a quick glance up and they all stared at her as if she had a third head. “You aren’t talking like you normally do,” she elaborated.
The four looked to each other, trying to find confirmation. Then, Miya’s eyes widened. “Holy shit! She’s right! What the fuck! What kind of power changes the way people speak?” she asked more Amanda than anyone else. The other girl shrugged. “This is too fucked up.”
Another silence fell over the group. It grew and grew until Olivia thought she was going to jump up and scream. Someone, please say something, she internally pleaded. Her prayers were answered when Ben said, “What were you two working on?” He looked to Amanda and Rob. “You,” he pointed to his brother, “asked her if she wanted to work on that ‘thing,’ I thought you were talking about making out or something, but you weren’t were you?”
Rob shook his head. “No, we were working on… I don’t remember.” He turned to Amanda, mild panic in his eye. “What were we working on?”
A smile appeared on Amanda’s face and she opened her mouth to speak. It closed just as fast as it opened. “I’m not sure. It was something. Something we’ve been working on for a while now. I think.” She fell into silence and her eyes shifted back and forth, desperately trying to remember. “Oh,” she shouted, finally getting it. “It was the railgun!”
They turned to the techie workbench. On top, next to Amanda’s laptops, was a blob of welded together parts with random wires coming out from the sides like spider legs. “That is not the railgun,” Rob stated the obvious. “That is a terrifying piece of nothing.” Both him and Amanda shivered.
More silence. This whole thing was starting to get weird by the moment. No one knew what to say or do. Everything that happened was just so… unnatural. So terribly wrong that none of them even knew where to start.
“Okay. We need to come up with a game plan.” It was time someone took the lead, and Amanda was the most qualified person for the job. “What was the last thing you all remember? I remember us playing cards but nothing before that.”
“Now, that you say that, I don’t remember anything before that either.” Miya looked to confirmation from the rest of the group. Everyone nodded with the exception of Olivia.
“I remember something?” It wasn’t exactly clear. “We were helping one of your friends, I think.” She pointed to Amanda.
Amanda’s eyes grew wide. “Yes! Sarah. We were helping Sarah. Someone stole something from her office!”
Rob nodded. “Right! And we went after them.” He didn’t sound so sure about the last part. “I mean, we would have had to go after them, right? It was part of our job to make sure no one stole anything from her office.”
“Yeah, but I can’t even remember what they stole,” Ben said. “Shit, I can barely remember what you guys are talking about.” He rubbed the side of his head vigorously. “It sounds right, but I can’t get a full grasp of it. Like the harder I try to remember, the less I do.”
“Ugh!” Miya’s face met the table. “How are we going to get out of this?!” That was the million-dollar question, and one no one seemed to have an answer to, given the blank stares.
Olivia’s eyes shifted over to her friends. “Could it be, um, like John Doe, maybe?”
None of them had thought of that. Their faces lit up, and then Rob’s darkened. “No. We were all normal then. Talking like we usually do and stuff. And when we realized that something was wrong it would have started over. We’ve been sitting here for ten minutes and nothing has changed.”
The groups faces fell simultaneously. “Well, there goes that,” huffed Amanda. “So, now what do we do? Try to find a secret door or something that leads out of whatever this is?”
“What else is there for us to do?” Miya shot back. “I’m not going to be stuck in here for the rest of my life, with everyone talking weird and you two creating those monstrosities.” As a group they all started at the metallic blob on the table. A collective shiver went around the table.
Amanda turned from the deformed thing. “Let’s search around the hideout. There has to be something here that will tell us what’s going on, and, hopefully, get us the hell out of here.”
The group broke apart from the table and started to search around the room. Olivia used her keen senses to the best of her ability and came up with nothing. Everything seemed normal. There were a few minor differences though, things the others had slowly started to notice. On the workbench, Amanda only had her laptops. Olivia distinctly remembered her having several more computers. Rob’s anvil wasn’t there. Miya’s bed was facing the wrong way. And the hideout itself was shaped weird. The roof seemed taller and the building wider.
But there were no clues as to what was happening, or how to get out of it. Downtrodden, Olivia moped back to the table, sitting down in her usual spot. Though it didn’t look as if it mattered where she sat. all the chairs were missing their backrests. That wasn’t right either. Only Olivia’s should be missing her backrest. She was, after all, the only one with wings.
Ben rushed over, excitement twinkling in his eyes. “Guys,” he yelled, slamming his hands on the table, making Olivia jump. “I know what’s going on! I got it!”
The others rushed to the table, expectant eyes on Ben. When he didn’t speak right away, Miya started to shift. “Just tell us already, jackass!”
“Syphax didn’t write this chapter.” He made it sound as if it should have been obvious to everyone. The blank stares said otherwise. “Oh, come on. You guys know who Syphax is! Our normal author. Our real author.”
Finally! It took them much longer to figure this all out than expected. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.
The crazy, zany, and completely NOT CANON! interlude you’ve just read is part of the Serial Fiction April Fool’s Day Swap, 2016 Edition. The mindblowing gag post you’ve just read was written by Emma, who normally writes the story Sin Eater, found here.
Syphax, who normally writes this story, today has created their own piece of tomfoolery for Redwood Crossing!
For a full list of all our April Fool’s Swappers and their stories, as well as dozens of other serial novels that will tickle your fancy, check out the Web Fiction Guide forum thread.
Thanks for reading and remember, the best way to support your favorite serial novelist is to tell all your friends about them.