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by Natch, ID: 23912
The start of a typical Autumn day for at least one BADGE operative in New Amsterdam begins with a warmup workout before patrolling and missions. Pushups are almost too easy with morphon particles running through a body, so Natch used most of his gym time lifting free weights. The eliptical was a fun way to finish up. Heading toward the showers, a familiar voice from behind him said, "It's Halloween. Better stay alert today. Probably going to see scarier things than Your Zombie Ex-girlfriend walking around town."
"Good morning, Peyton," Natch replied with a grin! "But I thought she was your zombie ex-girlfriend."
"Don't start. Want to get some waffles?"
"Sure. Meet you out front."
About twenty minutes later and feeling like a million bux in the crisp morning air, Natch looked around for Peyton and decided he must have gone to breakfast without him. A black market hawker standing in the shadowy alley beside the gym caught his attention with a loud "pssst."
"Morphon particles for sale here, cape. Get 'em while they're fresh," the hawker said in a hushed voice, beckoning him over.
"How much," Natch asked?
"Depends how many you want. Starts at 26 for a dollar."
"What's a dollar?"
"Real money from the real world," the hawker smirked. "Got any? You can use your mom's credit card unless you're afraid she'll kick you out of her basement."
That word dollar seemed important, significant somehow. Natch felt his mind spin and swirl while a foggy vision of his thumbs tapping tiny buttons on a mobile phone passed before his eyes. A cartoon version of himself stared back from the screen and winked, pushing him back to reality.
“No thanks," he said with a blink and a quick shake of his head. After a comforting squeeze of the Strange Duck in his pocket, he stated with confidence, "I'd rather earn them. This isn't the real world?"
The hawker chuckled, "Suit yourself, but you'll fall way behind others who do." He glanced off down the street then, adding, "Don't you know that's not really you? You're a monkey brain in a meat jar wasting time in another dimension."
Natch was working up a batch of murder hornets to send his way when the hawker backed off into the shadows, mumbling, "Never mind. See ya 'round, cape."
Belly rumbling with hunger, Natch turned to walk to Peyton's favorite coffee shop and noticed the sun was on the wrong side of the sky, setting instead of rising. Confusion gave way to the notion that his daydream must have been longer than it seemed. Maybe he'd been standing all day in that alley, staring off into space. A group of giggling trick-or-treaters ran by with sacks already half full of goodies. Squinting at them in the fading light, Natch understood that they weren't costumed children. It was a band of actual ghouls, goblins, witches, and ghosts. A sudden tap on his shoulder made him spin around ready to fire a bolt of lightning. Arcana smiled from beneath her hood and greeted him instead.
"Hello, Natch. Welcome back to Ardeal. It must be a year now since I last saw you," she said.
"Right," he answered. "Since last Halloween."
"What brings you back to us," she asked? "Want another wrestling match with Sarubarus? I've heard she enjoyed that quite a lot last time, but she's hardly a challenge for you now."
"No, I..," Natch searched for the words to explain. "I seem to have phased through time and space, but I don't know how or why."
Arcana tilted her head and studied him, looking puzzled. Her face spread into a wide smile then, transforming into a sinister pointy-toothed clown, a trickster. High-pitched delighted squeals of laughter erupted while a stream of drool dribbled from one side of his mouth. He clapped a white-gloved hand on Natch's shoulder.
“Happy Halloween," he shouted! "Did you like my costume?” Then he danced away laughing like a maniacal idiot. Natch found himself still standing at the mouth of the alleyway beside the gym.
“I really hate those guys,” he grumbled to himself, setting off once again toward the coffee shop and glancing at the sun to be sure it was rising after all.
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