"You see those taxis?" he asked. I nodded. "We're ganna race them," "What!" I said, laughing at his ridiculous idea. "Isn't that illegal?" "Does it matter?"
"Ah, there you are!" Crab said with a grin. "I knew you'd get him to come,"
Ben looked at me with a curious gaze.
"You were bait to get me out of the lab?" he asked. I nodded sheepishly. He laughed and rolled his eyes.
"Come now, Benzedrine," Sandman said smirking. "You know you wouldn't have come if I had asked,"
"I appreciate it," he said smiling. "I always miss all the fun,"
"Precisely why we insisted on you joining us," Crab said, clapping him on the shoulder.
"So where are we off to?" Ben asked
"The city," Sandman said. "And anywhere else that seems exciting," he smiled mischievously.
"Wonderful," Ben said smiling. "That sounds wonderful,"
Just then, the elevator doors pinged open before us and we all entered.
"Is Donnie coming?" I asked, curiously.
"No," Crab said. "He's not the type of person to do this sort of thing,"
"This sort of thing?" I asked.
"Fun," Sandman chimed in. "He doesn't like to have fun," Crab punched his shoulder.
"I didn't mean it like that!" he exclaimed.
"Donnie just doesn't support fooling around, so Sandman and Donnie have trouble getting along,” Crab explained.
"He acts like my father!" Sandman said, annoyed. "He just needs to loosen up a bit, that's all,"
"He has a very demanding job, Sandman," Ben said. "He just doesn't want any trouble; you know that,"
"We all have demanding jobs, Ben," Sandman snapped, his eyes dark. "That doesn't mean it has to consume us,”
"Don’t you start, Sandman," Crab scolded. "You can be just as much of a killjoy about things,but we put up with you just the same,"
Sandman scoffed and crossed his arms. The elevator pinged open and we all exited and walked towards the large doors of Ben’s house.
"Well, this night is off to a great start…" I murmured, sarcastically.
"I'm sorry, Allie,” Crab said. “We tend to bicker quite a bit. We’ll tone it down tonight,"
"I'm sorry too," Sandman added, "I can get moody at times…"
"That is the truth," Ben whispered to himself and I had to stifle a laugh.
He realized I heard him and joined me in trying to mask our laughter; Sandman mock-glared at us.
We walked into the cool night air. I glanced up at the sky, which was filled with a brilliant amount of starlight. The moon was almost full, and there was not a cloud in the sky. I could see the city in the distance, sparkling in technicolor, ahead of us.
"Oh! I just remembered," Crab said, breaking the quiet. "We have to think of a cover story for you,"
"A cover story?"
"Well, yes," he said. "We can't just go around telling people you're from another universe, can we?"
"I guess not…" I replied, feeling dim. "So what should I say?"
A moment of thought passed over the group.
"I got it!" Crab said. "What if we say she's my cousin from a few towns over,"
"Sounds reasonable to me," Ben said.
"She doesn't look anything like you," Sandman said dryly.
"Then she's my distant cousin," Crab said grinning. I laughed.
"Fine," Sandman said, bored. "But we need to give her a proper name,"
"What's wrong with my name?" I asked defensively.
"Nothing, it's a wonderful name," Ben said, reassuring me. "It just sounds very foreign and the last thing we need is to get people asking questions about you. I don't want to get the paparazzi involved,"
"You have paparazzi here?"
"Much to my dismay, yes," Ben replied. "Anyways, we have to get creative with names here…"
"What about Tiffany Blews?" Sandman suggested.
"I like it," Crab said smiling. "It fits you,"
"I like it, too," Ben said. "Where’d you think of that?"
"An old friend had that name," Sandman replied. "And, I guess, it just felt right,"
“It does sound familiar,” Crab said.
Their thoughts were interrupted as we entered the city. With the sun gone, the whole place became illuminated in bright, colorful lights. It was magical. It was full of light and sound and happiness…I could spend forever here. It was way cooler than anything we had back home.
"It's really something, isn't it?" Crab said, looking fondly at his home.
"Yeah, it's incredible," I said, breathless, just trying to take it all in.
As we walked down the crowded road, a few funky-looking cars drove by. I happened to see Sandman smiling under his painted on smile in my peripheral vision. Ben seemed to notice too.
"Uh-oh, I know that face," Ben said. "What are you scheming?"
"Do you remember that time we raced?" He asked, never taking his eyes of the cars.
"Yes…" Ben said hesitantly. Sandman's smile grew. "No! I know what you're thinking and it's not going to happen."
"Oh, come on!" he said, smiling. "It would be so much fun!"
"I refuse to participate in your childish shenanigans" Ben said, crossing his arms. "It'll end badly,"
"Are you forgetting that the luckiest man alive is standing right next to you?" Crab chimed in, putting his arm around Ben. "What's the worst that could happen?"
"Are you seriously asking that?" Ben said, dryly.
"Fine, you don't have to participate," Sandman said, putting up his hands in surrender.
"We'll just have to have all the fun without you,"
With that he grabbed my hand and started running. I laughed, stumbling to catch up as he dragged me along.
"Hey!" Ben protested, trying to catch up.
"What are we doing?" I asked Sandman as we ran.
"You see those taxis?" he asked. I nodded. "We're ganna race them,"
"What!" I said, laughing at his ridiculous idea. "Is that even legal?"
"Does it matter?" He asked with a playful smile on his face.
My smile grew large; I had never done something so bad in my life- but I was ready to try. We approached the taxis that were parked on the side of the street. To my surprise, they were empty.
"Where are the drivers?" I asked, breathlessly.
"Probably on break," Sandman said. He waved his hand over the car door and a silvery light surrounded the handle. It opened with a click. "Hop in," he said, waving his hand to open the passenger door. I shook my head and laughed at how stupid this idea was, and how dangerous it could be, and how reckless this was…
But, I still got in the car.
I saw Ben and Crabs running after us, in the rear-view mirror, and getting in a car themselves. Sandman used his magic to start the car.
"Hold on, Allie, you're in for a bumpy ride…" with that he revved the engine and we were zooming down the road.
I was pushed back into my seat as the world became a blur of colors outside the window. I laughed with joy. I looked in the rear-view mirror again and saw that Crab and Ben were right on our tails.
"Sandman, they're gaining on us!" I yelled.
He glanced in the mirror and smiled sinisterly. Looking forward once more, he drove even faster.
"Let's make this interest…" in the blink of an eye, the radio was blaring and the windows were down, blowing my hair around in the wind. In a moment of chaos we were racing through the city, windows down, in the back of yellow checkered cars.
Does your husband know the way that the sunshine gleams off your wedding band? The radio sung.
Crab and Ben were coming up on our left and Sandman tired to swerve to get them out of the way.
Does he know the way of the crickets that would convince me to call it a night?
But, by magic, they avoided him and caught up to our car on our left.
Does he know the way I worship our love?
Sandman speed up, and they followed his lead. We were neck and neck.
Does your husband know the way that the sunshine gleams from your wedding band?
Our cars were side by side now. Crab rolled down his window.
"You got a head start!" he yelled over the sound of the music and wind.
"That’s ‘cause you were being stubborn!" Sandman yelled with a cocky smile on his face. "Besides, you know I'm a better driver than you!" he gloated.
"I don't think skill is going to win this race…" he said with a sly smile on his face, "Perhaps all you need is a little bit of luck…" He waved his fingers in the air and a glowing light flew out of his finger tips.
Suddenly, everything stopped. The car stopped moving, the radio was shut off. Crab had turned off our car entirely. Sandman hit the wheel in frustration.
"That's cheating! No magic allowed!" he yelled after their car as it zoomed ahead. He focused for a moment and the engine started up again with a huff.
"There is no way we're catching up to them now…" I said, hopeless.
"Not necessarily," he said, getting back up to speed. "I have a few tricks of my own…"
His eyes went almost completely black for a moment and a cloud moved overhead. A loud clap of thunder sounded and a lightning bolt struck Ben and Crab's stolen vehicle. They stopped dead in their tracks.
I gasped as we drove by them, hoping the damage wasn't too bad.
"Oh, relax," Sandman said, rolling his eyes. "It didn't hurt them; it just slowed them down,"
"Oh…" I started, relieved. "Hang on…where are we racing to?"
"An old lamppost a few streets away," he stated. "It's right near a park we used to play in as kids,"
A park with a lamppost? Why did that sound so familiar? Maybe I had somewhere like that in California. These worlds must be a lot more alike than they let on.
Sandman made a sharp left turn, almost sending me through the windshield. I had to clutch to the dashboard to not get thrown out. But, dangerous or not, it was fast enough to catch up to our competitors. Looking past them, I saw that we were quickly approaching the lamppost Sandman had described.
"We're almost there!" he said, determined look spreading across his face. "We can still win this!"
Sandman's eyes turned black once more and a powerful wind started behind our car, propelling us ahead of the very surprised (and frustrated) Benzedrine and H. Shoe Crab.
"They can't beat us now!" But I spoke to soon.
Just as the words left my mouth, Ben and Crab miraculously passed us and beat us to the lamppost. We arrived only a second behind. Sandman and I sat in the car, just looking out the windshield as Crab and Ben exited their taxi in triumph.
"You had to curse it didn't you?"
"Well, what did we expect?" I started. "Crab controls luck; I don't think there was much chance of us winning,"
"I guess your right…" he sighed. "It was still pretty fun though, right?"
"That was the most fun I've had in a long time," I said, with a grin.
"I guess we should go and face them now," he said with a sigh.
“I guess you’re right,”
We both got out of the taxi and walked over to where they were standing.
"So…" Sandman started. "I thought you said you wouldn't… how did you put it? Ah, yes, 'participate in your childish shenanigans'," he said doing an exaggeration impersonation of Benzedrine. Crab and I laughed.
"Laugh all you want, but we still won," Ben said, a victorious look on his face. "And you thought I couldn't have fun,"
"You only won because you used magic!" Sandman yelled.
"So did you!" Crab pointed out.
"Oh, yeah?” Sandman said, defiantly, “How do you know?"
Crab raised his eyebrows.
"A lightening storm just happened to start when we were ahead of you and strike our taxi, then leave directly afterwards?" he said, sarcastically. "I'm pretty sure that wasn't a coincidence,"
"You’re not very good at being nonchalant, Sandman," I added.
"Hey! Whose side are you on?" he asked with mock hurt. I put my hands up in surrender.
"She has a point," Ben said.
"Whatever," Sandman scoffed, crossing his arms.
The bickering and gloating continued as I turned around and glanced at the park behind us. It was hard to see in the dim light, but I could make out a playground not too far from where we stood.
It was multicolored and had many twisting slides, money bars, ladders and other oddities that could only be described as childlike. There was also a bright red swing set beside it that held two rickety swings.
Images began flashing before my eyes again. It was like before when I was at Kaleidoscope Eyes, but the scenes I was witnessing were different this time; clearer- no, stronger:
The sun was shining brightly, the sky cloudless. It was warm and the park was filled with blurry faces.
“Come on, let’s hide over here!” a little girl with blonde pigtails said, running hand-and-hand with a boy with black hair and brown eyes.
“Get your own spot!” A little boy with curly hair yelled at a boy with blue eyes. The boy with blue eyes ran and hid under a bush, a little ways away.
“Ready or not, here I come!” another child’s voice rang out from somewhere.
The source of the voice was a blonde haired boy with green eyes. He searched around, chasing after the other children he found them.
"Enjoying the scenery?" Crab asked, slightly sarcastic.
The vision dissipated before my eyes, returning the park to its nighttime appearance.
"Wh-what?" I said, dazed.
“You just totally zoned out,” Sandman said.
“Sorry,” I muttered, shaking the image away. “This place just… looks so familiar,”
"We have a lot of places here that are similar to locations in your world," Ben reasoned.
I nodded distractedly.
But the resemblance was uncanny. Even thought the vision was blurred, and I couldn’t make much out, I knew for a fact that it was the same place I saw in my head.
"Where are we off to next?" Crab asked.
Sandman replied, but I wasn't paying attention enough to listen. I was trying to regain the vision- I had to know if it was the same place.
"Are you alright, Allie?" Ben asked, putting a hand on my shoulder.
I noticed I hadn't taken my eyes off the playground.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," I pried my eyes away and looked at Ben.
He looked skeptical, so I smiled at him reassuringly.
“I’m fine,” I said, but my voice deceived me. He looked like he was about to say something.
"Come on guys, let's go!" Sandman exclaimed, grabbing both our attention.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"Angels and Kings,"
"It's a nightclub," Crab said, sensing my confusion.
"A nightclub?" I furrowed my brow. "You guys are taking me clubing?"
"Nightclubs are much different here, Allie," Ben started. "There isn't as much drinking or provocative dancing, don’t worry,"
"Your world has all the fun," Sandman muttered. Ben rolled his eyes.
"It's just a place to dance," he added.
"Sounds like fun,"
"Awesome," Crab said, smiling. "Let's go!"
We all started walking towards the club. But as we turned the corner, I couldn't help but glance at the playground one last time.
It was way too familiar. The vision matched perfectly. It couldn't have been a coincidence.
I turned away, putting my mind at ease- at least for a little while.