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Guest art by Jake Hill
Episode 13: Brussel Does Something
Hana’s mother called her over to the living room to see something on tv. Expecting it to be a trailer for yet another monster movie, Hana rolled her eyes and continued munching on her slice of sourdough bread in the kitchen. The volume on the tv was then turned up until the walls vibrated and Hana was forced to hear every single overloud word that poured out of the speakers. That was when she stopped mid-munch and her eyes lit up to such an extent that she could have brightened the entire house just by keeping them open.
‘The giant red bear has crashed through the toothpick factory and is destroying every machine in its path,’ came the excited, yet still somehow controlled voice of the reporter. ‘The few humans at the factory are fleeing in every direction, hoping to save themselves from this monstrous force. It appears that I, too, need to flee, as the bear seems to be heading directly towards me. This is Diego Johnson, signing off!’
There was a burst of static and then another voice filled the house:
‘And that was our field reporter Diego Johnson, who seems to be in a bit of a pickle. So far we still have no word on where this giant red bear has come from or how it came into being, but rest assured we will divulge that information as it becomes available. Now for the one thing that everybody likes to talk about: the weather. Tracy?’
‘Yes, Zach, it looks like it’s going to be another hot summer day, with a giant red bear coming in from the north . . .’
The volume dropped back down to a murmur, and it took a very long time for Hana to realise that her bread had turned soggy in her mouth. She swallowed the gross mush down like a baby bird being fed by its mother.
‘Did you hear that?’ her mother called out. ‘First a white lizard and now a red bear!’
‘I heard!’ Hana called back. ‘It’s probably nothing! Red bears attack toothpick factories all the time!’
She knew her mother would not believe her but felt it was worth a shot anyway. At least her mother did not bring up the giant raisin again.
Hana wrapped the uneaten half of her bread in tinfoil and placed it in the fridge for later. This would not make sense to anyone who opened the fridge later on and saw it. She had simply done it because her mind was somewhere else completely, in a faraway forest where Daniel Druff and a giant red bear had explained themselves to her. Now they had even more explaining to do.
She went to call James in her parents’ room but the phone rang before she had a chance to pick up the receiver.
‘I saw something on tv that you might be interested in,’ James said.
‘I saw it too,’ Hana said. ‘Why would the giant red bear attack anybody?’
‘Giant red bear?’ James asked back in confusion. ‘I was talking about a commercial for a new dandruff shampoo. It’s called Hyper Burn, and apparently it’s so effective that people who use it turn bald. I figured you might want to try it.’
‘Okay. I was just trying to help. What are you talking about?’
‘The red bear,’ she explained. ‘The telepathic one that hangs around Daniel Druff and helped us defeat the giant raisin. He attacked a toothpick factory.’
‘He probably had something stuck in his teeth,’ James said. ‘What’s the big deal?’
‘The big deal is that the bear should be smarter than that. He also shouldn’t be on tv, where people like my mother can see him.’
‘Some bear,’ James said, and Hana could hear him shaking his head in disappointment. ‘Does this mean we’re going to have to battle him? I’m almost done polishing my bat.’
‘I don’t know,’ Hana said worriedly. ‘For one thing, we know that the bear is one of the good guys. For another, this is the bear that ate Daniel Druff before Daniel Druff became a robot but still had all of his dandruff powers. The bear also ate the mad scientist that turned Daniel Druff into a robot. And he was key in stopping Scorlax from raisining the world. If you ask me, he is one powerful bear.’
‘Then pull a dandruff bear out of your head and let them battle it out,’ James suggested. ‘Best case scenario: we win. Worst case scenario: no more dandruff bear.’
‘I don’t know,’ Hana said. ‘I think we should look into it more. Apparently he even charged at a reporter.’
‘Should we go check him out, then? Make sure he’s the bear we’re thinking of? I’m sure all we have to do is follow the trail of toothpicks and newsmen to find him.’
Hana thought about it. ‘I suppose it couldn’t hurt, as long as we ignore all of the potential pain. Things would be a lot easier if we had a way of contacting Daniel Druff – he would have the answers for sure.’
‘What about the way king?’
‘To tell the truth, I think the way king only knows a lot about stuff that he can eat. We’ll just have to go on our own. Besides, we’re heroes, aren’t we? Let’s go be heroic. Let’s solve the mystery and save the day.’
Hana could hear James nodding. ‘Let’s do it,’ he said.
James rode them to the toothpick factory on his bicycle, though it took some time for them to realise that what they were looking at was indeed the factory. The toothpicks blanketing the area like sharp wooden grass were their first clues. They were actually quite shocked by the devastation – not even the giant raisin had done this much damage.
‘Do you still want to go after him?’ James asked uncertainly, trying but failing to mask the tremor in his voice.
‘Um.’ Hana could not take her eyes off the wreckage. It was worse than anything she could have possibly imagined, and the thought of the bear doing even more damage to her city was more than she could bear. ‘I think we have to.’
James took a deep breath and then swallowed it.
‘I wonder where he went,’ he said.
‘Look for footprints leading away from the factory.’
This was not hard to do. After dismounting the bicycle, they very quickly found large red paw prints that led down a different street. Hana walked up to one and placed her foot on top of it. Her foot looked pathetically small and insignificant within the outline of the bear’s massive paw.
‘Do you still want to go after him?’ James asked again.
Hana retrieved her foot before it was engulfed completely. She nodded.
‘Strange how they’re red,’ she said.
She bent down and touched one with her finger. The red had a familiar, flakey texture to it. She pinched some of the flakes and held them up to show James, her eyes suddenly wide with recognition.
‘It’s red, but it’s dandruff – it must’ve been painted or something. I’d recognise the feel of it anywhere. But why red dandruff? It doesn’t make any sense.’
James slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand.
‘Stupid!’ he said. ‘That’s not the red bear; it’s a dandruff bear. We even saw the video of Brussel making it.’
Hana slapped her own forehead.
‘Jeez! I can’t believe we forgot! I guess so much other stuff has happened that it’s hard to keep track of everything. So the red bear is actually innocent – Brussel is the one behind all this! This must’ve been his plan all along!’
‘Let’s ride,’ James said.
They returned to James’ bicycle. He pedaled them past the wreckage and then turned down the next street. They soon heard the faint whistling of wild screams in the distance, and James doubled his speed in their direction.
‘I hope everyone is all right,’ Hana said into James’ shoulder as they flew down the sidewalk.
They stopped when they reached the news van, which was just barely hiding the giant red dandruff bear from view. The giant red dandruff bear was circling a Very Convenience Variety Mart. Whenever the dandruff bear disappeared behind it, someone fled the store through the front. A reporter chased after them each time, microphone outstretched, with the hope of obtaining an interview. This bizarre sequence was repeated several times as Hana and James watched on from what they hoped to be a safe enough distance.
‘So far it just seems to be scaring everybody,’ noted James.
‘I wonder why,’ Hana said. ‘It’s not like it’s attacking the news van or the store or anything. Actually, I think it’s even slowing down a bit whenever it passes by the cameras. I wonder if Brussel is doing all of this to get attention.’
‘He’s doing a pretty good job of it.’
‘We have to do something.’
James paused thoughtfully for a moment and then pulled his aluminum baseball bat out of its sheath on the bicycle.
‘How about we put an end to this before Brussel goes too far?’
Hana got off the bicycle and smiled at him.
‘Sure,’ she said. ‘Even if the cameras are rolling, we need to save the city from this thing.’
James nodded. He climbed off his bicycle and walked it to the safest side of the news van. After leaning it against the metal of the van as quietly as possible, he and Hana stepped to the front of the automobile and peered around it. The bear was still circling the store.
‘What should we do?’ Hana whispered. ‘Should we jump out and try to scare it away? It looks like it’s as powerful as the real bear, and I don’t know if I’m any stronger than a toothpick factory.’
‘We’ll have to distract him with something,’ James whispered back. ‘How about you make a dandruff news reporter for it to charge at? While it’s going after it, I’ll find a way to trip it with my bat, and then we can pound it to a pulp.’
Hana hesitated for a moment. Everyone nearby was either too busy running away or screaming to even notice that they were there.
‘I guess this is as good as it’s going to get,’ she said.
James looked at her patiently while she clenched her teeth and rubbed her forehead.
‘It’s okay, Hana,’ James told her. ‘We’ll figure something else out.’
Hana shook her head. She stuck her fingers in her hair and felt her dandruff, the thick clumps stuck between the strands, each flake ripe for the scraping.
‘No, we’re going to do this right,’ she said. ‘I wasn’t born with this power just so I could make igloos and umbrellas. We have to save the city, no matter how much it embarrasses me.’
James gave her a rare look that she would cherish forever – one of unquestionable admiration. She would stop the bear for James.
‘Here goes,’ she said.
Working quickly, Hana managed to scrape, pull and shake out an impressive mess of dandruff that came up to her elbows. James kept watch, ready to smash the prying lenses of cameras if any newspersons came around.
She ended up modeling the dandruff reporter after one she had seen in a movie a couple nights ago. Other than being eerily symmetrical and understandably short, her flakey recreation of the character was surprisingly accurate. It completely lacked any personality, of course, but that was to be expected of a decoy.
‘This is probably the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen,’ James said, gazing warily at the dry, yellowish being before him. ‘I guess I’m glad you only use your powers for good.’
‘Shush. Just be grateful I have these powers at all.’
They watched with the dandruff reporter as the bear circled around the store once again. As soon as it had disappeared around the side, Hana sent the reporter out to fulfill its purpose as a distraction, and the reporter stumbled towards the store with the longest strides it was capable of given its stunted legs.
The bear came back around and paused at the sight of the reporter. Hana and James could not tell if the dandruff bear was hesitating or if it was merely gauging its prey.
‘I’ll go get ready,’ James said, and he ducked around to the back of the van, raising his bat in preparation for a homerun hit.
Hana now had to figure out how to get the dandruff reporter to lead the dandruff bear past James so he could trip it. She decided that a dandruff fastball aimed directly for the small of the reporter’s back would do the trick; she knew that she tended to run when she was surprised, herself, so this was the most logical solution she could come up with for a puzzle of her own creation.
She had become so used to making dandruff balls that the ball seemed to make itself beneath the guiding tips of her fingers, and as soon as it was complete she sent it flying to the reporter, which jumped and bolted past the storefront, past the van and past James. The bear bounded after.
‘It appears that a man covered in some type of powder has accidentally wandered onto the scene,’ announced the nearby voice of a flesh-and-blood reporter. ‘We can only hope that the man can run fast enough despite his tiny, tiny legs.’
Hana ran out from the protective side of the van to watch the bear chase after the dandruff reporter. Once the bear was past the van, James jumped out and tripped the bear by holding his bat out in front of the great beast’s hind legs. The bear skidded forward, sending out painted dandruff flakes like red sparks.
‘It looks like the bear has been crippled by a young boy,’ the actual reporter declared, albeit with some scepticism. ‘The bear is sliding forward at terrific speed, however. It’s sliding directly towards the powdered man and – it’s happened! The bear has crashed into the powdered man, reducing him to a pile of powder! Oh, the horror!’
The bear was groaning when Hana reached it. She tried to get to it as soon as possible, before the news reporters or police officers or anyone else; the chance of the dandruff being traced back to her was too great a risk for her to take.
James was keeping the bear’s head down with the tip of his bat.
‘What should we do with it?’ he asked.
Hana looked at the remnants of the dandruff bear’s legs. She then looked at what was left of the dandruff reporter, and a dandruff light bulb appeared above her head.
‘We’ll have it lead us back to Brussel,’ she declared.
James looked at her. Then he looked at the remnants of the dandruff bear’s legs. He looked back at Hana, and a light bulb failed to appear above his head.
‘I’ll make legs for it – good legs, ones that’ll waltz it straight to Brussel for us. Maybe I’ll even make a bike rack and saddle for it, too.’
‘Is that possible?’
‘Sure,’ Hana said, already bending down to round up the exploded flakes of reporter. ‘Why not?’
A couple of living, breathing reporters rushed towards them, but James swung his bat in a protective arc. The reporters backed away slowly, holding up their microphones in self-defence. Their cameramen, on the other hand, filmed everything, intent on capturing the bizarre scene that was unfolding before their lenses.
The reporters attempted to coax Hana and James from a safe distance:
‘C’mon, kids, we just want to play nice. Mind if we ask that bear a few questions? It probably isn’t safe for you there.’
But Hana was too busy making bear legs out of a fake reporter to pay them any attention, and James was too busy not caring about what passed between their lips. The bear growled but the growl did not seem to be directed at anyone; it was simply the dandruff bear’s approximation of what a real bear would do under the circumstances. Hana figured Brussel did not know all that much about bears when he put his together.
‘What are ya doing with that powder, kid?’ one of the reporters asked as Hana put the finishing touches on a paw. ‘Come on, don’t ya want to be on the news?’
‘What’s so good about the news?’ James asked. ‘Everything new is already old.’
Hana slapped the bear’s hind knee, her work complete.
The bear got to its feet awkwardly, like a newborn cub finding its footing. Once it found the strength in its new legs, it looked to Hana obediently. Hana placed her hand on its massive side.
‘Do you mind leaning down?’ she asked its feet.
The bear immediately leant down. Hana clambered up it, with James following after. Once they were both sitting on the bear’s back, Hana pulled up some dandruff handles for them to hold onto.
‘Okay,’ she said, satisfied. ‘Take us to Brussel.’
‘Wait,’ James said. ‘What about my bike?’
Both Hana and James looked down at it. After making a rack on the side of the bear and loading James’ bicycle onto it, Hana and James remounted.
‘Okay,’ Hana said again. ‘Take us to Brussel, for real this time.’
The dandruff bear came to a halt in front of a massive hole that was in the middle of a hidden road. Concrete chunks and splashes of dirt bordered it, and from the hole came a stench that was almost as vile as the sulphurous smell of the river monster.
‘It looks like this is where we get off,’ Hana said.
She tapped the bear’s side with her toe and it sat down, allowing them to slide off its red-stained back. Hana decided that it would be okay to leave the bear alone, for if it ever tried to do something wrong, the feet she made it would steer it in the right direction.
James removed his bicycle from the dandruff bear’s dandruff rack and hid it behind a nearby bush for later retrieval. He then joined Hana by the hole.
‘There’s the sewer,’ he said. ‘Filled with alligators, slime and mutants, and Brussel is at least two of those.’
Hana nodded. She knelt down and began pulling a dandruff ladder from her hair.
‘Let’s go put a stop to him,’ she said.
To Be Continued In Episode Fourteen: Commercial Break