B.G. Hilton – Writer

Do It Yourself: Chapter 39 – Testing Times

Fiona stood behind the plumbing orders counter, organising receipts. She was increasingly finding herself in de facto charge of the plumbing section. Wellsey was away on errands for Ms Shan so often these days. Fiona covered for him, working out rosters and making orders. The other team members in the plumbing section did not dispute this new hierarchy. Most of them spend their quiet moments searching the job websites anyway. No one wanted a promotion, least of all an unofficial promotion that came without a raise.

The Handy Pavilion was quiet on a Tuesday morning, allowing Fiona to catch up with some of Wellsey’s paperwork. She muttered under her breath at her nominal boss’ childish handwriting, then chuckled at herself. When she’d started working, she’d been considered a hopeless employee, one of the worst the Pavilion had hired. Now here she was criticising the work of her mentor.

It felt good. In a deeply uncomfortable way.

“Hey, Fiona.”

It was Donna Saheco from lighting. Donna worked in lighting, and in recent weeks had become Fiona’s best friend at the Pavilion. She was… she was a good influence on Fiona. It was a weird thing for an adult to think about herself, but there it was. Since she’d assisted in the armoured car heist, Fiona had felt like she had been morally twisting in the wind, floating rudderless on an unpaved road through a whirlpool of increasingly mixed metaphors. Donna’s friendship helped to ground her.

“Hey, Donna,” Fiona said. “Just be a sec.” She stapled a sheath of receipts together with a satisfying clunk. “Break time? Kebab shop?”

“Full moon last night,” Donna said. “You know the kebab shop is always closed after a night with a full moon. If you didn’t bring a packed lunch, we’ll have to go to the café, and watch Miss Carob and Captain Monkeyman make goo-goo eyes at each other while we eat.”

“Ugh,” Fiona said. Seriously, she was happy for Carol and Zorbar, but still… “Never mind, Carol makes a pretty decent sandwich. Besides, it doesn’t matter. I want to talk about a couple of things.

“What’s that thing?” Donna said. “That electric deally with the green light on top? It goes on whenever I’m talking to you.”

“Oh, that’s the something called a Bechdelmeter,” Fiona said. “It’s not just you, it goes on when I’m talking to Belinda or Nalda or Ms Shan. I think it was built by Axel… Oh, the light’s gone off.”

“Never mind,” Donna said. “Let’s talk about Axel for a while. He’s quite interesting… Huh. Now a red light has come on.”

“Weird!” Fiona said. “Anyway, I don’t want to talk about Axel. I need to ask you some advice.”

Donna came around behind the orders desk and took a wonky seat with a missing castor. “I’m all ears.”

“I… there’s something I need to get off my chest,” Fiona said. The light on the meter turned pale green.

“It’s about a terrible deed I took part in, alongside others,” she continued. The light turned yellow.

“But mostly it concerns my own role in it and how it affects my personal story.”

The light turned green. Frowning, Donna switched it off “Sorry, that’s distracting. You were saying?”

Fiona took a deep breath and told her friend everything. About her unexpected, unexplained water powers. About her acquiescence in Axel’s plan. About pouring water all over the road, ready to be frozen by Norman using Axel’s freeze ray.

About a daylight robbery, in short.

Donna whistled. “That’s pretty heavy,” she said. “I mean, it was only hurting those a-holes at the DIY Barn, but still…”

“What should I do?” Fiona said. “I… I feel so awful about it. But if I confess to the police, won’t that just hurt the Pavilion?” She gestured around the near-empty aisles. “Do you think we can take the hit?”

“If you’d asked me a year ago, I’d have said just keep your head down,” Donna said. “But since I’ve been working in lighting, I’ve been talking to Sadie a lot. You know about morals, ethics, things like that. It’s really changed… Hey, I thought I turned that meter thing off. Ugh, the green light is brighter than ever. Anyway, I think you have only one choice:”

Fiona strained her ears and leaned in close as Donna took a deep breath to speak.

And then they were both on the floor. Fiona’s ears rang. Was Donna okay? Was she okay? There were papers everywhere… It would take forever to tidy. Gathering all her strength, Fiona pushed herself off the floor. She seemed to be in one piece. Her nose was bleeding but nothing seemed broken.

The two nearest shelving units had partly collapsed. Each one had bent outwards at more or less the same point. Fiona found her eye attracted to the floor between the bends in the shelves. There, cratered in the concrete of the floor, was a glowing red rock.

A meteor? A meteorite? Fiona had used to know the distance. StalagTites came from the Top… No, that as something different…

Donna was standing now. She tapped Fiona’s shoulder and said something that couldn’t be heard over the ringing. Fiona followed Donna’s pointed finger to a hole in the ceiling almost above them. Belatedly, the store sprinklers started. A cloud of white steam flashed into existence when the water hit the rock, obscuring Fiona’s vision. When it cleared, she saw the monster.

It human shaped, but bigger than most men. Perhaps even bigger Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And it came out of a rock too. Interesting. Is comparing monsters to former pro-wrestlers a sign of concussion? It seems probable.

Donna grabbed Fiona’s shoulder and gestured for her to run. That was easier said than done. The splintery ruins of the orders desk blocked easy escape. On unsteady legs Fiona hobbled away from the glowing red creature as it shambled after them, fury written into every line of its slavering features.

But… was that help ahead? Hurtling towards them and the monster was the sleek figure of the superhero, Voyager! Fiona was seeing double. It was as if two Voyagers were zooming towards the creature. There were two Voyagers! They hit the thing, driving it backwards. Donna cheered and punched her fist in the air. Fiona’s hearing came back just in time to hear Fiona’s ‘whoop’ of triumph.

The Voyagers fought hard, punch after atomic punch, pushing the Monster back out of the steam, into the clear air of the seasonal section. All at once, the thing rallied, knocking one Voyager from the air with a fist the size of a lawnmower; grabbing the other by a leg and sending her careening into a pile of Halloween decorations.

“Water!” Donna said. “Don’t you see? It’s a creature of flame!”

“Well, duh,” Fiona said, not happy with being patronised.

She closed her eyes and felt out with her mind. There was water everywhere. She called it to her, settled its agitated molecules. She calmed the waters fears, and it respected her for that. She opened her eyes.

“Donna, you ever see The Abyss?

Donna laughed as vast tentacles of water rose from the floor and took the fiery monster in their watery embrace. A cloud of steam arose again, Fiona pushed back, willing the water molocules to retain their liquid form. The Voyagers laid into the stricken creature with everything they had — but they needn’t have bothered. The creature fell to its knees, then toppled forward onto its face. Fiona let the water go its way, and there was nothing left of the thing but charred bones that fell into grey-black dust.

Next – Chapter 40: Belinda is Helpful

Previously – Chapter 38: Between Two Doors

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