“The Mursday Effect” is a humor piece created anonymously by two authors, with each devoting him or herself to an alternating chapter each week. The newest installment in the serial will appear in each Monday issue of The Heights. It can also be found online with the previous chapters.
I. The World is Strange Here
Though it happened several years ago, one can still hear its name uttered over the sound of frozen mozzarella sticks rolling around the Mac kitchen. When one passes the statue of St. Ignatius, the wind whispers the same song. The space where the occasional mouse skitters out into one’s suite, too, carries this sound, singsongy in tune.
By now many of those who experienced that fateful day have gone on to their Great Reward—graduation and a high-paying job, as it is—but the remnants of the events pervade in those who dare to speak it out loud.
'The truth is, Mursday was more than Boston College holding Monday classes on Thursday.'
“There were so many snow days on Monday they switched the schedule around,” Darren Blake, young enough to not remember who Aaron Carter is and CSOM ’20, says in the Chocolate Bar to someone who also nothing about the world.
The truth is, Mursday was more than Boston College holding Monday classes on Thursday. Some have forgotten this by now. Many never even knew. This is the story of what really happened on Mursday 2015, and the events that occurred because of it.
George awoke Mursday morning late for his 9 a.m. economics class, and it took him a moment to realize that, due to these Mursday shenanigans, he didn’t actually have that class today. So more accurately, it should be said that George awoke quite early for his noon accounting class, but that does not adequately capture the acute anxiety with which George awoke and looked at his phone. The relief set in, and George felt even more soothed by the absence of his roommate, Trent, in their double in Fitzpatrick. He was the worst—constantly chatting about the drone he had purchased specifically to play fetch with his dog.
He sat up in his bed, his legs hanging off the side as he made the precarious jump down from the somewhat lofted bed. He meandered six feet over to his desk, which was littered with lightly used textbooks. He noticed at the top of the pile a certain $300 purple book for his accounting class. That’s weird, he thought. He could have sworn that book was blue. Without considering this perplexing matter further, he stuffed it into his bag and walked out the door.
George settled down into one of the high tables at Mac with his Egg McBC, the thinner alternative to the bagel, egg, and cheese. Those sandwiches weren’t even out that day. George took notice of this, mostly because the ham in the Egg McBC tasted of Lunchables, but continued eating anyway. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Trent balancing three take-away containers.
“Hey, George!” Trent shouted, prompting looks from several irritated students.
He jumped up a little in his chair at the enthusiasm in Trent’s voice. Trent was a notorious monotone talker. What was he doing yelling across Mac like some kind of cordial human? How had he already not said something about his dumb drone?
“Hey, Trent. What’s going on?” George mumbled halfheartedly, as one does when he or she has to interact with someone he or she does not like.
“Nothing much! I’m enjoying this change in schedule. But I really do miss my pet turtle at home,” Trent said.
'Trent’s brows were furrowed, showing a concerned look George had never seen before. Was he okay? Things seemed different from yesterday.'
“You have a turtle? I thought it was only your dog, Howard,” George said. “The one you got the drone for.”
“A drone? Where would I even get one of those? And for a dog, no less! You okay, George?”
Trent’s brows were furrowed, showing a concerned look George had never seen before. Was he okay? Things seemed different from yesterday.
“I’m fine, thanks. I have to go to class now,” George said as he leapt down from the chair, hurrying off to Fulton.
As he entered Fulton 135, George already felt like the weight of the world was slowly crushing him—someone had taken his seat. This is the worst thing to ever happen to me, he thought. I will never recover from this. He slipped into an open spot in the first row. It truly was a terrible thing.
“Okay, folks, time to whip out your calculators and do some accounting!” George’s professor said. She looked down at his poor, sad face in his unfortunate seat. He took out his calculator and purple textbook and got to work on a problem: a $10,000 loan with 6 percent interest due at the end of the fiscal year.
'What kind of bizarre world was this?'
“That should be $600,” George whispered to himself, which does not happen much in real life but does for the sake of written pieces. But the calculator showed 582. George looked back at his old seat longingly, the space occupied by a curly-haired teenager who was slamming the buttons on her calculator, clearly experiencing the same mathematical impossibilities.
What kind of bizarre world was this? Where colors changed, personalities twisted, and not even math, beautiful logical math, could be trusted?
After class, George spotted the girl hurrying out of the room as she threw a worried glance over her shoulder. He quickened his pace and caught up to her by the statue of St. Ignatius. He pulled his calculator out of his pocket, flashing the 582 in her face. She looked back at him, her mouth agape (which means open, not to be confused with the Latin agape, from the latte thing)
“Meet me in McGuinn 110 at 3 p.m.,” she said.
II. All the Coffee We Cannot Drink
Last week, you may have noticed a piece by Joanna Oxford, noted simpleton and funambulist, describing the morning a young man named George who woke to find that his Monday classes had been swapped with his Thursday classes and that, somewhat more importantly, the entire world seemed to be twisting in on itself as the most basic of facts, such as mathematical reality, shifted and changed alongside a collapsing reality.
Ms. Oxford, as she often does, neglected to inform you of the crucial role she played in the strange happenings of Mursday, just as she neglected to inform me that she was planning to steal my car and leave me stranded in the woods. And yet she did both of those things because she is a scoundrel. So, I believe it is my duty to inform the readers of the true Mursday happenings, instead of narrowing my focus so as to avoid confronting the truth like that dastardly Oxford.
While George and his mysterious new friend rushed into McGuinn 110 where they would take their first steps on a journey to revelation and pain, there was another male-female pair on the opposite side of campus engaging in a much more narratively important discussion.
Darren MalientePedo Ringtck sat in the back row of the empty Robsham Theater and drank his coffee out of a Mason jar, which was a monumentally foolish decision because everyone knows that heated liquid, when poured into glass receptacles, causes the glass to expand and crack. But Darren loved Mason jars and all they added to his overinflated idea of himself as a brilliant intellectual, whose mind-breaking ideas of structural dysmorphia and the falsified socio-political framework of pseudo-beckettian joyceiasmic post-pre-postmodernism would change the world.
Darren was a freshman English major, if you were wondering.
The woman who walked into Robsham Theater and sat next to Darren needs no introduction. But what the hay, here’s one anyway.
“Drinking that coffee out of that Mason jar is a monumentally foolish decision.”
Her name was Athena Wilson, a professor in the physics department, and she was a much more pleasant person to spend time with than Darren, despite her involvement in a number of extremely shady enterprises.
“Darren,” she said. “Drinking that coffee out of that Mason jar is a monumentally foolish decision.”
“Why did you call me here, professor?” Darren said.
“It appears that something has gone wrong with the Mursday plan. There may be complications.”
“Have you spoken to the directors?”
“No more questions from you, child.”
Darren’s glass cracked from the heat of his coffee.
“Oh, nuggets,” he said, as the coffee dripped through the crack and scalded his hand.
Athena shook her head at this poor, foolish boy. But he was necessary to the situation. His parents had funded the initial experiments and without them this would all fall apart. Darren had been crucial in planting the snow-producers and manipulating the days off so as to align everything for the final trial run.
“Owie owie,” he said. “The coffee’s burning my hand.”
Athena did not respond to the call of ‘owie owie.’
“It really hurts,” he said. “Ooooooooooooooooooooo.”
“Then why don’t you put down the broken mason jar so that the hot coffee stops dripping over your hand.”
Darren paused and then put the jar down.
“Stephen Dedalus’ theory of beauty is just applied Aquinas,” he muttered, in order to convince himself that he was still intelligent.
“It appears that something has split,” Athena said. “Worlds are bleeding together. More importantly, we have outliers, students and faculty who have been able to observe the effects of the Mursday plan and may take action once they realize that reality has been broken. I need you to help me find these people.”
“What happens once I find them?”
“You give me their names. The rest doesn’t concern you.”
Athena stood up and walked out of the theatre, leaving Darren to nurse his boo-boos. Outside, she dialed a number on her phone.
“We’re moving on them,” she said. “It won’t be long.”
She hung up and walked on.
Over 1,000 miles away in a small farmhouse in the northern woods, a distinguished, handsome, intelligent, articulate, generally fantastic fellow was sitting down to enjoy a morning croissant when a crass, cruel, simpleton of a woman sat across from him.
“How did you get in here?” the truly beautiful and immensely talented man said.
“None of your business,” the downright mean and unpleasant woman said. “It appears as though there may have been an incident at Boston College. As reporters, vigilantes, and protectors of reality, we must go and see what has occurred.”
The man shook his head in that dashingly clever way of his and stood up.
“I suppose we must,” he said, and the two of them left on a journey that neither realized would someday lead to serial publication in a college newspaper.
And finally, back on the BC campus, in McGuinn 110, George and the girl he had followed out of class, the two classic, relatable folks introduced into this tale last week by Ms. Oxford burst into a fully-packed lecture on the importance of non-linear derivatives to the work of Dante Alighieri.
“What’s happening?” George said. “Weird crap has been going on all day. What’s wrong with the calculator? Who are you? Why is everything so weird?”
“Quiet,” she whispered. “I can see it too, but no one else can. Everything’s going weird on us. Yesterday, my best friend was an Irish dancer who loved French fries and Marvel movies. Today, she told me that she can’t wait for her chemistry class, wants to get kale for dinner, and absolutely loves what Zack Snyder did with Batman v. Superman.”
“There,” she said, pointing to a man standing in the back of the hall. “That guy stopped me on the way across campus this morning. I think he knows what’s happening and he’s trying to stop it.”
The class ended and the students filed out. Soon, the hall was empty except for the two of them and the man in the back. He walked slowly toward them, his boots making strange, metallic noises with each step. As he got closer, George could see him clearly: a tiny man with a large black trench coat, a black pork pie hat, aviator sunglasses, and a finely-trimmed beard.
“Who are you?” George said. The man stopped precisely 15 inches away and appraised the two young, bewildered students.
He walked slowly toward them, his boots making strange, metallic noises with each step.
“My name’s Retrograde,” he said. “And I’m here to save your lives.”
No one spoke.
“Oooh,” George said, totally ruining the moment and turning an intriguing ending into a stupid gag. “Dramatic.”
III. Buried Beneath the Earth
Upon breaking the heavy silence between Retrograde and his newfound friend, George reached his hand out, examining his hair in the reflection of Retrograde’s aviator shades.
“George,” he whispered.
“Bridget,” the girl said, finally mentioning her name after spending a substantial amount of time with a person she’s never met and not thinking an introduction was pertinent information. “Bridget Jones. Like the book. It came out the year I was born. My mom is the worst.”
Retrograde looked at her in disgust, then shook his head.
“No matter. I need to bring you both up to speed on what’s happening. As you’ve noted, something strange is afoot. We need to bring you to HQ,” he said.
The two students exchanged glances, a term often overused in novel writing that means they looked at each other in a manner that showed they were on the same page, and in this case, suspicious.
“Where’s that?” Bridget asked.
“The Service Building,” Retrograde replied, now tapping his foot anxiously. “We need to hurry.”
“What the hell is the Service Building?” George said, somehow implying in his voice that it was not just any service building and deserved to be capitalized per Associated Press Stylebook Rules™.
The three headed out of McGuinn as the sky grew overcast with another impending snowstorm. Bridget picked up her pace when the wind started flapping her sleeping bag of a coat in her face. The furry fringe on its hood made its way into her mouth, causing her to splutter out the short brown hairs.
“Are we going somewhere far? This Canada Goose jacket is really being a pain today,” Bridget said.
“The Service Building, you young, naive children, has been hiding in plain sight for your entire time at Boston College,” Retrograde said, in a tone that was sincere but also patronizing, like he had been sitting on this line for five minutes and finally had the chance to say it (He had been, and he nailed the delivery). “It’s even listed on the official BC map, a blue L-shaped building marked ‘service.’ It really couldn’t be clearer.”
As they walked closer, George pointed out what he must have been talking about—a gray building, nestled near Campion and Cushing. It jumped out at him for the first time, despite passing it often on his way to Merkert, where he did not study chemistry but rather sat in the back of a large lecture on evolution for his science core. Boxy maroon vans were parked in a line outside the building. Retrograde latched onto one of the heavy doors and swung it open, positioning his legs on the driver’s seat.
“Follow me,” he said to the two, who now saw a large hole seemingly cut through the entire front seat of the vehicle in a perfect circle. Bridget climbed down next, discovering a ladder that seemed to go on for a half a mile. George looked down at her, then at a man who walked through the front door of the building. He wondered why there was such an elaborate process to getting down to this secret area since it appeared anyone could go into the building just by walking in, but he only raised an eyebrow and continued down the tunnel. He was, and still is, a bit more of a follower than a leader.
Arriving at the bottom of the seemingly endless ladder, the youths collected their breaths as Retrograde dusted off his pork pie hat. He stood in front of a sign marked “REPLACEMENT LOFTING EQUIPMENT” in maroon lettering with a gold trim, so as to appear on-brand.
Honestly, Greycliff has never looked better. But that’s beside the point. We have to stop this.
“Well, here we are,” he said, fiddling with an old corncob pipe in his jacket pocket. “HQ.”
Instead of gasping in awe as he jiggled several buttons and opened the door, the two were slightly underwhelmed. Several CCTV monitors lined the walls, projecting live images of the campus. They were hoping for more hustle and bustle, and maybe a F’real machine. But there were only the TVs, a large filing cabinet, and a sizable pile of Wham! memorabilia in one corner.
“What’s with all the Wham!?” Bridget asked.
“Previous director. No idea,” Retrograde said, clearing the control center in front of the TVs of errant papers. “Now, there’s one screen in particular that you should keep your eyes on.” He pointed toward the bottom right.
2051 Commonwealth Avenue, commonly known as Greycliff Hall, appeared on the screen. Suddenly, its outer columns folded in on themselves, and the front window shattered. A sleek, yet traditional brick building grew in its place, spiraling up toward the sky until it reached a reasonable six floors.
“So … that was something,” George said, always cutting the dramatic tension out of the air and ruining things.
“You know, you’re kind of annoying,” Bridget said, and she was right. But as Retrograde would remind them minutes later, the universe had chosen them so they would just have to deal with each other.
“Entire swaths of campus are being altered by Mursday,” Retrograde said. “This must be from one of the universes in which an old 10-Year Plan actually came to fruition. Honestly, Greycliff has never looked better. But that’s beside the point. We have to stop this.”
“How?” Bridget asked, furrowing her eyebrows.
“Far away from here, there is a land, Bridget, that you are not familiar with. It’s called abroad. There holds the key to shutting out these other universes.”
“Abroad? Could you be any more vague? Abroad can mean anywhere,” Bridget remarked, remembering all of the times people told her they were going abroad but didn’t bother saying where exactly.
“I was getting to that,” Retrograde huffed. “It’s Nova Scotia. It’s no Perth or Parma, but it’ll have to do. Remember, the universe has chosen you two, so you will just have to deal with each other.”
George, who hadn’t said much in a bit and could use a line, smiled broadly, which is just a regular smile but more descriptive.
“Well,” he said. “Let’s go to Nova Scotia.”
IV. Weirdos in a Weird Land
I, Rutherford Shireton, fourth of my name and champion of all that is free, beautiful, and pleasant-smelling in the world, have returned to set the record straight after another week of Joanna Oxford’s manipulations of the truth. While Ms. Oxford chose to use her chapter of this ongoing serial to highlight the further adventures of George, Bridget, and the mysterious Retrograde (a man whose choice of codename I, quite frankly, find ridiculous and rather pretentious, or as the French would say, prétentieux comme des boules, frère), I will spend my valuable word count recounting the real story, the truth behind the lies, the milk within the udder, the slaughterhouse behind the sausage.
As you will no doubt recall, Ms. Oxford left you with a final scene in the underground service bunker, with young George saying, “Let’s go to Nova Scotia.”
But she neglected to mention that at precisely that same time, Ms. Oxford herself and a chisel-jawed man of great intellect were speeding down a highway somewhere in the middle-west region.
If you will recall, in Chapter 2, a man and woman met in a farmhouse in a wooded area to discuss the strange multi-dimensional happenings at Boston College. Now, I am willing to reveal to you that the simple-minded woman in question was, in fact, Ms. Oxford and that the man, known for his rhetorical skill, physical strength, indomitable will, and unmatched physical beauty, was in fact, as I’m sure you guessed, Rutherford Shireton IV, myself.
As we sped down the highway, (or more realistically, coasted at five miles over the speed limit to avoid an expensive ticket) Ms. Oxford spoke to me in that snooty, look-at-me-I’m-a-successful-investigative-reporter-and-have-accomplished-more-than-Rutherford-and-have-a-house-and-a-loving-family-and-people-who-care-about-me-and-I’m-not-all-alone-in-the-world-like-that-sad-little-deluded-nobody-whose-real-name-is-Todd voice that I freaking hate so much.
“Shireton,” she said. “Stop muttering to yourself and pick up my cell phone. I am a responsible adult and do not talk on the phone while driving.”
Oh, and she also said: “I resent Rutherford for his God-given beauty and intellect, and also I smell bad, and am totally not better at Rutherford at reporting and stuff.”
To which I responded, “Thank you Ms. Oxford. I always enjoy hearing you admit the truth, which is exactly what you actually said and is in no way a reflection of an unreliable narrator.”
I then answered her phone.
“There’s been an incident on the campus,” our man on the inside (whose name I must withhold for his safety’s sake) said. “You need to get over here now.”
I hung up. If only we could have taken a plane, but alas both Ms. Oxford and myself are on the no-fly list for reasons beyond our control. Ms. Oxford stepped on it, inching our way up to a daring 10 miles over the speed limit, and we took off.
Halfway across the country, on BC’s campus, professor of physics Athena Wilson received a notification on her phone while sitting in her office consulting with a student.
“I just feel like physics is so, like, subjective, you know?” the student said. “Like, what you think is reality, is like, your truth, but not like mine. So like, I think that D is like, a total misrepresentation of how physics, like, you know, like is, in its existence, with regards to, academic, like, achievement.”
Athena ignored this student and checked her phone. The notification was from “Evil Plots: A Convenient Way to Keep Abreast of All Your Plotting Complications.”
It read: “Breach at Greycliff Hall. Students in Service Station. Rogue Director.”
Athena threw on her extremely classy tan jacket and took off sprinting down the hall.
Down by the Service building, Retrograde adjusted his aviator shades as he stood outside. He pulled out his corncob pipe and some matches, and took a few awkward seconds to light it while George and Bridget stood next to him in the cold.
So like, I think that D is like, a total misrepresentation of how physics, like, you know, like is, in its existence, with regards to, academic, like, achievement.
“First, we get out of here as quickly as possible,” Retrograde muttered, his words muffled by the pipe in his mouth. “Then we catch a charter to Nova Scotia, where we meet with my contacts and shut down this plot before things get out of hand.”
A young, spindly-shouldered fellow with a cracked Mason jar in hand walked over and stood in front of Retrograde, looking around and nodding as though someone had said something to him, which of course no one had because this kid was insufferable.
“What are you doing?” Retrograde said. “You’re standing real close to me, and it’s making me uncomfortable.”
“I got an Evil Plots alert from Athena about some rogue director dude and some kids breaking into the Service Station,” Darren MalientePedo Ringtck said. “We’re supposed to meet up here and stop them or something. I don’t know, I guess everyone else is late.”
Retrograde dropped his smoking pipe in the snow and turned to George and Bridget.
“We have to get out of here,” he said. “Follow me. Run.”
“But I’m crazy sore from my workout yesterday,” George said.
“Sometimes, George … ”
But before Retrograde could finish, the sound of boots on pavement, squelching snow, and heavy breathing drew his attention. He turned and saw Athena Wilson leading a pack of black-clad mercenaries out of McGuinn and straight toward them.
“To the million dollar stairs,” Retrograde said.
But before they could take a step another swarm of secret soldiers, this time clad in a preppy Nantucket red, rounded the corner and blocked the only other exit available to them.
“Now what?” Bridget said.
Retrograde looked both ways as the massive crowd of hired mercenaries surrounded the heroic trio. George swallowed so loudly that it was audible to both Bridget and Retrograde.
“Only one way out,” Retrograde said, cracking his knuckles.
V. Dealing With Difficult People
Bridget and George exchanged glances again, a thing they kept doing because of their older companion’s odd behaviors. The mercenaries were encroaching toward them in a slow marching way, like they were about to start snapping and singing “The Jet Song” from West Side Story. Nonetheless, it was still terrifying.
Bridget swiftly kicked at a Nantucket red-clad leg, bringing the guy’s perfectly-coiffed wall of hair to the ground. Retrograde threw punches at two of their enemies, using his recoil to elbow another in the face. George stood in the middle and thought about how to get into the fight without feeling awkward. His question was answered for him when a man in all black swiped at his face, like a cat.
“Okay, what the hell? That was my face. You want me to end up looking like Owen Wilson, with his nose all messed up? It’s on,” George shouted to the man, who had already moved on to punching him in the shoulder. George grabbed the man’s leg and hoisted it into the air, waving him around like a doll.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Put me down!” the man cried.
“Just because I’m a coxswain for the club rowing team doesn’t mean I’m not strong,” George said through his clenched jaw. “Everybody thinks that, and I don’t know why.” He looked into the distance and sighed. The sound of jeers in Mod parties sounded in his ears, overwhelming his brain.
“Alright, that’s enough. You’re supposed to be fighting. No one wants to hear about your insecurities,” Retrograde yelled, taking on three mercenaries at a time. He banged two of their heads together, the CTE practically bursting from their brains. Retrograde flashed a satisfied smile.
“Can you all hurry up? There’s a spot over here that’s completely open! We can make a break for it,” Bridget said, perched on a pile of unconscious preppy men and security guards. She earned her expert level five patch in Krav Maga at the age of 16, so all of this was below her.
Retrograde dropped his hands.
“Uh, okay. Yeah, let’s go,” he said.
The three snuck out of the circle and proceeded down Beacon Street.
“That was some real good fighting,” George said, wiping sweat from his hairline. “That was worse than the 5k I did in the fall.”
Retrograde dropped his hands.
“Shut up, George, you didn’t do anything,” Retrograde muttered, shaking his head.
“But do any of us ever really do anything?” said a voice from behind them. “Like, what do any of us do? Doesn’t that make you think?”
“Who the hell are you?” Retrograde said, shooting major side eye at his two student companions.
“Oh gosh, I know this kid,” Bridget said. “His name is Darren MalientePedo Ringtck. He was in my first-year writing seminar. His favorite thing to write about was living on a houseboat for a week in Turks and Caicos. Needless to say, he was insufferable.”
“You’re just not opening your eyes to the actual, like, experiences out there,” Darren huffed, rolling his eyes at his peers who clearly just did not get it.
“Yeah … well, anyway, we’re doing something, so you should go,” George said. He smiled as he thought how important he must sound.
“Oh, are you doing that thing with Athena? Yeah, that’s a ride. It’s no Turks and Caicos, though. Did I tell you guys that I lived on a houseb—” Darren began, but was interrupted.
“Wait a minute. Darren, are you involved with Athena Wilson?” Retrograde said. He raised his eyebrow, indicating that something was afoot.
“Yeah, but are any of us really involved? We’re all just dust in the wind, yaknow?” Darren said wistfully as the other two students sighed exasperatedly.
“I swear to God, Darren, I’m a nice person, but if you don’t stop saying absolutely nothing relevant I will tie you to a lamppost,” Bridget said.
“Yeah, you’re really annoying,” George said, hoping to finally break out of his role of being the annoying one of the group.
“Darren, come with me. You two, stay here for a bit,” Retrograde said, putting his hand on Darren’s shoulder and ambling down the block with him.
“I really hope he’s not bringing him with us to Nova Scotia,” George said. “He seems like the worst.”
“He is,” Bridget responded, keeping an eye on the two conversing.
“Great news, folks!” Retrograde exclaimed in a more chipper voice than usual. “Darren will be journeying with us to Nova Scotia.”
There was a collective groan, even from Darren. The original three stared at him, cocking their heads to the side.
“What? It’s so cold there. And you know what Aquinas said about that: it’s too cold outside for angels to fly,” Darren said, his voice dripping with an air of importance.
“That’s Ed Sheeran,” Bridget said. “I hate you.”
“Now, now, kids, let’s go. It’ll be fine,” Retrograde said, feeling more and more like a parent as the minutes went by.
“I’ll get an Uber to the airport,” George said as he whipped out his phone.
“Ubers are just vehicles, literally, for the man to take us all down and keep us submissive,” Darren drawled.
“I don’t care how big this car is, you’re sitting in the trunk all the way to Logan,” Bridget said, clearly at the end of her rope.
Minutes later, the Nissan Altima arrived, and our heroes piled in.
“Departures. International. Terminal B,” Retrograde said hurriedly.
“Sir, this is an Uber. Your destination was already input before you even got in the car,” the driver said.
“Okay,” Retrograde said.
VI. A Shadow Over Boston
After speeding through the Middle West region of these United States, Joanna Oxford and I, Rutherford Shireton IV, found ourselves mired in horrible traffic on that mythic road they call the Mass Pike.
“Traffic,” I scoffed, scoffingly. “When the day comes that I must write every other chapter of a mighty recounting of these events, how will I be able to work in something so terribly banal as a traffic jam? The eloquence, elocution, and elevation of my illustrious, illustrative, and illuminating prose cannot lower itself to something so mundane.”
Joanna did not acknowledge me. Most likely because she is a cold-hearted person with very few, if any, redeeming qualities. As I write this now, from a place of complete mental clarity, hunched in this small cabin somewhere in what I believe is Northwestern Canada, I realize that I should have known Joanna wasn’t to be trusted. But at the time, young, naïve little Rutherford never expected the terrible things that would soon come to pass.
“Something’s not right,” Joanna whispered.
“Maybe it’s the drugs you’ve been abusing,” I said, in my confident, quite manly and distinguished voice. “They must be throwing your judgement.”
“What? Speak up. I can’t understand that meek, quite girlish and undignified voice of yours.”
Wait, no, I mean, she said, “Rutherford, you are a beautiful and successful man, whose mother loves him and who never betrayed the only friend he ever had.”
“I know, Joanna, I know,” I said, exhibiting my truly remarkable baritone voice.
With cars lining the pike to both of our sides, Joanna parked the car and stepped out. She squinted out over the sea of cars into the distance. Her face went slack.
“Tim,” she said. “We have to go. A tear is opening.”
“What?” I said. “My name’s Rutherford.”
But she was already running in between cars, weaving her way toward something she had seen ahead. I stepped out of the car and totally didn’t trip on my way out. Looking after her, I saw her leap onto the roof of a car and begin jumping from vehicle to vehicle down the highway, provoking a chorus of outraged and profane screams.
At that time, I did not realize what was occurring just a short mile down the road. After the close of Joanna’s previous chapter (full of lies and deception, per usual), Retrograde, George, Bridget, and Darren were cruising toward the airport in an Uber, Athena and her goons far behind them. While Joanna and I sat in our car, they were stuck in the same jam.
“So, where are you guys from?” Darren said, looking over at Bridget and George.
The three of them were squished together in the backseat, thighs awkwardly rubbing against thighs, while Retrograde sat up front and discussed Australian politics with the driver.
Bridget turned and stared Darren straight in the eyeballs without speaking. There had once been a time when she wasn’t finished with this crap. That time had passed.
“I’m from Timbuktu,” George said.
“Really?” Darren said.
“No, I lied to you,” he said, holding an open hand in front of Bridget’s face, as though expecting her to high his five. “You’re the third wheel, Day-ran.”
“God give me strength,” Bridget said, staring straight ahead and refusing to acknowledge the five being highed her way.
“Is there any way to get this thing moving faster?” Retrograde said. “We really gotta get out of here.”
“Nope,” the driver said. “See that massive rip in the very surface of reality from which the denizens of unknown worlds of unfathomable cruelty and pure darkness pour forth upon us?”
Retrograde turned to the left and saw a massive rip in the very surface of reality from which the denizens of unknown worlds of unfathomable cruelty and pure darkness poured forth upon them. It looked like a large slice of pizza hanging over the highway, except with monstrous tentacle creatures pouring forth from it. Mouth agape, Retrograde looked at the driver and saw the empty smile creasing his face. Slowly, and with the maximum amount of unnecessary gore, oatmeal and porridge poured out of the driver’s eye sockets down his face, and he began to chant:
“Reality is Mursday. Reality is Mursday. Reality is Mursday. Reality is Mursday.”
“It’s happening,” Retrograde said. “Get out of the car. We have to run for it.”
Bridget looked at the massive tear in reality hanging over the highway, but before she could get a proper glimpse a gigantic tongue, oozing red from its scabby, pink surface, appeared from over the roof and slapped against the window. As you might imagine, Darren and George both screamed and clutched each other. Although I do not have empirical evidence to back this up, I believe that Darren may have soiled himself at this point.
The car began to shake.
“Retrograde, what do we do?” Bridget yelled. “Save us.”
The tongue disappeared, and the car stopped moving for a second. Then a large foot, with small human fingers squirming up from cuts in the skin, smashed onto the front of the car. Then another. And then, with a violent leap, the creature landed on the pavement in front of the car and turned to look through the windshield at them.
A twisted, burnt, fungal creation from some other corrupt reality looked straight into Bridget’s eyes. It’s bulging, bubble stomach distended as the imprints of screaming faces pushed against it from within. Two massive tentacle arms squiggled from the creature’s chest, each with a gaping mouth on the end. It had the head of a dolphin, with its jaw broken open and hanging bloody down to its chest, a thick, yard-long tongue lolling out of its throat.
Retrograde turned slowly toward Bridget. He lowered his aviator glasses. She saw that he had kind, brown eyes, and they were brimming with tears.
“I’m sorry,” he said, reaching one hand into the backseat. “There’s no way out. Close your eyes.”
The three students in the backseat grabbed his hand, Darren and George whimpering and Bridget shaking, as they waited for the final moment.
“SUCK ON THIS, TENTACLE BOY,” Joanna screamed.
Bridget looked over and saw a woman standing on the roof of the car next to her wielding a large, silver bow and arrow.
Of course, Bridget did not realize that this was our Reporters Guild Archery Kit of Archer Freedom, which we use to vanquish creatures from other worlds when our editors demand it of us.
Joanna pulled back on the bow and unleashed a volley of specially-enhanced arrows straight into the bulging gut of the beast. It screamed and lunged toward her, but before it could move an inch she had already loaded up another volley and sent the arrows into the creature’s head.
It fell to the ground, but behind Joanna an entire horde of these otherworldly monsters rampaged through the traffic jam.
Joanna looked down at the passengers in the car.
“You must be the aberrations,” she said.
Retrograde opened the door and stepped out. They looked at each other silently for a moment, before Joanna turned back to the oft-mentioned and rapidly-approaching horde.
“Go,” she said.
George, Bridget, and Darren piled out of the back seat and sprinted after Retrograde. Pulling open the door of an abandoned, still-running truck, Retrograde waited for them all to pile in and then pulled up onto the curb and sped around the traffic, the bumper shrieking against the concrete barrier, sparks flying. With reality as we know it falling apart at the seams, Retrograde assumed that the lines at the airport would suck, so he knew there was only one option left to finally get them to Canada: the harbor.
Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor
Chapter 7 of “The Mursday Effect” will appear on Monday, March 6.