“The Mursday Effect” is a humorous piece created pseudonymously 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.
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