Aaaaand scene! Thanks for reading! These guys seem good for each other. Very, VERY excited for the next update, and I hope you are too! Also... support Paranatural on Patreon! Pretty please!!
The tiny cloaked spirit that had transformed Crush watched the conversation unfold with disinterest. Humans wasted so much time and energy for creatures with a limited supply. Then they would flock beneath my boughs, the spirit thought, though its mind spoke in few words that could be written, and beg for more of that which they had squandered. That era was behind it now, however... it would have to settle for watching their disgusting mortal bodies slowly rot
“Hey,” Cat hissed, looming back into Coach Oop’s personal space. This time her proximity oozed subtle, seething menace. “Trophy boy here sure got under your skin, huh?” She waved her prize in Coach Oop’s face. “Straight through the BONE to your shriveled little half-Scrooge, half-Grinch heart! Like, you were having a mid-match midlife CRISIS out there. ‘Shuddup, shuddup!’ HA! I didn’t know you were that soft
Coach Oop spit out a tooth and glowered back at her. “...Spare me yer Monday morning quarterbackin’. It’s the weekend, and the sun ain’t even up yet.”
Cat thumped the trophy down upon the remnants of Ape’s mask, shattering them further
“There isn’t gonna BE a sun tomorrow, Coach... remember? Unless you count that weirdo in your whistle.” Now she was grinding the mask down to dust, twisting the trophy against the dirt like an oversized mortar and pestle. “Or have your PLANS CHANGED since you SWORE YOURSELF to Razor Rex?” Sister Cat thumped the trophy again, this time dangerously close to Coach Oop’s fingers. “...Y’know, they DO say that nothing cuts deeper than the truth. I’m CURIOUS, Oopsy—and MAN is it just killing me—so give it to me straight as you can stammer. Was there some TRUTH in that ghost’s yapping? Is THAT what’s got your jock strap in a twist??”
Coach Oop’s eyes narrowed. There was no going back now—she’d heard every word the ghost had said about him, how he’d accused him of picking a fight he didn’t want to win, how his devotion to the cult was just an act. Rose was Razor Rex’s most sycophantic follower; she’d snitch about the way that Brother Ape’s faith had wavered, and then there would be nothing left for him to do but pray. Depending on her mood, Razor Rex might pout a bit, demand a new PSP game as compensatory tribute, or reap the life from him and all his loved ones
No, if Coach Oop had to play the odds, he’d much rather play the hero. Go out swinging. Screw it—the ghost had said he had a conscience. Maybe he still did. He could take out Baxter easy, thrash the Mandrake if it didn’t zap him first, then double back to that Master Guerra guy and confess all of his crimes. If the dojo’s fighters acted fast, they might even be able to stop Razor Rex and the rest of the Authority before the ritual was complete—
“I ask,” said Cat, playful once more, “because our fun and flirty goddess only loaned me sight tonight. Couldn’t hear a WORD that gym rat said!” She threw her head back, cackling madly. “HA HA HA! Oh, no offense, Coach—you’re a noble gym gorilla. But fess up! How’d that loser get you hot and bothered? That’s supposed to be MY job, you cheating JERK!”
Coach Oop’s fists unclenched, his mouth agape beneath his mustache. Had he really been that lucky? Rose really hadn’t heard the ghost expose his doubts? It was almost too auspicious to be true, but Razor Rex’s whims were unpredictable. She’d doled out sight alone to Rose before... she really might have done the same this time.
“...Whaddaya want from me? It was locker room talk,” Coach Oop lied. “You wanna know how to bust my balls, you can keep friggin’ swingin’ and missin’. I ain’t teein’ up your teehees for ya, kapeesh?”
“...Ah,” said Cat, pointing at him. “There it is.”
“There what is?”
“The real you.” Cat’s grin gleamed, wide and lethal. “Karate Kid might’ve knocked your loyalty loose, but I gave you the slightest chance to wriggle free from taking RESPONSIBILITY, from having to stand up to ME, to Razor Rex... and you’re absolutely DROOLING with relief!” She slapped Coach Oop’s cheek, all cruel, playful affection. “You think THAT guy saw through your act? HA! He got a few good licks in, sure, but I’VE slurped all the way straight to your ooey, gooey center. Deep down, you’re a selfish little coward, AREN’T you... big guy?”
Coach Oop hung limp and speechless. He’d been had. She had heard everything. She’d lied—of course she’d lied. That’s all she ever did.
“A selfish little coward, just like ME!” chirped Cat, slinging an arm around her fellow cultist’s shoulder. “That’s why we’ve been creeping around in the dark together for so long, right? So that brave and selfless NORMALOIDS don’t squash our SELFISH DREAMS!”
Coach Oop jerked away from her. “Sh-shuddup!” he spat, feeling the tight feeling in his chest coiling taut once more. “What... what I want isn’t selfish—”
He was too weak to resist her when she yanked him back into a conspiratorial huddle of a headlock
“Of COURSE it is. Why else would you hide our midnight Death Cult trysts from your precious little family? You KNOW they wouldn’t think the end you’re after’s worth the means. You just don’t CARE!” Cat hissed into his ringing ears. “And if you don’t care about what THEY think... are you really gonna try and say you care about this TOWN? C’mon, Ape. This whole place makes you miserable. That’s why you’ve worked so hard to tear it down and build a NEW ONE!”
Coach Oop started to wheeze out a word of protest, but Cat put one sharp finger to his lips.
“Don’t waste your breath, Ape. You’re not fooling anybody... except yourself and dead dudes you just met. But I know what you want even when you try to hide it!” She tickled his frayed mustache, murmuring a wicked coochy coo. “Why do you think I’m here to keep an eye on you tonight, Ape?? I’M the one who’s got you figured out! I’M the one who’s got your back—I KNEW you’d need a friend like me to make sure that your COLD FEET toe the line!”
“You’re not... my friggin’ friend.” Ape felt nauseous. The fight was catching up to him. His head was swimming. “Y-you don’t... know me...”
“Don’t I? Nothing cuts deeper than the truth, remember? Aren’t you just afraid of the pain?” Cat’s nails were digging into him. “It’s wonderful, you know. To push past guilt, the briefest sting, and taste the thrill that’s possible without it.” Her grip eased suddenly, and Ape shuddered. “Think about what you’re thinking about FIGHTING AGAINST, silly! Not just a clean slate for Mayview—we’re on course to change LIFE AS WE KNOW IT!” Cat jostled his bruised shoulders like a proud dad at a Little League game. “No more moms nagging me about marriage! No more wives nagging you about yours! No more math class, no more gym class, no more rent or debt or bills or DEATH or TAXES! We’ll be ROYALTY, living forever in SPOOKY CASTLES, using GOOFY GHOST MAGIC to make ZOMBIE MAIDS and SKELETON BUTLERS feed us EVIL GRAPES! HALLOWEEN FOREVER, Ape, a world of TRICKS AND TREATS!!” Her voice had risen to a frantic fever pitch, but now it slowly simmered to a whisper. “...A world with nothing to fear except for freaks in masks like us. You know you’d rather live in that reality.” Cat flicked the dome of his bald head. “So THINK, Brother Ape: what’s more likely? That you up and grew a conscience out of nowhere? Or that you always, ALWAYS sabotage your happiness?”
Ape huffed and puffed, feeling the sweat drip from his brow. The ringing in his ears began to match the tune of Mister Sun’s obnoxious theme song.
“I... I d-don’t...”
When he tried to stand again, though, Ape fell back down to his knees. Sparks lit up his vision, and he collapsed to the grass and the ground. The last words he could parse before he passed out echoed down to him as if through thick, black paint.
“That’s right, champ. No point fighting past the bell,” Cat purred, looming over him. “Mayview’s death knell rang a long, long time ago.”
Ape felt the void of hollow victory, of pure, crushing defeat. Everything was gone a moment later
Silence fell across the forest. There had only been a slim chance for another Mayview daybreak... but now even that dim spark was snuffed out.
“...Phew! Nothing blows off steam like spouting hot air! Shame the big guy fainted in the sauna,” laughed Miss Baxter, the world’s most well-adjusted middle school teacher, peering out from underneath her mask. “...Y’know, between you and me, Mandrake,” she added surreptitiously, turning to the cloaked spirit beside her, “I actually do this Death Cult gig to meet people. And, like, whatever you are.”
The Mandrake didn’t react, because it also didn’t care.
“So I’m really glad that we’re bonding like this.”
The Mandrake blinked.
“Cats blink to show affection,” Miss Baxter mumbled, cutting her losses. “HEYYY, we’re gonna be SUPER LATE to the meeting if I gotta lug Jerk Dempsey here all the way to West Hill, don’t you think? How about you make him something PORTABLE for me? Maybe a nice, light fourth-place trophy?”
The spirit scoffed and muttered something abhorrent in its scribbly little gnome voice, high-pitched, creaking High Spirit... and then there was a flash, and two bleary-eyed doctopi were left behind, hovering in confusion, as Coach Oop became a battered, bloodstained hitball.
“Awesome,” said Miss Baxter, and she kicked him down the hill.