Chapter 8 Page 52
Posted February 2, 2024 at 04:09 am

I'm pwetty sure that power bewongs to a certain someone else. Thank you for reading! If you want to help me keep Paranatural going, please consider supporting its Patreon! Thank you!



        Compelled by Davy’s orders, the teens lashed out at Fauxbia in a fit of lethal reflex. Thp! Thp! Thp! Six puppet hands intercepted six sets of claws—and the Witch, it seemed, had still more limbs to spare. An anemone of fingers was enveloping the bag that held the Hijacks, snuffing out all light besides the bloodshot beacon of her bulbous, bright red eye.

        Cody calmly plucked the plastic from her grasp.

        “It’s a snack for my dad,” he lied with blithe indifference, “not a treat for you, Fauxbia.”

        Left Hijack’s logical mind, still reeling, found the lure that it had needed. Fauxbia. That name was all it took to hook the memory and dredge it from the dark of his subconscious. It had been a lifetime ago—almost all three years of his, in fact—when he was but a babe fresh from his test tube...

        “Brother dearest,” Hijack had asked Sockpuppy, “why was I born?”

        Hijack had just been hermetically sealed inside an experimental timeout tank by Dr. Zarei, and he was feeling existential. Their globetrotting had taken Mina and her brainchildren to a tract of forest far from Mayview, and Hijack had forced an endangered bird to do a flash-in-the-pan internet meme dance in front of their campground’s game warden (a title he’d thought wasted on some dork who worked outdoors). If that was a crime, and this was his punishment, then what, he’d wondered, was the point of life at all?

        “Huh?” Sockpuppy had scrunched up his snout and begun to sweat damp strands of yarn. “Oh, um... well, when a mommy loves—herself? Um. Very berry much, and... combines occult power and science in a, um... profane symphony of creation—”

        Sockpuppy had always made for a poor watchdog on the rare occasions when he’d babysat his siblings. He’d never gotten out much, despite spending most of his time on board a train these days, and he’d been too distracted admiring real birds and bees to improvise a talk on allegoric ones.

        “No, no,” Hijack had interrupted, “I mean like for what purpose? Why is it that the Doc bothered to make us in the first place? Just to SUFFER?”

        “Oh! Well, Jack-jack, I’m the happiest accident that there ever is or was or will be,” Sockpuppy had arfed oh-so-adorably, “but the rest of you are, um—prototype... weapons...? I guess?”

        It had sounded much less clinical inside his soft and hollow head. Hijack, however, had perked up at once, pressing against the glass of his timeout tank.

        “What! That owns! I’m like the Biolizard?? Who’s my Shadow the Hedgehog?? What are we prototypes for??”

        “Um! Um! I shouldn’t, um! I don’t know if Meeny knows, she’s just trying to make a spirit that—” Sockpuppy had dropped to hushed puppy tones. “Look, Jack-jack, you and Trilly and Hitty and Hotty and Smelly and Tasty and—ALL of you... you’re perfect just the way you are! Meeny just gets restless, she’s still—”

        Sockpuppy had sighed, and Hijack had, for the first time, thought his sibling had looked worn—an old sock indeed, unraveled at the seams.

        “Meeny’s... still scared,” Sockpuppy had said. “She faced her fears when she was itty-bitty, but... she never really ever looked away? It’s kinda like... she thinks that if she blinks, the Witch will be there in the dark again, even though she and Miss June and the rest of us already beat that nasty body-snatcher—”

        “Nasty body-snatcher?” Hijack had balked. “Um, I’M the only nasty body-snatcher around here.”

        Neither he nor Sockpuppy had been born bright enough to fully grasp this parallel’s fraught implications. Something horrible had tried to claim control of Mina in her youth... and now she had devoted her research to claiming that power—that control—back for herself.

        “Plus... the Doc, scared? I just can’t see it. She can do a backflip, and spectral calculus, and slime chemistry! Who’s this ‘the Witch’ think she is, huh?!”

        Sockpuppy had thought long and hard until there were wrinkles in the fabric of his forehead.

        “Okay, Jack-jack...” he’d whispered. “I’m only telling you this ’cause she’s history, and so you don’t go asking Meeny. You gotta keep what I’m about to tell you a pinky swear secret!” Sockpuppy had shivered at some reminiscence of his story’s spooky subject. “...The Witch, back in the day, was just as bad as bad guys get. She got that title since—well, since she was so wicked, and ’cause her powers were so vast they almost seemed to work like MAGIC—but also ’cause her victims were too scared to say her name...”

        Fauxbia, the Fear Witch. LB couldn’t wrap his mind around the logic. It was impossible for her to be alive; Sockpuppy was absolutely certain that she’d been vanquished for good. If the Witch was here in Mayview, scheming in the shadows with this Phantom Threat Authority—then the world as Mina knew it had been recast upside-down.

        No, no—logically, that was RB’s fault right now: Hijack’s more excitable half had gone belly-up with fear, perhaps sensing with primal intuition the truth that LB had deduced. Now he was writhing on the water’s surface, trying to escape his plastic cage.

        “Madam Vice President, are you even listening to me?” Cody pouted, puffing out his cheeks.

        Fauxbia’s eyes had never strayed from Hijack, even as Gage and Youth Culture struggled to tear themselves free from her grip.

        “...COME again?” she asked, wiping drool from her mouth with yet another hand.

        “I said,” Cody sighed, “that this goldfish isn’t yours to eat. It’s not a snack, it’s a host for—”

        Cody froze, feeling a surge of vertigo in the black gap where his heart should have been—a dangerous truth had begun to tumble from his lips, wholly unbidden.

        “Yesss?” The Witch snaked closer. Whatever this oppressive aura of forced honesty was, there was no doubt that Fauxbia was its source. “DO go on, dearest...”

        Cody’s fake smile had faded; cold calculation stoked the frozen fire of his eyes.