Posted June 7, 2024 at 04:34 am

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[Transcript]


        “You’re going home. Now.”

        Davy was mirthless, hunched and snarling, as he stomped from the bathroom with Cody in tow.

        “I’m the Student Council President,” Cody protested, going through motions he knew would lead nowhere. “I’m supposed to attend PTA meetings.”

        Davy’s heel squeaked on the polished ballroom floor as he whirled to face his son.

        “Student government,” he hissed, “is supposed to PREPARE you for a FUTURE as a dark tyrant!” Davy wagged his hook in Cody’s face. “It doesn’t let you make your own rules NOW!”

        “Yours aren’t fair,” Cody countered. He glanced back at Gage behind them. “You were THRILLED to share the future you’ve been planning with your other spawn. Why can’t I be an equal partner, too?”

        “You’ve had every opportunity to engage with my dark machinations, young man!” Davy grumbled in a huff. “Tonight is DIFFERENT. You know that—that’s why you’re here asking for forgiveness instead of back home asking for PERMISSION I’d REFUSE. And YOU are different. You’re not some simple THRALL—”

        “You order me around like one. Heck, he’s got your blood in him, too, and you called him nothing but son for the last five minutes—”

        “ENOUGH!!” Davy boomed. Whispers rippled through the crowd of undead onlookers.

        Leave me out of it, you little brat, thought Gage, leering at Cody as he turned to slink away. I’ve hit my drama limit for the night—

        “Face your sins,” Youth Culture said, and Gage nearly jumped from his skin.

        “AH!! Friggin’ don’t DO that, Y.C.! W-what are you—what are you talking about...?”

        Youth Culture scrunched up slightly.

        “Paige doesn’t like being mean,” she beeped. “You don’t either. Not to her.” She swept her foot up in an arc that would have put a protractor to shame and kicked Gage in the calf. “Go be nice. Or you will suffer,” Youth Culture added, once Gage had finished hopping up and down.

        “Ow! I get it, jeez! Most friggin’ words you’ve said in weeks...” sulked Gage, deflecting from the fact that they’d struck home.

        He limped off towards the ballroom’s stage, where a clot of Phantom Threat Authority minions had slowly begun to congeal. He didn’t catch Youth Culture’s face as it fell in his wake. She couldn’t stand to see him languishing in heartache—that’s why she’d intervened—but she wished that Gage would notice her heart, too. Overwhelmed by teen emotion, Youth Culture ate a plastic cup somebody had discarded on the floor.

        Davy, meanwhile, had knelt before Cody.

        “Everything I do,” he said, insistent and soft-spoken, “I do for you, Cody. The world is not yet safe for you. I am remaking it. Until I do—”

        “Remaking it into WHAT? Some eternally dark tourist trap?” Cody shook his head. “I like the sunlight, dad! It doesn’t hurt me! You’re not doing what’s best for me, I’m just your best excuse!”

        “Think what you want,” growled Davy Jones, “but you’ll do as I say. It IS for your own good. You’ll understand why when you’re older—”

        “Then let me grow up!” Cody shouted. His schemes and stratagems were long forgotten; he was speaking from the hollow of his heart.

        Murmurs and skeletal chittering spread through the room in the ensuing silence between them.

        “...You’ll grow no slower in your room,” Davy said at last, rising to his feet. He loomed above his son, his chin raised high, his face like a cliff’s, stone-cold and insurmountable. “I’ve shielded you from danger—THAT’S why you can be blissfully blind to it. It isn’t safe for you here. Not tonight.”

        “SURE IT IS,” Razor Rex shrieked, looming over Davy like a second, far sillier cliff.

        “...Oh? And why is that?” Davy had taken the interruption in stride—the sort of stride that, when repeated, forms a runaway stampede with no survivors.

        “UM, I’M GOD?” the Death Cult’s deity reminded him. “AND THIS PLACE HAS SNACKS AND MULTIPLE FIRE EXITS. WHAT MORE DOES A GROWING BOY NEED?”

        Davy pulled Razor Rex down to eye level by the robes, letting his voice drop like a guillotine to a whisper the crowd couldn’t hear. Cody, however, focused his predator’s senses, painstakingly collecting every word.

        “This plan is years in the making, an intricate gamble of town-spanning risk. We are meddling with the VERY FABRIC of reality. It is NOT the time for an impromptu BRING YOUR SON TO WORK DAY.” Davy’s hook flashed in the light of Razor Rex’s glowing eyes. “Don’t think I’ve fallen for your silly little act. This blade’s butchered wights; it would mince YOU to dust—”

        “DAVE,” replied Razor Rex, “I’LL TELL YOU WHAT I TELL MOST CORPSES YOUR COLOR: YOU HAVE GOT TO LIVE A LITTLE!” A waxy black baseball mitt of a hand clapped down on Davy’s shoulder. “HAVE SOME FAITH! YOUR BOY WILL BE FINE. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT.”

        Davy snarled, sighed... and let her go.

        “...I suppose I don’t,” he said.

        Cody did a double-take. No argument he’d ever made had ever earned an inch from his father—not when his safety was involved—but Razor Rex had changed his mind WITHOUT one. It didn’t make sense. SHE didn’t make sense.

        “THE SAFEST THING TO DO IS STICK TOGETHER!” Razor Rex screeched, embracing both Joneses in her shadowy folds. “KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE, YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER, YOUR FAMILY SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN (BECAUSE LET’S BE HONEST, THERE’S ALWAYS SOME OVERLAP THERE), AND YOUR ENEMIES’ FRIENDS AND FAMILY EVEN CLOSER, IN CASE YOU NEED A HOSTAGE! THAT’S WHAT I ALWAYS SAY.” She sagged like a jellyfish’s skeleton to meet Cody’s wary stare. “WHY NOT JOIN US BACKSTAGE, NOSY JONES, BEFORE THE MAIN EVENT? THERE’S NO BETTER PLACE TO GET A CLEAR LOOK AT YOUR DAD’S VISION FOR THE FUTURE THAN THE EYE OF THE STORM WE’VE BEEN BREWING!”

        “You’ll stay close,” Davy said, narrowing his eyes at Cody. “Touch anything, push my patience any further... and you’ll be GROUNDED for the rest of your eternal life, young man.”

        Cody suppressed a smile no less cunning than his father’s finest smirk.