User:Dr. Skullthumper/The Frogs
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Back on Earth, luckily, hot chocolate still existed.
Presently, a cup of it was busy being held by Mark Flavian, the late Ivan’s friend. Mark sat in an internet café, staring at his laptop screen, waiting for Ivan to arrive. Rather unsurprisingly, he didn’t.
Mark called. Ivan’s phone, lying cracked on the side of the road awaiting discovery by a police officer, didn’t respond. Mark was puzzled, but not unduly worried. He and Ivan existed at different times of day, but neither of them were that good time-wise to begin with.
“Goooooood morning!” a voice bellowed directly in Mark’s left ear. Mark swiveled around so quickly he thought his spine was going to detach. His right hand, holding the hot chocolate, miraculously remained still.
There was a man. A grinning, polished man. Maybe early twenties. Only some amount of youth could possibly exude that much happiness in such a small, human-shaped space. His lavender suit was perfect, as was every shining tooth in his mouth. Frozen in a smiling pose, Mark’s eyes nearly tricked him into thinking the man was a wax statue.
Mark’s left hand lifted off the chair’s back. His fingers wiggled. “Hi,” he managed, trying to return the smile.
“My name is Wesir. But call me Wes,” Wes said, as though meeting Mark was the happiest thing to ever happen to him. Mark put down his hot chocolate and shook Wes’s hand.
“Flavian, your friend Taylor is dead,” Wes continued as they shook hands.
And that was it.
Mark Flavian was an ordinary man who dealt with ordinary amounts of weirdness. He had determined many years ago that he was crazy, and that the world was crazy, and they thus had an understanding. He and the world had made a deal – more of an understood agreement, really – that they wouldn’t weird each other out too much while they had to deal with each other for about eighty years or so.
The world had just broken that agreement by sending this man, Wes, into this coffee shop, on this morning, and having him say that Ivan was dead. Something in Mark’s brain snapped, and his legs decided to go for a run without asking for approval.
Conscious control over his body returned when Mark was safely out of the café and catching his breath inside an alley. After the paralysis of fear died down, he turned to look –
“Really now, the dead freak out less than the living,” came Wes’s voice. Wes soon followed it, strolling into the alley as though he’d never run at all. “You forgot your laptop, Flavian.”
“Okay, this isn’t fair. You can’t hit me with something like this so early in the day!” Mark yelled to the Universe at large. “And my name’s Mark!” he added, returning to the present.
Wes’s smiling green eyes looked into Mark’s. “I like referring to people by their last names. It’s how they’re filed, after all.”
“Calm down, buddy, you’re gonna kill yourself if you don’t breathe. Then I’ve gotta go chasing you into the Underworld, and trust me, the traffic down there is horrendous. Have a seat.”
“Shut up, go away,” Mark said defiantly. He looked at his right hand – it still held the un-spilled beverage from Heaven. “I have hot chocolate!”
“I have hot chocolate,” Wes repeated mockingly. “Well, good, gives you something to drink. If you’re not going to sit, then I’m just going to talk. Fair?”
Mark didn’t respond, staring at the ground to avoid Wes’s judging glance.
“Good. Flavian, your friend Taylor is dead. Obviously you haven’t been paying attention to the news, otherwise you’d have known that.”
“We were going to meet, we were going to meet to talk about this scene we were stuck on in our television show,” Mark explained, forcing the sentence out one piece at a time.
“That’s good, but – he’s dead,” Wes grinned as though he were speaking to a child, hoping the message was getting through this time.
“He’s not dead.” So much for that.
“He’s DEAD. DEAD. D – E – A – D. Gone. Six feet under. Sleeping with the fishies. Actually, that last one’s not too far off…” Wes mused. “Point being, he died in the middle of coming up with an idea. A revolutionary idea. And now the world’s missing that idea.”
“That’s a shame.”
“It’s more than a shame, Flavian, for all we know, it could have been the very idea that saves the human race! Wouldn’t you like to see your friend again, get that idea back? I know I would. But I need your help.”
“Wait, what? Are you telling me you can get him back? I don’t even think he’s dead, really. I think this is just another one of his jokes… probably getting me back for the chicken thing.”
“I can’t do anything, Flavian. You were one of his closest friends in life, according to your profile anyway. You’d need to come with me to talk to Taylor.”
“Why? You don’t know what Ivan looks like?”
“Taylor isn’t going to be exactly in his, er… human suit, so to speak,” Wes smiled. “You don’t believe me, do you?”
“I don’t even know that he’s dead. Leave me alone and let me drink my damn hot chocolate and wait for my friend.”
“Hmm,” Wes hummed, taking his eyes off Mark for the first time. His grin disappeared as he thought. “Well, it’s obvious you don’t believe me, and there’s not a whole lot of time I want to waste with you figuring it out yourself, what with the crying and the denial and all that mess. Every civilization has its ultimate authority, a ruler, a god – ”
“I don’t care if God Himself came down here and told me my friend was dead!”
“ – something more powerful than God.” Wes scratched his wavy brown hair, then rested the laptop on a Dumpster and began to type. “Oh! I remember what it is now. Lucky we had someone from the Offices tip this particular company off.”
“You can’t prove to me that you know anything about death. Give up, I’m crazy, I’m probably hallucinating. I’m a writer.”
“I can at least show you that the place where we’re going exists,” Wes said as he typed, “the place where your friend is now.”
“How? The Internet?”
“Not just any place on the Internet.”
He finished his work and turned the laptop so that it faced Mark. Mark looked at what was on the screen, and couldn’t believe his eyes.
“A special division of Google Maps,” Wes grinned, “for your viewing pleasure, of course!”
“No… it’s true… it’s all true…” Mark fell to his knees in the dingy alley, the glow of the computer screen on his face. “You do know about death… I believe, I believe, damn it! Wait a minute – this is where Ivan is?” He squinted at the map in front of him. “Google Hell?”
“Nope, just regular Hell, thanks very much,” Wes said, closing the laptop. “Google maps everything, you know, they just don’t allow the public access to certain things. Might snap their minds.” Wes looked down at Mark, who was kneeling, frozen in shock, his hands held in front of his face. The hot chocolate lay spilled on the ground in front of him. He tapped the frozen man on the head. “Oh, well. Ready to go find your pal?”