Normally I wouldn’t tell my readers to wait a minute… but wait a minute!
This is part of a Choose Your Own Adventure story, among blogs. The story begins with Barry Northern’s blog. That’s where you’ll meet 14-year-old Michael, the main character. Barry’s segment of the story presents two options at the end. Choose one, follow the link, and you’re on an adventure!
If you came from Mari Blaser’s entry, you chose “Go to the mall”:
Mendigans at the Mall? (Ohmigod!!)
“Gabberty-flizzz… I mean, hello.” On his way in, the alien officer inched as far from the checkout desk as possible. He cleared the magazine racks with a creak and shushhh. “What’s playin’ on the radio?”
Michael and Latoya exchanged a cautious glance. Mr. Brown handed Michael a small, tattered card. It read:
Don’t look at the tentacles. IGNORE them, and the alien ignores you.
But Latoya was already moving toward the door. “No radio here, sir. That music’s for… suckers.” Looking down at his tentacle-prints, her eyes moved toward the source: his gelatinny, slimerous, sucker-encrusted—
Michael jumped forward, breaking the line of Latoya’s tentacle-view.
“They don’t have the latest BadSad here. Let’s go, babycakes.”
The officer’s unibrow furrowed before turning back to Mr. Brown. His voice trailed off as they shuffled out. “Say, do you have any Kanye We— Oh! Got it. ‘Touch the Sky’ is my SONG!”
Reaching a safer distance, Latoya chuckled. “Babycakes? Really?”
Michael sighed. “It worked, right? Saved us from a world of hurt. From now on, ignore all tentacles.”
The spanking-new mall complex had just opened across the street, complete with a ribbon-cutting concert. Michael’s band Nixie Knox slogged through Debbie Gibson and Tiffany tunes for the occasion. He played his sweet black bass, and the drummer was a… Mendigan? That can’t be right. But it was. Or was it?
Latoya looked down at her hands. “Michael, am I a Mendigan?” Her face was blank – she wasn’t kidding. They had to hurry – the mind tricks were getting stronger.
The closest entrance was Tesh’s “Variety” Store. (The owners felt “department” turned people off.) Latoya reached the doors first, throwing them open. She was tough for a girl her size – any size, really.
Michael broke into a sprint, with a jut of his head. “Down there, in red.”
The five-story atrium in the center, filled with serene daylight, made the other end of the mall seem miles away. Fluegelhorn muzak accompanied the sound of their desperate feet, running the straightaways and stomping around burbling fountains. When they finally reached the music store’s red, glossy doors, bubble-lettered signs greeted them: “Welcome to Media Depot!!”
Michael pointed to the hot pink signage. “You take Country down here. I’ll go upstairs to Pop.”
Latoya bustled to the S’s, and shuffled through. Clack clack clack. She hit it – a mother lode of Swift. The store even had rare recordings from her first contract – the one she dropped to pursue her own music.
“Michael, I found her!”
As soon as Latoya shouted, a slithery Mendigan descended upon her. Two more alien forms fell in lock-slither behind it.
“Who’ve you found, dear?” All the aliens blinked at once, waiting for an answer. Latoya seemed dumbstruck, focusing all her attention on those twelve eyes.
Michael thumped down the stairs. “We’re looking for humans. Aren’t you?” The Mendigans turned in one smooth motion. Standing in the stairwell’s shadow, Michael had long, undulating extensions where his arms should’ve been.
“Ah, your change has begun. Don’t be afraid, young one. You’ll be just fiiiiine.”
Latoya balked. She had to get away, and fast. On a raised, central platform sat an enclosed DJ booth. The door was wide open, so Latoya ran for it. Mendigan Michael followed. She was small and fast, but size trumps those. She had no chance.
“Latoya, it’s me – promise!” he huffed, gaining on her. She slipped into the booth, locking the door between them.
He banged on the door. “I’m okay, I’m okay!” Sure enough, Michael held two prank snakes. And his ears were human, even if they stuck out a little. More aliens gathered around the booth. Latoya let Michael in. As they slammed the door, a Mendigan’s suckery tentacle pried inside the doorframe.
“Got this,” said Michael. He shut the door, but not without a mess. The Mendigan howled and scurried away, one tentacle lighter.
Hands fumbling, Latoya played Taylor’s rare early track backwards over the loudspeakers. “Afewijnkd vlijlk sfkjkjs…” Nothing.
Next, she tried Taylor’s self-titled debut.
“Listen now,” a clear voice lilted. “My family has studied the Mendigans’ plan for generations. I had to stay true to my songwriting, so I could tell you what the oracle told me.”
Michael’s mouth fell open, and Latoya gasped.
As they listened, Taylor directed them to play “Love Story” backwards to attract the Mendigan network. “I’m still working on the next step. Please keep listening. I have millions of fans, but the world needs you now.”
More Mendigans crowded the booth, tentacles thrashing and frenzied.
Latoya played Taylor’s next album. The first backwards track said, “Here it is, tested and foolproof.” Michael and Latoya stared, unblinking, at the speakers. “Play ‘Stay Beautiful’ backwards to burst their slimedrums.” A heavy sigh interrupted the message. “The oracle said criss-crossed lasers change the Mendigans back to their original human forms. As much as I tried, I couldn’t secure this weapon. I’m sorry I’ve let you down.”
Michael and Latoya scoured the room, as if they’d find a battery of laser guns tucked in a cubbyhole. Latoya spotted a stack of inventory listings, with a scanner gun. She drew in a breath.
“Michael, the scanners!”
He beamed, and popped his knuckles. “That’s what I call retail therapy.”
Latoya twisted the dial on “Love Story.”
“Let’s do this.”