Chapter 7: O Molly Where Art Thou
He began to walk the perimeters of his apartment complex, trying as hard as possible to not look suspicious. For once in his life, he didn’t want to stand out. This was a strange feeling to Keith.
He looked around at the spaces between the buildings for signs that Molly has been there. He didn’t really know what signs he was looking for, though; he had only known her for a couple of days.
When he was sure he had looked everywhere, he looked to the ground and sighed.
But something peculiar caught his eye. He took off his sunglasses and bent down to see it better. There were dark imprints in the concrete, like footsteps. They were round and Molly-sized. He looked up and saw that this trail led away from his apartment and towards the city.
He groaned and smacked his forehead. He would have to search in the city. How had she even gotten that far, anyways?
It seemed like an impossible mission—Mayday City was a big place. There was no way he could search it all by himself. But he supposed he had to try anyways, for Molly’s sake.
There were very few places to park in the city, so he’d have to go on foot. He would have to jog for a couple of minutes to get there. He started to follow the footprints. Could you even call them footprints, though? Since Molly got around by hopping, would they be called hop-prints? He’d figure that out later.
Keith really didn’t run as much as he should have. By the time he reached his destination, he was all out of breath—the heat from the hoodies and the lack of airflow from the surgical mask certainly didn’t help. He sat down at a bench for a second, catching his breath.
Mayday City was a tourist city, simply because it had so many things to do. There were mirror mazes and weird museums and airbrushed shirt makers; there was a little something for everyone here.
When he could actually breathe again, he began to look around. He could tell that very few people in the crowds were from here, just by the way they dressed. In fact, not a lot of people lived in Mayday City itself.
He walked down the sidewalk, walking slower as he passed by alleyways so he could peer into them. He passed up his favorite pretzel stand. This mission was important—there was no way he was going to stop to get one…
Actually, what the heck? He walked back to the stand and bought a large pretzel. His mind would operate better on good food.
Now that he was sufficiently fed, he kept an extra close eye out for Molly.
He saw a tiny flash of grey to his right. He turned and was met with an alleyway. Whatever had just passed him had already rounded a corner, but he could see the shadow that was cast. Whoever it was definitely wasn’t human.
He ran right in, not stopping to consider his own safety. There could be all kinds of dangerous things in alleyways, after all, but he didn’t stop to think about any of that.
The alleys between buildings formed something of a maze. He continued to follow the shadow, but it was always faster than he was. He twisted and turned, trying not to get lost in the seemingly endless labyrinth.
He was just about to round a corner, but he noticed that the shadow stopped moving. Whoever it was must have hit a dead end.
Keith slowly turned the corner, but screamed at what he saw. He was not looking at Molly, or even another human.
The creature in front of him was just like a regular, normal goat—if you ignored its eight legs and five glowing eyes. Its hooves were not hooves at all, but instead were large claws. It unhinged its jaw and let out a guttural roar, before climbing up the nearest wall. It skittered away.
Keith stumbled back and fell to the ground, absolute horror flowing through his veins.
Spiders were horrible enough on their own; to combine them with any other creature was an awful idea. What kind of higher power would come up with something like that? Certainly not one from this world.
He picked himself up, still shuddering. He knew it was gone, but he was so freaked out that he felt phantoms of non-existent spiders crawling on his skin.
His head shot up as he heard the faint sounds of an annoying voice.
“Ooh, puppy!” Said the voice. It was followed by the sounds of growling.
He franticly looked in all directions, searching for the source. He backtracked, then took a right. The sounds of barking and childlike wonder got louder.
With another right turn, he found Molly, standing on a trash can. She was waving to a chihuahua. The dog was bony and dirty, and it was twitching and foaming at the mouth.
“Hi there! I’m Molly, what’s you’re name?” She asked it. The dog growled at her some more.
Keith quickly swooped in to grab Molly, holding her under his arm. He pushed a trashcan over on the way out, so the dog would not be able to follow them.
When he was sure they were safe and unseen, he held her upright. He unintentionally squished her a little. “You little rascal!” he said in a half-concerned, half-annoyed way. “Are you okay? You’re not hurt, are you?”
Molly looked at him with wide eyes. “Keith? But, I thought…”
“You thought I didn’t want you anymore?” He finished. “Well, that’s not true at all. I’m so, so, so sorry.”
Molly didn’t seem to understand. “What do you mean? You were mad at me! You wouldn’t let me do anything fun!”
“Yeah, I was mad, wasn’t I?” He paused, not sure how to explain it to her. “Sometimes, when humans are really stressed out, we say things that we don’t really mean, and we do things that we don’t really want to do. So many things were happening to me, that I forgot to think about your feelings. I’m sorry.”
Molly smiled and hugged Keith. “I accept your apology!”
Keith’s heart melted. It wasn’t often that mistakes were forgiven this easily.
“I’m glad I found you so soon. You can’t just go exploring the world on your own—it’s full of danger, like that dog.”
“What? The doggy? It was just a cute little puppy, how could it possibly hurt me?”
Keith squinted at her. “Molly, it had rabies. It was foaming at the mouth! You could’ve been seriously hurt.”
Molly’s eyes widened, but not out of fear. “Ooh, I bet there would have been tons of blood!” She said, her voice somehow even higher in pitch.
Keith sighed. “You ready to go home?” He asked, changing the subject. Molly nodded.
“Okay, but you’re going to need to hide in my jacket. Could you, like, make yourself a little flatter?”
Molly did just that. She flattened herself out into a pancake, both of her eyes on one side like a flatfish. He put her inside of his hood, and she clung tight to his head.
He looked at his surroundings, trying to figure out how to exit this maze of alleyways. He speed-walked past trash cans and clotheslines and graffitied walls.
With a couple of turns, he was back on the sidewalk, right by the pretzel stand. He let out a breath and started to walk home.
Now that he had found Molly, he paid a little more attention to his surroundings, and noticed some strange things. He saw little creatures hiding in shadows, scurrying and crawling on walls. Just the sight of them gave him the creeps.
He kept walking.
He eventually reached his apartment. When he got inside, he immediately threw his disguise to the floor, letting Molly out. She puffed up into her original, rotund state. She jumped onto the couch.
He looked down at her and smiled. “Hey Molly, I know I said you couldn’t watch any more scary movies, but I think you’ve earned it.”
Her eyes sparkled. “Really?”
“Yeah. If you really like them, then I guess I shouldn’t stop you from watching them. Just… don’t watch them all the time, okay? Watching too many scary movies isn’t good for you.”
Molly nodded. “Okay! Maybe I’ll try to watch something that isn’t scary this time!”
He walked towards his bedroom. “You have fun with that, I’m gonna go change.”
Keith changed into his pajamas—this time, a tank top and a pair of rubber duck sleep joggers. He laid on his bed, staring at the ceiling and contemplating today’s events.
Even though Molly had forgiven him, a little bit of guilt still lingered. A small part of him felt like he didn’t deserve forgiveness. Even though the rules he put in place were for Molly’s own good, he had been so rude to her. She was so quick to abandon him.
Did Molly actually forgive him, or was she just incapable of holding a grudge?
His train of thought switched to the spider-goat monstrosity. What was that, anyways? His clownification and his new roommate could be explained—they were very wacky explanations, sure, but they were explanations nonetheless. But how could this spider-goat possibly be explained?
Was it another creature from Sullivan’s factory? Was it even related to the factory at all? Was he actually going insane from staying inside too long?
He took a breath. He needed to get his thoughts sorted out. Perhaps the best way to do that was to get the thoughts out of his head in the first place.
He went to his office. He ignored the shelf with stacks of unused notebooks, as well as the thick and well-worn scrapbooks and prompt books.
He took out a pen and a paper; it would suffice for now. He was going to list out every strange thing that had happened to him so far. He would leave no stone unturned, and no thought unwritten.
Once his pencil hit the paper, the words flowed out of his brain like an unrelenting river. He included even the smallest details—like the red flags at the factory.
When he was finished, he had filled up the entire front and back of the page. He lifted up the paper and examined it. He let out a sigh of relief, feeling like a huge weight had been taken off his shoulders.
He peeked out at Molly, who was watching the TV. He heard the voices of magical cartoon ponies, and he smiled.
“You like this show?” He asked as he approached her.
Molly was smiling, too. “Yeah!
He sat down next to her. They watched for a couple of minutes in silence. It was the second episode, and one of his favorites; it introduced all of the main characters’ new friends.
At some point, he looked down at Molly, and he realized that he knew almost nothing about her. He hadn’t had the time or motivation to learn more, due to all the changes in his life recently.
But how would he get to know her better? It would be weird to just bombard her with questions.
“Umm, Molly?” He asked, before he had even thought of a question to ask her.
Molly paused the show and turned her head to the side. “Hm?”
Keith hesitated. “Sorry if this seems like a weird question, but… what are you exactly?”
“I’m a shapeshifter!” She replied, transforming into indiscernible and colorful shapes, like something you’d find on an 80s bowling alley carpet.
That wasn’t quite the answer he was looking for. “Yes, I know that, but what are you?” he repeated, hoping she would regurgitate more scientific information.
She thought about it. “Well, Mr. Sullivan said I was a ‘collection of synthetic cells’… or, something like that.” She looked away from Keith. She began to talk quieter. “He never really spoke to me, but I could hear him from outside of my chamber. Yeah, that must have been what he said. It was so dark in there…”
“How long were you down there?” Keith asked without thinking.
Molly looked back at Keith, then down at her hands. It was the first time he had seen her frown. She stretched her arms out. They grew longer and longer, until they stretched past the sides of the couch. “This long!” Molly said, smiling once more.
Oh. She was down there for that long? By herself? Suddenly he understood why she was so eager to be his friend. She must have been so lonely down there.
“Ooh, who’s that?” Molly asked, interrupting Keith’s thoughts. She was pointing to a blue pegasus whose hair was made of clouds.
He got excited. A little too excited. “That’s Cloud Dancer! He’s a super cool and rambunctious character! He’s my favorite!”
On-screen, Cloud Dancer was on a stage, playing an electric guitar. Molly’s eyes lit up in wonder as colorful sparks flew from his guitar.
“Is he in… every episode?” She asked Keith.
He chuckled. “Yeah, most of them.”
Molly didn’t say anything after that; she went back to watching the show. Keith smiled again. From now on, he would try to be a better friend to Molly. She deserved it.
Previous: Chapter 6
Next: Chapter 8