War of Fool’s Paradise [EXCERPT]


     With a slimy sucking sound and a pop, I arrived. New place. It was dark. The walls glistened with… what was that? Ice? But I wasn’t cold. Curious. I sort of shrugged, undaunted. I’d dreamed myself into weirder.  
     I heard a snort of something off behind some giant ice formations and ducked. Was it something that could get me? Eat me up? Suddenly I had the urge to wake up. The place shook with what seemed to be gigantic thuds from gigantic feet. Just wake up already! I scrambled behind an ice boulder – hugged it as close as I could – when IT came into view. Hulking. Hairy. But actually, wait… not so bad. Fluffy, really, instead of hairy. One snaggletooth fang stuck out under a wet, dog-like nose. And there were no eyes to speak of. Just bushy eyebrows. 
In a purr that sent a low rumble echoing off the cave walls, IT said, “Nougat?”

     “It must think I’m some sort of tasty treat…” I thought. 
     Then again. 
     “Nougat?” 
     I kicked myself silently for not bringing candy bars. People in movies always carried candy bars to distract monsters. But then I noticed. IT was whimpering softly in the dark. It sank to the ground with surprising grace and seemed to shrink in its confusion. I stared and blinked and found my feet shuffling me forward as if they had a sympathetic mind of their own.
     “Excuse me?” Its head snapped up and those bushy eyebrows raised to reveal kind, soulful puppy dog eyes. 
     “Nougat! I miss you.” I think it meant to say ‘I’ve missed you’ but that didn’t matter. I wondered more over the fact that I’d never seen this creature before in my life and yet somehow it missed me.
     “I- I’m afraid we’ve never met. But are you all right?” The great beast cocked its head a little, confused. And then a grin crept into its lips. 
     “Nougat. Favorite.”
     “Do you have a name?”
     “Play game.”
     “What’s your name?”
     “Nougat?” Its face drooped a little. Suddenly it looked sad.
     “Naaaaaame.”
     With a sigh, it scratched an ear for a second and finally eeked out a noise that sounded something like, “Squonk.” 
     “N- nice to meet you… Squonk?” I asked, just to make sure I had heard it right.
     “We meet.”
     “Yes.”
     “No. Before.”
     “No, we haven’t.” But as soon as I said it, I regretted it. I should have just lied and pretended to know the thing, because no sooner was my ‘no’ out of my mouth than the great beast huffed mightily enough to knock me back a step.
     “Okay, okay, I’m sorry. Yes, of course. We’ve met before. How do you do? I mean, how have you been… Squonk?” I tried with a tentative look. No change. It still sat moping.
     “Nougat always forget.”
     “Always?”
     But before it could answer, there was another pop. Everything went dark with the echo of a BRRRIIIINNNNNNGGGing school bell.

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