Have A Heart!
“Is that what you’re going to wear?” one of my best friends Amy LaRoche asks me somewhat critically in her sultry accent.
I look down at my black boots, blue jeans and my ‘Power to the Peeps’ shirt and shrug. A part of me wants to say “Well, we can’t all be as gorgeous as you”, but I hold my tongue. It still flusters me that one of my closest girl friends was a former beauty queen and practically irresistible to any man still breathing. As sweet as she is, she constantly feels the need to unconsciously remind me that I lack style, beauty, and confidence. Or at least that was how I convey it. Instead, I search my brain for a more generic response: “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“It’s just that you are always wearing those shirts that draw attention to here,” she replies, gesturing to her chest, “and you want them to look at the whole person.”
“But my whole person is more comfortable in this,” I argue, trying not to notice her black lace up calf-length boots, black mini-skirt, emerald green low-cut lace top and giant matching necklace. As gaudy as her necklace looks and as low-cut as her blouse is, she has no reason to talk about my chest being viewed like a viral video. But I let it slide. At least I know our friend and roommate Simone “Sim” Lavender won’t take her criticism lightly. Although I would never tell a single soul, a part of me practically hero-worships Sim. She was an established pop singer, with outrageous style and a unique take on everything. When Sim spoke, she spoke with a very meek, high-pitched feminine voice, but make no bones about it; she could hold her own. Fighting with Sim was like fighting with a water moccasin. Once she struck, you were dead in the water. But she was one of the most loyal and fun people I had ever met and I wished every day that I could be more like her and less like me. I was fun and funny, but for the most part, I didn’t know how to stand out in a crowd to save my life. If anything, I tended to be mostly invisible except to the few friends I had. Most people claim to be blown away by my loyalty, my kind heart and my acerbic wit, but that is all I really have to offer. Amanda Cooper will not be changing the world any time soon.
“Well, I’m ready,” Sim’s voice calls out before she waltzes down the stairs. I smile in complete adoration. She is dressed in paint-splattered canvas sneakers, black netted hose, a red, green and yellow plaid skirt, yellow matching top and her auburn hair is tinged with green color at the ends. Only Sim Lavender could pull off such an outlandish look and make it stylish and her own. I smile even wider as I see giant white seashell earrings completing the ensemble.
I look over at Amy and see the shocked look on her face. I mentally dare her to make a negative comment and unleash the water moccasin. Instead, Amy just swallows and smiles. “It screams Sim,” she finally manages to say.
“Thanks,” Sim replies, happily smoothing down her hair. “Love your shirt, Amanda.”
I do manage to give Amy a smug look as we grab our purses and exit our large two-story house. I love our house. It’s got the total package: white picket fence in the yard, huge country blue shutters against the pastel yellow siding. Amy’s room has French doors leading to a balcony, my room has a huge window with a window seat (my thinking/writing spot) and Sim lives in the attic, with just a tiny window and limited space.
One home for three completely different personalities. I couldn’t be happier to call it ours.
“Amanda, why don’t you see if Ernest is ready at his place and we’ll meet you there?” Amy says, staring at her image in her over-sized compact mirror. We haven’t left the house for more than a minute and she is already missing her mirror.
“O-kay. Why can’t you wait for us?” I ask, panicking at the thought that maybe Amy is truly embarrassed to be seen with me. “The party is just two blocks away. We could walk together.”
“Amanda, you know Ernest is never the most punctual person in the world,” Sim tells me. “Besides, you are much more patient with him than we are.”
I roll my eyes. “Fine. I’ll see you there.”
I watch as Amy and Sim walk down the street, leaving me to walk across to our neighbor Ernest P. Worrell’s house. Ernest is also a character if there ever was one, but I find him truly lovable. A little bit Southern and a whole lot of silly and absent-minded, but one of the friendliest and kindest people I have ever met. Amy swears he has a bit of a crush on me, but I don’t see it. Of course, according to her, I’m blind about a lot of things when it comes to flirting, dating and the opposite sex in general.
As I walk over to his front door and ring his doorbell, I giggle as I hear the chime in a low voice, singing “DOOOORBELLLL”.
Suddenly, the door swings wide open and Ernest’s big smiling face is staring at me. “Oh, Manna, good thing you’re here. I need your help.”
Before I can protest about offering my help or that my nickname has got to go, he grabs my arm and pulls me inside his small and somewhat cluttered living room. “Whoa!” I cry out.
“What should I wear? What I have on or this one?” he asks, holding up a hanger with an exact replica of his signature grey shirt, denim vest and blue jeans. In fact, the only difference is that the outfit on the hanger has a royal blue bow tie around the collar.
“Ernest,” I giggle as I notice his khaki colored hat is on crooked and I quickly straighten it. “Either one. But I’d lose the bow tie.”
Ernest literally throws the outfit on the hanger over his shoulder. “Good choice. I like your shirt, by the way. It should win a Peeple’s Choice award, knowhutImean?”
Again, I laugh at Ernest’s silly pun and the way he can turn those four words into one by saying them so quickly with his Southern accent. “Oh, Ernest. Come on. Let’s go.”
I wait patiently as Ernest checks his pockets to make sure he has his keys and wallet before taking a small bottle out of his front left pocket and squirting the contents in his mouth. “Mmm mmm mmm; minty fresh. Let’s party!”
“Yes. I hear those cheese puffs and that amazing punch calling my name,” I smile as we begin walking down the road.
“So, let me guess. Amy is dressed as if she’s going to a fancy party and Sim is dressed like she got lost in the eighties,” Ernest jokes.
“You know it! And you and I are just casual and comfortable.”
“Say, are they gonna have dancing at this here party? I didn’t bring my dancing shoes. Just my old sneakers.”
“Ernest, I think you’ll be fine,” I laugh. “Just please don’t try to start another square dance, okay?”
Ernest sighs. “Oh, okay. But only if you save me a dance. Us casual and comfortable people have gotta stick together, knowwhutImean?”
I smile up at him and playfully tug at the bill of his cap. “Yes, I knowwhutyoumean.”
By the time Ernest and I get there, the music is already blasting and people are mingling, dancing and eating. I see Amy chatting with two beefcakes who have their attention solely on her and Sim is dancing with some guy that I’ve met maybe twice.
Ernest and I weave our way through the crowd with him holding onto my shirt sleeve as so not to lose me. I knew there would be a lot of people here, but I am starting to feel somewhat claustrophobic. At this point, I just want to find the cheese puffs, the punch and a spacey corner to occupy.
“Ooh, what kind of dip is this?” Ernest asks suddenly as we get to the long table of snacks.
“Spinach,” I reply.
Ernest makes a face so repulsive, I have to laugh.
“Hi. Nice shirt,” a guy next to the cheese puffs says to me, staring at my shirt/chest.
“Thanks,” I blush. Take that, Amy LaRoche! “I’m Amanda.”
The guy opens his mouth to tell me his name, but before he can, I hear, “And I’m Ernest P. Worrell. Nice to meet ya!”
“Um, hi,” the gorgeous stranger responds slowly, shaking Ernest’s hand awkwardly. “I’m Toby.”
“Toby, huh? I knew a cat named Toby. Had a mange problem like you would not believe,” Ernest spits out before I can reply.
“Ernest,” I say, my teeth gritted. “Have a cheese puff!”
“Don’t mind if I do,” he smiles and takes two. “I’m gonna go over here and get us some punch.”
Teeth still gritted, I reply. “Please do. Take your time.”
As soon as Ernest leaves, I turn to Toby, but he has suddenly disappeared. “Are you kidding me?” I ask aloud to no one in particular.
“Hey! There you are!” Sim says as she walks towards me. “Where’s your shadow?”
“Hopefully, he fell head first in the punch. He ruined what could have been something special with a guy named Toby.”
Sim stifles a giggle. “Aww, that’s too bad. Maybe Amy can snag a man for you. She’s managed to give seven of them her phone number already. Surely she can spare one.”
I wrinkle my nose. “She’s such a–”
“Here’s the punch!” Ernest comes back, two cups in hand. “Hey, Sim! Nice ensemble. Is that Kool-Aid in your hair?”
“No, Ernest. It’s hair color and thank you.”
“Well, this party is kind of a dud. The music is terrible,” I huff, still reeling from my epic fail with Toby.
Suddenly, the living room area fills with smoke and party-goers gasp and whisper.
“What’s going on?” Sim asks.
“Oh my Lord!” I cry as I see a very familiar and unwelcome person. Dr. Otto Von Schnick. The naïve, semi-evil mad scientist who has been a burr in our butts for years. So much for normalcy. Nothing about Dr. Otto is ordinary. His outfit looks like a giant garbage bag with massive magnetic shoulder pads, all kinds of metal and wire attached to them. As if that wasn’t bizarre enough, he also wears a black cape, white socks and black dress shoes. His round head and sneer would be the most normal thing about him, if it weren’t for the live hand protruding from the top of his head (some sort of lab experiment gone wrong). Dr. Otto had been after us for years–well, mostly after Amy–and somehow managed to find us. Oh, goody.
A woman screams and I feel her pain, as Ernest and I involuntarily latch onto one another, terrified.
“Well, hello, my fellow party-goers,” Dr. Otto exclaims in his sinister German/Transylvanian voice, the hand on his head wagging its fingers in some sort of half-wave. “I don’t believe I received my invitation!”
I look over at Amy’s terrified face, hoping she loses herself in the crowd, but sadly, Dr. Otto spots her almost immediately. “My dear Amy; it’s been so long. Miss me?” he asks before laughing as wickedly as you would imagine any semi-mad scientist would.
“You leave her alone!” Sim’s voice calls out as she starts towards him.
“Oh! Does Sim want to come out and play?” he asks, waving his left hand and instantly freezing her in her tracks.
“He has magic powers now?” I whisper, both Ernest and I visibly shaking. I know we need to do something, but what?
“Oh, Amy,” he sings gleefully, crooking his finger in a come-hither motion. “You know what I want.”
“No!” she cries out. “You will not steal my heart just so you can keep it and make me your slave!”
Way to be discreet, Amy, I think to myself. We moved to this town to be normal; not to expose all the strange secrets from years past. The truth was, Dr. Otto loved everything dark and semi-evil. Except he had a massive obsession with Amy. Imagine that; even wannabe mad scientists were in love with her! His desire for many years was to obtain her heart and preserve it in some sort of strange glowing jewelry box, making her his slave forever. On several occasions, he had almost succeeded, but luckily, either Amy, Sim, myself or one of our old friends back home were able to thwart him. But now? This was not looking good.
“W-w-what’ll we do?” Ernest stammers, still shaking and not taking his eyes off of Dr. Otto, who is making his way towards Amy.
“We have to do something. Maybe if we sneak up behind him, we can take him by surprise,” I whisper as the two of us, still clutching each other, waddle slowly towards the living room and out of Dr. Otto’s eyesight.
“So, Amy. Finally, after all these years, I have found you and you will be mine!” he cries happily before exploding with crazy laughter again.
“You leave me alone!” Amy yells, her arms crossed tightly over her heart.
“Not until I get what I want!” he replies, reaching for her.
“NOW!” I scream as Ernest raises a huge plate of chocolate covered strawberries over Dr. Otto’s head, ready to smash it on his “hand”.
Suddenly, Dr. Otto, not even turning around, waves his right hand in a backwards motion and Ernest shoots up into the air, levitating. “Ahhh! Help me! I‘m afraid of heights…and being this close to a ceiling fan!” Ernest cries, kicking his legs and arms wildly, the plate of strawberries crashing to the floor.
“Ernest!” I scream, trying to grab his ankle to pull him down, but it’s no use.
The next scream I hear is Amy’s as Dr. Otto grabs her and pulls her close. “Now for what I came for. My present.” With that, he quickly sticks his left hand in her mouth, down her throat and within thirty seconds, pulls out her heart, still red and beating.
“Ugh!” most of the partygoers exclaim as a few of them put their hands over their mouths to keep from retching.
“Amy!” I cry out as she falls to the floor in a heap and Dr. Otto laughs wickedly yet again, raising the heart into the air. “Viola!” he cries before he and Amy disappear in a thick cloud of smoke.
As soon as Dr. Otto is gone, Sim suddenly unfreezes, looking around and Ernest crashes to the floor hard.
“Ernest! Are you alright?” I ask.
Ernest, grabs his head and lets me help him sit up. “Yeah, I–I think so. But who on Earth was that weird creepy guy?”
“That was Dr. Otto. And he finally got what he wanted. Amy LaRoche,” I replied sadly as Sim ran over and hugged me.
Within a few moments, Sim, Ernest and myself run out of the party host’s home and down the street back to our house.
“I wonder if he’s taken her somewhere here or…there?” Sim asks.
“Sim, you know he took her back to his lair. I just never thought we would have to go back.”
“Where are we goin’?” Ernest asks, looking back to make sure nothing is behind us.
Suddenly, I stop. “You aren’t going anywhere but back to your house,” I tell him sternly. “Sim and I have this covered.”
“But, Manna; I really wanna help! Amy is my friend, too! Oh, please let me help,” Ernest begs. There was that stupid nickname again!
Sim looks from me to Ernest and then back to me again. “Amanda, I hate to say it, but right now, we could use all the help we can get. Dr. Otto seems to be even more powerful than before. And we can trust him.”
I stand there, mouth open in shock and awe. “Are you the same Sim Lavender who said, and I quote, ‘Never under any circumstances are we to bring someone from this world back to ours’?”
Sim glared at me. “Yes, I’m the same one who said that, but I never thought the circumstances would be Dr. Otto coming from our world to this world! He’s coming with us and that’s final!”
I sigh. “Okay, fine.”
“Wait; you guys are aliens?” Ernest asks, backing away slowly.
“No, Ernest, we aren’t aliens. We come from another dimension. You ever see or read Alice In Wonderland?” Sim asks and once again, I am impressed. I never once thought of using that reference to describe where we came from. Then again, I thought I’d never have to.
Ernest pulls the bill of his cap up slightly and smiles. “Well, sure! That’s a strange story, but that Mad Hatter sure is funny.”
“Well,” I add, “where we are from is like a different version of Wonderland. But we have to hurry back to our house so we can get there, post-haste. If Amy is in the hands of Dr. Otto for too long, I fear we may never get her back.”
Sim nods. “Good idea.”
“Should I pack anything? Bring sunscreen? My inhaler?” Ernest asks, as we start running again.
“No time. We need to hurry,” Sim replies as she fumbles around for the keys to the house before we open the picket fence.
As soon as we run inside, Sim dashes upstairs.
“Where is she goin’?” Ernest asks.
“To get the object that will open the portal to our dimension.”
“This is so cool! I’ve never been to another dimension before. Only the third dimension; knowwutImean?” he jokes before Sim runs back downstairs carrying a round box about as big as a Frisbee.
Sim opens it to reveal a large almost flat crystal, and the color of rainbows flutter around as it catches the light in the room. She sets the crystal down on the floor in front of us. “Okay,” she explains to Ernest. “We stand in a circle and join hands, making sure that the crystal is in the center of the circle.”
“Okee-dokee,” Ernest says, taking both our hands as we form a small yet perfect circle. “Now what?”
“Now you just close your eyes and wait,” Sim replies before nodding at me.
I nod back and take a deep breath before we close our eyes and picture our world of Grenacia, with all it’s colorful characters and people.
Suddenly, the crystal begins to quietly vibrate. Seconds later, various colors exude from the gem and envelope us in light as we shrink, literally pulled into the crystal before it–and us–completely vanish.
When we open our eyes, we are no longer in the sleepy little town of Ashby, Nebraska, but in Grenacia, our home. It had been three years since we lived here, but it still looked exactly the same.
“Ernest, you can open your eyes now,” I tell him. “We’re here.”
Ernest opens one eye and looks around. “Wow. I didn’t even get motion sickness. Are you sure we’re in another world? This just looks like a regular road with a regular forest nearby.”
Sim nods. “Yes, we’re sure. This is Grenacia. See those trees over there? Those are puptrees.”
As if on cue, a little boy walks over to one of the trees with his parents and looks up. “I want a black and white one.”
The dad nods and reaches up, pulling a small black and white Dalmatian puppy from the tree, handing it to the boy.
“Well, golly Bob Howdy. Can I try?” Ernest says, taking his hat off and scratching his head.
“Maybe later. Right now, we have to start making the trek to Dr. Otto’s lair,” I inform him. “It’s getting close to nightfall, so we haven’t got much time.”
Sim leads the way. “We need to find Mr. Skelliworth first because I’m not quite sure I remember which way Dr. Otto’s lab is.”
I scratch my head, trying to remember. The Puptree Forest was near Mr. Skelliworth’s house, but was Dr. Otto’s lab near Overta River or was it closer to Truda Woods? Or maybe that was before he moved it to Doan Shueta Canyon? I try to think back.
“Who’s Mr. Skelliworth? Is he married to Mrs. Butterworth?” Ernest jokes.
“Cute,” I reply dryly, cursing myself for now craving waffles and maple syrup.
“Mr. Skelliworth is the oldest man alive here in Grenacia,” Sim informs him as we begin to walk away from Puptree Forest and towards the toll bridge.
“Wow! I always wanted to meet the oldest man alive,” Ernest grins.
“He’s not that amazing,” I blurt out. “He’s four-thousand years old and his bones are exposed and stuff.”
“Ewwwww,” Ernest drawls, twisting his face and moving his lips and jaw from side to side, causing me to laugh.
As we get to the toll bridge, I sigh inwardly. I really don’t feel like doing anything more than finding Mr. Skelliworth and getting Amy back, heart included. But going to the toll bridge always meant paying a price.
Sim looks at me, as if she can hear my thoughts. “Come on. Let’s get this over with.”
At the top of the bridge, stands a large guard, dressed in combat gear, holding a large sign that says “Pay the toll, or ye don’t go”.
Ernest grabs his wallet and starts looking through it. “How much is the toll, guys?”
Sim pushes his wallet to his chest. “Your money is no good here.”
Suddenly, the guard moves and waves at us. “Hey, guys! You wanting to cross?”
“No. We were hoping to find a good lemon meringue pie recipe,” I reply sarcastically.
“Amanda!” Sim hisses.
That’s all it takes. Seconds later, the guard starts telling a story about how his mother used to make lemon meringue pies for the neighborhood and she would put them in the window to cool only for the crows to eat them blah blah blah blah blah…
While Ernest is paying rapt attention, Sim and I grab some loose pebbles on the bridge.
“Your story is taking a toll on us! Please stop!” Sim and I cry out, throwing the pebbles at him.
“Ow! Ow!” the guard cries out. “Okay, okay! The toll has been paid. You may cross. Ow!”
As we walk past, I turn to Ernest. “That’s how you pay the toll in Grenacia. You have to listen to a story until it has literally taken its toll on you.”
“Gee. I hope he’s okay. Does he have good insurance?” Ernest asks, looking back.
“He’s fine,” Sim and I reply in unison.
After we’ve walked about two more miles, Sim points up ahead. “Just over this hill is Mr. Skelliworth’s house. He can tell us where Dr. Otto’s lab is.”
Sure enough, I smile as I see Mr. Skelliworth sitting in his rocking chair on his front porch. I don’t think he ever moves. Not that he needs to. I can’t believe I would ever miss him, but I did during those three years. There definitely was no one like him in Nebraska.
“Hi, Mr. Skelliworth!” Sim calls out and we see his bony arm and hand raise in a wave.
“Aaah!” Ernest cries, grabbing my shoulders and hiding behind me. “He-he’s a-a skeleton!”
“He’s four thousand years old, what did you expect?” Sim asks.
“It’s okay, Ernest. Don’t worry,” I console him, patting his hand as we walk onto the porch.
“Well, hello, there!” Mr. Skelliworth cries out in his raspy old man voice. His voice reminds me a lot of the old bank owner’s voice in the movie Mary Poppins. “What brings you three by today?”
“We need your help. We’re looking for Dr. Otto Von Schnick’s lair. He stole Amy’s heart out of her body and took it–and her–with him. We need to know where it is. I know he’s moved it since we were here last,” Sim explains.
“I see,” Mr. Skelliworth answers slowly. “Back in 1746, we didn’t worry about evil mad scientists stealing people’s organs. We were mostly concerned with things like dirt and gold.”
I have to stifle a giggle. Dirt and gold? Oh, boy!
“I’m sure,” Sim nods, “but we need to know where Dr. Otto lives.”
“Well, if I were looking for a mad scientist’s lair, I’d look for one main ingredient,” he begins before pointing a shaky finger back over his shoulder and up towards the sky. “Wherever you see lightning, that’s where he can be found.”
“Of course!” Ernest exclaims. “It’s in all the science-fiction movies. There’s always some sort of storm right over the castle of the villain or evil scientist!”
I nod. “He’s right. Thank you Mr. Skelliworth! Have a nice night!”
“It’s gonna rain soon. I can feel it in my elbows!” he calls out to us as we leave and begin moving up the hill to where we see the lightning storm brightening the night sky.
An hour later, we finally make it to Dr. Otto’s evil lair. I had only been inside one other time and that was in my nightmares. A few years ago, Dr. Otto had accidentally given me a sleeping potion meant for Amy and haunted my subconscious. Of course when he realized that it was me in my dream instead of Amy, he was devastated. So devastated in fact, he sent me an apology card with the words ‘Wasn’t expecting you, but I’ll be back for the one I truly desire. Truly sorry. Go back to dreaming about wretched ponies and disgusting rainbows’ written inside. I literally roll my eyes and sigh as I remember the incident.
“Maybe we can see him through one of these windows over here!” Sim hisses as she motions us to follow her to the right side of the building.
Surely enough, there are rows of windows lining the side. Carefully ducking down, I peek into each window first, Sim and Ernest following behind me. The first window shows nothing but massive tangles of wire and metal leading to bizarre equipment that looks like a scrap yard paradise. The second window? Well, now that’s a different story.
“Oh, wow!” I breathe.
“What is it? Do you see Amy or Otto?” Sim whispers.
“No! WKRP In Cincinnati is on TV,” I reply, resulting in Sim smacking me in the arm. “What? It’s the episode with Hoyt Axton; sue me!”
Sim pushes me ahead. “Just keep going.”
Third window? Nothing. Fourth window? Nothing. Fifth window?
I can clearly see Dr. Otto walking around in his lab, holding a medium-sized box in his hands. Across the room, I can see Amy lying on a cold metallic table. She’s moving, but just barely.
“My dear Amy. Dance with me,” Dr, Otto commands before setting the box down on a table.
Amy slowly sits up. “Yes, Dr. Otto. I will dance with you.”
I watch for a few more seconds before making a face. “I see them. They are dancing. A little bizarre because…well, Dr. Otto is actually not that bad a dancer, considering his looks, attire and rather introverted personality.”
Sim looks inside the window as well and for a few seconds, we watch the former beauty queen and the naïve semi-mad scientist waltz. “Great. Well, we know she’s here now. Now we just need to find a way to get in.”
I nod in agreement. “Yeah. It’s not as if Dr. Otto left the front door unlocked and open.”
“Hey, guys!” Ernest calls and we turn, realizing he is no longer behind us but at the front of the lair. “You’re not gonna believe this, but the front door is unlocked and open!”
I look from Sim to Ernest and then back to Sim. “Of course it is,” I drawl sarcastically as we slowly and quietly make our way to the front of the castle.
As soon as we get inside, we are both appalled and in awe of all the equipment and machinery blinking, flashing and beeping.
“It smells like old socks and sulfur,” Sim states and I have to agree. In all honesty, I have no idea if any of the equipment actually works or if it’s just for show. A vacuum cleaner hose attached to a transistor radio connected to a rusty satellite dish? What could that possibly do? Maybe that’s how the TV was picking up WKRP in Cincinnati. Who knew? I shake my head to focus on the task at hand. We need to get Amy and her heart back quickly, allude Dr. Otto and possibly destroy him for good somehow.
“What does this do, guys?” Ernest asks, flipping a switch on a toaster/video game console/music stand/humidifier.
“No!” Sim and I hiss as a faint whirring noise can be heard before the sound of a dragging cassette tape featuring 8 bit music begins to play.
“Ow!” Ernest cries as marbles start shooting out of the toaster at us, slowly speeding up as the music speeds up as well.
“Ernest!” Sim coughs as mist from the humidifier fills the air, but the mist is smoke from dry ice.
“Where’d you guys go?” Ernest asks as the fog consumes us, making it impossible to see.
Fanning the smoke with my hands, I go over to the machine and turn it off. “Now could you please refrain from touching anything?” I snap.
“Okay,” Ernest replies, giving me a ‘geez, lighten up’ look.
“We really need to figure out what could be the source of Dr. Otto’s newfound magic abilities. He was never able to just flick his wrists and freeze or levitate people before,” Sim tells us as we continue making our way through the lab.
Suddenly, we come upon the room that Dr. Otto and Amy are in and we carefully peek around the doorway.
“Amy, I want you to do something else for me. Something very special. I want you to paint something. Something beautiful like…a bowl of rotten fruit!” Dr. Otto orders her, tearing a blanket off a ready-made easel and table of paint supplies. “I want to hang it over my blast furnace.”
“Yes, Dr. Otto. I would love to paint for you,” Amy responds in a monotone as she walks over and begins painting.
“I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere, now,” he grins before laughing maniacally as he leaves the room.
“Pssst! Amy!” Sim hisses as soon as he’s gone.
Amy looks up and sees her. “S-Sim?” she asks, almost unsure.
“I’m here, too. And Ernest,” I add. “We came to get you out of here.”
Amy looks back to see if Dr. Otto is coming. “I can’t leave. I have to finish this painting. As long as he has my heart, he is controlling me.”
“Well, then we’ll just have to get your heart,” Sim replies simply as we walk into the room as if we can just take the heart, Amy and leave. Yeah, right.
“Well, hello!” Dr. Otto greets us from behind. I spin around, wondering just how in the heck he exited the room in front of us and now was appearing on the opposite end. “So glad you could come!”
“She is not your slave, Otto!” I cry out, sounding much braver than I feel. “She’s ours! I mean, she’s our friend…you know what I mean!”
Dr. Otto grins, unable to hide his excitement. “Oh, but she can’t leave yet. She’s painting me a wonderful masterpiece.”
“Ha!” Sim scoffs. “If you really knew Amy, you’d know the girl couldn’t paint a convincing straight line!”
Dr. Otto walks over to Amy’s artwork and looks at it. Sure enough, even as Amy’s slave, she couldn’t paint to save her life. The bowl of rotten fruit looks more like a UFO with melting ice cubes on top. “Well, it’s very….,” Dr. Otto stammers.
“You don’t like it?” Amy asks.
“No, it’s…if Picasso were a child who was blind in one eye and had a milky film over the other one, this would be perfect!”
“My dog Rimshot could paint better than that,” Ernest mutters.
While Dr. Otto is observing his painting Ice on a Spaceship in Summer, Sim slowly edges her way towards the jewelry box where Amy’s heart is stored.
Suddenly, the jewelry box flies off the table and into Dr. Otto’s waiting left hand.
“How very clever, Simone. But not clever enough! Now; Amy! Lead them down into the dungeon until I find a more suitable punishment that will cause probable pain.”
“Anything you say, Dr. Otto,” Amy replies as she turns around and starts walking towards us.
“Amy! Amy; it’s us! It’s me, your old buddy Ernest!” Ernest tries as we slowly walk backwards towards the other end of the lair.
“Dr. Otto says I have to take you to the dungeon,” Amy replies. “I am his slave, so I must do what he says.”
“What is he using to harness his magical powers, Amy? Can you tell us that?” Sim tries.
“I have no idea, but it’s pretty cool, huh?”
“No, it’s not cool!” I shout as Amy is now forcing us to walk backwards down some stairs, towards the dark, dank dungeon.
“Amy, you have to find out how he is getting these abilities. When you do, you have to tell us,” Sim pleads.
“No. I’m mad at you,” Amy retorts. “You hurt my feelings by saying I couldn’t paint.”
Ernest and I exchange worried glances as we edge off the last step and into the dungeon. The only lights in the place are from small lanterns on the bare stone walls. I’m trying to be brave, both for my sanity and Ernest’s but the screaming, straight-jacket wearing part of my brain is crying I don’t wanna die! I’m still so young and have so much to live for! I still haven’t seen all three Iron Man movies! Helllllp!!!!!