Evil Beatnik walked in. I’d never seen him in that body, but I knew it instantly. He wore a black beret, black jeans, and a black turtleneck. Scruffy hair on his chin (and above his upper lip) hinted that he must be growing a goatee.
Oh, and he wore a silver ring on his right hand.
Except for pictures from the late 60’s and the 70’s, he’d always looked like that—even if he did possess different people each time.
I wondered who he was. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him.
He didn’t walk in alone though. A woman with long, black hair followed him. She wore a short, black dress.
An old man walked in behind him. He had to be in his seventies, and I had no idea why he would be there except then I saw the drums, specifically bongo drums. In that moment, I knew who he was.
He was Evil Beatnik’s sidekick—Bongo Boy.
And so it seemed obvious that even if Evil Beatnik was an immortal spirit of chaos, Bongo Boy wasn’t. Technically, I could argue that by that point he should have long since changed his name to Bongo Geezer.
So far as I knew, Bongo Boy didn’t have any powers beyond being able to play the bongo drums.
On the floor, Destruction Boy took one look at them, starting laughing, and then suddenly said, “Ow,” and stopped.
It didn’t strike me as a Darth Vader style mental choke, as much as the side effect of a broken rib. When Sean gave me a broken rib, laughing hard had hurt for a few weeks.
“Cats,” Evil Beatnik said as Bongo Boy shut the door. “Dig what I’m putting down.”
Bongo Boy quietly started to tap the drums.
Izzy turned to the Ice Twin who had opened the door, “Candace, this is our leader?”
The Ice Twin on the couch said, “I’m Candace, that’s Cassidy.”
“We stand here,” Evil Beatnik began, “a small band of fellow spirits who know something is wrong with the world we live in. We know that it’s hollow at the core, but they’ve covered it up with rules—rules about what’s polite, rules that tell you who you can talk to, rules that tell you when you can talk.
“They want to tell you who you can be, and they promise you that if you stay quiet, and wait, someday it will happen. Well, I say they can’t give it to you because it’s not theirs to give. All they can do is keep you in the same beat groove, but you, if you follow me, you can fly.”
Writing this down it sounds stupid, but in the moment, Evil Beatnik moved hypnotically. He didn’t dance. He barely seemed to move at all, but when he did, he moved with the beat of the drums.
Dum ditty, dum ditty, dum-dum-dum.
On the screen, all of them including Izzy stared, and slowly all of their faces turned to adoration.
In that moment what he said seemed to make a lot of sense too. Weren’t a lot of rules useless? They seemed to be substitutes for thinking things through yourself, and maybe the world would be better if we didn’t use rules as shortcuts—
“Nick,” Jaclyn said, “turn it off.”
I never got the chance. Even before I managed to pull myself out of my thoughts, Jaclyn grabbed the mouse from my hand and clicked the display off the big screen, and turned off the sound.
With my eyes now pointed at twenty feet of empty screen, I found it easier to move.
Across from me at the table, Marcus said, “That was crazy. I felt like I was there. What about you guys?”
Behind me, Kayla said, “You all looked like you were there. You looked exactly like all of them.”
“That’s what I thought,” Jaclyn stepped back from my computer. “Is everyone okay?”
“I think so,” Rachel said. “He had me, and I knew it, and I didn’t dare move because I thought he might notice.”
Vaughn didn’t say anything. He stood silently, still facing the screen.
“Vaughn,” Jaclyn said, “are you okay?”
Then Vaughn turned to face us, and honestly, I half expected to see lightning, but I didn’t.
He kept his hands down, and quietly asked, “Did you guys see the monkey?”
I tried to remember what I’d seen beyond Evil Beatnick. “What monkey?”
“One was hanging on the window.”
I reached for my mouse.
“Don’t turn it on again,” Jaclyn said.
I’d been recording it, and I set the video to move backward one frame at a time. Vaughn was right. The roachbot had a wide angle lens, and while Vaughn was wrong about a monkey hanging on the window, one stood on the balcony.
I stopped the video.
“It’s like in that kids’ book,” Vaughn said, “the one that was about monkeys drumming on drums?”
Rachel stared. “A monkey? In Grand Lake?”
I barely paid attention. I’d figured out who Evil Beatnik reminded me of—Mr. Beacham—the coolest, youngest, and most popular teacher in my high school.