Gagabieber! Biebergaga! Ia! Ia!
“You need to see,” he says, drawing a deep breath. “You need to see.”
So you go.
Long winding driveway. Moon overhead pregnant with doom. Gravel crunching under tires. The radio comes alive — fuzz, static, a dread frequency, a girl reading numbers in German (zwei, acht, neun, zwei), but then the signal is lost again. Your headlights flicker on, off, on off.
Then, in the distance: the shack.
Half-collapsed, like a rotten pumpkin.
You see Jack’s car. You pull your own next to it.
Outside, the wind hisses through trees. Then! Movement. To your left. Your heart leaps into your mouth.
It’s just a deer, you realize. You unclench your asscheeks, which tightened hard enough to break a marble column betwixt them. The deer looks at you, blinks, then turns its head. Your guts turn to water, your bowels to vinegar as you see that half the deer’s face is…
It’s no longer there. It’s been replaced. With an old rotary telephone. Avocado green.
The phone rings.
The deer bounds away, crashing through brush.
You grit your teeth. You enter the cabin.
Jack’s in there. He doesn’t say anything, and instead just points to the floor: amidst the fallen beams and rotten furniture is a trap door, its door open like a hungry mouth with hazard teeth. Jack thumbs a half-dozen Tums into his mouth: crunch, crunch, crunch.
“You better get down there,” he croaks. “Time’s wasting.”
Hands on the cold ladder. Down, down, into the dark.
This is no shack. This is a laboratory. White walls. Florescents buzzing overhead like the sounds of fat-bellied hell-flies. Along the wall, tanks. Plexiglass. Bubbling. Humming. Some of them are… faintly shuddering.
“Go see,” Jack says.
You do as Jack says.
In the first tank, formaldehyde. Swirling with glitter, clouding the fluid with dizzying murk. Something emerges from the bloom: a fetal face, dark eyebrows, long blonde hair, and no mouth at all, just a tight stretch of pale skin. It has no legs. Only flippers. And for hands? Chicken feet.
The chicken feet scratch at the inside of the tank: scritch, scritch.
A swirl of glitter, and the fetal beast withdraws into gloom.
The next tank: sequins and bile. In this one, a thing that looks like a baby manatee floats toward you — it’s dead. It has a human face. A boy’s face. Around the fat lump of gray flesh one could assume should be its neck hangs a necktie made to look like a piano. Suddenly, a lurch and a flurry of bubbles. The humanatee’s flippers begin fumbling at the tie up and down, as if trying to… as if trying to play music. It tries to sing. It’s a horrible sound. Like a child drowning in a pool of its own sick. Glub blub flurble dub gack gaaaaack.
In there, you’re pretty sure you hear the words: “Poker face.”
And maybe, also, possibly: “Baby.”
By now, your balls have tightened so far inside you, you can feel them rolling around inside your stomach like a pair of loose golf balls clacking together.
Jack waves you over.
To the next tank.
This one’s broken open, like an egg.
He clears his throat. “This one escaped. Two hours ago.”
You smell bubble gum and cigarette smoke. You smell vaginal secretions and chicken fingers.
You steel yourself for what’s to come. The hunt. The capture. All the horrors in-between.
Finally, you speak aloud the terrible words, and when you speak them it brings it all into awful focus: “The Gagabieber is loose.”
“The Biebergaga is loose,” Jack says, and blinks back tears. “That’s why we called you, Codpiece. We know that when a job needs doing, Codpiece Johnson is the one to do it.”
You nod, and pull your leather jacket tight around you, feeling suddenly cold.
“I’m going to need my guitar. And a horse. And a shotgun that shoots guitars — uhh, I don’t mean it hurts the guitars, I mean, the guitars are its ammo. I call it ‘guitarshot.’”
Jack nods. “Anything you need, Codpiece.”
“Tell me where it was last seen.”
“At a sixth grade talent show,” Jack says.
“Sixth grade?” you ask. “It’s… it’s already aging fast.”
“It is. It’s going under the name Grayson Chance. Best of luck, Codpiece Johnson. Best of luck.”
Jack crumples against the wall and weeps.