I didn’t have the strength to turn my head and look to see who, if anyone, was emerging from the elevator. As it turned out, I didn’t need to. Almost instantly, prehensile ropes coiled around my arms, legs, and torso. The ropes were made of an unidentifiable substance that looked unsettlingly like fish scales. They were far too strong for me to fight them. In no time, I was trussed up in a spread eagle like a human sacrifice, facing back the way I had come. With the pain in my abdomen, being forced to stretch out was excruciating.
By the elevator stood a figure, presumably male, his face hidden in shadows. As I watched, he turned to face my companions at the doorway in the far wall. Carver stepped into the room with his arm cocked back as if he were going to throw a softball. His hand glowed electric blue, and he hurled a ball of mystical energy straight at the newcomer’s head.
The stranger barely moved. He simply flicked his hand at Carver as though he were shooing a fly. The blue ball disappeared, and in the same instant, Carver was encased in a cube of fish.
I looked to the beloved quartet, and my heart sank. There stood Gail, gawping with panicked uncertainty. Matilda, Heather, Sara, and Gertrude were getting in each others’ way.
The stranger laughed, a cold and cruel sound. “Worthless bitch,” he sneered. The voice was one I recognized. It was the same voice that had told me I wouldn’t remember the God of Toast. My blood ran cold to hear it again.
His taunting words seemed to help the beloved quartet to collect themselves, for a moment later, Heather stepped forward ferociously with her hands extended in front of her. “Eat this!” she shouted, and sent gouts of flame towards the stranger.
Unfortunately, the stranger simply waved his hand again, and the beloved quartet were treated to their own cube of fish.
All the while, I frantically attempted to contact the tools in my right pinky finger, but something was preventing me from connecting.
Almost lazily, the figure turned to face me, his face still hidden.
“Who are you?” I asked with what little authority I could muster. The stranger stepped into the light. “Harold?” I cried. For it was he. I realize I shouldn’t have been terribly surprised, but I was anyway.
Harold stepped closer. “It’s true that I am known in some circles as Harold,” he said. “But I prefer to think of myself in terms of my achievements.” He stopped directly in front of me, a few feet away. “You might call me the fish bringer. Or the guy who wrote, ‘Fuck you’ in the bathroom. But to call me by my true title, you would address me as the Anti-Toast.”
So saying, he hauled off and kicked me square in the crotch with significant force. Oh, it hurt. It added a new and special icing to the cake of agony that already nestled in my entrails. I screamed.
Once my scream had faded to a choking sob, Harold continued. “And you, oh Champion of Toast, have failed. Soon you will be dead, and the God of Toast will die soon after, and there is nothing you can do to stop it.” His calm and matter-of-fact tone made his words all the more horrible to hear.
He stepped nearer, putting his face close to mine. I couldn’t look at his eyes; they were too terrible. “I can feel you reaching out with your mind to your precious pinky finger,” he said tauntingly. “Sadly, your powers will not serve you here in my secret sanctum. But it does tie in to the matter of your death.
“You see, I’ve always hated you and your bullshit finger. What kind of super power is that, anyway? So I’ve decided,” he said, seizing my right arm and wrenching it free from the fish rope that held it, “that you shall die by your own precious digital repository.”
I looked at Harold with a blank expression. “What I mean,” he explained, “is that I’m going to smother you to death by shoving your right hand down your miserable throat.”
So saying, he forced my hand to my lips. I resisted as best I could, but he was far stronger than I. It hurt a lot when my wrist snapped. It hurt even worse when my jaw broke. Soon enough, my hand was in past my teeth, and I could feel things start to roll out of my pinky finger and into my mouth. Some, like the nanobots, went down my throat. The bulkier items were dislodged by our struggle and spilled out onto the floor.
Harold pressed on with terrible force. For my part, I was starting to lose hope completely. But suddenly, inspiration struck. I thought of one thing that might save me. Unfortunately, it required that I be able to contact my right pinky finger and its contents. I had to get past Harold’s blocks. I stopped struggling and concentrated with all my might. This was not easy, considering the fact that I had several broken bones and a stomach complaint, further compounded by the fact that I was being strangled by a lunatic.
Before too long, my brain felt like it was bleeding, and I was pretty sure my nose was, too. Harold noticed what I was doing and began taunting me. “Try all you want, Millik,” he said with a burst of derisive laughter. “You’ll never get–”
But at that moment, I was through! Harold knew it, too. I wish I had been in a position to enjoy the look of shock and surprise on his face.
The contact with my right pinky finger was tenuous at best, but it was contact nonetheless. I frantically sifted for the item I needed as Harold redoubled his efforts to suffocate me.
My vision was going dim and flashbulbs were popping in my eyes. The last thing I remember before I blacked out was something smooth and flat sliding out of my right pinky finger and across the back of my tongue. Then there was nothing.