Outside the Möebius Strip, a bouncer eyed Floyd. “A geek, huh. On Monster Night, geeks go in the corner, behind the chicken wire.”
Floyd peered up at him. “But I’ve got a personal invitation. Tell the manager it’s about a feather.”
The bouncer sighed and led him inside. A tall, sallow-faced man studied him. “Feather? Explain. Fast. I’m busy.”
Floyd swallowed. “There used to be a playground near here. When I was a kid, we played a game to see who could swing the highest. One particular swing was different. More than once I swung up and over. On the way down, I changed into feathers.”
The manager looked bored.
“Then I’d change back into a small boy. But one day, someone stole two feathers. Next I knew, they razed the park and put up buildings. And yesterday I got a handwritten note. ‘You want your feathers? Come to the Möebius Strip.’ So here I am. Here’s the note.”
Floyd fished it from his pocket. “It’s signed Monster Me.”
The manager shrugged. “He’s up next. Go nuts.” He turned and left.
Floyd looked round. Beyond the bar, the large, noisy main room opened onto a stage. On the left, what looked like art students huddled over tablets and sketchbooks. On the right, squashed behind the chicken wire, the geeks swapped notes. Floyd joined them.
“Here for the mind reading act?” said the guy next to him.
Floyd shook his head.
“The fights were unbelievable. Wormhole Monster just beat Sinkhole Monster. The mind-reading comes next.”
The guy frowned. “What are you doing here, then?”
The lights dimmed. The manager strode onto the stage, paintball gun in hand. “The winner of the last bout will now select a volunteer for the world-famous monster mind-reading act.” He raised his gun and squirted purple ink in the air. Two huge shapes purpled into view. One squished forward.
“It’s the winner, the wormhole monster,” whispered Floyd’s neighbour. Floyd opened his mouth to reply.
Purple Monster extruded something that looked like a thin trumpet. “I see a man who’s looking for a young girl from his playground days,” it intoned. “Step forward, sir.”
Floyd flushed bright red. Everyone turned and stared.
Purple extruded a finger and tapped him on the shoulder. Bouncers descended, propelled Floyd onto the stage and turned him to face the crowd.
“I will now read his mind,” intoned Purple. “This man came here to seek two feathers, and perhaps the then-young girl who stole them. How do I know this?”
The crowd sucked in its collective breath.
Purple waited for silence. “I ate her.”
The crowd gasped, and cheered.
“Wait,” said Purple. “This man can find that girl about a third of the way along my intergalactic intestinal tract. Do you want to?”
Floyd opened his mouth to speak. That girl. He remembered now. When the prostitutes used to file past the park on their way to work, a young girl had accompanied them a few times. The girl had taken two of his feathers. He’d never been the same since.
He cleared his throat. “Er, yes.”
The crowd cheered.
Purple quivered. “Good.” It seized Floyd and popped him into one of its body cavities. The noise of the crowd faded as he slid faster and faster down a long slippery tube. Without warning, he slammed into something hard, flipped head over heels, and once again turned into feathers.
Floyd drifted downward, all wisps and fronds, and hit bottom. A young woman knelt and looked down at him. The same blue eyes in a piquant face, a little older now.
“You’re that kid, aren’t you? I’ve still got two of you ... I mean, your …” She grinned. “Do you want them back?”
She giggled, pulled two feathers out of her shoulder bag and solemnly added her two feathers to his. Floyd did a cartwheel and as he landed, regained his human body.
He checked his arms and legs. “Thanks. Uh, long time no see. I’m Floyd.”
“Zadie. How do we get out of here?”
Floyd looked round. Nothing came to mind.
“We need a good propulsion system. Let’s tickle him,” said Zadie.
“You mean …?”
“Yep. You change back into feathers. I do the rest.”
Purple coughed and gagged. Floyd and Zadie spun round. The wormhole monster coughed them up on stage, and faded from sight. The crowd leapt to its feet. “Where’s the monster?” shouted many. “Bring him back!” shouted the rest.
The manager hurried them to a back door and pushed them onto the street. “Go ruin someone else’s business,” he hissed.
“But …” began Floyd.
“We’re going.” Zadie led Floyd away. “You’re so cute when you’re angry,” she whispered in his ear.
This time, Floyd knew not to say a thing.