“Now, we have come to a point of some heaviness and that is not at all what we wish here, is it?” Malek said, brightening up. “Tonight, you are our guests and we are excited to have you celebrate with us. Carnival is a time when we enjoy the best of the year. The world, at its darkest, cannot compete with the light that we have available now. We have much to be thankful for. We want to share that light with you and part of what we want is for you to share with us too.”
“So how would you like us to do that, Malek?” Dolly asked.
“Ideally, we would love to hear more about you all,” he said. “I understand at least a couple of your members are shy and that is okay. What might be more helpful in that case is a bit of a show like you’re used to. The difficulty with this is that we have no films of the type you’re used to for you to work with here. Would you be okay telling stories instead?”
“Do you have films here?” Matt asked.
“We do but they are not quite what you are used to,” Malek replied. “It’s a very different medium here and not an especially popular one at that. Live theatre is much more enjoyable. There is a connection with the crowds and they appreciate that more here than back in the other world.”
“And opera?” Lydia asked.
“Very popular here,” Malek said, smiling. “This is a world that enjoys its drama and it has a wealth of history that it draws from for that. Also, the works of the Bard were all but lost for nearly two decades before the newest opera houses managed to pick them up. You’ve not seen MacBeth until you’ve seen the incredible Nkiruka’s interpretation of the infamous Lady MacBeth. Her rendition is just perfection. They had to change the ending because the audiences would not accept her death, she was so beloved.”
“We saw an opera singer on the way here,” Stuart said. “She was near the fountain in the town square.”
“Oh that was the courtyard of the Grand Opera Theatre,” Malek said. “If you saw a brilliantly talented woman giving a performance there, that was almost assuredly her. She is a remarkable star and she absolutely loves Carnival.”
“She kinda said hello to us in the carriage,” Matt said.
“And she blew you a kiss,” Lydia added. Matt looked away and blushed.
“That was likely for you all,” Malek laughed. “I think that Will might have misunderstood before when we spoke about the popularity of your work here. Again, horror films are a strange element and often, most people here are not all that interested in that aspect of your show. There are some who find them fascinating but as a whole, this is not the place for them. The fact that we have a woman and, if you’ll forgive me Will, a spiderling who enjoys them and is amused by the antics that cause fear is much more of an interest. Given that most of the films that you show involve or represent real creatures, it’s even more of a fascination to many. In many cases, they are spoken of in such a positive and jovial light that it seems downright progressive, even by our standards here. And given that you have what many would consider a true creature among your number already and a new one recently welcomed into the mix, this is a perfect time to celebrate the diversity in your group.”
“So what kind of story will they be wanting?” Dolly said, unsure of this.
“That, I leave up to you,” he replied. “I’ll give you some time to sort out among you what might work best. If you need anything, I will do my best to accommodate it as much as allows here. I understand that you might find this world to be a bit lacking in some departments but if there’s any way that I can create a work around, I shall. The night here is young and we have time yet. Will, I trust you know how to use the disk when you are ready.”
Will nodded and Malek was bowed before he left the room. The group had a collective sigh and no one looked at one another for a few seconds. Dolly wasn’t really counting on this. She had come here hoping to find the others with Matt and had been sort of assuming this would be a very quick and dirty thank you to their hosts before they could be on their way. She didn’t really press but she could see that Will wasn’t exactly expecting this either. That said, she’d seen the security that had come with getting in here. She didn’t know what it was like for the others but she knew there was nothing coming in after them. It had been pretty intimidating to be honest and the idea of being ejected from here was not one she wanted to entertain. Still, she was at a loss at what she could do now. She usually took days to write a script and this was going to be working pretty much with nothing.
“So is this a bad time to mention that my father is going to be freaking out about his car?” Stuart said, quietly.
“That is among the easier things to adjust,” Will said, brightening up a bit. “We can get you back home without any real issue and time is a little bit bendable that way. No matter how long we take here, you aren’t going to have to answer for it back home.”
“What we are going to have to answer for is what we can offer them, especially as a group,” Dolly said. “I’m not sure what kind of story we can tell them, Will. Like, are we supposed to come up with a story we hope they like?”
“I’m not much of a writer and I’m not so good at telling stories,” Matt added. “I barely passed English and even then, I had to do the extra reading assignments to keep my grades from slipping too far down.”
“I failed English,” Stuart said. He shrugged. “The teacher got mad at me for drawing in class.”
“But that’s how you listen to things,” Lydia replied, frowning. Suddenly she brightened up. “Why don’t we just tell them stories about us?”
“About us?” Matt said, doubtfully.
“Why not?” Dolly replied. “Wasn’t that exactly what he was just saying? We’re different than the people here. And maybe we’re not even that different. But you, Matt, have a completely different experience than the people who live here. Malek just said that they would find that fascinating.”
“I don’t think I am okay with telling them about the many experiences with the Kingz,” Matt shook his head. “And honestly, I don’t know that anyone here wants to know more about my foster homes.”
“But they might want to know what it’s like to be a Buck,” Lydia encouraged. “None of us even know what you’re going through either. When you stopped the one from hitting Stuart, you understood it but we didn’t.”
“And you heard what he said about mixing with other creatures,” Will added. “I know this is new to you but you’ll have to take my word for it that we’re not a normal group, even in the context of the wider world. Creatures of any kind usually don’t venture outside of their confines.”
“So why did you?”
“I didn’t have a choice,” Will shrugged. He sighed. “Look, I know you’ve noticed but talk about it anyway. They call me a spiderling here and I’m not exactly fond of the title but I get why. I can’t deny it as much as I used to but it doesn’t mean I am not nor was I ever human. It’s why I still seek out human beings. I know how human beings act. I can anticipate it, even if I don’t really fit in with them as well as all that. Actual spiderlings have their own way of life and culture and even then, I look like them but kind of not. I can’t use my legs the same way they do. It’s not that different than what happened to you, Matt. It’s just mine was less a case of me nearly dying and yours was a lot faster than mine.”
“So that’s us but what about everyone else?” Matt sighed.
“Well, they seem to be interested in us as people,” Dolly shrugged. “We can talk about things that we know. I can tell them that I can’t really walk and what it’s like being in a wheelchair.”
“I don’t know if they even know what a furry is,” Lydia said, shyly.
“And being an introvert is so rare here, it would be something that would be of interest to them, Stu,” Will added. “You really don’t have to say much. Even just telling them that you have an easier time interacting with your art work than you do people should be enough to get you by. Malek already knows that you’re not comfortable talking so we can help pick up where you need us to.”
“So I guess this means we have something to talk about,” Dolly said.
“I guess this means we are a new team,” Will agreed. He looked to Matt. “We can worry about the rest later but for the moment, let’s just be friend monsters.”