What You Need

For @inventrix’s commissioned continuation of

Part 7-7.5 of 7.5

Mr. Ting was beginning to creep me out and, what was more, I was worried Mt. Jordan was going to blow any minute now. “We really need an AC unit,” I put in, trying not to stare at the silver whatsits. Or the tin with the tentacle thing on it. “An air conditioner. We have a kid at home, and cats and rats…”

“Already taken care of.” He smiled benevolently at us. “A new unit has been delivered to your doorstep. What is more, in your absence, Ashton and Taylor are installing it – and cleaning the window.”

Jordan stared at him. “You can’t know that.”

“Aaah. That may be. But what also is, is that I do know it. And when you return home, you will see that these things have happened.” He patted Jordan’s shoulder, and somehow came back with all his fingers. “And that is all right. But that is only what your household needed, no? That is not what the two of you, what J.J .and Jordan, and J.J.-and-Jordan, need, is it?”

“There is no J.J.-and-Jordan,” we both said hurriedly. The tiny man only smiled.

“There may not be a romantic relationship. You do not look at each other as if you are having a romance. But you are here together because there is a together, no? You are living in your house of complications because there is a friendship, a something-more?”

We shared a look, and it was Jordan who looked away, but me who spoke.

“There’s an us, like that,” I agreed. “Friends. Just… just friends.”

“Indeed,” he smirked. “‘Just’ friends. It is a good thing to have, ‘just’ friends, like Mrs. Gent and I. And do you believe me, J.J.?”

Did I believe him? That was a very good question. “It seemed ridiculous. It seems unbelievable. Far-fetched, at the very least – Ashton setting up anything?” I smirked at him. “Compared to that, you psychically delivering an AC to our house seems entirely reasonable.”

He bowed, like the stereotype that had been in my mind when I first walked in here. “Then allow Mr. Ting to continue to provide what you need.”

“What will it cost us?” Jordan asked again, a little less sharply.

He shook his head, and patted her shoulder again. “Mr. Ting sometimes needs things too. Actual things, mind you. Radios. Cathelyubra. Paperwork. You will come across something that it will look like the store could use. That’s the cost.”

“That’s it?” That was me, this time. “For the AC?”

“The Air Conditioner – that, your roommates paid for in cash and a third of a chocolate cake. It was a very good cake. No, you will bring things back to the store in payment for what I will give you now.”

That sounded ominous. More ominous was the sound of the building shaking and thudding again. A shelf twisted and turned, and we were on the section labeled “P.”

“You will need these.” He passed us each a rucksack that seemed loaded to the top. “And here is your exit.”

“Thank you?” I had turned to put on my backpack, and when I turned back, the little man was gone and in his place was the exit. “Well.”

“Well.” Jordan looked at me, looked at the door, and walked through. “Let’s go… oh.”

“Oh?” I’d followed her through, on her heels like always; now she stepped aside so I could see.

See the island we were suddenly standing on, see the stream meandering through, the grass purple, the water green. See the string of islands off the shore to the left, at least thirteen of them. See the creature fishing the stream, holding the pole in two of its fourteen feet.

See the door behind us close, just in time to hear it click and watch it vanish.

“…Oh.” I tried to pretend I wasn’t excited, and hoped Jordan would forgive me for this new quest.


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