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Harold “Bento Box” McGillicudy put the microphone to his lips and stared down the crowd with admirable aplomb.
“Please,” he said, licking his parched lips, “You have to listen to me. None of you know what’s at stake.”
While only moments before, the cheers and excitement of the gathered mass of humanity had been electric, a deathly pall had fallen over the whole affair as soon as Harry had taken the stage. A wag at the front of the crowd with a Kool-Aid purple mullet shouted, finally breaking the silence.
“Get off the stage!” the indigo-haired fan cried, and the deluge began.
All the negative energy the crowd had been holding back was now washing over the stage in waves. Harry took a few steps back, retreating into himself. They were shaking the barriers. He was sure they would storm the stage and rip him to shreds.
That’s when Lucky Thunderson, widely regarded as the best bassist west of Geddy Lee, stepped in between Harry and the raging audience.
“Oy!” Thunderson shouted, “Lissen up. ‘E’s gone frough quite a bit of trouble ta get on stage ‘ere. We ought to at least ‘ear what ‘e ‘as ta say!”
Thunderson’s intervention seemed to return the crowd to a state of placidity. He nodded at Harry to continue, which was kind of amazing considering he’d jumped into the middle of their concert without so much as a word of explanation. The truth was just so complicated, he had to get it all out, had to warn everyone, and he had so little time.
“You suck, Lucky!” someone shouted, and a brick sailed through the air, striking Thunderson in the temple.
Thunderson plowed teeth-first to the floor, and as he fell, a warm spray of blood spattered Harry’s smock. When the old woman had warned him to wear a smock that morning, had she foreseen all of this? Or had it been the mere ramblings of a madwoman?
No time to consider, as hands were already pulling him backwards, offstage and away from the flying bottles, rocks, and epithets.
“No, you have to let me go!” he shouted, straining against his unseen oppressor.
“Shh,” a familiar voice whispered into his ear, “Calm yourself, Bento Box.”
He turned, for the first time, to see who was pulling him away from the stage.
“It’s you,” he gasped.
“It’s me,” she agreed.
Harry had never expected to see her again. Not after what had happened the last time they had met.
“You can’t be here,” he said.
She laughed and let go of him long enough to gesture at herself.
“And yet here I am,” she said, “What in God’s name were you doing out there?"
“It’s complicated,” he said.
A Mona Lisa smile fluttered across her lips for the briefest of seconds.
“I can handle complicated,” she said, “That’s why I came back, Bento Box. How did you get that nickname, anyway?”
“That’s right,” Harry said, coughing, “I never told you. I got it when…”