Part four is still part of chapter three, but now that Paula is safe and sound, we come to Threed to check out the area. Let’s get right to business.
The band continued playing an endless medley of music as the bus rolled on. Ness remembered a night long, long ago when he awoke in the middle of the night. He could recall hearing the radio playing some of this from his parent’s bedroom. Paula recognized a few songs she had heard while lying on her dad’s back. The music continued to blast, so everyone in the bus was so caught up with the tunes—not to mention the bus windows completely blocked by costumes and instrument cases—that they didn’t even notice they had already passed through the ghost-ridden tunnel.
The seemingly endless inner-bus gig casually changed to the closing song of auld sang lyne. They took turns with solos; the trumpet, then bass, followed by harmonica, each playing with master technique. Before they knew it, the bus had come to a stop.
“Alriiiiight, we made it to Threed!”
The bus door opened, and the kids climbed over the bodies and the tour gear to exit the bus.
“You come on by and see us in Fourside! We’ll be playin’ there for ‘bout a month.”
“Take care, now! We’ll be cheering you on, no matter where we are!”
“Go save our planet!”
The low voices of the five men sang an acapella chorus of “We Are The World” as they jumped in the bus and sped off, leaving the two standing alone in silence.
Seeing as they had been completely immersed in an environment bursting with excitement and happiness, standing here and looking around, they felt the stark contrast with the dull darkness of the town around them. It was not raining, but thick, dark clouds covered the sky and hung strangely close to the ground. Unlike the peaceful towns of Onett and Twoson, the town was lined with cold, sullen buildings standing tall and curtly square, as if it had been urbanizing. A yellow glow flashed onto the wet stone pavement from the overhead broken streetlights blinking and buzzing loudly like a giant bug. There were barely any people coming and going through the dark shadows between the tall buildings.
“So this is Threed.” Ness looked around. “What a lonely place.”
“Well, let’s figure out where we’re going to stay tonight.” Paula let out a sneeze. “I’m freezing. I want to rest early tonight.”
They walked down the sidewalk a ways and came across a guide map. The entire city was drawn out.
“Here. Hotel Threed. It looks pretty big. Three blocks north of here, looks like.”
“…Ahhhh…” Paula responded blankly.
“What’s the matter? You really don’t feel well? Let’s hurry up, then.”
“…Look.” Paula’s white hand pointed to the top part of the map. “Graves.”
It was indeed a graveyard. It took up an enormous area of the north part of town.
“Of course a town this big is going to have a graveyard.”
“It’s moving,” Paula whispered. “Can’t you see it? Right over there, it’s moving around. Under the cold dirt of those graves, people that have died long, long ago are slowly coming back to life… one, and then another, they’re getting ready to come out… Ahhh, no! Stay away! Stop!!” A painful groan escaped from Paula’s lips and she dropped to the ground.
“Paula!” Ness held her up and put his hand to her forehead. “Ahh, you’ve got a fever! You must have caught a cold. That bus was so hot, you must have caught it when we got off and had such cold air all of a sudden. Or maybe you’re carsick from the bus? You want me to take you to the hospital?”
“Ahh… s—scary… Ness, I’m so scared!” Paula clutched at Ness’s shirt with alarming strength. “Someone’s there. Something’s there. Some wicked—treacherous—thing is…watching us from beneath the dark slime with its—dark, twisted, sulky eyes. It’s so filthy, it’s getting me nauseated. Ahhh… what is that?! No! It’s so disgusting!”
“…Didn’t you say you weren’t scared of ghosts?”
“I don’t care about any old ghost. I’m not even scared of dead people. Everyone dies someday…but, this thing… it’s pukey…and spewing vomit and gushing filth and—ngh!”
“We better get going.”
Ness looked at the map. There was a hospital, but it was quite far from where they were. The hotel was much closer. He figured they might as well hurry to the hotel, get her changed and warmed up, and rest a little bit first. If she was still in bad shape, he could always call an ambulance.
“Well, we can’t just stand here forever, so let’s get to the hotel. Can you walk? Should I carry you?”
“I should be able to walk a little… I’m sorry, Ness…”
“It’ fine. Here, hang on to me. It’s not far, you can do it!”
Now it’s time for our illustration excerpt.
Paula, overcome with illness, leaned half of her weight onto Ness as they headed toward the hotel. A light rain began to fall, and as the rocky sidewalk smoothed out, it became very slippery and incredibly difficult to walk on. They managed to walk two blocks when a neon sign came into view, shining foggily through the rain. Ness smiled in relief. But.
“H E L L ”
He stopped in his tracks, smile frozen and twitching. Paula weakly rose her head and whispered, “What’s wrong?” Her body was shaking, and it seemed she could no longer see very well.
The bright red neon light buzzed off, and a moment later turned back on, this time neon blue.
“H O T E L T H R E E D”
“…It’s nothing.” Ness let out a deep sigh. “I thought we were lost for a second. It’s fine, I see it right over there.”
The neon sign switched off again, flicking back to the red letters, with various parts of the letters burnt out to once again display the ominous sign.
What was really impressive about this part is how visual the text in the novel actually is. When HOTEL THREED turned back on, the text in the novel had it so an L shape was bolded within one of the E’s–I didn’t even know that was possible.
This scene, I thought, was really neat. With the way Kumi writes, I’m also pretty relieved she didn’t go with the Zombie Chick because I don’t doubt that she would make too much of a connection between Ness and prostitution than I would have liked.