When, long ago, the gods created Earth/In Jove's fair image Man was shaped at birth./The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;/Yet were they too remote from humankind./To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,/Th'Olympian host conceiv'd a clever plan./A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,/Filled it with vice, and called the thing Disclaimer.

I don't own Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy, nor do I own H.P. Lovecraft, one of whose terribly racist poems I just ripped off in the above paragraph.

Long ago, in a period of the history of man before the advent of knowledge, a terrible place sprung seemingly from the ether of Old Ones most terrible none could bear to acknowledge or describe them. Called Peach Creek, it was a location cursed with unright people with ugly defections of the body matched by ones of the mind. Where the trees and the concrete appeared to be from a bad watercolor painting of nightmares from the nauseous stygian pits of Yog-Sothoth. A sort of dreadful dread came over me as the dreadful car drove into the cul-de-sac, culminating in my viewing of the house I would be staying in.

I was moving away from my home in New England for personal reasons. My cousin, who was in an asylum and, as best as I can guess, remains there to this day, continually haunted me in my dreams with his visage twisted into a look of abject terror. He was never this same after taking on a cashiering job at a popular retail outlet with a name I cannot recall due to reasons that have nothing to do with the author of this story being scared shitless of some kind of repercussions resulting from mentioning a really popular retail outlet on a fanfiction website. Before they took him away, all he would do is look out the window of his bed chamber, uttering the letters "CSM" over and over. I think it stands for "Cthulhu Stalks Me."

The eldritch construction of the home that greeted me when I arrived, with its strangely angled door and terrible hue of painted sky blue, was so innocent in its own wrongness that it was haunting. Swallowing my reluctance to the best of my ability, I unloaded my things, bringing them in with as big a load as I could carry on each trip so that I could spend as little time outside of the relative comfort of my walls as possible. Only after I was finished unpacking my things that I took time to try and judge whether or not I had made the right judgment. It was while I was surveying the inside of the empty house, nearly in a state of blindness from the overwhelming whiteness of the interior walls and floor, that a knock came upon my door.

I approached slowly, as if the white, peculiarly-shaped door were a cornered lion, and gazed through the peephole. What greeted me on the other side, to this day, I haven't sufficient words to describe. The madness that was to visit me before I was fated to leave the cursed cul-de-sac at Peach Creek was borne of this moment. My God, if humankind were to lay their naïve eyes on the sorts of creatures I was set to encounter, all notions of evolution, civilization- indeed, reality itself, would not just be called into question, but promptly answered with insanity and anarchy. To this day, I cannot close my eyes without seeing them.

The most sizable among the three of them was a thick yellow-skinned boy with his hair shaved down to nearly nothing, highlighting the grotesque shape of his head. He was completely lacking a chin, a cursory examination of his mouth would reveal a blue tongue, and his eyes- dear Lord- were these dead pools of white closing in on a pathetic black specs focused intently through the peephole, meeting with mine. When I would eventually open the door, the scent billowing from his green jacket, mixed with the natural bodily reek he himself emitted, would make my eyes water the entire time I was in contact with these three abominations.

The least prominent member of this threesome of mutants was, even if one took his three tall, lonely tendrils of hair into consideration, far shorter than his two friends. But what he lacked in stature he made up with his personality in spades. His unpleasant demeanor was marked by his lack of understanding personal space (yes, his green friend suffered even more from this, and with greater consequence, but it was clear that boy didn't truly understand what he was doing), his cheating nature, his boisterously loud voice that rarely diverted from a shout, the dollar-shelf cologne he bathed himself in, and uncouth attitude toward any women who weren't related to him. To say that I found him to be a distasteful little rabble-rousing young man would be a woefully underperforming description for his sick, desperate evil.

And then there was the subject of my suffering, the reason I am never too far from losing my senses and thrashing myself against the walls of this ghostly white chamber. At first glance, he was the most normal one, and his constant look of apprehension made him relatable in the context of his two friends. The only thing that was particularly unusual about him, besides the disfiguring traits all three of them shared that I'll discuss momentarily, was the strange piece of cloth that he wore on his head. It was like a toboggan, but with extra unused space that resulted in the top of it hanging loosely backwards like a ponytail.

"Howdy, neighbor!" The small, annoying one shouted directly into my peephole, giving me an unwelcome view of the innards of his mouth. "We're the Neighborhood Welcoming Committee! Answer the door!"

"Answer the floor!" His green friend attempted in vain to echo. "Or we'll have to use our radioactive laser pointers to deflate your house like in Chicken Drama III: The Alien Unreckoning!"

"I don't think it was such a good idea to bother him so soon after he was finished moving in…"

For the next thirty seconds, a battle raged inside my mind between common politeness and sheer unwillingness to engage these three misfits in any sort of interaction, even as merely being receptive of their kindness. I would have been just as well to dash my head into a mountain of cinderblocks until my brains dripped out through my every orifice than accept their kindness, I would later find out when it was far too late. After plenty of inner negotiation- most of which was spent trying to figure out what would make these three human beings so ugly and how I would avoid it as I was living here- I answered the door. "Yes. Can I help you?"

"BUDDY!" the small one shrieked almost an inch away from my face. I'm unsure how he got there in the first place, but now that there was no door between them and me, I could fully appreciate how disfigured they were. All three of them had short, toothpick-thin legs that, impossibly, held up their disproportionate upper bodies. Their arms were little better, though I couldn't deduce precisely how atrophied the green one's arms were because of his long sleeves. The stench that emanated from that one was enough to keep me in a perpetual state of nausea, and the first time it hit me- right after the short one yelled- I nearly lost my guts.

"I'm afraid I'm not exactly familiar with any of you," I said gently to the smaller one in particular, but also to all three of them. "So I would appreciate it if we could start from there instead of pretending we are intimately familiar."

The big and small ones- whom I will henceforth refer to as Goliath and David respectively- looked at me as if I were the unusual one, and it occurred to me that, in their cursed land, I probably was the one afflicted by wrongness. The middle one, whom I will henceforth be trying to think of a nickname for until I am actually introduced to them, gave his two idiot friends a translation. "He wants to get to know us first before we call him 'friend.'"

All of my hesitant respect for the smartest of the trio dissipated, and had I had sufficient gall at the time, I would have spit on him. He just sentenced me to an agonizing rest of the day, full of listening to all three of these monsters dispel any rumors of their normalcy, provided those existed at all. However, I was unwilling to disrespect these people on their own turf, not yet knowing what they were capable of, so I just nodded in agreement. David's face lit up from its prior state of confusion. "Cool! I knew you were loaded- uh, rich- cool! Cool is what I meant." This creature's annoying babbling was beginning to wear my patience down.

"My name's Eddy," said Eddy, who will henceforth be referred to as Eddy, "and this big lug here is Ed. Lastly we have Edd, but you can call him Double D because his name has two Ds instead of one!" I wondered to myself if Eddy even understood how foolish what he just said sounded. Then I remembered the sorry state of these cul-de-sac monsters, and considered myself thankful these kids could even speak the same language. All I did was nod along. It was hard to tell exactly what their motive was, but it was certain not to be the one they were exuding at that point in time. Not even the one in the black hat, with all of his apprehension and good intentions, could be trusted. I was a stranger in their world, and it was not meant that I should venture too far from my station of newcomer.

I accompanied the trio of mutants to the home of the middle one, Double D. For someone whose nickname brings images of brassieres to the mind, he was a remarkably meticulous, clean individual. His home was a sterile, sad pastiche of sticky notes and glares of light reflected off of the overly clean furniture, walls and floor. The old cliché about being able to see one's face in the carpet was very near true in this place. It was here that I started to formulate a theory; perhaps this Double D, too, was an outsider trying to survive in this nightmarish place. That's why he seemed so different from the people he called his friends. They weren't his friends. He was their hostage, their chewtoy.

"Double D!" Ed's big, stupid voice shot out so loud and fast I expected to turn and find a gun where he was supposed to be. "Let's go to your lair! Fred" (that was my name, by the way) "wants to see the alien acrobats you're cultivating in the-"

"Ed, for the last time, it's an ant farm." Double D sighed. Some pity began to gather in my gut for him. This is what he must put up with every day. A complete buffoon and a tiny, grating sociopath. "And Ed, please take off your shoes. I have to tell you every time you enter my home."

"Okey-dokey, mister!"

Ed, with all of his mental lackings, did have his one redeeming feature. Even the people in a hell hole like this were not without their positives. Ed was quite open to suggestion. This became more obvious to me later and later in the day as his friends both ordered him about, in spite of his imposing size which seemed to suggest that he should be able to overwhelm any opponent as small and weak as Double D or Eddy. I suppose it's his stupid nature that prevents him from fully understanding his own self, much less the inadequacies of anyone else. As revolting as I found him, this contradiction between Ed's power and Ed's openness to the pettiest whims of others also fascinated me.

I started thinking about all of the things Ed could do just to please another human being. His considerable strength for his age turned him into a dangerous proposition in the hands of the wrong person. Then again, perhaps it was due to the graces of God that this strange creature had no idea what he was capable of. Men are not always to be trusted with power, because knowledge and wisdom can-and, indeed, have had- a twisting effect on the mind. If one had either brains or brawn, they had the world at their fingertips. But someone with both had it in the palm of their hand, and it would be their decision alone whether to gently cup or crush.

Double D's room was like if an elaborate tribute to Albert Einstein had crashed into Howard Hughes's dream home without a single thing being broken in the process. A table bogged to the brim with beakers, test tubes, a writhing Tesla coil, and other scientific items was the only thing that was cluttered. Everything else was the disquieting side of clean, where simple hygiene made way for sick obsession. "I'm sorry the place is so messy," said the black-hatted boy, and I marveled at how draconian his standards of cleanliness must be to consider this below par. The sound behind me brought up images of a bell made out of chalkboards ringing. It was Eddy, laughing at what he imagined my face must have looked like right after Double D said what he did.

I periodically flicked my eyes toward Ed while receiving the long, dull tour of Double D's room- how on earth a boy that age can drone on for so long, about something as small as his room, will never cease to amaze me- because if anyone was going to make a room like this suffer, it would be him. The boy was clumsy, a bull in a china cabinet, as if his head were helplessly attached to a flagellating body in mid-seizure seeking to destroy precious things. He must have knocked over four or five things in there, and though Double D tried perhaps even beyond his own abilities to not show it, his brows were furrowing and his jaw set itself further and further into anger.

"So, buddy, how old are you?" Eddy asked me while Double D was in mid-sentence. I heard him exhale in frustration but not say anything directly, as if he were afraid of the much shorter kid.

"I'm sixteen." My real age was twelve- my father would arrive later that night to unpack his own things-but I hoped that adding just four extra years would have some extra intimidation factoring in. It didn't help, or at least I shouldn't think it did, considering they treated me no differently than before.

"Do you have your own car?" Eddy asked, and I hoped this didn't signal the beginning of an endless line of questions. I shook my head, but that wasn't enough for the short little mutant to see. So after he asked me again, I turned and told him no right to his face. It must have come across as slightly rude to him, because he slumped his shoulders and didn't offer much of anything for comment in the following half-hour. I was glad for the silence, but unsure of what its implications were.

After the grand tour was over, Ed offered his house next. I froze in horror, forgetting that a being of such grotesqueness was even human enough to have a house. But then, I wondered to myself, what would he live in if not a house? There were no bridges nearby for him to live under, as far as I know, and the cursory examination I made of the land around Peach Creek on the way in didn't reveal any caves, at least any that were visible to the naked eye.

Double D looked like he'd just had all of the color drained from his body, and even his clothes appeared to get pale at the suggestion. I wasn't sure just how bad an omen I was supposed to regard this as; even from the little time I'd spent in his categorizing presence, I could glean that Double D was the sort who'd faint at the idea of a full trash can. "I-I think we should go show off Eddy's place first. Ed, you need time to clean up a little, s-so, uh-"

"Aww, but Double D!" Ed practically threw his head to stare down at the floor, causing a faint jolt from me. This one was nobody to take lightly when it came to sudden movements. "I got another tub of gravy started!"

Even Eddy's eyes widened when Ed spoke that phrase, as if a light switch to a roach-infested truck stop bathroom had just been pulled. Maybe I should not have floated toward underestimating just how horrific this particular trio could be. In hindsight, I did the entire time.

"I don't mind letting you have time to clean, Ed." I said in a voice that tried to be comforting but probably sound afraid. "I tend to retire early anyway, and such as things are, I'll probably go even earlier. It's been a long day, with the move and such."

I could feel Eddy's eyes boring through me from the other side of the room, he'd been fiddling with something or another since we arrived at Double D's abode. One would think that the second smartest person in a group of three would have a little bit more consideration. When five more seconds of awkward pause had elapsed, Eddy let out an undignified snort- but then, everything about Eddy was undignified. "Geez, just what we needed around here, another Double D."

"Now, Eddy!" Double D protested angrily, or at least as angry as he could make his voice without it crackling embarrassingly. I found myself wishing that Double D actually would give Eddy a proper scolding. He appeared long overdue for some manner of comeuppance.

"I tell you what," I said after Double D's prolonged silence made it clear he wasn't going to follow up on his threats implied in tone, "I'm feeling a slight bit of soreness from the long ride up here. Let me sleep it away and we'll deal with all this tomorrow."

Under Eddy's breath, I could have sworn I heard him mutter something about how hard it would be to scam an early bird, and it was all I could do to not just admire his incredible audacity, the way a person will stop to think about the massive scale of a dictator's crimes against humanity. The fact was, these kids needed to be convinced to give me more time. I would be able to lie awake in my bed, in a house I'd never slept in before, and use my nervous energy to formulate a way to defeat this maddening place. Under every rock, I felt a demon. Between every crack in the sidewalk, I swore to myself that a hand came out to brush against my heels and tendons, grazing my khaki pant legs as a way of toying with me, tenderizing me and salting me for the skillet.

"I will see all of you tomorrow afternoon."

I turned around. Double D's voice hit the back of my neck like a softball gone astray. "What time would be good for you tomorrow?"

"Noon," I said quickly. The chill that lightly touched his words led me to think I had angered him. In reality, as I would later find out in a dream, he was merely tugging big Ed away from one of his many breakables.

"Oh, come on! Noon is no good! I don't want to wake up at freakin' noon!" Eddy's whining almost seemed to drone through the air like the buzzing of a bee, rather than sting like perhaps the same bee, or a different one altogether. Who knows, who cares.

We settled on 2 PM and I made the trip back to my own home separate from the others. I was certain by that point my father had left several upset text messages to my dead phone wondering why I was not there but my things were. He'd be okay, I knew. Once I told him I was talking to some neighborhood kids, he'd just be happy to hear I was making friends. "Making friends." The words still hit my ears like a wet willie. Even if I'd been interested in such tawdry matters, the friends I'd make wouldn't be the three of those-


-monsters. Who the hell was that?

I stopped at the point where the cul-de-sac spilled into the street perpendicular- in other words, right on the porch of my new living quarters- and observed another scene so strange it haunts me even to this moment.

There were a crowd of kids in the center of the cul-de-sac, Ed and Eddy were facing them down. Well, more accurately, Eddy was facing them down, while Ed's eyes were just facing whatever different directions suited their fancy at the moment. "Whaddaya want, Kevin?!" Eddy impishly scowled at Kevin, a boy with a prominent chin in a lime green shirt who sat on a motorcycle-shaped 10-speed. He seemed to enjoy straddling it the way a rider takes his trusty steed out on an important ride. "You punks are gonna pay for what you did to my bike!"

"It looks fine!" Eddy defended. And he was right. It did.

"I had to shell out fifty bucks to get it fixed after what you little creeps did to it last week because your stupid volcano blew up!"

Inside my belly, I thought somebody had dumped a garbage truck full of ice. My God, I thought. Did even I underestimate the terrible powers of this trio of villains? I thought their monstrous machinations were bound by the limits of nature, but even those laws appeared folly to these misfits. I pleaded inside my head, and almost outside of my mouth, for the kids gathered around to run, while at the same time ignoring my own advice as I ventured slowly ever closer to the scene unfolding before me. But then I got a closer look at the rest of the neighborhood kids, and I managed to mark, right then and there, as the moment when I truly understood. I was doomed here in this sleepy little portal to hell.

The worst of them was easily a boy whose name I would later discover to be Jonny. He carried with him, at all times, a flat piece of light-colored wood with four neat edges and a face drawn with red and blue colored pencils. He would often consult the piece of wood for advice or act as though it was responding to him. Very likely, it was some sort of ancient demonic relic from a time before man was governed by reason. So what if it looked like a piece of wood? It would also explain the terrible deformities of the boy. Besides the usual wrongnesses everyone in Peach Creek possessed (Peach Creek Syndrome, I started to call it around this time), he displayed a shocking swelling of the head, something that looked similar to a horrible fatty watermelon that jiggled whenever he moved abruptly enough.

There was also a smaller boy wearing a metal device around his head. He was Saturn and the retainer, as I later would find out it was, acted as the ring, making him appear larger than he was, his last desperate defense mechanism in a place that could consume him any time it wanted. Even from such a long distance, I saw his fear, his nervousness, betray him from just underneath the surface of his face, where he tried to mimic the same expression of righteous indignation as everyone else in the collected group. Did this happen regularly, I wondered as I watched the scene unfold, or did I just stumble upon the climax of Peach Creek's impossible existence?

Next to the nervous boy was a little girl with bright red hair, whose face was constantly twisted into a look of white hot rage. I went to bed that night thanking holy God that I had never experienced the level of hatred she seemed to glow with every waking moment. One can easily brush that off as a cross between her mutant wrongness and the fact that she is cursed to spend her childhood inside of a waking nightmare. But her mere presence- her merely exhaling the air that I could potentially inhale- put me on edge, and when I glimpsed her, all I ever really wanted to do was run away before, like the abyss, she stared back at me. She was Ed's sister and, in spite of this, happily participated in the very public humiliation and assault of her brother and his friend that was to progress from this.

I did find another outsider amongst those congregated around the two Eds, a really obvious one. He had blue hair and, every time he talked, I could smell food from my favorite Indian restaurant back home in New England. But it seemed too late, the curse this place was stricken with already had its fangs in him. He spent most of his time within my earshot spewing gibberish that, I'm sure, was meant to be similar to the expressions he used at his home in India. But he didn't fool me, and if I'd found out it didn't fool any of the others, it would not have come as a surprise. Many of these mutants scared me, but this one didn't, he merely irritated me.

Finally, the only other girl I'd seen in the area, at that point. She was blonde and, for a mutant, attractive. It seemed she was already taken by the lime-shirted boy on the bike, and at this, my brows furrowed with frustration. At the same time, though, I felt some relief wash over me. It was the feeling of familiarity. The cute blonde girl ending up with the dumb, aggressive jock. The more things changed, I thought with tears closing in, the more they stayed the same.

I didn't have much time to revel in the societal bridging, however. The mob was bearing down on the two Eds, and it seemed as though the lynching would happen any minute. Eddy had his hands up and face tilted slightly away. All of the feistiness disappeared from him while I was in my thoughts. The red-haired little girl of constant anger, Sarah, picked up a rock and hurled it at, to my shock, her brother. Did her viciousness have any sort of limits at all? Blood ran thinner than water in a hellish place like Peach Creek.

Eventually, the situation came to blows. The mob enveloped the two boys, one of whom- I assume Eddy- emitting a desperate, sad scream of what I couldn't suss out as exactly frustration or pain, but likely had elements of both. I heard Ed laughing the entire time, which disturbed me greatly. At one point his laugh was mixed with something that sounded like a gurgle, but far more sustained. It soon stopped and Ed's laugh returned without even a hint of carry over. Like they wanted to believe it was just in my imagination. They must have peeled back some of the flesh that the thing coated itself with to give it the vague appearance of a person. For my benefit? To make me more comfortable? It had the opposite effect, if the case were that.

Yet, strangely, it was Eddy's yelps and groans that would carry me sleeplessly through the night, occasionally hitting a nightmare like a pothole, jostling me out of rest. His were not unusual for someone in his predicament. The typical screams and cries of hurt. But what did disturb me is the nakedness of his voice. He was like a baby animal being kicked, and I could envision that perfectly within my mind whenever I averted or closed my eyes during the long, brutal fight. Beneath all of that cynical rudeness, I realized, underneath his thieving exterior and hideousness beat the heart of a 12-year-old boy who was being beaten to near death.

By the time I worked up the heart to go over there and do something, the mob was finished and there, in a pile, laid their two victims. Eddy was sprawled as much as his little body could sprawl. When I got to them- I walked at a fairly leisurely pace, after all, these were mutants- I saw that he was half-unconscious, but still muttering words I couldn't piece together when he exhaled. Things such as "Kevin" and "pay you back." On the other hand, big Ed was laughing, and despite having a fair amount of bruises himself, they may as well have been painted on. He was unscathed. I have heard of a disease- congenital analgesia- that causes a person born with it to be unable to feel pain. The term flashed through my head while Ed laid right across his smaller friend's stomach, facing the sky, the same look of stupid bliss gracing his yellow visage.

I helped the smaller one out from underneath his larger friend. I figured that Ed would eventually just get up and help himself home. But Eddy was a different tale. He needed some sort of medical attention, and even though I was in no hurry to deal with him the next day, the noises of real, human agony I heard him utter in the midst of that fight made me rethink his humanity. Only slightly, but enough.

Carrying Eddy bridal style, I knocked at Double D's front door with my foot. He would be the most likely of anyone I'd seen in the cul-de-sac to do something about his friend's injuries. Of course, my only other options were Ed, whom I wouldn't trust with a dragonfly, and one of the people who beat Eddy in the first place. After a good deal of waiting, where I almost considered giving up and leaving him where I found him to call an ambulance with my cellphone, I heard the voice of a woman. "Coming, just a minute!" I immediately assumed it was Double D's mother, and I realized I'd not seen any adults here since I'd arrived. The only one I'd looked at all day was the taxi driver. This revelation served nothing more than to inflate my constant nervousness.

She answered the door. There was nothing special about her. Just a plain, red-haired middle-aged woman. At first, the thought that sparked into my brain was "Double D must have got his black hair from his father." Then I remembered, with further bemusement, that Double D wore some strange hat on his head.

"Oh, my goodness," Double D's mother groaned. "Not again. Is he knocked out?"

"Yes, ma'am, I believe so." It was strange, how she said that. Like she wasn't even concerned about Eddy's welfare, as much as she was about having her time bothered. She was in the middle of cooking dinner, if the smell from the kitchen was anything to go by.

"Okay. Bring him up to my son's room. And please take your shoes off before you enter my house."

I complied. I laid Eddy on the couch, which Double D's mother made a face at, and took his shoes off. I left them next to mine. Double D's mother was staring at me intently. "You, I don't think I've seen around before. Have you just moved to Peach Creek?"

"Yes, ma'am." I extended my hand to her. "Fred Godwin. Just moved into town today."

"Nice to meet you," she said and gave my hand a brief, limp jiggle. "It's nice to finally have a polite boy who lives around here. The closest we ever had was Jimmy before he started hanging around that horrible Ed boy's sister."

I just stood there and nodded, like anyone would when someone's talking to them about people they don't quite know. At the time, all of the kids I'd seen nearly murder Ed and Eddy were just faces without names. "Ma'am, may I-"

"So, how do you know my son?" The mother asked me like it was an afterthought. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt. But if you just moved in today, that means…"

"That means I met them while you were out. I was on my way home when this one and Ed were mobbed."

"Ed's out there?!" Double D's mom exclaimed. "My goodness, you can't just leave someone out there! Is he still there, let me see…"

Her voice trailed off when she checked out the window and Ed was nowhere to be seen. It was as I'd thought, he was completely unharmed. Either that, I gulped as I thought, or he was taken. "He was fine when I left him outside, ma'am." I explained, doing my best to even my voice out. "He said he was just going to walk home and get some band-aids."

Double D's mother looked at me funny. "Oh, and he also said something about chickens. Or gravy." "Hurry and take Edd's friend upstairs, please."

"Could you call him down instead, please?" I asked right back. It wasn't that Eddy was heavy, of course, but I didn't want to risk dropping him down a flight of stairs. Double D's mother- whose name I wish I knew or remembered if I did learn it- sighed. "I really hate yelling in my house. If you need help carrying Eddy, I don't mind, I guess."

"No, thank you, ma'am. Appreciated." I was beginning to dislike this woman the more I was around her. She had the unpleasant aura of an overbearing school marm I had back in Massachusetts, the kind of woman who would sooner beat your wrists with a ruler than demonstrate any sort of affection toward a child. I wondered if it was the stress of living in Peach Creek that made her how she was- because she seemed relatively normal, if a bit rude- or if she was just that way all the time. You wouldn't figure a woman like that as tolerant of mutants.

I did my best to get Eddy up the stairs. He was starting to stir, but when I put him on his feet he immediately tipped and tried to fall. Double D's mother didn't say another word to me the entire time I was in Peach Creek, and I was grateful for it. My arms were getting tired, and I decided it was a bad idea to try and carry him any further in any direction. He was already cracked and splintered in a lot of places, so one good topple down the stairs could be critical.

If there's one thing I was ever taught when I was a younger child, it was manners. My parents insisted upon me being polite to strangers, friends and family alike, and I would often be punished severely when I went away from it. But the punishment was no problem, since by the time I made it to my seventh year, I was a "perfect little angel," to borrow the words of my condescending older sister.

My older sister. I wished that I had not even brought her into my train of thought. Karen. I hadn't seen her in five years, she was never a very welcome person in our household even when she was living there. We were completely different. She had an attraction toward the unnatural and the wrong. At first, my mother grudgingly dismissed it as just "a kid being silly," believing in her heart that she would come around to sense. Instead, Karen sank deeper and deeper, refusing to come home after school for hours on end, wearing odd garments that spoke of wrong-doings ("what is everyone freaking out about?!" she once exclaimed. "It's just a Death Cab for Cutie T-shirt, they're a band!"), and talking back to father even after he slapped her for misbehavior.

She always took issue with my closer relationship with mother and father. Sometimes I believed it was petty jealousy, but there were plenty of times where she just actively refused to abide by my parents' wishes. Like doing so might cause her to disappear. It's not that I didn't care for her, either. But she didn't open up to me in any way other than to belittle me, and eventually, I just gave up on her. Like my parents did.

If I had to guess where she was at right now, I'd say bussing tables.

The point I was making earlier, though- the one about manners- I seem to have forgotten. The raincloud that is my memory of Karen erased it. I apologize, but it was hardly of tremendous importance. Perhaps I was even better off leaving it out, for fear of becoming a dreadful bore.

I left Eddy on a stair, in a sitting-leaning position, and- ah, I remembered what my point was about manners, now. Usually, I would have knocked. If the circumstances had even been slightly different, I would have without a doubt. But I was afraid Eddy would topple down the stairs and get hurt, so I wanted to get Double D's attention quickly. And what I saw in that room was not worth helping Eddy. I would have let Eddy be killed by an oncoming train if I could only erase the unholy chain of events that was activated by my opening that door before knocking. What I witnessed, and what I witnessed afterwards, will never leave me, for the remainder of my short life.

Double D was in footy pajamas, which would have, under any other circumstance, warranted gales of laughter. But I was concentrated, right away, on what was on his head. He was in the process of removing the strange hat, which had revealed itself in that moment to be a sock, and I saw something impossible to adequately describe lurking beneath. Where his hair ended at the back of his neck was just dried, inanimate… hair, I suppose, though the rest of it wasn't. A black octopus sort of creature was the form I believed I saw at that doorway, looking on in frozen shock. Double D was equally shocked that I had barged in, since he probably got the distinct impression that I wanted far, far away from him and his two friends for the remainder of the day.

The black octopus thing was hidden quickly, and Double D directed his attention towards me, giving me a shy half-smile while his cheeks blushed profusely, almost with pride. "I- sorry, can I help you? Did you leave something?"

His tone of voice took me out of the trance-like state I had been put in. I still debate with myself, when the fog my mind has become briefly clears itself a bit, if the monster attached to Double D's head was able to communicate paralysis to my body with its eyes. Or if it was just my fear that stunned me in place.

"Um… Fred? Are you okay?"

"It's Eddy," I finally spoke. "He and Ed had a little altercation with the other children of the cul-de-sac and I brought him to your house."

"Oh, dear," groaned Double D like he got a terrible stomach cramp. "Oh, dear, this must be over the volcano incident-"

"I was meaning to ask, what does that mean?" I interrupted, an act completely unlike my typical self. Double D, thankfully, didn't take it personally. God only knows what happens to those who cross him. It's no wonder the mob was unwilling to pursue Double D. They were probably waiting until they could get Eddy and/or Ed by themselves.

"You see, I made a miniature volcano out of old parts," Double D explained in the same voice one might use to rattle off their shopping list, "and it malfunctioned, severely damaging Kevin's bike and leaving burn marks on the side of many houses around the cul-de-sac. Thankfully, nobody was actually injured, but I was wondering if something like this was going to happen…"

Double D trailed off, gazing emptily at a periodic table taped to his wall above the head of his bed. It was strange to me, at the time, how he could so easily replicate the inner turmoil and basic guilt of a human while obviously being some kind of horror that crawled either from the deepest chasms of the ocean or, worse and more likely, fell from the farthest outskirts of our universe where no sensible human eyes dared to dwell for very long. There is truth in the adage of the abyss staring back. And it was under Double D's accursed damned hat, waiting to sink its eyes into me.

"Oh, dear," he burst out in his loudest reedy, neurotic whine yet, "I should go check on Eddy!"

Double D rushed out the door of his room, albeit with some reluctance at the room's door where he must have realized he was still wearing his footy pajamas. The alien, or creature, or whatever it was, must have deduced well enough that humans had special clothing they wore with them to bed, and the end result was a middle school-aged boy wearing his little brother's nightclothes.

I suppose I should make it clear at this point that, again, in my brief moments of sanity, I do not blame Double D for the things that were to come the following day. It became all too

He found Eddy in the same place where I left him, but stirring. However, in a half-conscious state, he lived still in the moments where the fists and words were kicking up a dust cloud in the cul-de-sac. A slurry of "stop" and "not there" issued forth, and Double D's friendly concern became fear. "Eddy, wake up! Please, please wake up!" I stood at the head of the stairs and witnessed the whole thing. By the time Eddy finally came back around, Double D was nearly at tears. I marveled at the surreal situation unfolding in front of me. All of his intelligence, he surely must have been able to realize that Eddy would snap out on his own. I mostly brought him around to begin with because I knew Double D would give him something to lie down on and bandage his wounds. Double D instead acted as though Eddy was at death's doorstep.

"Where am I?" Eddy asked in a tired slur, and an unwelcome image of Eddy and Double D as drunk husband and sober wife flashed briefly into my head.

"In my house, Eddy," came Double D's shaky reply. His voice was having trouble coming back off the shrill high it was at a moment prior. A hint of a blush formed on his cheeks, him obviously having realized he made a fool of himself. He scooted away from Eddy to give him some space, and let them bathe in the fumes of an awkward silence so thick, some might call it a sauna.

I took a few tentative steps down to meet them, wondering if they were communicating to each other in some secret non-verbal way to leave me out. I could tell their moods based on their body language; Eddy was depressed and deeply humiliated. Double D has his head turned very slightly toward Eddy, putting him within sight range, still looking for any signs of serious injury that would warrant hospitalization.

Double D's mom rounded the corner, face neutral. "Double D, supper's ready. Eddy, why don't you come over to the couch and, er, lay down a little while?" Her eyes flitted over to the pristine couch as she said the last bit, making her reluctance clear. In the first place, the way she looked at Eddy and the tone of voice she used to address him made it obvious that she wasn't keen on him being in the house, let alone lounging around on her couch. Secondly, she seemed to have some sort of strange reverence for Eddy and Double D's bond. Perhaps it was because Ed was so stupid that he was left out of it, but he didn't have the same thick tie as the other two did.

I decided to leave, and on the way home I continued to hear strange sounds in the night that had fallen freshly over the glorified Hooverville that was Peach Creek. The night made the place no more pleasant to look at, and to live in it night after night would simply be an exercise in barricading oneself behind enough walls that not even a great creature like Ed would penetrate.

"Son, where in the hell have you been?!" My father's voice asked me from the kitchen when I shut the door behind me.

"Around," I replied. "I took a look around."

"Why are you coming home after dark, then?!" He came out to look at me face to face, donned with a stained white apron and I saw his forehead riddled with worry lines. He must have an even keener sense of what a hellish place Peach Creek is, I thought at the time. I felt genuinely sorry for causing him worry.

"I met a few people that live nearby."

I saw my father's face almost stretch to bleeding with joy, but only for a second. "Oh. That's good. But, you need to let me know when you're going to be out late from now on, and where you're at. It's not like you to be out for such a long time, and I thought something may have happened."

"I understand. Sorry."

He tussled my hair. I hate that. "Let's eat dinner. I made spaghetti."


It was 2:13 AM. I will never forget that specific time for as long as I live. It was the last night of my sane life. Father was in the room across from mine, his mighty snores audible through two walls and a pair of earmuffs. I couldn't sleep very well, just drifting in and out of consciousness. My mind was awash with images of the monsters I'd seen in Peach Creek. They were of such a great number, if they had the reason to- perhaps they didn't even need a reason, I thought with a chill- they could easily overpower myself and my father in much the same way as the two Eds. Someday, I thought, they might do so. One can never completely avoid offending a culture so different from one's own. But that was different. Most people weren't savages. When most people are upset, they talk rationally to the offending person. These people solve their interpersonal issues with gang violence. For God's sake, one of the people they senselessly beat was a mentally handicapped boy.

All the voices in my head screeched to a halt about two minutes later. There was a sound in the atmosphere that wasn't the snoring of my father or the rustling of my blankets, or even my inhalations and exhalations. I knew there was someone nearby. There was no need to check the windows or open the front door. They were out there- more than one. Laughing. Soft pelting sounds issued forth from what sounded like the front of my house. At first they were tentative, time enough between them that I could have, in a more forgiving state of mind, written them off as figments of my overstressed imagination. How could I have possibly upset anyone on my very first evening here? Even these monsters had some vestige of sanity, right?

But then it began to sound like rain. The pelting noises became ceaseless. It was like someone was microwaving a bag of popcorn. Some group had taken up residence in or near our front yard and was attacking the face of our house. At that point, I had never been more terrified in my life. Silently, I begged my father to wake up and take care of the job I was appointed to do by virtue of being awake at an inopportune time.

The flurry deflated after an indefinite period of time- the clock was the farthest thing from my mind at this point, so I can't make a definite guess- and I slid out of bed into a standing position before I fully realized what I was doing. I was curious, the way I was since I was a little boy and I had to throw a rock at that beehive when father asked me not to. Some of the sting wounds still linger on my body as scars that fight for my eyes every time I find myself nude in front of a mirror.

The front door was no less strange a sight to behold than it was the first day I saw it. Which was apt, considering I had only moved in yesterday. I've never been one to adapt easily to new surroundings. It was too dark to see it very clearly. The doorknob was more visible. It gleamed in the light of the full moon that peered innocent through a crack in the curtains, perhaps trying to warn me of the thing- or things- outside.

My hand locked around the doorknob and I knew it was too late. There wasn't going to be any more time to think about it. They must have seen and heard the knob rattle from the outside if they were still there. All the trepidation in every bottomless bottle of poison in the tri-state area wouldn't be able to knock me out at that moment. I had surpassed all notions of control, delegating my arms the powers my brain once kept secretly to itself. The knob turned in a way it hadn't the last few times I'd used it- easily, quickly, because it finally understood who its new owner was.

There were three of them. They were pale, wearing ratty-looking refugee clothes. A tall red-haired one, a medium-sized one with dyed blue hair, and a small one with long, blonde hair. I saw them from the back, and only for an instant before they fled the streetlight that revealed them across the street and disappeared into the black night. It must have been them, I thought, and if that was the case, it was a threat that could be dealt with. Nothing compared to the mob that faced down the Eds the evening prior. The fact that they were scared enough to flee when they heard me exit the house- if they did hear me, that is- was a comfort.

Nothing else greeted me. The darkness in Peach Creek had a grip on the streetlights. Only the moonlight set my mind at ease, illuminating the empty yard. I pivoted my head slightly in both directions to check everything out. Nothing seemed off, but I did get a strange whiff of… some sort of gas, perhaps? I was ready to close the door and retire to my chambers once again when I detected the odor. It was faint, a light, distant smell that put no sort of serious pressure on the nostrils. What prevented me from writing it off altogether was the way it seemed to just… surround me. It was like an unwelcome hug, a creepy little embrace from a hated enemy who wasn't enjoying it any more than you were. There was no doubting how tired I was… yet if something was wrong, I was duty-bound to try and confront it.

The sidewalk was a strange bedfellow to my bare feet. It hurt, but not to a bothersome point. There was warmth- a liquid- I had stepped in something. Regret flooded over me like a chill of fear. Why did I have to leave my bed? Now I was going to have to get my foot in the tub and wash it off, which would surely wake father up, and then he was going to ask what on Earth I was doing outside so late in such a strange town. How could I respond? "I heard strange sounds in the dead of the night and thought them pertinent to investigate, never mind your regular overtures for my safety?" Or perhaps a simple, stupid "I unno?"

But I realized all too soon that I was getting ahead of myself. Then I felt sick. Now it was like I had a liquefied chunk of all the things that disgusted me about Peach Creek dripping off my heel, like the leavings of a sick dog. I didn't even think about touching it. Instead I turned around on the same heel I soiled, intent on pursuing the core of the stench that covered the night air. But my journey came to an end on that same turn of the heel.

The face of my house was pimpled with yellow splotches of a goopy substance that, I thought, must be the same as the stuff I'd just stepped in, though I wasn't sure. I thought that it looked like the house was dripping with sweat, like just being an inanimate object in this hellish land was cause for concern. If my own house couldn't feel safe in Peach Creek, how could anyone? And furthermore, if I can't feel safe in my own house, where do I have left?

I slapped myself lightly across the chin, hoping the irrational thoughts would burst from my ears in a ball of clotted wax. This was not the kind of place to have a mental breakdown. There wouldn't be an insane asylum for two hundred miles, because if there were, everyone here would be in it.

I had no choice- I decided to inspect the yellow substance a little bit closer.

My face was a foot away before I got apprehensive. Getting closer didn't make it look any more appetizing. I raised one finger and let it float by itself toward the goo, fully expecting some horrible burning sensation. There was no way I was going to let this go- I had to know what this was, I had to know right then, so that I could at least go to sleep in peace. Just like with Double D's damned hat, I was unable to give it a rest until I got the knowledge I desired.

The yellow goo was the same temperature as the outside, but otherwise felt like nothing. Just a runniness, like gravy or… egg yolk?


Father cursed and cursed the morning he came out to get the newspaper- what sort of hellish things could be in this town's newspaper?- and saw that our house had been egged. It was difficult not to laugh. I was reminded again of the blonde girl's infatuation with the lime-shirted biker, in that this was a remarkable display of normalcy. Three neighborhood punks saw that we were new in town and decided to give us a little hazing. It was relatable, it was human. Instead of feeling the same irritation as my father, I found myself overjoyed. This town was not some floating chunk of darkness in purgatory. It was not cut off from the world- it was merely a gnarled, blistering extension of it, a homage to mankind's mistakes with regard to radiation and hermitism.

At least, I hoped so. I tried to believe so.

All morning and a bit of the afternoon, I stayed with my father and cleaned our house of the egg shells and leavings. I felt stupid when father figured out what it was immediately. When I ran into his bedroom that morning and told him there was strange stuff on the front of our house, I hoped he'd have some difficulty, as I did, figuring it out. Parents have a way of making a child feel ignorant and small without even trying. But how could I be mad at him? This town was putting me on edge. Everything looked like an abomination, and while much of the time that assessment was accurate, in reality I could have easily taken to enjoying the sparse mundanities of Peach Creek.

Maybe I'd have got the idea at the time had Eddy not come to my house at 2 PM sharp, in full first-aid regalia, to hold up my end of the bargain. "Yo! Fred!"

I turned from getting the last freckles of yellow off my designated side of the house- Daddy wished us to split the job equally- and didn't hide my displeasure at having to deal with him. Lucky for me, he failed to notice. He didn't notice many things. "Ready to check out my swingin' pad! You gotta pay an admission fee first!"

"Eddy!" I heard Double D's scratchy whine caught me off guard, he was just out of eyesight and approaching. My heart pounded. Flashes of the thing I saw underneath Double D's sock brought me back to the state of terror I was in last night pre-egging. "I asked you not to scam him! He saved you, remember?"

"Yeah, yeah…" Eddy made a sour face and scraped the ground with the heels of his shoe like a child succumbing to the hopelessness of not getting their way. "Thanks for that…"

Double D, who obviously put him up to that, beamed with delight. "Excellent!" He now turned to face me. They both continued to stand on the sidewalk until our later departure. "Ed should be around momentarily. He's just, erm, 'sprucing up.'"

"He's wearing the same crap he wore yesterday," Eddy groused, "only he's borrowing one of his grandpa's ties or something. He wants to thank you for saving him."

"But I didn't!" I burst before even pondering why Ed would think something such as that.

"Eddy, he wants to thank him for saving you," Double D said in his best maternal voice. Double D really was like the mother of the group, or at least the patient, doting father. Speaking of father,

"Who are you boys?" My father asked with a slight bite in his voice. "You weren't the ones who egged my house last night, are you? Funny way to greet a neighbor!"

"No, sir!" Double D looked truly mortified, and I think my father saw that. "Not at all!"

"Yeah," Eddy agreed, looking truly apathetic, and I hope my father didn't see that. "If I had a whole bunch of eggs, I'd make omelets instead of wasting them on your house."

"You boys the kids that my son was hanging out with late yesterday?" His voice didn't falter from its bite. He was not soft by any means.

"Yes, sir," Double D said, bowing as if he were Japanese. "I apologize, but Eddy injured himself and we needed to tend to his wounds before-"

"Whoa," my father interrupted, finally noticing that Eddy was covered with bandaids and had a cap of white gauze adorning his head. Would an octopus grow under that too? I wonder that now, but I didn't then. "What on earth happened to you, boy?"

"Uh… I fell down the stairs."

"Well, fine," said my father. "Fred, if you want to go and hang out with those boys, you go on. But be back at a more reasonable time than yesterday. You had me concerned. I'll take care of the rest of your half."

"Yes, father," I said, trying not to sound disappointed. I thought perhaps my father would ground me or at least make me clean up the rest of the egg mess.

Doing my best to smile and seem enthused, I approached the two boys. A crushing pain came to me like a ring around Saturn, and I was bound to something… smelly. "ED!" I heard Double D scream. "Put him down!" Eddy's laughter flew under the radar.

"FRIEND!" Ed yelled right into my ear as he crushed me in a big bear hug. I normally am not fond of such stupid terminology, but if one were getting hugged by a bear, I can imagine it would feel like exactly what I was experiencing, minus the claws. "Thank you for saving Eddy from the Pod People!"

"I… didn't…" but my words fell on deaf, stupid ears. My eyes met Double D's afraid ones, and I mouthed words of begging to him. "Please make him stop," is what I recall saying.

I don't remember what happened between then and the moment I woke up, an hour later. If they hadn't been aware of my fragile constitution then, they must have when I fainted in big Ed's arms like a sick bride. It was the stench of death mixed with meat drippings that greeted me upon regaining consciousness. At first I thought it was a horrible nightmare. Not in the figurative sense, where a nightmare is just some unfortunate circumstance in one's life. I believed I was in a dream, taking hits to the senses that were imagined by my brain. The ceiling was purple, matching the walls, and the floor- what little of it was visible- was a whitened blue.

Ed's face burst forth from the right wall of my vision, causing my heart nearly to jump out of my throat. "YOU'RE AWAKE!"

On sheer instinct, I socked him in the mouth, his lip and teeth feeling like armor against my fight-deprived knuckles. Besides play-wrestling with my sister once or twice when I was barely above two years of age, I was virgin when it came to battle. Ed was totally unaffected physically, which was to be expected, but my fist did seem to impart some wisdom past that iron skull. He looked at me, for once, not with dull glee, but with hurt. I sat up, his body having straightened out so I could get off the bed easily, and took in my surroundings.

Ed's room was, besides the horror underneath Double D's sock, the most gut-wrenching visual onslaught of my entire life. No, not just visual- it was an attack on all five of my senses. As I shifted in place, I could hear how the sheets I laid on were crusted over with neglect and substances I dared not to become curious about, lest I find myself in a Hazmat suit for the rest of my life. When I opened my mouth to apologize to Ed, the taste of mildewed air and rot left out in the open laid across my tongue and stretched, putting its hands behind its head and sighing as if in a state of relief from a hard day's work.

The smell was more and more overpowering with every second, and it wasn't long before I had to block my nose as much as possible with my open hand unless I wanted to vomit, and I was in no kind of mood to see what lurked inside of Ed's trash can or- and God help me as I even acknowledge this- his toilet. It smelled like everything inside the room, organic or food or inanimate, was going through the process of decomposition much faster than if they were in any other room. Every dark crevice or wrinkle within the carpet was a bottomless well of secrets, a terrible abyss where neglected beasts cannibalized each other and even themselves, waiting for some poor fool to step on the crack that was meant to be stepped over.

"I-I-I- where am I?!" Now it was Eddy and Double D who looked shocked. I had never really asserted myself to them before that point. "Where have I been taken, what is this place?!"

I already knew before Double D even opened his mouth. "You're in Ed's bedroom. We brought you here because you fainted on the street."

"You know," Eddy started in a small voice to nobody in particular, "what if we became doctors?! We'd be rich if we started some clinic for the suckers- I mean, kids, of the cul-de-sac!"

The more time I spent around Eddy, the more I understood the mob mentality the kids took against him yesterday evening.

"I want to go home," I told them, bringing my calm demeanor back to the forefront. "I want to get back to my father. I feel that I'm coming down with something."

Ed looked positively despondent. For a split second I felt pity for him. "It's nothing personal, Ed, you must understand that my father worries about me."

"You talk like my Dad," Ed said quietly. That was the first time I'd ever heard him say something coherent, even if it sounded like a backhanded compliment- or even an outright insult.

I started to think about Ed and Eddy's plight as well as Double D's. Everyone in this community appeared to be trapped somehow. Underneath their eccentricities and deformities, they understood something was wrong. I wasn't seen as a weirdo, because there was enough of a frame of reference from outside to make them understand their unnaturalness.

"Listen." I said to the silence of the disgusting room. "Do any of you know three girls?"

I didn't even have to go into detail for all three Eds to freeze up in fear. Even Ed, who barely understood a thing I said to him since arriving, got the gist. "The K-Kankers?" Double D cautiously allowed. "You've already seen the Kanker sisters?"

"I don't know. One of them had red hair-"

"And blue and blonde?" Double D interrupted yet again. "Yeah. The Kankers. I can't imagine how or why, but you met the Kankers before we even had time to warn you about them."

At this point, I was only dimly aware that I had broken into a sweat, due to the high humidity of Ed's stench-ridden bedroom. "Warn me about them…?"

"The Kankers must've seen you hanging out with us," Eddy continued. "I think they're jealous because they think we're into them. We get…" Eddy paused and lifted his eyes to the ceiling, thinking. "Kissed against our wills," Double D elaborated, "really regularly by the Kankers. They stalk us and have been for years."

"They're the ones who threw eggs at my house," I said. I realized how selfish I sounded even right after saying that, but what Double D just told me sounded so ridiculous my brain had to catch up with my mouth as it processed that information. "They ran away and I barely saw them. What do I do to make them go away?"

"The only thing you need to worry about is one of them deciding they like you." Double D said in a voice that tried to be re-assuring but instead came out like a chunky warning. As if I were supposed to do something to myself that would make me less of a target for the Kankers without even knowing what their tastes were. Then, I thought, I already do know what they're tastes are. The smells in Ed's room that I was almost able to forget about returned stronger than ever. I never wanted to meet the Kanker sisters again, because if their idea of a date is a boy who will let his room turn into a breeding ground for a brand new disease named after him, there's no telling what they're capable of.

"I don't think we'd be that lucky… or would we?" Eddy stood up from his slouching/leaning position against the wall right next to Ed's door and started sizing me up. I felt his eyes on me even when I weren't looking at them to confirm where they were. "Maybe…"

"Eddy," Double D said very slowly. "Eddy, what are you thinking about?"


"He's thinking about breakfast!" Ed shouted. Evidently, he had either forgotten all about what we were talking about and the punch from before, or he was trying to.

"No, that's you, Ed," replied Eddy with resentful dismissiveness, continuing to stare at me, his chin cupped in his right fist, deep in thought. "Fred, would you be willing to do us a favor?"

"Eddy, I don't think this is the time-"

"Knock it off, sockhead!" Eddy's brash voice took what little wind there was out of Double D's neurotic sails for the moment. "Geez! Fred," he turned his head back to look at me, "we need your help, are you in?"

"You want me to get some sort of revenge on the Kanker sisters?" I asked. "I don't think there's a whole lot I could do, physically."

"Oh, there's more than you think," and Eddy gave me a lipless smile that could have cracked a tombstone. "We need you to…"

He whispered his plan into my ear, more out of force of habit than anything else, since there was really no reason at all why he should be so secretive. His bright idea was even worse than the one I suggested: seduce the Kanker sisters. Go into the trailer park where they lived (imagining a trailer park in Peach Creek was a task so unpleasant I hope never to repeat it) in nice clothes and try to pull their attention away from the Eds.

"What would I get in return?" I asked Eddy right after he finished his explanation. Eddy went back to silence, which both relieved me and insulted me. "Are you suggesting I throw myself to those wolves just for your benefit?"

"Wolves?!" Ed gasped over Eddy's mumbled answer. "Quick, I'll hide you!"

"No! That won't be-"

My protests fell on very stupid ears. Ed took me by my black turtleneck sweater and threw me over his shoulder like I was just a sack of laundry. Oh, God in Heaven, I just imagined the smell of Ed's laundry. I hope never to do anything like that ever again. It might rob me of what remains of my frayed lucidity.

The world was just a blur of purple until Ed dropped me, then it turned brown and stung my eyes until I closed them. When I did, I saw things in the corners of the darkness that looked like they wanted to be faces but were resigned as shadows. There were particles of things with shapes that taunted me with familiarity and baited me with implacability. By the time I broke the surface of the thing I had been thrown into, something within my very soul had changed.

Ed had thrown me into his tub of gravy and now stared over me, grinning his empty, toothy grin. And I would have believed it. In spite of my rage and my disgust, I would have took the hook, but as God is my witness, I saw something inside that boy's eyes hiding behind that stupidity the way a child takes leave behind a tree during hide and seek. It was a malice I had never seen, so pure and petty it was dangerous. I shudder as I write these words, and am no longer sure that they are legible. Ed's face at that precise moment is coming back into the insides of my eyelids, hanging like a poster when I close them. He was capable of holding a grudge. It was like giving a bitter prisoner access to a nuclear weapon.

But at the time I didn't feel that way. Lord knows how I always think myself into a worry, like my father would always say. All I felt was extremely putrid. I was dripping with a heavy liquid, and every confused reek that once pervaded my olfactory senses was replaced with just one: the bitter, flaccid stench of a piece of meat that's gone bad. I fought and fought to keep down last night's dinner, but it clawed it's way to my gag reflex and pulled the trigger. All over the surface of Ed's disgusting tub full of meat drippings my vomit floated innocently. The last thing I saw before I passed out once again was the look of utter shock on Ed's foolish face. The last thing I heard was his scream that wrapped itself around my dreams.


"Are you awake, Fred?"

Double D had to ask me that three times before I responded, even though I was awake all the time. It was Double D's room, but the ghosts of Ed's room haunted my nose. A fear hit me that I would never be able to get rid of all that grime no matter how hard I ran and showered. If only I'd known I wouldn't have time to worry about that by the end of the hour. This is the part I was dreading since I started.

Double D asked me if I'm alright, and I nodded my head slowly, lying. My head was bursting with pain. I couldn't see straight. I didn't know what time it was, and that worried me most of all. Father would never tolerate me being late back home for the second night in a row. "What time is it, Double D?"

"3:30 PM."

I was relieved.

"Eddy and Ed went home. Or, Ed stayed home, actually. He's very upset about the gravy that got ruined."

But not at all apologetic about my plight, I finished for him in my head. But I didn't feel like becoming irate with Double D. He was the only one I felt even in the least bit comfortable around in this place.

Double D had turned around and was fiddling with something on his personal lab table. My eyes fell onto the drooping top of his sock hat. Urges hit me that I'd never had before, the likes of which have likely led to the temptations of great men and women who died foolishly. I was to be next in their line.

I got off of Double D's bed and approached. I don't remember why. I'm not even sure if I had a good reason. My mind can still perfectly recall the image of my slow approach from behind. He said something to me. I paused. He didn't turn around. I grabbed the top of his hat, snatching it before he could do anything to fight back, and ripped it off of his head.

What I thought was a horror when it was seen through the pinhole that was available to me yesterday became a worthless afterthought. There it was in full form. It was a black, gelatinous head- I could tell it was gelatinous by the consistency it had while I was engaged in struggle with it- and at the bottom, mostly draped all over Double D's pale upper head, were seemingly hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of tremendous black tentacles that flew up into an attack mode, appearing to reach the ceiling, even though I was not going to break contact with the head of the creature lest I get in even worse trouble than I already was in.

The world around me stopped and it was just me and the Beast. It made a noise like a scream, but screams are human, it couldn't have been! I saw its black inky tentacles writhe with fight. It was as if I was seeing some sort of visual siren song when it opened its one peach-colored eye and glared me down. I stared into it, seeing everything, and yet if you asked me what I saw, I'd open my mouth and nothing would leave.

What was I hoping to accomplish when I did this? I couldn't tell you, even to this very day. But wondering about it in that split moment was useless. There was a pressure building against my throat. Then it was at my chest. The octopus thing. A scratching, a clawing. It had claws on its tentacles. I couldn't see its tentacles. Everything was turning dim. Where was the hat? Did I have it? I felt a soft consistency against one of my- both of my hands. It was not that of a sock, though. Too wet, too spongy.

A growl of triumph and I hope it was from me. I had two of the things tentacles hostage in my hands. My power was mighty. My position not able to be compromised. For the first time I had control of the situation. As the thing's terrible, black beady eyes (when did they become black and beady and two of them?!) glared into mine, all I felt was accomplished. My hands tightened, then pulled. The claws of the Beast went away, or at least stopped scratching at my chest and neck, and my hands were being gripped at the wrist. It was then that I realized, with a sinking feeling, that while I had two of the thing's tentacles, he had hundreds- thousands- more to use against me. All I could do was inconvenience it.

Liquid fell out of my eyes. Liquid fell out of my eyes? I don't remember that happening until this moment. Was I crying? Was I bleeding? I only remember what the liquid felt like. It was warm, somehow leaking it out was an elevating feeling. It was strengthening, enlightening. The next few minutes are just a swirl of faces and names that sometimes, but more than often don't, go with the faces. Double D's was prominent, a look of terror stretching his features to cartoonish degrees. The face of my father, glaring down at me with eyes that were the opposite of terrified- angered. Disappointed. It was the same face I saw him use the day he told my sister she was no longer his daughter and no longer welcome in his house. It was a face that scared me almost as much as the Beast I had just fought.

No more thoughts. The world became a void, black as the monster under Double D's sock. When I woke up many hours later, I was in the same white room that I'm living in today.

(Two weeks later)

Edd's room was disheveled for the first time since he couldn't even remember when. When he changed, the outside world went with.

His mother's faint knock barely made it over to Edd's ears, one of which was covered with a pillow.

"Dear, you have a visitor. It's your friend, Eddy." She said this in that same overly-kind tone of voice she'd been using ever since The Attack.

"Let him in," he responded in that same beat-down voice since…

Eddy walked into the room, saw Edd and frowned.

"Are you going to lay there every day for the rest of your life?" He asked his friend.

"I don't lie here all the time, Eddy," he bit back. "What are you doing here?"

"To get you off your ass for a bit!" Eddy swore, not caring if Edd's mom overheard. "You're over-reacting!"

"Just how am I over-reacting, Eddy?"

"I've been beaten up more times than you've ever even known! But you don't-"

"-see you moping about it, I know," Edd cut in. "My dad gave me the same speech."

"So why can't you get over it? What's the big deal?"

"Eddy, he didn't just beat me," Edd said, turning over so that he faced away from Eddy.

"Well, what did he do then?" Eddy knelt beside Edd's bed. "What else happened? Come on, spill the beans!"

"He tried to rip out all my hair, Eddy," Edd sighed.

Deafening silence followed. Finally, a spit take. "That's it?!" he said with rage and laughter.

"I don't know why you think it's funny, Eddy," groused Edd. "Then, I suppose you don't have a lot of hair…" The laughter stopped. "Did I strike a nerve, Eddy?" "You've become such a dick, dude." "Don't like it, then leave."

Another long, breathtaking pause. "Fine." He heard him get on his feet, walk to the door, open then close. Now he could be alone with the same tiring handful of thoughts. If someone were to ask why he made Eddy leave, he would never have been able to answer. Back then, he would've never.

At this point, he was just lying down and hoping that he'd wake up and be normal again. Now that was one heck of a dream to pursue, thought Edd with a bitter laugh. Until then, he'd lie and make his head hurt some.

Eddy did manage to sneak up on him with a little bitty fact that bothered him. Why was this bothering him as bad as it was? To figure this out, he went back to his last greatest embarrassment: the dodgeball incident.

He remembered being tormented by the dodgeball incident and carrying those mental wounds around for a month. So if this malaise went two more weeks, it was serious. Even if it started to get better by then. Which it wasn't, and that was another sign of how severe this was.

Edd felt around on his sock-covered scalp, groping slightly at the last few bandages that were left there. That wasn't just him trying to pull at his hair, like in a typical dirty fight. That was malice.

It was true that lots of kids were curious about the underside of Edd's sock hat. But when they figured out it was nothing but really messy black hair, they tended to just leave him alone.

That's what make the Fred attack so shocking. He just yanked his hat off and started tugging like a madman. Edd was so shocked he could hardly put up feeble defense.

"Why did you do it?" Edd asked an empty room and didn't wait for an answer before flipping back to his other side to stare longingly at the door, wondering if someone was going to walk through it soon. He missed company. But when they arrived, no matter who they were, they got a similar treatment as Eddy just did.

Edd didn't doubt that he was turning into something else. He would never be the same. What scared him is what he was going to eventually become.

There were things going on in his life now that he hated to admit were happening. The onset of puberty had him thinking about girls in ways his mom or dad never warned him about. If it weren't for his biology textbooks, he wouldn't have had a clue what was going on.

This was a time in his life where he should be thinking. What was he going to do with his life? Who could stay and who could go. Now, how was this going to slow him down?

Classic Edd, he thought with another bitter laugh, thinking yourself deeper into the hole you're in. When are you going to learn to just stop worrying and start acting? About the same time he started opening up to-

Friends. Maybe he didn't have enough of those. Fred made him realize that. Not just meeting him, but losing him. He remembered being ecstatic about a new face in this old cul-de-sac. Finally, someone the Eds' constant scams and mishaps hadn't driven away.

He didn't even last 24 hours, the cheap jerk. When Ed first heard about it, he was stunned. He got attached way too easily. Like a sad animal. Edd didn't even have time to get attached.

Edd yawned, then groaned and closed his eyes, putting both hands on his forehead, interlacing their fingers. How could he be tired, he's been doing almost nothing except sleeping! He didn't feel like doing much of anything else these days, and Edd lacked willpower.

"Whatever," Edd spoke to the empty room in a voice he didn't recognize and turned off the light next to his bed. This was going to be the big one, the legendary nap that cleared his thoughts and his fears.

Oh, but he's been saying that before every single nap he's taken. That's the way the scams were, though- "maybe this one will work out." No dice, but they kept trying. Sleep now… down, down…


After the Peach Creek Horror, daddy moved me away from that place, but it was already too late. I had a permanent mark of that town's evil stench marking my body. Marking my mind. I can feel myself succumbing to it as I write the final touches to this tome that was meant to be a journal entry. My time is short.

Don't go to Peach Creek, if you are reading this. There is something corrupting that town that none of us were meant to understand or even see. It's something that transcends both good and evil, because such petty human notions fail to describe the very abhorrent, wrong nature of it. When I close my eyes after my tranquilizer to prepare for another long period of hibernation, my dreams are not of monsters or terrors filling the corners of my eyes, avoiding my sight. No, my dreams are of an inky dark where the color black would be a light at the end of the tunnel, encroaching upon all of my senses until I am one with the void.

When I am dead, having committed suicide with the hidden item I previously mentioned, my worst fear of them all is finding that Peach Creek is hell. But then, would it be hell, or would it be purgatory? If it were heaven, what would hell be?

The writing I've been doing has long since come off the rails of the notebook pages I've smuggled away, and now all over the white walls of my padded room, my one free arm continues to write these words, though I no longer recognize them as words. They are tendrils, thin and black like hair, and I scream at them when I stop writing, so I continue to the best of my ability, hoping my mind will catch up, whatever's left of it, and leave a coherent tome for the few people that are going to see this. I am afraid of these words, of the reality they reflect, as if just the act of writing all this out makes it all the more real. When it surrounds me, I can't force myself to believe it was all just a horrible dream the way the bastard doctors tell me. No, it is all real, it is more real than any other fake, lurid, weak thing surrounding it, mocking it, telling it to attack, and having no idea that one of these days it might.

This is my message to you, Double D: Do not leave Peach Creek. I have seen in your eyes enough to know you want escape, you want a glimpse- even a sparse hint- at the decency of the lie outside your walls. You want a good life. But what you've been born into dictates that you simply cannot, and that is the difficult truth you have to face. The monstrosity that breeds inside of Peach Creek is viral, and I am living proof of that, though I won't be too much longer. You have to sacrifice your happiness for the well-being of the world. Let them keep believing that there's not a place on earth so inhuman, so far from right.

This is my message to you, Eddy: Though you and I never reached an adequate understanding of each other in the very short span of time that I lived in your vicinity, I know enough now to make the inference that you are the sort who would sell his family into slavery for a week's worth of candy. Your disabled friend is one of the only two people who can tolerate you because what's wrong with you is just a little too difficult that it avoids him. The other one, the one with half a brain in his god-forsaken head, is someone whose feet you should be polishing every last day just for the privilege of being allowed in their presence. I hope that somehow, someday, Peach Creek will wither and die away, but if anyone had to be born into that pit of unright, I am glad it was you.

This is my message to you, Ed: Sorry about your gravy.

To my sister: I finally understand you, and it is my only regret that by the time this message reaches you, if it does, I will be long gone. You didn't hate mother and father. You didn't hate me. But you knew where you didn't belong, and it was with us. You wanted escape. To be released from a place that only spoke to you in snatches of lectures and moments of clarity in a dark blanket. Every time I walked into your room those last few weeks you lived at home, I didn't see you, but instead a mound on the bed covered by a blanket, totally still. As if you moved, a crack would emerge and air that wasn't yours would seep in and infect you, turn you into something you didn't respect. Yes, sister, I understand now.

And finally, to father: One day soon, it will get you, and I recommend you take the path I've chosen before it's too late. My throat is beginning to clench and tighten. Blood is so thin between us, thin like water, and I'm not sure I'd be so ready to warn you of your fate if you were the only one at risk. But the reason I attacked Double D, and the reason I would do the same to you if I could get my hands on you, is because you are leaking the Peach Creek horror into the world you've chosen to once again inhabit, and it's only a matter of time before it consumes the rest of this planet, throwing us into a collision course with everlasting darkness. So, father, I beg of you as I slit my throat: KILL YOURSELF! End the final remnant of Peach Creek Syndrome with you before it's too late! OR EVERYTHING IS GOING TO FALL INTO THE VOIDddddddddddd fff