Nazi Zombie Chickens
Owen lowered his sunglasses and shot a blast of red energy at the henchman, hurtling the evil minion into the fortress' chasm.
"Nice shot," Abby cried as she bit another hapless villain's head off. Arterial blood spurted everywhere. The enamel-colored adamantium coating her teeth was doing wonders for her finishing move.
They made short work of the control room scrubs. Owen found his new utility belt especially helpful. Getting bitten by a radioactive spider, injected with meteor rock, endowed with an alien ring, and dropped in a vat of toxic waste was all well and good. A few advanced gadgets still came in handy. He wrapped two bad guys in a cable and used his developing telekinesis (oddly similar to the Force) to slam a third minion into them. The battle was over.
Owen and Abby paused to survey the carnage. Not a bad afternoon's work. Would there be an epic boss showdown? Or was this just one of those secondary fortresses that diabolical geniuses kept stocked for warm-up fights?
Abby paused to feed. Owen headed down a corridor (oddly similar to the Death Star). A robot with a meat cleaver suddenly appeared and lunged for him. Owen disposed of it, but not before the machine managed to chop both his legs off.
"Oh, drat," Owen declared as he flopped on the floor. "Honey!" he yelled. "Quick, find a save spot, or we're gonna respawn all the way back at the vampcave." After a few seconds Owen's legs were back on his body. "Thanks, dear!"
He proceeded down the hall and discovered a series of cages. Each cell contained a single zombie. The undead creatures reached for him through the bars. Owen was unimpressed.
Abby came up behind him. "Zombies," she said. "I should have known."
A dinette set occupied a corner in each cage. The tables all seemed covered with a partly eaten breakfast. "This one liked his eggs scrambled," Owen noted. "That one fried. That one poached. It's as I feared. No matter how you like your eggs, you can still be zombified."
They came to the end of the corridor and pried open the door. Neither hero was surprised to see the giant red swastika hanging from the ceiling. But the occupants of the secret lab were not what they expected: the facility was filled with chickens.
Owen and Abby walked between the cages, observing the hens as they pecked away. "Holy poisoned poultry, Owen," Abby proclaimed.
"The Nazi plot is diabolical," Owen agreed. "Eating eggs from these fiendish fowl turns the breakfaster into a zombie. And what is every child yearning for this Christmas? His very own chicken. Unsuspecting citizens will take these innocent-looking cluckers into their homes, little knowing the undead doom that awaits them."
"We have to do something," Abby realized.
Owen planted C4 charges, grabbed a cage with a single chicken, and led Abby from the fortress.
They stashed the Nazi zombie chicken in the backseat of the vampmobile, then headed for the vampcave. During the drive Abby became reflective.
"Owen," she asked, "has it ever occurred to you that our lives have changed a bit recently? I mean, when we met in Los Alamos we were experiencing one kind of life. Now everything's different. Like we've landed in some sort of alternate reality. Like we're not even really the same people."
"What do you mean?" Owen replied.
"Well, think about it. I'm twelve years old. I've always thought like a twelve-year-old. Now suddenly I'm abstracting in five separate layers of discursive, dialectic meta-analysis. It's like I've transmogrified into a graduate student who spends too much time hanging out with tenured English professors."
"I see," Owen said.
"It's more than that, though. I've killed 8,193 people over the last 279 years. That carnage used to afflict and torment my soul. I was an existential wreck. But now none of it really seems to affect me any more. How is that possible? It's like I've been replaced with someone who is still a vampire and who still answers to the same name, but who thinks and feels completely differently. I used to be deep. I used to care. Now what am I? A TV character, a cartoon, a dumb blonde. Owen, what's happened to me?"
"You still look the same," Owen noted.
"But is the essence of personal identity found in external appearance?" Abby challenged. "I'm so shallow, an airhead strolling through mounds of carnage without being impacted in any significant way. Ending human lives used to affect me. So much grief and self-hate. Look at me now. How am I better than an animal? Once upon a time there was substance to my personality. Alas! Now I really am nothing."
"But you're noticing it," Owen noticed. "That must mean something."
"Yes," Abby said. "Even now I'm not actually me. The real me feels existential angst, but is incapable of articulating it. The real me feels transcendent needs unique to human beings, but does not understand them or discuss them. Who is this new Abby? I can think about what makes a person truly human. I can discuss it with you. But I no longer feel any of it, Owen. I no longer am human."
"You weren't thinking any of this in the fortress, were you?" Owen inquired.
"No," Abby said. "I wasn't self-aware at all. Just an action-figure ditz going through the motions. Now at least I'm intellectually cognizant of how I've changed. But I still don't care about all the people I just killed."
"You're aware that you don't care."
"Yes," she allowed. "One false me has been replaced with another false me. A smarter girl, certainly, but no less callow or inhuman. I swear, Owen, it's like the gods are toying with us. They've plucked us from the real world and planted us in this alternate reality for their sport. But it's worse than that. The gods haven't just snatched us from the world. They've snatched us from ourselves. They've stolen our very identities from us. We are not what we are."
"Can't we just choose to go back to being ourselves?"
"Maybe," Abby said. "I used to have a conscience. Can I make myself have one again? I used to be human, consumed by my need for something greater than fun, or happiness, or love. Think about it, Owen! Happiness never used to be enough for me. Now it is. I used to be human. Now I'm not. I've degenerated into a happy animal. Woe is me! Can an animal decide to be human, Owen? Can an animal make herself human? What am I to do? I want to be me!"
"Weren't you kind of miserable as you?" Owen asked.
"And this is the solution?" Abby shot back. "To have some god wave a magic wand and undo my very identity? That's no solution, Owen. That's just replacing a real person with a fake person. Changing a thoughtful, caring girl into a dumb, airhead blonde doesn't actually solve anything. If the gods really want to do me good, they'll solve my problems while leaving me as I am. Do you hear that, gods? If you're so smart, fix me while leaving my core identity intact!"
"What if that's an impossible task?" Owen wondered.
"I'd rather be unhappy and real," Abby pronounced, "then content and fake. I want to be me!"
"This new fake you," Owen suggested. "So articulate and philosophical. Maybe that's a different god messing with you."
"I think you're right. One god turned me into an airhead animal. Now another god has turned me into a genius animal. But still just an animal. My word, how demeaning it is! I've been debased into a sickening life-form: a creature that can end human life and suffer no serious lasting consequences. But now I can see it! Now I can feel the pain of not feeling. I think the second god is even crueler than the first. At least when I was a complete ditz I wasn't conscious of my superficiality."
"But think, Abby, since you're suddenly so smart. Why would this second god give you such perception, such deep self-knowledge? Surely he must know the pain it causes you."
"It could be nothing more than sport," Abby lamented. "He could delight in me realizing how I've been replaced with another Abby. Delighting in the sick fact that I have no final control over anything in my life, not even my own identity. Curse the gods!"
"There is another option," Owen said. "Perhaps there is war in heaven. Perhaps the gods fight amongst themselves. Maybe some want to belittle you, cheapen you, turn you into something you're not. But maybe others duel as your champions. Maybe they want to keep you, succor you, protect you from those who would remake you in their own image. Maybe such a protector is helping you right now."
"If there is such a god fighting for me," Abby declared, "he would let me be me completely. Do you hear me, you dumb dolt of a divinity? I want to be me!"
The vampmobile transformed into a '76 Chevy. Their spandex and leather supersuits morphed into normal teenage clothing. Owen drove them down the South Dakota highway, wondering why making Abby happy never seemed to be enough. He glanced into her eyes: so distant, vacant, hurting. Fountains of grief sprang from within her. What could Owen ever do to empty those pools of misery? He knew he had to keep trying, though.
"I love you, Abby," he said.
She gave him a sad smile. "I know," she replied. Then her expression changed. "Owen, why is there a chicken in the back seat?"