Canopy City (Full Episode)

This story was shared in a live lore format in Discord (#smol-stories). Author: n8amis.

Smols have been through it, friends.

It hasn't been easy. Life's been rough.

You know what I mean...

They lost nearly everything when that pesky volcano spilled molten lava across their banana fields. They barely escaped with their lives, in what could easily become a Hollywood blockbuster disaster film. How they managed to stuff their Smol Pets into their Smol Cars and get themselves (with no driver’s licences) to the rocket along with their dimwitted, but good-natured Swol buddies, well…Let’s just say it was standing room only in the rocket.

Anyway, impossible logistics surrounding fictional space travel aside, the moon wasn’t that bad at first. Swols could lift way more weight in lunar gravity. Smols discovered heaps of fun could be had leaping across the lunar surface shouting “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” until their hearts were content, which typically coincided with their voices being gone. Nobody knows what pets were doing, but they seemed to be ok, so no one had really paid too much attention. They had enough to worry about already, after all.

They found the mine, which made life pretty exciting. Smol’s had always been attracted to shiny things, and Swols never needed an excuse to flex their muscles, which it turns out manual labor is fantastic for.

For a while everyone seemed fine, distracted as they were by all the shiny stuff just enough to ignore a whole bunch of emotional baggage, like the kind that comes from nearly losing your entire way of life to a fiery volcano. Weird how that stuff can’t be ignored forever though.

So, when the mine collapsed and began spewing out unchecked radiation, randomly brought portals to other worlds into existence, and once again threatened Smolkind, well, people started to get introspective…

“It’s weird, you know?” Stuart says, sitting slumped in a worn old lawn chair gazing blankly across the surface at the mine. “One day you go to work and everything seems fine, the next thing you know, you get laid off: ‘Oh, and by the way, you’ve been exposed to really high levels of radiation”’. You come home, realise the moon is an overpopulated wasteland and all you’ve got to show for it is a pile of moon rocks, and a couple of comet shards in the corner of a crappy apartment in an ugly cement building.”

“I know wut you meen. Swolsquatch says looking critically at his flexed forearm. “I don’t even enjoy lifting recently. I just can’t get gains no matter how many plates I stack.”

“I don’t go outside to look at the stars anymore. I’m terrified one of those packs of wild pets running around turning over trash cans looking for uneaten cans of spam in the middle of the night will see me. I know Smolstein says they’re harmless, but I don’t trust them. We just don’t know what they’re capable of!”

Robin chucks a rock towards the portal, which had mysteriously stopped working once the adventurers returned from Smol York months ago. The rock hits the portal, bounces off the gently spinning surface and off into the distance.

“I miss my banana trees.”

“I miss lifting in real gravity.”

“I miss good natured Smol Pets.”

All three sigh in unison. “The moon sucks.” Stuart says.

“Yeah!” Swolsquatch agrees, standing suddenly from his lawn chair, flexing his muscles. “And this portal is piiiiissssssing me off!” He jogs over to a large rock, squats, wraps his Herculean arms around it and tries to lift. His spindly bow legs shake back and forth, looking as if they may collapse beneath him. “Help me.” He shouts to his friends. “It feels glorious to senselessly break things, trust me guys.”

Stuart and Robin glance at each other, shrug, and run over to help Swolsquatch. Together, they pick up the rock and carry it to the edge of the mine shaft. Once there, they swing it back and forth building momentum. “One, two, THREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Stuart shouts as they release the rock over the portal. Even in the lunar gravity, the enormous rock crashes down hard. An ear splitting noise rings out from under the rock as it hits. A long-jagged crack forms, running across the portal from underneath the rock.

“Uhhh...” Robin begins to say, but before she can finish her sentence, the portal begins to spin intensely, wildly off kilter. Shafts of iridescent light slip through the crack, accompanied by strange noises, like someone firing a toy ray gun on the other side of the portal. The three friends run away, diving behind their lawn chairs for cover as the noise grows louder and the spinning more uncontrolled.

“It’s going to blow.” Stuart yells.

“We’re going to die!” Shouts Robin.

The noise continues to build, reaching a fevered crescendo, then just as suddenly as it began, the portal grows still. Swolsquatch sobs loudly. Stuart and Robin stare at the hulking figure, head tucked between his legs, big salty tears running down his face soaking his tank top. Robin clears her throat, nudges Swolsquatch and nods her head towards the portal. He looks up and realises the danger has passed. He wipes his eyes, blows his nose in his shirt, does 10 push-ups, whoops loudly and jumps into the air:

“Haha, I told you, glorious!” He yells, bashing his chest with a meaty fist.

Robin and Stuart glance at one another, a bit shocked at the display, but say nothing. They stand as well and walk towards the edge of the mine shaft, leaning tentatively over the edge wondering what state the portal’s in.

“Thanks! A cheerful voice yells as a small paw reaches up from the mine grabbing Swolsquatch around the ankle. The beefy Swol yelps, and leaps nearly ten feet into the air pulling a Smolbrain wearing a leather hat from the mine along with him by her tiny hand still clasped about his leg. “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” she says as they land in a heap on the ground. “Do it again! She says giggling.

“Who are you?” Robin asks.

“My name is Lora! Who are you? Hey, thanks for turning the portal on, I’ve been trying to get through for days.”

“You came from the portal?”

“Totally… She trails off, losing her train of thought momentarily, then notices everyone staring. “Uhh, yeah. I snuck in when Swolstachio went missing; been exploring ever since. There’s some weird stuff out there, believe you me.” She extends her hand to Swolsquatch still lying bewildered on the ground. “I found something.” She whispers, playfully conspiratorially, along with a slight twinkle in her eye. She pulls Swolsquatch back to his feet then runs in the direction of town shouting over her shoulder, “Come on, we need to find Smolstein.”

Lora, though a little loopy from travelling through, what she describes as, “a whole network of portals connecting world after world”, can be quite convincing in spite of herself. She even brought a fresh banana back as evidence she isn’t totally crazy.

“We need to go now. The portal is getting, uhh, weird.” It took me days to get back. When I came through, I felt it pulling me in different directions, I had to concentrate REALLY hard. The big rock opened it, but I think it might have broken something too.

“But my dear, if it's so dangerous how can we risk it? Smolstein says. “Our people have been through so much.”

“It’s dangerous here too.” Wiz chimes in. “Look around, everyone’s miserable, the radiation is making us sick. If there’s even a chance…”

“We must tell the others. Wiz, ring the bell, call a town hall. We need the community to come together.” By the time wiz rings the bell, people are already heading towards the town square. Word spreads quickly on the moon, especially, it seems, when that word involves a slightly crazed inter-dimensional Smol traveller with a banana and leather hat promising a better future.

Smols, and Swols, pack together tightly in the town square. Even a few packs of Smol Pets lurk on the outskirts of the crowd. Wiz opens the stage, inviting anyone wishing to speak to come forward, then walks to the back of the stage taking a seat next to Smolstein. Smols speak for the most part, providing persuasive arguments for and against leaving the moon. A handful of fairly socially awkward Swols charge the stage as well, mainly looking uncomfortable while mumbling simplistic arguments as their buddy’s cheer from the crowd. Even some of the less feral pets saunter forward, howling passionately towards the sky drawing howls in return from other pets, and quite a few Swols in the crowd as well.

After several hours, the crowd grows quieter. Smolstein looks around waiting to see if anyone else will approach the stage. The general murmuring of the crowd grows quieter. No one else approaches. Smolstein stands, brushes his legs with his paws and walks solemnly across the stage. “Here we are then.” He addresses the crowd adjusting his bow tie. “Time to vote everyone.”

Ballots are passed to the crowd. Smols clearly articulate their choice along with a bullet point list supporting the logic behind their decision. Swols mark “1” for the scouting party, “2” for everyone. Smol Pets eat their ballots.

Wiz counts the ballots, whispering the results in Smolstein’s ear. Smolstein returns to the podium “Friends, the people…” He glances up at a group of pets pacing back and forth on the outskirts of the crowd “and pets have spoken. If we don’t all go now, we may never have the chance. Life on the moon is, erm, problematic. The risk is great, but the tragedy of missing our chance at a better life would be a crushing blow. We will go together, tonight.”

The town spends the next few hours gathering their most important belongings. They pack comet shards, and moon dust. Alien relics if they have them. Even moon rocks start to look valuable as they prepare to depart, and of course they must take their Smol Cars and Swoler cycles. Gravity on the moon has not allowed them to drive here, but in their heart of hearts, they long to race across the coastline of some distant planet while a warm ocean breeze blows through their hair or fur as they push the upper limits of speed without a care, or stop sign, in the world.

They meet back together in the town square at dusk. There hasn’t been this much excitement and nervous energy around since the day they departed their homeland in terror. While that departure had been forced upon them by destruction, the sentiment among the people now, though fearful, is one of hope. They have no idea what will happen, but this time they step forward into the future by choice. They choose not to settle for what life is, but risk it all for what it could be, because in the end, life on the moon just isn’t for them. They crave more. So together, they leave, following Lora back to the mine and into the unknown, walking arm in arm, in a great line stretching across the surface of the moon from the town to the mine.

Lora stands at the edge of the pit above the portal looking back upon thousands of eyes, all gazing upon her hoping she will lead them to a better future. She finds she doesn't know quite what to say. She laughs nervously, removes her alien relic from the satchel she carries and says: “Uh, well…here we go.” Nothing happens. Lora continues to stand there, hand held high over the portal. “Just uh, sometimes it takes a minute or so. Umm, nothing to worry about.” A group of smols in the front look warily at a family of swols who look with growing concern at a pack of four pets who all seem to be staring very intently at the relic in Lora’s hand. Lora smacks the relic on her thigh. “Come on stupid alien relic, I know you still have it in you!” She lifts it back in the air, shaking it about trying to jar something into place. The eyes of the pets in front follow the motion of the relic intently, bodies growing taught, desire written on their faces.

“Uhh Lora” One of the smols says. “I think you may…”

“Haha, I knew it!” Lora says triumphantly as green light sputters from the relic. In the same instance, the four smol pets leap from the ground towards the relic, attracted to the light like a moth diving towards a flame. They descend, crashing down on Lora, falling together over the edge landing hard on the portal. Lora screams. The pets fight over the relic. The portal gives under the weight and shatters into hundreds of tiny fragments.

A whirlwind of spinning shards whips around in the mine shaft, rising like a tornado from within, reaching high into the sky. Bits of light shine from each piece sending a frenzied kaleidoscope of light in every direction as the cyclone spins around on its axis. The alien relic hovers behind the outer wall of the tornado, resting suspended in the eye of the storm. All four Smol Pets hang from the relic by their teeth, growling and jostling at one another in an attempt to knock the others loose.

Lora scrambles back over the top of the mine. She looks directly at Smolstein with a twinkle in her eye and shouts to the crowd. “Ok, Uhh, buckle up everybody, and remember, keep your arms and legs inside the portal at all times.”

Behind her, the tornado caves in upon itself. Broken portal shards fuse together creating a small ball of focused light surrounding the relic. The light gets brighter and brighter until it explodes into an enormous portal sweeping over the surface in a giant wave, swallowing everyone and everything in its wake. The light of the portal reaches epic proportions, then fades to nothing, leaving behind an empty, barren moon, devoid of all signs of life.

Smols, Swols, Pets, buildings, cars, swolercycles, moon rocks, lunar gold, a kitchen sink…all kinds of crap, spins around dangerously inside the portal. Lora loses her banana and watches helplessly as it flies across the portal, smacking a small pink smol right in the face.

“Something is definitely wrong!” She shouts to no one in particular, though it’s unlikely anyone can hear her over the noise inside the portal, which sounds exactly like an enormous vacuum cleaner sucking up dust and debris from a rug like there’s no tomorrow.

She’s never seen a portal act like this before. They spin around and around at ridiculous speeds, spiralling downward the whole way as if they’re made of lead. Lora spins herself upside down. Below her, the portal disappears through a black hole like water from a tub rushing through an unplugged drain.

“Yep, this portal is busted, we need to get out of here soon.” She says to herself as a bundle of stardust smacks her in the head. She nearly loses her hat, but secures it back on her head just in time to see a Smol car flying towards her fast with the door ajar.

She reaches desperately, managing to grab the steering wheel as the car spins by. She uses all her might to pull herself inside, buckles the safety belt and slams the gas pedal to the floor. “Now we’re in business, let’s blow this popsicle stand!” The engine roars, tires screeching, spewing smoke as they find purchase on the wall of the portal propelling her around the outer edges at speeds no smol has ever gone before.

She drives past a green-faced Smolstein, grabs him with one hand by the bowtie, pulling him inside the car through the open window. She shoves him in the seat next to her right in time for him to barf chunks of what could plausibly be a Smol pet, but maybe not (who was she to judge anyway) out the passenger window.

“Guess we should have sent a scouting party first huh” Lora yells at him. Smolstein looks at her dumbfounded. He barfs again, and passes out.

“Well, I guess he’s not going to be any help.”

Lora looks back through the windshield in time to see a pink blur flying directly at the windshield. She swerves, seconds too late. The poor little guy never sees it coming on account of a banana stuck to his face, covering his eyes. “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOFFF” He cries slamming into the windshield. The banana splatters across his face. Lora can’t see past all the pink fur and begins to swerve around dangerously. She turns on the windshield wipers, pushing the pink smol across the windshield trailing bits of banana. He manages to grab the sunroof somehow before falling from the car and pulls himself inside looking a little shell shocked.

“Hi, I’m Pinky, thanks…I guess.”

“Hi Pinky, I’m Lora. Nice to meet you.”


“Just so you know, we’re probably going to die if we don’t find a way out of here.”

“Well”, Pinky says, “I don’t really want to die, so…”

“Look for windows.” She says.

Pinky wipes the rest of the banana off his face and looks around the portal. They’re pretty hard to spot in the chaos churning around inside, but he thinks he can make out the vague form of several windows just ahead. “There!” He points. Lora squints, she really needs glasses to drive, but just hates the way she looks in them.

“I don’t see anything.”

“There!” He yells again pointing emphatically.

“Oh yeah, I think I see it. I thought that was just a speck of dust on the windshield.”

Pinky laughs nervously. “Do you have a license?”

“A what?”


Lora rockets the car towards the windows. As they get closer she yells at him. “Look through them. I can’t really drive and look at the same time.”

“You can’t really drive at all.” He says quietly. Pinky stares through as many open windows as he can. He sees many strange things through the curtains. The first one holds a giant crab wearing a cinnamon roll hat while watching a baseball game between what appears to be tiny men wearing leg shackles. Another contains a pink sun shining down on a snow capped purple mountain. A tall thin sheep stands on its two hind legs at the top of the mountain dancing a jig while waving a little green hat with a big feather in it. A third window passes by. A world full of active volcanoes shooting molten fire and black ash into the air while a bunch of skeletons floating in a sea of lava. They’re all waving their hands around rhythmically in the air shouting “Hot tub party!” He sees a blond haired woman through another one. She’s got a key around her neck playing a melody that sounds like wind chimes. She holds a dusty book in her hands and has a scar on her face.

“Anything promising?”

“Uh, no” He says looking intently.

Finally, pinky sees beyond the curtains of a window with a lush green jungle. “Wow.” He says in awe.

“What do you see?”

“I see a banana tree.”

“That’s the one. Hang on, it’s about to get rough.”

She jerks the car towards the window and floors the gas. The car lurches towards the window shattering the glass. They plummet through a blue, cloudless sky. Pinky feels his stomach in his sink.

“How long are we…” Pinky is cut short as the car comes crashing through a canopy of trees. The sound of limbs breaking drowning out his words. The car tumbles end over end through the trees, finally hits the ground, rolls down a hill, falls off a cliff and into a river washes downstream, over a waterfall into a pool and sinks to the bottom.

Pinky and Lora grab the still unconscious Smolstein, swim for the surface and drag themselves to the shore. “Welcome to the jungle.” Lora says.

“Gee thanks.” Pinky says. “I think I need a nap.”

“Me too. Goodnight.”

Pinky sits up. It's dark outside. Smolstein sits nearby speaking with Lora next to a small fire.

“I don’t think so.” She says as Pinky walks over taking a seat next to them. “My best guess is that the portal spit everyone out when we went through the window, but probably scattered us all over the place. It wasn’t exactly an orderly departure.”

“Do you know where we are?” Smolstein asks.

“Not exactly, but I may be able to get a better idea if I can climb above the canopy.”

They scramble up the rocky cliff next to the waterfall. At the top Pinky spots a tree that looks higher than the others. Lora removes her belt and uses it to climb the tree. Pinky and Smolstein watch as she ascends the tree into the dense green canopy.

“Wow.” Pinky says. “She’s incredible” Smolstein looks at him grinning ear to ear. Pinky turns red. He opens his mouth to say something, but nothing happens. He closes his mouth, looks at his feet and kicks at the ground bashfully.

“I made it.” Lora shouts from above.

“See anything?” Smolsteins shouts back.

“Maybe. I’m going to use my binoculars. Hang on. She’s silent for a moment, apparently looking through her binoculars. “Oh…a city. Sort of.”

“What do you mean, sort of?” Smolstein asks.

“Hold on, I’m coming down.” Lora’s feet, legs, and head emerge from the canopy. She pulls her feet back from the base of the trunk and slides the rest of the way down the tree using her belt to slow her descent from time to time.“WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” She hits the ground and stands up holding a paw out. Smolstein and Pinky look at her hand confused. “Well, don’t leave me hanging bro!”

“Oh right.” Pinky says, slapping her hand with his own. The two smols lock eyes for a moment. Pinky turns red again. Lora winks at him.

“There’s a city. It seems abandoned though. I saw it before, but I haven’t been there. It looks kind of spooky.”

“Anything else up there?”

“A bunch of Smol cars in trees.”

“So the portal did send us all here.”

“Looks like it.”

“Any other landmarks?” Smolstein asks.

“No, everything else looks the same. Our best bet is heading to the city. Hopefully everyone else does the same.”

“I agree.” Smolstein says.

“Sure.” Pinky says, then more quietly to himself. “I’ll follow you anywhere.”

“So it looks like we could bushwhack through the jungle the whole way, or, I’m pretty sure the river flows towards the city as well.” She says.

“We nearly died tumbling off the waterfall a couple hours ago.” Smolstein reminds his friends.

“True.” Lora agrees.

“We can’t be helpful if we’re dead.” Pinky observes astutely.

“Jungle it is then.” Lora says, producing a machete from her person, she’s somehow managed to have kept hidden this whole time. Pinky nearly loses his brain as Lora casually saunters up to the thick jungle, swinging her machete, and clearing a path for the rest to follow.

Smolstein glances at him and observes: “She’s quite impressive is she not?” Pinky can’t find the words. He shakes his head dumbfounded and runs into the jungle after Lora.

The sun cascades through the dense canopy of the thick jungle every now and then, reaching the ground as dusty shafts of yellowish light, but in general it’s kind of dark. The branches of the trees they pass are still. The breeze from the river no longer able to penetrate the jungle surrounding them. The air grows heavy with humidity here and they all begin to sweat.

Pinky stares at Lora in front of him, fascinated at the way the sweat glistens against her fur, sparkling like gold when even a trace of gentle sunlight shines on her back.”Like an angel.” He muses to himself. A bug tickles his ear. He swats at it absentmindedly, and shakes his head. Out of the corner of his eye he catches a glimpse of something moving through the trees. He strains his eyes, trying to decide if anything is actually there or not, and walks right into Lora. She grabs him, placing her hand tightly over his mouth.


Smolstein freezes along the path as well, staring at Lora and Pinky with a confused expression on his face. Lora points two fingers at her eyes, then gestures towards the jungle where Pinky had seen movement. She places the finger to her lips then, and quietly removes a collapsible blowgun from beneath her waistband. She tentatively lets go of Pinky who appears disappointed not to be in her embrace any longer. She extends the blow gun to its full length, resting it gently down on the ground next to her. She plucks a colourful frog from beneath a giant leaf and knicks it with a long sharp needle. She kisses the frog and pats it on the head as she returns it to its place under the leaf apparently unharmed.

She places a cotton ball on the back end of the needle and puts it into the back side of the blowgun. Pinky has totally forgotten something dangerous may be out there, all he can think about is how awesome Lora is. He sits silently staring unabashedly, eyes glazed over, his jaw actually open, as she readies the blow gun.

Movement from the jungle becomes more obvious now. Something is definitely out there, and it seems to be moving directly towards them. They can hear it now as well, crashing through the jungle, unconcerned at masking its presence. Pinky finally sobers up, hiding behind Lora believing that a horrendous beast with large pointy teeth and nasty claws ready to pounce is heading their way for sure.

“Eeargh”, A terribly guttural, primal sound rings out just beyond the tree line in front of them. A shadowy figure emerges, hulking from the bushes waving enormous arms.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” Pinky shouts hugging Lora. She forcefully brushes him from her waist as she stands and fires the blowgun directly in the beast's neck.

“Aaaarggghhh” The behemoth bellows in pain, stumbles mere steps away from them, and falls to the ground unmoving. Lora slowly walks toward the creature. Pinky peaks out from behind her. Smolstein tentatively joins them. Lora pushes a leafy branch obscuring their view of the beast away with her blow gun, revealing a swollen, bug bitten, bald Swol with a glorious handlebar moustache groaning quietly on the ground clawing slowly at the dart in his chest as he loses consciousness.

“Swolstachio” Smolstein remarks. “Have you killed him?”

“No. Lora says. “It would take a lot more poison to kill that one. He’ll be back with us in a jiffy. Hallucinations are normal though for about 24 hours, so that could get weird.”

Lora hacked some small trees and a few vines down with her machete. She cut the trees down to the height of Swolstachio and lashed them together. They rolled the big Swol onto the makeshift sled. Pinky and Smolstein dragged him along behind Lora leading the way.

Smolstein thought he would die for sure, or at least throw his back out for a week minimum if they had to drag the swollen Swol all the way to the city, but before it got to that, Lora shouted from up ahead.

“Hey guys, check it out!”

They dropped Swolstachio on the ground and ran up to Lora standing over a super cracked, overgrown road. While the road was covered in gnarly looking weeds, it cut a path through the jungle in the direction of the city.

“This will make it way easier.” Pinky said.

“Guys…” Smolstein said, looking toward the jungle on their right. “Do you see what I see?”

Half an hour later, The trio cruises down the road at a comfortable speed in a Smol convertible that looks like total crap, but was driving pretty good despite falling who knows how far from a portal fairly recently. As they round a corner, significantly too fast, several tall buildings from the city show themselves just a little ways ahead.

“EEEEEEEEEEEE” Pinky says standing in the backseat letting the wind run through his fur. Smolstein nods his head and smiles, holding his hand out the window letting the force of the wind lift up, then push it down like a wave. Lora, though a terrible driver who can’t see, and still doesn’t have a licence, squints through the windshield weaving around the road like a drunk snake trapped in a pinball machine.

Swolstachio suddenly bolts upright next to Pinky shouting about Mordor and the eye of Ra chasing him across a barren wasteland, and some guy named Kook. He attempts to jump out the backseat. Pinky desperately tries to hold him down with little success. Lora pulls a cast iron frying pan from somewhere and whacks him on the head with it before he escapes. He slumps down in his seat, mumbling something about a pink baboon with 12 eyes and the horns of a goat. The three Smols look at each other and burst into laughter as they drive into the city.

Lora parks the car next to an old streetlight. This means they’ll have to carry Swolstachio, but now that they’ve made it to the city, and Lora is only a good driver compared to Toonces the cat; they decide dragging the big unconscious Swol is worth it. Pinky happens to find a pair of roller skates in the trunk of the car. They put them on Swolstachio’s surprisingly dainty feet, tie a board to his back to keep him upright, and use a vine wrapped about his waist to pull him down the empty streets.

“This is super easy! Good thinking Pinky.” Lora says giggling. Pinky blushes, fumbling about trying to form a cohesive response.

“Thank you, Lora. By the way, you’re everything I’ve ever dreamed of in a partner. When I look into your eyes, I see my past, present, and future all bound up together. It’s wonderful. Will you make me the happiest Smol in the world and…”

Actually, he doesn't say that at all. He just looks at her kind of goofy and googly eyed, too lost in his thoughts and emotions to respond at all. Lora shrugs, and skips ahead of him looking for something that will help them find the others. Pinky and Smolstein catch up a moment later. She stands on an old green transformer box at the top of a hill they’d just walked up, holding her binoculars against her eyes.

“Well, no sign of anyone else yet, guess we just keep looking for now. They could be anywhere.”

“Lora.” Smolstein says inquisitively. “What do you make of this city?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, isn’t it curious? It seems to be entirely abandoned, yet nothing we’ve seen so far gives the slightest indication as to what happened? There are no signs of disaster, no remains of bodies, nothing. It’s as if everyone simply vanished.”

“Yes, that’s…weird” Lora responds. “I…don’t know.”

Pinky looks around nervously. Suspicious now and maybe a little paranoid. Swolstachio groans behind him. He lifts a hand, gingerly touching the giant goose egg growing on his forehead, wincing in pain. Pinky stops pulling him along, gesturing to the others. Smolstein and Lora end their conversation. They walk back to where Pinky stands and look, feeling a bit guilty, at Swolstachio as he slowly comes to.

“Ooof, my head. Eet hertz.” He tries to sit, but finds he can’t, on account of the board tied to his back. He looks up for the first time then and sees Pinky slowly approaching him with his paws out.

“It’s ok, big guy. It’s me, Pinky. Let me untie you.”

Swolstachio is not ok with this. He bellows the loudest, most terrifying, blood curdling scream any of the stunned Smols have ever heard. Pinky stops dead in his tracks. Swolstachio points a trembling finger towards him, whispering:

“Stay back. Diablo de cabro. Your cute pink fur doesn’t fool me.” He shouts then. “Expulsar demonios!”; forming the sign of a cross in front of his chest. He tries to run. His roller-skated feet flop about on the pavement like he’s trying to run across a frozen pond in a blizzard. Pinky grabs the vine, straining to hold onto the man, but his efforts are useless. Swolstachio begins falling backwards. He makes a desperate attempt to stop himself, waving his arms about like a giant windmill, but it’s too late. He tumbles backwards down the hill, though to his credit, still upright on his feet. His weight, and the roller skates carry him out of view at a tremendous speed. The three Smols stand on the top of the hill squinting through the growing darkness until he disappears into an alleyway and out of sight completely.

“Uhh…” Pinky says.

“Yeah.” Lora agrees.

“Mmmmmm, well…” Smolstein begins to say, but is cut off by the sound of clanging behind them. He spins around. A large shadow moves quickly ten paces away, darting down a side road making a great commotion.

Lora bolts, running in the direction of the Shadow Pinky, looks confused back and forth between Lora and the bottom of the hill where Swolstachio disappeared. Smolstein shouts at Lora’s back.

“What about Swolstachio?”

Lora stops in her tracks, looking back clearly torn by what to do next.

“We can’t leave him!” Pinky implores. “He’s my friend.” Lora glances back at the road the retreating shadow turned down and sighs.

“”You’re right.” She says.

“Agreed.” Smolstein adds. “He’s kind of helpless. Like a giant baby man.”

They walk down the hill in the direction their friend went. Behind them, a thin sliver of a moon rises illuminating the darkness just barely. At the top of the hill, from where they came, a pair of red eyes emerges from the darkness, blinking silently, focused on the three Smols below.

Swolstachio is terrified. He can’t understand what’s happening. He has strange visions. He’s a crow flying across a blood red sky cawing loudly at a full moon. He flies into a cold grey cloud and turns into a raindrop falling from the sky at terminal velocity towards a red umbrella carried by a woman in sensible pumps and black slacks. He hears himself scream in fear plummeting towards his death. Flashbacks from his life flick across his eyes in a series of small vignettes. Just before he slams into the red umbrella, he turns into a ballerina. He’s 12 in the vision. Wait he thinks, this is not a vision. It’s a memory. He looks up at his mother looking down at him in his black leotard, ruffling his hair with her hand.

“I’m so proud of you Smolstachio” You’re going to be wonderful! And don’t worry, your father will come around when he sees how wonderfully you dance. I’m sure of it. She winks at him and kisses him gently on the cheek. “No go.” She says. “Dance!”

Swolstachio hears the opening of Swan Lake playing in his mind. His terror fadees, carried away on the back of the gentle rhythm. As the music builds within him, he feels his heart pumping in anticipation of the dance. He gives himself to the music, letting go completely.

He dances through the moonlit streets of the abandoned city, skating along gracefully as a gazelle prancing through a dew covered meadow on a cool morning. He hears himself laughing.

“You’re right mother! Look at how father smiles. I’m so pretty. Oh so pretty!”

“Is that what I think it is?” Pinky shouts to Lora and Smolstein, as he rounds the corner onto an otherwise empty street staring at a large swollen man leaping into a magnificent pirouette under the watchful gaze of the moon?

“Wow, he’s good!” Lora says catching up. Pinky feels a momentary pang of jealousy, but quickly brushes it off.

“Yeah, he really is.” Pinky agrees.

Smolstein shakes his head in wonder. “Unglaublich!”

The three friends sit on the curb watching silently as Swolstachio continues, absolutely mesmerised by the beauty of his dance. They are so enraptured by the performance they don’t even notice a pair of giant red eyes looming overhead. A bit of sugary slime drips from the hungry mouth onto the top of Smolsteins head. He looks up, ducks as low as he can, managing to push Lora and Pinky off the curb. The jaws of the chlorophyll giant snap shut, full of nothing but air. The beast screams in anger, rising up on hundreds of giant stringy root-like legs, readying itself for another attempt.

Lora throws her frying pan at it, but the giant plant smacks it away with one arm. It screams lunging towards Lora. She backpedals away, but it manages to grab her with its leafy green hand. Pinky goes absolutely bonkers. He charges, a screaming pink ball of fur, running across the alley. He grabs onto one of the plant's arms, gnawing tiny bites out of it like a little demon, and spitting the green chunks in the gutter. Smolstein runs over, picks up the pieces from the ground, and throws them back at the creature aiming for its eyes.

The monster roars, shakes Pinky off and drops Lora in the process. It rears up, arms stretching wide, ready to pounce. Just then, Swolstachio skates over nonchalantly, executes a lovely Grand Jete, lands before the plant monster, takes a small bow, and lifts the creature off the ground. He raises one leg, whips it around his body and Fouettés away holding the dizzy plant monster helplessly overhead.

Swolstachio dances gracefully over to a large hole in the ground and stuffs the monster inside by the root ball. He bows, thanking it for the dance, buries it under a pile of rubble, and casually asks Pinky if he has a watering can.

“So the pretty flower can grow.”

“I don’t think I do.” Replies Pinky still in quite a bit of shock.

The plant monster struggles for a time, but cannot manage to extrapolate itself from the hole Swolstachio buried it in. The three Smols thank Swolstachio for saving them.

“She was a lovely dance partner.” Smolstein starts to say something, but thinks better of it.

“What could make that sort of thing happen?” Lora muses looking at the plant monster.

“Magic!” Swolstachio exclaims, pointing enthusiastically at the twinkling stars in the night sky, shaking his head in amazement. Pinky looks at Lora. Lora looks back at Pinky. Smolstein looks at them both, a smirk forming at the corners of his mouth, and all three begin laughing.

“I kind of like Swolstahio like this.” Pinky says as they guide him down the road, deeper into the city.

They spend the remainder of the night camped inside one of the abandoned buildings and wake in the morning feeling refreshed. Swolstachio appears to be his normal self again, and although he’s grown quite attached to the roller skates and retains a bit of ballerina like grace, claims to have no recollection of anything since running through the jungle the previous morning.

They step out onto the street directly below a tall building with strange towers and dishes on the roof. Smolstein looks at the equipment intently.

“I think I have an idea.” He says.

They follow Smolstein to the top of the building. The very last floor contains a sound board, recording equipment, and a whole bunch of speakers. “Ahh yes, exactly as I suspected. This used to be a radio station. If we can generate some power, we could record a message and blast it from the roof through the speakers. We can call our people.”

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Pinky exclaims excitedly.

“How can we find power?” Lora asks.

Smolstein looks at Swolstachio skating around the room, the beginnings of an idea forming in his mind.

“Yes, he says. That could work. We need to search the city. Find as much scrap metal as possible and bring it back here.”

They head back out into the city gathering things as they go. Along the way they find many things. There are plenty of commonplace items familiar to them from their home world, but amongst the debris whatever civilization used to call this place home left behind, were other more curious things. Smolstein found himself quite interested in these things, making note of them to come back for later, once they’d found their people and had begun to rebuild.

“When the time is right.” He mutters to himself. “There is definitely more to this place than meets the eye.”

Finally, Smolstein says they have what they need and they head back to the radio station. Smolstein Fashions a giant hamster wheel with a copper coil attached to an arm on the side. He runs an electric line they scavenged from an old powerline pole into the arm and wires the other end into a huge emergency generator in the basement of the building and instructs Swolstachio to roller skate around the hamster wheel.

Swolstachio is happy to oblige, and several minutes later, lights begin to flicker on throughout the building. They run back up the stairs excitedly, except for Swolstachio of course, who remains in the basement. Smolstein records a message, and they drag every speaker they can find to the roof. Smolstein wires them all together and they blast the message on repeat as loud as the sound board will go.

“Friends, join us in. A new life awaits in the city.”

The four friends sit together at the top of the building watching as small groups of Smols, Swols and Pets make their way out of the jungle from all around the city, heading towards the sound of Smolstein blasting from the radio station. They smile and laugh together feeling wonderful sitting there basking in the setting sun sinking below the canopy of trees, eyes full of wonder, hearts full of hope.

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