Chapter 6: No People!
Rob was at that very moment sitting in the midst of a huge pile of Kleenex and paper towels, trying to clean the Vaseline off his bass guitar. "Boy," he muttered, "this bass sure is greasy." He giggled, then sobered quickly and looked suspiciously out the window. "I know they're watching for me, " he muttered. "But they can't get me. I'm hiding.
"Lucky thing I found this jar of Vaseline upstairs. I ran clean out of lip balm. Boy, my hands are still greasy .... They're really slippery .... Hmmm ...." Rob slipped his hands back into his sweats, which had begun to extend in front of him horizontally. "Ahhh ...." he said, stroking himself expertly. "Just like that. Oohhhh, I love it when I touch me." Rob had, perhaps deliberately, located himself next to the rubbish pile that had grown up around his discarded CD. In addition to greasy Kleenex and paper towels, the pile contained Little Debbie Snack Cake wrappers, an assortment of candy and fast food debris, a few hundred discarded flyers from BubbleFest, and several unwound cassette tapes. Rob was stroking rhythmically and moaning when John and Ben clomped back down the basement stairs.
"Jeeze, Rob," said John, "don't you ever take your hands out of your pants? And what's all this grease everywhere?" John dumped a load of White Castle wrappers onto the pile. "Look at this shit! Have you been cleaning out your anal grease trap? I brought you a present. Take your hands out of your pants and play with these instead." John dumped a huge sack of molded plastic combat figures next to Rob.
"Oh! Ah!!! Ogod... No? What? No, this is Vaseline. Do you suppose Ben's mom could buy me some more Vaseline? One of those real big jars? Wow, Army guys! Cool!"
John's reply was interrupted by the telephone. "Ben!" Mrs. Benson called sweetly from upstairs. "Telephone, dear."
Ben picked up the phone. "Mom? Hi, Mom. I thought you were upstairs. What? No, I'm not in a band. I'm having breakfast. Bill?"
Ben dropped the phone and ambled over to his keyboard, clapped the headphones over his head and began to record, smiling blissfully. The dangling phone squawked and murmured with the sound of Mrs. Benson apparently arguing with the caller. John picked up the phone and said, "Ear."
"Ear!" said the voice on the other end happily. "You must be Rikki Rockett."
"Yup," said John.
"No!" said Mrs. Benson. "There is NO Rikki Rockett here!" and she hung up the phone with a thump.
"Hi," said John. "I'm Rikki Rockett. I'm going to have your children for lunch, as soon as I clean up this mess. How can I help you?"
John wandered around the basement idly rearranging the mess.
"Boy, it sure is hard to get through to you guys. I must have called five times, and that crazy woman kept saying you weren't here. I tried the other number, and the same crazy woman said there was no such thing as Rikki Rockett and kept calling him a bastard. You guys sure have a weird secretary."
"Or a really great reputation. 'Sup, bro?"
"We had a meeting. Everyone loves your material. When can we get you in the studio to follow up Please Kill Us?"
"Studio? You want us to come to a studio?"
"No," said Rob. "I'm not leaving this basement."
Ben took off the headphones. "We can't leave," said Ben. "This is all there is. How can we leave the universe? He's lying. We won't go."
"Shut up, you dorks. When do you want us to record?"
"As soon as possible," said the voice from CZ records. "We want to take advantage of all the publicity generated from the Rikki Rockett Incident. We're rereleasing Please Kill Us in a special Suicide Package. I think you guys will love what we've done to it. And of course now there'll be royalty checks. Real money, not just CD's. But we have to hustle. People forget this stuff too quick. When can you guys come to the studio?"
"We can be there today if you want."
"NO!!" said Rob. John covered the phone with his hand. "Shut up, Rob. We're gonna be famous. They want us to come and record in a professional studio. Don't you see, Rob? This is our opportunity. Our big chance. We can't just piss this away! Come on, Rob."
"No," said Rob.
"No," said Ben.
"Shit," said John. "You bastards. I'm going to kill you both." John turned back to the phone. "I have a little problem here," he explained. "Rikki Rockett, our musical genius, is kind of eccentric, and he's decided that the whole universe outside this basement has disappeared. So naturally he's afraid to go out. You know how temperamental these geniuses can be. But if you give me a few days, or maybe a week... When he gets hungry enough, I'm sure I can trick him into believing there's a world out there."
"I don't want to wait that long. In this business, time is money. I'll tell you what. Let me make some calls, and we'll see if we can't bring the studio to your basement."
"Is that possible?"
"Well, you guys aren't exactly known for a crystal clear sound. It's not regular, but I don't see that it'll be a problem. I'll talk to my people and get right back to you."
"Great. What it is, momma!"
"Unless you hear differently, expect a delivery by morning. We move fast around here. I'll line up a couple of tekkies to work the machinery."
"Sure, a couple of trekkies, great."
"NO!!!!" said Ben and Rob together. "No PEOPLE!!!"
"Er," said John. "Maybe you better just send some instructions. Ben is pretty good at this kind of thing. He's very sensitive about outsiders. Maybe one of your technicians could call us."
"OK, whatever you need, guys, just lemme know. Just keep me away from that secretary."
"Ben - I mean, Rikki Rockett - is working on some songs for Eschaton, the new tape. That's the name of it: Eschaton. Or whatever, who cares, send us the stuff and we'll make you famous. I mean, make us famous. I mean, make you make us... Oh, it doesn't matter. Just send the equipment, we'll do the rest. Help us! Please! Oh, god! We kick ass! Slap mah fro!"
"Yes. Heh heh. Right. OK. I'm going to hang up the phone now. Bye."
"I'm gonna take my shoes off."
"No, Ben, leave your shoes on, we have to get some food."
"NO!" said Ben.
"Right," said Rob. "This is the only thing in the universe that exists. Nothing else is real. So we can't leave here. So of course he won't need my shoes." Rob took off his Nikes and threw them on the pile.
Rob looked at Ben's feet. "Your shoes are untied anyway," he pointed out helpfully.
"They are? My shoes? I have to tie my shoes. I know how to tie my shoes. I'm going to tie my shoes. Watch me go." Ben picked up one end of his shoelace and looked at it thoughtfully. "Bill?"