Hamelin

Hey, Alex Trebek does coke! Or did, ‘cause everyone’s dead, but there’s a suitcaseful in his dressing room and a hundred-dollar bill, and that’s how I got the idea.

I’m sitting on a podium on the Jeopardy set, ‘cause fuck the clowns, I’m sweet at my powers now. I mean my set list’s in this notebook from a 7-Eleven in the fake world—I am literally too sweet at my powers.

I got the idea from this fairy tale.

The set list is not easy, ’cause do the ballads go last or is there a climax? Maybe start ending soft but the last song goes boom. I don’t know how Taylor did it from just the concert I saw in Omaha.

Then I’m back in the dressing room, ‘cause a clown laughed too scary. I gotta tune my guitar anyway. By ear, ‘cause Wiltner forgot to leave a tuner and I don’t know where to get one, and I almost got the D when a clown tears down the door with a nail bat. I blink us to fake Antarctica, then blink back alone, and the D’s wrong again, ‘cause I wore the guitar in the cold.

The guy in the fairy tale’s not really bad. The townsfolk won’t pay for his miracle, so of course he gets mad.

They gotta hear me when I play, and there’s speakers above the Jeopardy stage. The scariest clown’s in the fake world now, so back to the podium and how I get a speaker to the roof. I know before I know, ‘cause I climb to the catwalks before I got a plan.

First I blink the speaker to New York, where I flip off people who see me. I think I pop a guy when I blink in, but he’s a fake guy, and if not he’d go boom soon anyway. Next I’m on the roof, and the speaker’s there, so I can teleport now, if you don’t count the detour.

I blink down to the dressing room by way of ancient Egypt and grab my set list from the suitcase, which reminds me there’s coke. And if Shake It Off’s the encore, it won’t be a surprise, but does it have to be? It’s dumb I don’t know, ‘cause I halfway know I’m Taylor, so I really should remember how to be her.

I ask a Home Depot guy for the extension cord section, and he’s starstruck, so I sign “Taylor” on his hand. Shoplifting’s easy when you bypass the scanners, so I grab ten cords just in case. Back in the dressing room, I hook the cords together, and it hits me I don’t look like Taylor there. The Home Depot guy was perving, and he let me write on his hand. I laugh a lot and do more coke and laugh.

G, B, and E are already in tune, so I strap the guitar on my back and climb the building with the plugged-in extension cord chain. The speaker’s hooked up and the light’s on, but I don’t have a guitar cable, plus they gotta hear me sing or what’s the point?

The place I know for speaker stuff is the concert in Omaha. I blink onstage after the show and just grab. The mic’s already hooked up in a stand, and the guitar cable’s not far either. I see another me chatting up Taylor, saying how she changed my life, and she actually looks happy. I want to just watch, but stagehands are shouting, ‘cause like I say I don’t look like Taylor.

On the roof, I strum the guitar and it’s in the speaker. I say, “Testing, testing,” and that works too. I sing, “Blah la la” and back the mic up from the feedback. I guess the levels with the guitar knobs. No encore, right? Just Shake it Off last, boom after the ballads.

If they paid that guy for fixing their rat problem, he wouldn’t just take their kids. The townsfolk are the jerks in the story.

The clowns show halfway through Welcome to New York. Culver City’s still infested. They look hungry. The crowd grows for three songs, but I gotta do them all if I want it big.

The show’s going great until a clown climbs the building. They’re all around it, so I blink out through Omaha to catch another peek of when I met me. I don’t take any clowns, ‘cause you need a crowd to draw a crowd.

Outside their circle, I strum hard until they notice and chase me. The mob’s already big, and they fill the street, mostly Nosferatu-looking guys in clown suits with wigs and props that cut you. At least one has an ogre face, and a couple look like normal guys in makeup. All of them are laughing and it sounds like any angry mob. Their stink is human, but they’re not.

Of course maybe the townsfolk stiffed the guy ‘cause they never wanted kids. Most old stories are obvious lies about bad stuff people did.

I run through Culver City picking up stragglers. The crowd gets scary big, so back to the roof. They circle again, and the front row starts climbing, and there’s probably more out there, but now is safest.

I blink us to South Carolina woods. When I blink back, there’s no one laughing. It’s fine to leave them in the woods, ‘cause that’s a fake world anyway. I plug in and play the ballads. No clowns show, and I quit before Shake It Off.

The real story’s probably worse than that, and the Pied Piper took their kids ‘cause that’s what they paid him to do.

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