Where do all your socks go to? Why is there a tiny violin in the laundromat? Do demons get a Ph. D in high-energy physics? We also get a look at one of the minions of a third general, besides the tentacled ball, and the fire elemental.
Socks and Violins
by Kent Lee


"There's something funny going on at the laundromat." My aunt furrowed her eyebrows. "Socks are going missing."

"Socks are always going missing. Why would this be of interest? It's normal." Sometimes, I don't think my aunt lives in the 21st century. Socks in the laundromat always have at least one pair divided. This is how I wound up doing the laundry.

"As long as you're staking out the laundromat, you can do the family's laundry." Presto allegro! I was doing the laundry on a Saturday night. I sure hoped Samantha and Oliver were having fun clubhopping.

******

"I want to see the Violin Concerto."

"No, Green Day."

"Violin Concerto!"

"Green Day!"

"VIOLIN CONCERTO"

"GREEN DAY"

******

I wash the laundry, scan with astral vision, wonder why I don't just assign a lackey to whom I give astral vision to, take out the laundry, notice a burst of astral energy, notice that half of a pair of socks are missing-

Wait a minute. How can there be a flare of astral energy in a laundromat? It's a washing machine!

I poke around inside. I can't find the socks. I look at my cart. Some of my socks are missing the other half. Since every sock was paired, the astral energy must have something to do with this. Maybe I've solved why half of the socks go missing. I poke around inside the machine. I can't find a thing. I open the astral sight, and voila! I see something extremely tiny. It looks like a tiny violin. I don't have an idea why anyone would want a violin in miniature.

I wave a paired sock in front of the object. It doesn't do anything. I wave a towel. I scan it with astral vision. It does absolutely nothing. I wonder if I'm going nuts, thinking a tiny violin has anything to do with astral energy, and losing socks.

I put in a quarter at the local payphone. The payphone swallows my quarter, and refuses to give it back. I pound on the errant mechanical device.

"Please don't do that." the Chinese woman in front of the laundromat says to me. "It's broken, and the phone repair guy will be coming on Thursday. Here's your receipt of the quarter."

I just look. Okay, so my astral vision is alerting anyone who sees at the right time, that I'm in the area. Still it's just quick bursts, and no one in the laundromat has any supernatural influences, except maybe the machines. I think about the incongruity of this for a moment.

If supernaturals run on belief, and a high-powered wizard can cause mechanical malfunctions by their mere presence, how can a supernatural embed tiny violins inside a laundromat washing machine? Wouldn't it simply croak and die? But didn't the phone just do that?

******

"Miss, can you tell me how often the laundromat breaks down?" I ask the Chinese woman who's at the counter.

"Sure. The laundromat breaks down every week, but I have a brother who's an engineer, so he fixes it with new parts from Radio Shack every week," the woman answers. I thank her, and think, well, that answers my question. The violin must be a matter transportation device of some kind. I look at it. The violin just sits there. I get an idea.

I push in the quarters, keeping the violin where I found it. I then close the door. The Chinese woman then notices what I look like, and looks horrified. I clutch a bundle of socks., and the tumbling starts. For this particular reason, I've shifted into a rat. Actual shapeshifting is not easy, and not useful unless you have a lot of skill at it. It's more fore fright value than anything else. I'm also nestled inside a sock. I position my sock right on top of the violin, so when the burst of flare energy comes, I travel with the sock.

******

I come out of the sock in a laboratory. I scamper out of sight, with the instinctive urge of all rats. I also trip on my tail, and end up with my snout mashed into a table leg. The entire setup has the feel of a mad scientist, what with colored lights, weird sounds, and what looks like a slab of mortar with metal restraints. I was kind of expecting the mad scientist to be a little human looking. I was not expecting bat wings, horns, and cloven feet. It also wore glasses, and white lab coat with holes for the wings.

What was he doing stealing socks?

******

"Hmm. Well, let us bombard the socks with high-energy particles, and we will see if we cannot refine matter into a form more palatable for us. It's hard work stealing food from humans." The bat-winged creature shook its head.

"Haven't told Balsera yet, and besides, us research demons are entitled to our pet projects. One reason Balsera allows us so much free rein," the scientific demon muttered to itself.

Something whirled within my brain. If it's a demon, then how come the machines giving out death rattles? If it's not a demon, why does it give off a purple radiance to my astral sight? If it is a demon, how come it doesn't sight my radiance? If it's not a demon, how does he have natural growing bat wings, horns, and cloven feet?

******

"Hmm," Mvrs sighed. He was one of the pioneers, as the demon of technology. He had been using computers to increase frustration when they were first invented, when his peers were still playing with sending to Hell, one or two people. His was sheer genius, when he first crossed all the telephone wires in Bayside for forty-five minutes. Unfortunately, those Downstairs hadn't understood the concept quite right. They thought he had simply walked on the wires. They were pleased with the end result, which was a constant low-grade hum of irritation, which amounted to more negative energy than one saint not becoming a saint.

Another part was where he had involved himself with Microsoft. He hadn't actually done anything, he was simply there to learn what to do, and what not to do. He thought it had been a beautiful job. There were rumors of a higher influence in the setup, but it was beautiful from any vantage he saw. On one side, a multinational corporation was being accused of antitrust influences. On the other hand, were the millions of copies of free software being distributed. Either way, his side won, whether a multinational corporation's reverberations on the economy would tip the stock market way down, or the free software would continue to be distributed, thereby choking out competitors.

******

I have no idea what the red-skinned creature is doing. It's singing "oh, the esophagus is connected to the medulla oblongata, and the medulla oblongata is connected to-" It then stops, sniffs, looks, and tilts his head. I'm currently hiding behind a table leg in rat form. It's not even as if he's working on a life form construction.

"Odd," it says. "Usually, supernaturals pass by now."

******

Mvrs looked around. Unusually, the golden radiance was staying stationary. Perhaps it saw through the shields that rendered the place invisible to such creatures? The tiny violins that he used as transponders were the same, so they couldn't have gotten it.

******

Why would a demon steal socks? Don't they make deals instead? Never make a deal with a devil. If you have a penny in your pocket, they'll leave you naked, and thinking you swindled them. This part was instructed by my aunt. There are certain parts of the world where the supernaturals like to play riddles, such as the Sphinx of Egypt, the ghosts in Ireland, and other such creatures. There really are such demonic creatures, but all are fed by belief. Well, now I was hidden snout to open fangs with one.

******

"Well, there's always a fast way to check the place out," the mad scientist-demon said, bustling. I braced for a hellfire cleansing that turned every thing to ash. I was not prepared for what he did. A cat with two heads came in, and sniffed the air.

"Mouse," one said.

"Definitely," the other agreed.

"Hunt it down!" the mad scientist-demon ordered. So I was forced out of my hiding place, and I resumed a form threatening to cats. I became a dog.

"Well, well, a shapeshifter. Must be one with the songs of transformation," the mad scientist--demon said pleasantly. I shifted into Scott Summers, reporter with the World Examiner identity.

"Guards!" I was immediately facing an array of twelve black things with no faces. It was a little sickening. There was also the fact that in any direction I faced there were two or three of them.

"I'm sure that the fact that I'm in here without anybody's knowledge is a factor against me. But I'm actually a well-intentioned soul who wanted to hear about our learned professor's famous experiment in the World Examiner. You'll get lots of publicity for those who know the truth, and ignored by those who dismiss it as a rag for trash." I have no idea if I'm good at fast-talking or not.

"Ah! You are the Scott Summers that the RANDS organization was seeking. You cause way too much trouble." The demon had a grasp of matters that I didn't know he had. I also didn't know an organization named RANDS was seeking me.

"Umm...look behind you!" I pointed to somewhere over the mad scientist's shoulder.

"Do you really expect me to fall for that old-" My telekinetic pointing slammed a chair into his head. The demon staggered. So I hit him again. He staggered again. These demons were tough! I hit him again, and this time he stayed down. I forgot all about the black servitors. I got swarmed under by black shadowy things. I used the power of flame vision, filling the entire area with light, flame, heat, and I accidentally set off the high-yield particle beam by crashing on the start button. I looked in on the vault. It was filled with socks. I dumped the socks telekinetically into a basket that the violin transported the socks too. I held the thing, and it was extremely heavy, so I aided it with a bit of telekinesis. Then I ran out of there, and the metal box started sparking, catching on fire, and all the intense preludes before an explosion.

I got out of there, to what I hoped was a safe distance, and watched the entire laboratory in the middle of a desert go up in flames. How am I going to get home? Who is Balsera? What is RANDS? Most importantly, what am I going to do with a heavy basketful of socks?
 

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