“She got a what?” Brad asked. The teenager’s eyes were wide as saucers.
“SShhhh,” his mother, Eileen, said with a glance over her shoulder. Her mother was coming in behind her. “Don’t be weird about it, it’s her decision,” Eileen whispered.
“She’s 90! Isn’t it dangerous?” Brad’s mother nodded in agreement, but she shrugged.
“So is being 90,” she replied. “It’s done already, and everything’s fine.”
“Everything is great!” Brad’s grandmother said as she walked into the kitchen behind Eileen with a big smile. The blue-haired, short woman headed straight for Brad. He sat at the breakfast bar with a half-eaten sandwich, but he stood up to give his grandmother a hug.
“Wanna see it?” she asked Brad with a grin after their greeting.
“Yeah,” he smiled. She rolled up the sleeve of her t-shirt to show Brad a fresh, plastic-covered tattoo. “Holy shit, grandma Lace! A skull!??”
“BRAD!” Eileen reprimanded his language, but his grandmother dismissed her with a wave, then turned her attention back to Brad.
“It makes me feel tough,” she giggled to her grandson. The tattoo was a small pink skull on her upper arm no bigger than a half-dollar, with the number 42 on its forehead.
“Why 42?” he asked her.
“It’s always been my favorite number,” she smiled.
“Oh. Careful mom,” Eileen placed a hand on the elderly woman’s shoulder and pointed down. “Brad, squish that please,” she said and pointed at the floor. A quarter-sized brown spider crawled across the floor, minding its own business.
“I’ll get it,” Lace said. Before Brad could react, the frail woman lifted a leg and stomped on the spider with all her might. Instead of the flat, quiet stomp they all expected, the white tiles of the kitchen floor shattered under her foot. Giant cracks spidered out from the impact in all directions and the Earth quaked.
The cracks widened into chasms so fast, the only thing they could do was rush out of the house in a panic. The trio managed to get outside; but, the Earth continued to tremble while their house fell into the growing canyon piece by piece.
Screaming neighbors ran out of their homes as the split continued to widen. It swallowed house after house while the ground rumbled. Then, everything stopped. The rumbles quieted, and even Brad and Eileen seemed frozen still.
“Congratulations, you broke your Earth,” a woman said. Lace turned toward the voice and came face to face with a black cat. It sat on its haunches atop a car.
“I’m sorry? What?” Lace asked the cat. Despite hearing a voice, she did not see anyone else around.
“You broke your Earth in two, it’s falling apart,” the cat replied. “I’m here to rescue you.” The cat’s tail swished, and a black portal opened in the air beside Lace.
“It stopped rumbling though,” Lace said. The cat’s head moved left and right as if attempting to shake her head.
“It’s already destroyed, I just stopped time to get you out of here.”
“You can control time? Can you rewind it?” Lace asked with a hopeful voice. Again, the cat’s head swiveled left and right.
“I can rewind time. But, I can’t fix this because you caused it.”
“Why not? What’s special about me?” The cat narrowed her eyes at Lace.
“I’m not a Mundo, and I don’t like explaining things. If you want to live, leave through the portal. If not, I’ll be happy to leave without you.”
“Leave to where? What about my family?” The cat sighed audibly.
“Where? Safety. Bring them along if you want, but make it fast.” Lace turned to look at Eileen and Brad. They were both mid-stride with frightened looks on their faces.
“Can you unfreeze them too?”
“No, because they’re going to start asking questions too. Just carry them.”
“Carry them?” Lace laughed. “Do I look like a bodybuilder?”
“You look like you broke the Earth with a single step. Putting a 100 pounds on each shoulder should be easy for you. I’m leaving in 20 seconds with or without you.”
The time limit gave Lace the encouragement she needed to move quickly. She attempted to pick up Eileen first, and found it to be as easy as tossing a windbreaker over her shoulder. Then, she grabbed Brad with one hand and hefted him onto her other shoulder.
“Ready,” she said.