Sam was freaking out. At some point while Little Red Riding Hood and Big Bad Wolf were leading her through the forest to find the Blue Nasties and the Lonely Hearts, the Moon had transformed into the Sun and the surface of the Earth had enveloped it. This had created a sort of inside out world where Sam could see Eurasia in the sky. Hundreds of ghost animals had flown out of the ground and were now chasing each other merrily about the trees.
At least the weather’s improved.
‘You okay, chief?’ said Big Bad Wolf. ‘You look a little…out of it.’
Sam giggled. She actually felt euphoric. ‘I’m great, how are you?’
The big man in the wolf skin costume rubbed his arm. ‘Um…I’m good, chief.’
Sam turned to the little woman wearing the red hooded robe and the faceless white mask. ‘Are you okay?’
Little Red Riding Hood nodded. Sam got the impression that she was either mute or looking down on her.
‘Then we’re all okay!’ She raised her arms and did a Mexican wave all by herself. ‘Woah! Hey, did I ever tell you guys that I always wanted to be a salsa dancer? My dad wouldn’t let me, though, because I had to help him protect the family from drug cartels. Rest in peace, dad.’
Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood glanced at each other.
Sam quickly raised her chainsaw sword at them. ‘Ah! Don’t even think about it! I may be feeling weird for some reason, but I’m still veeery dangerous! How are we doing finding my friends, huh?’
Little Red Riding Hood gestured some sign language to Big Bad Wolf. It turned out the pair of them were actually very good trackers. Little Red Riding Hood came across as a hunter by trade, and Big Bad Wolf had a keenest senses Sam had ever seen outside of a Hispanic woman who thought her husband was cheating on her.
‘Tracks lead to the east apparently.’ Wolf sniffed. ‘I smell blood.’
They ran to a ledge overlooking a clearing where World War III was taking place.
The Blue Nasties and the Lonely Hearts were defending the roof of a cabin while the Patriots and a hundred different little slasher gangs Sam decided to call the Weekend Warriors attacked them. Dozens of news network helicopters were flying around like flies about a corpse.
Both the Blue Nasties and the Lonely Hearts had entered the Zone.
Jack was burning, Puck’s skin had turned to ice, and Mezu was moving in tandem with waves of water.
Meanwhile, the Plague Doctor and Nurse Lovejoy were exuding poison gas and bloody mist, Mantis and Jellyfish had giant praying mantis and jellyfish spirit animals behind them mimicking their movements, and the Aztec and the Hawaiian were being orbited by swarms of miniature suns and sharks respectively.
Below them, Mammoth and the motorbike-mounted Biker were now sporting cool skeletal and mechanical armour.
Jack looked like he was struggling to direct everyone, Puck was getting swatted back by Mammoth’s giant spear despite having the high ground, and Mezu was barely fending off Biker’s leaping chainsaw wheel attacks.
‘Oh, boy.’ Sam scratched her head. ‘How am I going to deal with this mess?’
If she had guns like last time, she could just shoot all the bad guys. Now, though, her arsenal consisted of her chain hatchets, her chainsaw sword, and her addled wits.
A giant feathered snake rose up from the ground and coiled around her. ‘YOU ARE NOT THE BRAIN OF YOUR WARRIOR BAND, ANCESTOR! YOU ARE THE HEART! YOU MUST CONTACT THE BRAIN THROUGH YOUR OWN MIND!’
‘Wait,’ said Sam. ‘Who the heck are you?’
The giant feathered snake hissed at her and flew into the Sun.
Sam shrugged, focused on the Blue Nasties, and thought at them. Hello?!
Jack’s voice answered back. Sam?! Is that you! Where are you?!
Sam rolled her eyes. Her telepathy must have sucked. Mezu was the brain of the Blue Nasties; Jack was the butt. Whatever.
I’m on the ledge overlooking the clearing! I’m communicating with you telepathically! I see you’ve all entered the Zone! That’s cool! This inside out world is crazy, huh?! Listen, can you ask Mezu what I can do to rescue you guys?!’
No can do! He’s getting his clock cleaned by Biker right now! Wait, did you say inside out world?! Listen, Sam, the Zone is different for all of us! You can’t trust what you see besides the forest! Damn, I don’t know what to do! I tried to split us all up so we could enter the Zone—and it did work—but the Patriots just reassembled and rounded us up like sheepdogs rounding up sheep! They use the forest just like the Vietnamese used the rainforest during the Veitnam War! Then there’s all the B-list and C-list slashers causing chaos on top of that!’
Well, thought Sam as she looked at her grubby nails, how did we win the Vietnam War?
We didn’t, Sam! Wait, are you drunk right now?!
Sam giggled. Maaaybe! I think my Zone works like a kind of intoxicating spirit world!
Oh, that’s all we need! Damn it! We lost the Vietnam War, Sam! We won every battle, but we lost the war!
Oh? How did we win every battle then?
By bombing everything that moved!
So, let’s just do that!
We don’t have any bombs, Sam! In case you haven’t noticed, the Blue Nasties-Lonely Hearts alliance isn’t exactly NATO…! Wait! I have an idea! I’ve thought of a way you can rescue us, Sam, but you have to do exactly as I say!
Okay! Sam cracked her knuckles like Colonel Ripper. So long as I can salsa dance while doing it!