“You’re wasting your time!” Helen puffs as she jogs to keep abreast of Martina. “No matter what you try, you will fail.”
“Cheers for your optimism,” replies Martina, striding towards the main entrance of the marquee.
“Think about it: if you were to succeed, you wouldn’t have experienced getting slimed in the first place. You’re up against the immutability of reality, Martina!”
“I thought you said rules were there to be brok…” Martina’s throat turns hoarse as she enters the marquee and stares ahead of her. There on the stage, above the sea of heads at a distance of thirty yards, next to a smirking Brad Fox, stands Martina Slade.
Of course, Martina has seen plenty of photos and videos of herself. She’s spent hours reviewing her routines in widescreen. But such media pale as imitations compared to the view that now greets her. Even at this distance, the honeyed radiance of her hair, the firm splendor of her figure, the feigned effortlessness of her gleaming smile takes Martina’s breath away.
I look damn good, she thinks, if I do say so myself.
More students enter the marquee, bustling Martina and Helen into the crowd. Martina drapes her hair well forward against her face; it would be more than a little awkward if she were spotted by someone. Up on the stage, Brad taunts her other self. Behind the pair, the bucket and paddling pool lie waiting. Principal Friedmann paces back and forth, a malevolent glint in his beady eye. Martina resolves that she simply must stop her exquisite beauty being wrecked.
She takes the wad of eighty dollars from her pocket and thrusts it into Helen’s hand. “Right, here’s the cash. Boxes are at the front, beneath the stage.”
“You want me to do it?!” Helen protests, uncomfortable enough just coping with the crowds.
“Well I can’t go up there, can I? I’m already on the stage!”
“Four twenty-nine!” Friedmann rasps over the PA. “One minute left; get that cash in!”
“Go! Go!” Martina jabs her hand into Helen’s back. Sighing, the short girl fights her way forward and disappears into the surging throng. Martina crosses her fingers as she observes herself smiling down towards the cash boxes. Soon after, her friend returns.
“You did it?” asks Martina. “You put the money in?”
Helen nods wearily. “Yep, into the box with your name on it. I was very careful to check that.”
Martina smiles smugly. “Piece of cake. So much for Einstein and his—whaddya mean, MY name!?”
“Cos that’s how it works, right? The person who raises the most money for charity avoids getting slimed.”
“No Helen!!” hisses Martina, struggling to keep her voice down as her stomach jolts. “The person with the most money gets slimed!”
“Oh,” says Helen. “Oops.”
“Christ! We’re gonna need more cas—”
“Four thirty!” Friedmann’s voice booms around the marquee. “Time’s up!”
Martina puts her hands to her temples. “No no no no…”
“Ladies and Gentleman, gather round and ready your cameras for the 2016 Shireboro sliming! It’s Bradley Fox versus Martina Slade – two very deserving targets, but who will get the slime?” The principal grins as he looks the boy and girl over. “I can tell you one thing: Martina sure doesn’t want it! When I saw her earlier, she tried to trick me into thinking the slime vote had already happened, in the hope I wouldn’t turn up!”
The crowd laughs while Martina flushes.
“As if I’d not remember such a grand occasion. Sorry Miss Slade, but there’s no escaping the judgment of your peers. Now, let’s count that cash!”
Martina glares at Helen. “What’s wrong with you? You understand bendy time but you don’t know how the Shireboro slime vote works?!”
“I never go to the slime vote,” shrugs Helen. “Not my thing.”
“Mrs Thorne,” Friedmann enquires. “How much sayeth young Bradley gets slimed?”
“Six hundred and sixteen dollars and sixty-two cents,” says Mrs Thorne.
Brad curls up his lip as the crowd cheers.
“And Mr Mallett, how much sayeth the lovely Martina gets the slime?”
Martina facepalms as she awaits the announcement.
“Six hundred and seventy…” The end of Mallett’s announcement is lost in the resounding cheer. Martina winces as she watches herself react to the news. The cheerleader’s face sinks into a groan, and with it her entire body goes simultaneously limp with despair and taut with apprehension.
“Martina, Martina, it’s time to get greener!” Friedmann quips, while Brad hoots and high-fives his teammates. “Please take your seat, young lady!”
“But wait,” frowns Martina. “Six seventy – it’s the same amount as last time. How can that be?”
“How can it not be?” counters Helen. “Events have to be self-consistent.” The boffin’s dainty mouth rises into a savvy smirk. “Interesting thing is, without that eighty bucks, you’d have only got five hundred and ninety odd. Which means…”
“…I would have avoided it!” groans Martina. “Helen, you have caused me to get slimed!”
“Don’t blame me!” says Helen with supreme smugness. “It was you who wanted to interfere with the course of history. Well congrats Martina, you succeeded in influencing it – just not how you intended!”
“I’ve had enough of your smart alecry,” Martina mutters, turning her attention back to the stage. “Oh my god! I knew it!”
“The whole school can see my panties!”
Up on the stage, Martina’s former self squats miserably on the kiddie stool in the middle of the paddling pool, while Brad gleefully picks up the gigantic slime bucket.
“Don’t pout like that, Martina!” chortles Friedmann. “It’s for charity! Bradley, I know you’ll take no pleasure in pouring slime all over this pretty cheerleader, but if you would please do the honors.”
Brad larks about with the slime bucket, milking his good fortune for all it’s worth. Soon a chant of “SLIME!! SLIME!! SLIME!!” fills the marquee. The infuriating jock makes a mock bow as he presents his victim with the contents of the bucket. Half of Martina can’t bear to watch, wanting to run screaming from the marquee. But the other half compels her to stay – perhaps out of solidarity with her former self, perhaps to convince herself the sliming isn’t as bad as it felt. Whatever the reason, Martina stands rooted to the spot as the pour begins.
The lurid slop hits the crown of Martina’s head and spreads outwards in all directions, a thick, shiny carpet of green consuming all in its path. It flows down the sides of Martina’s hair, destroying the silky bounce and flattening her elegant waves. The cheerleader’s mouth expands in an “O” as the first lumps splatter onto her smart uniform and sensitive abdomen. She cowers forward but Brad shows no mercy; there’s a manic grin on his face as he lavishes the slop all over her thighs. Then he flashes a knowing smirk to the audience and aims the bucket in a low swing.
Standing helpless amid the crowd, Martina’s knees go weak as she sees the slime sloosh into her former self’s crotch, reliving the sensation of that horrid gunk around her private areas. It’s painful to witness her own spasming reaction, even more so in contrast to Brad’s perverted glee. She burns with fury as the brute returns his attention to the upper half. The poor cheerleader squirms as the slime surges over her head. It looks even worse than it felt; the sloppy goo goes everywhere, turning that exquisite beauty into a gunky green blob. It’s utter ruination, and the crowd love it.
Brad stands smiling as he inspects the bottom of the bucket. Don’t let him get your face, Martina wants to shout, but of course the other Martina falls for his trap. Brad launches the remnants of slime, turning those killer cheekbones into a sticky green mask.
“Oh my word, what a sliming!” Friedmann enthuses, his flabby features wobbling grotesquely. “Martina, green really suits you! You should do your next performance wearing it!”
There’s nothing left for Martina to do but observe herself get shakily to her feet and slouch dejected towards the side entrance of the marquee.
“Oh dear, I don’t think she’s too happy!” chuckles Friedmann. “You’ve been a good sport, Martina; give her a round of applause, everyone!”
Applause duly erupts. Martina glances sideways to see Helen – her best friend – clapping along with the rest. The girl’s chestnut eyes twinkle with amusement. It’s the final straw.
“You did that on purpose!” snarls Martina. “You couldn’t bear to be proven wrong, so you deliberately put the cash in the wrong box!”
“Martina, it was an honest mistake. I swear it on my life.” Helen tries to repress a giggle. “But I have to agree with Friedmann – you do look great in green!”
“WHY YOU!!” Martina lunges. Squeaking, the impish girl hops aside and Martina barges into a gargantuan male chest. She finds herself face to face with Bryan “Bludgeon” Bates, linebacker on the football team.
“Hey!” the great hulk grunts. “Watch what you…” He stops and stares, his jaw hanging lower than it usually does. Not the smartest cookie, even among his fellow footballers, the cogs clank in Bryan’s brian as he processes the incongruent sight before him.
“Close your mouth, bozo, or the fairies’ll steal your teeth,” Martina snaps.
The cogs lock into place. “Martina’s here!” Bryan shouts. “Hey everyone! Martina’s right here!”
Martina gulps as heads turn towards her one by one. Murmurs of intrigue ripple around the marquee. She eyes the exit, but there are too many people blocking her escape. And now Friedmann’s spotted her.
“Martina? Is that you down there? Come up here at once!”
Martina duly complies, partly of her own volition, mostly propelled by the baying crowd. Friedmann fixes her with a steely glare, lips pursing under his dripping mustache, as she approaches the stage. Brad goes to the side entrance, just in time to see the green-coated figure enter the gym block. His eyes flit back to Martina, then out across the field again, then back to Martina. He scratches his head in utter bewilderment.
“Fear not, Bradley, I think I understand what’s gone on here,” says Friedmann grimly.
Martina somehow doubts that, as she climbs onto the stage.
“So Martina, you didn’t change into your cheerleader outfit like I instructed you.” Friedmann sternly looks her up and down. “But of course you never intended to, because you hired a double to take the sliming for you. Am I right?”
“Some double!” Brad chips in. “Could’ve sworn that was Martina. You got a twin or something?”
Martina’s face lights up. “Uh, yes, that’s exactly it. In fact, I am Martina’s twin. My name’s, er, Melanie. Hi everyone, nice to meet you!”
“Nonsense!” barks Friedmann. “I know your family. I’ve played golf with Jeff Slade for years. You ain’t got no twin.”
“I’m estranged!” says Martina desperately.
“There’s a sure way to tell who she is,” announces Brad with a grin. “Martina has a scar on her left asscheek!”
Martina is incensed. “How do you know that!?”
Brad advances with sweaty palms outstretched. “Do you wanna pull ’em down, or shall I?” he asks, to a lustful cheer.
“Ok, ok, alright!” Martina holds up her hands. “I’m the real Martina.”
“Well, I’m glad we got to the bottom of that,” sniggers the principal. “Martina, you are busted! Good thing we have plenty of spare slime to hand.”
“Spare slime? You can’t mean…” Martina’s blood runs cold as the spectators respond approvingly. “No! No way!”
“Yes way! The people voted to slime you, not some paid double.” Friedmann jabs a sweat-soaked finger at the slime-covered kiddie stool. “Sit, Miss Slade. Now!”
“But this isn’t fair!” Martina wails. “I’ve already been slimed! That was me! I’m very quick in the shower, that’s all.”
“There’s being quick and then there’s being in two places at once!” argues Brad.
“Y-yes, well… You see, I am in two places at once,” ventures Martina. Desperate times require desperate revelations. “You see I… er, well, I traveled back in time.” Her voice trails to a near whisper.
“What’s that? You say you traveled back in time?!” the principal guffaws. “In my thirty-seven years as an educator, I’ve heard some creative excuses, but this really takes the cake!”
“It’s true!” cries Martina. “I went over an Einstein-whatsit bridge! Down a rabbit hole!”
Everyone howls with laughter. “And Elvis picked you up in his UFO!” Friedmann blinks away tears of mirth. “Sorry Martina, but playing the mad card won’t get you off the hook either.”
“Ask Helen!” Martina points. “She went back in time too. It’s all part of her project!”
“Ah yes, Miss Wells – I’d almost forgotten,” smiles Friedmann. “The pair of you looked very shifty when I saw you earlier. Up you come, Helen, let’s hear from you!”
Heads turn and the crowd parts to let Helen through. She glowers at Martina as she climbs onto the stage.
“Now Helen, is it true what your friend says?” asks Friedmann. “Did you and Martina do a little, ahem, time traveling?”
The bookish girl squirms on the spot, blushing under attention she is little accustomed to. She knows what the easy answer would be, but unfortunately for her, it’s not in her nature to lie.
“Yes,” she mutters.
“Aww, cute. I admire your loyalty.” Friedmann regards Helen with mock sympathy. “Seeing as you’re so loyal, you can join your pal in the slime pool!”
Helen’s eyes boggle behind her glasses. The crowd erupts into another chorus of “SLIME!! SLIME!! SLIME!!” An extra stool is brought in, along with two fresh buckets of slime. Desolate, Martina perches on the stool for the second time, feeling the wetness soak through to her butt. She can’t believe this is happening to her – not again! Helen squats next to her.
“Bradley, it’s your lucky day!” grins Friedmann, as the pair stand behind the pool with buckets raised.
“SLIME!! SLIME!! SLIME!! YYYAAAAAYYYYY!!!!!” The two men upend their buckets – Brad once more over Martina, Friedmann over Helen – releasing all the slime in one swift dump. Martina screams as green envelops her, surging through her hair and over her face, glooping in great rivers over her front, back and legs. Once again, applesauce and oatmeal fills her nostrils. Her sweats offer no more protection than her cheerleader uniform, instantly saturating and admitting the wet goo against her skin. The slime fills her ears, drips from her cheeks and brow, and sits on her head like a great sticky mat. It oozes down her back and sloshes around her bra. The sheer weight in her lap clings heavily against her panties.
At Martina’s side, Helen has got it just as bad, her black t-shirt turned totally green. Wet and shiny, the baggy garment clings to Helen’s torso, giving the school a rare impression of the geeky girl’s pert and petite curves. Her frizzy hair is soaked full of slime, hanging askew like a bright green sponge. Her facial features are coated, and her glasses too.
Helen squeals, but not in shock or disgust. She actually seems to be laughing. Looking closer, Martina makes out a grin under the goo.
“You can’t seriously be enjoying this?” Martina whispers.
“I never realized slime was so much fun!” giggles Helen, her shyness evaporated. “Oh come on Martina – lighten up!” She reaches over and rubs a handful of slime into Martina’s face.
“Grrreeeuughh!! Get off me!” snarls Martina, shoving her attacker away. Helen totters off her stool, landing on her side in the pool. Continuing to laugh, she gets up and yanks a mortified Martina of her own stool. The pair roll about, struggling in the slime. The crowd go berserk. Brad has to pinch himself at the slime-wrestling match unfolding in front of him. He tries to hide the growing bulge in his shorts.
“Get off! Get off! You’re crazy!” Martina breaks free from Helen’s grip. The two girls kneel panting in the goo, completely green. Helen retrieves her glasses, which have come off, and puts them in her pocket.
“Well well well, what a year this has been for the slime vote!” Friedmann steps over. In each hand he carries a foil tin, heaped high with whipped cream. “And we’re not done yet. There’s an extra forfeit for trying to cheat!”
“May I make a request?” asks Helen sweetly. She reaches up and takes one of the pies from Friedmann. “I think I should get to pie Martina. This situation is all her fault!”
“Oh you think so, do you?!” Martina snatches the other pie. “Well I think otherwise.”
“Who am I to argue?” shrugs the principal. “On the count of three: ONE! TWO! THREE! PIE!!”
Martina thrusts forward her creamy weapon, watching it explode in Helen’s face split-seconds before her own vision – not for the first time – turns white.
With everything done, the sticky, slimy girls leave the marquee to raucous applause. Outside, rain falls heavily, mixing with the slime and cream. Lightning flashes in the darkening sky.
“Well that was a monumental screw-up,” Martina grumbles as they squelch across the field. “Two slimings, a pie in the face, untold ridicule… and I paid eighty bucks for the privilege.”
“Worth every cent,” chuckles Helen. “I just wish I’d gone to the slime vote in previous years.”
“Perhaps you still can, if you make another Einstein-whatsit bridge,” suggests Martina.
“Ah, that remains to be seen,” says Helen. “It might be that the lightning strike brought about a unique set of conditions that will be impossible to recreate. I guess it all depends on the voltage sensitivity of the synchrotron radiation…”
Martina isn’t listening. She’s spotted a gray-clad figure walking away from the ATM, speaking on her phone in an animated fashion. As she watches, the figure hangs up and heads towards the science block, quickening her pace in the intensifying downpour.
“Hey, that’s me!” Martina exclaims. “I just thought of something. If I can stop myself visiting your lab, then I won’t go back in time. Then none of this will happen, and I’ll escape the slime after all!” She breaks into a run. “Martina! Martina!”
“Have you learned nothing?” sighs Helen, giving pursuit.
The figure doesn’t respond, continuing her jog towards the science block door. “MARTINA!!” Martina roars, feeling her legs lose traction. The rain has turned the baked earth into a thin slick of mud, which together with the slime, causes Martina’s feet to slip from under her. She lands on her backside in the damp soil.
“Waaagghhh!!” Helen, likewise slipping, pitches over Martina’s shoulders and splashes on her front in the dirt.
At the doorway of the science block, Martina’s former self turns her head, squinting impatiently across the field. “MARTINA!” screams Martina. “DON’T GO IN THERE!” But her shout is buried by a clap of thunder. Martina tries to get to her feet, but Helen grabs onto her.
“Forget it!” Helen urges. “You can’t change history!”
Martina tumbles over. “Just because you want to get slimed, you weirdo!” The pair again grapple, this time in the mud. By the time Martina has shaken off Helen, the science block door is shut.
“There’s still time!” pants Martina. “We can go up to the lab and tell both of us to get out!”
Helen puts a hand on her friend’s saturated shoulder. “Let it go,” she says softly. “If we enter that building we might get killed.”
“It’s going to be struck by lightning,” smiles Helen. “Now Martina, didn’t you mention a movie night at your place?”
The pair trudge on to Martina’s car. On the passenger seat sits a small cloth bag. “Ah, my toiletries! So that’s where I left them.” Martina tosses a bottle of shampoo to Helen. The two girls strip to their undies and lather up in the moonsoonesque downpour. As they rinse off, a fork of lightning descends, blasting the upper corner of the science block and precipitating a shower of sparks and masonry. The window briefly blazes with a vivid violet glow.
“And there we go!” announces Helen. “I’ll come back tomorrow and check on the equipment. I’m too tired now. It really has been one of those days.”
“Don’t you mean two of those days?” says Martina with a wry smile. The friends laugh as they get into the car.