After dessert, a strawberry triple chocolate trifle that thoroughly cured Stacy of whatever ill feelings towards Ethan’s parents she may have borne, the pair left for Ethan’s room. Ethan had a powerful computer great for video processing, but he also had a mother with a laissez faire parenting strategy. Stacy didn’t want her parents barging in when they were trying to find evidence of zombie intelligence on her wildlife camera. Their idea of privacy was to knock and wait for all of half a second before opening the door.
“They like you,” said Ethan as Stacy plugged her wildlife camera into an iridescent LED-lit USB port. “Mom says you remind her of herself when she was your age.”
Stacy imagined herself sitting in an easy chair drinking from a crystal cup. “What does that mean?”
“I dunno.” Ethan shrugged.
“This will take some time to load. We can go over what we already know while we wait.”
“What?” The clips arrayed themselves in neat rows across Ethan’s screen and a smug look arranged itself across his face.
“Trigeminal multicontextualized intersectionalism”
Stacy punched Ethan hard in the arm. “Don’t make stuff up.”
“Ow, Stacy, geez!”
“Man up, Ethan, I didn’t punch you that hard. Do we just have to watch until we see some zombies show up? I bet we could watch at double speed on this machine.”
“We can do better than that,” said Ethan. “I have a dedicated Gravimetric Prosopography Unit.”
Ethan got a hand in the way and softened Stacy’s next blow. She giggled. “I don’t want to hear about your pornography unit, creep.”
Ethan grinned. “Don’t you? Anyway, detecting zombies in a video is easy. With my Graphic Pornography unit and some open source software I can pull out the videos with zombies in a matter of minutes.”
“Will it work if the zombies aren’t sexy?”
“It wouldn’t be very good if it didn’t, unless your sexual preferences skew much greener than I gave you credit for.”
“Why my preferences? This is your computer!”
“My computer’s sexuality is no business of yours.” Ethan stated matter-of-factly. He highlighted the videos and placed them on a folder on his desktop, then dragged the folder to a program marked Zom-B-Gone.exe.
“Anyway, while we wait for that,” Ethan started, leaning close, “you were talking about our last visit to that mountain?”
Stacy pushed Ethan aside and started scrolling through the videos. Ethan gritted his teeth. “We could wait until it’s done. It’ll take five minutes, tops.” Stacy ignored him. She pushed buttons on the video tool, looking through thumbnails, inspecting metadata.
She punched a button that looked like a film roll and the list of discrete videos became a timeline. She scrolled through. “Looks like they had a ball on Saturday.”
“Uh-huh,” Ethan mumbled. “Or maybe a herd of deer wandered by. The detection program -“
“What’s this?” Stacy asked. “Why does the timeline start before the first video?”
“Well, we probably didn’t pick up any motion right away.”
“Ethan, this start time is from an hour after we turned it on. It’s not the beginning of the device’s runtime. It’s just empty space.”
Ethan was annoyed that Stacy was undercutting his cool program and distracting from their make out time with nonsense. “Maybe it just has a built-in buffer.”
Stacy scrolled right to the end, where a squirrel runs across the ground. “Nope.”
“So what?” Ethan pressed.
“What if there was a video there at the start time?”
Ethan sighed. “You think a zombie deleted a video of itself? That would be news if we had any evidence of it.”
“It’s not evidence for the newspaper, but it’s evidence for us.”
Ethan shrugged, and a dialogue window popped up. Stacy smirked, “your antidisestablishmentarianism device is done.”
“It’s not that,” Ethan purred, “It’s a pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis-o-scope.”
“Dork,” said Stacy. She threw another punch, and Ethan caught it. He pulled her close and she let him lead her to his king-size bed. He ran his fingers through her hair while they kissed, her breath coming in fits and starts as he moved his lips to her cheek, then her nose, then her forehead, then her ear, down to her neck. She bit her lip and leaned her head away without thinking as Ethan gently nibbled –
Stacy’s hot air balloon turned to lead.
“Don’t bite me,” she shrieked as she shoved Ethan away, falling off the bed in the process.
“Stacy, what? No one’s trying to bite you!” Ethan tried to put on a bemused expression, but his eyes betrayed his own fear. There was something more to Julia’s message than a jealous ex girlfriend.
Stacy leapt to her feet and screamed at Ethan, “Why did you miss a day of school? Why are you stiff like an old man? What are you hiding from me!?”
“Stacy, listen to yourself,” said Ethan, “You’re upset because I missed a day of school? Is that why you stalked me?”
“You bet I stalked you. And I found out your secret.” Stacy paused, hoping Ethan would blurt out something that revealed his secret.
“Stacy, come on.”
A chill went down Stacy’s spine. “Where’s Blas?” In the silence, she heard – or did she imagine – a pitched whining coming from downstairs. She took a step back from Ethan and burst through the door, almost falling down the steps. “Blas! Blas!”
“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” Mr. Stowe grabbed her shoulder, but she wrenched it away. She heard the whining clearly now. It was coming from a door on the other side of the hallway. She sprinted and wrenched it open.
A huge man with long frizzy hair held back in a tie-dyed bandana held a squirming creature in a bathtub. Suds everywhere obscured her vision, but Stacy recognized Blas’s whine. In a surreal scene, the three other dogs sat at attention in the corner, watching the chaos in stoic silence. “Let him go!” she screamed.
“Oh! oh oh! Hello!” The man turned and smiled, putting a hand to his chest, holding his victim down with one hand. “You startled me! We’re just about done here anyway. Good boy. Good boy, it’s ok.” The man took a mobile shower head and rinsed the suds off of a sopping wet, shaking Blas de Lezo. With a quick motion he detached the harness, and Blas scrambled out of the tub to Stacy, a halting process. His three legs spilled out underneath him on the wet floor again and again and he uttered strangled barks the whole time.
When he reached Stacy, Blas shook and sprayed water all over her, and the man held up a towel. “I don’t mean to be rude, but have you ever given this dog a bath in his life? Do you want to dry him off?”
Stacy accepted the towel without a word. “Here, Princess,” said the man with a whistle, and Princess Penelope Blackwater Stowe padded forward and hopped into the tub.
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