My name is Eddy.
Alice should have closed the window and blocked the sender right away, but she remembered Mr. Bertram asking for information about the pranksters, and she paused.
There must be a reasonable explanation for the recent madness, and she was going to find it.
She waited a few moments, and then typed, hi, Eddy. I’m Alice.
It’s awesome to meet you! You write for the prism, don’t you.
Alice started at this.
How do you know so much about me?
I’ve read all of the archived issues of the Prism. I found your articles fascinating.
Alice laughed out loud. That’s a shame. I try really hard to keep my articles from being
Why would you do that?
I think writing should be simple- factual. Even if I have to pander to an audience once in a while, I’d rather show people the world as it is than to muddy the facts with speculation or editorializing.
But why wouldn’t simple facts be fascinating?
I don’t know why, but most people find mere reality to be dull. They’d rather believe in nonsense, like aliens abducting wombats.
What do you think really happened to the wombat?
I don’t know- I haven’t looked into it, yet.
The screen remained static for a while, and then the bottom of the screen said typing… flashing on and off for a time.
I guess you don’t find simple facts to be fascinating, either?
Alice reached out to her keyboard again, but she didn’t know what to type.
Well, what do you think happened to the wombat? Alice finally replied.
I have a hypothesis, Eddy replied.
At that moment, Alice’s Dad knocked on the door. “Hey, Peanut. You feeling okay? You’ve been awfully quiet, up here.”
“Yeah Dad,” Alice said. “I was just tired.”
Alice’s dad came into the room and placed a hand on her head.
“Well, you don’t seem sick, but we’d better be careful. Get all the rest you need.”
“I’m fine, Dad,” Alice said. She sat up and shut her laptop. “Do you need any help with dinner?”
“Well,” Alice’s Dad said with a sheepish grin, “if you absolutely insist, filet mignon would be lovely, perhaps with some oven-roasted asparagus and a nice chianti. And for dessert, I’ll have creme brulee. If you need me, I’ll be watching TV and drinking beer.”
Alice laughed so hard she snorted. “I think we have stuff for chili. If you make that, I’ll make cornbread.”
Alice’s Dad sighed pathetically, and then grinned. “Sounds fair. Do you have any homework that you need to finish.”
Alice looked back to her laptop, and then back to her dad.
“No, I’m done for the night.”
That night, Alice had chili with her father, and then she fell back into bed and slept…and slept…and slept. When she awoke, it was Saturday morning, and she was blissfully free. For two days, at least, she was free from school’s madness.
She made some tea, and spent the morning in her bathrobe, reading. Then, around noon, Lauren called and invited her to go to the coffee shop, so she changed out of her bathrobe, tucked her book in her bag, and went to the coffee shop to order yet more tea.
Lauren didn’t seem inclined to gossip. Instead, she ordered her coffee and then opened her laptop to work on her latest story, periodically stopping to ask Alice what she thought of a character’s name or if she could guess the next plot twist. Alice gave up on trying to read her book and, on an impulse she would quickly regret, opened her laptop to check her e-mail.
Subject: The Missing Wombat
Subject: The Aliens
Subject: The Alien Abduction
Subject: Why didn’t you cover the alien abduction?
Subject: Interview me: I saw the aliens…
Subject: I have a hot tip about the aliens.
“What the hell?”
“Oh, are you getting e-mails about the alien abduction, too?” Lauren said. “I got a few, and I don’t even write articles. No one’s talking about anything else but aliens. Maybe I should write a sci-fi story.”
Alice sighed and shut her laptop again. “I guess I can’t ignore this anymore. The only way to shut people up is to find out what really happened.”
“That might not work,” Lauren said. “Aliens are more interesting in pranksters. People will believe what they want to believe.”
“Reality can be just as interesting as fiction,” Alice said. “I’m a writer- I’ll make it interesting.”
Alice sent Brendan a text, then shoved her laptop into her bag and stood up.
“Where are you going?” Lauren asked.
“We’re going to the stadium to look for clues. Come on.”
Brendan was already waiting for Alice and Lauren when they arrived at the stadium. He stood by the gates with his arms folded, wearing a bemused expression.
“So- you’re finally succumbing to the craziness you used to hate,” Brendan said as Alice approached.
“No, I’ve decided to fight it.”
“You used to say that engaging with nonsense will make it seem more legitimate,” Brendan said, arms still folded.
“It isn’t working,” Alice admitted. “The crazy people just get louder, the more I ignore them.”
“Are you sure you want to find out what’s really going on?” Brendan asked, narrowing his eyes.
“If she can’t figure out what is going on, I’m sure she can come up with some reasonable-sounding explanations,” Lauren said impatiently. “Let’s just get this over with.”
“That’s not the point at all,” Alice protested, but Lauren and Brendan were already opening the gate and walking into the stadium.
Alice hurried through the gate before it shut behind them, and ran to catch up with her friends.
“So- where do you want to search, first?”
“I’m not sure,” Alice admitted. “I thought we might go into the sound booth. Someone must have tampered with it, to cause that weird music that we heard during the ‘abduction.’”
“Or someone just played the sound on their phone,” Lauren pointed out.
“No- the sound was too loud, and the sound quality was too good,” Brendan said. “Anyway, the sound booth is a good place to start.”
Alice agreed, and the small group climbed the concrete steps to the sound booth.
Lauren went straight to the window of the sound booth and looked out. “Wow- it’s really strange to be here when the stadium is empty, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it is,” Brendan said. “So, what are you looking for? The sound file?”
“I don’t know, but-” Alice looked under a chair and groaned. “Oh no-”
Lauren looked under the chair too, and laughed. “Wow, so does this mean that someone broke in by using a disguise? Or maybe they seduced the usual announcer.”
“What the-” Brendan started. “What is that?”
“It’s a blonde wig,” Lauren said. “And I’m not touching it.”
Alice sighed and took out her phone, snapping a quick picture of the wig.
“There- no one has to touch it,” Alice said. “Brendan, have you found anything?”
“Just a cassette tape labeled ‘cool space music.’”
“Wow- a real cassette? I’ve never seen one. Let me see,” Lauren said.
Lauren took the cassette from Brendan and played with it for a while, winding the tape with her finger until she got bored and handed it to Alice.
“I think that’s all we’ll find here,” Brendan said. “Why don’t we look around where the Wombat was taken?”
Alice agreed, and the three teens went back downstairs, and then out into the warm fall sunshine.
“The Wombat’s cage was just over there,” Alice said, pointing to the sidelines on the opposite side of the stadium.
The earth around the sidelines was dry and hard-packed. Alice quickly noticed some black streaks in the dirt around where Lauren had pointed.
Alice took her phone from her pocket and flipped through some saved pictures until she found one she’d taken of the wombat cage- the one that had ended up on the front page of The Prism.
“This is a setup,” Alice said.
“I think you’re paranoid,” Brendan said.
“No- seriously- this is a setup,” Alice said. “Those scorch marks weren’t there before. Besides, why would someone go up to the sound booth in disguise and then just leave the wig and tape behind? It doesn’t make sense.”
Alice turned and away.
“Come on- let’s go.”
“So that’s it?” Brendan said. “You’re giving up?”
“No- I’m going to find out who is messing with me, because it’s becoming pretty obvious that’s what is happening.”
“Who would want to mess with you?”
Alice stopped. The first person who came to mind was Lucy, who took great pleasure in messing with Alice on a daily basis. But Lucy was usually much more straightforward with her madness. Who else did Alice know who would have any clue about the recent string of pranking?
And just then, Alice knew where to find the answer.
Alice spent the rest of the afternoon on her bed, staring at her computer screen. Finally, around 5:00…
Hey, it’s Eddy. Have you found anything out, yet?
Alice smiled in satisfaction, and then typed, tell me your theory, first.