This is Part 2 of a 3-part series. Click here to read Part 1.
Effie remembered the day it had happened. How could they forget? They’d shown up reluctantly at one of their Akeyah family brunches for the first time in like a year, and everything was weird. Weirder than normal. Like, Effie was used to the air full of people putting on airs, the shallow conversation, and the equally bland fare to match the company. They responded with the classic headphones over their ears treatment because Agatha and Clyfford should have known by now Effie didn’t want to be there, so stop pestering them to like it.
But Jenniah had sort of hinted that she missed Effie, texted something along the lines of “Sunday brunch sucks without you! (like really tho) [some emoji].” Jenniah didn’t use textlingo—she was above that teenage foolery—and she definitely didn’t use emojis, she thought they were tacky and ineloquent. So, naturally, such a text had piqued Effie’s interest. Maybe Jenniah had finally seen the light, and her head wouldn’t go rolling after all.
She had actually made a funny, if kind of sad, effort to appeal to their sensibilities. So Effie showed up. Early—no—late, but it felt early ‘cuz Jenniah was even later and Jenniah was never late. Again, weird. And it had felt like everyone’s eyes were on their sister. Even the waiters and waitresses, none of whom Effie had recognized—even permanent positions had been replaced.
“Dearest Lord Almighty,” Clyfford had prayed, “We thank you for this meal you have put before us, and for the abundant resources you have blessed us to acquire through hard work and diligence. Most of all, though, we thank you for our beautiful children, and for the chance to convene together, if only for a moment, as the family you intended us to be. A family who loves each other, makes sacrifices for each other, and protects each other from evil. Thank you for giving Effie and Jenniah an honest, loving family who would never do anything to harm them. I pray that they may always know this. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.”
The brunch ended early because Jenniah began feeling unwell—probably went H.A.M. on the donuts and danishes (pastries were her weakness)—so she went to lay down on a chaise lounge. Effie tried to leave the dinner table to check on Jenniah, but everyone had become suddenly interested in their “public university experience,” concerned for their wellbeing (the neon braids), asking questions (“so how can I use they/them for you if you’re just one person?”), and generally seeming to block their way.
Effie had actually relived the experience many times as a nightmare while locked in the sugar cube—their nickname for the crate in which they’d spent the last few days(?) .
Someone had passed out mysteriously. Jenniah? Effie used their uncouth ass to shove themself through the crowd, and, in the nightmare, they were always swimming through a sea of groping arms and piercing eyes. The sound faded out to something muffled, as if underwater, and disembodied lips moved silent and gnashing. Effie stepped on it, following the ambulance on their chrome-colored motorcycle—a vehicle they unofficially shared with Lunah. But Lunah wouldn’t accept it as a gift and, yes, they had gotten a little angry but they had tried to hide it because they knew it was absurd (“Why are you so fucked up?” *kiss*).
At some point they began to feel queasy, like on the verge of passing out, but goddammit they pushed through and when the air around the ambulance became iridescent like the rainbow on the edge of a soap bubble and they had to bite their arm till blood filled their mouth to keep from conking out, they saw the space around the ambulance seem to dissolve and part like a curtain until a whole-ass UFO was floating like a sleeping humpback suspended in open waters and earth no longer seemed familiar.
Before they’d lost consciousness, Effie had snapped back into alertness and parked somewhere discreet.
The landscape was almost all sky, and the sky was all purple, reflecting off a sort of transparent dusty asphalt. Effie looked official because dressing up high femme was one thing they had always liked about Sunday family brunch. They figured that between their I-mean-business stilettos and the blood soaking their mouth and hand, whoever they encountered would be intimidated long enough for Effie to come up with a story about who they were and why they were there.
If there had been one thing they had learned from being an Akeyah, it was how to exude authority in all situations and reveal the flexibility of others’ morals when hard cash became involved. Effie wasn’t a fan of this, but they had skipped martial arts for drama club growing up (another extracurricular meant to groom them into an Elite University candidate, they’d suspected) as a way of giving their parents—the fucked up darkside of everything they and Akeyah Enterprises, Inc. stood for—one whopping middle finger, so all Effie had to defend themselves was the image they performed and the words they recited.
As Effie approached the ship, they realized there were some workers from Akeyah Enterprises loading it with strange metallic crates Effie had never seen before. So… this was the family business, huh?
Effie could definitely get through, posing as some company higher up. It hadn’t been necessary, though, the people working mostly seemed in a trance, unresponsive to their surroundings and focused on stuffing crates with desserts and bags of sugar. Real bizarre.
Effie didn’t know where all their loud-mouth don’t-give-a-fuck impulsivity had gone then. Instead, it had been replaced with this big old wad of dread, that feeling like oh-shit-I-need-to-take-a-shit but you know if you go to the bathroom nothing will come out.
They took off their stilettos, thinking maybe that was the issue, and they loosened their corset, because that had been an issue in the past, before swallowing their shitty feelings and following the workers quietly up the UFO ramp. Effie noticed that when they got too close to the workers, a field like light gleaming off plastic wrap would emit from their bodies, and Effie would begin to feel vertiginous, so they stepped back and held it together.
Even if they could get close enough to break Jenniah out of this WTF situation, they wouldn’t know how to get back to a familiar Earth. All around they were surrounded by a bruisey violet, and the ground seemed powdery and translucent.
Once Jenniah had been placed in a (surprisingly well-furnished) room and the Akeyah employees had left, Effie made a rush for Jenniah, but the door closed and locked before they could get close enough. By then, the ship had begun to rumble as the last crate of confectionaries was carried inside. Effie followed the workers down the groaning fluorescent corridors to another cell in the ship. It was filled with desserts—weird—and as Effie approached, they felt themself drift into something like unconsciousness but not quite unconsciousness… it was more like their consciousness drifted away from their body and they were watching themself climb mindlessly into one of those sugar-filled crates.
The last sight Effie remembered was a trance employee—they thought they vaguely recognized them—slid the lid over them like they were a corpse being encoffined.