“Woo!” Mitch yelled as he woke up refreshed after the equivalent of a normal class day back at home. No eye-rubbing, no stretching, and no looking at the alarm for 13 consecutive 5 minute intervals only to have the last check of the clock show an hour has passed. No, this time Mitch woke up ready for whatever lie ahead and he was about to make sure Phil got up with the same energy whether he liked it or not. “Phil,” he yelled at his still asleep pal lying amidst the grass. He could see a reaction to his scream which gave him the green light to continue until Phil hopped up with him. “Phil, CAN YOU FEEL IT?” Mitch asked in sing-song and at the top of his lungs.
“How are you so awake?” Phil muttered loud enough to show that he was fully awake but quite content with where he lay at the moment.
“Wrong answer. Try again, this time you say, ‘Yes, I can feel it!’ And say it like you mean it,” Mitch spoke with the energy of a small child who just chugged a can of Red Bull® energy drink. “Can you feel it?!” Mitch screamed whilst dancing to the tune of everyone’s favorite song playing in his head. “Yes, I can feel it!!” he shouted the return with no help from Phil. Mitch continued singing a song that only he could hear in his head as Phil rose up – like falcons do – and watched. Phil was wide awake as well, but the caricature of a grumpy old man that he had become prevented him from enjoying his newfound energy with the same alacrity as his exuberant partner. And in his oxymoronic light-hearted brooding, an idea formed in his head that he decided to share with his still dancing and singing friend.
“Hey, Mitch,” Phil spoke as cheerily as he could trying to ease into what he would say next, “I’ve got an idea.”
“What is it?” Mitch asked as he tried to figure out which Phil to look in the eyes after spinning himself dizzy.
“What if we both split up for the day?” Phil stopped just short of actually saying it was so he could avoid this new super-hyper Mitchel that rest had created. “That city is a little too far away. Maybe if we split up we can find a better, quicker way to get there.” Phil opened his question with the slight fear that he might offend the child he was accompanying before quickly realizing that he was talking to Mitch.
“Yeah,” said Mitch as he started to regain his balance. “I guess that makes sense.” So, it was settled. They each talked about heading in either direction and coming back to the clearing where they were at the end of the day to see if they found anything. And just like that they were off with Phil finally getting a day to himself. It didn’t take long before he could no longer see Mitch even if he wanted to. Initially, this was largely pleasant for Phil who got to finally hear himself think without Mitch’s persistent chatter. This was the closest Phil came to being happy for five minutes until suddenly he had a realization all alone with his thoughts: this was the worst possible place to be alone. He didn’t know where he was, what would find him next, or even exactly where the clearing was as he started to worry.
“Calm down, Phil,” he said to himself. “And now I’m talking to myself,” he said. It was impressive how even in a one man conversation, Phil found himself playing the sarcastic critic of whoever spoke first. In a small way it was impressive, but mostly it was sad. More than anything, however, it was indicative of the precarious position he had put himself in. While Mitchel wasn’t the greatest help in the world, simply having that second person there with Phil was a great way to ease the nerves amongst all the nonsense that prevailed in this area. What was even worse was Phil’s knowledge of how bad for him it was to worry in a situation such as this because simply knowing that it’s bad to worry is never enough to not actually worry. And Phil’s lack of appreciation for irony found him getting more scared with each step. And as he was walking, nearby he noticed a controlled flame. Perhaps there were more helpful people sitting around it, and seeing as how he didn’t really have any other options he decided to head straight towards it. It wasn’t the easiest task to see the fire in the middle of the day, but as he got closer he found it more useful to travel by what he heard. There was a conversation happening around the fire that had Phil’s attention. He couldn’t make out what was being said, but he was largely happy that there were indeed people that he had found. Maybe he would save the day before Mitch could ruin it. Despite his hopes, what Phil came upon was an empty setting with a lone fire that was burning enclosed inside a small ring of rocks. Phil had stumbled upon what appeared to be a real life, talking burning bush. He immediately felt a sense of reverence, and as he walked towards it, he started to take off his shoes.
“Hey!” the burning bush yelled at him in a voice that was female and not the James Earl Jones type of roar as he was expecting. “Keep your sandals on! Nobody wants to see that,” she yelled at the now wildly confused and startled Phil.
“Who are you?” Phil stuttered as he asked a question to a plant.
“I’m Kelly McCoy, and as you can see, I’m a little stuck at the moment,” Kelly said. “So, if you could keep your feet out of my face and let me out of here I think we could go places.” She was full of energy, talking quickly and forcefully but leaving Phil with so many questions unanswered.
“Let you out of where?” Phil asked. “Are you the bush or the fire?” he asked aloud realizing immediately afterward that nobody would believe all the things that had happened to him when he returned home with Mitch. If he returned.
“Plants can’t talk, dummy,” Kelly, who was apparently the flame itself, told Phil. “Now, hurry up, I need to go.” Always the skeptic, Phil thought against blindly listening to the commands of a fire.
“Where do you need to go in such a hurry?” Phil questioned the blaze.
“I, well, it’s complicated,” Kelly began to give herself some time to think, “Queen Brit and I had a falling out and so she turned me into a fire. Now I want nothing more than to get my revenge.” The story seemed completely ridiculous and Phil didn’t want to believe it until he realized he was considering the validity of a story told by a fire. Perhaps this wasn’t the best time for his apprehension. If Mitch could be so successful in this new place throwing caution to the wind, why couldn’t he?
“So, how exactly should I let you out?” he asked Kelly.
“Just remove a large section of rocks from around me and I’ll do the rest,” Kelly said with the best rendition of a wry smile that a flame could give. And Phil started to do just that for his new acquaintance. It was certainly no problem for him as he removed a few rocks from the top and middle rows. Getting to the bottom row he removed the first two rocks with no problem before grabbing the third from the bottom layer and immediately having to toss it away. The heat from it was too intense for him to handle, and as he looked up he saw Kelly rushed towards him. The fire all but actually had legs as it chased after Phil. He couldn’t believe his situation. Too many questionable decisions were running through his head as he ran from the flame.
“Why did he decide to split up?” Phil’s brain was screaming at him, “Why go towards a flame in the middle of nowhere? Why trust its story about being trapped by his enemy? Why is there a helicopter dropping 1,000 gallons of water from up in the sky? Why…wait, what?!” Just then Phil and Kelly received the wash of a lifetime. It was painful for Phil, but lethal for Kelly which relieved Phil’s pain. Although he now had a smile on his face because he was no longer being chased by Kelly, Phil couldn’t help but again panic. How was he going to find Mitch? He had completely lost his bearings and was now soaking wet to make matters worse. And now, for better or for worse, the helicopter began to descend near where Phil was still laying down after having been knocked over by the water. Phil figured he may as well get up just in case he had stumbled upon another nightmarish scenario. Fortuitously for him, he saw Mitch walking up to him with an incredibly tall and lanky individual.
“Phil,” Mitch shouted as he made his way towards Phil, “You absolutely wouldn’t believe what happened to me while I was gone. It was crazy! Me and this tall guy met up – his name is Jaime – and I convinced him to let me join his militia and then we fought off an entire army of 5 foot tall ants. They were organized and dangerous and it was the most intense thing I’ve ever done in my life…” As Mitch continued to ramble on, Phil realized how funny this whole day had turned out. A couple of hours ago, he devised a plan to get himself away from this incessant, childish babble; and now he was extremely happy to be reunited with it. He finished up his epiphany just in time to hear Mitch wrap up his story. “And that’s when Jaime realized you were probably near Kelly, one of Brit’s closest friends. So, we got here as fast as we could! So, what happened to you?” Mitch’s grin went from ear to ear as he had finished telling his story, and Jaime’s grin was no different save for the fact that it was an extra 4 feet above the ground.
“Not a whole lot happened to me,” Phil responded hoping Mitch didn’t notice he zoned out for a large portion of his story. “I almost got eaten alive by a fire and then you two hit me with the world’s largest water balloon.”
“Wow,” Mitch said with the slightest hint of disappointment that Phil didn’t have an equally epic story in response. “I’ve gotta say, if our travels were being written about by someone, I sure hope they didn’t take the lazy way out and write about yours. Mine was probably the most action-packed two hours in the history of forever.” Phil didn’t hear a large section of the story, but from what he made out he knew that Mitch was right.
“So, like I was telling Mitch, I can take you guys as far as the edge of the city,” Jaime said from high above both of them. “Anything past that is far too dangerous for me.” Phil was as ecstatic as Phil can get. His plan to avoid Mitch for a day had just cut a large chunk of time off their commute. Now knowing that the end was near, even if it was to be more treacherous than it had previously been, Mitch and Phil couldn’t wait to get back to Jaime’s helicopter and be on their way. They had each had a life-threatening experience, but overall were feeling great about the day’s events because of the free ride their experiences led to. Mitch and Phil both looked overjoyed as they could finally see the city from their perch high in the sky, but Jaime couldn’t seem to share the excitement. He couldn’t put his finger on it originally, but then the light bulb clicked for him as his hair stood on end. Just then, with a look of terror, he turned to Mitch and Phil and said…