Chapter 17: Dying for Pie
The next day…
Johnny Elaine was on the TV screen. "We have received reports that a maniac has been running amok in Bikini Bottom yesterday. He has allegedly been responsible for causing several car accidents, trespassing into a home, and frightening pedestrians."
The screen changed to show fuzzy black-and-white camera footage of SpongeBob directing traffic to their doom, him breaking into the couple's home, and him scaring the female teenager. The screen then changed to show a 'WANTED' poster that had a rough sketch of SpongeBob. On the lower portion of the screen was the phone number for the police.
"If anyone had seen this man, please contact local authorities."
SpongeBob was sitting on the red couch chair. His chin was resting on both hands. His eyes were baggy and moderately bloodshot. "I am... a maniac." He sniffed.
Squidward, in his pajamas, was sleeping in his bedroom. Faint rays of sunlight were leaking through the window.
RING RING RING RING RING
The shell-phone next to Squidward's bed rang.
Squidward grumbled and opened his baggy eyes. He picked up the phone while continuing to lie on the bed. "Yes?"
"Ahoy, Mr. Squidward. Have you got yer booty ready fer today?"
Squidward's eyes became half-closed. "To stay home?"
Mr. Krabs chuckled. "No, to exchange gifts for Employee Brotherhood Day."
Squidward turned away from the phone before whispering "Darn". He glanced at his watch before turning back to the phone. "I don't think I'm gonna have enough time to make my own gift. Can't I just buy something Sponge'll like?"
"Oh, no, no, no, no, lad." Mr. Krabs, behind the other end, was wagging the tip of his claw. "You know th' rules; you have to make th' gift."
Squidward sighed and sat up. "Alright," he muttered.
"I knew you'd come around, boy. Make somethin' nice." Mr. Krabs then put down the phone on his end, leaving beeps.
Squidward dropped his phone receiver to the main body without fitting it through the slits. Upon standing up from the bed, he became dizzy.
Thirty minutes later...
Squidward, now wearing his brown shirt, was walking down a street that had shops on both sides. Every time he passed by a bakery or convenience store, he determined the quality of their food by whiffing the general smell of the building.
Before Squidward had reached a small convenience store that had a decorative design similar to the Krusty Krab's, he detected a sweet aroma. Following the aroma's trail, he reached the convenience store's entrance.
In front of the convenience store was a parked truck that had its back entrance, which was a double door, open. Former pirates were heaving its contents into the store.
"Heave-ho!" One of them, a former captain, was holding a large crate. He bumped into Squidward from behind. "If you drop one single slice o' me booty, I'll have... yer booty."
"My bad." Squidward took a few quick steps into the store.
Wrapped around all four walls save for the entrance, a back door, and the counter; were shelves filled with food ingredients and junk food.
Squidward was walking down the aisle, glancing at ingredients he could use for baking. After passing up several nearly expired ingredients, he eventually picked up a box of pie crust that was a brand unfamiliar to him. His lips puckered. "Ooh, this pie crust sure looks good."
The former captain was now standing behind the counter. "Oh, that's not pie crust. They were made in a factory... a bo-"
"Oh, well, that's too bad." Squidward put the pie crust box back to its former spot. "I thought it was pie crust and I wanted to buy one." He put his dollar bills into his shirt pocket.
The former captain caught a glimpse of the dollar bills. "Wait!" He snapped his 'fingers'. "I was just kidding about all that factory stuff. That'll be twenty-five bucks, please."
Squidward picked up the pie crust box again and walked up to the counter. "What flavor is it?"
The former captain shrugged.
Squidward placed the correct amount of money on the counter.
Sixteen minutes later...
Squidward placed an unbaked pie filled with jelly and eelgrass fruit into his kitchen's oven.
SpongeBob was cartwheeling around the Krusty Krab's dining room while hopping over chairs and tables he had placed in his way. Upon reaching the end of his path, he leaped into the kitchen through the ordering window. He swiftly flipped an array of patties.
Mr. Krabs was watching him from one corner in the kitchen. His arms were folded. When he detected a certain smokiness from the patties, he snapped his claw. "Turn it off."
SpongeBob turned off the grill, faced Mr. Krabs, stepped to the side, and clasped his hands together behind his back.
Mr. Krabs grabbed SpongeBob's spatula and pressed it against each patty, taking note of the either deep or faint imprints it left behind. He put a claw on his 'chin'. When the patties cooled down enough, he took hold of one and took a bite.
A squishy texture and the taste of charcoal filled Mr. Krabs' mouth.
Mr. Krabs gagged. He spat to the trash can.
SpongeBob bit his lip and circled his foot against the floor.
Mr. Krabs made a sturgeon face. "There's no balance here." He pointed at the patties that had deeper imprints. "You've cooked these ones too much." He pointed at the more brittle patties. "And you've cooked these ones too little." He tapped the grill's temperature knob with the back of his claw. "If yer gonna win that patty flippin' event in the Games, you gotta have to know when to turn th' knob at th' right times. When you cook these patties faster, treat 'em like how you would do normally, but imagine the whole process in fast-forward."
"It's that..." SpongeBob was glancing at the screws in the floor's planks, avoiding Mr. Krabs' eyestalks. "...whenever I'm doing something else along with the cooking, my mind kinda goes on 'auto-pilot'. If I don't focus on just one task at a time, my energy is gonna 'spread too wide', if you know what I mean."
"I don't know what you mean." Mr. Krabs put his claws on his hips. "When you cook, you always have to think about more than one thing. You've been multi-taskin' ever since you started boilin' water."
"B-But," SpongeBob began to lean from side-to-side. "I keep having to switch between doing something physical and cooking. My sweat and heartbeat keeps distracting me."
Mr. Krabs imitated the motion of flipping a patty. "Flippin' patties can be exercise too. As long as you move somethin' in yer body, it's 'somethin' physical'." He put a claw on SpongeBob's shoulder. "What's gotten in to ya, boy? You were able to feed them anchovies, impress Gene, but can't do somethin' this simple?"
"It's 'cause I'm thinking about the contest all the time now. If I'm gonna win that gold for you, I have to do it perfect when the actual event comes around."
"But you don't have to do it perfect during practice." Mr. Krabs tilted SpongeBob's head upward. "A little kid can't captain a ship all the way to the Atlantic coast after an hour of just watchin' a ship. It takes many years before he can navigate at such a level." He placed the spatula back into SpongeBob's hand. "If you don't sweat the practice so much, you'll do much better." He patted SpongeBob's back. "Trust me."
"I'm supposed to trust the 'auto-pilot'?" SpongeBob gingerly held the spatula. His pupils sparkled.
"Aye." Mr. Krabs pointed at SpongeBob's forehead. "Yer already gotten most of the practice into yer noggin long before you started workin' here. All we have to do is bring it back out."
"You really think so?"
"I've been captain of this ship for more than a score o' years. Of course I know somethin'!" Mr. Krabs chuckled and shook his head. He adjusted SpongeBob's employee hat. "I'm gonna have to take that boyishness out of you. If yer gonna prove to th' other contestants that yer the top fry cook, you have to prove yer manliness."
SpongeBob's gaze returned to the floor. 'Man…' The word echoed in his mind, evoking imagery that pressed weight into his throat. "Maniac…'
Nearly an hour later…
Squidward stepped into the dining room. He was holding the pie while wearing oven mitts.
The pie's aroma wafted throughout the restaurant.
"Here I am, once again," Squidward droned. "Ready to spend another day in this prison of high cholesterol."
"Good morning, Mr. Squidward." Mr. Krabs was standing next to the double door and gazing at the pie. "Are you ready?"
"What does it look to you?" Squidward rolled his eyes.
SpongeBob barged the kitchen's door open and dashed up to the pie. "Is this for me?!" He clasped his hands together with a slight tilt. He took in a big whiff from the pie. "Eelgrass fruit, one of my favorites!"
Mr. Krabs put his claws behind his back. "Mr. SquarePants, would you like to start first?"
"Yes, sir!" SpongeBob took out from his shirt a sweater made out of a black fabric and pink hearts with Squidward's face inside them, yellow 'p's, and green '10's etched on it in patterns. He lowered his shin to the floor. "Squidward, in honor of employee brotherhood, I present to you a gift." He held up the sweater.
Squidward took hold of the sweater. He glanced at each of its patterns until he deciphered their meaning. "I heart you…" His lips quivered faintly..
"Try it on, Mr. Squidward. It's got 'u' written all over it." Mr. Krabs laughed.
Squidward attempted to put on the sweater but could not squeeze his head through the collar.
SpongeBob stood up. "I wasn't sure how big to make the hood for the head, so I used a watermelon for size." He took hold of the sweater's collar, gently slid it down until it passed through Squidward's head. "Do you love it?"
Several bristles sticking out of the sweater's fabric brushed against Squidward's torso. He scratched the sides of his body. "It's a little itchy. What's this thing made of?"
SpongeBob held out his arms upward. "Eyelashes!"
"Um… okay." Squidward took off the sweater, folded it, and placed it inside the boat.
"Now, Mr. Tentacles, present yer brotherhood gift."
Squidward walked back to the table and picked up the pie. "Okay, here it is. Fresh from the oven." He turned towards SPongeBob.
"Upupup!" Mr. Krabs snatched the pie. "Not yet. I got to make sure you did it right." He entered his office, followed by Squidward.
Mr. Krabs placed the pie on the desk and took a piece from its crust. A light bulb lit up in his head when he was about to bite the piece. "Wait a second… this would go great with some milk." He retrieved a milk carton from the kitchen's refrigerator. Just before he placed the carton on his desk, he tripped on a stray nail.
The pie piece slipped out of his claw. It bounced against the floor before landing near the safe.
The pie piece exploded, leaving a wide and deep hole that exposed the safe.
Countless dollars and coins, including a rusty dime covered in dust, poured to the floor.
Mr. Krabs lost his breath. "Me babies!" He attempted to snatch as much of the money as he could. When he saw the rusty dime hop through the kitchen's doorway, he dropped the money and ran towards it. "Me lucky dime!"
The dime bounced into the sink. It then rolled in a gradually shrinking circular path towards the drain hole. Just before it reached the drain hole, it flipped away from the drain and continued to rattle.
Mr. Krabs glanced at the sink and wiped a drop of sweat from his brow. He sighed and looked at Squidward from the corner of his eyestalk. "So, you tried to kill me over a little old-school management, eh?"
Squidward had blanched. He was wondering if the entire event he had just witnessed was just another illusory spell pulled by the masked strangers. "B-But, Mr. Krabs, I had no idea. I-I don't know how…" He stepped into the kitchen.
Squidward's footsteps altered the direction of the dime's rattling. The dime fell through the drain hole.
"NO~!" Mr. Krabs squeezed his claw through the drain and grabbed the dime. "I got it, lad!" He attempted to yank his claw out of the hole, but his claw would not budge. "What th'? It's stuck!" More sweat was running down his brow. His heartbeat quickened."You gotta help me, Mr. Squidward!"
Squidward grabbed Mr. Krabs' wrist. "You've gotta let go of the dime!"
Mr. Krab straightened his posture. "I can think of ten good reasons to never let go o' a dime. There has to be another way. Grab me captain's quarters and heave!" He held onto the sink with his other arm.
Squidward grabbed Mr. Krabs' shoulders, grit his teeth, and tugged them several times with all of the strength he could muster.
Mr. Krabs' arms became detached.
"Me arms!" Mr. Krabs flew across the room.
The back fo Mr. Krabs' head hit a shelf.
As Mr. Krabs fell to the floor; a pot, a glass jar, a pan, a mug, a miniature buoy, an a miniature treasure chest hit his head. "Oo~h…" His shell nearly broke from the weight of the objects.
SpongeBob stepped out of the bathroom. Licking the jelly off his fingers, he put away the eelgrass fruit pie with his other hand. "Hey, guys." He stepped into the kitchen. "Thanks for the pie, Squi-" He gasped.
Mr. Krabs saw the jelly lingering on SpongeBob's lips. "He ate the pie," he mouthed as he faded to unconsciousness. His eyestalks remained open.
Several minutes later..
Mr. Krabs was lying on a stretcher that was being carried by paramedics towards an ambulance. When he said: "Wait.", he saw a blurry outline of a light green body following him.
The paramedics halted.
Mr. Krabs tilted his head towards Squidward. "You had to kill him. The boy put all of his love into that sweater… and you killed him. How are you gonna live with yerself?"
"Kill him?" said Squidward. "B-But wasn't it just-"
"Aye," Mr. Krabs nodded with closed eyestalks. "He ate it, th' whole thing."
Squidward's lips began to quiver.
"Where did you get th' pie?"
"From some store owned by pirates." Squidward's head was now tilted away from Mr. Krabs.
"Then it's true. It must've been from th' bomb factory." Mr. Krabs attempted to sit up but the paramedics pushed him back down. "I've seen this before, eleven times as a matter of fact. When that pie goes up to bat, I mean, hits his lower intestine… boom!"
Squidward turned towards the Krusty Krab.
Mr. Krabs stopped Squidward by grabbing his elbow. "Don't tell him. That'll only make him feel worse. Th' way I see it, he's only got 'til sunset." He tugged Squidward' arm when Squidward attempted to leave again. "By the way, I'm putting you in charge of things around here while I'm gone. Make sure to take good care of th' lad. These'll be his last hours." He then gestured towards the paramedics.
The paramedics placed the stretcher inside the ambulance.
"You can count on me, sir," murmured Squidward. Taking a few deep sniffs and a rapid succession of blinks, he ran back to the Krusty Krab.
SpongeBob was sitting in the boat. His face was resting on both hands, which covered his eyes. A few tears were streaming down his cheeks.
Squidward tip-toed up to the boat. He gently tapped SpongeBob's shoulder. "Sponge, Sponge," he whispered.
SpongeBob sat up. He gulped and wiped his eyes.
"Mr. Krabs won't be coming back for awhile. I'm gonna be the manager for now." Upon seeing SpongeBob's restored smile, Squidward took a deep breath. The pressure in his chest lessened. "Let's get down to business." He crouched next to SpongeBob. "I'm gonna give you a promotion." 'See, Squiddy? You and Krabs are just overreacting. There's nothing to be worried about. Maybe that piece of pie he ate was just a stray fragment. Mistakes can happen.' His mental voice continued to blabber on as he clung to reassuring imagery of the factory production of pie crusts.
"Again?" SpongeBob hopped out of the boat.
SpongeBob leaned back and forth. "So, what'll I be doing?"
"The register and the grill." Squidward took off his employee hat and put it next to SpongeBob's employee hat.
SpongeBob adjusted both hats. "If I'm gonna be doing both roles, what're you gonna do?"
Squidward had already turned around. He was jogging towards the double door. "I've got some very important boss-like errands to run. See ya later." Resisting the urge to glance at SpongeBob, he pushed open the double door.
"Squidward!" SpongeBob leaned forward and held out a hand towards Squidward.
A few minutes later…
Squidward was strolling towards his tiki. The chirps of the scallops and the buzzing of the jellyfish pushed away the images of fiery clouds rising to the sky. 'Yep, Squidward, you've really outdone yourself this time.' He was observing the patterns in the sand that the sun was illuminating. "A beautiful day of relaxing and pampering, with pay." He spotted a feral snail with a pink shell not too far from the road. 'Hmm… I guess I do kinda feel bad about poor little SpongeBob, all by his lonesome, but he'll be okay. He's probably standing at the register with just as much gusto as every other workday.'
Patrick walked up to the cash register. "Hi, SpongeBob." He held up a hand.
"Hi, Patrick." SpongeBob tipped both of his hats.
"Could you give me change for a quarter?"
"No problemo." SpongeBob opened the cash register by banging it with his fist.
Several coins popped out of the register and bounced around the room.
One of the coins pierced a light bulb.
An explosion engulfed the Krusty Krab.
Squidward gasped. "I forgot to tell him how to make change!" He dashed back to the Krusty Krab, kicking the double door open. "Sponge…!"
The dining room was virtually unchanged.
SpongeBob was still standing in the boat.
"Hi, Squidward. All done with those errands?"
Squidward wore a neutral face. "No I am not." He dug through his shirt pocket until he found a dollar bill. "I just remembered I needed change for this dollar." While keeping his gaze away from SpongeBob's eyes, he placed the dollar bill on the cash register's top.
"Do you want four quarters?" SpongeBob held up four quarters, with each quarter on a finger. "Or ten dimes?" In the blink of an eye, an array of dimes appeared on his left hand. "Or twenty nickels?" With a shrug, a row of ten nickels rolled down to each arm from his shirt sleeves. "Or one-hundred pennies?" He turned around and lifted his shirt, revealing an array of a hundred pennies on his back. "Or one quarter, three dimes, seven nickels, and ten pennies?" He leaped, rolled in mid-air, and landed before Squidward. A quarter landed on his nose, three dimes landed on his fingers, seven nickels landed on his thumb, and five pennies landed on each of his shoes. "Or, if you give me a five-dollar bill, your options are-"
"Alright, goodbye." Squidward ran to the double door, forgetting to pick up his dollar bill.
Twenty minutes later…
Squidward stepped out of his tiki. Shirtless, he was wearing an umbrella hat, sunglasses, and blue shorts. He was holding a sunbathing mirror and a bottle of sunscreen.
He adjusted his lawn chair, lied on it, applied sunscreen to head and upper body, especially his nose, and held the sunbathing mirror near his face.
The rays reflected from the mirror touched his face, bathing it warmness tinged with slight stings.
He took a deep breath and cracked his neck. "This is great. My day off. No worries, just relaxation.
A breeze brushed against him.
The umbrella hat took in the breeze, causing cool air to wrap around Squidward's head.
"I'm the boss. I deserve this. Ah~," He put his hands behind his head. From the corner of his eye, he saw what looked like a black tumbleweed with a string attached to it. 'Everything will be fine. There probably won't much customers anyway. He'll just stand there… bored.' He chuckled. "SpongeBob, bored."
SpongeBob was slouching on the boat. His eyes were half-closed. "Ehh… I'm getting kinda bored." He picked up a tray of food, which he had placed behind him. He then stepped out of the boat and trudged to the table of a customer. "Here's you roder, sir," he said with faux enthusiasm.
"Thanks." The male fish held out his hands towards the ray.
SpongeBob tripped on a stray nail. "Oops!" Just before his nose touched the floor, he burped.
An explosion erupted from his body, breaking it into countless yellow chunks.
The eruption's heat ignited the floor, causing a large fire to spread throughout the restaurant.
Squidward was running towards the Krusty Krab in the same clothing. He eventually noticed that his blue shorts were beginning to sag. "What am I doing?" He halted and pulled his shorts back up. He glanced at his watch. "I'm wasting valuable leisure time, that's what I"m doing!" He turned around and marched towards his tiki. 'I mean, really, what're the odds of SpongeBob setting the Krusty Krab on fire?' He laughed.
A fire truck drove down the road, passing by Squidward.
Squidward gasped and resumed his run towards the Krusty Krab.
A few minutes later…
Squidward barged the double door open.
The dining room was still unchanged.
SpongeBob sat up. "Hi, Squidward! How're those errands going?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Squidward put his fists on his hips. "I'm very busy."
"Well, I'm sure you are."
Squidward was attempting to catch a glimpse of SpongeBob's belly without moving his legs. However, the cash register blocked his vision. "I don't like your tone."
"I'm sure you are," said SpongeBob in a high-pitched voice. In his normal voice, he then said: "How's that?"
"Just do your jobs." Squidward exited the restaurant.
"Aye-aye, Mr. Tentacles!" SpongeBob did a military salute. As he watched Squidward run towards the horizon, he twirled his spatula with one finger. "Boy, no wonder Mr. Krabs put him in charge."
Thirty minutes later…
Squidward was in his bedroom, sitting on a chair before a mirror. He was rolling the lint off his brown shirts. He was hearing the ticking of his alarm clock like the ticking of a bomb. "Just rel-" He leaned back.
The chair teetered to the floor. Two of its legs broke.
"...lax." Squidward stood up and looked at his reflection on the mirror. He perceived that his lips were quivering and that sweat was forming above his forehead. 'Look at yourself. You're losing your bluish glow. Stop worrying so much!' He leaned towards the mirror and wiped all of the sweat from his head. "Now, repeat after me… you will not go back to the Krusty Krab."
A few breath stains appeared on the mirror, blurring the reflection of his face.
SpongeBob was sitting on his knees before a toilet in the Krusty Krab's bathroom. He was clutching his stomach. His breathing was unsteady. "I think I'm gonna explode."
Five minutes later…
Squidward head-butted the double door open. "SpongeBob!"
"Have you finished-"
"No!" Squidward stepped out of the restaurant.
Squidwrd grabbed his own head with both hands. "That's it." He shook his head. "That's it. No matter what sick fantasies run through my mind, I will not go back to that restaurant!"
A few minutes later…
"Are you finished with those errands?" said SpongeBOb.
"Have you finished those errands?"
"Have you finished those errands?"
For a duration of nearly thirty minutes, Squidward was running back and forth between the Krusty Krab and the tiki. SpongeBob's utterance of the word "errands" echoed in his head, becoming as commonplace as the sounds of his footsteps. As he quickened the pace of his running, images with SpongeBob and mushroom clouds floated around in his blurring vision. His ankles became numb. The ground and the sky merged together.
Nearly thirty minutes later…
Squidward teetered into the restaurant, leaning against one side of the entrance. He was gasping for breath. So much sweat covered his body that it was stinging his eyes.
"Have you finished those errands?" SpongeBob hopped to the top of the cash register. "Have you finished those errands?" He hopped off the boat. "Have you finished those errands?" He hopped to Squidward and crouched. "Have you finished those errands?"
Squidward's head became filled with crimson. He leaped to a straight posture, causing SpongeBob to fall to the floor. "No, I am not finished with those errands and never will be!" He shook his fist. "So quit checking up on me!" He yanked up SpongeBob by the collar of his shirt. "I know what you're up to. You ate that- I mean, you're forcing me to come back here every time you mess up!"
SpongeBob sat up and put his hand over his forehead. "But I haven't-"
"Okay, maybe you haven't messed up yet, but you will. You certainly will." Squidward began to walk backwards towards the entrance. "When you do, I'll be there!" He perceived SpongeBob's curving lips as a smirk. He laughed with eyes wide open. 'I'll be there!" He reverse-stepped through the open doorway and yanked the double door to a close.
SpongeBob's eyes were sparkling. He slowly stood up. "Oh~, Squidward, he's such a hard worker." He marched back to his boat while raising his legs as high as he could. "He makes me proud to wear these hats."
Several minutes later…
Squidward was putting several locks on the knob of his tiki's front door. He was inside the living room. After he put in the last lock, he clapped his hands together. "There!" His eyes were bloodshot. Bubbling drool was leaking from the sides of his mouth. "Now I"ll have to stay here and enjoy myself." He rubbed his hands together as he skipped towards the sofa. "I'm not even gonna think about you-know-what as the you-know-what doing I-don't-care!" He cackled. He leaped over the sofa, ran upstairs, and entered the bathroom. "Just gonna relax…" He flicked his shirt off, twisted the bathtub's faucet to a warm temperature, and put on his green bathing cap. He waited until the goo nearly filed the entire bathtub before turning off the faucet. "Let Squid's day off…" He sat inside the bathtub. "...begin." He leaned back until the goo reached his mouth. His slow breaths formed bubbles.
As the warm goo eased the tension in his muscles, his gaze became fixed upon the window. He imagined the seawater outside reaching the same temperature as his bathtub's water.
He closed his eyes.
The imaginary sky gradually gained an orange hue. A giant mushroom cloud erupted from the imaginary environment's horizon.
What sounded like SpongeBob's laughter could be heard from outside.
"What was that?!" Squidward leaped out of the bathtub and yanked the window open.
A breeze passed into the bathroom. At the same time, 'SpongeBob's laughter' was heard again.
"It's SpongeBob!" Squidward leaned through the opening, glancing at the ground. "He's spying on me to see if I'm really doing my errands. But, but, he left his post, and I've finally caught him blowing- I mean, messing up!" he whispered. He eventually saw a yellow glimmer. "A-ha! I caught you, Sponge…"
A yellow coral piece was brushing against the living room's window every time a breeze passed by. Every time it touched the window, it made squeaks that sounded like laughter.
"...branch." Squidward exhaled through his nose. He turned around.
What looked like the tip of SpongeBob's nose was sticking out of the shower curtain.
"I've got you now!" Squidward pulled the curtain to one side.
Lying on the edge of the bathtub was a yellow rubber duck.
Squidward hopped into the bathtub and allowed his body to float on the goo. He closed his eyes. 'You're losing it, Squiddy. Calm down. If I let this get to me again, I'll just end up running down to the Krusty Krab, bursting through the front door, go up to that yellow headache, and he'll say-'
What sounded like an explosion from miles away filled Squidward's ears.
"11 hours." The image of Mr. Krabs on a stretcher returned.
The reflection of SpongeBob's face was seemingly in the bathtub's goo. "Hi, Squidward. Are you finished with those errands?"
Squidward reached for the reflection, but only felt the goo. He then flipped his body around and dipped his head into the goo. "I know you're in here." He glanced at the bathtub's corners.
A miniature SpongeBob was looking at Squidward. It winked, held a thumbs-up, and dove into the drain.
Squidward emerged from the bathtub.
His elbow hit an opened bottle of shampoo.
The bottle spilled its contents into the tub. Foam emerged from the bathtub's water.
Squidward stepped out of the bathtub.
A cluster of shampoo bubbles had gathered on his face in the shape of a beard.
"He's heading back to the Krusty Krab!" He flicked off his bathing cap and put on his brown shirt. "I'll beat him there!" He dashed out of the bathroom.
Squidward barged the tiki's front door open with his elbow. "The truth will be revealed!" He held up his fist towards the heavens.
Patrick was lying on the top of his rock. He spat out the antenna, which he had been chewing. "Woo-hoo! Right on, Squid!"
Five minutes later…
Squidward entered the restaurant. "A-ha! I caught you now!" He pointed at SpongeBob.
SpongeBob was drumming the cash register's buttons. "May I help you, sir?"
Squidward wiped the bubbles from his face. "It's me, you dunce!"
"Hi, Squid!" SpongeBob stood up and waved. "Are you finished with those-"
Squidward shut SpongeBob's mouth with a hand. "You didn't think I knew you were stuck outside my window." He snatched both of SpongeBob's employee hats. "And then you were in my bathtub!" He was no longer drooling. HIs eyes were returning to their normal color. "And I… A-And you… And I… And you… swam down the drain and… beat me… to the Krusty KRab." He began to feel a certain pressure in his chest. He grabbed SpongeBob's shirt, lifted it, and put his ear against SpongeBob's belly.
SpongeBob's stomach gurgled.
Squidward's eyes moistened. He covered his mouth with his other hand. 'You're right, Mr. Krabs! He's gonna… blow up.' He moved his head away from SpongeBob's belly and let go of SpongeBob's shirt. 'I'm gonna make SpongeBob's final hours the best he's ever had. And this time, there's gonna be love… so much love that he's going to drown in it!' He was staring through the ordering window at the kitchen's clock. "Drown in it," he whispered.
"Hm?" SpongeBob's lips were swallowed.
Squidward took a step back. His hands were trembling together.
"Uhh, does that mean-"
"Yes, SpongeBob." Squidward took a deep breath. "I'm finished with those errands." He put on his employee hat. "I guess I want to take my place back at the cash register." He placed the other employee hat on SpongeBob's head. "I really do." He stepped into the boat.
"Okay," whispered SpongeBob. He tip-toed to the kitchen.
A few minutes later...
SpongeBob was sitting on a wooden box. His brows were knit. His chin was resting on his hands, which were clasped together. He was replaying the events of the past few hours, scrutinizing every time Squidward returned to the restaurant. 'Why did I have to repeat myself each time he came back? Was that why he started turning crazy?' When he saw a sticky note appear on the ordering window's chandelier, he dug into his pockets for his spatula but felt the 'HM' belt and the kepi instead. 'That's right, I'm still a maniac.' He stood up, took the spatula from a nearby table, and walked up to the grill. 'If I'm gonna be a good hall monitor, I have to redeem myself.'
He took out his notepad and said out loud what he scribbled down: "Note to self: watch out for Squidward."
Several minutes later...
SpongeBob, after giving the tray for a customer's order, was humming as he returned to the kitchen.
Squidward was gripping the boat's edges. His heartbeat was quickening. He was keeping his eyes away from SpongeBob, visualizing the proper faces and mannerism to express. 'C'mon, Squiddy. It's now or never.' He turned towards SpongeBob and put his trembling arms behind his back. "U-Uh, SpongeBob?"
"Yes~?" nearly sung SpongeBob.
Squidward gulped. He sat down in the boat. "I forgot to tell you, there's a part two to your gift."
"Part two?!" SpongeBob grinned. He commenced to rapidly jump up and down. "Part-two-part-two-part-two-part-two-part-two-"
Squidward grabbed SpongeBob's shoulders. He pressed them down until SpongeBob stopped jumping. "Please, don't do that."
"What's the part two?" SpongeBob leaned towards Squidward on tip-toe. Their noses nearly touched.
"Well, what's the most fun thing you can think of?"
SpongeBob took out a roll of lined papers that had been taped together. "Actually, I keep a list of the fun things I like to do. I call it my friendship list."
"Great." Squidward wore a smile. "Uh, let me see it."
SpongeBob unrolled the paper. It reached the floor and continued to unroll some more before reaching its end. "The things that are extra fun, I've written in red."
Squidward perceived that all of the words in the list had been written in red ink. "Everything's in red."
"Yeah, I know." SpongeBob quickly rolled back the paper and stuffed it into his pocket.
Squidward gulped again, fighting back the stone in his throat that SpongeBob's innocent smile was causing. "We'd better start right after work if we want to get through this list before you die..." He bit his tongue. "...of anticipation."
"Ookie-dokie!" SpongeBob held up a thumbs-up before skipping into the kitchen.
A few hours later…
The Strangler and his associates were crouching behind a group of rocks that were across the street from the Krusty Krab. They were watching SpongeBob and Squidward.
"What's the plan again?" said Ricky, glancing at the Strangler.
The Strangler gestured towards himself. When Ricky got close enough, he whispered to his ear: "We're gonna kidnap the sponge dude's coworker. We'll keep him until the sponge pays a ransom. This'll be much easier than last time 'cause the coworker seems like a normal guy, not a maniac. Keeping him under control won't be a problem. The thing is, the second the whole thing's over, they're gonna snitch to the cops. That's why we have to change our get-ups before we get the ball rolling. Got it?"
"Mm-hm." RIcky crossed his 'index fingers' together, the underwater version of the 'ok' symbol.
Mike was leaning against his rock. His eyes were half-closed. "Why not we do it now?" He glanced at his electric watch. "Unless we go grab a bite there ourselves, there's nothing much else we can do."
"Nope." The Strangler lowered his head as a police boatmobile passed by. "If we do it now, it''ll be too obvious since there's a buncha people there. The Krusty Krab closes in the evening, so we should wait until they're done working. We'll have a better chance of finding a good opening since barely anybody roams the streets during those hours."
Mike yawned. "Then why not buy our disguises now? We have enough time to kill."
Marcus thumped his chest. "I'm down with that."
"Me three." Ricky tipped his cap.
Jack snapped both of his 'fingers' towards Mike.
"Then it's a deal." The Strangler began to crawl in the direction of Bikini Bottom's biggest shops. Whenever he heard a car, he dove to coral pieces and rocks. "But let's make sure we change our clothes before we get in there. The manhunt on me's lasted for more than a year, and I don't wanna break it."
His associates followed suit.
SpongeBob, while running in a circle inside the kitchen, was juggling several tomatoes. A light bulb in his head was on the verge of getting lit up. As he approached the door to the dining room, he tripped forward. "Hm!" He lifted up his shoe, revealing that he had stepped on a piece of bubble gum. "How did I miss thi-" A swift train of memories passed through his mental vision. "Oh yeah!" He held up an index finger. He scraped the gum on his shoe to the floor. He took out his walkie-talkie. "Hey, Pat," He leaned towards it.
"Yello?" said Patrick.
"Are you okay with doing hall monitor duty all by yourself for tonight? I've planned to do alotta stuff with Squid after work."
"Umm.. okay, I guess."
"If you get in a fix, just call me."
"So when I'm supposed to start?"
"The moment I finish working. Don't worry about that either. I'll tell you."
A few hours later…
The dining room was empty save for Squidward and SpongeBob.
Squidward was sitting at a table in one corner of the room, watching the sun inch further and further towards the horizon. When he perceived that the sky gained another tint of orange, he glanced at the clock.
SpongeBob was having a conversation with Patrick through the walkie-talkie. When he put away the walkie-talkie, he skipped up to Squidward. "Alrighty, let's roll!" He locked arms with Squidward and dragged him towards the double-door.
Squidward glanced at the windows next to the double door, realizing that he had forgotten to put up a new 'HELP WANTED' poster. He then gulped and moved his gaze towards the dark blue emerging from the horizon, avoiding SpongeBob's eyes. "Uh, yeah… let's take a look at that list first."
SpongeBob took out the list with his other hand and unrolled it. He glanced at it. "Well, the first thing I want to do is show my best friend Squidward to everybody in town."
Several minutes later…
SpongeBob and Squidward were standing before a fish wearing a business suit.
SpongeBob wrapped an arm around Squidward's shoulder. "Hi, there. This is my best friend, Squidward."
The fish's face was neutral. He resumed his walking.
Ten minutes later…
SpongeBob and Squidward were in the park, approaching a group of children playing soccer.
"Hey, kids!" SpongeBob pointed at Squidward with both hands. "Check it out!"
The children paused their game and turned towards the two. Upon perceiving the moisture in Squidward's eyes, some of them frowned.
"This is my best friend Squidward," said SpongeBob. "Squidward, kids. Kids, Squidward."
A soccer ball hit Squidward's forehead.
A few minutes later…
SpongeBob and Squidward walked up to a fish sitting on a bench, who was fishing from the nearby river.
SpongeBob gently nudged Squidward towards the fisherman. "Hi, I want to show you my best friend, Squidward."
Squidward looked at the fisherman in the eye. The fisherman was one of the Krusty Krab's regular customers. "Hey, Frank."
Fifteen minutes later…
The Strangler and his associates exited the mall. They were all wearing hoodies and pants with colors entirely different from those they wore before.
SpongeBob, while holding Squidward's hand, walked up to them. "Hey, guys, this is my best friend Squidward."
The hooded group stared at SpongeBob and Squidward and then glanced at each other.
MIke smirked. 'This'll be easier than I thought.'
The Strangler elbowed Mike.
When SpongeBob and Squidward could no longer be seen, the Strangler gathered the group into a huddle. "Boys, let's get new outfits."
The hooded group returned to the mall.
Several minutes later…
SpongeBob and Squidward were standing a few steps away from a road.
SpongeBob had unrolled his list. He checked off the first item. "Now we're on to our next activity."
Squidward glanced at his watch and then at SpongeBob's stomach. He perceived that SpongeBob's pupils and the sky's growing dark blue were the same color. "Wh-Which is..?" He leaned towards the list, attempting to conceal his trembling legs.
SpongeBob rolled the list, tossed it to the air, and leaned to his right, getting the list to land into his pocket. "I'm gonna show my best friend Squidward to everybody in town wearing a salmon suit."
Squidward visualized SpongeBob frolicking in Jellyfish Fields while wearing a salmon suit, with his blue pupils sparkling like diamonds under sunlight. He sniffed. "You're going t-to be wearing a… s-salmon suit?"
SpongeBob blinked. He then laughed. "That's a good one, Squid." He poked the area near Squidward's heart. "It's you that's wearing it."
Squidward's lips were quivering again. "Y'know something, Sponge?"
"I wore a salmon suit before." Squidward's lips curved.
"Really?" SpongeBob stood on tip-toe and clasped his hands together.
"Didn't you remember?" Squidward, while still smiling, put his hands on his hips. "I wore one every halloween. My parents wouldn't buy me anything more expensive."
Seventeen minutes later…
SpongeBob and Squidward were running towards one of the park's exits.
Several children were aiming their soccer balls at Squidward.
Six minutes later…
The Strangler and his associates reached an intersection of alleyways.
Through one of the hallways, Ricky saw Squidward. He pointed at the fins of the salmon suit. "Guys, look!"
The others looked at the salmon suit and laughed.
Squidward g;anced to his left, but the gang dispersed before he could catch a glimpse.
Thirty minutes later…
SpongeBob, with the list unrolled, crossed off the second item. "Next," He rolled the list, put it away, and hopped to a nearby rock, and crouched. "Knock-knock jokes!"
Squidward was no longer wearing the salmon suit. He stepped to the rock and sat on it.
SpongeBob knocked on the rock. "Hey, Squid, knock-knock."
Faint traces of stars were beginning to appear in the sky.
"You are!" SpongeBob poked the center of Squidward's forehead.
Squidward's eyes moistened again. He detected that SpongeBob's clothes were starting to lose their square shape. "Oh… yeah…"
SpongeBob unrolled the list and crossed off the third item.
Forty minutes later…
SpongeBob and Squidward were walking backwards. They were both making sounds imitating the beeping of a truck's back-up alarm.
SpongeBob looked behind his shoulder and saw a few pedestrians. "Look out, everyone! Friends in reverse!" He resumed his beeping.
A few minutes later…
SpongeBob crossed off another item from his list.
Twenty minutes later…
SpongeBob's body was wrapped around Squidward's head. HIs back was against Squidward's face. "Turn left." He pointed to his left.
Squidward's movements were unsteady. Whenever SpongeBob adjusted his limbs, he teetered to one side. He turned to his left and took a few steps forward.
"...stop." SpongeBob hopped off Squidward's head and landed on tip-toe in a pose a ballerina would do. "See. That's would it would be like if you had me for a face." He unrolled his list and crossed off the second-to-last item. He moved his gaze to the list's bottommost edge and squinted. "The last thing on the list is…" He glanced to the west, perceiving that a bit of the sun was still peeking from the horizon. "...watch the sunset with Squid."
"Sunset?" Squidward was staring at the sky, searching for constellations. He wore a smile and blinked away the moisture in his eyes. "C'mon, buddy," the lump in his throat made his voice quieter. He grabbed SpongeBob's hand and pulled him towards Jellyfish Fields, whose grasses he could see on the horizon's edge. "You want a sunset, you'll get a sunset."
Patrick, while wearing his ice cream hat and gripping his walkie-talkie, was walking down a valley between two large hills in Jellyfish Fields. The growing darkness made the hills seem like they were almost as big as mountains and made the jellyfish seem like they were black orbs of paranormal energy with tentacles attached to them. The dying sunlight caused unorthodox shadows to appear from rocks jutting out of the hills. Faint sounds similar to footsteps were coming from both hills.
Sweat was running down his brow. His heartbeat had quickened so much that he was able to hear it. He held the walkie-talkie by its antenna. "SpongeBob? Come in, SpongeBob. Answer!"
SpongeBob took out his walkie-talkie with his free hand. "SpongeBob here, Patrick. Report."
"I don't wanna be a policeman anymore. I'm scared!"
"Get a hold of yourself, deputy," cooed SpongeBob.
Patrick's sobbing could be heard through the walkie-talkie. "I w-wanna go home!"
"Poor rookie," whispered SpongeBob while leaning away from the walkie-talkie. He then leaned towards it again. "Where are you?"
"In Jellyfish Fields. Between two round things."
"Perfect. I'll be there in a moment," said SpongeBob.
"Hurry, Sponge. I think it's getting... dark."
"Just put on your siren. Wait a few more minutes." SpongeBob then put away his walkie-talkie.
A darkish-red dot was on the horizon of the grassy plain.
"What was that?" said Squidward.
"Patrick's the hall monitor for today."
"But he's not in school anymore..."
SpongeBob halted, causing Squidward to nearly fall backwards. He held up his index finger. "A hall monitor is somebody who prevents crime from occurring, especially when it comes to driving." He took out his 'HM' belt buckle and held it towards Squidward's face. "Mrs. Puff gave it to me yesterday."
"Isn't Mrs. Puff a boating teacher?"
"And she gave Patrick hall monitor duty?"
"I gave it to him yesterday." SpongeBob put away the belt. "He committed the crime of littering, so he became a hall monitor to redeem himself."
Squidward scratched the side of his head. "Wait... she gave you hall monitor duty?"
"And you and Pat are hall monitors outside of school now?"
Squidward put a hand on his chin. No matter how many times he asked SpongeBob, the conclusions he inferred were becoming more and more nonsensical.
Patrick reached the end of the valley. He was now in the plain. "Wee-woo. Wee-woo. Wee-woo. Wee-woo." The walkie-talkie nearly touched his lips. He was gripping it so tightly that the hard plastic felt like it was bending under his thumbs. He constantly glanced to his left and right.
Ten minutes later...
The tip of the sun was still above the horizon. The last orange embers were fighting back the encroaching dark blue in vain.
SpongeBob and Squidward were lying on the ground, facing the sun.
A small brick wall that had been put together more than a century ago separated them. Its bricks had aged to a brownish-red color.
SpongeBob was gazing at the shapes of the sun's dying embers. The sweetness of the grass was filling his nostrils, leaving him in a pseudo-hypnotic state. "Ah, underwater sunsets sure are beautiful. Eh, Squid?" The warmness and softness of the grass made his back feel like he was lying on the pineapple's bed.
Squidward was imagining SpongeBob's body being as bright as a flare falling back to the earth. He gulped, but the heaviness in his throat would not go away. "Yeah."
"This is great." SpongeBob stretched his limbs, cracking his joints. For a few seconds, the evening sky looked indistinguishable from the morning sky. "Just the three of us. You, me... and this brick wall."
"Y-Yeah." Squidward forced out a laugh.
SpongeBob moved his gaze to the pinkess that was sandwiched between the fading orange and the dark blue. He perceived that the sky flowers had become the color of a sea papaya's leaves. "Sunsets always remind me of bowls of fruit. What do they make you think of?"
Squidward saw a helicopter that seemingly had the shape of a war-plane passing through the sky. "Explosions… I mean, erosion."
A jellyfish group moving in a spiral pattern now caught SpongeBob's attention. He perceived how sunlight was being reflected on their tops. His eyes glistened. "Y'know, if I were to die right now in some sort of fiery explosion due to the carelessness of a friend, well, that would just be okay."
Squidward shut his eyes and covered his mouth with one hand, pushing back the sobs that were trying to escape his mind.
SpongeBob burped. "Wow, it feels like something just dropped into my lower intestine." After swallowing his saliva, he noticed a sweet aftertaste. "Hey, smells cherry. Or maybe grape. Blueberry?"
Squidward had covered his face with his shirt. A few warm stains were beginning to appear on it.
SpongeBob perceived that the sun's largest orange ray had disappeared. "Here it is, the sunset!" He sat up. "I always love to count it down. Five… you do the rest, buddy."
Squidward pulled down his shirt. He gasped a few times and sniffed. "F-Four… th-three… tw-tw-two.. o-one."
A faint tip of yellow was still protruding from the horizon.
SpongeBob's body was unscathed. "I guess we started too early. Let's start again."
Squidward pushed himself a few paces further away from the brick wall. He then faced away from the fall, focusing on a group of jellyfish that were circling around a fallen hive. "Five… four… three…"
The brick wall shook. A few bricks fell to the ground.
"Two… o-o-o-one!" Squidward sat up. He was now sobbing without any repression. However, before he could say anything else, a tall hooded figure with calloused hands grabbed him and shove him into a bag.
The hooded figure dashed towards elsewhere. He silenced Squidward's sobs by repeatedly smacking the top of Squidward's head.
Whatever remained of the brick wall teetered to the ground. Most of its bricks were now scattered around SpongeBob, who was blowing bomb-shaped bubbles made out of an orange and spicy liquid.
SpongeBob blew another bomb-shaped bubble. When it exploded, he watched how the glow of the blast spread out like fireworks. "Hey, Squid, check this out!"
The only sounds SpongeBob could hear were the buzzing of a jellyfish.
"Huh?" SpongeBob stood up. "Squid?"
Patrick saw a hooded figure run past him many feet away. He gasped. "WEE-WOO! WEE-WOO! WEE-WOO!"
Spit landed on the walkie-talkie.
"SpongeBob, I see somebody!"
"Where is he, Pat?" SpongeBob glanced in all directions. When he spotted a fuzzy pink star halfway to the horizon, he ran towards it.
"He just passed my left," Patrick looked behind his shoulder, seeing the shadow hopping from one hill to another. "He's on those round things."
After a few minutes of running, SpongeBob reached the area of hills. He halted before a hill.
On the hill's opposite side, which SpongeBob could not see, was Patrick.
SpongeBob stuffed his walkie-talkie to the hole nearest his mouth. "You have any clue why Squid's doing this?"
"Squid?" Patrick was rolling his body up the hill ahead of the one SpongeBob was in front of. When he reached that hill's top, he saw the hooded figure join a group of four other hooded figures. "They don't look like Squid?"
"They?!" SpongeBob put on his kepi and 'HM' belt. "Squid's not there?"
Patrick was hiding behind a rectangle-shaped coral piece. He peeked and perceived that the group was standing entirely still and were all holding a trembling bag. "No… they're holding some sorta shaky thing a-and… they're standing there… menacingly!" He ran down the hill in the direction opposite of the one he had just taken. "GET OUTTA THERE, SPONGEBOB!"
SpongeBob shut his eyes, put his hands on his forehead, as he attempted to visualize what that "shaky thingy" was. When the image of Squidward being confined to a chamber passed by, he opened his eyes. He ran around the right side of the hill in front of him and halted Patrick by grabbing Patrick's shoulders. "Pat, get a hold of yourself!"
Patrick's limbs were trembling. He was mumbling nonsensical combinations of syllables.
SpongeBob resumed speaking after Patrick stopped mumbling. "I think 'they're kidnaping Squid."
"B-B-But we don't have a bodyguard." Patrick pushed SpongeBob's hands away. He resumed his running. "The meanies can beat us up."
SpongeBob grabbed the rim of Patrick's pants, causing Patrick to bounce back to him. "Remember these?" He took out the bottle containing the orange liquid and the bag containing the magic paper. "We don't need a bodyguard now. No matter how strong they are, they can' land a hit on us." He handed another orange liquid bottle ot Patrick.
Patrick took a deep breath. He cracked his knuckles. He swerved his hips until he no longer felt pressure in his knees. "Okay." He stuffed the bottle through his belly button.
Spongebob and Patrick to the left side of another hill.
The hooded group was running towards one of the fences bordering Jellyfish Fields. Squidward's whimpers were faintly heard.
SpongeBob and Patrick followed them at a steady pace, making sure there was plentiful distance between them and the group.
Twenty-nine minutes later…
SpongeBob and Patrick slowed to a stop. They were now on a street that seemingly stretched for miles. On both sides were buildings with boarded up windows and rusty door knobs. Save for their breathing and the honking of cars countless blocks away, all they could hear was silence.
Patrick leaned his back against a street light, causing it to tilt. He wiped some sweat drops from his forehead. "Are we there yet?"
SpongeBob glanced at the buildings, searching for any sign of life. "If they ended up here, they must be from these parts."
Patrick adjusted his ice cream cone, which had softened form his sweat. "What if they're those masked people? They could prolly teleport anywhere?"
"I don't think so. SpongeBob pulled Patrick from the street light. "We've always seen them hang around the places where there's barely any buildings." He watched a feral worm cross the street. "If these guys really are from these parts, I think they're gonna sell Squid in the black market. I've heard it happen before."
Patrick snatched the brown bag from SpongeBob's squarepants. "Then let's use that paper right now." He took out the paper from the bag. "If they sneak up on us when we're not ready, we'll be toads."
"You mean toast." SpongeBob took hold of the magic paper with both hands. He dragged the paper and Patrick in tow into an alley and then closed his eyes.
"Yeah." Patrick closed his eyes. His other hand took hold of the magic paper.
"What should we think of?" said Patrick.
"Whatever makes you feel strong," said SpongeBob.
The magic paper's glow brightened. The remaining light it contained spread over to SpongeBob and Patrick's bodies.
A headband that had two holes perfectly fitting Patrick's eyes appeared on his face. A blue cape tied around his neck poofed into existence. Blue pants replaced his regular pants.
The 'HM' buckle expanded into a shield double SpongeBob's size and fell to the ground with a CLANK.
The paper stopped glowing, becoming as white as a normal paper.
SpongeBob and Patrick opened their eyes.
SpongeBob picked up the shield with ease. "Ooh, this is quite light." He repeatedly tossed and caught the shield as if it was a ball. Sensing that his legs were no longer sore, he proceeded to sprint up and down the alley without producing a single sweat drop. "Guess I've gotten stronger too."
Patrick flexed his arm muscles, perceiving the veins in them popping out. He punched the ground, leaving a deep dent. "Me three." He then held his fist forward, pulled it back, and held it forward again.
A small blue forcefield shot out of his fist, causing a trash can to fall to the ground.
'My Super Charge ability carried over!' Patrick grinned.
SpongeBob tripped on the dent and fell to the ground head-first. He then hopped to his feet and saw that Patrick was still holding out his fist. "Pat, did you cause this?" He tapped his foot on the dent.
Patrick pushed his ice cream cone deeper into his head. He put his fists on his hips. "I am Starfishman now."
"Um..." SpongeBob tipped his cepi and smiled awkwardly. "Okay."
The two stepped out of the alley and proceeded down the street.
The Strangler pushed open the trap door to the rooftop with his head. He and his associates, while still carrying Squidward, slipped into the rooftop.
When the whole gang was on the rooftop, the Strangler opened the bag and took out Squidward.
Squidward glanced at the Strangler and his associates, whose faces under the hoods were revealed by the nearby light on the rooftop. Seeing their furrowed brows, tall statures, and the metallic objects sticking out of their pockets; he nearly fainted.
The Strangler took out a roll of duct tape and put a piece of it over Squidward's mouth. Receiving a long roll of rope from Marcus, he then tied Squidward's trembling tentacles into one coil. While holding one end of the rope, he held Squidward beyond the rooftop's edge.
The other group members stood on the other edges of the rooftop, scanning the streets for any sign of a yellow sponge.
Squidward, upon seeing the street several stories below, began to whimper again.
The Strangler spun the rope until Squidward became dizzy. He then pulled the rope and held it up so that Squidward was looking at him in the eye from upside down. He poked Squidward's nose. "You better shut the Hades up," he hissed while pointing at the cleat scars on his face. "I've busted my butt to make it this far. If you don't wanna cooperate"-he took out a knife and held it centimeters away from Squidward's throat-"I'll get the job done early."
The Strangler's small set of eyes and the few strands of brown hair leaking from his hood caused several memories of news reports to flash by through Squidward's mind. "You're the Strangler?" he said through the duct tape, which muffled his voice.
"Who?" With a smirk, the Strangler put away the knife and cracked his knuckles. "I don't know who you're talking about."
A poster that had the word 'WANTED' in bold red font, a rough sketch of SpongeBob below it, and a monetary award fluttered to the rooftop.
Mike caught the poster and glanced at it. He chuckled. "Hey, look who it is." He showed the poster to Jack and Ricky.
Jack was wearing his shades. He squinted, taking note of the sketch's buck-toothed smile. "He kinda looks like one of the neighbors I had at that tiki."
"Yup. It's the maniac," said Ricky. "Once we're done with this, we could turn the little guy in for some extra cash."
"True," said Mike.
SpongeBob was holding his shield below his stomach, glancing at every alley he passed by.
Patrick was marching with upraised legs and swaying arms. He kept his brows furrowed: what he considered to be the face of an ideal superhero.
The two moved past a certain building.
Mike saw SpongeBob and Patrick. "Now's our chance," he whispered loudly. He then cupped his hands around his mouth and leaned forward. "HEY! SQUAREHEAD AND PINK FATTY! UP HERE!"
"Huh?" SpongeBob looked up. He saw Squidward's tied body dangling stories above the nearby street light. His jaw dropped. "Sq-Squid?" Following the rope that tied Squidward, he saw the Strangler and the other men on the rooftop. He immediately recognized the Strangler's hands and small eyes. "B-B-Bodyguard?"
Patrick looked up and spotted Jack. He recognized Jack's black hair. 'Was he my neighbor?' His eyes widened, losing his heroic face.
SpongeBob tightened his grip on the shield. Squidward's moist eyes, the 'maniac' posters, and his memory of that morning's news report ignited a fire he had rarely encountered before. That fire began to consume his mind, burning away any sympathetic thoughts for the unfamiliar faces on the rooftop. He took out the bottle of orange liquid.
Patrick was now staring at SpongeBob's scowl, which made SpongeBob look like he was possessed by one of the Furies. "Sponge?" he said quietly. He raised his hands towards his mouth, forgetting that he did not have nails to chew.
The Strangler put his hands behind his back. He took a step forward. "We're gonna let your friend go on one condition," He shook the rope, causing Squidward to sway in chaotic loops. "Give us a little fee of eight-thousand buck-" A pebble hit his nostrils.
SpongeBob's hand was outstretched. He blew a raspberry towards the Strangler.
SpongeBob kicked open the front door and ran inside.
Patrick shook his fist towards the men on the rooftop. "We'll teach you scum a lesson!" He then followed SpongeBob.
"Whaddya know?" The Stranger rubbed his nose holes. "He still acts like a maniac." He tied his end of the rope to one of the bolts that attached the ceiling to the building's circular wall.
The thunderous creaking of the wooden stairs under SpongeBob and Patrick's feet spread throughout the building.
"Oh boy, they're coming alright." Marcus cooled off his cigarette by pushing it against one of his boots. He tossed it to the side. He took out a lead pipe that was concealed inside his jacket.
The Strangler's associates turned to face the trapdoor.
Mike took out his baseball hat and twirled it with one hand. "We'll give 'em a good whooping."
Less than a minute later...
Patrick's Super Charge ability opened the trapdoor.
The Strangler and his associates halted and took a few steps back.
Mike nearly lost his grip on his bat. "H-Huh?"
SpongeBob and Patrick jumped out of the trapdoor at the same time, back-to-back. They were both holding their bubble wands, soaked in orange liquid, towards the gang. In mid-air, they blew into their bubble wands.
A flurry of bomb-shaped bubbles spread across the ceiling.
BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM
BOOM BOOM BOOM
Many explosions occurred within the span of several seconds, leaving behind a few trails of smoke and several dents on the ceiling.
"W-What the-?" One of them hit Jack, causing him to bump into Ricky.
Jack and Ricky fell to the floor.
Mike tightened his grip on the metal bat. He grit his teeth. "Rggh!" While forcing his brows to remain furrowed, he charged towards SpongeBob.
SpongeBob blew a few bomb-shaped bubbles towards him.
Mike swung the bubbles away with his bat.
BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM
The bubbles exploded a few feet away from Mike. The directions of their explosions were perpendicular to the ceiling.
Mike swung towards SpongeBob's head.
SpongeBob did a handstand facing Mike and pushed both of his feet forward.
Both of SpongeBob's feet hit Mike's face.
Mike flew a few feet away. Upon landing on the floor head-first with a BONK, he became dizzy.
Marcus dove towards Patrick and swung his lead pipe towards Patrick's wrists.
The lead pipe pushed the bubble wand and bottle of orange liquid out of Patrick's hands, causing them to fall from the ceiling all the way to the ground.
Patrick sucked his teeth. "Fish paste!"He punched Marcus' belly.
Marcus lost his breath. He wheezed.
WHAM BAM WHACK SMACK BAM WHAM WHAM SMACK BAM
Patrick unleashed a combo of punches and slaps on Marcus.
Marcus bumped across the floor, nearly reaching the edge of the ceiling.
Patrick slapped his chest until he caught SpongeBob's attention. He then pointed at himself and then at the thugs.
SpongeBob held up a thumbs-up. He then dashed towards the bolt the rope holding Squidward had been tied to. His legs became increasingly blurry as he accelerated.
Ricky took out a taser that was in his pocket. He shoved it towards SpongeBob.
SpongeBob pushed his shield forward, causing the taser to slip out of Ricky's hand and fall to the ground stories below.
Jack took out his pocket knife and lunged towards SpongeBob from behind.
SpongeBob turned around while keeping his shield forward.
CLANnNnNG CLINK CLINK CLINK
The shield blocked all of Jack's stabs.
SpongeBob smacked the crown of Jack's head with the shield, causing Jack to take a few shaky steps back. He then turned around, pushed himself forward by kicking the floor, threw the shield to the floor with its inner side facing up, and hopped onto the shield.
SpongeBob rode the shield like a snowboard. In less than three seconds, he reached the tied bolt. He halted the shield by stomping one foot to the ceiling. He then crouched, untied the knot on the bolt, and hauled Squidward to the ceiling.
The Strangler charged towards SpongeBob. The steps of his boots thundered throughout the ceiling.
SpongeBob, in the blink of an eye, blew a bomb-shaped bubble towards the Strangler.
The bubble exploded on the Strangler's face, leaving behind ash marks. He shielded his eyes with both hands.
The back of his head hit the chimney, bringing forth dizziness. His body slowly slipped to the floor. While pushing away the illusory stars and scallops spinning around his head, he dug through his pockets for his dagger.
SpongeBob picked up Squidward by wrapping one arm around his waist. He hoisted Squidward against his shoulder. "Are you okay, Squid?"
Squidward nodded. He was sniffing.
SpongeBob ducked Ricky's punch and then uppercutted Ricky with a kick, all without moving his gaze away from Squidward. "You got hurt anywhere?"
Squidward shook his head.
SpongeBob peeled the tape off Squidward's mouth.
Ricky took out a machete that was inside his pants. "Guess I'm gonna have to do this samurai style!" While holding the machete with both hands, he swung it towards SpongeBob's legs.
SpongeBob leaped, landed on top of Ricky's head, jumped off him, and dashed towards the trapdoor.
The Strangler stood up. He was now holding the dagger. "Play time's over!" He caught up with SpongeBob. He grabbed the back of SpongeBob's shirt with his free hand.
Patrick pushed his fist towards the Strangler's chest, pulled it back, and pushed it forward again.
The Strangler, while falling to the floor from the blue forcefield, held on to SpongeBob, causing him and Squidward in tow to fall to the floor as well.
SpongeBob opened the bottle of orange liquid and poured a bit of it over the Strangler's face.
The orange liquid irritated the cleat wounds in the Strangler's cheeks. "AAAAAAAAHHHH!" He let go of SpongeBob and clutched his face. He stood up and took several steps back.
Ricky, in the fall of a jump from behind, aimed his machete at SpongeBob's head.
SpongeBob blocked the stab by holding his shield backward. He then turned around.
SpongeBob and Ricky were blocking each other's strikes and blows with the shield and machete respectively.
Squidward shut his eyes and swallowed his lips. Within the darkness of his eyelids, he visualized the comforts of his parents' house and the hand of a deity guarding all three neighbors' bodies.
SpongeBob pushed his shield while leaning one side of his body forward, causing the flat side of the machete to slap Ricky's face.
Ricky bumped into Jack, who had been running towards Patrick.
Jack and Ricky tumbled together.
"Again?!" said Jack.
Jack and Ricky stopped rolling upon reaching Patrick's feet.
Patrick grabbed one of their ankles each, raised their bodies, swung them like yo-yos, and threw them towards the Strangler, who was getting dangerously close to SpongeBob.
The Strangler caught Jack and Ricky by grabbing the backs of their necks. "You guys better get serious! The more this fighting keeps up, the bigger the chance some snitch is gonna bring the cops over," he whispered loudly. He pushed them down with their feet aligning to the floor.
Ricky, Jack, and the Strangler spread out until there was equal space between each other. They ran in a semi-circle formation. They took out their pistols from their pockets and aimed them at Patrick.
P-P-P-TAFF P-P-P-TAFF P-P-P-TAFF
Ricky, Jack, and the Strangler fired their pistols simultaneously.
SpongeBob, from behind, wrapped the arm holding the shield around Patrick.
KAK KAK KAK
The bullets bounced off the shield, landing on the floor with a rattle.
Mike and Marcus, who were no longer dizzy, swung down at SpongeBob and Patrick from behind.
Mike and Marcus' weapons hit SpongeBob and Patrick's shoulders and backs, causing them to fall forward.
Ricky, Jack, and the Strangler ran until they were a few steps away from SpongeBob and Patrick. They aimed their guns downward.
P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF
BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM
Patrick countered the bullets by unleashing a combo of Super Charge punches.
The bullets flew towards the sky.
One bullet flew through the visor of Ricky's cap, causing the cap to flip to the floor.
Ricky was bald save for a single long strand of hair on the middle of his crown. "Dammit!" He reached for his cap.
SpongeBob gave Squidward to Patrick. He crawled a few paces forward, dipped the bubble wand into the orange liquid bottle, and then backspinned while blowing bomb-shaped bubbles.
Countless bomb-shaped bubbles spread out from SpongeBob in a spiral pattern.
BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM
Mike and Marcus spun their bat and lead pipe respectively, pushing away the bubbles.
P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF
BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM
Ricky, Jack, and the Strangler fired into the bubbles.
Patrick placed Squidward on the trapdoor. He hopped to his feet.
WHAM BOFF BAM BOFF BAM
Patrick did a combo of punches on Mike. When Mike lost his grip on the bat, Patrick tossed the bat out of the ceiling's radius. He then grabbed Marcus' feet.
SLAM SLAM SLAM SLAM SLAM
Patrick, to his left and right, swung Marcus' body to the floor like a wrestler. When Marcus became dizzy enough, he swung Marcus' body towards Mike like a bat.
Mike caught Marcus by grabbing his head. He pulled Marcus out of Patrick's grasp and shook Marcus' body until Marcus was no longer dizzy. "Get a grip on yourself! You shoulda bought that helmet at the mall." He placed Marcus back on his feet and ran towards Patrick.
Mike punched Patrick's belly.
Patrick giggled as the force left by the punch's impact spread throughout his belly in a jiggle. He kicked Mike in the groin.
Mike, barely feeling any pain, smirked. "We're sea creatures, remember?" He attempted to lift Patrick. However, no matter how much he strained his muscles or how many deep breaths he took, Patrick would not budge.
Patrick swung his fist on Mike's head.
Mike slid to the floor. He fell into a state between consciousness and unconsciousness.
Ricky, Jack, and the Strangler aimed their pistols at SpongeBob.
Click Click Click Click Click Click Click Click
Their pistols fired blanks. The ammo clips were empty.
SpongeBob snapped his fingers towards them. His tongue was sticking out slightly. "Gotcha!" He blew three bomb-shaped bubbles.
BOOM BOOM BOOM
Each bomb-shaped bubble hit the guns before the three could refill their ammo clips.
SHATTER SHATTER SHATTER
Each gun exploded into several pieces of shrapnel.
Several shrapnel hit Ricky's cap, causing it to fly away from the ceiling.
A few of the shrapnel stabbed Jack's palms.
Jack sucked air between his teeth as he tremblingly took each piece out.
Several of the shrapnel pierced the Strangler's sneakers, which had been recently bought. "Now you've done it!" With a scowl as fierce as that of a gargoyle, he pulled out all of the pieces from his shoes. "I paid an arm and a leg to get these!"
SpongeBob wrapped his arm around Squidward again and opened the trapdoor. He was looking at Patrick. "Keep them busy until the police gets here. I'm gonna find a nearby phone," he whispered.
Patrick did a military salute.
"I heard that!" Mike sat up.
SpongeBob grabbed Jack, lifted him, and slammed him down to a state of dizziness.
"Oh, so you're gonna snitch on yourselves?" Marcus twirled his lead pipe behind his back. "You're the maniac." He looked at SpongeBob. "And accomplice." He looked at Patrick. "Even if you get us arrested, you're gonna get arrested too. Haven't you seen the 'wanted' posters? Just give up, fellas." He pointed at Squidward. "By paying that cash, we both get to save our time."
"Nuh-uh." SpongeBob adjusted his cepi. "I am a hall monitor. I have sworn to ensure the safety of all of Bikini Bottom;s citizens." He put his hand over his heart. "I shall not break that promise."
Marcus snorted. "What a twat." He swung at SpongeBob.
Patrick uppercutted the lead pipe, pushing Marcus back by several steps.
SpongeBob dove through the opening and closed the trapdoor.
Mike took out a pistol and aimed it at Patrick.
Patrick, without even looking at Mike, deflected the bullet with a super-charge punch.
Jack wrapped an arm around Patrick's neck and took out his pistol with his other arm. "Well, it's always good to have a spare."
Patrick Super Charge-kicked Jack from behind.
The forcefield flung Jack to the air.
P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF
A few haphazard shots were fired from the gun. All of them hit the ceiling.
SpongeBob was running down a u-shaped staircase. He was holding Squidward while using the top of his head for support. Several sweat drops were running down his brow.
Three bullets pierced the ceiling of the floor SpongeBob was on.
SpongeBob and Squidward flinched.
Jack landed on the ceiling, leaving a dent. He struggled to bring himself back up.
Patrick punched Marcus on the cheek.
The Strangler kicked Patrick from Patrick's right.
RIcky and Mike grabbed Patrick's left arm and pulled him with all of the strength they could muster.
Patrick fell to the floor face-first.
Ricky and the Strangler proceeded to unleash a flurry of punches and kicks on Patrick's back.
Jack, Mike, and Marcus aimed their guns at Patrick.
"This'll do it!" said Mike.
Patrick curled himself into a ball like a hedgehog.
Jack, Mike, and Marcus furrowed their brows. They unconsciously lowered their pistols.
"Watch out, guys!" Ricky gestured towards Patrick with both arms. "They're tricking you aga-"
Patrick unleashed force fields from the tip of his head and each limb.
A crater formed in the roof.
"W-Woah!" SpongeBob tumbled down the stairs while hugging Squidward.
The Strangler and his associates soared countless feet above Patrick. When they began to succumb to gravity; Jack, Mike, and Marcus aimed their guns again at Patrick.
P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF
Patrick rolled to his back lying on the floor.
Patrick punched a steady stream of Super Charge punches towards the bullets.
The bullets spread from the building like the sparks of fireworks.
The Strangler and his associates fell to the floor.
Patrick's arms began to feel lighter than before. His headband gained a color between red and pink. His pants gained a color between blue and green.
Jack, Mike, and Marcus stood up and refilled their guns' ammo pads.
P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF
They fired again.
BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM
Patrick deflected them with his Super Charge punches. However, the force fields had less force than before, causing bullet holes to appear around Patrick a foot away from him. "Huh?" He sat up and looked at his arms, perceiving that they had nearly returned to their size before his transformation.
P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF
Jack, Mike, Marcus walked into the crater as they fired their weapons.
Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom
Patrick barely deflected the bullets as he dashed to the trapdoor. He opened it, dove through the opening, and closed the door.
P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF P-TAFF
More bullets were shot, piercing the trapdoor.
Nearly 30 seconds later...
Patrick's pants, which was soaked in sweat, had returned to its normal color by the time he caught up with SpongeBob. Taking a few deep breaths, he put a hand on SpongeBob's shoulder and leaned against him.
SpongeBob was no longer carrying Squidward. He had untied his rope and allowed him to walk along the stairs with him instead. Patrick's weight caused him to nearly fall down the stairs. "Pat?" He stepped away from Patrick and looked towards him. He widened his eyes upon seeing that Patrick's headband and cape had disappeared entirely. "What happened?!"
Patrick shrugged. "The paper prolly didn't have alotta juice left."
SpongeBob pointed at his 'HM' belt buckle, which was no longer his shield. "Guess the same thing happened to me too."
Several bullets whizzed past SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward; piercing some stairs.
Voices could be heard in the distance.
"Tartar sauce!" said Mike.
"C'mon guys! Don't let 'em get away!" said Marcus.
SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward were near the end of the stairway. They dashed to the front door, opened it, and stepped outside.
"Surprise!" The Strangler lifted SpongeBob by the sides of his body, ran to the left alley of the house, squeezed SpongeBob's flesh until he found the neck, and began to strangle him.
SpongeBob attempted to dig his nails into the Strangler's arms. However, the Strangler's arms were too muscular for it to have any effect. His face gradually became blue as he struggled to breathe. His vision was becoming hazy. His legs began to kick.
The Strangler laughed. "At long last," He shook SpongeBob until his legs stopped moving. "You're finally gonna get put in your place. It's bozos like you that make life hard for me."
"What do you mean?" whispered SpongeBob. His eyes were moistening.
"I wasn't a real bodyguard. I was just tryin' to get your cash. Nothing more than that." The Strangler tightened his grip on SpongeBob as he felt Patrick's punches and tugs on his back. "If you weren't such a maniac, this whole thing would've never happened. Stealing your money would've been easy as pie."
A light bulb lit up in SpongeBob's head. "Hey, not-bodyguard, do you feel hungry?"
"Hm?" The Strangler's head leaned towards one side. "Why you're asking?"
SpongeBob took out the pie Squidward had bought from the pirates. "Good-pie!" He shoved it into the Strangler's face.
An explosion erupted from the pie and engulfed the building. It shoved the Strangler into the building, leaving a body-shaped hole in the wall. Within several seconds, an inferno as bright as a searchlight spread throughout the entire building.
Mike, Marcus, Ricky, and Jack fell through a window and landed on the ground unconscious. Ash marks were all over their skin.
Squidward was gazing at the fire with a dropped jaw, watching its bright cloud of smoke soar to the height of a skyscraper and spread over the sky as wide as a field. "H-How did you-"
"I found out what was in the pie while you were doing your errands." SpongeBob took off his cepi and 'HM' belt. "I took a little piece of it but accidentally dropped it. When it touched the floor, it did a mini-explosion and left behind some ash. I then made sure to clean up the mess so good you couldn't tell that anything changed. I didn't reveal the truth 'til now 'cause I thought that you might think I was rejecting your gift." SpongeBob tapped the side of his squarepants. "So I kept it as a last-resort weapon for my hall monitor duties."
The moisture in Squidward's eyes was returning. The countless return trips to the Krusty Krab flashed by. One particular thought that accompanied a trip: SpongeBob tripping to the floor and exploding, repeatedly played in his mind. "So one of them was right all along..."
With a downward gaze, SpongeBob was circling his foot against the ground.
Squidward put a hand on SpongeBob's shoulder and used his other hand to tilt SpongeBob's chin upward.
Several minutes later...
A police boatmobile and several fire trucks were parked before the burning building.
Fire fighters, standing on ladders elevated from the fire trucks, were hosing down the fire.
The Strangler and his associates had been lined up, with their bodies lying face-first on the ground. The orange and green policemen were putting handcuffs on their wrists.
The green policeman, upon putting in the final handcuffs, stood up and saw Patrick. He recognized him by the ice cream cone he was still wearing. "So, we meet again." He looked at SpongeBob, who was standing next to Patrick, and narrowed his eyes. He took out the 'WANTED' poster for the maniac and repeatedly glanced between it and SpongeBob. With a hand on his chin, he walked up to SpongeBob. "You look awfully familiar..."
SpongeBob looked towards Squidward with pleading eyes and hands clasped together.
Squidward took a deep breath. "Who're you talking about?"
"The maniac..." The green policeman glanced at SpongeBob again. "He looks like the maniac."
"It's probably just a coincidence." Squidward smiled. "
"Yeah." The green policeman put away the poster. "Alotta sponges of his body type look quite similar."
SpongeBob's lips curved.