The next morning Mom woke me up on the couch.
“It’s time to go to The Mall,” she said.
“Nooo,” I said.
It was too early, and I wanted to keep sleeping.
“Come on,” she said. “We need to get your pants.”
“But I have pants.”
“We need to get your dress pants for the wedding tho, remember?”
“I don’t wanna go to a wedding.”
“But you’ve already come all this way for your friends in Philadelphia.”
“I don’t know anyone there.”
“Yes, you do, sleepyhead.”
Then she opened the blinds, and the sun shined too hard on me.
“Nyaargh!” I said.
But it was too bright to go back to sleep. I hadta get up and get ready and go to The Mall even tho I didn’t even remember why.
“Do you want to drive?” Mom said.
“Of course not,” I said.
Then we took her car, and I got in the backseat.
On the way The Radio was playing a song with sitars and chanting. I’d never heard it before.
“Is this some kind of New Hit?” I said.
“No,” she said. “This is my Self Growth Music. It’s good, listen.”
I trusted Mom the most on songs and tried to like it. But it was in a language I didn’t know, and there were no electric guitars or high, powerful vocals. There were no choruses or verses or bridges or solos, it was just the same noises repeating over and over.
“It’s not very high or powerful,” I said.
“Its vibrations are high and powerful tho,” she said.
By the end of the drive I decided there was no way it could ever be on The Great List of Old Songs. But more importantly my ears were getting full of TimeFuck Tingles. They hurt, and they were growing, and I knew it would be really bad if they spread to the center of my head.
Soon the massive concrete square that was The Mall arose before us. We pulled into the equally massive parking lot, and Mom turned the music off.
We went into The Department Store where all the clothes were. There was a men’s section with my clothes, but no one else was there with their Mom.
She immediately started looked thru the racks of dress pants trying to find the right size.
“Hmm,” she said. “I don’t think they have anything small enough to fit you.”
She picked up a pair of pants and held them up to my waist.
“These might be alright,” she said, “but you’ll need to go to the fitting room to find out.”
“Do I have to?” I said.
I was tired and my head was still funny from Mom’s new music. I just didn’t have the energy to take off my pants and put on new pants and then take those pants off and then put my old pants back on.
“You don’t want them so long you’re stepping on them with your shoes. They’ll fray at the bottom.”
“I don’t think I care.”
“If you stay for another day we could get them hemmed.”
“Aren’t I just going to stay here for every day forever?”
She didn’t hear me tho. Then she got the pants, but she still wouldn’t let us leave The Department Store.
“What are we doing now?” I said.
“You still need to get a dress shirt and shoes and socks and a belt.”
Then we had to look thru more racks. We went over to the shirts, and she held a blue button-down one up to my chest.
“I think you’re a small,” she said. “You’re probably still a small.”
“Alright,” I said, “just get it so we can go.”
She got it, but she soon got distracted by other racks that didn’t even have the things she said I needed on it.
“Ooh,” she said, “look at this t-shirt. What’s that on it? A crocodile?”
“I hate crocodiles,” I said.
I was so tired and bored, I didn’t want to stand anymore. I sat down cross-legged on the floor and held my head in my hands while Mom kept shopping. It was taking forever. Sometimes pretty teenage girls would walk by and look at me weird, and it would make me feel bad.
“Mom,” I said, “can we go now?”
“But we haven’t got your shoes yet,” she said.
“I feel sick tho. I’m too sick to be at The Mall.”
“Tsst, I bet it’s all that Dr. Pepper you drank.”
“We need to go home so I can take something that makes me better.”
“Alright, I have some Self Growth remedies that will cure you.”
“I don’t care. We just hafta leave here.”
When we got back in the car The Self Growth music was playing again. The Tingles were now in my stomach, too, and I felt like throwing them up.
“Can you play The Real Radio instead?” I said.
“You mean like The Hits Station?”
“Oh, I don’t ever listen to that kind of music anymore.”
“Not even Journey or Mariah Carey?”
“No, I guess I’ve Grown past that.”
Suddenly my whole body got filled with a gigantic dose of TimeFuck. Had I remembered I was a Reality Traveler I might have made a last minute sacrifice to The Goddess of Faith, but I did not. The spinning went faster and faster until all my senses shut off, and I didn’t even know where I was anymore.
“My city is gone,” I managed to say right before everything turned black.