Jake woke to pounding at his door. It was light out and the inside of his head was throbbing red thunder. Jake could feel his hair matted with old blood. The sphere sat inscrutable. Gingerly avoiding fragments of shell, Jake stood up. Swooning to his feet, the pounding resumed.
“Hold on,” he shouted.
Again, the pounding came. Jake stumbled over his coat, somehow on the floor, and fell into the hall table, almost knocking over a lamp.
“I said I’m coming… hold on.” Jake checked the peephole.
In his hallway stood two girlscouts, their arms filled with cookie boxes and the blonde was holding a clipboard.
“I'm, ah... I'm not interested. Thanks.”
The pounding came again. Jake looked back over the top of his couch at the sphere.
“I said I'm not interested. Please go away.”
He could hear hushed talking on the other side of the door. He peered back out at them and the blonde girl shaking her head and stomping, adamant. She knocked again.
“Listen mister, we just want a moment of you time, that's all. We have samples!”
Jake pressed his forehead to the coolness of the door. He held his breath, hoping they would tired themselves out. His head was still spinning wildly and his eyes once again beheld the globe. Pounding on the door again, the girl scouts rattled his skull like a bell. Irritated, he opened the door.
The girl scouts stood impassive, tiny cookie-laden sentinels of banality. While the smaller, darker haired one shyly regarded her shoes, the blonde one tenaciously held to her guns.
“Hello,” she recited, “We're with girlscouts of America. We would like to offer you the opportunity to...”
“I said,” Jake said, “I wasn't interested. I... I'm diabetic.”
“That's ok. Recently we started offering sugar-free options of some of our favorite cookies.”
“I'm on Atkins,” jake was clutching at straws.
“Aha! Well,” she began digging in her bag, “the girl scouts realize that people are becoming more health-conscious, so we'd like to present our new Cookie: the Greenie! Low-carb, sugar-free, and still delicious.”
Jake stood, blinking. He didn't know what was worse right now, his pounding head or this petite Napoleon who would not concede defeat. He glanced back into his apartment and was surprised to find his lamp floating a few inches over his table.
Jake laughed nervously, darted out into the hallway and narrowed the gap in the door behind him. This unexpected movement was obviously too much for the tiny brunette, who fled down the hallway. But the blonde remained, looking up at him.
“This... really isn't a good time for me. I've got...” jake heard a thump from inside, “a lot going on.”
The blonde's megawatt smile melted. Her eyes narrowed malevolently.
“Ok. We can do this easy, or we can do this hard.”
“I've gotta sell these shitty cookies. I don't want to. Do you think I like knocking on doors and talking to smelly people, no. But my mom...”
“Shut up,” she growled. “I've gotta sell 10 boxes of cookies a day to go on the camping trip. I don't want to go on the camping trip either, but my mom won't listen to me. So if I'm stuck doing this, you're stuck listening to me.”
“I... wow... Um...” Jake watched as she re-donned her glowing sales grin.
“We have Thin-mints and Tagalongs and...”
“But,” Jake started, but was cut short by her predatorial stare.
“...Samoas and Do-si-dos and...”
Jake listened to her drone on, craning his neck back to look through the gap in the door. His apartment was slowly being transformed into a space station as random furniture began to gently lift itself into the air and hover there unaided.
“So,” she was apparently wrapping up, “I'll put you down for three boxes, yes. You're going to take three boxes. What kind do you want?”
“Actually...” Jake yowled as she stepped on his foot.
Jake had had enough. He bent down to look her dead in the eye, finger pointed accusitively at her nose.
“No, YOU listen, you little brat. I've had a long day... I haven't gotten much sleep and I have a... I've got my own problems to deal with, so you run along right now, or I'm gonna go inside and get my fire extinguisher and you're gonna be walking home looking like a snowman, got it?”
Her eyes remained locked on his as Jake watched the Machiavellian gears turning. Her eyes lit up, and her mouth twisted into a vicious smile. She began to cry. Loudly. She was bawling at the top of her lungs, sucking in deep, shuddering breaths.
“Oh, now this is ridiculous.”
She continued crying, eyes darting around to the other doors.
Jake heard someone coming up the stairs. He darted back into his apartment, slamming the door and sliding the dead-bolt into place.
In his absence, his couch had become stuck to the ceiling, floating peacefully over the orb. His lamp had made it clear across the room and was now drifting slowly out the window. He ran over to it, grabbing the cord just as it was about to slip out the window into the open air.
“What is going on here,” he said.
He reached up and grabbed the dangling end of the couch, pulling it back down with ease. It thumped to the ground heavily at his feet, bouncing merrily.
“Ok,” he said, “I'm getting my toolbox.”
After an hour's work, he had nailed most of his furniture to the floors and walls, taped over his appliances and pictures, which had been wobbling threateningly on the wallhooks. His tasks seemingly done, he turned back to the globe.
Bouyed in the mysterious fluid of the sphere, the figure was awake. She had swum up to the thin crystal membrane of the globe and pressed her hands against it like a child at a store window.
Jake cautiously approached the globe, his hand outstreched towards hers. As he was about to place his fingers on the cold surface of the sphere, the pounding on his door resumed, this time higher up on the door.
Her head cocked to one side, and her large eyes blinked languidly. Suddenly, his lamp once more broke free from its adhesive anchor and swiftly shot towards the wall, thumping it three times.
The knocking came again, and once more, the lamp pounded the wall in perfectly mimiced time.
“Open up, right this moment,” said a woman's voice, outside his door. “This isn't funny. I know you're still in there.”
Jake marched towards the door, eyes remaining glued to the beautiful, strange girl in the glass orb. She followed his transit across the room, and watched as he tripped over his anchored ottoman.
“Shit,” he cried.
“Sir, I will not have that sort of language spoken where there are children present.”
Jake pulled himself up from the floor, painfully. She continued watching him, head tilted inquisitively to one side. Jake opened the door.
The door ripped out of his hand and slammed shut, allowing him a moment to glimpse the smoky, fuming eyes of the protective mother of the blonde. He tried again, and once more the door pulled free from his strong hand and returned bruskly to the door frame.
“Sir. I don't know what game at which you are playing but...”
“I'm not! I swear, its just...” he tried again, his eyes boring into the wild, surreal sockets of his new roomate. She seemed gleefully unaware of his ire.
“Stop it!” they echoed in stereo. Finally, the door was opened and remained. Jake stepped out into the hall.
“Hi,” Jake said, closing the door after him.
The woman glowered at her, the familial mirror of the blonde Napoleon's gaze of utter seriousness.
“You, sir, have upset my Margot. How dare you use such language with a child, sir, a child!”
“I'm sorry, wait... what language?”
“Margot told me everything.”
Jake and Margot regarded eachother, a barely hidden conspiritorial smile still on her lips. Jake ran his weary hand over his face, as this morning's headache resumed itself in full fury.
“Ma'am, your daughter,” speaking the word like a curse, “is having some fun with you, it seems. She banged down my door, refusing to leave until I answered, and proceeded to extort money from me in exchange for cookies. Extort! She told me she didn't even want to go to this stupid camp but that you're making her. Now she is using you to hold me over a barrel, and, after the day I've had, I'm not having it.”
She blinked widely, Jake regretting the state of the day that would make him commit such atrocities to the English language. Margot, he saw, waited for her mother's rage to be unleashed.
“You don't want to go to camp” she asked her daughter, her voice basted with saccarine care.
“What... I... No. I do, I was just...”
Jake turned and was about to open the door when, from inside, he heard a loud crash, followed by increasingly insistant thumping that started against the wall and went up to the ceiling. He winced, imagining what she was destroying now.
“What on earth was that,” the mother asked.
“No clue. Gotta go. Good luck with the... extortion... thing.”
“I'm calling the police,” she said with finality, and pulled out her phone.
“No,” Jake grabbed the phone out of her hand, “don't do that.”
“How dare you. Give me back my phone or I'll have you arrested.”
“I will, just... don't call the police.”
“And whyever shouldn't I?”
“Because, I'll buy your cookies. Three boxes, like she said.”
“Ten!” Margot shouted.
“Twelve,” her mother said.
Jake stood there with petite Napoleon and her parental Robespierre.
“Five.” Something thumped against the wall again, the sound growing more insistant. “And I won't let the Girlscouts know about this little racket you've got going on here.”
“Fine. Five it is, and another Five for Rosa.”
Jake looked down the hall and saw the timid brunette cowering around the corner. Jake looked back at Margot.
“Fine. Hold on.” Jake disappeared back into his apartment. Margot and her mother stood in the hallway, tapping their feet in perfect beat. They heard more thumping and swearing, and when Jake emerged, he was holding a giant jar full of pennies.
“Oh, no,” Margot's mother shook her head.
“Oh, yeah. How much are ten boxes?”
“no, no, no... you pay us when we deliver. By check or cash. Paper cash.”
“Well I know for a fact that this,” Jake said, shaking the jar which was as big as Margot's fluffy blonde head, “is legal tender. So when you come back with the cookies, this big boy will be waiting for you.”
The two of them stalked off down the hallway back to Rosa, who ducked around the corner.
“Good luck,” he yelled, merrily.
Shutting the door, he took stock of his visitor's tantrum. Most of the furniture was still nailed into place, but a good deal of the little appliances and whatnot had ripped free of their mooring and were again floating around the room.
Jake strode over to the girl, who coiled away from him, grey smoke veiling her tight, muscular body. Had she gotten bigger since this morning, Jake wondered. He ran his hand over the smooth glass, and tapped. This was a mistake.
She squeezed her eyes shut at this and, before Jake could react, he was struck in the back of the had by the lamp. Not hard, but not gently either.
“Ouch,” he said, rubbing his twice-concussed head, “Ok. No tapping on the glass. I should have figured that one out. That's what they put on fishtanks all the time. Don't tap the glass.”
She pressed her back against the far side of the globe, the oily fluid blurring her features. Jake held out his hands, palms open, making shushing noises to her.
“Can you... can you hear me? Hear,” Jake asked, pointing to his ears. The girl followed suite, pointing at her ears.
“Yes. Can you HEAR ME,” Jake raised his voice. The girl stared blankly, still pointing to her ears.
Jake sat down on the carpet still strewn with bits of shell, which crunched under him. As he sat down, the girl sprung to life, her face pressing close to him and eyeing the fragments of shell eagerly. She licked her lips.
Jake picked one of them up, and the girl's eyes followed it. He moved it side-to-side in front of her and her eyes greedily followed it. She licked her lips.
“Ok. Um... I don't know how to...”
Jake went to go tap the piece of shell against the glass, but instead of the brittle tink of ceramic on glass, he heard nothing. The shell passed effortlessly through the sphere and was quickly pulled out of his hand by the girl. She brought it to her mouth and, eyes closed in bliss, she began nibbling it like a squirel.
He did this, feeding her through the shell of the sphere, for several minutes. Facinated by this new law of physics, now seemingly optional. Each piece she siezed from him, she gobbled down as fast as her mouth would allow. After a half-dozen pieces, she seemed to be full. Jake moved the oblong fragment of shell through the wall of the orb, shaking it like he would a bone. The girl's eyes grew leaden and she drifted to sleep against the bottom of the sphere.
Again, Jake was alone.