And this was the control room of the hat.
It was huge. Dark, theatrical, and very, very crooked. A
thick gray fog rolled over the black and white tiled floor,
while an abused looking ceiling fan that had been nailed
awkwardly to one of the walls, kept it bubbling and churning
around the room.
Strange glowing triangular panels covered most of the walls.
Red and white lights danced around them through the haze,
looking like Christmas lights through a misty snow storm.
There was no ceiling. Or at least if there was it was too high up to
actually see. Bluish glass tables were scattered out all over
the floor, and a large sickly looking palm tree sagged
miserably on the edge of a small desert which sat in the
corner. A motionless figure hung dead from it, fog tendrils licking
at its toes. In the exact middle of the room was an impressive
gnarled and evil looking throne made entirely of
black and white bones. Two grinning skulls were attached to
the front of each arm-rest, one wearing a red Santa Claus hat
and the other a pointy blue birthday one with the elastic
stretched around its fleshless chin. Both had crumpled
cigarettes stuck in their mouths. Neither looked at all happy.
A large, bulky, white bunny stood calmly by one of the room's crooked
pink neon doors. Wearing dark sunglasses, a black hat and a
very expensive looking suit, he watched silently as the fog in
front of the throne shifted and swirled dangerously. Glowing and pulsating
pale red, it sharpened and brightened to a perfect cylinder of
intense red light, stretching all the way out of sight. The
bunny shielded his eyes as a very thin and tall figure, dressed
entirely in black, rose out of the red fog. He was carrying a
cane, but was no longer wearing a hat. When at his full
height, the light switched off silently. He bowed dramatically
to no-one in particular and slumped backwards into his throne.
The bunny ran his big white paws over his suit and waited very
patiently. He stood absolutely still for precisely three
minutes and forty-eight seconds. Then he cleared his throat.
"Good evening Captain Holiday," he said in a carefully
practiced tone. He hesitantly approached the throne.
Mary paid no attention and shifted uncomfortably in his
throne. He shook some snow out of his angry black hair, sighed
miserably, and sank even further back.
The bunny waited, chewing his lip nervously, and listening to
his fluttering heartbeat.
Mary folded his hands politely in his lap before he spoke.
"Every time," he began quietly, "I have to crawl through a
snowy village to do something incredibly pointless, I ask
myself a question." He glared at the bunny, who kept himself
from flinching until Mary looked away again and then nearly
collapsed. "I ask myself: `Say, Mary, what keeps a hip and
extremely mean guy, such as yourself for instance, from jamming
forks in the eyes of everyone you meet?' And the only answer
I've been able to come up with lately is: 'Less and less every
day, Mary. Less and less.'"
The bunny waited exactly thirteen seconds before saying
"Are you okay?" it asked.
Mary leaned forward and grabbed the bunny's tie. "No," he
said. "Blizzards are cold. I hate them. My hands hurt.
Blizzards suck. Take a note." The bunny struggled to stay
standing as Mary let go of his tie and whacked his cane against
the arm of his throne. "You hear me?" he yelled upwards. "NO
MORE BLIZZARDS. Blizzard me again, hat-boy, and I'll find
whatever counts for an ass on your little simulated silk body
and slam my foot so far up it you'll be... you'll be... you'll
be DAMN uncomfortable." The hat didn't respond. Mary slammed
the cane against the throne again. "HA!" he yelled, and shook
his fist a bit. "I seriously hope the snow wrecked you, you
"Hello," said a voice from far above.
Mary's cane bounced off the front wall.
"I was only doing my job," it moaned.
"I don't care," Mary said, still glaring upwards. "Why a
cake? Just tell me that. Why? I saw three cakes on their
bloody kitchen table."
He paused, stretched out his arm and his cane came flying back
"Why not a sticky bun?" he said.
The hat considered this carefully before answering.
"They did not feel a sticky bun would convey the proper, shall
we say, artistic sentiment... that a cake would."
"Are you trying to tell me that sticky buns aren't artistic?"
"Of course they're artistic," said the hat in a reasonable sort
of tone. "But can you not see the advantages of using a cake
as a form of expression over a sticky bun?"
The hat paused.
"Then I guess we've reached an impasse," it said.
"I guess so," Mary said and tried to stab the wall with his
"Mr. Flopsy!" he barked.
The bunny took a slow step forward. His name was not Mr. Flopsy.
"What the hell's that... thing doing hanging from my palm tree?"
They both looked over at the palm tree.
"Uh," the bunny said. "He's a member of ..."
"Because it looks an awful lot like a dead guy to me," said
"It is," the bunny said. "Cleaning staff."
He watched Mary slide out of his throne and walk slowly over to
the hanging body. Its face was all twisted and blue and its
sickly purple tongue hung dead out of its mouth.
"Suicide," continued the bunny. "We don't yet know why, but
there are others."
Mary began to circle the body ominously. This made the bunny
"Did all our cleaning staff wear these uniforms?" Mary asked.
"Interesting," said Mary, rubbing his chin. He paced around
the body some more.
"Hey," he said casually to the bunny. "Look over there."
Before the bunny even had a chance to turn, Mary had seized the
body's left foot and was wrestling madly with it.
"No!" yelled the bunny. "Don't!"
Mary grappled with the foot until he finally wrenched the shoe
"Size five!" he said victoriously. He tossed the shoe to the
"You shouldn't have done that!" the bunny said, swallowing
hard. "The Admiral is going to be really upset with you!"
Mary then lunged for the body's other shoe. This one seemed to
be stuck. As he struggled wildly with it he lifted himself
right up off the floor, swinging around clutching the body's
leg. He twirled around frighteningly as he jerked and pulled
at it, the palm tree bent over to its absolute limit. The shoe
finally came off in his hands and Mary dropped fast to the
floor. The palm tree snapped back, snapping the branch the
body hung from and hurling it high into the air. The body
landed with a modest splash in a nearby distant ocean even
further into the corner with the beach in it.
The bunny pulled his hat down over his eyes and tried to think
of a calm place.
Mary jumped up from under the fog, holding the shoe
triumphantly over his head and making little cheering crowd
noises. "Also size five!" he announced, tossing that one also
to the bunny.
He looked up again at the tree and noticed the body was gone.
He decided not to mention it.
"So," he said, turning back to the bunny. "How many others
"Four hundred and seven," said the bunny, shaking his head sadly.
"Did they all hang themselves too?"
"It was messy," said the bunny reflectively. "Walk this
He led Mary down a vast and weirdly-lit corridor. The floors
were all jagged and crooked and the walls were filled with
little windows you thankfully couldn't see into. Up some
stairs they went, then down some more and then up a strange
curving hill until they arrived at a giant glass elevator. As
they stepped inside, the door slid shut and the bunny worked
the buttons while Mary mashed his face up against the glass.
The elevator suddenly shot upwards at an incredible speed. It
lurched and wobbled and shook and both Mary and the bunny stood
absolutely still. It took only a few minutes to get there and
the elevator churned to a halt. The door slid open.
"This way," said the bunny.
Mary bustled after him down the new oddly-shaped hallway.
"Four hundred and seven," he said to himself as they climbed
"The entire cleaning staff."
"That's an awful lot of suicide," said Mary.
They stepped past a glass wall of shelves and another wall of
clocks. Mary followed the bunny around a corner and then
through a door and then he stopped moving altogether.
"Oh," he said with an edge of sickness.
In the very back of his mind he silently wished his eyes would
stop drifting around the room.
He swallowed hard.
"Happened about half an hour ago," explained the bunny.
"You would think," Mary began slowly as he tried to work it out
in his head, "that the cleaning staff would find a much neater
way to kill themselves."
"Irony," said the bunny as it walked up to the front counter
and got two pairs of bowling shoes. They slipped them on and
stood at the edge of the worn red carpet, looking out over the
gruesome bowling lanes.
Mary tried to keep his eyes in focus.
"I used to go bowling," he said wearily. "It wasn't any fun.
Hated the family. But it was a safe place, I guess. Never
thought much about killing myself then. But I had never
thought a bowling alley could be used for something like this."
"Times change," said the bunny, trying not to get any of the
blood on his shoes as he walked. "Watch your step," he said.
"Lots of blood."
Mary sloshed along loudly behind him.
"Really," Mary said, looking around. "Wow."
He tugged at the bunny's jacket and pointed at the ceiling.
"How did they get all that blood up there?" he asked.
The bunny told him.
"Clever," Mary said, and walked a little faster.
"As far as we can determine," said the bunny, stopping at the
sixth lane, "this is the center of it."
"Adds new meaning to the phrase '7-10 split' doesn't it?" said
The bunny frowned.
"Shut up. It's how I deal with trauma."
"These ones," the bunny said, pointing around the lane, "seem
to have pulled out the pins, extended the wires and attached
razor blades to those bits there. That, in combination with
Mary's attention had been caught by something else.
"My god," he said. "What happened to these guys?"
"Those ones somehow managed to accelerate the ball-return
machines and wedge their heads ..." He trailed off. Mary
"Oh man, look at that one," he said.
"Saw him earlier," said the bunny. "Not very pretty."
"No," said Mary.
"But inventive. You have to give him some credit for that."
He looked down with a confused expression on his face.
"Question," he said. "Where are his internal organs?"
The bunny gestured vaguely around the room.
"Ah," said Mary.
They stood in an awkward silence for a few moments, listening
to the distant sounds of dripping.
Mary looked around. "All of them did it in this room?"
"Ah, all except the one in the control room and the fifty eight
in the employee locker room," said the bunny.
"Fifty-eight in the locker room? Why didn't they do it here?"
"Best theory is there weren't enough bowling shoes."
"Ah," said Mary, looking down at his feet.
"Strict policies," explained the bunny.
They left the scene and took the elevator down nearly eight
hundred levels to the employee locker room.
"Ouch," Mary said, peering into one of the lockers.
The bunny opened another.
"This one has two in it," he said.
"Ouch," Mary said again. He gently poked his cane around
inside the locker.
"We're not sure how they managed that one."
"Either way, I bet it hurt a real lot."
"Incoming communication from Admiral Holden," the hat's voice
cut in politely.
"Tell him to bite me," Mary said.
A wall lit up a dark blue colour and was then slowly filled with
the Admiral's familiar rigid composure and serious-eyed face.
"Bite me," Mary said.
"Captain Holiday," the Admiral began coldly. "I've just been
informed of your situation."
Mary took a minute to look calmly around the grizzly locker
"And what situation would that be?" he said.
"The cleaning crew," said the Admiral. "Your first officer
told me." Mary made a note to smack the bunny with his cane
"'First officer.'" Mary sighed. "God, I hate this shit.
Makes me feel like I'm on Star Trek or something."
He took a deep breath.
"Okay," he said. "I admit it. Yes. The cleaning crew is
dead. Happy now?"
"No! You ..."
"See, Ted? You're never happy. I pretend there's nothing
wrong and you're not happy. Then I tell you that, okay, four
hundred and eight public servants or so may have sort of killed
themselves in really innovative ways on-board my hat and you're
still not happy. Just what is it going to take?"
"This is the third cleaning crew you've been through in the
past four months, Mary. This is serious ..."
"Third? That's not true!" Mary argued. "That first one's just
lost. I'm sure it'll turn up eventually."
The Admiral bristled and began to get all red and puffy with
frustration. Mary noticed this happened to him an awful lot.
"Let me tell you something, Mary ..."
"No Ted, let me tell you something. My bowling alley is a
mess. These lockers are disgusting. And why? Because you
sent me a suicidal cleaning team!" Mary folded his arms
crossly. "So don't try to tell me anything, because I've seen
a hell of a lot of bloody cracked skulls today and I'm not
feeling very open-minded."
"I don't think you realize the gravity of ..."
"You don't think I do?" Mary said. "All our bowling shoes
are on dead guys with no skin. Most also don't have many
internal organs to speak of, unless of course you were
saying 'Oh my, that's a lovely array of kidneys you have
stuck to your ceiling' or something.
"And do you know what not having internal organs leaves them
with, Ted? No? Well, it's not very much, let me tell you.
And it certainly doesn't leave us with shoes we'd feel the
least bit comfortable bowling in."
"Mary! You're ..."
"So what are you going to do?" Mary said. "FIRE me? Oh GOD!
Like I haven't been begging for that one!"
"A fool also is full of words:
a man cannot tell what shall be;
and what shall be after him, who can tell him?"
- Ecclesiastes 10:14.
"I'm authorized to remand you to the care of a fully licensed
psychiatrist. I'm also prepared to reduce your vacation time."
"I get vacations?"
The Admiral gave up and signed off.
Mary blinked and then turned to the bunny.
"I get vacations?"