“What the fuck is that?” I spit at my manager.
This is a cosy wee job. Doesn’t ask too much of me, isn’t particularly strenuous…in fact, it can be quite fun sometimes. The teams good so I get to pal about with folk every day, and it’s a good laugh, teasing the kids when we can. Yeah, it’s a cosy wee gig.
Oogi Boogie’s Big Time Bonanza is a venue where kids come to play. We’ve got it all: ball pit, slide, tons of toys, swing set, mega death slide! You name it, we’ve got it. Parents know that this is the place to be when it comes to birthday time so we’re booked up year-round for parties. Not even just birthday parties. Communion parties, Halloween parties, St Andrews days parties, even “fuck it, it’s Wednesday,” parties. We cater for weans from ages four to thirteen and we often get bemused and depressed fourteen-year olds begging for the chance to celebrate here. Bugger off, wee man. You’re too old.
Aye, it’s a good gig. Can be good fun. I get cake at the end of every party I take part in. Everything I could ask for and more, right? Naw.
Oogi Boogie’s got to make an appearance at some point.
“It’s the new Oogi Boogie Bear, Chantelle,” Fred exclaims, way more excited for a bear costume than a dignified adult ought to be. “And I’d appreciate you not talking to me like that. I am your manager, after all,” he says, hands on hips, lip pouted out, brow furrowed. That’s me telt.
This is most definitely bad news for me and the crew. We destroyed the old Oogi Boogie Bear months ago and thankfully, blessedly, HQ and upper management has been so damn lazy and useless that they haven’t bothered having a new costume made and sent out to us. Because of this, we’ve been free! We escaped the sweaty death trap and the tireless, grubby hands of the needy hugging children and we were careful. We disposed of the costume in such a way that it looked like a blameless accident. It caught fire in the break room and we argued, “we could have died,” when management came calling, asking who was most responsible. They dropped the case of Oogi Boogie’s mysterious death after that.
But now the cunt’s back. “I’m not going in it,” I snap at Fred. He tuts and chuckles, tuts and chuckles.
“Chantelle, you’ll have to,” he tells me, matter of factly.
“Why the fuck is that?” I hit back.
“Because,” he begins, raising his voice, “first of all, I told you not to speak to me like that, and second of all, because James and Mary started their shifts first. Last one in the door goes in the costume! I know Oogi’s been gone a spell but you must remember the rules.”
He spins and walks out of the staff room, leaving me all alone with my furry fate. “Am gonnae batter James and Mary,” I hiss under my breath, kicking off my shoes and pulling back my hair. Here we go then.
How much did I drink last night? I haven’t felt this fucked in like…. well, not since last weekend, anyway. Point is, I feel rough.
I have to lie still, eyes glued shut for about twenty minutes before I feel I can open them without throwing up or going blind. I reach up and behind me for my phone, in its usual place on my bedside table. I’m almost thankful when the screen doesn’t light up and blind me. My fucking dumb ass forgot to charge it all night. Gods sake. I stick the cable into it and reach for the telly remote instead. Before I press it on, I listen for my mum. If she’s upstairs, I can call to her to make me a cuppa.
No sign of movement up here. Telly goes on, tea later.
Flick, flick, flick through the channels and it’s all the same old Sunday morning pish. Nothing exciting, nothing fun, nothing to take my mind off the throbbing pain in my head.
I’m flicking through when I pass a news channel, a local one, and stop flicking when I hear the words “violent rampage.” Well hello there! Something interesting perhaps? Stick it on. While the wee woman on the telly talks, I reach down the side of the bed to keep my floor hoodie – that is, the hoodie I keep on the floor for hoodie needs. I wrap it around my shivering, naked body. No matter how fucked I am, I usually never go to bed naked. Maybe I pulled and the lad did the good, honourable thing and bolted before morning?
It feels like he’s left something behind, though.
I reach over to the opposite side of my double bed, half listening to the news woman.
“The animal sprinted through the streets of Glasgow City Centre late last night, attacking passers-by wherever they were,” she explains.
That’s fucked up.
I peel the covers off my bed.
“A total of thirty Saturday night revellers were killed in the attack. Identified victims are aged eighteen to twenty-six…”
What are these doing here?
“…The animal disappeared before it could be properly identified…”
Oogi’s paws, in my bed…
“…Although it was believed to be a bear of some sort.”
My neck burns, I snap it round so fast to look at the telly.
A bear? In Glasgow City Centre? And I was out last night…I could have been killed with those partiers as well, but I wasn’t. And now I’m waking up naked with Oogi’s paws next to me.
I grab at my phone, click it desperately, but it just blinks the little “battery dead” image at me. God damn it!
Hoodie zipped up and joggers on, I head to the bathroom, feeling faint.
In the bathroom, in the mirror, I’m battered, beaten and blue. Both my eyes are black and there’s dried blood on my bottom lip, and a dried trickle of red down my chin. I tear my hoodie off and it’s as though I’m wearing a wet suit; my arms are completely blue and purple, and so is a good section of my chest. What?
Suddenly freezing and shivering, I zip my hoodie back up and turn out the bathroom. When I race downstairs, the tears that haven’t fallen yet are stinging my eyes with every move. “Mum?” I call from half way down the stairs. She hasn’t replied by the time I’m on the last step so I call again. No reply.
It’s freezing down here and it’s not just my own fear radiating off me – it’s genuinely fucking freezing. Like all the windows have been left open.
If I pulled it was a violent, ravenous pull. My clothes from last night dot the floor…my clothes, and one of Oogi Boogie’s footy slippers.
The floor beneath me is as cold as the paths outside, and the stone floor of the kitchen is colder still. Inside, I look up from my feet and at first the door, wide open and scratched. Battered, almost. Then to my mum. Sitting next to it, rigid. The smoke of her last cigarette stubbed in the ashtray, its empty carton next to it. She doesn’t look up to me. There’s red on her cream dressing gown, dead centre on her chest. I rush to her.
“Mum, what happened?” I cry, approaching. She sharply recoils from my touch before I can even raise my arms. “Mum, what’s happened?”
She turns her head slowly to look at me with a harshness I’ve never seen in her face. “You stay away, monster,” she spits at me. What??
“Mum, I,” I begin.
“I said stay away!” She snaps, rising fast, kicking her chair at me and backing herself into the corner. The chairs leg crashes against my toes; I jerk my leg up and cradle my foot in my hands. “STAY AWAY!” She screams. I hop out of the room and sprint back upstairs, slamming my door shut tight behind me. The second I’m back in my room with the news on the telly the only source of dim illumination, I’m feeling faint. I’m leaning against the door and feeling myself slide down it. I need my bed but I can’t summon the will to get up and go to it.
On the floor, I can feel something against my left thigh. When I focus on it, I can feel a sting in my right thigh accompanying it. I slide my joggers down and look at my legs…there’s a pin in my thigh. I grab it. I pull. It resists. I pull harder and bite back stinging tears. It resists. I pull back harder, biting on my torn lip. It plucks right out of my leg.
In the dim light of my room I can barely make out what it is… in fact, I can’t make it out at all. Something drips from it onto my hand, a diluted red. My blood and something else…
That would be my phone coming to life…I need answers.
I flop onto my hands and knees and feebly, slowly crawl to my bed side. By the wire hanging above me I grab my phone down. I’ve got a shit load of texts…
My shift ended at seven and the first text I have is from seven fifteen…from Fred. “Hey, did you take Oogi with you?” Then again at seven thirty one, “I can’t find the costume anywhere and we need it for a party in the morning, where’d you put it?”
Next text is from a girlfriend, Allie, at nine thirty: “pres started like twenty minutes ago, you still coming round?”
Allie again at eleven: “we’ve just phoned taxis to get into town, if you’re still wanting to come get us there.” Final text from Allie is at quarter to eleven: “hey, there’s actually some weird shit going on in town, try not to come out alone.”
James from work texted me five minutes after that: “hey man, know you’re going to town tonight but if you’re not there already reconsider. People getting hurt and shit. Stay safe.”
My mum at quarter past twelve, following sixteen missed calls “Chantelle love please call me I am very worried!”
Mary from work texted at 1am. Mary’s got a cynical sense of humour…she sent two texts, less than a minute apart. “You seeing there’s a bear attack in Glasgow? I heard you took the Oogi costume away with you as well tonight.” She typed, ending the text with the thoughtful emoji face.
I’m feeling my head loll back now and I’m losing control. The words on the telly sound so far away and everything’s blurring, going black. I’m sliding down, deeper onto the floor. I feel like I’m sinking into the floor. I narrow my eyes hard, concentrating hard on my phone, for that last text. “Talk about Oogi Boogie Bear going on a rampage,” Mary said.
Everything goes black.