Giving An Oni A Club

 

Space Dan and Hibiya walked down one of the main boulevards of the oni undercity. Hundreds of oni walked up and down the way, with the ringing sounds of trams on tracks and the clamour of movement and life.[1]

“So, whatcha saying?” asked Hibiya, as they stopped at a red pedestrian light. “That you gotta magic dish that makes ya go backwards? Cos I got two meaty stick things for that. They’re called legs!”

He walked backwards with fervent strides, as if the ground had offended him.

“It’s an Amulet,” hissed Space Dan quietly, “and it lets you travel through time. There’s different settings, and it smells a bit like lilacs, and I don’t know what it means!”

The light turned green, and Space Dan and Hibiya crossed, dodging rocks thrown by members of a gang named ‘the Crosswalk Crushers’. Space Dan and Hibiya were two of the very few pedestrians who actually paid any attention to whether or not the light was red or green before walking, despite the Crosswalk Crushers’ emphatic explanations.[2][3]

“You don’t know what it means?” asked Hibiya. “Where’d you get it?”

“I took it from a mattress factory before a bunch of spiders got it,” explained Space Dan.

“Spiders are delicious,” said Hibiya, drooling a little.

“Yes,” said Space Dan, assuming he meant the cola drink with ice cream in it, “but there’s another thing. Last planet, when I was in prison, I saw myself!”

“That’s great, bub,” said Hibiya, grabbing the horns on his head and wrenching at them in thought. “A lotta people who go to prison find out who they really are in there. It gives ‘em perspective, ya know?”

“No, I literally saw another me!”

“Yeah,” said Hibiya, clapping Space Dan on the back yet again. “Yeah.”

“Where are we going?” asked Space Dan, rubbing his lumbar region – partly because it now hurt, and partly because Hibiya may have creased his cape.

“Ya real thoughtful today,” said Hibiya. “Where are we going?”

“Hibiya, stop being so…Philosopher Dmitri for a minute!” said Space Dan. “As the Police Fire News photojournalist and Level Seven Food Preparation Officer,[4] I need to know what we’re covering.”

“I dunno,” said Hibiya, pulling at his braces. “There’s lotsa stuff goin’ on.”

He and Space Dan took two steps to the right as a tram went by, with most of its occupants on fire.

“Should we move that?” asked Space Dan worriedly.

“It’s movin’ already,” said Hibiya, shrugging.

“So, what is your story, Hibiya?” asked Space Dan. “I never asked.”

“I like punching things,” said Hibiya.

“What about your parents?” asked Space Dan.

“Them too,” said Hibiya.

“Well, what about other interests?” asked Space Dan, keen to find ways to connect with his new journalistic partner.

Hibiya stopped walking and considered this for a moment.

“Kickin’ things, too!” he yelled enthusiastically, and resumed walking.

Space Dan huffed and took a camera out of his satchel, polishing the lens. There was no point in doing this, because the camera’s film had been looted from the Police Fire News department long ago, but it helped make Space Dan feel important and photojournalistic.

“We need to go somewhere where I can take pictures,” he said. “Capture the ambience of the city.”

“Wait, wait,” said Hibiya. “First, you say you’re looking for a Firesabre, and now you want an Ambience too?”

“No, I – it’s…you…”

“Look!” said Hibiya. “Let’s go in here!”

They had stopped outside a white building with smooth, art-deco arches either side of the doors. What appeared to be naked lightbulbs illuminated the entrance, but upon closer inspection were large luminescent button mushrooms. A large neon sign sat atop the roof, depicting a smiling oni in a hat doing the Charleston. Despite this relatively tasteful decor, it still had enormous ugly gargoyles standing at each corner of the building, although at least they were wearing dinner suits.

“Must be new,” said Hibiya. “I never seen this before.”

I’ve,” corrected Space Dan.

“I never seen this before I’ve.”

Hibiya thought.

“Nah,” he said, “that’s too long. I never seen this before’ve!”

This said, Hibiya strode purposefully towards the club, and Space Dan reluctantly followed him. A very beefy oni stood next to the front door, his tusklike teeth protruding even more disagreeably than normal from his widely frowning mouth.

“You’re more good at talkin’,” said Hibiya, licking his hand to try to smooth down a tuft of shoulder fur. “You get us in, Danny.”

Space Dan, who felt uncomfortable both with convincing a big tough guy to do something, and also with being called Danny, quietly shuffled over to the beefy oni.

“Uh…two tickets to your establishment, please,” said Space Dan. “And…um…four Choc-Ices.”[5]

“Y’ain’t on the list,” rumbled the beefy oni.

“Official Police Fire News business,” said Space Dan, fumbling open his badge with a stern look on his nervous face.

The beefy oni squinted uncomfortably at the badge.

“I gottit,” said the beefy oni.

He opened the door for them, rubbing the creases out of his suit jacket.

The club was in an artful, decorated style, with neat trimmings around the edges of all the walls and booths. The tables in the middle of the room were round and low, and the bar was polished oak. The bartender was wearing a straw hat, and his fur was neatly trimmed, although he had a very long pair of eyebrows to make sure he was still appropriately handsome in an oni way. There was a stage, empty at the moment, with a grand piano. Many oni milled around the room, less raucous than those outside on the street, which by oni standards was practically a miracle. Most of them were dressed smartly in ties and dirndl skirts, though as they were oni, that was generally all they wore other than patches of thick hair.

“This is a classy establishment,” said Hibiya, flicking some wax out of his ear. “I don’t know how you do stuff on your planet, butcha gotta keep it cool. Just drink ya drinks, and it’ll all go over real smooth.”

Hibiya did a baffled double take.

“Whhooaar!” he said. “Check out that butter and egg fly!”

Space Dan nervously looked around to see if Martin had created another insect from life, but then realised that Hibiya was talking about an oni woman by the bar. She was wearing a short black dress, and carried a cocktail in both of her hands, alternating between the two.

“Stay here,” said Hibiya. “I’m gonna talk to that dame. She’s a real knockout!”

Space Dan couldn’t honestly tell any visual difference between the male and female oni, aside from how they were dressed. However, he remembered his astronaut politeness training.

“Hibiya, I respect your culture’s values and systems,” said Space Dan. “While things may be done differently on Uranus than under Mars, we have many various and all equally great standards of beauty, and-”

He stopped when he realised that Hibiya had already left.

Pulling out his camera, Space Dan took its lens cap off, and slipped it into his satchel. Standing as still as he could, he proceeded to balance the camera on top of his head. Lacking a tripod, this was the only way he could make sure the camera stayed stable; though since it was incapable of taking pictures, the whole thing was kind of pointless.

He pulled out his sketchbook and crayons, and, keeping still to avoid the camera falling, he drew a rough outline of the club. This done, he switched crayons and started colouring everyone in.

“K-chk,” he said as he finished, and then waved the picture around to dry it.

There was a sudden slapping noise, which Space Dan turned to discover was caused by a slap. Hibiya had apparently struck out with the oni woman, who had proceeded to strike out at him, her face in a teeth-baring grimace.

Hibiya walked back to Space Dan, who quickly put his camera away.

“I’m sorry,” said Space Dan.

“What? Things are going great!” said Hibiya, rubbing his cheek.[6]

Seeing Space Dan’s baffled expression, he added:

“Ya don’t know much about broads, do ya? That’s a challenge to a fight! And after the fight, we can go get bandages together!”

Space Dan looked at the oni woman again, and realised that her grimace was actually a grin. He watched her down both of her drinks, then ask the bartender for more.

Hibiya put his arm around Space Dan’s shoulders in a friendly manner.

“If you find someone, we can have a double-fight!” he said. “What about her!?”

He pointed to a large and muscular oni, who was wearing furs on top of her actual fur.

“…I’ll decide later,” said Space Dan.

“Yeah, she looks loaded,” said Hibiya, patting Space Dan in conciliation. “Maybe not your type.”

He looked down at Space Dan’s sketchpad.

“Is that the club?” he asked. “Did you draw that?”

“Let’s get a table,” said Space Dan hurriedly, folding the sketchbook and putting it back in his pack.

“Eh, if you get a table, they always make you come to the stage,” said Hibiya. “Let’s get a booth.”

They slid into an empty booth, its seats plush and leathery,[7] and Space Dan picked up a menu, covered in a series of vague squiggles that looked sort of like writing.[8]

“What does this say?” he asked Hibiya.

“Nothin’,” said Hibiya, “it’s just there to look fancy. Most people ‘round here can’t read anyway.”

A dark green oni in a bow tie and striped pants walked onto the stage, and spoke into the microphone.

“And now, for your entertainment and pleasure,” said the MC, “from an exotic land far away, it’s Miss Gotoly and Mr Drib, singing, ‘The Moon In Your Eyes’.”

“Nice, a canary!” said Hibiya.

“That makes sense,” said Space Dan, “particularly in a cavern.”

The room filled with billowing smoke, which Space Dan coughed at, until the stage was completely obscured. He wondered if the canary would be alright.

The piano played a short flourish, and then began a soft jazz number. The oni patrons of the club all cheered and whistled, and as the smoke cleared, Space Dan began to make out a figure swaying up the stage. For a moment, he thought it might have been Mars herself, but then he realised it was too short and completely the wrong shape.

A familiar gruff voice began to sing:

I’ve been so many ways, and seen men all around

But I still find it pays to look over a town

The suits and alligators, yeah, they got money to-do…”

The figure turned around to reveal an orange moustachioed marmosetoid man, swinging his hips and cooing into a ribbon microphone.

“But I don’t honey cooler them, ‘cos baby, they ain’t you!”

The crowd gave a cheer.

Ogtol was wearing a slinky evening dress, thankfully over the top of his poncho and his armour. He also had a feather boa draped elegantly around his neck, and a curly blonde bob wig over his akubra and helmet.

When mama says, ‘Why bother, hon?’You can get better guys.’

I say, ‘Don’t say that mama, the moon is in his eyes!’”

Space Dan’s eyes bulged for a moment in surprise. Eager to look anywhere but at Ogtol, he looked back over at the pianist. His eyes bulged again in an almost oni-like fashion, as he recognised the lanky form of Birdy, sitting at the stool and tickling the keys quite capably despite his long, clawlike fingers. Space Dan sank into his chair and held the menu over his face.

“The dead hoofers you send me are all a buncha pills,

And rich wet socks don’t give me squat when I’m lookin’ for thrills!”

Ogtol walked down the stairs from the stage, and the oni in the front rows whistled and stamped. He playfully flicked at them with his boa, and they rolled around in excitement, accidentally smashing glasses and the odd chair.

But every suit who ever heard ‘I love you’ made tracks soon,

So I’ll be dreaming of the Joe whose eyes have got the moon!” he sang, his own eyes roaming around the room.

When daddy tells me, ‘Honey, how come you ain’t got a man?’

I says, ‘He’s gotta give excitement, and ain’t many folks who can,’

A wingding with a millionaire’s a party with a goon,

So all I want’s a normal kid whose eyes’ve got the moon!

To Space Dan’s horror, Ogtol saw him. Now it was his turn for his eyes to bulge, but being such a consummate professional, he recovered his composure quickly. As Space Dan suddenly became very interested in his fingernails[9], Ogtol began to sashay towards his booth as Birdy played a piano solo.

“Hey hey,” whispered Hibiya, nudging Space Dan encouragingly, “that guy in a dress likes you, kid!”

Reaching the booth, Ogtol leaned on it with one hand, singing gently to Space Dan, who could not actually see him over the menu and multiple salt-and-pepper shakers that he had piled up.

So if you’ve got a fire, then I’m glad to take the heat,” sang Ogtol, “I’m sabre-ing the moment, somewhere nearby, perhaps you’ve seen’t.

Space Dan considered this. Either the songwriter had a very odd rhyming dictionary, or Ogtol was improvising.

If you can pitch a homerun, you’re in the right ballpark,” continued Ogtol, stealing a quick glare down at Space Dan as he climbed the steps back to the stage.

Realising the song had deviated from the clarity of its original message, Ogtol directed his attention back to the patrons at large.

And even more if you like fun that happens after dark.

He hoisted himself up to recline on the top of Birdy’s piano. This clearly and obviously made Birdy uncomfortable, which was something of a feat, because he was still completely stone-faced.

But all I want’s an average fella, that’ll make me swoon,

You have to be a decent guy with eyes that have the moon!

The song ended, and the oni all stood up and clapped, hooting and hollering. Ogtol flicked his boa and winked at Birdy, who did not react.

“Thankyou!” said Ogtol to the crowd, masking disappointment in his voice. “Goodnight!”

He took a bow, and walked off stage to admiring cheers, blowing kisses as he went.

“Mister Hibiya,” said a tall, scarred oni. “Mister Space Dan?”

Space Dan stood up straight, and put the menu down.

“Yes?” he said.

“We hear you are members of the Police Fire News Department,” said the tall oni. “My employer has invited you to see his private booth.”

“…is your employer the singer?” asked Space Dan nervously.

“No,” said the tall oni.

“Space Dan, you dizzy copper,” said Hibiya.

“Not like that!” said Space Dan. “He’s dangerous.”

“I don’t work for Miss Gotoly,” said the tall oni.

“Then, let’s not keep your employer waiting,” said Space Dan. “Neither the press or the law ever sleeps! Except for when we get tired, cos otherwise we wouldn’t be able to write interesting articles and catch bad guys.”

He stood up and got out of the booth, then leaned over the table so he could put the shakers back in the right places.

 

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[1] Mostly argument.

[2] The Crosswalk Crushers threw rocks at oni who didn’t pay attention to the red and green lights. They were also throwing rocks at Space Dan and Hibiya – but as a method to reward them with rocks for throwing at other violators of traffic rules.[3]

[3] The Crushers didn’t just hand the rocks to Space Dan and Hibiya, because they felt too socially awkward.

[4] Space Dan had promoted himself.

[5] Unlike on Earth, a Choc-Ice on Uranus was not an ice cream covered in chocolate. It was a brand of popcorn.

[6] It would have turned red, were it not already so.

[7] Which somewhat described the oni themselves.

[8] This looked quite a lot like the English alphabet. Space Dan wondered why apparently everyone in the solar system spoke and wrote English, and wondered if the ancient Englandic Empire had tried to colonise all the worlds. This was blatantly impossible, because the ancient Englandic Empire had only risen shortly after the invention of the wheel on Uranus, but Space Dan had missed most of his history lessons so he could play with his cat, Faithful Pot Plant.

[9] His own, not Ogtol’s.