Slowqueen floated through the stone corridors, head in her hands.
She couldn’t think. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t think!
She could see them through the cameras. She could hear them through the windows. Those she could ignore.
But the thoughts of a mob are deafening. United by a single purpose, yet simultaneously chaotic. A disharmonious racket of anger.
They hadn’t been too bad when they’d first arrived outside her moat. They’d been mostly thinking of money, actually. She’d summoned some tortoise guards to deal with them. This had been a mistake: a few incapacitated tortoise guards later, and they’d grown bolder and louder. She’d aimed a few lava jets in their direction, but they were slow-moving and easily dodged.
Every failure of hers only made their stupid thoughts stronger. Thinking of nothing more than bringing her down. Some of them had even started throwing things.
Bowser’s arsenal was useless: no wonder he’d never conquered the Mushroom Kingdom for any length of time. (Well, that and not actually wanting to.) She’d decided that she needed to go down there and sort them out herself.
Then she decided that was exactly what somebody wanted her to do.
She pushed open the doors to the throne room.
Waluigi jumped a mile.
* * *
‘Are you going to tell me how you got in?’ Slowqueen asked of him.
‘No.’ He tried to keep his thoughts nondescript.
‘Air vents. Figures. You’re the only person thin enough to fit through them.’
The plan had been for him to have a bit more time. For Slowqueen to be distracted by the mob, allowing him time to find and destroy the Mega Ring. Oh well. The plan would have to change.
He raised his tennis racket.
‘Oh please. The Mega Ring? It’s under here.’
She pointed at the shell crown.
‘Along with my Mega Stone. Your “plan” would never have worked. Your thoughts are quiet, Waluigi, almost undetectable – but only almost. In this state, as a Mega Pokémon, I hear everything.’
‘Yeah, and it drives you mad,’ said Waluigi. ‘Gives you headaches. That’s before you have to try and actually run the country, which is a lot harder than just taking it over. Just go back home, Slowpoke. Go back and be a Pokémon again.’
She laughed. It was a good laugh, deep and regal, somewhere between a chortle and a guffaw. It was a laugh that questioned the insolence of whatever quip had caused it.
‘Are you joking? I know you’re not, I can see your thoughts, but I can also see that you know I’m going to say no. I like it here, Waluigi. Here, I’m not some misfit failed breeding experiment from a dopey easily dismissed species. Here, I’m a queen! I can attack people without having the police up my arse. I can kill people. And I will.’
Waluigi’s grip shifted on the racket. It was a shift of desperation.
‘You had your chance,’ she continued. ‘You had your chance to be more than a misfit. I gave you that, and you threw it away. I even allowed you to live, but you just came back to die.
‘So be it. I meant it when I said you were useful to me, but I don’t need you to be conscious for that. I’ll destroy your mind…’
He leapt at her.
Her eyes turned pink. His body froze in mid-air. He felt her entering his brain.
‘…from the inside.’
* * *
Slowqueen was in a black featureless void. Metaphorically speaking.
She’d been in minds before. She’d done it to Bowser, just before defenestrating him. They were hives of information. They had thoughts, ideas, dreams buzzing around them. In Bowser’s case, they had hundreds of words of Princess Peach and Mario Bros. fanfiction in. They didn’t look like this.
It had been a mistake. She’d jump out of here (metaphorically speaking) and crush Waluigi’s body the old-fashioned way. Turn it to pulp. She looked for the way out.
The emptiness and darkness were suffocating and disorientating. She couldn’t find the way she’d come in.
Or… was it empty? Was it dark?
There were glimpses of movement. Nothing you could quite see, but enough to make you feel on edge.
‘Waluigi?’ she thought, in what she hoped was an authoritative tone of thinking.
Nothing but the void, and whatever was in the void.
‘Creator’s non-existent balls, I knew your mind was empty, but I didn’t realise quite how…’
Something whooshed past behind (metaphorically speaking) her. She spun around (metaphorically speaking).
She wasn’t alone in here. Technically Waluigi’s thoughts should have been in here, but given that they weren’t, the thought of what else might dwell in his mind was… not a good one.
‘It’s not real,’ she thought to herself. ‘It’s a visualisation of an empty head. I’m still in the throne room. I can still leave whenever I…’
She took another look at the void.
It was like a magic eye picture. Peer closely, and you saw that what seemed to be empty space wasn’t at all. Waluigi’s thoughts were there. They were just so tightly packed, crawling over one another, and so black, that they looked like sheer darkness.
Each one making HP Lovecraft’s finest creations look like the fluffiest of puppies.
She screamed. Literally speaking.
* * *
Waluigi sat on the throne. It was a bit rocky, a bit uncomfortable, and it had holes in the back for Bowser’s spikes. It wasn’t ideal, but at this stage, all he could really do was wait.
He knew what was in his own head. He’d been to Eagleland. He’d had to fight them in turn-based combat.
Now Slowqueen knew too.
He drummed his fingers on the chair’s arms, and watched the drool coming out of her screaming mouth.
* * *
They flowed towards her, into the empty space.
Describing them was like trying to describe Waluigi after he’d left the room: impossible. In their case, it was because the words didn’t exist. Nobody had thought the words would be needed, and if they had been needed, they’d have mostly consisted of manic laughter and tortured gurgles. The best you could do was ‘dark’, ‘appendages’, and ‘horrifying’.
They definitely had physical forms, though. And the physical forms were closing in.
Slowqueen had ceased trying to convince herself they weren’t real: they obviously were. She’d ceased trying to convince herself she could leave: they were too tightly packed for that. Instead, she was just screamingly constantly.
She felt something crawling up her body. Physical body or mental projection thereof, it didn’t matter. She didn’t dare look. It felt like she was fizzling out of existence from the legs up.
Another descriptor to add to the list: ‘slimy’.
It was amazing how fast they moved. Suddenly she couldn’t feel her tail. Then her chest. Then her neck…
She saw him just as they were about to close over her face. Peeking out of the dark sea of horrifying appendages. A moustached, and above all human, figure. She’d expected, hoped, to see something like this earlier: people usually had reflections of themselves rattling around in their brains.
‘What, you were expecting somebody else?’ said Luigi. ‘I am Waluigi. He’s built himself around me. Otherwise he’s just a lot of darkness. So… it’s-a me, I suppose.’
Her crown was being tugged by the appendages. She didn’t have a choice.
‘Help me! Please!’
‘Help you? You threw me into lava. To my death. It was very painful.’
‘I’m sorryyyyyyy!’ The appendages yanked. Her head burned.
‘Almost as painful as this will be.’ He sighed. ‘Mamma mia.’
She felt the crown tear out of her head.
* * *
Waluigi watched as the Shellder sprung off Slowqueen. There were marks where its teeth had been attached.
The change was immediate. It didn’t revert to the small purple clam shell, but it shrank right down to its pre-Mega Evolution self. About two feet long, grey, and spiky. Then it tried to wobble across the floor away from Slowpoke, as quickly as it could. It lacked any legs and was roughly conical: this was not very fast.
Slowpoke. That’s what she was again. She’d returned to four feet when the Shellder ripped itself off. There was nothing regal about her vacant eyes, or her gaping saliva-encrusted mouth.
Waluigi leant down. She was still breathing.
The Mega Ring had fallen out when the Shellder came off. She’d dropped the Mega Stone too. He threw those out into the lava moat.
That was the easy part, he thought, returning to her. What did you do with a semi-live villain?
If he were a hero, like the Marios, he’d have tried to get her back to health. If he were an anti-hero, like Wario, he’d have stamped on her head until it was a bloody brainy pile of sludge.
He wasn’t either. He didn’t feel triumphant, or vengeful. Just tired. Perhaps having a pink hippo rooting around in your brain had that effect.
A trembling figure half-fell out of the back room. Waluigi ran to catch her.
Made sense. Slowpoke’s psychic powers had been put on hiatus: with them, the pink ball-prison that held Peach would have disappeared. He raised her to her feet, which were doing their best newborn lamb impression.
‘It’s okay,’ he said, ‘she’s down. She won’t…’
‘Get your hands off-a the princess!’
There, behind him, stood the Mario Bros., back to (extra) life after their dunk in the lava. Moustaches bristling, fists bared, fireballs dancing around them.
Waluigi lowered Peach to her knees and let go. Then he walked towards the Mushroom Kingdom’s heroes.
‘It’s all over guys!’ he said. ‘Slowpoke’s down, Peach…’
They beat the crap out of him. Because that’s what heroes do.