Nadine couldn’t stop fussing with her lemon bars. She’d rearranged them at least fifteen times now, trying to find the presentation that would lure the most customers to her goodies. She hurled an angry glance across the room at Pearl, her nemesis. Pearl’s brownies were pulling people to her table with the inexorable force of a tractor beam.
It didn’t matter that all of the money from the bake sale would go to the church; Nadine couldn’t shake her desire to outsell everyone else. She was famous for her delicious lemon bars, gosh darn it! Pearl probably bought those ugly little brownies at Costco.
At the table to Nadine’s left, Ethel, the church floozy, simpered at the pastor’s handsome teenage son. “You’d better eat up every bite of my cherry pie, mister!” Ethel’s hair was dyed a ridiculous, clownish orange, and she always wore far too much perfume and makeup for a woman in her late 70s. She touched the young man’s hand flirtatiously as she gave him a napkin to go with the sloppy slice of her garishly red pie.
Hussy, Nadine thought, her thin lips pursed into a wrinkle of disapproval.
Pastor John moved throughout the church’s spacious rec room, fussing over each table full of treats, tasting everything with exaggerated delight, chatting, hugging, and greeting people with chummy warmth. He hadn’t reached Nadine and her lemon bars yet, which she took as a personal affront.
For a moment, a chubby man stopped in front of Nadine’s table, eyeing the cheerful yellow squares laid out before her with obsessive precision. The scowl that cut deep into the crepey skin of Nadine’s face scared him away. She was so consumed by grumpy outrage, she didn’t even notice him.
But she most certainly did notice the rainbow that punched through one of the tall church windows in an explosion of glass.
Shock made time slow down for Nadine. Even while her brain was frantically trying to make sense of what she was seeing, a part of her was able to gleefully notice the broken glass sprinkled all over Pearl’s oh-so-precious brownies.
People hollered and scrambled back as the rainbow poured into the room. It was the most vivid rainbow Nadine had ever seen — more than vivid. Solid. Floofy white clouds supported the ends of its curved body, which was striped with vibrant candy colored hues that reminded Nadine of those Lisa Frank trapper keepers her granddaughters loved.
The rainbow pulsated and the air around it began to sparkle. The sparkles spread through the room in a shimmering mist. As it enveloped the bake sale’s occupants, people began to giggle, paw at the air around them, or gape, goggle-eyed, at their surroundings.
“What on earth?” Nadine rasped, and then the sparkles reached her too. Her eyes grew wide as her lemon bars began to wriggle around like yellow slugs. With a cry of disgust, she shoved the table over.
“My hands are made of erasers!” Pastor John shouted, grabbing his son and scrubbing his palms over the young man’s face. “Oh no, oh no, David, your nose!” he wailed. “I erased your nose!”
David — nose exactly where it had always been — staggered away from his father with a howl of terror. “Get your tentacles off of me!” He fell to his knees, babbling a tearful prayer to God to spare him from the Great Old Ones.
Ethel buried her hands in her cherry pies and smeared the sugary glop all over her face, moaning orgasmically, “Red, I can feel the red. I can feel it.”
Across the room, Pearl plucked up one of her glass-covered brownies and crammed it into her mouth, chewing eagerly. She smiled beatifically, blood dripping down her chin. “Jush like Mom ushed to make!” Her mangled tongue slurred the words to mush.
The rainbow pumped out another glittery wave of LSD. A frail old woman who’d been selling peanut brittle as ancient as she was stripped off her dress. She stretched her arms above her head and gyrated her wrinkled, stick-thin body as if she were hula-hooping. “I’m going to win the contest!” she whooped. “I’m going to be the bunny queen, you cocksuckers, you just wait and see!”
Nadine’s knees went weak as the rec room turned into one of those Magic Eye posters, but in reverse, abandoning clarity and transforming into a wall of noisy color. She sagged to the ground, next to a man who was pressed lovingly against the crushed remains of a large cake, licking it and calling it Betty.
A little boy shouted, “Look, Mom! I’m a balloon animal!” “Stay away from me, you monster!” his mother shrieked, stabbing him in the arm with a fork. The child made a high-pitched eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! noise, flopping on the ground as if he were deflating.
Pastor John — blinded by the conviction that his eraser-hands had rubbed his eyes out of existence — ran smack-dab into the rainbow. Its neon pink bottom stripe dropped open, revealing a mouth lined with teeth in colors entirely alien to the world of man: crimsurple, blurange, grink, fuchsiarine, rellow, turquite. Colors that would have driven the people in the church mad to look upon, were they not already swimming in a sea of hallucinogens.
The rainbow ate Pastor John in two quick bites.
The rainbow waddled around the room on its puffy cloud feet, devouring everyone in its path. It had no interest whatsoever in the numerous baked goods around it. It was here for meat. Many parishioners made the rainbow’s feast easy, attempting to hug, lick, or pet it as it approached them. Some actually climbed right into its open mouth.
The bunny queen — the old woman who’d stripped naked and declared herself the winner of a nonexistent hula hooping contest — was the only person who attempted to fight the rainbow beast. She grabbed her sagging, pancake-flat breasts and squeezed them, firing bullets made of delusion at the monster. “Bow to the bunny queen! Pew pew pew! Pew pew!”
It ate her with no difficulty.
Ethel, her face smeared radioactive red with cherry pie, sashayed up to the rainbow with a come-hither swing to her hips. “I love a man in uniform!” When it bit off her arm, she giggled. “That tickles, Tom, you handsome devil!”
Nadine crouched on the floor directly in the rainbow’s path. It felt more important than ever for the lemon bars to be arranged as attractively as possible. But the lemon bars were being such jerks. They wriggled away as soon as she placed them where she wanted.
She was famous for her delicious lemon bars, gosh darn it! But who would buy food that wouldn’t hold still?
Her sobs of frustration masked the sound of the rainbow trundling up behind her. Nadine’s last moment was filled with searing pain, and worse, a crushing sense of failure. No one would buy her lemon bars now.
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