by Mary E. Lowd
Originally published in Midwest Furfest 2019 Conbook, December 2019
Sunny’s belly gurgled, and she adjusted the heavy weight of the techno-ecto-pack on her back. The hardworking yellow Labrador hadn’t been able to grab a meal all day long. Not even a snack. Her ecto-busting team was too busy dissipating ghosts, exorcising possessed buildings, and laying ghouls back to rest. It had been one haunt after another, non-stop, ever since the first phone call that Halloween morning. But what were they supposed to do? Who else were the good dog and cat citizens of Dogotham City gonna call?
“We haven’t had a day like this since Chihuaberus, the three-headed Chihuahua of the one-halfth circle of hell, broke through the veil between the worlds last Halloween,” Ripley said. She was a white cat, small enough that she was sometimes mistaken for a kitten. Though woe to the dog who made that mistake; Sunny still rued the day she’d first met Ripley and asked the seeming-kitten where her parents were.
The tiny cat had sent the yellow lab on a wild-goose chase looking for those presumed-missing parents that had ended with the dog on-stage during the intermission of a children’s dance performance being laughed at by an entire crew of kitten and puppy ballerinas and their parents. Ever since then, Sunny had known better than to cross Ripley. That cat might be tiny, but she was the biggest alpha-dog Sunny had ever met.
“Can we break for food?” Sunny woofed. “It’s almost my birthday, and I’m really hungry.” She pointed at a Chinese restaurant down the block. “I’m sure the fire-spitting portal-thingy at the top of the Great Dane Building will hold for forty minutes or so while we eat some wontons.”
Ripley skewed one triangular white ear, and then she turned to look at the other two members of their team: “What do you guys think? Should we let forty minutes worth of monsters pour into the city, or are your stomachs strong enough to seal a portal before dinnertime?”
The St. Bernard and winged otter (it’s a long story, don’t ask) exchanged a glance, and then Audrey, one of the biggest, most-consistently hungry dogs that Sunny had ever met, woofed, “You kidding? Let’s go close a portal!”
Brannon the winged otter — a mythological creature, for first-race’s sake! — shrugged his big, brown feathered wings, and chirped, “Whatever you say, Rips.” He always let Ripley boss him around.
“But… birthday wontons!” Sunny woofed.
“Almost your birthday is not your birthday,” Ripley meowed. “We save the city tonight and celebrate tomorrow.”
Disappointed, Sunny shushed her gurgling tummy and followed the rest of the ecto-busters into the lobby of the Great Dane building. The elevator doors had been sewn shut by paranormal squash vines. Of course. There was probably a psychokinetic squash troll squatting inside the elevator, but haunted vegetables are a lower priority than ultra-dimensional portals.
They took the stairs.
Twenty flights later, Sunny was panting, and her belly sounded like it was haunted itself. She stumbled onto the roof, and her fur fluffed out, sizzling with static electricity. Sparks of psychokinetic energy flew through the air, bursting out of the edges of the swirling purple-and-black portal like fireworks from a pinwheel.
“Woah,” Audrey woofed. For such a big St. Bernard, right now she looked like a scared little puppy.
Brannon spread his otter-wings and un-holstered the nozzle of his ecto-pack.
Ripley meowed, “We’ve got this — we’ve sealed inter-dimensional portals with our ecto-packs before.” Nothing could scare that cat.
But Sunny was scared, scared right out of her hunger. “Yeah,” she woofed. “But those were, like, the size of a car. This is… what? The size of an ocean cruise liner?”
For a moment, the whole team hesitated, picturing what that could mean — an ocean cruise liner’s worth of ghosts pouring into Dogotham City all at once.
“All the more reason to get it sealed!” Ripley meowed, charging ahead of the other three, straight toward the massive portal. She un-holstered her ecto-pack’s nozzle and meowed, “On three!”
But before the little cat could start counting, the black-and-purple swirling portal pulsed like a sub-woofer, and a deep voice howled, “Invite me into your world! Picture me, and I will take form!”
Ripley whirled back to face the other three, white triangular ears flattened. “Picture nothing! Keep your minds blank!” she yowled. She glared at each member of her team in turn, and when she got to Sunny, she added, “That shouldn’t be hard for you.”
“Hey!” Sunny woofed, but then her stomach gurgled. “Uh oh.”
“What did you picture?” Ripley meowed.
“Just… peanut butter.” Sunny’s mom had always given her a spoonful of peanut butter — to balance out all the Halloween candy with a little protein — before bed on the night before her birthday as a puppy.
Brannon flapped his wings like an impatient eagle, and Audrey slammed a giant paw to her forehead.
“I’m hungry!” Sunny woofed. “I told you that! Maybe I shouldn’t be ecto-bustin’ on an empty stomach.”
“Next time I’ll pack you snacks,” Ripley meowed, sarcasm dripping from her little feline fangs. Although, the idea of packing snacks actually sounded quite nice. Behind her, the purple-and-black portal flashed so brightly it blinded them all.
When the after-effects of the flash cleared from Sunny’s sight, she saw the biggest golem that Dogotham City had ever faced. It loomed over the Great Dane building, raising its arms above its head and howling from a gaping mouth. The entire thing was drippy, sticky, creamy, crunchy peanut butter. It was terrifying. But doggarn it if that mass of golden-brown-goodness didn’t also look delicious. Sunny licked her chops to keep from drooling.
“Now we just need about a hundred thousand loaves of bread,” Brannon snarked, folding his wings up against his long back.
“And a thousand gallons of honey!” Audrey added. The St. Bernard, like Sunny, was struggling not to drool at the sight of so much peanut butter. “You know, for peanut butter honey sandwiches!”
“Honey?” Ripley meowed, tail swishing. “I’ve got it! We need to open another portal–”
Sunny cut the little cat off, barking, “To the bee dimension!”
The little white cat glared. “Even if there were a bee dimension — which there isn’t — do you really think it’s a good idea to beset Dogotham City with a hoard of angry bees coated in peanut butter?”
Between her growling stomach and the sight of all that peanut butter, Sunny was having trouble concentrating. “No?” she hazarded. “So which dimension?”
Instead of answering, Ripley fiddled with the settings of her ecto-pack. “Just watch!” she meowed. Blue and yellow squiggles of light burst out of the ecto-pack’s nozzle. The little cat held the nozzle steady even as the blasting beams of energy writhed and whipped through the air.
The blue and yellow squiggles divided and multiplied and did all sorts of arithmetic, splitting into more and more squiggles until the air on top of the Great Dane building was filled with pastel beams of light, all tangled together, like a big old ball of Easter grass.
An egg-shaped portal, speckled and blue like a robin’s egg, burst into the dark and gloomy sky over the Great Dane Building. Thousands of bunnies, noses twitching and baskets over their arms, hopped out onto the roof. And they set right to work.
“The veil between holidays is thin,” Ripley meowed. “And when Halloween meets Easter, the only possible result is candy.”
The peanut butter golem flailed and stomped, smearing peanut butter over all the high rises, but there were too many bunnies for it to fight. Bite-sized bit by bite-sized bit, the golem’s peanut butter was stolen away, wrapped in foil, and stored in the bunnies’ baskets.
By the time the bunnies returned to their own dimension later that night, and the ecto-busters closed the dimensional-portal between holidays, Dogotham City had a year’s supply of candy-coated peanut butter eggs, and Sunny’s belly was comfortably full. She was used to her birthday getting all tangled up with Halloween, but celebrating her birthday with two holidays mixed in with it was even better.