“There are some rules to Odd World. You gotta be odd. Yeah that’s number one. Then you gotta be like… like you know something, you know? I, myself, know many things. Otherwise, we don’t want you in Odd World because we’re all thinkers. And we think. We think real hard about things. You know? Oh and you have to be good looking –like I am!”
Smick frowned. That seemed entirely unlike Smick, who had been mostly normal, frequently ignorant, and well frankly, hard on the eyes; they didn’t call him Ick for no reason. But it wasn’t time to doubt himself. He had been at Odd World’s fence so many times, he had lost count. Smick had told himself that this time things would be different. He was so sure of himself too, but that confidence quickly died when the guard opened his fat lips.
The next morning, Smick snapped awake, sweat drenched, panting like he had been running. His hands trembled. His cardboard box was moist with sweat, and Eugene was hovering over him with his awning of a forehead. “So they didn’t take you, huh? What did I say? They don’t want us. We belong in Todd World.”
How long has it been since he first came to Todd World? Ick ignored his menacing neighbor. He folded his cardboard. Such was the way of the Todd. You rise at 8 o’clock sharp. You fold your cardboard box, issued to you upon your arrival, and then it’s off to the soup kitchen, which actually didn’t serve soup but eggs –hard boiled eggs without any salt. Ick shuddered. The egg went down dry and the banana didn’t help. Chalky and pasty, these foods sucked. What the fuck is up with Todd? Who eats like this?
Eugene thrust his forehead into Smick’s sight. “You’re going again aren’t you? You’re going to Odd World like you do every day. The Todd drones won’t like that. They’ll get you.”
The drones that everyone talked about sat dusty and deactivated in between the Banana Bread Bakery and The Yolk Diner on 7th street. Smicky knew, he saw the first day he arrived at Todd World. But the fanatics raised hell about the drones every day at 12, just right outside the Box Store, where you can buy cardboard boxes for your daily uses. Just name it, they got it. Box shirts. Box pants. Boxes. Box shoes. Box hats. Box toilet paper. Box houses. Boxer briefs. Box cars…
Ick tugged on his cardboard box pants. The paper wrinkled and stains spotted it like some design.
“I’m telling you. Those Todd Drones mean business. Once I heard from a man who was my friend’s friend that those Drones will put you straight into Cod World.” Eugene was whispering, his forehead pressed against Smick’s temple. A drop of spit flew from his mouth and landed on Ick’s nose. Ick flailed in disgust.
“GO AWAY EUGENE!” Smick ran as fast as his cardboard box pants would allow him.
“The drones!” Eugene shrieked. “The drones! Can I have your egg?”
Across Milk Hill, Odd World was pretty visible. The grass was literally greener! Well that wasn’t exactly true since Todd had never been fond of grass. No, Todd preferred asphalt, which made the ground cold at night and hot as balls during the day. Anyways, Odd World had a Ferris wheel with pulsing brains as carts! And they had electricity! Unlike Todd World, which relied solely on fire, Odd World shined with neon lights each night. What the hell was beyond that fence? Magic! Science! Other things!
The white fence wrapped around the black top. Anemic Cows roamed the asphalt licking rocks as they gathered around the banana peeler, who was tasked with feeding the cows all day, all night, every day. Smick ran past the cow feeder, who looked sickly like the cows. Why did they even have cows? No one drinks milk in Todd World. They drink Gatorade like it was water. Oh yeah, they didn’t have water either. What is water?
“Oh hi, Ick.” The banana peeler called behind his horde of cows.
Back at the border, Ick rang the white fence louder than ever. He stepped back, his mind racing with answers. No, he wasn’t normal. He was odd. You think cardboard boxers are normal?! Oh how they chafe! No, he wasn’t ignorant either! He knew many things about Todd World. The guard didn’t know! He didn’t know!
The man spewed the exact explanation he did every time. But Ick was ready. He didn’t even let him finish! “I could be a model in Cod World! I know things like Todd like eggs and bananas! And fuck you, look at these!”
The guard looked aghast as he stared down Ick’s cardboard pants. “What are those?”
“They’re underwear! They cut my legs every day! Now let me in.”
The guard scratched his brain hat in confusion. He then smacked his frontal lobe. A phone dropped from his ears to his fat lips. “Code 41560! I repeat 4-1-5-6-0.”
“HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT!” Five more guards in skin tight brain suits ran out of the grass hills, brandishing tasers-poles. The electricity cackled as they raised their poles over the fence. Ick watched with excitement and horror as they readied their sticks.
“You’re letting me in!?”
The jolt bit into his skin. His cardboard box suit burst aflame. He screamed so loudly, the cows walked away from Clyde, who looked on with amusement. Ick smoked. Ick flew. Ick landed, a crispy mess.
The fire curled in the dumpster. Many other Todderinos gathered around. Some of the stranger folks roasted their bananas unpeeled over the fire. The strangest folk bit into their eggs raw, uncooked, shell and all. Ick shook his head in shame. What the fuck is wrong with these people? He was certain they would let him in. Did he not show he was nothing like other Todderinos? When he got over his nerves, he got nowhere! Sadly, he picked the wound on his shoulder. He was forever labeled with a frowny face.
“Told you they didn’t want you.” Eugene said triumphantly. “Clyde and I had to lug your body back. I even bought you clothes with my own Todd Dolla. Wasn’t cheap.”
“Thanks…” Ick mumbled.
That night, Ick laid out his cardboard, tired and restless. He didn’t expect this to burn him so low. He had been rejected every day for however long he remained stranded in Todd World, yet this time did it. That brand oozed pain throughout his body that he felt anchored to the cold floor, which his cardboard did nothing to stop from stinging him. They rejected him at his best.
“Hey Ick, why do you want to go to Todd World so much?” Eugene asked, rolling to side.
How would Eugene ever understand? Born and raised in Todd World, Eugene was as much a Todderino as Todd himself, who lived somewhere in his cardboard skyscraper. But at least someone was asking. No one ever asked. They just thought that his thing. He had been known as the Todderino who always tried to get into Odd World. The fences and gates rapidly closed around him until he was confined to the small space known as Todd World. Maybe in the end, he wasn’t different, or so he had concluded from his branding.
“I thought I was different. Odd World just looked so much more -it has so much more. They have lights there. Have you ever seen lights, Eugene? They wear pink caps that pop out tools and radios. They have a wheel that spins in the sky. When you see that over the fence, how do you not wonder? Why would they keep us out?” It pained him to say ‘us’. He wished he could take it back.
“I guess I never thought about it. Todd gives us Todd Dolla. He gives us eggs and bananas. I feel happy here. Sure sometimes you have to buy more cardboard, but that’s OK if you save up. You can live well here. You save a few Todd Dolla, and then you can buy your own Box House. Then you’re set. You don’t have to go anywhere else.”
Ick looked to his neighbor, defeated. “Maybe you’re on to something Eugene.” Maybe he was. At least he was happy. At least he didn’t have a stupid frowny face branded onto his shoulder.
“I think I would like to see Odd World though. You seem so bent on going over there, and I don’t think you’re insane –at least you’re not an Egg Biter. Maybe you know something.”
Smick rolled over. Hearing Eugene say that meant something. The dumpster fire slowly burned out, and all the Todderinos dispersed back to their cardboard hoods. Todd Street quieted. Most of Todd World went to sleep, except Todd Boulevard, which kept their dumpster fire until 3 AM.
The egg and banana chalked his esophagus. But Eugene ate his share just fine. No water. There was a lot of water in Cod World. It was the first time the two dined together. A little awkward, but the feeling almost felt like happiness. Smick found himself smiling, seated on the asphalt. There were the fanatics dancing, hailing premonitions about the Drones Apocalypse. Egg Biters bit into their eggs raw, drinking the shell and yolk. Same thing you’d see any day if you were stuck in Todd World.
Clyde waved past his cows as the two traversed the asphalt. The white fence rose no higher than five feet, yet Odd World seemed so elusive. Eugene followed behind Ick, a little too cautious. Sometimes, he ducked behind a dumpster or one of the few fire hydrants scattered across Todd World.
Once, Smick saw a cardboard catch fire. The Todderinos went into a frenzy; they all began rolling on the floor despite none of them burning. It took a while, but the Todd Fire Brigade screeched their way to the front of the burning box. A man emerged out of his box wagon in a red box suit. It looked like he had colored it himself with a red crayon. He latched a tube to the hydrant. Glacier Freeze burst out from the hose and quenched the fire. Smick remembered how enchanted he felt when he saw the blue rain drench everyone. It was just like the commercials –when the athletes beaded with colored sweat. The Todderinos rejoiced.
They pressed against the white planks. They could see over to Odd World very easily.
“Why don’t you just jump it?”
Ick scrunched his face up and squinted at Eugene. That was so stupid that Ick felt baffled. Why don’t you just jump it? WHAT DOES EUGENE KNOW ABOUT WORLD JUMPING!?
“Look it’s pretty easy.” Eugene pressed his palm on the fence and pushed his stomach over the plank. He was crossing! He was CROSSING. OH MY FUCKING GOD! Ick’s jaw dropped and he screamed in excitement. He couldn’t help it. He was running around, screaming. “How are you doing that?! I can’t believe it!”
Eugene landed with an OOF . Why didn’t he think of that? Why did he always try the fucking guard? Why did he always try the doorway? His brain hurt. But it didn’t matter. He leapt at the fence’s head and volleyed himself over. THERE IT WAS. IT WAS ODD WORLD. It was an odd world.
Brain carts with long extensions that ended in booted feet walked about the grassy knolls. The two boxed adults stood in awe as the bug walked over them. Two glossy faces behind the mirror waved at them, but the bug walked over them. Even in the daytime, there were bright neon signs. ‘NO SHOES NO SHIRT NO SERVICE’ gleamed in hot pink above a man serving street side hotdogs. He wore a similar skin tight brain suit as the guards. The scent lured Smick over. Never had he smelled such a delectable smell, and all the eggs and bananas never smelled half as good.
A few times, his box clothes nudged other people, who looked on indignantly. People seemed to just stand closer to one another in Odd World. Eugene stood to his right, but then to his left, he felt a constant stream of hot breath licking his neck. “What’s your problem? Stop breathing down my neck.”
“PFFT. Nice outfit, you squab.” The man shoved past him and went to the hot dog vendor. “Two of your finest long dogs. Eat Freshly.”
“May you always eat freshly.” The hot dog man blessed him.
Ick copied the man, but when the vendor opened his palm for money, he stared at Ick in confusion.
“What is that?”
“It’s currency. Take it.”
The man studied the plastic red coins that looked strangely like Monopoly hotels. He took one bit down on it, cracking it in two.
“What are you doing? You don’t eat Todd Dolla. You use it for eggs and bananas and boxes.”
“Eggs and Bananas.” The man repeated slowly. “Look here. I don’t know if I can take these. I only take Brainers.”
Hungry and tired of this hot dog slinging man, Ick asked out of desperation, “How do I get Brainers?”
“Well you gotta know something, you know? Like me, I know how to cook these things. And then you gotta sell them. Or you gotta be really good looking, like me! That helps. That helps a lot. Oh! You could always think. THINK REAL HARD.”
Ick frowned at the sleazy man. He made as much as sense as the Egg Biters, and they always spoke in their own language. “Do you potate?” an Egg Biter once said to him, while she rubbed his belly.
“How about I trade you this hat? I bet you never seen anything like it?” Eugene said, as he pointed to his head. A smaller box sat slightly off centered on his dirty hair.
The man studied the hat, his interest so brightly advertised in his eyes. “What is that? Is that some kind of new material? I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s so profound. It’s so elegantly shaped.”
“Yeah,” Ick said, dumbfounded. “It’s the latest fashion. We’re the first to get our hands on it. But we’ll take twenty hot dogs for his hat.”
“Oh all right! You two have yourselves a deal.”
When Smick glanced back, he saw the hot dog man smiling in his new hat, which, Ick had to admit, did make the man rather dashing. There he stood a pinnacle among the brain hats. It seemed his new hat helped his business. More and more people flocked to his cart beneath the bright sign, just to see the man with the box hat.
The hot dogs were delicious that Ick and Eugene each ate five. Ick recalled the sleazy man fish out the wriggling pink dogs out of the dark brown water. Oh how they were delicious… What is water?
“So this is goodbye?” Ick asked. Eugene glanced over at Ick in his new brain garments. They rode their new brain cart which stomped across the city until it perched high on the skyscraper. It was an actual sky scrapper, rising so high into the air that Eugene felt nauseous when he peered out of the brain cart. Smick no longer wore his cardboard clothes. He had entirely discarded his ties to Todd World… “What will you do? Will you go back to Todd World?”
“I don’t know.” The years flew by, and Eugene had grown a fluffy beard just to show time had passed. How long had it been since they first entered Odd World? They did fairly well for two bullshitters. Ick had started his own cardboard box business. Though he would never wear any of his own creations, it sold well among the Oddicians. But since they entered Odd World, Eugene realized he could not go back.
Smick had found his place, and he would stay in Odd World until he died. But Eugene couldn’t stay in Odd World. It was too bright and too loud. Every night the Ferris wheel was like some artificial sun. In their brain apartment, Eugene would draw their heavyset curtains to sleep –if you asked him what curtains were when he lived in Todd World, he’d think you an Egg Biter.
How Eugene missed Todd World. It just felt like a simpler time on the asphalt road, seeing the same people rallying in fear about the drones that never came. Clyde, or was his name Byde, whoever he was, was still a face so well ingrained in his mind that he thought of him each night he slept. But then whenever he approached the white fence, he was filled with dread. How could he return to Todd World when he knew so many different things? And he thought a lot more now that he sometimes stayed up at night, cold with sweat, eyes burned from all the lights.
A radio fell out his ears, from which the sleazy hotdog slinger said, “Eugene, are you coming by for the hotdog Christmas party?”
“Ick, do you want to go?”
“I’m going to pass tonight. I got plans.”
“No thanks. All right, talk to you later.”
Together they sat at their table, which spat out two hotdogs. A pipe squirted a yellow stream onto the dogs, and then another pipe gushed out cheese. It was hotdog every day that he had forgotten what eggs tasted like. In his heart, there will always be a place for eggs and banana, but no one knew about those in Odd World, except Ick, who despised them and had repressed them into the deepest cranny of his mind.
He stared out their window that faced the ends of Odd World. Whereas a fence marked the border between Todd World and Odd World, there was only darkness on the border. No one knew what laid there, and no one dared to prowl too close to the DARK FARK.
“So you’re leaving tomorrow, but you don’t know where?”
“I can’t go back, so I can only go somewhere else.”
“I’m sorry I made you come over to Odd World.”
“You didn’t make me. I decided to go on my own terms. But I can’t stay here. It’s too… Odd.”
Smick smiled at him and nodded.
The next morning, Eugene walked to the border of Odd World and DARK FARK. He had sorted his belongings into a small bag that hung on his shoulders. Just as he made the first step towards the next world, he heard his name. Smick ran over, still wearing his brain suit. From what Eugene saw, he assumed Smick had packed his entire life into a few heavy bags that weighed him down. “Wait up!” He called. Ick took a while to catch his breath. “It’s not that great here. Who cares that I always wanted to be here. Who cares they have grass and brain cars. This place isn’t that great. Let’s get out of here. I’m tired of hotdogs.”