‘What the hell?’ Joe mumbled to himself, pushing his hair away from his eyes as he stooped to inspect the shaking present. He didn’t have the guts to reach out his trembling hands and pull the bow open. He didn’t need to. A moment later the box burst open on the table, and Joe took a running action-movie jump over the couch to escape it. Fingers gripped tightly over the cushions, edging his nervous eyes up to stare over the top of the couch, Joe gulped a gulp and watched the thing on the table. A space-age root vegetable of some kind, studying him with blinking yellow dots for eyes. A future-beetroot.
‘Are you always like this?’ The future beetroot rumbled, with a sound like a fox growling into a rusty tin.
‘Always like what?’ Joe said nervously, watching the neon-bright plant unfurl plasticky leaves and begin to levitate above the table.
‘…Scared,’ the beetroot replied. ‘I mean, you’re an aeronaut, aren’t you? You’re half a mile up in the air every day, and yet you’re scared of me.’
‘I’m not scared,’ Joe countered, standing up from behind the couch. Still clutching a cushion to his chest to protect himself. He checked himself and dropped it quickly. ‘What are you doing here?’ he tried defiantly, trying to look as tall as he could. ‘And what are you?’
‘It’d make it worse if I told you,’ the vegetable replied. ‘Let’s just say I was grown.’
‘Of course you were grown. You’re a vegetable,’ Joe replied, slapping himself hard on the cheek.
‘Grown in a lab,‘ the creature added impatiently. ‘By scientists. Why are you slapping yourself?’
‘Well, I’m clearly dreaming,’ Joe said simply, as if it were an unfortunate situation that both of them had found themselves in and were rather powerless to do anything about. ‘I mean, I’m talking to a floating root vegetable.’
‘I’m not a vegetable!’ The thing snapped, glowing fiercely like a flame as it flew around Joe’s apartment. ‘Look. I’m experimental government property. I escaped the lab; they want me back. You’re an aeronaut. You’re going to get me out of the city.’
‘I’m bloody not,’ Joe chuckled, standing his ground. ‘If there are people coming after you then you’re just going to have to blooming well go with them when they arrive, sir,’ he wasn’t entirely sure why he’d just addressed the future-beetroot as sir. Maybe he’d thought it’d lend more gravitas to his tone. In truth he was terrified, as well as being wholeheartedly miserable.
‘There’s agents coming,’ the vegetable told him. ‘If they catch me here, I’ll tell them you were helping me to escape. They’ll kill you on the spot.’
‘Now just you hold on a minute!’ Joe protested, waggling a finger at the floating thing. ‘I never wanted any part of this! I was perfectly happy to relax for the evening before you came along, and –
Joe was interrupted by a knock at the door. It wasn’t a neighbourly knock. More like the kind of knock made by a fist of solid concrete. A sound like the knock of an ancient stone golem fresh from the tomb, pounding its gnarled knuckles on his apartment door with all the grim deathly authority of history itself. An unstoppable force banging on the immensely movable object of Joe’s front door.
‘H-hello?’ Joe called sheepishly down the corridor. ‘Who’s there?’
‘We don’t have time for this,’ the gritty vegetable growled. Wide-eyed, Joe watched the future beetroot levitate past his head into the hallway with a small gentle hum. Joe shook with wild jelly limbs when the vegetable exploded the door, like a man-shaped dog freaking out at a firework. Ears ringing with the blast, Joe looked up in terror and saw the beetroot dive for his head.
‘We need to get out! Get me in the airship! I’ll explain later!’ the neon beetroot yelled. ‘Go!’ It was beating Joe around the head with itself, jetting its body against his head like… well, like a floating vegetable beating someone around the head.
‘Why the hell do you need an airship? You’re flying already!’ Joe protested, as the vegetable beat him back through his living room and out of the window onto the walkway.
‘I’m levitating, you idiot!’ the vegetable yelled at him. ‘There’s a difference!’
‘Alright! Fine!’ said Joe, fending off the beating as he opened the access hatch in smiling Lily’s side. The vegetable paused and looked down at the street as something flashed. A laser scope.
‘Get in the airship! Now!’ the vegetable yelled. It forced Joe into Lily’s cockpit. A deep booming shot blew Joe’s apartment to pieces, raining fire and reasonably priced furniture down onto the screaming-pedestrian streets far below. Panicked, Joe pushed Lily’s controls to full throttle and launched them into the air, snapping her tether and soaring moderately quickly into the blue above.
‘We did it!’ the vegetable yelled excitedly, bouncing off the walls of Lily’s cockpit.
‘Did what?’ Joe roared, still too scared to take his hands from the controls as they puttered skywards. ‘Murdered people outside my door? Destroyed my home? Is that what you mean?’
‘Look, stop being such a whiny little bitch!’ the vegetable yelled back. ‘You had the most boring life on the planet! When was the last time you exploded anything?’ Joe could only stare at the vegetable. What kind of question was that?
‘What kind of question is that?’ Joe asked it, humouring himself. ‘I’ve never exploded anything in my life! That’s not what people do!’‘
‘Well, you do now my friend,’ the vegetable replied, with an air of satisfaction. ‘You’re Exploder Joe now.’
‘What? What the hell’s going on?’ said Joe, taking Lily into the clouds. He paused for a second, thought about it, and slapped himself hard on the cheek again.
‘You’re not dreaming, you idiot,’ the vegetable told him. ‘Like I said, I’ll explain everything. Just get us away from the city.’
Stay tuned for part 3! I’m not sure how I can make this made-up stuff any weirder, but I’ll darn well try!