I think it’s fair to say my knights in shining armor, as it were, have left a lot to be desired. For that brief instant they first appear in the stairwell entrance, I’m thanking God they’ve come to my rescue—then Ernie screams and pushes Theo forward as he tries to run away, instead bumping into Jan, who, caught off guard, loses his footing. Theo grabs onto both Ernie and Jan for support; the momentum of Ernie’s fat causes a snowball effect, which results in a tangled cluster of boys tumbling out of the stairwell and into the dungeon proper. If that’s what you call it.
A lot to be desired.
The cave dudes, who’d been talking to each other in hushed tones, now stop and gawk in the direction of the stairwell entrance.
“Who are you?” one of them asks.
Theo, the obligatory little Cub Scout he is, lifts his head and immediately answers, “I’m Theo. This is—”
“No real names!” Ernie exclaims from the bottom of the boy-pile.
The cave dude narrows his eyes. “Why are you in black and white?”
“I believe monochrome is the correct nomenclature,” another cave dude says.
The first caver shakes his head. “Don’t start.”
Theo untangles himself from Ernie and Jan. “Who are you guys?”
“We are…the damned,” says another of the cavers. “The forgotten. The discarded—”
The first caver rolls his eyes. “He’s being overly-dramatic. We’re cryptokeepers.”
“Crypto miners. Now who’s being dramatic?”
Standing, the boys exchange confused glances.
Ernie clears his throat. “Did y’all used to bang Thrill-Kill?”
“Is that what Rebbecca’s calling herself these days?” asks the second caver.
“That’s what I call her,” Ernie replies proudly.
“Charming. To answer your question, yeah, we all did our time with Rebbecca.”
Jan nods knowingly. “You’re her five husbands.”
Theo glances around the dungeon. “What did you do to end up down here?”
The cavers—or husbands, I should say—take turns answering:
“Botched dinner plans.”
“Cheated on her.”
“Didn’t make enough money.”
“Refractory period was too long.”
I rattle my chains. “Um, could we reminisce some other time? Damsel in distress here!”
Ernie waves his hand dismissively. “In a sec, Bug Eyes.” Facing the husbands again: “So, she just keeps you locked up as her prisoners?”
“Women hold grudges, bro,” says the youngest husband.
The first smiles stoically. “It’s not an altogether unbearable existence. It may not be ideal, but maintaining Rebbecca’s SuperMegaNet server and helping to power her Bloodcoin mining rig, there’s at least satisfaction in knowing we’re part of something greater.”
“Bloodcoin?” the boys ask in unison.
“Really?” I call out, rattling my chains again. “These creeps live in a dungeon and are totally cool chaining little girls to old furniture, and it’s the Bloodcoin part that interests you most?”
Like I’m not even here, the second husband explains, “It’s a cryptocurrency based on a human suffrage algorithm.”
Another husband spreads his filthy arms. “We’re the algorithm.”
“Kámo,” Jan says, “that’s got to be the weirdest altcoin I’ve ever heard of.”
“It’s not that weird. I mean, when you buy Bitcoin, all you’re getting is a tally of electricity used. Bloodcoin being based on human suffrage is no more outrageous than Blowcoin being based on blowjobs, or Schmidtcoin being based on how many webcomic followers Hubert Schmidt has on Smack Jeeves.”
Ernie blinks, a small puff of smoke rising above his head. “There’s a cryptocurrency based on blowjobs?”
“If it exists, there’s a cryptocurrency based on it.”
While Ernie and Jan ponder the implications of this, Theo pays me a worried glance.
I glare at him, nod beckoningly, try with all my might to scream telepathically, Save me already!
He steps forward awkwardly. “Well, it was nice meeting you and all, but it’s late, and we should be going. Um…can we have our friend back?”
The first husband sighs, shakes his head apologetically. “If it were up to me, sure. If it were up to me.”
By now, three of the husbands have sneaked up behind the boys, and at the first husband’s command, they pounce. Ernie goes down like a bag of wet garbage. Jan wrestles valiantly with his would-be captor, neither of them managing to get a firm grasp on one other. Theo, however, manages to sprint out of the way, giving chase with surprising agility.
“Wait a minute!” Ernie exclaims. “I thought we were cool! All in this together—part of something greater!”
“Oh, we’re cool with you,” the second husband replies, “but the demogorgonzola…”
“The demo what?” I exclaim.
“Our suffrage is a byproduct of our maintenance efforts. Real suffrage comes from sacrifice—in this case, the four of you to the demogorgonzola. So much Bloodcoin.”
“I’m a sacrifice?” Chains rattling, limbs thrashing, and so forth. “Have you all gone nuts? Who in this day and age performs human sacrifice?”
Something rustles ominously from inside an adjoining tunnel—
“Behold!” the first husband proclaims. “The demogorgonzola!”
—and oh, my God, there’s an enormous, vaguely-reptilian-shaped chunk of smelly gorgonzola cheese thwumping its way into our chamber, bringing its putrid stench along with it.