A (VERY LONG) INTRODUCTION:
The other day, I was playing ball outside of the Uproxx offices. It was one of those summer afternoons when you leave the house straight after breakfast, and don’t return until after dark. When you do, you’re just a little worse for the wear — with dirty hands, scraped knees, and a little too full of ice cream to enjoy your supper. You know those days, when you’re having so much fun that the time just slips away, and before you know it, you’re running like mad as the streetlights hum to life, one by one, full with the knowledge that you’ll be in a whole heap of trouble if you’re late. And just as the final lamp glows yellow, you slide through the door, thinkin’ “phew!” You’re going to avoid trouble this time. But no such luck. Ma’s still gonna smack you with the wooden spoon for ruining another good pair of pants. She sure gets mad! Then she bakes you a cake with vinegar substituted for milk and forces you to eat it all, like the Trunchbull. You beg her to stop, but she’s a real typical mom. Always complaining about you dragging dirt through the kitchen, and then going after your feet with a sledgehammer like that scene in Misery. It was a day like that. An endless, summer afternoon of finding adventures on our bikes, and stopping for a good ball game whenever the moment struck us. And boy, that day? We were having an epic ball game.
It was all tied up. Two outs, and I was up. The boys were yelling, some with encouragements, others sneering. Some shrieking in tongues about the end of days, and having Grand Mal seizures on the field while blood sprayed out of their noses and ears. What can I say? We’re a rowdy, spirited bunch.
Little Stevie Bramucci was telling me I’d never be able to hit the ball. “Girls can’t hit worth a dang,” he said. Can you believe it? I was sure right mad when he pitched. I put all my wishes and anger into that hit. I sure was gonna to prove him wrong. Girls CAN play baseball! So you can imagine how I felt when right away, I hit that ball with a whole heap of fury. It was like a crack of lightning in the sky! Or a shovel against something solid! Like the kind that comes after you hit a man with your car, and you’re worried he’s still conscious enough to read your license plates, and you sure don’t want to leave any witnesses so you go back… to finish the job.
That ball went so high, I swear, it disappeared into the sun! Then it kept going, and going, and we all froze. First in excitement because ain’t nobody seen a hit like that. We were frozen in time, squinting into the bright noon sky trying to see where it would go. But then, we were all frozen in terror. Except for the bunch of us that were department store dummies that we stole from Macy’s to make it look like we got lots of chums. They’re always frozen. But the rest of us, well, we froze, because, of course, that ball went right over the fence into Uproxx’s yard. Sailed right on in, like it was nothing!
Everyone went silent. Especially the department store dummies. They only talk when they’re giving us instructions on how to kill drifters. A ball that goes over the fence at Uproxx, it’s gone.
Cause you know what they say about old man, Brett Michael Dykes up at Uproxx. Say he’s a witch, that the whole place is haunted. You lose a ball over the fence in the Uproxx yard, you don’t never see it again.
“Thanks a lot, Allison,” Marky “Rosebud” Shrayber yelled, throwing his Yankees baseball hat onto the ground. “Now we can’t play no more.”
“Wait a minute!” I said, screwing my courage to the sticking place. “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts! I’ll go into the Uproxx office.”
The other writers gasped. There isn’t anybody who’s gone into the Uproxx office and lived to tell the tale. Even the mannequins are afraid of that place. Every time they’re encouraging us to kill a drifter, they take time to warn us that the only thing to fear is fear itself…and Uproxx. I should mention that the mannequins are dressed in Romp-hims and have no discernible facial features except hollow eye sockets that grow red when calling us to the field. They talk inside our heads and they laugh the whole time we’re sleeping.
It’s probably not that important a detail, but I’m just trying to paint a picture.
Anyways, that day, I was being braver than I felt. Acting almost like I wasn’t about to go into the most terrifying yard on the block. Like no big deal! I tried to pretend that I was just about to go to a normal, mannequin blood orgy, and not the Uproxx yard. Inside though, I was shaking like a leaf. This was scary stuff.
But I couldn’t back down now. Everyone was watching! Especially the mannequins. So I climbed over the fence with a cocky smile. How hard could it be to get one little baseball? As I jumped over, knowing that the other kids and mannequins were peeking through holes in the fence, I shivered without meaning to. It was colder over at Uproxx, and dreary… almost like the sun had right gone away. Weeds covered every inch of the yard, and dead looking vines crawled up the big porch where a single broken rocking chair moved, gently in the wind. From somewhere deep inside the old property, I swear, I could hear the faint sounds of an old episode of Game of Thrones. There were Game of Thrones things everywhere. Must click well, I muttered. But as I looked around, past the discarded NBA players’ sneakers, think pieces, and thousands of printed out Trump tweets, I began to cry. I was so frightened.
Then I spotted it! The ball, it was so close. Just in front of what looked like an old storm cellar door, open. I scrambled towards the ball. It was right in reach, when a gale o’ wind picked up and blew that ball right into the storm cellar. Down into the blackness it tumbled. All my hopes tumbling with it.
“Noooooo!” I screamed. Before rushing down the stairs after it. It wasn’t until I heard the slam behind me that I realized the storm door had closed. I rushed back up, pushing with all my might against it, but it wouldn’t budge. I was stuck, and the only way out now was through the belly of the beast. I was inside the heart of Uproxx.com.
As I crept through the dark, dank basement, papers fluttered around my head, falling from the moldy boxes above, and then one seemed to land right into my hand like magic. A narrow, dusty window near the ceiling provided a soft stream of light that illuminated the page. “Breakfast Pastries, Ranked,” it said.
I gasped. I had never ranked breakfast pastries! Had I? What was this sorcery?? I looked at the date. 2015. I hadn’t even started writing yet! I marveled at the paper. Was it by me? Time traveling from the future? Or was something more sinister and less believable going on. Was it possible that people at Uproxx had been writing rankings all this time? It seemed impossible, but I didn’t know for sure, so I read the list. And dear God, the humanity. My stomach turned. I vomited multiple times. The mannequins started screaming from somewhere deep inside my brain. It was all wrong. Toast was being counted as a pastry. Pop tarts were on a list that included homemade scones and donuts. Something called KOLACHES was on it! What are they? I googled a pic on my phone, and found that kolaches are a typical European breakfast pastry made with buttery dough and filled with the innards of human children who got a little too greedy with candy and were baked alive in a man sized oven until their intestines were soft and pliable. It made of lot of sense. It was clearly some sick Uproxx delicacy.
I stole away the piece, running up the stairs, and weeping. This list was all wrong, I couldn’t let it stand. As I tore through the rest of the house to get back out through the front door, hands grabbed at me. Perhaps they were the shriveled corpses of writers past. I know not. Only that I ran and ran until I burst into the yard, my ball in one hand, and the terrible list in the other. I had made it out, but at what cost?
Breakfast pastries deserved a better list. We all deserved better. As I emerged around the gate. The other kids cheered. But I felt hollow inside, a little older. See, I’d grown up that day in the Uproxx basement. And now, I had a purpose. To rank breakfast pastries with all my heart. And it weighed heavy on me, but it wasn’t the others’ fault. They cheered and laughed, still innocent. So, though, my childhood pursuits were fading away, I smiled outwardly at the other kids. Still lost in their “Chefs tell us,” and “World’s Greatest IPA lists”. They had a few years yet before taking up the heavy cross that is ranking breakfast pastries, and I envied their sweet, sweet youth.
For I was about to enter a world a young woman, and the breakfast pastries would not wait.