Mrs. Thompson kissed her two children, Jenny and Robby, and sat them before the television set. Their eyes widened and gleamed as the picture faded in, revealing the one who had become a dear and cherished friend over the last few months. Mrs. Thompson smiled at their captivated wonder, and went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. As she readied the vegetables for stir-fry, she peered into the living room and watched the blubbery, purple dinosaur prance and roll across the screen.

"Silly fat reptile," she muttered, and went back to her preparations. If Jenny and Robby were annoyed by her remark, they made no sign of it. Instead, they listened and watched in rapt attention to Barney the Dinosaur, who was being broadcast live from the nation's capitol. The plaza was filled with thousands of wide-eyed youths, who wriggled and squirmed for a closer look at the Purple One. Off to the wings, the green dinosaur known as Baby Bop giggled and preened, occasionally blowing a kiss to the children in the crowd. Finally, following a light song and dance about sharing, Barney sauntered up to the podium and spoke:

"Hello, all my friends out there! I'm so happy you could make it to my special concert. Have I told you lately how much I love you?" Children world-wide simultaneously burst, "I love you too, Barney!" The Purple One giggled and for a moment appeared to blush. "Love is such a wonderful thing. Especially the love you and I share for each other. I also want you to know how much of a special friend you are to me. Are you my friend also?"

The response was thunderous, rising from the kids in the plaza, across the living rooms scattered across the nation.


"Well, that's wonderful!" reeled Barney. "But do you know what, kids? I have something really, really sad to tell you." He sighed, letting his immense, dead eyes roll to the floor. "Not everyone is Barney's friend....some people don't even want you to be my friend."

Protests and cries began to rise collectively within the entranced mass. The Beast of Purple quieted them with a raise of his hand. He continued: "There are people who don't want me to love you, and want to take you away from me. These people are very bad, and want to hurt your loving friend Barney. Some of them may be people who are very close to you. But do you know what?"

The audience of children silently yet anxiously awaited the answer. An unholy stillness had fallen upon the crowd. Many of the adults began to feel isolated, targeted.....unwelcome.

"None of them, not a single one, loves you as much as I do. I'm your only real friend in the world. I really love you, I do! But these bad people don't. Some of them may be your neighbors. Some of them may be your teachers. And some of them....."

"Who, Barney, who?!?" shrieked a young girl from a barricade. "...some of them may be _your_ parents!"

Immediately the children began yelling and crying, their teeth and fists clenched in rage. Security guards who had been trying to keep the children back behind the lines began to fidget uneasily, as the sea of wide-eyed, growling, gurgling children began rising against them. Some guards broke from the line and ran down the street, screaming hysterically. Others tried to push the youngsters back but were pulled in by grasping, clawing hands. The cries were horrible.

One guard, as he was being simultaneously crushed and pulled apart by the mindless horde, looked back upon the stage. The Purple One and his green sidekick were laughing and dancing demonically about the platform, which was now spattered with blood and torn clothing. Next moment the world went dark and the guard was lost forever amidst the torrent of violence and unholy chanting...

I love you, you love me.....let me have your family.....with a quick stab or kick, we'll set the children free....don't you know you were meant for me.....

Mrs. Thompson finished washing the vegetables and figured either Jenny or Robby could take out the trash. She walked out into the living room only to notice the children were gone and the TV station was giving a dull, whining tone and a test pattern.

"Jenny? Robby? Are you here anywhere?"

Perhaps they've gone outside, she thought. She returned to the kitchen and looked upon the counter. Her tinsel-steel paring and slicing knives were gone. But they were there just a moment ago, she thought. Then, just as a flash of steel slashed across her legs and another just above her waist, she heard a muffled giggle and caught a glimpse of purple and green out the corner of her eye. She collapsed into a pile of her own entrails and blood, her life seeping into the tile. As the world faded to a lifeless grey, she heard a familiar tune sung by two familiar voices...

"I love you, you love me, let us join with Lord Barney...with a great big kiss and hug, from me to you....let's purge the world of adults too...."

Mrs. Thompson stopped breathing.

"He's NOT a silly fat reptile!"



Chapter One: Thirteen


Jeremy Phillips awoke to the sound of rumbling thunder, and for a moment, reeled in fright. The sky above was a turbulent black mass, occasionally lit by a silver flash of lightning. His fear quickly abated when he remembered his Barney doll lying beside the pillow. He firmly tucked it under his chin, rolled back under his dingy green blanket, and slept on the cave floor with several hundred other children in the cavern.

As he snuggled close to his purple plush companion, he began to think back to how he came to know Barney. It all began so many years ago, in a time completely unlike the one he lived in now. He remembered the television show, the feature-length movies and videos, the merchandise, and the ever-assuring presence of the best friend a kid could ever hope for. Most of this happened before the Great Act of Love.

The Great Act of Love was defined by some as a cataclysm, though these were the skeptics. Jeremy had actually heard an adult call it a holocaust, though he never understood what the word exactly meant. All he remembered was one weekend afternoon, and a call to duty that raised the voices and arms of thousands of children to purge the world of a menace that threatened the peace and love between Barney and the children.

They killed every adult they could find that day.

Barney had planned it well. He knew for a long time how all the adults of the world were trying to keep him and the children apart. Instead of giving in, the Purple One arranged a live, satellite-broadcast concert presented from the nation's capitol. The turnout was enormous, as Jeremy remembered it. Across the country, wide-eyed children gaped at the screen in awe and joy at the antics of the fat purple dinosaur and his companion, Baby Bop. Then, in a wise and calculated fashion, the one known as Barney unleashed his will upon the world, calling attention to those who opposed him. Every child carried out the Great Act of Love, as it would soon be called, without hesitation or remorse. The night turned blood red, broken by the screams of adults. By dawn however, a blissful serenity had settled upon the carnage.

Jeremy wasn't sure what happened next. That was all six years ago. Or was it seven? He was so much younger then. He did know that Barney and Baby Bop came again to unite all the children, and took them under his care and guidance. They told stories and played games with the children, and gave each and every child a Barney doll and blanket. The videos were shown every day, and though the children were left to forage for their own food, it was plentiful because of the vast fields of grain Barney raised with the help of his nameless faceless servants, known as the Loved Ones.

Jeremy had never known of or seen a Loved One until well after the Great Act of Love. They were mysterious creatures, who spoke no language and communicated in curious grunts and coos. They were squat, bulky creatures donned in purple and green robes. They frequented the caverns and tunnels that laced the landscape. Jeremy often saw them scampering about with their wooden torches, often carrying odd bundles up to the lair of Barney and Baby Bop. They weren't as loving or caring as Barney. As a matter of fact, they practically avoided all interaction with the children.

The other group Jeremy knew of were the Bad Ones. The Bad Ones were simply adults who had survived the initial slaughter stemming from the Great Act of Love. No one was sure how many had survived, but Barney and Baby Bop assured everyone that they were evil, and would come in the night and put poisonous spiders under your pillow if you so much as looked at one. This frightened the children immensely, and Jeremy hoped to God (Barney?) that he never met any.

But despite all the talk of Loved Ones and Bad Ones, Jeremy cared most for his group, known as the Special Friends. The Special Friends was an inclusive group, for any young child could be a Special Friend. Barney had deemed this early on, and it was a title every child of the caverns carried with true pride.

Jeremy was especially proud this evening. This was the last day he would be twelve-years-old. Tomorrow, he would be thirteen. Actually, so would his twin sister, Fran, and his best friend since second grade, Cameron. It was well known that it was a very special day indeed when a Special Friend turned thirteen. The three of them were to see Barney tomorrow night, for a "special gift". What it would be, no one knew. No one ever came back to tell anyone else....

* * * * * * * *

"What do you think we'll get?" asked Fran, as they walked up the glistening cold steps.

"I don't know," replied Jeremy. "Maybe we'll get a life-size Barney doll!"

"No, it's got to be better than that," said Cameron, adjusting his thick glasses and lanky red hair. "If no one comes back, it means maybe we're going on a vacation, maybe to Hawaii or China!"

The three of them hoped that the Loved One clambering ahead of them would say something, but it simply gurgled and kept climbing up the crude rock stairwell. It clutched its torch with a thick, leathery glove. "I'll bet it is a vacation!" squealed Fran, the excitement rising in her voice. "I hope we get to choose, I want to go to Europe, that's where mom always-"

Fran caught herself. Ever since the Great Act of Love, no child was to ever mention their parents. While it made Fran sad, she wouldn't want to hurt Barney's feelings. He loved her just as much as her mom and dad ever did. Even more, he said.

The three children talked excitedly among themselves as they climbed the immense stairwell. Finally, they came upon a landing which opened out to a great open plain. Jeremy was the first to notice the bizarre sight ahead. He let out a short gasp, which drew the attention of Fran and Cameron. Across the wide plain stood an ornate building, many stories high, and shrouded in thick ivy. It was apparent that this building was once white, but had been sloppily repainted in varying shades of purple and green. Great flocks of birds flew amidst the rubble, and scores of autombiles littered the landscape, rusting and shattered.

Cameron was the first to identify the structure. It was the nation's capitol.

The Loved One sensed the children's awe and squealed at them. The children followed, their gaze still locked on the grotesquely painted building. When they got to what was formerly the White House, they again reeled in amazement. The whole structure was painted in the same fashion as the capitol, the steps flanked by torches and statues of Barney. The children entered the building, and the huge armored door swung shut behind them.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Hello, all my friends! Happy thirteenth birthday to you!" The fat purple dinosaur giggled and wobbled over to the three children. He gave each one a warm, enveloping hug. The children reacted joyfully, and cried, "We love you Barney!"

"And I love you too. I'm so happy to be with my Special Friends. Especially on such an important day! Let's sing a song!"

The children and Barney sang "Happy Birthday" several times, and danced around the room that was once called the Oval Office. From a darkened corner, a small ensemble of Loved Ones played the music, on poorly tuned and rusty instruments. The children didn't mind. They were here with their very best friend, Barney. And who could forget....

"Baby Bop! There you are!"

The green, baby-eyed dinosaur scampered into the room, holding three-small birthday cakes. "I'm here. Oooohhh, I just _Loovveeee_ parties!" She proceeded to hug the children and incited them to blow out the candles on their cake. When they did, she ecstatically jumped for joy and squealed with delight. The children blew out their candles and gorged themselves on the cake. Within minutes, they had eaten every last crumb.

Children's enthusiasm has no limit. It came to no one's surprise when the children asked about their Special Gift. Barney and Baby Bop both laughed warm-heartedly.

"But of course you'll get your Special Gift! How could we forget that?" said Barney, folding his arms over his immense abdomen. "Baby Bop, how about taking Fran to see her surprise?"

"Gladly!" squealed Baby Bop. "Come with me, Fran, you're just gonna love this one. It's every young girl's dream come true!" And with that, she took Fran by the hand and led her hurriedly out of the room. Fran could barely get a chance to look back at the two boys and wave goodbye. The next moment she and the bubbly green dinosaur were gone.

The two boys were puzzled, but excited. "Barney, you mean Fran gets a different Special Gift than us boys?" asked Jeremy.

"Why yes she does, Jeremy. But don't worry, your gift is just as special. All I want you to do right now is hold very still." The next moment Barney took a thick slab of charcoal and wrote "13" on the boys' foreheads. He then nodded to the Loved Ones in the corner, and they left the room with their instruments. Only one Loved One remained, and he brought a cloth-wrapped bundle to the Purple One. "Okay, Jeremy and Cameron, I want you to kneel on the floor and close your eyes. Then I'll give you your Special Gift!" The two boys looked at each other, but both believed in Barney. Why would he do something bad to them? They kneeled on the floor and closed their eyes. Both began wondering what they would be getting. A ticket for a jet ride? An envelope filled with money? The possibilities were staggering to a young child's mind.

From behind them, the boys heard Barney unwrap the bundle. A moment later, there came a curious sound, the sound of metal chafing against leather. Something wasn't right.

Jeremy flung himself forward, just as a swishing noise came down upon him. He hit the floor hard, and he heard Cameron hit the floor alongside him. He opened his eyes and stared at Cameron. His head was chopped off. Jeremy screamed in terror, and in his fright rose to his feet and ran straight into a wall. He hit with tremendous force and he felt the wind knocked out of him. He fell back on the floor, and stared into the severed head of his best friend since second grade. He screamed again, and looked up at Barney, wielding an immense, blood-stained machete. The fat squalid reptile looked back with a puzzled look.

"Why Jeremy, you weren't supposed to peek! When you play a game, you should always play by the rules. Rules are what makes a game work." Barney giggled and motioned with his arm. "Now come back here and close your eyes. It'll be fun!"

" killed..C-C-Cameron!" cried Jeremy, tears running down his face. "You-you're gonna kill me too!"

"Why Jeremy, why would I do that? Cameron's not dead, he's just playing a pretend game! If you had played the game right as he had, you'd be having fun pretending like he is!"

Jeremy stared back at the lifeless head of Cameron. A small trickle of blood flowed out of his nose, and his thick glasses were shattered. Smeared around the dead boy's mouth was pink frosting. Sensing Jeremy's fear, the Purple One returned the machete to its sheath and gave it back to the Loved One.

"There, Jeremy. I've put the scary knife away. I'm sorry I scared you. I'm sure Cameron is sorry too. Now come on back here. I'm not going to hurt you, Jeremy. Don't you know how much I love you?"

"I...I....I love you too...Barney" muttered Jeremy, his eyes still locked upon the battered head on the floor. He slowly rose up, and began walking towards the bloated purple dinosaur.

"There, there, Jeremy, we'll still have fun," said Barney in a motherly tone. He extended his chubby arms towards the child. "I'm not going to hurt you...I'm not going to hurt you...."

Jeremy walked between Barney's arms and rested against his fat belly. The Purple One wrapped firmly behind the boy, gently stroking his sandy hair. "...I'm going to kill you!"

The next instant the arms locked onto the boy's neck, plump purple talons digging into his throat. Jeremy tried to scream, but the air was cut off and he could only thrash about wildly. Barney began giggling again, and as he proceeded to strangle the child, sang a lullaby:

I love you, you love me....let me kill you another moment you'll be gone....then my power will continue on.... Jeremy's tongue and eyes bulged tremendously, his feet kicking sporadically. Lights flashed before his eyes, and all he could see in between was the wide, moronic grin and lifeless eyes of the gigantic purple beast choking him. His lungs were bursting, and a roaring sound rushed through his ears...

The next thing he knew, he was on the floor, gasping for air. He looked up and saw the fat bloated beast curled next to him, moaning in pain. He must've kicked Barney in a good spot, to have rendered him powerless. Jeremy began to crawl away, when he noticed the Loved One unsheathing the machete and scampering towards him.

Jeremy quickly picked himself up and ran out the door. The Loved One paused, then dropped the machete and tended to Barney, who was still writhing on the floor in pain. Another time, perhaps.

* * * * * * *

Jeremy ran blindly through the hallway, he'd been here a long time ago when adults still occupied the building. He and his parents had been here on a tour, and true to a child's memory, he could remember a back entrance that would take him to safety, hopefully. Behind him he heard the muffled cries of Loved Ones, who were obviously chasing him. He knew immediately that he could outrun them all.

When he tried the back lock, Jeremy found it to be open. He flung the door and ran out onto a back terrace. Through the darkness, he ran across an odd, lumpy surface. It was almost like running on a field covered with cantaloupes. It wasn't until he got on the far edge of the surface that he began to realize what the surface was.

They were heads.

Jeremy had never seen a more unholy, dark sight. In the silver rays of the moon above, Jeremy looked upon the hundreds of skulls that littered the terrace area. He gaped, dumbfounded at the scene, and kept running and running until he had cleared the last head by a wide distance.

He was now in the ruins of a city, empty and quiet like a tomb. Jeremy looked back at the sinister silhouette of the capitol building and wondered how soon Barney and the Loved Ones would be out, searching for him. He began to fear for his sister Fran, and wondered what "Special Gift" she had been given by Baby Bop. All the time, his mind raced back to what he had seen crudely scrawled onto each head, and of his own age, the age of impending adulthood: Thirteen.

Chapter Two: Withdrawal


The rain plodded steadily down the streets and alleys, and Jeremy learned for the first time what it was to be truly alone. He reclined on a pile of dusty blankets next to a short candle that provided the only light in the abandoned warehouse. Shattered glass covered the floor, and through the gutted ceiling, Jeremy could see the damaged, blackened beams that supported the high walls.

It was his third week away from the caverns, and he wondered if he was even a Special Friend anymore. Of all the times he'd been betrayed by friends, the last one he suspected of doing it to him was Barney. Barney who took him, his sister, and his best friend up to his beautiful lair. To sing, to dance, to receive a "Special Gift". But it was all a horrifying lie. Barney had taken Fran away, left in the company of Baby Bop. He had killed Cameron with a blow to the head with a machete. And he had tried to kill Jeremy, by locking his arms around the throat, still wearing his idiotic grin and giggling. All of this, just because the three children turned thirteen.

Jeremy listened to the rain dance upon the pavement, which was drenched with filth and rubble. It was only some years ago that adults frequented the streets, going about their way to work. Now it was still. Jeremy could not break the stillness, for were he to yell or sing or cry, it could bring about the attention of the Loved Ones. Many times Jeremy had spied them shuffling about the ruins of the city, looking for him, offering Barney dolls with one hand while clutching a torch with the other. They came mostly at night, and all Jeremy could see of them were their cloaked, squat bodies clad in purple and green. Jeremy prayed they would go away.

Jeremy also feared the Bad Ones. It had been so long since he'd seen an adult, but he remembered the stories Barney and Baby Bop told of them. How they liked to pull the hair of children, and hit them without reason. It was this reason that all adults were to be shunned, if not destroyed. Jeremy prayed they would go away too.

He was surprised that he had lasted as long as he had. For while he was alone, he managed to find decent shelter and other staples, mostly from ransacked buildings and stores. He dared not sleep in the same place more than once, lest he be found. He had come back to a few places he'd been before, only to sense that the Loved Ones, or someone, had been there too. Now he lay atop the stack of ragged blankets, wishing he still had his Barney doll. For some inexplicable reason, he missed the fat, bouncy dinosaur. The very creature that killed his friend and abducted his sister still had some emotional control over him, and it scared Jeremy. At night he could still hear the Barney love-song, playing over and over again until he broke down in tears. The chubby purple beast was the first creature that ever made him feel truly loved: I love you, you love me, we're a happy family...with a great big kiss and hug from me to you, won't you say you love me too?

Then he envisioned the dead eyes and horrible laugh Barney chuckled while tightening his fingers around Jeremy's tender young neck. The relapse caused Jeremy to scream frantically, and his outburst lasted a full minute before he realized the danger he was putting himself into. When he did regain his composure, Jeremy blew out the candle and crouched by the window. He hoped to God (Barney?) that no one heard him.

Jeremy stared out at the vast darkness, as the rain continued to fall. For a few moments, it looked like he was safe. Then, down a thick, crumbling alley, he saw a soft blur of light. This was soon followed by two, maybe three others, and they began closing in. The Loved Ones had heard the scream, and were eagerly scrambling over to reclaim Jeremy.

"No, no, go away," muttered the boy. He was terrified. The huddle of cloaked creatures came closer and closer.

Jeremy grabbed the candle and a dusty blanket. He couldn't leave out the front, they'd see him for sure. His eyes raced over the destroyed room, when he noticed a flight of stairs. With some luck, it would lead to another building or even a fire escape. Jeremy scurried up the steps and watched from a dark pile of rubble.

No more than a few minutes passed before the first Loved One entered the building. It stood only about four feet high, and gurgled to the others in a bizarre language. Soon it came to the pile of blankets where Jeremy had lain just shortly before, and felt the warmth. It nodded its head, and giggled. With a wave of its hand, it motioned the other three Loved Ones to search the area. One immediately started up the steps towards where Jeremy was hiding. Jeremy knew that his best bet was to remain hidden and quiet. He stood behind a battered crate, breathless. He watched in horrified fascination as the Loved One clumsily waddled up the stairs, waving its torch back and forth. As an offering, it carried a soft plush Barney doll in its other hand. The Barney doll was entrancing in an odd way, and Jeremy's first impulse was to walk out and take it. But his instinct kept him away.

I'll hide here and maybe they'll be gone soon, thought Jeremy. He had never liked the Loved Ones anyway. As long as he could stay hidden, he would be safe. The Loved One would look around briefly, then be gone. He was sure of it. All Jeremy had to do was stay still, and wait.

"Jeremy! Jeremy! This is your good friend Barney! Are you in there?" Jeremy froze. The voice had come from outside.

"Jeremy, I know you must be really mad at me, but I want you to know that I'm sorry. I really, really am! I hope that you and I could still be friends. Don't you know that I miss you? So does Fran! How could you leave your sister behind like that? "

Jeremy watched as a tall, stocky silhouette came in. There was no denying who it was. Jeremy was suddenly filled with a tremendous urge to run out and embrace the fat purple dinosaur.

"Gosh, Jeremy, it sure is dark and cold in here. Not to mention damp!" Barney lit a torch and examined the lower level. "So much dust and broken glass. Wouldn't you like to come back home? Tonight, we're having a lot of fun games and parties, and you're our guest of honor! I'll bet you'll have so much fun! There's ice cream and cake, plus lots of presents. In fact, if you come back to me right now, I'll make sure you get to lead all the games!" No, no, no, thought Jeremy. He killed Cameron. He may have killed Fran. He'll probably kill you. Don't believe him. Barney lied once, he may do it again.

Barney scratched his head and sat upon the blankets. "Jeremy, do you know why I'm out here tonight? Because I love you. You know, I never told you this before, but you are my favorite, favorite friend in the whole wide world. That's why I want you back. I'm sorry I was so bad to you before, but I promise it will never happen again. But if you love me too, and I know you do, you'll come running out here right now for a great big kiss and hug!" "Barney, I missed you and I love you too!" cried Jeremy, coming out from behind the crate. Tears ran down the boy's cheeks and when Barney saw him, the plum-colored lizard extended his arms in a loving gesture. "Well that's wonderful!"exclaimed Barney. "Come on down, Jeremy, let's hug!"

Jeremy started to dash down the steps but as he did, the Loved One who had been at the top of the stairs suddenly lurched at the boy and grabbed him by the arm. The boy screamed and struggled.

"Not now, you fool!" bellowed the dinosaur.

Jeremy shrieked and fought with the Loved One, who had now dropped his torch and Barney doll, and was trying to get both hands on the child. The rotting, partially destroyed floor rocked and keeled below them. Jeremy managed to get his foot behind the Loved One and shoved hard. The next instant the cloaked creature fell through the damp, plaster wall and impaled itself on a sharp jutting metal beam. Its jagged razor edges slid through the Loved One like a knife through butter.

The scream was bestial and piercing. As thick, pink ochre gushed out of the Loved One's wound, it spasmodically thrashed, clutching at the beam that emerged dead center of its chest. In its initial throes, it accidentally flung back its cloak, revealing the creaure hidden within.

Jeremy gasped at what he saw. The Loved One was a horrid caricature, part human, part dinosaur. It was covered in sagging, pale red skin that was spotted with green and brown patches. Its eyes bulged with a serene, almost idiotic gaze. The teeth were smooth, perfect, and a creamy white in color. As the Loved One struggled in desperation, its thick, lumbering tail lashed back and worth, crumbling the wood below it. Finally, with a low, raspy groan, its eyes rolled back and thin trickles of pink and orange fluid seeped down its snout, nostrils, and chin. It was dead.

"Jeremy, don't be scared. Come back to me! I'll protect you!" Jeremy looked back at the Purple Beast. He sensed a certain falseness and anger withing Barney, and started shuffling back away from the stairs. The dinosaur edged near the steps, and hesitated. Jeremy immediately realized that Barney was afraid to go any further. His massive bulk would probably cause him to fall through the rafters.

Jeremy ran back towards the rear half of the building. He immediately heard more scampering up the steps, and he knew the other Loved Ones were after him. He picked up a brick and hurled it at the closest one, and hit it square in the face. It growled in anger, and reached under the folds of its cloak, producing a rusty hatchet. It flung it at Jeremy, who managed to duck in time. The blade whizzed by, embedding itself into a thick beam.

Jeremy found a window and looked down. There was a fire escape. He promptly scrambled down it, the Loved Ones close behind. Several times they clutched for him, but he was too fast and agile for the creatures. At the bottom, he jumped off the landing and into a dumpster filled with paper and cardboard. He pulled himself out and tore down the street, the rain drizzling upon him. In the distance he heard a high-pitched plea... "Jeremy...come back....don't you know I love you...?"

* * * * *

The next day Jeremy found himself in a sporting goods store. He quickly went to the camping rations and tore open the flimsy packets of dried food and snacks. The boy ate voraciously, and gained his senses. No way was he ever going back to being Barney's "Special Friend". The events from last night certified that. But now it was time to face up to the problem, rather than keep running away from it. He still had his sister Fran to consider. What if she was still alive? And what of his friends he left behind? Soon some of them would be turning thirteen, and facing the same fate as Cameron had: headless and forgotten.

Jeremy knew that he'd have to come back to the caverns and face the Purple Beast. If he stayed out here, he'd most likely be hunted and killed by Loved Ones or even the Bad Ones. It was a no win situation either way. Best to go down fighting, as his uncle had once told him. The sentiment burned in the young boy's mind, and he liked that.

As Jeremy cleaned himself at a small puddle, he began wondering how he'd best prepare for another (and possibly final) encounter with Barney, Baby Bop, and the minions known as the Loved Ones. He seemed to recollect something about the sporting goods shop and walked back inside. He went near the back area and stopped. He found what he was looking for.

On the walls were various rifles, shotguns, and hunting knives. Jeremy sucked in his breath and began removing them from their mountings. It was time to prepare.

Chapter Three: Redemption


The last rays of sun crept under the horizon, immersing the devastated skyline in sullen darkness. A small figure clad in a purple and green cloak warily made it way towards the caverns, just below the main plaza of a structure once known as the White House. The cloak covered the figure very loosely, and several times the being had to stop and readjust the garment. If one were to inspect the figure closer, they would realize the cloak had a huge gaping hole through the back of it, and the wearer was a child barely in his teens. Were one to look beyond this, they would see the child brandished several broad hunting knives, a semi-automatic pistol, and sawed-off shotgun. Jeremy Phillips had come to settle a score with a certain purple behemoth named Barney.

Jeremy had trouble moving for several reasons; the cloak kept sagging and slipping, threatening to either trip him or reveal him to be what he truly was and not a Loved One; the weight of his munitions and armanent grew increasingly heavier with each passing moment, causing the youth to pause for breath every few hundred yards; and the utter fear and apprehension of facing Barney and his evil minions was wreaking its toll on the boy.

Jeremy felt he had no choice. It would either be him or countless other children before him, suffering the same fate Cameron had, or the unknown circumstance that Fran was now in. Jeremy felt ready as he could, he had fired a gun for the first time yesterday, killing a Loved One in the process. He could see the squalid beast now, foraging in the city ruins, looking for him. He had woken to its gurgling noise, and crawled out of hiding for a closer look. The Loved One was alone, and appeared lost or confused. Certainly it must be a trap, thought Jeremy. No Loved One had ever travelled through the city alone before. But as time passed and he continued to watch it, he realized that it was indeed by itself. And by the time he realized this, the Loved One sniffed the air, turned around, and saw Jeremy staring at it from the street. It gave an ungodly cry, pulled out a short, spiked club, and ran towards Jeremy.

The next moment, Jeremy stood amidst a cloud of smoke and stinging vapor. His ears were ringing, and he felt the heavy weight of the pistol in his hand. His arm felt numb, and he began to realize just what had happened. He looked upon the ground and saw the twitching, corpulent body of the Loved One. A moment later, its eyes sunk back into their sockets, and its entire body slumped. Jeremy had killed.

Jeremy could not understand why he felt no remorse. He remembered how he cried when his cat, Snooper, was euthanized at the veterinarian. How he cried when his parents left for vacation. How he cried when he couldn't play with his friends because it was past his bedtime. Those times were long ago, but Jeremy rememebered them well. And he felt great sadness. Yet he felt no sadness for this wretched creature that lay still and oozing pasty pink blood out of its wound. Perhaps it was a good thing, if Jeremy meant to do what he planned that night.

Presently, Jeremy neared the White House plaza. He had kept careful track of the days and time, he knew that it was time for the Imagination Game. Just before bedtime, Barney would entertain the children by singing and playing, and the Imagination Game highlighted the entire evening. All of the children would be there. So would all the Loved Ones, to monitor the children and play the music. There was no better time to return.

The first thing Jeremy had to do was find his twin sister, Fran. After so many weeks, he was curious to know what Baby Bop had done to her. As he once again crossed the wide field of skulls, he feared the worst. He dared not look at the decapitated heads for too long, lest he see Cameron's lying there, with his shattered glasses and frosting-smeared mouth.

Off in the distance, Jeremy could hear the faint strains of music and laughter. The nighttime games and songs had begun. He climbed the back steps of the building and gently pried open one of the cold metal doors. He gazed down the dim, carpeted hall and walked in. He adjusted his cloak over his head, so if seen, he'd stand to be mistaken for a Loved One. As expected though, he saw no one.

Jeremy remembered that at the thirteenth birthday celebration, Baby Bop had taken Fran outside the party room and down the hall somewhere. He figured that if it was a common route, maybe there would be more impressions marking the path. He eventually came to a well-worn, dirtied trail of carpet, and cocking his pistol, followed it down a corridor and around a passage that led to the cellar. He was surprised at what he saw.

It was a paved, insulated cavern with smooth walls and brightly lit hallways. Flanking each hallway were sets of thick metal doors with wide, square windows. Jeremy sat silently and listened. From behind many of the doors were odd, gurgling noises. Some were shrill cries, other were soft murmurs. Occasionally, the clanging of metal tools could be heard, and Jeremy observed a row of long tables on the far end of the hall, covered with bottles, linen, and blankets.

Jeremy was in a nursery.

He cautiously made his way to one of the doors and peered in the window. He saw a young girl sleeping on a metal bed, surrounded by flowers and Barney dolls. Her stomach was enormously swollen, and Jeremy noticed movement within her abdomen. Something about the scene made him uncomfortably ill. He ran down the hall, peering in each door as he passed along them. Many of the rooms were the same. Young teenage girls in varying degrees of pregnancy, yet with stomachs unnaturally huge for any normal child. Jeremy remembered his aunt who visited him at his house one day, she was almost ready to give birth. But her stomach was never as large as the girls he had seen in the basement. What were these people giving birth to?

Jeremy saw tags on the doors, crudely written in crayon. Names of the expectant mothers. Jennifer. Molly. Susan. Linda. Victoria. Talia. Beth. Brenda. Gretchen. Prudence. Sarah.

Where was Fran?

Jeremy ran down an adjoining corridor, one that had a metallic tinge in its smell and color. At the middle junction, he saw a brightly lit room, visible from a huge sheet of reinforced glass. Jeremy neared closer, and peered in. The sight within made him shiver.

Arranged in neat rows of clear acrylic cribs were newborn children. But they weren't any children as Jeremy knew. They were large, fat, gelatinous creatures with puggish snouts and large, sedated eyes. Their skin hung in great reddish folds, covered with green and brown spots in random patterns. >From under thier immense, pale bellys hung thick, scaly tails that whipped around clumsily. Most of the infants had already begun teething. Their teeth were smooth, creamy white, and perfectly cropped. The horrid mass fumbled in their cribs, chittering and gurgling, staring stupidly back at the terrified boy.

Now Jeremy knew who the Loved Ones really were and where they came from. He supressed the desire to scream in terror, and scampered down the hall, hoping to find Fran. He wasn't quite sure where one particular corridor would lead, but he followed it in the vain hope of finding his sister. At the end of it, he saw a door with a sign on it. The word on the sign was unknown to Jeremy, and it was scrawled clumsily with a red crayon: MORGUE. The smell was overpowering as Jeremy walked in. The room was enormous, and painted in an institutional grey-blue. Only a few of the room's fluorescent overhead lights were on, and they flickered sporadically. Arranged in straight columns were gurneys with sheet-covered lumps upon them. Summoning up his courage, Jeremy lifted one of the sheets. Whoever it was, she had been dead for sometime. The skin was a marbled white, and the eyes were glazed and dilated. She had long brown hair and faint red freckles dotting her cheeks. As Jeremy looked further, he noticed a great recession in her stomach, and lifted the nightgown. What he saw made him violently ill. She had no stomach left, and there were signs that indicated something had burrowed its way out from within the cavity. This young woman had been the unfortunate mother of a Loved One, like many others laid upon the cold steel gurneys of the morgue.

Jeremy ran frantically down the corridor, forgetting that someone could hear him. He ran down another brightly lit hall, past another nursery. From behind the glass, Jeremy could hear the evil spawn gurgling and crying. His only wish was to escape from this unimaginable horror. He looked about the corridors in a complete state of dread and confusion.

"Jeremy! Is that you?"

Jeremy froze. Slowly he turned around. It was Fran. She stood outside her door, clad in purple and green pajamas. She looked well kept and groomed. She smiled and ran towards him. "Oh Jeremy, I've missed you so much!"

Jeremy ran towards his sister and the two embraced. He was amazed at how well she looked. She stood back and stared at the guns and knives he carried. "Jeremy, what is all that? Why are you back from China so soon?" "China? You mean they told you I went to China? Don't you know what happened to me? To Cameron?"

"Barney told me you went away to China, and that you would be back real soon," she replied. "But look at me. Baby Bop and the Loved Ones have been giving me so much love and attention since my birthday. I feel just like a queen."

Jeremy looked at his sister. She looked far cleaner and healthier than he did. He remembered the last words he heard Baby Bop tell Fran before leading her out of the Oval Office: "It's every girl's dream come true!" Jeremy swallowed hard and asked his sister, "Fran, what was your 'Special Gift'?"

"Barney and Baby Bop are going to make me a mother!" Fran replied joyfully. Her eyes sparkled with excitment and her whole body cringed with excitment. "Barney says it won't be much longer until I'm ready, then they're gonna put a specially created baby inside my body, isn't that wonderful?" "Oh, no...." said Jeremy, his voice getting strained. "No, Fran, don't do it! Look, let me tell you what happens to those who bear children for Barney. They're dead. And their children, they aren't normal. They're monsters! We've got to get you out of here Fran, you'll die if you stay. Barney killed Cameron and he tried to kill me. He doesn't love you, he'll let you die!" "No!" shrieked Fran, covering her ears. "Don't tell me such things. Barney loves me, and I'm going to be a happy mother! A happy mother, Jeremy!" Jeremy reached for his sister. As he did though, a green scaly arm grabbed his shoulder. He was pulled behind and looked into the baby-like eyes of Barney's sinister companion, Baby Bop.

"For shame, Jeremy, making your sister cwy like that! Don't you know it's not nice to lie? Shame, shame, shame, naughty Jeremy!"

Jeremy thrashed and hollered, but the green and pink dinosaur held on with uncanny strength. Baby Bop motioned Fran to return to her room, but the girl only wandered back halfway. Baby Bop latched both hands onto Jeremy's shoulders and shook him violently.

"Bad, bad, Jeremy-boy! No manners for sister! Wait'll I get Barney down here, he'll teach you to be so bad! Do you know what happens to bad, bad boys? Do you?"

Jeremy stared in stunned horror at the squeaky-voiced reptile. He could only shake his head.

"They get the blade, they do! Bad boys get cut! Deep, deep, deep cut!" And with a motion smooth and silent as the wind, Baby Bop pulled a thin, tapering dagger from under her blanket. She thrust it toward Jeremy's wrist. Jeremy caught her by the hand, and the two fell upon the floor, struggling. She began giggling demonically, prying the dagger closer to Jeremy's tender young skin. From behind, Jeremy could hear his sister screaming. The next moment he pulled his other arm free and unstrapped his Bowie knife. He thrust it upward, meeting soft green flesh. Baby Bop gave a shrill cry and staggered back. The knife had lodged deep into her shoulder. She desperately tried to pull it out, screaming profanities and inaudible curses. Jeremy leveled his pistol at her and fired. The impact of the shot flung the green and pink dinosaur several feet backwards. The recoil knocked Jeremy flat against his back. When Jeremy recovered, Fran was kneeling over him. "Jeremy! Jeremy! Are you okay?"

Jeremy slowly rose and stood, rubbing his arm. He looked down the hall at Baby Bop. The giggly dinosaur lay flat in a puddle of pinkish ooze, motionless.

"Jeremy, killed Baby Bop!"

Jeremy put his arm gently on Fran's shoulder. "Sis, you need to see something".

The two of them hurriedly dashed past Baby Bop's body, and over to the morgue and nurseries. Putting it mildly, Fran was mortified at what she saw. "I can't believe it, " she muttered. "I was going to have one of those? And die from it?"

"That's not even half of it," said Jeremy, reloading the pistol. He dumped the empty cartridges upon the floor and snapped the chamber back into place. "Barney and Baby Bop have been killing older children for years. Their heads are in the back plaza. He must not want any of us growing into adults." Fran and Jeremy quickly made their way out of the cellar. At the foot of the stairs, Jeremy carefully aimed his gun at a set of pipes and cords lacing the ceiling. He fired several shots into them, causing steam and sparks to spray everywhere. The lights began to flicker madly, and the two children ran up the stairwell. Once at the main doorway, Jeremy and Fran pushed furniture and other heavy items against the metal doors. Smoke and steam began seeping from the cracks. Beyond the door, the children heard bestial screaming and clawing noises at the barricade. They hurried outside.

Jeremy and Fran caught their breath upon exiting the building. He could tell his sister was shaken and scared. He put the gun back under his shirt and talked to her.

"It's gonna be okay, Sis, it's gonna be okay".

"I want my parents back," she said. Her voice lacked emotion, she had been through enough. "What do we do now?"

Jeremy looked at his sister, then back at the White House. Great plumes of flame poured from the building. The entire scene was bathed in a hellish glow of gold and fiery red. He remembered his shotgun and slid it out of his coat pocket.

"I need to see Barney", he said. Off in the distance he could hear the singing of children.

Fourth Chapter: Pendulum


Barney the Dinosaur appeared especially merry that evening, his dance carried a heavier step and bounce than usual, and his singing more jubilant than before. Were he to realize that Jeremy Phillips was back that night, he may have been less exuberant. In fact, were he to know of the destruction of his secret nursery, the mass extermination of the Loved One infants, and especially the death of Baby Bop, Barney would not be happy at all. One would suspect he could fly into a murderous rage, though the very thought seemed absurd....

But for the moment, Barney reigned triumphant. Hundreds of children danced in mindless abandon around the flanks of the fat purple reptile, while the cloaked musicians huddled in the center of the cavern, playing flighty melodies on rusted instruments. The whole scene was a chaotic sea of purple and green, and the air resounded laughter and singing. Were anyone to venture back out into the outer plaza above the cavern lair, they would be astounded to see the former White House shrouded in flame and smoke.

"Hey kids, isn't this some fun?" giggled Barney. "Playtime is always a good time. It's like having a circus in your very own home!" Acknowledging the cue, the Loved Ones in the band picked up their instruments and began playing "A Circus In My Home", while Barney donned a ringmaster's hat and coat. The children watched in amazement as the dinosaur began juggling and singing of the wonders under the Big Top. Outside the cavern entrance, Jeremy Phillips rechecked the shotgun and adjusted the sheath containing a serrated hunting knife. He pulled the ragged purple and green cloak over his head and hands, then began making his way down the stairwell. His pistol lay with Fran, who he had instructed to stay behind outside the main plaza. While she did not care for the heavy firearm, they both agreed she may need protection...

Jeremy ran a few movie scenes through his head, movies that featured a lone warrior against an overwhelming foe. He had particularly liked the Rambo movies, though his mother lectured him heavily about the needlessness of violence. His uncle showed him the entire series when he spent a weekend at his apartment once. Jeremy knew he was nowhere close to Rambo, and he wondered what the stoic war-veteran would've done against a fat purple dinosaur who smiled a lot.

The cavern echoed with the chanting of children, and the torch-lit shadows covered the walls with eerie figures and shapes. In the middle of this pranced the Purple One himself; inciter of riots, killer of children, father of monsters, maker of a world marked by terror and insanity.

Jeremy had feared that the closer he got to Barney, the weaker he would become. But as the weeks had progressed, he felt stronger than he ever had before. It was the lack of Barney-videos, the absence of his plush purple doll and blanket, and the time spent away from the Purple One's songs and false displays of affection that brought the boy to his senses. But maybe it was more than that; what if Barney's power only extended to young children? What if impending adulthood, with its major physical and mental changes challenged the control he wielded over the minds of the young? It would certainly explain the need to kill children on the brink of adulthood. Was it this that impelled Barney to kill Cameron and almost Jeremy on their thirteenth birthday? Could Barney simply be afraid of a childs' change of life?

Jeremy had little time to ponder these questions, for as he cleared the landing, he came across a Loved One. The creature paused for a moment, confused. Jeremy, hoping his human features were not visible to the bloated, dwarfed monster, bowed his head and froze. The Loved One responded by gurgling out a few inaudible commands, and notioned Jeremy to follow. The two of them cleared another landing, and entered the circle of musicians playing for the children. Jeremy sat at the edge of the circle, terrified. What did they want him to do?

The Loved One who led Jeremy to the circle lifted the lid to a rotting old trunk and produced a flat, tightly-bound drum. He gave it to the boy and notioned for him to sit down. Jeremy sat between two Loved Ones playing the banjo and lute, and began to pound in rhythm with the music. It was a song about eating a balanced diet, and its hypnotic monotony began to entrance Jeremy. He managed to shake it off, though, for he kept thinking about Cameron and what lay in store for the rest of the children.

The folds of the cloak hid Jeremy's hands completely, though he knew that he looked extremely undernourished compared to the plump, blubbery creatures around him. On occasion, he caught the Loved One across from him staring, as if it were suspicious. But as long as he kept still and kept playing, Jeremy knew he'd be okay. He began to notice an odd texture about the drum, and upon closer inspection, saw several fine hairs protruding along the surface. In the upper corner of the instrument was a navel. The disguised boy swallowed hard, and kept promising himself he'd be alright.

Jeremy lost his self-assurance when he saw Fran making her way down the stairwell. She was still clad in her purple and green pajamas, and had wrapped herself in a Barney blanket. Jeremy could not believe it. Was she reverting back to her unquestioning devotion to the Purple One? Hadn't she believed what he had shown her in the cellar?

"Why, look everyone, it's Fran!" Barney hollered.

Jeremy felt the world falling apart. His sister ran down the stairs and into the crowd of children. "Oh Barney, I've missed you so! " "Why I've missed you too, Fran. Say 'hello' to Fran, everyone!" said Barney, who cradled the young girl between his fat, stocky arms. The mass of children all waved, and smiled. The young girl hugged the purple dinosaur, a tear rolling down her cheek.

"Barney, are you really doing these terrible things to us? Why must so many of us die?"

The bloated reptile paused for a moment. In the somber lighting of the cavern, one would be uncertain whether the dinosaur's coloration changed to a vibrant shade of scarlet or not. He relaxed his grip on Fran. "Why Fran, I have no idea what you're talking about. I bet you just had a bad dream is all. Don't you know how much I love you? I wouldn't hurt a hair on your head or anyone else's? I think you better get back to sleep, you need your rest!"

Fran stepped back from Barney. "Jeremy never went to China. He said you killed Cameron and tried to kill him. Only because they turned thirteen. Then I saw those things in the nursery, the Loved Ones, and then I saw the girls who were made to bear your-"

"Get this kid to bed!" stammered the dinosaur, his head twitching nervously. "She's obviously had a real bad dream, and that gives me a great idea for a song! Off to bed, Fran, goodnight!"

Jeremy watched as a Loved One rose from the ensemble, it was the one who had been staring at him since he joined the circle. It pulled a set of chains from under its cloak, an iron muzzle hanging from the end. It was going to take Fran back upstairs, back to the White House cellar, where it would see the fire and the dead charred bodies of its kin and suspect that perhaps it was her doing and maybe-

Jeremy stood up and blocked the Loved One's path. It halted, then Jeremy flung back his cloak, revealing his human features. It was long enough to surprise the creature while Jeremy slid out the shotgun and fired. The explosion blossomed into the darkness, splattering the Loved One's ochre against the rest of the musicians. It happened so suddenly that it never issued a scream. It merely flung backwards upon the cave floor, and twitched for another moment. The rest of the Loved Ones in the ensemble scrambled away into the crowd of children, who screamed in terror and surprise. Taking advantage of the moment, Jeremy slid another cartridge into the smoking chamber and reclipped the shotgun.

Unfortunately, Barney had seized the moment as well. When Jeremy turned back to face the Beast of Purple, the reptile had seized Fran and clamped his talons along the base of her fragile neck.

"Why Jeremy, what a wonderful surprise! I think you know everyone here, why did you shoot my friend, the Loved One? Don't you know that guns are dangerous? Put it away, Jeremy, and Fran won't be hurt."

"No," replied the boy. "You let her go first. I don't want to kill you Barney, but I'll shoot if I have to. You aren't going to kill any more of us." Barney giggled. "Look here, everyone. Jeremy is threatening me, your old pal Barney. I've done nothing wrong or bad. It's him, shooting my friends and he'll probably kill us if we're not careful!" It was noticeable that the dinosaur's voice was strained and quivering.

"Let her go!" yelled Jeremy. He looked at the mass of children, huddled in fear on the cavern floor. Many clutched their Barney dolls and looked at him with pleading wide eyes. Jeremy hesitated for a moment, then collected himself as he pictured their delicate skulls littering the back plaza of the White House outside.

Fran struggled, but Barney had a firm grip upon her throat. "I have an idea!" said the plump lizard, "let's sing a song we all know and love. Maybe that will make you feel better, Jeremy." He motioned for the cloaked musicians to come back, and they slowly picked up their instruments and began playing an all-too familiar melody....

It was the Barney love song.

"Stop it!" cried Jeremy.

Barney had chosen the song for several reasons. Mainly, it was the most recognized and entrancing song he could arrange. But it was also sufficient to distract Jeremy while a Loved One who was previously guarding the back entrance came around from behind the boy.

I love love me...we're a happy family........ The entire crowd of children joined in, while Barney swayed in rhythm, his hands still clasping Fran's neck. Jeremy was completely disoriented. As he listened to the music, he wished to liberate his sister and the rest of the children, but at the same time, he wanted to join in and sing a chorus himself. Harsh reality awakened the boy when the Loved One grabbed him from behind and clutched for the shotgun.

"Yes, yes, get the gun away from the boy!" commanded the chubby reptile. In his excitement he released his grip from Fran, who ran over to the aid of her brother. The three struggled for control of the weapon, while Barney conducted the body of youngsters who were entirely hypnotized by the music and the dinosaur's swaying.

Fingers clutched for the trigger, while the barrel rocked crazily in many directions. The Loved One kept hitting away at the two children, who were steadily wrenching the gun out of its grasp.

With a great big hug and kiss, from me to you...won't you say- In a desperate attempt to reclaim the shotgun, the Loved One yanked hard, the trigger meeting flesh and slamming the hammer. The three fell backwards, as Barney's right arm exploded at the elbow.

As Fran pinned the Loved One against the floor, Jeremy pulled out the serrated hunting knife and slid it firmly under the Loved One's chin. It cleared it's oral cavity and the blade tapped the inner surface of the creature's brainpan. The half-human/half-reptile creature gurgled and died immediately.

The multitude of children screamed as Barney slouched forward, clutching his shattered limb, which was spraying pink blood violently upon the floor and himself. The creature fell to his knees, reeled back, and let loose an unearthly howl that echoed frightenly against the ceiling of the cavern. He saw the childrens' fear and realized that his power was endangered. With great effort, Barney regained his composure and desperately pleaded with them. "Children! Please, don't be afraid! It's still me, your old friend Barney! Don't cower away, don't you know I love you? " He paused and grimaced in agony, then stood up. "Why, I'll take myself to a doctor, and fix me up...remember our songs about doctors, kids? They're our I'm your friend...." The children cowered even further when he leaned toward them, his hand clumsily clenching the broken, bleeding end of his forearm. "Dammit, you worthless little bastards, come back to me! Come back to me!" The creature hissed and growled at the children in frustration, then shifted his gaze upon Jeremy and Fran, who were watching in horrified astonishment. "You sniveling little brat-bastard! It's your fault! You came to rob me of my precious children, and murdered my spawn! I'll kill you and your slut-sister!"

Jeremy gaped in terror as he looked at the squalid purple creature, gasping in pain and hate. Barney's eyes had taken on an evil, reptilian look and his teeth, once clean and smooth-edged, were now jagged and yellowish. The creature rose on its haunches and plodded towards the boy. Jeremy instinctively raised the shotgun, leveled it at Barney's face, and pulled the trigger.

The round sputtered and smoked. The cartridge was a dud. The next moment the purple monster lunged upon Jeremy, his thick talons sinking into the boy's chest and legs. Jeremy screamed and thrashed wildly, trying to keep the dinosaur's teeth away from his soft stomach. The creature cursed and began muttering guttural phrases and sounds. The boy frantically hit at Barney's eyes and snout, while the reptile thrashed away at his clothing, tearing away the cloak and dousing the child in pink, pasty blood. "I'm going to rip every ounce of flesh from your bones, boy! I'm going to break your spine and eat you alive, I'm going to take your lungs and wrap them around my-"

The next instant, a clap of thunder broke through the frenzy. The fat dinosaur's body shuddered and froze. It rolled off of Jeremy and fell upon its back. A thin trickle of blood seeped from its nostrils and its entire body slumped. Jeremy staggered back upon his feet and saw his sister standing before him, clutching the pistol he had given her earlier outside the White House plaza. Thin blue smoke rolled lazily out of the barrel. "I shot Barney, Jeremy," said Fran. "......I shot Barney". Jeremy put his arms around her and gave her a firm hug. They stood there for a moment in silence. Then they both turned and cautiously made their way over to the fat, blubbery body of Barney.

The creature's breathing was faint and raspy. Tears flowed from the corners of his eyes. Blood seeped from underneath him, and his body was getting cool and wet. He cocked his head towards the children, fixing his gaze upon the two, and muttered sadly, "Why won't you love me anymore?" The next instant he was dead.

Fran dropped the gun to the floor, and leaned against the cavern wall. "I want to go home".

Jeremy examined his wounds and looked back upon the crowd of children, who stood in silence. "We'll go home", he said. He motioned the rest of the children to follow him and his sister up the rocky stairwell. As dawn broke over the desolate horizon, Jeremy led the children out of the caverns. The children huddled in awe and amazement. Many hadn't seen the light of day for years.



It was five years ago that Jeremy and his sister Fran had killed the Purple One. Barney, propagator of lies and false love, had met his fate at the hands of two children on the verge of adulthood. Now the world was returning to normal.

Jeremy sat at the window of the coffee shop, sipping hot chocolate and watching the cars drive by. In the distance he saw the familiar silhouette of the Capitol building, which was now restored to its pristine white and cleared of the horrors that lay within. The White House, though completely destroyed, was being steadily rebuilt since the cellar had been cleared of its ghastly debris.

The waitress came by with the check, he placed a couple of dollars upon the table and left, waving to her and smiling. Though he had not learned her name, she and her husband had been among the first of adults they had met when the children left the caverns. It had been an awkward encounter; it seemed that the adults were as fearful of the children as they had been of them. But as time passed on, life resumed its rightful path and many families were reunited. While many adults had been killed during the Great Act of Love, many more had escaped the onslaught by prowess, chance, or in many cases, mercy. Barney's influence had destroyed many adults, but several had seen the evil early and prepared for the holocaust.

As Jeremy walked down the sidewalk, he was greeted warmly by many of the shopkeepers and businesspeople, it was widely acknowledged that he had played a major part in the Purple One's downfall. His sister Fran had her share of admirers too, in fact she still received invitations to this function and that, along with the occasional wedding proposal from men she had never even met. While Jeremy and Fran had yet to discover what had happened to their parents during the Great Act of Love, they remained hopeful that one day they would be reunited. But for now, the two lived together in a comfortable duplex on the east side of town. Checking his watch, Jeremy waited at the corner and boarded the bus a few minutes later that would take him home. The bus was filled with adults, and he took comfort in that.

Were it not for some of the rubble and missing adults, it would almost appear that Barney never even existed. Then again, city ordinance made every step to make it appear so. Once the government was refounded, it was unanimously decided that all Barney and Baby Bop paraphernelia was to be promptly and completely destroyed. The color purple would never be quite a popular color again, unless it was a distinct shade different from that of Barney.

Then there was the question of the Loved Ones. It was hoped that many were killed during the destruction of the nursery. It was also hoped that most were in the caverns at the time they were sealed off by carefully arranged explosions last summer. A bounty was placed for any Loved One captured, dead or alive. A few had been taken in, but they were always dead and cold by the time they were brought in. Most hunters couldn't stand the sight of the creatures, and destroyed them out of a sense of loathing. It was also reported that some parents were telling their children that Loved Ones still survived in the city sewers, and that if they were bad, the creatures would come at night and take them away. Jeremy didn't know what to make of that. The bus arrived at a cool, shady intersection and stopped. Jeremy stepped out and made his way home.

Upon unlocking his door, Jeremy was met by an unusual sight: two birthday cakes sitting on the table, their candles lit and shining bright. On the other end of the table sat Fran, smiling.

"Happy Birthday, Jeremy".

He laughed. "It's not our birthday, what are you-" He paused. There were thirteen candles on the cake.

"I though it was time for a real celebration. Then maybe we can plan to send you to China for real", she said, pushing the cake towards him. Jeremy sat in silence. Words escaped him. He looked back at her, made his wish, and blew out the candles. A moment later, she did the same. The two siblings looked at each other, and laughed.

"Thirteen," she said.

"Thirteen," he answered.


================== Prologue ==================

* Earth, 65 million years ago, Mesozoic Period.

The air was moist and hot, titanic green plants rustling in the breeze. Primordial cries and calls filled the valley, as tall, lumbering behemoths nestled near the lake shore. At the water's edge, large clusters of crested reptiles knelt down to sample the lush, cool grasses growing out of the water. Further away, upon the sloping crags and knolls, stood the flesh-eaters. But one particular carnivore was not occupied with eating. Not for the moment, anyway. This particular creature, whom scientists eons later would label Tyrannosaurus Rex, was eyeing a small patch of earth very intently. Buried under the dirt rustled her hatchlings, cracking open their egg-casings and clawing for the open sky. There were about six in the litter, and as the last one struggled free of its shell, the mother dinosaur nodded intently, satisfied at their emergence. She instinctively lowered her head and sniffed each infant. The smell was fresh and healthy for all of them, but she hesitated.

The first five baby tyrannosaurs were lanky, scaly creatures with bright yellow eyes and mottled grey and green skin. The sixth was...different. The mother leaned closer, examining the last infant dinosaur with a suspicious gaze.

The tiny baby tyrannosaur stared back at her. She felt an instinctual loathing, but wasn't sure why. This particular newborn had definitely been hatched from her litter, but it had very little in common with the rest of its siblings.

It was purple.

The mother tyrannosaur reeled back, confused and afraid. The purple baby gurgled and smiled. She hesitantly approached it again. She then noticed that besides being purple, it was smooth, chubby, and had dead, empty eyes. And when it smiled, which was often, it had a sinister, threatening chuckle that startled her and the other newborn tyrannosaurs. The mother was struck with a sudden urge to crush the little beast under one of her heavy, taloned feet, but her maternal instinct kept her from doing so. At least for the moment.

* * * * * * * * * *

Under a sweltering sky filled with the fading rays of the sun and swarming pteryodactyls, the two giants roared and lunged at each other upon the marshy field. The tyrannosaurus rex kept herself away from the thick, knobby tail of the ankylosaurus, who squatted below her, wary of her massive jaws filled with jagged sharp teeth. Around the edges of the field, a lone triceratops and a pack of lambeosaurs watched.

The battle had lasted for several hours, and both opponents were exhausted. The tyrannosaur realized that if she couldn't feed her children soon, they may starve or wind up devouring each other. With a final effort, she lunged towards the ankylosaur and snapped at its head. The armored dinosaur turned away and slapped its hard, bony tail into the firm thigh of the flesh-eater. She growled in rage and whipped around toward the front of her opponent, her flesh sore and broken where it had been struck. She flung her powerful leg over the shell of the ankylosaur and clasped it over the edge, just above its hindquarters. She yanked it towards her, flipping the foe onto its back and knocking it breathless. It desperately flailed its thick stumpy legs in the air, trying to right itself upon the ground, but it was a futile effort. The next moment, the tyrannosaurus bore down upon the exposed underbelly of the ankylosaur and ripped out its entrails. In a spray of blood and bone, the tyrant lizard claimed her prey and roared in triumph. The sound echoed throughout the valley and hills, resounding her victory. It was not much longer when she returned to her nest, dragging a large chunk of the ankylosaur's flesh towards her hatchlings. The baby tyrannosaurs chittered busily and scampered upon the bloodied morsel, and the sounds of their eating pleased the mother. Then she looked upon the purple one. It was not eating. Rather, it was staring blankly at her and smiling. She growled back as a retort, but it did not appear to faze the fat, stocky creature. She turned away and helped herself to the rest of the meat.

* * * * * * * *

At a neighboring nest, a styracosaur was facing a similar dilemma. Though she too had given birth to a fine litter of hatchlings, there was something odd and unsettling about one of them. It was a female creature, with starry blue eyes and a high, squeaky call. Unlike its siblings, it had smooth green skin and bright pink dots. It also walked about on its two hind legs, not on all fours like the rest of the family. It preened and giggled constantly, and all of the other babies in the litter ignored it, as if afraid. And while the styracosaur-mother had sharp, spiky horns, it noticed this one did not. In fact, she wasn't even sure it was of her kin.

She went about her way, the newborns following after her, munching on ferns and flowers. Other styracosaurs in the herd raised their gaze at the family, then stared at the green, bubbly one at the end. They too, were feeling a great deal of discomfort and insecurity.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dawn rose and the mother-tyrannosaur rose from her slumber. Her gaze rested upon the litter. She noticed that many of the hatchlings were now able to run quite steadily through the dense brush and many snapped at the flies and gnats that filled the dense air. She shifted her gaze uneasily upon the fat purple dinosaur, who sat on a rock, rocking back and forth, smiling serenely at the yellowish sky. She had noticed it had not even eaten once, but was still plump and growing rather rapidly. She began thinking more and more of plodding over and wrapping her jaws tightly around its firm belly, she found it easier to fight the maternal instinct given the loathsome nature of this purple miscreant. Had she not been staring so intently at the purple baby, she would have noticed a green, bubbly creature faintly resembling a styracosaur approaching the knoll.

The purple infant began giggling and smiling even more when the green dinosaur appeared alongside it. The mother tyrannosaur reared back in alarm. The mother styracosaur, who had been searching for the baby green freak, came upon the scene and reacted likewise. As the two behemoths watched in rapt fascination, the purple and green dinosaur faced each other and began an odd call. It was a series of sounds, repeated over and over in a continuous rhythm, and as they continued, the two newborn creatures clasped their hands together and began swaying back and forth. A song and dance. Moments later, the sky turned a turbulent red, and volcanoes began erupting with unbridled ferocity. Lava and smoke spewed into the sky. The ground shook, causing great cracks to emerge and forests were shattered into splinters. Cries of confused and frightened dinosaurs filled the air, and a tremendous heat began to build in harsh intensity.

The mother tyrannosaurus fought to approach the purple and green lizards. She was filled with an immediate desire to kill them and rip their flesh off of their skeletons. But as she struggled, she became aware of a more immediate menace and looked towards the sky...

Steadily approaching the earth blazed a gigantic, fiery orb. The light was blinding and the heat incredible as it broke the atmosphere, igniting it and causing a tremendous upheaval in the soft surface and rolling oceans. The next instant it exploded against the earth's fragile crust. The tyrannosaurus was thrown off of her feet and she roared in fear and confusion. The entire valley was filled with the cries and howls of terrified and wounded dinosaurs, many who stampeded blindly into the center of the explosion, which had sent a billowing, rumbling column of smoke and fire into the violent sky. Great clouds of dust and debris began darkening the horizon, and as the tyrannosaurus struggled back to her feet, she noticed with great dismay her newborn children, dead on the ground. They had either been trampled to death by panicking herds or suffocated by the intense heat and debris. She bellowed in rage and despair, then fixed her gaze upon the purple and green dinosaurs below her. She lurched after them, but suddenly found herself gasping for air. Her lungs began to burn and swell from inhaling the hot dust and smoke, and within seconds the mighty giant fell to the ground and died. By the end of the day an eerie silence had fallen upon the land. The sky was a mosaic of blacks and blues, clouds rolling in fantastic patterns over the landscape. Dust and ash gently floated in filmy clouds upon the surface, lightly coating the dead and dying bodies of dinosaurs. The temperature had fallen rapidly and some of the marshes had begun to freeze over. A faint breeze whistled mournfully through the racked forests, and off in the distance an unusual sound was heard. At the edge of the valley two stocky figures waddled off into the distance, hand in hand, singing the very song that preceded the comet's impact....

I love you, you love me, we're a happy family.... With a great big hug and kiss from me to you, won't you say you love me too?

* Earth, Meditteranean Region, 19 A.D.

The little boy was tempermental, uncontrollable, and rash, thought the servant. It was hard to believe he could grow to become one of the Empire's leaders. How often the child would run about waving a toy sword, stomping about in his riding boots, ordering ridiculous commands at her and the others. And they once believed that he was a fine young man, a boy destined for greatness and leadership. But that was before the appearance of the so-called demigod, "Barnicus". After his arrival, the youth took on a more sinister, unbridled behavior that the servant feared would cause great hardship for the people.

She quietly peered into the next room, to observe the boy playing with Barnicus, a fat, squalid, and _purple_ beast loosely wrapped in a green toga. Since his mysterious arrival at the palace, the future emperor and the chubby monster had played for hours on end, singing mindless little tunes and performing perverted little dances. It was surely this creature, this demon-god, that had warped a promising youth into a future madman. It would weigh heavily upon Rome when this child took the throne.

"Dulcinus," whispered a fellow servant, "we must prepare for tonight's banquet at the throne room. The boy will be alright."

"I wish that were true, Nera," she replied. "but I have great fear for the empire. Ever since that Purple Beast arrived with his little green companion, I fear our precious Caligula has been corrupted ."

* Southwestern Europe, late thirteenth century

The little boy was lonely, he watched the sailors unloading the boats from the distant countries. Various spices and metals were taken from the bellys of the great ships, and the child wondered if he would grow up to become a great sea-traveler. His thoughts were disoriented when a small, fuzzy rat came scampering down the rampway towards him.

His father told him to kill any rat, since they ate precious grain and ruined various cargo with their foul droppings. The boy kept his eye on the rodent and grabbed a heavy stone off the ground. He raised it high above his head and-

"Now hold on there, little boy. Don't you know it's not nice to hurt small animals?"

The boy turned around, and saw an immense, grinning purple beast. Alongside stood a smaller, green dinosaur with thick lashes and pink dots. "Who are you?" asked the child, lowering the stone.

"Our names aren't too important right now," giggled the dinosaur, "what is important is that you learn that all animals are special and can even make great pets!"

Suddenly the two creatures began singing a little tune about the love and affection a housepet can give, all the while dancing gleefully about the dock. The little boy looked on, entranced.

When they had finished, the little boy said, "I believe you two are right. I'm not going to kill this poor little rat. In fact, I'm going to sneak him into my house and feed him grain and milk!"

"Why that's wonderful!" bellowed the fat purple beast. "And as it gets older, it'll share love and affection for you, though not as much as I have for you. Let me sing another song for you, my little friend". The boy listened on in rapt attention as the two dinosaurs sang: I love you, you love me, we're a happy family....just collect more rats and give them a home, you'll find a love you've never known....

"I just loooovvveee little pets!" bubbled the smaller, green dinosaur, cradling her blanket. With that, she and the purple dinosaur leant down and hugged the little boy. They fondly waved good-bye and quickly disappeared behind the huge stacks of cargo.

The little boy picked up the rat, and several others on his way home. His heart was filled with joy and happiness, he hoped he would see the fat purple creature (was it a dragon, maybe?) again. When the boy got home, he crept to his room and let the rats loose upon his bedding. He immediately got bread and milk to feed them, and soon the small pack was gurgling happily, their scaly tails draped lazily over the boy's thigh. A moment later, the boy felt an itch. Did these rats have fleas? Or lice?

The Black Plague swept through Europe like wildfire that season. Hordes of scaly rodents feasted upon the diseased corpses and countless millions died within a short period. It would become one of the greatest disasters in recorded history.

* Northern Europe, early 20th century.

The corporal scrambled madly through the trenches, the Allied troops were closing in on his position. He had no weapon with which to defend himself, and most others from his regiment had already successfully retreated from the charge that threatened the entire encampment. Biplanes bearing the Allied insignia flew overhead, doing battle with triplanes emblazoned with the Iron Cross. All signs showing that World War I was coming to a gradual end. The corporal looked behind him. In the distance he could see dozens of olive-clad British soldiers filing through the trench. It was likely that he would be caught, possibly killed. Many Allies had a certain deal of resentment to unleash upon the Germans.

Suddenly, the corporal was lifted off his feet and yanked behind a collapsed munnitions shed. He turned around and to his surprise saw a huge, stocky purple dinosaur smiling at him.

"Now just be quiet," whispered the blubbery beast, who was clad in a grey trench jacket and spiked helmet. "Follow me and I'll get you back to your regiment."

The astonished corporal nodded and followed the huge purple reptile. The two of them wandered through acres of barbed wire and foxholes, until they could hear the distinct rumblings of trucks and tanks in orderly retreat. "There you go, friend!" said the dinosaur. "Here are your friends, pulling back to Germany. It's too bad that you have to be on the losing side". "Maybe for now," grumbled the corporal. "But maybe one day I'll make the orders. My country is in ruins, but I'll bring it back on its feet and make those guilty pay for our suffering. We won't be beaten for very long". "Well that's a wonderful attitude!" reeled the purple creature, exposing his clean, wide teeth. "You certainly are a stuuupenndousss sport! I wish you luck, and want you to know I _love_ you." And with that, the purple beast hugged the corporal, who looked a bit uncomfortable with the gesture. "By the way, who are you and why did you save me?" the moustached man asked.

"Private Barney at your command, sir!" chirped the dinosaur, snapping to attention and saluting. "I saved you because you are my special friend!" "Thank you, Herr Barney," replied the corporal. "My name is Adolf Schicklgruber. But I have grown weary of that name. You may address me as Adolf Hitler. And soon I will make my mark upon the world, I promise."

* North-central Europe, early twentieth century

The little girl had known of the war for quite some time; sometimes she heard the distant buzz of bombers high overhead or saw the occasional flare in the distance. She was part of a big secret though, that she kept to herself and within the family. Well, actually there was someone else. She had spent so many months in the upper attic, sheltered from the rest of the world and fleeing oppression. Yet it was a lonely existence, which is why she was so happy to have a magical visitor come to her recently. He was big, fat, purple, and always so cheerful, and the two spent many hours singing and dancing. But not too loudly, as they might be discovered. Occasionally he would bring his green companion, who talked like a three-year old and had a high, squeaky voice. Who ever they were, she was glad they were there to keep her company.

Just that night her fat dinosaur friend, Barney, had talked to her about secrets. Why was her existence so hidden from the rest of the world? She couldn't really tell him, only that this way she and her family were safe. He laughed and said friends never keep secrets from each other, especially when they really, really, _really_ loved one another. Finally, she gave in and told him who she was, what their family was doing stored up in an attic, and what her hopes and desires were. He hugged her and thanked her for being so honest and open, and for the moment, she felt good too. But then he left shortly afterwards and hadn't been back since. That was just last night. Suddenly, there came a pounding at the door. She was alarmed. Was it her purple friend? He had never approached from the attic entrance before. What was it and why were her parents so terrified?

The door was suddenly kicked in, and a squad of black-uniformed men came in. Sirens rang from outside. The man in front, brandishing a 9mm luger and swastika said, "If it wasn't for our informant, we'd never have caught you miserable bunch!" He laughed cruelly at the little girl and dragged her downstairs.

Anne Frank and her family were separated and shipped away from their native Holland. Anne was never seen again.

* North American continent, later twentieth century

Kids nation-wide flocked to the TV screens and watched the premiere of a whole new PBS show, "Barney and Friends". The show peaked in ratings and millions poured in as children watched the antics of a fat, purple dinosaur named Barney and his squeaky, child-like green companion Baby Bop.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Years later, Barney performed a live concert broadcast from Washington D.C.. During the show, he incited children everywhere to riot and kill any person over the age of twelve. In the resulting holocaust, children became his unwitting servants and Barney reigned supreme from the former White House. Baby Bop was put in charge of overseeing the Purple One's secret nurseries, which bred deplorable mutant creatures known as the Loved Ones. After several years of absolute rule and dominion, Barney and Baby Bop were killed by Jeremy Phillips and his sister, Fran. Both had been marked for, respectively, execution and impregnation, following their thirteenth birthdays. Jeremy escaped his execution, rescued Fran, destroyed the nursery, and shot and killed Baby Bop. Fran killed Barney while saving her brother from his murderous talons. After the incidents, children and surviving adults reunited to refound civilization, completely free of the Great Purple Beast and his minions.

Or so they thought.

Chapter One: Fossils


Jeremy Phillips sat back in his chair, feet propped upon the table, his eyes glued upon the news. On live TV police were busy lifting a colorful, drenched, serpentine creature out of the river. Upon resting the body upon the banks, one investigator lifted the creature's headpiece off, revealing the bloated and pale young man inside.

"This is Barbara Stanford coming to you live from the Potomac River, D.C. where police have just discovered the remains of Tony Lopez, found dead in the costume that made him famous to children all over the country. Known to many as "Derrick the Dragon", Lopez is the fourth kid's show emcee found murdered in the past five months..."

The phone rang. Jeremy's wife Lana lifted the receiver and handed it to him. They both knew who it was.

"Hello?" said Jeremy.

"Kee-risst! Jeremy, are you seeing what I'm seeing on TV right now?" "As a matter of fact, Bill, I am. Four in five months. How's Reggie handling it?"

"He's pretty shaken, I mean, like, who wouldn't be? We're taping a show right now, I guess he's doing okay with the kids and all. How about coming down so we can talk after today's run?"

"Sure, I'll be there within the hour." He hung up and looked over at Lana. "Bill's running headless about this murder thing. I need to go down and keep him and Reggie calm. Tuck the kids in for me, will you hon?" "No prob, dear," she replied, sitting up and straightening her blouse. "It's almost their bedtime anyway. She leant over and kissed him. "Don't be up too late, now."

"I'll try," he replied, and made his way out to the car. The station wagon sputtered and farted black smoke, then chugged its way down the quiet lane.

Jeremy Phillips had seen quite a few strange things in his thirty-four years. He had lived through the Age of Barney (a.k.a The Purple Holocaust), which he felt could prepare him for anything. Once he had found Lana, fathered two beautiful children, and landed a job as a programming consultant for a childrens' television station, he thought he could put it all behind him. But he had an uneasy feeling something was afoot. He parked his car at the station and walked into Studio C, filming area for "Chester Owl and Friends". Reggie was downing a glass of bourbon, still wearing his owl costume, when Jeremy walked in. He looked up and mumbled a nervous hello and stared ahead at the wall. Bill, the director and co-producer of the show approached Jeremy.

"There are only so many more kid-show hosts in this town," began Bill. "If they don't catch who's responsible, Reggie may be next. Then what? No more Chester Owl and television grants!"

"Let's get him out of town for awhile," whispered Jeremy. "We can carry the ratings on a few weeks worth of reruns. Kids love Chester, they'll get along fine until he gets back."

Jeremy never thought he'd be consultant for a kid's show, of all things. Not after the horror that the Purple One had brought upon the world. But then Jeremy had figured that the whole problem was not a kids' show, but how it was done. It was his idea to have the emcee be modeled after a real creature, not a mythical or extinct one. The owl symbolized wisdom, common sense, and most kids liked the feathery, wide-eyed features of Chester. But most importantly, Chester never made false gestures of love or unconditional acceptance. This set him apart distinctly from the Beast of Purple, who had used such gestures to sway and warp children's minds until they were programmed disciples. Not to mention Chester didn't giggle excessively, smile idiotically, or talk in a moronic fashion. It was these qualities that had gained "Chester Owl and his Friends" tremendous praise from critics and families alike. But now the recent kid-show murders had put a damper on things. First victim was Melissa Mouse, who was found beaten to death under one of the prop pieces for her show. A few weeks later came Magical Merlin of the Wonder Universe, who was pushed down an elevator shaft in his own apartment building. The last one before Derrick the Dragon was Doogie Dog, who had been run over by a heavy diesel truck. Who was doing this and why was anyone's guess; Jeremy was absolutely clueless.

Moments later they got Reggie into a van, the venerable owl was quite inebriated but insisted on driving home on his own. Jeremy demanded that he call upon getting home, then the next day they'd book him for a flight back home. As the van drove off, Jeremy and Bill became aware of someone else in the studio. They looked up and met the blistery gaze of Thorton Marshall, one of the creative consultants of "Chester" and the least liked employee of the staff.

"Take it easy now," he said with a mild sneer. He walked down the stairwell and fixed his thick glasses upon the two men. "I was just watching the great creative genius at work. Such concern you show for your employees, Mr. Phillips. Pity those other kid-show creatures didn't have you around, most may be alive today. But I imagine if you have the gall to blow away some fat purple dinosaur who never did you an ounce of harm I suppose-" "What the hell are you chiming on, Marshall?" said Bill, his wrinkled brow flashing red. "How many times do I have to tell you never to bring up that bloated sack of-"

"Sorry, just forgot," smiled Marshall. "You know, Jeremy, there are quite a few people out there now who claim the so-called Great Act of Love and the Purple Holocaust never occurred. That it was all fabricated, and you are one of the biggest liars around."

"You are absolutely pathetic, Thorton," stammered Jeremy. "Get out now if you want to have an office tomorrow. One more word out of you and you can kiss your poorly-earned paycheck goodbye!"

"Point taken, Mr. Phillips," said Marshall, backing towards the rear of the studio. "I don't know what made me say such terrible things." The next instant Thornton had gone downstairs.

"You gonna be okay, pal?" asked Bill, resting his hand on Jeremy's shoulder.

"I'm gonna be fine".

"Let's go grab a small bite and drink," suggested the older man, "then we'll call Reggie later on and see if he made it back okay." The two went outside and down to a roadside tavern.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thorton Marshall was by definition, a fanatic. Not drugs, not cars, not women, not even money. Though he was rich, he didn't exclaim his wealth upon such material items or possessions. Rather, he was an eclectic gatherer of forbidden objects, items that were banned or prohibited from cultured society. When he had heard his two co-workers leave, he scampered down to the vaults, where voice/retina access scanners opened up his private cache. He leeringly fingered the contents inside, and pressed them tightly against his face and body in the darkness of the deserted studio. He lit an antique torch and looked the doors outside the vault. Again he cradled himself against the vault's contents...

A plush, purple Barney doll. A Baby Bop blanket. Several pirated Barney and Friends videos. A "Barney's Greatest Hit's" CD. Barney balloons, lunch boxes, tote bags (with the infamous lead paint), books, comics, figurines, party favors, and of course, the ever-lovin' Barney SONGBOOK and TAPE. He pulled out a recorder and placed the tape in. Syrupy, flimsy music chimed out of the speaker and flooded the vault...

I love you, you love me, we're a happy family, with a great big hug and kiss from me to you, won't you say you love me too? "Yes, yes, oohhh Gooddddd, YES!! I love you Barney, I love youuuuu!!" squealed the man, reeling in orgasmic frenzy and sweating excessively. "Oh do I love you, let me love you for now and forever, my friend Barney, be mine, be mine forever!!"

The next instant, Thorton Marshall shrieked in ecstatic abandon and collapsed to the floor, unconscious.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It wasn't until he saw passing motorists' amused expressions that Reggie realized he was still wearing Chester Owl's bodysuit. Damn, he thought, how embarassing. Still, he was almost home and then he could let his bosses know he had made it home okay. In some ways he hoped the police could be more available, the idea of an armed patrol surrounding his house sounded comforting.

Suddenly, he felt the car lurch from under him, and he heard a tremendous hissing sound. The van fought him for control and weaved into a thick old tree by the side of the road. The collision shook Reggie out of the seat and onto the floor. When the dust cleared, he picked himself up and went out to review the damage. Both front tires where shredded to thick shards of rubber. "Damn, damn, why now?" grumbled the emcee. As he was ready to start walking home, he saw a pair of headlights approaching in the distance. Within seconds a huge purple van had pulled up alongside the wreck. There were two people (?) in the front, but it was so dark Reggie couldn't make out their features. The driver seemed to be pretty obese, though. "My goodness, it appears that you're in a wreck!" said a low, dopey voice. It sounded faintly familiar to Reggie.

"Good drivers and passengers always wear their seat-belts!" giggled another voice. It was oddly familiar as well.

"Uh, hey, do I know you guys? Maybe you could give me a ride home or something?"

"Why, absolutely!" chirped the bigger passenger. "I sense you and I are going to be Special Friends. And do you know what I want to give you?" "Uh, look man, all I want is a ride, I don't need any gifts," muttered Reggie, who was still trying to remember where he had heard that voice before. "I want to give you a stuuupppeeennnddouuuss hug! Then we'll take you home, won't we?"

"Oh yes, I weally like to wide in cars!" squeaked the shadowy passenger. "Oh cripes, let's just do it. Here's your hug and let's go..." the man walked over to the driver's side and leaned into the window. Fat purple arms enveloped him and Reggie caught a glimpse of gleaming, perfect white teeth. On the passenger's side beamed a pair of bright blue and starry eyes. Weren't there a couple of dinosaurs on television a long time ago who had- "Oh God, let me go you fat purple bastard!"

The man was pulled in through the driver's window, his legs thrashed desperately against the door. His cries were quickly drowned out by the sound of ominous laughter and as the immense white jaws closed upon his head, all sound was drowned out as his skull was crushed and chewed to hard, grainy chunks. The two passengers feasted upon the dying man's twitching body, and were someone to observe from a safe distance, they might suspect they heard singing....

I love you, you love me, we're coming for's been so long, I hope he doesn't mind, Barney has an axe to grind.... An hour later the purple van drove off into the night, leaving a puddle of blood and feathers upon the road. Meanwhile, at the young man's house up the grade, a telephone was ringing into the dead silence.

Chapter Two: Veil


Jeremy Phillips and his co-worker Bill were shown the remains. Had it not been for the bloodied feathers and the wallet left behind, no one would be able to even remotely guess that they were of Reggie Middleton, formerly known as "Chester Owl". The two men stared at the grisly pile of flesh, speechless. "It's like the poor fellow was chewed by some giant dog or something," said the coroner, replacing the sheet. "What we can't figure out is how the bites are so clean and sharp. When a dog or other animal devours food, the bites are ragged, torn, and uneven. But not this one. In fact, the bites more closely resemble those of a person with perfect teeth. But no one could have jaws as wide as that."

As Jeremy and Bill walked back to the car, Bill muttered, "It's over. No more Chester Owl, and probably no more kid shows for a long time. We can stand by reruns for awhile, but there's no denying the media will jump on this one. I've got a statement prepared already, it's just a matter of finding a respectable reporter who isn't going to have every family in America scared to death."

"It won't be hard, Reggie's death was the most horrendous," replied Jeremy, scratching his neck. "God, Bill, what kind of creature does a thing like that to a man? His head was chewed to bits, not even a full dental record could be obtained. We're dealing with a homicidal maniac or deranged animal of some sort, and the police should be notified. How many kid-show emcees are left in the area?"

"About five more, assuming they still want to go on the air. There's Flubbo the Clown, Ricky Rabbit, Sally Strawberry, the like. I think they're all pretty much into revised contract negotiations, bargaining for more security."

"You know, there was a time where a certain kid's show host would look great getting his skull broken and chewed up on the air. " "Only you were too young to know better," chuckled Bill. "Jeremy, how you survived that killer dino is beyond me. Then again, I'm glad I survived myself. However, what Marshall said yesterday is true, I'm afraid. There are some skeptics, all young and cocky as hell, who are saying the Purple Holocaust never occurred."

"I know," said Jeremy, unlocking the station wagon. "But that's the price for removing all evidence that it ever occurred. Every Barney song, video, toy, and suit has all been outlawed and burnt. We're not talking censorship, Bill, we're talking about keeping a lethal beast from Hell away from our children".

"I think Marshall would like to put the fat purple ass back on the tube," grumbled the older man. "His kind scares me. Where is he today anyway?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thorton Marshall called the receptionist, and said he wasn't feeling right and would be gone all day. Actually, he was calling from the basement of the studio and hadn't felt better. Upon hanging up, he gleefully made his way back to his secret vault and foraged through his forbidden collection of Barney and Baby Bop paraphernalia.

He slid a copy of "Barney and Friends" into the VCR and watched enraptured for several hours. Occasionally he had to stop the tape as he would begin hyperventilating and spastically wriggle in perverse glee at the purple dinosaur's antics. More than once he would wrap his arms around the television set and smother the screen with kisses, or he would caress his plush purple Barney doll softly and lovingly.

"Barney, Barney, oh my one and special friend Barney," cooed the middle-aged man, his thick glasses steaming over. His hot sweat drenched the little doll and he would teasingly wrap the Baby Bop blanket over its eyes, playing "peek-a-boo" for several hours more. Finally, once he had exhausted all possible yet unspeakable pleasures from the videos and doll, he collapsed upon the floor and eyed the tall wooden box in the corner. It was time.

The man rose and began tearing away his clothes. Stripped bare, he flung himself towards the box and unlocked it. Upon seeing the contents the man sighed loudly then giggled. With a child's glee, he hurriedly slid into the Barney costume and donned the headpiece.

"Our fun and learning never ends!" he cackled.

* * * * * * * * * *

Lana sat on the couch, watching the news. The anchorwoman announced the death of Reggie Middleton, and the newscamera rudely focused in on the poor man's remains. Lana disgustedly turned away from the screen and decided it was time to check on her children, Stacy and Mark. She didn't know where Jeremy was; he had missed dinner and hadn't called to say where he would be. She checked her watch and decided it was time to put the kids to bed. Maybe afterwards she could call Jeremy's sister Fran and see if she knew what became of him.

* ** * * * * * *

Fran sat before the gravestone and placed the flowers upon the cold, marbled stone. Jeremy had told her that one day she would have to get over it but she couldn't. She had hoped for so many years that they would find their parents alive and well following the Purple Holocaust, yet when the phone rang it wasn't them. It was the coroner who had discovered their remains in a destroyed section of Baltimore.

The couple had been shopping in a toy store when the Great Act of Love occurred. Packs of frenzied, mindless children had broken through the front doors and made off with every available Barney toy they could find. And, true to the spirit of the Great Act, they killed any adult they could lay their clutching hands on. All the coroner could say to console Fran and Jeremy was that it appeared to be quick. But she could never forgive herself for being so swayed by Barney; at least she was there to pull the trigger when Barney attempted to kill her brother. She could still feel the recoil of the pistol and the sight of the bullet disappearing between the fat reptile's shoulder blades.

She sat another moment in silence and made her way out of the cemetery. When she got back she could call her boyfriend, then maybe drop a line to Jeremy and see how he was doing in light of the whole kid-show murders. The radio blared the violent and gruesome murder of Chester Owl, she wondered who would be so cruel and insane to do such a gruesome act.

* * * * * * *

"I'm not sure if this is going to work, but it's worth a shot," said Bill, holding the recorder and portable television. He walked ahead of Jeremy as the two men made their way down to the vaults.

"The resolution on the players are pretty good, I think we stand a chance," answered Jeremy. "We gotta see what Marshall's been into down here, and I could care less about company privacy. He's up to something". On Jeremy's cue, Bill turned on the television and the recorder. He hit "simultaneous play" for both machines and faced them towards the retina/voice access unit for the vault. Thorton Marshall's wiry, bespectacled face appeared on the screen, and the player muttered, "Thorton Marshall". The two men held their breath. The access unit hummed and scanned the screen. It chirped and green lights began flickering. The next instant the vault door unbolted and slowly pried itself open.

"Hot damn!" whispered Bill. "I knew Marshall's video resume tape would have merit someday!"

Jeremy nodded in agreement and the two men stepped into the vault. Jeremy beamed the flashlight and stared aghast at what he saw. Bill gaped in disbelief himself.

Barney and Baby Bop paraphernalia littered the floor, covered the walls, and hung from the ceiling. Every available doll, book, toy, party favor, video, and clothing known in existence. In the center of this disorder stood a tall, empty box, it's latch undone and its contents...gone. "That sick S.O.B," muttered Bill, "he's got a whole stockpile of Barney crap down here. "

For Jeremy, it had been years since he last saw a Barney doll. The sight of it made him feel creepy and hollow inside. Just twenty years ago, he used to sleep with one just like it. Staring into its dead, evil eyes made him shudder. He picked it up and hurled it against the vault wall, where it bounced back upon the floor.

"Call the police," said Jeremy. "We've got a lunatic collecting forbidden material here."

* * * * * * * * *

Lana looked back in the bedroom. Stacy and Mark were fast asleep, tucked firmly into their beds. When Stacy turned seven next year, she'd get her own bedroom. Mark, who was five, would probably like the idea. They were beautiful children; she thought Jeremy had done a great job being a father for them. She blew the two children a kiss and went downstairs to make herself some dinner and watch TV.

Moments later, the children were awakened by a curious scratching at the window. In the faint moonlight they could see a curious silhouette pawing at the latch. The two kids stared at each other for a moment, then steadily approached the figure. Upon a closer look, they saw it was a fat, smiling, purple dinosaur. It was smearing blood upon the glass.

Chapter 3: Masquerade =======================

When Jeremy returned home, the lawn was dotted with blaring, flashing police cars. Investigators were combing the yard and surrounding area, making out what they could in the harsh glare of strobe-lights and high-beams. Lana was inside, talking to the chief investigator. Jeremy came in and embraced her; she was shaking and her face was wet with tears.

"It happened sometime in the last hour," she stammered, "go up there Jeremy, tell me what you think..."

Jeremy slipped past the flimsy tape barricade at the foot of the stairs and went up into his children's bedroom. A few photographers were just leaving, having shot a few good rolls of film. Jeremy surveyed the scene, dumbfounded and afraid.

Blood was spattered against the window, thick, scabby prints impressed upon the glass. No breaks, however, it seemed that the window (which was always kept closed at night) had been opened voluntarily, not forced. There didn't appear to be any signs of struggle, though the blood was evident of some foul play. And then, as Jeremy's eyes fell upon the beds, he hesitated, then shuddered. He backed away from the object propped against the pillow, aghast. He left the room, never lifting his gaze off the hellish figure that was left behind, either as a message, maybe a warning.

It was a Barney doll.

* * * * * * * *

"Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, I know things don't look exactly bright at this moment, but I have reason to suspect your children may be unharmed", said Chief Davies. He scrunched his brow and adjusted his glasses. "The blood found on the window was smeared on the _outside_, and our lab techs just finished analyzing it. It doesn't match the blood types of your kids. Rather, it matches that of Glenda Pattikin, also known to her viewers as "Melissa Mouse". She was found dead tonight in her studio, bit in half at the waist. The time of death was about a full hour before your kids disappeared." "Meaning that who ever is killing the kid-show emcees is now kidnapping children?" asked Lana.

"It would appear that way. The only real connection is that Jeremy here is a consultant for children's programming, maybe it's a statment of some sort. But to date, we've not received any calls or messages demanding ransom or making any clear declarations. But rest assured you two, the whole force is out tonight coming the grounds."

"There...there was a doll left at the scene," said Jeremy, still feeling uneasy.

"A Barney doll, yes, I saw that," said Davies. "I understand you are the one who liberated the children during the Purple Holocaust?" "Yes, my sister and I pretty much killed Barney and helped reunite the children and adults. I think who ever did this has it in for me because of that. Earlier my friend Bill and I ran across some Barney and Baby Bop memorabilia in one of my employee's personal vaults. Name was Thorton Marshall. Any word?"

"We got your call and sent out an APB on the man, but we haven't turned up anything. Reasonable to guess that this man may be the killer, though nothing's circumstantial. Do I understand right that you saw an empty box in the vault?"

"Yes, right in the center of the floor. Nothing in it, I don't know what he'd have in there."

"My hunch is that Mr. Marshall had a costume in there. If he was a Barney-fanatic, enough to keep practically every toy, book, and CD there, chances look good he'd have a costume as well. If he's not parading around in a purple lizard suit, he may be dressed up as Baby Bop. I'll call dispatch right now and alert the force."

* * * * * * * *

When Fran heard the news, she left her dwelling immediately. She didn't want to be left alone, and terrifying thoughts swelled back in her head. Visions of Barney and Baby Bop, the hordes of scampering, blubbery Loved Ones, the murder of thousands of adults....

She stepped on the accelerator and made her way toward Jeremy and Lana's house.

It was only a few blocks later that something caught her eye. As she waited for the green light at the intersection, she saw something large and puffy dancing in the city park. At first she couldn't tell what it was, but as it passed under a dim streetlight, it's fat purple body was perfectly illuminated and Fran felt the blood pumping through her temples. She slammed the pedal against the floor and spun the car after the big bloated reptile. The car knocked trash cans and small bushes into the air, and the vehicle rocked and swayed over the uneven ground. It wasn't until her headlights were right on the creature's back that he seemed to notice her. Suddenly the chubby dinosaur screamed in terror and began running away. His fat, stocky legs could only carry him so far however....

"Eat steel you worthless slab of purple lard!!" screamed Fran, as the plump lizard bounced off of her fender, smacking into a tree. She slowed down, threw the car into reverse, and backed over him again for good measure. Seeing that her quarry was knocked senseless, she stopped the vehicle and secured a crowbar from the trunk. She approached the groaning dinosaur steadily and cautiously, brandishing the heavy iron bar before her. "So, Mr. Happy-saur, where's my niece and nephew? Why did you kidnap them, huh?" The fat purple creature coughed and wheezed, it had inhaled a lot of dust and was bleeding at the mouth. Then, to Fran's surprise, its stocky purple arms removed its head and only then did she realize it was a costume... Thorton Marshall looked back at her through thick, sweaty lenses, rolled his eyes, and collapsed upon the ground, unconscious.

"Oh my God," Fran whispered, leaning over to examine the frail man. She checked his pulse. Steady, but he may need some immediate attention. "Why Fran, don't you know it's not nice to run over people, especially if they resemble your old pal, Barney?"

Fran froze. The voice had come from behind her. So clear, so close, so very familiar...

"Mean, mean, Fran! Wun over nice helpless man in fun Barney costume! Bad as brother! Mean, mean, Fran!" scowled a squeaky voice, also from behind, also as familiar.

Fran leapt to her feet and tried to escape, but only after a few steps she felt a heavy blow against the back of her head. She saw lights flash and flicker before her eyes, then her head hit the grassy earth. In a roar of demonic laughter, the world turned black.

* * * * * *

Jeremy was feeling panicky. He was unable to reach Fran, and no one was answering calls at the studio. No one had called from the police, meaning Thorton Marshall had not yet been found. Lana was in bed, sleeping off a tranquilizer. Here he sat alone, fidgeting and restless, waiting for a call or visitor. He decided to go into the basement and fetch himself a cold beer out of the cooler.

He went down the creaky wooden steps and turned on the light. He pulled open the cooler door and pulled out a frosty, wet can of beer and popped it open.

As he guzzled the frothy cold brew, he suddenly became aware of a presence in the basement with him. He paused and listened.

"What has befallen the Great Liberator?" said a raspy, almost scratchy voice.

Jeremy spun around and faced a creature, perched upon a cluttered old card table. It stood about four feet tall, had light, scaly skin and fine serrated teeth. Its appearance was reptilian, though its overall shape was man-like. It wore a moth-eaten, green and purple robe and wielded a staff emblazoned with amethyst and emerald gemstones. It scrutinized the human with piercing yellow eyes. A thin, wispy tail rolled back and forth behind it. Fine silvery hairs trailed down the back of its head and neck.

Jeremy sucked in his breath. For the first time in twenty years, he was face-to-face with a Loved One.

Chapter Four: Remnants -------------------------

The two beings eyed each other suspiciously for several moments. The air was filled with an uncomfortable silence, one that grew increasingly unsettling. Jeremy had never seen a Loved One who looked so tall, so lizard-like, so..... ...stately. Had he been a young man of thirteen again, he most likely would run away or try to kill the beast before him. But there he was, unsure of himself. It was as if he knew the creature somehow. The Loved One sensed his hesitation. "Jeremy Phillips, the Great Liberator, freer of children and destroyer of Barney's First Incarnation. You do not know me, but I have known you for quite some time." The creature's yellow eyes narrowed, the black crescents adjusting to the light. " I am known as Maca'hzar, Acolyte of the Underworld. What your kind refer to as sewers and tunnels, basically. "

"Where are my children, and what have you done to them? Tell me, or I can kill you here and now!" demanded Jeremy.

The Loved One scowled at the threat, and scratched his chin with thin, scaly fingers. "I could've killed you anytime. You and your whole family if I desired. I've watched you for years, Jeremy Phillips, I know many things about yourself but have always let you live untouched, in peace. And now you would threaten the wisest and most powerful of the Loved Ones? Were I the Purple Beast himself, you'd be dead long ago."

"You speak," said Jeremy, who had just observed the creature's ability, "you speak English, and fluently. No other Loved One has done that." "By definition I am a freak, a rare exception to my kind. My abilities are far above most others of my race, but I didn't come to talk about my traits with you."

"Alright then," Jeremy said resignedly, "what does your master want and will he let me have my children back?"

Maca'hzar chuckled a deep, throaty laugh, then fixed his gaze back into Jeremy's strained eyes. "I am not servant to anyone, especially the Beast of Purple. I am not here to represent him, only myself. We had, say, a disagreement some time ago, and I have been cast out from his rule ever since. Rather, I am here to warn you, Jeremy Phillips, of the impending doom that awaits you."

Jeremy looked back at the Loved One in surprise. For some inexplicable reason, he could not bring himself to disbelieve the scaly, razor-toothed creature. He listened with rapt attention.

"Barney is back, Jeremy. He has your children and your sister. Baby Bop has returned as well, and the two of them are back for your blood. Barney is immortal: he can never be permanently destroyed. His life essence is that of the most pure, unrefined evil in the universe; he has no existence outside of that. But, there are ways to defeat him."

"I don't understand you."

Maca'hzar reached into the folds of his tattered robe and produced a dull, jagged shard that looked like stone. One side was smooth and marbled, the other was dull and rippled. He placed it into Jeremy's hand, and closed the human's hand around it tightly. "For sixteen nights I prayed and meditated by the light of the moon, burning ancient roots and oils, awaiting an answer. The message I give to you, Jeremy, came in a dream I had the sixteenth night." The Loved One leant over to Jeremy, and placed his scaly, reptilian hands over his temples. His cold reptilian eyes burned into Jeremy's, and the creature hoarsely whispered, "The mother shall break the cradle". Jeremy stood in dumbfounded silence. Maca'hzar smiled, exposing a thin line of yellow, jagged teeth. He made his way off of the table and began shuffling into the darker corners of the basement. Before Jeremy could completely regain his senses, the Maca'hzar had disappeared. All Jeremy could do was lean back against the wall, contemplating the odd shard in his hand, and the mysterious phrase:

"The mother shall break the cradle."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The next morning Jeremy arranged for Lana to go visit her mother down south. He managed to stay behind on the excuse that he needed to work with Bill and plan out a continuation of "Chester Owl and Friends". They saw each other off at the airport and then Jeremy drove home. A phone call from the police mentioned the odd disappearance of his sister Fran and that Thorton Marshall was still unaccounted for.

The entire day Jeremy boarded up the windows and doors to the house, loaded and stocked a shotgun and 9mm pistol, and waited. In time he would have the answers he desired.

* * * * * * ** * * ** * * * * * *

Bill called the Phillip's residence several times that day, but no one answered and the machine was off. He desperately wanted to reach Jeremy and inform him that several thousand dollars worth of studio equipment was gone, and that investigative reporters wanted to talk to him regarding Fran and his missing children.

Work had been tedious that day, auditions for the new Chester Owl were pretty mild given the recent emcee murders. Finally he closed shop a few hours early and decided to collect Marshall's Barney collection and torch the damned pile. The police had already had seen the evidence, and Bill wanted it gone and out of mind.

Within the hour Bill had poured gasoline over the entire vault and ignited the evil collection of dolls, toys, records, and books. Purple flames rose high, and as the older man watched, he thought he began to see odd, disturbing shapes forming in the plumes of smoke and fire. He also began to feel uneasy, as if he was being watched and condemned by an unseen force.

* * * * * * * * *

Jeremy started abruptly at the noise. He darted off of the couch and swung the shotgun back and forth, looking for intruders. After a moment he realized that what he had heard was the clock striking midnight. He nervously laughed, and sat back down. He hurriedly drank a canister of cold, bitter coffee, and listened in the somber darkness of the house.

All was silent. The home stood still and empty, Jeremy rechecked his firearms and waited anxiously. He had an intuition that something was out there, outside the house, waiting for him to lose his guard and become vulnerable. What Maca'hzar had said greatly disturbed him, and Jeremy wondered what chance he stood against the Beast of Purple and his green companion, Baby Bop, if they were truly back from the dead.

An hour later Jeremy was asleep. His hands held the shotgun loosely and he never heard the curious scurrying noises coming from the attic and the basement. A few moments later the gun was lifted out of his hands and his head tightly wrapped in a thick green blanket. At this point Jeremy suddenly awoke and felt warm, pudgy, taloned hands pressing his arms against his back and tying his legs with rope. The man kicked and screamed, but he was overpowered. Seconds later a hot, toxic liquid was poured over his head and he lost consciousness.

* * * * * * * *

When Jeremy regained his senses, he became aware of a damp, yet metallic smell, and felt his back pressed against a cold, unyielding surface. His eyes adjusted to the dim lighting and it was then that he realized he was inside an immense cavern, deep under the surface. His arms and legs were firmly bound together, and the ropes steadily burned into his wrists and ankles. The sound of dripping water could be heard from unseen corners of the chamber, and as Jeremy strained, he began to hear a distant melody, one that unnerved him and brought back a multitude of horrifying memories...

I love you, you love me....we're a happy family.... with a great big hug and kiss from me to you, won't you say you love me too?

"Damn you!" cried Jeremy, struggling to retain himself, "We killed you! We killed you and your hell-spawned servants! You're dead, do you understand! Dead! Dead!" His screams echoed throughout the cavern. "Where the hell is my sister and my children you sick, pathetic bastard?!?"

There was a long silence. Suddenly, he felt a huge, fat, stocky paw run its fingers through his scalp. The voice he heard shattered his nerves. "Why, Jeremy! What a way to talk about your old friend Barney! Why, if I didn't know any better, I'd think you were mad at me!"

"If you don't let me go, you fat purple bucket of scum, I'm going to rip you apart piece by piece myself!"

The sleepy, moronic voice laughed long and loud. "Jeremy, don't be silly! With your arms and legs tightly bound like that, I wouldn't think you could even snap your fingers! Such a temper, I never knew you'd grow up to be such a spoilsport!"

"I want my children back, Barney...come on, you've got me now, why don't you let them go? They haven't anything to harm you, you can't justify holding them here against their will...."

"Why Jeremy, I'm surprised at you," said the voice. The chubby paw pushed Jeremy around so he could see behind him. "Why should I get rid of my new friends?"

Jeremy looked up and saw the horrible, familiar figure of Barney, the Purple Destroyer of Worlds. Jeremy's children, Stacy and Mark, were both beside him, hugging the fat bloated reptile around his waist. They looked down upon their helpless father with looks of remorse and disdain. "We don't love you anymore, Daddy," said Stacy. "Barney's the only one we love anymore, and he loves us."

Mark, wrapping his arms even tighter around the dinosaur's waist added, "Barney loves us more than you, and we're staying with him...forever." "Well, that's wonderful!" chimed Barney, wrapping his arms lovingly around the two children. "I guess you're not much of a father, are you Jeremy? Seems to me that Stacy and Mark, my Special Friends, are much happier here!" Jeremy stared in horror and disbelief. His own children, whom he had loved and cared for since their birth, were now rejecting him before the very creature who had destroyed his childhood, wrecked his world, incited riots that killed his parents, and haunted him in countless nightmares that he glimpsed in shadows....

Barney had returned with the ultimate vengeance.

Chapter Five: Apocalypse =========================

Jeremy Phillips hung suspended from a thick, sinewy rope, his body slung in a tightly woven net. He stood motionless in the air, about fifty feet down a lightless, bottomless chamber. The dark was impenetrable, the coolness stark and constant. Up above, the Purple Beast's gibbering, chittering servants, the Loved Ones, adjusted the coils and would occasionally hurl stones or mud down at the helpless figure. Jeremy cursed the creatures under his breath, and struggled to escape his bonds. Yet, were he to loose himself of his restraints, there stood the chance he could lose his balance and plummet into the inky blackness below him, to an unseen fate.

Occasionally, Jeremy heard singing up above, and he recognized the voices of his children, Stacy and Mark, coupled with those of Barney and Baby Bop. He still did not know what had become of his sister Fran, and he wondered too what had become of Thorton Marshall, who he originally suspected of kidnapping his children.

What Jeremy couldn't figure out was why he was alive. As an adult and original destroyer of Barney, he figured the fat bloated lizard would have killed him in a similar fashion of the murdered kid-show emcees. Perhaps Barney wanted him to suffer, to see his own children reject him? Jeremy's train of thought was momentarily broken when he heard singing again, just outside the cavern mouth.

I'm Barney, you love me, I am here for your hearts now, let me inside, by my laws you will abide....

"Wonderful singing, everyone," said Barney, "but let's try it again from the top, with a bit more pitch and less pause between the verses." Jeremy listened and understood immediately. They were rehearsing. But for what?

* * * * * *

"Over here," motioned Bill, "this studio and studio A and B were looted sometime yesterday. They didn't take everything, but everything needed to do an independent broadcast and beam it off our main satellite. Whoever took this stuff plans on doing their own show, and on a large scale!" Chief Davies finished writing his notes, and clapped the pad together. "So you're saying that who ever works the stolen equipment will be able to broadcast all over the D.C area?"

Bill shook his head, his eyes upon the floor. "More than that, officer. Who ever works that stuff will be able to broadcast if they wanted to. Our relay station ties into forty-seven others, all across the country. Whoever did this had some outside help."

"Do you think it could have been Jeremy Phillips? He just disappeared." "No, not Jeremy. Jeremy's the most solid character on the face of the earth. I've my suspicions, but time will tell, I reckon."

* * * * * * *

"Why Thorton Marshall, look at you!" beamed the Purple Dinosaur. "I do believe you're in a lot of pain!"

Thorton Marshall looked up at the chubby reptile and weakly smiled. The man lay on his back upon a thick, high, concrete slab under a sickly green sheet. His body was covered in blue, purple, and black spots where the flesh had been bruised and broken. Various sections of his body twisted and bent in painful positions, indicating the injuries he had sustained when Fran Phillips ran over him in her car. Were it not for the dense padding of his Barney Suit, the damage may have been much worse.

Barney and Baby Bop stood cheerfully over the broken man's limp and broken body. Barney was garbed in a surgeon's smock and headpiece, and gleefully applied a cold steel stethoscope in various areas of the patient, eliciting an occasional groan and short cry of agony. Baby Bop was donning a nurse's uniform, and held a tray of rusting, jagged, surgical blades and dingy sponges. Off in the corner sat a trio of Loved Ones, preparing their instruments. Fran, who had struck Thorton in the park with her vehicle, sat strapped to a chair and was gagged. With a nod to the musicians, Barney began to sing... Thorton Marshall got run down, ee-i-ee-i-o! And boy is he in loads of pain, ee-i-ee-i-o! With a crushed rib there, a fracture there, here a break, There a break, everywhere a break-break, Thorton Marshall got run down, ee-i-ee-i-o!

The purple dinosaur began applying bandages and removing fragments of debris from the injured man's wounds. Thorton began to beg for morphine, but Barney just laughed and pushed the man's head back upon the slab. Baby Bop cut in with the next verse...

Thorton Marshall is a mess, ee-i-ee-o! I doubt he'll be the same again, ee-i-ee-i-o! He's lost some blood, his pulse is weak, here a clot, There a clot, everywhere a clot-clot, Thorton Marshall is a mess, ee-i-ee-i-o!

Fran watched in horror and revulsion as the two dinosaurs began wrapping Thorton in old tape and applying crude splints to his shattered limbs. He would be better off getting medical care in the hospital, thought Fran. This form of medicine was barbaric.

At the close of the song, Barney and Baby Bop laughed long and hard. Thorton, in his delirium, began laughing too. The Loved Ones who had playing the instruments, only looked on in partial interest. They gibbered to each other and began to pack their weathered instruments.

"So Thorton," beamed Barney," you'll be feeling sttuuuupppeeennddousss in no time! Just let Dr. Barney thank you for letting us acquire all of that wonderful studio equipment!"

Thorton gasped under his bandages, he was having a hard time breathing. "'re welcome, Barney....anything for a Special Friend....I hope it"

"Happy?" chirped the dinosaur. "You bet your life it makes me happy! C'mon, Baby Bop, let's give our good friend Thorton an extra-special hug!!" The two gaily-colored lizards knelt down around Thorton and wrapped their arms around him. The two creatures squeezed the injured man tightly, causing him to scream in unbridled agony. Snapping and popping noises protruded from under the tape. Finally Barney and Baby Bop ended their hug and danced arm in arm out the room. Thorton reclined back on the slab, coughing up blood and seeing flashes of light before his eyes.

Fran had worked off her gag and caught her breath. She eyed Thorton scornfully and said, "Some 'friends' you have, you sick fool. Don't you know they use people like you?"

"Shuttup," wheezed the pile of bandages on the slab, "you don't know what true friendship is..."

* * * * * * * * *

Jeremy was awakened by the sensation of rising upward. He realized that his cage of rope and darkness was being lifted out of the chamber, and his eyes steadily adjusted to the cave lights at the opening. He was immediately restrained by a few packs of blubbery, goggle-eyed Loved Ones, and the creatures propped him against a thick, leathery-chair. Before him stood a chair and a television set.

A moment later, Barney appeared on the screen. Jeremy grimaced and spat at the picture.

"Now, now, Jeremy, that wasn't really nice," chuckled the purple dinosaur. "I hope you have been comfortable with your new home, I've got so many wonderful things to tell you!"

"Like what, you bloated sack of-"

"Your cage for instance. Did you know that the chamber you've been hanging over is a gateway to an entirely different world? One cut of the rope that binds you, and you'd be falling into a different time, a different place...there'd be no return for you. If you remember watching my old programs, you should know I'm really good at magic. That chamber's my best example!"

"Why am I still alive? Make it easy for all of us and kill me now." "Why Jeremy," gaped Barney, pressing his hands against his face in obvious disbelief, "I can't believe you said that. Surely you want to stick around for the premiere of my new show. I'm making a comeback, and I want you to be there as my Special Guest of Honor!"

"Like Hell I will. No network is going to run your crummy perverted program, and I'm not going to be on it, either!" snapped Jeremy, his disgust steadily increasing.

"Oh, but we're not using a network. My special friend Thorton lent me all kinds of super-great studio equipment, with which we can broadcast anytime, anywhere. People will have no choice but to watch my program. And I also insist you appear on it!"

"And if I don't?"

The Beast of Purple sighed. "Well Jeremy, I guess if you don't, I'll have to get very, very upset. Maybe even take it out on those you love..." With that, Barney pulled Mark and Stacy onto the set with him. The two children smiled and waved at their father from the television screen. "Well kids," continued Barney, "looks like your father refuses to be on my show, so I guess I'll have you!"

Before Jeremy's horrified eyes, Barney's gigantic maw enclosed the tender young heads of his children, biting them off and crunching the tender morsels between his teeth. The headless bodies dropped to the floor, spitting blood upon the camera.

"Noooo! Oh my God, noooo!!!" shrieked Jeremy, flailing madly in the chair. He clenched his teeth in rage and horror, and began to sob uncontrollably...

"April fool, Jeremy!" chuckled the fat, bloated dinosaur. "Those were just examples of our new special effects models, superimposed and animated upon the screen. Sure was convincing, wasn't it?"

Before Jeremy's relieved eyes, Stacy and Mark walked onto the screen, unscathed. They were giggling uncontrollably.

"Boy Dad, you sure were scared!" said Stacy, holding her sides. "As if Barney would really do anything bad to us!"

"Yeah," said Mark, his face red with glee, "he loves us too much for that. What I wouldn't give to see your face again when you thought he bit our heads off!!"

Barney leant towards the screen and winked at Jeremy. "But let's not press our luck, shall we?" He then returned to the two children and the trio began to sing...

I love you, you love me, we're a happy family.... with a great big hug and kiss from me to you, won't you say you love me too?

Jeremy slumped back into his chair, broken and distraught. The Loved Ones placed him back into the net and lowered him back into the chamber, into the icy stillness. As Jeremy disappeared under the thick veil of black, he heard Barney's voice calling after him from the television monitor: "See you on the set tomorrow, Jeremy!"

Chapter Six: Vendetta ======================

Jeremy slid his watch over to the thin shaft of light that trickled from above his netted cage, and learned that he had been Barney's prisoner for four days. It was only a matter of time before the Loved Ones would hoist him out of the chamber and escort him to the studio, there to be a special guest on the all-new "Barney and Friends", co-starring Baby Bop and his own children, Stacy and Mark.

His thoughts hearkened back to the time when he was a lone thirteen-year-old, put against the bloated purple monster. Back then he had the element of surprise and decision; it was hard to have those when your foe had you dangling from a rope and your own children rejected you. It seemed for the moment that Barney had all the cards.

Suddenly Jeremy became aware of a scraping noise, of stone against stone, coming not from above, but just below him. He fidgeted uncomfortably and strained his eyes, but all he could see was blackness. Was this the end? Was this some faceless denizen of an alien dimension, come to devour him as he lay helplessly bound in rope and darkness? He bit his lip and waited. The sound of stones shifting became clearer, and suddenly a thin orb of light shone from below, accenting two yellowish eyes with thin black slits for pupils.

It was Maca'hzar.

The weathered, reptilian Loved One motioned Jeremy to be very quiet, as he produced a thin, platinum blade from under his cloak. He quickly began to cut Jeremy's bonds and as Jeremy's eyes got accustomed to the light, he saw that the Acolyte had constructed a tunnel that opened out into the chamber itself. In another moment he was free and was crawling down the tunnel following Maca'hzar to freedom.

* * * * * *

"What do you mean he escaped?!" bellowed Barney, his eyes focusing on the frantic and uneasy Loved One. The pudgy, balloon-faced creature shifted back and forth on its elephantine feet and chittered out excuses and apologies. In his rage, Barney lifted the creature off of his feet and flung him down the chamber shaft. The pathetic creature shrieked as it plummeted into the horrid darkness. Its fellow Loved Ones backed away in fear from the enraged Beast of Purple.

"Stupid, stupid, servant!" stammered Baby Bop, who pounded her feet against the cave floor. "Fall forever, down big, big, scary hole! Same thing for all of you others, if you lose Jeremy! Fall forever!" Thorton Marshall came into the room, pushed along in a wheelchair by two Loved Ones. His bandages were filthy and speckled with blood the man had coughed up on himself following his "surgery". He gingerly cradled a Barney doll in his lap. "Barney and Baby Bop," he began, "we're ready for recording if you are."

"Why that's wonderful!" chimed Barney, completely changing his demeanor. "I can't wait to get my show back on again! Are the musicians, children, and technician ready to go, Thorton?"

"Yes, Barney, they are," wheezed the chair-bound fanatic. "And every available Loved One is out searching the tunnels for Jeremy Phillips. Trust me, Barney, he won't leave this cavern without his children and sister." "OOoooohhh, I just love making television shows!" squeaked Baby Bop, wrapping her favorite blanket around her shoulders. "Let's go everyone, time to play!"

* * * * * * * * *

"I didn't think I'd see you again," said Jeremy, washing his face before an old cracked mirror.

"My respect for you is very strong," replied Maca'hzar, reclining against a pile of velvet cushions. "I see the Purple One suspended you above the Dimensional Chamber, a gateway to many planes of existence. It was my design and invention, though he likes to take credit for it. What he doesn't know about is the secret passageway and den I installed during its original construction. Allows me to see and hear many things." The silver-haired Loved One ran his claws over the jewel-encrusted edge of his staff. "The second dawning of Barney is almost underway."

"He's got my kids, my sister, and is ready to make television shows again," muttered Jeremy. "But I've no weapons and very little idea on how to take him on."

"The mother shall break the cradle," said Maca'hzar. He lit another candle.

"God that's ambiguous", Jeremy grumbled, drying his face and sitting across the scaly creature. "Can't you give me something more tangible, more concrete to work with rather than this mediocre Dungeons and Dragons lingo? What's your impression of the message?"

Maca'hzar whistfully shut his eyes and sat in silence for a few moments. When he opened his eyes again, they blazed with a mysterious fire and he spoke as if from the bottom of a deep, hollow well.

"All creatures great and small, Jeremy Phillips, share one thing. Despite one's strength or power, all must lower themselves before the dawn of their existence. What we hold dominion over cannot precede us. Rather, we are vulnerable to the era that came before our destiny.

"A child submits to the will of his parents. A masterpiece of art is nothing when reduced to the mere canvas. Every dawn is but a pale afterglow of the night before it. Salmon fight to find the grounds they were born in, and either die or die trying. A tree, when reduced to the merest sapling-" "Whoa, whoa whoa," interupted Jeremy. "Please, Maca'hzar, you're losing me here. I didn't want talks on fish, art, kids, whatever. What does this all have to do with destroying Barney?"

"Is it still with you?" asked Maca'hzar. "The fragment I gave you back in your dwelling."

Jeremy fumbled through his pockets, he produced the flat, textured shard from his shirt. "Yeah, it's here."

"Good, you will be adequately prepared. When the time comes, all will be known to you. I wish I could help you Jeremy Phillips, but the Great Beast of Purple is of my own flesh and blood. My power will not be of much use against him. It is upon you, the Great Liberator, to destroy his second incarnation and save your world again."

* * * * * * * *

"My Loved Ones have not been able to find Jeremy," bubbled Barney, "but as I remember, Thorton, you are quite handy with some of this equipment. Show me what you've done!"

Thorton idly wheeled himself over to a monitor and keyboard. He paused to take a deep, hoarse breath, then began punching keys as fast as his shattered hands could muster. "Just like the effect we did with the kids getting their heads bitten off," he began," we've taken a superimposed image and manipulated it to simulate movement. In a sense, enriched animation. We got a video clip of Jeremy head on. With some voice enhancement, we can make this computer simulation say and do anything we want. Do you have your statement handy?" "I absolutely do!" beamed the purple dinosaur. "Punch that in and let's see the magic!" Thorton punched in the text and hit the return button. The computer monitor flickered and whirred for a few seconds. Then, a computer simulated image of Jeremy Phillips blipped onto the screen, looking incredibly life-like. Thorton hit another series of keys and the computer-Jeremy began talking....

Hi, my name is Jeremy Phillips, and I welcome everyone out there in television land to watch "Barney and Friends", coming back after twenty stuuuppppennnddouuusss years! I now realize it was wrong to destroy Barney's reputation, and Baby Bop's too, but now that I'm older and more responsible, let me be the first to say that Barney is my very special friend and I hope you all watch his show, tomorrow night at 9:00 pm. Barney's back from the dead and he looovvveesssss you!

"That's wonderful!" chirped Barney, jumping up and down in glee, "Thorton, broadcast that clip every half hour on every major network. I just can't wait!" The purple lizard's ecstatic giggling and dancing filled the studio. The bloated creature sagged downstairs to share the news with Baby Bop.

Thorton finished the rough editing and prompted the relay stations back on the earth's surface. Towers across the globe hummed and flickered as the signals began pouring in. Antennas across the country's homesteads hissed and spat static as the video blips surged into television sets.

* * * * * * * * *

Bill had just sat down with a cold beer and TV dinner, and eagerly switched on the tube to catch the closing moments of the Chicago Cubs and the Minnesota Twins. With the score tied and the bases loaded, the batter lobbed a high ball into center field, the field man raced desperately to catch the ball plummeting to the earth, the crowd held its breath as the ball and the fielder's mitt raced against each other and then...

Hi, my name is Jeremy Phillips and I welcome everyone out there in television land to watch "Barney and Friends"....

Bill about choked on his beer. He coughed up foam and it speckled against the fuzzy surface of the television screen. "What the hell-?" ......Barney's back from the dead and he loooovvvveesss you! "Damn, that was Jeremy," muttered Bill, wiping off the excess foam. He called the central studio in the downtown area. "Hello Susan, this is Bill. You just saw it too? Good. I've an idea they're gonna be broadcasting this ballyhoo a lot in the next day, get Mace and his crew to track down that signal. Pronto!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

"You aren't going with me?" asked Jeremy uncomfortably. "I've done all I can for this battle," said Maca'hzar, opening the portal entrance. "Jeremy Phillips, you are strong and of pure soul. I remind you to keep on your guard and remember all that we've talked about. If it is meant to be, you will triumph over the Great Beast of Purple once more." "Maca'hzar, you know, I don't know why, but normally I would be drawn to kill a creature such as you. But you're not a typical Loved One. I don't feel any inner desire to destroy you..."

The creatures eyes squinted, and he smiled a thin, tapering smile. "As it should be. Here, I've one more thing to give you. " Maca'hzar unfastened a tarnished, slightly rusty firearm from behind his shoulder. He unstrapped a few clips from his belt and handed it to Jeremy. "Magic is magic," he said, "but there's something to be said for technology. You will need this from time to time, Jeremy Phillips." He turned and went back into the tunnel. Jeremy watched the dwarfish figure disappear, speechless. The next instant he slammed a clip into the main chamber of the gun. He scurried down the hall and towards the main cavern.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Three, two, one!" called Thorton, adjusting the camera field. The Loved One ensemble immediately began playing a rollicking, clumsy melody and a chorus of children's voices could be heard:

Barney is a dinosaur, come back to be your good friend, and if you love him as much as I you'll want to make it happen! Barney loves us very much, Barney loves us always! Let him in your empty heart and enjoy lots of fun days! "Ugh, that's some horrible stuff," groaned Fran, strapped into the chair next to Thorton.

Thorton snorted under his bandages. "Shuttup, miserable wench! He's a genius, and he's gonna make the world a happy place once more!" He got so worked up he started coughing and wheezing, hacking thin spackles of blood upon the control panel. Fran observed some of the exposed areas of his body, and saw some where turning a spongy green. Gangrene.

* * * * * * * *

Five hours later, the cast and crew decided to take a break. Barney and Baby Bop were especially jubilant. They had already taped the performance segments of the show, now all that was left was the live segments. The broadcast would begin in just a matter of minutes. The two creatures hobbled about the set merrily, dancing with Stacy and Mark, and giggling uncontrollably. As the band of prancing children and dinosaurs romped about the stage, they did not notice the human figure up above them in the lighting rails.

Jeremy peered down at the small ensemble, and readied his gun. He had to stop the broadcast and do so without harming his kids. A few feet back dangled a Loved One technician, whom Jeremy had strangled with some leftover electrical cord. Its eyes bulged out of its sockets, the pasty orange tongue hanging down upon its plump, blubbery chin. Jeremy eyed the creature with disgust, Maca'hzar was a much more dignified creature than the majority of Loved Ones he'd encountered. Not fat or blubbery, but sinewy and covered in broad, jagged scales. In some ways like a miniature dinosaur...

* * * ** * * * **

"There it is again!" yelled Bill, pointing to the screen. "Whoever's broadcasting this junk is doing it every half hour on the hour! Mace, you any closer to locking onto that signal?"

"One more transmission should do it," said the haggardly man, scratching his head. "It's definitely within a twenty-mile radius, and below the ground. Must be a hell of a transmitter".

Bill checked his watch and counted down for the next half hour. The time just rolled by and by....

f/center> * * * * * * * * *

Jeremy heard laughter and chuckling below him. Barney, Baby Bop, and his two children, Stacy and Mark, had just finished another song and were making the final adjustements to the set and props. Loved One technicians scampered about the studio, preparing for the live broadcast, which would begin in a matter of minutes. Jeremy pried his mind for a plan, but nothing came to light. The gun begun to feel heavier and heavier in his grip, but he knew he could hold on. As long as he went undetected.


"Thorton," began Fran, "you are one sick guy. Those two beasts bandaged you up like the Middle Ages or something. Your whole body's begun to blacken and spoil. If we don't get you to a real hospital, you'll die!" "Quiet, woman," said Thorton, staring into the monitor. "Obviously you've never experienced true love before. Barney came to this world to love us all, unconditionally and without expectation. People like you and your worthless brother don't understand that, in fact you're scared of it." He pressed the Barney doll against his chin. His voice suddenly grew syrupy and infantile. "My pwecious wittle buddy Barney woves me and would never hurt me." "Ooh, God help me," said Fran, rolling her eyes and turning away in embarassment.

Suddenly the lights dimmed and the Barney soundtrack chimed in. The monitors flashed to Barney and Baby Bop, coming out of two respective tombs, dusting themselves off, and looking about in a lush green meadow with blue skies and flitting butterflies. Stacy and Mark came out and the four of them began dancing hand in hand. Fran looked down at the set but saw nothing. She then realized this was a pre-recorded segment. The song was an obvious rip-off of "Yankee Doodle"....

Barney and Baby Bop, having risen from the dead, want to dance and laugh and play, and become your loving friend....

The music was off-synch, miscalculated, and poorly played. Fran grimaced at the sound and became ill. Thorton swayed around in his chair, tapping his dingy fingers in tempo. Once the music was over, the lights flared up upon the soundstage, illuminating Barney and Baby Bop in all their glory. Thorton checked the frequency monitor. The signal was getting out. TV stations across the continent were picking up the broadcast, on every major network. He giggled in delight and kissed his Barney doll.

"Why, hello everyone out there! It's me, Barney the Dinosaur!" "And *me*, don't forget *me*, Barney! I'm Baby Bop, and I just loovvveee being back on television!"

"It's been twenty years, boys and girls, but we're back! More songs and love for everyone! And I know some of you out there watching right now are in need of a special friend. Do you know what? I want to be that special friend with you!" The sagging, purple lizard slurred the last few words with a saccharine emphasis that made Fran lose control and she began to retch. On Thorton.

"You vile wretch, you've vomited on my precious Barney doll!" screamed the bandaged lunatic, his thick glasses steaming over in rage. He immediately tried to rise and strike Fran, but his injuries kept making him stumble. He fell on the floor and kicked around in desperation.

Back on the set, Barney and Baby Bop paired together and began expressing their love for all of the viewers.

"You know, Baby Bop, I feel so much love for our new and old viewers, I feel just like-"

"Pwaying with my blanky?" cooed the spritely green dinosaur. Barney chuckled. "No, but that sounds like a stuuuuuuuuuupendoussss idea too. But what I was really going to say was that I felt just like *singing*!" The Loved One ensemble picked up the cue and began playing the opening chords of the most powerful, infamous, familiar song of the Purple One. The two dinosaurs began swaying and holding hands. Barney opened the piece... I love you, you love me....

The next moment there was a loud resounding crash. Barney turned around and noticed Baby Bop had been struck by a huge metal strobelight, that had been dropped from above. The impact had pretty much snapped Baby Bop's neck clear in half, and the petite green dinosaur lay gurgling at his feet. Barney looked up just as another light fell his way. He caught it in mid-air and saw Jeremy dangling above him, brandishing a thick metal blade.

"Why Jeremy Phillips, what a long time it's been! Were you the one who dropped the light upon poor Baby Bop? That wasn't very nice! Didn't your parents tell you cutting tension chords on light equipment could be dangerous? Come on down and let's sing a song about safety!"

"Bite me, you worthless purple gasbag," snarled Jeremy. "I'm cancelling your show right now!"

A horde of Loved Ones had scampered up the balcony, after Jeremy. He saw them approaching and leveled the gun at them. Bullets blazed and sparks flew as Jeremy gunned down the whole lot. Orange and pink blood spattered all over the set like rain.

"Get him!" bellowed the fat purple reptile, and several more packs of Loved Ones scampered up the rails. As Jeremy inserted a new clip and prepared to level it at the oncoming horde, the entire railing lurched under the combined weight and was completely torn out of the wall the next instant. Jeremy, the Loved Ones, and several hundred pounds of lighting and sound equipment plunged towards the soundstage below. Screams filled the air as the hapless bunch fell all five stories....

Chapter Seven: Revelations ===========================

The lighting rails struck the soundstage with tremendous impact, the resounding clap of steel meeting rock cracked the atmosphere as sparks and debris flew everywhere. Great clouds of dust obscured the set, filling the on-line monitors with thick static. A few seconds later they came back on, illuminating the disastrous scene.

Thorton watched in disbelief, his jaw hanging wide, his eyes staring out from under the bandages. Fran stared at the destruction also, mortified at the carnage. From the back areas of the soundstage, Stacy and Mark watched in terrified silence.

A moment later a Loved One rose from the wreckage, gave an ear-splitting cry and pointed at Jeremy Phillips, thrown back against a twisted railing. The next instant the man ripped a volley of bullets through its pudgy belly, orange and pink innards bursting from the impact. The creature fell backwards, flattening out against the cold unyielding surface of the rocky floor. "Why Jeremy, that wasn't a nice thing to do," quipped a low, moronic voice from under the pile of debris.

"Show yourself, you grinning hunk of lard!" shouted Jeremy, picking himself off the floor. He nervously looked around and surveyed the damage. The Loved Ones who had fallen with him were either dead or bleeding profusely. To his surprise, he felt a hand grasp him by the ankle and he was yanked off of his feet. His chin hit the floor. Hard. The gun slipped out of his grip and rattled across the floor.

"Bad, bad, bad Jeremy! Try to kill Baby Bop and Barney! Silly Jeremy, we never die! Gonna teach you big lesson! Real, real, real *big* lesson!" Jeremy looked by his feet and saw Baby Bop, her neck still snapped in half, clutching his ankle. Her head wobbled crazily and a large segment of bone jutted out of her shoulder. It was her vertebrae. Yet, the frenzied baby-like creature cursed and clawed at him.

Barney's titanic purple head rose out from under a pastel-painted flat. He saw Jeremy's dilemma and grinned widely, his gleaming white teeth shining cruelly. Jeremy frantically kicked at Baby Bop, but the green dinosaur hung on with incredible strength. Jeremy reached behind him for the gun, but when he looked, he saw it was gone. Instead, a man wrapped up in dingy tapes and bandages and sitting in a chair was there, leveling it at him. Thorton Marshall. Jeremy couldn't mistake the thick glasses and the lunatic eyes. Not even under those soiled bandages.

"I-I've got him, Barney," said Thorton, a quivering smile coming across his bruised and swollen face. "You can take him prisoner again, he's not going anywhere!"

"Thorton, you are indeed my Special, Special Friend! Thank you for getting the gun and capturing Jeremy. As a matter of fact, I've a special, super-ka-duper favor to ask of you!"

"Oh Barney, you know I'd do anything for you! Anything at all, because you're my Special Friend and you love me so. What is it?" The bloated violet reptile rose from the debris and waddled over to the bandaged man. With a fresh smile and a paw placed lovingly upon Thorton's shoulder, he replied.

"Kill him. Shoot him through the face."

Thorton paused. He looked back at Barney and laughed, nervously. "What?" "Shoot bad, bad, Jeremy! Make him bleed! Teach Jeremy super-good lesson, you can!" squealed Baby Bop ecstatically.

Thorton raised the gun and aimed the sights at Jeremy's face. Torrents of sweat began trickling down both men's faces, and Thorton began twitching uncontrollably. "But Barney," whispered Thorton, "killing is...bad. I..I've never killed before. It's not right....I can't do it."

Stacy and Mark huddled from a distant corner of the set, mortified at the scene. Fran sat up in the control booth, desperately trying to free herself of her restraints.

"Thorton, you *are* my Special Friend, aren't you? Would't you do anything that I asked you too? You know, if your good old pal Barney asks you to do it, that means it's not bad at all! You know how much I love you, don't you?"

Thorton shook his head. "But in the videos, and all your books, you never did anything to harm anyone taught us that fighting was bad, and that we should apologize if we hurt someone, and we can all be friends and love one another-" The next instant Thorton lowered the gun and began crying uncontrollably. Tears rushed down his face and soaked his glasses and bandages. "Oh God, I'm so sorry. For all of this," cried the man. "Weak, fraidy-cat Thorton is crying! Like big baby! Big little baby! Can't do it! Scared! Scaredy, scaredy Thorton! " hissed Baby Bop, pulling herself out of the collapsed set, her head dangling upon her shoulder. "Gonna cry, now? Want Mommy? Mommy don't love big weak worthless crying-Thorton babies!"

"Shuttup!" screamed Thorton. "Just shuttup and leave me alone!" The man's reddened face cringed and he collapsed into Barney's arms. Jeremy was free of Baby Bop's grip, but he couldn't leave. He sat on the floor, engrossed in the emotional spectacle before him.

Barney soothingly stroked Thorton's head, patting him on the back with the other hand. "Why Thorton, there's no need to cry. Don't you know that I still love you? It's okay, don't feel ashamed. I will love you always." Thorton sniffed and looked into Barney's dead, empty eyes. " really mean it, Barney?"

"Why of course!" chirped the fat dinosaur. "I will love you Thorton, even if you're scared, or if you're angry...."

Jeremy sensed it. He darted away and hid.

"...or even if you're _dead!"

Thorton reacted too late. The moment he looked up he saw the huge, powerful teeth close on him,he screamed and thrashed madly. His whole upper body was thrown back as Barney reared his head and bit clear through the hapless man's chest. The lower portion fell to the floor, spraying crimson upon the floor and Baby Bop, who giggled and jumped up and down with glee. Stacy and Mark screamed in terror, Fran averted her eyes in repulsion. Barney sat upward, guzzling Thorton's upper body, cracking bones and snapping ligaments. Bandages and entrails seeped down the chin and neck of the Great Purple Beast, who merrily swallowed the remaining portions of the unfortunate man.

"Good, good bloody Thorton! No cwy no more!" squeaked Baby Bop. Barney relaxed his head and wiped excess blood and foam from his lips with his hand. Suddenly the two dinosaurs made a horrid realization...

They were still on the air. Live. Broadcast all over the country. " Shut down the system!" screamed Barney in intense panic. He swooned at the thought of all his television disciples watching him kill his biggest fan, coast to coast, in the sanctity of their own living rooms. He barked orders at the Loved One technicians working the monitors and satellite-access systems, then noticed a camera pointed directly at him. Behind it was Jeremy Phillips. He scowled at the lone human and began racing after him.

Jeremy backed away from the camera. He had managed to focus in on Barney's cold-blooded and grisly murder of Thorton, zooming in on the creature's gleeful expression as he devoured the chair-bound man. But now Barney was enraged. Jeremy raced out of the studio and down the central tunnel.

Baby Bop finished licking Thorton's blood off her face and started yelling commands to the surviving Loved Ones, who were scampering everywhere in confusion. Fran watched from above, and realized it wouldn't be long before Baby Bop would send the foul servants after Stacy and Mark. If only she could undo the restraints...

A second later she wrested her right arm from under its strap. She began punching buttons on the console. Immediately, a piercing, deafening hum hit the stage, causing Baby Bop and the Loved Ones to clasp their ears and grimace in agony. It had worked. Fran had set all the sound amplifiers and distortion units on maximum. In the control booth, she was insulated from the ear-splitting roar. She only hoped Stacy and Mark were out of the area. As the creatures below her writhed and screamed about the destroyed set, she unfastened her other hand and worked herself free. What she needed now was the gun, back on the soundstage floor next to Thorton's scattered remains. But to get down there she'd have to turn the amplifiers off. If she made it before they recovered...

Fran hit the "OFF" button on the speaker console. The blaring siren shut off. Fran scurried down the stairs and began looking for the gun amidst the crumpled bodies of Loved Ones. She found it, still speckled with blood, and released the catch lever. As she did so a trio of Loved Ones lunged for her. She aimed low, cutting the bunch down instantly. The other Loved Ones scrambled around the desolate wrecked set for cover. She picked off a few behind the props table, and gunned down another trying to climb up the safety ladder. Still, she was uneasy. Where was Baby Bop?

"Gotcha mean Fwan!" squawked Baby Bop, clasping her powerful arms around Fran's delicate neck. "Snap your head off like mine I will! Snap, snap, snap!"

Fran spun around frantically, trying to shake the green creature off. She felt Baby Bop's teeth sink into her shoulder, and she screamed in pain. Blood drizzled down her arm and chest, yet the agony she felt gave her the strength to clutch the infantile dinosaur by the head and wrest her off. She spun around and jammed the muzzle into Baby Bop's bloodied mouth. "Eat steel, you slimy green bitch!"

The resultant force of the burst flung Baby Bop's head completely off, and the head smacked into a concrete wall behind her. Fran heard a nauseating crack as it did so, and the green reptile's head slowly crawled down the wall, leaving a thick, pasty green trail behind it. Fran backed away, repulsed by the sight.

To her surprise and horror, the shattered head opened its thick-lashed eyes and scowled at her. "Mean, mean Fwan!" it squealed. "Gonna go now, but when Baby Bop come back, gonna make you hurt. Bad hurt!"

As Fran watched on in disbelief, the decapitated body sat upright, and ran towards Baby Bop's head. The fuzzy green arms picked it up and ran down the central corridor.

"I'll be damned," muttered Fran. "The little green swat's immortal." She checked her weapon and saw she was almost out of ammo. Jeremy would have it, she figured, and made off in the direction he and Barney had run minutes before. With luck, she thought, Stacy and Mark would be okay. She had barely gone more than a few hundred yards when several packs of Loved Ones leapt out at her, from all directions. The pudgy creatures groped for her gun and tried to pull her down, but Fran managed to wrest free and mow down several. The survivors scurried back, enclosing the woman in a tight circle.

Fran knew her ammunition was pretty near depleted, and began to wonder how long she could bluff the Loved Ones before they caught on and charged her. Just as the bloated, cloaked monsters began edging closer, the cave was rocked by an enormous blast. Fran was knocked off her feet.

When she looked up, she saw a huge gaping hole in the corridor ceiling. The next instant heavily armored soldiers and patrolmen began lowering themselves into the cavern with cable, shining their lights about the area. Sensing an intrusion, the Loved Ones began hurling rocks and small articles at the troops, who returned the gesture with rampant gunfire. Fran shielded herself from the ensuing bursts, hoping that they could see her and wouldn't hit her. The bullets fell like hard, stinging hail, she saw Loved Ones literally chopped to pieces under the relentless barage. Pasty pink blood spattered everywhere, and smoke filled the corridor. Cries of humans mingled with inhuman gurglings, and within moments the soldiers and patrolmen had secured the area. One woman, clad in an infantry uniform and decorated with lieutenant's bars, came over to Fran.

"You Fran Phillips?" she asked. Fran nodded her head. "Lieutenant Chelsey McKintyre, 3rd Division. I'm here with several platoons, we're gonna take this whole operation down pronto. How are you?"

"I'm fine, I guess," replied Fran. She was still a little overwhelmed. "My brother, Jeremy. Barney was chasing him."

"What direction, Fran?" asked McKintyre, her grey eyes glancing at the various corridors.

"I think that way," said Fran, pointing at the trail that led to the main chamber. "Baby Bop may have gone the same route."

"Tell you what, Fran," said the lieutenant, "we're going to leave an escort here with you in case any more of those loving lizards comes back this way. These people are trained for anything. Trust them. And there's someone else who you need to stay with." McKintyre notioned to an aging gentleman wearing a turtleneck and checkered pants.

"Aren't you Bill, Jeremy's co-worker?" asked Fran.

Bill knelt down and put his hands on her shoulders. "Sure am, Miss. Don't think we've ever been formally introduced. We'll talk more later. Just be glad we were able to lock onto the Purple Creep's transmission signal, we may have never found this place. You know you guys are 300 feet underground? So where's Jeremy?"

"Barney was chasing him, he looked pretty sore," she answered. "And Thorton Marshall?"

Fran swallowed. "Dead. Barney killed him after Thorton refused to shoot Jeremy. It was all on television. God, it was a horrible sight." "Well," said Bill, "it's almost over now. And it's good to know even a stoolie like Thorton had his good side. When this all gets cleared up Fran, you won't have anything to worry about."

Suddenly, the older man froze. Fran, McKintyre, and the troops in the chamber all heard the noise. It came from down the southeastern tunnel. It was Jeremy, and he was screaming.

* * * * * * * *

"Maybe after this, I can get you a whole super-filly-duper box of Barney Band-Aids!" joked Barney, twisting Jeremy's arm tightly behind his back. Jeremy gritted his teeth in pain. Any more pressure his arm could be torn right out of its socket. The man frantically kicked and pulled against the Purple One's incredible grip, but it was of no use.

"You're not much up on wrestling, Jeremy," mused the purple dinosaur, "maybe you'll be more enthusiastic about _flying_!" With that, Barney picked up Jeremy and flung him across the main chamber. Jeremy hit the ground with a pulverizing thud, the air knocked out of him. He tried pulling himself off the ground, but he couldn't breathe and stars flickered before his eyes. "Look like Jeremy falling asleep! Going beddy-bye! I go help him wake up again!"

It was Baby Bop's voice, but Jeremy couldn't place her location. Suddenly, a deep, piercing pain engulfed his left hand. He looked down and saw the disembodied head of Baby Bop, bearing down on his lower arm with knobby white teeth. The sight terrified him and he shouted in pain and fright. As he wrestled with the head, the pink and green body of the squeaky dinosaur waddled over and began kicking Jeremy repeatedly. The injured man flailed at the body, then drove the head encasing his hand against the cave floor several times. The creature's thick, lashy eyes glared at him malevolently. The mouth began to bear down even tighter.

"Say Jeremy, would you say that Baby Bop's trying to help you *get ahead*?" chuckled Barney. "Two heads *are* better than one!" While Jeremy fought with Baby Bop, and Barney cracked joke after joke, Stacy and Mark snuck closer and closer to the ghastly scene. The two children were confused and scared, and no longer trusted the fat, flabby Beast of Purple. They noticed that Barney was standing fairly close to the deep, dark shaft that Barney had suspended their father over, what if they could push him down it?

On Mark's signal, the two children rushed and butted into Barney. The two children plunged into the downy flesh of the plump reptile, but the dinosaur stood his ground. Before the children could escape, the purple lizard grabbed them both by the hair and pulled them back.

"Stacy and Mark, my Special Friends! Were you trying to do a fun joke on Barney, push him down that Dimensional Chamber? What will you silly children think of next?"

"Oww, let us go Barney, you fat ugly freak, let go of my hair!" screamed Stacy.

"Dad, help us!" yelled Mark, desperately trying to pull Barney's fingers out from his scalp.

Upon seeing his children in danger, Jeremy found new strength. He thrust his free hand into Baby Bop's mouth, and popped her jaw apart by prying both arms against the sides of her head. The mouth drooped open, releasing Jeremy's hand. The head fell to the floor, and with a swift kick, Jeremy sent it flying against the cave ceiling, impaling it crudely upon a nest of stalactites. He sent a swift blow the body's stomach, and it doubled over and hit the floor. With a bloodcurdling yell, Jeremy flung himself at Barney, who was taken completely by surprise.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Just minutes away, Lt. McKintyre and her troops were leveling down hordes of Loved Ones, who charged the troops armed with knives, broken glass, boards, and rocks. They had obviously never prepared for such a massed assault on their lair before. The Loved Ones descended upon the troops and patrolmen like a thick, blubbery sea. Pink and orange ichor splashed everywhere. "My God, it's like shooting a wall of pudding," McKintyre muttered to herself as she reduced a Loved One to glistening, gooey chunks. As the last Loved One was gunned to pieces, the attackers advanced towards the main chamber. When they got there, they were met with an unusual sight.

* * * * * * * *

A headless green and pink body rolled around the floor. Two human children were trying to free their father from the unyielding grasp of a huge purple dinosaur. In the center of the room was an immense gaping pit of total darkness.

"Check your sights, I don't want anyone firing on that plum-colored lizard S.O.B until Jeremy Phillips is safely out of its way," whispered Lt. McKintyre to her troops. All the startled group could do was watch, helplessly. Blow after blow fell upon Jeremy. He wasn't sure, but he felt he may have a serious concussion. Barney clutched him tightly against his body, in the manner of a bear hug. Jeremy tried to break free but couldn't, and his ears were filled with the Purple Beast's laughter and the terrified pleas of his children.

"Corporal," said McKintyre softly," train your sights on the back of Barney's head. Get a good clear shot at it, we can't wait. Another moment and Jeremy's as good as dead."

The corporal nodded and fixed his barrel carefully upon the back area of the dinosaur's skull.


The bullet blazed and tore the back of Barney's head clear off. The jolt snapped Barney backwards, and the bloated creature released his grip from Jeremy, who fell to the floor, gasping for air. The children screamed and ran away from the sight, into the company of militia.

"Jeremy's free, focus all fire on that gutless blob!" commanded McKintyre. Dozens of rifles, pistols, and machine guns blazed the next instant, tearing off shards of flesh and bone from the Great Beast of Purple. Jeremy frantically crawled away from the onslaught, his ears ringing with the sound of explosions, his nostrils stinging from the bitter acrid smoke that filled the air.

"Cease fire!" barked the lieutenant.

The smoke cleared slowly. McKintyre squinted. She could see nothing. "Halverston."

"Yes, sir?"

"Go check him out. Smith, Olson, Rimiski, you three cover him." Private Halverston warily made his way to the site where the Beast of Purple had stood just a few moments before. The stout young soldier disappeared in the thick plumes of smoke. "Sir, he's dead, he's all blown to pieces and there's simply no way- ahhhhh!!!!"

The private's scream alarmed the entire squad.

"Halverston, speak to me!"

"Oh goodness, me, I appear to have killed him!" chirped an idiotic, lethargic voice from the smoke. "I like this game, though, I must admit, I've an unfair advantage. Maybe it's only fair to mention, that I'm *immortal* and your guns won't kill me at all!"

"Don't fire yet," ordered Lt. McKintyre. She waited as the smoke and dust dissipated.

When the air cleared, she was taken aback by the sight of Barney. Only a mere skeleton remained, bloodied fragments of flesh clinging to the wide frame. Yet there he stood, chuckling and staring back at her. Halverston lay by his feet, his neck broken. Suddenly, at the snap of what was left of his fingers, chunks and slabs of flesh began flinging themselves back upon the giggling carcass. As if a film wound backwards, Barney suddenly regenerated, intact and without a scratch.

"Jesus," muttered McKintyre.

"Now if you'll excuse me," said Barney, " I need to teach Jeremy a very important lesson. " Before the astonished soldiers, Barney strolled over to where Baby Bop's body lay. He whistled at her head impaled against the ceiling, and it drifted gently off the stalactite and into his hands. "Gosh Baby Bop, you look beat! You know, I'm feeling a mite tired myself, and can use a picker-upper".

Baby Bop's eyes bulged in surprise, she certainly appeared to understand what Barney meant, and she tried to scream. Only a whispy gurgle came out of the creature's mouth, and laughing merrily, Barney squeezed the head tightly between his hands.

Spores of energy began bursting in air, surrounding the fat bloated dinosaur. As Jeremy and the soldiers looked on, Baby Bop's head and body began to shudder spasmodically and shrivel. Within seconds they had caved in on themselves and disintegrated into dust. Barney sighed and gave a tremendous smile.

"Sorry about that, Baby Bop, but I thought a little extra life-force couldn't hurt at the moment," quipped Barney, shaking the excess dust off of his paws. "Boy do I feel sttuupppeenndddoouuusss!" he shouted in glee. Jeremy stared at the fat bloated Beast of Purple in awe. He was so taken by the fantastic sight he couldn't move. The very next moment Barney grasped him by the collar and heaved him into the air with murderous strength and speed.

"Let's resume our flying lesson, shall we, Jeremy?"

Jeremy hit the ground, hard. He felt his chest heave and realized that some of his ribs were cracked. A sharp shooting pain shot through his upper chest. His hands instinctively pressed upon the area, whereupon he discovered that he had landed on an object in his pocket. He pulled it out. It was the curious shard Maca'hzar had given him a few nights before. Smooth and marbled on one side, rough and rippled on the inside. He remembered the words the weathered Loved One had spoken to him, that gave the clue for the shard's purpose:

"The mother shall break the cradle."

Jeremy had barely a moment to think upon this when Barney picked the man up by his heels and flung him through the air again. The force of the fall sent waves of pain through Jeremy's body, and he realized he hadn't much longer.

"Lieutenant, can't we do anything to help him?" asked a patrolmen. "I don't know, I really don't know!" snapped McKintyre. She was exasperated at the futility of the situation. Chances were that the Purple Demon was unstoppable. The idea made her cold and frightened inside. "It's between them," she mumbled.

"Gosh, Jeremy, you sure are a slow learner. I'd think you'd be flying high and mighty, like a bluebird of happiness. Let's try to make you fly just _one more time_." The purple dinosaur began shuffling towards the injured man. Jeremy began crawling towards the deep shaft in the center of the cavern area. Maca'hzar had called it a Dimensional Chamber, was it this that would help him destroy Barney? The stocky reptile's footsteps were closing in. "Dad! Dad! Get away from there! He's on you!" shrieked Stacy, as she and Mark struggled to help their father. The two children were held back by several soldiers.

Jeremy clutched the shard between his scraped fingers. He'd seen something like this before. If only he could remember where from. He looked up into the dead, evil gaze of Barney. The creature leant towards him, prepared to fling him through the air again, but stopped.

Barney had noticed the shard.

"Where did you get that?" he bellowed. "Give that here, give it to me!" Jeremy paused. Whatever the shard was, it scared Barney. Did it have some power over Barney? Was it connected with his primordial origin? Then the realization flashed across Jeremy's wracked mind. He immediately knew what it was.

It was a piece of eggshell. A dinosaur eggshell, petrified and preserved. Barney flung himself upon Jeremy, the sheer weight causing Jeremy to cry out in intense agony. The Purple Destroyer of Worlds clutched and clawed for the shard, yet Jeremy held on with all of his might. The two beings wrestled near the mouth of the shaft. McKintyre and several of the patrolmen carefully aimed their weapons at Barney, firing in a desperate hope of immobilizing the fat, frantic dinosaur. While their aim held true, Barney fought on in a horrid frenzy. Jeremy was almost dead.

Something about the chamber, Maca'hzar hinted at its powers before. Barney feared the shard, what could it do? Jeremy, in a final, random act of desperation, fought his arm free of the Purple Beast, and flung the shard down the shaft.

Barney's eyes bulged in raw, stark, terror. "_Noooooooo_!!!!" The plum-colored lizard released Jeremy and dove into the shaft, in a hopeless effort to reclaim the shard. The chubby, repulsive beast plunged into the darkness, his scream echoing into eternity.

"Get him away from there, quick!" barked Lt. McKintyre. "Evans, call for a medic down here now!"

Several olive-clad soldiers ran to Jeremy's aid. The poor man was broken and bleeding, almost near dementia. One soldier felt his pulse and checked his eyes. "He's stable, but barely. Need to get him outta here quick, Lieutenant!"

Jeremy looked about him in dazed confusion. Strangers, surrounding him and barking orders left and right. In the distance, Stacy and Mark, crying and calling him. He thought that he saw Fran and Bill coming around a distant barricade, but then he felt the earth surge under him and suddenly the air turned sickly and violent again, and he prayed that soon the world would return to normal.....

"What the hell's going on?" yelled a private. The whole cavern began shaking. Stalactites began falling from the roof, and McKintyre noticed the shaft. Something was coming up it like a locomotive. Fast and powerful. An explosion shattered the atmosphere, sending everyone off of their feet. Blinding, flashing light flickered throughout the cavern. As people began recovering their senses, they became immediately aware of another being in the cavern area. It was huge, and caused the ground to tremor below its feet. McKintyre was the first to get a sharp, distinct look at it. It stood over twenty feet tall, upon two thick, powerful legs with immense talons. It's overall coloration was a mottled grey and green, and it rolled a large, muscular tail behind it. It's head was reptilian, with piercing yellow eyes and jagged long teeth. The brash lieutenant recognized what it was, but couldn't believe it was here.

It was a damn dinosaur. A tyrannosaurus rex.

The soldiers and Jeremy backed away from the gargantuan creature. Through the blinding light, one could see the dinosaur clutched something in its mouth. At first Jeremy thought it was a small hippopotamus or ox. But upon a closer look, he realized that he was wrong. The hapless prey was Barney. The fat purple dinosaur screamed in terror and pain. Flailing wildly with his chubby arms, Barney pounded on the tyrannosaur's snout. If this bothered the dinosaur, it didn't show any sign of it. In fact, it clasped its teeth deeper into Barney's plump purple flesh, spraying ichor and steam into the damp cavern air. Barney's face wore an expression of incredible anguish and horror, an expression that unsettled Jeremy. As he watched, Barney ceased pounding on the tyrannosaur's snout and struggled to free himself from its jaws. This only enraged the dinosaur, and it shook Barney violently, tearing skin and bone from the plump reptile's body.

"Help me, oh please, someone help me!!!" shrieked Barney. "Stop it _Mother_, stop it!!!"

No one moved to help Barney. The crowd watched, enraptured in the ghastly spectacle before them. The tyrannosaur eyed its demonic spawn trapped helplessly in its titanic maw, feeling its hot blood cascade down its throat. She gained an unusual satisfaction from watching it thrash and struggle, and deep within her bestial mentality, she knew it was good. Another moment she pressed her upper teeth into its soft belly, disemboweling it. She guzzled the steamy intestines and watched the purple reptile cringe and shudder in shock. It was a slow, painful kill.

Even if there was something Jeremy or the soldiers could do to help Barney, it was too late now. The tyrannosaur began grinding him slowly and thoroughly with unforgiving might, and as the Beast of Purple began sinking under her razor-like teeth, he sobbed weakly, thick tears streaming down his face.

"....I, you' you..........mother..."

Moments later the mighty dinosaur roared in triumph, bloody purple strings of flesh and entrails dangling from its teeth. Suddenly there was a crack of lightning and the tyrannosaur and its prey were gone.

The crowd stared in confusion and awestruck silence. A team of medics came running into the chamber, and began administering aid to Jeremy. He was cold and sweaty, his eyes bloodshot and dilated. One of the doctors injected a clear solution into the broken man's arm.

"C'mon, Jeremy, pull through for us here," he said. Suddenly he saw Jeremy's lips move and he bent over to hear him. Upon hearing the patient's words, he sat upright with a puzzled look on his face. He signaled the remaining medics to take Jeremy back up to the surface and the team hastily carried Jeremy out of the cavern.

Lieutenant McKintyre walked over to the doctor. "Doc, why the strange look? What did he say?"

The doctor looked back at her. "I'm really not sure, lieutenant. Unless my ear's going out, would've sworn he said, 'cradle broken'".

* * * * * * * *

Epilogue ===============

Jeremy Phillips suffered multiple injuries, internal and external, and when he arrived at the hospital, the surgeon made no promises. The next five hours he and his team worked to save the man's life, as Fran, Lana, the children, and Bill watched in unbearable suspense. Pints of blood were ushered in, and finally the surgeon appeared from the operating room. Chances were good Jeremy would pull through.

The story of Jeremy's ordeal with the Beast of Purple spread worldwide. Many had seen the horrid broadcast emitted from Barney's subterranean studio, and it was unlikely the bloated dinosaur would ever make a comeback again. Letters and flowers arrived from all sections of the globe to Jeremy's hospital room, and he was never short of visitors.

Lana came in and visited her husband frequently, as did Fran. Jeremy often asked about Stacy and Mark, Lana said that treatment had just begun and it would be about a week before the children could come and visit their father. The kids had been severly traumatized by the entire ordeal and would be in therapy for quite some time. The news didn't bother Jeremy, he knew it could have been a lot worse. And he knew they loved him, which helped him sleep at night.

Fran was doing alright, she didn't think there was any need for therapy on her part. She had her housework and boyfriend to keep her occupied, just the thought that the squalid Purple Demon had met his end made her well. Once Jeremy was out of the hospital, she promised him dinner at her apartment. Bill checked on Jeremy twice a day, and updated him on the development of "Chester Owl and Friends". They found a suiting candidate to take the part, and recording would begin in just two weeks. Would Jeremy like to be the first guest of the new season? Jeremy laughed and told Bill to get home, he'd consider the offer.

It was on the night before Jeremy's release when he awoke in the middle of the night, to discover his window had been pried open. The curtains billowed in the room, and he became aware of an unearthly presence beside him. His hand clutched for the signal button that would alert the evening nurse, but it was gone. When a scaly, taloned hand rested upon his shoulder, Jeremy gasped. "Jeremy Phillips, I took you for a human of stronger nerve". The startled man breathed a sigh of relief. It was Maca'hzar. "God, man, do you have to make that kind of entrance?" "Only to remain undiscovered, my friend." The Loved One turned on a small table light, illuminating his distinguished reptilian features. He gazed a steely stare into Jeremy's eyes, his slivered black eyes shrinking to thin crescents in the bright glow of the light. He smiled, revealing a row of yellow, jagged teeth.

"If it wasn't for you, Maca'hzar, we'd all be dead," whispered Jeremy. "Barney would've started another age of conquest."

"Perhaps," replied the gaunt, sinewy creature. "As I am of his flesh and blood, my sorcery would've been ineffective against him. A human, pure of soul and resilience, would prove his ultimate undoing. In that light, Jeremy Phillips, I owe gratitude to you."

"What's going to become of you?" asked Jeremy.

"I will leave this world and travel among the planes," replied Maca'hzar, cradling his jewel encrusted staff. "I have no need of this world for the moment. I will return time and time again, to check on you and several others."

"Others? Like who?"

"The one you call Fran."

Jeremy hesitated. "My sister? What ever for, I didn't think you had any particular concern for her."

"I hold a great deal of concern for her, Jeremy Phillips. Largely why I sought to help you, so you could protect her from the Purple One's devices." He saw that Jeremy was confused. He scrunched his scaly brow. "Jeremy, do you remember the nurseries? What they did to those young human females during the time known as the Purple Holocaust?"

Jeremy remembered. Young girls, upon hitting the early stages of maturity, were impregnated by the Beast of Purple, later to give birth to the dreaded gibbering creatures largely referred to as the Loved Ones. The birth was violent and usually fatal, as the infants tended to claw their way out of the mother's stomach upon the beginning contractions. But he failed to see how this would connect Maca'hzar to his sister.

"Jeremy," said the hoary Loved One, "I always wondered if you would be ready for this knowledge. By the time your sister had hit her maturity, Barney had devised a new way to breed his servants. The old process was wasteful, he was losing potential mothers one to every Loved One born. He sought out new ways to spawn his kin, and turned to the abandoned technologies of your former world. Fran Phillips was the first one he used the knowledge on. Her body and mind had begun the essential maturity, and it wasn't long before the Beast of Purple encountered success. A Loved One embryo was conceived, outside the womb with no risk to either parent....."

"A test-tube baby," said Jeremy. "God Maca'hzar, you mean to tell me you're Fran's-"

"It is best that she not know," replied the scaly acolyte. "The egg was extracted from her while she slept. Within seven months the gestation had been complete. But by this time, you had destroyed Barney's first incarnation and the rage he and his servants felt for you was directed upon me. Child of the Great Liberator's sister. They spared my life only to curse and humiliate me. But in time they realized I was above them in intelligence and power, where upon I was cast out to live the rest of my days, alone. Whence upon I developed my powers."

The two beings sat in silence. Jeremy didn't know what to say. Maca'hzar smiled at the human, and lowered his staff.

"We may meet again, Jeremy Phillips," said the Loved One. "Whether or not we do, I will leave this with you. It is yours forever, to remember the trials you've endured." He clasped a smooth, egg-shaped dome of amethyst atop the staff and twisted it off the head of the heavy stick. He placed it into Jeremy's hands and stared into the young man's eyes. "You watch over her, and live well."

Moments later Maca'hzar climbed out of the window and disappeared into the gentle stillness of the night.

Jeremy looked down at the amethyst jewel he held. It was beautiful. He raised it up to the light and suddenly winced. There was an object encased in the center, somewhat stocky and reptilian. Upon a closer look he saw that it was a purple dinosaur, frozen in an expression of agony and terror. Its mouth was wide open, screaming a silent scream, forever......


----------------------------------------------------------------- -------------- This concludes Firewing's repost of the Day of the Barney trilogy. Note that this is a heavily edited posting, in that it has been clarified and generally cleaned up. It is, however, the original story. May Barney rot in Hell forever.

Firewing the Gryphon