Every couple of years, some hotshot said the 1990s were back. No one took it seriously. The ’90s were long gone, dead as the Noid or print media. Just a silly ghost story made up to scare new kids on the block with rumors of a New Kids On The Block reunion.

You’re no new kid. A life of crime ruined your knees, and some days you can’t even wire a battery to a snitch’s testes without aggravating your sciatica. That’s why you agreed to this kidnapping job. One final ransom, then BAM! You’re out of the game, into a two-bedroom condo on the shores of Chincoteague, and an easy retirement watching those wild ponies run.

But you screwed up. Your crew didn’t know you were messing with their kid, and now it’s too late. The ’90s are back, and they aren’t leaving without their son.

You should have let him go, but you were too arrogant, too greedy. Now, you’re in shit deeper than a JNCO pocket. The ’90s have a particular set of skills. Skills they acquired at ITT Technical Institute. Skills that educated them for the future. That future is now, and it’s ready for one last cowabunga.

Like a Neilsen family tuned into Just Shoot Me during sweeps week, the ’90s joylessly watched you and waited. You thought this was an easy payday? As if. It’s the ’90s who demand payment. No credit cards are accepted: only cash, traveler’s check, and pounds of flesh. Welcome to Y2K21, asshole.

Your loyal lackey, Mikey, saved you from their first attack. You left him behind, neck garroted by a floral scrunchie and right hand shaped into an L on his forehead. Locked in the panic room of your hideout, you take a moment to grieve. Oh, snap. RIP Mikey, you were all that and a bag of chips. Wait, that doesn’t sound like you. The ’90s are in your head. Don’t even go there, home skillet!

An alarm blares outside. The ’90s have broken through the perimeter as easily as Jim Carrey broke through TV to film superstardom. Doc Martens clomp on the roof, and Nirvana echoes through the vents. Grunge is back — with a vengeance. The ’90s burst in and duct tape you to a chair, using the leftovers to make a wallet.

You beg the ’90s to set you free, but your pleas are as worthless as Pogs. They sneer at your melodrama; could you be any more of a Chandler? With the shard of an AOL trial disc, the ’90s slits the throat of every bug-eyed Beanie Baby in your collection. Not the commemorative Princess Di! Why won’t you tell them where you hid their son?!

Desperate, you distract the ’90s with a joke about OJ Simpson spilling Crystal Pepsi on Bill Clinton. “So he says, ‘At least it won’t leave a stain!’” The ’90s falls to the floor laughing, and as they roll on the ground clutching their sides, you slice your bonds with the disc. Alas, like a teen purchasing an AT&T calling card to keep in touch with a summer camp boyfriend, you’ve only bought time.

You race outside. Corpses litter the compound. They reduced the guards. They reused the throwing knives. They recycled the entrails, painting a message across the lawn: WHERE IS MY SON?

You run into the woods and dive behind a tree, thinking only of escape. The ’90s pursue with a merciless focus honed by years of watching entire commercial breaks. Their glow-in-the-dark slap bracelets bob through the trees. They pause mere steps from where you’re hiding. You muffle a scream in your elbow. Do you hear the chirp-chirp-chirping in the underbrush? The Tamagotchis have acquired a taste for blood, and they’re hungry.

The ’90s turn and walk off, disappearing in the other direction.

Then, your phone rings. It’s 1987 calling. They want their shoulder pads back. You hiss that they have the wrong number and hang up. Hot tears sting your eyes as you wait, breathless. Nothing. Maybe the ’90s didn’t hear? You make a break for it. Up ahead, you see the lights on the highway. A seed of hope blossoms in your chest. You swear that once you make it out, things are gonna change. You’ll go back to school, learn how to fix kneecaps instead of breaking ‘em.

You make it ten yards before Nickelodeon slime rains down, the thick green coating your bespoke Italian suit. The goo pools at your feet and stings your eyes. You take a step and slip, falling face-first in the muck. As you whisper desperate prayers into the ooze, a hand adorned with a blood-red mood ring grips your shoulder.

The ’90s are back, and they’re the last thing you see.