Outlier

Seeing the front porch of Woody’s house appear to the right from behind some raised, pointed green terrain, The Musician decides to jump down from the blue path and head toward it. Keeping straight would quickly lead to the sky islands. He didn’t need to go there quite yet.

The front door of the house is open. Figures appear in the far corner of the single room floor, all gathered around a circular, white topped table. Seemingly not yet noticed, The Musician listens in on the conversation in progress.

“Well, Osborne, in the late 1970s McKay told John Conway, the inventor of the Game of Life, you know, that the coefficient of 196884 was precisely one more than the degree of the smallest faithful complex representation of the monster group. Conway replied that this was Jack Daniels style moonshine, in the sense of being totally wacko nuts.”

Woody stops speaking and turns toward the door. “Oh, howdy Musician! Welcome to physics night at Woody’s Outpost. I hope you like vertex operator algebra.”

“I’m not sure,” is all he could manage, then, looking to the left, added, “I like your tree,” to be more cordial.

“Thank you,” replies the wooden toy-man. “It was a house warming gift from a dear dear friend who still lives over in the quarantined section of Bennington. Sector R I believe they call it nowadays, don’t they Osborne?”

Osborne doesn’t answer, but just appears to keep reading his book with the queerly tentacled creature adorning the ancient cover. Another monster.

“Well, anyway, come on in,” Woody says. “Just pass through the twirly whirly Jaspery thing so we can check out your core being. Then you can join us here at the table. Just a simple test, you understand. We need to know who you really are, deep down. The area around The Table must remain sanctified, right Osborne?”

The Musician began to panic. Who *was* he deep down? He’d figured something out at LEA11 about his true self but then quickly forgot. What if he simply *vaporized* — had no inner core.

“Oh don’t fret,” Woody reassures, seeing the worry on his face. “Everyone has a core, Musician, whether they know it or not. Here, I’ll go first and show you. That’s only fair. Osborne just remains Osborne. Pretty boring.”

Woody gets up and moves into the center of the swirl. He quickly contracts into a sort of meatball, then reconstitutes. Woody’s core.

Then he contracts and expands again to return to his wooden toy self.

“See? Nothing to it. Now your turn.” Woody steps back toward The Table.

The Musician saw no way out. He entered the swirl.

“There,” comforts Woody. “That wasn’t so bad.” He turns to Osborne. “Look, Osborne. A ghost. The Musician is a tall ghost at the core. Cool, eh?” Osborne keeps reading. “Let’s check the name out. Ohh, a Jupiter, eh? I knew some Jupiters over in Farmington. You’re not related to Jeb and Stewart by chance?”

The Musician shakes his head. “How do I get back?” he asks. Would he have to stay this way *forever*?

“Takes a little longer for first timers,” Woody explains. “Just give it a moment. Try not to move too much.”

And then The Musician was back. Woody pulls a chair out at The Table and offers him a seat. “You can sit beside me. We have much to talk about. We need to get you reunited with Wheeler and heading to VHC City pronto. Bad juju going on there. We can use the key shop as a teleport device of course. I know you’re familiar with it.”

Ah, The Musician thought. So Wheeler was right all along.

—–


10:15PM: Heading back.

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