She was in Between and she had to stare at it. The chair would face no other way. Turtle Hill, or, in olden days, Turtle Butte. Before the terraforming messed up the mesa effect and made it round and soft instead of square and rough. The center of the Maebaleia continent, some say, yea, some call it the center of *everything*, with religious overtones implied. And perhaps it was. In olden days again. Nowadays these Hills of Bill are emptied out of meaning, devoid of framework, like a void picture in a gallery of no design or wealth.
She sat reading a fashion and furniture magazine in her new-ish apartment in Squared Root City, waiting for Starlight to open so she could peruse the clothing again for that interview over at the fire station this afternoon. Because she considered herself to be one hot item and had to be put out. You keep your friends close, like Molly Jackson here, also a town newcomer (dancer), but you keep your enemies even closer, like the fire department. Soon everyone would know her burning desire for stardom. She would set the night sky ablaze with rockets’ red glare.
Molly had designs on wealth and stardom herself, but not with a fiery dress; instead: cool and calm and collected. She would bid her time in the shadows of the police station and attached department, blue replacing red. She would dance to the tunes of white Guy Lombardo but only after midnight and on the dark side of the moon. The situation seemed to call for it. She got up off the couch formerly shared with red garbed Elisa and moves to the window to stare out between the two stars just below toward both departments, considering balance.
Ah yes, much better match. Even if she did wear an ill fitting mask. He’d give her a lecture later on, after they knew each other a little better. Ah, heck. He’ll do it now. It’s the holiday season after all. She’s trying. She won’t be offended, he figures.
“Phyllis?” he starts.
“Berta, actually. Remember? Phyllis is my twin sister.”
Shoot. Wrong holiday girl after all. Back to the drawing board.
“It’s okay,” she says to the obviously downcast Chet. “We’re really clones, you know,” she confesses. “Basically one and the same. We just use the sister story to throw the police off the track of…” She hesitates. She doesn’t know him well enough to talk about Dr. Mouse yet. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe never.
(to be continued)
I sit down, trying to gather some local color. I brighten up the place (smoky blue sky).
Tulsa was taking orders from a white couple nearer the front door. I could tell there was some tension — a bit, but noticeable, at least to me. Peggy and Wanda played with their cell phones at the table nearest me, not engaged in conversation at the moment. I tried to glance at what they were looking at, Peggy at least, who had her back to me. Some site about jobs — they were looking for jobs in this town. They were tense. No: just more focused. The other white couple in the room: well, they were all just kind of normal.
I decided to manufacture a friend for Wanda and Peggy and have him sit at their table with them. Let’s go with Chet. Chet was dressed to the hilt for the holiday season, anticipating December 1st like it was his birthday or something. Wanda had known Chet since college. Peggy was Chet’s girlfriend for the moment, at least until he dumped her for Phyllis. But that was in the future — no more going forward into the future which is also the past. We are *here*. Chet walks up. Ah, another core — not me. I can stay seated; I can still listen in.
Wanda giggled in Peggy’s direction after he sat down. “Isn’t he so cute with his mask and all.” Of course I’m wearing a mask, thought Chet. There’s an f-ing pandemic going on. He had the urge to leave. He wasn’t being respected, like he was some kind of Christmas dupe instead of their friend. He decided then and there: he was going to start dating that girl Phyllis he’s had his eyes on as soon as possible, as soon as he gets out of here. He’ll give it 30 minutes. Peggy didn’t say anything back to Wanda’s little remark. She kept playing on her phone. She wished she’d brought a mask herself now. She didn’t want to get sick just before the holidays (!). Chet was thinking about the holidays, in contrast — all along. I’m going to celebrate it like it’s f-ing Halloween, Christmas and Easter rolled into one (!), he decided on Thanksgiving Day, watching Uncle Bert come down with it afterwards. Then Aunt Jermima. Then Cousin Lute. And with a new baby’s sex to be decided — they weren’t up for it! Uncle Bert never got back up. He was 82 and more susceptible than the rest, having married beyond his age. He went to the emergency room; said his cat bit him. Infection spread; virus weakened the immune system. Gone in 2 days. There was a wake but Chet didn’t go. Instead he went upstairs in his house and decided to wear Christmas garb for, I don’t know, until Arbor Day maybe. Yeah, he got the tree out as his mother demanded, but he got a lot more out of that closet. I can’t really say he snapped, because about a 1/3rd of our great country is bonkers now and at least he wears a mask in public places. Tulsa was uncomfortable with the white couple she was serving because they also weren’t wearing masks in a public place and it put pressure on the owner to say, “don’t wear masks,” while serving them; “makes them uncomfortable and put-off,” he decided. He’s gone over to the dark side, Tulsa thought. She has about 30 minutes on her shift. Won’t be coming back, she punctuates the post.
“F-ing complicated!” he said about the map he stood upon, and all the pins dotting it. Nautilus. The 1st continent. The last continent. Where the Outside gets In.
“Calm down, calm down,” she said from the side, just around the corner. “You know about Marilyn and the alternate national anthem. You know which US of A is peering down into the translucent cube — hypercube, actually — from the Outside. It’s one that has been frozen in time. You have your pattern,” she finalized, looking steady into his eyes now, fully emerged. I couldn’t tell her hair color. I’m going to go with white (for now). I knew this was a 3.16 situation and that a return to Squared Root City was up soon. “Give it some time to mature,” I said, trying to calm myself this go around. Unable to keep stabilized, she receded. I moved forward — past Collagesity. Forward into the past, perhaps.
I start a new folder for my inworld photos and pin it to my Quick access. (photo #) 1950. Here we go!
Ah yes. Starlight.