By the next spring’s fall we were married, Shelley and me, and even had a realistic looking baby to tote around by then. It was 2 months old and we still couldn’t decide on a name. We didn’t even have a sex for the kid, since those kind of things could also be chosen back in the days before severe power outages ended all that. Afterwards it was deemed best to select before birth, whilst the child was tucked safe in the womb. Sex Stealers didn’t exist then — hard to imagine now since they seem to be around every street corner, peddling their ware. Apples and bananas, that’s all it is these days. The Orangemen some called them, because that’s what each and every one of us had in common and they couldn’t touch, not even on the navel. That was our saving grace all along, although we didn’t realize it before the Big Change.
We were able to acquire a full time, realistic looking chef as well, although he had nothing to cook at the moment. I made good money at the cotton mill, since I owned it now. Part time owner. Along with Peter Cotton himself, the inventor of the world changing cottonpicker by then. Some say we worked our laborers too hard, but his likewise-wife-by-then Henrietta “Hatti” Wilson wanted it that way, said that made them sweat and glisten to her liking. She often sat outside in disguise on a bench at the front door watching them leave the mill after their shift was over and get in their cars to go home to their mostly indifferent wives. Indifference, she sometimes ponders as they all motor away from her, leaving her alone again. It will eventually destroy the Earth and perhaps its Moon along with it. But maybe at least the Moon can be saved — she’s working on it. Malyshkin. The rebirth of Crabwoo.
“Dear, dear, you’re spacing out again. That’s enough milk for today.” Indeed, as I focused and looked down, the toddler’s navel was white with overflow. Better drain a little out before bedtime or else we’ll be up all night again. Oranges and milk: who knew they were the perfect pairing. If only it would have remained that simple.
It all seemed to make sense to her now (as the Controller). Easy as 1-2-3.
She reaches for the phone to ring up Kolya. She’s ready.
“Hi. It’s me.”
“Hmph. Never showed up.”
“It’s the Fortress all right,” he im’ed Alysha remotely. “I’m standing directly beside 300 over in Eveningwood.” This is where Duncan A. entered the Sphere through Fieldon, he thinks to himself. This is where Marty probably followed him. All the way to Borneo which wasn’t Borneo any longer. The Oracle — predicted this.
“I tried to get through the gates,” Alysha im’ed back, still in the northern Nautilus village with the one black and the one rumored gay. “15 sec ejection period.” She then leaned back against the cool stone of the well also pondering the next move but along different lines. The buildings were duplicates but — what did this mean?
I looked at the island from above. I guess I can see the resemblance: 2 blue pools substituting for 2 blue eyes, obvious reference to the Arkansas-Missouri polarity as well that centers our US of A. One closed (restricted property) and one open (unrestricted). And the little pool there I was floating in: a (sideways) mouth of sorts? What is the island saying?
Since we were merged as a ship Marty wasn’t there to answer me. I would have to call in yet another.
“Bow wow wow!”
Maybe this wasn’t the best outfit for the situation.
2 days later — 1 day, 23 hours, 56 minutes later to be precise — the villagers were alerted again to the presence of a giant amongst them. Stan Jackson, Gertie and Brumhilda Johnson, and the Twinkle Toe twins assembled in the “green” in front of their 3 houses. On the other side of the water, Stephen Fire, Alice and Daisy and Little Boo and Poppy Paxton, and Richie Griffith did the same.
“Who this time?” these Westerners cried out across Bartybrat Bay, named for a local ragamuffin killed in a skateboarding accident.
“A fair maiden this time Richie Griffith and others,” replied the Easties, trying to keep their voices down a bit more because of well, the presence. Stan Jackson was especially irritated by Richie Griffith’s big tiny mouth, town crier indeed — and always had to be addressed as their leader according to the new town policy drawn up day before yesterday’s tomorrow. He planned to open a proper newspaper office on Central Isle later this month — that’ll teach the big tiny snitch.
They all assembled on Central Isle, soon to be turned into a shopping strip if Stan Jackson and the Easties had their way. That way they’d have to build a bridge coming from *their* direction; no more monopolizing Central Isle by the Westerners. For prophecy (Big Bob) had said, “And lo if the Easties have their way, the Central Isle will be transformed, ye, into a stripper joint.” Everyone down through the years and now centuries assumed a brothel type establishment but modern developments seemed to have proven them wrong.
Stan Jackson was careful to stand on the exact spot he planned to open his newspaper office and then glared over at Richie Griffith, the louse.
The giant was coming by water this time. Stealthier.
“Hi Tessa!” Carolin called from above while waving. “Ready to go back in the cave?”
Was she ready? Then she remembered the blackboard, the missing center of the equation. Q. Someone named Q.
She recites what she knows in her head. She is on Crow Island at End of Time. Crow Mountain is above her, the Climax. Meditating Freddie — yes. Bakersworks. They are in a Baker B. work. But… someone is missing. Man – About – T…
“Time,” Carolin finished for her later at the blackboard, writing out three identical numbers in a row, the number of the beast from The Bible. “Now… if we extend this infinitely, what do we have? We have a *7*. So we might as well say it with a 7 instead of a 6 for that third. 667,” she finalized, and wrote it on the board. “Who is…”
“Sepisexton,” Tessa answers, getting smarter all the time, and she was pretty sharp from the beginning. She recalled the capital of Olive, the one before Tin separated and became its own principality, the 7 from the 6. Boy we are really ranging far and wide in time now. But I sometimes write that as far and yd. The man comes out from behind the curtain (4th wall). He is a Woo Woo. He believes in ghosts, cracker jacks, and cereal circles with a prize inside. Q.
“Q.” Carolin points. Red Point. Buick. Boss who is green like Bixby. Canada. They are traveling across the frozen Heartland, trying to reach…”
And that’s the one thing she couldn’t remember that Man of Time did. We are done now.
“Vandalism, child. Someone’s added that yellow boy to *both* parts of the collage.”
Calm Grammy calm, thinks Toddles the psychic toddler, sensing something higher going on here. She sees a revamp of the entire Red Umbrella gallery sometime soon built around this change. Canada: she knew it was always going to end with our cold neighbor to the North. Pictures; they’re starting to enter all the pictures.
The boy is somehow 102. She wonders what *that* means.
“I’m so disgusted with all this, Toddles, I think I’ll just go home and play with my belt. Become one with it.”
“*There*. I’ve finished. Now *you* can decide if this is her or not. I think it is.” He turns the easel with its charcoal pencil drawing toward Toothpick (Filbert). “Mind you this is from memory. But I have a good memory.”
“I remember that you have a good memory,” returns Toothpick in jest, taking a gander.
“It’s when I first saw her in the club,” he explains more upon seeing the puzzled look on his friend’s face. “Before she fully turned her back to me and I knew it was her. But this memory is stronger for some reason. Maybe I just didn’t want to identity the body with Aunt Fannie.”
Toothpick scratches his bald head. “I can’t tell, Mr. Z. Maybe if you’d make a picture of her actual *fannie*, hmm.”
“Yeah, I know. You can’t see the eyes in the back. But this is…”
“… what I remember, huh,” completed Toothpick for Mr. Z. After a moment, he turns away from the picture and stares out over the deck rails at the sea, chewing on his dangly straw and thinking of Elberta. His sister. Soon to be perhaps more. Soon he’d see her in positions like this if the family had their way. “Listen, um, Z, I have to head to the canal now. I’ll be back before sunrise, er, sunset.”
Mr. Z looks at the sea as well. “Beautiful time of the day here at Mercury Rising, yes. I’ll be waiting. I’ll try to make a better drawing before you get back.”
“You do that, hmph,” he says while half smiling. He gets up from the couch. Time to go meet the better half.
“It’s good, isn’t it?” asked Appleyon about his hot specialty tea. The cup he holds disappears after a well timed last sip. “All is good here. All is positive.”
“Yeah, thanks for that,” still sipping Baker Bloch replies. He was really grateful for getting such a quality hot beverage vending machine for the low low price. 10 lindens! Basically giving it away, he thinks satisfactorily. His cup also vanishes, but he wasn’t quite finished.
“You have to stand 2 feet from the machine, the cup disappears after 30 seconds and can’t be rerezzed, and it’s only stocked for today. Goodbye for now!” Appleyon disappears himself after these rapid fire declarations. Baker is left alone in his new bakery, pondering what kind of deal he made with that devil of a guy. *Was* he really his friend? Or an old old enemy rearing its ugly, mean spirited head again?
Baker Bloch goes over to the machine and orders another hot beverage.
Probably a mixture of the two, he thinks while starting to sip again. Ahh, so good!
“Come on. Pick up, pick *up*”
“Says here, Baker Bloch, that the Corona-V pirates have come back and are now focused in on Arkansas. New reports are coming in all the way from Mountainsburg to the west, Formosa a little to the north, Kate to the east, and, let’s see, I can’t read what’s south of Arkansas.”
“New Orleans,” spouts Baker Bloch, not in a good mood because of the news. He’d just posted a rant about it on Facef-ck.
The Arab squinted further. “New Something, that’s for sure.” As hard as he tried he couldn’t make out the second word of the printed name in the article, like something trying to fade from existence or hide itself somehow.
“They’re such *dummies* over there,” Baker Bloch further groused.
Amanda finally heard the ring in her purse.