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.
Professor Young Harris, son of Elder Harris, also a professor at the university, hated when his prize pupil turned her back on him, no matter how cute she looked laying over there. He continued his urgings.
“You’ll get on with your studies, dear. What is it? Astrophysics?”
“Astro*mystics*,” she corrected. “It’s *your* major. That’s the only reason I *came* to this crappy school, hmph.” She pawed at the floor below her.
“Oh. Right.” He couldn’t even remember what he taught at this upper central virtual New York university. *Mystics* not physics. How could he have forgotten — that? Yet another sign it was time to go. Aries probably, or a fire sign anyway.
“I must leave, Astrid. For Stranger Island. The sim skipper that will whisk me there from this location is due to arrive at dusk.” He looked out the window at the ever-calm bay, even though dusk was several hours away still. They had time for one more “study session,” he calculated. “I think we should go over that final chapter before I leave. ‘Departure’.”
Joan rolled over and faced him, a good sign (Sagittarius). “Only if you call me by my right name.” He had only one shot at it.
He was reaching a peak. He remembered. “Joooooaaann!” And then he was done — outta here. Leo had arrived.
“Goodbye Astrid!” he waved from behind.
“They’re ready for you Ms. Rebl.” Hidi then noticed that the cat-person lawyer was using her hands for a brush and her attache case as a pallet. “What, pray tell, are you painting, ms.?”
“Like any good lawyer, I’m painting a scene,” came the logical answer.
Case still in hand, she follows Hidi down the Hall of Fear to the Chamber of Utter Unspeakable Horrors.
Despite the name, there was actually a happy, feel-good vibe to it tonight. Things in this section of the photo-novel were being wrapped up in a relatively honest and decent way.
“Great Mother,” spoke Rebl solemnly while bowing at The Threshold (they called it). “I am honored.”
She just had to get out of that cave system for a while. She’d just learned about the death of Mssr. Gold (again). Her grandfather! Tessa ruminated about the good times driving around that old, clunky narrowboat. Taking it here, there, *everywhere*. Anywhere her grandfather could dream about. And now he’s gone (again).
Oh well, she thinks while getting up out of the old boat and walking toward the cave mouth. He’ll probably be back tomorrow or something.
“Feel the emptiness in the center,” the small snowman instructed his pupil Herbert Dune from the, well, center.
The first explosion happened, rocking this Northside building. The snow-being, named Hugh, fell off the puzzle table onto the cushiony, knitted rug, losing his bell. Then the second, smaller kaboom happened, making his head separate from his body. No more instructions tonight from the diminutive, white guru. No more instructions ever. The dream was over.
Actor Sandy Beech stood up, looked southward.
But too many buildings were in the way to see clearly. “That wasn’t in the script. That wasn’t in the script!” he repeated, a second outburst louder than the first (mirror). He turned around to find the director, the cameraman, the soundman, etc. No one here. Any evidence of Bob Waffleburg’s dystopian parody film had disappeared. Sandy Beech was on his own again.
Actor Alice Frame also suddenly found herself alone and without direction after the explosions, large and less large. The script she was reading for tomorrow’s shoot suddenly turned blank, nothing having ever formed or shaped out of these snow white pages.
We must reluctantly say goodbye to NWES, its four jigsaw like pieces unable to come together to form a story any longer. But there’s always the possibility for return within the larger arc of another tale. We must move, Grasshopper-like, forward…