I looked down then and there. “Julius,” I decided. “Your name is Julius.”
“What was that?” Shelley was still reading the magazine featuring the chair she was rocking in, a kind of mirror world. Now was the time.
“Nothing dear. Just the baby burping.”
She didn’t even reply this time so distracted she was. She was putting herself in that place.
He turned one last time to the door before leaving.
“No more shells,” he rather commanded to Alysha in a role switcheroo, fed up with being treated like a toddler. “*I* am real (this time).”
“Okay.” But of course the holes remained. Glory could only be glimpsed, but maybe it was worth it. Afterwards his neck hurt like a mo fo, but he doesn’t think it is about what they did.
Alysha ponders afterwards: Kolya *can* get better. If he changes into Windmill, hmm. Bit older, but what can you do? And then the diagonal can be traced all the way to Maebaleia — where we are now. Self image.
“Black and *gray*?” Alysha could hear Officer Brownstone yell from outside after absorbing Officer Taylorville’s correction. “Not black and *gay*?”
She had to act fast, as they would be all over new alien intrusion like flies on, um, honey. She could, she could steal this police motorcycle to delay their cause. No, she realized. Too extreme. She could, um, set boobietraps in the catacombs so they couldn’t use the shortcuts. No: too sexist. Deep inside she was a woman after all as well as an Asian. She’d just have to use the catacombs herself to get to the Fortress quickly and warn Ruby.
She took a deep breath. All she had is 15 seconds to find Ruby, convince her that she was in danger, and then teleport the hell outta there to somewhere else, perhaps Collagesity but perhaps not. Anywhere safe for the time being. She decided any beige mountain ridge would do, because about all of it is abandoned land. Aah heck, let’s make it Collagesity, since that’s her home base. She begins dashing again, puff puff puff.
“We have (*huff*), *three* seconds to get out of here to safety. “Two… one… too late.” But Alysha stayed where she was and wasn’t ejected from the property, potentially all the way back to home base. Ruby the green tinted
gray grey nonchalantly rolled over in her sunlounge beside the heated pool and began to explain in her watery, alien voice. “We… turned off the security system as soon as we saw you run through the gate, young Alysha.”
“Young?” She couldn’t help herself. The woman deep inside demanded respect.
“The police have no power over us here. Do you even know where you are? I’ve… been searching for the Fortress for several weeks. Luckily my legs are very long and I made good time. Burt, also known as Brutus or Brut, met me at the gate, took me in. Just like we’re now taking *you* in. It’s been a long journey for you, hasn’t it. Fellow alien.
“Okay Gee Cat,” I requested from above. “Try to figure out why one pool is restricted and the other not. From your unrestricted position of course. And try to ignore the dogs.”
“Cat,” he channeled from below in his haughty tone. “One is a cat. Like me. Dis-guised as a dog.”
We had our first big clue.
“I was sudden-ly at two more pools, un-restricted this time,” he wrote later after following an all important lead. “A dog pa-trolled the one over the fence. I was safe! I was *in*.”
“So I just took the whole kitten caboodle island, bridge and all, and drug it over through the water to the *Easties* side, saying down in my booming voice, ‘You had your turn, you Westerners, Richie Griffith and all. Now it’s their turn.’ I also declared that the island would switch sides of Bartybrat Bay each 700 years but my guess is that they’ll want to do it much sooner. So one of us should plan to return in about, say, 20 to 30 years for the chore. Are you on board with that, Jeffrey Phillips?”
Jeffrey stared at the picture of Brilliant Island’s central bay between the two sides of its twinned village, trying to figure out which direction was which and if the snapshot represents a before or after situation. “Sure, sure,” he finally uttered, knowing he didn’t have anything on the schedule past next Tuesday’s Wednesday. “I’ll even go first. Now that I know they’re on our side.”
“Okay, your turn. Tell me what happened to *you*.”
“Oh, nothing much. Really — nothing. They found me reading that book and they tied me down on the other side of the hill and left me there and finally I managed to get free and I came back home to here and wrote what happened down in my blog.”
“Hmm,” says Fern Stalin, thinking, oh, he really *did* mean “nothing much”. Certainly not as exciting and meaningful as her story of the island. She gets up to leave.
“Where’re you off to now, opposite of mine?”
“The rocket ship. Did you forget?”
Jeffrey Phillips had forgot. Sammy the Messenger Featherfloater should have returned by now to let all the others of his kind know. Fearless intrepid leader Spore had a plan. There was not one Fern but two, like Original and Extra Crispy. Now to sort them all out in separate buckets… or something.
(to be continued)
“She h’ain’t coming!” So shrill and trilling for a chicken, who usually wax eloquently when they have that talking device inserted down their throats. But Toothpick knew what happened; voice matches emotions of the moment. He figured Elberta ran off with that [delete name] boy Jimmy John Jones who she’s been going on about for months now. She’s bucking tradition in more ways that one. So she sent her messenger chick. The coward. He’d understand. He didn’t want to see her that way neither. This was his sister for God durn sake. His *twin*. He begins to think of running away himself. Maybe he’ll just follow her and Jimmy to wherever they went. That’ll teach ’em. He would have understood. He h’ain’t no looker like Jimmy. Everything will be safe and above board. He always liked Jimmy anyway. Despite the, um, well…
“We’ll have to order you a new part from Black Ice. I think it’s down in the belt section.”
“You’ll get use…”
Duncan Avocado kept shaking his head. He wasn’t going to budge on this. Pot-D can do whatever they like to him in return. Send him back to Dixie for all he cares. Then the memories flood back, the Slave-up vending machine, etc. Two months is a long *long* time down there (in Hell). He doesn’t want to relive that pain, even from a safe distance. He forces himself to come back to the present. He fondles his skeleton heart necklace, the one Buster gave him almost two years ago now. He reconsiders.
Buster Damm senses the change of heart and sweetens the package. “Elberta is a *looker*. You’ll get use to the hick ways. And they’re not really from the Deep South anyway, Mississippi and all. They’re from the very southern part of Black Ice where we use to have the Boos and Bogota…”
Duncan was nodding his head now. He’d given in. To whatever they had in mind. Mention of The River sealed it.
“No three word name. One, or, at best, two.” He spits in his hand. Buster spits in his. They shake.
“I may never go back to Mainland, Hucka Doobie. I like it here. I have Bake’s Bakery now. Like it was meant to be.”
“What about Cassandra City?” asked Hucka Doobie logically. “What of NWES City? It appears you need Mainland still.” She wiped her highlighted nose with her sleeve. Always forgetting her handkerchief these days, arrgh! Stupid nose.
“Both, then.” Like vending machine salesman Appleyon was both a new friend and an old old enemy, he thought to himself.
“Baker, you’ll have to excuse me,” Hucka Doobie blurted with this, stifling an urge to snort. “I have to go somewhere and blow my nose!”
Afterwards, The Arab took Baker Bloch on a walk through the local vineyards to try to cheer him up. He knew, because of the new outbreaks, that he’d most likely never make it out of Corsica alive. He was *stuck*.
Eventually he was able to steer the conversation back to Peakology and a positive outcome.
Kind Of Messed Up 02 stared at the picture, knowing this had all happened before. A negotiation.
“$50,000 for the lot of it,” Messed Up offered for her cafe, her house on the water, heck the whole kitten caboodle, along with her not quite as messed up kitty kat who Prof. Young Harris had nicknamed Leo for some reason. Perhaps the effect of the 4 Corona-V brewskies he downed before leaving Joan/Astrid back at the New York university sim-island to the northwest, another in the cluster of Weird-o Islands as history will call them. Like Stranger Creek here. Like Abbey up in the air where David A.B. lives, who seems to be the same as God in our current story or a close approximate. And then the NY isle to finish, upper state style. No Arthur Kill involved here, nor his Staten Island. He has been eliminated from this region by another local named Illuminatus, who we’ll revisit with later. Because, yes, Prof. Young Harris was charged with buying the island for upwards of 50,000 linden dollars, which Messed Up just offered. He couldn’t talk her down for some reason despite his savvy salesmanship — perhaps, he reasons, she was secretly in on the deal all along as well, and had forewarning of his visit. Or maybe they were just in total sync with each other. Because they also found themselves married 5 years down the road, after Messed Up had been basically cured of her confused look status and come into proper focus. Kind of Messed Up 02, renamed Leo from this point on, was with them until the last. A Happy Ending.
David A.B. reads Young Harris’ report up in Abbey and sees it is good. He can rest for a while.