“No crossing this lake, my love. Good fishing, though. Probably worth the risk.”
“Perch?” Wheeler logically guessed.
“Yeah,” admitted Chuckles Greentop. “But fighters here. Tough because of the gators. I think that movable, more realistic looking one is a croc, actually, despite the description. I decided a while back to name it Dundee, after the movie.” She calls over to it. “How’re you hang’in today Dundee? Alli G. treating you right still?” She then whispers over to Wheeler. “They’re lovers, you know. Different species by my reckoning, but still do’in the nasty. And I want to be first in line for one of those impossible crocogator babies. I’ll put it in one of my outer pools.”
Wheeler glanced over her shoulder. “How’s your face holding up?”
“Fine. Close enough to a clown’s face to work. Better, maybe, because it’s more confusing. ‘What is you?’ they may be uttering, haha. Thank you for that. How ’bout yours?”
“Okay, I guess.”
“I told you, that’s the trick, my fiend friend. You *come* already as a clown. That way you won’t *turn* into a clown. You’ll learn the tricks here. We can fish together sometimes in this remote pool, then. But no further in this direction. That pool and attached monsters are there for a reason. I’ve seen them on the other side. This is where we communicate. Maybe today will be one of those days.”
Wheeler starts to shiver. Chuckles notices.
“Don’t be afraid, love. They’re as scared of those crocogator thingies as we are. This is the Pool of Coahoma, the separation of the barely living from the completely dead. Once you cross that pool or even attempt to, there’s no turning back. You’re one of them.”
Trouble was, Wheeler thinks she’s already been beyond. And then she gets instant verification.
“Welcome back Wheeler,” says a smiling Woody Woodmanson, appearing from around the bend.