There’s grass (living) and there’s hay (dead).
Dr. Back appears ant-like on the hill. No going back.
“It’s a girl, Mrs. Kill.”
“I really liked the old office,” she answered Lemont Sanford, playing the role of Arthur Kill currently, “but it was too laggy. Kept crashing. You know how it is.”
“Yes I remember.”
“You were there in the underground for a while. Training.”
“After Wheeler raised you from the dead (nods from Arthur). After Tessa killed you. We buried you, the firm, but you wouldn’t stay down. You went to Tennessee.”
“You were looking for a spider, an 8 legged being, but you eventually figured out it was a dog. Spider is a dog.”
“You retrieved it, brought it to me for safekeeping.”
“Yes. (pause) Do you have it?”
“Of course I have it, Arthur. Would you like to see?”
“Yes, please. I mean, I have the money but… actually, nah, I’m good. You’ve given me the money. I’m happy. Wheeler and me, I mean *Shelley* and me, I, can retire in comfort.”
“Is she still wearing purple?” Roberts questioned from her opposite chair. “Or has she moved beyond that?”
“Moved beyond I think. Last time I checked.”
“Ask her to wear something purple and see how she responds.”
“She seems okay with it,” Arthur reinforced. “She’s changed, she said.”
“Are you convinced?”
Arthur paused just enough to indicate he wasn’t fully convinced. There was, well *Roberts* now, for one thing. How surreptitious they run into each other again (!). But, deep down of course, Arthur knew it wasn’t coincidence. The Gods have further plans for them, which means The Void has further plans for them. They work hand in hand on this.
Roberts leaned back, folded her arms behind her head. “So strange that Franklin was spared. I’m overjoyed of course, but whether Black Jack, Kentucky or Black Jack, Tennessee, the helicopter that acted as a plane in the moment purposely missed her, swerving to one side or another. If only Mantell could have done the same — I think he tried, I think he saw the, um, irony. Do you know the case, Arthur? It’s quite famous, at least in UFO circles. Cradle links to grave, creating an uroboros scenario. The Cross (in the middle) is eliminated. That’s the point. I’m sure you understand, Arthur, given that you’ve been there now — you rescued Shelley from there. The Cross can *trap*.”
“I think I’m still on The Cross,” Arthur admitted. “I never made it back to Nautilus. I never made it back to here, then, this office in Towerboro on the Jeogeot continent.”
“Oh you’re here,” Roberts countered.
Arthur saw a spider on the floor behind her. He then saw 5 others, 10 others maybe, all lined up like military rank or file. Roberts didn’t glance around, seemed oblivious to them. But Arthur knew she wasn’t. What was this psychic-detective up to?
“This is where it starts, Arthur. The agency. I want to know who tried to kill Franklin. In a strong probable reality she is dead. Only the actions of a rebellious, artificial pilot, a Mantell wannabe, saved her. He broke the pattern. Cradle to grave was unlinked. You were there too. You saw — how close.”
“It was either the boat on fire or the rose colored cottage on fire.”
“I remember the boat.”
“And I remember the cottage.”
Now where is that receiver?
“Lord, lord. Lord lord lord lord lord.” She shook her head as she uttered. She looked down into her coffee which wasn’t steaming any longer, meeting stretched beyond expected. Yet Newt had forgotten about the parking meter and the need to feed past 8. Too much had happened. Clyde! It’s back! The impossibly loud sound of horseless carriages transfixed. He was almost there; just up there. He could reach into the screen and probably procure some kind of souvenir or relic to bring back to the others: Fern, Lichen… and the one who most figured in as the cause, the one who was red, the one with the awkwardly long gams (she thought), the multicolored tree on the back and the fox and the octopus up front, black and white zebra’s eyes formerly x’d shut but now wide open. He can hear, he can see. He *must* get married after this. He knows too much.
Lichen went over and exchanged wigs with her. “See?” she said, returning to her seat, spell intact.
“See?” prefigured Fern and then also leaned over and exchanged her hair with Alysha’s. “Doesn’t matter.”
It was 9 before Newt got back to the car with the inevitable ticket attached to the passenger window. “Zero strikes again,” he muttered and then crumpled it up and threw it in the gutter, knowing the thing was now worthless. Nothing mattered in this Squared Root City in this most virtual of realities. Except 3.16227766. Let’s shorten it down to 3 so we can move on…
“Find out who is in that 9th spot and find out if black or white went first,” Agent 47 orders in his dream to Joey Avatar while hovering above it all. He doesn’t realize the impossibility until the next morning while eating his 9-sided Toasty O’s and remembering the game. But the tree is 9; the other vendor is 8. Time to head back to the plaza for some nitty gritty research. He takes a broom and knocks it against the ceiling, knowing Joey would understand. 3 times. 9 times. Magic Square.
He wakes up for real this time. He turns to Bart on the couch, cleaned up at last and looking like a little cartoon boy again, perhaps 9 himself. Saturn-9. But at what price? 1,000,000? Just then, Bart begins to glow as if radioactive. He’d been exposed, he knew — tricked even. He’d have to deactivate himself. Joey won this time. But there’s always regeneration.
He wakes up once more.
She heard the alley whispers.
She knew she had to go back to Creepy Alley, where *it* happened. The falling of the pipe. The raising of the voice. 3 notes now she could sing that she couldn’t before. The town (Pipersville) even welcomed her back.
She felt like a mannequin, stuck there until I told her she could move forward. I sensed she hated me for that; didn’t like to be controlled. I moved her toward the alley. I’d done this before.
Still there. Perhaps expanded, even. There was a confusion, a mix-up, involving Your Mama and herself dealing with this alley. She always knew this. She dreamed about it often, this so called Creepy Alley. The only… the only way to deal with it is to make a song about the place, she then thought, influenced by the energy, creepy or not. She remembers Zach Black owning a (Texaco) gas station along it, with a back door importantly without an eye in it — he made sure of that. But then, yes, Marion “Star” Harding, Cowboy for life, bought the station, although he didn’t really *buy* it. Said money is no option. She recalls that as well. Then Jim’s Diamond Club right across from her here. She remembers… she sang… Here she looks down at her fur outfit. Why do I *wear* this all the time. Must be a dream. And indeed, here comes Jim, now Jim A. or Jim Brown or Jim A. Brown (altogether now), walking up the hill toward her, dead flesh still in place and not fallen away.
“Jim,” she says, but remembers she shouldn’t call him that. Or she needs to *add* onto that. “Jim A., Jim A. Brown.”
But suddenly he was walking away from her, as if forward had switched to backwards in an instant, a blink of the eye. “F-ing cursed alley,” she cursed.
He didn’t get much information from that pothead Pine Ridge but he understood Lamb had flown the coup. Peter Paul and Mary I mean here, featured in photo-novel 05 and a bit of photo-novel 06 if memory serves. Mr. Babyface came here to try to persuade his nephew Paul (and the rest) to return to the Land of the Living, as he called it, get away from this Hana Lei and its huffing and puffing and boys bringing more rolled up paper all the time, just like clockwork. You pay them, they come and never stop, the jerks. “Vicious cycle,” he said. “You’ll end up like Syd,” he furthered, pointing out the famous downfall of one of Paul’s rock heroes. “Dead… or worse. Dead in your head, which goes beyond physical death because the mind goes beyond the body. You better think about that the next time you take a shower with that cat soap you like.” He decides to leave it at that. Paul stares at him, much like Roger stared at Jacob later on, all glazy eyed, like a glossy pot ready to go to market, ready to have another plant inside it. He didn’t need to ask the Time because he knew what it was, shortly followed by Money, shortly followed by death. And worse. Brain Damage.
“See? Right at the beginning of Frank Albert Rd. in Fife: a (robed) Freman. This is suppose to be Frank *Herbert* Rd., and perhaps in the future it will be. If the descendants of Albert agree to it. And why shouldn’t they? With some kind of compensation. We’ve been in Tacoma before? I know we have,” she answers herself. “Proctor St., I believe. Another road, a foreshadowing. Don’t you think?”
There were no blue eyes, but the resonance was still unmistakable. Speaking of which…
Wheeler/Hidi stared at the drugs on the table and realized it was just money. Constraints of time, power, and that other thing they don’t talk about much any more, not after Kolya. Damaged goods he was. She must not touch, she says once again in her mind to reinforce. There was a 2 shaped hole in his head where the rain gets in. Marty knows; Marty may have even created. “Fiftysix,” she says aloud to know one. “They had to stop at fiftysix.”
Duncan returns from the bar with 2 drinks. Duncan said he’d never ever come back to this town, this Eveningwood that would one day become so central to Our Second Lyfe that they decided to rename it Middle: Middletown, a basically endless megalopolis that one could get lost in forever. Fractal. You have to find a path through it or else, doomed. Duncan knew this. Duncan had a path; he had almost worked out all the details. Labeling will begin soon. He knows that The Fortress is at the end, but he doesn’t know what’s inside. It all terminates at The Fortress.
Hidi has her drink. Duncan sits down with his. They have more to talk about tonight besides Middletown, fiftysix, Kolya.
“Who’s going to come through the black curtains, Duncan,” she spoke after a couple of sips of her whiskey on the rocks. “I thought it would be you.” She looks over at his blackness and sees it is good. He looks over at her whiteness: also good.
“Well, I thought it was going to be you, obviously. But you were already here when I arrived, sitting on that couch.”
“And you at the bar.” She ponders further, as she hears the metallic sound of a gate opening. A red complexioned Asian Indian then comes through the curtains, beckoning them to follow. At the beginning of a tunnel just behind, he then tells Duncan he must go back, his path through the beginnings of Middletown at least temporarily blocked.
He returns alone from the bars to whence he came.