High Octave Story 04

Sixtus put on his corduroy slippers and went to raise the window for some fresh air, reviewing the strange dream he had just experienced. On the way, he stooped down to look in on Aspinwall underneath his bed. The snake lifted its head to meet his master’s gaze, and smile at him slyly. Sixtus then proceeded to raise the window and take in several deep lungfulls of the fleshly scented night air. In peering through the screen, he then noticed that there was a light filtering through the trees behind his house in the direction of a small pond located in a basically barren field a little back of his lot. The local people use to call it the Eerie Pond because of the unusually black and pungent nature of its water, but Sixtus hadn’t been to it in quite a few years – which, he suddenly realized, was quite odd in itself, especially given its nearness.

Sixtus was too excited to go back to sleep, so although it was not quite dawn, he decided to dress and eat an early breakfast. All through his meal, he was thinking alternately about the vivid dream and mysterious light at the pond, until the ultimate answers to one seemed to be reflected in the other. Curiosity and insomnia finally got the better of Sixtus, as he suddenly had to find out who could possibly be at the mysterious pond this time of night. He thus put on his old shoes and started out.

At one point, many years ago, there was a fairly recognizable path to the pond through the woods behind Sixtus’ house. However, now there was only a solid blanket of thick undergrowth. As Sixtus picked his way through the heavy weeds, flashlight in hand, the underbrush grew denser and denser, until he was practically at a standstill. Yet Sixtus was determined to press on. By this time dawn was quickly approaching, and the growing light revealed that he had only managed in the ensuing half hour to circle around to his own backyard.

Cursing, Sixtus set out again, but even with the increase of light from the now rising sun he once again got lost, emerging this time in the back of the Dundees’ house. Now completely frustrated, he violently lunged back into the weeds, determined to find his objective this time – only to once again become lost. This happened again and again, until at least, at a point of almost total exhaustion, he finally found a faint echo of the once quite visible path to the pond, and was able to slowly follow this trace through the remaining briars and underbrush into the open field.

Incredibly, Sixtus, in looking down at his watch, realized that it had taken him till mid-morning to reach the Eerie Pond, even though it couldn’t have been more than 200 or 300 yards from his house. However, the strange appearance of the pond’s environs he then observed quickly made him forget about his briar torn arms and legs and overall weariness. Although situated in a large grassy meadow with a few scattered trees here and there, the land immediately surrounding the Eerie Pond, for perhaps 60 feet, was composed only of an orangish dirt, almost entirely devoid of plant life. The pond itself was blacker than Sixtus remembered, and even from a distance he could tell it also stank worse. A similarly blackened creek ran into the pond from the meadow on its right side from Sixtus, and directly in front of this creek grew the only living thing he could clearly discern in the barren land surrounding the pond: a large and densely foliated tree, with what appeared to be some kind of yellow-green fruit growing all over it. Beyond the tree, on the far side of the creek, stood a very small, oddly shaped hut which was the same orange color as the dirt surrounding it. But possibly the strangest thing about the scene was the actions of a purple bird, which was repeatedly flying between a perch projecting from the hut, and the tree with the yellow-green fruit. However, Sixtus could tell that the bird was not perching on the tree, but instead merely flew close to it as if attempting to perch, and then, apparently unable to do so because of its dense foliage, retreating back to the hut to regroup and try again.

Sixtus walked closer to this odd scene, and to his astonishment the individual yellow-green fruits of the tree he had seen from a distance resolved into a half yellow, half green lemon-lime shaped fruit, the exact same type of hybrid Sixtus artificially created as a child when he glued together dissected halves of lemons and limes in his parent’s kitchen. Moreover, when he reached the tree, Sixtus found that the dense foliage upon which the hybrid fruits hung from was much too evenly colored and shiny to be real wood, and appeared to be more like painted steel. Testing this hypothesis, Sixtus attempted to break one of the thinnest twigs, to no avail. All this time, the purple bird was still repeatedly flying between tree and hut, just as when Sixtus first saw him.

Mr. Dundee, clad in a plastic orange smock and a black artist’s beret, suddenly emerged from the tiny hut with paint brush in hand. He stretched his arms and yawned, then spotted Sixtus.

“Oh, you’re finally here,” he said rather blandly. “I’ve heard you wandering about the woods all morning – actually you were keeping me up as I don’t usually go to bed until very late. So I decided to do some more painting.” He then walked toward Sixtus, carefully stepping over the black creek between hut and tree, all the time completely ignoring the odd actions of the violet bird above him.

On Sixtus’ part, he was more disappointed than relieved that the mysterious light at the Eerie Pond had such a simple solution, especially after all the trouble he had gone through to get here. It was obvious Mr. Dundee must have come to this place sometime during the night on a creative retreat. But then Sixtus realized this wouldn’t explain the extremely weird fruit tree, purple bird, or, for that matter, the strange, tiny orange hut.

Mr. Dundee, who was now beside him at the lemon-lime tree, was staring alternately at Sixtus and the tree. The Australian then plucked one of the weird lemon-limes and held it up to the younger man’s face.

“Does *this* ring a bell, Sixtus?” he asked with a mischievous smile. Sixtus looked at the object anew, wondering if he had really woken up after all. “Yes,” he said hazily, “um, I use to make those as a kid, actually.”

“No, no , no ,no, no,” returned the frustrated Mr. Dundee, “…. I mean I don’t doubt that you made a couple of these as a child; many kids probably did. But think current, my good man. I’ll give you a hint: wool coat.” He pronounced the last two words very distinctly.

Sixtus really didn’t have a clue. He looked uneasily at the elder man.

“Cindy Looper’s house?” Mr. Dundee proffered. “The 300 lemons and limes they squeezed that were supposedly thrown away?”

Sixtus looked at the lemon-lime fruit in his hand, amazed. “You don’t mean these are the rinds of the lemons and limes that…”

“Yes, yes?” exclaimed the now laughing Mr. Dundee. “Where you told me about what your students did to get you a new wool coat, I went and got them out of her trash can and saved them in my freezer. Of course, I could have cut new fruits but it wouldn’t mean as much.” Just then, Sixtus managed to pry apart the two halves of the lemon-lime in his hand, almost falling down in the process. A large gray, hard boiled egg fell out of its center onto his foot, without cracking. The egg had a picture of a sheep on it.

By now, Mr. Dundee was laughing so hard that he was snorting, but finally managed to compose himself and explain. “It is part of an artwork, you see old boy. A special piece of art to honor this special occasion. I glued the lemons and limes together only yesterday, and put the eggs in the center to establish firmness. Each egg has a picture of a sheep on it in honor of your wool coat. Being from Australia, I understand the value of sheep, you see. Had a sheep farm in northern New Zealand at one time. That’s where I bought Wheeler, although he’s technically from Australia. You know I’ve always found that contrary to popular opinion dingoes make great sheep dogs.”

“What about the tree?” Sixtus asked. He didn’t know whether he should be upset or honored at this insane spectacle.

“Artificial of course,” replied Mr. Dundee. “Purchased from the Odd Lot Novelty Company, which also makes alligator shoes and African masks.” He then winked at Sixtus but the younger man was thinking of another question and missed the gesture.

“What’s with the bird?” asked Sixtus, as he pointed in the appropriate direction. It was still alternating between tree and hut.

“Why that’s part of the art work too. The bird’s name is Allen – Allen the purple martin. But he prefers to be called just Martin for short. He’s making *fun* of you, consciously of course. Like yourself earlier this morning, he has an intended goal, but pretends that he can’t get to it, mimicking your own problems in finding this pond – and, I might add, your pet Wilson’s own peculiar problems.” Mr. Dundee then pointed behind Sixtus at an operating TV set Sixtus missed before; its picture screen, however, contained only silvery static. “There is his goal,” the elder man continues, “the static filled Sylvania TV which is coincidentally the exact same model as your own.”

“Where’s the power source?” Sixtus asked, wondering if it was possible that Mr. Dundee had circled around and stolen his own TV while he was wandering aimlessly around the woods this morning.

“If you want me to, I can say that it is connected to a wall plug in my house through a series of extension cords,” replied Mr. Dundee, ‘But in truth, it is only the desire of Martin which energized the TV.”

Sixtus then looked up at the repetitive motion of the bird, and shook his head. “I’m not falling for this at all, Mr. Dundee. And I really don’t understand the joke either.”

“But you must, you must. You were lost because of Martin, and only when he decided to let you in did you manage to find this pond. Haven’t you ever wondered why you’ve not been to this place in over seven years, or even seen it from your various windows before last night?”

“Come to think of it, I haven’t really,” Sixtus confessed. “It does seem a little odd, but I can’t really believe that obviously schizophrenic bird over there is–“

“Of course it’s a little odd,” interrupted Mr. Dundee firmly. Then he came closer to Sixtus and whispered: “You must understand I have to do it because of her,” and he pointed in the direction of his house, being careful, Sixtus noted, to shield his pointing finger from its view with his hand. “This is the only place I have to hide.”

“You mean from Mrs. Dundee?” asked Sixtus.

“Shhhhhhh! Shh! Not so loud!” the elder man whispered anxiously as if afraid of her very name. “I guess you know,” he continued softly, “That she’s a witch. But you must know of course. Didn’t she take you to Sirius yesterday?”

“Yes, but…”

“Well there you have proof,” replied Mr. Dundee assuredly.

“What’s the special occasion you mentioned before?” asked Sixtus, changing the subject. For himself, the trip to Sirius wasn’t that big of a deal after all; it was one of those odd things that just happened in Eden occasionally and in no way provided solid evidence that Mrs. Dundee was a witch. For now, he wanted to get to the bottom of this mysterious “artwork”. In truth, Sixtus was beginning to think his neighbor had gone completely off the deep end.

“But you found him in your muffler,” countered Sixtus. “Mrs. Dundee had nothing to do with it.”

“I find animals she leaves me in all kinds of places. For example, I found Martin here in the belly of an oversized boa constrictor while hunting in the Amazon Basin. For that reason, he understandably has a fear of snakes, so it would be better if we keep our two pets as far apart as possible. Of course, that’s what my wife had in mind all along. She wouldn’t want me to have *two* magical pets, eh? But from the expression on your face I see I still need to prove to you the magical abilities of my own pet.”

Mr. Dundee then turned around and began to look at the continuing back and forth motion of the purple martin. Apparently timing his next action, he abruptly clapped his hands twice very loudly, and the martin, which was at the time hovering anxiously once again in front of the lemon-lime tree, now broke the cycle, and instead swerved to its right. Quickly accelerating, the bird then headed straight for the static filled screen of the Sylvania TV, hitting it at a tremendous speed. But instead of ramming the screen, and killing itself in the process, the martin somehow flew into the TV static unharmed. Sixtus watched s the still flying figure dwindled into the static sparkles. He also noticed that its color had discernibly changed form violet to indigo.