“It’s going to be *beautiful* Cloe, a beautiful scene.
Let’s go take a look again.”
“Dead Lakes and The Basin in one. Fate, my blue haired friend. Beginning of a stream.”
“So you see, Chloe. It’s all about the interior to that game. This game within a game you are on about. The Basin. We must get beyond Dead Lake — both of them — and enter the place of the burning dog.”
“I don’t like that idea,” returned a worried, slumped over, hand crossed Chloe. “I just want to stay in the trailer park, shoot up some people, and then *leave*. I don’t want to find this door into a hidden place. Just leave me out of it.”
Sandy breathes out. “Okay, okay. I’ll try the other Chloe, then.”
“It won’t be any different.”
“Soo Chloe. Whadda you knoow?”
“Get away. Playing on phone.”
“Just a couple…”
“GO AWAY, JEEZ.”
“I suppose I owe you an apology.”
“Just leave me in the trailer park,” she reinforced.
So he returned to EM at the blue painted coffee shop of Fishers Island, mission seemingly a failure. But EM thought otherwise.
“You got them thinking! They’ll come around. A seed has been *planted*.”
The next time Chloe Price approached the end of the pavement representing the limit of the Gunn Mobile Trailer Park game…
… she suddenly recalled that thing about a glitch which allowed one to go further down this road — into the dirt part — all the way to a place called Dead Man’s Lake. No: just Dead Lake. Dead Sea, something. But it had to be done a certain way. Today, unlike yesterday or the day before or the day before that, etc., she decided it might be worth the risk. Checking back into the heart of the trailer park to make sure none of her enemies were following her (or were left alive, period)…
… she walks over and shoots her oh-so-familiar weapon at what looks like a weirdly shaped grey rock in front of her (the “glitch”). Not once, not twice, but three times.
She then sticks her gun into a suddenly opening black vortex, never to be held or used again.
The dirt road opens up before her. “Dead Sea — whatever — here we come!”
“So here we are on the hands again, EM. Waiting for someone to cross that bridge.”
“Could be a man with a million dollars, could be some dude with a gun.” He paused. “Both… neither.”
“But probably neither,” opined Sandy Beech, anxious to get this scene over since Chloe Price was waiting for him over at Bay City. Both of them!
Sandy then heard something, a rumbling, getting louder. EM pointed. “Look Sandy, a hog. Bikers again. Spocari Nemoy is going to be *soo* upset.”
Sandy looked as well, but all he could see crossing the bridge was a man not on a motorcycle as he expected, but just an ordinary bicycle. Burning — the actual source of the noise. A Burning Man.
“Wait Sandy!” EM reassessed over the growing roar. The burning man had just come upon the center of the bridge. “Not a hog, a *dog*!”
“Tronesisia, in her sly way, has led us back to VHC City’s Realm of Orange, also known as Sphere of Influence. George is pictured here peering intently at it in Collagesity novel 4 — scrutinizing…
… and then also here in the current novel (playing Young Herbert Dune in EM’s ‘Urbane Blue’ production). He peers at the orange in each case. Circular perfection.”
“No, you don’t get it, Pitch. I should know. He *doesn’t* peer at the orange, but just outside. Around the outside but not within. That’s what Tronesisia is warning us about.”
“We’ll have to bring her back, Bill. To Collagesity, I mean.”
“Baker Blinker’s old house…”
“Of course. Just like before.”
“But there’s Bendy to consider.”
“Bendy and Tronesisia — or Tronesisia and Bendy — go the way of Fisher and Lisa.”
“Or Lisa and Fisher.”
“So is this her?” Ruby asked without a hint of jealousy. The Green (Eyed) Monster.
“Yes. Beautiful, isn’t she?”
“Yes.” I wish I were a 100th that beautiful, Ruby then thinks. Eraserhead Man was thinking at the same time: But not as beautiful as you are right now, Young Ruby. EM is certainly smitten (!).
“This is Smithy’s House,” EM then declares. “Not finished. We also don’t know who’s going to play Smithy. Maybe the man in the bright green coat who came on the set earlier. But maybe not.”
“Where are all the others, Pencil? (for that was what Ruby always called EM since their days back on New Island — Pencil)
EM points to his eraser topped noggin with a stubby arm. “In here.” He waits an appropriate beat. “Nah, just kidding. They’re in the southeast corner of Fishers Island. Doing my bidding.”
“Gwin included?” Ruby tried to word her thoughts properly. “She… returned to the set?”
“Yes. Sorry you can’t play the part, Ruby. But we have something special cooked up for you. Did I ever tell you I have a doppleganger too? Some call him Penn Mann. Some just penhead, because he’s quite irksome. But lately he’s been sporting a pink mohawk and disguising himself as a she. Under this guise (he’s known as) Chuck Cheese. Sometimes Heidi, which I suppose indicates his ability to hide well. But we’ve struck a deal. Man to man-as-woman. I get the southeast corner of Fishers Island, he gets Wallytown of Fishers Island.”
Ruby pondered on this new information. “Then who gets Fisher?”
“Ahh, so logical, so precise you are. Yes, our Orange Boy. Orange itself. That is the conundrum. To answer that we must first go back to when Herbert Dune was just a boy on the threshold of adolescence. Or just beyond, I guess. Rounding a corner. Seeing something earlier on that day that he didn’t understand. A flesh and blood woman turned into a doll. Heidi — or whatever she or he’s called — insisted that he — or she — direct the shoot.”
“Do you have the orange makeup on all over the appropriate spot, Chloe?”
“Yeees.” Chloe Price was being paid quite handsomely for this scene, but still her voice had an edge. She was nervous. She never had done anything close to a nude scene for a film, never exposed her midriff for anything. Oh, there was that pool scene in “Life is Strange”. But that was all innocent fun and games. This is different. She could back out… but she was already inside.
“Alright. Young Herbert Dune — George — you come around the corner just there and then spot Chloe. You slink back around the corner. Chloe doesn’t see you. The case is opaque, not transparent. Here… let me set the mood better.”
“So the case is darkened. All except that circular opening. And then, Young Herbert can’t help himself, takes another look. The legend of All Orange is born.”
“I’m giving you back your 50,000 lindens, EM. I couldn’t do it. Director Heidi took my place. She was a better height for it anyway.” Chloe Price huffed. “You don’t know *what* I went through in ‘Life is Strange’. Creepy stuff. I couldn’t do it,” she reinforced.
EM pats her hand. He’s finally breaking through that tough exterior. “There there, friend. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to here on *my* set.”
That day, Chloe may have fallen a little bit for Eraserhead Man as well.
“No, there’s no plans for a prison in these schematics, Mr. Man.”
“EM! Call me EM! Everybody does!”
“How ’bout Smithy’s place?! Is it finished?!”
Rob Reeder and Ted Totter just stared at each other, unable to decipher what Eraserhead Man was on about now.
“Yeah. And Ghostwood! Ghostwood Estates Mental Hospital! Audrey’s there!”
Rob Reeder and Ted Totter exchanged looks. “Do you want us… to *add* these things, Mr. Man… EM?”
EM paused dramatically, then: “YES!”
“Where *is* he?” groused Chloe Price, sitting in the blue chair . “Where’s our famous director?”
“He said 3 o’clock,” returned Jill MacGill from the red one. “Be patient.”
Chloe checked her watch, then nodded. “All right, all right.”
“Only 3:05 now.”
“I’m tired of looking at this poster and water fountain. I’m going to roam about the place. Freely.”
“NO,” commanded Jill. “EM said to *stay put* this time. He’ll be here shortly. Sometimes he goes on… tangents. As you well know. He said 3 so it will probably be 3:30. Just give him time. Don’t leave me in this spooky place *alone*.”
“Spooky?” questioned Chloe to Jill.
“I meant just: place. I suppose it’s not that spooky.” But Jill was shaking within. She’d seen a ghost here and another one could come.
Jill relented out of boredom and strategy. “All right, tell me about this game you found near the Horne Inn. The one EM left you.”
Suddenly alert, Chloe’s head bounced up off her raised knee. “I’ll do better than that.”