There’s someone fairer, e’en got more art
So rest in pieces, ’cause you’s got to depart
I’ll miss you more than you can ‘magine
I’ll miss the woods
I’ll miss my home
I see’s it!
A way out.
Not stuck any more.
There is no fairer than thee
So I will return
To have more of my fun
“Look Baker Bloch. I’m Edward Swift. From Ruby.”
“Nice one, Wheeler. Soooo… you’re still the head honcho around here I’m taking it. Or so you claim.”
“But me too.”
“Right. We must clarify *core*. There’s only 8 chairs around this Table, but there are 10 cores.”
“Maybe we can discard two. As was done before… over in Nascera.”
“Maybe. So let’s start. Let’s bring them all in here.”
“Sitting by my side now is Tropp, formerly Opp formerly Campbell Opine.” She takes a gander at him. “My my, you’re looking good today in your birthday hat Mr. Tropp.”
“Care to tell us about yourself… for the reader or readers?”
“I was born Campbell Opine, an Mmmmmm (blue). But I grew beyond my toyhood beginnings. That’s about it.”
“Speaking of which, let’s bring in the next core. Grassy Noll. Now this isn’t Grassy Noll — nor Salad Bar Jack for that matter — but we’re going to call him that. Like I am Wheeler but not Wheeler, see?”
Tropp nods. Baker replies: “But not me.”
So here’s Grassy. That’s your cousin, Tropp.”
“I know. Hi Grassy.”
“Hi cuz. My you’ve grown since I last saw you!”
“So Grassy. My good friend who I bummed around Iris with last year. Tell us about yourself. What you’ve been up to?”
“Still in Iris, Wheeler. I wrote you. You never wrote back.” Grassy makes a pouty face.
“Yes, sorry about that. I’ve been running around here and there. Trying to keep up with Baker.”
“That’s alright. I know you’re busy, Wheeler… Bill. But I want you to come see me (!).”
“I will Grassy. Very soon. And thanks for remaining such a good friend.”
“You’re welcome. And Tropp or Campbell or whatever you go by now… you come as well.”
“Oh I will. Thanks as well.”
“Goodbye Grassy,” spoke Wheeler in parting. “We’ll be seeing you soon.”
“Yes, goodbye my cousin,” added Tropp. “I have grown beyond you and toydom in general but that’s still my roots, and you are my anchor there.”
“Good to know,” answered Grassy, not quite knowing how to take that. Nevertheless, a tear forms in his eye. It is time for him to return to Iris, understanding that friend and family haven’t forgotten about him. He will catch up with them soon. He’s been busy as well!
“Next we have Spongeberg. Spongeberg the Destroyer,” Wheeler enlarged. “Hi Spongeberg.”
“Hello. I never mentioned, to you or others, that my home of Mystenopolis over on the Nautilus continent has been erased. One section remains though… and I checked tonight real quick since I’m not inworld very much at all any more. Thanks for rezzing me and inviting me back to the Table.”
“You’re welcome. Sorry about Mystenopolis. I suppose I didn’t know. And the giant Jesus statue?”
“How about the duplicate? The giant faun… opposite in nature. The great duality.”
“I’m not sure.”
“Well, I’ll pop over there myself sometime soon and see for myself, since you’ve so kindly reminded me of it.”
“Goodbye, Wheeler. Nice to see you again. Nice to meet you Tropp. You two guys have fun in Collagesity. It’s a great place and I’m glad I didn’t destroy it several years back. But, just to warn, I leave open that option, and there’s not a darn tooten thing you can do about it.”
Tropp laughed at this, but Spongeberg kept a straight face. Wheeler stared at him. In ways Spongeberg’s power goes beyond hers. If he desires to destroy Collagesity, indeed he can. She must keep him on her good side. “Anything to add here?” Wheeler calls over to the silent Baker Bloch.”
“Nah. Good to see you as well, Spongeberg.”
“So long,” he said to all.
“Let’s see,” started Wheeler again. “Next I suppose we should bring in Roger Pine Ridge. He has elevated himself through hard work to become a core member of our Table.
“Welcome Roger Pine Ridge.”
“Happy to be here.”
“Tell us about yourself.”
“I started out as rough and gruff Biker Mann, consort to Cyberpaperdoll. We lived here right in Collagesity in one of the SoSo Mall apartments. Great view down Old Cannon Road into the woods. Many a night I’ve stared down into the trees smoking my special cigarettes and seeing various creatures emerge from them… or imagined they did. Giants, dwarfs, robots, elves, candy people, holiday figures… you name it.”
“Bandits?” asked Wheeler sneakily.
“Never mind that. Bad joke. So Cyberpaperdoll left you for another man. Tell us about that.”
“I think you just did. Bandit Boy.”
“Right. So I did. And, let’s see, you yourself are a bandit. Stole something very important from Collagesity a while back. Care to tell us about *that*?” She meant the Rainbow Sphere.
“Nah, probably should go.” Roger Pine Ridge understood this invitation to be a trap now. “Tata,” he said in parting.
“We have one more for tonight, Baker Bloch and Tropp. Looks like Lockfry Resident. But who is *he* — at the core? Let’s see.”
“I don’t think we’ve met you before sir… ma’am.”
“No,” the ambiguous being replies. “I don’t know who I am.”
At 209/168 in the woods this afternoon, Little Boris Spaskey heard its family of owls for the first time.
Billy, Jean, and kid.
“4-2-0, 4-2-0, 4-2-0,” they hooted in staccato manner.
At 192/169, he comes across Bobby’s Grave.
Briggs the Raven attempts to share another secret.
175/168: a creaky, swinging sign (“Cooper”).
And just behind the tree it seems to hang from, at 168/168…
… Boris finds a body in a sack facing the other way.
“Hello,” he calls to it. “Anybody in there?”
“Turns out Unch and The Librarian might be one and the same. Keat Owens The Librarian is, underneath it all, what’s called a giant besalisk, a 4 handed version. It’s the involved salamander lineage that doesn’t allow him to be burned, thus the perfect nemesis for firestarter Jerome T. Newton, who we also know now is another version of Wheeler. The ash grey marble hands were a prop.”
“This just gets stranger and stranger,” returns Old Mabel. “The Woods are too peculiar. They could easily drive one mad with their continual twisty-turny ways.”
“Yes,” states Baker, also noticing that Old Mabel didn’t mention anything about moving *away* from said woods. She was engaged for certain.
“I want to know everything about The Diagonal,” she then said.
“Here, let me just clear off some of these beer cans. And: voila.”
“How long did you say you’ve had this?” asked Baker Bloch.
“It came with the place,” clarified Furry Karl the bartender. “Let’s see, that would be 2005. Old Kringles.” He chuckled, thinking of the good demon he bought the bar from while it was still over in Rubi. “Quite the character. Wore a cow bell around his neck at all times.”
“This must be from the original village. But I thought it was destroyed.”
“Nope,” states Karl plainly. “There it is. You can see it with your dead peepers right in front of you.”
“Could be a copy, a duplicate,” speculated Baker.
“Well, could a copy do *this*?” Karl touches the object and produces a shower of shamrocks.
“Maybe,” says Baker.
“No, this is the sign. *The* sign. The one turned over and thrown aside during the ’68 robolution. A turning point in our history and time.”
“You said robolution there, Furry Karl. Did you mean revolution?”
“It was what it was.”
Old Mabel dug deeper into the mystery of the belalisk at the town library. Journal 2 contained some information, but she was determined to find more. A particular pattern in another part of the book also caught her attention this night of playing “stay awake as long as possible to avoid dreaming”. The book just fell open at the page while she was trying to push it away from her to lay her head on the table. A yawn quickly turned into a gasp. “The portal in my dreams?”
But it was too late. Already sound asleep, the monsters arrived quickly.