“Why don’t you and Tropp get away from it all. Make a sort of vacation out of it. Another 2 stone with one bird situation. You keep an eye on Pine Ridge and his *unsanctioned* new gang at MISTY MO and at the same time further your own storyline. We can book you in the same lodge with the rest of ’em.”
Wheeler Wilson pondered what Baker Bloch was offering here at the Table. She’d just explained how Tropp and she were now banned from Braynard’s Place where he was, in effect, born into this world in present form, boy to man style. But he admitted to her it was worth it. Yes it was.
We follow a logical pattern. She was not ill any longer, just thinking while peering out the window at the beautiful landscape. Trees. Flowers. But not much mist yet, for the name. And what was *her* name while she was here? Misty is an obvious choice. But Allen Y. seemed to indicate Jennifer. Jennifer M. Friend. From the Occident. Can I be *2* stone here? 2 stone in one bird?
She kept reading her book, trying to seem only 1/2 interested. She was more than that. “Um hum,” she nodded while turning a page. “Fascinating.”
I didn’t say anything fascinating, thought Allen Y. to himself. I was just reading off the lunch menu from that bulletin board over there. Is she even *listening* to me? But what a beauty, a lovely beauty (1/2 and 1/2). Laurie was her name. Wait, that was Piper’s wife. He would have to sneak it out of her. He spoke louder to be heard better. “I’m so glad you’re feeling better, Mrs…. Ms….” he urged again.
Wheeler feigned shaking off a daydream, probably involving a plotline in the book she pretented to read. She was also prepared to make up a story about the story if needed. Frogs to princes. “What was that?”
Allen Y. decided to admit he couldn’t remember her name. “Oh,” she said, trying to be put off a bit. What *was* her name here? Misty? No: too obvious. She’d go with Jennifer. She said the name aloud, adding the middle initial and last name on a second go.
“Ah yes. Now I remember. A lovely and beautiful name, Jennifer.”
“Thank you.” She was truly pleased he liked it. *She* liked it. Maybe they could be friends here in this small backwater of virtual reality. MISTY MO.
More than Friends. *Friends*.
It was time to go out there.
She knows she saw it. The sea had DEMO written all over it, like it was mocking her very existence.
But she can’t seem to recreate the vision.
Wait: there it is.
Is that woman nude over there? The owners said: no nudity. And… well, where is perpetual birthday boy Tropp? It’s not Allen Y. obviously. That’s Pine Ridge. The bastard. Going rogue on Baker and me and creating his own batch of lousy characters. Dollie — what the heck? And a *frog*? I’ve seen *him* before: Middletown, where he was called Brazilian Bill. I assume soon enough a puny, sickly apple tree will show up sprouting off some craggy rock or such. “Make it so,”
Treelor Tropp might say, and it would be. Why… do I keep writing thinking Treelor instead of Tropp? Another 2-n-1? 2 Hearts in One. The glue? She better get back to the lodge. Of course she’s not going to report *these* 2. It’s going to happen here. The rule is more a suggestion, perhaps, as long as you do it in a harmless, non-graphic way.
Now back to looking for a nice car for when I get back.
When she looked up again the couple were gone. In their place, Allen Y. and Archibald Duke sat around a nearby campfire. Dollie and Piper are probably luring somewhere nearby, Jennifer rationalized, hidden by the tall grass or something. Looks like the lodge came to me. Better go see what they’re up to. I suppose. Or… she could just walk the other way. She eyes the exit route. Nah, too easy to spot — can’t get away with it. So it’s be *friendly*, true to my name. A last name I might share with Allen Y. someday. If he’s so inclined. Could be an interesting story. Story within a story.
“S’up guys?” She spots Dollie hidden in the nearby grass. “And gal.”
“Did you know Johnny Appleseed supposedly planted his *last* apple tree right here in these mountains.” Allen Y. pointed back in the direction they came. “Said so in the lodge brochure. Probably really old and shriveled by this point, wouldn’t you guess. Let’s go take a look.”
Jennifer looked west. *Knew* it, she thought.
The mists move in…
on the wall
“Watcha checking out on those interwebs little lady?”
“A car,” Wheeler/Jennifer stated plainly. “I’m going to buy one when I get back.”
“Back from where?” asked puzzled Norm, a local resident. “I know of the Before and the After. But there is no Other. There is only Here.”
Great, another MISTY MO religious nut, Jennifer thought. “My home is in Collagesity. On the Atoll continent. Heterocera. Surely you know your continents. Did you not take geography in the schools you went to?” She looked over at him, noticed the rivets in his forehead, his hands. Mechanoid, ahh. That could explain it. He is programmed to know no other place but here.
“I took high school in geography. Does that count?”
Wheeler Jennifer pondered what could be a riddle. Story within story again. “Maybe,” she decided to answer.
He continued his information. “Before is the establishment of Fairview Alpha. Sometimes it is called the Big Mess. Too messy. Water everywhere. So many trees and plants and bushes. Clutter, if you will. After is Fairview and Alpha separate, as they should be. One in one place and the other in another. This is also known as the Plane of Martin and the Plain o’ Allen. Fairview is a fair view of the world, as it is, plain and uncluttered. The great bird flies in the sky but always lands here. Here is here. There is no Other, except for the Abyss.”
Jennifer took in the strange, new information. She shut the laptop, put away the visions of a speedy, glossy auto for now to concentrate. “I came here on a plane,” she said, thinking back to the one that landed on the edge of the Rubi Woods, the plane specifically sent by MISTY MO Inc. to take her to their homeland. Far far away from mainland madness, one flight attendant said of it. Brainwashed, she concluded. They’re all brainwashed into thinking this MISTY MO is somehow separate from the rest of Our Second Lyfe. Better, she concluded. Much better — some place *new*. Could this be?… no, she must put away thoughts of ever finding Ultima Thule. She spent the better part of her 20s and 30s looking into that black hole of an idea. The idea that she could purge herself of her demonic origins, pheh. No such luck. But still, there was the recent vision of the Demo Lake. She decided to ask about it — maybe Norm would know something. But in a roundabout way…
“Plane of Martin — that’s the plane.”
“Yes,” stated Norm. The sun was setting, the glints on his metal constituents fading. Was it safe here with this mechanoid being, Jennifer thought? She decided it was. The lodge brochure said no crime had ever been committed in modern MISTY MO. At least after the wide scale manufacturing of clothes.
“And this… Plain of Allen.”
“Plain *o’* Allen,” Norm clarified, pointing at Jennifer at the same time. “Like a possum.”
Hmm, Jennifer thought. I think his name might be Bob instead.
“What did you say your name was?” she tested. “Norm, right?”
Norm didn’t answer directly. “We better get you back to your lodge and me back to my lake. The night is full of owls and beaks that speaks. The Abyss returns.”
“Lake? You live in a lake?”
“Next to a lake,” Norm answered.
Jennifer didn’t have to ask *its* name. She knew it was Black. Where the demons lived.
Jennifer woke up, the sound of falling water swiftly returned. Midday. No Norm, no nobody. She had fallen asleep while daydreaming of fast, shiny objects. But the dream was like reality. She then realized there were much fewer trees and undergrowth in the “place” she had just been with Norm… Bob, Norm. And no water. *Was* it a dream?
She opened the laptop again and set the screen on mirror, held it up to her face, noted the DEMO stigmata again on her own forehead. 7610: DEMO.
Yes, it was a dream. A *reflection*.
“So tell me about this Treelor of yours,” Allen Y. requested, a bit of bitterness mixed in with his phrasing.
“He’s nice,” Jennifer M. Friend responded with her usual, confident voice. “He’s innocent. He’s… Tropp, actually. I always forget that too. *I’m* Treelor.” She pauses a beat. “In another life.”
Silence for a spell. They look over at the pirate ship, looming huge before the horizon. The glare of Allen’s facelight was bothering Jennifer. She politely asked him to turn it off. Or down.
“I don’t know how to turn it down. I’ll just detach it.” Now he can’t see her beautiful face as clearly, he thought. Oh well, the setting sun casts it in a different, if less visible light. All angles and shades are good for her. I believe I’m falling in love. He was preparing to give her flowers. One of a line of gifts stretching into the future he has in mind. Leading to…
“Tropp’s great, really,” spoke Jennifer again, breaking the spell.
Tropp, sulked Allen Y. He must be eliminated. But they seem to have quite a long history together now.
He’s heard of… assimilations. Maybe that will be the ticket.
Allen Y. decided that the whole gang of his selves should meet afterwards to discuss Treelor, Tropp, a lot of things actually. Facelight remained off. Facelight doesn’t work in a Gang of Selves photo. He decided today that Archibald Duke should speak his first words. “I’ve seen you in The Waste, Archie — can I call you Archie?” No answer (yet). “I’ll call you Archie, then. But I remember you lurking around the Throne of Bauer or the Bauer Throne — whatever — maybe even sitting on it. Yeah, I remember you perched under the ruined purple or black parasol.”
“Black”, spoke Archie, his first word.
Allen Y. nodded approvingly. “Good. Good first word, good one.” But Allen Y. then clearly remembered that the umbrella in question was purple. This was instead an opening into something deeper. A sea with mysterious bottom-writing. Something about demons.
“Black,” Archie repeated.
No other mention of Bauer was spoken that day.
They talked far into the night. No mention of Bauer again, as stated. About 10 Roger Pine Ridge showed up as well. He kept glancing over at his old flame Cyberpaperdoll (who arrived about 7:30) but saying nothing.
11:15. His last Chesterfield was now half smoked. Perhaps time to pull out one of his special cigarettes; start seeing things in the middle of the night again. Sea monsters this time, perhaps. The white stick light tells truths to be beholding to. Behold… beholding. Beh.
“Beh,” he uttered over to Cyberpaperdoll. “Beeeeeehhhhh.”
“I’ll defend you Dolly.”
“What are we looking at?” she queried Randy Big Cat in her meek voice. So feminine and thin.
“Pirates of course! *Other* pirates.”
“Of course.” But it didn’t look like any pirate she’d beheld.
She kept tripping the light fantastic. White stick light. Giant bunnies were good and cool. She wanted more. But Ruby’s Democratic Empire sim remained empty. It was only a stage, a set, good to go for Collagesity novel 10 but then discarded and emptied just after. *Had* to be a set. And now connected with beh. All sims starting with beh, especially their center (128/128). Try it for yourself. You’ll see.
She pretended this improptu gathering of cubes also in central Behemoth was a meeting of the selves again. “You,” she barked as much as possible with her unbarky voice. “Over there. The black, silent one. Time to *speak*.”
Eventually she fell asleep on its southern side after taking yet another form. Smoking.
1933 -Black-Clear Lake was formed by the construction of the Allen Dam across Saline Bayou downstream of its confluence with Black Bayou. Prior to that time, there existed a chain of three swampy areas known as Black Lake, Clear Lake and the Prairie. The Allen Dam inundated all three of these areas and formed what is now Black-Clear Lake, known locally as Black Lake. Construction of the Allen Dam also created Saline Lake and water levels in both lakes were regulated in unison….
1959 -The Chee Chee Dam was constructed and served to separate Saline Lake from Black-Clear Lake.
1981 –The Allen Dam failed and was washed away
“I will not fail in my mission,” thought Allen Y., at a Calas flower kiosk with a just purchased bouquet of fresh and lovely purple roses. “I *will* win her heart.”
“He will fail,” spoke observing Baker Bloch back at the Blue Feather Table.
“Yes,” answered Wheeler beside him. “The water obscures, the water clears. Bottom-writing is revealed. All demos down there.”
“Demons,” spoke Baker Bloch. “You forgot the ‘n’.”
“I didn’t forget nothing” retorts the co-ruler of Collagesity. She settles back in her chair, pulls out some chew and sticks it in her mouth. “But first a little Chee Chee,” she delivered from an open, masticating void.
“Look Allen Y. Dolphins doing tricks (!). Marvelous.”
On a different part of the pier, Allen Y. remained disappointed.
“Why are we *here*? And not there or there?” He pointed southwest and northeast respectively here.
“I told you. We have to move to the center for perspective because we’re in the center of Part 4 of the new Collagesity novel, Allen Y. This is Grey Havens, and, as I checked, certainly a haven from the grey, corner sims we’ve been focused on so far: MISTY MO and Gulf of Loon. Look at your inworld map and you’ll see.”
“I’m tired of seeing,” he spoke plainly. “Everything is too clear to me now. I’ve seen the writing on the bottom.”
“Oh come on,” encouraged Jennifer M. Friend, still squinting at the receding dolphins while thinking of the 2 hearts as one dealie he reviewed earlier. Not going to happen here. But the Chee Chee…
He thought back. “I see one heart over here, and then another, smaller heart over there.” He pointed to the gap. “Can this be filled?” But she was facing the other way and could not see. The Black Lake obscures. A little later he decided earrings at the Calas market would send a correct message. To add to the roses; he couldn’t help himself.
“I simply love the flowers… and the earrings, Allen Y.,” delivered Jennifer M. Friend in resonance with his thoughts. “One over here and the other over there.” She though of each ear respectively. “Just like I like them.”
“So you’ve said.” He sighs again.
I’m not going back to the MISTY MO lodge, Roger Pine Ridge realized while standing on the bridge looking east toward it. I’m going to go on the Long Walk and play with more forms. Like this little, yellow clad girl, perhaps Jennifer M. Friend herself when she was a child. Probably not, but…
Or how about Wanda the Minoan, fitting in with the yellow theme again? But maybe I’ve got enough wee ones already — Piper and Dollie.
Interesting. I forgot I had both a Cyberdoll and a Paperdoll form that I mashed together to create Cyberpaperdoll, one of my better creations, along with similarly mashed together Roger Pine Ridge.
A good couple they are. Too bad it didn’t work out. Thanks to Bandit Boy, hehe…
But I suppose I should just keep Allen Yellow as my primary avatar for now: Allen Y. He’s got a nifty backpack for storing tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches and lemon tea for the trip, along with extra shoes and a change of clothes. He’s got a helmet for when the atmosphere gets too hard to breathe again, along with an additional set of eyes for long distance viewing.
“Does he not get the irony?” observing Baker Bloch spoke back in Collagesity. “Golden sphere… frog eyes… and that’s why Piper the *frog* was sent to MISTY MO in the first place, along with Tropp.”
“Golden sphere, yes,” echoed Wheeler, thinking back.
Goodbye lodge. Goodbye mystic nut Norm or Bob. So long old and withered Johnny Appleseed tree. See ya Black Lake on the northeast corner, the one Jennifer saw Demo written all over. Under. Too much more to see.
He sets out for parts already partially known but with big hunks yet to be explored. 1/2 and 1/2.
“He’s gone. Our leader is gone. What do we do now?” Archibald Duke had just spoken 10 times as many words as he’d ever said before.
“I’m going to explore more of the BEH dimensions,” offered Dollie quickly in her high, thin voice.
“I’m going to go hop around that nice creek behind the lodge,” added Piper in his deep, masculine tone.
“Hmm,” said Archibald, looking at both of them. “Suppose I *could* go to this Black Lake I’ve heard so much about now. Fish for demons.”
Jennifer M. Friend woke up, went to the main room, looked around. “Hmph. Where’d everybody go?”
“13 and 14’s where it’s at, Spongeberg. You’ll love it here. Much better than those messy, ol’ woods.”
“Another investment of yours, Grass?”
“Yeah. I’m branching out. Like a tree.”
“I don’t know.” Spongeberg keeps looking around. “Animations are pretty primitive overall here.”
“Oh this is just the base, the Linden beginning. Lindenning. At the top’s where it’s at. 13 and 14. Connected now, like they’ve always been in hypertime. And hyperspace.”
“You *do* remember I use to live here. Mystenopolis.”
“Of course. And you’ve found the great faun statue intact and have decided to resume living here and move away from the messy woods. I know.”
“I haven’t given up on Whitehead Crossing.”
“I know that too.”
“Maybe we should start with stuff you *don’t* know, then.”
“Oh I know a lot. A-M. Maybe N-Z. It depends… well, on Karoz really.”
“One more thing, Grass. Before you commit to this. I can die. Unlike any of the other core avatars. It just happened to me. On Highway 13. Or maybe it was 14.”
“That’s okay,” assured the giant, green toy to his destroyer friend. “I actually know all about death and resurrection. We Mmmmmm’s have quite the short life span. I’ve died several times while existing in Our Second Lyfe.” He edges closer to Spongeberg. “Listen, that’s what’s so fascinating about the appearance of Gene Fade here. He swore he’d never return, since you age about 7x faster in this place. Now he didn’t die while here, because Mossmen like him naturally live so long anyways. *Anyways*, we’re opposites, see. Opposite sides of a spectrum.”
Spongeberg keeps looking. “Any liquor around this joint?”
“Here’s your rainbow daiquiri, sir,” announced Male Goth Avatar, currently serving as bartender at the End of the Line Inn.
“Great, thanks. Anything for you, Grass?”
“No, I’ll just keep staring at this wall while you imbibe. You take your time, though. We have plenty of time here. Plenty.”
“Mary!” Wait till I tell Baker Bloch about *this*. Long lost Mary!
“Hi Wheeler! Welcome to my new, schweet life.”
This Coffee Mix is soo delicious, thought Spongeberg Resident just off Route 13. Think I’ll have another while I’m here.
“Spare some change for a handicapped person?” spoke Roth Voomer sitting in the phone booth beside him.
“Oh,” exclaimed Spongeberg. “Didn’t see you there, man.” He sets down the now empty can on top of the machine and starts digging around his pockets for smaller change than what he was going to buy his next drink with. “Nickel okay?” He drops the coin at his feet. Roth is understandably disappointed. Sensing this, Spongeberg digs some more. “And this… dime. That’s all I have.” Another drop. He then inserts the two quarters in his other hand and retrieves his second Coffee Mix drink from the machine.
“Aren’t you going to ask me what’s wrong with me?”
Spongeberg gives him another glance. “Errr… no,” and turns around to leave.
“It’s my hands.” Roth rolls up his sleeves. “Or the lack of such. Here. Take a look.”
Curious, Spongeberg turns back to the figure. He’s rarely seen handicapped people here in His Second Lyfe and wonders why avatars would do such a thing to themselves.
“Oh. Yeah. That is unfortunate.” He starts to explain how things work in this place, and you can simply switch shapes to get the new hands. But Roth interrupts him, guessing what he’s going to say.
“Can’t do it; don’t ask.”
“Don’t ask what?”
“About the body.” Roth heaves a sigh. “I’m *stuck*”.
In a little bit, they start to actually become friends. Spongeberg shares the last 1/2 of his drink with him, putting opening to lips when requested. For, you see, Spongeberg was stuck himself. He’d made a mistake, he owned up to Roth, in coming back to His Own Second Lyfe and trying to make a new start in the remnants of Mystenopolis just down Route 13. He pointed down the highway from whence he came in saying this. So he’s heading over to the big airport he’s heard about on Route 14 on the opposite coast to catch a plane back to Whitehead Crossing. He explained his health is not good over here, not good atall, because, you see, he keeps *dying*. Happened just yesterday on the side of the road, he furthered. So he’s getting out of here. “Just have to go up the new road connecting Route 13 on this side of the peninsula with Route 14 on the other side,” he informed. Spongeberg then decides to ask Roth if he wants to accompany him on the trip. “Since I’m healthy in Whitehead Crossing,” he said, “maybe you can get back your hands in same. Maybe it’s… fate we go together up that road to the big airport. And… maybe even others will join us. A band. Traveling up and then down the road, over the mountainous spine of the peninsula. What wonders we might see.”
But there was basically nothing on the road. And the airport didn’t have any flights going from Second Lyfe to Real Lyfe atall. Still handless Roth then says goodbye and thanks for the effort, but Spongeberg had already died again and didn’t hear him.
Australia in Our Second Lyfe
“What now, Grass?”
“My ice cream’s starting to melt all over this trampoline. Better hop to it!”
So they hopped on a nearby bus destined for parts unk.
“I could have swore this train was a bus when we started, Grass.” Spongeberg turns. “My drink machine!”
“Ahhh. Want one Grass? They’re simply the best. Pure cane sugar refreshment.”
Puzzled Grass kept staring at the bus-train and not Coffee Mix swigging Spongeberg. “No thanks,” he managed.
“What are we staring at now, Grass? A cube?”
“A red blue yellow spinny cube thingie, yeah.”
They gaze some more.
“Is it ‘s’pose to be relaxing? It’s not relaxing. Rather: a mess, a jumble.”
“We should move on, then, Spongeberg my friend. Like the night…”
“Fine with me.” They get up and move on.
“I’m not sure this is the healthiest of places, Grass.”
“I’m not either.”
“I’m not ready to die again. Right this minute. It’s painful!”
“I know it is, Spongeberg. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I brought you back. This isn’t fair. This is not the place I would have picked either. This Our Second Lyfe.”
“Good idea to get me set up at my potential new digs. Cheer me up.”
“I’m trying. You got those freebies at the furniture place just across Route 14 in front of us. Very handy.” He peers toward the far window. “And if you look at just the right angle over there you can see the giant faun statue. Reassuring, I suppose…”
“… that some of what I remember as My Second Lyfe is still here, yeah,” Spongeberg completes the Mmmmmm’s angle.
“Schweet. A black hole. I found one!”
“We all get old. We all get scraggly. We all… die.”
“Tell you what,” offered Bernie Big Bear. A manifestation sound occurred. “Eat those 2 special glam burgers over there instead of the 2 regulars ones and see what that does for ya. No meat in those beauties. Just love and sugar and warm, fuzzy feelings all around.”
Bracket Jupiter makes the switch…
“Disgusting,” he utters, and spits the first bite out onto the floor in front of him.
“You’ll have to clean that up yourself,” states the bear.