“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 Cloe 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.”
Cloe 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 Cloe 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, Cloe’s head bounced up off her raised knee. “I’ll do better than that.”
Young Ruby had somehow made it all the way to EM’s Urbane Blue set in the heart of Meat City without compromising her integrity.
But all she found inside was a floating, slightly glowing Eraserhead Man, deep deep deep within. No Herbert Dune, no Jill MacGill/Gwin or Cloe Price or Benny and Jer Horne or Franklin Bowers and his former wife Jenny — lets go with Patsy — or Rabbit 03 or the Blue Yip Yip. Only the director of it all.
He was the dreamer dreaming the dream all along. The blue structure acting as a coffee shop within was a portal indeed.
With no role found to be played — Gwin’s vacant part was a red herring — Ruby had no choice but to return to her empire. What a long journey in vain!
No Timmy when she returns (dead), no Tin Tin (married, or so she thought). Just her and Madame Silver, battling out the final days. Should she wake the dreamer? Maybe that would be a better solution, she realized. But *gradually*.
She kept tap tap tapping at his wooden yellow shoulder, each tap a little stronger. But even after a hundred of these, we would still consider the gesture quite light of touch. Ruby was subtle like that. Quality over quantity indeed for this one.
The dreamer awoke like a fresh spring morning; turned to faced his rouser. “Ahh, Young Ruby,” he cooed. “A sight for sore ears.” Now maybe he can toss aside those hearing aids for good.
Jeez I haven’t felt this good since Mary left, Eraserhead Man thinks by Ruby’s side. I could *marry* this girl. Yes: marry.
So he remembers the disappearance of his wife now too.
“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, Cloe?”
“Yeees.” Cloe 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” when she had an extra “h” in her name. 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 Cloe. You slink back around the corner. Cloe 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.” Cloe 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, Cloe may have fallen a little bit for Eraserhead Man as well.
“Man I can’t stop playing this *game*.”
“All right Jill MacGill. Where’s the sacred orange? Is it behind trailer number 01, 02, or 03? Choose or lose.”
“Wait. Let me take a picture of that pathetic expression.”
“I don’t like that scene, Rabbit 02.”
“I’m going to change the game.”
“Do what you have to do, Rabbit 01.”
art of the deal
“How do you like my painting, Mr. Dune. I’m thinking of calling it ‘Life on an Orange.'”
Pathetic, Herbert Dune thinks to himself. “Exquisite,” he says aloud. “Listen, Madame Silver. I see that you’re a very busy and productive young woman.”
Madame Silver giggles outlandishly. “Oooo, young *man*. You flatter me!”
“Thank you. I won’t waste any more of your precious time. I’m here for the complaint about one of our dollhouses. You said a characters within is… stuck?”
Madame Silver talks while continuing to paint. “Yes, um, but why don’t we discuss it over tea. Do you like tea? Hot tea I mean. Cold tea is for barbarians. I hope you’re not a cold tea lover. For the sake of our continued business transactions.”
“You are one of our most loyal customers, Madame Silver. I will be glad to have tea with you if you can take time from your busy schedule.” I *hate* tea, Herbert Dune grumbles to himself again. Cold *or* hot. But I’ll swallow it for the deal.
“Well this is simply *delightful*. I’m glad you like the tea.”
“It is so so delicious, Madame Silver. I haven’t had tea like that in a long time. Perhaps back before I joined the company.”
“How many years have you been there now? Five, six? I’m glad you got your promotion. That way you finally get to meet *me*.”
“I am glad to be in your humble service, Madame Silver. I’ve heard so many good things about you.” He pauses significantly, hoping the old codger will *finally* get to the dollhouse and needed repairs. Of course he’s going to try to sell her a brand new dollhouse… at a significant discount of course. But pushing upgrades instead of expensive repair is standard practice in the business. In any business, really. Those based on pure capitalism and money and greed. And certainly like Doll Pedlars, Inc.
She flattens out her skirt and stands up. “*Well*. I suppose we should get to that dollhouse, eh? Back up the stairs we go!”
“Yes, I think I see the problem, Madame Silver. But it’s a bad one. We’ll have to take the whole dollhouse back to the office for repairs. *Or*… we could sell you an upgrade for a cut rate price. Maybe save you money in the end. Your choice of course. But this looks like a 02350 malfunction of the circuit board. I’d highly recommend the upgrade. I’ll deliver it to you in person, make sure everything works perfectly before leaving.”
“Oooo. Look at that fluffy feather bed up there on the next level, Mr. Dune,” Madame Silver deviates. “I’m sooo sleepy. I could use a nap. Could you also use a nap? We could sleep on opposite sides. Unless…”
Oh. She’s *that* type of old codger, thought Herbert Dune. A cougar codger. Chris withheld that valuable piece of information about the work.
He pauses to consider. He decides to be frank. “Will it help seal the deal?”
“It *might*” She giggles in that grating way again. Herbert Dune makes a note to not say things that might induce it again.
“Alright. But I have to be back at the office by 8.”
“Make it 9.” She giggles once more.
Jill MacGill/Gwin spouts the history of the place she and Axis wait at for the ambassador.
“‘The water at the upper dam of Fish Lake, also known as Lake Three’ — that’s because of its shape and not because it is the third part of some series,” she adds as an aside, then continues. “Let’s see — ‘… falls vertically in contrast to the gentler step cascade of the lower dam.'” She turns to Axis, who was formerly the boy known as Tin Tin. There was no need to keep up that disguise any longer, since the marriage was off. To both Ruby *and* her effective doppleganger Gwin here. “That’s because of the salmon. The salmon need some way to get to the lake to spawn, where they themselves were spawn.”
“I know how it works, Gwin. But thank you for the passage. I’m going to go over and look behind said waterfall now. See what has changed since my last visit as that snotty nosed boy Tin Tin.”
“Disgusting,” agreed Gwin, shaking her head. “Try to remedy that the next time you incarnate as a hormone raging teenager.”
“I’ll try.” Axis gets up off the curving bench. “I’m going over there now. You wait here for Briney if you don’t mind. He said to meet him in the northeast corner of the plaza and we don’t want to miss him. Again.”
“But I want to see *too.*”
Axis looked around, gauging distances and space. “All right. But leave your red book on the bench — open — so he knows we’re here. In case he misses us standing over there. You know how he is.”
“No one will steal it,” assures the red crossed man, guessing what Gwin was thinking. “It’s just a old book *prop* and not an old and rare book itself.”
“Oh yeah. Forgot.”
“The camera’s right over there. Remember?”
“Yeah I know. Hi Bert!” She waves to the cameraman, who hesitantly waves back.
“We should get up. The script demands we get up.” But Jill MacGill/Gwin was still thinking it’s a continuity error as she lays down the supposedly rare tome. Plus it could damage the spine keeping it open like that.
“We’ve seen this before, Pitch. That tome is ‘Winesap’.”
“I suppose it has to be, Bill.”
“Way down there, aren’t they?”
“Completely vertical, like I said.”
“And last time I checked — for the purposes of this shoot earlier today, you understand — we have yet another avatar that winks on and off while switching colors between green — cypress colored green, or the darker variety anyway — and silver.”
“Like Madame Silver,” Jill MacGill/Gwin tacks on, thinking they need to get back on script.
“The name is Emerald this time.” Axis checks the location behind the waterfall remotely. “But now she’s not there.”
“Could be other clues,” suggests Gwin. “Don’t give up so easily.”
So Axis scouts again and perhaps sees something else.
“He’s checking the water in Glinda. He’s in Glin, but holds the glass in Glinda, then scrutinizes it. The he wipes it down in Glin and starts again. Over and over it goes. He understands it is different over there. He’s afraid to step beyond the boundary, else…”
“Phantom,” completes Gwin.
“He’s trying to figure out why. Scientist?”
“No, they’re *both* over the line. Both in Glinda. A man and a woman. Adam and Eve, then?”
“Jeeeez. Could I have said, hmm, *3:30*?” gurgles a drunk Briney, struggling to recall the actual time he assigned for a rendezvous with Axis and Gwin. “Nah, I’m sure it was (*burb*) 4:30. Time for another drinkie poo or two, then. Bel-ievve I’ll try that Mole Juice Sur- (*burb*) Sur-prise next, hehehe.”
“Fish (*slurp*). So maa-ny fish at this damned lake.”
“You admit you are the girl that goes by California.”
“Cal, yeah. That’s me.”
“You have an unregistered navel. You declared All Orange back in 1914, before such things even existed. Do you admit you are also a time traveler?”
“I can admit that. I am allowed. Now… give me something hard.”
Natali Woodhull did not respond immediately. Then: “I’ve lived here since the lemony days. I know a thing about citrus.”
“Good for you Natali. Can I let Rocky in now? We must practice for the big ball 2 weeks from Friday. End of story. Completio.”
Natali paused again. “Not quite yet,” she decided. “As California, you are created by a man named Wilson, true?”
“I *am* Wilson. I am the 28th president of the United States of America born in Staunton, Indiana.” She smiled.
“But… you are a woman,” points out Natali.
They sat there for a while. They could hear Rocky rapping on the door of the coffee shop, saying stuff like, “come on,” and, “let me in already.” Finally he seemed to go away. Tronesisia nodded her head a little with this. “It’s going to be difficult for him to come back. He’ll get lost in the city lights, he will.”
“I’m sorry. But this is important. There’s a wall in this town of course. In olden days it was called the Green Monster, not because of its color but because it ate green — trees to be specific.”
“General Grant allows glimpse into Navelencia at Orange Cove,” says Tronesisia cryptically, and then reaches down to lift her metal shirt a bit, exposing the orange in question. “Green Monster. It has a hole in the center.” She circles the navel with a silver index finger, then lowers the shirt back and beams blue eyes at Natali. “I heard you used a recording of our signature song for a dance last week.”
“I did,” admitted Natali, hoping Tronesisia wasn’t mad about the borrowing (what was *that* about?). “But just for a particular customer. On a whim, if you will. I got it from Chris.”
“Did it have a certain effect?” Tronesisia’s pace was crisp and precise.
Natali didn’t know. She recalls she was really into it. Trance dance. “I’m not sure,” she offered. “Can you explain?”
Tronesisia got up out of her chair and danced the same exact dance, right there on the spot. Natali Woodhull’s mouth remained agape at the beginning. How? she thought. How?
And then she began to remember.
There was a ship.
“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.”
122/122, thinks Baker Bloch playing Pitch Darkly. Accidental uncovery — The Diagonal has power still! As researcher Angus Nuffin, aka Sid, has recently stated. Fantastic. A way to take focus off of the Omega continent and back onto Heterocera. I *knew* there was more to find here. Energy still present. Let’s see how Sid fits on the bed (but mustn’t linger).
Ahh, yes. Perfect. This feels right.
Angus Nuffin/Sid. Back on the case again.
In the Sister sim of VHC City, Sid stands on The Diagonal at 148/148 and notices a diagonally placed stack of books.
149/149: He stares at a blocked grey wall full of white lettered names. “Songwriters and Musicians” they are collectively labelled.
Back to the book stack, which you can sit upon. Quite a few poses. Being a dad himself (and a swell one in our estimation!), he likes how the stack is made by DaD Designs. Sid picks up a book from the pile, opens it at random, and begins reading:
For over a year he had been beating his way along the south shore of Lake Superior as a clam digger and a salmon fisher or in any other capacity that brought him food and bed. His brown, hardening body lived naturally through the half fierce, half lazy work of the bracing days.
Fisher again, he thinks. Fisherman. Change of name. Just around the corner in the next room is an Apple Fall Sunbleached Sete — directly on The Diagonal this time. Can he take the book in there to read further?
Yes, but at 142/142 he quickly, almost instantly, falls asleep and has a dream about craftily editing fig leaves.
He wakes up, gets up, stares down at the couch. Midday already. Quite a nap, he thinks, and ponders on the dream he then remembers. 2 statues trying to make their way through a trapping waterfall into a brave new world. Bickering about which sex is stronger, and who will take on which role. Adam and Eve, he realizes. The couch did this. Fall from Perfection.
But he better teleport back to the trailer and feed the dogs (Newte and Jaspo); they won’t eat for anyone else in the family, not Ragdoll, not Indigo, and certainly not the rather seedy dimension skipper they took on as a boarder since Collagesity novel 9 ended who presently goes by the name of Golden Jim. Sid had unspoken plans for him, though.
“You have to pay attention to everything around you. But it all must reference back to The Diagonal somehow.” He stared at Golden Jim in front of him, standing on said line just like himself. “How does it feel?”
“No different than anywhere else,” confessed his current boarder, a fellow shapeshifter like Angus (Sid Viscous — present in the scene), and his daughters Indigo (Vanille Mills) and, now — as of the end of the last Collagesity novel — Ragdoll (Shirley Boot). Just passing through, he said. But Angus/Sid knew differently. “No different than back in the trailer, for example.”
“You’ll get the hang of it,” encouraged Sid, knowing the strange yellow dude was lying. He turned to his right. “Now let’s go see what we have with Ms. Snowwhite Well.”
“See? This image has recently been seen in The Bakers’ blog as an element of Fisher’s dream nightmare over in Braynard’s Place.” Sid quotes the ending line here: “‘Whom Bee Thee?’ See how *well* this works, Golden?”
“I’ll have to check when we get back to Collagesity.” But Golden Jim knows how The Diagonal functions, and, indeed, it works very very well.
“Time to go on some tangents. Hope you brought your walking shoes.”
Golden Jim looks down. “I must confess that I did not.” But that was also a lie.
A mysterious object appears along The Diagonal at 193/195 Miata. Oscar the cat is *very* curious about what’s inside.
Once again, Golden Jim knows more than he’s letting on.
“Gonna be a cold one tonight, Bendy. But you make a great stove — quite toasty.”
“Thank you. I try.”
Fisher thinks this could be one of those nights he also employs Bendy for that other thing they don’t talk about much. Sure wish Lisa V. was here, he laments. I wonder how she is — way over there on the Corsica continent in her big ol’ houseboat. *Alone* hopefully.
Lisa the Vegetarian Smipson just found out about David Jaspers and her best friend Linda Halsey. That’s *it*, she steams. I’m leaving this stupid cartoon town and *never* coming back!
Madame Silver’s yellow figure is stuck no more, thanks to the fix by recently promoted Doll Pedlar Inc. employee Herbert Dune.
However, he appears to be in the doghouse with her tonight…
… but it’s actually just another, larger dollhouse they’re testing out.
She’s done with him for now. He knows this ensures another sale, though. Rich rich rich, up up up!
A mysterious stranger appears in Adgatetown knowing the whereabouts of Lisa’s missing brother Bartholomew.
Red? ¡Ay, caramba!
Funny how I’ve been banned for 30 minutes from that central property, just for sitting at that table and attempting to grab an orange. Better send replacement Snoupy in for a shot instead. Must – get – oranges!
He checks his watch. *Or*, I could just wait the now 19 minutes remaining and explore some of the rest of this Adgatetown. David Jaspers, Linda Halsey — wonder if they’re still here. And of course Lisa V., the real reason for the visit. Bartholomew. I know where he is. I know where all the Smipsons are: Homer, Marg, Grandpaw, Magee, even the aunts Selma and Louise. I know who shot Mr. J. R. Burns. And I know why Lisa can’t find any of them. She has evolved.
Two kids playing on a jungle gym linked together with red, blue, yellow pentagons. Wait: there’s green there too. Sometimes that is forgotten in the mix of primary colors.
Maybe like Lisa and Bartholomew when they were children. Innocent days of youth. Before the Big Change. One made it through the waterfall, the other didn’t. Lisa casts a shadow and evil is born. Projected onto the boy.
They are acting out a play: The boy dreams of life on an elephant, but can’t make it there himself. For the girl: smooth sailing.
What game are they playing now? The one where blue wins and red loses? That happens all the time.
What about yellow on the edge? Oh, there’s the father or guardian showing up. Perhaps come to gather them up and take them home to a nice, delicious warm meal prepared by the significant other while he was out hard at work selling encyclopedias or something. Nice suit.
But when Marion Harding also stopped at the edge of the circle, only one child was still within. The dancing one. The one who cast the shadow.
Oops. Past time to take a pic with those oranges!
the difference between Jaspers and Adgatetown remains opaque
“You know she left town more because of me,” spoke Linda Halsey earnestly to new beau David Newton Jaspers. They were standing on the East Bridge of Adgatetown, the only place they’d ever known or ever would know. Narrow perspective. “I hate to put you down, put you in your place.”
“Wanna listen to some more Chalcedony tonight? I downloaded it from a pirate site. It’s before Dyslexia Cornfield the drummer left. Good stuff.” He pauses, considering. “What were you saying?”
“Never mind.” She takes his arm and dreams about blue tomorrows.