He approached the other bush cautiously. “Are you my son?” He waited. “I’m looking for my son.”
The wind continued to blow.
“I should be finished with journal 9 in 2 weeks or less, Robert Drake Johns. Then we will reassess the situation.”
“That’s great, Older Mabel,” spoke the tall, lime green robot seated beside her. His voice was nasal compared to most mechanoids of his type — Mabel designed him this way to appear slightly comical to her and help lighten the mood sometimes. Because the mood was dire in many instances. The Wastelands held nothing back.
“I’m wondering when The Monster will return,” started RDJ again. “Sally lives on the edge of the Deep Dunes but hasn’t seen or smelled anything in 2 weeks or more. The Axis powers may have won the war, but they haven’t been especially active conquerors… let us do what we please, when we please.”
“Oh they’re around.” She scribbles quickly once more. “Right now I’m seeing a narrow boat, mired deep in the high sands. Two children — no, a child and a man, actually an older man. Then another, observing man. No, sorry again, a woman but with many eyes, some which could be masculine. Actors and Observers again, Robert Drake Johns.”
“I miss my cousin,” said RDJ out of the blue. “I miss Cardboard. The character and not the substance, although that has disappeared too. All metal and rust now; little plastic as well.”
“And parchment,” added Mabel brightly. “Thank Gods for parchment.”
She was leaning so far over that I’m surprised her head wasn’t hitting the window pane in the back. But Nataly was doing a good job explaining the story so far. Let’s take a listen…
“Pen is the evolution of The Pencil, Dear Reader. And so our saga continues, just 4 long, long years later. New Island has become post-apocalyptic. What is the disaster that caused this? you should ask. Increase of sand, increase of terrain and elevation; increase of *The Wastelands*. The Tilers moved in first, took over the Fries with Cheese property downtown and destroyed the church. Hopefully we’ll get to the continuing challenges of basement dwellers Mrs. Fogg and Ms. Frame soon, thrown together for protection, food, and liberty. Young Shirley Boot ceases to be 12, but has progressed no further than the first day of her 13th year, frozen in time because of the… catastrophe — we’ll certainly get to that shortly. Not-so-young Ruby also remains middle-of-15, unable to transverse the ages 16 17 18 to reach the 19 she should be by this point. And Mabel: Mabel remains old but child-like. She’s taken to wearing her Hannah Montana outfit 24/7, and this is most likely the effects of the radiation as well — affecting her brains and not what. She’s remodeled Robot Derak Jones to become Robert Drake Johns, probably another symptom since he’s as lime green as her now. Ahh, now we get to Sally. For Sally is perhaps an even stranger one. Founder of New Yd, evolution of the Tilers, she now keeps watch on the Deep Dunes for sign of The Monster, who continues to roam New Island and where aging *is* effected. The Man in the High Castle makes sure of that. Perhaps we should join him and his current crew next for more answers. Thank you for listening, and have a super night!”
Nataly removed the mike from her long, long neck and stood up. “How was that David?”
“How long has it been, Tessa?” an older Grandpa wheezed. He was the more valuable platinum through and through now.”
“4 years. You’re old, Grandpa. You need to rest here a while.”
“Is my tie on straight? Can you tell my teeth from my face still?”
“You look great,” his grand niece lied.
“Send her in, then. We must get the pricing over with.”
Liana the owner enters her heavily windowed coffee shop and immediately begins hanging tapestry. This was not who they were expecting. Where’s Sally?
Looks like Grandpa will live to see another day.
“Who are you?”
Tessa suddenly understood. “Um. This is not good, Grandpa.”
“Don’t get up sir.”
Angus Nuffin was happy. He knew this would be his last night as a chef at Perch Restaurant. Last piece of tuna in the fridge — everything was set up. Yes, there’s his supervisor Dwayne coming round the corner after taking The Bill’s order.
“Nuffin, this is a *very* special customer. One grilled tuna for the new queen of Collagesity, *lightly* cooked.”
“Coming up boss.”
“And *don’t* sit around on the appliances if you’re not cooking. *Clean* or something.”
“Right you are boss.” Nuffin nimbly hops off the dishwasher and heads to the fridge.
“All right Dwayne you bastard,” Angus mutters under his breath. “Just move along so that I can burn this baby to an utter crisp.”
“I recognized him immediately, The Bill.”
“Bill will do. We’ll think about the royal appellation later.”
There you go.
“Okay. But it was definitely Smelly Santy. You remember — from the Mission. The eggs, Bill. They must have killed him (!). The Bennington experiments.”
“Nasty place. Even I would admit that.”
“Dwayne, a complaint from the customer at Table D.”
An invisible cartoon boy, Martha Lamb thinks, studying Falmouth 36 once more on the 4th floor of the Fal Mouth Moon gallery. Hugged and loved by a visible cartoon girl with red shoes. Perhaps they are future lovers, or perhaps brother and sister. Maybe he has a defect that hides him from view — a malady — but is loved by his sister still. Odd that I think this, she ruminates.
Then over here, further away in a field, the inversion: girl invisible and boy visible. The “E” on the next collage over blinks on and off. This *is* love; mutual exchanging.
If I could just *reach* into the collage… somewhere about… here.
Or is it here?
So close yet so far. How to get from there…
… to here. Swish away the pain into the ice and snow and make it all go away. Football successfully kicked.
“‘Copyright Protected Image’,” she read from the picture in front of her. “And to think I was going to get rid of all this in Collagesity, Sid my dearest. But now I think it is a gateway to the Great Beyond, fries and liquor be damned.”
“You shouldn’t say that about your church,” Sid offered. “You were so devoted to it before.”
She turned to him. “The Diagonal changed me, made me into a true woman. I was like two-dimensional before. *You* changed me.”
“Yeah, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that…”
“All that’s left is the hand and how to break through. Without pain. They say that there’s no gain without pain, but I’m thinking of something else.”
“Yeah, Martha. I need you to listen tonight.”
She went on. “It’s the 36th collage of this series all right. I’ve been studying it nightly for going on half a week now. The Diagonal is giving me energy to understand.”
Sid grabbed her hand in order to stop her. “Listen, Martha. We need to talk. About The Diagonal.” He let go of her hand. “We can’t use it in that way any more.”
“No?” Her voice was suddenly far away, as across a field.
“No,” he said firmly. “I need to tell you the story of who I really am, how I really got here. It all started with the firing.”
“Firing?” Tears formed in her eyes despite her efforts. “What firing?”
In the middle of the night, Rabbid Baumbeer types up his report on the unfortunate blue bird-man sprawled out on the table behind him. It took the wannabe doctor most of yesterday to sew the head back on, plus extract all the fluid he could. Precious bodily fluid, he thinks. One day my study of it will take me far away from here and such poor, pitiful creatures.
“Ooh,” he says, studying the data in front of him. “Says here there’s formaldehyde in there already. Looks like this big red dude was planning on keeping him well preserved, perhaps for future rituals. What a sicky!” Yes… far away from here.