We begin where the last one ended. On a map of Nautilus continent in my Collagesity skybox, the full view this time. Because this go ’round we’re going to tackle the whole thing. We’re not at one of of those nodal photo-novels yet but we’re closing in. Preparations must be made. Alysha jumps off the pin representing NO Tor and proceeds northward, intending to find Ruby the tall, green alien, perhaps Martian but also perhaps not. The qualified doctors would know, but Dr. Mouse the unqualified as it turned out, doesn’t have access to that information, that file. Ruby Alien remains, thus, a…
two to know
He was waiting on his brother, who was coming up from the south.
Yeah, yeah, he thinks, I could *talk* to that white lady over there about my brother and also who she’s waiting on, if anyone. I’m a social guy, you know. But — look at that look — I can tell she doesn’t like black people, or is at least scared of them. Why if I moved over one chair closer to her she’d probably call the cops on me, even though I may have a perfectly good reason to do so. What if I just found out that cokey cola was spilled under my chair, and my shoes were getting all sticky as a result. Yeah, yeah, that could be a *legitimate* reason for moving one chair down. And, let me see (he glances over out of the side of his eye), that would still leave one chair between us. But, no, that darn white woman would probably call the cops on me, or at least airport security.
He simmers down, but then starts again when he catches her eye once more, just trying to look at the plane outside. Southern Cross, he thinks. I mean, the name was *right* behind her. What was I suppose to do? Get out of my seat, go to the window — *not* getting too close to her or walking too close to her in the process — and *then* check out the (plane and the) name? No, no, all this what they call *systemic* racism isn’t for me. As soon as my brother arrives we’re going to go back to my island resort and *stay* there. No more wandering around in public. I’m *through* with white people. Had it.
Oh: an announcement.
Southern Cross representative: “We’re sorry to inform you that Flight 215 that was suppose to arrive at 3:15 with 415 passengers aboard…” He stops, putting his hand to his head, rubbing his eyes as if crying (he wasn’t).
Lance A. Lott gasps in the gap. Crashed? he thinks. All aboard — dead? Representative Johnson Protocol rustled his papers nervously here, starting to sweat. The droplets then make their way over his eyebrows down onto his cheeks, eventually dribbling down to the floor. To an outside observer, and knowing this was his first day on the job (thanks Uncle Stan!), it would be understood that he just lost his place and is searching for the right page that continues the announcement. But to L.A. (as his friends call him), the pause and apparent crying seemed to be a harbinger of bad bad news. Smokey dead! And that’s about all the family I have left.
“… is 515.” the representative finally continued, restarting at the top of page 2 which contained only these 2 words. Anxiously stacking his papers against the podium, he takes his leave with this.
515? he thinks. Wtf??? He looks over at the white woman, who doesn’t seem to be very concerned. Does she know what this means? Does she even care? Is she waiting on someone from this flight? Maybe she’s just happy *she* wasn’t on that plane. Maybe she knew someone was going to die today here and is just relieved it isn’t her. Strange thoughts. Must be from that horror movie he watched the night before. “Losst”, it was called, with an extra “s” to emphasis that all the people in the show, yes, were really, truly lost. “We get it,” he said at 1/2 past 6, stuffing more buttered popcorn between his lips and thinking he should get to sleep early this night so that he can rise at the crack of dawn and go wait for his brother over at the regional airport. My long lost brother, he thinks. Another lost angel. Peter from the show falls down into a camouflaged cannibal trap in the middle of the jungle, giving him a chuckle. But enough: *switch*. TV off.
The white lady looks at him now, even leans toward him. She’d heard the gasp, seen the confused look on his face. “515” she measured out. “It means delayed.”
“Oh.” Lance A. Lott wipes sweat from his own brow with this, trying to act like he at least *thought* that’s what it meant. She returns to her start position, which means systemic racist position. Don’t come any closer, the posture and attitude warned. Or I’ll call the cops or at least airport security. I’ve given you the information you need, you dirty [blank]. Now we are done.
“Picturetown, huh?” He glanced back at his prospective new customer, unable to see the holes in his head from this angle. Well, he *does* take the flights that no one else will cover, including flying to imaginary countries, counties, and cities if needed. Last week it was Oz. Week before: Wonderland. One of the Alices wanted to go home to visit a sick aunt who might or might not be on her deathbed, hard to tell. But she had to find out. Then before that: he couldn’t recall. Maybe Texarkana. “Sure, I’ll do it,” he said, not wanting to delay his reply any longer, wanting to exude confidence that he could get the job done. He’s checked all the maps in the meantime. No Picturetown in Canada or anywhere else in the world. But he’ll get him there. All he needs is the coordinates, and he can get them from Chuck and his special computer tapped into the Lemon World, the one no one is suppose to know about. Chuck connects him to the fantasy lands, and for that he gets a hefty wage in *real* money, not that fake green crap they peddle at, say, Oz. Rubles, someone tried to hand him the other day after a flight to Borneo. “No rubles,” he said in return. “*Real* money,” and he kept his hand out until actual, metal coins were laid in it, signifying a completed sales transaction. Paper money doesn’t hack it for our Marion “Star” Harding, former ace pilot in the World Wide Web War, version 2.0. Since then they’d come out with 3.0 and he was back at his desk, back to being a private pilot specializing in the weird and even profane, like sneaking the elf hookers out of Santaland and back to Easter Isle where they belong. Bunnies, he thought here. Nothing but bunnies. “5:15 tomorrow okay for you?” he asked the prospective customer, working with numbers on his computer at the same time he thought all this other stuff.
opposite sides of arms can be different
“Thanks for serving me bottles, guys. I don’t care much for cans, because of the name and all. Pepi “Can” Kolya at your service. I say that so you can see me for who I am, like friends.” It was here they noticed the holes in the head, and why this dude probably just missed his flight out of here to a fantasyland of his choosing. The Lake will do that to you; lull you to sleep. This Starfish.
“‘Nother one, bud?” asked one or the other, take your pick.
“Nah, better amscray. Gotta catch a 5:15 outta here.”
“6:15, now,” said the one that didn’t talk before, the other bartender. They may have been twin brothers but they may not be as well: picks again.
“Whattt??” exclaimed Koyla. He’d been following the wrong time zone, which was the right time zone before crossing the Centalia Line. He liked to be conveniently late but 1+ hours won’t hack it. He’d have to reschedule.
“Another one bites the dust,” says Marion “Star” Harding to his Project Humboldt v1.4 CM plane, use to it. “Fantasy people, pheh.”
“I hear ya,” he imagined the plane saying back to him through his or her propeller.
“This *arm* of the lake,” he spoke to me, well aware that his own arm represented the other at the moment, “is private, say, from the elbow down. But the shoulder to the elbow, where it’s glued to the rest of the body?: well, that’s something else. That’s where *I* fit in. And a good deal of others like me.” He looks to the water with this, and others of his kind dotted here and there. Like these fishermen, good men all, except for the one they call Blackbart staring in a different direction from the rest.
“Any of you boys got any… coke?”
“L-leave us alone, Blackbart,” spoke the stockier fisherman on the pier. Trying to ignore the just arrived renegade seaman, an ex special op naval medic discharged for mechanical reasons some say wrongly, didn’t work for the pair and now they would have to interact. “We’re just simple fisherpeople. We don’t deal with *cans*.”
“Or bottles,” spoke the other fisherman in a thinner voice to his counterpart. “It comes in bottles in this part of the country still. Bottles too,” he doubled down.
“Okay, okay,” exasperated Gemini Roadhouse McCutcheon Sullivan O’Reily. Most just call him Al, as will we. He was eager to keep the story moving, going past the whole bottle vs. can war of the 50’s and perhaps the 70’s as well, hard to tell because time was slipperier back then and had more variant arms to it. Like this particular arm of Starfish Lake, which some call the Starfish Sea because it is a pretty big lake, and could logically be bumped up on the scale of water body names. Up here, say, it’s the 70’s still, and cans are all the rage. Go past the elbow and suddenly you’re in the 50’s and the only Elvis singing on the radio is the white one. Bottles everywhere; they just threw them on the ground when done with their sodey pop back then. Littering was okay back in the day. Heck, they even made posters touting the benefits of such. Don’t have to hire garbagemen, a whole arm of the city workforce deemed unnecessary. An arm for an arm they said back in the day, which is still today past the elbow again mind you. Luther, the other fisherman was from up near the
head hand of the arm (Hand o’ Arm), what they call Fingerboro, another fantasyland, then, I suppose. His mother father’s house was actually made from bottles, discarded waste put to use. The farsighted fisherman had glasses made out of bottle bottoms; his first hat was bottle caps stitched together to make a whole. Basketball? Try bottleball: it was a heck of a sport to try to keep up with with all the cracking and cutting. You’re lucky if your star kid came back from such a war with both his arms intact. But of course they could just grow another one if so.
d & b
“We have something, Hucka, er, W. Something not from the Oracle but directly from the land. BAT overlaps a southern wall of BATfield (sim) just beyond.”
“Here’s a link to this Bat d’ Af which I knew nothing about before. Probably, most likely, just an accidental overlap or conjunction, highlighted here through my photo.”
I wondered about Marilyn being involved too. Breezy.
“Kolya *does* rule this land. It’s as if it all takes place in his rain damaged head.”
“Upper part,” elaborates [delete name]. “The lower still belongs to bottles.”
“Okay,” I responded, happy for the half.
“I need to get out of here, sir. I’ve tried air, I’ve tried water. I’ve even tried land.”
The old man chuckled. “You’re a funny one, Kolya. Drinking from a bottle. Talking about *leaving* here, heh. Why would anyone want to exit such peace and harmony? You’ve seen the waterfall that rules us all. We’re all under the umbrellas under the rainbow, safe and sound. Mama’s home. Good cook’n.” Marvin Baggy licks his lips and pats his belly satisfactorily here, then kicks his feet out, props them against the white porch railing of the ranger tower that has become a popular hangout for the old and feeble. Someone further north — or perhaps east — told Kolya he could get answers here. Maybe they were pulling a prank on him, especially since they told him to make sure to drink out of a bottle down there (or over there) and not a can. “That’ll give you away,” the man said to him, or perhaps it was a woman. A tomboy, yes, that was it, a grown up tomboy, Asian in race if not complexion, which was instead red.
“Ahh, I feel sorry for ya, stranger,” admitted the geezer on the porch of the tower, waiting for the others to show up. Bingo night tonight, and afterwards some kind of rave I’m sure. Always is. Sometimes the young’n’s (as they call them; some: whippersnappers) down at the bar have to complain about the noise and the lateness of it. Ahh, yes. Salty Bobs’ a sleepy place in comparison, full of stoners taking naps and druggies shooting craps. Dice are not that noisy if covered with fuzz, which they always are soas not to wake the stoners. Originally designed to dangle from the rear view mirror of your car, the ornaments have moved inside and reacquired their original purpose, shrunk down a bit in the process.
“Someone’s coming down from the old house, Nick,” spoke Gotham on the couch, probably already stoned out of his mind and thus the lack of a joint or bong. “I can *feel* it.” He lifts his arms in the air while still reclining, much like a clairvoyant does just before channeling a spirit hovering somewhere nearby, ready to enter the body. Gotham’s own body starts convulsing. It worked! He quietens down; he stares glazy eyed at the roof of the establishment, ignoring the sea barnacles and peering directly into the great beyond.
Nick Barton looks over, notices the grey in his beard. “Isn’t it about time you moved up the hill to the old folk’s place and livened up a bit? You’ll turn into a corpse just laying there like that!” Nick flushes and turns toward the crappers on the other side, emitting a small “sorry” for shouting.
Concert tonight in Harmony Heights. The Rolling Joints, coming all the way over from Minnesota or Michigan, a long long ways indeed. They’ll obviously play their recently released hit single from the 70’s called “Money” to get to the root of the problem. This is a band with a strong political statement, and with their 3rd eyes squeegeed wide open, they know what it’s *all* about. Everything. They have a direct talk with God on at least a weekly basis, and I mean *direct*. Strangely he doesn’t appear to them as a flamey bush or a fiery, golden sphere or anything you would imagine, but a horned deer, a stag, claiming to actually be named Jon but without the usual “h”. He’ll yell something like, “get it the hell out of here!” when you insert such between the “o” and the “n” of his true, tripart title (they claim). “The 4th is not to be found anywhere upon my being or my soul!” Jon-God doesn’t like the number 4, and, in turn, usually leaves it out when he’s calling the citizens and denizens of Earth. Tip for the trippers, then: that’s how you know who’s dialing.
They hired these tree sized deer in order to appease their master. Twirling, early bird groupie Confusion Animesh obviously approves (stumble/*fall*).
The rest of the concertgoers will shortly be crowding the stage. The band will go on as soon as they finish talking to Jon.
a farmer and his dog
They’re building a roadway to heaven, these Harmony Heighters, but it seems a long way from finished. Maybe the oldies and young’n’s can’t agree on a direction, wouldn’t it be typical.
The road begins here, just behind the Commons House.
“I’m not talking to you this morning, *kid*,” grumpily spoke just risen Jack Pants without turning around, digging into his first stack of sausage pancakes.
“No, I’m not talking to *you*, gramps,” responded up-at-crack-of-dawn sixteen year old Nick Barkley also without pivoting, having finished his blueberry yogurt and granola breakfast 3 hours ago and just staring into space and killing time before the typically delayed group meeting.
Nick got little sleep on account of Jack DJ’ing at the ranger house until 2:30 in the morning, starting with the traditional “B-I-N-G-O”, which the oldies sang with gusto at the top of their lungs after a completed game of same.
(to be continued)
Often while waiting on one of his fantasyland clients to show or not show up, Marion Star Harding revisits the past through these series of pictures along the southern wall of his Southern Cross Airport hanger. Flying Cowboy, my first plane, he ruminates here. Star meant a different thing back in those days before the coming of newspapers and accompanying coffees and cigarettes. Simpler times, where the only reading occurred when you were perusing the assembly instructions for the latest flight device you’d just purchased.
Speaking of which: his still uncompleted bi-plane. Didn’t come with any paperwork. “I’ll finish it one day,” he speaks aloud to his completed plane just behind, thanking the Gods again that at least the old Flying Cowboys gang chipped in to help him finish that one. Else: no business! No flying fantasy people *anywhere*.
He then moves to the southwest corner of his hanger to check progress on that crazy, upward spiraling road his neighbors are building. Not much accomplished since last week, which puzzles him since he doesn’t know about the whole young’n vs. oldie war they’re going through right now.
Back to coffee cigarette and paper at his desk.
He should still be hopping mad but he couldn’t help cave in to his emotions.
“I love you, my little Sapphire, and I always will. No matter how many bong hits you take, no matter how many hitchhikers you pick up on the side of the road and then take to the nearest motel to make uninhibited love.”
“Oh dad,” she complained again. “You’re *soo* behind the times. But — I love you too.” She kisses him on the cheek and promises not to solicit any more wanderers of the highway until at least she’s set up at the motel.
My twin sister, thought a white woman nearby. Didn’t even come to the airport to see me off. Busy with her *Social Circle*. White supremacists, pheh. Might have well be dressed as white rats for a Nazi lab experiment going way too right for them, cheese nabbed every time. Well she wasn’t biting. And she’d met a man while here, one who prefers to go simply by L.A. Doris can know *nothing more* of him, she understands that now. But they’ll keep in touch.
The bearded man reading an ancient book of spells sees and hears everything.
(to be continued)
Finally finished with the bong hits and passing it on, school jock Nick Barkley reveals something to sometimes friend always lover Nef R. Titi about himself that he’s never done before.
“I think (*snort*)… that I’m becoming a (*choke*)… head (*final exhale*).
“You *think*,” she exclaims back with likewise glazed eyes. Might as well be 2 deer in the headlights.
“No (*wheeze*)… you don’t… understand.”
“Oh, I understand.” Nef was always under control, no matter how high she was, or so she claimed. Inside she had her doubts of course.
Nick just decided to lay down the cards and show her.
Open mouth response here; yes, she had finally lost control. She tumbled tumbled tumbled into the dizzying darkness, only to land at the bottom without something of her own. Her last name.
“I don’t know who I am!” she yelled in the blackness of the pit.
She was about as far away from a cowgirl as you could get. But Marion Star Harding, cowboy for life, thought he was falling for this punk of a gal with her Mohawk haircut and razor blade eyeglasses and matching belt. She hadn’t even disclosed her last name yet; only went by Heidi. He tried to dig it out of her, and then dig it out of the internet. No go. Heidi plain and simple she was. For now: maybe later, he thought happily, she would be Heidi Harding, maybe even add a star in the middle for good luck. Heidi Star Harding. Sounds good. Maybe no need to know the maiden name. Or a married name if she had a previous husband. Turns out she had 4, with a 5th on the way.
“Cut!” the actor/director cried while standing up and getting out of character. “Great guys. See you tomorrow at 9.”
For our next filming location, we were in Trevally, holed up in a small but rather famous, local motel called Moglins Mote, with the missing “l” at the end being intentional, we were told, although no one seems to know the reason why. Heidi and I sat up most of the night watching art films on the tv, simply because the bed didn’t have any animations. Unexpected, obviously: we eventually fell asleep in each others arms on the couch. My back hurt in the morning. My neck as well. Heidi complained of knee problems. Yet we had to be out there at 9am, shooting with the rest of the cast and crew, Heidi’s orders. They all had the same problems with the beds. Understandably we decided to shorten our stay here, and perhaps cut back on the whole Lance A. Lott – Smokey brother re-bonding story due to be resolved in this sim. I saw Heidi with her pencil crossing out line after line on the script this morning, reaching down to rub her knees at various intervals. Actors Morris and Van Jimson, also brothers in real life, will likely be notified of the reduced lines and accompanying pay later today or tomorrow. Heidi is both fast and thorough, which makes her a top notch director in the business, right up there with fellow surrealist Eraserhead Man and the rest. But Heidi loathes comparisons with the Great Pencil, being his doppleganger and all beneath the surface, an unknown, intimate connection to most, although they play around with the truth by sharing motifs between their movies, even openly dealing with the doubling aspect at times. He was born a pencil and she a pen, but she decided to adopt a fully human body to more effectively play the lead heroine in her own films, and perhaps in other films in time. But right now she had her hands full with her own, and the flow of ideas didn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
It was odd to date Heidi both in real life and in “Sunklands 2021 Middle Too”, with the director part adding even more queer reverberations to the mix. When we make love sometimes, I think it is Heidi the character beneath me — or beside me or on top of me or whatever. Not Heidi the director/actor. It’s almost as if — only sometimes mind you — the characters we play are more real than ourselves, and that Heidi likes it that way. We are subsets of them and not visa versa.
“One more night in this place,” she says to me from the side, razorblade garb still in place. It’s starting to get a little freaky.
“I think I’ll just sleep right here in the pool,” I responded, and leaned back into the water, staring at the stars while floating until all turned to black.
“Oh we get that all the time,” spoke the one who wasn’t crying. “We’re *sisters*, though. *Not* lovers.”
“Speak for *yourself*,” the other said, the one who wasn’t scowling. “I’ve always thought you had a hot bod.”
“*You’re* the looker. And everyone knows, crying is more acceptable for a girl to do than, well, what I do. And I’m *not* scowling, baker b. You can stop writing that in your blog.”
“Well, um, what do you do here? (pause) In the land of Bottles?”
“We stare at silhouettes,” the one who wasn’t crying deadpanned back.
I was at one hundred and I had more clues ta boot. Something about Bottles vs. Cans — the Centalia Line which may be east-to-west but also north-to-south, depending on the direction. Either direction time and space change. Something is different here from where, say, Marion Star Harding works at the Southern Cross Regional Airport above the line, sometimes flying fantasy people back to their original homes. Didn’t work for rain damaged Kolya but perhaps it should. I need to catch up with him.
I decided to return to the sisters for one last question but they said they didn’t know their near neighbor Marion. Another glance at the silhouettes and I could tell they were lying. Plus they were now cuddled up awfully close for sisters.
armed and dangerous
He said he felt awful and he was going to go lie down but no one believed him, this liar of a man formerly known as Jer Ronamy, the last of the old style Bottle Crunchers. Star guard he was back in the day, and the only one of his teammates not to lose an arm — I guess the shortness could have factored in here, for Jer was barely 5’5″, real real small for a ball player, even in those days. 8 foot tall Ruby Alien was here to turn the team’s recent misfortunes around, but they had to allow girls on it first. The non-crying and crying sisters had tried for years but had been rejected again and again, despite their athletic prowess. Jer Ronamy and the other old stars with him who still had big pull said they didn’t lie enough to be on Crunchers and that you had to get under the, say, Can Crushers’ skin by yapping about how their momas did this and that and all kinds of made up crap. Crunchers vs. Crushers was a big big thing back in the times before the line changed everything, screwed up time itself and probably space along with it, since the two seem to go hand in hand most spots. So the sisters started trying real real hard, saying they weren’t sisters but no one believed them, since they knew their mother Allison real well, or at least their own mothers did. To be a good liar you had to be believable. Take, for example, the crying sister’s obviously crocodile tears beside the open casket here, since everyone knew she despised Jer Ronamy and everything he had done to her and Ginger. Finally got a name. I guess this is Mary Anne present. The debate about who is the hottest will go on in time; outlive the old Bottle Crunchers themselves.
“If I had wings like this I could do a lot better. But instead: hooves. *Horns*.”
Recently deceased Jer Ronamy remained confused. Was he or was he not talking to God?
They buried him in the new section of the cemetery dedicated to non-Hollywood stars, because Jer Ronamy, ex 5’5″ star guard for the local pro high school team the Bottle Crunchers, certainly wasn’t Hollywood big, like Frank Baum or John Ritter or something. His family couldn’t even afford a tombstone, although they promised to purchase one later as soon as Uncle Stan’s airport scheme deal came through. Probably isn’t going to happen, understands Jer Ronamy standing beside his own grave as a disembodied spirit after everyone had left, still clinging to form but soon to give it up. Hummy the Hummingbird accompanied him on his visit, who was sent by the ones taking orders from the deer we just saw up above. Or make that down below?
“Can we go visit Beethoven’s grave while we’re here?” requested trilling Hummy. “I don’t get out that much; want to, er, *kill* as much time as possible before going back in.”
“Sure, sure.” He wasn’t ready to go back either. He still liked the feel of this body, despite the added weight. He died way too young. He heaves a big sigh and follows Hummy over to the actual, famous people, the ones with tombstones.
*Only nine symphonies,” laments the colorful, vibrating bird. “Should have been 19.”