There were all kinds of environments he could paint in. This one was just regular Midday, a default setting, actually one of his favorites and always easy to “reach”. Time was controllable in this land of two, initially in a fourfold way (Sunrise, Midday, Sunset, Midnight), and, with some additional quick adjustments, any time atall could be produced. Then, going beyond defaults, there were the customized environments, many in number. I’m sure all seasoned Second Lyfers have a set of their favorites that they regularly use. Mine include Fairy dark blue, Cornfield, Cromac, and Lo Gun Light. But Midday is certainly handy for initially brightening up any scene. So here we are.
He knows this is not Black Lake, where the monster came from or identified with at least. So a positive situation. He must paint this body of water before him over and over again for healing, for purification. He must drink the water — boil it first, of course. Take it into his body. Eventually he must — become this body (of water). 2n1. 4n1 to 2n1 to 1n1. There. He is TILE.
He has found Home. Paperweight. Paperville but different. Root word: Paper. And Soap.
And then there he was. Soap National Park. In Paper.
(to be continued)
“Ahem. Gentlemen… and women. As you can see. We have a problem. With the Portal.”
“Why is it called *Moster*… sir?” Officer Jetski in back. He’d just checked the description, which most of the others sitting around the conference table had already done and came up with the answers themselves.
Chef-inspector Petty was trying not to turn around. The effect could be blinding. “Typo I suspect. Someone probably drunk when creating it. Or possibly a misleading name… can’t be traced back that way.”
Silence for a second except for the steady humm of the… well I think it called itself Dinah earlier on, or that’s what several of them thought they heard upon its appearance. Like an announcement: “Dinah: front and center.”
“I can’t get through.” Agent 47 up front.
“Me neither.” Agent 23 across from him. “It’s jammed…”
“… the system.”
Whatever followed Petty through the Portal to this sheriff’s office was taking over the whole of Soap.
(to be continued)
“New bar in town, Chief.”
“Don’t call me that. I’m not an Indian any more. I’m an *American*, dammit.”
“Sure you are Chief. Anyway, Gus and I…”
“Gus? Since when did you start calling yourself Gus, Ben?”
“Since, I don’t know, yesterday?” Distant but distinct.
“*Forever*,” countered Stan, formerly Stu. “You’ve always been Gus.” He turns to Chief. “He’s *always* been Gus.”
Slowly but surely, they traced all the confusion back to that birthday party where they summoned The Devil.
“Oh yeah,” spoke Ben at the time. “Guess that could have done it.”
holding a banana
“‘sunburn by noon, clammy at night, cracks in the earth, pavers delight'” She stopped quoting the poem she’d spontaneously made just 15 minutes ago while studying the damaged cement before her out of boredom; paid attention to a potentially paying customer approaching on same. We’ll see how this goes, she thinks.
“Yelloo!” Stu Umbriel said in greeting.
around the corner…
He recognized her immediately upon entering his pizza parlor, despite the black and white checkerboard makeup. Wheeler. She, of course, knew him as well. Knew he was *dead*: killed by a monster way back in VHC City in the olden days, before the coming of Mud and the parallel need for Soap. He took off his crown. He dared to sit down, confront her.
“H-how?” she uttered about his resurrection. I mean, she’d seen enough of them in the meanwhile but still — a bit of shock. He was stone cold dead laying on the floor when she found him. Heart attack. Couldn’t reach the pills in time. Surprise crocogator appearance through a thought-of solid wall did him in. They’d walked through the Fate Gate together, even, she escorting him to the afterlife. This is what he told her; she wasn’t physically there at the time; left when she found the body; alerted the authorities; cried her eyes out way into the night, The Musician, her other boyfriend at the time, seething on the other side of the bed, green with jealousy. She loved *him* more than *me*, he thought, although she was still with him, didn’t run wee wee wee all the way back to Collagesity like a broken piggie, even though she had supreme power there and not in VHC City. And now — The Musician was long back in the rear mirror, yielding to Axis and Opp both, take your pick. And now her new husband, she as Wendy Wilson Wheeler that is. Not really Wheeler any longer. All the old avatars had packed it up and moved to the White Palace, as Hucka Doobie liked to put it. But really: storage. Old yields to new. Continually.
“Jeffrey — Phillips?” Old Man Allen Martin, the resurrected one, didn’t like the sound of it. Then again, he wouldn’t like the sound of any of Wheeler’s lovers past himself. “How many down the road from me (and The Musician)?”
“4 — something like that. It’s complicated.”
“I bet it is.” He blew out air. “Well, yeah, I *died*. But then Soap cleaned me up, wiped away all the grime of a dirty grave. Plenty of Suds and Bubbles did the trick.”
“They *are* uplifting,” opined Wheeler, having caught the vaunted dancing troupe’s act in Collagesity 02 not long ago, Peter Ladd on his soapbox between them. The contrast of talent almost balanced out to mediocre but not quite. Skippy Bittman.
“You know, as much as I love this Nowhere Beach, Peter my nephew, I never can get use to those bodies.”
“They’re only trying to save themselves, uncle of mine,” he said back in his slightly cracking adolescent voice.
“Yeah I know. Still…”
The seagulls squawked. More were on their way.
Moon on drums
“Place the call, I.P. As — soon as you’re done with your soda.”
“Oh I’ll be done as soon as I dial these numbers don’t you worry.”
“Don’t — forget the 4.”
“Nah. Never.” All the numbers were dialed. Soda was running out.
“Hallo?” came the voice on the other end, a familiar one. Soda: done. I.P. could talk freely.
“Send them over (*click*).”
Kolya hangs up the phone; moves from bar to stage. “Guys, I hate to interrupt rehearsals but you’re needed down at the bay.”
Part of the band remained. The ones that weren’t real.
He stayed close to the green phone on the bar the rest of the evening. Just in case. Smoking hot Trudy Trickster was studying the back of his head, wondering how the holes got in. Toby Tangerine was mixing up another drink, perhaps a martini, but if so, doing it wrongly. Trudy was definitely not having any of that. Although a brilliant neurosurgeon, currently out on bail from Prison Hospital, Tobias, as his friends call him, was a botch of a bartender and had trouble making cornbread milk for his oldest and least complaining customer, nonagenarian Margret Thatch, due to turn 100 in June. “I’ll get a proper bartender to make your birthday drink that day,” he promised, thinking back to mentor Ted Bruiser and his prediction that he’d save as many lives as a doctor as he took away with the drink. “Balance, my pupil,” he spoke into his eyes, deep as pools, taking it all in. “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. *You* are The Lord.” He took his alternately skillful and skill-less hands from his side and held them up to his receptive face. “With these.”
Tobias Tangerine knew he wasn’t the Lord, but gosh darnit, if Margret didn’t enjoy that drink. At the same time, patient Gail Gordon died in Prison Hospital, operated on by the proper bartender who couldn’t make it.
The description just said “Shadow Girl”.
“Alysha?” he called up.
Then she was there with him, staring into what appeared to be the heart of the swamp taking up a big chunk of the sim. Chunkey was its name; perhaps a Chuckey within, without the “n” this time. Alysha would know. He asked her.
“Yellow fellow,” she replied, noting the sun was coming up. Soon safe to move.
“Yellow?” He looked over at Alysha, noted her race.
She took the note and ran with it. “Not that kind of yellow. Say you had a soda, you shook it up. What would happen?”
Kolya imagined an explosion. He said this.
“Correct. Imagine this explosion *inside* someone.”
She turned shadowy again. Kolya followed her out into the swamp itself, from whence she came.
He understood she was receding. Only armed with a minimal amount of info (probably enough, though), he was on his own again. In this Paper-y sim that this time wasn’t either Paperweight or Paper itself. A different Paper.
On to the sim rim swamp shack.
“Hi old man. What you got there (in the basket)?”
“STAY AWAY FROM MY CANDY!”
“Okay, okay.” He took a minute to let the scene reset to “normal”. “Let’s start again. I *promise* not to eat anything — there you go *again* (he waited for another reset). Now, I’m not going to take anything; just want to look.
Thaat’s better.” The demon inside the man didn’t return. Kolya was quite hungry but certainly wasn’t going to steal any of *this* food. Besides, sugar is bad for you. It will rot your head out given second chances. “Is it Halloween, old man? Or the day after?” Calm this time. He could hear the swamp bugs recede into day. He thought of Alysha, how she did the same. He was tempted to ask the old man if he knew her but decided he didn’t in his prescient ways. He looked for a door into the shack; didn’t see it at first because it blended into the drab gray-brown of the rest of the structure.
Did the person or persons within give this man candy? And candy is usually given to children on Halloween, hmm. Better just head inside.
Okay *this* is different.
“Arrr-kan-sawwww,” the eyes hissed in their mouth-less ways all around them. Or was it “Jerrrrry”? Let’s go with the former.
He remembered something: “Marble Falls, Marbles Fall,” he recited spontaneously. Nowhere to sit his own “I”. He’d have to leave the way he came in.
“GOOD LUCK FELLOW!” they said in unison as he made his way back out of the swamp and onto drier land.
“This is also a Mayberry,” she explained later in her House on the Hill. “We do not prejudice against black and white or coloreds. All are welcome here for resurrection.”
“What about Soap?” He knew the other Paper, the sim just named Paper itself, was accompanied by another sim of that name. “How do you, I don’t know, clean all the grime and dirt off from the grave… itself.”
“Child. You’re speaking nonsense.” She noted the holes in his head again. Marbles are loose somewhere in the world, perhaps this world. “Did you see Chuckey at the shack? You know, the swamp takes up basically half this Paper [delete name] sim. It’s a wet and dry war. Chuckey is my opposite. He (she pauses)… is (smaller pause) insaaaane.”
Kolya thought back to the eyes that uttered “Arkansawwww”. *Not* “Jerrrry”. He didn’t think.
“What, child, did you see there? *Hear* there?” She decided to just play the cards she was dealt. “Did you seeeee — *this*?”
“He took it over to Eyela in the Asylum to show her; plopped it down right on top of her unfinished jigsaw puzzle. It will never be finished. “What’s *this*?” she exclaimed while also tittering a bit. “Looks a little… like *me*.”
The book started screaming, low at first, then LOUD. She covered her ears and bent her single big eye down toward the floor, trying not to look any more as well.
Then it hissed the one word that no one in this alternate Paper sim wanted to hear.
“You cannot see me yet properly, *can* you… *Can*. Kolya, if you wish. I am both gray and brown to you. Thus: Gray Brown. That is my name. I am both black and white and colored. I am one tv swapped with another. I am your childhood, Can… Kolya. And I can be your adulthood.” She tried another pose.
“How about now?” she gurglingly asked, neck broken, facing the ceiling. “Does this ring a bell, spark a memory? Do you (she moved into a different pose; voice returned to normal) recall *killing* me? Hmmmm?”
“I don’t want to (sniff), I don’t — want…”
She was relentless. “I’m going to summon someone now, Can, someone who wants to talk to you. Someone: nervous.”
“Okay let’s CUT there for tonight; start fresh in the morning. Thanks everyone!”
Randy reads captioned synopses of potential shows to watch while eating his dinner (pizza). “Mystery Theatre, ‘House on the Hill’. Estranged sheriff’s niece summons nervous deputy back from the grave to help solve his own murder, no no no (*click*); Self Help Channel: ‘Taming the Banana Within’, nope (*click*); ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Man’: that might be good. Hmm, stars the same guy as the first. Oh well, here goes!” (captions off)
He wanted to scream but couldn’t open his mouth to do it. Stuck. Just like in life.
Realities were shifting around for him more rapidly than ever, almost at a blur’s pace now. Time to calm the hell down. Where’s that green phone and D Flat ring when you need it?
Lunchtime now. He wondered if any of these other dudes he was sitting with on this beam in the sky had any packets of mustard for his sandwich. He hated bologna without mustard. But with it: best thing ever. “Wanda forgot the mustard again,” he said to Fred beside him, lifting the top slice of bread to show the non-yellowness within.
Yellow yellow yellow. He was remembering something. Tumbling, he fell into a different reality, different universe really.
Wanda was with him, now called Hidi, true face hidden beneath towering blue hair. They had kids between them. Yellow ones, all beaming smiles at the camera. “Cheese!”
He tried to reach for the ringing phone but it remained just out of his grasp. Blue anyway; probably wasn’t for him, and neither was Wanda-now-Hidi and the in-between kids. And now he’s checking, the key is D, not D Flat. Too far away from Middle C to matter. Oh well. On to the next!
“Let me try!” Hidi exuded, poseball whisked away as she selected the next.
“Get it?!” she shouted down to Kolya far below after assuming the new pose. “I’m a banana!” Kolya didn’t get it, the one within not yet ready to be peeled. “Very appealing!” he shouted up, trying to be funny despite the confusion. The holes in his head began to hurt. He forgot to eat his sandwich before he left that one reality, but there was the problem with the mustard. Then, with vertigo induced by hunger apparently, he fell off the beam into a family centered by beaming yellow kids. Well, except for the middle one, who was too small to smile and just sucked on her pacifier to indicate being please in the moment. The camera’s eye moved onward…
Kolya selected one but it turned out to be Hidi’s pose again. “Whaddaya think? Giant tigers!” He’d seen this before. But where?
Then he remembered (again). Picturetown. Must – get – back.
“Beckett?” she wondered.
“No. The sim. Missing Beckett.”
“Muse is a key word here,” she mused aloud later, perhaps for me but also others listening in, the prescient, the psychic. Like our damaged friend Kolya. There he is. Listening in.
“Hi big boy. I’m over here now.”
“Whooo … are … you?”
“Well, I’m *not* Alice if that’s what you’re thinking. I mean, we kind of look the same I guess — and since I’m *here*, in Wonderland…”
“*Whooo* … are … you?” he repeated from his mushroom, exactly three inches tall to perhaps Alice’s two now. Kolya would be a *real* big boy to her in her current size. “I’m just a girl, another girl — but not Alice, like I already said, already stated.”
“Wendy,” she decided to interrupt him instead of visa versa. “Like the hamburger girl. You know, ‘Where’s the beef?’ That’s (a franchise catchphrase) from the 70’s.” She looked up at the caterpillar, trying to gauge his age. Impossible, she decided, in this land full of paradoxes and riddles. Could be one day. Or one century.
“Whaat … are … you?” He was satisfied with the Whooo part for now. Time to change the question. “Whyyy” could be next, maybe even “howww” to cover all the bases. He takes another inhale from his hookah pipe, ready to emit new (smoke) letters.
“What am I?” she said, half to him and half to herself. She hadn’t thought of it before (!). “I am a…” Witch? she pondered saying next. Mermaid? Or just a clever girl playing hide and seek with damaged goods. “Just a girl. With a schweet secret smile,” she decided to tack on.
“Shooow … me.”
He was on a tightrope above the city, higher than ever. If he fell this time he may never make it, Yellow Family below absorbed by Black Mouse by this point up in space. Sacrifice. A menace revealed. To the left: death. To the right: death. Only center is safe, and that’s a narrow line indeed to navigate.
All Hidi can think to do to help is jump into the next section, the next book. Alice in Wonderland is done and over with. Time to head through the Looking Glass.
“Don’t worry,” he says below, waiting for her. “I’ll catch you.”