“I don’t think Marty has any right to judge art from my town, Buster. *My* opinion.”
“You are right,” Buster replied. Better get to a picture of ’em.
“I went to the Fortress today, Buster,” Duncan Avocado confessed to his boss, the Pot-D Deputy Assistant Sub Vice-Chancellor for Internal External Affairs.
“I know, Duncan.” He nods toward the tracking skeleton heart medallion hung around his neck.
“Oh, yes,” Duncan replies, fondling it. “Forgot.”
“The Fortress is not for you.” Sterner now. “It is for someone else.”
“I know: Hidi.”
“Well… *whoever* it is, and you don’t need to know that yet.”
“What about… Jerry Lind, the Asian Indian–”
“We know about him as well. And he’s both American and Asian: a mix.”
Duncan thought of the red complexion and understood. “They were headed to the Fortress.”
“I said I don’t…” He blows out a tiny puff of air from his small vampire body, trying to calm down. “Just show me the new Willendorf.” He was ready to blow this joint, his regular hangout beside the railroads. Still red hot and angry “policewoman” Angelina Dickenson lives just down the tracks, but in a different sim. He’s safe here, he considers again. But he remains trapped overall in the southern part of VHC City. Best he and Betty move somewhere else. If only Nautilus’ version of Collagesity were a bit bigger, had a few more shops for the wife to frequent. But alas: not so. Baker had decided on a regular 8192 parcel and that wasn’t enough for extras like that: only what he deemed so-called *historic* buildings, like the Blue Feather, like the Temple of TILE, like Fal Mouth Moon and the Castle and a couple of other ones. Not enough.
Quickly they were in the gallery Duncan im’ed Buster about earlier, staring at the new Willendorf. Skyscrapers loomed above them. This was Middletown obviously, Duncan opined to Buster. Buster wasn’t sure. A gallery from the *future*? But it had happened once before and very recently. What can of soup had Marty opened up with his TWO TO KNOW project with Roger? Will traces of Middletown keep showing up and showing up until it’s finally *here*? he pondered correctly, knowing more that he knew at the time of the month.
Duncan closed his diary and stared at the tulips. So close.
you can’t occupy a fort if someone already lives there
India: You have just begun to understand The Fortress. Do you understand?
India: But do you *really* understand.
Me: Um. No. No?
I knew that India lived at the Fortress, who was both Asian and American. NO Fused with a man. NO I picked up the negative voice. YES Snake, hissing of summer? MAYBE Ah… closer. Close.
Duncan sometimes sits down there staring at those tulips well into the evening. He’s looking for something that isn’t there. *I* can’t even see the tulips at least from this angle, thinks George here, stomach rumbling from lack of food. 1/2 past six. Looks like spaghetti-o’s again. He moves to the kitchen to prepare the water.
Couple more well placed toy avatars and we’re outta here, he contemplates while still staring deeply, gazing even. He pulls out a fish taco from his sweater he brought for a snack, but before he could take the first bite he remembered the boy.
“George,” he exclaimed. “*Dinner*”. He throws the fish taco in the tulips for the rats and heads home, going over apology after apology in his head. But George was use to it.
(to be continued)
tit for tat
George stood on 97/97 and looked at the picture of the couple and thought about All Orange. He grew maybe 6 inches overnight thinking about the thing. He was in danger of being absorbed, 13 to 10 to 13 and back and back and back, over and over. Duncan Avocado needed to keep a better eye out on him, but he had his own, rather similar problems. Tulips. How did they move that way? Why is that one red and why is that one over there purple but in the same bunch? And the rats. Don’t get him started about the rats. They make the stems, leaves and flowers move in mysterious, dark ways. He wonders if there are any rats in the Fortress — probably are, he rationalizes. And if not, maybe something else.
Markers. Must – place – markers.
“How old are you?” Duncan queried about the lateness for dinner over the phone.
“13,” George admitted, and thought about the added height. How to get rid of it? How to convince Duncan A. he was still just an innocent boy at the heart of it all.
“Get – home.” Duncan hung up. He knew George was nearby. Phone service was spotty in the countryside, and George’s voice rang clear as an Alexander Graham Bell. Probably visited that gallery, hmph, he thought. Stood on the site of the former black hole and let it have its way, dark powers still tappable. 13 to 10 to 13 and on and on, spiraling out of control. He felt his own heart, and realized that innocence lost is innocence lost. For everyone except George.
(to be continued)
“I don’t get it,” George said, smaller now as 10. “Why make *this* life look so much as that *other* life we don’t want to go to.”
“We want to *escape* from,” corrected Duncan, glad the innocent boy was back. Now he could *gradually* teach him the ways of the world, starting with artistic photography. Middletown, he realized. Must – avoid – Middletown.
“Yeah.” He looked up at me, squashing an urge to pick his nose. He *is* grown up. He will put aside childish things and move into the world, as if on a train (of destiny).
“Let’s get back to the apartment and I’ll explain there. Before one of us wanders off again and forgets about the other.” They share a smile with this. The man is the boy is the man, round and round. There was an age gap between them but that was just time. Duncan looked down at his shiny Rolex watch. 1/2 past 6. It was always 1/2 past 6. Because the gall darn thing never worked ever since that raccoon got a hold of it after he’d fished it out of the trash back in the back alley. They’d tugged and tugged, one not letting the other have an obviously valuable sparkly object. Duncan won, of course, being 15x stronger than what is essentially an overgrown rodent in his mind. But he paid the price. He remembers it ticking when he got it out of the can. The skirmish must have itself happened at 1/2 past 6. It was as if time was frozen at that point. Zero Point. Fusion of Man and Animal beyond that. Manimal.
The artistic photos just viewed actually lie in the gallery right beneath their apartment. Heavenly Flower it is called, with a silhouette of a woman hold a blooming lily over her heart for a logo. Appropriate.
They’d just finished a dinner of leftover fish tacos and mystery loaf and were talking about the subject left hanging before. Duncan A. had decided to use this as a teaching device.
“You asked about escape before,” said George at a midway point in the conversation, “like we are trapped here.”
“Trapped there as well,” spoke Duncan. A soft stirring started in the CB Dylan dresser in the corner of the room directly over where they’d been before. Snowmanster, they knew. Trying to escape. He was very distant still, thus the softness. They knew he would not be entering their apartment again anytime soon. A shame: both liked and respected the great snow being. He was a lot of fun, a gas. But it would soon be Melting Days at Bennington Square and the stirrings would stop altogether, until about Halloween or at least Thanksgiving at the latest. Then they would gradually die down in March and cease around Arbor Day, which was today. Both had forgotten to plant a tree in honor of his dying memory. Both forget a lot of things. What was that noise in the dresser? both thought at once, memory erased for 5-7 months. Must have been the wind.
(to be continued)
” He wanted to show us one of our ancestors,” tiny Buster Damm explained to his fellow (sometimes) tiny wife Bettie about the latest Venus of Willendorf find.
He stood directly on The Diagonal in the corner of a VHC City gallery, famous for such. A boy of 10, then 13, then back to 10, then over and over the process continues, perhaps until infinity. Unless Duncan finds a cure for the boy’s ail, pluck him out of the cycle.
He had seen too much for his youthful days thanks to living in the city. Interior becomes Exterior. Eve holds the apple and the snake. Hissing of Summer. Buster knows.
“Fish tacos again?”
“Oh *George*.” But Duncan knew his ward was right and that they had become stuck in a rut in this here VHC City, famed for its gallery and music scene. They needed a vacation.
(to be continued)
Past the pond and along a path that followed Wine Creek he went until he came to a grove of beech trees. There he built a fire against the side of a log and sat down at the end of the log to think.
Ward George had to escape art but Tennessee was all around, ready to embarrass him and make him turn red (as an apple) at every turn. Through his late night research, he knew about “Flapper” and a promise not fulfilled of artistic success, perhaps the point of it all. He was using his magnifying glass of a brain to focus on sewers and monsters therein and the death of Allen Martin who was actually a Martian (green hair in back giving it away, like a Conrad Bain). He had to find the beech grove, a place of sanctuary.
“Martin is alive,” he’d heard Duncan say while talking about the old days in good ol’ VHC City, before the coming of the… hotel? Anyway, it all started/revolved around that Black Hole of a structure created by Pitch Darkly. 97/97/97: triple number. If only the powers of VHC City back in the days had listened to his warning about the coming of The Diagonal that would link the whole continent, southwest to northeast, so powerful that its rather malevolent energy, or what turned out to be so, had to be counterbalanced by a second sw-ne line called Heart. Heart balances Head, like in a Hand (Health). But it was all suppose to happen like this most likely, George had also determined with his own head. But where, and who, was heart?
“No way out this way,” gruffed Suisan the pyramid shaped hat wearing fish butcher without turning around, bloodied cleaver at rest for now. George would have to turn back out of Kentucky back to Tennessee.
“Kay,” he said simply in response. The smell of chopped fish was overbearing.
(to be continued)
Duncan was often very busy with his Pot-D assignments, letting George explore VHC City and its environs on his own. Lone stipulation from Duncan, basically: stay within The Sphere. George had worked out the geodesic dimensions very well down through the years now. Tronesisia and her computer mind had helped in the olden days, before the coming of rain. Now it always seemed to rain, for example, in the PCH Forest (partly within The Sphere) owned by Clare Nova, one of the 4 famous Nova siblings — the Supernovas they were called; again back in the day. George had met Clare but not a lot. She gave him permission to wander around the PCH Forest, the structures within. One thing (stipulation again): don’t eat of the fruit from the tree in the center of the woods. We know where this comes from.
George often wondered what *exactly* is that tree in the center of the woods. There were many trees here, and none seemed more central than the other, at least at the beginning. He knew The Diagonal ran through the forest. If only Mistress Clare was around more to query, he lamented.
Charlie, however, was always around. The Banana.
“Fruit at the center of the woods,” he pondered with the 13 year old one evening outside the main house. “No idea.”
George couldn’t see what was sitting in front of his very eyes.
After bleeding out then coming back to life (the stump *did* say not to sit on it, pheh), George spots them. “Kodama” he reads aloud the description after being able to highlight one through the grass and tree prims.
He knew they were there but had just ignored them until now. Tree spirits!
Now every time George looked out at the western woods he saw trees staring back at him. Good neighbors? Let’s hope!
“Neighbor,” spoke Charlie Banana later about the wood creatures, knowing them quite intimately apparently. “They prefer to be considered a collective spirit. For now. Differentiation will come later.” Charlie sure knows a lot of big words for a banana, George considers while listening to his yellow friend out in the patio again. The rain had let off except for that one spot under the umbrella, ironically. Holding the man it must be instead of visa versa; inner exchanged with exterior. Thinking of this, George realized the western woods could be haunted and not in a totally good way. And what of Charlie Banana? Perhaps not totally good himself.
“Where is that central tree again?” he asked after a period of doubt about his moral compass.
“To be determined,” came the fruit’s answer.
Charlie Banana could transform into a giant banana phone when needed. George uses this power to attempt to contact Duncan, knowing he would be late for dinner again. Probably fish tacos or some other fish product, bleh. Best to stay here with Charlie; partake of the fruits of the garden. Clare sure makes some mean melons!
“Hello?” An answer on the other side, but not Duncan.
“Charlie,” George whispered above and beyond the all the white-on-black digits now fronting his body, knowing his friend was still in there. “You sure you dialed the *right* numbers?”
Charlie hadn’t told young George the secret to any telephone call. You dial all the numbers at once and then wait for an answer. Whoever you are suppose to talk to will be on the other end.
“Hello?” the strange voice said again. The central tree? Could be. Or perhaps one of those differentiated wood spirits Charlie foretold about already showing up.
“Hi… is this… Duncan?” George asked, knowing it wasn’t but not figuring out anything else to say.
“Duncan… Avocado?” The person on the other end of the line hadn’t heard that name in a long, long time.
That night, George dreamed he was with an Asian girl talking about a plane trip to India, and how they’d have to buy tickets soon in order to go before monsoon season. “Rain, continual rain,” the girl spoke to George, making a pattering motion with her fingers against her legs. Her red sneakered feet fidgeted back and forth upon a red circle on a red block of lego, with a red plane in the bookcase behind pointing to it all. Her rear end sat on green. George sprawled out on blue. “Yelloo!” yelled an old yellow guy on the lego bed beyond.
“Don’t listen to him, George,” requested Alysha the Asian kid. “He’s just an old man with nothing to say.” George didn’t think so. George woke up.
“Duncan?” George spoke over to his guardian on the other bed of their darkened apartment.
Duncan says, “yes?” nonchalantly without raising his head or opening his eyes. He had been unable to sleep ever since George told him the news about the spirits in the PCH woods. “I *saw* them,” he repeats at the time, hands on hips. Duncan was actually starting to believe the youth. And that damn Good Neighbor pylon. They know about The Diagonal, the thing he was suppose to protect and serve above all else! Besides George, of course.
“Had a dream. You said I was suppose to tell you about my dreams, at least for a while.”
“The forest,” spoke Duncan, understanding. He figured the woods and accompanying spirits, if real — and they appeared to be — would start to dominate George’s nights as well as days. Could he request he didn’t go back to the forest? Did he even have that authority now? As an inducted member of Pot-D, he had an obligation to protect The Diagonal. Protector of The Diagonal: Pot-D. But George was too, and just because George was a boy…
“‘Yelloo’,” George interrupted Duncan’s reverie. “The man in the dream said ‘yelloo’, just like your guy in the game.”
Duncan rolled over, sat up, stared. They were in for a long night. Better put on some coffee.
(to be continued)
At 4:13 in the morning, Duncan had something. He sat in a chair in Leemington above Necrotee above Yelloo, high in the sky like (on) a ship or a plane. Pilot Tickie was around, he knew, who wasn’t a bad meanie at all, not any more. He sat with his prescient turtle staring
south east. Duncan was here to talk about the turtle.
But then it wasn’t a turtle any longer. It was a lemon. With legs. And they were staring at 2.
(to be continued)
I wish I could say Jerry Lind found the Fortress but I’m not sure. A word of the day but perhaps not this particular day in the late of May. I wish I could say the 27th so I did. Jerry Lind was 2 years old, yet a striking young man with Asian Indian features and with red complexion like an American kind. It’s like he entered The Sphere at New Delhi or thereabouts with its American Indian street names and profuse graffiti and collapsing black hole style garages and then couldn’t find his way back out. It’s that way with the Fortress as well: one door in, no exit. You were one with God. Happy birthday, 2!
“It’s like I couldn’t touch him, he was so damaged with the rain pouring into his head like an inverted sky. He had the circular umbrella unfolded wide, yet the water came and came, shower ON.”
“I’m sorry, W,” I responded. “I know that must have been hard.”
“You don’t know the 1/2 of it. The *1/2* of the 1/2.”
“That must have been 1/4th as hard as I can possibly imagine, then.”
“You said it! Wait, what?”
me and myself
“You and I are a true team, Hidi. Tropp (he points to himself here), and Treelor (he points to Hidi).”
“What about the ‘I’,” Hidi mysteriously says over.
“Something’s not quite right here, Duncan.”
“Stay in the car, George. In fact, lock the doors. This won’t take too long.”
“I *hate* being told what to do.”
“Then stay here with us. At least for a spell.”
“Thanks, Aunt Clare! You’re the best!”
“Don’t forget Bell.” She shakes her other head with this, making it
ring rattle. Something is loose inside.
“So we’re just going to carve that dead pumpkin and eat it?” asked George, actually missing Duncan’s fish in the moment.
“It’s not dead, young George. It’s a snow pumpkin, a very special kind. It will melt in the spring. Luckily it’s perpetual winter here in the Snowlands of Sansara which we sit on the edge of.
Turning around, George looks out a row of windows facing south. His moral compass remains slightly askew. Snow — as far as the eye can see. Yet when he looks north: gray, with some green and also some beige. Edgeland: that’s what Aunt Clare had decided to name her home — *homes*. Because she had 2. For now. The whole parcel was up for sale on this landmark Fissure Mountain on the border. Just like a certain brain damaged man we’ve met more recently who sometimes goes by Can; prefers that name to the rest, which, in tandem, means he likes to hang around friends because they’re the only ones who call him that. Kolya, some strangers call him, Pepi others. It was war out there. Back to George and Clare.
He tries a piece of white pumpkin just laid on his plate. Ice is all he can taste.
“Good, eh?” says Clare, munching and crunching down on her own.
“Sure, sure,” returns George, trying to sound positive. “Great. I can really taste the pumpkin.”
“Oh there’s no pumpkin in it.” George stares. “I’m just *kidding*, right Bell?” She shakes her other head now held under the table, which maybe indicates it is laughing along with her. They chuckle in tandem, if so, for a small while, then return to eating, or at least the head not on the stick does.
“How’s… Duncan?” she asks at last, broaching a subject laying before them like a deep chasm needing a bridge.
“He’s okay.” Pause. “He stares at tulips now. He says rats are in them.” Another pause. “He… went to Dixie.”
“I know, Bell told me.” Short shaking sound here under the table. “Very surprising. Dixie, well you know their former relationship. I can’t see for the life of me what he sees in her.”
“Then you rung up, or, I mean, Charlie… he dialed the number, all the numbers I guess, or so he says…”
“And you reached me,” Clare finished for George. “Well, tell me more about this Yelloo subject we were talking about before. Sure sounds like a TILE concept to me.”
(to be continued)
“I call this my pagan grotto. As far away from Christ on the other side of the property as you can get.”
“Houses?” young George guessed. Clare didn’t answer, turning more into Wheeler each passing moment.
“It was the time for exchanging bodies to keep the enemy confused. Enem*ies*. Us Supernovas had to stick together. But then…”
“You were killed,” George said, following up on what was revealed just 15 minutes back in the conversation they were having in the “pagan grotto.”
“Well, the *character* was killed off, yes, or in danger of being so. The actor playing the role decided not to renew the contract. I was the understudy. I stepped in. Fortunately I grew into the part and no other, more established actor was sought for after a while. Stacey stood up for me and that was a big boost.”
“Yes, my sister. In the role of course. I don’t have a sister in real life. Just Duncan.”
“How…did you become estranged? Is that the word I need to use?”
“Not quite estranged. Obviously he has a different body than he did before.” Pause. It was difficult for Clare Nova to explain to George the constant switching of bodies. Must be in the 1000’s now. “Let’s begin at the beginning,” she decided. “1st there was Baker Blinker, then Baker Bloch, then…” Another pause. “No, let’s start instead with me.” She remembers it all now, memories locked into place. “Wheeler. I took over. All except… for Baker Bloch, the 2nd who then became the first as Baker Blinker, the anima to his animus, faded faded faded away, Karoz along with her.”
“Who’s this Karoz?” young George questioned again, not having heard that name enter the story yet.
“A green being. Blue-green actually. Baker Blinker and he were married. I’m trying not to pause so much, George,” Clare-Wheeler admitted. “We’re getting close to the end; must hurry.”
“Okay, okay, I get it. I won’t ask so many stupid questions, pheh.”
“Not stupid, George. It’s just…” Pause.
“There you go again!” he pointed out.
“Almost 5 years,” she closed the story for George 15 more minutes later. 5 years, she reflected. Time to end it? She looked over at the vast snowy expanse to the south of them, the distant white mountains. She could just walk walk walk until the cold took her in. Purification; cleanliness. She would be free, then. Just like Baker Blinker before her. Let another take over. She then looked down at her clown clothes and realized she was stuck. Oh Baker Bloch, she thought, seeing the man behind the man behind the child.