“So you see, babydoll. You *can’t* leave The Cross right now. Right there in the contract you signed. You’re part of the club now.”
Shelley studied and studied the thing but couldn’t find a way out. Biff Carter was the same age as her or older than her by 2 decades. If the former, then *they* may be destined to be married — Biff — Mr. Carter — must know this too. If the latter, Mr. Carter — Biff — could be her father.
But she has a father. Newt, yes. And a mother: Wheeler. She tells Biff/Mr. Carter this, along with being engaged to George already, who, turns out, he knows by another name.
“Oh I know about Arthur,” he says in response to all this. “I don’t think you’re really engaged to this… *Musician*.”
“Am too,” Shelley tried to defend, but knew it was hopeless. Says right here: Shelley Struthers will be stuck on The Cross until the end of novel 35, where she’ll make a choice between 3 lovers. She knows two. Here could be the 3rd — has to be, I suppose.
Biff knew she couldn’t weasel out of this. The Umbrella Club has spoken. “Satisfied?” he ended.
The town was rather a jumbled mess of buildings, but Shelley didn’t stay there long, taking the path of fellow Klancasterians Dixon One and Dixon Two before her and heading to Omega mountain country for purity, cleansing, or so they attempted. One came back but the other one (Two?) didn’t. We still don’t know which, thanks to the built-in ambiguity of these here photo-novels, 35 in a series of 35 so far. And last we saw of bride to one of ’em, Snowwhite Well, a mutual cousin, she was living with giant chickens over on the Maebaleia continent, as old as her Maw now — the Dixons’ Aunt — and just as aged of skin. She thought visiting monarch Greyscale Kimball was a tithe collector and was going to sic Gander, the biggest of the fowl, on her. But turns out they had a common love for reading, and a special fondness for the epic novel “Moby Prick”, so famous in that land where it was set, uniting the highest and lowest of classes in this case.
Point is, the Dixons were searching in these mountains for treasure that was right in front of them all along, smack dab in the middle of their hometown: Snowwhite Well herself, as she tried to explain to them in Vain (a suburb). Now, I don’t think Shelley is looking for treasure as well, at least this version of herself, but she found some anyway, in a tavern in Morgan about as Oriental and far away from the Occidental West as you can get. This was the Tesseract, this was the Hypercube.
She turned away from it at first, not believing her eyes. It was dressed up like a circus dog and set inside a display cage. The 4 repeating numbers over his or her head had been removed. Why would Roberts do this? she thought. She had to get in contact with Arthur again somehow, make that Lemont somehow. She was not on The Cross but she was still trapped, East becoming West and North becoming South every other day and every other week respectively, as she soon found out. She had jumped from the fire back into the frying pan but it remained hot as hell in here. Then she began to hear them, soft and sloow. “Two.” “One.” “Three.” “Zero.” A human-like feminine voice, surprising her, with a bit of a hiss in it, like a serpent. No barking or yelping detected. Then it started again. “Two.” “One.” “Zero.” “Three.” A bit of a break and then again: “Two.” “Three.” “One.” “Zero.” And again and again. She had to listen to them all, the 24 permutations of those 4 cursed numbers. She finally turned after it was over, sweat dripping off her body, making her long shirt-blouse wet at the stomach, neck and back.
“What *are* you?”
then and now (waves keep coming)
“Clarence was wrong about the dance animation studio being there. It was all a setup.”
“You said Clarence,” Arthur tested into the receiver. “Did you mean Claude?”
“I…. don’t know (!).”
“Check on that please. Before I head over.”
Later she went back to the theatre and checked again. No screen. This is all real; Clarence is real. She is in the film being filmed as we speak. Perhaps that would explain all the close ups. She is looking for the camera, ha (!).
A well dressed black man enters the picture.
She hadn’t shaved her legs in a week, it seemed, so she decided to do so, despite the circumstances. She knew that shaving cream could be substituted for laundry detergent in a pinch — why not the opposite?
It kinda worked I suppose. Now for that black dude… Kill van Kull, synthesizer specialist for the Oil Can What. Seeing him, she suddenly had an urge to wear purple, uh oh.
“It should have been you in here instead of me.”
“30 minutes, Miss.” The policeman purposely didn’t call her Mrs. This was *illegal* what they did. So the town of Morgan (Orient PO) has spoken.
After some extensive scouting efforts, I’ve been banned from what I call Morgan (Orient PO), high in the Omega continent mountain country, in its heart in essence. Has the heart of this story similarly been carved out? Let’s hope not. Shelley, in her poking around, found a treasure, among other interesting things. And a seeming awareness, by the town, of its curious nature. There was also a definite, unfinished quality to it.
Write down what you know, I urged to her. Tell what you can. View remotely tonight and investigate more.
But when she returned to the namesake sim of Morgan which it partially covered, irregularly stretching across a central grey ridge from a peak on its northern boundary to one similarly positioned in the south, the town was GONE — disappeared. Vanished *poof*. She already had her only photos of the place, the last to be snapped here fer sure. What timing! But not totally unusual. Still — part of the story.
So it moves into the stuff of legends. Shelley never got to meet the big boss, the hoarder of the treasure. Back into The Void whence he or she came.
And I don’t think those are dragon eggs but we’ll never know.
So she went back to another place in the Morgan sim, still intact, and spoke with the dog, or spoke *toward* the dog because it was a one way affair this time, no mysterious chanting of magic numbers, no nutt’n. Because the deed had already been done.
“What *are* you?” would be redundant, so she added to it. “I *know*,” she started, “that you did all this, the creation of the treasure down there (because they indeed were way up in the air here, about 1/2way to The Void at the 4000 meter level). You just wanted me to *see*.”
Stares from the dog, but, like I said, no real replies. Shelley thought the sombrero atop his head disappeared at one point but wasn’t certain. Could be a trick of the eyes in this rather dark place, this Tesseract Tavern in the skies. But we happen to know it wasn’t.
“So I was over here paying my rent and I thought we’d hold an improptu Table meeting. Thanks for making the time, Wheeler. I see you’re still dressed as Shelley.”
“Like the clothes, like the fit.”
“But you’ll go back to being her mom, right?”
“We still need that angle of course. And… looks like Arthur might not be making it.”
“No, you locked him up for being married to me or making love to me. Something. He’s still in jail over in, let’s see, Morgan? Has the jail been deleted? Guess not,” Wheeler answers herself. “Or else it seems he’d be free to join us.”
“Right, I’ll check on that,” Baker still dressed as Policeman Clubb replies.
“Hope you have better luck than the last thing *I* checked.”
“Morgan — deletion, yes. Which brings us to perhaps our main topic. Spider. But first, lemme just see if I can call Arthur. I believe I, as Clubb, allowed him to keep his phone on his body, after a full search on the rest, ha.”
Wheeler smiled. In that 30 minute window allowed, she’d done a full search too but for different reasons. Shelley, I mean. Not Wheeler. Although she was wearing purple at the time. And it’s *not* Arthur Kill but Kill van Kull, a sophisticated, clean as a whistle, non-crinimal twin cousin. It was all a mistake, a mix-up. She looks up at the screen. This may be him here too, she realized. Or Clarence, although he was going by a different name if so. This was the last dance in the created town of Morgan (Orient PO) whatever. It ended after that, for Wheeler but also for everyone involved, all the group, the gang.
The receiver rang but there was no body around.
After 6 rings, Baker got back to the subject of likewise caged Spider. The numbers deleted the town, but it had to be all 24 to work. He had another idea, tried Arthur/Kill van Kull up again, let it ring 24 times this go. Didn’t work.
But not because Spider didn’t hear it.
The deed was already done. Newt shows up to the meeting — Shelley’s father — *not* playing Arthur Kill importantly. He stares over at Wheeler, giving her a look like: you could have made the effort too. He felt she was becoming trapped in a role; unable to be herself any longer. How far would she go?
“Where’s Grassy?” Newt then asks, seeing the empty chair across from him.
“Twitch of the Morgan”
‘Big Red Machine,’ ‘Big Red Machine.’ *Here* it is.
Now to finally finish that chapter.
As she read, Morgan (Orient PO) was being rebuilt starting with green, blue and red blocks.
From peak to shining peak.
Tesseract Inn continued…
The dead will return to their graves, the bats will fly back to The Void, and the orange lights on the fir tree in the center of it all will be replaced by anything but as Halloween season shifts inevitably into Christmas. Shelley decides to bed down for the night on the comfy couch by the fire as the fog rolls in, another product of the lingering evil. The “Big Red Machine” being finished as far as she can take it, she shifts back to her standard tablet for more reading. Always 1 or 2 or 3 pages in at this time of night and she’s ready for sleep; can stash the tablet safely away beside the bed — or couch in this case — its main job accomplished. She likes to read about dreams anymore, but still has problems remembering her own. Society offers little in training for that, unfortunately, with the emphasis instead being placed on “out there”, or the manipulation of physical objects and the achievement of material goals. How much do you have in your bank account, Shelley? Not enough, society might answer. Focus your energy on investments, financial planning. But the dreams, she might protest in her mind. What about the *inner* wealth. No answer for that.
She’s spacing out instead of reading. Time to shut the eyes. She doesn’t have her special neck molding pillow but, oh well. Next time she’ll be sure to plan an intercontinental trip better; this one was rather impromptu in nature. Plus, well there are the shifts in time/location to deal with. The Cross, pheh. And now she’s trapped, in effect, in one of its quadrants, let’s say, as it divides the continent into 4 fairly equal sections, with one remaining unfinished — not the one she’s in, though, this Mountain land with its many shiny granite peaks and ridges. Must be the mica.
“Goodnight Spider!” she calls as she rolls over, using her hand as a makeshift pillow.
As soon as he logged back in, Biff Carter, former police officer now just out on loan, drove his old, battered patrol car — maintenance not kept up after his retirement much to his lament — over to the cell where they were *suppose* to be keeping Arthur Kill. Or Kill van Kull — whatever. He’d know the shape if not the name fer sure. And this wasn’t him.
“Where is he?” he barked to Policeman Clubb in terse greeting. Clubb and he go way back, had their hands in the old style beatings of ’73, miracle year indeed. It was all in the book that Shelley at the tavern somewhere below — beyond — just put down in favor of her tablet and dream related material. “Big Red Machine.”
“Dunno. This guy just appeared in his place while I was looking away for a moment. Said he’s a Receiver.”
“*Receiver*. What’s *that*?” Biff Carter was feeling the pressure of the beat again, the anxiety of not knowing what’s around any corner. Like this. He purposely fed Filburt those pills so he could get him ill and take his place back on the force, so it was all his doing. He had to keep up with the girl. He asked about her next.
“Missed her by a day and a 1/2,” replied Clubb.
“Darn,” cussed Carter. But maybe he said “damn” or even “f-ck” here. Then to this “Receiver”: “Who are you? What did you do with Kill? Did you *kill* him?” Carter might have emitted a small smile here but couldn’t manage it through the anger.
“Kill van Kull?” replied our Claude, who we met back in Section 01 and last appeared in this photo-novel (don’t say what # in the series) at the beginning post of Section 02. Seems like so long ago. “Lampton?” Claude recites another name this killer of the film went by, kill or be killed being one of his mottoes. He’s working on some more.
“Whatever he goes by,” replies Biff Carter bitingly. “I know *you’re* not him. Despite being a [delete name] too… sometimes hard to tell you f-ers apart.
Ah, the f- word, thinks Claude here. Another one due for a visit to The Void. He’ll see to it asap. “He turned… into the Receiver that I am,” spoke Claude, knowing this wouldn’t make any sense to Carter, Clubb. He dare not mention the dog.
Carter finally emitted that smile, which turned into a laugh, which turned into a doubled over guffaw. Surreal truths sometimes do this to people. Witness George Washington Carver exclaiming that he invented a phonograph needle made out of peanuts to a world wide audience in ’84. Not a dry eye on the planet. Hmm, Carver… Carter.
Finally he recovered. “Bring him down to the station,” he barked at Clubb while dabbing his face with a handkerchief. “I’m going to the Kitty Kat Klub,” which Clubb knew was one of their old hangouts while on the beat. Wasn’t even invited. Who was in charge here after all? His old boss Carter or his new boss? Maybe, deep down, they’re both the same.
“Sure, sure,” he relented, not wanting a beating himself. Because he knew what was going to happen to Claude BOOF!
Actress Janet Zzyzx heads to the haystack for fresh straw to suck on before her shoot. “Okay,” she said, satisfied after moving it around in her mouth, testing for texture, width, etc. “Ready.”
“Today,” said director Kurt Strawb, a fruit-vegetable hybrid, “we’ll be returning to The Void for more North-South action. Hurrah, thinks Janet, believing she’d be going back to the bar that provided her free drinks after her last shoot there. But, alas, that place has been shut down, as Kurt alluded to next. “*Instead*,” he said, “we’ll be returning to the same place as the Cash-Carter cell shoot from yesterday.” Janet hadn’t been there, visiting Bermuda on a short break at the time. She was familiar with Claude Cash — who wasn’t? — but the Biff Carter character was unknown to her, having only appeared in the film for 1 scene before this. She said this to Kurt; she asked what happened. “Set the scene,” she requested from her sophomore director, involved in only 1 previous film before this outside of student work. “Blackjack in Hell” doesn’t count except as a big fat Zero, as wide as it is high.
“Welll,” started Kurt again, reviewing it in his mind at the same time. “Claude — you remember *Claude* don’t you?”
“Of course.” Don’t patronize me you sophomore, she thought.
“He shows up mysteriously in this police cell guarded by our Clubb — which is a double entendre since Clubb is also club, add in Carter’s reference to Kitty Kat Klub, which is, in turn, reference to the KKK and also Krazy Kooky Kentucky from Act I. Then we also has mention of Klancasterians from Act II.”
Way too much detail, thinks Janet.
“So when our Biff Carter, back on the force, at least for a handful of hours a week thanks to giving Phil that pill…”
Filburt, or Philburt, thinks Janet. Wonder when he was going to rear his ugly head.
“… shows up, it’s not previously seen Arthur Kill in the cell — or Kill van Kull or maybe even Lampton, all being part of one entity that was killed and then raised from the dead in the last photo-novel…”
“*Please* don’t go back to that,” thinks Janet. The current one was confusing enough.
“… he is able to, ahem, *fill* in for him, ha, and thus use his old squad car, which has fallen into disrepair in the meantime — as opposed to *being* repaired…”
Pu-lease, thinks Janet.
“… anyway, he uses this to track down the girl, he hoped.”
Another stalker, thinks Janet here, suddenly getting interested again. Just like — what was his name? — the guy in black, the *prevert* who stalked that other girl, the one who also always wore black, as in bikini, as if they were joined at the hip in some way. Or someplace else, hmm.
Kurt Strawb had stopped here, waiting for Janet to complete her reverie signaled by her glassy eyed nature. She looked at him and then looked around at the crew, all ready to start, all waiting for Kurt to finish his spiel. Too much talk! most were thinking around him. He’ll never get a third try at these things the way he’s going, thought some even. Sophomore he would remain.
(to be continued)
“Ever been to Franklin, Kentucky?” asked Biff Carter to Claude Cash, outer facing inner. “Do you want to?”
“I love you Chuck, baby, but this is not my bar.”
“Good–” Chuck looked around — no blonde. More chicks in the joint where that came from, though. There’s a red haired one back there, a black haired one over there. Looks too smart for me. I think I’ll choose the red.
“No one, *sob*, danced with me!”
“Aww, Ferrn. You still got me. Your old friend Bookie!”
“Here. Use one of my pages as a handkerchief. Go ahead. It won’t hurt.”
A soggy, wadded up piece of paper appears between Shelley’s legs, waking her up.
“I’m telling you, Kurt, we’ve gone too far with this horse shit.” She looks back. “A *tail*?”
Softly, offstage: “We have to make it realistic.”
“What’s that, Hybrid?” Janet Zzyzx’s new nickman for Kurt Strawb was Hybrid, because of the whole fruit-vegetable thing he’s got going on.
Less softly, less offstage: “I said, it’s the White Horse Inn and Bar, or so it says in the new script. We’re setting a scene (to use one of her favorite phrases, he thinks).”
“I look like a *showgirl*. *No*. Make that a *show horse*.”
Kurt: “Debbie (wardrobe manager) put a lot of work into these costumes. And this way we leave the door open for a Black Horse Bar and Inn, an opposite. It has to be this way, Janet. We can talk offstage more if you wish.”
“No no. No no. I don’t want to hold up production again.” Janet Zzyzx felt she was acquiring a reputation for being difficult, a no no in the film industry. You have to be there, you have to say your lines, you have to *show* up. In this case she has to show up as a “show horse.” She bends her head and says nay to her inner doubts. Kurt probably knows best. After all, he has a way with animals as demonstrated by “Blackjack in Hell,” about its only redeeming quality. The hounds of such turned out to be very obedient beasts thanks to his training and influence, working well in every scene. Contrast this to contemporary Tim Spellwell’s “Tortures of Satan” which had the Hades dogs running amok and even attacking the cast and crew. He never even made it to freshman class, film directing career almost literally going up in flames with that one. *Show* a little respect to Hybrid, Janet thought here. At least he had “Studio 342” under his belt, perhaps representing a one hit wonder but maybe not. The critics will reassess after this one; they always do.
“Okay, send in the first loser,” Janet requests, and then starts to get into character. Lichen Roosevelt, Lichen Roosevelt, she says in her mind. Not the first bar, not the last. She’s a bar hopper but not the way you typically think of the term. She’s *experienced*, and she answers to Fern, despite being better at comedy, which is saying a lot, especially in her mind. Could Fern be a successful opening act for the Comedy Pouch in Possum Ridge, Arkansas? She thinks not.
“Alright, is everyone *ready*?” Now he speaks up, Janet thinks. Darn — out of character again.
“Biff?” she repeats his name from the end of Take 42. “Like the detergent?”
Where’s Ruby Roo going?
the tale continues
It was her father, Newt, and her mother, Wheeler, with herself in the middle. All dead, all ended, the Ur family complete.
It was her brother, it was her sister.
It was herself.
Next was a church with red doors, a cross over them and at the top of course. This was The Cross itself. Who should lay beside Shelley in her grave to be with her forever and ever and ever. Was it George? Arthur? Even that new stalker prevert Biff Carter, perhaps named after a detergent but perhaps not? This was the place they get married. This is the place they get buried.
Next: It was a long way up; another ladder.
Many spirits requested her presence.
The Void has spoken.