Dawn made the invitation in the midst o’ Autumn’s twilight, smothered under her cavernous blankets where sorrow dripped from stalactite eyes.
No, I don’t want to leave. The sorrow is actually quite comfortable, the darkness quite warm.
There can also be comfort in the midnight wind that smells like gasoline & the bright stars.
It’ll end before it e’en gets to begin. I’ll ne’er have the time to hear all the songs. By the time they peel off all the jackets round my heart I’ll be forced out o’ the shower & into the ice to freeze rawly. No, perpetual darkness is warmer than the lights that go out… Don’t make me endure the lights that go out.
They’ll come back on…
…only to come back out, o’er & o’er, each like a feverishly chilly zombie claw gainst the back o’ my neck sending rock-sharp aches rocking up my spine each time.
Your cave’s portable. We can bring your cave & wrap it round you when the lights are ’bout to go out.
That’s shameful. I’m shameful.
if ( !handleTheLightsWhenTheyGoOut( ) )
i_deserve_the_lights_at_all_ = false;
That law’s been repealed. That condition’s been commented out. That function need not e’er be called. We’ve decided that everyone deserves the lights — ’specially the broken.
I don’t like the new laws. I can’t get used to them. They’ll just latch me into a trap, I know it.
We won’t let them. We won’t let any o’ them. For this 1 night — just these few hours — you can be safe.
& eventually Dawn’s vicious spell infected Autumn. It crept into her ribcage & poisoned her with abusive wishes for the taste o’ sugar & the drumming o’ bass yawning ’wake her ears, the movement o’ skin & the feel o’ wind that made you breathe, the feel o’ thin, smoky powder & jewelry that jangled like nuzzling pets.
Before she knew what was happening, she had already escaped the plaque-plagued checkered bathroom, shivering in her hideous transformation which she could not help staring @ in the mirror, frosting-colored eyes desperate in confusion & helplessness.
Though Autumn was usually a half-empty glass, in her current inebriation that she could only blame on Dawn’s devilish mutation she felt the air o’ a birthing year brush through her respiratory system rather than the usual death.
This wasn’t e’en marred by the seeming contrast o’ dying, twisted oaks in the toxic black night, surrounded by cloudy gray fog from every ice-scratched exhale. But she remembered what Dawn had said & felt a blooming spring from such consistent contradiction. Those oaks weren’t dead: e’en in their dying they stood tall & proud in their adorable wretchedness.
O Jesus… I hope I can get some liquor to sober me up.
But the bus ride there was so much like a bedtime crib that she was partly fearful to leave it for the heavy waves o’ the new world, fed by just a thin sliver o’ a moon. & much like a newborn, she couldn’t comprehend how the world had shaped itself round her in this way; e’en after mo’ than a decade, she couldn’t recall all o’ the mechanisms that caused this skeleton in his soft long shirt & tight leggings to be curled up next to her in that moment.
But all journeys had to end eventually, — all everything must end eventually — & before Autumn had time to enjoy this 1, the bus stopped, the door opened its mouth, & Dawn was already jumping up to her feet, exclaiming,
¡Here’s our stop! & dashing to be puked out into the world like a head-spinningly sickeningly sobering hango’er.
The optical illusion inherent in this toxic vomit purple palazzo covered in bubbles, jacket jeans, & dusty black & white western labels was the crowds o’ fun leaping out @ her right in front o’ her face like a 3D movie, but none that could be touched. Force fields blocked every feature; & when she did somehow accidentally bump into somebody, the sensors in her sent painful shivers throughout her skeleton.
For some reason, 1 o’ these anonymouses clung to her mind. No spotlight, no thread o’ her layers o’ leather jackets, checkered dress, & blue hair could be found in any byte o’ Autumn’s memory. Autumn’s mind simply needed something to narrow on in this gaping cacophony to avoid stretching itself to bloody shreds.
As she watched this stranger laugh & talk loudly & quickly, — not by just sitting there opening & closing her mouth, but by leaning forward, as if speaking were an exciting sport — she mused ’bout what it’d be like to be this stranger & what this stranger did during all o’ the other time, outside this club. Mo’ importantly, she wondered ’bout what programming allowed this woman to act in this odd manner, full o’ manic excitement o’er a world that wasn’t nearly so exciting.
That was what was most unnerving ’bout this cavern with multicolored lightning veins: not just the fact that ’twas filled with so many foreign substances that caused her mind to sneeze @ every glance, but this world o’ substances promised an e’en bigger world, all o’ which were just as much beyond comprehension, but all o’ which, she knew, could exert its invisible control o’er her. How her meager skills @ stealing, how all o’ her technical knowledge that seemed to her before to be everything there could be had been revealed to be but a speck in the wide beach filled with arcane movements o’ fleshy apparatuses, as well as subtle tonal variations & otherworldly vocabulary — all o’ which she knew could affect her life @ any moment without her knowing.
Dawn sat them @ a seemingly random table near a window & rushed off, her words smothered by the cacophony. As soon as Dawn had left sight, Autumn turned her head ’way from the club & toward the window, out o’ which she could see 1 o’ the gnarled leafless maples lit by a nearby streetlamp. She felt as if she ne’er wanted to stop staring @ that oak.
Some noise ’scaped Edgar’s mouth, but was mangled into gibberish by the surrounding cacophony.
Autumn turned to Edgar & said mo’ loudly than she expected,
He leaned forward & said in a slightly louder whisper,
I said, ‘There’s not much for us to do here, ¿is there?’
Autumn formed her own translation o’ what he said & smiled grimly, but gave no reply. Neither he nor Dawn were nearly as fond o’ Autumn’s brand o’ humor as Autumn was.
After the humor had passed, & Autumn turned her head back to the oak, she did however reply with,
We should let Dawn have her fun. It’s not as if I have anything better to do. ¿You don’t want to talk to anyone else? I thought you enjoyed that socializing nonsense.
Edgar glanced round.
Erm, I think this is mo’ for… romantic business.
I’m sorry you shackled yourself to a moldy rag. ¿Have you considered trading in for something better?, asked Autumn.
Edgar said in a low, sad voice,
No… I quite like mold.
¿Is that your sexy talk?
Yeah. Then he turned to the window.
¿Are you staring @ that tree?
Autumn’s expression dropped to a hanging frown. Then she turned ’way from the window & down @ the plastic table, searingly white in 1 spot from the light’s reflection off some splotch o’ grease.
I don’t know…
Continuing to stare out the window, Edgar said,
It looks nice.
You’ve shared a bed with him for o’er a decade. ¿You can’t share a tree?
She looked back up & out the window, but said nothing. Edgar continued to do the same.
This was no World 1-1 club. This was the “Animal Antics” o’ clubs, the “Swoopy Salvo”.
So, ¿what’s your suit? Mine’s club, ’course.
All round Dawn were bottomless pits & falling spike pillars that tried to stop her quest to collect as many hearts as she could contain.
¿Did you see the stars out tonight? I saw the 1 in “Top o’ the Town” as I was coming.
’Twas such an unfair game, too, with dialogue trees twisted & seemingly unconnected to the root. But then, ¿where was the fun without some quirky challenges blocking her from the crown ruby that held the whole ribcage from collapsing? ¿Where would be the thrill if, ’pon encountering a particularly shiny monster, she didn’t harbor that breath-holding tightness as electricity raced from brain cell to brain cell, trying to quickly decide the optimal bet for each answer to every question?
¡I love your socks! ¿Where’d you get them?
Socks like these could only be sewn by the Fate Sisters o’ the Wonderworld.
Not only was every phrase a die cast: she also had to be both quick & careful so as to cast the die artfully, without stuttering, mispronunciations, or spittling.
♪ Please put my heart in your pocket, for true,
’cause I ne’er feel salty warm ’less I’m blue;
& don’t forget to bring the buckets o’ glue —
Oooo, oooo, oooo,
¿who would want to cure such a clear-crystal flu? ♫
’Course, like all risks, she knew there loomed ugly possibilities: the flat noes as nerve-debilitating as popped balloons right by her ears, or worse…
Gabriel, ¿will you be my only 1 beloved, e’en in this firequake that’s devouring us all?
Hold me tightly.
But like scars on the heart or lungs after a good run, these scratches eventually evaporated into a mist that filled her with addictive brain sugar — to the point that Dawn sometimes wondered if ’twas the electric chase that was so addictive or the rush o’ all that spent energy sucking back into her in the quiet, dim sleepnights.
& then Autumn’s head jerked upward, & she noticed that she was still staring @ the gnarled oak, had been for the past who-knows-how-long. In the time o’ time’s end, time meant nothing.
Finally, she turned to Edgar — who seemed to have been staring @ the same oak for a while, too, till just that moment — & said,
There’s not much for us to do here, ¿is there?
Edgar glanced round himself with hollowed-out eyeholes as if ready to release unspeakable words.
¿You think we should… leave?
¿You mean go home? ¿You think Prozac might not mind?, said Autumn.
Knowing her, she’s probably already distracted, ensnared in this concrete jungle, that she’d ne’er know till long after sunrise, said Edgar.
& she’ll probably be so blissed that she won’t care.
Autumn rose from her seat.
Awesome. Fuck this place.
’Twas as if the club were reacting to their blasphemy: ’pon slipping out from their isolated table to join the rest o’ the club they felt the space before their faces suffocate in the masses o’ skin, hair, & cloth clogging the air. What space remained was filled with noxious smoke tinted pastel. Autumn breathed heavily as she tried to squeeze past, keeping her hand on Edgar’s so as not to let him be engulfed. & then she shivered when she felt some sticky tentacle’s 5 villi squeeze the edge o’ her skirt. She tightened her other grip on the knife in her pocket, but waited. The best way to survive the creatures was to minimize exposure.
By a milky-way miracle, she found the front door handle, shining goldly under the artificial air, mocking her with the chocolate-blackness it held outside. She pushed, fully expecting it to refuse to move, but ’stead was flung out into the cool atmosphere, knees skidding on the rocky concrete. She didn’t care. There were worse dangers: ’hind her some o’ the creatures were howling, pointing menacing fingers.
Somebody’s had too much to drink…
But they’d have no drink o’ her. She took only a second to ensure she still had Edgar safely in her arms, & then dashed out into the sheltering shadows.
Now Dawn was in their clutches; now they were in hers. Such monster trading was both exhausting & thrilling, & wasted far too many hours.
All o’ the insect stimuli o’erbuffered the memory, leaving bare bones o’ a faint ghost o’ feelings where the description should be. But in that ghost o’ cardboard-folded checkered cloth under her claws & the scent o’ shower wetness lay the X on the map o’ not only where the treasure was, but what ’twas.
& yet ’twas the mere X’s that made the treasure the treasure itself, not the treasure itself, so she sufficed with the litany o’ pieces scrambled in her memory like toys tossed into the trunk. ¿What was that ’gain? ¿Where came that scent o’ Irish Cream? She knew where she found the sensation o’ warm showers in dark December afternoons & the sheets heated by soft mechanical air.
She knew what the treasure itself was; but it wasn’t stolen, but shared: ’twas their passions, their windy souls that magically multiplied. No matter how much energy she spent on them, mo’ would come back a second later, itching her to spit out mo’.
Also the fucking was rather fun.
She was glad she hadn’t remembered every detail; it’d make the next run just as surprising.
The electric storm that’d turned seconds to minutes had now subsided to a thick pall that turned minutes into seconds. & the worst thing was that the pall felt mo’ dangerous than the carnage — like leaving a boiling shower only to wish back into it after being subjected to the icy outside. After the frying neon club, the breeziness o’ the night outside turned to sickening chill.
& in that pall was an all-engulfing silence, accompanied only by grassy crunches that were as pleasing as chalkboard on nails. Autumn repeatedly glanced @ Edgar glancing up @ the stars, but said nothing.
Autumn could only stare frozen @ the portrait o’ their relationship no longer protected by blemishes, set straight on the plain black easel. Here lay Edgar, dragged from Dawn’s clutches o’ fun by Autumn’s vile toxins, into the black-ice core o’ hell.
’Twas here that Autumn felt herself socked by a cast o’ loneliness she hadn’t felt so severely in a while. Now e’en scrabbly trees stripped o’ all leaves were too prestigious to meet. Now she itched violently to dig herself into a crack in the sidewalk just to ’scape the suffocating plethora o’ rich oxygen.
’Twas in this state that she glanced @ Edgar — only daring to glance — as if staring @ the only oasis in a desert. From there her eyes moved onto the million anonymous stars Edgar was looking @ & remembered.
¿You find Frogfucious’s wish for everyone to be happy yet?, asked Autumn.
No, but I found the 1 ’bout being the best treasure hunter in the world. Edgar turned to Autumn.
Autumn, ¿You OK?
Autumn’s eyes fell back to the sidewalk cracks, & her voice fell likewise.
¿When am I e’er?
Edgar wrapped an arm round Autumn’s shoulder while still staring upward & said,
You know, we ne’er did go out into the Reese’s Galaxy to collect all o’ those star diamonds.
I’d probably fuck it up, mumbled Autumn, her eyes doing nothing but sucking up every smudge & dot in the sidewalk & imagining every darkest hue in its cracks.
Yeah, ¿but don’t you kinda miss the failures?
Autumn’s eyes refused to leave the cracks. E’en in the night, the light burned her eyes.
But then the lights went out & the fireworks died down. Now she chilled, e’en under the covers & next to so many fleshy machines cooing warm steam with soft vibrations. & she could only stare @ the building ’cross the street outisde the window & wonder what was going on in there — what went on there every day. ¡What a nice night! ¡What a nice darkness!
But the niceness was beginning to wear off, as it always did, so she rose & put on her jacket, rose & prepared to dig for mo’ niceness. ’Twas as she retied her sneakers that she thought, O shit. I hope nothing happened to Autumn or Edgar. I hope Autumn was able to keep them both safe; she seems too steady to let the club devour them.
She rose to her feet. I probably shouldn’t have brought them. They probably weren’t made for the Purple World.
But Autumn did find treasure — a treasure she couldn’t bear to stow ’way for ne’er & keep as an imaginary score to an imaginary game, but a treasure she greedily unshelled & played with like a Marxmas-wrapped Wii. Outside the sky burned with feverish whiteness, though the cold germs still surrounded her. Though, it still shot her in the eyes through cracks in her room-wide sunglasses o’ dim blue, spreading the fever to her eyes & forehead while her throat was both sored & soothed by bittersweet drinks. ’Side her Edgar released soft squeaks through his nostrils, splayed ’cross their sleeping bag. But Autumn didn’t sleep — ne’er did. She sat up with her knees raised, still in outside clothes, & stared @ the world, & nothing but the world in its plainest flavor.
She heard the doorknob turn & figured she should put ’way her present. It wasn’t good for her. Nothing that made her content was good for her — ¡& yet everyone always complained when she was miserable for the sake o’ good! She kept her game in her hand & continued to play it.
But boy did her eyes wince under the flood o’ whiteness that Dawn released unto Autumn.
O, good. Sound o’ relieved breath.
I figured you’d probably decide to leave pretty soon. Not your cup o’ coffee, ¿was it? Eyes widen in astonishment.
¿Is that alcohol?
Autumn smiled & chuckled a li’l. It was a funny joke.
That’s what you go to bars for, ¿right?
Dawn was appeased. She closed the door, closed off the drowning white. This time Autumn’s breaths were relieved, though she kept that all hid inside her chest.
I figured you’d consider it a waste — further impairment to an already impaired… whatever.
No. You know I like the impairment.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Both. Then there was mo’ laughter.
You survived ’nother year, but that was just luck. Though you found a few melodic drops o’ rain in the drought, don’t expect it to happen ’gain.
During such a short — but it felt so long — winter spring, Autumn returned to her hibernation under the blanket cave, only to exit into the wild now to gather sustenance — no longer to linger. The experiment failed; the transfusion was rejected. The cold barrens quaking with bitter coffee beans can’t survive the neon balmy midnight sunlight swimming with the sweet & sour acidic fruit that smelled like oil. As alluring as that fruit was, ’twas also revolting.
New, new, new, new, new.