Light streamed in through the window, coloring the inside walls with pale blue. Since the window was just ’hind Dawn’s couch, the beam o’ light landed right on her like a spotlight, the harsh warmth irritating her eyes till they peeled open. She stared up @ the window, absentmindedly listening to the dull thud o’ some construction work far ’way & smelling the air seep in through the open crack.
Well, this is the 1st day ’way from the restaurant. Now time to get started on all the things you whined ’bout not being able to do.
She sat up & dug round her coat pockets till she found a crumpled paper. She pulled it out & looked @ it.
“OK, let’s see… My 1st idea was painting,” Dawn said to herself.
She looked up @ the easel she had already set up last night in her excitement.
“Let’s do it!” she exclaimed as she stood.
She stopped in front o’ the easel, picked up the paint palette sitting on it, & stared @ the empty white board, thinking ’bout how she should start. & then thinking some mo’. & then mo’, till she spent almost ten minutes just staring @ the easel.
“Well, while I’m thinking ’bout it I might as well get something to eat,” Dawn said as she went to the kitchen.
She poured herself a cup o’ Kool-Aid & made her own special recipe o’ peanut butter & jelly sandwich—special in that it didn’t include either peanut butter or jelly, but ’stead chocolate & honey.
She munched on the sandwich, destroying millions o’ tiny molecules, still so young. They screamed in agony as they were crushed by Dawn’s mega molars, but nobody could hear them. Those that managed to survive the onslaught, escaping through crumbs dribbling down Dawn’s chin, sat silently round her couch, planning their revenge & trying to keep their li’l minds from imagining the horrors their brethren must have been going through during digestion.
However, when she finished, she still didn’t have much o’ an idea for what to paint, her mind quickly distracted ’way from the issue toward the compelling subject o’ pigment chemistry. Thus, she gave herself mo’ time by getting herself ’nother cup o’ Kool-Aid. & then ’nother. & then ’nother, till she ran out, & it’s not as if she could just leave the Kool-Aid pitcher empty—that would be rude to her future self—so she mixed up ’nother batch o’ Kool-Aid, only to spill some on the counter, requiring her to wipe it clean; & while she was @ it, she might as well clean the entire kitchen.
Throughout all this she still couldn’t conjure up a good painting idea, other than a sky full o’ clouds; that seemed simple ’nough, though rather boring.
“It’d be a lot easier if I weren’t distracted by all these noises. Like that. Did I just hear a door open? I think I may be getting goaty,” she said to herself.
Then, while she was cleaning the kitchen all that Kool-Aid she drank ran to her bladder & she had to use the bathroom, which was exciting; & while she was there, she figured she might as well clean it, too.
& then she heard knocking on the door.
“Ooo! Someone’s @ the door!” she exclaimed as she tossed her mop aside.
While she left to answer the door, the mop, having its fragile feelings hurt, crammed its head in the toilet, hoping to drown itself. ’Twas only after minutes o’ failure did it remember it never breathed anyway. Now it could only lie round on the still-wet linoleum, despairing in its infinite failure.
“Hello,” Dawn said after she opened the door.
@ the door was a well-dressed boy in a smooth white suit with short, neat light brown hair, parted in the middle. In his hand was a colorful pamphlet.
“Hello, Madame. I just came by to ask if you’ve met the Heavenly Parliament,” the boy said.
Dawn blinked @ him for a few seconds. Then she waved her index with a savvy smile.
“O. That’s one o’ those religion things, isn’t it,” Dawn said. “You’re one o those people who goes round telling people ’bout it. Wow, I’ll have to admit this is a 1st for me.
“Actually, I haven’t heard o’ this one yet. Is it new? How well’s it been going, anyway? I hear o’ so many religions that start up & never go anywhere.”
The boy stared @ Dawn in utter shock. This wasn’t how it normally went; she was s’posed to slam the door in his face. His nerves bunched up & he felt his hands begin to shake & his throat feel clogged.
What should I say now? he thought.
“Uh… I dunno…”
“& what does this ‘Heavenly Parliament’ offer, just out o’ curiosity,” Dawn asked. “I know everyone says their religion is the only ‘true’ religion, but in reality there is actually quite a steep competition. What does your religion offer me that the traditional religions don’t? Is it one o’ those strict ones that force you to keep your fingernails untrimmed & sacrifice your time for boring meetings or one o’ those hippie ones where everyone just dresses terribly & listens to noisy music till the leader turns out insane & makes everyone dance themselves to death in red shoes? Different people have different wants, after all.
“Case in point, this isn’t one o’ those archaic religions like that ol’ grampa o’ yours—you know, the one that’s all cheery & funny & then it makes some brief racist or homophobic statement & makes everyone feel awkward.”
The boy blinked blankly as his mind feverishly tried to remember ’nough ’bout his new religion to actually answer her question.
Finally, he said, “Um… Well…”—He cleared his throat—“Currently the Heavenly Parliament is opposed to homosexuality, as you seem to be indicating, but there is an LGBT movement rising among the Liberal party.”
“Heaven has political parties?” Dawn asked.
The boy nodded. “O yeah. Most members o’ the Heavenly Parliament are either part o’ the Liberal or Conservative parties, though there are some Independents, too.”
“So, can I get a vote?” Dawn asked.
The boy nodded ’gain. “Yeah. You just have to pray for the candidate you want to win for your planet’s seat.”
“Hmm… So, is there no singular god, then?”
“O, no there is. He’s just a figurehead now, though. The real decisions are now made by the Heavenly Parliament & Prime Minister.”
“Who’s Prime Minister now?”
“Lucifer’s been Prime Minister since the creation o’ the Heavenly Republic a millennium ago.”
“Lucifer? So he’s good in your religion?” Dawn asked.
“Uh huh,” the boy answered, nodding yet ’gain. “Monarchotheist propaganda tries to paint him as this evil force disrupting traditional monarchy, being sent to Hell for his failure to overthrow God; but in reality, he was quite successful in forcing God to recognize the public’s rights & ’cause o’ that he is very popular in heaven, the founding father o’ the Heavenly Republic. ’Course, there are still those few who preferred the monarchy & heavenly anarchists who believe he’s a corrupt sellout & call for direct democratic control o’ heaven & the end o’ monarchy, period, as well as those who supported him before, but think his constant victories spell a threat to heavenly republicanism; but the vast majority love… him…”
Suddenly, his eyes widened as he tilted his head to see ’hind Dawn.
“You like what I did with the kitchen? See, what I do is I use both soap & water to scrub the floor. I think I read ’bout it in a book once.”
The boy pointed a shaking finger ’hind Dawn.
“Madame, is that… is that a possessed pillow walking through your living room?”
Dawn put her hands on her sides & glared @ him.
“Don’t tell me that’s the best recruitment tactic you have,” she said. “Come on, man, you have to put effort into it. Tell me ’bout all the riches they’re going to give me; how I’ll meet my dead turtle, Stumpy, in heaven. Or how ’bout the fear method—tell me how the Heavenly Parliament will strike me down if I don’t worship them immediately. You don’t expect you’ll compete with the big religions if you slack like this, do you?”
The boy wasn’t paying attention to Dawn’s speech, his eyes still glued ’hind Dawn. Finally, Dawn decided to humor the strange boy & turned round.
“That sure is a walking pillow sitting there, inanimate,” Dawn said. “It must be a heavenly miracle.”
The man’s eyes winced in suspicion. Hey, she’s the one responsible for this, isn’t she… That’s why she didn’t slam the door in my face; she was hoping she could convert me to her savage, occult, tyrannical God! I must get ’way ’fore she washes my brain.
“I have to go now,” the boy said.
“You want to use my bathroom?” Dawn asked, pointing a thumb ’hind her.
The boy blinked @ her for a few seconds, & then abruptly turned & zoomed ’way.
“Hmm… I hope he makes it in time,” Dawn said. “Nobody’s going to take a religion seriously when its evangelists have soiled trousers & kidney damage.”
Her attention was snatched ’way by the sun shining down on the streets below & the squawking o’ birds & humans pretending to be birds.
“It sure is a nice day, though,” Dawn said. “I ought to do some work outside.” She began rubbing her chin. “Hmm… But what?”
She returned to her couch & stared fixedly @ the table in front o’ it, her fingers clicking absentmindedly gainst its surface. Behind her, her pillow & blanket wrestled; however, Dawn was far too distracted to notice such an insignificant detail.
She took out her list to look @ the next item, & then clasped her hands together.
“Ah! Become an independent game developer. That should be a li’l easier.”
So she took out her laptop & downloaded a compiler & even made a li’l program that greeted the world in white text, though she wasn’t sure why a computer program would want to do so, ’mong others. She spent ’bout a half hour mo’ brushing up on classes only for her mind to drift off into the ether. To feed her finicky attention span, her body automatically got up to get her ’nother cup o’ Kool-Aid. She made a few mo’ attempts to read the tutorial, only to keep getting up & getting drinks or making a bowl o’ ramen noodles, for which she was always proud she cooked on the stove rather than the microwave.
’Twas not till she finished her bowl o’ ramen that she noticed she was reading the same paragraph over & over ’gain, separated by large chunks o’ time spent staring out into space. When this realization came she finally decided she’d done ’nough development for now & returned to her list:
“Guitarist, writer, cartoonist, poet, magician, puppet master, race-bike rider, psychiatrist,” Dawn muttered as her eyes scanned down the page. “What was I thinking? I’d never be able to do any o’ these.”
She dropped the page & sighed.
“Perhaps I should go back to my chemistry work… But how am I going to do that? One, I’m probably rusty @ it & 2, even if I wasn’t, having gone 5 years after leaving college without any work in the field will probably screw me over.
“’Sides, I didn’t leave the restaurant so I could be someone else’s worker grunt.” She stood up with a fist raised into the air. “I’ve got to do this on my own, my own venture…”
She sat back down & rubbed her chin. “But how would you do that with chemistry?”
She glanced back @ her list & saw the last item—psychiatrist—and was suddenly reminded o’ an old comic she loved.
Dawn stared with glazed eyes o’ boredom @ the buildings ’cross the street & passing cars as she laid her head ’long her stretched-out arms over her li’l cardboard-box stand in the middle o’ the sidewalk. On the front, written in felt-tip market, said, “Laboratory Science – 500₧.1” Every once & a while, when someone walked by, she would raise her head in hopes that they would solicit her services; but they never did.
Then she saw someone stop in front o’ her booth—someone she recognized by the red ponytail, glasses, & black shirt saying, “PHAT LOOT.”
Hey, it’s Edgar’s girlfriend… Autumn, I think ’twas…
She had to admit to herself that she felt rather weirded-out near Autumn. Though Autumn offered tremendous help with her restaurant, that cold, stoic look in her eyes always made Dawn wonder if Autumn were capable o’ stabbing someone, should she need to.
Had she already on one o’ her heists? I’m surprised I’d never asked Edgar.
Perhaps I shouldn’t…
Without any introduction, Autumn asked, “So, does this ‘laboratory science’ include checking the DNA o’ a hair sample?” As she said this she held up a plastic bag with a thin black hair inside.
“Yes,” Dawn answered. “What do you need it for?”
Autumn glanced ’way & paused, seemingly unsure o’ whether she should answer or not.
“Somebody robbed me. I need to find out who & teach whoever ’twas a lesson.”
Dawn frowned, but said nothing. ’Stead, she went directly to work, 1st by performing a litany o’ complex chemical reactions that the author is not literate ’nough in chemistry to know, & then by comparing the DNA information to a DNA listing online using her laptop. As this went on her customer sat silently to the side with her knees raised, staring vacantly @ the street.
“Not a talkative one, are you?” Dawn asked as she worked.
Her customer only replied with, “No.”
Dawn took that a signal to be silent.
When Dawn was finished she said, “This hair belongs to a woman named ‘Heloise Solstice,’ aged 72.”
Her customer nodded. “Thank you.” Then she rose, handed Dawn a 500-₧-bill, & then started walking ’way.
“Hey, wait…” Dawn called out.
Autumn turned back to Dawn, but said nothing.
“You’re not, uh… You’re not going to seriously hurt this person, are you?” Dawn asked.
Autumn blinked @ Dawn for a few seconds. During those few seconds, Dawn felt as if Autumn’s eyes were power-drilling directly into her nerves.
“’Course not,” Autumn said.
Then she turned & left. Dawn exhaled, as if her nerves had been dowsed with water. She still felt apprehensive, however:
I’d expected her to smile creepily as I’d seen her do before, I’d expected her to say in that deep tone o’ hers to butt out or something; but I hadn’t expected her to lie right to my face—which was obviously the quickest way to shut me up. Dawn mused. Well, I’ll say one thing: she’s efficient, that’s for sure.
He knew he had to get rid o’ the heathen ’fore she caused the collapse o’ the Heavenly Republic into totalitarianism… But how?
@ 1st he tried going round the city & alerting everyone to the “Heathen in the Green Jacket” & her wickedness, but for some reason none o’ them seemed disturbed by the discovery. Indeed, almost all o’ them acted as if they had never even heard o’ her or the Heavenly Republic. Clearly they were all in on her heresy, too.
He turned to Discussions o’ the Matters Involving Greater Public Participation in Heavenly Affairs—the founding tome o’ the Heavenly Republic—for answers. Since his memory o’ the text was so faint—why else would he be turning back to it for answers rather than rely on his own memory?—he opened the book @ a random page, hoping fate, or @ least the Great Random Number Generator, would lead him to riches o’ philosophy. He opened the book to pg. 162, ran his finger down with his eyes closed, & then stopped in the middle. He opened his eyes & read the passage, Lucifer 18:9:
But even if we are all fingers of the one big hand, do not the fingers ultimately control what the hand does, even if ultimately in the name of the hand?
“That’s it!” the boy whose name shall be a secret to all readers exclaimed. “We are all fingers to the hand o’ the Republic that have been detached by the tyranny o’ the totalitarian religions! I just need to find some super glue so I can surgically attach us all!”
But when he searched round shops, he discovered to his horror—or, a’least, ire, which was close ’nough—that every packet o’ super glue had been bought by “some strange woman & her skeleton friend.”
That scoundrel! She knew I’d attempt to do what no mere mortal has ever done & deliberately sabotaged me with her undead friends just to sabotage me!
The clerk offered him “pretty good glue,” but he knew that would never work, so he gave up & ’stead sat on some random guy’s stoop with his chin in his hands, staring down @ the sidewalk, distraught.
“Hey, kid, I told you I don’t want none o’ your hippy cult!” he heard someone shout ’hind him. “Do you hear me? Get lost!”
The unnamed evangelical sighed.
But his head bolted up when he heard a voice whisper, “Psst! You need help getting rid o’ the green-jacketed heretic, right?”
“Who said that?” the unnamed evangelical asked.
“Your name is now Adam, by the way.”
“What?” Adam asked.
“I said your name is Adam. Can’t you see your own dialogue indicator? We’re not having any more o’ that ‘unnamed evangelical’ crap.”
Adam turned his head all round him, but saw nobody. He looked ’hind him, into the house. The owner was just walking toward the front.
“Sir, was that you speaking to me?”
“Yeah, I told you to get lost. I just called the police.”
“No, I mean were you the one who told me you would help me get rid o’ the green-jacketed heretic?”
“I most certainly am not! I want nothing to do with you & your obnoxious cult!” the boy said.
“Your name is now Michael, by the way.”
“Who said that?” Michael demanded, turning his head left & right. “My name isn’t Michael; it’s Borace.”
“Start using it, then.”
The man… Borace shook his head as if trying to ’scape from a nightmare. Realizing that arguing with an invisible voice was futile, he just turned round & went back inside, closing the door ’hind him so Adam or the voice couldn’t look inside & see that his carpet wasn’t well vacuumed.
Adam turned back to the mysterious figure… or, a’least, he would have liked to, but he still didn’t know where the figure was, so he made due with turning back forward. It felt right.
“I still don’t know where you are,” Adam said.
“That’s not important…”
“Are you… Are you a member o’ the Heavenly Parliament? Are you the Lord o’ Speech?”
He could feel hesitation in the air from where the figure was silent, till it finally responded with “Sure…
“Anyway,” the figure continued, “That’s not important. What is is that I can help you stop the green-jacketed heretic once & for all.”
“O, we don’t want to reveal everything just yet, do we?”
Their conversation was interrupted when Adam saw movement nearby. He looked up & saw that ’twas a woman in a police uniform walking toward him. Under her cap she had bushy, curly hair & wore a pair o’ opaque black shades over her eyes.
“We received a call ’bout possible disturbances @ this residence, so I made sure to send the highest member o’ the force to show we mean business—me. Tell me, Sir, are you the problem we received our call ’bout?”
Adam sighed before saying, “No, officer. He’s inside. Broke in while I was out here enjoying the sun & locked me out.”
The police officer rubbed her chin, which was what she felt people did when the thought ’bout such claims as these.
“Hmm… You don’t sound like the guy who called me… But then, if you say it, I guess it must be true.”
The officer stepped past Adam & knocked on the door. They could both hear footsteps growing louder on the other side till they stopped & the door opened.
“There you are, officer. This bolt just sat on my porch & started babbling ’bout the ‘Heavenly Republic’ or whatever pseudoreligious cakery he’s baking,” Borace said as he pointed @ Adam.
Now the officer scratched her head in confusion. Confusion truly made her head itch.
“Well, now, that’s odd. This fellow here told me you were the one breaking onto his property.”
“He’s lying,” Borace said, his face reddening. “For god’s sake, Madame, his voice sounds nothing like mine—and I called you.”
The officer turned back to Adam, still rubbing her chin.
“Hmm… He has a point.”
“He’s just lying,” Adam said.
The officer turned back to Borace.
“He’s got a point.”
“No, he doesn’t,” Borace said in almost a yell. “Look, don’t you have records or something that can check to see that I am the rightful tenant?”
“We do!” she said as she raised a finger in the air.
Then she dropped it ’gain. “A’least, we did… That blasted thief with the red ponytail broke in & stole our files! When I told her to stop… she didn’t! I couldn’t understand what her problem with law & decency was. She was an animal, I tell ya!”
“Don’t you have files in digital form? Files that should be backed up somewhere?” Borace asked.
“So anyone can just hack into our computers & steal them & use them to stalk one’s ex-spouse or send annoying spam? Do you know what crazies are after our files? Radical leftists; radical right-wingers; radical centrists; arsonists; kidnappers; jaywalkers; terrorists; people who forget to leave tips; people who leave tips, but act snooty ’bout it as if they’re doing you a big favor, even though those tips are necessary for waiters to even make minimum wage; communists; fascists; anarchists; the government…”
“Wait, aren’t you the government?” Borace asked. Now he was the one scratching his head in confusion—& Arceus did it feel good.
What’s making confusion so itchy nowadays? The summer heat? I think, sitting here typing this now.
“Yeah, & you see how incompetent we are; you think we want the rest o’ the government to have these files, too, so Mayor Sunday can use them to find women to harass for sex, the sleaze? The stories they tell ’bout our force is true. We’re so underfunded that the only people we can get are crazies that just want to beat up types o’ people they don’t like or setup their own li’l dictatorships.”
Borace cringed. “Gee, I’m sorry to hear that. Why do you stay on force, then?” he asked.
The officer adjusted her hat—not ’cause ’twas on crooked, which it wasn’t, but for dramatic flair. “Pride. My family’s been in the force since, well… Since my father… We’re just starting the tradition, OK? They’ve got to start somewhere. Anyway, my father Captain Napoleon’s been in charge for almost a decade till a tragic accident in a mine-cart chase led to his early demise; but I, Margaret Napoleon, have risen up to his old rank to keep our family tradition alive, & I promise I will avenge my father gainst that dastardly mine cart!”
Throughout her speech, Captain Napoleon had been twisting her arms & body round in strange poses, which Borace guessed were s’posed to be a dramatic supplement to her life’s story. When she stopped, he glanced ’way from her, just remembering his original problem, when he noticed the trespassing punk went BWOL, which is rather similar to “AWOL,” but much quieter.
“Hey! The religious nut’s gone! He left without getting arrested or anything. What a jerk.”
“That’s right, Sir,” Captain Strong said as she adjusted her hat ’gain. “Rather than do the traditional thing o’ beating them over the face with a baton, I prefer to just annoy them till they go ’way. Saves me legal fees.”
Adam walked toward Dawn’s booth with a purposeful strut till he saw his reflection in a window he walked past & saw how stupid he looked. Then he started walking like a normal human.
Dawn watched him apprehensively. He’s not going to scare ’way any o’ my customers, is he?
He stopped in front o’ her booth, slapping his palms down on top o’ it, & said serenely, “I hear you like, uh…” He looked down @ the sign in front o’ the booth. “I hear you like laboratory science. Well, I just wanted to know if you could, uh… Use 1 o’ my hairs to find out my DNA… I, uh, need to know if my blood will be compatible with my sister’s.”
“Uh, I can do that—in fact I did for ’nother customer not that long ago,” Dawn said. “But, 1, you can’t test your blood type with hair, & 2, shouldn’t the doctor giving your sister blood offer to check your blood?”
Adam stared blankly @ her as if she spoke a foreign language. Then he thrust a finger forward to something ’hind her & shouted, “O my god! Is that building melting before my eyes?”
“No,” Dawn said without moving.
Adam leaned in closer, his polite smile twisting into a petulant scowl. “You don’t know that; you didn’t even turn to look.”
“I don’t need to to know that buildings don’t melt,” Dawn said. “Sometimes they jump off bridges & drown themselves in lakes; but they don’t melt. That’s just stupid.”
Adam turned his head over his shoulder & whispered, “She saw through our ruse, Minister. What should I do now?”
“I can hear you, you know,” Dawn said.
“O.” Adam looked down @ his feet, distraught.
Then he added, “You know, I’m getting kind o’ bored o’ this religion a li’l bit. I think I’ll go home & change old video games so that they have a lot o’ cuss words in them.”
“What?” the invisible voice yelled.
“Yeah, this was all fun & good, Sir Minister, but I’m truly getting tired.” Adam yawned, patting the air exhaled with his hand. “I’m truly grateful ’bout you giving me that name & all, though. See you later.”
Adam waved @ thin air & walked ’way till he disappeared in the distance, freeing up the story’s memory for mo’ characters later.
“Hmm… I wonder if I should be glad he left so early or disheartened that I lost a potential customer,” Dawn mused out loud as she leaned her head on her arm.
The sun was dipping under the—the sun was dipping under the—the sun was dipping under the—
Sorry, the story’s skipping a li’l. My younger brother scratched it, the li’l shit.
Anyway, the sun was dipping under the horizon &, when it felt that the horizon was cool ’nough, swam a few laps back & forth as well. The moon, meanwhile, gradually climbed up in its perch, looking down @ that childish sun with its arms crossed.
By this point Dawn had finally decided to close shop & return home. The streetlamps were beginning to poke open—Whatever that means… she thought—only to start blinking out whenever she walked near 1.
The street was empty; utterly devoid o’ automobiles, pedestrians, & crushed squirrel corpses. Then a red sedan drove by & the street was no longer empty, which Dawn thought ruined the scenery a bit—especially when it would have ran her over if she hadn’t been nice ’nough to jump out o’ the way. But then it drove ’way & the streets were empty once mo’.
She never saw that sedan ’gain.
But then ’nother car drove by, swerving left & right as if it weren’t even trying to drive well & she began to get a li’l suspicious.
Surely nobody would try to run me over…Dawn thought. Well, there was that strange cultist I met earlier, the guy who bought my restaurant, or 1 o’ my old customers whose meal I got wrong…
Dawn decided that such thoughts wouldn’t help her, so she dispelled them. She did, however, get her baseball bat out & move ’way from the street & closer to the sidewalk. It didn’t offer much solace, however, being so near the dark alleys on the other side; but there was nowhere better to walk.
The guy who designed these cities wasn’t very good @ his job, Dawn mused. It’s almost as if he’d never even thought ’bout chainsaw killers hiding in alleys or strange vans.
Then she heard the sound o’ steamy shifting cylinders & a high-pitched whistle. She turned round to the source o’ the sound & saw a locomotive chug ’long the road ’hind her, the lights from its headlights seemingly leading it forward like searchers after prey.
Well, whoever this is, he must mean business if he’s resorting to breaking the laws o’ physics, Dawn thought.
Luckily, the train rolled on past her, & she didn’t see it ’gain till the infamous Case o’ the Robbed Ruby years later. Nevertheless, the eerie locomotive remained on Dawn’s brain for some time after.
I’m not far from home, anyway, so I shouldn’t worry too much…
The road rose into a steep mountain, the buildings on the sides rising like spires, reflecting light from the stars & the moon.
’Twas a peaceful climb @ 1st: the streets had been emptied yet ’gain, filling it with a cool silence, only to be broken yet ’gain by the familiar huffing & whistling sound. She looked up & saw where it came from.
The narrator had lied. She did see the train ’gain—and ’twas charging right down the hill on the sidewalk toward her.
She barely had ’nough time to jump out into the alley to her right ’fore the train charged through, grating Dawn’s ears with the sickening scrape & screech caused by the train’s wheels thumping gainst its false track.
But then the chugging melted into silence ’hind her, & this time she truly didn’t see the train ’gain for years.
But ’stead o’ turning back & risking the train turning round & making 1 mo’ run for her—for she knew she couldn’t trust the narrator now—she continued through the dark maze o’ alleys, judging that the risks o’ being attacked by an axe murderer here were less likely than whatever dangers still lurked out in the streets.
This was unfortunate, since Dawn certainly didn’t feel any safer in there. The streets were @ least lit by a well-fed moon; the alleys were pure darkness, so that all Dawn could do was feel her way round the walls & hope it led somewhere that didn’t involve spikes, gunshots, rabid dogs, fruit that crushed her into a bloody pile just when she’d thought she’d reached safety, or being smacked in the face by a grumpy apartment dweller opening her door without looking out the door’s window 1st.
They say that losing 1 sense sometimes allows one to gain ’nother; Dawn, however, was unhappy ’bout this, for the sense she gained was a deeper imagination for what her surroundings might look like if there were light—& the mo’ these ideas sprouted, the gladder she felt ’bout being unable to see.
To add to this unnerving unknown, Dawn could hear a widely-spaced collection o’ muffled sounds whose source or meaning she could only guess: Voices? Clacking glassware gainst tables? A baby crying? @ 1 point she heard bass music so loud she could feel it seep out through the floor under her feet, creating what felt like miniature earthquakes.
So she was infinitely relieved when she saw the literal light @ the end o’ the tunnel, emerging once mo’ into the fresh blue air.
She paused a second to interpret where she was in the city & found she was actually on the same block as her apartment. All she had to do was walk a few feet & cross 1 street without being run over by ’nother train or having the street suddenly cave in, throwing her into the abyss.
Neither happened, so she made it to her apartment safely.
But when she clambered up the steps to her floor, she noticed that some unearthly form o’ reconstruction must have happened while she was gone, for the floors seemed to go up forever, the 1st few floors having no doors to enter, followed by floors with tilted perspectives & uneven shapes, & then followed by floors whose configuration could not even be described with English—or any earthly—words.
“As a scientist, I would normally be intrigued by this apparent breakthrough in the very laws o’ physics,”Dawn said with a half-smirk, half-frown; “but I just want to get home. These dumb stairs are going to make me miss the static show—& on this week, when the gray pixels are going to finally outnumber the white pixels.”
Eventually, she devised an idea just contrived ’nough to work: she climbed back down to where her door should be & grabbed for where the knob should be. She tried pulling back on the air that should be her doorknob, but nothing happened.
Dawn held her arms akimbo. “There has to be some way to get in…” she mumbled.
She climbed back down the stairs so she could see if she could try reclimbing them & resetting what was obviously a loading glitch.
But as she clambered downward, she saw that the stairs now went underground, into some square dark hole in the pavement. Shrugging, she continued downward.
Once ’gain she found herself venturing through a void o’ pure darkness, relying on her hands to lead her where her eyes couldn’t see. When she reached the bottom, where the ground flattened, she could see li’l tinges o’ light seeping in through a few corners.
As she stumbled round toward 1 area o’ light, she noticed a familiar sweet scent o’ sweaty socks, artificial fruit, & warm metal. She squinted & what li’l mo’ she could see round her only added to that intimacy. She felt her way over to where she thought the light switch would be, & indeed, found 1 there. When she clicked it on, her guess was confirmed: she’d found an alternate entrance into her room.
She moved over to the window & twisted the blinds open to see the same skyline she saw whenever she looked out that window. She looked up @ the moon for answers & saw it briefly scowl @ her ’fore scrutinizing some ice cream shop ’gain.
She twisted the dial on her li’l old television & turned the lights off ’gain. The screen was the color o’ the sky ’bove the port in Neuromancer.
She sat back gainst the cushions, covering herself with blankets, as she watched the fizzing gray & black pixel ants scurry round the screen, filling the room with a low glow & a monotone sizzling.
Her mind was so enthralled with the phantasmaorgasmic show that it took a while for her to realize that her pillow was missing. Since ’twas obviously o’ inferior concern, it took her even longer to realize a blanket was wrapping itself round her, holding her tightly gainst the couch. How it did this seemingly by its own volition, she couldn’t answer; but when you’ve climbed a series o’ physics-defying stairs & watched the moon glare @ you, you start to give up on the emotion o’ surprise almost altogether.
Then ’gain, she was a li’l concerned over how to get out o’ this puzzling trap she’d found herself in. For 1, having that wooly blanket hold her down made her feel awfully warm.
“Aww, look: now it’s the poor human who’s in danger, now. Now we have a tragedy, don’t we?” she heard a voice say, from where she had no idea.
“Who said that?” Dawn asked, turning her head left & right.
“No, truly,” Dawn said.
“Hmph. Well, you can’t see our kind due to your inferior eyesight, but despite that we do very well exist.”
“OK, then who are you?” Dawn asked.
“O, you don’t know me? You had no problem slaughtering millions o’ my friends & relatives.”
Dawn’s eyebrows furled & her head turned round faster, even mo’ desperate to see who this maniac was.
“What are you talking ’bout?” she asked.
“All those, what you humans call, ‘molecules’ you devoured, all for your petty sandwich. I was 1 o’ the few that ’scaped your vile genocide gainst my people & you can be rest assured, I shall get my vengeance!”
Dawn stared blankly.
“O. Why didn’t you say so earlier?”
She scratched her head, itchy from the smothering heat. ’Cept she couldn’t reach her head with her hands, as we’ve recently acknowledged her being locked down by her possessed blanket, so she didn’t truly do this, actually. The narrator lied once ’gain, & he is deeply sorry for whatever inconveniences it may have caused.
“So, uh… How do you plan to get your ‘vengeance,’ then?”
“By covering you with blanket over blanket I will slowly raise your temperature to unbearable levels till you slowly die o’ heatstroke.”
“O.” Dawn looked down & saw ’nother blanket wrapping itself round her. She had to admit that she was beginning to feel rather uncomfortable.
“So, are you moving the blankets round?”
“I & my colleagues are, yes,” the bitter molecule said. “Now shut up & sweat to death already. I have other things to do tonight.”
“Truly? What? What is it that molecules do in their free time? Do you guys work? Uh, I apologize if these questions are offensive. I’m sorry, I don’t know much ’bout molecule people.”
Dawn struggled under her thick cage o’ blankets—which was now adding a 3rd layer—beginning to find the itchy heat to, indeed, be unbearable. Nevertheless, that was no reason to be rude & end the discussion prematurely.
“If you think you can trick me by suddenly developing empathy, save your words. We are far less naïve than you humans take us for.”
Dawn shook her head. “No, that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m just curious. To be honest, I’ve never met a cognizant molecule before. I’ve always thought you were all inanimate.”
“Yeah, that’s an excellent ’scuse for you humans to ignore us, isn’t it?”
“Have you thought ’bout having marches or trying anything else to get public recognition?” Dawn asked. “’Cause I bet these would be much better methods to getting your rights acknowledged than stifling random people to death with lots o’ blankets.”
“Hmm… No.” The bitter molecule shook its head, though Dawn couldn’t see this. Also, molecules don’t have heads, so this was only on an abstract level, technically.
The molecule continued, “Nice try, but it’s too late. It is time for you humans to take responsibility for your war crimes.”
Dawn looked down, where she saw a fifth—or was it sixth? She was so distracted by their intriguing conversation—layer being added to her blanket cage. Though the burning, suffocating heat still held a prominent place in her mind, what she truly wondered was where all these blankets originated—she certainly never bought this many.
Hmm… I wonder if I could pull my phone out o’ my pocket & call the police. Perhaps they would answer just from a call, even if I say nothing—make them think someone has me in a desperate position. Then they would have to break in when nobody answers & will see with their own eyes what’s happening, Dawn mused. I do feel bad ’bout ruining this poor li’l guy’s perfect plan; but I’ll go coconuts if I don’t get out o’ here soon.
It seemed to be such a simple solution; she marveled @ the molecule’s inability to consider it. Then ’gain, she figured molecules were probably almost as ignorant o’ humans as humans were o’ molecules.
Just look @ what trouble such simple misunderstandings can cause, Dawn thought as she pulled out her phone & began dialing, all hidden under the thick wall o’ blankets.
“You getting close to death yet?” the molecule asked in a cross tone.
“I’m getting a li’l thirsty, if that’s anything,” Dawn said.
“Hmph. Not good ’nough. How long will it take?”
“It shouldn’t take much longer,” Dawn lied. “You just have to be patient.”
“If you’re so close to death why aren’t you screaming in agony?”
“That would be awfully rude.”
“Rude? To whom?”
“To my neighbors. It’s late now. Many o’ them are probably trying to sleep, probably have to get up early to go to work. I wouldn’t want to wake them,” Dawn said.
“Hmph. I guess that makes sense…” Dawn could tell by his tone that he was still unsatisfied by the explanation, however.
Poor guy, Dawn thought. I can tell he’s nervous. This is probably his 1st human he’s getting vengeance gainst. I’m sure he’ll become mo’ confident in himself as he gets mo’ experience.
The room was hereafter filled with an awkward silence, their amicable conversation tapering off. Dawn could tell by her new molecular acquaintance’s silence that he didn’t want to talk anymore; so she ’stead turned her head back to the television & resumed watching the static show.
O, good; I didn’t miss the best part! she thought as she leaned in as much as the blankets would allow, her widened eyes staring straight @ the bright screen.
But her show was interrupted by knocking @ the door.
“Who’s that?” the molecule asked in a demanding tone. “I thought you said you humans usually sleep @ night? Why is someone knocking on your door? You don’t have friends who should come over @ this time.”
“I said some humans have to sleep @ this time, needing to go to work early in the morning,” Dawn corrected. “Not all o’ them do. After all, I’m still awake, aren’t I? & I’ll have you know I do have friends & they do stop by @ stupid hours just to annoy me. It’s probably just Scratch with mo’ o’ his conspiracy theories & criticism o’ sound theories ’bout conspiracies.”
The knocking continued.
“You’re lying,” the molecule said.
Dawn shook her head. “Cross my lungs & hope to become comatose.”
They heard ever mo’ knocking, & then a loud voice rang in, “This is the police! Open this door @ once or we’ll break it down!”
“The police! How did they know what I’m doing?” the molecule shouted.
“That’s what happens when you have cameras in everyone’s home,” Dawn lied.
They heard a loud bang that caused the apartment to shake as if attacked by an earthquake. After a few mo’ violent shakes, Dawn heard a crack ’hind her & heard the loud voice from before bellow, “OK, where is the violent criminal?” Dawn twisted her head back as far as she could & saw a woman in a police uniform with shades. Her name tag said, “Captain Margaret Napoleon.”
“Captain, he’s trying to slowly kill me by heatstroke by covering me with this fuzzy blankets!” Dawn exclaimed. “You can’t see him because he’s a molecule, but he’s there all right!”
“She’s lying!” the molecule shouted back.
Captain Napoleon turned her head round herself. “Who said that?”
“I told you: that’s the murderous molecule!” Dawn shouted.
“Murderous?” the molecule yelled. “I’ll tell you what murderous is! Murderous is the genocide you committed gainst my people!”
Napoleon turned to Dawn & said, “Well, that wasn’t very nice o’ you. Did you apologize?”
Dawn looked down, shamefaced. “No… I’m sorry, Sir Molecule.”
“Well, that’s not… I mean…” The molecule paused for a second before replying, “You truly mean it?”
Dawn nodded. “I honestly didn’t know you guys were living in my sandwich. If I did I would have been careful to eat round you guys.”
The molecule responded, “Well… Gee, I’ve never had a human apologize before. You know, humans don’t think a lot ’bout us living molecules. They think we’re all dead & inanimate, so they can just step over all o’ us.”
Though neither Dawn nor Captain Napoleon could see it, the molecule had his face low, his face twisting in its desperate struggle not to sob.
“Now I want you 2 to hug & make up,” Captain Napoleon said with her hands on her hips.
The molecule sobbed, “O, human, I’m sorry! Here, let me take those blankets off!”
Dawn felt the blankets loosen round her, dropping 1 by 1 down to the floor till she was uncovered, feeling with relief the cool night wind still rushing in through her open front door.
Dawn opened her arms. “It’s OK. I’m truly the one who should apologize. Come here.”
She could feel the tiny speak touch her chest & she wrapped her arms round him, cuddling him like a microscopic Chihuahua. She could feel the tiny shaking o’ his sobs in his arms, which she responded to with a few gentle pats.
“It’s OK,” she cooed. “It’s a tough world out there, isn’t it?”
“Nobody… nobody understands what it’s like,” the molecule sobbed.
Captain Napoleon watched this scene with a tilted head, swelling with pride @ ’nother good job done.
But then she was interrupted by a buzzing in her pocket. She took her phone out & listened to it for a second before hanging up with a grunt.
“Ha. This punk thinks he can trick me with this scam. ‘Nutcase has us locked in basement; forces us to watch stupid toy show. Multicolored house deep in mustard mountains.’ If I had a dime for every time someone tried to use that old scam on me, why, I’d have twenty cents.”
“You know how kids are,” Dawn said.
“Yeah,” Napoleon said as she shook her head.
She looked up from her phone & said, “Well, it looks like your problems are solved, so I’ll be going now.”
“Thanks,” Dawn said with a wave.
She turned back to the molecule still in her arms, much calmer than before.
“You want to watch the static show with me?” she asked.
“I… I would like that, yes,” the molecule said in a low voice.
However, they were interrupted once ’gain when they heard someone step in through the front door. Dawn turned & saw that ’twas the religious kid from before.
“OK, I’m ready to play ’gain, Sir Minister,” Adam said.
“Kid, isn’t it a li’l late to be breaking into my house? It has to be @ least eleven,” Dawn said.
The molecule turned to Adam & said, “Kid, I lied ’bout being a minister, or whatever. I was just trying to use you to get back @ this human here. But we’re done with that now, so you needn’t worry anymore.”
Dawn nodded, as if to confirm this.
Adam’s eyes twisted in confusion. “Wait… So, you mean you’re not from the Heavenly Parliament?”
“Nope. Sorry, kid,” the molecule said. “I’m just a living molecule, too small for your human eyes to see.”
“O,” Adam said, looking glumly down @ the carpet. “Well, I guess that makes a lot mo’ sense. Gee, sorry ’bout interrupting your alone time.”
“It’s no problem, we were just going to watch the static show,” Dawn said. “You want to join us.”
Adam looked up @ them, his face distracted.
“No. Mom says I can’t watch that show. It’s too violent, what with all those gray pixels attacking the black pixels.”
“O, that’s too bad,” Dawn said. “Well, I understand. Anyway, have a good night.”
Adam nodded. “You too. May the Heavenly Republic bless you with a bill favorable to your special interests. O, & thank you molecule for giving me a name. My mom kept telling me she was going to give me 1, but she’s always been busy, with work & all…”
Dawn nodded. “Yeah, being a mother is hard work.”
Adam nodded, too. “Yeah… Well, see ya.”
The moon glared down @ them all as Adam left through Dawn’s now-permanently open door with a wave. The moon had been glaring @ them all for a while now. How was he s’posed to look down on his favorite shops as he’s s’posed to do in all o’ those insipid children’s books when these idiots persisted in bringing their maternally-incestuous ruckus?