Genesis, Javier, Marijo, Gliosmar, Cesar, Jhon, & the gingernoodle woman all dropped their Digits & ran up to the ol’ rocking chair made o’ sturdy legendril wood as they heard the door sing open. They watched Edgar slowly walk o’er to it with the eyes o’ Chihuahuas ready for food & the smiles o’ children ready for a skeleton in a robe to sit in an ol’ legendril chair.
“Well, you guys are certainly… time efficient,” Edgar said1 with a chuckle as he sat back in the rocking chair, causing it to squeak.
“Tell us ’nother story ’bout your ventures with the thief, Mr. Winters,” said Genesis.
“Yeah, it must be badass to be ol’ ’nough to have gone on so many,” said Javier.
The other children nodded with murmured yesses.
Edgar chuckled weakly. “I doubt Autumn or Dawn would’ve agreed.”
“¿They didn’t like to go on all o’ these ventures?” asked Javier.
“They didn’t like getting ol’,” said Edgar. “In fact, I remember we once went down to Lemon Lakeside in search for some rare ingredient Dawn needed to perfect her “Potion o’ Eternal Youth.”
“¿‘Lemon Lakeside’? ¿Was it literally made o’ lemon juice? ¿Did you try it?” asked Gliosmar.
“Uh huh. & the rocks were made o’ hard chocolate & the leaves mint. From what I heard, it created serious ecosystem glitches for the sea life till the Programmers patched them all. Apparently it took them eons, & some complained that it ruined their way o’ living, anyway. Just goes to show you that Programmers can’t please everyone.”
“If the Programmers can just patch every error, ¿why did they allow Boskeopolis to be destroyed?” asked Javier.
Edgar glanced round @ the faces o’ the other orphanage workers walking this & that direction, carrying towels or papers; but their expressions seemed impassive as e’er.
“I’m ’fraid the Programmers feel that people must be unhappy sometimes so that others may grow happy from their unhappiness,” Edgar said quietly. “I think I remember Autumn saying ‘twas called the ‘Conflict-Entertainment Principle,’ or something.”
Well, to start, we need to set the scenery… Let’s see if I can remember…
Here, how ’bout I paint a picture o’ what the scene might’ve been in words & you try to follow ’long in your heads.
Now, I’ve started by coating the board with Liquid White so it’s all nice & slick. Now, let’s start with a li’l Indian Yellow & put a li’l right here in the middle. Just a li’l will do.
OK, now we’ll go on to Phthalo Blue & just ’long the top—just ’long the top like this so it touches the edges. All right, now let’s lightly blend it in with the yellow. There we go…
Now, let’s take the Phthalo Blue & paint us a li’l lake here. Make sure you go in from the edges so it blends in with the yellow there… & we can just put it anywhere here; we don’t care. It’s your level; design it as you want.
Tell you what, let’s have some fun: let’s take the round brush & mix Prussian Blue, crimson, & Sap Green. Now, let’s add some chipper li’l firs round here. Just take the brush & lightly tap it down like this. Just anywhere; it doesn’t matter. & here we’ll make ’nother… & ’nother… There we go. Now he’s got some friends to play with.
OK, now we’ll take the knife & mix a li’l black with Titanium White to make gray & put us some li’l tree trunks here. Then we’ll mix some Cad Yellow & Yellow Ochre & put in some highlights. Just ’long the top: you don’t want to cover up all o’ the shadows or you’ll lose the depth.
& I’ll tell you what: let’s put this down here & we’ll make ourselves a few little rocks right here. There we go… & then we’ll just take Titanium White & add some edges ’long the lake there.
OK, I’ll tell you what: let’s get crazy here. We’ll take the 2-inch brush & mix a li’l Indian Yellow & crimson—we want it nice & bright—& we’ll add a bright tree here. Just to stand out. & here, we’ll add 1 on the other side so it doesn’t get lonely.
& there we go: our scenery is finished. Now, ¿wasn’t that fun?
I 1st sensed the Lemon Lakeside not by sight, but by the sound o’ water dribbling o’er the edge o’ rocks. Considering how smart Autumn & Dawn were, they probably did, too, if not earlier.
Since Dawn was the one who knew where it might be, she was the one leading us through the Wasabi Woods toward Lemon Lakeside, while Autumn stared ’head next to me @ seemingly nothing in particular, her expression completely covered by opaque shades o’ cool stillness in stark contrast to the way the wind tossed the bangs o’er her face round or made her shirt & skirt flutter wildly, like an unmoving tree contrasted gainst its swaying leaves…
O… Sorry. Sorry, I’m sounding a li’l silly, ¿aren’t I? I ne’er was the best storyteller, but I guess we’ll have to manage.
Anyway, ’twas no surprise that Dawn was the 1st to break our silence, since she was definitely the most talkative ’mong us.
“All right, Madame Springer. Use your treasure-hunting magic to find those ingredients.”
“I hope you’re speaking sarcastically,” said Autumn; “for if you’ve truly known me for as many years as I recall—assuming my memory has not also degenerated as much as my other cognitive skills o’er the years—you’d know that I possess no ‘magic’ on which to operate.”
Dawn laughed. “Theseyears, 34’s still quite young. You probably still have 2 mo’ times that much left.”
“Don’t count on that--it’s me we’re talking ’bout,” said Autumn. "Anyway, you should know that my main ‘magic,’ if I have any, is planning, which bore no fruit for us. I wouldn’t have wasted my time on such a lost cause if you hadn’t insisted & if I had nothing valuable on which to use my valueless time, anyway. We don’t e’en know what these ingredients are, after all.”
“You ne’er win without trying,” said Dawn.
“Cutting out those last words would yield just as much truth,” said Autumn.
“Don’t play that game with me,” Dawn said with a teacherly wag o’ her finger. “As if you’ve ne’er done anything that seemed guaranteed to fail. You if anything shouldn’t have trouble believing the impossible.”
“If I believe in it, then, by definition, I don’t believe it’s impossible,” said Autumn.
“You know what I mean,” said Dawn. “Remember the time we robbed the Boskeopoleon government & succeeded. That shouldn’t easily blown past your suspension o’ disbelief—but we succeeded nonetheless.”
“That was years ago, & look @ how much that’s helped us now,” said Autumn, staring off into the fields o’ long yellow grass surrounding us: “barely able to e’en pay the rent. ¿& we’re bothering with trying to keep us ’live after ol’ age as if we’re sure we’ll last that long?”
Dawn crossed her arms. “We’re doing fine.”
“Saying isn’t provi--”
“Mr. Winters, ¡wait!”
¿Huh? ¿Yes, Javier?
“You didn’t ’splain what she was talking ’bout. ¿You guys robbed the Boskeopoleon government? ¿How did that go?
Erm… Well, it’s a bit o’ a long story—1 that’s already been told, probably.
“We didn’t get to hear it, though,” said Genesis. “You can’t expect us to go the rest o’ the story not knowing something—or worse, having to guess ourselves.”
Well, if you insist. I just hope it doesn’t bore those who already heard it…
The lobby was quiet ’gain, filled with just Autumn & piles o’ sleeping bodies crowding the stairs & floor. She climbed the closest stair, careful not to step on any o’ the fallen guards & wake them up.
’Hind the double doors on the 2nd floor was a long hallway with the same gold-&-silver tile floor & tan drywall as the lobby. As she surveyed the doors, 1 o’ them caught her eyes immediately: ’twas covered in chains & padlocks with a white sign that said in bold black letters, “ENTRANCE PROHIBITED.”
She glanced in both directions & kept her ears perked for any interruptions, though she doubted she’d find any. Then she pulled out a lighter & lit a link on the chains till it glowed red while she sawed it till it broke. She stowed her tools back into her pack & unraveled the ring round her index finger to produce a hairpin, which she used in the lock. Unsurprisingly, ’twas easy to unlock.
She went inside & clicked on the light. ’Twas a closet-sized room holding just a pile o’ bags, all with labels that said, “PROPERTY OF THE BOSKEOPOLEON GOVERNMENT. THEFT IS A SERIOUS CRIME.”
Nice o’ him to pack them up so conveniently. He certainly thought everything through.
“Look, I’m fine with this excursion o’ ours,” said Autumn. “I’m just saying, don’t expect us to succeed.”
“¿& why shouldn’t I?” asked Dawn. “¿How could we fail?”
“Too many ways to count,” said Autumn. “Hell, I’ve e’en had times when I failed multiple times within the same venture.” She turned to me. “Confirm this for her. You remember when we were digging through the Cinnamines for treasure, ¿right?”
“Uh huh,” I said with a nod.
Dawn put her fists to her hips, but laughed.
“Well. I’m waiting.”
“¿Waiting for what?” asked Autumn.
“The clip,” said Dawn.
“¿Clip? ¿As in for a gun?” asked Autumn, her eyebrows creasing in confusion.
“No, zany: the story clip. ¿You expect me to just believe you went on this venture? I need evidence,” said Dawn.
“¿What? ¿You want me to just copy & paste a piece o’ that story right before you?” asked Autumn.
Autumn turned to me. “Sorry for interrupting your story, Edgar; but you know that if we don’t do this, she’ll just keep pestering us.”
But their path ended with a gaping abyss that descended into darkness, ’bove which was nothing but a long rusted rail holding a mine cart that was just as rusty—which was obviously just the Designers having pasted a layer with some cheap free texture & put it on o’erlay.
Autumn knew ’twas pointless by this point to ask why ’twas there. She also knew that there was no other choice—she certainly couldn’t go in the imaginary directions o’ north & south. So they wasted no time—’cept for the time they wasted looking @ it & waiting for me to comment o’er it, ’course—climbing inside.
After that, it magically started—as if it knew they had gone inside.
Or maybe their weight just increased gravity’s pressure on the cart, finally forcing it down the not-quite-flat slope.
Look, I’m not a physics major, OK.
Maybe I am; but that doesn’t mean I actually know any o’ that stuff.
I just bought it off the internet.
Unless you’d bought a law degree off the internet.
Then I s’pose it’d be your job to judge.
Well, ¿what are you waiting for?
¿What, do they pay you such a sexy salary to sit round?
¡Start judging already!
“Damn it,” said Autumn. “The narrator wasted so much time with his shitty jokes that we didn’t have time to actually get to the event in interest.”
“That’s OK,” said Dawn. “That happens sometimes. ¿Remember when you were trying to tell that story ’bout robbing that bank & the narrator rudely stuck that obvious plot hole just for guffaws?”
I ran—or rather, stumbled blindly—over to the window, only to hear the rolling of wheels on gravel outside. I tilted my head so that I could see outside…
“Apparently, either I was less than a meter tall then or the windows were right below the ceiling,” said Autumn.
…when my eyes landed on the blue and brown car stopping under the light of a streetlamp.
I slid away from the window. I couldn’t hear much, since they were so far away, but I could faintly hear footsteps crunching on my right…
“Such rude footsteps, eating so loudly,” said Dawn.
…where the front door was…
“Yes, thank you for that reminder,” said Autumn. “I can only expect that they’d have normally gone in through the roof.”
…muffled by the constant pattering of rain.
“¿& since when does rain muffle sound?” said Autumn. “It’s water drops, not a fucking wall.”
My assumption was confirmed when I heard the front door rasp open like a voice after hours of disuse and…
“Also, ¿what is this, the 1950s? ¿Who spells out ‘&’ anymo’?” said Autumn.
…the quiet—from my location, a’least—barking of the guard.
“It’s good to hear they’re nice ’nough to hire dogs as guards,” said Dawn. “They truly take ‘equal-opportunity’ to heart.”
The building knocking of footsteps…
“¿Is that e’en English?” said Autumn. “¿Are the footsteps knocking on the building? ¿Or is the building knocking on the footsteps? ¿Or is the knocking just being built by… the guard? What awkward wording.”
“He spelled out ‘of,’ by the way,” said Dawn.
“Yes, I noticed.”
…told me that I had to, to speak colloquially, get the hell outta Leavenworth.
“O, look: he replaced a word with ’nother tangentially-related word. ¿Was this only the hundreth time he did that then?” said Autumn.
Well, there was only one way I could imagine: the window. ’Course, breaking the window open without bloodying my hands or fists required instrumental assistance.
“That didn’t stop me in back in Manor Heureuse,” said Autumn.
I queried my tools and remembered a trick I’d read ’bout when my eyes caught the robe I’d thankfully remembered to take with me.
I wrapped it round one of my fists and used it as a cushion to punch ’nough holes through the glass for me to fit through.
Dawn turned to Autumn. “I didn’t know you were the Hulk,”
“Ah, youth,” said Autumn.
Now I just need to find a way down three stories without shattering my spine, I thought.
“’Gain: ne’er was a problem before,” said Autumn.
I peered round the building’s skin—
“Ew. ¿Had you no decency?” said Dawn.
“S’pose not,” said Autumn.
—through the window and saw the rope I climbed up with still hanging down the side nearby.
Good thing I forgot to pull it back in, I thought.
“In case you missed the joke during its many hints before, we’ll just shout it @ you,” said Autumn.
I carefully ducked through the sharp holes, using the rope still round my hand to safely hold myself through by the top shards, dropped the bags, and then climbed the rope down to the grassy ground.
Autumn laughed. “Yeah, I can see why I wanted to run from this story.”
“& there’s a burnt maple, its sweet blood dribbling out a spot left vulnerable by its routinely-peeling bark,” Dawn said as we continued wandering the lakeside, pointing @ the tree she was describing.
Autumn didn’t look like she was paying attention. She was gazing off into nothing, interspersed here & there by sips from her “water.”
Dawn stopped for a second to pick up 1 o’ the few early-fallen leaves, banana-yellow.
“Already we see it leaving its leaves,” she said as she twirled it round in her fingers by its stem.
She added, still looking up @ the sun as if she was still in thought, “You remember when I shrank us & we climbed that tall tree to find 1 o’ the eggs needed to make an ingredient o’ mine. We didn’t have any idea where they were then, either.”
“The choices were limited to only 3 areas in a small roof garden,” Autumn said without looking @ Dawn.
“Yeah, but we still had no idea o’ how we were gonna get the egg till inspiration bonked us on our heads—not to mention in the next 2 areas we went through.”
“I thought we went there last,” said Autumn.
“¿Did we?” Dawn scratched her head, & then laughed. “I guess my memory must be slipping: I could’ve sworn we went there 1st.”
Heh. Actually, ironically, I always remembered it as the 2nd place we went, but my memory’s surely not as good as either o’ theirs were then.
“You’re gonna tell us the story, ¿right?” asked Marijo.
Well… I mean, if you truly want me to, sure. This story is sure getting distracted a lot, though; guess I should’ve picked a different 1, heh.
Before Autumn knew it, she heard a thump to her left & saw Dawn there, crisscrossing her legs ’gain.
“When I was watering the trees, I had an idea: when we’re done with this, we should go sky diving with a peanut-butter leaf. I’ve tried it before & it’s safe & fun—a quick way to move ’bout.”
Autumn took a second to confirm what Dawn said, & then nodded.
“Great. Let’s do it.”
Autumn & Dawn jumped to their feet, immediately followed by Edgar.
Their caterpillar host said, “¿Is something wr—” ¿What are you doing?”
Before he could finish, Autumn ran forward, scooping the egg into her arms, while Dawn yanked a star-shaped peanut-butter leaf out o’ her pocket & unfurled it o’er her head like a flag. She stopped @ the end o’ the longest bough, Autumn wrapped her arms round Dawn’s stomach, Edgar wrapped his round hers, & then Dawn hopped out into the air.
As the wind blew them ’way, Autumn turned back to see the caterpillars all congregate on the edge they’d left.
Mo’ conspicuous: they’d turned a bright red, their smiles replaced by pinched frowns & veins bulging out o’ their temples.
“¿How are you able to remember so many details & know exactly what Autumn was doing?” asked Gliosmar.
O, these snippets aren’t from my own experiences, ’course: they’re just pieces saved deep in the Boskeopolis’s backup folders, which the Programmers just happened to forget to wipe.
This actually reminds me o’ ’nother story: when we were exploring the Dark Licorice Library.
He could tell by the clouds o’ dust & patches o’ spiderweb infesting the door @ the end o’ the hall that nobody had entered this library in a long time. Said dust reached down his throat & tickled its most fragile corners while his nose inhaled the equivalent o’ a shot glass full o’ 30 different 19th-century wines.
But this was only the appetizer to the full course ’hind the door: through it the thin vestibule gaped into a room big ’nough to be a city itself, but with its apartments, offices, & shops replaced by bookcases & magazines racks. ’Twas quiet, but not silent, its thick air strewn with wheels, plastic, & steel rattling: though the streets were mostly empty, every once & a while a ’lone cart covered in books strolled by.
“I just gotta show you some o’ my ol’ childhood memories,” Dawn said as she walked into the nearest alley.
“I s’pose when you’re a 52-year-ol’ child, you don’t need kids to show everyone photos o’; you can just show photos o’ yourself,” said Autumn.
As they trawled ’tween the shelves, Edgar held his hand o’er the spines o’ a line o’ books, bumping rhythmically gainst each gap, & scanning each title—a’least for those that showed them on their spines. Each row was diverse: from tearing leather-bound tomes o’ flat colors; plastic hardbacks with rigid spines bending @ the edges in white; boxy paperbacks in loud primaries; to hardbacks covered in baggy & dusty plastic covers.
“O, wait a minute: ¿what’s this?” Dawn said as she stopped & turned fully-facing 1 side.
She bent down & pulled a flaky paperback out while Autumn slightly tilted to the side to look o’er her shoulder. The side o’ Autumn’s mouth puffed up ’gain.
“¿Truly?” Autumn said with airy exasperation.
Dawn’s smile ratcheted upward. “¿What? You already told us ’bout your love o’ this story.”
Autumn crossed her arms. “Yes.”
“¿You mind if we read this?” asked Dawn. “If it has sensitive info—”
“No, it’s fine.”
“¿You mean it?”
“All right.” Dawn turned into a sitting position with her back gainst the shelf & opened the book @ the beginning in the middle.
As part o’ her school work every Friday, Autumn looked round the plastic swirly stand for a book to read. This was hard, as you could ne’er tell whether a story would be some boring lesson on how you should always take the Jokers out o’ decks ’fore playing Zany 3s or 1 where the adults sneak in inappropriate references that they didn’t think li’l kids could get, but secretly do, but just don’t say so to avoid hurting the writers’ feelings.
She pulled out 1 every so oft, flipping through its pages to get a preview. She told herself she’d read the longest 1 she could find to prove that e’en if they always caught her when she tried sneaking LEGOs or scissors into her backpack, well, a’least she could read better than them.
However, she soon changed her goal, anyway, when she searched through a different book with a cover that showed some fox in some strange green hat & tights holding a bow & arrow. As she flipped through it, the word “thief” caught her eye, which caused her to roll her eyes & almost put it back immediately.
This is gonna be ’nother boring lesson book, isn’t it. No thanks. It’s lazy, anyway. I know ’nother book, some fairy tale book, I think, with pictures that look just like some o’ these, like they just traced o’er them or something.
“You would like that, since you steal so much.”
Autumn turned her head to see Dante practically flinging the books he was looking through to her side, as if he were playing tug o’ war with them gainst the book rack.
“¿Why would I like it if it makes thieves the villain?” she asked.
“Robin Hood isn’t the villain. He’s the hero, stupid.”
Curiosity beating her other wants, she took the book back to her desk & began reading. ’Twas a typical story in which the hero & his partner do battle gainst some evil king & fall in love with some lady the king did evil things to. In this case, the king & the sheriff stole money from poor people, so Robin Hood stole it back, which meant he wasn’t truly stealing it, anyway, since the king stole it 1st, but since he’s the king, it’s s’posed to be right for him to do it, but not Robin Hood, ’cept in this story, ’course, where Robin Hood is called the hero, e’en though he’s called an outlaw.
This both confused & interested Autumn. Actually, confusion itself was interesting. After all, she wasn’t so dumb that she didn’t know there was a lot o’ stuff she didn’t know, much o’ which she guessed she’d somehow learn as she got older, some o’ which probably not, considering a lot o’ the adults she’d met. (Then ’gain, adults can be clever, so maybe the times when they act less smart are just an act.) Still, she knew a lot o’ the stuff she didn’t know had to be known by someone, somehow. ¿How were books like these made? She’d tried making her own once when she was bored, but she didn’t have to be a mathematician to notice they looked nothing like real books do.
As she thought ’bout this, she flipped her book back o’er onto its cover & stared @ it.
Maybe I could be an outlaw like him & beat them in an arrow contest whenever they try to stop me from taking something…
No, that’s stupid. Life doesn’t work like they do in stories like these. I’ll probably end up @ some boring job like my mom, barely able to clothe some kid I stupidly got myself stuck taking care o’.
Dawn closed the book, still smiling.
“Quite a Nostradamus you were, ¿eh?” said Dawn.
Autumn nodded. “Indeed: as well as that 1 witch we for some reason kept bumping into when she ‘foretold our future.’”
“Yeah. I wonder what e’er happened to her…”
“Could be dead.”
“Always the positive prospect 1st.”
Autumn shrugged. “She was ol’ & not particularly normal. I can’t imagine a daily diet o’ Master Munch’s Peanut Butter Munchmuffins could’ve been good for her health @ her age.”
Well, anyway, I guess we should return to the story I was already telling ’fore I forget my place. Laughs.
“Wait,” Gliosmar said with her hand raised. “Tell us ’bout the witch ‘foretelling’ your future.”
Edgar laughed ’gain. O, all right. Just make sure you remember my place.
“You, Autumn, & Dawn were all standing round talking ’bout stuff that already happened,” said Cesar.
Autumn’s expression didn’t sweeten when they went in through a flap & Autumn got a glimpse inside: much bigger than outside, ’course, & full o’ candles that smelled o’ unidentifiable confections & the typical baubles whose purpose & pattern were, ironically, simply to be “atypical.”
After a few minutes o’ pushing past the crowd o’ folks in equally arrhythmic attire, she saw who this familiar person was. As she stared @ the ol’ crone’s creepy orange avian mask, she debated inside her mind whether she was mildly annoyed by running into her or not.
“O. Good evening,” Heloise said as they approached her. Heloise held her arms out wide o’er the table on each side o’ the mini LCD TV like a stereotypical shopkeeper. Knowing her, ’twas intentional. “I see the eclectic 1 has dragged you both to my booth.”
“Well then.” Heloise adjusted her mask a centimeter. “I s’pose I should tell all o’ your fortunes, ¿maybe?”
Dawn backed ’hind Autumn & pointed @ her. “Do Autumn 1st.”
“Yes, let’s get the depressing story o’er with 1st so we may end on a positive note,” said Autumn.
Heloise turned to Autumn. E’en with her mask covering her face, Autumn could tell she was smiling ’neath.
“¿You e’er hear o’ recursive predictions?”
“Yes. I also know that they can’t be ’scaped.”
Heloise shook her head. “Tssk, tssk, tssk.”
She turned back to the center & said, “There’s no need for the competition, anyway; your futures all coincide.”
She began rubbing the sides o’ the TV.
“Now, stare deeply into my liquid-crystal cube to have all o’ your futures foretold,” she said slowly as her hand slowly reached round the TV & a long finger pressed the thin button @ the bottom, causing a tiny green light to flick on.
Dawn & Edgar peered in closer as the blue gradually faded into the picture o’ a spinning cylinder with rounded trapezoid prisms for a top & bottom & its middle ring covered by a row o’ glass windows. Protruding from the top was a propeller that, presumably, kept the whole thing from falling.
“Good evening, gentlepeople. We’d like to take this moment to take a look @ what life will be like in the Boskeopolis o’ Tomorrow.”
The camera zooms in through the window, showing a room with walls shiny white.
“Here’s the residence o’ Madames Springer & Summers & Sir Winters; & here on this angular hot pink couch you can see Sir Winters sitting, leaning o’er his shiny glass table, fingers running ’long keyboard & mouse. If you look closely, you can see Adobe Culinary® open with a macaroni salad project in progress, ready to be printed any minute now.”
Sound o’ a door slam.
“Uh O. ¿What’s this?”
Edgar looks up to see Autumn limp toward him, an eye shriveled & purple, an arm held stiffly to her chest, & tears in her shirt & sweats. Her dark hair clasps tightly to her face & her dark clothes sag. Drops o’ water spill from all ’long the carpet.
Edgar jumps to his feet & helps Autumn to a seat on the couch, where she grasps her chest & coughs.
“Don’t tell me you ran out o’ gas ’gain,” he says.
“OK, I won’t,” Autumn says she says hoarsely ’tween coughs.
Suddenly, the room is filled with a cacophony o’ laughter, causing Autumn to press her able hand & other shoulder to her ears & hyperventilate.
“They’re all in your head… They’re all in your fucked-up head…” murmurs Autumn.
Edgar turns to the computer & switches to the desktop, where he double clicks an icon with a purple cross on it.
“¿You think you might’ve caught any diseases down there?” asks Edgar.
“No,” says Autumn. “Don’t waste those; I don’t want to become immune to them ’fore I truly need them.”
Edgar types & clicks a few mo’ times, causing a buzz ’neath the table. Autumn slides off & looks stares ’neath. A minute later, she reaches in & pulls out a pill, which she shoves into her mouth, & then a glass o’ water, which she chugs.
After gulping it down, the purple in her eye fades, causing it to widen to its normal size. She stands straight & returns to her seat on the couch, her arm no longer latched to her chest, but now sitting comfortably on her knee.
“I’m almost done with dinner,” Edgar says as he clicks to the Culinary tab.
“You know you don’t have to go through all o’ that trouble,” Autumn says; “you can always just use the premade meals. Hell, you’ve saved ’nough meals o’ your own to reuse.”
“Yeah, but it’s fun to make up my own food. The only problem is that it takes a while to print out a sample to taste; but I’m just finishing up the decoration now, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”
“If you say so,” Autumn says as she pulls her own laptop out from under the couch. She sets it on her lap, opens it, & powers it on. After typing in her password, double-clicking a few icons, & waiting, she began continuing her cryptography study.
Unluckily, the algorithm Bitpoint Bank uses now isn’t nearly as weak as MD5, so that li’l victory o’ mine may have to be chocked up as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Still, no reason not to try.
Autumn looked up from the liquid-crystal cube. “None o’ this truly happens. You just pulled this clip out o’ your ass.”
“The only way any o’ us will be able to find out is to wait & see,” said Heloise.
Anyway, I think where I left off, we finally stopped with the stories, & we were mostly silently walking, following ’long the river or something. I’m not completely sure.
Anyway, that silence ended when Autumn winced & said, “I think we’ve been through here already.”
“’Course we have,” said Dawn. “Look, there’s that tree I described to you earlier. ¿D’you remember?”
“& there’s a burnt maple, its sweet blood dribbling out a spot left vulnerable by its routinely-peeling bark,” Dawn said as we continued wandering the lakeside, pointing @ the tree she was describing.
“I did, thank you,” Autumn said as she winced e’en mo’.
Autumn stopped with her hand gainst that very tree & said, “I think Edgar’s ’bout to topple o’er &, to be honest, so will I in a minute.”
“I’m glad you offered,” Dawn said ’fore falling straight down in the grass.
We all puffed for air—sorry, wrong word choice—anyway we breathed to… get back our energy for a few minutes.
Then Autumn said, “This is why I retired.”
“& now I’ve brought you out o’ retirement,” said Dawn.
“¿So you can kill me mo’ quickly?” said Autumn.
“You know, e’en if we don’t find that ingredient, it’s nice to get out for once,” said Dawn.
“The way you word it, it sounds as if this ingredient’s existence were fabricated, used as merely a tool to yank us out here to… play round,” said Autumn.
“No,” Dawn said with a titter o’ laughter, shaking her head. “¿Would you be mad if that were the case, though?”
“I wouldn’t see the purpose…”
Dawn nodded & then lay down with her arms tied ’hind her head like a pillow, her eyes slowly drifting closed.
She yawned, & then said, “I think I wouldn’t mind taking a nap here, actually.”
“If you don’t mind the earth bears eating you, or the spectral moose locking you in a burnt-down forest fore’er,” said Autumn.
Dawn yawned ’gain. “Yeah. “You remember that time we camped out in Wasabi Woods & told each other ghost stories?”
Autumn stared off into the air, her face seemingly flush with heat. She took a drink o’ her “water,” & then said, “Yeah.”
Autumn frowned. “Yes, that’s a good idea.”
Some stories need to know when they’ve gone on too long.
With an exhale, she continued, “Well, you’ve gotten my tale. Hope you’ve learned a lesson.”
She turned her back to Dawn & walked back to her pack & dug through it.
“Well, I must admit ’twas feet-down the creepiest ’mong them all,” said Dawn, her voice up-turned in levity.
Face flushing bloodily, Autumn thought, If you’re lucky, you’ll see a macabre story enacted before your eyes next morn.
“Yeah.” Autumn said this with neither a crescendo o’ a question nor the deepness o’ bitterness, but with a sudden off-beat burst o’ upbeat breath.
“You’re not upset, ¿are you?”
“Uh huh: forcing me to tell an ugly tale was the dirtiest trick you e’er done me.”
Autumn’s mouth squeezed together after these sour words as if trying to strangle her tongue.
“O… Well, you seemed a li’l unhappy.”
Though Autumn’s mind had already processed a response, she judged its value to be too temporary to be worth the investment o’ rolling it out her tongue.
She’s bothered when I speak, she’s bothered when I’m silent—¡fuck! ¿What’s she want?
“¿Mmm hmm?” she said as she pulled out her sleeping bag.
“¿You sure there’s nothing wrong?”
“I’m quite certain the moral o’ my story was near the opposite.”
“Well, if you do start feeling… truly uncomfortable, just tell me.”
If I did that, you’d ne’er sleep.
She only gave Dawn ’nother, “Mmm hmm…” & then slid into the sleeping bag she’d unrolled—a’least she insinuated she must’ve; she’d been so distracted that ’twas just a smog.
Edgar sliding in next to her was just as foggy. All o’ her attention now was on her thoughts, with her face pointing straight up @ the sky—but without her eyes open. She had no interest in the stars; she had thicker ghosts to fight:
Nothing’s working. Neither psycho juice, nor these insipid
Ventures—no, not anything @ all. There’s simply no
Cure. There’s simply no solution.
She could feel bolts tightening her to a metal frame.
Struggling just reminded her e’en more that she couldn’t ’scape.
Autumn sat there in the long yellow grass, staring up @ the sky with starry eyes.
Dawn yanwed ’gain. “That night I actually dreamt you were going to--” Dawn yawned yet ’gain. “Ne’er mind. Some things are better not to remember.”
“Yeah,” said Autumn, her expression unchanging. She took ’nother drink. “If you can.”
I joined her &, uh, we both looked round @ the scenery: the rushing river, purple under the dimming orange sky…
“¿That’s all you did?” asked Genesis. “¿You didn’t do anything else with each other?”
“¿Did you have sex?” asked Marijo, not with a wry smile, but with blank curiosity. “¿Are adults allowed to do that in empty nature places like that?”
“¿Can skeletons have sex?” asked Cesar. Then he ducked his head shyly & said, “Sorry if that sounded rude.”
What embarrassed Edgar mo’ was that though they didn’t go all the way to World 82, he was still embarrassed to talk ’bout what they did do out-loud, ’specially to children.
Anyway, after a half-hour or so—when the orange sky became light purple, & the moon & 1st few stars began to show, Dawn sat up, rubbing her side, & said, “Did I miss any ’specially interesting bear or moose attacks.”
Autumn, whose eyes made her look like she was ’bout to fall asleep—as had I felt close to doing—said, “No. ¿Shall we return home?”
“If you want,” said Dawn; “though this looks like the best time o’ the day to be here.”
“If you want to stay a li’l longer, then we can; though I’m sure by the time we enter Wasabi Woods it’ll be a worse time,” said Autumn.
“I see your point,” said Dawn. “Nah, It’ll be better to go through here & Wasabi Woods like this. Wouldn’t want to spend too long here & get stuck spending the night here or in Wasabi Woods.”
“I did fill my pack with gear in case o’ emergencies like such,” said Autumn.
“I’m sure you did.”
“& e’en if it became midnight ’fore we reached home, that needn’t mean we must stop going home,” said Autumn. “I actually operate better @ night.”
“¿You’re not ’fraid o’ the violent mushroom with feet or the owls that bore you with their long diatribes ’bout literary analysis?” asked Dawn.
“No. I just put on earmuffs.”
Dawn nodded. “That’s a good idea.”
Autumn & I stood ’gain. My knees, having gone so long bent, were not pleased by this, but endured, anyway.
“¿& then what happened on your way back? ¿Did you happen to find the ingredients? ¿Did you run into any bears or mooses3?” asked Jhon.
The children & the gingernoodle woman all leaned forward, hungry for answers while Edgar gazed off into the air, eyeholes pinching in concentration.
“Um, well… I, uh, actually don’t remember. I mean, I’m sure we got back safely ’ventually, since I’m here now… though, now that I think ’bout it, we might’ve just lost a life or so… though I doubt we had extra lives @ that time, so I doubt it.”
“¿You don’t remember if you e’er found the ingredients or not?” asked Gliosmar.
“No. Though, since they… didn’t last fore’er, I doubt it. Though, I guess the ingredients might just not have worked or something.”
“¿You don’t remember if you ran into 1 o’ those boring owls or not?” asked Genesis.
“’Fraid not.” Edgar shook his head sadly.
“¿Can’t you look through Boskeopolis’s backup folders, or whatever?” asked Gliosmar.
Edgar shook his head sadly ’gain. “’Fraid not. There’s only a few snippets o’ random stuff left—& the end o’ this story is not 1 o’ them that made it. We should be glad I actually remember this 1: neither I nor Autumn could e’er remember the story ’bout us being stuck in some whale’s belly, ’cept a few general ideas used, & no piece o’ it survived, either.”
The room was filled with a chorus o’ “Awww”s.
Edgar chuckled weakly. “Well, it goes to show you how important it is to enjoy your memories while you can; sometimes they can slip ’way when you’re not looking.”
They’re not the only things that can slip ’way, though…
This time Edgar felt an internal chuckle. ¿Is that the part o’ Autumn that rubbed off on you & still remains?
Well, Dawn did admit, some o’ Autumn’s pessimism was right & useful…
“¿You remember any other stories?”
Edgar was startled back into the real world, which caused the kids to aim concerned expressions in his direction.
However, they calmed when he calmed.
“Well, let’s see…” Edgar began tapping his fingers gainst the arm o’ his chair. “Well, though this wasn’t a story from my experience, I had heard this very interesting tale o’ this woman who told ’nother woman inspiring tales to keep her from, uh, committing suicide.”
“…but when they looked up @ him, they saw that he had fallen into slumber, causing them all to fall themselves into laughter,” Dr. Mezun said just ’fore closing the hefty tome lying ’bove his other tentacles.
But when Mezun looked up, he saw that there was no one there. There had ne’er been, he finally remembered. All he saw were dim blue walls on all 36 sides o’ him, save 1 window with closed blinds that were impossible to open, taunting him with their faint yellow glow from the outside sun he’d ne’er see.
“No panic, Herr Mezun,” he said in his native Germish as he clutched his crustaceous claw to his exoskeleton. “This is all for the Englesist revolution remember. We’ll ’ventually stop them.”
His eye uncovered by a patch swiveled up to a corner o’ the room like a periscope. He knew someone was watching him—telling everyone stories o’ everything he did. Judging all o’ his “sins.”
Already he’d seen some scoundrel Twitter, “has anyone else noticed Dr. Mezun sucks his claws alot? is that nother command the great engles sent him *sly grin*.”
Mezun’s carbon dioxide sack gurgled in indignance.
Unforgivable: capitalization should only in the economics be completely eliminated, not in the language.
& “a lot”’s 2 words, you fucknut.
But that was OK. He knew their bourgeois slander would ’ventually fade ’way; as would their petite-bourgeois slander, & e’en their “True” German socialist slander; as would all else.
As would all else.
¡Lebe die Revolution!