Monday, March 1, 2010

Decker #7

The descent back to the marina was uneventful. The boat was parked in its slip. Their things had obviously been rifled, but the only missing item was Aida's purse, which she groused about vehemently as they made their way past the attendant's shack. The weasel was either still on duty or had started a new shift. He obviously had sharp ears; he stuck his head out and offered snidely, "Being cheap can get expensive, eh?"
They let Degren sleep. Decker took a turn at the wheel, then fished while Aida piloted; he needed to keep occupied so the Furge personality couldn't resurface. He caught several lovely fish of a species he couldn't identify; they vaguely resembled some trout he'd caught in mountain streams, but with long, flowing fins and pale, opalescent colors. He discovered a live well set into the deck, and the simple lever system that filled and drained it.
Degren woke up shortly before they reached the first tributary. He looked haunted by his dreams but somewhat refreshed. He and Decker conferred as to what to do with the boat while they were off searching for the chest.
Aida broke off her usual monologue to enter the discussion. "I think I remember Tut getting the boat out of some kind of concealed garage near the tributary stairs when he brought me here. Oh, he was a charmer then, I must tell you! He cut a fine swath with his iridescent shell and his oh-so-stylish monocle, which he hardly needed at the time. He'd learned the finest poetry of Cradsell 4 just to woo me. Oh, I'd give half my feathers to live those romantic times again! He's turned into such a..."
"Concealed garage," Decker broke in to her reverie. "You were telling us about a concealed garage."
Aida waved a wing in the general direction of the stairs, which were looming just ahead. "Somewhere just over there, I think, where the ledge is narrowest. Was it to the right or left? I don't remember; we were so in love, so deeply distracted by each other..."
She went on with her raptures, and they scoured the shoreline for evidence of a concealed door. They assumed it would be much like the one the boat had originally emerged from, so they tied off to a crack in the ledge to carefully examine the area. Eventually, by dint of fumbling at the stone in likely areas, Degren brushed a pressure plate that caused a section of the wall and ledge to shear open and lift like a drawbridge. Lights came on inside as the panel rose. Decker maneuvered the boat into the slip and tried to mark in his mind where it was.
The little boat garage was nicely appointed, with stairs leading to a loft that could have been a furnished efficiency apartment. They cooked the fish in the small kitchen area and too repast before they continued on their journey.
"Aida, are you tired?" Decker asked. "You've had less sleep than either of us. Do you need to rest?"
"Oh no, I'm fine," she replied. "We Cradsellans don't sleep as much as you, er, mammal types, and I'm starting to get so excited anyway, I'm going to see my family for the first time in, oh, I don't know how many years..." She went on like a young figure skater who'd just won gold in the Olympics, but the two "mammals" were more interested in the fish. She picked at hers as she chatted on about festivals and holidays, ceremonies and seasons, and how her family celebrated in their "unique fashion".
They cleaned up after themselves and headed for the stairs. They hadn't gotten more than six or seven flights up when Decker noticed an electric halo forming at the edges of his vision. It expanded inward into random firework curlicues and chromatic trails as his gaze moved over the previously dim, monotonous scenery. An explosion of, electric rainbow bats flooded down into the weaving penumbra of lamplight. He glanced over at Degren, who was mesmerized by the hand rail as it passed under his palm. Degren's silhouette was a slipstream halo of color so vivid it almost registered as music. Aida's monologue had taken on a lilting, whimsical flavor that harmonized with the rhythm of their steps; it tasted of raspberry chocolate. Decker glanced matter-of-fact-ly at the clouds of bats; they were swirling in a counterpoint beat, creating patterns that caressed his skin like a Kamasutra Bodhisattva lover.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, a coattail-ed rabbit glanced anxiously at his pocket watch and dashed headlong into an uncertain past. Decker, rapt in the elongated minutes of the moment, dismissed the perturbed rodent along with the pale, opalescent fish that were drafting behind it.
He felt most like a mango hanging from a tree, lingering on the tangy cusp of ripening. There were no paragraphs or phrases he needed to relinquish into the atmosphere; no need to ring harsh vocal bells or wave his tentacles in excitement. He was a mango octopus, content to communicate telepathically with himself while the fruit bat stars and the half-melted lamplight moons and the lilting duck murmur sun wove orgasmic concertos around his juice-filled skull.
But the rabbit came back, and its puny pocket watch had become a molten uranium sundial dragged by a fob that was now a logging chain. Some of the soothing blues and greens were edging toward orange, driving a tympani of nerves into his midnight afternoon. He cast a string of words toward Degren. "Blurt needle trunk wally beard finger?"
Degren was unresponsive. Just ahead, the stairs seemed to branch in myriad swirls....or did they end? The situation was trying to reclaim him, comfort him; hypnotic aqua and teal puddle ripples pulsed backward to the pebble splash of his thoughts. The bats drifted nearer, then veered around him as he morphed into a plane wing profile; he rose to the top of the stairs where a sign post held wooden arrows inscribed with blurred hieroglyphs, pointing in all directions. He looked at his companions. The furry one was spinning like a top, emanating a light bulb hum. The feathered one was dancing pharaoh-like, anatomically impossible and two-dimensional.
"Card reader floppy font grab knuckle squeamish!" Some part of Decker's mind was adamant. Through three layers of colored gels, his overhead projector will shone a few feeble rays on Degren's toes.
Somehow, through his own layers of whimsy, Degren opened his mouth to let an eye tooth speak. "Gargle fish plate licker see what?"
Was their cosmos shifting, hardening? Decker squinted, his tentacles wrapped tightly. He concentrated on forming words with his beak, using his floppy bellows mango sac to press a rush of air while reaching for the duck's wing. "Which trunk shine point mother dish?"
Aida obviously had alternating current marshmallows toasting. She barked out a Rhesus fart and churned her Pittman arm wobble to the left. Decker saw no option but to follow, and Degren oozed into their slip stream.
Now the coattail-ed rabbit stood on his shoulders and beat him over the head with a manhole-cover-sized metal clock that had too many hands. Decker grabbed at his waistband for the six-shooter that he somehow remembered, cocking it and blasting the bunny into stuffing. His universe became a throb of molten color; he was an ocean of tungsten at seven thousand degrees.
The hot miasma of concentricity slowly faded back to chromatic bats. The small part of his mind that was concerned about destinations had been shocked to sleep. Fuzzy and Feathers had stopped oscillating; the three of them, lead by Feathers, were traipsing bemusedly along when Decker felt a tug at his waistband. Fearing that he was about to disrupt the Nirvana waves again, he immediately relinquished the gun.
"Thet was a right dirty trick, yuh fish-fingered galoots, takin' a man's sidearm and skurooting off like shit weasels while I'se left to defend my ownself with nuthin' but a few letter openers!" Cletus sidled around to the front of the stunned party, waving the gun like a flag. "Lucky fer me I'se an expert tracker, and then yuh go blammin' off a round to confirm my ses-pichins!"
There was nothing to do but collapse in a heap of laughter. Aida was the first to succumb, bleating and honking like a whole gaggle of migrating geese. Decker was quick to follow, dropping first to his knees and then onto his chest, where he proceeded to writhe and giggle while wondering how a worm could vent hilarity. Degren's bemused state morphed into something a little different; he began emitting strange screeches of violent guffaws. "Hee! Hyah! Hwaw!" His limbs jerked in a kata-like dance, bow-legged c-steps and arms throwing flurries of shadow-boxing blows.
Cletus was taken aback by their strange behavior, especially the threatening Kung Fu spasms Degren displayed. "Whut in tarnation...yew greenhorns bin drinkin' river water?"
River water? River water! That was it! Decker suddenly flashed on the opalescent fish he'd pulled from....the river! They were tripping their brains out on mescaline trout! He tried to focus on what he knew was real, but what was an anchor point? Here he was in an endless cave on an endless river, accompanied by a furry dude that might be his lover and a giant talking duck, and the most familiar thing was a "B" western miner waving a big ol' Colt .45. Still, he blurted, "Fish! River water! Hallucination!" before succumbing once again to spastic laughter and psychedelic confusion.
For what seemed like an instant eternity, the tableau held; Aida singing gossipy alto melody, Degren musing on the movements of his fingers and occasionally springing into a wild martial arts flurry, Cletus' raspy crackle of outraged commentary breaking up the harmony as he wove semaphore trails in the air with his gun. Decker found himself sitting frighteningly near the ledge rim, rattling pebbles back and forth between his hands. Clarity returned like a fog to his beleaguered brain and he slid carefully toward the wall while reaching into the dimness for notions.
"Um, Cletus! What a nice surprise. Sorry about the gun thing, we just thought you were a pretty well seasoned sort of guy, and us being so, uh, green, you know," Cletus turned toward Decker with is classic fish-eyed glare, and Decker quickly changed his tack, "really, so sorry, bad idea, really bad. Sorry."
"Ah'm nekkid without I have my gun, turd-stink! I oughtta jest plug the lot of you, specially you, shit-monkey!" Cletus also changed tack. "But a feller's got a con-sheence, and you dumbasses without the sense to steer clear of suckin' up anything thet river has to offer would be dead meat in a rattlesnake nod without I help you."
Degren and Aida were shaking off the effects of the fish. They exchanged glances, each trying to convey their trepidation about having Cletus as a guide.
"Well, Cletus, that's mighty big of you," Decker offered, "but seein' as how we're nearly where we're going, we're probably OK without your help."
"Oh, I insist!" The lonely miner was not going to be shaken off so easily. "I take it as my duty to escort you fine folk to where yer a'goin'".

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