Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Decker #22

"Holy shit. Holy triple shit!" Decker wasn't sure if he had said it, or just thought it, or if Degren had said it. "We are in a heap of fucked."
"I completely agree," Degren replied, and both men felt hysterical laughter surging in their bellies.
They dragged Tut out of the epicenter of destruction and used the recesses that his limbs had retracted into to roll him onto the flat of his shell. Only the tip of his beak-like nose protruded.
"I wonder how long he'll be in there," Decker said.
"Probably doesn't matter much," Degren replied. "The machine doesn't really look repairable, and even if Tut could fix it, I doubt there's enough time. Have you looked around recently?"
"Yeah, the walls melting and all that. I'm starting to wonder if I'm still on the same peyote trip as when I met you!"
"Fucking quadruple shit," Degren muttered despondently, causing Decker to wonder further as to who was thinking and who was talking. "I'm about to throw in the towel and start looking for something to get drunk on!"
"There's always the river water."
"What the fuck? What does it matter?"
They stared into each others eyes for a moment. Both men were still hesitant to give up completely, but what could they do? There was no way to get upriver at this point, and even if they could find their way back to Degren's world, the way was impassable where the bridge had collapsed, nearly beneath their feet. Furge was a fading memory for both of them now. Reality as they knew it, it seemed, was about to become a hodgepodge of incongruous possibilities, most from times and places neither of them could probably find familiar or even survive in.
"River water it is. Grab a cup, we'll take it 'to go' so we can come back and keep an eye on Tut."
They didn't have to go far to collect their hallucinogenic cocktail. There were six inches of water on the first landing of the stairs to the "boardwalk" level; the river had risen halfway to their floor. With a sinking feeling, they each filled their cups from the bubbling, glowing blue-green water.
Tut was still out cold when they returned, though they could see his nose move slightly in and out of his neck cavity, and an occasional flash of finger- and toenails.
One raised his cup. Throat quivering, he said, "It's been a helluva ride, and even though we've really barely met, I feel like we've known each other all our lives. There's nobody I'd rather go out with. Let's go out with a flash!"
"Pretty much what I was going to say. Bottom's up!"
They flung their empty cups at the wall; away from the wreckage of the space/time machine, just in case Tut could do anything with it. One of them sat on Tut's shell, the other dragged a chair over.
"I remember hanging around with friends, getting high in the wilderness or in someone's basement. We'd always end up laughing our asses off about the stupidest shit. Then we'd say even stupider shit, and pretty soon we couldn't stop laughing. It was weird, because I always thought, at least partly, that life generally sucked, like all that happened was you grew up and went off to spend the rest of your life workin' your ass off and having kids that were just going to do exactly what we did. Maybe it was hysterical laughter even then, you know? Like maybe there really wasn't anything to laugh about at all."
"This is getting way too much like talking to myself. Did we have the same childhood? In different realities? Oh, hey, look...the walls are changing color. The water's working."
"Water works."
Somewhere very near them, a line of Can-Can dancers in rainbow feather boas kicked and smiled while hypno-swirl-eyed koalas smoked corn cob pipes and rode carp-shaped high-speed trains over cherry jello La Brea pits where jabberwocks swam; just behind the infield wire, a gaggle of animated blue cacti cheered enthusiastically for a leprechaun pitcher who had just struck out his third seven-armed orangutan in a row, even though they swung three bats and shot eucalyptus candy laser beams from their hip-mounted anuses.
"I think it's working."
"Either that or the universe is turning inside out."
Deep melancholy came over them, and the scenes around them settled in to the end of the night at Rick's Café Américain, in shadowy black and white. Bogie was sad-eying women as they left in groups of five and six, partner-less and desperate. Nazi penguins, outraged that last call had come so soon, were shooting at the lone, slowly spinning ceiling fan, spraying clouds and shards of plaster over the remaining, depressed barflies, half of whom had their heads on the bar and hardly seemed to notice. Lizzy stood behind a potted palm, talking on a cell phone that looked like an open oyster; she still stares hatefully at them, though her eyes seemed somehow blurred and cartoonish. The gendarmes had no mouths, and they were rushing in the door, pistols drawn. Both men reached for their whiskey glasses, only to realize that they had none.
"Can I kiss you?"
"Will it hurt, do you think?"
"It doesn't matter."
"I don't know if I love you...not that way, I mean."
"That's okay. Gotta do something."
And shades of gray became as flesh, as blood, as tangerines and honey, as fireworks, as tropical canopies, as Aegean shores and olive groves, as rainbows touching, weaving, as kaleidoscope tapestries and June tulip beds, and it didn't matter if they loved; they were one and it was good.
Some eons or minutes later, they rolled apart on a wet, sandy shore as the last rumbles of thunder shook great warm drops on them from a lightening sky.
The cafeteria came sailing back to them with laser-woven sails gently luffing; the walls breathed color and the bits of broken machine were a carousel, a calliope, a gently dying firework fountain. Let this be the eternal moment, they both thought as they once again became two.
It was hard to tell if the walls were breathing harder or if the river water still had a grip on them. They looked for Tut but he was gone. They staggered to the cafeteria door, looked down the undulating hall, which was much longer than they remembered. At the vanishing point, bobbing like the tip of a kite tail in a wind tunnel, was Tut, and....someone else.
They stood waiting for half an eternity, until the two figures stopped oscillating in their eyes.
"Coxli!" They both shouted, and indeed it was, and he was carrying something that looked suspiciously, inspiringly like a futuristic suitcase.

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