Sunday, December 30, 2012

Decker #44

Tut, Coxli and Decker had all awakened famished, so they headed for the cafeteria. Decker thought Cletus into a light coma; he didn't need to be part of the morning's discussion. "Okay, so this is really bugging me," Decker spewed crumbs as he munched a breakfast sandwich remarkably similar to those he'd gotten at drive-up windows in a different life. "This whole thing," he waved his sandwich around to indicate the parameters of the "whole thing", "all of it... was coming apart at the seams last time I was here. All the, um, realities were swapping bits like a cosmic flea market, or a Roman orgy, or something. But it's all back in shape now. I just have to think myself to a place, and there it is. I can even populate the place with people, though they seem a little two-dimensional. Coxli can do it, too. But I left Lizzie, that agent of the whatever-blah-blah- ministry-of-doom spy service, in an abandoned beachfront hotel up on Cradsell 4. She can't do it. And I can't 'think' her away, or bring her anywhere... does that make her 'real'? I can't make you or Coxli disappear, either, and I tried to bring Aida once, with no success... by the way, where is Aida?" "Aida resides, er, temporarily, with Gudren, her adoptive mother," Tut replied. "As to the seeming paradox of our current situation, I can only hypothesize. I have attempted to visit a number of loci in your absence, and can only seem to engage with those that you have seen. This leads me to believe that you are somehow the key to what remains of the temporo-spatial web. It is possible, I suppose, that the temporal matrices you have interacted with remain integral because you hold an image of them in your mind. It also occurs to me that the synthesis of your 3 personalities may be the source of power that allows such a feat. I recall reading of some studies involving the melding of personalities... the available intellectual energies multiplied exponentially with each added psyche." "Yeah, hmmm... I do still have the Degren memories, not sure about the Furge ones..." "Additionally," Tut continued, "it seems that the juxtaposition of simultaneous ingestion of certain cactus alkaloids may have been instrumental in breaching timespace and melding your personalities. It also occurs to me that it was Furge, not Degren, with whom your psychedelic experience synchronized... one wonders why the conscious aspects of Degren manifested so much more you say, Decker, 'hmmm'..." "Wait... ummm... so Degren plays front and center in my mind, but I think I read somewhere that the subconscious mind is like ten times as big as the conscious one... could that be where Furge is hiding out?" "I have been cogitating on this very notion, with the aid of some controlled doses of river water," Tut said. "It is my further speculation, having had little in the way of revelation from these, er 'journeys', that we will have to procure some of the substance that you and Furge ingested. With that, we might find the area of your subconscious minds that produced these conditions." "Where are we going to get peyote? I bought it from a friend of a friend out in the Scottsdale suburbs, so we're not likely to score any more that way!" "I have been perusing literature of that regard. In your reality sphere, we would need to travel to southern Texas to locate it in its natural habitat. It can be found a little closer to the portal in Degren's timespace locus, though it is a much rarer plant there." "So if we still want to try to change things back to the way they were, we have to go on a camping trip to southern Texas, and then another peyote trip?" "It is my working hypothesis that there's no likely mode to undo the course of events that brought us to this eventuality. However, given a more thorough exploration and evaluation of the phenomenon, we might be able to make more prudent alterations." "So why don't I just imagine us up some 'yote buttons, right here and now?" "They would probably only have the effect that the river water does. It would be unlikely that anything generated consciously is going to manifest unconsciously. We'll have to go to where your subconscious has been at work, in your deep memory of your home world. Or, as many philosophers and scientists have speculated, in reality." "So we'd probably have better luck in Texas?" "Debatable. The rarity of the alkaloid-producing fauna in Furge's subconscious may balance out the likelihood of your conscious mind adulterating the reality of your home existence. I'd venture to speculate that pursuing the possibilities in Furge's world, where much more of the memory is subconscious, has a slightly higher probability of producing efficacious results". "Well... I guess I'm not as disappointed as I should be about losing my, um, reality... but I am still curious. It ain't every tripper that gets to be a freakin' superhero, right? Might as well take responsibility for my powers. Don Juan, here I come!"

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Decker #43

Coxli began swaying in unison with the light poles, which were throwing strobe effects and laser images on the river's surface. He started speaking in rhythmic alliteration, pumping out nonsense verse like a streetcorner hip-hop poet. Some part of Decker's mind activated in the lizard's rhythm; he sent a mental signal into the near-comatose mind of Cletus, who immediately arose and began beat-box-ing along with Coxli's rap. Decker found himself interjecting the occasional "Uh-huh" and "Yeeayuh" in time with the groove, shimmy-ing and shaking in his best white-boy approximation of a Harlem "break"; though his mojo was a little off, the physical prowess of the Degren body added some athletic aspects that the average streetcorner breakdancer might well envy. The rap took a turn for the "follow the yellow brick road" dynamic; the wildly tripping hip-hop trio serpentine-d along the stone boardwalk toward the double doors where Decker had first encountered Tut. They had only gone a little ways when a whole other level of colored light saturation appeared, just ahead and to the right. Decker felt a tingle of familiarity; he was in a very similar condition the last time he'd approached this slight bend in the boardwalk. Strange ideas shot across his mind like tadpoles in a mud puddle. Tut couldn't be here... could he? But Lizzie had showed up at Cradsell 4... and where was she now? If Coxli and he had generated those places, from thir memories, did they remain when they left? "Bug shit, shit biscuits, and head-shit-osis," he muttered in time to Coxli's unflagging epic of rhythmic blather. The doors were just as he remembered them, with one minor exception; along with the crazed lightshow streaming through the wriggly windows and around the gaps came the thunder of a full-on rave. There were no fashionistas, no strutting, pomaded chicken-walkers in or around the door's vestibule, but the noise from inside seemed to indicate their presence somewhere. The doorbell, which was no longer red but a swirling psychedelic pattern like some of those old 2x3 posters the hippies in his neighborhood used to have, was now ensconced in a giant peace sign. Before Decker could get his finger to it, the breathy doors whined open. Decked out in buckskin fringe and a leather drovers hat, bell bottoms with vivid wedges of fabric sewn in from knee to ankle, and multicolored prayer beads around his scaly neck, Tut stood before them, twirling an opaline turtle totem on a rawhide thong. "By the rippled lenses of Copernicus, if it isn't Deckren!" "Er... it's Decker, again... hiya Tut." the river's effects were just starting to mitigate, but Tut remained somewhere beyond Technicolor; the lenses of his glasses kept doing the back-of-the-comicbook hypnotic swirl and the flat of his shell was a dizzying altercation of Hawaiian shirt prints. The giant turtle seemed to be in a somewhat altered state himself; he was muttering what sounded like scientific equations mixed with Tantric chants. There was a beatific air about him that contrasted starkly with the Tut Decker had come to know. "Covalent solution oṃ āḥ dhīḥ hūṃ svā hā interrupted hyperbola oṃ a ra pa ca na dhīḥ... ah, Decker, what a copacetic karmic wonderment... begging your pardon, allow me to finish my hypothesis... oṃ sa rva bu ddha jñā na aṃ svā hā ectoplasmic interplay oṃ sarva buddha jñāna aṃ svāhā ongoing parabolic depth chart..." He wandered out through the double doors and slipped into the river, taking a great gulp of the water as he submerged. The still somewhat begoggled trio stood on the smooth stone, volcanic rumblings of laughter surging up in them simultaneously. A cool breeze of panic swept across the back of Decker's neck, and his belly hurt from laughing so much already; was this insane trip going to go on forever? Well, couldn't be any more ridiculous than serving breakfast specials to disgruntled, sun-crisped permanent tourist septuagenarians for the rest of his life... he succumbed to the laughter. They staggered back against the cliff wall and tried not to look at each other until the trip and the laughter subsided. "Well, we're going to be waiting a while for Tut, if we decide to wait," Decker finally managed to utter, "What do you guys think?" "I wonder if Aida is here," Coxli asked. "I've been chafing at having nothing but er, human company for so long now... it's going to be great to chat with Tut, but even a duck would be a nice change..." "Yeah, and last time I was here, with Degren, they had some righteous chow... and I've got a powerful hunger right about now." "Ayup, a nice pot'a beans, or sum sech vittles, would suit me good, too," Cletus chimed in. "I can try to find their apartment," Decker said, "assuming it's still where it was, and she's there." "Better'n doin' nuthin', I figger," Cletus said, and Coxli nodded in agreement. After a few wrong turns and a bit of step retracing, Decker led them to the bright purple French doors of Tut and Aida's flat. Decker banged on the frame, then the glass, to no effect. "Hm. Nobody home." Decker scratched his head. "Wonder if Tut locks the place, or if he'd mind that we went in and fixed ourselves a little snack." He turned the knob and the door swung inward. "Gents, do we dare?" There were nods from his two companions, so he headed for the kitchen. They had managed to clean out Tut's larder pretty well by the time he returned. He dug around in various shelves and pantries, finally locating enough foil-wrapped bars to satisfy his also-excessive appetite. Seated at the big dining table, Decker thought they looked like a troupe of down-on-their-luck street actors, late of a morning after a night's debauch. "Everybody could probably use some sleep before we try to figure out what's next, huh?" "Ahem, quite, indeed, my corpus colossum is perceptibly taut..." Tut's reply faded into a dull mutter, and he stood shakily, waving a flipper for them to follow. The living room was well-appointed in couches, so Cletus tumbled onto an overstuffed leather one, while Coxli leapt onto the top of an upright piano, dislodging ranks of knick-knacks from a deep patina of dust. A floral print Victorian sofa called to Decker and he staggered over to it, then did a weak Fosbury flop onto its cushions. Tut disappeared down the hall as Decker's eyelids banged shut like twin submarine hatches before an emergency dive.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Decker #42

It was good whiskey. Decker rolled it around in his mouth for a minute, then let is slip down his throat, warming as it flowed. "Not too much of that stuff for me right now, man... I seem to recall some serious climbing down there." in the yellow glow of Cletus' kerosene lantern, with a couple swigs of whiskey well on their way to his belly, he felt fortified to head down the tunnel. "Thataway's plumb stove in, man," Cletus said, "I bin pokin' around down there fer a bit, and I cain't get through there, no way nohow... an' I'm a lot skinnier'n you." Decker closed his eyes for a minute, visualizing the path he and Degren had followed down to the river, as it had been. He imagined the metal drawbridge firmly re-attached, and the wooden platform reinforced and re-planked. He imagined the collapsed cave roof back in place, solidly shored... "You must be mistaken, partner," he replied airily, "that tunnel is in fine shape. Too much of that whiskey, I'd venture to guess." "Goldang it, Decker, I'uz jest down thar, an' it'uz busted in and blocked off so's yer lizard friend couldn'r snake his tail thoo the gap, much less his scaly noggin! Are yuh dad-blamed loco?" "Let's just take a little walk. Coxli, you wanna scout?" "Nothing could suit me better," Coxli replied, a nostalgic sigh escaping from his nostrils, "this cave reminds me so much of the family birth nest, I am almost hopeful to find some old nursery rhymes scratched into the walls..." he skittered down the tunnel and the two men ambled behind, scanning the walls in the lantern light. "Just ahaid is where she come down," Cletus said smugly, raising the lantern in anticipation, "down this'ere slope an' around a right-han' bend, she's plugged up good..." his triumph turned to disorientation as they rounded the curve, " wait a cotton-pickin' minute here, this cain't be the same tunnel... but there's my marks on the wall, whut thuh..." "Like I said, too much liquor, bub... scrambles the memory." Decker was enjoying the miner's confusion; he could hardly help laughing out loud. Coxli waited where the cave opened onto the river canyon. "Which way, boss?" "To the right, toward that gas lamp on the platform." Decker remembered to do mental repairs on all the lights along the staircase. "It's a long way down, partners. Maybe another round of that fine bourbon before we make the descent, Cletus?" "Ayup, ayup, suits me fine." He pulled out the bottle, took a long draught, and passed it to Decker, who opted for a spare mouthful. Decker offered it to Coxli, but the lizard declined. "Your, er, booze does not treat my species well. Makes us suicidal. Just the smell is enough to drive some of us to desperation. No, no, don't worry... I'm not one of those... enjoy yourselves." The stairs were much easier this time, Decker noted; last time he'd done this, he'd been unaccountably scared of heights, perhaps an infiltration of the Furge personality. And, of course, he had the Degren body now, so the physical stress was much less. Cletus didn't seem to have any trouble with it either, and Coxli bounded from step to railing like a pachinko ball dropping between pins. By the time they reached the bottom, though, Decker had worked up a pretty good thirst. He decided to try a little experiment; he imagined the water had lost its hallucinogenic properties, then dropped down, scooped up a mouthful and took a healthy swallow. "Er, Decker... that'ere mought not be yore keenest play..." Cletus shook his head, grinning wryly. "Yuh do ken that the water is kinda, um, funny down here, don'cha?" "I don't know why, but I think it might have changed since last time," Decker said, "but if you're not feeling thirsty enough to risk it, I understand." "Lucky for me, we lizards don't need much hydration," Coxli just leaned back, his tail propping him in leisurely fashion, "though those fishies look mighty tasty." "I do have a powerful parching of the throat, by criminey," Cletus said, eying the water longingly, "I spoze, I'll take me a swaller er two." They took a breather on a stone bench overlooking the slightly luminous water, the two men sipping whiskey and the lizard worrying away at one of the opalescent fish. "Not much farther to the place I met Tut now," Decker said. "Man, that was the weirdest, being all tripped out and seeing colors and shit..." Just the memory of it must have brought back a little of the psychedelia he'd felt before, he thought; things were seeming a little weird... "Oh, shit-whiskers on a shit-camel..." "Ah, hurk hyuk hee hee... Decker..." Cletus was making strange faces as he pointed randomly, "Decker, yore face... the water... huh huh..." "Nip nibble nixie num nerble nyah nyah knee," Coxli verified. "Gorgeous... just gorgeous," Decker said, to no one in particular as the sparse lights along the river warbled on their suddenly waving poles. "Guess the river is still the river, even if I made it." He didn't have the intellectual integrity right then to ponder why that might be; like his companions, he was hypnotized by the incrementally intensifying light show in the river and on the canyon walls.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Decker #41

"Deckren! Deckren!" Coxli's face was so close to his that the closest scales blurred and condensation spattered his cheeks as the agitated lizard's hysterical diatribe evacuated his sinus cavities. "Damn, dude, destruction, damage, dipshit driver doing dumbass deeds!" Coxli hauled back for an adamant slap, but the cobwebs were clearing and reflexes facilitated a block, which sent stabbing pains up through his elbow and a vicious twinge behind his shoulderblade. "Decker. It's Decker now." There was a whole sea of memories swooshing back and forth inside his throbbing skull, both Degren's and his, but his old psyche came to the fore. "ust have been the accident and the time we've spent on this, um... hologram, or fabrication, or whatever, of my home planet, I dunno... but call me Decker. That Deckren thing was Tut's idea, and it seemed appropriate at the time, but it's goddamned clumsy-sounding to me now. There's Degren and there's Decker, and there's Furge, and who knows what other splinters jammed up my ass and into the back of my head, but I'll be goddamned if I'm gonna let this endless fucking peyote trip melt my personality any more than it already has." "Er... Decker." Coxli said it dubiously, running the back of his right index claw along the pale fur on Decker's forearm. "Decker, I smell something burning." "Double shit fuck with a shit-spray chaser, why didn't you say so?" "You had stuff to get off your chest" "Yeah, I still do; this goddamned German racing harness! Fucking squarehead Nazi bastards didn't need to truss me up just to drive... help me with this fucking buckle....OUCH I think my fucking wrist is broken... shit shitshit I smell the fire now, we're gonna die..." Coxli fumbled the harness clip free and Decker dropped headfirst to the roof of the car, which sent forked lighting tongues from the base of his skull to the back of his eyeballs, but he flopped to his belly and crawled out through the broken passenger window with the lizard's tail smacking him in the face twice before he was left in the dust. "Get as far away from the car as you can, FAST!" Deckren groaned to his feet and tried to sprint but his right calf seized in a wicked twinge; he hobbled as quickly as he could behind the nimble saurian, expecting any second to be blown off his feet as the SUV self-destructed. He was limping along thirty seconds later when he heard a muffled "whump"; he didn't dare turn around, kept limping along, but then he heard the sizzling of flaming plastic drips falling. He turned to see the upside down car blazing brightly but not explosively. "Fuck me green, can't even have a good climax scene in this stinking peyote script. Castenada, you are a fucking prick!" The shack was just as they'd left it; a pile of fruity-mastodon-splintered wreckage, cascading down the slope. "Let's see if we can find the entrance to the river. I seem to recall we ran that way." Decker gimped along as Coxli scurried in circles around him. Decker glanced nervously around, anticipating fluorescent pterodactyls to accost them at any second, but the skies remained clear. "It's just around that little cliff right there. Mind the snakes" "Snakes?" Coxli's crest cocked slightly to the left and his right inner eyelid fluttered up and down. "B-b-big ones?" "Um, never mind. Degren warned me about snakes when we first came in this cave, but there were none." "That doesn't mean there won't be any now. You go first." "Chickenshit." "Wait... I want to try something." Decker concentrated for a minute, then turned an ear toward the cave mouth. He was rewarded with the sound of muttered drawling from inside the hole. "Consarned sidewinders a'slithering and a'slidin' all over under a man's boots, like to tripped me right down a blind hole. Got my best knife all bloodied up now, too..." Decker's heart surged up into his chest. "Cletus!" He shouted, "You old tobacco-pilferer, you dirty skunk, you consarned figment of my imagination. come on out here where I can see you!" "Decker?" The miner's gritty voice rose a full octave. "Hell, pardner, I'ma coming right out!" A dusty tin cloth hat emerged from the crevice. "I'll be gum-swaddled, if it ain't really you!" He stuck a horny palm out enthusiastically and Decker grabbed it, then pulled the skinny figure to his chest. "Damn it's good to see you, you stinky bastard!" "Now you jest ease up on this ol' miner, I ain't none too fond'o yer grabbin' me like some saloon floozy, ya hear?" Cletus' expression belied his words, however; he actually threw one arm around Decker and thumped him vigorously and repeatedly on the back, driving sharp hatchets of pain through his shoulderblades and reminding him of the recent driving debacle. "well, this calls for a cel-uh-brayshun!" Cletus dragged a rather ornate bottle full of amber fluid out of the inside left pocket of his now-crusty drovers coat and yanked the cork out with his teeth. "Here yuh go, man, first swig's fer you... and don't be a goldurn sissy about it, nuther!"

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Decker #40

"Wake up, sir, and get out of the car NOW. Hands where I can see them." Reflexive sheepishness brought Deckren's arms up, palms forward. He started reaching for the door handle in acquiescence, but then it occurred to him that this was likely a creation of his own mind; irritated with himself but not entirely unamused, he decided to have a little fun. Waving his left hand meekly as a distraction, he twisted the ignition key with his right; the throaty roar of a supercharged German V8 set the highway patrolman back on his heels. Deckren stomped the throttle and let out the clutch; the big car juddered briefly as all four wheels dug gravel, then it surged ahead in a satisfying, seat-denting fashion. He tugged the steering wheel left and the car serpentined momentarily as the supercharger moaned, then the semi-intelligent drive system found its groove. The flabbergasted officer hadn't even gotten his door closed before his quarry hit 80 miles per hour. By the time the police car's lights began flashing, Deckren and Coxli were hurtling along at 110. Rolling east on 260 out of Payson and into a blood-red dawn, Decker checked his rear views nervously for flashing lights; the chase had been more harrowing than he'd imagined it would be, and the number of official cars and roadblocks he'd had to avoid was a not-so-entertaining surprise. They'd had to swing in to Payson for a fill-up; for some odd reason, neither of them had been able to imagine a full tank of gas. They'd narrowly avoided getting boxed into town, had to do some highly irregular off-roading... for the moment, it seemed as though they were in the clear. Coxli's color was returning after having been pretty much leather-seat-colored for the past two and a half hours. Deckren was going to take no chances on being caught now; he circumvented 260 through Star Valley by creative use of side streets at the first opportunity, then blazed out to the little washed-out trail that ended at the desert shack he'd started his trip on. Accustomed now to driving at the ragged edge of control, he didn't think to slow down; blasting along over rocks and washouts, Coxli clinging to the seat, the window, the ceiling, steering wheel juddering in his exhaustion-numbed fingers, he didn't notice the narrow arroyo that had eaten away the right hand wheel track to a depth of half a leg. The hood dipped hard right, nearly tipping the careening SUV into a full-out roll; he heard something give in the suspension, fought the steering wheel until the car jerked hard right, went into a manic tap-dance, drifted sideways, right front wheel flopping like a spoke-stuttered playing card; his vision was rattled into interlocking, blurry fragments, and then the wheel turned under, throwing the driver's side over; they were tumbling, bouncing, flailing in a furious dust devil; Deckren was jerked painfully in the car's harness, airbags blasting, burning his skin, until an impending outcropping drove a giant fist into the nape of his neck; the universe exploded for an instant and flashed out into an oblivion of black. The walls were a muddle of Pueblo squash soup; the lone window was a wicked, crosshatched goat eye of blinding light that was trying to pry its way into his fevered, breathing skull. There were pastel yellow cacti seething up between the sun-scorched gray floor planks, blooming feather-headdress-ed cartoon Indians screaming football cheers in pidgin Chinese. Cross-legged on an old piss-stained futon pad, sweating profusely in the Arizona July afternoon, Decker Quall shook his head slowly; he feared if he applied vigorous force it would spin off his neck, gyroscope out the door and disappear down some dry arroyo. If it did, he'd follow it until it ran out of centrifugal force and collapse with it in the cool shadows at the bottom of the gorge. That was his plan for the moment; he'd think it through further when the peyote dream settled in to something a bit more cohesive. It seemed appropriate to commune with nature as he entered his altered state, but there weren't any caves nearby. He wasn't going to sit in the direct Arizona sun; he'd been out here for a couple years and had learned his lesson about that. Finally he gave up and dragged the futon near the 4-pane window, sucked down a bottle of water, and ate two of the little buttons. Hell, the old shack was almost a fixture of these dusty foothills by now, anyway. So there he was, watching the vapor trails of his fleeing sanity refract through that painfully bright glass. The walls were breathing, the floor was undulating and sprouting, and the sun was a giant burning marshmallow. Trickles of sweat were tiny lizards racing across his skin. The shit was real. Happy fucking day. There was a tingling on the back of his neck as he heard the wall behind him start to creak. Slowly, he scootched in a half-circle to see what the new development was. The wall was bowing inward, and the rough adobe plaster was starting to craze and flake. Each breath that the little house took cracked more of the mud off the splintering boards. “Go away!” Decker commanded, his heart a giant tympani echoing sloppily in his chest. “G'wan, leave me alone!” The back wall seemed to heed his words, and for an interminable period it synched up with the rest of the walls in a sinuous slur of breath. Decker breathed a sigh of relief. The last thing he needed right now was a visit from some angry desert god; these crazy tribes of the Southwest had hooked up with a strange sort of mojo and he wasn't ready to explain himself to an animated Castenada-esque cactus root. I mean, sure, he'd read the guy's books; why else would he be here? But he wasn't sure how that pantheon might treat a disgruntled, disheveled, disowned and displaced white boy from snow country. The sun freeze-framed its way across the window and down into the ragged rising mountains to the west. Shadows were starting to creep across Decker's hallucinatory indoor vegetation when the creaking and cracking of the back wall began again in earnest. Man, this was some really potent stuff! He'd figured on the high sort of planing out about now, settling in to cruise control, but it felt like the whole shack was lifting up out of its crevice! There was a rhythmic “WHUMP! WHUMP! WHUMP!” shaking the house, and the planks of the back wall were beginning to part inwards. Shards of desert-dry wood were spraying onto the futon, striking him in the legs and belly. He was frozen in place, with the wash of noise thundering, mixing with his careening heartbeat, when the wall finally burst inward, revealing a large, heavily-muscled man clutching what appeared to be about a thirty-pound maul in his gnarled fingers. His only garb was a crocheted loincloth; multicolored flowers tagged together with green yarn. Behind him was a near-mirror-image of the hut that Decker occupied, replete with a setting sun outside the window! “Nuer lueen spung quntas buj oonie!”, the sledge-swinging dude expostulated, staring intensely into Decker's eyes as he yanked splintered boards off dry-rotted studs. “Nuer dulung champa!” Heaving off the last board that blocked his passage, the large man shrugged through the narrow opening and grabbed for Decker's shoulder. Decker twitched away from the thrusting hand and rolled toward the door. A nagging sense of deja vu was clawing through the peyote lattice; where could he possibly experienced this before? his world flashed upside-down, then back to the ruptured shack; he felt strobes of pain as he imagined being suspended in a nylon web, then back to the fearsome furry dude... whiplash, psychedelia, shoulder aching, head throbbing, double vision, then staring at Degren... Degren! The peyote dream shattered and he was hanging upside down in an overturned car, battered, disoriented, aching, with a pale and nervous lizard skittering around the wreckage like a single kernel of popcorn, popping over and over again.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Decker #39

He wondered what the underground river might look like now, if he were to "re-create" it, or revisit it, or whatever they were doing. The idea of just "beaming in" felt a little crazy, he wasn't sure why... tipping back the last sip of his whiskey, noting that the marshmallow blur it glazed his senses with felt satisfyingly real, he slid off his stool and waded through the casino jangle to Coxli's roulette table. He decided to play a little trick on the white-ball-fixated lizard. He imagined himself in the shape of a giant weasel, dressed as a sort of Doc Holliday gunslinger with a big gold sheriff’s badge. The lizard's crest was a soft aquamarine and his cheeks were ripe lime. With one hand, he good-naturedly spanked away the advances of hangers-on while stirring a humongous pile of chips with the other. When he finally noticed Deckren on the opposite end of the table, his colors paled and both hands went to corral his chips. "The house thinks y'all's bin a'cheatin', yuh slimy lizard," Deckren drawled, "now yuh kin pony up that'er pile uh chips right friendly-like, or we kin have this out the old fashioned whey." Coxli blanched to a milky jade and immediately succumbed to a fit of the shakes. "N-n-no, nein, not nice, notorious ninja knife-nudger nearly nixed you, nudnik!" Torn between self-preservation and the love of his winnings, he froze over the table and soon matched it nearly perfectly. Deckren, nearly bursting with laughter, changed back to his soft-pelted human form. "Damn, dude, you're all twisted up in those chips, aren't ya?" Coxli looked up from the pile and his face turned a ripe shade of tangerine. "Ark. Urk. Gribble. GLEEK!" he spat finally, curling around the chips like a dragon over a hoard. "Dammit Deckren, dirty double dealing dirtbag, DON'T DO DAT!" Deckren was laughing so hard he could barely breathe. The rest of the crowd in the area milled uneasily, as though none of them knew what they were doing or how they had gotten there. "Wh-hu-hu-hat are you-hu-hu gonna cash those chips in for that you couldn't just dream into being?" He waved his hand over the pile and it vanished, replaced by an equivalent volume of mixed nuts. He grabbed a filbert and popped it in his mouth; the discombobulation on Coxli's face nearly made him spit it out. Cheeks oscillating from crimson to cornflower, he finally settled in to a fairly normal cactus tone. "Um, I guess you're right, Deckren," he nabbed a handful of Brazil nuts and popped them in his capacious gullet, "but did you have to be so cruel about it?" He crossed his eyes and stuck a nut-crumb-covered tongue out at the still-quaking man. "Sorry, man, but I really wish you could have seen your face. Anyway, I think it's time we move on. I was thinking we'd see what might be happening down along the underground river." "Errrr.... Deckren, what if it's all flooded?" "I thought about that. I say we take a car and drive to where my whole adventure started, which is not too far from here. We'll find the cave that Degren, er, Dexter, ummm...we first started exploring." They headed for the parking ramp. They wandered through aisles of cars until Deckren found a solid-looking German-made SUV. He imagined the keys for it, along with a full tank of fuel; they climbed in and headed down the spiraling exit ramp. Coxli shuffled through the glovebox and found a map of the five-state area. He was somehow able to decipher its meaning, so Deckren pointed out the area they would head for and Coxli plotted their course. Cruising down 93 out of Boulder City, coming up out of the river basin as they headed south southeast, they watched the sky flame out over the empty desert. As the last rosy tinges left the western horizon and the black sky became overpopulated with stars, Deckren mused sleepily over the last... what? Month? Year? Gawd, maybe he should have scratched days on a stick, or on his skin. But what for? He began to wonder if he could just settle in to life inside a construct of his imagination. What would be the harm? Still, it might be a bit unsettling if one or two of the other "real" entities passed through his dreamscape, altering the history and the landmarks to their desires... but that was sort of the norm, too... wasn't it? Driving across the Nevada desert in an eighty thousand dollar SUV with a giant talking chameleon wasn't exactly the norm, though... especially since he couldn't erase Coxli from his fantasy. Ah, well... that's probably why I'm still searching, he mused as the highway kited out before him, crowded stars above and wastelands mocking all around... He began to nod; the big car drifted onto the rumble strip and he came sparkingly awake. He realized he'd better pull over for a bit of a nap. Coxli was out like a light with his nictating inner eyelids lightly glazing his REM-twitching eyes; he thought to ask the lizard if he knew how to drive, thought better of it... rolled the car off the broad shoulder and onto the hard-packed sand, found the lever that laid back the driver's seat and fell almost instantly into a star-addled sleep. He dreamed of the old wooden rowboat on the Rum River, of feisty rock bass and elusive walleyes; he dreamed of worms and squirrel-tailed spinners; he dreamed of Uncle Arnie in his dirty baseball cap, drinking cheap beer and scolding him when he let the spinner fly into the brush along the riverbank. There were visions of pancakes and bacon, history exams and shiny train rails, frogs and toboggans, Mom and tuna casserole, Christmas trees and that clumsy, nervous first kiss... he was Home, with a definite capital H, in his dreams; Home, and it was comfortable, it was serendipitous, it was real, it was nice, it was inescapable... He awoke to the brittle rap of aluminum on safety glass and a blaring whiteness daggering his eyes. Grimacing, blinking spastically, he shook his head. The rapping would not go away, and a muffled but insistent voice soon joined the rapping in aggravating dissonance to his interrupted dream. "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to get out of the car." The disembodied, authoritarian voice struck a phalanx of rusty, half-taut piano strings up and down his spine; an image of a beefy, brown-clad martinet with ruddy cheeks and mirrored sunglasses crushed his cerebrum, left his medulla oblongata pumping adrenaline signals toward his quavering midsection; "Wake up, sir, and get out of the car NOW."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Decker #38

The casino floor was a precipitous near-tangle of tentacles, hooves, tails, legs, and assorted other anatomical oddities, milling in vague eddies and tessellations amid claxons, bells, rattles, sirens, and highly amplified heavy breathing. Coxli had disappeared into the crush almost instantly, off to test the flexibility of the fabric of chance. Deckren stood at the top of the same long escalator he had seen Furge/Decker descend the last time he had been here, or at least a reconstructed memory of it. An idea had come to him as the din materialized around him; why not try to make all the people vanish? If he couldn't make real people appear, he probably couldn't make them disappear, either. Wondering if Coxli's memory of the place was going to resist his attempt, he concentrated on sending voices away first. The raucous din of conversation faded almost immediately, making the piercing mechanical audio assault feel that much more violent. The gamblers, the servers, the croupiers and the security, the janitors and the hookers were gone; the flashing bulbs and the illuminated whirligigs, the marquees and the spastic oscillating search beams shone and glittered eerily against the stillness. Coxli's alliterations filtered through the sterile disquiet. Deckren tried to pick out the direction and range of the lizard's diatribe, finally focusing on a roulette wheel in a far corner of the great room. In the sweep of his gaze, Deckren thought he saw other figures strobing through the jangly maze, but his first concerns were Coxli and a mad hope of seeing Furge. Furge... strange as it seemed, even after the melding of Decker and Degren and the seeming completion he/they felt, it seemed the final puzzle piece still floated out there... or was it just a habit now, to seek out that... what? Fragment? He recalled the stirrings that Lizzie's coquettish play had elicited in him. It was easy to imagine that he could act on those stirrings now, without the grim, betraying illness Decker had felt the last time he had been tempted in that fashion. In his musings, he didn't notice Coxli's irritated approach. "Bat-blasted bambinos of bitter bungling, bro, what babbling bitch bit your biscuits? Busted by boorish bummery, breaking bonny betting on balls? Bad, bad, BAD!" Coxli's crest was tangerine and crimson; his cheeks were blaze orange and his eyes were speckled fire. Degren, startled out of his revery, stared blankly at Coxli, sighed, and dropped his elbows to the balcony rail. "Um, sorry, dude, just testing out a theory. D'you see any living beings out there now?" "Living lizards, lounge lilies, lords and ladies, lovely latinum lozenges all LEAVING, Leopold!" "Easy, easy man, what's the big deal? It isn't real, dude!" Deckren reached to pat the fuming lizard's shoulder, saw the rows of needle teeth bared and thought better of it. "Look, if you want your action back, just give me a little bit of your attention for a few minutes and help me see if anybody real was hanging around here. I'm still kinda hoping to find Furge, ya know, and maybe Tut or Aida, though I don't really know why... except things are gonna get kinda lonely with nothing but made-up people to play with... don't you think?" Calmer now, Coxli let the bright colors ebb out of his face. "You should have warned me. I was on such a roll... but all right, let's look." They changed the lighting to a steady, blue-white glow, then glanced around from the balcony before taking the escalator down. There were no giant white ducks or kaleidoscopic turtles wandering about on the gaming floor, and no sign of the near-albino hotshot gambler, so they went floor to floor in the hotel, turning walls to glass so they didn't have to scrutinize every room. "Must've just been wishful thinking, those hints of motion I thought I saw," Deckren breathed sadly, "let's search someplace else." "But but but... my GAME!", Coxli whined. "Fine... here you go." Deckren cast a perfunctory thought across the gaming floor and the crowds had returned. Coxli scampered gaily through the throng, back to the roulette wheel. Deckren seated himself at one of the quieter bars salted through the big hall and ordered a whiskey soda. One of the scantily-clad hangers-on, a perky redhead with obvious augmentation pressing on ahead of her, bounced up to him and started making small talk about his lovely fur; he cast a bored thought in her direction and she promptly vanished.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Decker 37

"Nix, nein, negatory, not on your nuggets, nudnik!" Coxli had crept up behind Deckren and was hysterically stabbing a sharp-nailed finger into his left kidney region. "Nasty naked nixie needs no niceness now, no way, no how!" He grabbed Deckren's elbow and tried to drag him back in the direction they had come.
"Lizard boy?" Lizzy's right eyebrow arched as she reached for a towel. "I thought that was one of your imaginary constructs, like the turtle and the duck." She rubbed herself dry, then wrapped the towel around herself, seemingly as an afterthought.
"Im-err.. Tut? Aida? No." Deckren waved his free arm in a semicircle, palm up. "This is Cradsell 4, Aida's home, um, planet, right? And Tut was part of some interplanetary monitoring group, there on the river. Had to be real. And I was unable to make a solid image of Aida appear, though Coxli and I seem to be able to create just about any imaginary thing we like."
Coxli's alliterative warnings had devolved into high-pitched chittering as he threw all of his weight into dragging his friend away from the object of his fear. Deckren remained rooted, curious and a bit apprehensive regarding Lizzy's allusions.
Lizzy's brow knit. "Well, no wonder we had such trouble nabbing you and keeping you under wraps. I'm glad for my sake that I decided to 'change sides'! I wonder why I've been unable to realize my own fantasies..." She let her last idea linger as she looked Deckren up and down in an almost hungry fashion.
"Coxli, ease up on my arm, wouldja? D'ya see any evil henchmen with blasters poppin' out of the woodwork?" Deckren pulled the panicked lizard around in front of him, grabbed him with both hands, looked him in his rapidly nictating eyes and gave him a firm shake. "We can "pop" out of here any time we want, and it doesn't seem as though Lizzy has that ability. See any concealed weapons on her? Relax, dude!"
The lizard-man looked abashed. "S-sorry, silly saurian psychosis, simply saving sir's skin, as it were," he shrugged, gathered himself, "but, um, you're probably right, DUDE, she seems relatively harmless at the MOMENT... you can let me go. I'll be a good little newt." Rubbing his shoulders as though Deckren had bruised them, he sidled around behind the big, furry man and watched Lizzy distrustfully.
Deckren returned his gaze to the invitingly-wrapped woman before him. "As to your, er, fantasies, Lizzy, you might recall that I have a life partner. Looks a lot like me?"
"Had. You had a life partner. The two of you melted together, at least according to the evidence, the Consortium was able to gather. Decker and Degren fused into one entity when the primary temporal barriers between realities melted. You're both of them, er, you, now. I'm hoping that leaves you open to new, um, possibilities." She cocked one hip and spread her arms, showcasing herself before him. The towel dropped incrementally, seemingly of its own accord, revealing one perky nipple.
"I'll have to ponder on all that." Deckren did note that certain urges were arising, but he ignored them in favor of prudence. "In the meantime, we need to figure out a little more of what's real and what's not. Maybe you want to put some clothes on for the time being."
"Killjoy." She stalked across the wet tile toward a dressing stall, letting the towel drop before she pirouetted between saloon doors.
"Holy shit and multiples of shit," Deckren muttered under his breath, "just when I thought things couldn't get any weirder!"
It came to him that he might try "disappearing" Lizzie to see if she was actually just a figment of someone's imagination. The clothes hanging over the stall top kept flipping in over the edge one by one. "Hmm. no such luck." So she was real. But unable to do the dimensional slide...? Maybe those sentient races that had developed technology to cross planes didn't have it.
Speaking of that, what about Tut? He brought the image of the psychedelic turtle into his mind, coke bottle bottom glasses and all, and concentrated; nothing happened. Not really proof of anything, but it nudged him toward thinking Tut wasn't a figment.
Lizzie came out of the dressing room in black fatigues and cross-trainers. She had a black beret cocked over her left ear and some sort of Batman-looking utility belt around her waist. "So what's on the agenda now, gentlemen-er...critters?"
"Well, first order of business for Coxli and I is figuring out what to do about you. We were just in the process of poking around various um, realities to see who we might run across. We have to decide whether it's best to just blink out of here and leave you behind..." (Coxli nodded vigorously) "...or bring you along, or imprison you in some sort of imagined thingie, or waste you, or what. We don't really have much cause to trust you, ya know."
"I get it, I get it," Lizzie's shoulders dropped, and she frowned thoughtfully, "Um, well, I guess there's not much I could say or do at this point. I'm kinda stranded here now, took my chances on where to end up when the tech all crashed everywhere, y'know, last shot with the temporo-spatial deal... couldn't see hanging with the Evil Empire when they were losing all their power tools. And to be honest, I guess I might be exaggerating my attraction for you a teensy bit, but you do have some powers that my old cadre don't, and a girl's gotta think about security, right?"
Deckren turned to Coxli, who had skittered up a wall and was hanging in a corner of the ceiling, watching and listening. "What say, bro?"
"We've got to think about security too, bro, and sis here ain't exactly the wise play to keep around, y'know? Whatcha got in all those pouches, sister?"
"Oh, the belt!" Lizzie unbuckled it and tossed it into the corner below Coxli. "Yeah, a lot of useful stuff in the standard issue survival kit, none of it terribly good weaponry. I had to scram too quick to assemble much in the way of an arsenal. Look it over. Keep it if you like. I bet my ass on you guys accepting me, so why not go all the way? Want my clothes, too?"
"Um, I don't think that will be necessary," Deckren watched as Coxli skittered down and rifled the belt, "Coxli, let's set her up here with some food and stuff and check out a few more places. Lizzie, we'll come back and check up on you. I promise. If your situation seems to be unchanged, we'll reassess our 'relationship' then. Okay?"
"Well, it's not the outcome I was hoping for, but I guess it's better than nothing. I'll be here. Maybe you could think me up some chocolate, though. A girl wants some kind of satisfaction, after all."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Decker 36

They stood ankle-deep in a vast, slow-ebbing puddle ethereally frosted with swirling fog. The low-slung sky was a bubbling osmosis of tobacco-stained ceilings and French mustard. Deckren sighed deeply as his feet began to tingle.
"Well, that pretty much answers one question... we're not getting anywhere via the old "underground river" route. Pizzle-shit!"
"Tickle my toenails, this trip is terrifying!" Coxli lifted one scaly foot out of the water, then switched. "Thither to the other, brother?"
"Yeah, might as well go back where we were, make another plan."
The now-familiar delta wavered into tangibility. Deckren shook his head and let his shoulders slump. "Well, fuck me green. Howza guy supposed to find any of the good parties anymore?"
"I've got an idea, Mister Pouty-Face," Coxli jabbed a knuckle into Deckren's ribs. "We could decorate this place for a party!" Palm trees materialized, along with grass huts and a wandering band of Mariachi iguanas. Grass-skirted otters smiled and hula-ed. Coxli shimmied up to the closest dancer with his arms waving over his head and hooted, "Arriba!"
Deckren waved his hand in annoyance, dismissing Coxli's creations into nowhere. "Quittit, man! Can't you see I'm trying to think?"
"Well then, Gertrude, shall I buy you a dress? Maybe I'll just head for someplace more fun, like that old hotel by the spot you stole my sailboat. Whaddaya say to that?"
"Hey, that's not such a bad idea, Coxli!" Deckren brightened up at the prospect. "If we could get to this place, which is now sort of a mix of your home and Degren's, we should be able to go to other places we've been! Maybe our friends are wandering from memory to memory, too... we might meet them!"
"They might come here, too," Coxli said., "y'wanna leave 'em a note?"
"You are laser-sharp today, my scaly friend. Where will we leave it?"
Coxli gave Deckren a pitying look and shook his head. "How about right over...there?" He waved a clawed finger at the nearest bluff, where bold red letters a hundred feet high appeared one after the other to form, "DECKREN AND COXLI WERE HERE ~ BACK IN A WHILE". "Howzat, fuzzy?"
Memories of signs on doorknobs of rickety bait stores flashed through Deckren's mind; Decker memories, which brought forth some new questions.
So where did he want to be, and who did he want to meet? For that matter, who did he want to be? Did he get a choice in the matter? At this point, being Decker didn't seem like the most appealing choice. Except that Mom and Dad might wonder what had become of him, if they still existed. The Degren option didn't seem a lot better, considering that Furge was nowhere in evidence. But he was really enjoying the comparatively superhuman abilities of Degren's physiology...
Then there was the current amalgam; Deckren, man without home or family. Holed up in a cave with an alliterating lizard. Well, at least Coxli could be considered a friend.
"Let's just go on 'thinkabout', buddy. Never know who might pop up, right?" Deckren stuck out a crooked arm, and Coxli tucked in his scaly foreleg. "The old Hotel?"
"The old hotel. Right up at the front door. Don't wanna rip my skinny little lizard leg off as we think ourselves to different locations, yeah?"
"Coxli, you are on a serious roll today. Front door. Ready? Go!"
It was pretty much as he'd remembered it, though the wind-whipped freezing drizzle was a bit of a surprise. Coxli's scaly skin blanched quickly, his reptilian metabolism headed toward suspended animation in the chilly air. Deckren imagined a grey and red battery-powered woolen body sock around the stricken lizard; Coxli's eyes cleared and the color returned to his face almost immediately. Feeling a bit chilly himself, Deckren cloaked himself in a navy knee-length drover's coat, high, soft black felt boots and a broad-brimmed black felt Akubra with a red leather band. "Always wanted one of these get-ups." He imagined a full-length stand mirror and eyed himself up. "Noice, mate!"
Coxli looked down at his own regalia dourly and waved a claw, adding a fluorescent rainbow scarf and cummerbund to his ensemble, along with knee-high rainbow booties. "Plenty of imagination for your own accoutrement, but just dull old "sock monkey" for your pal, huh?"
"Hey, just tryna keep you warm, not impose on your sense of fashion, dude!"
The walkways were icing up rapidly. They decided to head into the hotel for a look around; see if anyone else had decided to hole up here from the strange weather. The big old double doors groaned stiffly as they struggled to pull them open. It had obviously been a bit longer in subjective time here than where they'd been since their last visit; the corrosion on the hinges was almost furry.
They wandered the halls of the labyrinthine old building, sharing a bottle of the excellent wine from the same stash that Cletus had discovered last time through. Most of the doors stood open, revealing rooms in varying states of disarray and decomposition. Every now and again they'd come to a door that was shut, and they'd try it to see if it was unlocked. Some of the unlocked rooms contained evidence of having been inhabited; old plates, bottles, desiccated fruit rinds, even the mummified remains of one luckless traveler, which made them leery of opening any more closed doors...
In the depths of the hotel, 2 levels below the entry, they were given pause by a glimmer of light around a bend in the hall. Deckren crept forward quietly, motioning Coxli to remain tucked into the frame of an open door. The sound of soft singing rose to his ears. The voice was strangely familiar.
Rounding the corner, he saw that the light projected out from another open door. He could hear the sound of water splashing, and the wet aroma of shampooed hair tickled his nostrils. He inched toward the door, took a deep breath, and slowly tipped his head to allow one eye past the jamb.
Inside was a fully functioning Roman bath. Steam partially obscured his view of the interior, but he could see the silhouette of a very feminine upper torso, arms, and head above roiling pool water. The hands were busily scrubbing away at the long dark hair. The lovely, lilting voice struck an odd chord in him; where had he heard it before?
"I know you're out there, Fuzzy," she broke from singing, and now he recognized the voice. "Don't worry, I'm not trying to kill you anymore." She rinsed the soap from her hair and stood, then walked toward him.
"Lizzy." His heart thudded in his chest; he looked around for signs of an ambush. "What the-"
"Like I said, no worries, moit," her Aussie accent perfect, she said, "I'm all through with the Program. I was hoping you'd show up here." She stopped an arm's length from him, looked him up and down languorously. " As infuriating as you've been for me over the past few, um, adventures, I couldn't help.. um, well, y'know...
"Shit and umpty shit! What NOW?"

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Decker 35

Deckren stood at the cave mouth, looking out into the distance. Coxli was skittering around on the cave walls, chattering exuberantly about how similar this was to his birthing nest. Things had altered slightly since the brightly colored lizard had arrived; the cave had gotten deeper, the colors darker. The river had widened considerably; it seemed more like a delta now, and the bluff was higher though more time-softened.
Questions roiled his mind like the salty breeze that played over the delta waves before him. Had he created the mental picture of Degren's world, thus creating the reality? Was it a remembrance that brought him back to something that already existed? If it was not a figment of his imagination somehow materialized, where were the people? What the hell was Coxli doing here, and why did the whole scene change at his arrival? Was Coxli a drug-induced hallucination, a creation of his imagination, or a real being? Did Deckren bring him, or did he come of his own volition?
Real or imagined, at least he had someone to talk to now. "Hey, Coxli, what brought you here? I was about to get swallowed by a foggy river that seemed to be dissolving everything when one of Degren's old memories came to mind. I concentrated on it, I was!"
"Errr... yes, it was something like that for me, as well," Coxli agreed after a short pause. "I'd been washed over a huge waterfall vortex thingie, was falling toward certain doom, and my life was flashing before my eyes... a sweet memory of my birthplace came clear and I grabbed for it with all four limbs plus tail. I must admit the picture changed a bit when I saw you. Caves aren't as deep, sea is much smaller."
Ideas were starting to form in Deckren's mind. "Okay, sooo.... I tried to bring Degren, and you appeared. Coincidence?" He rested a forefinger under his nose and a thumb under his chin. "Hmm... maybe it's time to try again. Coxli, hang tight for a bit. I need to concentrate." He closed his eyes and tried to create a complete image of his soul partner/doppelganger in his mind.
Nothing happened. Though he had a clear, vibrant picture of Degren in his mind, right down to the velvet stroke of his skin and the fragrance of his breath, the image did not solidify into the person. "Well, shit!" So there was one inkling reinforced. He visualized Coxli and tried to evoke his duplicate. No luck. He tried his old persona, Decker; nothing doing. Who would be next? The comic book heroes had been easy.... but they were definitely fictional. He tried to summon his mother, his father, his old boss at the Cafe Carumba, with no success.
"Okay, let's try some hallucinogenic fish." He clambered down from the cave and stood, knee-deep, in the clear water of the delta. Closing his eyes, he remembered the exotic-finned, opalescent creatures of the river he'd (recently?) traversed. He looked down into the water and three large specimens were nibbling at his toes. Cat-quick, he lunged for one and caught it behind the gills, lifted it clear of the water. It flopped in his hands, trying to escape. "Coxli, do you see this fish? Do you remember these from our journey?"
"Of course, Deckren! May I suggest you not eat it? I seem to recall them having an odd effect on you."
Deckren pitched the fish back in the water, watched it swim away. Time to try another. Let's see... how about the marina attendant? He pictured a man-sized weasel in a smudged, worn ballcap...
"Will you be utilizing the public facilities, or would you care to upgrade, sir?" The dock, the attendant's booth, and the attendant himself stood before him in the shallow water of the delta. He dismissed the image and it vanished. "Coxli, did you see that?"
"Errr... a snarky old weasel trying to coerce you into commerce? How could I miss it?"
"Alright, your turn. Think of a made-up person, maybe a story from your childhood. Paint them as real as possible in your mind. Imagine them here."
Coxli blinked twice, then closed his eyes. An image of a giant cockroach in a bowler hat, smoking a Meerschaum pipe, wavered and then solidified before them. It held out an open tin of sniffing snuff. "Brilliant scenery, my good men, just brilliant! Would you care for a snort?"
"Okay, Coxli," Deckren chortled, "send it away. Now try, um... Aida."
"That ditzy duck in the pillbox hat? Why?"
"Wanna know if she's real."
"Okay....." Nothing happened.
"Well I'll be damned. Let me try." Deckren pictured the giant white duck, replete with shawl, handbag, and dangly earrings. Again, nothing happened.
"Okay, I think I'm starting to get it. Reality is subjective here, but the real people in it are not. But why is it suddenly like this here, and where are the other real people? Why the hell am I not still Decker, on Earth, just fumbling along in one plane of existence, with no power over what is?"
"Who cares?" Coxli imagined a palm tree and dashed up it gleefully. "What more could you want than to be here, dude?"
"Well, nothing against you, Coxli, but I'm gonna kinda miss some of my other "real" friends..."

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Decker 34

He decided to start with someone from his recent "past"; someone without a lifetime of memories, but still fairly well fleshed-out in his mind. Tut seemed a likely choice. Sitting in the mossy bed where he had awakened, eyes closed, he tried to recreate Tut's image and persona in his mind. He envisioned the big spectacles, the pinwheel colors of Tut's shell, the professorial mien Tut presented.
"Well, if it isn't ol' Fuzzy, found his way back to the homeworld." Lizzie's ironic tone sent galvanic spasms down his spine. She had something that looked remarkably similar to a science fiction serial phaser pointed at the center of his chest. "So which one are you, bub? Fuzzy number one, two, or three? Don't bother answering that, it's a rhetorical question. Just take this little homing beacon and put it around your neck." She tossed him a silvery chain with a blue-glowing, high-tech looking pendant attached, identical to one that hung around her own neck. "You're coming with me back to Ops Central, what's left of it. You've made a nice hash of the cosmic matrix, and we're going to figure out how the hell you did it."
"B-but I, um, I didn't... I didn't, er... bring you.... aaahhh, shit to the seventeenth!"
"Bring me? Hahahaha hah!" She shot him an imperious glare. "I suppose you thought the temporo-spatial grid monitor was safe with Tut?" She pressed a stud on her pendant and metamorphosed into the giant turtle. "By Tesla's lightning bolts, Decker, were you not perspicacious enough to discern my authentic identity?" She pressed the stud once more and re-assumed her human form, a mocking grin on her face. "You didn't summon Tut or I to your lonely little hideout. We tracked your energy signature here with the grid monitor. Now get up and turn around. We're going for a ride."
As soon as he was facing away from her, he tried to bring an image of Degren to his mind; tried to have him materialize behind her. He thought he felt the presence of his friend beginning to materialize when Lizzy put her hand on his shoulder and said in a crisp, hard voice, "Control, engage NOW!" The cave dissolved before his eyes and was replaced by what looked like the engine room of a spacecraft.
"This is just getting too shittin' weird now!" Deckren threw his arms up in the air, causing Lizzy to flinch and nearly drop her phaser. "All I was looking for was a little psychedelic exploration, maybe a spirit guide manifestation, and I get all THIS? WHAT THE FUCK??!? I'm DONE playin' this fuckin' game! Ya wanna shoot me with that fuckin' electric shaver, GO THE FUCK AHEAD!" He ripped off the homing pendant and flung it at Lizzy, whose exhaustion and desperation were crumbling her smug demeanor like a heat lamp on a slushie. The pendant struck her in the nose and she nearly fell over. Her gun slipped from nerveless fingers before Deckren's emotional assault. He pictured her crying and sinking to the floor in a heap, and she did. The attendant at the console where the grid monitor was plugged in looked confused and abashed, but he fumbled at the holster on his belt with one hand while reaching for an intercom button with the other. "Um, c-control, we have a situation down here... would you..."
Deckren lashed out with his mind, wrapped tentacles of hilarity around the man's vacillating thoughts. "This is all really funny, isn't it, Louis?" He imagined the attendant rolling on the deck in paroxysms of laughter. The dude didn't know what hit him; he fired off an accidental phaser beam into the ceiling and doubled over in full-throated, uncontrollable, breathlessly silent glee.
Deckren was galvanized now; he jumped for the comm button, extemporizing, "..start a pot of French roast for Lizzy and I? She's yawning like the pit of hell."
"Uhh... roger that, Epstein, gimme twenty clicks. We don't want Lizzy to get dizzy."
Deckren looked over the temporo-spatial grid monitor and realized it was beyond his comprehension. He grabbed the two pendants and tossed them in the case, closed it, and imagined himself and it back in Degren-land. The bulkheads of the spaceship wavered, disintegrated, and were replaced by red-gold sandstone bluffs. A figure lounged in the shadows in front of him; his heart jumped into his throat. "Degren...?"
The figure emerged from the shadows, bright yellow-green scales iridescent in the afternoon sun, "Err...sorry, certainly some sympathy, simply your saurian sidekick,.... Coxli....suited for service."

Decker 33

He realized he was exhausted; there did not feel to be an ounce of struggle left inside him. Still, his mind swirled and railed against the fog, the rising water, the desperate isolation... it would be so easy to just lay back and sleep if the empty thoughts would stop racing.
He imagined a soft, mossy nest like the one he and Furge had once shared, tucked into a sandstone cave just a stone's throw from the chattering, tumbling river their little village abutted. Through pangs of loneliness, he felt his head easing into the soft mass, his legs relaxing into its yielding embrace.
He thought he could almost hear the burbling of the river, smell the smoke of cook fires as his eyes closed and his body relaxed. The aroma of the moss, its soft roughness, the almost imperceptible flicker of fires, stronger than memory, coaxed him into sweet, empty somnolence. At that moment, as the adrenaline ebbed from his muscles and the comfort of memory enfolded him, it seemed that oblivion was the perfect choice.
He awakened slowly, groggily, to amber light suffusing his eyelids. The smell of moss was strong in his nose, and his cheek rested in feathery cushion. A tinkle of muted applause resolved itself into impish currents over stone.
He rose with vague scenes of village life playing in the recesses of his mind, distant and unreal as fading dreams. The cave, the mossy bed, the river's chatter all remained but the bright, biting smell of wood smoke had turned sour and dead. He hesitated to step out of the cave's solitude, fearing that he would look on...
Three steps and his fears were confirmed. No footprints lay in the sand around the dying and dead fires; no gnawed fish bones, no desiccated, charred-edged leaf bowls... no sign that anyone but he had been here.
But how did he get here? He had been lost in a foggy, mutable non-reality, a damp nothingness of dead possibilities and stagnating entropy. He had nearly been swallowed by it, lost in ennui, when somehow he'd found himself here... what had been the catalyst?
"Shit and quadruple shit!" The rasping tones of his voice almost startled him. Brief echoes played among the burbles and splashes of the river, then vanished. "What is this trip, and when is it going to end?" He scratched his head, noting the soft fur there.
He was Deckren again; an amalgam of three personalities. Memories of his journey along the underground river were crisp in his mind. He thought about how, when the temporo-spatial device had failed, he and his alter ego(s) had been able to create their own "bridge" between realities. He remembered how he'd altered his recent realities. Now this... hadn't he been envisioning the world that Degren and Furge had occupied before this whole crazy trip had started?
Had he "created" this scene? Was it real, or just a figment of his imagination? "I've gone totally fucking bazonkers," he growled.
He tried imagining that one of the fires was in full blaze; it almost instantaneously burst into flame, loaded with dry driftwood. He imagined a set of stone steps carved into the sandstone bluff he stood before, and it was there.
"I'll be screwed, glued and tattooed!"
He spent the better part of an hour making things appear and disappear. Cacti, ball-point pens, dune buggies, radios, rocks, statues, even a detail-perfect cafe, the one in an old railroad dining car... but he hesitated to make anything animate. Brief flashes of people and animals crossed his waking dreamscape, but he pressed them away. Would it be weird to "create" people?
But wasn't it possible that all the characters he'd interacted with in this extended peyote trip (or whatever it was) were manifestations from within his own mind? Giant fashion-obsessed white ducks, psychedelic genius turtle professors, iconic but comedic cowboy miners, furry, superhuman hominids... beautiful, evil spy women?
He decided to fill his little cafe with comic book superheroes. One by one, in full regalia, they appeared inside the windows; in booths and at tables, just as he'd remembered them from his youth.
He walked in the door of the cafe. The walls rang with the clinking of silverware and the intense dialogue of intrepid world-savers. It was all a little thin, though. The characters were a bit two-dimensional... just as he remembered them.
Feeling crazier by the minute, Deckren made all his creations of the morning vanish. His heart thudded in his chest. His mind whirled. If he wanted to grace this reality with anyone approximating the multiplicity of dimensions that a real, live, sentient entity encompassed, he was going to have to start with a much broader palette. He was going to have to tap memories of people he'd had real interactions with; people he'd practically or really seen inside.
This was going to be a much more significant challenge.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Decker 32

The river, wide and flat, ran through mist-blanketed plains. Here and there a downdraft would open an eddying hole in the low fog, revealing desolate washboard beneath. The sky, too, was shrouded in low-hanging haze; sulfur-tinged, uneven, it was the blotchy, sick-glowing ceiling of an endless claustrophobic cavern. In some areas, it seemed low enough that Decker might reach up and stick his hand into the cloud.
The river, though shrouded overhead with the same dead yellow cover as the land, was not blanketed in fog. He could clearly see the shore, and the first three feet or so of land, some fifteen or twenty steps away. He splashed toward it.
The water was rising fast enough that he could see the mist being pushed back; see the land being consumed by the water. Though it felt solid underfoot, it appeared that as the river swept over it, the shore was somehow being dissolved, altered...
Stepping hesitantly from the water and into the shin-deep mist, Decker wished for Degren's leather-tough soles. He was going to have to move away from the river quickly, and though the mist swirled away as he pressed into it, he still had no clear view of where he was placing his tender, boot-accustomed feet.
Six or seven steps further and the harsh, abrasive feel of the ground grew gentle and welcoming. He thought his feet might be numbing due to some effect of the river water, but when he lifted one up to examine it, he noted it was covered in short, dense, fleshy-hued fur. The bottom was walnut-stained and leathery.
"I'll be damned," he rasped, "am I still tripping? Wonder if tripping's like dreaming." He grabbed a fold of forearm skin between finger and thumb and bore down. As electric twinges jumped up toward his shoulder, he realized that he hadn't learned much from the experiment... except that there was no fur on his arm. Chortling to himself, he pressed on.
He remembered the difference in strength and dexterity between his body and the Degren body. Stopping and dropping to a half-squat, he tensed his legs and leaped with all his might. The result was disappointing. "Shit, I'm just me. I wonder..." He set his mind on metamorphosing into the soft-furred, hard-muscled entity he'd come to know and love in his dream, or trip, or adventure, or disaster, or whatever it was...
...and found himself covered with velvety beige fur. "Hot damn!" He sprung into a high-arcing forward flip, landing 20 feet ahead of where he'd jumped. He was inspired to duplicate an Olympian tumbling run. Flips, triple flips, twists, cloud-grazing pirouettes, round-offs, reversals... he felt as though he could travel for miles in this fashion. The sky seemed to brighten and dome upward where he cavorted and bounded.
Exhilarated, he howled and yipped like a coyote, all the while performing whatever acrobatic acts he could think of. Distracted by his own antics, he soon found himself splashing along in shallow water. the tingling in his toes returned, galvanizing him to race away from the rising river until he was far enough to allow himself a brief pause for thought.
"Okay, dude, what now?" The water was rising. He'd not seen so much as a cockroach or a blade of grass, much less any other sentient life. Unless he could imagine food and a place of safety from the seemingly all-consuming water, he was screwed.
The pendulous ocher clouds seemed to darken and sag over him, shortening his field of view. It was as though invisible walls closed in on him, suffocating, petrifying. Suddenly, he couldn't decide which way to go, or imagine why he should even bother,
He was alone on a dead, drowning world. What companions he'd had were probably hallucinatory. The memories he considered "real" were mostly of a solitary existence, where even his family was ghostlike and distant... did he have any childhood friends? Brothers or sisters? he couldn't remember. Even his parents were foggy specters in a fading dream. The Degren/Furge memories, whether hallucinatory or otherwise, were fuller, richer visions.
The cloud ceiling was only inches above his head; the river licked his shins. A thin layer of fog was creeping over the shore and onto the water, threatening to obscure his view of the transition and leave him directionless between rapidly closing horizons. Once again he raced out of the water, away from the shore, while he could still discern which way that was. Thin, wan bolts of lightning arced across the sky, away from him in every direction.
He ran until he was exhausted. His heart thudded, leaden in his burning chest. A fading endorphin rush pressed back the sky, offering him a view of endless swirling fog below and ominous, mottled-glow mustard clouds above. The lightning became sporadic, shorter, ebbed and ceased.
As his energy had waned, he'd felt as though he might have been running on a slight incline. Looking around seemed to confirm this sense; the fog sloped away from him in all directions and the clouds, which danced around his head where he stood, planed away from ground level into the distance.
Decker collapsed to his elbows and knees, let his forehead rest on the coarse, clayey sand. As his heartbeat slowed and ragged, burning gasps eased into more normal breathing, he rose to a kneeling position, arms akimbo. He noted that, as his mood continued to darken, the conical incline he was centered on seemed to flatten incrementally, though not quite as quickly as the sky descended...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Decker 31

It was very hard to determine whether he was enveloped in absolute darkness or brilliant light. For uncountable milliseconds, he fixated on that question.

With slow awakening came a sense of floating bodiless, empty...

It was just...nothing. There was no space to fill, endlessly, and nothing to fill it with. No memory, no motivation.

A distant echo percolated through the void; quiet laughter and an ethereal, ephemeral image of a gaunt Buddha...

The image swelled, faded to near-nothingness, fleshed out, became a round, serene figure ensconced in a summery riparian scene, sitting lotus-fashion on a great tree stump.

There was something in his not-mind, a feather floating perhaps, or an idea... he was supposed to perform some act when he saw this figure along the road...

He was still formless, though he knew it was he that had created all this form around himself. Was he desirous of form?

A blunt-tipped, double-edged sword, broad and heavy, materialized before the Buddha, who glanced at it disinterestedly and returned to his meditations. It hung for a moment, glowing softly, then dropped to the ground and rang like a great bronze bell.

The reverberations precipitated wisps of chromatic fog from the air; gelled around the nexus of his consciousness. He was no longer bodiless, in fact he was a "she", blue-skinned, garbed in scanty silks and hammered, glinting metal.

She reached for the still-ringing khanda, her fingers meshing in its familiar grip, joined her voice with its reverberations and brought its blade around, overhead, down, to cleave the imposter in twain...

...and found himself chained hand and foot to a great stone, himself rent from pelvis to sternum, with vultures gorging on his swollen entrails as a wide river rushed and cackled...

...bounding stone to stone, his curling horns thrust menacingly across a shallow, laughing stream in the direction of his rapidly impending mirror image...

...clucking, proud and sore, leaping out of her still-warm nest, direly thirsty, strutting toward the cool river's edge ...

Faster, faster, projections of sound and vision, buried whims and memories, flooding over his empty dreamscape, chaotic fragments of reality fighting to create the perfect vessel as, all the while, a hungry river roared in the imminent background...


It was a voice he remembered; clear, resounding, defining the boundaries of his skull, his chest... was himself, and memory flooded in, over visions and myth, over superimposed icons and avatars, archetypes and facsimiles...

He was Decker.

But what did that mean?

He stood on the shore of a rapidly rising river; a river that had already dissolved his hiking boots and was creating odd tingles in his feet, his ankles, his shins, his knees...