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?"

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