Friday, November 30, 2012
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
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.