Monday, January 28, 2013
The river phosphoresced hypnotically; green, pink, lilac, cobalt, carmine, all melding, swirling, eddying around Decker's calves as he waded across. He was tired and numb, feeling like little more than a specter in this shadowy place. Only the chill of the water and the bruising solidity of the river rocks on his feet seemed real enough to keep him anchored here. His companions were flickering phantasms floating over the psychedelic rills, silent in their own contemplations. The gurgle and splash of their steps and his set off chromatic echoes in his mind, like haunting, distant background music in some avant-garde surrealistic film about depression and self-discovery. Their crossing was agonizingly slow, as each member of the party occasionally stopped mid-stride to fall into glazed revery. The consuming inner visions that brought Decker to pause were mostly about Lizzie. He kept seeing her in the mellow orange torchlight of the hotel on Cradsell 4; wet, smiling, emerging from the pool, toweling her hair, then flashing back to their meeting on the river, the confrontation at Tut's scientific complex... why was she occupying so much of his mind now? Contact with the stone walkway on the riverbank brought him out of his daze, though Lizzie kept floating around in the peripheries of his mind. His companions, too, seemed to be coming back to full consciousness. Once they'd made their way back to where the regularly-spaced electric lights glowed, they'd all shaken off their daze and were conversing like the adventure-bonded compadres they'd become. Decker mused on their friendly repartee as he sorted out his emotions. When they reached the stainless double doors, he broke into their conversation. "Hey, uh, guys... I think I need to make a little side trip back to Cradsell 4 before we do this peyote trip reenactment thing. I've got to see how Lizzie's doing, find out what she wants to do before I maybe set this whole, er...multiverse, right, Tut? Before I maybe set this whole multiverse on its ear again." He could see Coxli sputtering, working up to one of his alliterative harangues, and Cletus was starting to shake his head and mutter about "them danged wimmen", but he put up a palm and went on. "I know, I know... she's been trouble in the past, but she's the only other real person I've seen for a while, and she is a woman. which could be a pretty important factor if we were interested in keeping the human race going if... if things stay as, er, weird as they seem to be right now. You're not going to talk me out of this. And I'm going alone. I'll just grab a few things and head on out, shouldn't be more than a day or two." After a comradely meal in the cafeteria, Decker tossed a few granola bars and a couple canteens in a messenger bag and headed for the Cradsell 4 tributary. There was a pleasant, tingling excitement coursing through his veins. He found himself humming sporadically, then actually singing a few of the old radio songs he remembered from... before. The climb went smoothly, and it felt like only a few hours before he was ascending the slow-sloping ramp to the Cradsell 4 surface. Visions of Lizzie kept drifting through his mind; her smug grin, her coquettish glances, her mischievous eyes... her hair streaming behind her as she surfaced at the edge of the hot tub, then vaulted up onto the ledge... the images turned to soft-lit vignettes that included him; a table, a candle, some wine, her smile... The stark light of a bright-sunned Cradsellan sky broke his revery. It was blazing hot as he stepped onto the cobblestones in front of the big hotel, and the air was stiflingly humid. His heart banged, pendulum-like, against his chest. What if she was just playing him? And what if Degren's deep love for Furge, still ensconced in his chest, came surging back up in the middle of his revery's realized culmination? "Shit-damned shittle shit!" He steeled himself for their imminent reunion. He was going to carry through on this, for better or worse. "You made the trip, asshole," he grumbled to himself, "now go poke that tiger!" The stone halls of the hotel echoed with his footsteps. "Lizzie? You here?" No reply. He wandered down to the bathing area. The pool was still. He stuck his finger in the water; air temperature at best. "Shit!" She hadn't bathed here in at least a day."LIZZIE!" His heart was starting to thud again, and his breathing became ragged. He wandered the halls of the hotel, up and down stairs, calling her name. "Dammitall, where'd she go?" He stopped and collapsed onto a stone bench outside the large, gaping French doors of a partly-vandalized library. The excitement and adrenaline of the last two days were ebbing; Decker was practically exhausted. Coming down from his romantic fantasies of Lizzie was the last straw; he felt totally drained, unable to keep his eyes open. Chest heaving in the sultry afternoon, Decker Quall laid back onto the broad bench and passed out.