It was the quiet time -- night -- and she was alone again. The pattern had grown wearisome with constantly floating, talking, waiting amidst whatever, to whatever and for whatever it was. It seemed that she was waiting. "It is impolite to keep people waiting!" Sighing, she sat down. Idly, she began to play with a scale she'd found.

"Why is it you sit here?" The voice came from beside her.

She closed her eyes, then realized she wasn't breathing. 'One-thousand one one-thousand two one-thousand three...' She opened her eyes. Faded shoes, bleached to the color of everything in the desert, were there with feet in them. The leather had stretched such that the sides had collapsed and the big toe had created a dent in each one.

He spoke. Male. Him. He was old sounding. It had a familiar twinge. "You are not so easy to find." What makes you think this is a dream?...

"I remember you. We have met."


"This is still not a dream."


"Where is this?"

"Someplace to discuss later. This is very tiring. We should leave soon. You have been here a long time."

"Leave? How?"

"Let us walk. I can take you most of the way."

So they walked. A moon the shape of a teardrop rose in front of them colored satin silver and glowing with a frosted orange reflection that licked the edges like little flames. She thought he was walking on the -- water -- until she heard the drops. Falling back a little, she could just see the ripples move in toward his feet and then the drip rise up to the cracks in his rubbered soles.

Just to contrast, the blue thing moved with her steps, always staying under her. She idly watched the “back” edge dissolve into the sea and the “front” edge form. Tammy sighed, “What rabbit hole have I fallen into.”

Obviously they were having a meeting, but she wasn’t invited, so Jessie hunkered behind the mounds of stuff. There were piles of oversized caltrops welded from discarded irons, sawed off tubes, lamps, and whatever else seemed handy. There were crates marked AMMO filled with worn board game pieces, discarded pens, florescent glasses, snapped action figures, used clear tape dispensers… In the opposite corner she could see artificial Christmas trees and layers upon layers of old wrappings. It was all the stuff normally called garbage, junk, leftovers, unwanted remains… gomi.

It struck her how odd this bunch was. Painter the mercenary, Tiny the street samurai, Whitehot the decker, Tammy the client… Add to that Captain Blood and Mr. R, both of whom seem to be former garbage men turned weird. The vehicle they “sailed” looked to be an old garbage truck (that she suspected Painted had some hand in) outfitted with a supped-up engine, mast and sails, modified grappling guns that shot anchors, street-sweeper cannons on both port and starboard, caltrop dispensers, and some methane based system that looked like it might be a flame thrower or a projection system that shot decaying table scraps, she wasn’t sure which. The two former garbage men dressed in a manner that screamed Erol Flynn and talked in a manner that sounded like they were in some low-grade pirate movie, thought all she’d heard Mr. R saying was “arr”.

Painter had some history with these two, something he had called giri at one point, whatever that meant, and it seemed very important to him. It seemed to be the reason why the two pirates would even consider having anything to do with the ‘merry little crew’ – they may be nutcases, but they certainly aren’t insane.

What of that guy they hauled out of the complex… He seemed to be meditating ever since Painter stepped on the gas once they escaped. Unless, that is, he was looking out at the cities they passed. Whitehot mentioned it reminded him of the black-and-white episodes of Twilight Zone where someone pulled a Rip van Winkle and found the world changed. Jessie did remember watching and liking one episode of Twilight Zone before she discovered that They were using that to program people, which is probably why she liked it. But this guy… he just felt old.

Then there was Tammy… a woman that walked through a military complex without setting off one alarm, not to mention right in front of people who obviously didn’t see her. The sleezed data she had from the internal comms didn’t show either of them. Maybe she could sneak a look at Whitehot’s deck – he was mixed into Their systems longer than she was…

There was a heaviness that accompanied the darkening of her vision, the traversing into the spongy void. It resisted her presence until she’d pushed just that far enough that it popped about her and enclosed her and drew her into the depths. The absence terrified her.

The man had tried to tell her what to expect, but said things were different for him, for everyone. He’d not been gone so long and was accustomed to this. She wasn’t sure what “this” was – and wasn’t sure she wanted to know. With any luck he’d lead her “back” and she’d wake up from some strange slumber beneath one of the cloned ferns in the waiting room to her father’s office. If she asked, he would tell her and then everything would be a strange fantasy she might remember from her youth.

If he’d told her she might have been too afraid. And, as she tried to scream into the swallowing void, she realized that he knew what this part would be like – how terrifying the engulfing into the massive, weighty nothing would be. The pressing upon pressing continued, drawing her further inward. The mass started to take shape of fluid-filled tubes and pulsing fibers all feeling strange and familiar. It was when she felt the skin that memory clicked and she stopped fighting the gravity and drifted down, settling into the flesh, her flesh.

She had returned.

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