<<previously, on the episodes… “It is venturesome to think that a coordination of words (philosophies are nothing more than that) can resemble the universe very much. It is also venturesome to think that of all these illustrious coordinations, one of them — at least in an infinitesimal way — does not resemble the universe a bit more than the others.” Jorge Luis Borges>>
written for the theme: nightmares
New Orleans, circa 1935.
Canal Street, with its bustling shoppers and rushing business workers, chosen to forever serve as the border between the European charms of the French Quarter and the tall business buildings and statue-guarded city buildings of the Central Business District. Even in the midst of the depression, people walk to and fro with places to go, things to spend their money on.
But to me this street on this particular day meant only one thing: a way back to where I belonged. I rushed past the hoards of people, followed closely by the clown. (I feel like I should call him something else, something more fitting now that I’ve remembered who he is, but the fact is he doesn’t have a name. And in my defense, he is dressed like a clown. I’d have to remember to ask him about the whole dressing-up-like-a-clown thing.)
I felt my wrist start to twitch. “Not yet!” I said. “This sub-entry just started!”
“It’s not ending,” said the clown, stopping to look into the sky. “Something’s coming.”
I felt the whole world sway, like when you’re standing on a dock and a ship bumps up against it to tie up, and the episode unraveled just enough to create a gap in space right behind us. Something like a big orange blanket flew out of the gap, rushing past us and into the crowd, and attached to the big blanket was a long rope, and holding onto the rope was a small girl with shockingly red dreadlocks. The people scattered like pigeons as she was dragged quickly down the sidewalk.
“Billy?” I muttered, and then ran into the crowd. The thing which was wrapped in the blanket began rising into the air above the crowd and I leaped up and grabbed onto the rope, helping Billy bring it down to the sidewalk. Billy pulled it down and tied the rope around it a few times like roping up a calf in a rodeo. The people in the crowd went about their business (like New Orleanians tend to do after enjoying some really strange event (which tend to happen by the hour)).
Billy, or Billy the Red, as she’s dubbed herself, dusted off her hands and pushed the huge contraption that covered her eyes up onto her forehead. The contraption helped her see things that she needed to see in order to do her job, and had an assortment of metal parts and tiny levers and lenses
“How in the hell did you get here?” I asked her.
“Hey cap!” (which was short for ‘captain’ – I always mean to ask her why she calls me that) She looked around, keeping one hand on the bundled-up blanket. “I don’t know, it’s just Canal Street.” Her voice was a bit gruff for a fifteen-year-old.
“We’re in 1935.”
“Whoa!” She looked around at the passing people. “I couldn’t tell at first! Just thought there were a few more dressed-up people out on the street than usual.” She reached out and touched people’s clothes as they passed. “I was chasing a nightmare,” she said. “But lately they keep ducking into these weird little fissures in space – well, I guess they’re fissures in time too. I finally got inside one before it closed back up.” She patted the blanket.
I’d forgotten that one of her many jobs was catching nightmares. Not just any nightmare is able to crawl out of someone’s head and run amok – but after you spike an artist’s drink with wonder, the dreams they come up with can get out of hand from time to time (see sub-entry 12). They have to be caught and taken to be forged back into pure wonder.
“So how in the hell did you get here?” she asked, then looked at the clown and back at me. “I didn’t know you had a brother.”
“Um… both are long stories,” I said.
The clown walked up to the next corner and peered around the building.
“And I suppose the story of why your arm is dripping black goo is long, too?”
“Hey Billy, have you heard of anyone called The Forestay?”
“Have you seen The Aspect around recently?”
“Nope, no one has. She’s MIA.”
My heart leaped in my chest. “What? Wait – what time are you from?”
Billy laughed and pulled the bundled-up nightmare over her shoulder. “What time are you from?”
“I’m serious -”
“They’re coming!” yelled the clown from up ahead. “Hurry up now!”
“Shit!” I started running down the sidewalk. “Time to go get myself killed.”
“Why would you want to go and do that?” she yelled out from behind me.
“Because it’s my only way back to the present!” I yelled. “When time opens back up, jump through!”
The car screeched around the corner as I approached. Hmm… this would be a bit different than it was last time – but every sub-entry’s been different from it’s episode, so what the hell. I threw myself against the side of the car and held onto the window, my shoes dragging along the street. Inside, of course, were four armed men and many bags of jewelry. The jewelry, needless to say, did not belong to them. But something else didn’t belong to them that was slightly more important, at least to my employer. I grunted and pushed and pulled myself up so that I was halfway in the swerving car, reached into the jacket of the scrawny guy in the passenger seat, and pulled out a fist-sized black jewel.
The jewel, known by at least a dozen names, allows the possessor and their comrades to get away unharmed from any manner of robbery. It also allows them to out-drink just about anyone else. The bad news is that it belongs to my old boss, Pierre, and he’s sending a slew of pirate ghosts to track it down, and, well, one of my many jobs is to keep the dead from killing the living, at least as much as I’m able. It’s bad press for the city.
“Who’s that!” said the driver.
“I don’t know, but he just took my good luck charm!”
“Push him out of the car!”
“No,” I said, looking into the scrawny guy’s beady eyes. “You’re supposed to shoot me. If you push me out I might live, and that would be really, really annoying.”
“I said push him out!” yelled the driver.
“Shoot me!” I said, grabbing the scrawny guy’s shirt.
The whine of a police siren erupted from behind the car. The driver pulled out a revolver and pointed it at me.
“Thank you!” I said, then closed my eyes. Everything went silent like a radio being shut off, and I was gone.
story Copyright 2010 by Andy Reynolds
for more stories and a menu of the episodes, visit my website: AndyReynolds.net