We never know who the power workers are in the underworld without deep worlds. That is not just of THE ART or even THE VIKINGS, but also of THE SOUTH and the old style of NEW ENGLAND witches, in our country, though many psychics know such things, and that is where this operation is different from THE ORDER in that it is principally a wyrd sister who can READ but not write.
Families live many lives in the COMBUST. Back when small towns were large families, they lived some of their parallel lives in other worlds, as do we, and in those days, KNEW ABOUT THEM and not just in LSD. That is why we have THE ART.
By that I mean, what we are in the underworld is not the same as what we are in this world, and that is why looking at ancient myths and the sticks and stones that were their tools and the huts that were their houses, we pity them for PAUCITY while they pity us for WEALTH.
Tuesday Night Munchies
Allondra pushes her grocery cart listlessly down the aisle of the Quality Food Mart. It is two in the morning, her trucker husband is off on one of his long hauls, and she is wondering why the barons of industry who make all of the important decisions in the world think we need six different kinds of pecan sandies but not the kind she likes and usually finds exactly here, in this aisle, on this shelf, in this very spot where there is now some kind of strawberry puff with coconut on top.
She stares at the strawberry puffs. She’s had a bit of vodka and is torn between cynical responses. Does she throw the cookies down, stamp on them, and leave the store in a storm of social protest? Does she elevate her consciousness to that realm where pecan candies might as well be strawberry puffs and buy them anyway, or does she stand there and give up without being able to either move on or go home?
She stands there.
Maynard sees the hot chick with the munchies, and there is no “off” switch in his brain that can keep him from taking in the sleek white workout pants that barely skim her belly button, the pale pink tank top with the deep v-neck, and he’s hoping she’s got some ink because that would make her more available.
She’s wearing a ring and it’s a big one.
Allondra feels the pressure of his stare and turns around. Scruffy hair, dirty white t-shirt, some kind of work boot, and a grocery cart full of cheap beer. Clearly a local. She turns back to the infinitude of the cookies and her pampered, small world.
Dewey is supposed to be surveilling the implant units via remote feed in their no-name little towns, but he’s actually playing computer games. It’s okay. Nothing ever happens, but they’re paying him half a million dollars a year to watch and wait, so he is.
The Command Center where Dewey works is in a bunker beneath the Arctic Ocean that houses the Neighbors, a pale lavender “octopus” extraterrestrial species working with our guys to stop whatever is happening in the dimensions from happening on Earth. They are an advanced species that live simultaneously in many dimensions with the support of mind-altering substances and technology, and can access cell synchronicity remotely. The implant units are randomly chosen humans implanted with parts of the octopus tentacles at the brain stem so that the Neighbors can “read” humanity from within. They lurk within the nervous system and rarely make a peep. The implant units are unaware of their special configuration as they live outwardly normal lives, and Dewey watches to make sure nothing goes “wrong.”
Maynard has parked his truck where he can see the grocery store exit and still get out the driveway. “This is not me,” he says as he slaps the steering wheel. He knows the rules. Jail is expensive, and you don’t know what you’re going to get in there. One of his high school buddies landed in the drunk tank and came out in a coma.
She was coming. She was a little wobbly on her feet. That could mean she needs help, Maynard hoped. If she doesn’t shoot him.
She pulls out into the main drag in her glorious convertible, not doing anything about it if the wind messes up her hair. He pulls out after her, keeping a polite distance from those mystic Beamer tail lights. He doesn’t know where this is going to end up, but this is his Tuesday night, and he is going to own it.
Dewey is shaken from his thousandth level of gaming glory by a sudden beep on the watchers’ monitor. This is not good. When the implant units get too cozy, the cell synchronicity of the Neighbors starts to go awry and the aliens begin to bleed into human consciousness. The results can be unpredictable. Dewey waits and watches, but the beeping continues.
He pops into the visual feed. It always creeps him out to know that aliens don’t implant cameras into humans—they are cameras. With the Neighbors, dimension, telepathy, and technology meld, and if our species hadn’t taken a wrong evolutionary turn with Egypt, we would have eventually been mind melding in outer space, too.
Allonda has everything arranged for the proper disposition of the evening: vodka, beef jerky, a liter of imported mineral water, and exactly two cookies—after all, you have to live. She arranges the sofa cushions to support her legs since she has nothing to sprawl over but expensive upholstery, and takes the remote in hand. It is now past three. She tries not to look at the time, because it seems judgmental. This is television. There should be no time. There should only be an eternity of wasteland where people expose their storage lockers, their wedding dresses, their life-sized cakes in the shape of Nefertiti so Allondra can smirk at them for $98 a month. The shapes flash before her eyes as she settles in to bliss.
Suddenly the door bursts open, and the skeevy guy from the grocery store is standing in her living room. He looks so frightened Allondra busts out laughing.
“I’m sorry. I am so sorry.”
“Get out of here.”
“I’m leaving. I’m leaving. This is me leaving. Bye.”
He stands there.
Dewey tunes into Allondra’s feed and sees what he usually sees with the females: lots of groovy television. They have a harder time with the sync. Broader neural processing leaves them with an incipient echo with the alien and they damp it down with stuff.
With Maynard, it’s pay dirt. God, she’s beautiful. About twenty-six, it looks, tall leggy blonde, elegant in the way that aliens always make people. Dewey wishes he could get an alien implant just for the clothes sense.
This is a level four interference. If those two get it on, they will experience the Neighbors’ consciousness in total. He hits the call button.
“What are you watching?” asks Maynard.
“None of your business!”
“Do I have to call 9-1-1?”
“I wish you wouldn’t. I’m not going to do anything. I just can’t find myself.”
Men are so pathetic. They always fall for it. It’s like a machine where you push the button and the same thing happens every time, and at twenty-eight Allondra is tired of it already but she can’t stop being powerful. It’s a high wrapped in a game wrapped in pure pleasure, being her.
She stares him down.
Dewey’s boss Cal comes running from his dormitory in his pajamas.
“What is it?”
“Crazy love.” Cal examines the screen. He is a psychiatrist.
“Reduce dopamine and oxytocin. Increase adrenaline.”
Dewey complies. They watch.
“I have to go. I don’t know why I came here. It is that you are real in a way that I cannot explain. It’s not your beauty or your obvious fertility. That’s what men want.”
They both nod.
“It’s biology. It’s a stupid game, but I’m all in.”
“I can see that.”
Now he’s going philosophical, thinks Allondra. This is the part that takes all night. Sometimes it’s good, but usually it’s just showing off, and this guy doesn’t have much in the head beans department. Clearly.
“I’m not going to lie to you.”
“I don’t see how you could.”
“I know I am merely a stump with a perception at one end and a genetic delivery mechanism at the other and I spend most of my life not really full.”
“No. No. No. No.” Dewey is starting to panic.
“I want a sense of beyond and not just in drugs,” muses Maynard.
“I’ve done lots of drugs, and I usually don’t because the dealers are so scuzzy.”
“I don’t know the right dealer. They are always wanting more.”
They are both concerned by the obvious problem with drug dealers. The situation needs to be remedied, but not by the lower middle class.
“Do you want a child?” he says.
“I am a woman. It’s the ultimate adventure, and I could have this night end in crazy.”
“No baby! No baby!” Dewey yells.
“I am so drunk,” says Allondra. “I don’t know how I got this drunk.”
He is still standing, and they look at each other. She is embarrassed by the vodka. She should be pure.
“I won’t try sit down. Normal people would but I can’t stand this furniture. It’s a bribe and you’re a schlub for living like this and I don’t know what else you should do. You’re lost. But the world wants you lost. If I were a great man, I would make you go to college or something.“
“You’re fixing me,” she says. “I knew you’d be all superior with those stupid boots.”
They look at his work boots. Construction. He seems to know his way around orange extension cords.
“I hate my boots. They’re just wrong.”
He takes off his boots and throws them across the room. She wonders how her husband is going to take those boots.
“See? No more.”
She is rethinking the plan to have a child with him. Those boots were better on.
“I’m standing and can’t figure out how I’m standing. I shouldn’t have these arms. They’re wrong,” says Maynard.
“My arms are wrong, too,” says Allondra, noticing her beautiful arms.
“We have to do something,” says Dewey.
“I’ll take it from here,” says Cal as he sits down at the monitor and begins the chemical manipulation of both parties.
“How did we get these wrong arms? I can hardly work them. I want this head off.”
“I just can’t be so small.”
“Let’s take mine off first, then I’ll help you with yours,” Allondra offers.
They start trying to remove the awful heads, but their tentacles don’t comply.
“The universe is energy and there are other energy states beyond this and I am not sure how this is more real except I am told that it is,” says Allondra.
“And that this energy state is somehow necessary. This is the one . . .“
“That leads to the next one,” they both chime in, reciting their alien catechism. “And the beings have to master this one first.”
“This has gone on too long. Where is the station?” says Allondra.
“Why are we here with this stupid species?” says Maynard. “We should just clean house and go home,” says Allondra. Humans are always harder on their own. “We can’t clean house. The rest of the energy would . . .” “Freak out.” “Yes. And we don’t want another dinosaur situation.”
“I loved the dinosaurs. They were . . . .”
“Don’t go there!” says Maynard tenderly.
“Elegant,” they both chime in. “And they’re all gone.” “They’re not gone. They moved in time.” “No, but these, these dinosaurs are gone.” “It was sixty-six million years ago.” “So?”
The Neighbors are able to conserve a great deal of memory of former lives with each successive body transition. It is something about them.
“I like this one. I think I’ll keep it,” says Maynard. “If I can have you.”
“This one can be had. Just get the money. The unit is programmed for a thing called money that places it ahead of the others.”
“Simian biology. That’s no problem.”
The aliens have lost themselves in the implants. Cal stares at the readout, pushes a button, and sits back. Nothing else he can do.
Dewey screams, “No! No! No!”
Watchers tend to get melded to the subjects from afar. Cal calls to the orderlies, “Unstable!” and clears out, as they sedate Dewey and take him to the infirmary.
The SWAT team bursts into the house as Maynard and Allondra are caressing, objects flying around the room and the electrical grid of the entire neighborhood shorted out by the power surge. The orderlies stave off their puking and the catapult into other dimensions long enough to shoot the lovers with sleep darts.
Days later Dewey manages to crawl out of bed into his wheelchair and push himself over to Allondra’s bed, where she is strapped down raving, the lone survivor of implant removal.
“I’m sorry,” says Dewey.