|The Story||The Authors|
|Now Tiki (whom you may have forgotten about, gentle reader, due to what may seem our heartless neglect of her, but is in fact due to her insipid sneaking around and voyeurizing on scenes outside the scope of this particular story, no matter how much of our precious Valium we share with her) had a secret to share with the others.|
|She had always wanted to be a silhouette. Just the outline of a person so you'd know it was a human you were dealing with, but then all filled up like a shadow.|
|But that was not her only secret. Tiki still remembered with painful clarity the ill-fated business venture in which Bitzy and Vashondra nearly coerced her into participating. And now suddenly they were hell bent on getting into the world saving business. It didn't really make sense to Tiki, but what did it matter now? The fact was, that Janice had superpowers now and Bitzy may even be endowed with superpowers of her own, judging by the way she disposed of Demetrius, and they now had an international crisis to diffuse.|
|Half of survival-of-the-fittest (that is, if you are going to remain one of those few, surviving Fittest) simply involves knowing whom and whom not to trust.|
|Keeping this in mind, she squeezed one of her doughy love-handles into a Ziploc baggy, which soon filled up with shadow, visibly deflating her just a wee bit. She zip-sealed the bag and, holding it between her teeth, kicked a chair into the center of the room and climbed up on top of it. Pushing a panel of the drop-ceiling up and aside, she pulled down a secret, collapsible ladder and climbed up into the labyrinth of ducts and pipes, kicking aside the chair and replacing the ceiling panel as she went.|
"Tiki girl," she told herself, "When you're in the shit, time to paddle harder upstream." |
With that, crawling on her hands and knees, she set out along the main HVAC compound-duct. Beneath her, through tiny pinpoints of light, and cracks in the ceilings, and clear lighting-fixtures, she could see the daily life of the hospital unfolding: nurses emptying bedpans and skillfully giving enemies, doctors bending nurses over trays of surgical instruments, latex-glove-swathed head nurses spanking naughty, naughty chief surgeons, breakfasts of tepid pap and gruel being delivered to coma patients via inter-cerebral tap-lines, tumors being removed then dutifully sent off to the great subterranean kitchens for tomorrow's gruel and pap. But none of this was what she was looking for. Following the pilfered hospital blueprints with a penlight clamped in her teeth, like a cigar, next to the Ziplock bag of shadow, she turned East at the HVAC terminus and followed a hot-water pipe into the East WIng of the hospital. Dr. Smack should just about be finishing his morning rounds and coming back to his office -- beneath her now! -- for a break. And she knew what he did there when the door was locked. She'd seen the Morse code transmitter, the vaseline, the scale-model replica of the same Iron Sausage which only yesterday had come so close to killing poor Janice. But more than all of this, she knew what she was going to do to him. She settled down into a comfortable vigilance and clamped the bag of shadow more firmly between her teeth. She could be patient as the day was long. She waited. Below her, footsteps sounded in the main corridor.
|Dr. Smack entered the room, still wearing his Dastardly Dan costume, and he was not alone. He was leading someone, a woman, into the room by the hand. Dr. Smack's wide brimmed black hat blocked Tiki's view of the woman's face. Tiki sighed, she'd have to wait until the woman left before she could give Dr. Smack the surprise of his life and she was beginning to get a cramp from crouching in HVAC compound-duct over his office. Tiki silently watched the couple below her, tiny beads of sweat broke out on Tiki's forehead and saliva dripped down the penlight and the Ziploc bag of shadow, but she dared not move for fear of being detected. Suddenly, the women knocked the hat off of Dr. Smack's head and Tiki finally got a clear view of the woman's face. It was Bitzy Bootleg. Damn her! She was always beating Tiki to the punch. Tiki gritted her teeth which caused a tiny rip in the plastic Ziploc bag of shadow.|
Hissssssssssssss...went the escaping shadow. Triple-f*ck it all! cursed Tiki, yet she was unable to subdue the smile which rose to her face. An unwarranted accident, to be sure; but "Coincidence is the Mother of Invention," as the saying goes...|
And down below, if there was one hitch which the insidiously promethean mind of Bitsy Bootleg had not considered, it was the oily black fog of adipose shadow which had begun to seep down from the ceiling, covering the room and the vision of the two in the room in an ever-thickening film of liquid soot. It gave her the opportunity she was looking for to get closer to Dr. Smack -- "What's happening, Dr.? It's like the End of the World...it's...Hold me, Dr. Smack, I'm scared. I've, I've always been scared of the dark..." -- she wasted no time in draping herself about him like an overly needy devilfish as the darkness settled upon the room and on the whole East Wing of the hospital, until it seemed that the sun might as well have gone out for the way an impenetrably pitch blackness covered everything, sight and sound, then smell and taste; andf finally even tactility, for the boundaries of objects and identities began to soften in the darkness much as vegetables begin to soften and dissolve into the greater Gestalt of a pot of soup. Soon the only thing of any specificity remaining in the East Wing of the hospital was Tiki's pair of enormous, luminous eyes, glowing in their tiny pocket of light in the darkness above the ceiling of Dr. Smack's office, and listening intently to the hideous sounds of lip-smacking and cheweing and swallowing which rose to her ears from below.
|Tiki wasn't afraid of the dark like Bitsy Bootleg. She remembered her youth, and the mud. She had lived in mud, always attracted to the warmth and grime. It made her dirty and wormy on the outside, to cover up the dirt she felt within. She'd slither in it till it filled her ears and crusted her hair. Now she wanted to fill the mouths and ears of Bitsy Bootleg with muddy shadows. To let Bitsy know what it feels like to be a mud baby, to make it so she is unable to love.|
|"Steady there" growled Dr. Smack as he deftly patted his numerous pockets for a match."This is no time for histrionics." Quickly but firmly he attempted to wriggle from the engulfing grasp of Bitsy Bootleg. The ominous hissing continued on like a leak in a garden hose. Dr. Smack could feel it tugging at his pants cuff. It seemed as if even the encompassing darkeness were being slowly and inexorably being sucked out of the room. "Perhaps, um, it might be a good time to check on the, um, patients" stuttered Dr. Smack as he found the match he'd been searching for. while sidling towards the door with Bitsy still attached. "You can release me if you like. You're perfectly safe with me." "I'm still too scared."cooed Bitsy as she sought a firmer grasp just under the good doctor's beltline. Doctor's poise began to loosen with his belt and he lit the match. The room exploded with light and noise for a brief second illuminating a small dimesize hole in the far corner. This was the source of the hissing sound and the entire office, walls, furniture, potted plants, bookshelves and knick knacks alike were being slowly sucked into it like so much bathwater.|
|Tiki, above, hadn't counted on the appearance of a material vortex.|
|Neither, for that matter, had Bitsy, anymore than she'd figured in the matter of Dr. Smack's having contracted leprosy during his youthful days as a medical resident in a charity hospital in the slums of Calcutta, which, although fully cured, left him with a complete lack of feeling in his extremities. Why, she'd literally eaten a proverbial pound of his flesh, and the fool hadn't even noticed! She unlocked her pelvis from the wound it had gnawed it Smack's leg, and as she stood, skirt still hiked up and lodged in her waistband, she turned her exposed pelvis toward the vortex. Instantly her most secret secret, the dreaded razorsharp rows of dentata vaginal, or lower teeth, as hollow as hungry as a vampire's fangs, were seized in the hyperdensifying magneto-dimensional tug of the vortex, plucked from her flesh, and disappeared into the swirling cosmic maw. She fainted. So did Smack, noticing for the first time the gaping wounds in his leg where Bitsy had been feeding.|
|Above, Tiki snapped herself out of it. The whole East Wing couldn't have more than ten minutes left before the concentrated gravity inside the vortex would weaken its structure sufficiently to gobble it down whole. She had to get out. And -- already about to disappear down the duct-way -- her conscience told that no matter how much she wanted to, she couldn't leave Bitsy or Doc Smack, unconscious on the floor below, to the ravenous mercies of the vortex. She'd never forgive herself if she did.|
The first thing was to remove her clothes and personal accoutrements. Her father had always warned her about vortexes: they are far more partial to inorganic than organic matter. When in doubt, feed them your socks.|
When she had stripped naked, she removed one of the ceiling panels at her feet, and gasped as it was immediately torn from her grasp and devoured by the pinwheeling lamprey maw of the vortex. Steeling herself, she lowered herself gingerly through the ceiling until she hung at her full length, then dropped the remaining 3 feet to the floor, to where the prone bodies of Smack (bleeding; the droplets of blood occasionally levitating from his thighs to hang in brief stasis in the air before flying the length of the room into the vortex, which spit them instantly back out, dissatisfied, dreaming of sweaty jockstraps and the like) and Bitsy lay in a helpless heap.
|She carefully approached Bitzy first. Tiki removed Bitzy's sling back pumps and tossed them into the vortex. Then she gripped Bitzy tightly around the ankles and dragged her towards the door which suddenly split in two and flew into the ever widening mouth of the vortex. Tiki looked over her shoulder and saw Janice standing there with her superpowerful metal fingers. "Janice, thank God!" she shouted over the din of rushing air. "Get Dr. Smack!" Tiki indicated the bleeding Doctor. lying prone on the floor. Janice nodded and moved toward the dastardly Doctor. She stood over him and looked at him distastefully, putting polished chrome tipped hand gently to her lumpy throat. She opened her mouth and a few beeps escaped. With one fluid motion, Janice scooped the strange man that lay at her feet and, to Tiki's horror, tossed him into vortex.|
|The doctor regained conciousness briefly as the swirling vortex swallowed him whole like a great voracious anaconda. "shit" he thought as the hole slowly turned him completely inside out,"this is extremely painful, goddam, Oh well, at least it will be easier to perform surgery on me should I need it." His final agonized screams were muffled as his esophagus was turned into his chest.|
|Meanwhile, in an adjoining office, Horace B. Spinknozzle was about to enjoy his usual midafternoon cup of tea and corn muffin when he noticed the commotion next door. "I wish Dr Smack would use his home instead of his office to shag in."he mumbled to himself. Poor Horace, his life had no peace. Horace, Bon Vivant, raconteur, an ace at whist and pinochle, and a theoretical physicist of no ill repute was constantly being bombarded with the weight of the world when all he wanted was a nice hot cup of tea between 170F and 150F and a corn muffin at 2:37pm every day and a half hour hot oil massage every other Thursday at 4:15pm. It was at this point that the material vortex in the next room began to work it's juju on the wall nearest Horaces doilyed plate of still warm muffins. His tea had finally reached the exact temperature of 171F and it was 2:36pm. Horace swore under his breath. It was always like this. No peace, he could find no respite in this world for every time the tea was reaching the perfect temperature something would happen, a somebodies appendix would burst and he'd be obliged to operate with a pen knife, sugar tongs and a 7-11 spork, someone would cancel out of a bridge game and could Horace fill in, or most insidious of all he would just be sitting down to a nice cup of tea and a material vortex would open in the next room. Isn't that just the way? Horace sighed the sigh of the resigned and slowly got up to see what he could do about the vortex. Maybe if he hurried the tea would still be at least drinkable. The muffins he already knew were a lost cause.|
|This Was Quite A Shame, Because Those Very Muffins Were The Last Ones Steve Schildeburg Ever Baked. He Had Baked Them With The Same Loving Care He Gave All His Muffins. His Boss Thought His Muffin Related Talents Were At A Waste In His Small Tim Hortons, But He Didn't Want To Lose His Biggest Seller. People Came From Miles Away For Steve's Muffins.|
|Steve was a tall man, probably from eating all the muffins he made with his artistic hands of wonder. Yes he was a tall man almost 7 feet high in all, he was allways growing. Every day he'd grow a bit and hed feel rather large a bit like tractor cutting through the harvest during autumn.|
|Raaaahh!!! Went Steves friend Paul Bigidlesnip thats what i said "RAAAAHHHHH" and went OHHOOOOOHHHHHH!!! so then I went UMMMMMER!!?? and he said "ok ok you win" I thought it was strange but you know how it is.|
|Paul was plumber he would fix pipes all day long but today was a special day for he was to spend this very day enclosed within a rather large but shabby looking cardboard box. This box was given to him by the one and only "Rupert" he was black as the night it self and was able to get hold of those special things you often need but no one has.|
|Tiki didn't know what to make of it all.|
|All of this kind of stuff made her very nervous. Not that she'd ever admit that to anyone. Tiki had her pride to contend with, sometimesit was all she could do to keep from running away screaming in terror. she took a deep and trembling breath and lit a cigarette. this is probably the last thing she should have done.|
|The one weak spot in her character, perhaps her Achilles heel, was a feeling of helplessness and futility which overcame her at moments like this, moments of great sturm und drang. She shrank away into a corner of herself and could'nt act, couldn't think, could only tremble. And always in the most dangerous situations.|
|The only option left was to slither off the barstool he had been propped up on and in a burst of supernatural locomotion, run toward the picture window screaming for Martina to not desert him. His spastic flailing and yelling went unnoticed by the near comatose patrons of the bar, these incidences of dementia being a nightly occurence. "Pipe down you loon," yelled Dagget Bonhumph the bar's owner and pour man.|
|Thus did Dr. Smack's dream conclude, there in the swirling cacaphony of the vortex, where instead of the infinitely compacted and densified death he had assumed was his Fate -- to be the proverbial Angel, impaled upon the head of a pin -- he found himself floating in a pearly, milky, cottony whiteness, the vague crests and mounds of which glowed with a soft silvery light like tinsel sheened with cooking-oil. Where was he? What had happened? And his legs, that -- that woman, that creature had been feeding on him, for Christ's sweet sake! Or had he merely dreamt the whole thing? -- Yes, yes, that was it! A dream! And he was still dreaming. His legs were fine. He reached down to feel them, but in the new gravity of his situation, the reaching down could hardly be called "reaching down," nor did it occur through the medium of what we like to think of as "hands," nor when what did actually go forth come to alight upon the place where legs should be did it encounter something justifiably classifiable as "legs." He giggled, realizing that the whole store of words he had inside himself had in one fell swoop become completely useless for describing his current whereabouts and -- yes, admit it -- form. He had arrived at something that could not be sent via Morse Code, he had arrived at a singularity from which there could be no retracing of one's steps, only going forward, onward, allons-y! as they used to say in his schooldays. But for our own purposes here, dear reader, let us just say that if he had retained a mouth, it would have been spread in a broad, wide grin; but having no need for a mouth anymore, the being Dr. Smack had become lit up with a rosy glow that sent its tendrils to the very edge of the vortex, peering out at their former world with a benevolence verging on the omniscient. Poor, evil, nefarious Dr. Smack had at last found a home.|
|The Vortex had never experienced a period of extraordinary popularity in its entire century of existence. As far as one could tell the smoke stained ceilings and walls had never even seen the likes of a soapsponge or water. Once vibrant murals, now barely discernable, lurked in ominous obscurity, only giving out the shadow of strange bearded faces along the wall adjacent to the john. Through a window of lesser grime, thinned by a once hung mirror, a pair of deer type animals with strange funnel shaped antlers faced off in what appeared to be a furious rut, straight out of a Theodore Geisel, sepia nightmare. Those patrons sitting up straight and semi cognizant of their surroundings were few, outnumbered instead by their catatonic counterparts who populated this alcoholic mausoleum. The occasional tourist or curious youngsters would stroll in, only to immediately blanche and turnabout at the odious stench of staleboozedeath, not even daring a phone or lou request. All this seemed to suit Dr. Smack just fine though, as he lifted his head from the tabletop where he had passed out some four hours earlier in a gin and morphine induced minor coma. Apart from wearing the better part of a puddle of saliva on his left cheek he shook his head vigorously and felt quite relaxed. “That was quite some act old Murphy put on before,” said Dagget, handing Smack a moist bar towel to wipe his face with. “But I don’t suppose it stirred you from your beauty rest, now did it?” “I’m quite sure I know nothing of which you speak,” Smack stated handing back the bar towel and preparing for a hasty exit. “Never knew the old guy had that much energy, usually just sits there still as a Tiki god...” Smack escaped into the bracing November air and let the door slam on Dagget’s attempt at conversation. The only reason he frequented the Vortex was for its complete lack of society, a black hole where annonimity and a nice long kip was still attainable and yet all of a sudden this Dagget character decided to get chatty. Normally Smack enjoyed savoring a dirty martini while trying to recollect the shreds of his comadreams, but that damn Dagget had forced him to flee with his blabbering about Murphy and Tiki gods. “Tiki gods,” wait a minute, Smack thought I remember now–something about a woman by the name of Tiki. He massaged his temples as he strode down the leaf strewn street. Yes, a woman with the most incredible appetite for human flesh which she consumed vaginally. “Aghh, I must cut back a few ccs on my morphine doses,” he remarked to himself as he shambled toward the hospital.|
The hospital he found was a completely different one than the one he had left earlier that evening. "Why don't they renovate the goddamned East Wing, for once?" he growled, as he entered Intake Unit 1, the neon sign for which had been replaced, in its position over the door, with one which read Circle of the Exploratory Malpracticioners. Now why did they always have to do that? Changing names for no particular reason...some do-nothing beaurocrat trying to justify his job. |
No nurses were on duty at the front desk; no one appeared to be waiting in the Waiting Area; but screams issued from from the six gaping hallways which spilled themselves like innuendos into the lobby. A thick coat of dust covered everything; he shuffled through it and it rose in clouds in his wake. Bats flapped among the sputtering flourescents.
|With a loud giggle two nubile young women in white uniforms careened into the lobby pursued by two equally young men also in white uniforms. "Ooops," laughed one of the women as the quartet bumped into each other and stopped abruptly in the centre of the lobby. "It’s our month before Halloween Party," exulted one of the young men. "We’re having it now so’s we don’t have it when all the firecracker victims are brought in," volunteered the other woman with a pronounced blush, "…isn’t the dust wonderful… it’s just oatmeal and talc…. almost real don’t ya think….. is there something we can do for you?"|
Looking the women up and down, he felt a brief, vertiginous gurgling in the pit of his stomach. Something was not -- quite -- right. Not quite right about them. Girls didn't -- he knew girls. He'd grown up with a whole bevy of sisters, Doc Smack had; and he'd never been one to beat around the bush (well, it depended on the bush, he chuckled to himself) with the ladies, and -- well, these two didn't -- just didn't -- move right. He remembered seeing a vaudeville minstrel in black-face, during his university days; the man was supposed to be a negro. But Smack knew negroes; his father (a doctor like his father before him and all the males of the Smack line except for that faggot Daryl, who'd turned out to be a goddamn swish can you believe it my own cousin?) had cared for a great many of them; and this man on stage didn't act like a negro at all. Young Smack had had to restrain himself; he wanted to walk up on stage and correct just about everything the man was doing.|
Just so with these "nurses" -- it was like they had studied, and only just, some ill-written handbook on How to Impersonate a Woman. He regarded them more closely as they fiddled behind the front desk, and he knew he was onto something by the way they fidgetted and moiled under the extra attention. "Hey, missy," he called to one of them, "you got something stuck to the hem of your dress."
"It'sssss mmmmmy tail-- ulp," she said, as her companion clapped a hand over her mouth. They looked at him and seemed to grasp the futility of their masquerade. They commenced to hiss.
"I knew it," thought Doc Smack. "Just like Kansas."
|The blonde laughed in embarrassment. "I knew I should have chosen another costume… we’ve all got our costumes on underneath our uniforms and this tail is driving me nuts!" "Chad, honey, would you mind helping this gentleman, Cindy and I just got a call light on 4East and I’m not sure how long we’ll be." "Sure sweetheart, Geoff and I will see you both in the staff lounge at 21:00! Take care." "Yes, sir what can we do for you?" intoned Chad. His wholesome good looks were almost intimidating. Geoff moved to answer a call, the telephone console was beeping with a chirping sound. It was all so very normal except for the harmless dust and the fake bats in the fluorescent light fixtures. Nothing unusual at all.|
|Or so it would seem. Dr. Smack still could not shake the feeling that something was not right about those women. And now that he thought of it, those two men didn't seem quite right either. Dr. Smack knew men as well as he knew women and though he couldn't pinpoint it, something about them was not right. He decided to ignore it. "Erm," the doctor said, clearing his throat. "I'm looking for Tiki Dinette." The two not-quite-right men looked at him quizzically. "I left her here about an hour ago, she was with two other women, one of whom threw me into a large material vortex after the other one chewed on my legs with her vaginal teeth." Smack continued and only after the words came out of his mouth did he realize how insane he sounded. Chad and Geoff just stared at the Doctor as if he'd just grown a horn out of his forehead. Dr. Smack could feel a migraine coming on and he put his hands up to his forehead and felt a large, rough, pointy horn protruding from it.|
|Good God. The Change Was Happening Again. Memories Of How Hard It Was To Explain To His Wife Last Time Came Flooding Back, Making His Already Tango-Like Headache Throb Just A Little More. There Had Been The Draining Late Night Squabbles, The Arguments, The Thrown Plates. "My Mother Told Me I Shouldn't Marry You.. I Should Have Married That Nice Proctologist Instead. He May Be Creepy, But He Doesn't Suddenly Sprout Horns Out Of His Forehead!"|
|He had the necessary Denial down to a fault, and could always be counted on to forget about these "little transformations," not to mention misleading everyone around him about the true nature he carried within him like a tick, tick, ticking time-bomb, until the very last minute, when the hidden truth of his life washed over him like one bodywide, shameful blush, as it always had, ever since he was a child, whose vantage, if truth be known, still lorded over his more mature side when this happened, for had he had time he would have thrown that bratty child's tantrum, stomping and kicking and shrieking and wailing -- but alas! when the Change happened it allowed no time for second-thoughts or dilly-dallying. He looked up and already he was the Other.|
|"I AM IRON MAN!" bellowed the former Dr. Smack. The walls shook, flushing bats from their dank hiding-places along the moldy ceiling-molding.|
The nurses shrunk back in terror, the tremors of the doctor's booming voice shaking away the remainder of their flimsy costumes, revealing them to the imposters Smack had expected -- minor demons in the employ of -- let's see, red insignia, three skulls on a field of entrails, must be -- why, these were petty clerks in the employ of arch-demon Mixmatosis, of course! "Stand up, scum! How's my old friend the Mixmaster? Still re-flaying plea-bargain tax evadors for a living, or have they finally promoted him to the Lake of Boiling Clorox?"|
"Oh, forgive give us, dread lordshipness!" whimpered the demons. "We were not warned. We were told to waylay three human females and their possible entourage, said to be carrying a stolen item of great value, an item very, very dear to our Master. We did not think, we were not told, we did not expect to encounter the fiery countenance of He Whose Face Cannot Be Looked Upon, the great Ozzy! We are not worthy! We are not worthy! We are not worthy!"
"Silence, carrion!" roared the once-doctor Smack. "Your qubbling serves only to inject seismic jitters into my concentration, which offends my Muse even more than the overpowering manure aroma of your detestable persons offends my sulfurous nostrils! Silence, again, I say, chop-chop. Sit thee down, recline thy oblong bottoms along the length of yon love-seat, for the Oz-man feels touched by the wispy digits of Melpomene, and would sing thee a song, ay, thee and all thy folk and kin. Ready, boys? Uh-one, uh-two, uh-one-two-three-four..."
"Blue jean baybee|
seamstress for the bayand
you must have seen her
dancing in the sayand
now she's in me
always with me
tiny dancer in my hayand
and oh how it feels so real
with no one near
and you can hear me
as I say softly
hold me closer tiny dancer
count the headlights on the highway
lay me down in sheets of linen
you've had a busy day todayay..."
"Ah, do have a soft spot for the stylings of the one true master of the honkey chateau himself. Such strong soul for a turd burglar."
Ozzy had only covered Elton once, at the legendary Ozzfest show in Zagreb, Summer '97. Forty-six avid rockers had been eagerly stomped to death in the ensuing riot. But this was just too much, dude. The two junior demons could only shake their heads in awe and continue to repeat "We are not worthy, we are not worthy, we are not worthy," until the Rock Legend standing before them, anxious to embark upon his latest Classic Rock Classic -- the Nicene Creed scored for nine electric guitars and a continuous drum solo -- had no recourse but to beat them both about their resounding noggins with the mike stand until they shut up.
As the band tuned up behind him, he felt a growl of hunger in the great convexity of his stomach; he set the microphone back in the stand, reached for the nearest bat, bit its head off and commenced to chew.|
They really weren't all that bad.
|Meanwhile, inside the savage rock n' roll animal, poor, helpless Dr. Smack cried out in silent agony, unable to bear the shameful, shameful fact that his corporeal body was currently gyrating its pelvis inside a pair of skin-tight black leather pants.|
|The fans roared. Three girls climbed the stage and ran to him, tearing at his chest-hair, screaming in crew-slut disbelief, and baring their perky young breasts at the rock and roll idol, the god of thunder, the master of this world, the war-pig, the iron man, the ozz-man.|
"God, MTV is so predictable now," said Janice, luxuriously reclining in her bed, entirely unaware that the man humping the mike stand was none other than the Hydelike manifestation of the Jungian shadow-side of the same man who had replaced her fingers with gleaming titanium cybernetics. "Dot dash dot," chittered her second voicebox. Another ship going down off the storm-lashed Newfoundland shore. She switched the channel to CNN. "A mysterious enemy," intoned the newswoman, a plastic blonde with genetically lengthened ears, "has been stealing the East Wings of major hospitals around the country. Suspects are currently being rounded up, including known Latvian terrorist Volga Fatkatskavich. Citizens are cautioned to remain in their bathtubs until this crisis has passed."|
For fuck's sake, she muttered; it's always something, isn't it? This crazy world never calms down for a single second. I don't understand how anything can go on like it does for such a long damn time without stopping to catch its breath! What the hell is it on, I wonder? Some celestial mother of all cocaine?
Janice's desperate thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Biff, the strapping young cyberneto-physical therapist who was helping her regain the full use of her hands with their radically augmented titanium digits. She sighed and remoted cable back to MTV.|
"Oh, great, Ozzy Osbourne," said Biff. "Fuckin' love that guy. Best fuckin' rock concert I've ever seen. Even better than Aerosmith."
On-screen, Ozzy gesticulated wildly. He'd changed from his leather pants to a suit of chain mail and was busy biting the head off another bat while the band roared and pounded through the instrumental break in "Symptom of the Universe." The camera panned back to show them all, stabbing and jerking at the instruments, and Janice noticed, for the first time, the odd stage setting. She wondered who AD'd these MTV guest spots. He seemed to be playing in the abandoned front lobby of a decrepit hospital; a ghost-hospital abandoned to mice and barn-owls, tumbleweeds and the ineffectual ghosts of surgeons stripped of their bone-saws and scalpels; but there was something else, and as Biff led her through the hand and finger exercises, the Windmill and the Funky Turnip and the Stone Crab, she stared hard at the screen, past the silly man dervishing in his own mock-chivalric hand-jive, trying to place the something familiar of the staging, and it was only after an hour had passed, and the band had left the stage and the camera stayed staionary on the stage while the credits rolled ("Bitsy Bootleg -- ART DIRECTOR," she noted -- what?) that she recognized the concert setting for what it was, a hopelessly old version of the very hospital where her fingers had been replaced only yesterday. And Bitsy -- when had Bitsy, her best friend, ever been an Art Director? She was a travel agent, wasn't she?
What could it all mean?
The credits ended. There were several stupid commercials that tried to sell Janice flavor-bursting fruit candy, 4 years of standardized art education resulting in a B.F.A., and yet another variation on Calvin Klein jeans. Then Kurt Loder came on (and she had to admit; Ozzy was a better sight than Kurt, though Biff, now putting Janice and her mildly atrophied forearms through a truly harried bout of physical therapy, was better than Ozzy any day, incurable faux-surfer-ditz though he was). For lack of anything else to listen to, she focused her attention on his MTV World News...Van Halen Leader David Lee Roth arrested for smoking Viagra... Carole King recovering from her recent lip implants...Velvet Underground to honor recently deceased Lou Reed by staging reunion tour with sole living original member, part-time drummer Billy Yule... Ozzy Osbourne to address international congress of cybernetic surgeons...|
She started up. What had he said? "What'd he just say?" she demanded of Biff.
"Hey, lady, calm down. Chillez-toi, knowwhatImean? Otherwise you'll, like, never get better..."
"C'mon, Biff, you gotta tell me, what did he just say about Ozzy Osbourne?"
"I thought you, like, hated the Ozz-man...What's up?"
"Just tell me what he said."
"Alright, alright. You know, you're a freak, lady. A real freaky deaky. But I like you. So. What the dude said was, he said Ozzy's putting on Ozz-fest again this summer. White Zombie, Engelbert Humperdinck and the Spice Girls will be the opening acts. Plus they've exhumed that big fate dude who used to sing for Canned Heat who died about 20 years ago. Fuckin' cool, huh? Especially Engelbert. That dude fuckin' rocks my world!"
So she was reading lips again. She slipped into it spontaneously sometimes, in times of distress; she'd been deaf from the ages of five to nine, on account of a pair of particularly stubborn cauliflower plants which had taken root in both of her ears, and had had to learn to lip-read. And she was lip-reading this schmuck newscaster on MTV.
"Madonna to have vagina sealed shut in protest against ex-lovers' luck and happiness," intoned Loder -- but his lips formed this: "Get out of bed, Janice. If you ever want to see your pals Demetrius and Tiki alive again, you'll get your ass down here ASAP, Janice. And no funny business. 8417 Broadway. Midnight. On the dot. Come alone."
On the TV, Kurt Loder caught her horrified stare and winked, lewdly, and extended his tongue. It was black, and forked like a lizard's. She looked at Biff and he'd noticed nothing.
|Meanwhile, Back At The Happy Acres Mental Institution, The Guests (read:inmates) Were Just Being Let Out For Their Evening Constitutional (read:labour). When The Guard Went In The Main Dormitory To Make Sure All The Guests Were Where They Were Supposed To Be, He Wasn't Shocked To See One Form Still Huddled Under His Sheets. It Was That Hick With The Delusions Of Grandeur. He Thought He'd Been A Star Some Time Back, But Now He Was Nothing. Just Another Crazy In A Mental Ward. The Guard Warily Wacked Him With His Billy Club. "You Know You Have To Get Out There And Pick Carrots, You Lazy Insane Guy!" He Gruffly Intoned In His Best Guard Voice. In Response, A Large Werewolf Came Tumbling Out Of Nowhere And Stood Menacingly On A Small Night Table. The Guard Had Hated Werewolves Ever Since That Accident With The House And The Poodle. He Forgot All His Guardly Duties And Just Ran. After He Was Out The Door The Werewolve Turned To The Shivering Mass Under The Covers. "Go.. You Mussst Find Them.. You Mussst Make Them Pay For What They Did To Me, All Thossse Yearss Ago." It Growled, Just Barely Sounding Like A Human, And Not Much Like A Dog Either. More Like A Person With A Forked Tongue Would Talk. Like A Snake Or Something. It's Eyes Shining Like Silver Dollars, The Lycanthrope Pulled The Blankets Aside, Unveiling The Prone Form. Hoisting Him Upon Its Back, It Promptly Escaped The Compound And Deposited Him By A Road Out In Maine. Sophocles Was Back.|