Lords of Being
Chapter 10: On the Road Again
Hellgrammite, Zabeth and Mabel arrive in the lobby of the Royal York with their luggage. Ragnison asks, “So, what do you want to do next?”
Mabel looks at him quizzically and asks, “Next? I thought I’d go back to the kennels. Though it sort of bothers me that that last fragment was held by a little girl.”
Diamond notes, “I know you are cleaning up an anomaly, but I don’t really know the details.”
Mabel explains, “The anomaly was split among nine people, not places or things. The manifestation was that they were making witch toys out of walnuts.”
Glass mutters, “Which they found fascinating.”
Hellgrammite hands his collection of Nut-Walters to Ragnison, who looks them over and pronounces them non-occult, or at least no longer occult.
Mabel, “It looks like we did them a favor by removing the attachment from them.”
Ragnison asks, “Was there any common link between these people?”
Mabel replies, “Yes, they all belong to the Minster Art Guild.”
Hellgrammite suggests, “It’s possible that the mother brought the child.”
Ragnison agrees, “Yes, she may have been there when it hit. It makes me think of mysterious fads and mass hysterias.”
Mabel grins, “And we nipped it in the bud.”
“Do you think we’re going to have more strange things like this?”
Ragnison considers before answering, “This is the second anomalous blockage. We have never seen anything like this before. Of course, we’ve never had a breakdown like this before, either.”
Reflecting on the hollow feeling where her PSI points are stored, Mabel observes, “I really doubt my ability to keep doing this.”
“Yes, I’m sure it’s very tiring. We must find some way of building up our reserves of power. For example Rosamund can energize herself by gardening.”
“What a shame that I don’t have something similar in my hobby,” Mabel observes ironically as she bends down and scratches Hookie’s ears.
Ragnison vows, “I myself must come up with a way of recharging faster. I have studied things magical, but have never put them into practice. But back to the immediate problem. If we are ready to go back into the holding pattern until the next problem occurs, why don’t you go on your way, and we will be here to intercept Hanuman if he shows up.”
Glass asks, “How will we get away?”
Mona observes, “I do only have a bit of candle left, but this might be one of the best uses of it. Where do you want to go?”
Hellgrammite offers, “We can go to my house in Denver.”
“OK. I haven’t been to Denver in a while.” Mona reaches into her duffle, pulls out an atlas and riffles through the pages until she comes to the map she wants and studies it. When she’s sure she has the directions down, she says, “Let’s go find a good place to leave from.” They find a secluded place in the garden. Everyone who’s going joins hands. Mabel picks up Hookie and holds him in her arms. Mona says her rhyme and steps forward. There’s a brief impression of shooting over the Atlantic. Hookie lets out a brief squeal of panic, and then leans to the left with his head sticking out of the spell and a canine grin on his face.
Mona flits to Ellis Island, then Chicago, then a highway somewhere, and then they’re in someplace dark and messy. Mona blows out the candle. They’re in Hellgrammite’s barn in the town of Erie, Colorado, outside of Denver. It’s dawn here. As their eyes adjust, they can see a half-built car in the corner, a desk with various components piled on it in another, and an army of little robots scurrying about on unknown tasks.
Hellgrammite puts his computer down on the desk, flips on the lights, and asks Mona, “Are you going to be able to get out of here on your own, or should I call you a cab?” Somehow he managed to add the laptop to the clutter on the desk without dislodging anything.
“Yes, please call me a cab to the Denver airport. I should be able to catch a plane from there to Tokyo in time for the festival and get back on my schedule.”
Hellgrammite leads everyone out of the barn and to the house, where he calls a cab for Mona. Once she’s left, he asks,“So, Glass, where is Rosamund?”
Glass grins and replies, “Ames, Iowa. With Neville, who still has the fragment. Does anyone in the group have a plane?”
The concensus is “No.”
“We’re going to need a vehicle to flit around the world and keep Neville safe.” Hellgrammite’s little metal minions are scurrying about here too, and perk up their little tin ears. Hellgrammite is thinking of a fixer upper that he could tinker with and improve. Just a little. Glass is thinking of something like a Lear Jet. Out come the computers. They search for one in the area of Ames, Denver and the Bay area. A little net surfing shows that there’s a business jet for sale in the Ames area.
Before Glass leaves, Hellgrammite and Zabeth use one of the turns of luck from Hanuman to teach Glass how to use turns of luck. He plans to use the luck to set a random timer to determine when to dispose of the pieces of luck-bearing cardboard from Hanuman, to avoid being traced. The luck is that it will be disposed of in a place least likely to be found by Hanuman, preferably to be found by an uninvolved metaphysical.
Glass promises to meet them in Ames, and – poof – he’s his home in (where else?) Silicon Valley. He packs as many of his favorite portable and luggable computers as will fit into his sports car. Unfortunately he just wasn’t able to get the oven into the car, though he has packed a portion of his glass menagerie.
Once the car is packed, he sets out, heading east. He tints the windows on the south side of his car in his favorite colors, so he can renew himself as he drives, at least while there's daylight.
The timer goes off somewhere between the Bay area and Reno. Glass pulls into the nearest rest stop and drops the pieces in the nearest trash receptacle, and speeds away. No one is there when, the next day, a dust-devil drifts by, circles the trash can a few times, then moves over it. The cardboard bits rise out, then fall to the ground, no longer special. The dust-devil moves off, rejoicing in its luck.
Back in Colorado, Hellgrammite pulls out his RV and preps it for the trip to Iowa. The satellite dish and forest of antennas distinguish it. One of the clanks comes up and tugs at his cuff. “You’ve got mail.”
There’s a message from a funny address, a string of garbage characters. The subject line is “Urgent leaving now.” It’s from Loois: “Hanuman is here. I’ll be my own emissary. I’m leaving now. Don’t come back to Bermuda.” The headers show that the message bounced around the world a couple of times before it arrived here.
Hellgrammite tries to call Rosamund on her old phone. A phone in one of the piles in Loois’ home rings. Unsurprisingly, Rosamund doesn’t answer. Perhaps fortunately, no one else does either.
Then he calls Neville. When Neville answers, Hellgrammite says, “Hello, this is Jonathan McArthur. Is Rosamund around?”
Neville doesn’t know who “Jonathan McArthur” is, so he replies, “Sorry, there’s no Rosamund here.”
“Sorry to bother you Neville. Good bye.” The line goes dead, leaving Neville confused.
Eventually Rosamund returns from her inspection of the park. The park across the street has been improved. Neville asks, “Do you know a ‘Jonathan McArthur?’ He called my number looking for you.”
“Yes, he’s one of my companions. He called on your phone? Would you mind if I use it?”
Rosamund looks at the call history. There’s only been one incoming call, from a number she doesn’t recognize, but calls anyway. Hellgrammite answers.
“Rosamund’s Florist Shop. The order of mortuary plants you ordered is ready,” she tells him.
“I’ll be by to pick them up.”
“Will you now? We’ll keep them watered for you. When is the funeral?”
“It should be this afternoon.”
“We’ll be expecting you then. Is the deceased with you?”
“No, he is not,” Hellgrammite replies, wondering what they're talking about. But he's a Chaos Lord; he can roll with the punches.
In a clipped, British accent, she finishes with, “Alrighty then.” And folds up the phone and hands it back to Neville.
Neville asks, “Deceased?”
“I was wondering what he’d say. He’ll be by this afternoon. I wonder if he’s bringing the whole crew.”
“The whole crew?”
“All of the folks who were with me at Bugtussle.”
Neville looks around the bare, small apartment. “Where are we going to put them?”
Rosamund pulls out some dice and rolls them. After considering the result, she sighs, “I hate it when they don’t tell me one way or the other. I don’t think we have to put them anywhere. Since the dice aren’t telling me anything… You don’t happen to have a pair of clippers do you?”
That was an interesting change of subject. “I have a saw…”
“Excellent!” Rosamund rummages through the kitchen cabinets and starts to make a mixture of unlikely ingredients. Once she’s done, she takes the bowl with her concoction and the saw and goes back out to the park.
After she’s gone, Neville thinks at the thing within him. He feels… full.
He thinks, “Hello…” He hears himself in his head saying “Hello.”
“Is your name Asiras?” There’s no reaction.
“Can I help you some way? There’s no reaction.
“Would you like to go back to the Tupperware bowl? There’s no reaction.
Perhaps he needs to clear his mind of these thought so he can hear whatever might come back. He sits on the mattress, closes his eyes, and empties his mind… And jumps at the sound of a crash from outside. Now that he thinks about it, he’d been hearing sawing. Rising, he goes to the window and sees Rosamund sawing at the trees. He yanks open the door and runs across the street. Rosamund is up in a tree, sawing energetically at one of the branches. There’s a large branch at his feet. He yells, “What are you doing? You’re vandalizing the park!”
“They haven’t properly taken care of these trees for decades!”
“If one of the neighbors sees you’ll they’ll call the police!”
“Remember the leaves?” she answers, waggling her fingers at Neville, the ones she made sprout to demonstrate her supernatural status. “They have to find me first.” Rosamund finds it very easy to blend in with the vegetation.
“The saw might give you away.”
“Park people leave things around all the time. Don’t worry about me.” She looks down at him. He’s awful close to where the branch will fall. “But I wouldn’t stand there if I were you. Tell me what you think of the arrangements by the entrance.”
He goes and looks. There are more marigold plants than he remembers. They’re in patterns. It’s paisley. The sawing resumes. Neville shakes his head and goes inside and takes a nap.
Meanwhile, Hellgrammite is driving the RV. Or is he? Once they’re on the highway, he walks away from the wheel and comes into the body of the RV to finish setting up the network in the vehicle. Mabel decides that there should be someone driving, or at least the appearance, so she sits in the driver’s seat. This would be a good time to familiarize herself with the controls.
Despite the lack of anyone obviously at the controls, the RV arrives in Ames without incident. They find Neville’s apartment, and park. Mabel rings the call button. Neville answers. “Hello Neville, it’s Mabel Anson.”
“You’re one of the people from Bugtussle, aren’t you?”
“Rosamund should be with you. Is she?”
“Yes, she’s here.”
Neville buzzes the buzzer. The group comes up the stairs.
Neville opens the apartment door to find a motley crew at his doorstep. Hellgrammite is in a nice suit, if rumpled, with a hat with goggles. Zabeth is in heels and a long dark dress, looking as if she expected her next stop was a fine restaurant. Neon is wearing an eye-searingly bright red suit. Mabel looks tweedy, and has a dog with her.
Neville takes a moment to look over his guests, and then says, “Come… in.” They enter.
Mabel introduces Hookie to Neville. Neville responds, “Hello, Hookie.” Hookie offers a paw. The paw is rotated, so the pads are to the side, like a human would offer a hand to shake. Neville bends down and shakes Hookie's paw.
Standing up, Nevill says, “Good to see you again. What brings you to Ames.”
Mabel takes charge, “We’re here to help you.”
“So you know about the goo.”
“Yes. Do you know about the goo?” she asks.
“Yes, I’m intimately familiar with it.”
Mabel grins. “Excellent!”
Rosamund tucks her gloves into her belt. “We came here to be less obvious. What’s the new plan?”
Hellgrammite gestures at Neville, “There was talk of keeping him moving. There’s a bizjet for sale herein Ames that might be useful.”
Rosamond asks, “Have you heard from our friend in Bermuda?”
“Yes. I did get a rather strange email.” He shows the message to Rosamund and Neville.
Rosamund snorts. “That should be fun. It’s been awhile since I did that. I’ll bet it’s been a while for him to. But you haven’t seen any sign of Hanuman?”
Hellgrammite’s phone rings. It’s Glass, who says, “About now you should have arrived.”
“Yes, we’re in his apartment. Rosamund was wondering how soon we should start moving.”
“I’m about 16 hours from you. I imagine that there’s some amount to be done with the plane.”
“We haven’t had a chance to inspect it yet.”
“I have video here, use this number if you want to video chat. Keep in touch.”
Claude observes, “So we’re going to buy the bizjet and fix it up so we can go jetting around the world fixing anomalies, right?” (Carting Neville with them, who hasn't been asked to buy into this plan yet...)
Hellgrammite replies, “Yes.”
“How do we pay for it?”
Last Updated: Apr 3, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved