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Leaping Puma

Monday night weirdness, Episode 10

links to past episodes 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9
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episode 10

all that's left of mayim is the echo of her last words: oh no no no no.

pretty much sums it up, actually.

thank Odd she untied you first -- but she'd promised to show you how to open the hollow tree. and you're betting she had no extra molecule paper, or she'd have come back by now.

you blink. the sunshine is so potent you almost feel breathing is optional. maybe food and water too, which would be great considering that nobody in the house is going to bring you anything. ever. maybe they were too nervous about their karma to kill you up front, but hey, who could get on their case for not feeding a hallucination -- ?

(even if the hallucination were quite real, and just as subject to starvation as the next living creature...)

you push yourself up off the ash-covered ground, pain rushing through your head, and totter to the wall where you remember mayim's door. it won't do to pound the wall, of course; the last thing you need is a pissed-off crane crashing in to replace the Police Line - Do Not Cross tape around your wrists.

you pat the wall, then run your fingertips down bright yellow bark, hoping for a clue and reaping only a couple splinters. patience.... every ridge and crack feels like a break in the rhythm of the bark, each bump like a magic switch. you jab everything that isn't a hollow, then the hollows for good measure. you drum subtle patterns on the darker blotches in the wood. you drive your nails into crevices until your fingertips bleed.

plainly, you're missing something.

you collapse onto your knees before the wall as if worshipping its stubbornness. a cloud of ash rises and settles around you. 'open sesame?' you murmur. 'speak, friend, and enter?' -- half-expecting your dumb jokes to result in dumb luck. they don't. you nod. well, at least your luck's consistent. hurray.

is there any other way out?

tunnel down? you scratch through the ashes on the ground, hit bark with lacerated fingers. ow. yeah. hollow tree. okay, great. if only you had one of those chainsaws they'd had in the drab dimension.

it's getting slightly less bright and warm. hm. what's night like in here? you don't want to find out.

drab dimension... molecule paper. any molecule paper in the tree? probably not. mayim would have dove for it. but maybe she didn't have time to. you turn your back to the cheerful, stubborn yellow wall and survey the rest of the tree. someone's taken all the toy trucks away, but not the ash. you blow on it, sending a very tiny tempest of ash into your own eyes. dammit. you squeeze your eyes shut, tearing, wiping your face on your sleeve.

you run fingers through ash. it feels as nice and cool on your fingers as it felt gritty and burning in your eyes. you pretend your hand is a toy truck combing every square inch of the floor, the game dissolving fear for a minute. you find a tiny ladder, probably off one of the trucks. a rubber band. a piece of bark. a paper clip. a ring set in the floor, rattling a familiar chain. daphne!...

then another paper clip -- attached to some paper.

you scrabble wildly, dig out a little spiral notebook. though the cover and sides are uniformly grey, the inside pages are still legible: lists. notes. you flip it open to the clipped page.

a $100 bill! you grin, then sober. even $100 isn't going to do you much good inside this tree. you unclip the money. on the page behind it is a note scribbled in purple marker:

at the end of the acid rainbow
pick up the trail:
34873 Montana Overdrive
Nosoma, CA
daphne we are waiting for you!
come home soon. love, saint somebody.


your brain buzzes. the $100 is the least of the stuff you just found. pick up the trail, indeed. daphne! an address! and best of all:

did someone say...

ACID?!


not seven percent. not molecule paper. but acid.

so you're not... uh... hallucinating. or a hallucination, for that matter. you didn't make up the word acid. it's in daphne's notebook, and it clearly comes from the dimension where you and she live.

if you can just get the hell out of this tree, maybe you can find her. and maybe yourself then, too.

but that's the problem, isn't it? you sigh. another tiny tempest of ash. you flinch. a grey particle flaps up at the bottom of the tempest and settles.

the particle is square. colour rages under grey.

you stare at it, knowing exactly what it is.

a tab.

which you grab.

this is gonna be a taste sensation, the best damn thing ever, no matter how disgusting and ashy. who needs doors! you think, elated, and pop the thing under your tongue.

and recoil, your whole face squinting. elation still doesn't turn ash into chocolate ice cream. you can't unpucker your mouth for a while. finally, gagging and swallowing, you flip your hood up, settle back in the ash with your hands behind your head, and wait.

the yellow sunlight is definitely weakening. you hope the tab gets going soon.

a horrid thought occurs to you: suppose it's expired. or even, used.

not thinking about it. no, no. you stare up into the ceiling of the hollow tree.

only it's not a ceiling. the hollow keeps on going upward, into the branches. whoever hollowed this tree out was mighty thorough.

tunnels. the trunk branches off into tunnels.

the last time you saw tunnels, you couldn't get into them. it's pretty easy now. gravity seems to have nothing to say for itself. you rise into the hollow branching tunnels, sunlight warping into prismatic walls.

apparently, even stale ash-covered acid beats the hell out of molecule paper.

+

/tune in turn on etc. next week.

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