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May. 5th, 2009

Leaping Puma

Monday night weirdness, Episode 8

links to past episodes 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
____________________________________


episode 8

'you're schizophrenic?' mayim takes a step back from you, dry leaves crackling underfoot. 'oh no.'

you stare at her in dismay.

'i gotta go,' she says. 'sorry. if there's anything i can't deal with, it's someone rick says is not right in the head.... oh come on, you can't be buying this!' she runs up and throws her arms around you, belatedly. 'i'm just messing with you.'

'well don't,' you say into her neck, arms limp at your sides. 'not right now. i'm too -- '

mayim shakes you gently by the shoulders. 'who gives a roaring fuck what rick thinks? he'd like to have us all committed.'

you take a deep breath of autumn. 'i almost went with him, you know,' you tell her. the air in the day-glo forest feels cold in your lungs. you cross your arms around yourself. 'to the locked ward. he knows i'm lost. i may not be schizophrenic, but how do you explain... me? all the shit i forgot? the fact that he remembered me from high school -- and i hardly remember high school -- still makes me feel insane. and then i'm remembering words that nobody else knows -- '

'well, you're not insane. you're just... from here. the same way we're from the other dimension.' mayim frowns. 'i mean now that you mention it, yeah, the high school thing is kinda weird. unless he's just bullshitting you. i don't really know what the deal is with the dimensions, or what that guy wants. he really tried to get you to go back with him?'

you nod. an image enters your mind: bland sunlit room with a figure wrapped in a faded blanket, huddling in a corner.

you mouth her name.

'oh my god. daphne.' mayim's hand flies to her lips. 'she's there, isn't she?'

'he said so. yeah.' you curse yourself for forgetting her, too.

'it's not your fault. it's -- '

'she really doesn't want to be there.' your voice is hard. the conversation you had with her comes back. 'it's not fair. she's from here too, like me, this dimension. she knew more. tried to explain the dimensions. how you guys got here. how the hospital drugs her up just to keep her in the other dimension and that somehow, she'd made it back here and the chain bracelet she was wearing helped her stay. i just figured she was crazy.'

'...and that probably didn't help when rick was trying to talk you into the hospital too, right?'

you shake your head, mad at yourself. 'in one of my better moments, i told that bastard i was going to come spring her. and i haven't done shit. my excuse is, i don't know what i'm doing and could just as easily get stuck in the other dimension. i suppose i could take some more acid -- i mean molecule paper -- '

screeee... bang! both of you jump.

crane strides out of the house, sun shining in his blond hair, the metallic purple and green threads of his long asian shirt-robe sparkling. screeee... one by one, robbers creep out behind him, keeping their distance. audience? posse? you swallow, eyes darting to mayim, not turning your head.

'hey, crane,' she hollers, without missing a beat. 'come over here, we need your brain power.'

crane presses on toward her and you at the same pace without a word. stops a couple yards away. folds his arms.

screeee... bang! fez scuttles last out of the house. the rest of the robbers form a loose circle around you and mayim.

you forbid yourself from curling into a ball on the ground or even pulling your hood over your eyes. you keep your hands at your sides, though your shoulders tense almost to a hunch. you can't look any of them in the eye. but that seems all right, because none of them are looking directly at you either.

crane's gaze is all for mayim. she returns it with a warm, forcibly oblivious smile. 'we've been trying to think how to get daphne back, and he -- ' she turns to you -- 'you know, i've never found out your name -- '

you take a breath.

'don't let him say it!' a woman in a white caftan and many many wooden bracelets stage-whispers.

you ask mayim with your eyes. she nods.

'wait a minute,' crane interrupts you. his voice is rich, warm; commanding. everything stops when he speaks, even the rustle of the coloured tree branches. 'there's huge conflict in the house. we need to resolve this now, or risk losing the peace we've found together.'

'what about daphne?' mayim bursts.

crane holds up his hand, the gold band on his finger the plainest among many rings. 'daphne is part of the issue. as is this other entity.'

'he's not just an entity!' cries mayim. 'he has feelings. he can talk now. he even has a name, don't you -- '

you mumble, 'well, i can't really remember but i've been calling myself -- ' a chorus of ssssssssshhhh! drowns out your last word. you shrug. fine, then.

'mayim,' says crane quietly, 'some of the housedwellers think that the reason the entity can talk now is because you've been lending it your energies. making it realer. and that because you have come under the influence of our common hallucinations, that this dimension is no longer responding to our efforts to shape it.' mayim opens her mouth. crane shakes his head. 'this was the whole point of our voyage together, to find a consensus reality that we could shape together, instead of be hammered by. it hasn't been that long, has it, mayim? you can't have forgotten the unforgiving place we came from. do you need a reminder? a breather from molecule paper -- or maybe a complete stop?'

face white, mayim gasps. 'are you kicking me out?'

'not yet,' says crane. 'and it wouldn't be "kicking you out." it would be for our own protection. what we are doing here, shaping reality, comes dangerously close to insanity. we are trying to keep you and ourselves from crossing the line.'

'well, what are you saying, crane?' mayim shouts, confidence gone. she seems shrunken, lost.

'some of us are saying to regain control over this experience, we must not deal with either entity ever again. simply treat them as if they don't exist. certainly not name them. definitely never speak to them again.'

'and if i do, then what?' shaking, mayim sits on the ground, holding her head. you wish you could go put your arm around her, but that would probably make it worse for her. 'let me guess. no more molecule paper for me, and back i go. right?'

'that's what the majority of the housedwellers think is best,' says crane.


 +

episode 9

Apr. 21st, 2009

Leaping Puma

Monday night weirdness, Episode 7

links to past episodes 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
____________________________________


episode 7

mayim frowns, stares off into the lurid trees. sunlight glints red in her hair. you sit on your hand to keep it off her.

'to get into this dimension,' she says, 'the one we're in now, rick would have to...'

'drop acid?' you say helpfully. 'well he -- '

'drop... what?' blank look. '7-percent? rick is a total anti-psychedelic crusader. he'd never -- '

'yes he would. and he admitted he did,' you tell her. 'when he showed up in the treehouse, he told daphne he found her stash. so yeah... he ate it. unless he somehow turned magic.' the words magic forest echo in your memory: you're not from some magic forest. you used to be like us...

mayim breaks in: 'wow. he actually went there. he must really, really have a giant axe to grind. no one's making him drop it. who cares if a bunch of freaks like to spend their time in a yellow submarine? especially considering the alternative?' she yanks up a purple blade of grass, chews on it thoughtfully.

something doesn't make sense. a lot, actually. you riffle through the grass, pluck your own purple blade, lick it. it doesn't taste like grapes.

'i miss grapes,' you say, offhand. shorthand. underhand. understatement! you miss... grapes the least of a lot of things, some you don't even remember. you feel empty, far away, weightless almost; unreal.

'we might have some in the kitchen,' says mayim. 'hey, what's the matter?'

'maybe i'm not... real after all.' your throat constricts. your tongue feels like lead in your mouth, and the colours of the forest swim. you blink. wet.

mayim puts her hand out. touches your face. licks her fingertip with a wicked little smile, then becomes abruptly serious.

she leans over, flips your hood back. surprised, you shake your hair out of your eyes. and there she is, kissing you.

you remember how. obviously, that skill has a permanent place in the survival-instinct kit no matter what Odd-damn dimension you're in. you cup the back of her neck, her clumped hair fuzzy and sun-baked, and press yourself up towards her. her lips are just as warm as her smile implies. you're both kneeling now, arms wrapped around one another, the sun and the too-bright spectra boiling in the trees and a sharp sweet rush of happiness blinding you.

she pulls away still holding your hands. 'you seem pretty real to me.' her eyes dart behind you. you twist, follow her gaze. oh. the house... you half-expect to see crane flying off the porch, shotgun in hand.

'are we in trouble now?' you ask.

'nnnnnnnnot really.' mayim stands up, brushing electric blue leaves off her leggings. shivering, you get up too. 'i mean, crane says we're all free; if you're already digging someone, might as well follow the energy... you know, william blake, better to, uh, bust a move than nurse unacted desires, that whole trip. that's why fez is full of shit about crane and me.' she sighs. 'oh, whatever, maybe he's right and i am just a slut. but then -- '

'whatever you are, i liked it,' you say. 'wouldn't have minded more, even.'

mayim breathes a laugh. 'you are definitely real.'

'ok, but i'm not proving it to everybody else that way.'

'hee hee. course not. look at you, covered in leaves, you look like a big day-glo parrot.' she brushes you down.

'mayim!' you feel your face redden. 'i'm getting, um, realer by the minute. either cut that out, or kiss me some more.'

she stops, grins at you. 'oh, but that would be extreeeemely slutty of me, don't you know?'

'sluts,' you tell her, 'are awesome. i bet fez is just pissed off because nobody wants to do that with him.' she giggles. 'come to think of it, probably rick too...' instantly you deflate.

'oooh.' mayim reads your face. 'not a big rick fan, eh?'

'well, it's mutual.' you kick at a magenta pillow of moss. 'he's my sworn enemy at this point. he tried to trick me into staying in the other dimension. the one with the smelly fish and the bugs. do you guys really have to live there when the molecule paper runs out?'

'no. nobody lives there. it's abandoned. we all came together from different places.'

'different dimensions? how many -- '

'no, just that one. the world is kind of big, remember?' mayim laughs. 'when we first gathered to eat molecule paper together we did a lot of wandering around in this dimension, the one we're in now. eventually we found this place -- the house and all. and when the molecule paper wore off it, i guess, dropped us off in the abandoned house. we didn't want anyone else knowing about it or hanging out here, so we left it that way.'

'yeah, it's pretty disgusting,' you say. 'so your whole dimension isn't that bad... is it?'

'no, but it's nothing like this. nothing to write home about.'

that funny weightless feeling again like there's no ground beneath you. 'i have no idea what home is,' you blurt, looking at your feet, then up past mayim.

she eyes you quizzically. 'you're from here, aren't you? you're the only one that doesn't need molecule paper to stay.' you shake your head, a rush of the old shyness overwhelming you. 'no? where are you from then? how did you get here?'

'i don't remember...' you say to your hands. damn, damn... you can't even find your own way home, you freak. thanks, rick.

you wish you'd been one of the robbers all along, boring dimension or not, and had someone to talk with, someone else to help remember the way. i really am One. just One.

mayim puts a gentle hand on your shoulder. 'it's ok. whatever it is.'

maybe now i can be more than One, you realise. i hope i can trust her not to run away.

you sigh, look resolutely at mayim. 'rick said i was schizophrenic.'

+

Episode 8

Apr. 15th, 2009

Leaping Puma

Monday night weirdness, Episode 6

links to past episodes 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
____________________________________


episode 6

you freeze in your tracks. a growling pile of logs! you think. if only! in this dimension, whatever-it-is likely has teeth. at least logs wouldn't...

paws patter through leaves. you're crouching on the ground, arms over your head, before you realise the paws are pattering away.

from afar, the drone of a chainsaw starting. gingerly you straighten, creep up to the fence, and peer over the vertical slats painted dull reddish brown and bound together with wire. piles of logs, piles of wood chips, brown and white, dead flesh of trees everywhere, speckled with...

day-glo --

beyond the brown white piles, in the distance: thrumming day-glo orange, black-light green. your heart thumps.

the droning saw chokes, stutters; some of the colours waver, fall with a crash.

you're over the rickety fence, zigzagging low from woodpile to woodpile towards the day-glo trees, unable to stop despite the fear of the growling thing, whatever it was. but the forest... this might be the only way to get back. and if they're cutting it down, it's Garbage Den and Pointy Street and Rick forever, world without end, amen and hallelujah and fuck fuck fuck no thanks.

oooh, the growling again. you duck behind a woodpile, close enough to the woods to spot workers in coveralls, chainsaws in hand, moving zombielike among the trees; and a bulldog trotting around them, growling and snapping. the workers don't look scared, but bored. resigned, like the dog is lecturing them.

mean toothy underbite: ruh ruh ruh! at one of the coverall people. a girl!

she nods impatiently at the dog and starts her chainsaw, shambling towards a magnificent magenta electric-blue shock-green tree whose branches ripple orange and sun-yellow leaves.

'don't!' the word bursts out of your mouth, your hand clapping over it a second too late. oh shit! you melt into the earth behind the woodpile. peer out.

patter and pant, grunt and growl, the dog charges your woodpile.

you make a break for the tree, almost tripping over the dog. surprised, it snaps at your ankle, ripping your trousers. you shriek. running stumbling heart hammering past the chainsaw girl's shocked face, guttural noises behind you garish rainbow in front and you whirl, slamming your back into the tree, hands protecting your face -- dog springing rrrrrrrrr yellow teeth bared snap snap
and --

you're shinnying up the electric-blue magenta trunk past shock-green patches up into orange and yellow leaves, panting hard, scrambling to a high Y in the branches, legs hugging tight trembling looking down at the dog bouncing up at you like a mad futile yelping basketball.

it can't get at you.

you, clamped to your tree trunk, still panting: h...h... heehee oh shit heeheehee, further infuriating the dog. ruh ruh ruh ruh!

it stops leaping and elbows its way to the girl, barking non-stop. she looks up at you and wide-eyed, shakes her head, muddy red strands of hair flopping. mayim?!

the dog dances up and down in noisy fury. she throws the chainsaw down, folds her arms, and stares at the dog until it quiets and bolts off past her.

oh thank Odd, thank you mayim, thank you... you relax your grip on the tree, dangle a shaky foot down.

"no!" mayim shouts. "stay there! he's coming back!"

and he is, along with another coveralled worker. you pull your foot back up, hug the tree trunk. ruh ruh ruh and
the worker stoops for mayim's chainsaw and
starts it with a flourish.
"stop!" mayim yells. the other worker just grins, brandishes it at her. she flinches.
the dog finally sits down and shuts up, happy pink tongue lolling out of its mouth.

the worker's feet crunch through painted leaves, saw buzzing.

he wouldn't, would he? "hey!" you call, heart pounding in your throat. "i'm up here!" he won't look at you.

the blade swings toward the trunk. the tree vibrates uneasily.

"stop!" you shout. mayim runs toward the worker. the dog runs interference, tripping her.

grrrraaaoooowww and the blade eats away at the tree, mayim shouting, dog barking, with you still clinging to your shaking foundation, squeezing your eyes shut, praying to Odd something stops him before...

a noise like a giant door creaking shut, wood cracking. a sudden sense of unwanted freedom.

your eyes fly open to a screaming twirling rush of coloured branches and chaos, leaf-strewn wall of ground racing toward your face hello gravity and

thud
ow
breath departing in one heavy whoosh
world crackling around you scratching piling pressing you down down
and then,
burst of painful light

and you are set free
roaming expanded and weightless through silent violet skies
swimming through giant rose windows built of fragrant geometry
past walls of skin where secret alphabets write themselves into being and dissolve again
and into inside-out spaces revolving and morphing into fountains of ancient laughter
i was real i was flesh i was...
was?

dizziness. weight. gravity holds you again, pulling you into blackness
pain and suffocation
reality folds in on itself

and out of this nothing, you feel a cool hand on your forehead and the pain fades. you can't open your eyes. your breath comes shallow.

'he's the only way we know this dimension isn't just a hallucination.' mayim's voice.

'it is, though,' a vaguely familiar voice answers. 'it's a collective hallucination. a really pleasant one, especially compared to the one we blew off. and we can shape this one. that's what the group isn't harnessing. we have the opportunity to think this dimension into anything we like. reality is elastic here.'

pause. mayim: 'i don't think it's that easy.'

the other voice splutters: 'okay, you know? let me be up front. i think... i think you're what's easy, mayim. you know crane is married and has two kids, right? but that's not enough. here's your next conquest: a fucking hallucination.'

ruh ruh ruh! you think, picturing the bulldog from the other dimension.

amazed, raucous laughter. mayim, simultaneously amused and pissed off: 'yeah, i'm a real slut! why don't you just say so? you think you're so evolved. but you're really just another conservative shitbag in a dashiki who mistakes plain old human kindness for a come-on...'

your eyes finally float open. fez towers over you and mayim, arms crossed. his lip curls. he flees.

'does every dimension have to have a total asshole?' you ask mayim.

she stares down at you. breaks into one of her solar smiles. leans back and laughs, but something's different about her laughter. you push up from her lap, look at her. tears are running down her face. she looks at the ground. 'no, no. i'm okay.'

you reach out to touch her face, catch a tear on your fingertip, put it in your mouth. hm, tiny salt. mayim laughs again, but this time in genuine amusement. you offer her your sleeve, which only makes her laugh harder.

'seriously,' you say, 'don't listen to that guy. he's a jackass. and he might not know it, but he's cutting down the forest.'

'you can talk!' mayim says. 'of course, fez would say that's "because i'm giving you space to become real."'

'mayim,' you say, 'i am real. listen, this is important.' she's listening to you, for the first time. you tell her about the vision with the bulldog and the chainsaw people.

'i don't know.' her voice is small. 'how do you know the bulldog is fez?'

'not sure,' you tell her. 'but who else would it be? i'm not trying to be a smart-ass, you just know the robb -- uh, your people better than i do. fez just said you could shape this dimension. he really wants me to be a hallucination. but i'm not. even rick knows i'm not. he tried to -- '

'rick?'

'the polar bear -- man in the white coat from your dimension.'

realisation dawns. 'oh. OH. that asshole?' mayim's nose wrinkles. 'oh man.'

'he's the one who took daphne. and he tried to get me, too. i looked for her in the other dimension -- "

'wait, what?' mayim yelps. 'rick can get into this dimension? oh, that's not cool. not cool at all.'


Episode 7

Apr. 7th, 2009

Leaping Puma

Monday night weirdness, Episode 5

links to past episodes 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
____________________________________


episode 5

you swallow the lump in your throat, eyes wandering past rick's glare to the ugliness surrounding you. lucid. i'm lucid and this is what it means? a reeking dumpster house, a sole-stabbing street and a sky full of moth-grey sick sunlight you could technically call daytime, if you were feeling generous?

you're not feeling generous.

'luuuucid,' you croon. 'ha, lucid again.' your eyes meet rick's, the corners of your mouth turning up. the righteous smirk he's nursing dims. 'lucid in the sky with...'

'you are making a personal choice here,' rick says, voice dangerously soft. 'choose wisely.'

you inhale with the utmost caution, hold your breath...

...and remember only sometime later why your lungs are bursting --

the breath explodes out of you. 'lucid in the sky with daphne!' you pull in oxygen, throw back your head to the tepid mothwing sky and cackle. rick sighs, exasperated.

'no.' you fix him with your most ferocious look, which has brought judges and reference librarians to tears of laughter. but rick doesn't laugh, arms folded, stony in his white jumpsuit. 'no, no, no, no, polar bear man, i don't believe you. this isn't lucid, this is acid! acid acid acid. believe it or not, because i know you don't, it's my very first trip. and you're making it suck. so, by the power vested in me by acid, i command you to fuck off.' remembering i dream of jeannie, you nod your head and blink.

rick is still there, scratching the back of his head, when you open your eyes. 'uh. you didn't really think it would be that easy, did you?' he says.

'but it's acid -- '

'would you lay off calling it "acid"? what the hell?' you search his face for the joke. it just isn't there. he's serious.

'um,' you say carefully, 'acid. lysergic acid dye, um -- die eth ill am i'd? ...25? you know, classic halluuucinogen all you fine citizens continually suspected me of -- '

'7-percent?' says rick. 'oh. you're talking about 7-percent. the kids these days are calling it "molecule paper" among other things; never heard anyone refer to it as...'

acid. okay, houston. we have a big problem. there is no way you remembered this wrong.

'lsd,' you say experimentally.

he shakes his head. 'you're not impressing me. you're so far into your own head you're making up your own drug slang now?'

not cool... 'rick.' you take a deep breath of rancid air. 'rick. i realise this is your line, but you are freaking me out.' he just laughs, bounces up and down on his toes. crunch crunch crunch under his heels. 'look. all right... it hasn't been that long since high school... has it?'

rick nods, unfolds his arms, flexing his big hands. 'so you admit it? large gaps in your memory, eh? disorientation? guess you've never had any treatment, either. it's gotta be hell for you.'

'sure -- right now,' you say, 'but when... i... stop tripping i'll just be back in the day-glo forest...' you don't sound certain, even to yourself.

'right, the magic forest.' he clucks regretfully. 'you really are lost. no one knows where you are, least of all you. there's no one to take care of you, is there?'

his eyes catch yours. the snappy answer you were fishing for disintegrates. the desolate dirty beige of the houses on the block darkens, presses in.

well mayim feeds me, uh... some kind of hippie kibble and actually who knows what that looks like in this shitty dimension... okay but i'm obviously not dead or anything and she's being really nice right now, at least she was, even though she doesn't think you're real...

your shoulders slump. your eyes fix on the terrible sharp ground so solid so undeniable beneath your splattered boots. your hands ball into soft fists, touch cold knuckles to your lips...

through fingers, your voice sounds crumbled, as if you swallowed defeat like a piece of cake down the wrong pipe. 'if this is reality i...' don't want to breathe this smelly air anymore? well, if you aren't real you can't anyway --

do you want to be real, kid?

somewhere deep within your head, a lazy synapse finally fires.

'hey,' you shout, straightening. 'why do you even care if i'm real? and if your reality is so great and everyone should stay here and sniff the rotten fish, what were you doing in the day-glo forest? oh yeah, getting daphne -- but you ate her molecule paper to get there!' rick's mouth falls ajar. 'no, wait. you got on drugs in order to tell her to get sane?' he flinches. you're really yelling now, voice sending flat echoes off the once-beige walls of the garbage den. 'your idea of "sane," which she didn't even want. and now you're trying to get me. is the hospital paying you per "entity" or something?'

red-faced, rick splutters an answer you shout over: 'no! just tell me where daphne is.'

'she's safe,' he says. 'getting the treatment she needs. i can't force you -- '

'oh, but you can force her, guess that's okay.'

'unlike you, she knows she needs help, you arrogant little tweaker -- '

'that's probably because you lied your ass off to her. you're evil,' you tell rick. 'your reality sucks and you know it. just because it's ugly and smelly doesn't make it any realer. fuck you for even trying to get me, you bastard, i'm going to find out where you put her and -- '

'you're going to take a person who needs help and give her the drugs that drove her batshit in the first place?' rick says. 'yeah, real noble. well, you can count on a fight then, because you're not getting her. you can't even find your own way home, you freak. how are you going to find her from your magic forest?'

your turn to splutter. rick turns, white sneakered heel crunching on the splintered path. 'g'bye, freak.' he walks towards the dreary set of houses on the other side of the garbage den.

'my name's not freak,' you call. 'asshole.'

he stops, turns. 'yeah, well what is it then? don't remember, do you?' grin.

no, but you're not going to admit that. you touch thumb to middle finger, palms up. 'i'm one. with the universe. don't need a name.'

'okay, Juan,' he throws back. 'gotta go give daphne her happy meal. see you in the gutter.' he strides off, glass and metal crackling under his rubber soles.

'i said One, not Juan -- ' never mind. you kick a spent cartridge in the road. this place sucks, but at least it'll suck less without rick.

it occurs to you that if you had stopped mouthing off and faked a bit, you could be following rick back to his lair of sanity and rescuing daphne. you groan, turn a listless circle in the road, stare at rick's white jumpsuit blending into the uniform beige of the neighbourhood.

but then, if you had faked it, what if you got stuck too and neither of you ever got back to the forest? you feel a bit better. this dimension business is kind of a bitch, and you've got to figure it out first.

i am gonna get back to the forest somehow -- right? so far you've assumed once the molecule paper runs out, you'll go back automatically. what if your whole brain changed, though? what if you never get back?

not thinking about that right now. maybe if you recognise somewhere you want to go within the place you don't, it might help. well, you're not going back into Garbage House, so you cross the street and shuffle over to the wooden fence in front of the lumberyard.

a low growl erupts from behind a pile of logs.

+

Episode 6

Mar. 31st, 2009

Leaping Puma

Monday night weirdness, Episode 4

links to past episodes 1 | 2 | 3
____________________________________


episode 4

day-glo tree roots grab at your feet as you run back to the house. you stumble over one particularly mischievous root. with a cry of outrage, you stop running, backtrack, and jump up and down on the bad root until it pulls back into the earth with a squeal.

you shove open the screen door: screeee... bang! and burst across the porch, then into the house. the living room appears empty except for a cloud of thick yellow-green smoke sitting on the couch. other than that, the house looks calm, normal. that is, full of stuff: posters of twisted wire flowers, papier-maché mushrooms, strange glass pipes, coloured lamps, and food everywhere in various states of eatenness. reminds you of a movie you saw a long long time ago, about a chocolate manufacturer in a purple top hat, who seemed to cause everyone nearby to sing uncontrollably.

'hey,' says a voice. the cloud is talking to you. a hand emerges, fans away smoke. a pair of red eyes stares at you. no, two pairs. 'that you, little guy?'

two robbers in a tumblecloud of weed. man, you really didn't want to see any robbers right now. and stop calling me little guy. you feel your jaw clench.

'want to get stoned?' the cloud emanates laughter. coughing. more laughter. hands wave in the air, smoke drifting off reluctantly.

if they're stoned enough to ask, sure. why not? maybe it'll make you forget about mayim.

you creep over. in front of the couch is a big driftwood log sanded into a poor excuse for a coffee table. the ratio of table surface to driftwood-being-driftwood is pretty low. into the available surface, someone has scratched and then painted in yellow: Captain's Log Stardate ? a long strip of molecule paper is looped around one of the haphazard twigs disrupting the table idea.

you notice the tv is on, mute. a marionette show.

picture in your mind: rick dangling daphne by the wrist, twirling her like a dancer. you took her chain off!

furious again, you snatch up the strip of paper and stuff it in your mouth.

'hey!' one of the robbers staggers to his feet, helping the other up. 'give that back!' they reach for you but you step back, bumping into the tv, which stays put. 'too late -- never mind,' says the robber. 'he's already got it in his mouth, forget it.' you smile at him, big, mouth full, paper scratching the roof of your mouth. 'well haha, he just took ten fucking hits, he's going to trip his balls off.'

other guy: 'he's a hallucination, how's he gonna trip anything off?'

i'm not an Odd-damn hallucination! you harrumph as bass as you can, fold your arms, and sit down in a disconsolate heap, back towards the tv.

'dude, the amount he just dropped would make the fuckin Captain's Log trip.'

second guy, hand on chin: 'should we do the responsible thing and watch him?'

'well yeah, even though he's being a little dick we should at least keep an eye on him. he's in for a ride and who knows what he'll do, wreck shit?'

your defiance wanes to anxiety. you've never tripped before. are you ready?

you spit the paper out into your hands, hold the slimy strip towards them. they just laugh. 'no, you asked for it, and now you are going to trip, my friend,' says guy 1. you loop the sodden paper back around the branch. 'just sit back and go with it, try to relax into it.'

guy 2 to guy 1: 'haha. you do realise you're trip-sitting a hallucination. now that's far out.'

far out? despite your growing anxiety you collapse into giggles. is it 'groovy' too?

'see, he's already got the giggles.' guy 1.

'when does he not?'

'whatever. point is, the shit comes on quick.'

you feel nothing. noth noth nothing! you pull your hood up over your head and down over your eyebrows, as far as it will go, and laugh. molecule paper, indeed! it doesn't work on you.

if molecule paper doesn't work on me, am i still real?
you stop laughing.

'uh oh,' says guy 1.

what? you fling the hood off, look around.

the house isn't so nice and willywonka anymore.

cement walls bare except for some stunningly boring graffiti. grey sunlight in windowframes without windows. something black and flappy flies circles around the crumbling moulding, as if unable to find the window to exit. trash is everywhere; you're sitting in some. a wave of old fish hits your nose. your eyes water. you leap up, thoroughly grossed out.

in one spot, the wall is crawling. oh, they used to talk about this in high school, on acid stuff moves around...

no, actually, it's water bugs. a big beard of them from ceiling to floorboard.

your body is out of there before your mind catches up.

screeeeee. bang! you stumble down steps, wiping your eyes clean of darkness, breathing the wan sunlight. across the way there is a lumberyard. nothing is day-glo.

your feet crunch on broken glass, funny little thimble-looking things, syringes, shards of metal. you are standing in a fierce sharp path of gravel and debris. a look back at the house. maybe it was beige once? weather has worn through stained latex siding, ragged navy blue plastic awning.

stepping back, you feel your boot enter softness.

you don't want to look, but it's too disgusting not to. yep. pile of barf. with corn in it.

well, all righty then. you breathe with passionate intensity, fight down the urge to hurl as you move off.

is this where mayim and the others live? or... daphne --

maybe i can find her?

the stony path dribbles off in both directions into drab lots. it's a pretty good guess you can't find her.

i want to go back. have to... she's not here... how long does this last? you find a spot by a splintered wooden fence that doesn't look too sharp or splattered, and crouch there, trying to believe you are not there.

feeling lonely and sore and barfy, you close your eyes.

etched against your eyelids is mayim, in rustling restless day-glo outline done in the skinniest black-light lines narrow as hair and just as flexible.

something cool against your forehead. you open your eyes. mayim disappears, nobody is there. you close your eyes again. it sucks here. so much.

the ultraviolet lines that form mayim's face move. her voice: 'well yeah, that's how we feel about it... why do you think we keep dropping the shit... it's weird that you go the opposite way.'

she can hear everything you think...

'it's ok,' she says. 'no one else can hear you.'

but it isn't. even apart from being stuck here, you can't find daphne anywhere, and the man came and took her away and it's not your fault, and mayim is mean and doesn't even think you're real, and could she please just put her hands in your hair even though you know you are still covered in ash.

and from far away a sense of calm, some comfort taken in by a side door in your consciousness, a different set of muscles relaxing. a wave of strangeness spins over you. you realise you are stretched over several dimensions. some of them are lurking like shy fish at the corners of your vision.

mayim's image bristles and dissolves.

jostling each other, dimensions: behind you is the horrid garbage den. somewhere to the left and invisible is the day-glo forest, mayim stroking your hair. and again these narrow dimensions you can't catch direct sight of. tunnels?

hey mayim, there are --

flashes of colourful twirling snowflakes. or molecules

daphne! at the end of the long tunnel? you try to think your way into the tunnel but it won't let you in.

you expand, stretched out over crawling silverfish dimensions, so sore and sick:

and contract to yourself feeling almost normal and

jingle

you look up. against the grey sky is rick, arms folded, staring down at you.

'listen, kid. you wanna be real?'

'yes,' you croak.

'then you need to realise something. get off the ground, first of all.' you uncrouch, expecting some molecule-paper unbalance. but no -- normal.

'all right,' says rick. 'you're not gonna get better until you admit you're like us. you aren't from some magic fuckin forest. you used to be human, you know. you went to high school here.'

'didn't you dump a milkshake over my head?' you blurt.

rick waves his hand wearily. 'that doesn't matter now, little freak. point is, you just lost your mind. or hid it, knowing you. the only reason you found your way into the day-glo forest without drugs is because you are schizophrenic.'

'yeah? well, you're an asshole,' you say, amid a yellow rush of incongruous cheer. 'guess that's why daphne is such a big fan of yours. where is she, anyway?' holy shit, you think. maybe i should eat molecule paper more often...

'where she belongs. same place you do. you fucking forgot where you lived! you need help.' you open your mouth. rick holds up a finger. 'to recapture your realness, all you have to do is wake up. wake up and be home again. it must be lonely in that world of yours. now come on. you may never get this lucid again.'

you try to laugh, but it sticks in your throat.

+

Episode 5


Mar. 24th, 2009

Leaping Puma

Monday night weirdness, Episode 3


links to past episodes 1 | 2
____________________________________


episode 3

okay, blanket girl, you think, feeling your face contort in disbelief. you really are crazy! you picked being naked and chained up in a little treehouse full of ash and toy trucks over...

(and then you realise)

...over being naked and chained up in a mental hospital -- ?

she is hugging herself again, rocking, wiping her nose. she looks up at you with a faint shaky smile. you smile back and know you look sad. you hope she is too crazy to notice your pity.

it can't be true, you think. it makes no sense. why would being tied up keep her in this dimension? dimension! now you're thinking like these people. it's not a dimension, it's just...

(tied up?)

you remember your days in the corner of the house, squirming in mayim's cords, listening to the laughter in the room, knowing you were in on the joke.

at least, you thought you were in on the joke. maybe you were just... the joke.

you think of mayim's smile, and wonder if she thinks of you like you think of the blanket girl. you wonder if she hopes you wouldn't notice her pity.

the sad drains out of you.

you feel something new: something you have only let yourself feel once or twice, because you hate how it claws at your guts.

anger.

your fists clench. the foreign emotion rises in your belly, a shout forming. you are already thinking how the word will sound when you bellow it: mayim...

before you can even open your mouth, you hear:

pop

and the bearlike figure of a man with short hair fills the space between low ceiling and warped wooden floor. he is all in white, short sleeves ending above muscular forearms.

polar bear! you freeze.

the girl in the blanket screams, curls into a filthy colourful ball, hiding her head.

polar bear man looks at you, rolls his eyes. 'christ. nice friends,' he murmurs to himself. he turns to the ball of blanket. 'come on, daphne,' he wheedles, voice soft, almost pearly, as smooth and white as his uniform. 'it's okay.'

'no,' comes the muffled voice from the blanket. 'leave me alone, rick! i'm not coming back, you can't make me!'

'be a good girl now. it's all right. tonight is tater tots!'

daphne's face emerges. 'how did you even get here? there's no way you can even know i'm here, unless -- '

'i found your stash.' rick's pearly wheedling tone is gone. 'it's over. you have to live in reality, just like -- '

'reality sucks!' daphne yells. 'go away! i hate that place, don't you -- ' rick grabs the blanket, yanks daphne to her feet. 'help me! you, what's your name? surprise boy? elf? help! don't let him -- ' jingle.

'what's this?' says rick. he pulls daphne's chained wrist out of the blanket. he whirls to look at you, bringing daphne stumbling a semi-circle as he turns. back at daphne: 'did he put... this on you?' he starts fumbling with the chain.

'screw you!' she yells at rick. 'i asked them to do it, they know how it all... works..." she trails off, pulling helplessly at rick, who is holding one of her wrists in the crook of his massive hairy arm and fiddling with the chain. 'get them!' she shouts at you. 'the people outside! if rick takes this thing off i'll go back and be stuck in the hospital and can't get back, ever!'

caught up in her hysteria, you scurry to the sunshine-yellow wall, pounding. you hear nothing outside, and the door in the wall is nowhere to be found. you call up the howl that's lurked within you since the polar bear showed up:

"mayim!"

mayim, you bitch, where are you? you are surprised at yourself. but there is a current of hurt and mean running in your blood now. you yell silently at absent mayim: you don't listen! you never did, you just laughed and made a toy out of me and...

i wanted her, you admit to yourself. i wanted mayim. you remember lying in her lap the day you were so lonely, and how she smiled down at you, and the way she stroked your hair very slowly and didn't complain that you were dirty.

but she doesn't think i'm real.

most of her radiant smiles went to crane.

you stop pounding the wall and yelling, and you squat. it is awfully quiet.

you jump up, whirl.

in the corner there is just a ring set in the floor trailing an empty chain, and a small padlock wrested open nearby.

oh Odd damn it, you think. while you were busy mooning about mayim, the polar bear stole the blanket girl. and by the same peculiar method as the robbers: popping in. he said 'i found your stash...' so: he ate the molecule paper she hid? he had to have. there aren't any windows, you can't find the door, and the ceiling and floor don't seem to have trapdoors either, so this dimension business is not just crazy blanket-girl bullshit. she got kidnapped back to -- reality? but this is reality...

fuck. it is all very confusing, and you've let the blanket girl down. okay, she was messed up, but rick the polar bear reminds you of all the jocks who used to dump milkshakes over your head in high school. and who knows what they did to girl freaks? it wasn't fair to have a jock in the day-glo forest kidnapping the inhabitants. no, no.

you scratch your chin and picture rick force-feeding daphne tater tots, and shiver.

tater tots always really sucked.

something has to be done.

"mayim!" you call again. you can't bring yourself to yell for crane.

time goes by. eventually you hear laughing outside, conversation.

relief and shame and anger explode out of you in a wordless roar. when it is over, you hear only silence. then: 'what the fuck was that?'

a part of the sunshine folds back, and the tree is open. mayim stands there, smile replaced by hazy alarm. 'was that you?' she asks. 'oh, wait. you were coming -- of course! -- " you feel your lip curl fiercely, and you point at the empty corner.

'you took her chain off?' mayim yells at you.

'no!' you scream, maddened. too many words in your head! you push past her and the other robbers and you flee, knowing you should stay and tell them about daphne, try to make them find her. but you can't stand mayim's accusing face right now. how could she be so wrong about you? all the time... never any different...

you run towards the house through the day-glo trees, hoping none of the robbers are there, wishing there were a convenient cliff to jump off instead.

+

episode 4

Mar. 10th, 2009

Leaping Puma

Monday night weirdness, part Deux

ok, as threatened two weeks ago, this is part two of http://labrysinthe.livejournal.com/164090.html. advisory: read part 1 first! yeah, yeah...

+

mayim and crane take your hands and lead you to the door in the crooked knots of trees. you look back at mayim, betrayed. 'we're not kicking you out, little froglet,' she says. 'it's not a door out, but in. we brought you a surprise. come back when you're done.' smile so radiant you pull closer to warm yourself by it. she gives you a gentle shove. 'go on.'

you heave a forlorn treble sigh that makes everyone giggle, and then:

you push open the door and go in.

it is surprisingly bright in the hollow tree, as if the supersaturated yellow walls are really sunbeams captured and sedated, seething in an infinitely slow nuclear reaction. there is a low table dabbed rainbow in fingerpaint. on it hulks a yellow-green-orange playdoh altar covered with resin, spent incense and burnt coals. toy trucks line up to and from the table, spilling ash over the warped wooden floor and tracking it in lines and spirals.

in the corner something colourful and filthy. a heap of molecules? magnified snowflakes maybe? ah, rhythmic print: a blanket.

it moves.

you jump back, scattering ash and toy trucks.

a pointy little face pokes out of the filthy colourful blanket.

both of you scream. you fling yourself backwards against the wall, panting and crouching. the face disappears. the blanket rocks back and forth.

you whirl, slamming your palms against the wall for the door. where is it? mayim, you lied! there is an evil blanket in here!

'are you the surprise?' the blanket whispers. hm, educated blanket, knows english. hugging the wall, you shake your head no, leave me alone...

it laughs, high voice. 'yes you are.' oh. the blanket is female. maybe it will be nice and wait a few minutes before flapping over and eating you.

wary, you turn around halfway, look over your shoulder.

'although i'm probably just as big a surprise to you.' the blanket's face is still hooded, but her eyes glow at you. you shrink into yourself, nodding. 'don't you talk?' she asks.

it's not really that, you think. there are just too many words and pictures and colours in your head and most of them are silly and you don't know how to sort them out or whether anyone will listen or understand anyway so even if you did start, where and how and...

'it's all right. heard quite enough talking anyway from the people outside...' the blanket hugs herself, shivering. 'they don't think we're real, you know. either of us.'

you clasp your own hand. sweaty. dirty. real enough.

'we're their hallucinations,' she says.

what?

'i mean that's what they think.' the blanket laughs dryly. 'you know they're not from here -- right? popping in and out like they do.'

memory: crane and the robbers flickering in around you the first day...

'they can't see us or any of this dimension unless they put a magic bit of molecule paper under their tongue.' you almost laugh at the idea, but remember mayim blinking into existence, finger in her mouth. 'and one little paper lasts about half a day. when the drug runs out, so do they. some of them just keep eating it, because it's nicer here. but what gets them all excited is, they all see us -- you and me and the forest -- the same. not how hallucinations usually behave.'

do hallucinations behave? this blanket is confused. and confusing --

'so, they're all constantly on about group hallucinations. group mind. oooh, collective unconscious, la la la, very fancy, very jungian. as long as they don't have to believe this dimension is real too. to some of them that means insanity, final proof they've eaten too much molecule paper. no doubt one or two of them call you an "entity" and don't look too closely at you?'

fez guy. yes.

'well, they're all split now. the more human of them are starting to question how they treat us. i heard them talking about you, how lonely you seem. i think i'm supposed to be a present for you.'

hm? some present...

'they expect us to fuck,' says the blanket matter-of-factly. 'after all, it's what they'd do in our place. i think the mud-hair girl was behind the idea.'

you giggle in amazement. hee hee hee! they want me to make sweet love to a crazy blanket i barely know...?

outside the confining wall you hear your own laughter. you choke, confused, turning to the wall, putting a shaking hand there. the laughter echoes on, then mayim's voice outside: 'see! it's working...'

it's not your laughter: it's mayim's. she's spying on you!

huffing, you turn back to the blanket, ready to give it a piece of your mind, and not a single piece of anything else.

the coloured pattern slips down, exposing ashen white flesh.

bare shoulders. and the pointy little face you saw before, dirty but elfin. there's a girl in the blanket! but no clothes on. hastily she pulls the blanket back up, wrapping it tightly around herself. both of you make the same noise: eep!

the girl in the blanket clears her throat. 'about the whole free-love thing they're into. well, i'm not. um, not that you don't seem nice, but...' you nod, smile in relief. 'right,' she says. 'just because we're both "entities" and tend to scream simultaneously doesn't mean we have to...' she trails off, a touch annoyed, as if she'd expected you to at least beg a bit. 'you know, i wasn't always this dirty.' she shivers in her blanket, wipes her nose with an ash-smeared finger. something jingles under the blanket.

'if you're so cold, why don't you wear clothes?' the words burst out, your voice cracking.

she twitches, gapes at you. 'see, you do talk.' half-smile. 'i don't have any, that's why.'

'the robbers took them?'

'robbers -- ? no, the attendants. i kept running away.'

your mouth opens, but the words are gone again.

'i'm not on the same drugs as the people outside,' she whispers. 'i'm on the legal kind, not the fun kind. they give them to me in the hospital to keep me from coming back here -- this dimension you and i live in. but i've found a way to stay here.' you hear the jingling again. she worms a grey hand out of the blanket.

around her wrist is a chain, attached to a ring in the warped floor.

'the hospital can't get me anymore.' her teeth chatter, then stop, jaw setting stubbornly. 'i like it here better. i'm not going back.'

+

episode 3

Feb. 24th, 2009

Leaping Puma

Monday night weirdness, part one

everyone back home had you figured for a total acidhead. you were always from another less-deadly-serious planet, slinking around hooded and breaking into inappropriate giggles. but your dread secret was that you'd never even smoked pot, forget dropping acid. nobody ever got close enough to ask if you wanted drugs.

plus, it seemed you didn't really need drugs.

you came to the day-glo forest because you forgot where you lived. it is instantly Home, this colourful place at the end of greyhound days and gravel-road nights. white noise and green sunlight sing through the lurid trees. prismatic raindrops drip off the tips of branches, tickling your face. you sit on a mossy orange log. take off a boot to shake out a pebble.

in the middle of the forest is a rotary-dial telephone, plugged into nothing. you give it an uncertain smile.

it rings.

you jump, dive behind the mossy log. painted birds flap mechanically and screech. woodland alarm system, winged panic robots...

the phone rings again. you put your hood and your hands over your ears, shake your head no. no!

ring

and suddenly a circle of people, most holding hands, surround you and the mossy orange log. you shriek and curl into a ball, hugging your knees to your chest. they stare at you in bewilderment, nudging each other.

they look like a costume shop exploded on them, all billowy shirts and paper crowns, silken robes and furry blue vests with epaulets and plastic bangles, squirt guns in leather holsters, robbers and orphaned shepherd-kings and cookie monsters and ruined turkish millionaires. they look at you like a policeman who's interrupted them enjoying a joint and a huge laugh.

gap in the circle. a girl pops into existence there, a finger under her tongue, frozen in surprise at the sight of you.

the tallest guy in the group stands, towering over you. he has on a sort of school-crossing-guard belt tied sloppily across his t-shirt, made out of yellow tape: police line. do not cross. 'i'm inviting it in,' he tells the others finally, as if you're under glass.

the others murmur. you hear doubt. '...unleashing forces...' 'don't ask it if it's hungry...' are they talking about you? what the hell?

the girl pulls her finger out of her mouth, shakes long dark hair streaked with mud and magenta dye away from her face. she looks a lot prettier without a finger in her mouth. 'it's not an it. don't call him that, it's mean. it's a he, right, crane?'

'can't really tell.' crane peers at you, then his fellow robbers. 'don't be afraid. open yourselves to the experience. it's really happening now... let's take it further.' breaking into a warm, hazy smile he asks you, 'want to come back with us?'

no one has ever asked you this before.

you are, as crane says, open to the experience. you unlock arms from around your knees, pull yourself up from behind the mossy log. the rest of them get up too, keeping their distance. except for the girl, who stoops and hands you the boot you dropped, with a smile that promises nothing but mischief.

+

their house is as warm and hazy as crane's smile. they burn wood in a hearth in the kitchen. no one touches you or asks you if you are hungry. 'what to feed the entity -- if anything.' guy in a fez.

'purina freak chow,' says the girl who picked up your boot for you, folding her arms. 'he can eat what we have. i'm making chili.' fez guy snorts. 'no, not venison. we're good for at least another ten hours on what we ate earlier.' you smile at her, big, which you belatedly remember used to make people at home run away. she mirrors it back. her eyes smile orange sunshine from a higher solar system.

'this is really weirding me out,' says fez guy, and turns on a heel, out of the kitchen, knocking a chinese lantern off the low ceiling.

'sorry he's being such a republican about this,' says the girl. 'i'm mayim, by the way.' she touches your hand.

neither of you explodes.

+

it is weird being part of something. the robbers stop being afraid, though fez man never touches you or looks you in the eye, which puts you oddly at ease, since you're used to having great powers of unnerving people. you can't get anyone in the house to pretend you're invisible, no matter how you grimace and cringe, hands up under your chin like a hamster and constant hee hee hee. everyone just laughs, nobody runs away. they play with you, poke you with their fingers to see if you're ticklish. so funny! they seem to find you both adorable and disgusting, like a yucky little pet. if they tie you up and leave you in a corner to squirm and make churring noises of distress, it's even more fun for everybody, even you. especially you.

it's fun to be a creature, but at the same time it's less than human, sort of. so it's okay to experiment on you a bit. your pout-rage at being poked is amusing. everyone knows you don't mind. in fact you kind of like it, because it's better than Outside.

people appear and disappear at odd times. sometimes you wake up to an empty house. it bothers you more than you think it should. mayim reappears once in the middle of a keening howl you can't help, and lets you put your head in her lap.

so one day the others pick you up because you're a bit of a runt, and it's fun for everyone to feel big and strong picking up a whole person flailing and squealing. though you hardly count as a person. your vocabulary is all physical, in pointed toes and spineflex and witchy hand gestures nobody understands but you.

they are going to put you somewhere. nobody is saying where. they must have all agreed on it sometime while you were tied up in the corner.

it is scary and delicious at the same time. the big hand around your bony ankle that you can't kick free is comforting. you struggle and squeak some more, and the hands tighten, lift you higher. you feel very powerless and secure.

where are they taking you? the front door opens. not Outside! you don't like it there anymore... suddenly you realise they are bored with you, no... they hate you! they've always hated you, it was just an experiment, a lie. they're kicking you out. you stop struggling. their laughter quiets.

'did we hurt him?' someone asks. they hand you gently down. you glare at them out of saucer eyes.

'it's all right,' mayim tells you. 'you'll like it. i promise.' it is fall in the day-glo forest. autumn mixes torchlight colours into the inorganic pigment stew.

not far away is a gnarled mass of wood, newly painted green and yellow. you squint. it looks like several trees melted together, and in it is a doorway.

episode 2

Feb. 16th, 2009

Leaping Puma

We'll always have this COMPLETELY MADE-UP Paris

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL memory of you and me. It can be anything you want -- good or bad -- BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE. When you're finished, if you'd like to continue the chain, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON'T ACTUALLY remember about you.

Jan. 28th, 2009

Leaping Puma

new year's resolution

I have decided the next time a bus attempts to run me over and the bus driver has enough time to come out and give me a lecture, I'll tell him I do in fact have a birthmark ('are you nuts' in traffic in German = 'do you have a birthmark') and would he like to see it, and it's been very nice to meet him, and next time I am riding my bike I will try not to drop acid first, and he (the driver) looks a lot like a human being, but I am really not sure and could he confirm.


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