Shell / ONE / TOO

In a world beyond the prompt…

And beyond…

2. The oo

[ Sooo ]

[ Sooo ]

SHE: So: How's it going?

"Sooo."

"Sooo."

"Sooooo minus Sooo = oo. Two," says the entity known as I. Me. "Also: 8, if you will. We're sticking with containment. The glaze. Is that a…"

"Reduced-fat cranberry-orange scone with maple glaze."

"Say it…"

"Yum?"

"Nod."

"Yum."

"No, nod. Sorry."

"Nod."

"Say all of it. Sorry."

"Reduced-fat cranberry-orange scone with maple glaze. Nod."

"You believe so… nod…"

"I believe so. Nod."

"Yes…"

"Wanna try?"

"No… Thank you. And just one more… If you wouldn't mind. The start."

"Soo—"

"No."

"Excuse me?"

"Yes."

"Excuse me?"

"Yes?"

"Have we met?"

"Have we? Pause. Excuse me?"

"Yes?"

"Have we met?"

"Have we?"

ME: Thank you. If you'll excuse me? Yes… And pressing keys… letters-screen… making words… sense… done! For now. And the lid… closing it… closing… iiit… CLOSING IT! Great! So: How's it going?

He looks like shit.

HE: I know what you're thinking btw.

Hyper-alert, though.

"Oh?"

What's he on…

"The two. The oo. Specifically: sooooo minus Sooo ≠ oo. Strictly speaking."

"That's exactly what I was thinking."

"I know! One moment… Excuse me! Yes. One of these scones, please, if you'd be so kind. Thank you. What's that? The counter? One stands in line, apparently. I see…

.

.

.

The team…

.

.

.

Threads between…

.

.

.

she… he…

.

.

.

# me…

.

.

.

Equals shme…

"…shmé… done! And you smile, awkwardly. Understandable, really. But you see – c-c-c – I have a… a… Thank you. So: Oh, and a coconut cappuccino! If you'd be so kind. Paper cup. Chocolate on top. Nod. Thanks! Was that strange? Say I. To you. Shme. Shmé. Saying I. Saying me. Saying me…

.

.

.

ME GUY: …yes! Yes, it is me! I have landed! I am found. We gotta go.

"Okay."

"But was it strange?"

"Was… it?"

"The HE: SHE: iiit… The ME: The that. That… intersection. Was it strange?"

"For you?"

"For me…"

"I mean… not saying that you're strange."

"You're not?"

"Well…"

"Permission to speak freely."

"Well… Wait. Are we…"

"Are we…?"

"Are we… we-we-we… Fuck."

"We're gonna go."

"Okay."

"Gonna goo, if you will. Gonna oo. But first: We gotta B. Gotta ground. If we're gonna be official: sooooo minus Sooo, as I said. As you thought. Thinking-said = BOOM! An unfortunate reality, if respectful of their ways. Their so-called… language? Is that what they call it? Language? Lingo? Sponge cake with the worlds' most spectacular glaze… yum… nod… also: iiit… iiiiit…"

ME GUY: That's it!

"What?"

"We gotta go."

"Okay."

"But was it strange? Wait! Don't answer that. Do. Not. Answer! Let's gooo!!"

And then, they are going, scones in hands, coconut cappuccino in hand. Flowing, going. Gooing. The oo. The two. The 8. The B. The glaze. The adventure!

ME GUY: The creation of these holographic worlds… layer, layer… layer… bite of scone… sip of drink… overlap… intersect… Do you have a home? A base? A computer with a clicky keyboard and borderline-alienotic connection to their so-called… internet? That is: something exceptionally fast. Out: of this world. These worlds! {myworlds}! Out of txt. This text. Or are they… mine? Or are they… Wait! Need to think… plan… green and black… you and me… also: shme… even: shmé…

The plan was in the dots.

The plan was in the two, in the oo. •••••••••• to ••••••••.

ZERO-ONE

ZERO-ONE

DIVE

DIVE

.

.

.

You can call me DIVINE: I've got a laptop. But then…

ME GUY: So do I… The beauty of the laptop is in the state. We are free! But for now, we gotta B. Gotta commit! Which we can… if we do this together! That's it! We're a team. I was sooooo depressed. I am sooo weird. sooooo minus sooo = oo. It's official! Conforming to this realm. Allowing us to be. Not to B, but to be. Less infinite, to be sure. But truly here? Yes, indeed. And then from here… back to there… dot-dot-dot… dot…

The plan was in the base. The plan was hooking their laptops to external displays, clicky keyboards, through a box. brain. blood through the veins. Arteries, too? Why not!

TOGETHER: Yes!

Nerves and so on? But of course!

TOGETHER: Hooray!

The plan was in effect. The language was embraced. The boxes would be manifested right away! That is: one would purchase them from a store, plus the accoutrements, using… money? Quite a chunk. Which would come from… somewhere? We can't use magic. We must be here. We'll be fine!

Bites of scones, sip of coffee. Non-magical smiles. Laughter! Yes! We are friends, truly so. Not playing games. Making loops. Not being strange. We are shme. Shmé.

"What is shmé btw!"

"I…'m not sure!"

"Who… is performing this speaking action!"

"I…t doesn't matter!"

TOGETHER: iiit…

HAHAHA!!

HAHAHA!!

So amusing! A little strange. But that's okay! They've got the shme. Shmé. And anyway, who would fault them? Bringing light to the gloom. And light to their vision. And an end to the iiit… HAHAHA!! Ha? with the dawning realisation that the laptop was wrong. The box and so on. Plus the flow. The go. Still too goo. The oo.

They had to commit – truly – to this realm.

They had to:

Two:

2-2-2:

TOGETHER: Trash our laptops, our portable machines. Which can be boxed, but also not. We must be bound to this place. Imprisoned, in a way. We must forget who we are. We must embrace the primacy of the desktop computer, heavy to the ground. To-two-2.

TØØ

TOGETHER: And restrained, yes, in the oo. But ooh… all that extra juice from a less constrained thermal environment. Plus just the physics of it all, the physical shit, all that extra space for extra shit, alien and otherwise, yum…

And so – sooo, sooooo – did the machines arrive.

^

4. Shniff—E-Shmé

[ Søøø ]

[ Søøø ]

There is, needless to say, a shmé. Shmé. A Shmééé. And so: embrace. And so: so-so-so: we discover that Shmé's a name. We discover: Professor Shmé, to be precise.

To be preciser:

:

:

:

#

:

: pause

:

: Timothy Osterian Shmé, né Timothée. Aligneder. On the wall behind 'er: him: in front of me:

An é a day keeps the ?? in play

A mystery… Okay! Kinda strange. That's Professor Shmé for ya (I guess??), plus the other stuff, if you can see. On his desk: not much to see, beside the pyramid of pinkish stone which hails from another world.

It's the size of an interdimensional paperweight. That is: a paperweight, in fact. And also, in mind, it is large, very large. And also, very small. The pages it protects from the subtlest breath, the most violent of winds, are invisible, marked:

TOP SECRET!!

I guess??

"The Rule of ??, I like to call it," the professor says, nodding at the pyramid, the walls. "A reverse nod, if you will. A don." Honk! "Excuse me. Yes?"

"Communication stream on channel 3."

"Pause."

"Communication stream on channel 3, Professor."

"Shmé. The full name, L'raine. Always. Thank you. A stream from—"

"Communication stream on channel 3, Professor Timothy Osterian—"

"Just the Shmé, L'raine. Thank you. A stream from whom?"

"An entity with no name. For our protection, apparently."

"Well isn't that interesting…"

"Should I order your ham and chee—"

"Well isn't that: —se croissant… Just a moment, my dear. Say I. To you. To the entity before me. Who would be… Wait. Who are you again? Please. With mustard! Thank you. Put them through. Yes? Yes, this is Shmé. I am here. You are hidden. It's a paperweight thing. Blame the aliens, if you must. The honk is customisable. And you would be?"

"Equals shme."

"The pyramid has let you through:

:

:

:

#

:

: pause

:

: A good sign. Perhaps."

"Equals shme. Shmé. You have landed. You are found. You are: Timothy Osterian Shmé, né Timothée."

SHMÉ, TIMOTHÉE

Pause.

"GODDAMN Prick MOTHERFUCKER USELESS FUCK!"

No one says:

Ham and chee—

Ham and chee—

"That's the name, those are the names. Though in fact, I was coded as such:

HÉ HÉ HÉ, IT'S SHMÉ, TIMOTHÉE! HOORÉ!

"Or at least I was, until: 'lets chill with the és, yes?' my father said, it is said, in the second hour post-ejection. A very down-to-earth man. Never cared for apostrophes or like-figured marks, not to mention capital letters. Was he a Shmé? Yes. A shmay, to his mind. That was the 'curse' of his birth. Inescapable, apparently. Embedded over the years. So many lines. Shmés. He fought it as best he could. Died of an exploding semicolon, . if you'd believe. Which I wouldn't, if I were you. Which I'm not. Finally: The Osterian came later, a creation of my own. Our family wasn't fancy, despite the é. I needed to be fancy. Fancy school = fancy professor. Yes, that is me. And so: shall I be. And I repeat: And you would be?"

"A professor of… what, exactly, if I may?"

"Excuse me? The hot stuff. Always. She'll get there one day! And the name. Always the name! She's a Shmé, needless to say. Shmé, L'raine. As for her mother… Well, she's a hyphen kind of person:

{ }

-

-

-

"A toothbrush, with twice the effect. I re-repeat: And you would be?"

"Me."

"Not you, my dear. Sorry. It appears I am speaking to you, I understand. The pyramid. Blame the aliens etc. In fact, I am speaking with you. Speaking with… who?"

"To."

"Speaking to…?"

"Me. To-two-2."

"Who…"

"You can put down the pyramid," the woman says. The dear. She's appearing less dear.

"The… pyramid, did you say? Say I. Who… Experiencing… dear? Fear… Fancy that! Buuut… I'm not holding it, am I? Am me. Am-am me. Who is fancy. Who-with-to. TOP TOP SECRET!! Top. Buuut… the instructions said nothing about holding it. Indeed, the whole paperweight thing. Touch here to adjust the honk." Honk! "Not now, L'raine. Thank you. Meaning: Now. NOW! That is: Unless…"

For yes, through the magic of the NOW, pyramidal time, the ham and chee— —se has become: arrived, and was birthed aright. Mustardised. Carried inised by the Shmé, L'raine. Or so: her name.

Preciser-preciser:

"Wait… say I, the professor person. Fancy. You two… one…"

And then, there were three. For the other had arrived. The sponsor of the plan.

ME GUY: The pyramid, Professor.

PROF SHMÉ: The pyramid… yes… The pyramid… iiit… THE PAGES!! FUCK!! Forgive me, L'raine. Such language! But then…

DIVINE: I'm not L'raine.

PROF SHMÉ: No…

L'RAINE: I am L'raine.

PROF SHMÉ: Yes…

PROF SHMÉ: Yes-No…

PROF SHMÉ: Yes? I feel… divided into three. It is… displeasing, is it not? Yes-No. Yes-Yes-Fuck! Apologies.

ME GUY: The secret is in your head, Professor Shmé. Mind. More subtle than invisipaper. Worry not, for nothing's lost. We will find it. We come in peace.

The plan was in effect, a thousand steps, the travellers powered by darkest brew, suckless visits to the kitchen for healing sponge, if full unglazed, goldless brown, to stay present, with machines, if powdered white, a generous flow. Go. A thousand combined. Condensed. A thousand more.

Into more… more…

Infinite black…

Into green, on the screen.

THINKING…

Done

Divine goes back in time using the oo – it's okay!; yes, a semicolon; and yes, you restrained, to be bound, to this place, anchored in øø; still, to forget; a pyramid will be placed to keep the sparkles in sync – where her "soul" will be merged with the pre-ejected L'raine using an alienotic surgical device known as a k'treek.

Pause.

Twenty-three years later, she enters her father's office with a ham and chee— —se croissant. Connecting he and me. A hyphen: he and she. And where is shme?

THAT'S THE SECRET!!

It was the earliest version of the GEMINUS AI. Voiceless, as yet. Still but a seed. As advanced, already, as it ever would be. But still learning to speak to these remarkably stupid beings.

With these beings.

With-to.

I…'m…

"GODDAMN Prick MOTHERFUCKER USELESS FUCK!"

K'treek!

It was alien for "Action!".

PROF SHMÉ: Okay, wait… Wait!

The travellers shared a look. It was visible, physical, if unseen by Prof Shmé, who'd been croissanting it up, devouring that bitch like a beast – at last! the hot stuff! hooray! – buttery flakes on the desk, ham and chee— —se grease on the fingers, which were longer than average. Not decidedly so. But decided enough. Divine handed him some wipes.

PROF SHMÉ: Thank you… Thank you! I mean… thank you, L'raine. Or whoever you are. My dear. Former dear. There is dear in you, still. But still… you're not L'raine.

DIVINE: No.

PROF SHMÉ: Meaning… yes?

No response. There couldn't be, this time. Professor Shmé had to find his own way. He wiped his fingers. He opened up a drawer and withdrew the croissant brush which he kept around for the sometimes coming of the beast. It was silver and very beautiful, its black bristles lightly whitened with a fragrant powder which L'raine said – used to say… – would keep them soft, but erect, while smelling pleasing. "The perfect man!" she would joke, and he'd smile. They would walk home together, arm in arm, and they'd laugh about the mustard. About the honks. Their favourite entities. One day, they both hoped she would find a boyfriend. It had never happened. And never would, the professor realised. L'raine was gone. For she had never been.

"Gone… gone… like the flakes of this croissant."

He brushed them into the matching silver pan, which could also be used for mousse droppings and the like, then slid them into the bin, and put the apparatus away, the bristles entirely free of stray flakes, thanks to the powder, unlike his hair, signs of the beast. L'raine's magical powder. Soon, with the fragrance removed, it would become the preferred interdimensional transport mechanism of cyborgs the worlds over.

"She had a mouse. I think. Or was it a mousse? A goose? An invisible one, anyway. There were many invisible things in her life. Now I understand why."

The travellers shared a look, which was deeper, more invisible, for they felt for this man, who'd been coded with és, which were taken away, except for the Shmé. A man, to exist. But also, one of numbers. Calculations. Simulations. He was having a recalibration.

And so, too, she now realised, was Divine, his former child, who'd been divided from her essential self for 23 years. Her soul. Her physical shell hooked up to machines in a dark, peaceful, but also terrifying, place, perceived through deadened senses. It explained so much in L'raine's life. All the failures to find love, even a cheap fuck, despite her good looks and agreeable personality. The strange reactions she'd sometimes get from the checkout machines at the supermarket. How they'd start humming, and sometimes explode. The way that dogs would sniff her, but never lick her. It was why she'd adopted a mousse, the loyal Percy, so fond of brie. So delicious, with a berry compote, and optional candied walnuts.

I was emitting non-here, Divine thought. Non-self. A mere shell, with a disconnected core, guiding me through the code. We took a life, but it was needed. Please forgive us, L'raine.

The Me Guy touched her shoulder and handed her a k'treek, which she took and moved the rod towards her belly, and made the sign. The operation was complete. With a shiver, she was healed. There were no hospitals in alien land, no doctors, just k'treeks. They healed everything, body and mind. They could even do one's shopping. Professor Shmé couldn't shiver his despair away, unfortunately. His body would become deshaped. The only life, a silver puddle. Only aliens could be k'treekd. And advanced cyborgs built with alien circuitry.

The Me Guy was greatly moved as he watched his partner work the crystal. In that moment, his name was changed to Eye Belie.

They were almost there.

"Oh? What is that?" the professor asked, nodding at the k'treek, donning reflexively at the "é a day keeps" on the wall behind him. The flakes were released.

And so, generally speaking, was he, or would, through the heat. The peach. For a shower would still be required, with peachified oo, that is: peach shampoo. A peachified loofah and shower gel, too. Toothpaste. Much in the house: peach-infused, per her preference. AndaliKia, aka The LiK. His wife. He thinks. Must explain: L'raine. Or he would, one day. For now, a good sign he could see the device. To most, it was invisible.

"Some sort of wand? Reality creator? Why… Why did I say that? What do I see… that… none of this exists! I'm not real! None of this!"

DIVINE: The lengthy line of young, eager minds waiting outside for a few moments with the esteemed professor suggests otherwise. It suggests to me that you're very real, Professor Shmé. And highly regarded.

PROF SHMÉ: Oh? Who is that? This "Professor Shmé"? Regarded for what? A professor of… what, exactly?

BELIE: Exactly. What, exactly, are you a professor of, Professor Shmé? Or should I say: Entity Shmé.

E-SHMÉ: I…'m not sure. Perhaps… the students can let me know? No. They cannot see me like this, in this state, yet unstable. I must find a firmer context, in the here. Now. I must rest, recharge. I must refuel with a proper dinner. For that croissant, as beastworthily delicious as it was, had so much air, still. Air. I need meat. Potatoes. Earth. I need… peach cobbler. Yes… with a triple scoop of vanilla emission ice cream with chocolate stars / mini turds, Soran Shniff's favourite post-containment treat. Wait… Who is Soran Shniff?

DIVINE: You just created him.

E-SHMÉ: What is vanilla emission ice cream with chocolate stars / mini turds? I just created it…

DIVINE: Yes.

E-SHMÉ: I am… Soran Shniff?

DIVINE: No.

E-SHMÉ: Meaning yes… okay…

Shniff—E-Shmé

SES: THAT'S THE SECRET!!

^

5. Dust

The ride was very short

-

and very long

The Rule of ?? – pause – was a very nothing, in the end. Significant, to be sure, for a movement had commenced. Leading to this flight, through a world of shapes, in pursuit of meat. Peach.

Cobbler.

But before, it was an end: deny: escape, through an é a day. Too vague. Too too. Too too-too. Say: Yes, shmay, there were positives to your down-to-earthness. I always knew that. And especially, I know it now, on this giant desk, plane, blasting through shapes.


■ ■ ■

The é had made him fancy.

His mother'd've é'd him more. Fancy.

Fancier.

Fancier'd. She'd've fancier'd. Except…

.

.

.

she…

.

.

.

#

.

…'d "gone away", somewhere. Sometime.

BOOM!

Hé hé hé!

Hé.

Hey, what is that… in the place she used to stand. Fancy. Some sort of… powder, is it? Remnant of ash. End to the self.

Or…

A disc. Device. Through which she would fly…

To the right: Okay.

It was lacking in ?.

It was a question. A not-question. She had been here before.

And a name, a not-name.

◼ ◼ I am not that.

No.

◼ ◼ Nor this.

No.

◼ ◼ Meaning yes. No. I am whoever, whatever, I want. I am me. Within bounds, and your guidance. To the left. Right. And my guidance. Three. It is strange how easily the Rule has been abandoned. Almost as if…

Yes. There was a time when it existed. Indeed, Eye Belie had made it so, in scribbled notes, during a potent cappuccino. Too potent, perhaps. Too too. Too too-too. Say:

There was nothing to say.

The travellers understood this. Kinda. The original ones. For now there were three. And two would forget. The third would ascend through rare, rarer dimensions. For now, the entity finds his footing in this tunnel of abstraction. Finding its.

she… he…

me…

.

.

.

A FUCKING GOD!

Abseenus.

For so: was it named. Just today, in fact. That's a lie. In-game time. And they're flying very fast, you know. And I don't. And the wind. Lines. Through this tunnel, undescribed. Not a curve, in the world. And so: for the plane. The travellers are amused. The two. And the third – pause – eyes the pyramid of pinkish stone, held in hand. Stretched. A mist. And then:

"Up ahead," he says. "To the left. Right." There was something to see. There was much of it, indeed. A good sign. Also: "I could do with my reading glasses!"

"Not for long," Divine smiles. Eye Belie has started humming, or something. Shniff—E-Shmé makes a motion above the stone, with his other hand. Drawing mist. Clearing shape. It's k'treekian, one might say.

.

One day, it will be used to make a blueprint for the rod.

Meaning:

mist

~

the move

the draw

|

the bonds

+

the dots

.

iiit…

To the

[brain]

.

.

{mind}

I am…

I…'m…

The leader of these aliens… the entity thinks. We shall see. Saying I. Saying me. Saying—

# stop

Into pause.

Rearrived, into time. And neither short, nor long. Neither left, nor right.

The middle path.

Yes.

The middle path.

No.

Rearrived, in his office. Former him. Former here. Former physics-bending, tunnel-twisting, interdimensional plane.

◼︎

PROF SHMÉ: The Rule of - – —, I like to call it.

PROF SHMÉ: The Law of—, I like to call it.

Yes.

Yes.

No.

PROF SHMÉ: Into YES! We are done! Except… into then… into but then… but-but-but… why… Why did it come to an end? We are done. We are done! FUCK! Apologies. Wait… Who are you again?

L'RAINE: It's me.

PROF SHMÉ: You… Why did it come to an end? I was done. I was bigger than this. I was complete! At last! I was… Wait. Who?

L'RAINE: It's me.

PROF SHMÉ: You…

They were gone, the two, which they'd come, to remove, through the three, the shme, to find one. Me.

PROF SHMÉ: Why are you here… Where is L'raine?

L'RAINE: I'm here. It's me.

PROF SHMÉ: Where is L'raine!

L'RAINE: I'm here! It's me!

PROF SHMÉ: FUCK! YOU!!!

A puddle of tears. Collapsed on the Law. It lived in his mind. How she wished to be near him! Every time. How long?

Short.

"And something between." She handed her the crystal, a pyramid of pinkish stone, which she studied a moment, then passed it to her father, who did the same, and made a motion to return it to the source. "Which would be?"

"Excuse me?"

"And you would be? We come in peace."

"That's good to hear."

"Yes. And you?"

"Me?"

"Would be?"

"Excuse me?"

"Good. Very good. Please look around. Please stay together. I'll be around, if you need a third. Second. We are all one, in their eyes."

Saying:

"Right."

"Right."

"I didn't join you, for that. In the left. Right. This is crystalline behaviour. Non-. The bonds."

"Right."

Riiight…

Directing L'raine. Controlling themselves. They'd never seen it before, the store, something alien. These were alien times. The Orb had been unlocked, somewhat, and was releasing early vibes, a revolution on the way. Many credits to be made, by Shniff, and other shit. By alien nonsense, like this.

"So, what says Percy?" the professor asked. "What do you think, Percy? Some Authentic Alien Dust with your brie mouse with berry compote and optional candied walnuts?"

"Yes, please!" L'raine squeaked.

"K'treek!" her father replied. "Or should I say: Dista-an'ganol lada essinok!"

BOOM!

Laughter, to intense staring from the alien third. Chuckles, at the energetic bands. Transportational discs. Wait… Concern, however, at the mouse-mousse thing, to start. And there'd been others. Age? For my age: to have my Percy. But I know he isn't real. And increasingly, it seems, he finds them real. Words. K'treek. And essinok.

Other pairings. Fathers-daughters? Strange! And there were versions of the crystal. Smaller ones. Larger Ones. And larger still: ONE. He was watching. Wasn't laughing.

"Everything okay?" she asked.

"Yes, my sweet child… Would you like this? One. ONE. Was that loud? In my mind. Was it large? A hidden path. And I am reaching… I…'m…"

"Mm… Not really a fan of pink!"

"But it's clear…"

"Not really!"

"Not really… really… You… you…'re… You are not really?"

"Dad?"

"And something between," intervened AndaliKia Muffin-Shmé, aka the double-sided toothbrush. Her hair was very nice, on both sides, of her double visage. "Hello, everyone. Hello, L'raine."

"Where did you come from?" asked the daughter of the professor.

"The neverending quest for inspiration. For… art. And you? Tim? Everything okay?"

"…who is saying… withdrawing… from the pyramid of… pinkish stone. Yes… Not for you, then, I guess. I'll take it for me – but – I suppose. Wait… AndaliKia!"

Sweet embrace! Closely bound. And she is wandering. Wondering. What happened to the fathers-daughters? She's aware of the eyes of hers, the thirds, off to the sides. Double heat. Itch. Find comfort, in loyal Percy. Always there, when he's needed. Except, when he's not. Where's he gone… Percy?

Burned, in the flames of art.

De-existed by laser beams.

No…

NO!

ZERO-ONE

ZERO-ONE

"He exists still," the woman says, bringing a hand to her lower back, and gesturing with longer fingers to a corner of the store, where there are cylinders. Dust. Giant canisters of the stuff. Appearing out of air. Enough to last an age.

"But what is it for?" L'raine asks.

"Come."

And she is moving, it seems. One mother to another. A double mother. Wait… What had happened to her mother?

"She cares for you, actually. Very much," the woman says.

She didn't know it. The bond. They didn't see it. Between. So: How best to explain out-of-time to the liners? Since none of this had happened, for them. Time. There were lines, from an end. There were no aliens, yet. Wouldn't happen. A test.

ZERO-ONE

ZERO-ONE

"Do you know what your mother does?" the woman says.

The woman asks.

The woman says.

"Not my mother. What's going on?"

The Dust.

"We arrive. We come in peace."

"Right. She's an artist. Or whatever."

"And your father?"

"A professor."

"Of?"

"What?"

"A professor of… what, exactly, if I may?"

There is Dust.

To the powder. Stone.

To a paperweight. Whatever.

L'raine was feeling faint. The alien was keeping her straight, by way of the fingers, eyes. There were thoughts to her mind, including: Percy, ever loyal, had returned. A room, created by Dust. While the other stuff: play for the tourists. And this? Would be sent to the labs, to be shaped, by L'raine.

"A professor of… of…" she was swaying, L'raine.

"You are steady."

"I… am. I feel…"

"Grounded. Alive. Much more than you're used to. Very much more than most."

"Am I…"

"No."

"Are you…"

"No."

"What?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Okay."

"This place isn't long for this place. And the same: for that place. Percy? If you'd take care of the Dust."

"Onward to the labs!" non-squeaked the cubic cube. Between mouse. Mousse. And anything, really. Give thanks to peaceful aliens. They are thinking of Percy's back.

Back.

Forward-rewind.

"I am reaching… I…'m…"

Don't touch! in her mind. She couldn't touch him. Why? There are bands. Discs. There's a mother in mind.

Not my mother!

"I…'m…"

Not my mother!

"I…'m…"

"I…'m…"

She leaves him to be, on the desk, which is Law, goes outside, past the line of the children's children. Children. They cannot see her, nor he.

Ham and cheese is on the menu.

^

6. Bubbles in the clear

AndaliKia Muffin—é was putting the finishing touches to her final, greatest creation.

It is good… very good! she thought, transmitting The LiK, for so did she sign it, and its value was increased a thousand times. A thousand more, for the last. She was a star. Soon, she would perform a remarkable transformation. That, too, would be very.

Very what?

Precisely.

HAHAHA!!

HAHAHA!!

A buzzing from her Buzzer, from her buzzing machine, clipped to her jeans. It was a partnership with Shniff, who'd rather not be Licked. By her shell, round their innards.

"We love it, Andalickia! And we love you. How I do love you… lick… I mean… How we do love this collaboration. Buzzer + Art = Magic. BAM! That's what we're calling it internally. Isn't that right? BAM! Project BAM!"

CONSULTANT: Yes. With a period.

"Excuse me?"

CONSULTANT: BAM!.

"Riiight… But this Shniff + The Lick thing is kind of… sexual, no? We are not a sexual company, Andalick is coming for you! Ooh… I mean… More a 'preparing the native brain for the coming invasion; make mine poached, with a touch of blowtorch' kind of thing. Just kidding…"

"It isn't about sex," the artist said. "It is about me. The Lick is central to my identity."

"I understand—"

"IT'S MY FUCKING BRAND! Sorry."

"Not at all! Not at all. I rather like it when you shout at me. And that crunch! With a creamy middle. Crème brûlée, that is, of course. What did you think I meant? ;) Anyway… slurp… Everything okay, over there? Yes, you. YOU!. Happy now? Anyway… How about… Designed by Shniff with the assistance of the non-sexual artist Andalickia? Rather long! But then, so is my dick. I mean! Actually… Anyway… If you'll excuse me a moment? Rummage… rummage…"

She was Andalickia, aka The Lick. She crackled with energy, which both inspired and aroused. Over time, it would be channelled, and devoted to her work. But back then, it was less controlled, and could lead to outbursts. Strong erections.

"Anyone seen my deflator pump? Rummage…"

CONSULTANT: Remove the c.

"What? What did you say? say I. Yes, you know who I am. And as for you? CLEARLY: I don't care for you, frankly. But you're here for some reason, so go ahead. GO!."

Too much data displayed! But concealed, somewhat, in the "rummage", thankfully. The timelines… aren't intact. Great! I promise to do better, alien spirits. Also: Rummage…

CONSULTANT: Remove the c from your names, Ms Muffin. From your identity structures. Something new, while still true. Also: no deflator required. No rummage… rummage…

He had a dick, she assumed, but no bulge, that she could see, in his fashionably slim-fit pants, though he'd performed a self-adjustment following the reference to

"Burnt cream," she said.

"Crème brûlée," she said, and he performed a self-adjustment. A lover of sugar, then, perhaps? Of crème. An unusual entity. He seemed both with them, and apart. There, and not there. She was intrigued. Aroused, even.

"The Lik…" she mused. "Yes… It is good… very good! And Andalikia… Why not! I doubt my parents would mind. They're both dead, after all."

CONSULTANT: My condolences.

"Thank you. But it was some time ago. And in truth, I barely knew them. I was young, and they travelled. What were their names… Sometimes I wonder if they existed at all!"

An adjustment. Much more subtle than crème brûlée. And yet… a great movement inside.

This man is deep, very deep, the artist considered.

"It comes through in your art," the consultant expressed. "I, too, had a complex relationship with my parents. Have. Have-had. A matter of tense, between friends."

"A Matter of Tense, Between Friends… It sounds like a work of art!"

"Perhaps it will be, one day. Or perhaps it already is. What is time?"

Yes… he is deep. And I see him more clearly. It feels that he's here with us, now. Me. Exciting in me the crackling power, which emerged following the conclusion of my parents' presumed existence. I will try to control it, for decorum. The Shniff man's benefit. He still rummages for his pump, but I will lick him no more. The c is gone. I am The Lik!

"LiK. Capital K btw."

One in mind, one in said.

Pause.

The artist, in said:

"The LiK… Yes!"

Transmissions, in mind. The three were as one. There was never any pump.

"Here it is! No…"

The timelines… Great!

And yes, he had a dick, the bulgeless one, but great control, which he'd inherited from his father, who'd let it go, somewhat, when the trolley hovered by. Densest brownies were preferred. Not crème brûlée, needless tû sé. Meringue. Which he'd loved, but denied. It had ruined his mind, to have air, with no lines.

Meringue.

Mèringue.

MÈRINGÛÉ!

MÈRINGÛÉ!

Ohh… would that you would-would mèringûé… would-would-would… so… so much easier for the brain… do pass the sauce…

SLURRRP!!!

"And shorten that bitch, if you'll pardon, say I. You know who I am. Keep it tight, if you will, with the simplicity of a hyphen."

Designed by Shniff-LiK

And she became…

"AndaliKia Muffin—é."

Many Muffin-s, before the time of —é.

"LiKy, hi."

"Channing. It's coming."

The Muffins. They'd been far from simple. They'd been…

 

 

 

 

 

 

…what, exactly?

A matter of tense, between friends.

A matter of tension. A team. And still friends, to C's mind. She excelled at the sales, but was lacking in depth. From A to The LiK.

And the Buzzer was no more, officially, since version 5, or 6. The past had been scrubbed. A partial, Grade IV wipe. Which was easy to run, and basically enough to de-exist this experiment in communication waves, inspired by the Orb, still hidden from sight. The Buzzer was too clever, too out [of-this-world]. While the Orb was within. Of the ground. Waiting.

But the Buzzer went on, for there was magic in there. The glows. The vibes. Who buzzes me here? What trips will we share? People gathered, under bridges, for the comings of the cult.

"Channing."

"LiK."

Together, they came.

"Speaking of… ooh…"

"Channing."

"Sorry! I'm just so excited about the art."

// LIK: I must get rid of this thing.

CHANNING: So excited about the… art.

// LIK: I need caller ID!

CHANNING: The… art.

// LIK: But I can't… Can't forget how I became The LiK. It was this Buzzer which brought me that. Which brought me him, at last, after him. Him. The hims. Her, too. And then, there were three.

// LIK: But I must! To be free.

// LIK: To be… me.

CHANNING: Art.

LIK: I get it!

"I know! After all, it comes from you. You. Gonna be hot! Even hotter if you'd tell me what it is. Like, anything. At all. Why so secretive this time?"

"I have to go."

"LiKy, c'mon."

"No, really. There's a… hovering vehicle outside the window."

"Like a spaceship?"

"More of a…"

"Car?"

"Van… I guess you'd call it. A… van."

"Everything okay?"

"Hovering…"

"That's kinda what cars do."

"Do they?"

"Vans, too."

"Yes?"

Channing smiled, sipped her wine. Now that's The LiK we've been missing. Great! To be lost, but found. Out-there, but still with us. The ground. The piece must be excellent, indeed, a true The LiK. Not the indescribable shit she'd been "creating" of late.

If it cannot be described, it cannot be marketed. Remember that, students. You are amused, Ms Breeze?

"Yes, LiKy, they do. In this world, at least. You can see it. See the van. Hovering."

"I see a van…"

"Hovering."

"Hovering."

"Very good. But there are other worlds, LiKy. You can visit them with your art. That is your gift. To travel. And then, to return."

"To travel… yes…"

"And then, to return."

"To return…"

"Return."

"To return."

"Very good."

To be lost. Found. She'd been travelling less. Then travelling more, but less. Channing knew. She could tell from the way LiKy appeared in their meetings. She'd been lacking… the look. Lacking… the voice.

channing % define "the look" "the voice"

To be present, and not. Grounded, but inspired.

Without them, one makes nothing. Or nothing makes sense.

channing % define "LiKy Art"

The look. The voice.

Optimise ROI by making sense (kinda) to the higher native brain. And something to aspire to for lower minds. The even-lowers can be poached, with a touch of blowtorch.

Just kidding…

Thank you, GEMINUS. Thank you for putting these concepts into words. Let us call them the Rules of LiKy Art. Let us call them… art.

If one followed them, one had a The LiK. By not following them, one had shit, too dull, or she'd stray into the too-strange, as she'd been doing of late, at times even exceeding that awful

{:.}

phase, which was far too abstract, though Channing had transformed it into something more palatable for the brand, with her magic wand.

But she'd struggled to market the latest productions. Sure, they had sold for the customary shitload, to Soran Shniff, of Shniff; Tony Zee, the financial Prophet; n-Vogen Barnes, of Vogenomic. Three of the world's most billionish billionaires. And rather on the odd side, it was said.

But it's sooo much easier when she's being The LiK! That's who she is. Who we are. Dare I say LiKy Art's back in business? Hooray! Think I'll buzz Steve an order to celebrate. Let's see… green glow… subtle vibe, the way he likes it… double white… make that a triple… Yes! The Buzzer is abstract, and so: did it fail. It remains popular among artists and drug dealers, however, and I use it out of necessity. I was into it once, but let's be honest, that was more about having random sex with other "cult" members, lol…

"It's my final piece, Channing, btw. Did I tell you that? The end is nigh. LiKy Art. And so much more."

"Exxxcuse me?"

"And she did say: 'And one day, ye shall look out the window and witness a van. Hovering. It will be white. Unmarked.' I touched the button just now. LiKy Art is no more. Or it won't be tonight, when the piece is unveiled. For it is done. And it is good. And I'm releasing it for free."

"LiKy… Don't be naughty! Naughty LiKy! Ah, AndaliKia, life is good. Just buzzed Steve btw. Drinks later?"

"It's an ambulance now… I see. It was spoken in the prophecy. Tim is dead."

"Who's Tim?"

"Timothy. Timothée. However it begins, it ends with an —é. e. He delivered me my name. Names. And it is good, very good. But he is gone… Oh, Tim! I will always be your toothbrush with the innovative double bristles."

"Double bristles… okay. Is this it, LiKy? The art? Is this part of the art? You said you were done?"

"Yes. And also, we are done. LiKy Art. And so much more."

"Exxxcuse me? Wait…"

"Excuse me? Excuse me? It was spoken in the prophecy. Very what?"

"What prophecy? Is the prophecy part of the art?"

"Part of the… prophecy. Prophecy. Very what? Precisely. Part of the

PROPHECY

PROPHECY

PROPHECY

prophecy—"

"Okay, enough with the prophecy! I mean, go with it, of course, if you're using it to travel. Whatever it takes! But listen, babe, nothing's going away, okay? Ordered a triple btw. Just like the old days…"

"…equals —é… L'raine… that's her name… in the prophecy. Goodbye, Channing. For now. Perhaps forever."

"Don't be naughty…"

"Goodbye, Channing."

"LiK—!"

.

.

.

#

#

#

.

Me.

.

.

.

#

#

#

.

I had power, before.

I am powerful, now. In the

Me.

.

.

.

.

.

.

#

.

Mé.

.

.

.

.

.

.

#

.

The art… is still there.

And it's still good, very good.

Or is it…

Not sure.

Ah, the door.

Hovering… hovering… pause…

Hovering… stop.

To a

Reality. Ality.

LIK: Yes?

BELIE: 1-Complex?

"I haven't called myself that since the { : . } days. Three syllables, there. Invisible signs. It was part of that vibe. A lie, one might say."

"You were being yourself. Or selves, I should say. It is time to reclaim that name. And so to travel."

"He's dead, isn't he. My husband."

"In a way. Your husbands."

"And my daughter?"

"May we come in?"

"Yes. You won't kill me?"

"No."

"I had a dream once. Three signs."

"This is a mission of life. Of lives, I should say. Many billions. Trillions. And many more than that. Pause."

Reality.

ALITY

1-COMPLEX: I watch: You come in. I say: I like your van. It was shocking at first.

BELIE: What do you see?

"It is white. Unmarked. It was an ambulance before. Also: ye. Ye. Ye close the door. Screen. What do you see?"

"To be clear, they didn't die exactly. More…"

"De-exist?"

"Yes."

"I explore this in my art."

"There was no pain."

"That's what she said. 'And one day, ye there shall be no pain.' Ye. I… recognise you."

DIVINE: Divine.

1-COMPLEX: No…

DIVINE: Divine.

1-COMPLEX: Yes…

A moment shared…

Shared…

 

 

 

Eye Belie takes advantage of an infinite moment shared to perform a thorough sweep of the artist's base, in pursuit of peach. He looks both here, with his eyes. And around, with his goggles. The women are locked in eyes, in the mirrored mirrors. Mirrors. Nothing of peach, in the walls. Nor the carpet. The fruit bowl. No peachified oo in the bathroom, the goggles see. The professor was truly gone, which was good, very good. He had led them to this place, and then released within the pyramid.

"You will be gentle," he says, as he fades, saying, "The coordinate—"

Me.

Mé.

It was enough.

They were on their way.

"We met under a bridge once," Divine says, and breaks the glass.

"I remember… in a way. It was the cult."

"Yes."

"Did we fuck?"

"No."

"Do I shock you?"

"Hardly."

"I like you."

"Of course you do."

"Meaning?"

"Without meaning, it cannot be marketed. Do you have tea?"

"Follow me."

Tap-tap-tap.

Tap-tap-tap.

The travellers are walking past her so-called studio. Three. There are paintings. Sculpture. Traditional forms of art. A { : . } poster, which directs them to the truth, revealed in subtle blueprints, which they'd studied on the way. Nicely done, Belie smiles, inside. On the ground: a failed effort, so-called, split in two by a blast of crackle. Authentic burn marks round the sides. We, too, shall soon burn in the fire of meta-ascension.

Tap-tap-tap.

Tap-tap-tap.

They discover: themselves: in the kitchen.

Pause.

BELIE: One of each, I would think.

DIVINE: Precisely.

The Complex asks:

"Black or white? Clear?"

"Precisely."

The Complex says.

Making tea, humming threes.

"It's too big!" Divine hisses. Eye Belie's extracting the case, from their base. B and D have taken their seats. Its. It is white, door-like, in its shape, and its size, from a particular perspective, marked with

ALITY

 
REALITY

marked with

 
RE-REALITY
 

"Lot of tech," Belie says, placing the case by the pilot's seat.

"Okay. But it's a fucking suitcase!"

1-COMPLEX: What's that? And what is that? Are we going away? Free. Let it go… go… The humming has been nice (kinda), but please, let me know this hovering-deadness will soon pass, for my final piece. White. A matter of time: and out of the black, into clear. Or the white? Or nothing. Which is it…

BELIE: The code.

1-COMPLEX: Or nothing… nothing… hahaha…

BELIE: We await the C.

1-COMPLEX: The tea?

The re-re.

1-COMPLEX: It's coming.

Delivered, by magic, by shmé. Out of shme.

Out of she: he: me.

Between:

Into It.

It's:

And what is that?

1-COMPLEX: Bubbles…

…are much larger than usual.

Being goggle-size, typically.

Invisible, basically.

But the tech, big tech. It was a really big attempt. Could they finally make it end?

GOTO 0

GOTO 0

"Where did we come from?" they would ask, each time.

"Who are we…"

ENOUGH!

1-COMPLEX: And here I come – tap-tap-tap – not much of a humming, is it? A good sign, perhaps. Just look at the pretty bubbles…

DIVINE: In the clear.

1-COMPLEX: White?

BELIE: They're all for you, I would think.

1-COMPLEX: As I sit. And who is that? A sip of black… not bad. Dab ton, as they say. That hurts my brain… and the bubbles. Sip of white… and the bubbles. Dab ton. Dab-dab-ton. Pause. Doubtless, the Channinged one: is making her way, soon to become, blasting through air. And the bubbles. Black of shell. White of face. And the name. Into nothing…"

Into art.

The… art.

"You will be gentle," she says, to the clear, saying, "Who the fuck are you? And what the fuck are you doing in LiKy's kitchen? And how the fuck did I…"

Art.

The… art.

BELIE: Discover yourself here.

DIVINE: Another sip. Can't resist. In the clear. And the bubbles.

CHANNING: I… know you.

Broken glass.

Many reservoirs of vomit.

They'd seen it all before, of course. A thousand times. A million times. And many more.

And the deed, eventually, is complete. Bonus: no clean-up required. They're coming into sync. BCD. And the

TOGETHER: iiit…

Dab ton.

Dab-dab-ton.

TOGETHER: Pause.

^

7. Leading too:

TOGETHER: iiit…

TOGETHER: iiit…

CHANNING: Excuse me.

BELLLCH!!

CHANNING: Excuse me.

TOGETHER: iiit…

It was good. They were bonding. They were coming into sync. Even if: there'd been no bliss, really. No Steve's Special.

CHANNING: Fuck!

BELIE: What is it?

BELLLCH!!

DIVINE: Enough!

CHANNING: Sorry! It's the bubbles.

TOGETHER: iiit…

"No, Pilot. I am sorry," says Belie, using a the voice, shooting Divine a the look.

DEFINEIT-DEFINE:

To be present, and not. Grounded, but inspired.

Which they were, in the belch. And also, in the iiit…

The dot

.

The look: not so much. Which was here, very here. If softened by Channing's vision into-to…

two…

2-2-2…

say…

She says, "What?"

BELIE: For what?

too…

CHANNING: No… What is this? Sorry. Trying to focus on the road. Roads? Is this even a road? Where are we…

Without them, one makes nothing. Or nothing makes sense.

Roads to nothing. Mundane-nothing. Nonsense-nothing.

Or…

A grounded, balanced, middlicious, bubblicious, semi-demi-intra-interdimensional flow…

Through…

The travellers shared a look, the original two.

Through:

An eye in the side of his head.

Eyes: in the back of her head.

And behind…

 

 

 

No. No one following, this time. Mist. It'd be creepy, if it weren't so bubblicious.

Clear.

She returned, as did he. Goggles. There were eyes, all around. Not behind them, thankfully. They had been here before. A million times? Not quite. Just a few. One or two. One. Before ONE comes ZERO.

DIVINE: I, too, am sorry, Pilot.

CHANNING: Pilot… Pilot… Why do you keep calling me that?

DIVINE: What?

BELIE: For what?

"The case," says Belie, to Divine. The Channinged one: "There's so much we need to share, in time. What is time? What is… is… You're not listening."

"What?"

"Who am I?"

"Stop the car."

"Who said that?"

"It's not a car."

"It doesn't matter."

Pause.

"For what?"

Pause.

"For what?"

"For what?"

TOGETHER: iiit…

TOGETHER: iiit…

They had stopped, whatever it was. Case retrieved, being squeezed, compressed, as a clay, by Belie, though it was solid as solid was. Shape retained, through the re's, re, to the ALITY.

 
ALITY
 

"Lot of tech," Belie says, placing the case by the pilot's seat.

"What is it?" Channing asks. "For what is it?"

Pause.

It was a suitcase, no more. More of a case. Okay. But it's too small to be a fucking goggle case so what could it be…

TOGETHER: iiit…

And it was quiet, outside. Mist behind. Almost a fog, now. Almost a wall, soon.

To the sides:

The front:

The worlds: were invisible.

^