“Old Traders and Rogues”
Sign posts zipped by occasionally on the outside of the Lake as it rolled across the desert. Mrs. Frumpwooler was oblivious to their passing. One sign went by in a moment of lucidity, though, and she commented to Commander Blevins, “What on earth does that mean?”.
“On earth, Mrs. Frumpwooler that would seem surreal at best. Here, it is simply a directional indicator for beings who wish to find the causes behind those particular facets of their lives.”
“Oh, right. I see,” she said, and made a silent vow to never say “What on earth does that mean?” again. The sign had said, “Nightmares & Follys”, and had pointed away from the direction they traveled.
The Sand Lake Express, with Mrs. Frumpwooler and Commander Blevins firmly in tow, approached what appeared to be an oasis in the middle of the desert. It grew larger and larger as they drew nearer. Beyond the oasis, but hidden from view, lay the Shining Shores Seas. Pure white buildings dotted the area. Many had spires, domed roofs, and parapets. Lush greenery, in a full range of tones, filled wide spaces between clusters of the white buildings. The air around the whole sector crackled with blue, yellow and burnt orange streaks, which shot through the atmosphere from points high and low, in a random pattern.
They rolled straight toward an outer forest of dense growth. “Are we going to….” Mrs. Frumpwooler then squeeled. Spider Tunnel Lake looked as it must crash into the trees and bushes that were now clearly visible. Before Commander Blevins could clamp down on Mrs. Frumpwooler’s Point of Infinite Peacefulness–or she could react further–the greenery parted majestically, revealing a wide waterway, awaiting their arrival.
“Oh! How delightful, Commander Blevins,” Mrs. Frumpwooler said, shifting from high anxiety to glee with amazing dexterity. A sign off to their right announced “Akash Metro Canal” in vivid orange lettering on a grey background. The Lake rode from the desert into the Canal and blended without a ripple. Commander Blevins and Mrs. Frumpwooler found themselves cruising along the waterway through a lush forest, trailing a small wake behind them. The blue, yellow and burnt orange streaks continued to disect the lavender sky.
“Is this where we are?” Mrs. Frumpwooler chewed on the knuckle of one hand and pounded on the lapbar with the other.
“Yes, I certainly cannot argue with that, Mrs. Frumpwooler,” Blevins said.
A little confused, Mrs. Frumpwooler said, “Well I mean, Where are we, Commander Blevins?”
“I see. We are in Akash. The suburbs to be exact. The name of this specific suburb is Akashic Gardens.”
“Oh, I remember you mentioning that name earlier. Who made these wonderful little rivers. They are so nice and straight. Did you make these too, Commander Blevins? Don’t be bashful now. You can tell little old me.”
Commander Blevins looked closely at Mrs. Frumpwooler. He decided she was being playful, not getting out of hand.
“These are canals Mrs. Frumpwooler. They were built by the Old Traders of Akash, long ago. I certainly did not make them. Getting these little cars up here and refurbished is quite all I’m up to, thank you.”
“I think you underestimate yourself, Commander,” Mrs. Frumpwooler said. Commander Blevins noted the familiarity again and smiled. Mrs. Frumpwooler continued, “What did the Traders trade?”
“They traded past life experiences.”
“Oh.” Mrs. Frumpwooler thought for a moment. “How did they do that, Commander?”
“Well, not very prudently, I’m afraid. They were known as the Naacal Raiders in their day, for they had developed the ability to snatch previous life experiences from unsuspecting travelers. This, of course, caused untold repercussions in those affected by the events of any given snatched lifetime, none the least was, of course, the snatchee, so to speak.”
“That sounds dreadful, Commander Blevins.” Are we likely to encounter these Nasal Raiders of yours?” Mrs. Frumpwooler was genuinely concerned.
“Nacaal, Mrs. Frumpwooler. N-A-A-C-A-L: Naacal. And no, not here. They were banished long ago. I only learned about them by accident when I was adjusting the vibrational harmonics of these lovely old Funn Palace cars. They had to be tuned to the inherent interplays of both the Spider Tunnel Lake and what we are riding on now, the Akash Metro Canal.”
“Oh, that reminds me, Commander, where did that lovely lake go. It was so nice and blue. This little river is a pleasant looking green, but I like blue better. And where did those nasty Raiders boys go to anyway.”
“Mrs. Frumpwooler, you continue to amaze me. Nothing gets by your keen powers of observation. The Canals are green, but don’t fret. When we get to the Records, there will be enough blue to last you a lifetime. Even a lifetime here, which can go on for many thousands of Physical World years. The Akash Traders–or Naacal Raiders, whichever you like–were sent to a variety of subworlds. There are a few in the Moondog World, but the Moondog keeps them easily under control and out of the way.”
Mrs. Frumpwooler had a vision of that great white dog herding a pack of tattered pirates across a barren landscape, away from the scarlet trees and white rippling paths of motion that she had seen there.
Uninterrupted by Mrs. Frumpwooler’s speculations, Commander Blevins continued talking without speaking, “I’ve also heard that many of them were sent back to the physical to start their spiritual training all over again. Apparently, their rogue tendencies have not been completely worked off, for in transition between lifetimes, they–or so I’ve heard–often slip out of the transitory pathways and spend their time tapping into the physical bodies of unsuspecting beings who leave themselves open in various ways.”
“Gee, how does someone know if they are tapped into. It gives me the willys, just thinking about it.”
“Yes, it is quite a sticky wicket. The best way to avoid contact is to lead a live of moderation and give service whenever possible. Purportedly, these renegades cannot attach to someone while that person is giving. It is only when the intended victim is taking, or trying to take, that their aura may open sufficiently to let in impurities, including contact with these Takers. With a sufficient invitation, a really accomplished Taker may attach itself to someone and derive vicarious experiences through the unwitting host person. Or so I’ve heard. The Takers’ desires filter into the host, who is then motivated to indulge in certain activities, usually to excess I might add, which may well prove injurious to the unwitting person. The result is often destructive. Of course the Rogue is happy as a rat in a sewer as it sucks up energy and thrills through its attachment to the attachee, so to speak. Supposedly.”
Mrs. Frumpwooler looked nearly as green as the bushes on the shoreline of the Canal, passing by steadily. Commander Blevins noticed her condition, put his arm around her–which produced little ticklely arcs of electricity and a shower of sparks–and said, “Sorry if I’ve overloaded you. I always seem to get verbose when I’m in the Akash. Anyway, Mrs. Frumpwooler, this isn’t as bad as it sounds. We do each create our own worlds, remember. I’ve overstated the role of the host as a victim. This only happens to people who richly deserve it through their own blindness and greed. Don’t fret. You are much too kind too ever attract this kind of problem.”
Mrs. Frumpwooler whimpered, then began giggling as the sparks from Commander Blevins’ arm tickled her shoulders.
“The Passion Pit Rehabilitation”
“Are we there yet, Commander. And why haven’t we seen anyone here?” Mrs. Frumpwooler complained. They had just come to a fork in the Akash Metro Canal and had taken the lane marked both “Stairway to Heaven” and “Records.” The other arm of the Canal led to “Baby Dreams”, “Whithered Transgressions” and “Central Hub”. The sky was still filled with colored streaks and they had not seen anyone at all since entering Akash. “We haven’t seen anyone or anything since that dreadful creature almost broke my rump. Ooohh.” She rubbed her bottom. “Say, it doesn’t hurt anymore,” Mrs. Frumpwooler said, pleased. “In fact I can’t remember when it did hurt last. And that awful dent is gone, too.”
“Injuries to bodies behave in a much different manner here than in the Physical Worlds, Mrs. Frumpwooler,” Blevins explained. “I’m happy you are well now.”
“Thank you Commander Blevins. You are so chivalrous.” Mrs. Frumpwooler was unable to keep her grip on cheerfulness and abruptly assailed Blevins, “Except when you wanted to put me in the closet, you dreadful man! And you never did tell me where the Lake went!” She slapped him hard across his face. Her hand, though, didn’t strike a solid surface, but bounced off, gently, giving Mrs. Frumpwooler the impression that she had just struck a large rubber band. Sparks flew everywhere from the contact, tickling both of them.
“Steady now, Mrs. Frumpwooler.” Commander Blevins had placed his hand on the back of her neck when he felt her attitude shift. “Things get trickier the closer we come to the Records. Mood swings are to be expected.” He held her Point of Infinite Peacefulness firmly and chuckled while she let out great peals of laughter. The little sparks soothed her and tickled them both. “And the Lake went back home where it always has been,” he added.
“Of course, I should have guessed that. But how will we get home?”
“There are many ways to accomplish that. Don’t worry about it for now.”
“You are such a dear, Commander,” Mrs. Frumpwooler cooed. “It would be nice to see some other people, though.”
Instantly the Canal was populated.
People were gliding in both directions along the waterway. Some traveled on small chairs, skimming over the water leaving barely a ripple behind them. A group of people were on the shore just up ahead, laughing and dancing. Two youngsters raced by on skates, kicking up small jets of water with each stroke of their legs, joking and yelling at each other. Everyone had bodies similar to Commander Blevins and Mrs. Frumpwooler with one striking exception: their stripes all rotated.
“Where did they all suddenly come from, Commander Blevins? And look, everyone’s stripes are spinning around. Why don’t our stripes spin?” Mrs. Frumpwooler wanted to know. She thought the spiraling stripes made the people look like shiny barber’s poles. “Yoo hoo. Hello there,” Mrs. Frumpwooler waved to the group on the shore.
“These people were always here,” Commander Blevins said. “I usually find it simpler to filter out other life forms while passing through populated areas. Approaching the records is taxing enough, in itself, without undue stimulation. And they can’t see or hear us anyway, Mrs. Frumpwooler.”
“Oh, gracious. Does that mean we are invisible. Are we ghosts Commander Blevins?” Mrs. Frumpwooler’s eyes became very wide at the thought.
“No, no. Don’t get ahead of yourself Mrs. Frumpwooler. We are guests here. They call us ‘Readers.’ The Council, who reside in the Central Core, decided a long time ago to shield residents from the unpredictable energy of the many Readers who move through here. The people you see around you exist at a different vibrational rate. We are only a passing haze to them. They can tell we are here only enough to avoid direct contact with us.”
“Is that why their stripes are turning?”
“No. But that’s a good guess, Mrs. Frumpwooler. Their stripes are rotating because they are happy.”
“Does that mean we aren’t happy?”
“No, not at all.”
“What happens when they are mad? Do the stripes get dark or stop turning?”
“No..well, really no one is sure. People don’t get mad here.”
“Oh, you mean this is one of the those good worlds with no bad that you mentioned?”
“Well, not quite, though I am impressed you remember my mention of the positive and pure positive worlds, Mrs. Frumpwooler. The people here can get angry and do have conflicts with each other sometimes. The catch is that whenever their negative emotions or actions surface, they simply go poof; they are no longer where they were.”
“Well where are they then, Commander Blevins?” Mrs. Frumpwooler was intrigued.
“They are in the Passion Pit,” explained Blevins.
“The what?” Incredulous, Mrs. Frumpwooler’s was unable to prevent her mouth from hanging open.
“The Passion Pit. Whenever someone chooses to let the passions of their mind take over, they are whisked away from the general populace to an area called the Passion Pit.”
“Oh, a Rehabilitation Pit. It sounds dreadful.”
“No, not at all,” Commander Blevins said. Rehab is a very pleasant place where people are able to vent their steam in a way which least burdens them karmically. Then they have a chance to reflect on their actions, learning how better to detach from their passions.”
Mrs. Frumpwooler considered this. “That does sound like a pleasant way to handle things when they get bothersome. WE should have a place like that back home.”
Commander Blevins chuckled, “Ever the thinker, Mrs. Frumpwooler.”
Off to their right several large people were detaining three smaller persons. Mrs. Frumpwooler stared, then asked, “What’s going on over there, Commander Blevins?”
“The local authorities are rounding up some aliens, it looks like.”
“Yes, people from different areas of the Causal Worlds often come here to Akash. There is lots of work here and the environment is more peaceful than where the smaller people come from.”
“What are they going to do with them?”
“The authorities would like to send them back home.”
“I don’t know. And neither do the authorities. The little people slip in through harmonic portals that close up and vanish moments after the openings appear.”
“So what do they do with them?” Mrs. Frumpwooler asked.
“They just hold them for a while, then let them go. That’s all they can do.”
“Why on Ear…why do they do that. It sounds so pointless.”
“No more so than some of our practices back in the Physical Worlds. The people in control here are just exercising it…their control…or the illusion of it.”
They were near the group of people now. Mrs. Frumpwooler exclaimed, “Look they have bumps all over them.”
“That’s how people here can tell they are aliens…that and the fact that they are shorter than the residents.”
The three bobbing cars passed through the area where the large people still held the smaller people. Mrs. Frumpwooler contemplated. Then she said, “How do the aliens get here, Commander Blevins? How do THEY find those harmonic potholes?”
Before he could answer, the control panel on their car beeped twice and a message scrolled across the monitor. “Approaching Gardens. Specify Quad-Sector CB.” Commander Blevins punched in “FRUM…/currently active”.
“What does that mean, Commander Blevins.”
“Pretty basic stuff, Mrs. Frumpwooler. ‘FRUM’ is your sector. Things are organized in many ways here, but for you, coming from the hard shell side of the Physical World, an alphabetical listing is the most direct. ‘Currently active’ means you are running a physical body. If you had already shed that body I would have entered ‘limbo’, ‘enroute’ or ‘assigned’, depending on your status.
“What’s ‘hard shell’ mean. And ‘limbo’, ‘rerouted’, or…”
“Can’t answer that just now, Mrs. Frumpwooler. Please hang on tight. There will be turbulence as we approach the Records.” Mrs. Frumpwooler grabbed ahold of the lapbar just as the three little cars began pitching to and fro. The water in the Canal churned, turning a pale whitish green. Off to the left and up ahead of them, a glistening white spire shot hundreds of meters into the sky, twirling. From it’s top exploded a shower of azure blue streaks. The yellow, blue and burnt orange streaks, which had been a constant fixture against the lavender skyline, faded and were gone in moments. The light purplish blue streaks erupted in all directions, growing larger as they moved out from the spire.
The spire expanded as it twirled. It became a tall, thin pyramid, then shifted to a round-domed temple. Next, it fattened looking much like a Physical World 21st century skyscraper, only much larger. The azure blue streaks had reached the horizons by this time, impacting them like rockets with warheads of concentrated blue dye, and were spreading their color over much of the lavender sky.
Mrs. Frumpwooler was in awe. She twisted her head in one direction, then the other as she followed the coloring of the skies and the spire’s transformation, which now stood as a towering mountain of shining white. Its sides were multifaceted, shining with pale blue light. The Canal twisted around it, churning violently, and angled up as the waterway climbed the white face of the towering mountain.
“Wowser, Commander, this is quite a doosey.” Mrs. Frumpwooler shouted. Commander Blevins smiled as he punched additional information into the console.
A stream of blue water jetted out from the side of the mountain, meeting the climbing canal in mid-air. The canal calmed noticeably. High above the city, Mrs. Frumpwooler watched as a round doorway opened in the side of the mountain. The canal–carrying the three roller coaster cars and their passengers, and now merged with the jet stream–ran smoothly through the doorway and spilled into an awaiting pool, splashing up the back wall just slightly, before finally settling down.
Mrs. Frumpwooler looked around gleefully and said, “Hey Commander, the water is blue again. How nice.”
Commander Blevins flipped three toggle switches. The monitor flashed: “Welcome to ‘FROM/active’. Have a nice Reading. Catch you on the way back CB.” A small blip appeared in the middle of the screen, ran around eating up all the letters, then burped and sucked in all the light on the screen as the system shut down.
“Well, welcome to the Records of Akash, Mrs. Frumpwooler,” Commander Blevins said. The old Land’s End Funn Palace Roller Coaster cars came to rest at a dock on the far side of the pool. Pale blue light bathed the area. An arched doorway led away from the Docking Site and the Dock. Beyond it Mrs. Frumpwooler could see a blue and white checked hall winding around until it disappeared.
“Oh, Commander, I can’t tell you how exciting this is,” Mrs. Frumpwooler smiled happily. Her stripes pulsed.
“Well the real adventure has yet to begin,” Commander Blevins said and hopped onto the dock. The car rocked as he pushed off from it. Mrs. Frumpwooler stood up to follow him and nearly fell backwards into the pool. Overcompensating in her effort to maintain composure, she lurched backwards and then fell forward, landing flat on her face at Commander Blevins’ feet. “Oh, Mrs. Frumpwooler, are you alright?” Commander Blevins scooped her up and held her steady as she regained her balance.
Sparks flew everywhere, covering the Dock and spilling over into the Dock Site Pool. Mrs. Frumpwooler was only partially dazed from her fall, leaving most of her powers of observation in tact. Giggling, she pointed back toward the pool and said, “Commander, look at what happens when these little sparky things land in the water.”
Sparks continued to pour from the their bodies’ contact points. The sparks that fell into the water sat still for only a moment, then began swimming in circles like small fish and soon were chasing each other madly. The Pool was turning into sparkly chaos and Mrs. Frumpwooler and Commander Blevins convulsed in laughter. Fortunately their belly laugh convolutions caused them to part. The sparks stopped spewing forth, Commander Blevins and Mrs. Frumpwooler sobered up, and the Pool absorbed the frolicking sparkles.
Catching his breath, Commander Blevins said without saying, “My that was a curious sensation, don’t you think Mrs. Frumpwooler.”
She was still breathing heavily and said nothing. Had he been a more worldly man, he would had noticed the Causal equivalent of arousal in Mrs. Frumpwooler’s look. He was not, though, and he continued, “I wonder what caused it?”
After looking around a bit, he shrugged his shoulders, smiled and said, “Oh, well. We should get on with it, don’t you agree, Mrs. Frumpwooler?”
Still overcome with her unexpected sensations, she could only manage, “Mmmmmm.”
He started to take her arm, thought better of it, then said, “I shall lead the way.” He walked through the arched doorway and into the checked hall. Each square he stepped onto lighted up, in either blue or white, and sent corresponding bands of light around the curved outer wall of the hallway. Mrs. Frumpwooler followed and a similar effect greeted her. Still somewhat dazzled, and now partially mesmerized, she walked on, prepared to trail Commander Blevins into the bowels of hell itself.
“These Are Your Lives”
Commander Blevins walked through a second arched doorway and Mrs. Frumpwooler followed. The hallway curved around to their left, then went straight for a long way. Long rectangular windows cut into both sides of the walls, spaced about a meter apart. The panes of the windows were frosted over. Every seventh window on Mrs. Frumpwooler’s right side was a doorway with a small sign mounted at eye level which read, “Viewing Room.”
“Not too much further now, Mrs. Frumpwooler,” Commander Blevins said.
“How do you know that?” Mrs. Frumpwooler asked.
“As you pass each repository, look directly at the bottom of the recessed window panel. You will see a name, or part thereof.”
“Oh, you’re right, Commander!” Mrs. Frumpwooler had just passed “FRUMMILDEW”. As she passed more frosted windows, she read out, “FRUMMILTON, FRUMMOLTEN, FRUMMULLEN, FRUMMY, FRUMNOT, FRUMNUT, FRUMNUTTON, FRUMOPO, FRUMOPOT. “Commander Blevins, I don’t think we are getting close very quickly. And why are all my lives listed under Frumpwooler. Why not under one of my other names?”
“They are. You are completely cross indexed here. Now, be patient, Mrs. Frumpwooler and you shall be rewarded.”
Mrs. Frumpwooler sighed and walked on. Gradually they passed “FRUMQUERT…FRUMRUMM…FRUMSTONE…FRUMTRONE… FRUMUS…FRUMVITE…FRUMWASTE…FRUMWATERS…FRUMWET…. “Oh, Commander we are getting close, now.”
Near the end of the hallway, and just past a Viewing Room, Mrs. Frumpwooler let out a whoop, “FRUMPWOOLER! Commander you’ve gone past it!”
“Just seeing if you are on your toes, Mrs. Frumpwooler,” Blevins grinned.
“Oh, you sly dog, you,” she said winking at him. “What do we do now?”
“Well we have a choice. Only two kinds of people can gain access to the records here. First, the person in question, who is reviewing their own records. Second, a Verified Viewer. Since we have both types of people here–at least in how it affects the viewing of one Gladys Frumpwooler’s Akashic records–we can choose.”
“What’s the difference, Commander?”
“Well, you can view your records and I can view your records. That’s the similarity. I can also view other people’s records in this file and you cannot. That’s the difference.”
“You mean you could pull out Malvandian’s records.”
“Of, course. Would you like that, Mrs. Frumpwooler?”
“Uhh…No, I think not. I’d rather leave his memories alone for now, thank you.” Thoughts of Malvandian rippled through Mrs. Frumpwooler interrupting her infatuation with Commander Blevins.
“Ok by me Mrs. Frumpwooler. So now our questions is which one of us will do the selecting.”
“Why don’t you, Commander,” she offered with a little wave of her hand.
“Why don’t we both,” suggested Blevins, spreading his arms.
“Oh, grand,” she said. Malvandian faded.
“First, put your palm squarely on the middle of the repository window.”
Mrs. Frumpwooler did so. The window felt cool to her touch. The change was immediate and startling. The frosted panes of the repository cleared. Inside was a tall rotating blue fixture that contained many small dark blue trays. Each tray was labeled. As Mrs. Frumpwooler watched in fascination, she noticed that the labels were all the same. Look, Commander, they are all called FRUMPWOOLER. How can we tell which is mine?
“Yours will have your full name on it. Watch this.” Commander Blevins put his palm on the window beside Mrs. Frumpwooler. The tray labeled “FRUMPWOOLER”, immediately in front of his hand, changed to “ERONK SILAS FRUMPWOOLER”. The next one said “ETHYL PIL FRUMPWOOLER”.
Mrs. Frumpwooler cried out softly, her hand quivering on the glass. Commander Blevins turned toward her to see what was the matter. In doing so he removed his hand from the glass. The labels changed back to “FRUMPWOOLER” only.
“Oh, thank you, Commander. I really don’t want to run into Malvandian just now.” She shuddered a bit, then quieted down. Suddenly the carousel stopped turning. The tray immediately in front of Mrs. Frumpwooler said only “FRUMPWOOLER”. Why has it stopped? This one’s no different than any other.”
“Your observations are quite keen as usual, Mrs. Frumpwooler,” said Blevins. “If you look further, however, you will see the reason for its stopping.”
Mrs. Frumpwooler looked up, then down. “Oh, goody,” she said. At just above her knee level a tray was labeled, “GLADYS PERIWINKLE FRUMPWOOLER”.
“Are you ready for the next step, Mrs. Frumpwooler?” Commander Blevins asked.
“Most certainly,” she said.
“Then touch the window immediately in front of your tray with your other hand.”
Mrs. Frumpwooler bent down and did so. For a moment nothing happened. Then the tray began moving out toward the window. The window section in front of the tray slid back into the wall. A small pulsating charge went through both of Mrs. Frumpwooler’s arms. She shrieked and pulled back her hands. The tray reversed its direction, reseating itself in its original position, and the missing section of the window reappeared from inside the wall. A moment later the label on the tray changed back to “FRUMPWOOLER”.
“Oh, gracious, what have I done?”
“Nothing that can’t be undone. Let me help you.” Commander Blevins placed his hand on the window in front of Mrs. Frumpwooler’s tray. It had just begun to refrost itself, but rapidly cleared up again. Mrs. Frumpwooler’s full name appeared for the second time and the tray began to slip out toward the window again.
“How did the tray know it was the one you wanted, Commander?”
“Oh, that’s part of the Verified Viewers Training. I’m sorry, but I must keep the technique confidential.”
“Oh. I see.” Mrs. Frumpwooler said, feeling a little slighted.
The window section disappeared into the wall once more and Commander Blevins let the chosen tray slide neatly onto the palm of his hand. He turned slowly away from the window, raising the tray up to eye level. Mrs. Frumpwooler followed his every move. The tray was about as long as Commander Blevins’ forearm, medium width and not too high. It appeared to be made of shiny blue metal, which pulsed gently. Mrs. Frumpwooler thought it looked wet and alive, like a dog’s nose. As Commander Blevins lifted the tray, Mrs. Frumpwooler saw a bead of moisture drop toward the floor. She watched it fall. It disappeared in mid-air with a little bright twinkle. Looking back up to the tray, she wondered about the vanishing drop only until she saw the tray’s contents. Lined up neatly from front to back, like extra wide file cards, were wafer-thin, pearl white rectangles.
“Here we go,” Commander Blevins said, holding out the tray for Mrs. Frumpwooler’s inspection. “These are your lives.”
“Gracious, that’s all. I mean how can those little squares be my lives. Was I trash compacted or something? Can I touch them? Mrs. Frumpwooler was losing her composure as she became excited.
“Yes, in fact you will need to touch them. They are nothing like what you are thinking, so please hold your imagination at bay for the moment.” Commander Blevins gently took Mrs. Frumpwooler’s arm with his free hand. Ignoring the sparks, he said, “Let’s go into the Viewing Room here.” The door next to the now refrosted window opened as he placed a foot in front of it. With a giggling Mrs. Frumpwooler firmly in tow, and leading with the tray marked ‘GLADYS PERIWINKLE FRUMPWOOLER’, he entered the room and led her over to a long couch against the left hand wall.
Blevins indicated she should sit. She plopped down in the middle of the couch next to a dividing console and said, “Oh, this is so soft. You should get one of these for you apartment, Commander.”
Commander Blevins gently sat the tray of files into a sunken area of the console, and clipped it into place. “Good idea Mrs. Frumpwooler. I’ll work on that when we get back home.”
Misreading Commander Blevins’ use of the word “we”, Mrs. Frumpwooler tittered. He looked at her closely, then sat down on the opposite side of the console. “It is important to frame the proper attitude before going further Mrs. Frumpwooler. Are you with me?” he said.
“Forever Commander,” she solemnly pledged, sighing.
He sighed too, and was quiet for a moment. “Please let your mind relax. Let all those interesting and bushy thoughts of yours simply…take a vacation. They can do anything they like, be involved in whatever they like, only you choose to be occupied with what we have at hand, letting the thoughts have their own world.” He was silent for several more moments.
Finally he opened a small door behind the tray and extracted a cupped arm rest. One end of the arm rest remained anchored to the inside of the console, the other end swung freely in mid-air. A small shelf extended from the arm rest’s tip. He put his hand around a lever inside the swinging arm’s cavity and pushed it forward, which advanced the tray. As the lever stopped, two additional, lower arm rests rose on either side of the console.
Commander Blevins glanced at Mrs. Frumpwooler and was relieved to see her sitting quietly, gazing at the wall across from her. The wall was blank and light blue. He touched her gently on the shoulder, then let his left arm lay on his arm rest and said, “Place your right arm in your arm rest here, as I am doing.” She smiled, and did as he ask.
“Ok, now we are ready to begin. Our first step is to look at your Past Lives Index Record Card, which should be here at the front of the row.” Commander Blevins lifted the thin wafer and placed it carefully on the small folding shelf atop the upper arm rest. The Card sat upright on a narrow grooved strip, supported by two metal fingers in back.
“Now, I can do this, but it is important for you to at least look through the Index. Many of the lives you have previously led do not having any particular impact on this current lifetime. The trick is to figure out which ones do and to scan them for telling features.”
“But I want to see them all!”
“Impossible. That would take far too long and the strain on your present consciousness would be overwhelming.” Mrs. Frumpwooler started to protest and Commander Blevins cut her off. “That goes for everybody, Mrs. Frumpwooler.”
“Oh, well,” Mrs. Frumpwooler sighed. “How do we discover which cards to check. And how do these little cards tell me about a life I have lived before, anyway,” she asked.
“I did promise to tell you that, Blevins said. “I think, though, that it would be better to SHOW you first. Depending on who last worked your files we may find the significant lifetimes already marked. At worst, the implant codes will make sorting easy.”
“How do we start?”
“It is quite simple. First you rest your right arm in this upper arm rest.” Commander Blevins helped Mrs. Frumpwooler position her arm on the swinging arm rest and then said, “Yes that’s it.” She laid her hand just below the small shelf. A couple sparks flew. “Next, you place the middle finger of your right hand on the small white dot in the middle of the Record Card.”
“But the whole card is white. I don’t see a dot.”
“Oh, of course. I’m sorry. Just turn your wrist slightly so the heel of your hand touches here.” He guided
Mrs. Frumpwooler moved her hand into position so it rested in a contoured area of the arm rest just below the Record Card holding shelf. Deep midnight blue bathed the room. The Card glowed noticeably, pearl white, and shimmered… and at its bottom, directly in the center, a small white dot was visible. It glistened as though damp.
“I see it. Oh, goody.” Mrs. Frumpwooler said, rejoicing. She moved her finger toward the white dot, then hesitated. “Shall I do it?” She looked a little awkward.
“Go for it, Mrs. Frumpwooler,” he smiled and urged her onward.
Mrs. Frumpwooler uncoiled her middle finger and firmly touched it to the white spot. “Oh, it feels cool and wet. Just like a doggie’s nose,” she cooed.
Chuckling, Commander Blevins watched as the Card filled with waves of light pulsing across its surface, which was now a screen. “It should clear momentarily.” The screen did clear. A light blue sky filled most of it. A short rock ledge appeared in the bottom of the picture. “My this is unusual,” he said, “I’ve never seen an Index Card begin with a landscape. Perhaps this is a new…” Commander Blevins never finished his sentence. Two raucous shrieks filled the room. Across the screen flew a very large Pterodactyl, growing larger until only the belly and feet of the huge bird could be seen, as it came to rest on the rock ledge. The creature had made the first cry. Mrs. Frumpwooler had joined in with the second screech. She was squatting on the couch, with her left arm bent and sticking out from her body in wing-like fashion. Her right arm was still in place on the swinging arm rest, middle finger firmly planted on the white dot of the Record Card. Her mouth was opened and moving, but released no further sound.
“Holy Zoider!” Commander Blevins was stunned. He was sure he had heard the noise–both noises–with his ears, coming from outside himself. This was so far from normal, he had no idea what to do next. He could barely see Mrs. Frumpwooler in the dark blue room. She sat stone-still. On the card, the Pterodactyl scratched at the stone ledge and sat down. Its large leathery tail filled the small screen.
Jerking awake, Commander Blevins came out of his shock. He grabbed the Card from its shelf. The Pterodactyl faded. He squinted at the Card for an Index Code, which wasn’t there, and then put it away in the tray. Mrs. Frumpwooler’s right arm and finger remained motionless and Commander Blevins gently moved her hand away from the Record Card holding shelf and the contoured hand rest. Dark blue turned to light blue and Commander Blevins gasped as he fully saw Mrs. Frumpwooler condition, perched as she was on the viewing sofa. He jumped up from his side of the console and hurried around to her.
Muttering to himself, “Well that explains the Ptera popping up so quickly in the desert…poor Mrs. Frumpwooler,” He sat down beside her and placed his hand on her neck, found the Point of Infinite Peacefulness and pressed. She made several small birdlike sounds and slid back down to a normal sitting position, with both hands folded in her lap.
Commander Blevins sat quietly with Mrs. Frumpwooler until he was sure she had recovered from her identity shift. He then returned to his side of the couch, sat down and looked through the many cards in the tray. None of the codes were there. Puzzled, he decided to run through a few Cards in an attempt to solve the mystery.
Picking a Record Card several Cards in front of the Ptera “Index,” he pulled it up and set it on the shelf. He laid his left arm and hand on the swinging arm rest and touched the white dot along the bottom of the Card. The room was dark blue before the Card flickered. The Card became a screen. After a moment’s ripple the screen cleared to reveal a small baby playing with a stick in the dirt outside a bamboo hut. The child was naked and had something bright red in its hair. In back of the baby he could see a leg and foot of, perhaps, its mother. The sun was shining and Commander Blevins could hear singing in the background. The voices came from outside of him. His mind started to boggle, then he remembered: In a viewing room, sound from the Cards did come appear to come from the outside, instead of resonating from within like everywhere else in the Causal Worlds.
“Silly of me to forget,” he admonished himself. “But that still doesn’t explain how Mrs. Frumpwooler’s Ptera cry came from outside….”
The mother moved her leg behind the baby in rhythm to the distant voices. Suddenly there was a loud cry. The leg disappeared. There seemed to be a lot of commotion nearby. The baby played on with its stick, unconcerned. A loud crash shook the ground, a shadow fell across the baby and it screamed, in terror.
The next moment the baby on the screen was replaced by a very large dull grey stump. “No, its a leg,” Commander Blevins said to himself. “Probably a rampaging elephant’s leg.” With horror, he then watched as the elephant’s leg left the screen. The realization of what he had just seen was confirmed by the sight of a squashed, pulpy, mound where the little baby, then the elephant’s leg, had just been.
Pulling his finger off the Card’s white spot, he looked at Mrs. Frumpwooler, who appeared to be unaffected. Grateful, and feeling queasy, Blevins sighed and replaced the Card back in the file. Light blue light returned. “Her first life a Pterodactyl, then squashed as a baby by a rogue elephant,” he muttered to himself, shaking his head with compassion. Not wanting to leave Mrs. Frumpwooler with only those two experiences, though one of which she probably was not aware, Commander Blevins felt he must press on: surely there would be positive experiences ahead.
Another Card, more deep blue, and then slaughter on an ancient battle field. Jerking that Card from the holder, Blevins picked up a handful of Cards and impatiently threw them on the shelf one after the other in rapid succession: a sinking ship, volcano erupting, landslide, cholera epidemic, another crushing under an animal stampede. The array of carnage was deafening. Though everyone moved from lifetime to lifetime by one device or another–and physical death could be bloody–Commander Blevins had never seen a series of Cards open with only death and gore as he was now witnessing.
He pressed on. A murder then suicide, caught in the reins of a runaway horse, pulled under a calm lake by something unseen, poisoned, ripped apart during torture, strangled over a card game, an abusive jailer hanged by inmates…on and on. Blevins’ mind reeled at the carnage.
Supposedly the Cards would open with whatever was pertinent to a viewer’s current lifetime. If there was little connection between the lifetime represented on the Record Card and the viewers current life, then happy scenes of carefree times would flicker by…or at least that was what Commander Blevins had learned at Verified Viewers Training. And that had been his experience, for the most part, to date.
Commander Blevins pulled the hair in his right ear. “Something is amiss here,” he muttered aloud.
“What was that, Commander. When are we going to start this, anyway?” Mrs. Frumpwooler was back, demanding an explanation as usual.
“Oh…pardon me, Mrs. Frumpwooler. I was just talking to myself. Yes, well we can…er…start right now, of course. Sorry to keep you waiting.” He was stalling for time, unsure whether or not to continue the Viewing.
“I feel stiff all over, Commander Blevins. This little blue room must not agree with me.” Mrs. Frumpwooler stretched her arms, especially the left one. “But I do want to see what this is all about. Why is your arm on that contraption? And what are those little shiny things in your hand?”
Commander Blevins raised his left arm off the swinging arm rest and held it up to Mrs. Frumpwooler. “One question at a time, Mrs. Frumpwooler,” he cautioned her, still holding the last Record Card. It contained the records of Mrs. Frumpwooler when she had been burned at the stake as a evil sorcerer.
“Oh, is that one of my file cards? Let me see it.” She plucked it from Commander Blevins before he could protest.
“Perhaps it would be better if we skipped this part of the tour and…”
“Not on your life Commander. I may be a little stiff and sore from our Journey here, but I am most certainly prepared to find out just what I may have been about in other times.” She looked the Record Card over and said, “This looks like a dull one. Pick another and let’s get the show on the road.”
Commander Blevins accepted the Card with relief and inserted it, along with the stack in his hand, back into the Tray. Picking a new card from near the front of the row, he took a deep breath and placed it in the holder. He laid his left arm on the swinging rest, carefully placed his middle finger in front of where he knew the white dot to be and then looked over at Mrs. Frumpwooler.
“Well, I’m waiting,” she said, pouting.
A vision of devising a permanent pressure pad for her Point of Infinite Peacefulness–and then strapping it onto Mrs. Frumpwooler’s neck–flickered through Commander Blevins’ imagination. Brushing temptation aside, he reminded himself that Client’s mood swings were part of the job and pressed his finger squarely on the dot. The room turned deep blue.
“Oh, this is exciting, Commander.” She was cooing once again.
The screen sprang to life. A narrow uphill street disappeared at the top of the screen. A curious slot divided the street into left and right lanes. On the right, debris tumbled into the street from somewhere off the screen. A man’s legs ran by and a scream pierced the Viewing Room. Commander Blevins quickly glanced at Mrs. Frumpwooler, expecting the worse. She, however, was sitting calmly with her chin resting on her closed hand, watching the screen intently.
“So far so good,” Commander Blevins thought to himself. He looked back to the screen. The scene had shifted. At a distance, buildings could be seen half standing. People were running around yelling and crying. “Great Zoids!” Commander Blevins said aloud.
“What was that, Commander?”
“Uh, this is the San Francisco Earthquake…or just after it.”
“Of course, it is,” Mrs. Frumpwooler said with sudden authority.
Commander Blevins looked at Mrs. Frumpwooler, and thought, “It must be a pertinent event in her past life for her to know so readily, but I usually don’t pick-up that quickly….”
Mrs. Frumpwooler shook her head as if emerging from a trance, then looked at Commander Blevins with a puzzled expression. “How did I know that, Commander? I was born twenty-nine years after the San Francisco Earthquake… now how did I know that…and in Des Moines, not in….” She trailed off and looked back toward the screen, her face a mask of unanswered questions. Commander Blevins also turned back to the screen.
They both watched as a young man hid behind an arched trellis of roses and spied upon woman prying bricks loose from a wall across the garden. Both Mrs. Frumpwooler and Commander Blevins gasped in unison, neither looking at the other. The city rumbled in the distance. It was night on the screen, but the scene was light enough to make out what was happening.
The woman worked quickly with a chisel and hammer. Vines grew up the wall where she worked. Sweat lines streaked her face. She managed to get two bricks out and then bent down and hacked at them with her chisel. The young man moved over behind a bird bath in a small pool and crouched down low. A woman upstairs in the house cried out,
“Iiiito. Where are you?” Ito looked around, but did not move. He watched intently as the woman stuffed a linen pouch into the hole where the bricks had been and held up one brick, slopping some mortar on it with her other hand. He could see that a corner of the brick was missing. The woman stuffed the first brick back into place, then the second. The other woman’s voice called out, “Iiiito” again, this time from nearby. The young man stood up to look for a safer hiding place when woman at the brick wall turned around and saw him and let out an involuntary squeak. Their eyes met. The voice of the woman calling Ito grew nearer.
An involuntary squeak had also escaped from Mrs. Frumpwooler. She felt movement in the room and looked over at Commander Blevins. He was no longer on the couch, but standing up in front of it and he, too, turned to look at her.
“Diamonds in The Wall”
The woman at the brick wall continued looking at the young man. Mrs. Frumpwooler continued looking at Commander Blevins: a moment later she became the woman at the wall. The Viewing Room of deep blue dropped away to reveal a just-before-dawn darkness.
Commander Blevins went through a similar transformation and became the young man, Ito, whose spying was discovered. Old Frau Swope was bearing down fast on the backyard. He dropped all shyness and blurted out, “Gwenny! What are you doing? Was that one of Von Blume’s pouches?”
“Hush Ito and come here,” Gwendolyn answered, and ran around the corner of the brick wall. Ito followed her. They both hid behind the coal shed and waited for Frau Swope to pass by. The large German woman pounded down the back steps of the kitchen, yelling “Ito! I know here you are out. Time for games this is not! To do we….”
Her shouting was cut short. The ground shook again. Bricks and glass crashed into the street in front of the house. Frau Swope shrieked and ran around the other side of the house, away from Gwendolyn and Ito hiding behind the carriage house. Gwendolyn came out from behind the coal shed in a flash.
“That was a only a little one,” Ito said. “Think there’ll be another?”
“Hush.” Gwendolyn picked-up the small bucket of mortar and slapped some into the empty grooves between the bricks. Ito watched silently as she worked the mortar into the cracks. Rearranging the vines to cover her handiwork, she paused, picked up some dirt and rubbed it all over the just-set bricks.
“Gwenny, someone’s coming,” Ito said.
She brushed away the large clumps of dirt and moved the vines back over the bricks. “Thanks, Runt.” They both disappeared behind the carriage house again and hid silently as excited voices passed near them in the neighbor’s yard.
“Boy that was close, Runt,” Gwendolyn said. “Thanks for the warning. And yeah, that last shake was smaller than the first.”
“Don’t call me Runt,” Ito said.
“I’ll call you whatever I want to, Ito-san, Jap-boy. Why were you spying on me anyway?”
Ito glared at her and said nothing.
“Tell me what you saw, Ito.” They stared at each other. “Oh, alright, I’m sorry I called you Runt.”
“And you said ‘Jap-boy’, too.”
“Yes, yes. I’m sorry I called you Jap-boy.” Gwendolyn was beginning to feel uncomfortable. “Tell me what you saw.”
“I saw you hide a sack of diamonds that belongs to Mr. Von Blume,” Ito said.
Gwendolyn gasped. “How did you know that? Come on, tell!”
“I watched you take one of the sacks from the strong box. How’d you get the key?…and why didn’t you take all of them, anyway, while you were at it?”
Gwendolyn looked at him hard for a moment, then said, “Because I don’t want him to think someone took them…that’s why! Who else knows? Did you tell anyone?”
“How are you going to keep him from finding out….”
“Who else knows!” Gwendolyn was almost shouting.
“Tell me how Von Blume won’t know. Then I’ll tell you who knows.” Ito was beginning to feel that he had the upper hand.
“You’d better. It’s simple: he had seven bags. Last night I took a little out of each and made an eighth bag. Tonight I snuck down after he went to sleep and got the extra bag.”
“I know all that Gwenny. How will HE not know, that’s what I want to know,” Ito said.
“How do you know about the extra bag? Tell me.”
“You aren’t the only one up in the middle of the night.”
“Oh.” She glared at him, then relaxed. “He’s too dumb to know anything. And now he’s probably too scared. Tell me who else knows.”
“I think he’ll find out. Anyway, no one else knows.”
“The only way he’ll find out is if someone tells him. He hasn’t WEIGHED the Diamonds yet. I heard him tell Master Peter. You’re not thinking of being that someone, are you Ito….” Gwendolyn let the words linger, menacingly.
Ito raised his eyebrows and said, “Noooo, but….”
“What are you going to give me,” Ito said.
“I’m not going to give you anything, you little….”
Ito stood up and said, “Then I’ll go tell him now.”
Gwendolyn grabbed his wrist. “No you won’t.” She looked him in the eye and said, “I’ll give you a third of the diamonds.”
“More.” Ito pulled his wrist away from her grasp.
“Closer,” Ito felt power for the first time in his life.
“No more than half, period. I’m the one who did all the work, anyway,” Gwendolyn said, standing up and looking down at Ito.
Looking her up and down slowly, Ito said, “Throw in some spiff and I’ll consider it.”
Gwendolyn raised her arm to slap him, and said “Why you…”, then paused and look at Ito, who smiled back at her. “You’re too young to….”
“Oh, yeah? Been doing it with the Whittier’s downstairs maid for six months now.” Ito puffed out his chest and stood straight and as tall as his five foot frame permitted. “Let’s see your caboose, sister. You want my silence, you got to haul the ashes.”
“Where did you learn such language!” Gwendolyn stared at him in disbelief. A fortune in diamonds danced in front of her eyes. She had been discretely servicing the master’s guests for three years, in exchange for a handsome reward. She thought the situation over. Diddling with this little man…boy!…would not be as bad as that fat old Von Blume, or the others before him, she thought and laughed. “All right, Ito-san. You tell me what you like.”
Ito lost his bluster. Turning bright red, he could not utter a sound. His heart pounded. “Well…,” Gwendolyn challenged. Gathering his courage–he had lied about the downstairs maid–he motioned for Gwendolyn to raise her skirt. Moving a step away from him, she curtsied slightly and slowly lifted her skirt and petticoat. As she revealed her ankles and calves, Ito’s eyes grew huge. Now enjoying the seduction, Gwendolyn raised her skirts higher and turned around slowly.
Her bloomers ended in frills just above her knees. Ito saw the dark patch where the legs of her pantaloons joined. He went into orbit. Gwendolyn kept raising her skirt until her entire dress was over her head and then she dropped it on the storage shed. “Want to touch, Ito-san?” She leaned over toward him and shook her breasts. They were heavy and pressed into the thin cotton of her bodice. “Come on, lover. Show me what you can do.”
Ito raised his right hand and, trembling, touched Gwendolyn’s right breast. He gasped. She feigned a moan and he squeezed harder. In a moment he had untied her bodice and had filled his small hands with her full, white breasts. He squeezed one then the other.
“You do know a woman, Ito-san,” Gwendolyn said, mocking him. “Please forgive me for ever doubting you.” Ito was oblivious to her sarcasm. He was now sucking on the distended nipple of one breast and continuing to squeeze the other.” Despite his clumsiness, Gwendolyn leaned back against the cold brick wall of the carriage house, beginning to enjoy his attention. She felt a small hand crawl up her thighs and dig into her soft down. The sudden roughness caused her to cry out.
“Ah-Ha. So are you there! And Got-in-Himmel’s name doing are you what?” Old Frau Swope stomped into the narrow passage behind the garage.
Ito was in a heaven heretofore only imagined. Gwendolyn was a flurry of panic. Ito firmly clutched her breasts and pawed at her House of Jade, as he had once heard it called. The sight of Frau Swope thundering down upon them promised Gwendolyn relief from Ito’s frantic attention, but she knew Frau Swope would punish her severely.
Frau Swope immediately sized up the situation: Gwendolyn barely dressed and leaning back against the carriage house, groaning…and Ito pawing at her like a small satyr incarnate. The old woman acted quickly, seizing Ito by the scruff of his sweaty collar and pulling back.
Ito hung onto Gwendolyn for dear life. She shrieked. Frau Swope pulled harder and was reward by a resounding “pop.” Ito clawed the air trying to return to heaven. Gwendolyn slid down the carriage house wall, clutching her body at the places from where Ito had just been torn.
“Hussy! Bastard! You both I’ll have to the street beaten and thrown.” Dragging Ito by his collar, and shaking with anger, Frau Swope turned and spat at Gwendolyn, “Yourself dress and house march, Hussy!”
The shock of their parting reversed the identity shift: Commander Blevins found himself standing, observing the scene; Mrs. Frumpwooler sat in silence, watching the Viewing Room screen as Gwendolyn was literally thrown out of the house and banned forever, such was the force of Frau Swope’s outrage.
They both watched as Gwendolyn stumbled passed debris in the street on her way down to the next corner. She stopped and looked back. The screen showed what Gwendolyn saw and Commander Blevins and Mrs. Frumpwooler got a glimpse of the house Gwendolyn now fled. The mansion sat above the sidewalk on its own bed of walled and packed earth, reaching tall into the sky with a stacked set of gables and turrets. A large corner turret on the top of the house was most impressive and distinctive, its windows reaching higher than imaginable.
Gwendolyn turned and continued walking away from the house. She passed a second street crossing, then two more, finally coming to an intersection at a wide cross street where tracks ran down the street’s center. A small bench sat on the side of the road, near a sign that was only partially visible on the screen in the Viewing Room. The sign read “nia Street Cable Car S.” It was a cable car stop, but no cars were running. Part of the city was in flames in the background.
The screen flashed black letters across the bottom: “RECAP.”
“That’s weird,” Commander Blevins mumbled to himself as the Recap began. “Usually this is an option.”
The text on the screen scrolled up slowly. It said, “Soon thereafter Gwendolyn O’Reilly was forced into prostitution at the sprawling and filthy tent city set up South of Market. “Ito Takahashi was sold to one of the many builders who helped rebuild San Francisco. Life in disease ridden tenements was hard. Neither Gwendolyn nor Ito lived beyond the end of the year, nor were either of them able to return for the hidden diamonds.”
The screen turned white and the Viewing Room traded dark blue for light blue. Commander Blevins sat down, too stunned to notice that the Record Card had played out its story without anyone’s middle finger pressing against the white spot on the bottom, which could not been seen now. He had never experienced an identity shift. He also had never run across a past life of his mixing-in with a Client’s past life.
Mrs. Frumpwooler, fresh from her Pterodactyl ID shift– and unaware of any Viewing Room norms–snapped back without introspection. Diamonds dominated her thoughts. She wondered how she could get out of there and back to the Physical World. Glancing at Commander Blevins, she headed for the door. He was roused by the racket Mrs. Frumpwooler made trying to open the door. “Where’s the cursed doorknob,” she yelled. There was a quality to her voice he had not felt before, and her stripes pulsated violently.
Commander Blevins stood up to help Mrs. Frumpwooler with the door, still puzzled. “Patience, Patience,” he said. She elbowed him in the ribs. He absorbed part of the blow, but was thrown back by the force of it. Mrs. Frumpwooler’s arm was flung forward toward the door, hitting it hard. She screamed. It was an involuntary scream, for she did not hurt herself. The door opened.
“The Webs We Weave”
Mrs. Frumpwooler flashed through the door. Blevins stuck his head out of the room and watched her focalshift down the hall: on the ceiling, then back on the floor, then half way through a wall, then back to the ceiling, finally disappearing around the corner that led to the Dock.
Blevins was torn between two responsibilities. He needed to watch over the safety of the guest he had brought to the Causal Worlds, but he would lose his Verified Viewers rating if he left the Viewing Room in its current disarray. Commander Blevins decided to attempt both. He quickly folded up the console’s three arm rests, smoothed out the depressions on the cushions of the couch, assembled the stack of Record Cards, and returned them neatly to Mrs. Frumpwooler’s Tray. That accomplished, he focalshifted to the end of the hall, then around the corner and to the Dock.
At the arched doorway to the docking area he watched as Mrs. Frumpwooler punched away madly at the Sand Lake Express’s console to no avail: the SLE sat motionless, unresponsive. He decided she was harmlessly trapped at the Dock until he activated the SLE.
Blevins quickly returned to the Viewing Room and resisted the temptation to inspect the Records Cards and the Viewer. He wanted to know how the Record Cards could have gone so awry. With great discipline, he neatly replaced the Cards in the Tray, closed up the Viewing Room and walked the few steps to the frosted recessed window marked “FRUMPWOOLER”. He placed his hand on the window pane at knee level where he remembered the empty chamber to be. The glass cleared, then disappeared into the wall. He slid the Tray neatly into its slot and removed his hand. As soon as the window had resealed and refrosted itself, Blevins focalshifted to the end of the hallway, around the corner, and was dockside in a scant moment. Mrs. Frumpwooler was gone.
Commander Blevins’ chin dropped: it was truly a remarkable day. The Sand Lake Express was there. The Dock and Dockside Pool were there. Mrs. Frumpwooler was not. Scratching his head, he turned by chance to his left, away from the Dock and the arched doorway leading back to the Records.
“Great Jumping Zoidifers!” He saw an open door across the Dock Site Pool. Above the door a small lime green sign flashed the word “Exit.”
Commander Blevins shifted to the doorway and stepped through. A long circular stairwell wound down and down. Peering over the stair railing’s edge, he caught a glimpse of erratic movement. Mrs. Frumpwooler was bouncing off the walls again, focalshifting from point to point in the stairwell. He could think of only one way down. After a brief review of his options, and a deep sigh, he put one hand on the railing and vaulted over…and into on open-ended focalshift.
Commander Blevins knew open-ended focalshifting was tricky. He thanked himself for neglecting to teach it to Mrs. Frumpwooler. “No telling where she would be by now,” he said to himself as time stretched out in front and behind him.
As his mind went on stand-by he watched the world around him with 360 degree Inner Vision, unfettered by normal mental demands. The stair spiraled downward, Commander Blevins fell like a stone. A passing blip showed where Mrs. Frumpwooler zigged and zagged. Another irregularity caught his attention. He strained to hold his focus on that point as he continued falling. Stretching in two dimensions–Time and Space–was difficult even in the Causal Worlds and Commander Blevins was not able to keep his anchor point for long. He did, though, manage to perceive a closed door with a small sign near one edge that read “High Balcony – No Unauthorized Entry, Please”.
Sensing a mass of compact energy not too far ahead of him, Commander Blevins pulled up a few levels above the bottom of the stair well. He paused and listen carefully. A door clicked closed above him, then silence.
Guessing who had closed the door and where it led, he shifted back to the High Balcony area. His concentration was split and he missed the doorway to the balcony by two levels. Blevins shifted again, climbed over the stair railing, stepped across the stairs to the door, which he opened onto the Balcony.
A too familiar “Caw!” greeted him. He saw large wings flapping near the balcony and above a grove of trees near the canal. The beast shrieked and plummeted to the ground. Another immediately appeared, cawing, and then it, too, met a similar fate. When he heard a third “Caw,” but no anguished screech, Blevins focalshifted to a point just in front of the creature. In the moment he stood still in mid air, he watched in amazement as the large Pterodactyl flew by with Mrs. Frumpwooler standing triumphantly on its back. Her stripy body was erect, her arms were folded and she stared straight ahead.
He shifted beside her. “Oh there you are, Ito-san,” she said without saying. “I was sure you would show up soon.” She was very calm.
“Mrs. Frumpwooler, I beg of you. Please do not mix incarnations. The resulting karma can be devastating.”
“Hah,” she mocked, but thought to herself that he did still have his uses: whether as Commander Blevins or Ito-san.
“You continue to amaze me, Mrs. Frumpwooler, though I do wish you would consult with me before moving about on your own,” Blevins suddenly felt unsure with Mrs. Frumpwooler.
“Right. So you can get them first. No way Ito…Commander. Those are mine. You saw me take them, TWICE, and I won’t let you muck things up a second time.” Mrs. Frumpwooler had taken another turn in her Records-induced instability and was now self-assured, even militant.
Commander Blevins was befuddled. “I’m not sure I follow, Mrs. Frumpwooler.” Another Pterodactyl flew in front of them and cawed to the big bird they were riding. “And I don’t think we should stay here for much longer.”
“Of course you do. You follow all too well.” Three more Pteras sailed by. “Though you may be right about getting off this thing. I’d rather not go at it hand to…whatever…with another one of these creatures.”
The Ptera suddenly settled the matter for them, doing a violent barrel roll that spun Commander Blevins and Mrs. Frumpwooler off its back. Blevins grabbed her hand as they fell and shifted to a spot below and near the canal. They landed amid the beat of wings as a squadron of the huge Pteras just missed swooping them up for a midday snack.
“Well, now what do we do,” Mrs. Frumpwooler asked, becoming abruptly passive, fully expecting Commander Blevins to get them out of their predicament, even though moments before she had been abusing him.
Blevins flowed with her change and reasserted his guidance. He felt exceptionally alive today in the Causal Worlds, more fully in touch with Knowingness than he had experienced before. He knew that the higher one travels in the Inner Worlds, the more their motivations purify…and that purification, even in the smallest of doses, causes upheaval. He saw a small clearing nearby, with a picnic table in its center. Commander Blevins motioned for Mrs. Frumpwooler to follow as he walked toward it. He sat down on the far side.
“Oh, great. Now you want to rest,” huffed Mrs, Frumpwooler. She put both hands on the table and leaned her face down close to his and said, with building fury, “When I asked what we should do, I did NOT have in mind sitting here in this little park. I want to go back home NOW…to my normal body. And then I am going to leave your presence forever. Do I make myself clear, Commander Blevins!”
“Quite clear, Mrs. Frumpwooler,” Blevins said evenly.
Though he had seen many erratic mood shifts in Clients as he brought them nearer and nearer to Akash, he had never seen the violent extremes he was now witnessing in Mrs. Frumpwooler. “I think we had better abandon the normal return route,” he said.
“Will that be faster?” she hissed.
“Yes, it will take no more than a moment.”
“Do it then,” she said.
“You must sit down first.”
“Well, why didn’t you say so.” She said and sat down.
Sighing, Commander Blevins said, “Please sit over here by me. We will need to be touching to make sure we return to the same point in time and space.”
Mrs. Frumpwooler got up and walked around the table. Sitting down, she warned him, “None of your tricks, now.”
Ignoring her, Commander Blevins said, “Just sit quietly and breath deeply.”
“You said this would only take a moment.”
“It will, Mrs. Frumpwooler. It will…but only if you cooperate.”
“Alright.” she straightened her back and began to breathe deeply. Commander Blevins watched her until he trusted she would continue.
“Put your right hand on the table,” he said. She did so. “Now, let your mind go, just let it think whatever it wants to. We will let this happen quietly for a moment.” They both sat in silence, breathing deeply. “Now, picture a blue light swirling in front of your eyes and slightly above them.” After more silence, he said, “Do you see the blue light?”
“Yes, I do,” she answered, mellowing slightly.
“Good.” Blevins knew Mrs. Frumpwooler would have a hard return unless she released her anger. “Now let it grow larger and larger until the blue light overshadows everything.” More quietly, he then said, “Let yourself be submerged in the swirling blue light.” A long moment passed, then he asked her, “Are you submerged in the blue light?”
“Yes, I am,” Mrs. Frumpwooler said. She sounded far away and nearly peaceful.
“Good. Now out of the middle of the swirling blue light, watch as your physical body walks toward you.”
Mrs. Frumpwooler watched as she walked toward herself. Commander Blevins also watched as his rumpled body lumbered straight for himself. He broke the silence quietly. “In a minute, reach out and touch yourself…not yet…it is important we do this together.” He spoke without speaking, but for the first time on this Journey in the Causal Worlds, his words did not resonate within Mrs. Frumpwooler. “I am going to touch….”
Commander Blevins did not finish his sentence. He felt he was alone and opened his eyes. He was. He quickly closed them again, re-established the swirling blue and his physical body, and reached out to touched it.
“Ruckus In The Bathroom”
Blevins was aware, but not fully conscious. Points of light and images of other forms passed by him. He traveled down and down the bright blue tunnel. In his awareness, he knew he had come this way before. He felt himself sliding, yet without any sensation of motion. A brilliant, almost blinding orange ring shot by him, followed by an equally bright pink one and then a silver streak, all flashing by.
Then a growing heaviness began to seep into him. He felt weight as a tangible sensation, spreading from the center of his being outward: weight upon weight. Something soft pushed up against him. He heard a noticeable ‘pop’, as the bright blue tunnel dimmed and was gone.
He opened his eyes. Commander Blevins was home. The first thing he noticed was the love seat. It was turned over on its back. There was a cup of tea on the floor nearby, spilled. Full consciousness returned to him as he thought, “Mrs. Frumpwooler! Where is she!”
Commander Blevins stood up and groaned. Physical reality had returned quickly. His legs felt numb. He remembered to check his clocks. One said 1:37, the other 3:24, changing to 3:25 as he stared at it. He tried to remember which one had been the Journey clock this time. Most trips lasted about a half hour. He had never been gone more than two hours before, let alone three and a half, so it had to be the clock that read 1:37.
“Remarkable,” he said to himself, “a near record. But where on earth is Mrs. Frumpwooler!”
“Mrs. Fruuumpwoooool-er,” he called out loud.
As if in response to his call, he heard a racket from the direction of the bathroom, which was located past the front door at the end of a short hallway. He walked stiffly across the main room–stopping to turn up one heater–and into the foyer, with the two light cords following. The small square of hardwood flooring served as the hub of the apartment. This axis separated the kitchen from a large walk-in closet, from the small, front door coat closet, from the living-sleeping room, from the short hallway that led to the bathroom. Peering around the corner of the short hallway, he flinched as he heard, “Get away from me you horrid thing.” Something crashed. He had found Mrs. Frumpwooler.
More cursing and banging echoed from the closed bathroom door. Commander Blevins found himself stymied: he could not just go barging into the bathroom with a lady inside…and she HAD shut the door. On the other hand, she was definitely not tending to normal business.
“Try that again and I’ll clobber you good,” Mrs. Frumpwooler yelled from inside the closed door.
“Well that settles it,” Commander Blevins said to himself. He marched the few steps down the hallway, raised his fist to pound on the door and opened his mouth to announce his intentions. Before he could do either, the bathroom door opened and Mrs. Frumpwooler stormed out.
“So there you are!” she said, pushing by him. “YOU can deal with that THING now.” The light cords whipped around as Mrs. Frumpwooler elbowed him. Commander Blevins looked back into the bathroom. The window over the tub was open about two inches. The white tile floor needed cleaning and repairing in a few places. The toilet seat was half up, at a forty-five degree angle, something he had not seen before.. He stepped in and looked up at the ceiling. The cracked paint festooned over the tub, hanging down in several places. Cautiously he peered around the door, moving it back from the wall a few inches. A magazine lay on the floor, rumpled, and the toilet brush had fallen out of its caddy. Nothing unusual. The toilet seat was at a curious angle, but that did not seem significant to him…and certainly not grounds for Mrs. Frumpwooler’s outburst.
He turned and headed back to the main room. As he entered the room he saw Mrs. Frumpwooler sitting on the up-turned edge of the love seat, rubbing her calves and feet. “My God, but I’m sore and achy,” she said. “My arm feels like I’ve been loading bags of cement.” Without looking up she added, “Where did you hide my hat, Blevins. I must get out of this oven before I die of perspir….” The next word out of her mouth was a scream, followed by, “Get away from me with that thing, you monster.”
Commander Blevins was at a loss. He stood in the middle of the living room with his two light cords swishing behind him. He, of course, wasn’t aware of this. Nor did he realize that Mrs. Frumpwooler had made such a hasty and unguided return to the Physical World that she had ripped her aura. A new friend had found her condition too inviting to pass up and was in hot pursuit of her, trying to make contact.
In the confusion of Mrs. Frumpwooler leaving the bathroom just as Commander Blevins showed up outside it, her new friend–in pursuit of her–stopped to sniff at the light cords of Commander Blevins’ two unknown MEs.
Mrs. Frumpwooler’s impatient reentry had also left her Inner Vision wide open, a condition guaranteed to affect the balance of the most stout individual. Running about the Physical World with the spiritual eye wide open was the equivalent of sniffing everyone’s dirty underwear. Hidden thoughts, Misplaced Entities, warped auras and distorted energy fields were just a few of the unseen aspects of Physical World life on full view to someone whose third eye has been unexpectedly opened.
As Commander Blevins stood in front of Mrs. Frumpwooler, the newcomer–her unwanted paramour–was drifting lazily around the two light cords coming out of Commander Blevins’ back. Having satisfied Itself of the nature of Its unseen cousins, It again spied Mrs. Frumpwooler and, leading with Its unconnected light cord, headed straight for her.
All this happened in a flash. The newcomer came around the side of Commander Blevins. It was about twice the size of a hand-held vacuum, green and very ugly. To Mrs. Frumpwooler, it looked as though Commander Blevins held Its light cord and was bringing It over to her, as though It were a balloon on a string. She also saw for the first time the two other light cords, and immediately presumed he was in league with the awful thing that had accosted her in the bathroom.
She bolted for the door and for freedom. Diamonds danced in the back of her mind, blind fear hovered in front of her and the purple hat, so dear to her a moment before, was gone from her thoughts entirely. Commander Blevins stepped aside to avoid being run down. She jinked around where he had been and ran smack into him, knocking him back, almost bowling him over. The green ME used this moment of impact to plant its cord deep into Mrs. Frumpwooler’s back.
She and her light cord were out the door a moment later. Confused and stunned, Commander Blevins regained his balance and called to her, “Won’t you stay for some more tea?”
The terror drained away as she charged down the stairway. When the new ME attached to her, it drew a great deal of energy. Since she had her physical and emotional energies fully occupied, the only place from which the ME could draw additional energy was from her spiritual eye, which immediately locked down in reaction to the pressure. So, as Mrs. Frumpwooler burst through the front door of 600 Page Street, her spiritual eye closed and she was not, therefore, overwhelmed with all the unseen things that bounce around, unseen, in the Physical World.
“And Greeny Makes Three”
“Something is sniffing at me,” said Ember.
“That won’t last long, I’m sure,” Pins said.
“Puddle and poop. At least the Old Lush is back,” Pins said.
“Reformed Lush, you mean.”
“Well not for long if I have anything to say about it,”
Their bickering went on, rarely stopping. The two light cords–one well-defined and dull-red, the other fuzzy, dark grey and dirty–which connected these two ill-tempered cousins with Commander Blevins, swayed in an unseen, gentle breeze. At the same moment, the other wind, the one which caused people to bundle up, was coming off the ocean wet, cold, and brisk.
Ember was plumb, red-orange and sat easily on the wire waving Its stumpy little arms. There was a vague head-like shape to the upper portion of Its body. When needed It could squeeze-out a face, legs and a more defined torso. At the moment, however, It was resting and happy to be Its blobish self, waving Its little stumps, which caused the wire to vibrate at an irregular rate, incessantly annoying Pins.
“Hey Maggot Breath, there ain’t no parade today,” Pins said. It was not very fit and hung tenaciously to the wire, afraid of falling off. In past times It had been fat and sassy in Its black and grey pin-striped body, relishing vicarious thrills from Commander Blevins’ near constant drinking and frequent visits to the world of titillation. The appearance of Ember, however, slowed their host considerably, leaving little remaining energy to satisfy Pins. It was withering and not a pretty sight.
“Hey, lookeyloo,” Ember said.
“Above the place, Eagle Eye.”
“Oh, yeah. Wonder what he is.”
“Well, if he’s got anything to do with our friend, he can’t be good news,” Ember said. “Feeling any loss in juice?”
“I’ve felt nothing but a loss of juice for quite sometime, now,” Pins said.
“I mean any sudden change just now, Jerkoff.”
“No.” Pins searched Its list of deities to plead for help in getting rid of Ember. “Hey, look, he disappeared.”
“Maybe he hasn’t hooked on yet. Shake it, Commander!” Ember had now materialized short legs and was jumping up and down on the wire, Its light cord whipping around frantically.
“Wa-Wa-Watch it, Dummmmm….” Pins lost Its grip on the wire and went sailing downward. Its light cord got tangled with Ember’s, sending It back up then down again on a whiplash ride.
The door to 600 Page Street opened and Mrs. Frumpwooler walked out. She pulled her collar tightly around her neck and marched across Page Street without looking in either direction. Trailing behind her was a bright green line of light, coming from the back of her knee-length mauve coat and disappearing into the doorway she had just left.
“Hey wowser, look at this, High Wire,” Ember said, and stopped jumping up and down. It studied Mrs. Frumpwooler and her light cord intently. The diversion allowed Its light cord to slowly stop whipping around.
Pins grabbed a hold of Its companion’s swaying light cord as soon as it slowed down enough to do so, and began climbing up the light cord with Its stumpy little arms.
“Hey, ow…oohh. Cut it out…that tickles…hahahah,” Ember said, Its attention split between the sensations coming up Its light cord and watching Mrs. Frumpwooler.
The green light cord which came out of her back had strung out behind her as she crossed Page. In a quick motion, it cut up through the apartment building like steel cable slicing a cloud. When she had reached the corner of Page and Filmore, a small green ugly balloon popped out of a second floor window, looking bedraggled. The Third One was slowly learning the ropes of maneuvering while attached to a physical body.
Mrs. Frumpwooler crossed Page Street and walked down Filmore directly across the street from the two squabbling Misplaced Entities. Her new-found friend floated along behind her, looking like a wilted St. Patrick’s Day balloon with stumpy little arms.
Ember, now tickled unbearably, forgot about Mrs. Frumpwooler and began dancing wildly. It heard a small voice down below It say, “Quit jumpin….” A thousand daggers speared Its light cord. Distorting in pain, It looked down to see Pins grinning hideously behind a huge mouthful of bared teeth. Reddish light spilled out around Pins’ mouth, where many pointy teeth gripped Ember’s light cord.
They looked at each other, their four beady eyes meeting and locking. Whimpering, Ember watched as Pins reached up above Its mouth with Its hand and grasped the wounded light cord. Pins opened Its mouth and pulled Itself up a stumpy arm’s length.
Slowly Pins opened Its now huge mouth again and positioned Its teeth around the cord.
“Nooooo, please, please, please don’t bite again,” Ember said. Pins hung motionless for a long moment, then pulled back Its mouth, closed it and hauled Itself up Ember’s light cord hand over little hand, keeping eye contact the whole time.
Hopping up on the wire, Pins felt reinvigorated from absorbing the spilled light from Ember’s wounded light cord. Its dull black color had some shine, there was a hint of grey pin striping and Its beady little eyes sparkled in a way they had not for a long time. It looked over at Ember and said, “Now what’s the news, Frozen Ovary.”
Trembling from both fright and a leaking light cord, Ember could only hold Its stumpy little arm out and point across the street to a hurrying figure wearing a mauve coat and sporting a bright green light cord coming straight out of her back.
“Holy Light Sucker!” Pins said, “a new kid on the block. So that’s what old What’s Its Face brought back with him. Wonders and wonders. Do you think the old crustacean will ever learn?”
“I ho-o-ope no-o-t.” Ember’s teeth were chattering from cold and Its body had turned pale pink.
Mrs. Frumpwooler was jostled by two people carrying groceries. Diamonds had been on her mind since watching herself, as Gwendolyn, hide them. Now she had Diamond-fever. She did not watch her she step. The neighborhood where she had worked so long ago unfolded before her mind’s eye: large wonderful big homes; chilly walks through Lafayette Park; catching the cable car down on California Street; people going to parties; kitchen help, like herself, working hard to serve all those people who stood around and smiled down their noses at her; the men who constantly made advances: some subtle, some not so subtle…and the Diamonds: those amazing little stones of pure light.
She had watched from the kitchen as Mr. Von Blume had carefully emptied the bags out in front of old Peter Haas late one night. She had overheard Von Blume tell tales of his mine in South Africa, but she heard very few words. The sight of the diamonds had choked her mind. Had she known of them the night before when old Peter showed Von Blume to her room and told her, with a wink, to “entertain our distinguished guest”–it was disgusting for her to think about to think about, the man was so fat and reeked from drink–but if she had known about the diamonds then….
Tires screeched and a horn honked. “Hey watch out, Lady. You crazy?” someone yelled. Mrs. Frumpwooler shook off the memories flooding her and found herself standing in the middle of Haight Street. The light had turned red against her, but she had walk into the street anyway. Now there was a white van blocking her retreat and cars zipped by in front of her.
“Looky. Looky. Green-Greeny ain’t gonna have juice for long. That broad’s gonna get herself killed. Wheeeee, what fun,” Pins said.
“Yeth, your rith,” Ember said softly. It was sitting a couple meters farther away from Its companion and was sucking on the wounded part of Its light cord. “Ann noh looeyloo,” It said pointing back toward 600 Page Street.
Commander Blevins pushed through the door with two worn cardboard boxes, one inside the other. Both had handle cutouts which had ripped-out and had been taped over repeatedly. One of the outside box’s handles needed repair again. He held the bigger box by the good handle on one end and by the bottom corner on the other end.
Dressed as he was–long waterproof cape over wool coat over short leather jacket, two sock caps pulled down low on his forehead and a six foot crimson and grey striped scarf coiled around his neck and dragging on the ground behind him–he looked amazingly strange and awkward, a sight even to street people. Commander Blevins struggled with the empty boxes in his ongoing attempt to pull his coats tightly around him.
The two light cords followed him, of course, and easily shortened as he, and they, neared the perch of the MEs. “What a crazy woman,” he muttered. “She didn’t even pay me.”
“Its a party,” yelled Pins.
Mrs. Frumpwooler had by this time cleared Haight Street and was marching further down Filmore, intent on catching the N Judah trolley out to the Sunset. She wanted to get to the solitude of Ocean Beach to consider her options, then intended to head back to the Marina, and home, to formalize plans to recover her long-lost diamonds. She stopped in her tracks, however, and said loudly, “My hat! That greedy old man kept my hat!” turned around and set off back up Filmore to confront the thieving Commander Blevins and rescue her purple hat. Her green friend navigated the “U” turn with only minor difficulty and was soon merrily in tow, smiling a satisfied, ugly smile.
“Now, Greeny’s coming back,” said Pins, continuing the narrative for Its wounded fellow wire-sitter.
Mrs. Frumpwooler and Greeny hit Haight Street in full stride. Looking up, she was amazed to see Commander Blevins coming down the hill towards her. “Thief! Thief!” she yelled and sprinted across the street after him; he would not escape if she could help it.
Commander Blevins heard a commotion, and some yelling. He ignored it, there was always yelling and commotion on the streets these days.
“Hey Bro, wanna score?” a tall man in dreadlocks whispered as he brushed by. Commander Blevins pushed passed him and turned the corner.
“Come back here you…” Mrs. Frumpwooler’s oath was cut short. She felt her shoulder meet with resistance. A small question formed in her mind before bright blue, and very familiar light flooded over her.
“Holy Holy, did you see that, Frozen Ovary?” Pins asked. Ember opened Its mouth. Its light cord drop out. Pink was darkening to red in most of Its body as Its healing efforts took effect. Its mouth remained open, but no sound came forth.
Commander Blevins heard more commotion behind him, but ducked into the laundromat, anxious to see if his clothes were still there.