“A person’s mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimension.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
Ch 4 … Dialogue Interrupted
“Make yourself at home,” Spence said. He absentmindedly whistled a complex melody…a tune that sounded vaguely reminiscent of, and certainly as unrestrained as, “Flight of the Bumblebee.” His arms flailed wildly about as he found himself caught in a blustery updraft of his own making that was completely devised of flitting, buzzing noises. But even in this flurry, he managed to retain his balance and eventually remembered his manners (such as they were) and gestured around to showcase the eclectic assortment of chairs, sofas, loungers, hammocks, and rugs that were placed in a haphazard manner on the camp grounds.
Dryst surveyed the area. It was a far cry from what he typically imagined when he heard the word “camp.” Spence had led them — Dryst and the tribe of about 30 others — to what must have been at one time a large mansion, possibly even a museum. If it had had a zip code, it would have been on the tropic side of the tropical desert, but this didn’t stop a meandering tumbleweed or two from dallying feebily onto the building’s stone facade. In its entirety, the building cast an expansive shadow around them and branched off into multiple wings that outlined a number of great, jutting swaths on the ground. Its roof was intact for the most part; although large sections of the facility turned a yawning eye upward to the skies above (as opposed to the skies below, which, depending on your perspective, one could argue could exist since the world wasn’t flat). Dryst glanced in particular and with some anticipation at the numerous seating areas in one such yawning section of the building. The section the group – led by this shepard or the pied piper, Dryst wasn’t sure yet which – now found themselves in: an enormous outdoor patio that was connected to the main building by granite beams and pillars.
In a flurry, Spence spun around from the force of a rapid succession of notes that had issued themselves from his pursed lips. He flopped his body into the folds of the nearest chaise lounge but only after the sounds had reached their height and only after they had twiddled themselves away into the day-dusk sky. Dryst was glad for the silence. The group had walked for quite some time, or so it had seemed. And the building had appeared out of nowhere, or so it had appeared as if it had. And Spence had whistled the majority of the time, or the melody had become so engrained in everyone’s psyche that it had seemed like Spence had fluted his breathing non-stop. Probably to lighten the mood, Dryst understood as much. Still, the Bumblebee’s Flight had become overdone with Dryst feeling a bit undone himself, at this point, by a sudden rush of weariness.
He wanted just about to collapse but wouldn’t. Sitting would suffice. He wanted a semblance of clarity but didn’t expect much of that for a while. Calmness for a moment would be good. He wanted to know what Spence knew — about The Event, and the rippling air, and the Gloaming, and the metal scrap that the bumblee-obsessed-whistler had referred to as the Portal — because Dryst was convinced that an understanding of all of these would lead more directly to Mya, someone who Dryst knew Spence could never tell him about because no one knew Mya, no one felt Mya like Dryst did. But while clarity remained elusive for now, for all the other things that Spence was capable of describing, Dryst expected to know of them in great detail, like, yesterday, and truthfully, even knowing them yesterday wasn’t immediate enough to suit him. But evenso…first…Dryst would sit.
“Plop a squat, Kid.”
“Dryst…” Spence acknowledged. “Take a load off.”
Stress-induced fatigue pulled at Dryst’s muscles and urged him to relinquish the tension in them. If only for a moment. And so he did. He lowered himself into a chair that was shaped like a giant leaf. It morphed its colors along the spectrum of yellow-reds, blue-greens, white-tans, then morphed its own morphing into countless other color combinations. This comforted him somehow. He felt cradled within nature’s creation, within a universal energy. He put down the heavy thoughts, opened his mind, and listened.
“The trick is knowing what you don’t know.” Spence cinched his teeth together and pushed the tip of his tongue against the back of them. “That’s always been the trick. And what you don’t know about what you don’t know…well, kid. It’s alot.”
“So tell me.”
“Where do I begin…”
“Wherever it makes sense to begin.”
The mansion rumbled. Rooms fell away. Towers sprung up. Tunnels stretched outward. Chambers opened. Hallways closed off and vanished. Bricks and mortar materialized in places that previously had been exposed to all. Dryst’s lips parted slightly. Spence’s eyebrow raised knowingly.
“Good thing the patio’s still intact. Good thing, I’d say.”
“Somehow you knew it would be.”
“Looks like we conveniently stumbled upon a perfect example of one of those things that I had no idea I didn’t know.”
“Sounds about right.”
“The not knowing or the convenience?”
“What else about this –” Dryst nodded his head in the direction of the rearranged mansion “– don’t I know.”
“It’s been here a long time. A very long time. Probably throughout the ages, I suspect.”
“Really. Looks nouveau riche to me. Well…yeah…even before it did that Transformer thing. Still does.”
Spence snorted lightly.
“Nice to see a sense of humor.”
“Or the absurd.”
“Either will do.”
Dryst read the lines in the corner of Spence’s eyes; studied the furrow on the bridge of his nose.
“You’ve been at this a while.”
“What exactly is it…that you’ve been at…for a while.”
“Of what. Of this?” Dryst gestured toward the rearranged mansion.
“In a sense.”
“In what sense.”
Dryst’s aggitation started making a resurgence. I don’t have time for the old man’s run-around.
Spence inhaled. “Kid, sit back and listen.”
The mansion creaked softly. They watched a giant flower push its way out of one of the towers, blossom fully, then slowly drape itself over and into the quiet tropical desert air. It was lovely and soothing, powerful and beautiful. And totally random. And should have been shocking, but somehow, this lovely and soothing, powerful and beautiful happening caused Dryst to reopen his mind. He turned his focus back to the old man, who Dryst realized was probably less old than he looked to be. Certainly no kid. But just as certainly, not ancient. Just…been around. Seen alot of things. Probably things Dryst needed to know.
“We’re not all that different from you. I am not all that different from you, believe it or not. We were exploring. The lot of us. Just like you and your gal.”
“Mya.” Dryst’s pupils dialated.
“Mya, yeah…” Spence bobbed his head in small acknowledging gestures, then contiunued. “So exploring. A tropical desert…unheard of. Bizarre even. But here.”
“Yeah. We heard of it, too. We were curious, too.”
“Right. Who wouldn’t be. So how could we not be here to check it out. We had heard of some magic, some mysteries, some otherworldly things that had happened here.”
Spence raised his eyebrows again. “Don’t really know who those people were.” He paused briefly, then continued. “I suppose that’s part of the reason why we came here. We thought we might find them here. They had come into Eternity, our community…the last one just to the south, the one just before you enter the long crawl of this place, this tropical desert. One day, they came. Just showed up and sort of were there. They stayed a short time. Kept talking up the peculiarities of this place. Before you know it, one day they were gone. Whooshed. Poofed. They had left just as quickly as they had arrived. Where to exactly, no one can say. It’s a good thing more than one of us came across them, or a person would start to seriously question their sanity,” Spence chuckled. “Anyway,” he continued, “some of us thought we’d find them here. They seem to come from here, from the tropical desert. Whether or not they live here, I don’t know. But my guess is this seems to be some sort of junction, some sort of Way for them.”
Dryst frowned. “What makes you think all of that?”
“That they come from here? Well, now. They talked about it so much, it seems a leap, yes, but a leap in logic.”
“Well, yeah, true. But moreso this junction or Way that you mentioned. What makes you say that?”
Spence nodded and grinned. “Well, that was certainly one of my many ‘didn’t know that I didn’t know that’ moments. So you see, kid, you’re not alone in that department.”
“Good to hear, old man.” Dryst bit the words between his teeth. And then immediately, his lips tasted Mya, and he heard the way she bit at the word “dude.” Suddenly, he felt both the way she reacted to that word and the way her reaction to it had made him chuckle. Even brought him some relief. He smiled inside. Longingly so.
“Good to hear,” he whispered and corrected himself by omitting the ‘old man’ reference.
Spence quietly, briefly looked up from under his brow then just as quickly, he relaxed his eyelids and continued speaking.
“This place…showed itself to us. Much like it just did – or a bit of it did, I should say – just a few minutes ago to you. It changes frequently. Constantly, actually. We just don’t quite have the pattern of it down. Or the timing. The patio always stays the same. Oh, a roof may come or go, but by and large, the structure and the furnishings and the food and the water — all of the necessities and conveniences of life — remain intact.”
“Maybe a bit too conveniently so.”
“Maybe. We’re pretty certain it morphs only into what we see and nothing beyond. But…”
“…that could be another unknown waiting to be discovered.”
“Yes. And the reason behind the morphing…there’s some profound reason behind it, something causing it. Something other than oh discovering a giant Rubix Cube that happened to have been designed by, say, Salvidor Dali.”
“We’re not exactly talking about discovering the world’s biggest ball of Twine or the world’s Largest Frying Pan.”
Spence winked slightly. “Most definitely probably not.”
“So…what do you think we’re talking about here. With this place. Those strangers. And the Way that you talked about.”
“The mansion shifts shapes, changing its texture and material, its structure and appearance on a whim. If its an ordered morphing, we haven’t discovered the pattern or process yet.” Spence paused, lost in recollection. Eventually, he snorted mildly again.
“Those strangers? Heh…they were a strange lot. A very strange lot,” Spence continued. “Not initially, no. But soon enough. They took to walking around changing their skins, changing their appearances on a whim.” He paused. “Something like this place. …probably even shapeshifters, I suspect.” He nodded to himself. “Probably even that.”
Dryst absorbed what he had just heard and eventually said, “Yeah…I’ve heard of shapeshifters. Didn’t think there was anything to it, though.”
“Oh, there is. There most definitely is,” Spence replied quiety, then asked, “Had you seen one before coming out here?”
Dryst shook his head sideways.
“Huh,” Spence chortled mildly. His raised eyebrows lifted his eyes wide open. “Well, Dryst…friend…” he paused for effect.
“You’ve seen one since being out here. Oh definitely.”
National Novel Writing Month: Chapter 4 of 30 (wah!!! eyes crossed, needing to make up an 1800 word count deficit because I was totally gripped by last night’s historic U.S. Presidential Election and didn’t post anything yesterday!); Chapter 4 total wordcount: 1950 (not including this notation). Total total count: 7350.