Volume One, Episode One: A Monster’s Passage to India
Numbered Transcript by Rikki Simons
1. *** Act One ***
2. I was attacked by a monster last night.
3. I left my boat on Grünewald Hill — that’s where I live — and I went out for a stroll with my cat, Dalí.
4. We went walking with my bicycle, and I saw what looked like an egg-headed man standing under the electric light near the telephone booth. The red one. Not the blue one where the old man in the turtleneck with the balloon always keeps vigil.
5. The monster was standing there smoking one of those brown paper cigarettes, but I couldn’t tell at first because he had his head turned, and his face (which was completely oval) was recessed into head by about three inches.
6. It was completely concave, geometric, and oblate.
7. I was going to pass him without saying anything. I mean, why would I speak to him? I didn’t know him. But suddenly he turned to me and made a sort of terrible face. I was startled because I don’t like making eye contact. So, without thinking I just said, “Hi. Are you one of the Convoluted?”
8. And then he spit out his cigarette like it was a sour toothpick and he said, very rudely, “What the fuck does it look like, asshole?” But he said it in German, and I don’t know German very well, but I know the bad words.
9. I shared a look with Dalí — and Dalí, well, he sat up in his basket — he’s very protective.
10. So I pushed my hat down on my head and I tried to move past the monster. I didn’t want to provoke him any more than he already was. You never know how people are.
11. When I was about ten feet away, he shouted after me. “Wait! You don’t want to go down that way!”
12. And I thought was very strange because I did want to go down that way. I mentioned this to him.
13. He then put in another cigarette and took a puff and he asked, “Are you Fubsí Potvaliant of Grünewald Hill?”
14. I said, “Yes, how did you know?”
15. He said, “You dress like him, and you’re on Grünewald Hill.”
16. I thought that was pretty bright. It’s not often you find someone who knows what they’re talking about.
17. I then asked him if we knew each other, and he said no, and that everybody knows me. I said, “What do you mean?”
18. He said, “That hat, that cat, and that bicycle, and that coat. Everyone knows you.”
19. I didn’t know how to feel about that. I really don’t like people noticing me. I mean, what if they all start doing it?
20. He marched up to me then and grabbed me and shook me by my duffle coat. He demanded, “Why do you go that way, if there’s no Passage to India? Why do you go the way you’re going right now?”
21. And I said, “I’m not trying to go to India! I’m just trying to go to lunch!” I know it’s the wrong time of night for that. I should have said dinner or supper, but it was the first thing that came to my head.
22. Well, then he spun me around and faced me north, right in the direction of the Orphic Astronaut. He said, “Go that way! Go that way and you’ll have your lunch... in India!”
23. That was when Dalí leapt out of the basket and tore him to pieces. He’s very protective.
24. When all the fuss and horror and blood and shouting was over with — and Dalí was back in my basket — I followed his instructions. I guess I’m weak like that.
25. I usually eat at my landlady’s café Cockles et Whelks, which is inside a cabaret called Das Seekühe der Kamelien (The Seacow of the Camellias) but that night I went off looking for India. I don’t know what I do these things.
27. I’ve never been to France or Germany, but I always thought that my city, Absinthium Kingdom, looks something like the photographs I used to see of Berlin and Paris from the 1920s. If you were to take those pictures and cut them up and paste them back together in a very unorganized and random and chaotic fashion, and then arrange them around the central hub of a seventy story, black, monolithic structure made of doors then you’d have Absinthium Kingdom. My city is a city of Surrealists and it’s hidden in the Antarctic. It doesn’t get cold here like the rest of the Antarctic because of the barrier. The black tower in the middle of the city is called the Orphic Astronaut and it’s the whole reason why everything is here. It’s actually projecting out from another dimension called Orphic Arctica. Anybody who looks at the Orphic Astronaut
28. becomes a Surrealist and gets their own manifesto. My manifesto is called The Threadbare Heart and I suppose that it’s not a very good one because I’m not a very good Surrealist. I’m only an Animator after all.
29. Sometimes people don’t trust Animators. People think we’re too sensitive. And because of that we often live alone. But at least I have Dalí. As long as I have Dalí I have a friend. There’s no other cat like him here. All the others usually have one eye too many or wings or something else strange about them because that’s the way their Animators make them. But I made Dalí just a cat. Just an orange Bengal cat. Green eyes. One of his ears is a little crumpled though.
30. I have one other friend but I’ve never met her. Her name is Ollie and she’s my pen friend. And we write letters back-and-forth to each other all the time. We’ve been writing to each other for about fifteen years. I usually send her a letter, ask her what’s the weather’s like in California, and she writes back and just says it’s blue or it’s hot, and then I write back and say they sounds nice. It’s cold and grey here. And then she writes back and says that’s nice.
31. We have a very good friendship.
32. Maybe Dalí and I will meet her someday. But I don’t know how. I’m not very good at teleportation.
34. It was sometime between 7:70 and 7:730 PM and the thick black storm clouds had moved in overhead about two hours prior, simulating night. This was early January, just a few days into the new millennium, summertime for both Absinthium Kingdom and the real Antarctic.
35. It was cool comfortable weather, I thought. The mood felt ghoulish sometimes under the sickly green electric lights, but as I peddled with Dalí down Rue Publique to the trolley station, I was still thankful for the cloud cover. Fake night was better than no night at all.
36. As we approached the station the streets were relatively empty and the few Surrealists who were out were mostly shopping or taking apart and rearranging their cars. One of the cars turned out to be a bull in disguise. I avoided all the noise and shouting and flying rubbish bins by switching to a footpath, which was mostly clear except for one man in fire. But he was always on fire. His name was George and he looked pretty good in a blue suit.
37. When we got to the small trolley station under the fretwork awning, I got off my bicycle and folded it up into an eight-sided die and placed it into my vest pocket. I would roll the die later when I needed my bicycle.
39. It wasn’t long before the Red Centipede Number Nine trolley showed up. But instead of stopping completely, it only slowed down a little. I had to grab up Dalí and make a leap for the last car. This sort of thing had been happening very frequently lately, and a lot of us thought this was a sign that the lizardmen trolley drivers were going to go on strike again.
40. After catching my breath, I was sitting by a closed window with Dalí on my lap, when I suddenly realized I had no idea where I was going. Why did I get on this trolley, anyway? This line went into the Bizar de la Saturne Outgrabe, But the man with the concave face hadn’t told me to get on the trolley. He just said, “Go that way.” And for some reason, I did.
41. I explained this to Dalí and he responded by biting my hand, but then he pulled an envelope on pink card stock from my coat pocket. (Dalí doesn’t mean to hurt me when he bites me. He only means to make a couple of holes.)
42. I took the monstrous, concave man’s envelope out of Dalí’s mouth and examined it. It read: invitation to our random prize winner of the month, Fubsí Potvaliant (which was me). Come to Passage to India Café, 37B (Overfurnis) Rue Ostel, Bizarre del la Saturne Outgrabe.
43. I took off my hat and scratched my head. I didn’t remember entering a contest. Just then a woman in a pleaded, green tartan suit sat down beside me. I tried to avoid eye contact but she tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out the window, saying, “Look! An accident! A really bad one too!”
44. It was true. We were still on Grunewald Hill, just leaving Upper Doggerel District and approaching the Pont des Suicides — the Suicides Bridge — to Monte Mundivagant, but I could see that there was a terrible accident just outside the entrance to the elevated train depot. A man in a burlap suit riding an improvised pony in the center of the cobblestone street was flung through the window of a falafel house when his pony, which was mostly made of socks and bees, became startled by a woman carrying a guilded painting of an angry polar bear. I heard all this from the witnesses who came on board when the trolley was forced to slow down to accommodate a gathering crowd of morbid onlookers. One of the witnesses said the man was killed, but the bees were collected by the owner of the falafel house, who was a beekeeper on the side.
45. “Do his bees produce a good deal of honey?” someone asked.
46. “No, said the witness, “He just keeps them.”
47. When our trolley got up to speed again, the woman in the tartan suit (which had now changed from green to yellow) said to me, “What do you do?”
48. “I’m an animator,” I said. I held up my manifesto. Green cover. Red spine.
49. “No, that’s what you are,” she insisted. “I mean what do you do for a living?”
50. I said, “The same. I sculpt animals from clay and animate them into life.”
51. She thought about this for a minute. She looked very old but she sat up straight and her eyes wandered all over, as if she were reading a map. “How long do they live?” She asked.
52. “Well, that depends on the animal,” I said.
53. “No,” she protested, “you give them the expiration date, just like a carton of milk.”
54. “I do?” I said.
55. She then went on to explain to me that she used to have a zoologist friend, and this friend told her that every animal has an expiration date. But you can only find the expiration date if you look for it, which every zoologist is trained to do. For example, she explained, elephants have a trapdoor located under their abdomen. All you have to do is find the trapdoor, crawl inside, and talk to the man who lives there. But he’ll only speak to you if you’re a zoologist. If you are a zoologist, he’ll tell you how long the elephant has to live.
56. Remembering the bees from the accident, she explained that even bees have expiration dates. These are tied to their little feet. But you have to wear one of those little bee hoods — I don’t know what they’re called — otherwise the bees will get very irritated if you’re not a zoologist, and they’ll string up your eyes, making it impossible to locate the tags.
57. “Lots and lots of animals have expiration dates,” she continued. She said that even common field mice have them. Their expiration dates can be found sticking off of their backpacks. But you have to walk very carefully, even if you are a zoologist, because if they see you coming they’ll hide the backpacks behind a rock or their Kalashnikov rifles. I didn’t know they had those either.
58. I thought this was very interesting if not suspicious. I’ve owned a vast collection of Safari Cards since I was a child and I don’t remember them explaining any of this.
59. I learn so much when I travel.
60. **** Act Two ***
61. A half an hour later, to the sound of fireworks, we passed through the thirty foot pink and white damask wall that encircled the Bazar de la Saturne Outgrabe. There were always fireworks going off here. They were pretty loud, and it was like trying to browse a pastry shop in a war zone. Ducking under the fiery tail of a red rocket, I disembarked at the music box shaped trolley station on Rue Mome Rath. I then found a fretwork bench near a post office box — one of the yellow checker ones — where I composed a letter to Ollie. “Dear Ollie,” I wrote on a sheet of yellow correspondence stock. “Did you know that animals have expiration dates? Sincerely, Fubsí.”
62. I sealed my letter in an envelope and attempted to place it in the post office box, but Dalí, who was walking beside me now, began making a great fuss, hissing at my foot and swiping at my duck boots whenever I tried to deposit my letter. He had some kind of dislike of post office boxes and seemed to only trust the one in our neighborhood. I put the letter back in my coat and promised I’d wait to send it when we got back home. He calmed down and we walked on into the pastel, candy colored daydream that was the Bizarre de la Saturne Outgrabe.
63. Rue Mome Rath is the most expensive street in all of Absinthium Kingdom. It’s decorated like a glittering cupcake, with a street that is circular, an entire mile in diameter, and it encompasses the whole of the Orphic Astronaut on its island in the center. This street is a Pop Surrealist opus of buildings with cream and cake shaped facades, radiant lights and cobblestones colored like macaroons. Though it’s beautiful in many ways, I don’t like coming up here. To begin with I’m very poor, and there’s nothing here I can afford, but also, there’s just no place for the eye to rest. For all its glory, I can never find any respite here, and what starts off looking like true beauty begins to quickly feel like someone is blowing pie crumbs into my eyes.
64. Not even a pie I like. Just sort of... gooseberry-ish?
65. Brightly painted shops line both sides of Rue Mome Rath, forming a retaining wall around what is essentially a high class flea market for wealthy performance artists and runway models. Most of the Surrealists here are very successful Dreamers of Objects, people who not only wake up in the morning and find the machines and objects they dreamt about waiting by their bedsides, but they’ve also figured out how to duplicate these devices and become rich off the royalties.
66. Everyone dreams on the outside here. Nothing stays inside. And from what I understand, some dreams are just worth more than others.
67. Since I’m an animator, I’m very bad at dreaming objects into real life. My foldable bicycle is my greatest dream, and even then, when I first dreamt it into existence, I woke up with it in its 8 sided die form lodged in my throat and I nearly choked to death. No one has ever been able to figure out how to duplicate my bicycle. I know because otherwise I would have read about the choking deaths in the newspapers.
68. The street was packed that night, which was surprising for the Second Wednesday of the month. I weaved my way between the groups of people exploring the exspensive cafés and outdoor stalls strung with fairy lights, and the endless shops with their doors open, sending clashing music and fragrances and hallucinations out into the street.
69. Among the more interesting surrealists, I saw two toreadors in costumes made of golden shopping bags. They strolled arm-in-arm along a yellow, décollage-covered foot bridge over my head that connected two buildings in the revivalist style made of seashells. The couple, a man and a woman, argued loudly in French about where they parked their snow mobile.
70. I saw an elderly Indian man in brilliant Prussian blue equestrian attire sitting on a green deco bench. He looked completely normal in his long grey beard except that the bench he sat upon was planted atop a hovering public park. The park waited patiently by the traffic light before crossing, and the man looked serene as he fed a bag of sweets to a large white raccoon the size of Great Dane. He had two more giant raccoon servants, pink this time, that stood silently by his side. They had to be Golems of the Id, probably dreamt into existence to act as his personal valets. The strangest thing about this scene was the patience of the hovering park they all stood upon, because no one ever followed the traffic lights.
71. When the park crossed the intersection at Rue Mome Rath and Boulevard Saint-Suppet the French toreadors noticed they had left their snowmobile on the hovering park, having mistaken it for the stationary kind. They ran down the spiral staircase from the footbridge to the street and chased the park, the man and his raccoons.
72. This is the way it always was in Absinthium Kingdom. Chaos and weirdness was mostly everywhere. Only the cafés were safe. No active surrealism allowed in cafés. Everyone needed a place for the eye to rest, even though everyone contributed to the general restlessness. Many of the cafés themselves were a sort of low level kind of strange though. More quirky than overtly bizarre. For example, of the two cafés on the corner of Rue Mome Rath and Boulevard Saint-Suppet, one had a painting in the window of the old American actor Jimmy Durante in a kimono holding a cup of green tea and it was called Le Matcha-cha cha-cha, while the other café, called Bird Rage, was filled with parakeets and red checkered tablecloths spattered in bird shit. The patrons held open umbrellas as they sipped their coffee and complained about their friends.
73. After the hovering public park had left and the crowd thinned out a bit, the other side of the street became visible, and I found myself face-to-face with my nemesis, Thiago Muscovy (albeit I was still thirty feet from his actual face). Unfortunately, Thiago saw me too. I could see the whites of his eyes flash wide all the way on my side of the street and he swooped towards me like a praying mantis moving to collect a cricket. For a moment I was hopeful he wouldn’t reach me because as he marched across the street he crashed into a six foot tall decorated egg on wooden wheels. The egg was cracked with a shell thatwas split downward like an open shirt. A little man in a poncho sat within, and he was accompanied within the egg by a sunset and a fractured pyramid. He waved his fist angrily from his miniature world within the egg but Thiago ignored him and shoved his way towards me.
74. When my nemesis reached me he slapped me on the shoulder (actually on the arm, because Thiago is very short) and shouted, “Fubsï! What are you doing in the Bazar? You know you can’t afford anything here.” He said this all in Spanish.
75. Thiago Muscovy — thin, wide mouth, long face and a nose that points to his chin like an arrow — he always swaggers about in his pink tweed duster, smelling of a yolk-like hair cream: just a collection of rickety behavioral caricatures stitched together by cruel impulses. He‘s descended fromRussian and Spaniard aristocrats and and he speaks four languages including Spanish, French, Dutch, and English, but not Russian.
76. But he’s an asshole in any language.
77. Sorry I cursed.
78. That night he chose Spanish, his favorite. I can understand most of these languages but I’m not very good with speaking them or with the pronunciations.
79. I should back up and explain that Thiago and I went to the same boarding school together, Mimsy’s Musery of Swirling Nostalgics. Back at school, he was sometimes my friend, but mostly he was my most enthusiastic bully. Some of his childhood interests included cutting the strings to my kites in mid flight or stealing the hinges from to my dorm room door so that it would fall on me when I tried to enter. He‘s always been very very very very very very very wealthy, which was why I found him here.
80. Thiago pointed at my head and said, “Where’s your ugly hat, Fubsí? Did you finally throw it out?”
81. I looked down at Dalí and said to him, “Oh, no. I must have left my hat on the trolley.”
82. “I’m talking to you,” said Thiago, “Not the cat.”
83. Dalí bristled and growled at my feet and then Thiago took a step back, saying, “You still have that pendejo cat though, eh? How old is it now? Twenty years? Let me buy it off you. I’ll drop it off at the Institute and they can take it apart, find out why it’s lived this long.”
84. Dalí took a step forward and then Thiago bounced back a couple of feet, holding up his hands. “It’s a joke! Just a joke! But really, Fubsí what are you doing here?”
85. “Buena noches, Señor Muscovy,” I answered. “I got an invitation to a café and I thought I’d see if it was real.” I usually called Thiago by his surname, so that he didn’t think we were friends, but he seemed to accept it more as a statement of class structure.
86. “You got a coupon?” He asked, smirking.
87. “I won a contest,” I said.
88. He leaned into me and demanded, “What’s this café called?”
89. And when I told him it was called Passage to India his eyes bulged in that way that was never good.
90. He smiled wide and said, “That is my friend Blotto Thingmier’s café! You will love it! I suppose. I don’t know. I’ve never been there. It’s behind the gates of Ingres Prud’hon’s Caliope Carnival. Isn’t that interesting? You know how you feel about roller coasters. They have a very big one there called El cohete asesino súper horrible.”
91. I translated this in my head and said with visible worry, “The Super Horrible Murder Rocket? Why would they name it that?”
92. He didn’t answer but grabbed me by the shoulders (well, actually by the arms, he’s very short), spun me around, and pointed at a bronze gate far away, which I could barely make out down the street. “Just go there and find out!” he laughed. That was when Dalí chased him away, swiping at his feet as the man screamed for rescue. About half a block down Thiago faded into nothingness as if he had suddenly lost opacity. He was the type of Surrealist called a Randomanic. He could use random patterns in the world to find folds in space and time and teleport away. His particular weird powers reside in his olfactory senses, and he lifts his long pointed nose to sniff out the random patters that allow his escapes. His manifesto is called El sueño del crema para peinar (The Dream of the Comb Cream).
93. I waited for Dalí to return and together we walked towards the gate down the street. I said to him, “What do you think? Is this a trap?”
94. Dalí said nothing because he’s a cat.
95. We walked down the salmon and vanilla colored street to the gate and found the will call ticket booth in an alcove adjacent to the bronze gate. A massive sign fixed to an archway announced Ingres Prud’hon’s Caliope Carnival in brilliant Rococo neon letters and was complimented by a painting of a man in a purple greatcoat whose entire face was covered with a pink and white striped sack. This was the mascot of the park, Ingres Prud’hon himself. Some people didn’t like him as a character mascot but I always thought he was fine because he can’t make eye contact with you.
96. Behind a window with a small speaker hole cut into it stood a young woman, a teenager really, in white cotton voile blouse in the Gibson Girl style. She wore a patch over her right eye, and her left eye seemed to be focused on some other scene far away, some place much more interesting than manning a ticket booth.
97. When I told young woman at the gate my name and reason for calling she focused for half a minute on a spot behind me, then checked her list, looked up at the spot behind me, looked down at her list, and repeat these steps at least seven times, then finally looked at Dalí — and then looked at her list. She then stopped and said through a microphone, “Those shoes, that tie, that coat, that vest, and that cat… but no hat. You’re not Fubsí Potvaliant.”
98. I said, “Excuse me, but I’ve been him my whole life.”
99. “No, you don’t match the description,” she said, shaking her head.
100. “What’s my description?”
101. “No hat. You’re not him.”
102. “I left it on the trolley.”
104. “But I did.”
106. I said, “There must be something more to my description. Am I just a hat?”
107. “It’s none of my business,” she said, aloof.
108. “But what does it say?”
109. She sighed and looked disgusted, but not at me. She seemed to be looking at nothing. She only had meaningful contact with her list. She checked one more time, saying, “Green duffel coat, duck boots, blue striped trousers, patch shirt, tie, vest, glasses, cat, and a white pork pie hat.” She said it all at once and finished with a shrug.
110. “Is there any description of me as a person and not a costume?” I asked.
111. She replied, “I don’t know. I’m blind.”
112. There was silence between us for what felt like ages.
113. I thought about this and then Dalí and I slipped past her and into the gate. She stood starring at the spot where we had been. We moved on into the park and we were swallowed up by it’s hideous theme song.
114. *** Act Three ***
115. Once we got inside the amusement park I immediately regretted it it. The noise was awful. The sights and lights... it was like looking into an unappetizing bowl of salad, one that was delivered by mistake. I live alone with my cat on a boat on dry land in a courtyard that’s walled in on all four sides, so I’m rarely comfortable with crowds. Also, nothing in my boat moves around except Dalí and I. But here in this amusement park, everything moved, even some of the attractions.
116. I hadn’t been to Ingres Prud’hon’s Caliope Carnival in a long time, not since I was fifteen. Making my way through the park, I realized things had changed. Everybody was walking around with giant legs of turkey. They were holding them with their bare hands, so it was the flesh of one animal, dead, pressed into the flesh of a living animal, walking around sort of like cartoon cavemen chewing on roasted pieces of meat. These pieces of meat were larger than their heads, in most cases — and I thought it was strange because what happened if they bumped into someone holding another leg of Turkey? Would they fight? Even worse, this sort of escalated over time. It seems that the legs weren’t enough. Some people had decided to get the whole turkey. They stuck them on sticks — like small baseball bats — and they were just strolling around promenade-style with giant turkeys, one full turkey to each person, each turkey dead of course, cooked fortunately — or perhaps cooked of course and dead fortunately. But they were chewing and chewing and chewing on them, just as natural as could be. They seemed happy — the people — not the turkeys, they were dead. I noticed however that it was a little difficult for them to get on a few of the rides. This caused some backup and really it was all too much to look at, like watching a baby burping up on itself.
117. I was in a rush to get away from the turkey eaters and find The Passage to India. Café’s are safe havens from active Surrealism. No one would bring their dead turkeys into a café, especially since the owner would probably charge them extra for bringing in outside food. The crowds and multiple cacophonies were making me irritable too — even nimble Dalí was having difficulty keeping pace with me as I fast-walked my way deeper into the park. I zipped through the clearest paths. I was attempting to find a quiet spot away from carnival barkers, children tossing fish bowls at globs of hovering water, people throwing sandwiches at plush bears to win them, and shooting galleries where every cardboard cowboy shot turned into a toilet and exploded. Finding respite in a cool, unlit alley that connected two sections of the park, I caught my breath with my hands on my knees and slowly, a strange feeling came over me, as if I were being watched. And there it was, the roller coaster, El cohete asesino súper horrible — The Super Horrible Murder Rocket.
118. It was monstrous. A bright red, metal and wood superstructure in the shape of an octopus raising its tentacles above its head, it was one hundred feet high with interconnecting tentacles as tracks, and had so many loops and drops and points of terrifying acceleration, I couldn’t focus on which point to be most horrified by. I would never survive it. I’m just too tall for roller coasters. If I don’t get sick from the G forces, there’s always the fear of a low passing beam chopping my head off. I stared at it then, with its great queue of excited passengers-to-be waiting in a line that stretched twice around its base, I felt a fear like I had never known before. Usually, I felt somewhat unflappable when I encountered some new strangeness in my city, no matter how dangerous, but this was different. This roller coaster was a predator and it could feel my fear. I ran the other way.
119. I first noticed I was being stalked by the roller coaster when Dalí and I passed the thirty-third gaming stall deep in the American frontier district of the park. Stopping to watch a small group of Avant-guides in red and apricot scout uniforms as they took turns at the skunk gun game I suddenly fell a chill run down my spine. Slowly, I turned around and I realized it was still behind me. There it was again, The Super Horrible Murder Rocket roller coaster, less than half a hundred yards away, just as it was two hundred yards ago! It was the entire coaster, queue of park goers under the base, the launching station and zooming cars! Everything!
120. I ran blindly into the night but no matter where I went there it was behind me. When I hid behind the largest oven at the haunted fish tank the roller coaster was on the other side of the hydro pool full of human foot bones, where it leered at me with its thrilling elevated tracks, exhilarating, inverted corkscrew loops, and excitement inducing whip-lash tight turns. It was so awful. I felt a compulsion pull me forward and out of hiding. I should get in the queue and then into a car, it told me, zoom away and be sick, it beckoned, maybe get killed, it shrugged. Dalí snapped me out of it by stabbing me in the ankle and I ran again.
121. I careened through the crowds until I arrived at a lawn maze with walls cut into the shapes of topiary lobsters. There were other Surrealists in the maze enjoying themselves, but they weren’t be stalked by the roller coaster, and could stop to admire the details. One man it particular wasn’t enjoying himself like the rest, however. I thought perhaps that he too was being pursued by the Super Horrible Murder Rocket but when he bumped into me he wasn’t looking over his shoulder. He was looking far ahead, as if searching for someone. He was one of those older men with a round, sagging face and a chin that vanished into his lower lip long ago. I know that I’ll get very old some day, but I hope I never discover how a man’s chin ends up this way.
122. The chinless man grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me up and down, taking keen interest in my forehead. But then he tossed me aside and shouted, “Out of my way, man! I’m looking for someone! Standing in the middle of a maze! Who does that?” And he stormed off leaving me bewildered at how his cheeks wobble like that when he speaks. Then the chilly sensation returned and I saw the roller coaster at the far end of one of the windy sections of the maze. I reversed my steps and got out of there.
123. It wasn’t until I tried to conceal myself in a public lavatory, and found the roller coaster waiting for me inside one of the toilet stalls, when I finally lost all sanity and openly wept. I burst out of the lavatory and ran a short ways and collapsed in tears by a dumpster full of discarded goldfish bowls.
124. Heaving and sobbing, I took a deep breath before I could get the hiccups and listened. I noticed things had gone relatively quiet. There were still the sounds of the amusement park, certainly, but the rumbles and swishes and screams of the roller coaster were gone. Darn it if Dalí wasn’t just so calm about it. Every time we stopped he paused and scratched and licked himself while I gasped and sputtered for breath. And now that there was some respite he decided to take a full bath, with one foot up in the air and his face buried in his neither regions.
125. I was so agitated over what was happening that I did something I normally never do. I yelled at Dalí in anger. “How can you do that at a time like this? Can’t you see we’re being chased by a roller coaster? Why don’t you get your face out of your squid beak and do something useful?”
126. He stopped what he was doing and glared at me, foot still extended in the air. He wasn’t having it. He got up and walked away without looking at me.
127. I followed him out into the open and called out to him, “Dalí, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to say that!”
128. He looked back once and then took off, leaving me alone. He was having one of his tantrums, but I wouldn’t bother looking for him. He meant to punish me. He had done this sort of thing before. He’d return when he was sure I was ashamed of myself. This is just the way of cats. I know I could have spared myself by making a dog instead all those years ago, but dogs are such work and too sensitive. Cats are sensitive too, obviously, but while a dog will shame you by accident, a cat will write you an essay on humiliation with a single look, and there’s something refreshing about being shamed on face value like that. With a cat, you know what you’ve done wrong.
129. I walked along a footpath that circled a green lake where people rowed on the backs of small scale model trains. I was watching my feet, mostly, and glancing up now and then for some sign of Dalí and I had forgotten completely about the The Passage to India café. But then I saw an adult Avant-guide walking ahead of me with my hat in her hands. Our eyes met at the same time and she understood immediately the look on my face.
130. I lowered my eyes, but I saw briefly that she looked younger than me, most likely in her mid twenties, with a bright, handsome complexion that was probably overexerted by too much responsibility. Her strained expression made her pull back her cheeks, bare her teeth and squint in a false grimace, like a girl with a permanent ice cream headache. Despite this affectation her body strolled in a carefree stride, as if everything below the neck was unaware of the pressure on her mind. She walked up to me in her red and apricot shoulder cape dotted with merit badges and she held out my hat.
131. I was mesmerized by her badges for a moment. She had so many. I think I only ever achieved two. One was the silver echidna broach, which was the Avant-guide logo. She was a Senior Courier, which was evident by her badge of a running hippopotamus, and since she wore a striped ascot and camp hat with a small television fixed to the center like a miner’s light, she was definitely a guide leader. Her troupe would be somewhere nearby.
132. She smiled and thrust my hat in my hands, saying, “Monsieur! Did you leave your hat on the trolley?”
133. “I did. Thank you very much for returning it,” I said, placing it on my head. “How did you know how to find me?”
134. “That’s easy,” she said, beaming.” You looked like that fellow, Fubsí Potvaliant, But without a hat.”
135. “I see,” I said, openly worried. Why did everyone know me suddenly? “Can you tell me your name, since you know mine?” I asked.
136. “Oui! Tové Pipsan, Avant-guide leader, troupe 484.”
137. “Your rank is Recurring Dreamer then,” I said matter-of-fact, and then I automatically quoted the old Avante-guide motto: “‘Be ready! Everything that can happen, does happen, and everything that can’t waits until you’re dreaming!’”
138. This made her very happy to hear, and she smiled wide her ice cream headache smile and said, “You know our motto! Were you an Avant-guide, Monsieur Potvaliant?”
139. “Yes,” I said reluctantly. “Just a little while. Long enough to learn the secret handshake.”
140. We stopped what we were doing then and we did the secret handshake together.
141. “What made you quit?” she asked.
142. I shrugged sheepishly, saying, “I thought we were going to learn to tie knots and build canoes, but instead we spent all our time on street corners handing out the latest decrees from the Orphic Astronaut”
143. “Well, yes, of course,” she said. “That is our chief occupation. Children are the best people to hand out pamphlets. Citizens are more likely to be at ease in their company. Which reminds me.” She shoved a pamphlet under my arm and pat me on the shoulder.
144. “Is it a new law or just an ordinance?” I asked, unfolding the paper to read.
145. “No, tonight the Orphic Astronaut just sent out a little reminder,” she said with a far off look.
146. “A reminder of what?” I asked while reading. Then I said, “Oh.”
147. Tové Pipsan pointed at the pamphlet with pride, saying, “That we’re all just stardust, you know.”
148. “Okay,” I said, “but for how long?”
149. She frowned.
150. Before she could reply, the old chinless man from the maze appeared from behind a bent poplar tree. Once he spotted me he threw up his arms and shouted, “There you are!”
151. Stepping back several paces, I said Hello? Yes? Hello? What? Yes? Hello? Hello? What?”
152. “I‘m to take you to Passage to India Café, of course!” he said. “I’m the proprietor, Blotto Thingmier, and you’re late! Where on Earth have you been, Fubsí Potvaliant?”
153. “What are you talking about? I just met you in the maze,” I said.
154. “That was you?” he insisted, “Why didn’t you say anything?”
155. “Um,” I ummed.
156. He shook his head and added, “Anyway, that couldn’t have been you. That fellow had no hat. Now come with me.”
157. I tipped my hat to Tové Pipsan and said goodbye. She only nodded slowly while looking over her pamphlet.
158. Surrendering to the illogic of everything always seemed best in situations like these, and that‘s what I did. I followed obediently, hoping to spot Dalí along the way.
159. *** Act Four ***
160. He walked me into the jungle themed area of the park, which for some reason wrung with the sounds of the kookaburra bird, an Australian bird that lived nowhere near any jungles.
161. We had to wait for a crowd to clear before we could proceed to our destination. The crowd was gathered around one of the Ingres Prud’hon mascots. The mascot let the people grouped around him touch the pink and white striped sack over his head and guess his age. Everyone who got it wrong received a mince pie, and since everyone got it wrong, he had many fans.
162. “Eighty!” yelled a child in black lederhosen. He got a pie and squealed in delight.
163. “Thirteen million!” screamed an overexcited canary woman. A pie was handed to her and she chirped in ecstasy.
164. “Between two and twenty?” said a man with a roast turkey leg in each hand. The pie was tossed at him, but it hit the ground between his feet with a splat. He attempted to scoop up the pie with the turkey legs.
165. “Thirty-seven,” I said in passing (though I didn’t touch him) and a mince pie was shoved into my hands. That was nice. I like mince pie.
166. My chinless escort took the pie out of my hands and gave it to a passing kangaroo, saying, “Now, now! Let’s not spoil your appetite!”
167. I watched sadly as the kangaroo hoped away with my pie. We walked on and soon we found the Passage to India Café in a quaint and calm courtyard between two horseshoe shaped ogee arches. I was relieved. No menacing roller coasters in sight. No loud noises or giant turkey legs. But no Dalí either...
168. It looked like a nice, simple place, a standard brick building with twinkle lights on wires woven into an ivy facade.
169. The interior was a pastiche of Asian and Indian motifs, all done up in blue and gold, hand painted flowers and paisleys on the walls. It was embarrassing, but a little cute.
170. Hanging on the walls, there were elegantly framed prints of Dagas’ ballet dances, which were completely out of character with the East Indian theme.
171. There were three other men present besides chinless Blotto, and none of them were East Indian. Two of them waited for me around a table in the back of the restaurant. The table held a placard with my full name on it And it was beneath a copy of Dagas’ painting called Waiting. This painting featured a slumped over ballerina and her black clad, umbrella wielding chaperone seated on a bench. They both looked so tired.
172. I nodded at the ladies in the painting and sat down.
173. The men introduced themselves as I was handed a menu by a moose-headed waiter, the café’s sole golem of the Id servant.
174. The first man among them to make himself known was the restaurant’s architect and his name was Frances Drütt. “Fucking hello!”
175. Any Surrealist with an abnormal physical mutation is called one of the Convoluted, and that’s what this man was, because his neck was a geyser that emitted jets of steam. His head was detached and would rise up whenever the geyser vented, sometimes making his head roll around at the top of the plume of hot water. I imagine it made mealtimes irritating, if not impossible sometimes.
176. The next man was the chef and he was dressed to the part. He watched me with dark, eager eyes behind a thin waxed mustache. He said nothing. Chinless Blotto introduced him as Arabas Apencheé.
177. The fourth man hung back in the kitchen, and I could only see his elbow as he fiddled with something behind a door.
178. Chinless Blotto held out his arms in a welcoming gesture and said, ‘Welcome and congratulations, Monsieur Potvaliant on winning our contest. Tonight, you shall dine on the house, and we hope that you will tell many of your friends about your experience here tonight.”
179. I smiled and nodded as they gathered around me and I held the menu up to my face, forgetting immediately what I was supposed to do in these kinds of situations. It was that word he used, “friends.” The thing was, I didn’t really have any. There was only Dalí and Olli, and Dalí really didn’t care what he ate as long as it was recently killed. I think Ollie said she likes ice cream.
180. I didn’t see any ice cream on the menu at all.
181. “Ahem,” Blotto continued, “There is a little, tiny, tiny catch, but I’m sure you’ll think it reasonable of us to ask: we hear that you‘re an Animator. Would you be so kind as to give us a demonstration of your weird powers?“
182. The moose-headed golem then brought in a small plate of clay and a few sculpting tools.
183. I paused and stared down at the plate. I then looked up at them and explained, rather uncomfortably, “Well, I could make you something small, I suppose. I don’t make animals for frivolous reasons.”
184. “Of course not, Monsieur Potvaliant! Just a small demonstration of your abilities, so we know you are the right man.”
185. “How about a fig beetle?” I said. “That species has a very very short life span, or expiration date, I suppose. And you have to understand, the animals I make aren’t weird. They’re anatomically correct on account of my imagination problem.”
186. “Yes, yes,” Blotto exclaimed happily, “that’s what we want to see! Just a normal animal.”
187. I then gestured to the room and said, “But this is a café. No active Surrealism is allowed in a café.”
188. “We’re fucking closed,” Frances Drütt exclaimed suddenly, needlessly vulgar, head spinning.
189. “Shut up, Frances!” screamed Blotto. Then Blotto calmly added, “Yes, ahem. We are closed, so you may proceed.” He waved to the plate of clay.
190. Something felt strange about them, but then everything felt strange about everyone to me. I bent over the plate and sculpted a beetle.
191. While I worked, Blotto mostly talked about the restaurant business in a boring and ostentatious fashion, while the other men were silent, watching with interest.
192. Ten minutes went by. As I finished up my quick work, Blotto suddenly stopped in mid speech, drew back his head, and let out a great sneeze. He took out a handkerchief and dabbed at his nose and apologized, “Forgive me! There must be a cat or hamster or pig nearby. Terribly allergic.”
193. I spun around in my seat, but there was no sign of Dalí.
194. “Well, isn’t anyone going to forgive me?” Blotto demanded. “I’ve just had a sneeze!”
195. Arabas the chef finally spoke up, answering Blotto but still looking at me in that uncomfortable manner. “For the past few days social etiquette has demanded we reply to a sneeze by saying ‘bless you’ to the sneezer.”
196. “I think it’s been longer than that,” I said, smoothing out the sides of the beetle.
197. “I say fucking gesundheit because of my fucking German ancestry,” Frances the architect weirdly swore, his head spinning in place.
198. “Shut up, Frances!” Blotto snapped. Frances looked unfazed.
199. “But what if we called the sneezer a loser when they did it?” asked Arabas to no one in particular, still looking at me. He continued, saying, “I bet we would finally discourage anyone from ever sneezing again!”
200. “I don’t think that’s how it works,” I said, “But here, look.” I ran my finger down the back of the fig beetle and it instantly ganged color from the dull red of the clay to the natural bright metallic green of a living beetle. The men gathered around and oohed and ahh-ed.
201. As the men watched, the beetle crawled around in a circle, then spread its wings and flew over their heads. Frances Drütt got very excited about it and chased the beetle around the room, his head bouncing off his shoulders as he laughed like a lunatic.
202. This scene was becoming a bit too hectic for me, so, trying to extricate myself from the excitement, I reached for the menu and withdrew mentally. Then I saw it: the elephant in the room — or rather the horse. I pointed at the menu and said, “This says the special for today is horse steak. Where did you get a horse? Is it dopplegänger meat?”
203. The three men froze in place and began nodding at each other, each trying to get the other to explain and not succeeding.
204. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t eat too much meat. I only eat fish on account of my empathy problem.”
205. The fourth man then entered the room from the kitchen. To my surprise it was the Convoluted man with the concave face, the one who set me on this quest from the beginning of this story. Much of his head was bandaged from Dalí’s previous attack, and I could see now that the thing he had been fiddling with in the kitchen was a medical kit.
206. He walked towards me and the other men parted for him. Everyone watched as he rolled his own brown paper cigarette. He said, this time in English, “Hello Herr Potvaliant. So glad to see you accepted our invitation. My name is Rolf and I am the financier of the Passage to India café. We are here to make art, Herr Potvaliant and you are here to help us. You remember the old painter and sculptor Edgar Degas, doin’t you?” As he said this he waved to the painting of the ballerina behind me.
207. “Yes,” I said. “I’ve heard of him. But he was a Modern World artist. He never came to Absinthium Kingdom.”
208. Rolf replied, “With Degas it was all ballerinas, woman taking baths, and horses, but there was no sign of him ever combining his interests. That’s where our genius chef, Arabas Apencheé comes in. His chief desire is to find a bathing ballet horse to sit as model.”
209. “I see…” I said, confused.
210. “And then fucking eat it,” Frances interrupted.
211. “Shut up, Frances!” screamed Blotto.
212. Rolf gave them both a dangerous look.
213. “I’m sorry? What?” I stammered.
214. “Ahem! But that’s not entirely why we’re here...” Arabas interjected, still watching me.
215. Da, of course. I’ve gone off topic. My apologies,” said Rolf. ”No. We want you to sculpt the horse and bring it to life first, then we’ll give it a bath and then we’ll put it in a ballet costume and then we‘ll eat it. For art!”
216. I stared in horror.
217. “You get some too. See?” Blotto said as he pointed to special on the menu.
218. I pushed my chair back and stood up. “No, “I said. “Absolutely no.”
219. In one swift gesture, Rolf shoved me back into my seat. He eyes were like diamonds shining out at me from his concave face, like something sinister looking out from an open mineshaft. He said, coldly, “Best not to adopt a siege mentality over these things. Just give us what we want.”
220. I shook my head, “No. It’s not going to happen.”
221. “This won’t do at all,” Blotto said. “You’re supposed to be a pushover.”
222. Rolf agreed, saying, “Exactly! We were specifically told you would just roll over like a dead seal. You’re famous for that!”
223. “What is going on?” I said. “Why does everyone know about me tonight?”
224. “Well,” said Blotto matter-of-factly, “because you’re good friend Thiago Muscovy explained your situation.”
225. I stood up again, this time beyond Rolf’s reach. I said, “Thiago! What’s he got to do with this?”
226. Chinless Blotto tried to reassure me, saying in a patronizing tone, “It’s very simple. I was talking with dear Thiago the other night and complaining that we had no horse meat for our grand opening. I told him it was a shame we couldn’t find an animator with low ethics to sculpt us one for slaughter.”
227. “And for art!” Rolf added.
228. “I don’t have low ethics at all,” I insisted. “Especially when it comes to animals. Thiago knows that.”
229. The four men looked at each other. Then Blotto insisted, “Then why did he recommend you?”
230. I said, “Because Thiago loves sowing chaos. It’s his favorite thing in the world. He wants to see me squirm and you fail.”
231. “Ridiculous!” said, Blotto, turning red in his pudgy cheeks. “What could he possibly get out of such an arrangement?”
232. “He gets pleasure,” I explained. “This is one of his practical jokes. He does things like this all the time.”
233. It was then that we heard a hiss from the kitchen counter. It was Dalí! He was back and he was trying to punch my fig beetle to death.
234. “Dalí!” I shouted.
235. He looked up from his insect torture and the beetle flew away in a wobbly pattern.
236. Arabas reached over to pick up my cat before I could move.
237. “He was just there on the fucking counter the whole time,” said Frances, still weirdly swearing.
238. Blotto shot Frances a look. Frances’ head did a spin.
239. “Thank goodness you came back, Dalí!” I said. “I’m sorry I was mean to you! You deserve better!”
240. Rolf looked between me and my Bengal cat, the chef, and me and said finally, “Give us what we want and we’ll give you back your cat.”
241. Arabas grinned in a cartoonishly evil fashion and revealed he was holding a meat cleaver in his other hand. He raised it to Dalí’s throat.
242. I held up my hands and cautioned them, “I wouldn’t the do that if I were you. He’s very protective.
243. But Dalí did nothing. Usually when I’m in trouble Dalí starts stabbing people. All I have to do is give him a look and he turns on whomever is threatening me. But that night he was sulking because I shouted at him earlier.
244. “Dalí, I’m very sorry I yelled at you,” I pleaded. “I’m a bad friend!”
245. Rolf ignored me and said, “We have a great mountain of clay for you to make a horse, Herr Potvaliant. When you’re finished, you can have your cat.”
246. That was when a whole group of women holding entire roast turkeys burst into the café and demanded, “Hey! Proprietor! It’s cold outside! Can we eat these in here?”
247. Dalí attacked.
248. The café men scattered. I peeled Dalí off chef Arabas’ face and tucked him under my arm, running through the crowd of turkey eaters and out into the park.
249. **** Act Five ***
250. The courtyard outside the cafe was full of turkey leg revealers in paper party crowns, so it was easy to lose the owners of the Passage to India in the noise and confusion. I moved so rapidly I could hardly focus on the terrain I was passing through. We started off in the jungle themed district and I ran into the cowgirl section, then off into the Land of Typewriters, where I set Dalí down and took a breather behind a seven story sausage house in the shape of a vintage Remington Model Seven Noiseless Portable Typewriter complete with case.
251. This section of the park was nearly empty of people. It was very loud due to the tremendous clacking sound of the building-sized typewriters. It was also very late now, around 30:30 PM. The overhead storm clouds had brought on full midnight early. I used the poor lighting to my advantage and signaled to Dalí to follow me to the next section, which happened to be the lobster topiary maze.
252. As chance would have it, there was chinless Blotto again, near where I first met him in the entrance to the maze. The men must have split up. He was alone. I was moving a fast clip right for him. There was nothing else I could think of except to remove my hat. And that’s what I did.
253. Dalí watched me with interest as I stood still like a lamppost, holding my hat behind my back. Blotto spun about, attracted by my motion, like a blind rhino sniffing me out on the wind. He looked right at me, then past me, gave an extremely irritated face, and walked away.
254. The man was hat blind. It worked.
255. I gave Dalí a hopeful thumbs up and pointed towards the entrance to the park, now visible for the first time since we got here, though still at least two hundred yards off. It was near to closing. A good many people were cruising the main street of shops that lined entrance. We mingled with the strolling shoppers, walking in an easy, carefree fashion in order to stave off attention.
256. We would have made it out right then and there if we hadn’t come across another Ingres Prud’hon mascot, and darn my eyes if I wasn’t still thinking about my lost mince pie.
257. Like before, people gathered around and shouted their guesses at the man in the pink and white striped sack.
258. “Fifty-one point five!” said a woman with an entire populated apartment complex for a hat. She was handed a mince pie.
259. “Eighty-nine!” shouted a sleepy man with a pig for a torso (it was the pig that shouted). A pie was tossed his way and the pig torso caught it.
260. “Five hundred and not a day more!” called an extremely old man in a space suit and a backpack overfull with squeezebox accordions. A pie was gladly handed over and people applauded.
261. “Two years old!” I heard myself say gleefully.
262. And here is where I made my fatal mistake. A pie was given to me, but in order to take it, I had to free up my hands, and placed my hat back on my head. This I did without thinking, so joyful I was at receiving that beautiful pie. It was a small pie, just big enough to hold it in my hand. It smelled so good, full of the hot aromas of clove and cinnamon. My whole world focused in on that one delicious moment. Pie in hand: what greater heaven could there be?
263. I opened my eyes and saw that the four dreaded men of the Passage to India Café surrounded me.
264. I shoved the whole pie into my mouth and galloped away in a haze of hot spices and muffled screams.
265. But it was no good. They cornered Dalí and I in an alcove away from the public. Rolf unfold a fishing net! An actual net!
266. “We have you now, Animator!” said Rolf, lifting his fishing net.
267. “Now give us our horse meat or we’ll take it from you!” shouted Arabas the chef as he took out a long, shining butcher’s knife from his apron.
268. “Remember you fucking get to have some!” said Frances, his weird swearing head spinning.
269. Shut up, Frances!” screamed chinless Blotto.
270. And that was when tracks appeared beneath their feet and a roller coaster car zipped in and killed all four of them.
271. It had found me again. El Cohete Asesino Súper Horrible — The Super Horrible Murder Rocket had squeezed all of itself into that tiny alcove. The car that killed the men shot away with their bloody torn limbs and fractured bones and then another car pulled up in its place. The guard rail lifted, invited me. I could sense it, it was insisting . It had saved my life. The least I could do was oblige it by climbing on board. I realized then that I still had some un-chewed pie in my mouth. I swallowed it, though I knew it would be coming right back up after this ride. I looked to Dalí. Dalí did nothing, because he’s a cat. I picked him up, climbed into the car, holding him as tight as the bar came back down. I was secured in the seat. Away we went.
273. After a full twenty minutes of terrifying loops, sickening plunges, various degrees of whiplash — not to mention the instantaneous acceleration at the beginning and the horrendous sudden stop at the end — Dalí and I were released and ejected from the park. I don’t remember how we got out of the park. Were were just on the roller coaster one minute and then standing still on the other side of the entrance the next. I found a rubbish bin to empty my stomach contents into.
274. As I heaved and heaved into the bin. Dalí began to make small mewling sounds to get my attention. I wasn’t sure what he was after. Our pursuers had been gruesomely killed, I had vomited up my nice pie, and we had been released by the stalking rollercoaster. We were out of danger. It was time to head home. Maybe we could get a midnight snack at my regular café, Cockles et Whelks. But Dalí wasn’t trying to warn me of anything. He was just fascinated by the light show.
275. I raised my head from the rubbish bin to find an ethereal commotion in full swing around the ticket booth. The blind teenaged ticket seller at the will call booth wasn’t so so deeply attached to her impaired vision as was thought. Tové Pipsan, the Avant-guide leader explained it to me when she arrived with her troupe of children.
276. Tové was standing there. She wasn’t watching her troupe, who surrounded the ticket seller and helped her out of her booth, but instead Tové was looking at the Orphic Astronaut, which at this close range, towered over us, with the details of his thousands of morphic doors fading into and out of existence. It was all visible from here. Tové nudged me as I wiped my mouth with a handkerchief. She pointed up at the highest point of the black monolithic tower. Way up high, there was open door, and a golden light poured out.
277. “What’s going on?” I asked?
278. She said, “A friend to the blind girl in the ticket booth had a dream, and when this friend woke up, she found a pair of glasses by her bedside. She knew, somehow, that the glasses were meant for the girl. When she gave them to her, she could see, and she saw the Orphic Astronaut for the very first time. Her manifesto just came to her. She’s a real Surrealist now.”
279. Everyone stopped where they stood and looked up at the unearthly sound emanating from the Orphic Astronaut. We could see it then: a Cubist Cosmonaut drifted out and then down from a lighted door some sixty stories up its seventy story superstructure. He fell slowly like a leaf, drifting to-and-fro in the windless night, landing gently on his back in a cleared section of street outside the amusement park gates. Once he was still, an older boy among the Avant-guides looked to Tové Pipsan and nodded, then he went to take off the Cosmonaut’s helmet. It wound’t budge, so the boy pulled the cosmonaut’s visor open instead. Inside was a Cubist face, one eye above the other, a triangular head, a perfectly flat skull. The Cosmonaut held a yellow letter in his abnormally numerous teeth, which he gave up to the boy. In that moment, it seemed a tyrannical distinction to try to separate understanding from dreams. None of us could do it. It was all one and the same here in the Kingdom. Once the Cubist Cosmonaut was relived of his letter, he lost his opacity, and melted into the cobblestone road. Just before he vanished completely, Tové ran up to him, kneeled down, and closed his visor, whispering kindly, “Godspeed you! Cubist Cosmonaut!”
280. When the Cosmonaut had left us and the door high up the Orphic Astronaut had closed, Tové opened the letter, read it, and nodded to her group. She said, “Let’s help her get to the Institute for her orientation. Off we go now.”
281. They left without another word, guiding the once blind ticket seller out of her booth and down the road. She had a new manifesto tucked under her arm. From here I could make out the title in English. It read Every Vision Dies Behind Tired Eyes.
282. I thought about how I came here when I was ten, which was when I first saw the Orphic Astronaut. My orientation was twenty years ago. It wasn’t so bad. I got a sandwich out of it.
283. When they were gone, I took out my eight-sided die from my vest pocket, rolled it in the street, and watched it unfold into my bicycle. Dali and I cycled in silence to the trolley station.
284. As we approached the station, I remembered my letter to Ollie. I thought I’d give it another try and send it in the post despite any protests this time from Dalí. But when I reached the postbox under the station’s Art Nouveau awning, I was met with a surprise. The letter I pulled out from my coat wasn’t mine. It was a small pink envelope from Ollie. I opened it and the usual amount of glitter and confetti fell out. My letter was missing, but here was her reply anyway. Ollie’s letter said, “Dear, Fubsí, Yes. I know all animals have expiration dates. Sometimes it makes me sad. Sincerely, Ollie.”
285. Dalí and I got on the next trolley and went home.
Copyright © Rikki Simons 2018