Scream at the Sky

(This is part three of the sequel to Akayama DanJay. This one’s a little disturbing.)


“This is it!” said Lucille, at the control-panel of Zephyr-Alpha-Blue. “It’s now or never!”

When Lucille pulled levers, ZAB sent signals to Charlie and Daisuke, who directed the Galaxy Zephyr’s arms wielding the Wheel. When she stomped metal pedals, ZAB sent signals to the bird-like pilot of Zephyr-Alpha-Purple, who relayed them to Eisu and Fumiko to direct the Galaxy Zephyr’s legs into battle-stance. In total, Lucille led ten thousand pilots plus a principle component of Earth’s population which gave her giant robot sixteen wings. The Galaxy Zephyr was countless light-years tall, but it was barely bigger than the Enemy Hurricane’s fist descending over them.

“Bird-thing!” she shouted. “We need another Zephyr from the Wheel for our Hurricane Armor! We need to pull the Chain!”

“We can’t!” said the bird-pilot of ZAP. “Something’s wrong!”

“We don’t have time!” said Lucille. “This is the end, one way or the other! What did you bumble and how do I fix it?”

The bird-pilot stammered. “It’s complicated! My cosmic plan is falling apart! Humanity’s unwillingness to work together just ate humanity’s understanding of reality’s interconnectedness!”

“…And that’s bad, I take it?”

“It was supposed to be the other way around! Nakayama can’t collect the last of humanity like this!”

“…Nakayama?” Lucille tssk’d. “Your cosmic plan was too complicated if you’ve gotta keep making new names and talking in the third-person, Hakase. The buck stops here! If the Chain won’t work, the Galaxy Zephyr will reach into the Wheel and collect the Zephyrs manually.”

Charlie and Daisuke appeared on Lucille’s monitors. “Commander,” said Charlie, “we’ve been slinging this Wheel around for a while, but we’ve got no clue what’s going on inside it!”

“Failure is not an option,” said Daisuke. “Akayama—Rather, Nakayama—Rather, the professor, in whatever form she’s in—has given us a great and complicated tool. We can’t risk damage to it or us by reaching into it out of ignorance.”

The Wheel cracked and stopped spinning. Its hazy green color split into a yellow side and a blue side. Nakayama was ejected from the Wheel into the Galaxy Zephyr’s Hurricane Armor; she deposited herself in Zephyr-Alpha-Purple, reuniting with the bird-pilot. “It’s ruined!” she cried.

“That great and complicated tool just collapsed on itself.” Lucille twisted a dial and Daisuke begrudgingly prepared the Galaxy Zephyr’s left hand to reach into the Wheel. “Let’s loot it for parts.”

“There are pilots in that hand, Lucille,” Charlie chided. “Speak seriously before you send them into a minefield.”

“On your order, Commander,” said Daisuke. Lucille nodded and the Galaxy Zephyr’s left hand entered the Wheel’s side. The Wheel was two-dimensional, but the Galaxy Zephyr somehow inserted its arm deeper than the elbow. “Oh no. Oh, no!”

“What is it?” asked Lucille, but before Daisuke could answer, the left arm was sucked shoulder-deep into the Wheel. The whole Galaxy Zephyr contorted and spun. “What the hell!”

“It’s flipping the Zephyrs inside-out!” said Daisuke. “It’s—”

He couldn’t explain before the entire Galaxy Zephyr was sucked into the Wheel. After much shaking and spinning, all ten-thousand pilots lay bruised and battered on a sandy red desert-planet with a mustard yellow sky. The Galaxy Zephyr itself was gone.

Lucille tried to stand, but couldn’t. Born on the moon, she wasn’t accustomed to such gravity. “Charlie! Daisuke! Professor!” She didn’t see them in her valley between dunes. “Eisu! Fumiko!” No sign. The few pilots around her wore different-colored bodysuits—the Galaxy Zephyr’s multi-colored crew had been thoroughly mixed. Lucille crawled to the most injured pilot near her while activating her bodysuit’s built-in communicator. “Charlie, Daisuke, Professor! Eisu! Fumiko! Report!”

Her comm clicked. It roared like a storm. “Run!” said Charlie.

“It’s too late to run!” said Daisuke. “Cover your mouth!”

“I’m sorry!” said Akayama. “I’m sorry!

“What are you talking about?” asked Lucille, but she soon knew. The yellow sky melted black and outrageous winds whisked her and her crew miles and miles over the dunes. The swirling sand suffocated her. “Don’t let it separate us!” She wasn’t sure if her shout was audible through the unstoppable typhoon, or even through her communicator, but when her body slammed against another pilot, she grabbed them and they sailed through the air together.

When the wind died down, Lucille and her ten thousand pilots hit the sand rolling. “Aaugh!” Lucille grabbed her arm. Her shoulder had dislocated. “Shit! Are you okay?”

The pilot she’d collided with was a boy in a lime-green bodysuit. He didn’t respond to her; he was agape at the sky.

Lucille flipped on her back. The sky, once yellow and then black, had turned red—the same red as the sand. The Enemy Hurricane was watching over them with too many eyes, grinning with too many mouths. It was holding their Hurricane Planet with too many hands, and when it shook that planet like a snow-globe, the wind restarted. Lucille flew away from the boy in lime-green until the wind stopped and she hit the sand rolling again.

The planet’s thrashing was hellish, but Lucille’s stomach really turned when she considered how survivable it was. She could barely breathe, but she could breathe enough. The sand was soft and deep. The constant winds made pilots roll when they landed. The Enemy Hurricane wasn’t doing this to kill them. It was doing this for fun.

After hours of uncontrollable tumbling, the wind stopped and the pilots hit the sand rolling for a final time. Lucille was surprised by a voice from the sand beside her. “Boo!”

“Whoa!” She scurried from a mouth the size of a manhole-cover which smiled up at her sadistically. “Are—Are you the professor’s Hurricane? The Hurricane which made the Galaxy Zephyr’s armor?”

“That traitorous Hurricane has been assimilated and homogenized,” said the mouth. “You’ll wish you could join it. Your giant robot has been obliterated. You’ll wish you could join it, too.”

Lucille struggled to sit up. “Do your worst.”

“My pleasure!”

She heard screams over the nearest dune. “…Charlie?” She crawled toward the screams quickly as she could. The sand beneath her churned and flowed uphill; the Hurricane was speeding her along to the scream’s source. The mouth followed, giggling gleefully. “Charlie!”

Charlie’s legs were replaced with teeth which chewed his body and each other in high-pitched cacophony. “Huuaaaaugh!” When he tried to shove the teeth away, the teeth ate his arms. Soon his whole body was a ball of screeching teeth.

“Charlie!” Lucille slid down the dune to be with the tooth-ball. “What did you do to him?”

The mouth just smiled. Lucille went pale when she heard another scream over another dune—this one definitely Daisuke. And another scream. And another. And more. “All your friends are screeching teeth now,” said the Enemy Hurricane.

scream at the sky

“And I’m next?” Lucille guessed. The mouth chuckled and returned to red sand. “…And I’m next!” she demanded. “You can’t—You can’t torture them but not me! I’m the Commander!” She screamed at the sky. “I’m supposed to face the worst of it!”

The sky’s eyes tilted with joy. Lucille curled into a ball and cried.


“Commander?” Daisuke snapped his fingers over her head. “Commander!”

Lucille opened her eyes. She knew she shouldn’t sleep during important video-calls, but extended time alone in the moonbase with Daisuke left her perpetually beleaguered. She stretched and wiped drool from her chin. “Sorry. What did I miss?”

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DanJay Blinks

(This is part two of the sequel to Akayama DanJay.)


“Martyr me, motherfucker.”

Years prior to the end of the eternity, in a Wyoming motel-room, Jango stabbed Jay to death.

Jay opened his eyes in an egg in the afterlife. He gasped amniotic fluid. He whipped off his loincloth with enough force to crumble Anihilato’s endless caverns, collapsing the rust-red desert to his level. He retied the cloth like a blindfold when he heard Anihilato rush toward him in a flurry of flightless wings. “Jones! Dan Jones! You can’t run from me!”

“Why would I? I’m right where I meant to be.” Jay pulled the blindfold taut.

“In my limbo you’ve been blunted.” Anihilato untied the blindfold with six feathery hands. “Blink and be mine, as mandated by the Eternity Cards in my box of souls.”

“You still think I care about your stupid box?” Jay laughed. “If I found your box, you know what I’d do? I’d piss on your box. What worthless trash!”

Anihilato removed the blindfold. Jay’s muscles locked under the scrutiny of Anihilato’s six eyes. Anihilato’s muscles also locked; perhaps the power of Jay’s vision had amplified in the egg, or perhaps Anihilato drew too close untying the blindfold and was now paralyzed by its own reflection in Jay’s eyes.

With its last moment of movement, Anihilato swept a wing, spewing sand in Jay’s face. Jay grunted. His left eye clenched painfully shut, but his right eye held open strong.

This was the first time Jay saw Anihilato in direct sunlight. The King of Dust had a yolk-yellow beak and a mane of red feathers. “You can’t win, Dan Jones.”

danjay_blinks

“My name is Jay, now, but call me what you want.”

“You can’t win, DanJay.” Anihilato closed its bottom pair of eyes. “Remember teaching me this trick?” Anihilato opened its bottom eyes and closed its middle pair. “With this technique, my vision is eternal.” Anihilato opened its middle eyes and closed its top pair. “Blink, DanJay. I’m waiting.”

Tears streamed down Jay’s left cheek.

“Whimper, mortal. I’ll savor squashing your hubris.”

The tears carried sand-grains from Jay’s left eye. He reopened it, winkingly.

Anihilato scoffed. “Crying won’t save you.”

I’m saving you, Anihilato.” Jay squeezed his knees. It was all the movement he could muster. “Your purpose was to forget your purpose. You’re every aspect of humanity which would never make it to the Mountain. I’m bringing you in.”

“Don’t talk nonsense about doctrine you’ve no part in.”

“I am part in all doctrine.”

“What a big head!” Anihilato licked its beak with a long, long tongue. “Your ego will be delicious.”

“I celebrate myself, but every atom of me as good belongs to you.”

“Too true. I’ll devour your every atom soon enough.”

“I was waxing Whitman. You reject unity, but I unify with your rejection.”

The desert sun shined in Jay’s eyes. He squinted. Anihilato’s eyes tilted in eagerness, but soon its mane of red feathers shaded Jay’s face, and he stopped squinting. “You make it all sound so simple,” said Anihilato.

“Life is as simple as you choose. I choose for me and you choose for you. That’s the way it’s always been and the way it will always be, even if you waste your choice demanding more. Our choices have led us here. God waits between us now.”

“Is that your God, on your forehead?”

Jay shivered with fear. Sweat was dripping down his nose and around his eyes. “The sweat on my brow is me, and you, and God, just like everything else.” He cringed when the sweat pooled in his right eye. When he couldn’t handle the salt, his right eye closed. His left eye, red and quivering, was all that restrained the King of Dust. “The way it stings was made for me by the Mountain.”

“Then whimper, mortal. For the Mountain.”

Jay whimpered.

A drop of sweat dripped over his left eyebrow, toward his only open eye.

The drop froze in a cool breeze.

Faith Featherway, snowy white fox, exhaled icy comfort over Jay’s face. “Is that better, JayJay?”

“Perfect.” Jay opened both eyes. “Thank you, Faith.”

“Hey!” Anihilato inhaled, but couldn’t suck up Faith’s powdery form in the open air. “Don’t meddle, you frigid rat!”

“Everything meddles with everything,” said Jay. “If you understood that, Anihilato, you’d know you already contain me, without devouring me. I am the all, and so are you.”

Faith turned to envelop Jay’s head with her cloudy tail. It cooled and cleansed his tired eyes. “Bug-Bird told me to keep an eye out for Anihilato. I gotta report this.”

“Okay. Thanks again.”

Anihilato thought quick. In another universe, where the King of Dust was a little less bird and a little more worm, it wouldn’t have tried exhaling. It blew Faith’s tail far over the dunes.

“Oh! It’s alright, I’ve got you, JayJay.” Faith grew another tail and left this one over Jay as well.

Anihilato blew this one away, too.

“Don’t worry about it, Faith,” said Jay. “Just fly to the Mountain and get Akayama.”

“Akayama?” Faith gave him another tail. “Who’s that?”

“Bug-Bird,” said Jay. “The Biggest Bird. The Heart of the Mountain. Akayama, Nakayama. The professor who destroyed the universe and is now rebuilding it.”

Anihilato blew away the third tail. Faith gave Jay a fourth. “Isn’t she from that anime you and Dan like? LuLu’s?

“Yes,” said Jay. “Like everything else, that anime is part of our omnipresent reality.” Anihilato blew away the tail. “Faith, don’t give me another tail. I’m fine. Just go to the Mountain.”

“Hold on, I can do this.” Faith concentrated to produce a longer, thicker tail she hoped wouldn’t blow away. “Here you g—”

She stepped between Anihilato and Jay. The instant its eye-contact was interrupted, Anihilato swiped a wing through her. It stole her eyes, but the rest of her was ungraspable powder. “Faith!” Jay and Anihilato regained eye-contact through Faith’s cloudy form. “Are you okay?”

“I’m blind!” She deposited herself meters away, scrambling and pawing at her empty face. “Oh, JayJay—I’m so sorry! I should have listened to you the first time!”

“It’s alright, Faith,” said Jay. “Just go back to the Mountain and get Akayama. Bring her here and we’ll assemble the godhead.”

“I… I can’t see! I don’t know if I can navigate!”

Jay cried. “Try, Faith! Please, try!”

While Faith flew away, Anihilato and Jay just stared. Jay felt sweat drip down his face. The sweat pooled in his left eye and he had to close it. ” ‘Assemble the godhead?’ ” asked Anihilato. “Do you really think this is turning out the way your creator intended, According to some cosmic plan?”

“Yes!” said Jay, absolutely.

“Are you sure?”

Jay nodded.

“Then watch, DanJay. Watch very… very… closely.”

A feather fell off Anihilato’s red mane. It drifted aimlessly, yet inevitably, to stab Jay’s right eye.

Jay blinked.

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The Bucket

(This story won the Most Excellent Prose award from the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara. I’ve edited it since then, and I think it’s much improved.)


My colleagues at the lab thought my nightly vomiting was a symptom of alcohol poisoning. I would have shared the hypothesis, except I regurgitated eyeballs.

I don’t recall swallowing eyeballs, mind you. With optic nerves dangling like spaghetti.

And twitching! I typically vomited into a toilet and flushed the eyes before the horror set in, but after a midnight joust with a bottle of gin, I heaved into an orange, plastic bucket in my closet, where the eyeballs struggled like fish flopping for the water. When I regained consciousness in the morning, the eyeballs had died trying to escape under the closet door.

I elected not to take them to the lab, my reputation already strained, so I turned to the meager equipment of my apartment. According to my bathroom scale, the weight of the eyeballs exceeded five pounds, yet I’d lost little mass myself. I must have conjured the eyes from my stomach.

For a while, I could not look at liquor without imagining the eyeballs I should surely vomit.

Then a spontaneous rendezvous with a fifth of whiskey forced my hand. I puked six eyes and a pair of lips into the bucket. The lips squirmed like drowned worms into the shape of a mouth.

“We gotta talk, Arnold.”

I slammed the closet.

After staging a coup on a few more shots, I mindlessly returned to the bucket. Two more eyeballs, six more lips. My throat’s last spasm threw an ear onto the pile.

“Can I call you Arnie?”

“Please, don’t talk.”

“Your universe isn’t fully developed, so this might be hard to take. Trust me, the eyeballs were the quickest way to communicate. Hey, it’s not polite to stare, don’t give me that look.”

“Oh god, I’m smashed.”

“Hey, lucky guess. Our universes are on a collision course.” I moved to close the closet, but the lips interrupted. “Pick up that ear, Arnie, it’s hard to hear ya.”

“Please, no.”

“Into the ear, Arnie. C’mon.”

I leaned into the bucket. “Go away. I don’t want this.”

“You need my help. I won’t get into details, it involves trans-dimensional mathematics, and you Stage One guys aren’t usually hot on that. Can you even make Quantum Foam?”

“What?”

“Okay, time for a crash course. Not literally, I hope,” murmured the lips. “Universes are bubbles. Our bubbles are about to bash. This ain’t my first rodeo, but I think you guys are gonna pop.”

“Who are you?”

“Look, you’re bright enough, I’ll level with you. I’m not a person. I’m a reality. The whole thing. Consciousness is mostly fabricated, so lots of realities develop self-awareness. We call that Stage Two. Whole ecosystem out there, Arnie.”

“Uh…”

“Yeah, trippy, huh? There we go: call me Trip.”

“Trip.”

“Quick learner. Anyway, you guys won’t survive Stage One if you pop now, okay? Gotta work with me here, alright?”

“This is too much.” I slumped on the carpet. The world blurred in my vision.

“I’m not as mobile as I used to be, but your reality is pretty spry. If you pass me the reins to your universe for a bit, I can jettison some of your space-vacuum. Push you guys out of harm’s way. Dig?”

“How do I… What do you mean?”

“I’ll need your universe’s address. Know it off your head?”

I shook the whiskey. Only a tablespoon remained in the bottle. I drank it. “…Can’t say I do.”

“You know Physics?”

“Some. I’m a chemist. I mostly study alcohols.”

“Find a Physicist. They’ll know if anyone does.”


The next morning, I fumbled my way to the physics department.

“Arnold? Are you drunk?”

“Not yet, I just…” I pushed my wire glasses up my nose. “You don’t happen to know the universe’s address, do you?”

“…What?” They squinted from behind their desks. “Little early to be hittin’ the sauce, Arnie.”


Some bourbon made me consider gifting Trip a fresh load of facial features. “Sorry, they don’t know what you mean.”

“No prob, it was a long shot. I didn’t know address in Stage One either.” He somehow bit his lips at the bottom of the bucket. “There’s an equation for it, but you can only really solve it at Stage Two or Three…”

“…I can do equations.” I felt bile rising in my throat. “What’s the equation?”

“Nah, nah, it’s too complicated. You guys don’t even have Quantum Foam, no way you’ve got the computing power. Hey, you’re lookin’ a little green, Arnie, you gonna chunder?”

“I can hold it down.”

“Then have another drink. I can’t calculate your address from here, I gotta send you a Neuron Pod. Be careful with it, I’ve only got about eighty-six billion. These are Stage Three tech, Arnie.”

The brown bottle’s last drops trickled from its neck to mine. I gagged on the odor. “What’s a Neuron Pod?”

Trip surprised me by licking his lips with a tongue from under the pile of eyeballs. “You ever study biology? Get to mitochondria?”

“Yeah.” I doubled over the bucket and opened my mouth, but nothing came out. Saliva dribbled between my teeth.

“They’re like mitochondria. Sub-realities, distinct from me. Gotta delegate, that’s Stage Three. Outsource your computation. Find some Stage Zero podunk reality and convert its mass to brain matter. One Neuron Pod is like a septendecillion human brains. Smart brains, too, like yours, Arnie. Alright, here it comes!”

Huge, like a cantaloupe. It shouldn’t have fit in my mouth, let alone my throat. The eyeballs watched it flop into the bucket. The lips smiled.

A Neuron Pod was a brain with a hagfish mouth and chattering needle-teeth.

“Trip—What do I do with this?”

“It’s looking for your address. Just keep it safe.”


Friday night. Party night. In a dark alleyway, I popped the cork on two-dollar wine. Grape foam spilled onto the dirt.

I put the Neuron Pod on a trash-can lid. The needle-teeth were the worst part, like a sex toy from hell. “Can you talk?”

The needle teeth chattered.

“Answer questions?”

More chattering.

“What’s Quantum Foam?”

The brain’s needle-teeth shifted and clattered, filling the alley with heinous clicking. Almost… speech. After a quick drink of wine—like fermented olive oil—I held the Neuron Pod to my ear. “Tiny… universes.” The queer, snapping voice had a thick accent from somewhere eldritch.

“Can you elaborate?”

“Quantum Foam is the primal fabric of the multiverse… Each bubble is a universe beginning in Stage Zero, the absence of conscious thought…”

When I put down the wine, the bottle was two-thirds empty. “I’m not drunk enough. All this stuff about our universes colliding, it’s all real? We’re going to pop?”

“…You are left with an ultimatum: be annihilated by the ballistic force of a careening reality, or entrust my Master with your universe.”

“Well… You’ve known him for a while. Is Trip… trustworthy?”

“My Master is… Stage Four.”

“Four? What does that mean?”

The brain squirmed on the trash can lid. “…Stage One universes contain sentient beings. Stage Two universes have attained consciousness themselves… Stage Three is marked by the assimilation of Stage Zero universes. Stage Four is… the enslavement of Stage Three universes.” The hagfish mouth went silent.

“Enslaving universes? Sentient universes?” I looked at the brain. “When Trip said you were ‘Stage Three tech,’ he meant—You’re saying Trip enslaved eighty-six billion sentient realities, and you’re one of them?”

“Yes…” The Neuron Pod flopped off the trashcan. When it hit the ground it almost burst, brain-folds expanding with juices. The hagfish mouth puckered. “Kill me.”

I poured the rest of the wine down my neck.

“Please…”

I smashed the bottle against a wall.

“Kill me…”

I threatened the Neuron Pod with the bottle’s broken neck.

“Please…”

“I… I can’t.” I dropped the broken bottle. “If I kill you, Trip will just enslave my reality instead. You need to help me.”

The hagfish mouth took a deep breath. The brain’s folds inflated.

“We need to make Quantum Foam.”


I poured a shot of Scotch. “Need a drink?” The Neuron Pod twisted, which I interpreted as a ‘no.’ I downed the drink. “Okay. Okay.”

When I opened the closet, lips, ears, and eyes spilled out. Trip’s shifting eyeballs had toppled the bucket. “Hey, hey, Arnie! What’s the good word? That old Neuron Pod got your address yet? Might take a while depending on the cosmological constants in your reality.”

I put the Neuron Pod on the floor. “What next?”

“Well, ordinarily you’d hafta swallow that thing, but our universes are close enough I can toss you a Synapse Cable. You feel like hurling, Arnie?”

“I’m pretty sober right now.”

“Well, either you’re gonna hafta swallow that Pod, or you’re gonna hafta start drinking so I can throw you this Cable.”

Ignoring the shot glass, I drank from the Scotch-bottle. The nausea set in instantly. With one animal-like retch, I felt a strand jump up my throat and catch on my teeth. I pulled the strand until a whole rope of meat and fat dangled from my jaw. The Synapse Cable was two inches thick, plugging my esophagus.

“Put it in,” said Trip.

I waggled the meat-rope near the Neuron Pod. The hagfish mouth slurped the frayed ends and locked on with needle-teeth.

“Ah, perfect. I’m getting your address now…”

For a few seconds I choked on the Synapse Cable. The Neuron Pod contorted and flexed in concentration.

“Hey, you’ve got a cool little reality… No wonder you’re still Stage One, with quantum particles like this. These photons are worthless… And your Planck Temperature! How do you get anything done?”

I nodded. It was all I could do.

“You did good, Arnie. Your universe was almost a splat on my windshield. Just gotta get you outta the way…”

He paused.

“You…” The eyeballs turned to me. “Hey, did you give me the wrong addreeeeeaaaugh!”

The lips flopped on the floor. Eyeballs burst into spurts of blood.

“Aaaaaaugh! God, no, what did youuuuooooaaaaaugh!”

The Synapse Cable retracted down my throat. The Neuron Pod detached, letting the meat-rope whip through my esophagus.

“Are you trying to kill me?! What did you do?!”

“Sorry, Trip.”

“Aaaugh! I can’t—”

“We made Quantum Foam, Trip.” I massaged my neck. “We made new universes.”

“It was trivial to check the infinite realities… for one whose cosmological constants were a perfect snare,” clicked the Neuron Pod. “Of course… if you intended to merely jettison vacuum, as you expressed… your connection to the entrapping universe would be harmless… Your pain indicates, as we suspected, that you intended to subsume this universe into your own… Or perhaps enslave it, as you did with me and my compatriots…”

“Now you’re being slurped like a noodle in soup,” I muttered, lying on the carpet.

Eyeballs, lips, and ears shredded as if stuck in a storm of razor blades. Without lips, Trip’s voice echoed from my throat like shouts in a deep cave.

“Arnie, Arnie, c’mon, I’m sorruuughhh make it stop Arnie please I’m begging you—”

I covered my ears. “I can’t, I can’t—”

“Your address! Give me your address, let me escape, before it’s too late!”

“Not even if I could.”

“Then—then—”

Nausea pumped my guts.

Fingers from my throat pried my teeth open.

An arm stretched through my mouth.

“If you yak me into this universe, I can survive! You need to vomit harder than ever, Arnie, right now!”

The arm grabbed the Scotch.

“I’m close enough, Arnie, I can escape to your universe, but it has to be right now—”

The arm sank back into my stomach. The neck of the bottle stuck down my throat, pouring liquor into me. I tried to scream.

“Now, Arnie! Now now now!” I couldn’t pull the bottle away from the hand in my throat. I flipped on my belly so the bottle didn’t pour down my neck. “No!”

Two arms opened my jaws wide. One flipped me on my back. The other grabbed the bottle and spilled it in my mouth.

I groped the floor for something, anything.

A glass beaker.

I smashed the bottle with the beaker. Scotch soaked the carpet.

“No no no no!”

The arms in my mouth pat the damp floor.

“No, no, no…”

The arms slid down my throat until the fingertips brushed along my tongue.

“No…”

I struggled to my knees, teeth clenched, salivating through my lips, holding myself.


For twenty minutes, I puked. No eyeballs, no limbs, just ordinary stomach contents. I spent the night cleaning vomit and broken glass. “Hey. How are you feeling now?”

The Neuron Pod deflated. “I am well… Thank you.”

“You sure?”

“My torment is at an end… The enslaved Stage Three realities have been released. It is over.”

I threw the vomit and glass into the trash. “And our Quantum Foam…”

I opened my desk drawer.

Milky sand so fine and smooth it could have been liquid, like cream for coffee. Each infinitesimal speck was a universe. One grain had swelled like a pearl. “That’s Trip’s trap, huh?”

“My old Master used the technique to do away with bothersome realities.” The Neuron Pod observed the foam with its eyeless gaze. “I am impressed with your ability to synthesize Quantum Foam. You have a knack for it.”

“It wasn’t that hard,” I said, “since you gave me the directions. It’s just chemistry.”

The hagfish mouth made a toothy smile. “Chemistry is vital for a healthy Stage Two universe.”

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