In Pluto's Shadow - Selected chapter

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A rose phosphorescence glowed on the underbellies of fat popcorn clouds as I drove east into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Scifi / Adventure
Dagaan Galakticos
Age Rating:


A rose phosphorescence glowed on the underbellies of fat popcorn clouds as I drove east into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Rusty shades of red stained the weather blasted hills and hundred year old adobe ruins along the potholed highway out of Jaconita, the centuries old village in New Mexico where I live. The road winds through the village of Chimayo and then twists up into the mountains, through Truchas and Taos.

The setting sun threw blue shadows across the ground from the pinon pines and junipers scattered across the deflated hills looking like dark, grazing sheep. Between the trees and the ugly little cholla cactuses, jewel-like pebbles in every color of the rainbow glittered in the sandy earth - the last remains here of the mighty Rockies that have slowly disintegrated during New Mexico’s fifty million year long siesta.

I’d seen this supernatural sunset happen dozens of times in the seven years I’ve lived in the Southwest. Yet the wonder I felt from the sea-shell pink glow of earth and air got to me just as much as it had the first time. It’s like being on Venus or something. This time it made me feel a lonely ache that I had no one to share it with.

‘Isn’t it beautiful honey?’ I asked aloud in the empty cabin of my truck as it hummed along.

The wine stained mesas, windblown infrared canyons and cracked, cactus covered beds of arroyos I passed by were like a dream seen through rose-colored x-ray glasses. These famous sunsets are the color of blood with sunshine passing through it.

With the valley plain here between the Sangres and the Jemez Mountains to the west at 7500 feet, we live as much in the sky as on the earth. At this altitude, outer space is visible to the naked eye as a dark hollow behind the baby blue and there’s a feeling of something out there - breathing.

I saw some tourists pulled over on the side of the road taking pictures and gazing idiotically at the horizon with the temperature out there just above freezing. But I’d done it plenty of times myself and might have done it again but for this intense anxiety I was feeling. I really needed to see my friends, Spencer and Lena, which was why I was risking a speeding ticket. The loneliness and turbulence I felt that evening are clearly imprinted in my memory because it was the last normal evening of my life.

Feeling depressed while surrounded with such beauty was so contradictory, but the worst seemed about to happen. It was two days before Bush’s re-election and a bass drone feeling of dread lay on the land, if not on the entire planet. It seemed something terrible was about to happen.

Everyone I knew felt physically ill from thinking about the election for the last six months. I’d watched some of the debates on TV and read stuff in the papers and magazines - probably to see at just which point a congressman or some prominent individual might stand up like Washington in the rowboat crossing the Delaware and shout ‘THIS IS A FUCKING LIE!’

Expecting the double talk and misinformation to stop and real words be finally said, I actually started listening to the evening news on the radio again. I’d broken the addiction after the first election was stolen. How could there be real news after that? But all I learned from the radio was that things could either turn out bad or they could turn out worse. The first election was won by a judicial coup d’e-tat. It was as though Y2K had actually happened. Evil machines had taken over democracy.

With these thoughts grating in my head I didn’t think twice about a strange car parked in Spencer’s driveway. If I’d seen Yvonne’s old tan Volvo instead of a blue Subaru she’d borrowed, I would have spun on my heel and gone home to feed my dog.

Like a lamb to the slaughter I followed the sound of voices into the dining room and locked eyes with Yvonne who practically arched her spine like a spooked cat on seeing me. I was shocked to speechlessness. She nearly hissed. It was Halloween night and though I’d intentionally avoided all the goofiness, here was a black cat crossing my path anyway.

I shouldn’t have been that surprised to run into Yvonne there. She and Lena had become close friends during the two years Yvonne and I had been together. We used to go over there all the time. The women had lunch regularly now which I’d get from Spencer when he worked with me at my landscape construction business.

Yvonne and I had broken it off in a basically hostile way after I’d caught her spying through my window one night. It was the night Esteivana, a folk dancer passing through Santa Fe with a Brazilian performance troop, was giving me a private demonstration of a folk dance from the province of Bahia that dancers do real fast called Samba de Fuegi.

And to be fair, that was only Yvonne’s retaliation for finding out that I’d watched her necking on her living room couch one evening, well, a little later than that - maybe eleven - from my truck parked across from her condo - with, yes judge, binoculars. She had hooked up with this New Age prophet after the lecture and book signing of his best seller - “Pleidian Angels and the Wings of Economic Opportunity” - or something like that. So, you can see that the trust had kinda broken down between us.

I had laughed about what had happened so many times - Esteivana and her amazing, jiggling rack and the Pleidian shmo with his blond ringlets, and holier than thou nose stuck on a cloud, that I couldn’t take it seriously anymore. That said, I still felt betrayed by how Yvonne had changed horses in midstream. Esteivana was just an accidental incident I thought.

It’s true that we had both regularly stepped back from the relationship. And it’s true that I was stepped back when she hooked up with Goldilocks. But the truth was that our relationship had gotten kind of iffy and only the inevitable had happened, I thought. I was sure she felt the same way. Still, the parting had left jagged edges.

The two of us being suddenly in the spotlight in front of Spencer and Lena, close friends to us both, somehow brought back all the ins and outs of our relationship. They had witnessed the full spectrum of our emotional changes. From puppy love to rabies. Suddenly, between two heartbeats in the dining room doorway, there it all was again.

On seeing me, Yvonne became very polite, formal - and cooold. And this made her so sexy! All that heat and femininity locked up in the compressed lips and the elegant figure held erect as steel. But I knew how she felt - I didn’t want my still unresolved feelings pulled out of my chest like the gooey strings of over cooked spaghetti, only to be held hostage to her etheric New Age evasions and her astounding presumption that she had deciphered the 12th Insight while I hadn’t yet got through the introduction to the book.

The particular shade of her dark silky red hair, now sheared to extend the line of her lips along her strawberries and cream cheeks hit me like a cigarette burn to the heart as I rounded the corner into the dining room.

Yvonne’s suspicious smile at me as I stopped dead in the doorway, making me feel like Curly about to get it from Moe, didn’t take away from the sweetly familiar lines of her shoulder blades or make her green gaze less than something I would like to be cherished by again. For a moment, desire and mistrust had a head on collision in my chest and my concerns about global fascism shrank to nothing in the face of real and immanent danger - the wrath of Yvonne.

‘Joe! Great to see you!’ Lena - quick, short, wide hipped and vibrant with her sad Madonna face that bursts into a crinkly eyed smile at the least provocation, had felt the shock going through Yvonne and me when our eyes collided. She used her professionally bright nurse’s voice - taking charge of the guy on the dolly with his throat slit. She got up and gave me a big hug and a loud, smacking kiss, demonstrating that I was a real friend and belonged in the house as much as Yvonne. The three of them were sitting at one end of the long oak planked dining table Spencer and I had built a couple of years ago. The untouched dishes of steaming food before them, the orange and black napkins with little witches on broomsticks flying around the margins and little cardboard jack-o-lanterns with devotional candles inside them all said a cozy little Halloween dinner party was about to begin.

The last of the sunset shined directly into the room bathing us all in vin rose - like a daguerreotype of some other incarnation. Their brain waves were still connected around a conversation they’d been having when I’d interrupted. Me - Joe Soloski - the intruder.

An oddly long and thick hardbound green book lay open on the tablecloth between Spencer and Yvonne. Yvonne was impatiently kicking her streamlined legs under the table while her face held a patient - and fake - polite smile, barely hiding her resentment at my interruption. I’d felt the hairs bristle on the back of her feline neck as I’d crossed the threshold and imagined her cat-like claws sliding out of their sheaths.

But Spencer and Lena’s place is almost a second home to me. The glossed adobe walls, exposed logs in the high ceilings, the pewter lamp sconces I had put up with Spencer gave the room a Spanish colonial look reminding me of the house where Zorro hid out when he took off his mask. Spencer’s house is at the back of a dirt road off the old stagecoach route into the 250 year old village of Chimayo. Everything out there is ancient. The orchards and irrigation canals, the houses and the fence posts.

Spencer is a dropped-out professor of linguistics and cognitive science from Berkeley who decided he couldn’t stomach the radical pretensions of Berkeley academics whose radicalism never seemed to leave the coffee houses. He dropped out of school and started a web site to track the doings of the World Bank and the IMF and with Lena now raises chickens and quail and teaches Permaculture. The two of them helped organize the Internet coverage of the Battle of Seattle a while back. Lena is a nurse practitioner who did her first nursing out of the back of a van during the Chicago Seven riots in the Sixties. She now works in the clinic at San Juan Indian Pueblo just up the road. They’re political activists to the core, now entering their silver years.

Lena had jerked back one of the tall pine chairs for me. It clunked loudly in my favor against the saltillo tile floor and put Yvonne in her place. So I hung my coat on the back of the chair and sat down.

Yvonne and I both knew we were trapped. There was too much goodwill in the room to get snippy. We were gonna have to make up, we knew it, there was no way out.

’I’ve made a huge eggplant casserole and there’s more than enough and you must be hungry,’ Lena commanded me through a steely, slit eyed smile that said - start a fight and you’re both road kill! She turned her attention to the entree - Eggplant Parmesan casserole - that almost-food dish in honor of vegetarian Yvonne no doubt.

Yvonne, who has no problem expressing herself and is pretty quick on the draw, looked silently into space, her eyes glittering dangerously. Her silence was like an incoming tide, gathering depth and force. She had subtly hunched her shoulders, dropped her chin and was holding a tight, sour little grin. I used to tell her she looked like a cobra when she did that.

But this was a new, very feminine and sexy cobra. With the short, stylized haircut, a dark red, knitted skirt and a tight, short sleeved peach angora sweater with garnet earrings and a lipstick that matched, she looked so elegant, modern and professional. Even hunched up like a cobra. With her long, naked limbs, silky girlish shoulders and the full, ripe bosoms I once knew so well - she looked smashing boys.

I was used to seeing her in big loopy, earrings with lots of necklaces and bracelets and flowing, flowery dresses with tight bodices and compressed cleavage - a gypsy St. Pauli’s Girl. It had been her image of a mystical Tarot card reader - something she used to do, sitting at a table for two in front of a New Age bookstore at a Santa Fe mall on Saturday mornings.

The corners of those spacey green eyes were watching me closely out of what I knew to be a deceptively innocent face. The sarcastic remark pursed on hold in her pouty little smile wasn’t something I needed to hear to know was there.

Spencer - a shaggy blond bear in a wrinkled Hawaiian shirt - big blue-white eyes, expanded by too much information in a thick Nordic skull and Lena - spiked, black Argentine hair and black feral eyes she says come from her Polish grandmother - who is known to have shot a Cossack, point blank in the face as a teenage girl just after the Second World War - were both holding their breath and watching us. They felt the electrical suspense between us and were trying to neutralize it with big generous smiles and over loud voices.

‘Spencer, pour Joe some wine and let’s eat! I’m starved!’ Lena said, flashing her brilliant I-dare-you smile around the room again.

‘Did the rest of the lumber come?’ Spencer asked me in a pretend dumb voice, letting me know he was still my ally and letting me know he was no less trapped than me. Spencer was helping me build the frame of a stucco wall around a Santa Fe nouveau mansion for some very successful child custody and divorce lawyers. He knew damn well I’d ordered the rest of the materials for the next morning, which was a Monday. He worked with me because he needed the cash but felt that all we were doing was adding on to Babylon, which he found depressing. Spencer could care less whether the lumber ever showed up. He filled my wine glass to the top with an almost black Rumanian wine and in a ceremonious gesture of compassion, passed it across the middle of the table to me with both hands. I was sitting next to Lena and catty corner to Yvonne.

‘Hi Yvonne,’ I said, sort of smiling at her, surrendering to the inevitable as I took the wine glass and sat back in the tall chair. ‘Nice colors.’ I said, vaguely waving my glass at her pretty clothes in an offhand tone that came out kind of choked because she looked so sexy. It’s true. Cuteness rules the universe.

‘Thanks Joe,’ she said brightly, expelling the extra breath she’d been saving for her scorpion sting, her eyes still glittering enthusiastically.

‘I like your look too,’ she added with pursed-lip emphasis, waving her hand royally in my general direction.

There, she was saying, we’ve made public peace. And there also was her never distant sarcasm. I was wearing faded jeans and a dark green T-shirt - what I usually wear - and which, among a lot of things, Yvonne had tried to upgrade.

‘Yeah it came,’ I said to Spencer, acknowledging his show of friendship and ignoring Yvonne’s slice of humor.

‘Thank God it’s finally cooled down!’ Spencer said in his booming voice, expressing real relief that the hanging-by-a-thread suspense in the room had eased up. ‘Working in that sun was just too intense this summer.’ He gulped his wine.

‘I saw a report on heat related cases from Albuquerque General at the clinic for last year,’ Lena said, keeping it chatty. ‘The incidence of severe sunburn related cases was three hundred percent higher this year than last!’ She dished up some eggplant and handed me the plate with a congratulatory smile. ‘Sun burn, heat prostration, sun blindness, cataracts - stuff that I’ve only seen happen occasionally all of a sudden was an everyday thing.’

‘The ozone hole in Antarctica opened up the second widest it’s ever been recorded,’ Spencer said. ‘And there’s one of those holes over the Rockies you know. At this altitude and with this drought, there’s less of an atmospheric shield so we get huge amounts of solar radiation. I felt like my body was cooking from the inside out.’

‘Well according to this report honey, it was!’ Lena said as she chopped her eggplant into bite sized pieces.

‘The hens were acting funny all summer - molting irregularly, the eggs coming out watery - weird stuff,’ Spencer said and sipped more wine.

To avoid making eye contact, Yvonne and I were staring back and forth at Lena and Spencer like they were playing Ping-Pong.

But what they were saying was true. I’d worked outdoors all summer with Spencer helping me out some of the time and we’d talked about it then. It had been hot but there was something else going on because I felt like I never cooled down. It was like I had a fever all summer and it took unusually large amounts of cold beer at the end of the day to feel normal again. Ordinarily the temperature drops twenty to thirty degrees at night in the high desert but for two weeks during July it stayed in the nineties day and night.

‘In Phoenix, Albuquerque and Salt Lake they were getting some kind of Geiger counter readings off the sidewalks!’ Lena said. ‘And there was a twenty six percent increase in cataracts over the average.’

‘This is creepy!’ Yvonne said with her low, sensual precision. ‘I noticed something going on with my clients this summer.’ She was a partner in a physical therapy practice. ‘A lot of my patients are seniors and they would come dragging in and flop down on the table like steaks. After treatments they were worse. I had to call relatives to come get people a couple times a month. I thought it was odd at the time. I really wasn’t aware of the bigger picture!’ Yvonne cut a tiny piece off a slice of eggplant and brought it to her lips without bending her spine one millimeter.

‘And now the Fuehrer wants everyone to stop thinking about global warming, the AIDS epidemic and starvation in Africa, Prozac in the groundwater and concentrate on a Mars landing!’ Spencer shouted in disbelief. ‘Are these people even human? And does the media point out this obvious distraction from the war for oil?’

‘Maybe it’s not a distraction - maybe they’re serious Spencer,’ Lena said soberly.

‘Serious!? Lena! It would take trillions to pay for something like that!’

‘So what? They just spent a trillion on Iraq. With that kind of money they could have just bought Saddam’s Army. But maybe they think they can double their money before global warming gets out of control.’

‘Get serious Lena. Why would they want to go to Mars and how could they possibly live there - there’s no air!’

‘O.K There was a Life magazine article a few years ago that detailed how they could build these huge plastic domes on Mars big enough to contain towns and grow a massive amount of trees in them, start farms, set up solar collector factories etc. So - they build a certain amount of these domed towns all over the planet - and remember Mars is smaller than earth - then, when they gauge that they have the right amount of atmospheric density trapped in the domes that would be held by the planet’s gravity, they open all the domes and presto!’

‘O.K. Kind of far out. But O.K. But why do all that instead of fixing this atmosphere that’s going bananas and developing cancerous ozone holes and force five hurricanes smarty pants?’

‘Well...’ Lena thought for a moment. ‘You have this mass consciousness that has been deeply imprinted - and for two thousand years! - with the idea that they are going to heaven for going to church on Sunday. Heaven is up...Mars is up...’

We all burst out laughing.

‘Lena wins!’ Yvonne said, raising her glass. We all laughed and toasted Lena.

‘So what’s the book?’ I asked trying my best to surface from the dark dread that had brought me there and fit in with the jolly mood. Spencer held up the abnormally long, dark green book for me to read the spine as he masticated crusty, melted Parmesan. It said; ‘The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries’ in snaky, silver lettering.

’It’s about the folk religion of Europe before Christianity. I’ve heard about this book for years but never could find a copy. It’s very rare. A guy who owns a bookstore in Berkeley found it for me. It was the Oxford thesis of E. Evans-Wentz, the guy who translated ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’.

‘He describes how the monoliths of pre-Christian Europe were connected by ley lines and that a grid of electromagnetic energy was activated through Druid rituals on the cross-quarter days - the original holy days - and that a dimensional portal opened and people from a parallel world crossed over and that Humans made babies with them.’ He said all this rapid fire and then scraped a wad of melted cheese off the casserole top and flopped it on his plate.

‘Damn!’ I said. ‘How come I’m always the last to know?’

‘So what’s a ley-line?’ Yvonne asked Spencer, subtly turning her perfect posture away from me with compressed lips and returning to the conversation that had been going on before as though I’d never sat down.

‘Ley-lines were lines of vertical stones embedded in the ground connecting one circle of stones to another across a grid that covered whole areas of Brittany and the British Isles. In modern times it’s been discovered that many of the circles of stone were built over underground aquifers and that the ley lines connecting the different stone circles were placed over subterranean water streams. Water conducts electricity. The rocks themselves have quartz in them which also conducts electricity, so that the rocks above ground mirror watery, underground electrical grids. These are perhaps natural electrical bio/grids formed as the Earth’s crust cooled. They may have something to do with maintaining a biodynamic electrical charge between the electricity in the earth and the magnetic aura of the biosphere connecting the earth to the sun.’

‘Auras huh?’ I said bitterly, sensing that any minute we’d be into Pleidians. Lena snickered catching my drift. Spencer ignored me. Yvonne re-adjusted her attitude with a little downward smile like I had the brains of Scooby Doo and needed that little extra bit of compassion.

’The Druids performed ceremonies at the main stone circle sites at the exact hour of the equinoxes and cross-quarter days by reading solar calendars that told them the exact moment when there was a perfect balance of electromagnetic energy that could be somehow manipulated. This is what is supposed to have made a hole, or passage between the dimensions. Kind of gives a different sense to the word ‘holy’ doesn’t it?’ This was too much, my Richter scale went off.

‘Oh my God, I’ve stumbled into a voodoo cult in progress haven’t I?’ I was remembering how Spencer and Yvonne loved to get into these vague, mystical ponderings that led to impossible concepts that were conveniently un-disprovable. I was just putting up some pre-emptive defenses in case it got too far out while I was still in the room.

’What’s a ‘cross-quarter’ day?’ Lena asked.

’It’s the halfway point between an equinox and a solstice - actually - like Halloween is the halfway point between the Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice. Hey! This is a holy night! It could happen right now!’ Spencer giggled gleefully. Lena and I zapped him with death rays.

‘Each date marks a forty five degree advance of the earth around the sun,’ Spencer went on undisturbed. ‘It’s mathematical. Sacred Geometry. The original religion of Europe, Joseph, was a shamanic based interaction with nature that had never been interrupted by the theoretical abstractions of the Human mind. Pagan shamanism is only a set of words for the unbroken tradition of consciousness that goes back to single celled organisms.’ When Spencer called me Joseph I knew he was pulling rank. He is nearly twice as old as me and three or four times more educated. Yvonne, a meticulously polite person, glared silently at me for having interrupted the great professor.

To achieve just the right proportions of haughtiness and dignity in her glare, Yvonne dipped her chin and arched her spine a couple of degrees which made her eyes tilt up and her boobs stick out so that I felt compelled to look at her with more attention the result of which was a deeper burn from her sage green eyes. She was killing me. I jerked my head back at Spencer.

‘Early humans existed halfway between the intuitive animal and the evolving rational human mind.’ Spencer lectured on as I snuck glances at Yvonne. ’Whatever their experience of the world of the living - and of the dead for that matter - was practiced and refined for hundreds of thousands of years. This was the Garden of Eden where people were as innocent as plants. This was the folk culture of Europe and the Western World - that Christianity took over. For a million years these early Humans were experiencing the mysteries of creation without mental interpretations. Their interaction with the dead, with angels and demons is beyond our knowledge since history got rewritten by the Church and the monarchies.

‘Just as the planets materialized out of the molten solar mass, biology materialized along the lines of the Earth’s - and the sun’s magnetic lines. The magnetic aura Joseph,’ he said, rubbing it in. ‘Organic life is the result of the shielding of the cell from harmful solar and cosmic radiations by duplicating this magnetic encapsulation. The planet is a microcosm of the Sun, as cells are a microcosm of the Earth. Just as the Earth separated from the Sun, actual dimensions of time/space could have separated from one another as dimensions individuated.’ Lena and I nodded at each other. So there ya go.

I tried to look interested because it was growing on me just how sweet Yvonne looked. I really wanted to engage this new Yvonne in some meaningful conversation so I tried to bring the cosmic jibber jabber in for a landing.

‘Are you saying that before Humans evolved and the Earth achieved this particular atmosphere that there could have been a... dimensional ecology?’ I thought that sounded pretty spiffy and looked around the table for concurrence.

A corner of Spencer’s lip tilted up. He knew that my sudden interest wasn’t for any pre Human dimensional Genesis. Narrowing his eyes, Spencer shoved his reading glasses up off his nose and buried his face in the long book. Lena, who knows me well and, seeing how fetching Yvonne looked, was smirking with veiled eyes. Spencer looked up at the ceiling.

‘In the eighties Joseph,’ Spencer took a deep patronizing breath - a breath he was going to regret when I had him back on the job tomorrow morning; ’There was an interview in Omni magazine with the Army Major in charge of closing the Air Force Blue Book project. The Blue Book project was a collection by the Air Force, of all known reports about UFO’s from 1945 to 1967.

’They had tens of thousands of reports collected over forty years of research from which they culled any information that was unreliable. They favored reports from military personnel, cops, professionals and airline pilots. After they’d got rid of all reports that raised any doubts - they still had thousands of reports and decided that these reports had to be accepted as having potential military importance.

‘So - this Major getting interviewed goes on to say that they had to accept that something was being seen and by reliable witnesses. Now - since there’s been radar all over the planet since 1945 that could track a basketball coming in from outer space to within a hundred feet of where it landed - it stood to reason that whatever was being seen was not coming in from outer space since it wasn’t showing up on radar. So they hypothesized that; A. reliable witnesses were seeing something real and B. it wasn’t coming in from outside the planet. So the conclusion they came to was that there must be a parallel dimension and that the things being seen were coming from - right here!’ A kind of long silence happened. I felt goose bumps crawl up my arms.

‘Woho!’ I said.

‘My God,’ Yvonne’s eyes became saucer-like as a little girl’s as she looked around excitedly. “So it could be Fairy People in the UFO’s?’ She tilted her head to the side, clasped her arms around her middle so that her layered hair, red as a red setter running through autumn leaves, swayed, brushing her cheek delicately as the peach angora hollows of her shoulders became accentuated in the candle light. I tried to get a grip on this conversation and drank more wine.

‘What Evans-Wentz is saying in the book is that in pre-Christian times the Fairy people - or fiery people - were a dimensional as well as a biological extension of Homo Sapiens, and humans were meeting them - in the flesh - out on those planted fields in Brittany and the British Isles. And they weren’t just exchanging recipes - they were getting it on! And this isn’t totally supposition. The circles of stones are there to this day. A lot of work and thought went into making those circles. It isn’t like the people of those times had nothing else to do. There had to be a payoff!’

Yvonne’s posture made the spherericity of her breasts express themselves laterally and I became determined to get more New Age right away. I tried to make my eyes vacant and dreamy like the Pleidian Goldilocks. I let my head sway at the wonder of it all.

‘Didn’t the Irish believe that Fairies kidnapped children and mutilated cattle?’ Lena said dryly.

‘Well, yeah,’ Spencer said irritated at being pulled back from dreamland. ’There were good ones and bad ones! Sometimes when people were murdered or just disappeared it was said that ’the Fairies took ‘em’. And folk beliefs don’t just spring up under cabbages you know.’ Spencer laughed at his own joke.

‘So when the door between the worlds was opened, both good ones and evil ones could come through?’ Yvonne asked, alarmed, sitting up even straighter.

‘Why not?!’ Spencer said.

‘But why just Europe?’ Lena asked. ‘Wouldn’t a parallel world include the whole planet?’

‘Well, every culture has folk stories about Jinns and goblins and ghosts.’ Spencer said leafing through the book which I noticed didn’t have any helpful photos. ‘American Native folk tales are full of Star Maidens and Katchinas.’

‘Imagine that - evil green eyed Fairy thugs wandering around Europe on unicorns way-laying people,’ I said in a floaty, breathy voice. ’Maybe they could come through on Winter Solstice and stick around ‘til the doors opened again in spring! Wow, three months of murdering and kidnapping!’ Somehow I wasn’t doing it right.

Yvonne ignored me, looking exalted. She just believes everything that comes down the pike. If it’s written in a book it’s already true for her. Yvonne has a personal belief system that includes astrology, yoga, geomancy, fung shoe, angelic guidance, past life alliances, Mayan calendars, spirit animals - you name it and it’s part of her system and if she’s never heard of it she just pries two beliefs apart and sticks the new one in between. For her there is this universal networking army of angelic beings trying to help people evolve into happy smurfs. On the other hand she has an uncanny ability to ignore the self-evident and when challenged becomes passive aggressive and manipulative to the extent that we often became alienated because I wouldn’t float around with her in unicorn heaven. To her, my pragmatism was a failure of faith. For me, her etheric glee was a barrier to human intimacy.

For her, the happy ending began with being happy regardless of realities. For me, there is the paper-bosses who keep the working poor so tightly enslaved to making their daily bread by adjusting the interest rate against them that they can’t afford to know what’s going on because they have no time or energy left to do anything about it! Meanwhile, the rich rape the ecosystems and generate wars for cheap resources and new consumer markets on which to unload disposable plastic crap.

Spencer and I agreed on the hard realities of the sinister intelligence scams of the corporations though he also believes the aurora borealis, for instance, is a bridge for angelic beings to return to earth in winter - when the Hopi Katchinas come back from the stars. In the South West you hear a lot about this. Lena, more reasonably, believes that most people are in the elementary stages of spiritual evolution and there is a long, long road ahead so that the most important thing to focus on is health. ‘You can’t have a revolution if people can’t man the barricades,’ she liked to say.

We four had played all these ends against the middle without getting anywhere so many times that we’d learned just when to cool it. Usually Lena and I teamed up to gasp in disbelief at Yvonne and Spencer’s willingness to just leave orbit. Our silences spoke volumes to one another. I had to remember, looking at the curve of Yvonne’s graceful spine that I hadn’t been invited and she, the Fairy Princess had. So they unraveled the universe while I kept my mouth shut by pouring wine down my throat. Her inaccessible loveliness just made the ache of loneliness in me worse. And no one was talking about the unbelievable re-election.

‘Well if Fairy thugs could come through - Human thugs could go through too!’ Lena said later when Halloween being a pagan holy night came up again.

‘Why are you all so obsessed with the thugs?!’ Spencer said. ‘What about just regular farmers who would be dancing around the Maypole giving the eye to a Fairy girl whose prancing around in her new spring dress. Imagine these lovers from across a dimensional warp walking in the woods, colored ribbons floating from her hair as they lay down in the flowering clover. They only have a couple hours before the dimensions close ... time is short ... the bees are buzzing in the flowers...’ Spencer laughed. What an image!

‘Boy that sounds like something worth getting dressed up for!’ I said, meaning the opposite. Yvonne snorted. Probably at the idea of me getting dressed up.

‘In physics,’ Spencer said clearing his throat dramatically, irritated at my sarcasm - ‘for every atom of physical matter there has to be an atom of anti-matter. It’s an electromagnetic balance in the energy context of the universe. Without the one there can’t be the other. So - maybe these beings are anti-matter people. I mean, it’s kind of naive of science to make all these observations about time warps, worm holes, energy morphing and synchronicity and still hang on to the idea that there is only this one dimension where people struggle to eat and stay warm and then just die like dogs.’ Lena waved us all off and cleared the dishes off the table.

‘O.K. picture this,’ I said. Spencer’s description of the Fairy maiden, her cleavage beribboned in the colors of the rainbow bouncing along as the shadows of the sun dappled forest played across her flower patterned dress bright in my mind.

‘What if this Fairy maiden was running through the dimensional hole just as the time warp ended and her foot was still sticking through! Would her leg be in one dimension and the rest of her in another?’ I asked innocently. Lena laughed. I was brought up Catholic and we used to have so much fun with this kind of stuff.

But these guys were too serious. Yvonne and Spencer just ignored me and leafed through the book with creased foreheads. Lena finished collecting the empty plates, giving me with her sad Madonna’s smile and dished up frozen apricot slices from the trees on their land. Yvonne surprisingly refilled my wine glass. We smirked at each other.

‘You’re a bright kid Joe, I don’t know why it’s so hard for you to stretch your imagination to include what’s outside the box.’ Spencer said finally.

‘Joe’s left brain needs to learn how to dance!’ Yvonne primly stage whispered to Spencer. These clichés!

‘Yvonne’s right brain needs to learn how to walk!’ I stage whispered to Lena. Yvonne went ‘sssss’ with quiet intensity and wobbled her head sarcastically at me.

‘Ach!’ Lena said in warning.

I realized nothing tangible was going to come of this patched up good will between the lovely new Yvonne and me and, realizing I was getting pretty drunk and to show my contempt for their sloppy thinking, I got up to go.

‘Well, I’ll leave you phairies to your phantasies as my pumpkin awaiteth me and I must goeth,’ I said, tossing an imaginary cape over my shoulder with a flair as I grabbed my jacket. Goeth got kinda slurred into goth.

‘Happy trails pumpkin!’ Lena said with a big grin.

‘I’ll see you at the job Joseph,’ Spencer said soberly looking up momentarily and giving me the hairy eyeball as he searched desperately for proof.

Yvonne didn’t even look up as I left. She was asking Spencer something, her eyes quizzing and intent on his flipping through the pages of the Fairy Book but as my gaze brushed across her corner of the room, she slowly scootched forward in her chair so that her skirt slid up her thighs, her legs entwined like lovers writhing in bed.

With my eyes glued to Yvonne’s thighs I stumbled against the leg of my chair and lurched for the door. I glanced at Lena who had seen Yvonne’s maneuver and had raised an eyebrow above a pitying smile that seemed to say; ‘You don’t have a chance against us mortal.’

I went for the outside door at the end of the hall rather than walk all the way through the house so that I came out into Lena’s kitchen garden. The sudden cold made me snap to attention.

With a waning moon above the mountains, the stars were brilliant in the frosty night. I felt the cold freeze-dry my nipples and zipped up and shoved my hands deep in my pockets. A breeze rustling the stalks of corn in the fenced garden caught my attention and I looked to see the scarecrow Lena had made out of straw stuffed into a thrift store tuxedo complete with tails and a squashed top hat. She’d cut out a cardboard fiddle and tucked it under its arm and made two cricket antennae out of coat hangers with bobbing cotton ball ends that stuck up out of its head. The fiddler-cricket stood shivering beneath the huge boulder that sticks out of the hill. The moon was rising above the boulder and a hump of quartz crystals towards the top of the boulder sparkled in its light. Subtle lines of crystal light radiated from the quartz and for just a moment the entire boulder seemed to become transparent. I saw little Hansel and Gretel cottages making up a little village with warm, orange, glowing lights on in their windows. I blinked and the mirage was gone. My gaze shifted to the rows of straw piles covering carrots and turnips in the garden that hadn’t been harvested.

I walked inside the open gate and stood drunkenly next to the scarecrow. We looked up at the stars flickering away in Morse code. The stardust of the Milky Way trailing off to nearby galaxies. I felt just as lonely and angst ridden as I had when driving down the highway at sunset. The image of the beribboned medieval girl laughing and prancing through the sunny forest vivid in my mind. The crackling cosmic electricity in the horse-trough of brilliant stars up in the sky looked so thrilling, virgin and vast. I put my arm across the scarecrow’s skinny shoulders, looked up at the lonesome slice of moon above the boulder and made a drunken, deeply heartfelt wish - that I could stand gazing at all this with someone who knew what it was worth. It was the next morning that I fell off the ladder.

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