Monday, October 18, 2010

TG&SS Part IV Synopsis 46

Part IV chapter 1

Grillo had never heard his editor happier. Buddy Vance's story becoming a cataclysm meant selling a lot of papers. Grillo was instructed to follow up on Hotchkiss and to get inside the mansion for details about the late Buddy Vance.

Grillo got back by taking the most expensive room at a local hotel and ordering champagne. He called Tesla and left her a message stating his hotel location. He called Hotchkiss but no one answered. At nine in the evening, he decided to bother wandering up the hill to the mansion and see what it looked like. He regretted walking because the hill was so steep. When he got there, the front gate was locked, but a side gate was open. He noted and disliked the harsh primary colors of the buildings and floodlights. Vance had called his home, “Coney Eye,” and Grillo now understood that it was apt, because Vance had created a carnival of a mansion. Grillo saw there were lights burning inside, so he knocked at the front door.

An Asian woman, perhaps Vietnamese, answered and said that Mrs. Vance was indeed home. Grillo came inside and waited. Grillo noted that printed advertisements for carnival rides filled the entire entrance hallway. Grillo smiled at the gaudy posters until Rochelle Vance appeared at the top of the stairs. Her flawless face stunned him. He guessed her to be of Caribbean blood, with dark features and hair drawn back. She was without jewelry in a simple black dress.

Mrs. Vance had talked to the police and knew that Grillo had saved Spilmont, one of the cops on the scene. She thought he deserved a night off instead of staying on the job so late into the evening.

“I'd like to get the story,” Grillo responded. Rochelle said she'd answer questions about Buddy's professional life but new nothing of his other wives and would not speculate on his addictions. They were seated in a room two stories high that ran the length of the building. It was filled with carnival posters and items. Rochelle noted it was the largest such collection in America, since there was more in a warehouse in New York.

Rochelle admitted that the taste didn't suit her and was one of the reasons she left Buddy. She thought her late husband was all about wives, wealth and carnival. When questioned, she didn't think he had any premonition of his death. She also felt that Buddy's will would be his last prank, and that she might not fare well. She expected Grillo to go home and turn all this into “deathless prose.”

Grillo said he was staying in town until Buddy's body was recovered from the crevasse.

Rochelle told him it would not be recovered. That's what Spilmont came over to explain. Five men had been lost and that was enough, as the chances of finding Buddy are slim and not worth the risk.

That effectively ended the interview. He went to the entrance way and the girl who let him in was waiting for him. As he left she pressed a paper into his hand. Grillo waited until he was out of range before opening the scrap of paper. It had her name, Ellen Nguyen, and a local address. Grillo figured Buddy may be dead and buried, but his story is digging itself out, as they have a way of doing.
Part IV, chapter 2

Jo-Beth had gone to Momma and promised not to see Howie again, but she hadn't listened to her daughter as she paced around, murmuring prayers. Jo-Beth was reminded by the prayers to call the Pastor, so she did so. Pastor John was not available, though, since he was comforting a widow of a man killed in the attempt to raise Buddy Vance's body. Jo-Beth got off the phone; she had seen these deaths in her dream shared with Howie. Confused and tired, she moved from the kitchen to her bedroom to lie down and think. She slept. At eight thirty-five she awoke, made herself a sandwich, and felt the approach of darkness.

Tommy-Ray woke up when a window rattled. He'd slept all day and now it was nighttime. Nauseated and disoriented, he got up to open the window. There were rattles and clicks he was hearing. He knew what they meant as they got inside his skin. He picked up his clothes and dragged them with him out of the house into the back yard. He walked through the disorganized back yard, walking closer and closer to the clicking Geiger counter in his skull as the noise grew louder.

Joe Beth got up from bed with a toothache. Her face felt tender. She slipped down the hall to the bathroom and noticed that Tommy Ray's bedroom door was open. Her jaw ached. She called on Howie to help her handle the discomfort. She then went to Tommy-Ray's room. They had gotten through all their childhood illnesses together and he might be some comfort. She went to the window and saw Tommy Ray outside in the yard, dragging his jeans behind him. She ran downstairs to get to him.

The man in the trees was calling to Tommy-Ray. “My son, we meet at last,” he said. “Come closer.”

The voice wanted to see his daughter, too, Jo-Beth. Tommy said, “in a minute,” because first he wanted to be sure this isn't a trick.

The stranger laughed at a suspiciousness so like his own.

Tommy had dreamed many time of meeting his father, perhaps a movie star pulling up in a limo to meet his bastard son. But this was different, a stranger man with eerie poise. And the man wanted t meet his daughter, Jo-Beth. She wouldn't come to him.

Tommy was confused until he thought of Howie. The Jaff said he maid Tommy and Jo-Beth to be his agents and that Howie Katz was the son and agent of an enemy. “And now he's touched your sister. That's what keeps her from me. That taint,” said the Jaff.

“Not for long,” Howie said, returning to the house and calling his sister in a light, easy voice. But she wasn't calmed. Tommy looked tense and wild-eyed and unstable. She wasn't going outside. Tommy suggested it was their father they were going to meet out there. They were twins. They knew how each other felt. There was no danger or problem her.

Jo-Beth went out to the yard and walked toward the Jaff. He was first just a form and outline in the trees. But as she drew closer, she liked his beard and heavy brow. He said he was her father. Really. She was about to take another step when she heard from the house, “Don't let it touch you!” And there was more. “Jo-Beth, come away from it!” Momma was speaking.

Momma had not stepped out of the house in nearly five years, but she was on the lawn, commanding her children to leave this stranger.

Tommy refused to listen and obey his mother. She slapped him. “Stupid! Don't you know evil when you see it?” she asked. Tommy was defiant and swore at his mother. Jo-Beth heard a chuckle from the trees and turned around, seeing part way behind the mask of the Jaff to a swollen face of a monstrous infant. She cried out. Then she begged her brother to ignore the trick that was being played by the stranger.

“You're staying with me!” Tommy replied, but his mother broke the contact. Mother and daughter raced back inside ahead of Tommy and the dancing trees. They locked the door and headed for Momma's bedroom. They barely got inside and locked the bedroom as the Jaff approached the top of the stairs. She explained to her daughter that she slept with a man to please this monster who was the real father.

Momma took the knife to her daughter's throat, threatening to kill her to keep the girl from the Jaff. The Jaff wanted to hear his daughter speak – was she afraid for her life?

Jo-Beth replied immediately, “Yes. Yes. She's got a knife and...”

The Jaff left, saying, “Fine by me... there's always tomorrow.” The women waited until the Jaff had left the house.

“You knew he was going to come back,” Jo-Beth said to her mother.

“I guessed it would come, given time. Not for me. It didn't come for me. I was just a convenient womb, like all of us --”

“The League of Virgins,” Jo-Beth said.

Her mother wanted to know where she heard that, but Jo-Beth assured her that she'd been hearing stories since childhood. Jo-Beth thought her mother was very strong. “I love you, Momma. I know I said I was afraid but I know you wouldn't have hurt me.”

With tears dripping from her face, her mother said, without thinking, “I would have killed you stone dead.”
Part IV chapter 3

The Jaff was talking to Tommy-Ray and giving him instructions. The Jaff was obsessed with his enemy and unimpressed with Tommy's statements of personal courage. The Jaff told his son he was an explorer seeking the Art. With an enemy, Fletcher, he had to defeat on the way. “There's a sea of mind. It's called Quiddity. And floating in that sea is an island which appears in three dreams of every one of us at least twice in our lives: at the beginning and at the end. It was first discovered by the Greeks. Plato wrote of it in a code. He called it Atlantis...”

The Jaff then explained to Tommy what he was raising an army with – manifestations of primal fear. And he showed Tommy the slimy boneless sea monster that were the fears of Buddy Vance. Tommy asked if these came from dying people. The Jaff said it meant vulnerable people, those without mythologies to protect them because frightened or lost or mad.

Tommy suggested his own mother, but the Jaff aid she had protected herself with a faith, “however idiot it is.” The Jaff added that he needed naked people, folks without deities, lost folk.”

“I know a few” his son replied.

And Tommy took the Jaff to the weirdest and most unhinged of his acquaintances, from whom the Jaff drew forth their fears. The beasts he gathered were pale and vaguely reptilian, but that is what he sought. At the end of the evening he sent Tommy home to his mother. Tommy didn't want to go, but the Jaff demanded privacy until his army was strong enough to turn things upside down. Laughing, he led his beasts off into the dark.

Part IV chapter 4

Howie awoke groggy and sluggish. He dressed and did the bare minimum of exercise. He was going to seek out Jo-Beth and put things back together. The dream they shared had been rerouted into a nightmare, and he wanted that straightened out.

He went to the bookstore. Lois Knapp was at the counter. He asked if Jo-Beth would be coming in? He looked at the books. They were all similar, all about the same theme, all by the same publisher or subsidiary publisher. All were for and about Mormons.

Lois told him she called the house and wasn't sure if Jo-Beth would be in at all that day. He confronted her, saying he was not the Devil and not about to harm anyone. “I was born here,” he said, “In Palomo Grove.”
“I know,” she said.

Howie became nicer and more ingratiating to her to get her to talk. Lois reluctantly admitted that she knew Howie's mother and knew about “the accident.” Howie suggested that the accident was actually rape. Lois asked Howie to go back where he came from. Howie replied that the Grove was where he came from.

Lois resignedly told Howie the story. Buddy Vance died at the same location as the rape. Howie left the shop on condition that Lois tell Jo-Beth that he had been there. She slowly agreed to do so.

Part IV chapter 5

Tesla woke Grillo up in his hotel with a phone call. Tesla said she would be coming to the Grove and expected an expensive dinner as payment for her research on Buddy Vance.

Grillo then got up, slugged down some hotel coffee, and took off for the house address that Ellen Nguyen had given him. He expected a disgruntled employee dishing dirt on the boss, possibly including false information.. But Ellen welcomed him into her home while keeping her sick child in the next room. She went back and forth between tending her child with influenza and answering Grillo's questions.

“I was his mistress,” she said, “for almost five years.” She had been discharged because Mrs. Vance was suspicious of her and Grillo. “She said I was flirting with you.” Ellen then revealed that Rochelle was a hooker who had an expensive habit. Buddy knew that when he married her. Ellen wanted the world to know the truth, including that it was her that Buddy loved, really loved, all those years. And that she loved him.

About to leave, Grillo also looked in on Ellen's son. The boy was in bed, surrounded by toys and by a new drawing of a huge character. Who's that? Grillo asked.

“Balloon Man,” the boy said. Grillo wanted to know if this character came from TV? No, it came from out of the head of the boy.

Grillo thanked the boy for showing him the drawing. He went to the front door, where he told Ellen his hotel in case she wanted to give more information. Ellen assured him there was more information but that no one would know Buddy completely. It couldn't be all written down.

Grillo pondered the story as he drove to his hotel. The carnival collection, the moral mistress and hooker wife as well as an absurd death. He knew his boss would favor supposition over fact and dirt over dignity. He returned to the hotel and produced a first draft, in the form of twenty pages of notes. Then he realized that if the Balloon Man hadn't bitten him, the creator's flu had done the job.

Part IV chapter 6

Howie trudged up the hill from the Mall motel to Jo-Beth's house. He thought about what he could say to be persuasive. But he didn't get much o a chance, since when he rapped o the door for five minutes, no one answered, though he knew instinctively that someone was there. Eventually he heard a chain sliding and a door opening a crack. This would have to be Jo-Beth's mother. He appeared to be a stammering student. But Mrs. McGuire wasn't fooled. “You're not wanted her,” she said. “Go back home. Leave us alone.”

Howie would like to see her. Mrs. McGuire said her daughter didn't want to see him. Howie said he'd like to hear that from her.

She opened the door for that exchange to occur.

“You mustn't come here,” Jo-Beth said from inside the house. “It's dangerous for us all. You mustn't come here ever again... It's no use, Howie. Terrible things are going to happen to us if you don't go...”

Howie said he didn't understand. Mrs. McGuire said maybe it was better that way. She closed the door on the stammering boy.

Momma gathered Jo-Beth into a prayer session with her, though Jo-Beth's mind was wandering and questioning and not at peace. Howie went back downhill to the crevasse, the scene of the crime.

Howie came into the canopy of trees near the crevasse feeling he wasn't welcome. He cheered himself up by having some visions and by using his imagination. After a while, he thought there were too many pictures and asked that they stop. Make the pictures stop!

“Don't be afraid.. It's the real world” was the answer.

Howie was disoriented and frightened. He wasn't sure of himself. “You disappoint me, Howard,” said the voice again, this time speaking from a specific location nearby. The voice asked if Howard could see him, and Howie answered affirmatively, then asked the voice who he was.

“My name I Fletcher, and you're my son. I hate to hide, especially from you. But there's been so many people back an forth...”

Howard wanted to know how this voice got into his head.

Fletcher went on without directly answering. He wanted to expand Howard's ability to lock on to a vision and follow it. “And no – this isn't a dream. We're both here in the same moment, sharing our thoughts like civilized beings. This is as real as life gets.” He opened his arms. “Come closer, Howard. Embrace me.”

But Howard refused. Fletcher wanted to now why his son was so angry? Perhaps the desperate affair with the Jaff's child? This put Howie further on the defensive. “If you've got some hold on Jo-Beth,” Howard started, but he got an answer.

“She's to my daughter, she's the Jaff's. He's in her head the way I'm in yours.”

Howie insisted this was a dream. He tried waking. He made a fist and struck trees, telling himself this was all just a dream. But Howie was angry with rage against Jo-Beth, against her mother, against his mother for never explaining anything to him and against himself for his ignorance and for being a holy fool.

Fletcher was able to embrace his grieving son. He explained that Jo-Beth was not his sister and that the Jaff was the enemy of Fletcher and of Howie himself. The Jaff was raising terata as his creatures. His army. He loves fear.”

Fletcher offered to give information to Howie rapidly, but the boy was afraid of losing his identity and freedom, his sense of control,. He struggled but his father was persuasive.

--Between this world, called the Cosm – also called the Clay, also called the Helter Incendo – between this world and theMetacosm, also called the Alibi, also called the Exordium and the Lonely Place, is a sea called Quiddity –

and an image appeared in Howie's head. He floated there during hi brief dream shared with Jo-Beth. He listened to Fl etcher's instructions more closely now.

  • and on that sea, there's an island – It's called Ephemeris –

Howie thought he wanted to be there, to be there with Jo-Beth. “Forget her,” were Fetcher's instructions.

Tell me what's there, Howie asked. What's on Ephemeris?

The Great and Secret Show, which we see three times. At birth, at death and for one night when we sleep beside the love of our lives.

But the conversation reverted to a fight over losing Jo-Beth and her importance in Howie's life.
“You don't understand how desperate our situation is,” Fletcher pointed out. Quiddity will be invaded by the Jaff if I don't stop him.” Howie didn't want to know more. “You have a responsibility. I wouldn't have fathered you if I didn't think you could help me.”

This made Howard feel very unwanted and sarcastic. “Obey me, “Fletcher said. You're my child. You're supposed to obey!”

“You want a slave, go find one. I've got better things to do,” Howie answered, and walked away.

This left a weak Fletcher stumbling out of the woods on his own. He would have to walk the streets of the Grove alone and try to catch people dreaming, even in the light of day, to develop his own energy and his own army of hallucinogenic followers. He felt the mission gone, Raul gone and Howard gone, things moving away from him.

Part IV chapter 7

William Witt left his residence in Stillbrook to do a day's business in real estate. Things felt differently on this day, but he didn't know why. On this day he was inspecting new listings. One was a large house in a desirable area with a pool. The lawn was bad, but it was an impressive house.. He walked around the yard and realized the pool services w4ere needed for the scummy swimming pool. Something was breeding in it. Water moved and there were darting motions. In his mind, he imagined the four girls, Carolyn, Trudi, Joyce an Arleen, as if it had been yesterday that he spied on them.

Witt went on to inspect the inside of the house. When he got inside, he heard a noise on the second floor. “Who's there?” he inquired. There was no reply, but more chattering, clicking noise. When he ascended the staircase, he found it was a white, apparently plastic toy insect that was moving and making noise. Inside a room, a voice said, “Don't stand on ceremony. You're welcome inside.”

A second voice, recognizable, said, “Mr. Witt.” It was Tommy-Ray. “Come on in. Meet the gang.”

Witt entered the second floor room. He saw Tommy-Ray McGuire and another presence in the corner of the room, perhaps having dipped in the pool, as there was a sickly smell similar to that area around the pool. Tommy came up to Witt and then slammed the door behind him. As the room grew dark, Witt could see that Tommy's bearded companion had creatures like the toy insect all around him and covering him.

A tour of the terata was given to Witt, and then he was shown outside to the pool area.

Though disgusted by this scene, Witt was trapped and shamed so that he would give his fears to the Jaff. But he escaped as Tommy-Ray slipped and fell into the pool with the lurking terata. Over the fence Witt vaulted, and away to safety.

The Jaff was furious with his son for letting Witt get away, but offered to redeem the boy by having him successfully run an errand. “....there's a place down the coast where I left something important to me, a long time ago. I want you to get it back for me, while I dispatch Fletcher.” And with that Tommy agreed to go get the third vial of Nuncio. The Jaff promised him a wild party upon his return.

Part IV chapter 8

Grillo was dead tired and recouping in his hotel bed from the flu. There was a rap on the door. “Room service!” a woman said.

“I didn't order anything,” he replied. Then he realized, “Tesla?”

She had come to help him on his journalistic mission. She was dressed in her own eclectic style which he found fascinating. Grillo got up and used the bathroom while Tesla checked his incoming calls. She informed Grillo that his editor called and so did a woman called Ellen.

Grillo was interested in further talks with Ellen. Tesla thought he should return to L.A. Until over the flue, but Grillo overruled that because of the strangeness of the story he was covering. He told Tesla he was there when the men looking for Vance's body got killed. The press stories were incomplete. Before it happened there were prayers being uttered from below in the chasm. And then there was as geyser erupting, and two entities were in that geyser, coming out into the sky. Flying.

Tesla wanted to know what she could do. He gave her instructions: Look in on Ellen... Tell her the kid gave him the flu. Get her feeling guilty. Because he wanted more of the story she had to tell.

Tesla got out to Ellen Nguyen's house late in the afternoon. On the way she walked rather than drove. She imagined various movie plots in her head while she walked, as if she were considering using the locales she walked through as movie scenes in a script she was inventing. She'd never written a screenplay that got produced, but the ideas and plots kept coming to her anyway.

Tesla's unfailingly good sense of direction led her to the Nguyen residence without backtracking. A delicate woman answered the door. Tesla said in a whisper that she came because Grillo wanted to see her but had caught the flu. Ellen looked distressed, but Tesla reassured her that he would survive.

“Please come in,” Ellen said. Tesla hesitated, but Nguyen would not accept a refusal. “I can't talk here,” Ellen explained. “And I can't leave Philip for too long. I don't have a phone any longer. I had to use my neighbor's to call Mr. Grillo. Will you take a message to him?” After shooing her son back to his bedroom, she had more to say to Tesla. “Will you tell him that things have changed at Coney?”

Tesla wanted to know what that meant.

“There's going to be a Memorial Party for Buddy, at his house. Mr. Grillo will understand. Rochelle, his wife, sent the chauffeur down. Summoned me to help.” Ellen wanted to know if Grillo wanted an invitation.

Tesla told her to assume Grillo wanted to go to this party himself. Nguyen said that if Grillo wants to contact her, leave a message with Mr. Fulmer, the neighbor who will be looking after Philip.

Tesla accepted a picture from the invalid son to take back to Grillo, along with the best wishes of mother and the boy. She walked homeward on her own, inventing stories as she went.

Part IV chapter 9

William Witt called his policeman friend Spilmont on the telephone. What had he found at the vacant house?

Spilmont assured him that the place was empty. Pool, house and garage all empty. He warned Witt not to try a prank like this on the police again. Then he hung up. It took Witt a long time to return the telephone receiver to its cradle.

The Jaff and Tommy-Ray were talking. They had a new terata, one coming from Spilmont himself. Jaff told his son that Fletcher was on the move, prowling around the Grove. He would have to be killed once enough terata were gathered to make sure of victory. Tommy-Ray wanted to fetch Jo-Beth first.

The Jaff was bored by this notion. “We don't need her,” he said. The Jaff then accused Tommy-Ray of wanting his sister's body.

“Maybe,” Tommy-Ray admitted. “I don't know what I want, but I sure... know what I don't want. I don't want... Katz touching her. She's frail, right? You told me that was important.”

The Jaff agreed that the two of them would go and fetch her.

Fletcher was roving Palomo Grove. The town was driving him to the edge of despair. These planned communities gave every facility except the facility to feel. Twice, cornered in sch vacuums, he'd come close to being annihilated by his enemy. He was worried.

Fletcher was sure that Jaff had a bridgehead here. There were plenty of weak and unprotected souls to provide him with an army. But Fletcher's hallucigenia were born of rich and pungent dream lives. This town, withered by comfort and complacency, offered little hope of sustenance. A ghetto or a madhouse would have been better than this well-watered wasteland. There were few who were dreaming. And Fletcher had not been a human for a long time. People could see through him to the Nunciate beneath, and then they retreated. The pickings were thin.

If the Jaff had chosen a final battlefield, he could not have picked a better one.

As the Mall emptied, he left it, wandering through the empty streets. There were no pedestrians. He knew why. The human sphere couldn't entirely block out the presence of supernatural forces in its midst. The people in this town knew it was haunted tonight. They were taking refuge beside their televisions. Fletcher could see the screens glimmering in home after home, the sound of each set turned up abnormally loud, as if to block any songs the sirens abroad tonight might sing. They were rocked to sleep by game show hosts and soap opera queens, locking out the creature that might have kept them from extinction.

Part IV chapter 10

Howard Katz was spying on the McGuire home. He saw a man approach the front door he would later recognize as the Pastor. He skulked around the outside of the house and noticed a light on in the kitchen. It was Jo-Beth preparing supper for her mother's guest. He was mesmerized by her presence in performing this chore. When she came close to the window, he looked up with a finger to his mouth to hush her. She saw him and waved him away with panic on her face. He ducked and her mother appeared at the kitchen door. Her mother returned to the living room. Then Jo-Beth went to the door and opened it without unbolting it. She told Howie that he shouldn't be here.

Howie wanted to talk to her outside. But she wouldn't do that. He wanted to come inside, and his mangled hand probably convinced her to let him in.

She instructed him to sneak upstairs to her room and wait for her.

After a while, she came up to her room and talked. She said that the Jaff had come to the house for her and for Tommy-Ray. Howie told her that someone had called him, saying he was Howie's father.

Jo-Beth was scared. She thought that meeting Howie started all of this. But Howie replied that, after all, they did meet and it is better to know the truth about them and about each other. Howie wasn't concerned with their war, “..And I won't let it pull us apart.” Howie suggested leaving together. That way, the two fathers wouldn't have anything to fight over. But Jo-Beth reminded him that it was not just about them.

“You're right,” Howie recalled, “It's about this place called Quid-ity. We went there, you and me. Or almost went. I want to finish that trip.”

They kissed. He told her he loved her. “I want to be naked,” he said. She worried about her mother and the Pastor talking downstairs. “They're occupied aren't they?” he said.

“They talk for hours,” she answered.

As the two of them disrobed, the Pastor was thinking about the conversation with Mrs. McGuire. She had talked about the beast that had raped her coming back and claiming his son. For the Pastor, pontificating on abstractions was one thing (it drew female devotees to him in droves), but when the talk took a turn for the lunatic, he beat a diplomatic retreat. Clearly Mrs. McGuire was verging on a mental breakdown. He needed a chaperone to protect himself from this woman. He decided that he wanted to talk to Jo-Beth.

Joyce McGuire didn't want that.

Why don't I fetch her? The Pastor inquired.

“You don't believe me!” said Joyce, correctly guessing his suspicions.

The Pastor started calling her name. After repeated calls, Jo-Beth told Howie, “I've got to get dressed.” She did so as Howie did also. Then she heard something. Something calling her – the Jaff.

Pastor John filled a tumbler with tap water and thought about bringing this visit to an end, with or without seeing the daughter. But he saw something move outside. Joyce came in and saw something too. Out of the shadows, the object made its presence plain. “Lord God Almighty, what is this?” said the Pastor.

Joyce McGuire began praying, aloud and devoutly.

Jo-Beth heard the prayers and wanted to go downstairs. Howie didn't want her to leave, but the sound of smashing glass caused Jo-Beth to ignore him and get around him to go assist her mother.

A swarm of terata terrified Joyce McGuire and the Pastor. He prayed for his own personal escape from this hell. Joyce prayed too. Then she heard Tommy-Ray's voice. “Momma? Can you hear me? Momma? Let me in, will you? Let me in, and I swear I'll stop them coming. I swear I will. Only let me in.”

Joyce sobbed and then howled. It was a howl of fury. “How dare you!” she shrieked. “How dare you!”

But Tommy broke the kitchen door and walked in. He spoke to Pastor John. “You've got a hold on her. She listens to you. Tell her to give me Jo-Beth, will you? Make it easier on all f us.”

The Pastor looked round at Joyce McGuire: “Do it,” he said. “Dot it or we're all dead.”

But Jo-Beth was already standing behind her mother. “Are you ready to leave?” Tommy-Ray asked politely.

“You have to promise to leave Momma alone,” Jo-Beth said.

“I will,” Tommy-Ray replied, his tone that of a man wronged by accusation. “I don't want to hurt Momma. You know that.”

“If you leave her alone, I'll come with you.”

Howie heard this coming down the stairs. He could hear the terata. He needed a plan in a hurry. His plan was to create havoc and try to strike Tommy-Ray. Perhaps that would cause a retreat.

He rounded the corner into the kitchen. Jo-Beth, Tommy-Ray and the terata were gone. The door was open, and slumped on the floor was Momma, her arms outstretched as though her last conscious act had been to reach out after her children.

The Pastor was cowering between the wall and the refrigerator. He advised against going after them.

But after cursing the man, Howie went outside to find her.

What he found was Tommy-Ray. Tommy placed a knife to Katz's back and introduced him to his father.

Howard was not terribly impressed with the Jaff. He looked like a weary man going to seed. Tommy, for his part, used the knife to cut off Howie's shirt. The air felt cool and restful for a second until a terata occupied his back. Then the beast bit down on his neck. The pain was excruciating.

Howie cursed at the Jaff to get the thing off him. He spun around trying to throw it off.

Howie fell to his knees and turned back to the Jaff, seeing the mask slip and the fetus head behind it. He heard Jo-Beth's sobs and saw a brief glimpse of her, too. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them again she, Tommy and their father were gone.

Fletcher felt the boy's terror and revulsion but labored to put it from his mind. Howie had rejected his father to go in search of the Jaff's wretched offspring, blinded no doubt by mere appearance..

But Howie's terrors demanded a hearing, so he sent his voice out to his son. Calling him, he called again, rhythmically. This might mean the triumph of the Jaff.

He had tried not to think too hard of the Jaff winning, knowing that the sense of responsibility might well overwhelm him. As the final confrontation approached, he bullied himself into facing it. If the Jaff secured the Art, and through it gained free access to Quiddity, what would it mean?

Jaff had used the Nuncio to cheat his way out of his limitations and would wreak havoc there. The dream sea and its island (perhaps islands) were visited by humanity at three vital times, in innocence, extremis, and love. On the shores of Ephemeris they mingled briefly with absolutes; saw sights and heard stories that would keep them from insanity in the face of being alive. There, briefly, was pattern and purpose; there was a glimpse of continuity. There was the how, the Great and Secret Show, which rhyme and ritual were created to be keep-sakes of. If that island were to become the Jaff's playground, the damage would be incalculable. What was secret would become commonplace; what was holy, desanctified; and a species kept from lunacy by its dream journeys there would be left unhealed.

Fletcher had another fear. There had been, Jaff said, a man called Kissoon, a shaman who'd known about the Art and its powers, whom the Jaff had finally found in a place that he'd claimed was a loop of time. Kissoon had been the last surviving member of the Shoal, an order of elevated human beings who had guarded the Art from the likes of Jaff since Homo sapiens began to dream,. Why had he allowed Jaff access to his Loop? Why had he been in hiding there at all? What happened to the other members of the Shoal?

It was too late to pursue the answers to these questions, there was only time for the grim business ahead, its method and its setting. It had to be apiece of theater, a spectacular last act that would coax the people of Palomo Grove away from their television screens and into the streets, wide-eyed. He chose one alternative, and still calling his son to him, starred towards the site of his final liberation.

Howie had heard the call but was busy eluding the chasing terata. Once he gained some distance, he was able to follow the summons. His legs worked marvelously fast, and he squeezed his lungs for breath.

“I hear you, he said as he ran. “I hear you. Father. I hear you.”

Part IV chapter 11

Tesla correctly described herself to Grillo as a lousy nurse but a very capable bully. When Grillo woke she was back in his room. She nagged him about going back to his own place in L.A. And getting well. But he didn't want to go. He made it sound like he wanted to punish his editor by running up the hotel bill.

Tesla called that petty. He agreed but said pettiness goes with being sick, and he still had the flu. “Besides, this is where the story is.”

“You can write it better at home than lying here in a pool of sweat feeling sorry for yourself.”

“Maybe you're right.”

Tesla drove Grillo toward the freeway ramp. She thought the town looked deserted. She was leaving without seeing any of the things Grillo had been talking about.

“Hold that thought,” she said to herself. A young man stumbled around a corner and raced across the road. At the opposite sidewalk his legs gave out beneath him. He fell, and he seemed to have some difficulty getting up again. He was evidently hurt. There was something misshapen about his body; hunched or swollen... She drove on towards him. Grillo opened his eyes. “Are we there already?”

Tesla said the guy on the sidewalk looks even sicker than Grillo. Grillo sat bolt upright and peered through the windshield. “There's something on his back,” he muttered. She stopped the car near the youth, who still could not get up. He was wearing something, and Tesla said it might be a backpack.

“No way, Tesla,” he responded. “It's alive. Whatever it is, it's alive.” She told him to stay in the car, but he pushed the passenger door open. He aught Tesla rummaging in the glove compartment. She pulled a gun out of hiding. She got out of the car, which started rolling backward. Grillo dove into the care for the handbrake. Grillo waited for his sense of being high to pass as Tesla reached the boy's side. She told him to hold on, help was coming. She saw something alive on his back and asked what it was.

“Get away. They're coming after me,” he answered. Tesla looked around and saw the army approaching. She yelled for Grillo to get in the car. She repeated the order with a curse. Then she attached herself to Howie and ordered him to get up. The beasts were approaching. Howie told Tesla that the beasts would follow him instead of swarm the car if they moved.

“Down the hill,” he said. She asked why. “The Mall.” Why? “My father... is there.” As she turned the next corner, the boy offering muttered instructions, she heard the car's windshield shatter.

Jaff and Tommy Ray, with their hostage Jo-Beth, were watching all of this. Tommy-Ray noted that Katz was going down to the mall. “Fletcher's calling him.”

“Just as I hoped. Wherever the son ends up, that's where we'll find the father,” said the Jaff.

“Unless the terata get him first,” said Tommy.

“They won't. They have their instructions.”

Jo-Beth tried to quarrel with the Jaff, but he was adamant about the rightness of his coldness and his attitude.

“Why don't they overtake us?” Tesla asked Howie. Twice they had almost been swarmed. The last quarter mile to the Mall seemed impossible for her. Where was Grillo?

Grillo had driven like a wild man to a public telephone and then to the address he found. He arrived looked crazed and unshaven at the doorstep of Hotchkiss. “Grillo? Jesus, man, what the hell's wrong with you?” was the greeting.

“Just come with me, I'll explain as we go,” Grillo replied. He asked Hotchkiss to bring any guns. Hotchkiss noticed there were alarms going off in the distance.

It was Fletcher smashing those windows. He broke windows in the supermarket, the pet store. He gathered props from the two stores to continue his rampage. He was thinking about his own life of failure and grief. Who had he been close to? Raul, who was dead, most likely, his ghost haunting the ruins of the Mision de Santa Catrina. That made him think about the Nuncio. Could it still be there for some innocent to stumble upon it and repeat the whole story. That formed another task to charge Howard with, before they were parted forever.

Never had so many alarms rang at once in the Grove. The stunned townspeople, absent minded and groggy, wondered what was going on and wondered who they were themselves. People looked outside and were called by spouses. But it only took one going out to encourage others to do so.

The Jaff had figured out what Fletcher was up to. Fletcher wanted people to see the terata, to rile them up in revolution against the Jaff. He had tried it before on the travels across America. But there was no revolution Fletcher was able to inspire. The Jaff knew that people don't have the faith and don't have the dreams to take action. He turned to Jo-Beth. “You'll be pleased to know I'm calling the hounds off Katz's heels. We now where Fletcher is now. And where he is his son's going to be.”

Tesla noticed that the monsters had stopped following them.

Inside the store, Fletcher saw his boy approaching him, being borne by a woman. Tesla saw Fletcher as a ragged, exhausted man. When she drew near she noticed and smelled that he was drenched in gasoline. He told her to set Howie on the ground and she did so.

He grabbed some of the tentacles and the terata fought. “Take hold of its head,” he ordered Tesla. On the fourth beat she took hold of the beast.. It loosed his mouth long enough to hew on her hand. In that moment Fletcher pulled. Body and beast separated. “Let go!” he yelled. She did so as Howie's father threw it backwards, into the market, where it struck a pyramid of cans and was buried.

Fletcher looked at Tesla's punctured palm and showed her an identical wound of his own. She was impressed. He didn't have time to explain, but he had time to give her instructions. “You were born to be here, now, with me,” he said.

“I don't understand any of this,” Tesla replied.

“Analyze tomorrow. Do, now. Help me. We have very little time.”

Grillo warned Hotchkiss, as he drove them to the Mall, that there were monsters there. He slowed as two citizens crossed the path of his car, heading on foot to the Mall. Others were coming to the Mall as though heading to a Carnival. Grillo yelled at them to go back, but none heeded. Hotchkiss started talking about his daughter, Carolyn, as they proceeded further.

“What about her?” Grillo asked.

“Another time, Grillo. When you've got time for tears,” he responded.

The crowd was milling and talking as a shop-owner ranted and two police tried to control the group. Then Grillo spotted Tesla in the store and approached. But she wasn't listening to him but doing as Fletcher asked her to do. “His name's Fletcher. The boy is Howard Katz. It's all going to blow, Grillo. And I'm going to stay till it does.”

Grillo asked if he could take the boy. Tesla nodded. “But be quick, or it's over for us all.”

Grillo and Hotchkiss took hold of the boy and hauled him to his feet.

“Wait,” said Fletcher, approaching the trio. He smelled of gasoline. But there was more. A mild electric shock passed through Grillo as Fletcher reached to his son and contact was made through all three systems. Grillo's mind soared, wth all bodily frialty forgotten, into a space where dreams hung like stars. It was gone all too suddenly, almost brutally, as Fletcher dropped his hand from his son's face. Grillo looked at Hotchkiss and saw in his face the shared brief splendor.

“What's going to happen?” Grillo was looking at Tesla.

“Fletcher is leaving.” He is going “nowhere and everywhere.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I told her,” came Fletcher's response. “Quiddity must be preserved.” He looked at Grillo with a small smile. “Take my son, gentlemen. Keep him out of the line of fire.”

The Jaff approached across a parking lot. A large crowd had gathered but parted to allow a lane between the combatants. Tommy-Ray and Jo-Beth were with the Jaff. He spoke first: “You had ambition. Don't deny it.”

“Not like yours,” Fletcher replied.

“True. I had cope.”

“You must not have the Art.”

“Too late. I feel it in my fingers already.”

“All right,” Fletcher replied. “If you want me to beg, I'll beg. Quiddity must be preserved. I beg you not to touch it.”

“You don't get it, do you?” the Jaff said. His children walked behind him. “My flesh will do anything for me. Isn't that right, Tommy-Ray?”

The boy grinned. “Anything.”

Howie had worked his way loose of those holding him. He turned to Tesla and said, Gun.” She gave it to him.

“Tommy-Ray had his hand on Jo-Beth's shoulder. Now it moved down to her breast. Somebody in the crowd began to speak out at this, but was shushed as the Jaff looked in their direction. Jo-Beth pulled away from her brother, but Tommy-Ray was not about to relinquish her. He pulled her back towards him, inclining his head towards hers.

Shot stopped the kiss, the bullet plowing the asphalt at Tommy-Ray's feet.

“Let go of her,” Howie said. His voice was not strong, but it carried.

Tommy-Ray did as he was instructed, looking at Howie with mild puzzlement on his face. He slid his knife from his back pocket. The imminence of bloodshed was not lost on the crowd. Some backed away, especially those with children. Most stayed.

“Going to shoot me down in cold blood in front of all these nice people?” Tommy-Ray said to Howie. “Go on, I dare you. Blow me away. I'm not afraid. I like death and death likes me. Pull the trigger, Katz.”

The Jaff brought the impasse to an end, seizing hold of Jo-Beth. His grip brought a cry. Howie looked towards her, and Tommy-Ray charged him, knife raised. It took only a push from Tommy-Ray to throw Howie down. The gun flew from his hand. Tommy-Ray kicked Howie hard between the legs then threw himself upon his victim.

“Don't kill him!” the Jaff commanded.

The Jaff let Jo-Beth go and advanced toward Fletcher. Everyone else backed away.

Fletcher reached into his pocket and pulled out a book of matches. The crowd stayed and stared. How could they look away, when for the firs time they had a chance of peeking at the gods?

Fletcher opened the book; pulled a match from it. He was in the act of striking when fresh darts of power broke from the Jaff's hand and flew at Fletcher. They struck his fingers like bullets, their violence carrying match and matchbook out of Fletcher's hands.

Then the Jaff took his poison to Fletcher directly and touched him. Fletcher shuddered. He turned his head far enough around to see Tesla. In his eyes she saw vulnerability.. The Jaff's malice had direct access to his essence. The appeal in Fletcher's expression was unambiguous. A message of chaos was spreading through his system from the Jaff's touch.

She had no matches, but she had Hotchkiss's gun. Without a word she snatched it from his hand. Her motion drew the Jaff's glance, and for a chilling moment she met his mad eyes –saw a phantom head swelling around them; another Jaff in hiding behind the first. She aimed the gun at the ground behind Fletcher and fired. There was no spark. She fired again. It seemed she saw the fire coming before it actually ignited. The air around Fletcher turned yellow and sprang into flame.

The heat was sudden and intense. There was a sweetness in Fletcher's expression as he burned. The Jaff stepped away with a shrug of ridicule. But the fire was not consuming him but transforming him, a pro0ess throwing out flashes of bright matter. The Jaff rapidly retreated from those flashes. The Jaff hated them. Tesla was fascinated and drew closer, like the first ape to nurture a flame and so transform the tribe.

The burning motes coming off Fletcher's body had their progenitor's intention in them. Some of the crowd actually walked forward to greet the lights, like communicants to an altar rail. Children went first. The light broke against their open hands, or against their welcoming faces, the fire echoed momentarily in their eyes. The parents of these adventurers were next to be touched.

It was more than light. It was Fletcher. His brain melted into brightness and was blown from its pan like a dandelion head. Remaining pieces of Fletcher simply vanished in the fire. One moment brightness, heat and wonders. The next, nothing.

Perhaps it was the sheer number of people touched by the light that prevented the Jaff from any reprisals. The Jaff simply left. Tommy-Ray went with him. Jo-Beth did not.

It was Shaman Fletcher's last performance. Grillo and Hotchkiss had the satisfaction of knowing their sense hadn't deceived them at the caves. Jo-Beth and Howie had reunion after events that had brought them close to death. Tesla had the knowledge that Fletcher's going shifted a weight of responsibility to her.

It was the Grove itself, however, which had borne the brunt of the night's magic. Its streets had seen horrors. Its citizens had been touched by spirits.

Soon, war.

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