Monday, November 1, 2010

TG&SS Part VII Chs 4 to 5 (part) Synopsis 60

Part VII chapter 4

Grillo knocked on the door of the Nguyen house and the son answered the door.

The boy said his mother was busy, but let Grillo inside anyway. There were plates of half-eaten meals spread about, what a child would want to eat – hot dogs and ice cream. When Grillo asked where his mother was, the boy pointed to the bedroom. “She doesn't come out anymore, except at night,” he said.

The boy returned to his room and Grillo crossed to Ellen's door knocking on it. A moan was heard inside. “It's me,” he said, “Grillo. Can I come in?” and he turned the handle without waiting for a reply.

The door would not open more than an inch. Worrying and jiggling it, a chair slid to the floor and he was able to open it. She was in an open dressing gown and confused. “You shouldn't see,” she said.

Grillo said he'd seen her before.

“I don't mean me,” she said. In the further corner of the room, where Ellen gazed, was a chair. A man was sitting in the chair bent double with his wrists tied. “This,” she said softly, “is Buddy.”

Grillo looked at the last member of Fletcher's army, an indistinct figment of Ellen's imagination growing fuzzy and dim. This hallucitgenia had a deeply lined face and was hung like a donkey, exactly as Tesla had stated. “Who are you to come in here?” he said.

He struggled against his bonds. “He wanted to leave last night,” she said. Grillo knew why but remained silent. “I wouldn't let him, of course. He likes to be kept this way. We used to play this game a lot.

“Who is this?” the hallucigenia of Vance said.

“Grillo. I told you about Grillo,” Ellen replied.

Grillo was flummoxed by this surreal situation. “So if you know this... man... isn't real, why the games?” he said to her.

She let her eyes close completely. “I don't now what's real or not any more.”

Grillo was receptive to this line of thinking. He'd been observing the unbelievable for several days himself. And he found Ellen's indifference to reality to be plausible and understandable.

“He was a great lover, Grillo. Especially when he's burning up, because somebody else is where he wants to be. Rochelle didn't tike to play that game.”

“Didn't see the joke,” Vance said, his eyes still on what was out of sight to Grillo. “She never --”

“My God!” Grillo said, suddenly realizing what Buddy meant. “He was here, wasn't he? He was here when you and I...” the thought took the words away, “...outside the door.”

“I didn't know at the time,” Ellen said. “It wasn't planned that way.”

“Christ!” Grillo said. “It was all a performance for him. You set me up. You set me up to get your fantasy heated up.”

“Maybe... I had a suspicion,” she conceded. “Why are you so angry?”

“Isn't it obvious?”

“No, it isn't,” she said, her tone all reason. “You don't love me. You don't even know me or you wouldn't be so shocked. You must wanted something from me, and you got it.”

Her account was accurate; and it hurt. Grillo felt mean. “You know this thing's not here forever,”he said, jabbing his thumb at Ellen's hallucinated prisoner.

“I know,” she said, her tone betraying some little sadness at this fact. “But none of us are, right? Even you.”

Grillo stared at her, willing her to look around at him; see his pain. But she only had eyes for the fabrication. He gave up on the possibility and delivered the message he'd come here with.

“I advise you to leave the Grove,” he said. “Take Philip and leave.”

“Why's that?” she said.

“Just trust me. There's a good chance the Grove won't even be standing tomorrow.”

Now she deigned to look around at him.

“I understand,” she said. “Close the door will you, when you leave?”

= = = = = = = = =

Tesla opened the door to Hotchkiss's home, saying, “Grillo, you meet some damn weird people.”

Grillo never thought of Hotchkiss as weird. A man in mourning, yes. An occasional drunkard; who wasn't? But he wasn't prepared for the level of the man's obsession.

At the back of the house was a room given over entirely to the subject of the Grove and the ground it was built on. Geological maps, photographs, newspaper cuttings all dealing with earthquakes. The man himself sat unshaven in the middle of this information with a cup of coffee in his hand..

Witt, who was with Grillo and Tesla, went off to get more coffee. Grillo had been told by Tesla that there was a new angle to the story and that Hotchkiss knew something important. He inquired about it.

“Simple, really,” Hotchkiss said. “I got a call in the middle of the night from New York. I guy I hired when my wife left, to find her. Or try at least. His name's D'Amour. He specializes – I guess – in supernatural stuff.”

“Why'd you hire him?”

“My wife got involved with some very peculiar people after our daughter's death. She never really accepted that Carolyn was gone from us. She tried contacting her through spiritualists. Eventually joined a spiritualist church,. Then she ran off.”

“Why look for her in New York?” Grillo asked.

“She was born there. It seemed the likeliest place for her to go.”

“And did D'Amour find her?”

“No. But he dug up a whole bunch of stuff about the church she'd joined. I mean... this guy knew what he was doing.”

“So why did he call you?”

“He's coming to that,” said Tesla.

“I don't know who D'Amour's contacts are, but the call was a warning.”

“About what?”
“About what's happening here in the Grove.”

“He knew?”

“Oh, he knew all right.”

“I think that maybe I should talk to hm,” Tesla said. “What time is it in New York?”

“You two make whatever arrangements you need to make about the climb,” she said, referring to going back down into the crevasse. She was given a telephone pad with the name and number on it. Tesla retreated to the kitchen and dialed the number.

She got an answering machine, so she started leaving a message. D'Amour broke in on his own answering machine and began talking to her. He was amazed Hotchkiss had any friends at all. He explained that a lot of spiritualists on the west coast had been antsy for months, waiting for something to happen. What did she want? “Cut to the chase,” he said to Tesla. “That's a movie expression.”

Tesla told him that she knew that because she wrote movies.

D'Amour wanted to know which ones. He was a movie buff. Tesla said they could talk about it sometime. “Meanwhile I need you to take on a few things.”

“Like what?”

“Well, for one: have you ever heard of the Iad Uroboros?”

There was a long, long-distance silence.

“D'Amour? Are you still there? D'Amour?”

“Harry,” he said, giving his first name. Yes, he knew of the Iad Uroboros. He heard about it from a woman named Norma Paine. “She's one of the people I was talking about before. She's plugged in.”

“What does she know about the Iad?”

“First, around dawn something happened on the East Coast, in dreamland. Do you know why?”

“I've got a good idea,” Tesla replied.

“Norma keeps talking about a place called Oddity.”

“Quiddity,” Tesla corrected him.

“So you do know.”

“No need for the trick questions. Yes, I know. And I need to hear what she has to say about the Iad.”

D'Amour pointed out that Norma wasn't sure. The Iad don't appear to have any weaknesses. Tesla wanted to know what an Iad invasion will be like? Are they going to bring an Army through Quiddity? Are we going to see machines, bombs, what? Shouldn't somebody be trying to tell the Pentagon?

“The Pentagon already knows,” D'Amour said.

“It does?”

“We're not the only people who've heard of the Iad, lady. People all over the world have got images of it built into their culture. They're the enemy.” And D'Amour didn't mean demons or the devil or Satan. He told Tesla he'd met demons, and they never look the way you think they will.

Tesla thought of her own ridiculous experiences with Kissoon, the Lix and the mansion opening up because of the Jaff exercising his Art. Her own experiences made D'Amour sound reasonable. She asked him why the Pentagon hadn't sent forces to the Grove.

“Nobody knew where the breakout would happen. I'm sure there's a file on the Grove somewhere, as a place where things weren't quite natural. But that's a long, long list.”

Would D'Amour himself come out to the Grove to help?

“I've got problems here. There's all hell breaking loose. There've been a hundred and fifty cases of double suicides in Manhattan alone in the last eight hours.”


“Lovers. Sleeping together for the first time. Dreaming of the Ephemeris, and getting a nightmare instead.” Tesla was horrified but sympathetic about this. D'Amour continued, “We're going to see a lot of folks responding to that in the next few days. Our minds are very finely balanced,. Doesn't take much to push them over the edge. I'm in a city full of people ready to fall. I have to be here.”

“And if the cavalry doesn't turn up?” Tesla said.

“Then somebody giving the orders in the Pentagon is a disbeliever – and there's plenty of those – or he's working for the Iad.”

“They've got agents?”

“Oh, yes. Not many, but enough. People have been worshiping the Iad, by other names. For them this is the Second Coming.”

“There was a first?”

“That's another story, but yes, apparently there was.”


“There are no reliable accounts, if that's what you're asking. Nobody knows what the Iad look like. I think we should just pray they're the size of mice.” D'Amour then claimed that he had to go. “But the way I hear it, you're not completely alone.”

“I've got Hotchkiss, and a couple of --”

“No. I mean, Norma says there's a savior out there.”

Tesla kept her laugh to herself.

“I don't see any savior,” she replied. “What should I be looking for?”

“She's not sure. Sometimes she says it's a man sometimes a woman. Sometimes not even human.” Then he told Tesla, “Stay happy. As my father used to say, you shouldn't have joined if you couldn't take a joke.”

“Joined what?”

“The race,” D'Amour said and put down the phone.

Tesla pondered this and Grillo appeared. Grillo was unhappy that they didn't have the proper equipment or any map of the system the climbers will be going in to. Such maps don't exist, because, apparently, the whole town's build on ground which keeps shifting.

“Do you have any alternatives?” Tesla said. “The Jeff's the only man --” and she paused and stopped for a moment. “I don't suppose he's really a man, is he?”

“I don't follow,” Grillo said.

“D'Amour said there was a savior in the vicinity. Someone not human. That has to be the Jaff, right? Nobody else fits the description.”

“I don't see him as much of a savior,” Grillo said.

“Then we'll have to persuade him,” came the answer. “If it crucifies him.”

Part VII, chapter 5

Police had arrived in the Grove by the time Tesla, Witt, Hotchkiss and Grillo left the house to start the descent. Lights were flashing at the top of the hill and ambulance sirens were wailing. But the town's occupants were nowhere to be found. The town was empty. Nobody was on the roads. Even the pack of dogs was gone. The first destination was the Mall to find the best equipment they could. The Mall itself was deserted and the stores were locked. There was a single exception: the pet store.

The door was wide open and there was a hullabaloo coming from inside. Ted Elizando was refilling the drip-feed water bottled along the row of kittens' cages when the walked in the door. He didn't look surprised.

All alone this morning, Ted?” Witt said. The man nodded. He hadn't shaved in two or three days; nor showered.

I... didn't want t get up, really.... but I had to. For the animals.”

Of course.”

They'd die if I didn't look after them,” Ted went on.. He took a kitten out of a cage and stroked it, the back of the animal arching to meet his hand as he petted the animal.

I don't think there's anyone left in town to buy them,” William Witt said.

What am I going to do?” He asked softly. “I can't feed them forever, can I?” His voice dropped in volume with every word, until he was barely whispering. “What's happened to everyone?:” he said. “Where did they go? Where did everyone go?”

Away, Ted,” William said. “Out of town. And I don't think they're going to be coming back.”

You think I should go too?” Ted said.

I think maybe you should,” William replied.

The man looked devastated. “What will the animals do?” he said.

For the first time – witnessing Ted Elizando's misery – Tesla was struck by the scale of the Grove's tragedy. This wasn't one of Tesla's scripts. There was real pain here. Real loss. The people who'd lived in the Grove, and fled it, had not been cardboard cut-outs. They'd had lives and love, families, pets; they'd made their homes here thinking they'd found a place in the sun where they'd be safe. She had no right to judge them.

She couldn't bear to go on looking at Ted, who stroked the kitten with such tenderness, as though it was all he had of sanity. She went outside and peered up at the hill. Buddy Vance's mansion was still standing. Apparently the hole in reality hadn't gotten significantly bigger yet. Grillo and Hotchkiss appeared with ropes, batteries and equipment they would need for the descent. They all gathered and drove toward the park and the crevasse.

Hotchkiss was making a speech. “I already told Grillo,” he said, “That this is a completely suicidal thing for us all to be doing. Especially you,” he said, catching Tesla's eye in the mirror. “We haven't got any of the necessary equipment. The stuff we found in the stores is for domestic use; it won't save our lives in a crisis. And we're untrained. All of us. I've made a few climbs myself, but a long time ago. I'm really just a theoretician. And this is no easy system. There's a good reason why Vance's corpse wasn't brought up. Men died down there – “

That wasn't because of the cave,” Tesla said. “It was the Jaff.”

But they didn't go back in” Hotchkiss pointed out. “:God knows, nobody wanted to leave a man down there without a decent burial, but enough was enough.”

Grillo reminded him that he was willing for the two of them to go down into the ground a couple of days ago.

That was you and me,”Hotchkiss said.

Tesla blew up. “Meaning that you didn't have a woman along?” she said. She didn't see it made any difference what sex had to do with this expedition. “And I've got a better chance with the Jaff than any of you,” she added. “I've met Kissoon; I've heard the same lies the Jaff was told. I've got half a clue as to why he became what he became. If we're to have any chance of persuading him to help us, I've got to do the persuading.”

Hotchkiss parked the car, proposing to take the lead with Witt following, Miss Bombeck third and Grillo bringing up the rear. No one objected.

They carried the gear through the trees and kitted up.

Grillo looked worried and sick, and Tesla asked him about it, but it was time to being the descent. Hotchkiss got them all several feet down into the crevasse and then stopped until they could get used to the darkness. Then they proceeded further. Grillo was already fighting claustrophobia, as though he were stuck in an elevator. Tesla stood near him. They began with a zig-zagging descent, but after a time there was a straight decent in the dark without support. Tesla was with three men who could not be more strongly motivated to make the decent: Grillo, with his passion to tell the whole story; Hotchkiss, still haunted by the memory of his daughter, who'd died because of events here; and Witt, who knew the length and breadth of the Grove, but never its depth.

They reached a ledge where they could rest for a while. Grillo lit a cigarette. “Thought you'd given up,” Tesla remarked.

So did I,” he said, passing the cigarette over to her. She took a lungful, savoring it, then passed it back to Grillo. Witt found a small rock, which he threw below. There was silence for several seconds, then it shattered somewhere far below. “Good try,” Grillo said. “It works in the movies.”

They inched below into the darkness. Then more and more inching. At the end of one stretch Hotchkiss called a halt.

What is it?” Tesla asked.

Vance,” he said.

We're at the bottom, then,” Grillo said.

No,” came the reply. “Just another ledge.”

It was as if the torches for once offered too much light. There was a bundle of dead meat on the ledge. The man's head had cracked on the rock like a dropped egg.. His limbs were bent back on themselves every which way, the bones surely broken from point to joint. One hand was laid on the nape of his neck, palm up. The other was just in front of his face, its fingers a little open, as though he was playing hide and seek.

They continued their decent even more cautiously. Eventually they came to a stream with no solid bottom. There were various tunnels branching off from it. Hotchkiss felt they should give up looking for the Jaff and begin the ascent.

Tesla looked around at the tunnels. The soggy ground gave way under them and they fell into the water. It washed through through a tunnel. Then the speed of the stream sped up, heading for a waterfall. Witt said several times that he dreamed this – he knew he'd be swimming like this. Tesla thought of achieving Quiddity at the moment of the peril of death.

Below the waterfall the water formed a pool with a sort of subterranean beach. Tesla, Grillo and Hotchkiss made it to this formation, but there was no sign of Witt. But there was light behind them.

It had to be the Jaff. They started for it. Grillo was sobbing with panic, but Tesla decided to simply let that run its course. Halfway to the light, the body of Witt surfaced in the pool. They continued toward the light. It was coming from a cavern. Tesla stepped inside the cavern ans asked, “Anyone here?” Then, “I want to speak with... with Randolph Jaffe.” She said to herself that she came hoping to speak with the man he had been rather than the Artist he had become.
Who are you?”

Tesla Bombeck.” She started toward the fire, using it as an excuse to enter. “Don't mind, do you?” she said, stripping off her sodden gloves and extending her palms to the joyless flames.

There's no heat,” Jaffe said. “it's not a real fire.”

“So I see” she said. The fuel looked to be rotted matter of some kind. Terata. The smoky glow which she'd taken for flame was the last vestiges of their decay.

Jaffe noted that Tesla had brought people with her. She agreed and noted one of them was Nathan Grillo. Jaffe wanted to know why Tesla was here. “To find you,” she said. “We need... we need your help.” the lunatic eyes swiveled in her direction. She saw those eyes and a grotesque head hovering over him, but she was concentrated on only one issue here: getting this madman to unburden himself of his secrets. Best perhaps that she volunteered one of her own first.

We've got something in common,” she said. “Quite a few things in fact, but one in particular.”

The Nuncio,” he said. “Fletcher sent you for it, and you couldn't resist it,.”

“That's true,” she said, preferring to agree with him rather than argue and lose his attention. But that's not the important thing.”

What is?”

Kissoon” she said.

His eyes flickered.

He sent you,” he said.

No,” she said quickly. “Absolutely not.”

What does he want from me?”

Tesla explained that Kissoon was trapped in the loop and needed a body to get out.

“Why are you telling me this?” he said. “Haven't we got better things to do, before the end?” By this Jaffe meant the end of the world. He was receiving glimpses – of the things Tommy-Ray is seeing. There's something coming...

Can you see what?” she asked.

No. Just a terrible night. An everlasting night. I don't want to see it.”

You have to look,” Tesla said. “Isn't that what Artists are supposed to do? To look and keep looking, even when the thing you're looking at is too much to bear. You're an Artist, Randolph --”

No. I'm not.”

You opened the schism didn't you?” she said. “I'm not saying I agree with your methods, I don't, but you did what nobody else dared to do,. Maybe could ever do.”

Kissoon planned it all this way,” Jaffe said. “I See that now. He made me his acolyte even though I didn't know it. He used me.”

But Tesla disagreed. Kissoon couldn't have known the Nuncio would be discovered by hiring Fletcher. “No, what happened to you wasn't planned... you were your own agent in this, not Kissoon's. The power's yours. And so's the responsibility.”

Jaffe stared at the fake fire and ruminated. He asked Tesla what help she wanted. “You opened the hole, you can close it,” she said.

Jaffe said he would not go near that house.

I thought you wanted Quiddity,” Tesla said. “I thought being there was your great ambition.”

I was wrong.”

You got all that way, just to discover you were wrong?” What changed your mind?”

You won't understand”

Try me,” Tesla said.

Jaffe said that the terata was giving out the last light. Then they'd all be in the dark. Tesla said there must be other ways out of here. Jaffe agreed.

Then we'll take one of them. Bur first.. first... tell me why you changed your mind.”

After a long, lazy moment, Jaffe said, “When I first began looking for the Art, all the clues were about crossroads. Not all. Not many. Yes, many. The ones that made any sense to me. And so I kept looking for a crossroads. I thought that was where I'd find the answer. Then Kissoon drew me into his Loop, and I thought, here he is, the last of the Shoal, in a hut in the middle of nowhere. No crossroads. I must have been wrong. And all that's happened since: at the Mission in the Grove... none of it happened at a crossroads. I was being literal, you see. I've always been so damn literal. Physical. Actual. Fletcher thought of air and sky, and I thought of power and bone. He made dreams from people's heads, I made stuff from their guts and sweat. Always thinking the obvious. And all the time...” his voice was thickening with feeling; hatred in it, self-directed, “... all the time I didn't see. Until I used the Art, and realized what the crossroads were --”

He put the less injured of his hands to his shirt, fumbling inside it. There was a medallion around his neck, on a fine chain. He pulled, hard. The chain broke, and he tossed the symbol over to Tesla. She knew before she caught it what it was going to be. She'd played this scene once before, with Kissoon. But that time she'd not been ready to understand what she understood now, holding the Shoal's sign in her hand.

The crossroads,” she said. “This is its symbol.”

I don't know what symbols are any longer,” he replied. “It's all one.”

But this stands for something,” she said, looking again at the forms inscribed on the arm of the cross.

To understand it is to have it,” Jaffe said. “At the moment of comprehension it's no longer a symbol.”

Jaffe wanted Tesla to guess the meaning of the Shoal's cross. She declared herself too tired and weary.

You want me to come with you – help you stop whatever's coming through Quiddity – but you haven't got any grasp of what's going on. If you did have, you'd understand what you've got in your hand.”

So if I can work it out, you'll come?”

Yeah. Maybe.”

Give me a few minutes,” she said, looking down at the Shoal symbol with fresh eyes.

A few?” he said. “What's a few? Five maybe. Let's say five. My offer's good for five minutes.”

[the rest of chapter five continued in the day after tomorrow's post]

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