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Comic profile: TICKS
TICKS
Suck Blood; Lay Eggs; Die
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Comic language: English
Genre: Cube
Activity status: Active
Archive url: Visit archive
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Last update: 29th Aug 2016
Number of comics: 14
Number of subscribers: 1
Visitors: 1721 visitors (2651 pages viewed)
Rating: 4.5 (4 votes)

Comic description

Pithy Profundities and Cosmic Trivia

Authors

LilyRose
LilyRose
Alumnus, Miskatonic University. I was lost, but now I'm fou--- no, I'm not. I'm still lost.

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LilyRose
29th Aug 2016
LilyRose
Anathemata
Chapter Twelve

The tree is directly in front of her, as though it had been planted there just before she got to it. Laura looks down at the ground, thinking about its roots. But there are no roots. She doesn’t even see the tree. What she sees are feet; small, delicate brown feet, suspended above the ground, hovering at about the height of her knees. They are pointing downward, at the ground. They are bobbing slightly, like balloons on a tether. They are smooth, and the toes are perfect; perfect, round little toes, with perfect little nails, clean, uncalloused, the way she’d always imagined a baby’s of her own would be perfect. Perfect little feet, hovering over the forest floor.

Amazingly, Laura doesn’t feel frightened. Amazingly, she feels a stillness inside her. It’s not a feeling she recognizes at all. It’s not a numbness. It’s as though there had been a string inside her, holding everything tight, and that the string had suddenly broken, and let it all fall every which way. Even her thoughts feel still. Just these feet. Just these perfect little feet.

She slowly, unhurriedly, brings her gaze upward. She doesn’t really know what she’s looking at, hanging in the air there before her. It has the appearance of a person. Its face is like that of a young girl, or a very feminine boy, with just a hint of squareness to the jaw. Its brown body is lean and smooth; a perfection of graceful lines. It is naked; small round breasts like polished wood, a smooth round belly over a thatch of dark pubic hair, from which pokes out an uncircumcised penis. Its hips suggest the curves of a woman; its square shoulders that of a young man. Long hair spills over it in curling locks, some reaching down to its waist, and below.

It eyes are large, vaguely almond shaped, and stare at Laura with an uncanny intensity. She is suddenly aware that they have no white in them and they have no pupils; they are all one soft, slightly shifting color, a kind of grey - green - turquoise. No - they do have pupils; tiny, tiny black dots in those iridescent fields of color.

There is a frightening intelligence in those eyes, something Laura has never encountered before. They have the look of a wild animal that has gained a wisdom and self-awareness far beyond that of a human’s. Intelligent, feral eyes. They defy her ability to fully comprehend them, these eyes. All she knows is that they are looking at her, and seeing her, what she is, who she is, and they are thinking about her. This she knows, no doubt about it at all.

The air around its head is shimmering; a blurred, thrumming beat like the vibration of an electric fan. She can actually feel the push of it; an insistent rhythm, different from that unheard music. It has the feel of air pressure rapidly shifting up and down, playing havoc with her inner ear. It’s as though invisible wings were beating the air, churning it so that it puts the two of them at the center of a vortex. A dense perfume fills the air: grasses and flowers and rich, rotting earth. The air feels like a silken liquid filling her lungs.

They can only be seen if they want to be seen.
“Oh my God,” she whispers to the wild, fiercely intelligent eyes. “You’re a faery.”

As soon as she says it, she knows that it’s true. God help her, but she does. Now it all makes sense; the strange tree with the living skin, moving impossibly from one place to another. The flitting movement out of the corner of her eyes. That stillness in her mind somehow allows her to take this in, and accept it. She can’t turn away from those eyes. They terrify her. Even through this unnatural stillness within her, she can practically smell her own fear. She is sure, in the same way that she knows this thing before her is a faery, that she is going to die.

If only she could find the strength to run.

The faery floats in the air like a reed rippling underwater. The rapid beat of the air increases, the vortex wraps itself around them. The faery lifts a slender arm; its hand all long, beautiful fingers. It moves its hand toward Laura’s face, never looking away from her eyes, and she feels her body tense with the anticipation of its touch. She feels like a live, exposed wire is being moved toward her. She can smell the quickening of the air.

Its fingers reach her face, and she feels its touch on her cheek. Something deep and vast seems to open up in her. Her stomach does a roller-coaster drop. A swift, sparkling current rushes through: ice-cold water and white-hot electric light. It moves in her, through her, until she cannot sense anymore where the current begins and her own body ends. For a moment she understands that there are no boundaries; that the trees and the faery, and she herself, are only illusions; reflections of light on a great rolling ocean. She and the faery and the forest are one.

She could slip away into this knowledge like ink dissolving in water. Tear apart like smoke on the wind. She wants to, she can feel herself leaning in to it, already shredding, coming apart. Then like a reflexive jerk of the knee she cries out, pulling back, too afraid to escape into this nothingness. She cries out, and as she does, a light flares up in the faery’s eyes, its hand is withdrawn in an instant, and the strange creature vanishes from the air in front of her.

Laura is not aware of any more conscious thoughts until she crashes out of the woods and back into the hazy yard of the summer house. She keeps running until she is at the wooden deck, where she grips the rail and turns and looks back. Her race across the yard had disturbed some feeding birds, now they one by one flit back down to the grass from the trees they had taken flight to. The blue haze is still there, and the shadows have crept back all the way to the edge of the trees.

She brings her hand to her face. There are blank, numb spots on her cheek where the faery’s fingertips have been in contact with her flesh. The rest of her face is tingling; almost glowing with heat.

It touched me. She thinks. It touched me. What’s going to happen to me now?
Left on 12
LilyRose
26th Aug 2016
LilyRose
Anathemata
Chapter Eleven

Now he’s on her right side, moving toward her, ohmygod here it is, she turns and backs away at the same time, and he’s not fucking there. She’s right on the edge of panic, now, but she’s looking everywhere and she just doesn’t see anyone. Okay. Okay. Walk along the water.
If he’s on the other side he’ll have to splash through, I’ll hear it. She starts back the way she came, trying to look everywhere at once. There isn’t anyone in her sight. Fine: as long as she can see him coming, she can run. Maybe she should cross the stream. The hell with getting her shoes wet, just splash though it and

Just as she’s turning to look back again she sees him, he’s right behind her on this side of the stream. This time she doesn’t even think. She turns and splashes through the water. Halfway across her foot slips on a stone covered with something green and slimy, and she stumbles forward, falling. Something in her panic defies gravity, and she keeps moving, splashing ahead, up onto the far bank, water flying up around her, her shorts getting soaked.. She gains her balance and keeps running, following the stream at a racer’s pace, her sandals gouging the stream side moss as she goes.

Her panic doesn’t subside until she reaches the red rebar that marks the corner of their property. She turns, breathing hard, scanning the woods all around her, staring down the stream and watching its banks. There is absolutely nobody. He lungs feel hammered, and there is a pain in her side that she thinks might make something snap if she were to keep running. She puts her hands on her knees and tries to breath more evenly, all the while watching the woods for any stray movement at all. It is so still that she begins to wonder if she hadn’t just imagined the whole thing from the start. And wouldn’t that just make her a schmuck? A regular idiot, for sure.

There isn’t anybody there. The trees here aren’t so densely packed that she can’t see a fair ways through them. There just isn’t anyone here. Thinking on it, she realizes, she never actually saw anybody. She’d filled that part in with her imagination, but - truth? - all she’d seen was some movement out of the corner of her eye. It could have been a bird, for all she knew. She just freaked out, plain and simple. Guess she’s not much of an adventurer after all. She feels safer walking down a city street.

And now she’s going to have to wade through the water again to get back on her side of the stream. Well, no big deal, the water feels good anyway, leastways when you aren’t plunging through it like a panicked horse. She starts walking on this side of the stream, happy to just have her heart beating at a normal pace and her lungs not hurting when she breathes. There is something about being back on her own land that gives her a sense of security. That’s stupid, she knows that, but it just makes her feel better, knowing she’s on her own property. They should put those signs up, those yellow POSTED signs that everyone has along the borders of their parcels. Let people know they’re heading the wrong way.

When she reaches the big mossy fallen tree laying across the water she decides it would be a good place to cross, and she steps over the stony bottom while guiding herself by dragging her hand along the trunk The moss is like a cool, damp carpet under her palm. On the other side, she reverses her path of before, and walks around the rotting stump. Something in her body reacts even before her mind does; a creeping on her skin, a feeling of almost clammy fear. She feels it first, and then she looks, and only then does she register that the tall, slender tree with the velvety bark that had been growing out of the stump is no longer there.

She backs away from the stump a bit, staring at it. She can feel her muscles of her brow, knotted and tense. She looks around carefully, examining the ground around both sides of the fallen log. Everything looks as it did before. She approaches the stump again. There is no hole in it, nothing that would indicate that someone had just yanked out a tree that had been growing inside it. It’s all rotted wood, covered with fungus and moss. Suddenly she’s really feeling the heat of the day. Sweat seems to be springing out through every pore on her body.

“What the fuck?” she says out loud. “No, really; what the fuck is going on here? Somebody, please tell me. Let me in on the joke, What... what, what...?”

No, this is no good. This is not right.

“This is not right,” she says, pointing an accusatory finger at the stump. “This is not right, you can’t do this to me. No, seriously. This is very upsetting. There was a tree there. I know there was a tree there. I touched it, there was a tree there. Don’t tell me there’s no tree there now.”

There’s no tree there now. Dammit! God dammit. Well, she’s had enough for today, that’s for certain. It’s back to the house, smoke a few bong hits, pop half a Xanax and pop a dvd in the player, and zone out for the rest of the afternoon. Anne and Bill Feinberg are having a barbecue tonight, and that’s the only thing that’s going to get her off her ass for the rest of the day, thank you.

But of course, she can’t stop glancing back as she walks, and searching the ground for an uprooted and discarded tree. She’s paying such close attention to everywhere but where’s she’s going, that she nearly walks right into a tree herself.

Oh, man, she thinks. Now that would have been just perfect. Break my nose by walking into a tree.

And then she looks and it’s the same tree, the one from the stump, right in front of her, and this time she actually lets out a little scream. Her heart whams against the inside of her ribcage. Her brain gets lit up with adrenaline. Whoa! Laura backs off a step and still can’t believe what’s right there in front of her face.

It’s the same tree, it’s the same damn tree, there’s no doubt about it. That slender reach up to the canopy, gently forking just before it gets to the top. The soft brown skin, with the look of velvet or silk. It is the same tree. It really, really is. This is just so impossible. But it’s true.

And it is such a beautiful tree, too. It almost seems to sway in her vision, like a dancer moving sinuously to some music that she cannot hear. It almost seems like it’s breathing, in fact; rhythmically, keeping pace with that unheard music that she now realizes she can feel, if not actually hear.
Left on 11
LilyRose
24th Aug 2016
LilyRose
Anathemata
Chapter Ten

Stepping into the woods is like entering a spacious building, its roof a translucent green, its floor a carpet of loam. The light becomes muted; a soft shadow that soothes the heat of the day. At first it seems all quiet but then she realizes she’s hearing bird song; a few different kinds, it sounds like. She walks a few feet in and then wonders what the likelihood of her getting lost might be. She turns and looks back. Well, if she doesn’t walk any farther than she can see the house through the trees, then it shouldn’t be a problem. That settled, she walks in a little more.

A harsh sound overhead; a crow, or a couple of crows, loud bastards, sounds like they’re telling the rest of the woods that she’s barging her way through. No, that’s the same thinking as before, like she doesn’t belong here or something. “Hey, this is my property, sweetheart”, she says in the direction of the departing crows.

And then she is at the edge of the little stream, flowing along at an oblique angle, winding farther into the woods. It’s actually running kind of nicely today; the water level up to the moss overhangs of the banks, the surface sending off shimmers from the sunlight seeping through the canopy of leaves overhead. On an impulse, she kneels at the edge of it to put her hand in the water. The moss is so spongy and soft that she gets down on both bare knees; they sink into the green stuff like it was eiderdown. She dips her hand into the water. It is surprisingly cool; she takes some in her palm and rubs it over her face. That feels so good that she scoops up handfuls of cold, clear water and splashes herself silly with it. It feels absolutely wonderful. Almost as good as air conditioning.

Laura stands up, and dries her face on the front of her shirt. She can still see the house from here, which means that if she just walks along the stream, she really can’t get lost, because all she has to do to get back is follow it in the other direction. This thought reassures her, and she sets off stream side, with the sound of the birds and a quiet gurgling of the water accompanying her.

Babbling Brook, she thinks. It’s not a babble, though; it’s really more like a song. But it does sound like voices; that’s the truth. It’s a funny thing, but the more you listen to it, the more it really does sound like voices, making words, even if it’s no language she’s ever heard before.

They can only be seen if they want to be seen. That’s it; that’s what someone had said to her in her dream. The memory just appears as if it had been there all along. Someone said it and they said it here in the woods, or in some woods, a dream-woods that she supposes couldn’t have been this one because she doesn’t think she’s been back here more than a few times since they’ve owned the house. Maybe she’s never even been this far in.

There’s a fallen tree blocking her way; it had come crashing down and stretched right across the stream to the other side. The big trunk is furry and green with moss, and there are scalloped ridges of those fungus that grow up and down the trunks of dead and dying trees. She walks along the trunk till she comes to the stump, where the splintered wood of the original fall has been worn and softened by time and weather.

There is a young tree growing directly out of the rotting stump of the dead one. It’s trunk is long and slender, and the bark is totally smooth; almost a velvety, soft brown that looks more like skin than the bark of a tree. Laura knows she’s no horticultural expert but still, this looks like it has to be somewhat unusual. She follows the trunk up with her eyes; it’s amazingly tall, stretching way up toward the leafy canopy, where it forks into two long branches that reach up the rest of the way.

On an impulse she reaches out to touch the bark and it really does feel the way it looks; soft, kind of silky or velvety, and even a kind of warmth about it, as if it were skin. What kind of tree is this, anyway? The branches are so high she can’t see any leaves. The leaves laying on the ground are ones that she does recognize: oak, maple, beech. Pine needles.

She continues on, walking close to the edge of the stream. The ground seems flat but it must not be, since the water is flowing the way it is. The stream looks to be about five or six feet wide; more than she’d want to jump, at any rate. It’s very shallow; Laura can see the bed of stones clearly through the running water. Medium sized rocks, oblong and smoothed by the water’s eternal action, various shades of grey and brown, with a few whitish and yellowish ones here and there. The fireplace in the house is actually made from these water-polished stones; it was another selling point on the listing: creekstone hearth! But they are nice stones. Even when there were first shown the house, she’d had to admit it, and there’s something about seeing them here in their native habitat, as it were, that sort of tickles her. It’s pretty; the water and the stones and the sunlight. Shifting patterns of light and shade. She suddenly wishes that she’d brought her camera with her on this walk. Damn; had she even brought it up this weekend? She doesn’t know. She can’t really remember the last time she used it.

A little farther on she finds a metal pipe, painted red and buried in the ground close to the edge on the far side of the stream. Rebar, she thinks, that what they call those things, and it marks the far corner of the five acres. If she keeps walking she’ll be off her own property and on someone else’s land. But what the hell; it’s been a nice walk so far, and as long as she’s alongside the stream she knows she’s not going to get lost. She doesn’t know the neighbors, really, but she figures this land must belong to one of them. So she keeps walking, just following the water and listening to the birds. When she gets back to the city she can tell everyone how she ventured out into the forest all on her own, and survived. As long as she doesn’t start hearing banjo music.

What she does hear is the sound of rushing water. At this point she really doesn’t know how long she’s been walking anymore. Sort of lost track, there. But somewhere along the way a distant hiss has become a definite sound of water rushing and spilling and falling on rocks. It’s not exactly a roar, but if you could turn up the volume on it, it would be. A baby roar, you could call it. Yeah. It’s baby stream, so why shouldn’t it make a baby roar?

A little more walking, and she arrives at the source of the sound. The ground she’s walking on just sort of comes to an end; the trees all stop and then the grass becomes bare rock and that just stops and there’s a drop off into empty space. Laura inches up toward the edge, leaning forward to be able to see without getting too close. It’s not a terribly big drop; a rock overhang and then a really steep, craggy hill. Still, she wouldn’t want to accidentally fall off it.

Where the water of the stream spills over the edge it really is almost a vertical drop: random shelves of rock catch the water in descending levels so that together they make a symphony of waterfall noise. It’s hypnotic, watching the water falling like that, an endless sheet of glistening liquid, no beginning, no ending, just a constant flow that seems to come from and go into nowhere. It’s so constant that it has substance, this column of water. It could be glass, or ice. It feels so real.

“Oh, shit,” says Laura, spinning around. “I didn’t know you were th -”

There’s nobody there, even though she saw someone moving on her left, out of the corner of her eye. Her heart had jumped, when she’d seen it, but now it’s beating hard because she’s scared. She turns around; turns again: but whoever it was, he’s hiding. Has to be a he, no woman would do that to another woman out in the middle of the woods. Oh, fuck. This would have to happen to her. Oh, God; get me out of this one, please. I’ll never walk in the goddamned woods again.
Left on 10
LilyRose
22nd Aug 2016
LilyRose
Anathemata
Chapter Nine

Laura
2010

The woods beyond the back yard are a mystery to Laura; always have been, ever since they bought the summer house five years ago. The truth is, she’s happy enough with a few vacations in places that have something of real interest to offer, and to otherwise spend the summer right home in the city. Let’s be honest, is what Laura says; for us, summer in the city is an air conditioned life. There’s no sense in pretending we have to put up with the horror of summer hell down on the city streets. And since the parking garage is in the basement, we don’t even have to leave the AC to get into the Volvo.

It’s Brian who needs to cultivate this self-image of someone still “connected to the Earth”. Behind his back, Laura and Friends laugh about it; he’s the classic Mid-Life Crisis Yuppie complaining about how our modern life-style has cut us off from everything that’s really important. Glued to the electronic tit of society, tethered to the fiber-optic umbilical cord that regulates every waking - and sleeping, for that matter, - moment of our over-connected, overstimulated, data-rich lives.

So the solution? Get Back to the Earth, in the form of joining the great Yuppie post 9-11 herd yanking their money from their Blind Trusts and Hedge Funds and investing in Real Estate - Real, get it? As in the Real World, and not your MTV Real World, either, but the Real World of dirt and weeds and unpaved roads with potholes big enough to sink an SUV. Get your old Hippy Clothes out of the attic trunk, get on the Peace Train and groove on upstate to Woodstock, stake your claim and buy your homestead while the market’s hot.

Only this isn’t Woodstock; by the time Brian had dragged Laura onto the last Peace Train out of Manhattan, all the Woodstock addresses had been bought and sold and bought again, and were by then back on the hot, hot market for two and three times what they’d sold for just a couple of years before. So while their - Brian’s, really - friends were entertaining on the redwood decks of their rustic, celebrity-architect designed Woodstock summer homes, Laura and Brian are driven farther and farther out into the boonies to find a place they can actually afford, until they wind up here in this shithole of a redneck hamlet so backwater that it doesn’t even have cable service for anyone more than a block away from Main Street. The second most common sight in yards around here after junk cars on blocks is a satellite dish.

Which means that even when they are up here on the same weekends as those friends, nobody’s going to schlep out here for a deck party when there are all those wonderfully funky, Woodstock-y homes to visit. No - rustic is okay but you can’t be more than a ten minute drive from the Specialty Wines and Spirits store and Sunflower Natural Foods. Which means Brian and Laura are always the ones who have to get into the car and drive down to Woodstock in order to socialize. Thank God some of the gloss has worn off for Brian so that they only visit this dump a few weekends a year any more. Too bad the market’s collapsed so that they’re now stuck with an investment that’s worth less than what they paid for it before they put money into fixing it up.

And now it’s Saturday morning and she’s alone here and she’s bored as hell. The air conditioner in the bedroom finally wheezed its last the night before, and Brian took on the quest of driving to Kingston to find them a new one at the Home Depot or Lowe’s down there. She should have gone with him, but she was being pissy about being dragged up here at all. And it’s not like Kingston is some swank burg that just has to be visited. The strip where they keep putting up new big box stores and chain restaurants and hotels reminds her of the less savory parts of Route 17 in New Jersey. Like she needs to come upstate so she can go to strip malls?

The rest of Kingston is a run-down slum. Brian talked her into a road tour of it one day, and they tooled all over town, from the bleak street that was the main drag once upon a time, to the ratty waterfront undergoing desperate gentrification, to the “Wall Street District” where the original old stone and brick homes of the Colonial Period still stand. A dull, tarnished, nothing of a town, one that barely earns it’s official designation as the county’s only city.

So here she is instead, stuck in this house alone without even a car to go somewhere. What had she been thinking? The only really air conditioned room now is the kitchen slash dining area slash living room, And without cable she can’t even watch television. Forget using her laptop to get online. You can’t even get a cell phone to work up here, it’s ridiculous.

She goes to the glass sliders leading out to the back deck, and sweeps aside the long, vertical plastic strips that serve as a curtain or shade or whatever it’s supposed to be. One of the doors has this permanent white fog over it that won’t come off with any amount of ammonia and scrubbing. Brian says it’s something about the seal of the Thermopane leaking, whatever the hell that means. It means money, actually; because he says it can’t be fixed, it can only be replaced, so that’s one more expense they have to shell out before they can at least get their money back when they finally do decide to sell.

Looking out through this glass is like being afflicted with advanced cataracts, so Laura slides the door open and steps out onto the deck, sliding it closed behind her to trap in that precious air conditioning. It’s ten o’clock in the morning and it’s already hot. There’s a bluish haze hanging over the cleared, grassy area of the back yard, right down to the line of trees at the back of the property.

Well, actually, those trees are a part of the property; this house sits on five acres, and the survey map that came with it shows that most of that was both behind the house and covered with woods. There’s even a little stream running through it, somewhere out in the woods there; it slices through the parcel and flows out the back of it to points unknown. That stream was supposed to be something that increased the value of the property; it had been prominently advertised on the Realtor’s listing. But it turns out to be a sluggish, shallow, meandering thing that just about dries up completely by the middle of the summer.

It’s actually shaded way back there by the tree line; the sun isn’t high enough yet to penetrate the far corners. Looks more comfortable there than up here in the sun. There’s something about this scene; the look of the trees, the fall of the shadows... at first she can’t quite grasp it and then she knows; it was a dream she’d had last night. Now that’s she’s thinking about it, she remembers that she’d woken up with the whole thing fresh and clear in her mind, but it had faded so quickly that she’d hadn’t time to give it any analysis. By the time she was up and brushing her teeth she’d forgotten that she’d even had it.

But now it’s come back to her, or at least parts of it. Something about the woods, anyway. The woods, and trees in the woods; what was it? Something about being able to see the trees, or not seeing them, or something. Somebody was talking to her, she can’t remember who. Remembering nothing but fragments like this is worse than not remembering it at all. Now she can’t let go of it. If she could just remember the damn thing, then she could forget about it again.

The grass feels like a lush carpet under her sandals as she walks across the yard. What was that Erma Bombeck title? The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank, that was it. That’s what this is, what she’s walking across right now; a brand new above-ground engineered septic system. That was another one of the big selling points on the listing. Something about septic systems inside the watershed - whatever watershed that is - being very difficult to get board approval for without spending big bucks to design and build one.

It’s not until she’s all the way at the back of the yard that Laura realizes that she means to walk into the woods. That totally throws her; she hadn’t even been thinking about actually stepping out of her cleared and somewhat civilized back yard into an untrimmed and untrammeled forest. But now she stands in the shade of these tall, stately trees, and what she can see looking through into the woods looks pretty pleasant actually. It’s all shady in there, with very little undergrowth; it looks like you could walk around without having to push constant branches and brambles out of your way to do so.

And it looks kind of cool in there; cooler than where she’s standing, anyway. So why not step into the woods? They are her and Brian’s, after all. Not like she’s trespassing, although now that the thought comes to her she realizes that’s a little what it feels like. As though by stepping out of her yard and into the woods she’s leaving her own property and entering someone else’s lands without first asking their leave. That sort of intimidation is the kind of thing she really hates in herself and so that clinches it and she wades through a bit of long grasses and into the trees.
Left on 9
LilyRose
19th Aug 2016
LilyRose
Anathemata
Chapter Eight

A dream: she’s at work, sitting at the radio station’s ancient mainboard; used faithfully for Lo these past thirty years. Luna’s been working this antique board for ten of those years; a solid decade, and half of it on the night shift; Monday through Saturday, seven p.m. to midnight.

A dream – but it’s not a dream; she’s really here, here in this place. She’s really here, it just feels like a dream. The round black pot knobs on the board seem swollen with meaning, as though by just touching them, she becomes a conduit for whatever energies channel through their system. The muted measures of canned Big Band music coming through the studio monitor are only there to mask another music; something playing underneath them, something subaudible, subtonic.

Everything is the same; everything is different. That’s always the way it is, when Luna crosses over. It’s not that anything has changed; it’s just that there’s so much more of it. She lines up the prerecorded ad carts for the spot break coming up, and their labels seem to defy her to make sense of them; to find the hidden message: LoriAnne’s Greenhouse; Big Red Barn; Hassenpfeffer Printing; Bonesetter Farms. It rings like a mantra in her head. The music of somewhere else.

The second hand sweeps the face of the clock, moving in one-second jerks. The last song in the set; some sugary bit of fluff from Doris Day, ends at exactly ten minutes to ten. Luna starts up the first spot; LoriAnne’s Greenhouse Xmas special; all wreaths, Poinsettias, and Holly Bushes half price now until Xmas. The music for the spot is the generic 60-second bed from the music service’s CD. They’ve got it down to a science; writing music that sounds like every Christmas song you ever heard without sounding like anything at all. As though there was a secret chord, that, once used, cut right through to the heart of memory. Sympathetic vibrations.

Luna looks at the playlist. Three and a half minutes of ads; then a Sinatra tune, one of the Billy May arrangements. Time: 3:56. The song after that; a Dick Haymes croonfest; 2:34. Add to that the five second station ID, and that’s a perfect backtiming to the top of the hour, when Luna switches over to the network hourly newscast. Right to the second. Too perfect. Too right. She watches the second hand tick, a countdown to fate.

LoriAnne’s Greenhouse; Big Red Barn; Hassenpfeffer Printing; Bonesetter Farms. The music starts again; smarmy, smug Sinatra, as real as the Cheshire Cat. Crazy things only look crazy from the outside. Once she’s crossed over, Luna can always see how it may not make sense, but it’s right nonetheless. Everything is different; everything is the same.

The second hand slouches toward Bethlehem. She’s not ready for this. It’s come upon her too suddenly; this awareness that a moment has arrived; that things have come together and are about to form critical mass. The herald of this moment; there right before her. Things adding up. LoriAnne’s Greenhouse, Big Red Barn. It’s like a koan, a riddle-song; you can’t understand it until you think outside of the box. Hassenpfeffer Printing, Bonesetter Farms. Frank Sinatra, Dick Haymes. Dead people. All adding up. All counting down to a moment, a second-slash on the face of the clock.

The clock is oversized; a big, white face, bright as the moon, pocked with black lines and numbers. It hangs on a wall of cork; the closest thing this studio has to soundproofing. There are signs hanging near it; Magic Marker on Posterboard. REMEMBER TO BACK-ANNOUNCE. ALWAYS ANNOUNCE TIME DIGITALLY. WEATHER 3X AN HOUR. They seem to be written in another language; one that Luna knows but can’t quite recall. There is something so familiar about it all; this sense of impending crisis; a sense that she’s not leaving, but returning.

Luna shoves the microphone, on it’s spring-loaded, insectile arm, out of her face. She won’t need it again until the hour has turned. Dick Haymes is winding down. She can’t even understand what he’s singing, it’s an imposter Dick Haymes, singing in Parsee, or Zulu, some language that’s just musical noise to her. She’s inside of a minute, now, and Luna spins the network feed pot down to zero and flips the transmit switch to on. She places her left hand on the music feed, and watches the clock, waiting for the moment when she strikes one circuit dead, and opens up another.

The needle in the VU meter throbs like a dull heartbeat, the peaks just barely reaching into the red. The second hand matches the music in a syncopated beat. Everything seems poised for a trip into the unknown. Luna has the oddest sense of a great heat about to be poured into her brain. Or a wind, maybe, blowing her way, and only now are the leaves and grass beginning to shiver.

Everything does add up, somewhere down the line. There is such a thing as critical mass. That’s what transformation is all about. It’s the Death card in the Tarot deck. Do atoms know, when they are about to be transformed? Luna thinks they do. If you’re paying attention, the signs will come to you. But only when it’s too late to do anything about it. In the end, there is only surrender.

The second hand hit’s the ten-mark, and begins working it’s way up to twelve. Jerk-jerk-jerk. Luna thinks of the ball coming down in Times Square on New Years’ eve. She even has time to think of the one and only time she’d actually been there for it; when she was a sophomore at State College. It had sucked; it was a terrible time. But that was then. This is now.

And the second hand hits the twelve. Everything is different; everything is the same...
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