Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chapter 1

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Gerald Meriwether's Improbable Possibilities

suzeeeee twritr dotdave aldous bettynot hlrunning wmshaxpere ginafire digidude magiced

This is the story in order with the edit process, I might add, in process. You may reasonably expect updates to be posted once a day. You should however, be forewarned that I am not always reasonable...

Chapter 1

That stifling hot July day when the radiator in Gerald's 5th floor walk-up began working, for the first time in a year, was when he first noticed the glittering nothingness, nearly on the edge of vision, some six feet out into the air-shaft. Just after that was when the bird hit the glass with a white fluttering of outstretched wings. In its stunned fright it hung there for just a moment like living sculpture, and then, it was gone.
If the image hadn't emblazoned itself on his retina he might have written the whole thing off as imagination, but it had happened. As the bird broke its fractured trance it flapped awkwardly back upward only to be snatched from existence with nothing left but the sparkling shimmer of fine white dust, spiraling in slow motion, swirling from nothing but the pin-pricked star-point in midair.
Gerald blinked twice in a feeble attempt to clear, what he fervently wanted to write off as nothing more than his vivid hallucination, or mere misinterpretation of reality. He fingered the dust imprint of what was once a bird. Instantly, detailed knowledge of some other place filled him as though he were an empty vessel awaiting this moment. Pictures, words and voices moved past his eyes. He knew at some level that he was still here, still in this room, his fingers still pressed against the glass. A small ring of condensation had begun to form around his touch, not from the air outside but from his fingers which, like the rest of him, had now gone cold. Despite his dropping temperature, a bead of sweat ran down his temple in a slow glide. He closed his eyes andpictured the bird again; it’s tragic demise, white feathers against the glass. He keeps his eyes tightly closed hoping beyond hope that he is in a dream. But no, he chances a quick peek and finds that the room, his home, is gone.
Instead of his stuffed and cluttered dank apartment is a mint green room. There are no windows. There are no doors. Where before his fingers had pressed upon the surface of his window, now they rested on the decidedly clammy surface of a wall. Yet that was not quite right either, for this was not really a wall at all. Rather it was a glass-like surface semi-obscured on its exterior by a thick film of mold or some such, and Gerald felt compelled to place his face close to a seam in the green surface, peering through to find what might be on the other side.
Movement! Someone or something was there. "Hello?" His shout is met with echoes upon echoes inside his enclosure, and from somewhere high above his head he thought he sensed a presence. Something..? No. Quiet. He strained his ears but heard nothing. He was imagining it. Perhaps he was imagining all of this. Perhaps he was laying in a hospital bed with wires and tubes hooked into him to keep him alive in his coma!
The noise came again: light, soft, disturbingly familiar. With some trepidation Gerald called out again almost whispering this time. "Hello?" he croaked staring upward, attempting to see into the shadows high above. And then it fell on him like a demon, all claws and beating wings. The terrified bird seems to have decided that Gerald is the root of all his problems and makes every effort to let him know that this is totally unacceptable.
Gerald, for his part, can only make feeble attempts to defend himself and screams to no one in particular, "what the hell?!" At this the bird backed off and took roost on an overhead beam. Turning its small white head it stared at him out of one eye and after a beat it observed in a dry tone, "I'll be damned! You can speak?"
It took Gerald a very long moment to absorb what had just happened. The bird is surprised that I can speak? Wasn’t there something backwards here? He wasn’t feeling too steady at the moment and without really giving it any thought at all he sat were he was, on the floor. From his now more stable position he looked up, "you? I mean I? What'd'you think!?"
When that line of unreason faltered he fell back on belligerence, "The hell you say!" It sounded good in the abstract, but even as the words came from his mouth he knew that this was not the right approach. "Uh, maybe we could start over?" he begin tentatively, "look here I can see that you're surprised that I can talk, but how do you think I feel?"
"Meaning what exactly?' asked the bird. Gerald had the distinct impression that if it were possible for a beak to sneer, it would be what he was looking at in this moment.
"But I didn't mean anything at all. I, well I'm not that used to your kind speaking either if you must know."
The ensuing silence that hung between them was deafening to say the least. Gerald intuitively knew that he had offended the strange creature, and was thinking fast on how to correct the matter when without warning; the bird tipped forward and dove headlong at Gerald’s head. In a parabolic curve the white bird swooped past him and with a half glance spoke; "I’ve grown tired of this".
"Wait!.." Gerald cried out hoping to make amends for whatever it was that he had done. But even as the word came out of his mouth he knew that it was in vain. For, the bird was gone, and once again he was alone. He turned around looking for something he could understand, but it could not find it. And then to his rapidly mounting confusion, it was: An ornamented door replete with stained-glass windows now occupied center position on the wall he had inspected only moments before.
He clumsily regained his feet and moved nearer to it. He felt suddenly cautious. Again he considered that all of this might be a dream, although right this minute, it was feeling like anything but.
Tentatively he moved forward, closer to the new door, thinking perhaps he might glimpse something of the outside world through the heavy leaded glass panels. Shadows moved about out there. Somehow he knew that it was time to make a bold decision. He placed his hand on the golden doorknob, inscribed in designs both obscure and familiar at the same time, and inlaid with what had to be rubies, emeralds and sapphires, stunning jewels matching the colors of the glass.
Just as he was about to turn the knob he noticed a single, tiny teardrop shaped piece of glass missing from the intricate design in the door’s glass face. He put his eye to the hole and peered through. Beyond was his apartment, his home, just as it had been when he left it, but something was wrong, well to be fair, different.
He could see a man dressed as himself walking about. With closer observation he realized that not only was this man dressed in his clothes, he was dressed in his skin! "What’s happening to me" he breathed to himself.
In that moment the other Gerald, happily living in his apartment going about his life jerked his head toward Gerald. He can hear me! The thought ran through Gerald like electricity. He should call out to let him know he was here. Yet he did not. He held his tongue in check. The other Gerald looked directly at him and Gerald was terribly afraid.
That thing as Gerald had begun to think of it, began to walk toward him. He started back in surprise. He didn’t know quite what to do. Taking deep breath, steeling his shaky nerves, and with barely a moment’s consideration he pulled the door open wide to face the not-him head-on.
As one might imagine this was a startling experience. Even more startling though was the bird, back again, circling overhead and screeching, "it is not you! Believe nothing it says!"
Gerald stopped in his tracks. He’d had quite enough. He shouted, "what is happening to me?"
“Brother,” soothed the not-Gerald, “calm yourself.” You were brought here for a reason. That we have a similar look is for your comfort. “My apologies if we got it wrong, but time is short and we have much to do.”
Gerald looked about for the loud-mouthed bird but it was gone again.
Sucking through his teeth he glowered at the creature before him. “Look, I don't know what's happening, but I want out of this.” He heard his voice rise in pitch, but couldn’t stop it. Tears glistened in the corners of his eyes, “you just can't do whatever you want with me - like I'm some old toy to be battered about! I have a say in my life!”
Gerald knew how it sounded - like he was losing it here, and maybe he was. But, he was scared and feeling all out of control, and, and he was hungry - since he'd not gotten to eat his toast before this whole nightmare had started. And a nice cup of coffee would be so perfect right now, or come to think of it, anything liquid would be good.
Cotton mouth. The term came to mind unbidden from where he did not know and did not care, but he knew for damn sure that it was appropriate.
"Okay," he started, wiping at his eyes, and forcing a more reasonable tone, "maybe I could just have a glass of water?" He tested his dry lips with his tongue, "and then we could sit for a while, and you can tell me all about whatever the hell is..."
The not-Gerald held his finger to his lips and glanced at the corners of the room as though looking for hidden listeners. Then without a word he beckoned for Gerald to follow, and stepped out into what would normally have been Gerald's hallway.
In spite of himself Gerald hurried after and found himself standing on a wide rolling hillside, sweeping down into a valley below where a jewel of what could only be called a small city nestled invitingly. Although it looked to be quite far away some trick of the atmosphere allowed him to see that it’s streets were wide, and people (as well as other sorts of things) casually strolled about, as though out for a day of shopping on a warm summer's afternoon.
Full of questions, Gerald turned to his guide and found that the creature standing next to him no longer resembled him quite so much. Even as he watched it was transforming, and for all the world it looked as if it was taking on the aspect of a rather sleek canine, yet something about it reminded Gerald of someone else - someone he knew. Yet another illusion? How could he know?
His thoughts on this were interrupted when an odd sensation against his right thigh startled him mightly, and he swatted himself as though fending off a giant mosquito. It was his cell phone - vibrating! With a whoop he dug into his pocket retrieving the suddenly precious device. He could communicate his predicament to someone out in the real world, the one that made sense. "Hello? Hello!”
“I am so freakin' sick of you Gerald Meriwether! You said you'd call me last night, and once again, you flaked out.”
Gerald attempted a syllable, but his girlfriend continued her rant. “We're through, Gerald, through! You hear that? This is me saying good-bye!" She cut the call while Gerald stood static, staring, and dumbfounded at the instrument in his hand.
It must be said that the words that Gerald spewed at the now silent instrument, in response to its lack of usefulness when he most needed it to be useful, were not the sorts of words that he tended to use in normal life. Really, he did not use such language even in heavy traffic, but this was not normal life at all was it?
When he had completed this untoward demonstration of rage he stood somewhat breathless and sweating next to the alien creature that, truth be told, he had all but forgotten.
Slowly, as he came back to himself, he chanced an embarrassed glance in that being's direction, and found it patiently watching him. He still couldn't place it, but he was sure that he’s seen that face somewhere before.
The creature broke into the chaos of his thoughts, "if you've finished we have a bit of a walk ahead of us."
A bell went off. Literally, a bell was ringing in the distance, while figuratively the bell in Gerald's head sounded, feeding him the memory.
"Matt? It is you isn't it? I mean what the hell? What's going on? Matt? Matt?"
The creature that now strikingly resembled Matt the bartender from the Broken Pigeon looked quietly into the distance, "the bells have rung."
Without another word the thing that once looked like Gerald and then a dog and now Matt, simply strode off toward the city in the valley. "We must go immediately and hope that we're not too late."
Gerald stood for a long stupefied moment watching the retreating back of someone he might know, his only link to the world he was used to.
"Wait," he yelled as Matt rounded a boulder, "I really need some answers here!"
The other person emerged much farther along the path than should have been possible considering that the boulder he stepped behind was no more than 10 paces away, yet were he emerged was nearly half-way down the hill.
Gerald felt suddenly anxious at being left behind. "Wait!" he shouted again. "I'm coming!"
He began to run after the other man, and found the hill to be quite a bit steeper than he'd thought. In fact, he found that he was running pell-mell at top speed and couldn't stop, which is how he first came into contact with Matt's creation, the robotic creature, Moth.
Perhaps coming into contact is putting it a somewhat lightly since Gerald literally crashed into it, much like the bird had crashed into his window. It just stood there looking at this fly that had crashed into it, and then it said, "you must be the cure for me."
Gerald said, "excuse me, but I don't know what you’re talking about. I have to follow that guy." He said this while watching Matt hurry away.
"I am sorry," he stammered, "but I have to go or I'm going to miss any possibility of getting out of..."
It was at this point in the conversation that it dawned on Gerald that he was speaking to, what could only be called a contraption.
Moth (the name the robot had given itself) stood some eight feet tall, and appeared to be held together with bits of wire, tape, string, hammered tin and studded brass fittings. Various whirling fly-wheels spun in continuous asynchronous rhythms all over the platinum-sheen surface of his body.
On closer inspection Gerald noted that the mechanized creature looked more randomly pieced together than constructed. Large spaces remained through which Gerald could see the world beyond. The rational part of his mind jabbered in the background that what he was speaking with could not possibly work. Nevertheless on this first encounter the giant automaton felt, well, alive. Beyond that what caused him to run completely out of words was the fact that Moth was wearing a gaily flowered apron tied around his midsection in the area where a waist might be. The apron sported the words, Kiss the Cook in large red letters.
Observing Gerald's gaze the robot's demeanor changed on the spot, "Oh, do you like it?"
"Well I," Gerald was making every attempt at thinking fast, but all he could think of was. What do I say? and Don't make it mad. "It's...very - uh, nice," he finally managed.
"Thank you! You simply cannot believe how happy that makes me feel. You are
obviously the product of very good breeding and high aesthetic sensibilities."
Gerald worked his jaw, but no sound came out. The robot blabbed on without taking notice that the conversation had become one-sided and that Gerald had gone quite glassy-eyed. It spoke in a never ending stream of what it would do when it was
free to do whatever it wanted to do, and how if it were only human things would be so different.
It kept talking until Gerald actually had to yell, "Stop!" just so he could tell it good-bye and run after the tiny dot in the distance that he was hoping was Matt and not someone he did not know. He took off at a run
and still the robot spoke on and on as though he were still there.
Even while he ran Gerald could hear it nattering on about how it was going to be human one day no matter what the naysayers said.
It was this last that caused Gerald even further distress at his circumstance. Even running at top speed Matt was outpacing him.
Worse than that, to Gerald's great consternation, the robot had finally noticed his departure and had elected to tag along. It had caught up with him and was now quite effortlessly, and with an annoyingly casual demeanor, running alongside him. "You don't think I can do it. Do you?"
The accusation pushed Gerald right
over the edge of his already tenuous grasp on sanity. He stopped so quickly that the robot overshot him by several yards before noticing the lack of his target audience. By the time it sauntered back to the heavily breathing human Gerald had already begun to vent his anger and astonishment at what he described as the utter insensitivity, and lack of understanding that he had encountered in this dismal place.
"All you can think about is yourself!" he screamed. "What about me? What about that I've been dragged into some crazy situation where birds and mechanical toys have the audacity to speak down to me?"
He knew that his face
was ugly and splotchy like it always got to be when he was upset. He knew it had turned that gray-red color that displayed his anger to the world, and he just didn't give a rat's. The world, at least this world, was completely unfair, and face it, the world he'd left behind, where his girlfriend had dumped him, wasn't all that great either, and this was the final straw. He drew in a quick breath to unleash another volley when the robot thundered, "MECHANICAL TOY?"
Gerald considered the possibility that he might have gone too far, and began making every attempt at backtracking, "oh, right...yes, sorry no, I wasn't talking about you.
Moth-the-robot stood with arms folded in front, foot tapping, an expression of hurt anger on his face, reminding Gerald somewhat eerily of his mother.
While Gerald was making up excuses on the spot he was also inching away, but the robot noticed this, and as Gerald inched the robot moved right along with him. Gerald noticed that this was happening and also noticed that the robot wasn't moving its legs at all. It had like wheels on its feet and just glided after him.
Gerald moved away and Moth followed after. Gerald was quickly running out of patience. Finally he latched onto the only thing left to him, the oldest trick in the book, he realized, might not be a book read so much hereabouts, " Look!" he declared, pointing past the robot's shoulder.
Sure enough Moth spun around and
Gerald took the opportunity to race in the other direction. A quick glance back let him know that the robot was continuing to view the hillside above them scanning for anything that he might have missed that was important enough to be pointed out.
For the first time since his arrival Gerald felt laughter bubbling up
in his throat. He began to chuckle at his trick. The chuckle grew and became actual laughter, and the laughter began to rise in pitch. Even to Gerald, as the one who was laughing, he could hear that the sound emanating from him had a frightening edge of hysteria to it.
And still he laughed. And still he ran. Tears too
ran streaming down his face, but he just did not care. Where he was running he no longer remembered, but he was running there just the same. He raced down the slope following after someone he thought he knew from somewhere in his world, a world he might never see again.
Chasing after Matt became his quest. He dodged around some bushes and looked back over his shoulder. He could see that the robot wasn't chasing after him anymore. It was just standing there looking like his mom again with it's hands on his hips and tapping one of its feet.
Why do I feel guilty, he thought to himself, but he kept right on running. The guy he was
chasing had disappeared once again, and Gerald put on even more speed. His only thoughts: to get away from the guilt inducing robot and to catch up with Matt.
He rounded a corner between two huge cliff facings only to be forced to pull up short. He stood gasping for breath. He had to bend over, head down, to place his
hands on his knees. It took every effort bring his head up so that he could take a look at where he had landed. The city that had before glowed in the distance apparently had been rushing toward him at nearly the same speed he had been moving toward it.
He'd arrived at its bustling gates.
People in festive dress,
animals decked out as if for a parade, walked or rode atop hundreds of unimaginable contrivance. Every possible sort of vehicle from single wheeled carts, barrows and cycles, to monstrous contraptions, sporting uncountable numbers of wheels, each rolling over and under one another in mechanical glory, all trundled past him in procession. No one person so much as looked in his direction with the exception one man, leaning against a nearby wall.
"Took you long enough," Matt said with a snicker.

So, that concludes Chapter 1 (quite arbitrarily I might add). Any ideas placed into this blog as comments, with instructions as to where the alterations need to be placed in the storyline, will be incorporated.

Also, I will begin to edit this chapter in earnest, which means that some things will be removed altogether, language will be changed, and some stuff will be added. This is a story that will continue as a work in progress until it we all agree that it is done.

Chapter 2 has already been started on WriteZoo by one of our most stalwart members the incredibly gifted Aldous.

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