We have chosen to offer you, for your fun and enjoyment, an ongoing serial story by Lydia and Tokoth.
Check for the next installment next week, and, since it's still in the process of being written, we'll put up
new installments whenever we can...or whenever we write them!!!
The most recent part
Once upon a time, long before there were quilted toaster oven covers or aerosol cans of bright orange processed homogenized cheez-food product, there lived a handsome prince and a beautiful princess in a happy kingdom which thrived under a devoted and benevolent monarch. The prince and princess loved each other very much, and spent their days in a perpetual courtship, interrupted at brief intervals during which the local princess-eating dragon kidnapped the beautiful princess so that the handsome prince could rescue her and profess to her his undying love. Not that anyone cares . Maude covered her toast with bright orange processed homogenized cheez-food product sprayed from an aerosol can and replaced the quilted toaster oven cover. She had a cover for each day of the week. Today"s read: Tuesday.
Maude was not actually not at all sure that today was Tuesday. She had woken up with a severe headache and the distinct impression that someone had been creating a scale model of the Eiffel Tower out of used chewing gum and dead cockroaches in her front yard. She got up and dressed. She wandered into the kitchen and crunched a handful of coffee beans from the bowl on the table. She supposed blearily that that someone was her. Wash, brush, comb. Maude wandered back into the kitchen. Eat. It was then that she noticed that her quilted toaster oven cover needed to be changed. She wondered what day it was. The cover that had been on overnight had little sheep on it. "It must be Tuesday," she muttered unsteadily, crunching a few more coffee beans. "I never could get the hang of Tuesday."
* * *
Meanwhile, a kindred spirit halfway around the globe was thinking the exact same thing. But this isn"t that story, so never mind. Bertha Mae stirred the chocolate syrup into the glass of milk, humming softly and thinking of "the good old days." She noticed she had been pouring and stirring for a long time, yet the milk was not turning the brownish color that usually denotes chocolate milk. She pulled the bottle of syrup away from the top of the glass of milk and peered into the bottle"s opening. It promptly let out a gooey blort of syrup onto her nose. She licked it off and continued pouring and stirring with a sigh and no noticeable result. "So it"s going to be one of those days, is it," she thought helplessly.
* * *
Maude glupped down a cup of Folger’s instant freeze-dried coffee. She trundled into her bedroom. She undressed and put on clean underclothing. She put on a rather garish and shapeless purple and yellow flower-print dress. Hose- so. Shoes- under the bed, somewhere- so. Keys- so. Purse- purse?- hey, where did I put you- ah ha!- so. Maude gave one last good-bye glance to the quilted toaster oven cover as she reached for her doorknob.
Bertha Mae had finally given up on the chocolate syrup bottle. She had not given up on the chocolate milk. She got a knife and sawed a large hole in the syrup bottle. Most of it fell onto the table, but enough fell into the glass of milk to make a decent chocolate milk. Bertha Mae grinned, briefly. She got dressed. She put on a rather garish and shapeless blue and orange flower-print dress. Socks. Sandals. Key. She trundled downstairs, avoiding the landlady’s cats which were engaged in an ancient and primeval yowling ritual in the stairwell. Bertha Mae shuddered, briefly. Primeval rituals always gave her the willies. Bertha Mae entered her used Yugo Hatchback. Key- in- turn. Clutch- out. Shiftstick- reverse. Gas pedal- down. Ahh. She pulled out into the road. Stop sign. School bus- stupid kids; when I was their age! Trees- rapidly approaching- ow- bang- smoke- aw, jeez! Bertha Mae got out of the disfigured Hatchback. She had to pee. She picked a house at random and knocked on the door. It opened immediately. How odd.
How odd, thought Maude, as she opened the door onto a frumpy middle aged woman standing on her front stoop with a pained expression on her face.
“Why, hello there!” blurted Bertha Mae. “My name’s Bertha Mae; my car just crashed itself into a large tree; can I use your bathroom?”
Maude tried desperately to think of a reason why not, but failed. She couldn’t stand and think at the same time. “Why yes, of course, my pleasure,” Maude said unsteadily. “Just, uh, down the hall, on the left- right- no, left.”
“Thank you,” gasped Bertha Mae, hopping up and down. She entered the bathroom and closed the door. “By the way,” she shouted from the bathroom conversationally, “did you know you’ve got a scale model of the Eiffel Tower in your front yard?”
“Why, uh, yes,” Maude replied, hoping not to sound stupid in front of her guest. She thought that one would sound rather stupid if one didn’t know one had a scale Eiffel Tower model in one’s front yard. Not knowing what else to do, Maude turned on the radio to fill the rather unnerving silence of the other woman with the same clothing. A commercial was on. Maude hated commercials. A loud, insistent voice broke into her thoughts.
“I hate commercials!” screeched the woman in the bathroom, her voice reverberating off the lavender porcelain tiles and becoming, in Maude’s opinion, entirely too loud and purple. At least she was agreeing, Maude thought.
The toilet flushed and water was run. Hands were washed. Bertha Mae opened the door of the bathroom, still flustered but no longer hopping up and down. “Where was the front door again? I seem to be lost,” said Bertha Mae, pausing for a reply. Maude realized suddenly that the stranger was asking for directions. Maude had never been wonderful at directions. “Right- left-left,” she called uncertainly.
There was a muffled thump from the bathroom’s direction.
“Left- right- left,” called Maude. Another thump.
“I turned out the lights and I can’t see which way is which,” said Bertha Mae.
Maude briefly wondered why one would need to see for one to turn left- or perhaps right.
“Right- right- left,” Maude called, working it out with her hands. “I’m positive!”
There was no thump. Instead there was a loud crash, a louder thunk, and a bell-like tinkle. Maude winced. “Just follow the sound of my voice, and you’ll be okay,” she said, loudly. “I’ll just keep talking until you emerge and-”
Bertha Mae emerged from the bathroom, again very flustered.
“I think I cracked your mirror. I’m just,” she paused to sigh, “not having a good day.”
A rather annoying song came on the radio. Maude switched it off. Unfortunately it was replaced by a rather annoying silence. Maude moved back toward the radio but the silence leered at her suggestively and she thought twice about it. She moved away.
“Well,” stated Bertha Mae, “I forgot to ask the name of my, uh, generous hostess.”
“Maude,” said Maude. “And you are...?” She had forgotten that she remembered her guest’s name. Or perhaps she had remembered that she had forgotten.
“Bertha Mae. I like your dress, by the way.”
“Uh, thanks,” replied Maude, “perhaps I should go clean up the mirror shards.”
“No, no, don’t worry about it; no, I mean, I’ll help, I mean, oh, I don’t know what I mean!” wailed Bertha Mae, throwing herself down on a red paisley couch which had somehow sneaked up behind her. The red and puce print clashed horribly with the orange and blue of the dress.
“There, there,” said Maude, rushing over to comfort Bertha Mae, who was busily wailing about Tuesdays. Maude understood about Tuesdays.
* * *
In another completely random part of the Universe, a hydrogen atom was just colliding with another hydrogen atom. They exploded in such a way that a few more surrounding hydrogen atoms also collided, which exploded in such a way that a few more surrounding hydrogen atoms also collided.
Several billion years later, those few insignificant hydrogen atoms spent their days banging together in the core of a rather large white sun, about which orbited eleven relatively spheroid chunks of rock and gas. On the fourth spheroid out, in a large tree, sat a small creature that looked vaguely like a broccoli, except for the visual sensor protruding out the top, the auditory sensors protruding on either side, and the limbs protruding just about everywhere. Her name (we will assume for the moment that it is female, but we could be wrong. Don’t shoot us) was Klkreeee. She ate goats. Or she would have, if she knew what a goat was, or that it was edible. But she didn’t, so she survived on nectar and ambrosia.
Klkreeee hated ambrosia.
Klkreeee liked Tuesdays.
* * *
Bertha Mae’s mascara had run horribly, and she had thick black streaks down both her cheeks. The mascara was viciously threatening to drip onto her lovely flower-print dress. Maude rushed over to the bedroom to find her box of Walgreens brand facial tissue, realized she had left it in the kitchen, and hurried down the hall to fetch it. A basket of dirty laundry had scuttled into the hall, and Maude, while deftly avoiding the various doors that opened themselves in her way, tripped over the basket and fell onto her outstretched hands. The fall had broken a nail, and bruised her knee.
She limped into the bedroom, bumped her toe on the bedpost, located the facial tissue, and limped back into the living room. While Bertha Mae’s frantic and ineffectual dabbing created large black splotches all over her face, Maude attempted to rip off the broken part of the nail with her teeth. Instead, she ripped off most of the nail. As blood oozed out of her finger, Maude caught Bertha Mae’s eye. They stared at each other.
Suddenly, each leapt forward and wrapped her arms around the other in a joyful embrace. To be understood at last!
The radio turned itself on. They both jumped, and ended up sprawled on the floor. They got up, brushed each other off, and made small comforting noises at each other.
* * *
Klkreeee frowned, very unsatisfied with the state of her food supply. She had the distinct desire to bludgeon something to death, but there was nothing around; and besides, she had no stick with which to bludge. She whined beautifully in her clear fluid language. Although any Terran would have considered it music of the best sort, her actual words translated roughly to: “ah galaxy, I need to get off this *@%^! mudball!”
This is yet another indication of the stupidity of Terrans in general.
Speaking of Terrans in general, most of them were scurrying about like ants on a bright Wednesday morning, going about their meaningless little lives. And speaking of meaningless little lives, the lives of Maude and Bertha Mae definitely qualified.
However, they had figured this out together the previous night, in a long chat, and had decided to do something about it.
So when Bertha Mae awoke in the house of her friend the stranger Maude, she did not think first of changing her quilted toaster oven cover. Instead she thought of schmerkelp.
“Schmerkelp?” asked Maude at breakfast, after Bertha Mae had asked her about the thought.
“I don’t know what it means,” replied Bertha Mae, “but I’m sure it’s important.”
* * *
Maude looked up from her plate of reconstituted egg substitute and frozen breakfast-sausage heated by microwave radiation. She poured a thick glup of store-brand artificial maple flavoring over the breakfast-sausage.
“Schmerkelp,” repeated Maude, under her breath. “Yes. Schmerkelp. Schmerkelp!”
“Do you know what it means?” asked Bertha Mae excitedly.
“Schmerkelp,” said Maude. “Well, actually, no, but... isn’t it a very nice word?”
“I suppose so,” said Bertha Mae uncertainly. She had a thought. “Maybe my cousin-in-law knows! He’s a lawyer,” she said importantly.
Klkreeee kicked a tree. She felt better.
The schmerkelp schlumped menacingly forward.
* * *
After breakfast, Maude and Bertha Mae prepared to set out for the home of the lawyer, who lived in a posh suburban neighborhood and therefore quite far from both women. While Bertha Mae looked through Maude’s closet to find something to wear (not a difficult task considering their similarities of size and style), Maude packed peanut butter and banana sandwiches and frozen from concentrate semi-orange juice into a wicker basket.
“Wow,” she mused, half to herself and half to anyone that might happen to be listening, “I haven’t had a picnic since...since...” She trailed off, lost in memory. A loud squeal echoed from the depths of the closet.
“I have this exact pair of shoes!” screamed Bertha Mae. There was a pause, then she continued at a lower volume. “You know, I never really did like them that much...”
“Me neither,” returned Maude helpfully, although she couldn’t see which pair of shoes Bertha Mae had indicated. It didn’t really matter, though, because Maude had recently been thinking about getting rid of all of her shoes and clothes and belongings and going to live in a commune. Actually, she wasn’t all that drastic, but she had been considering some changes to her life. She had just never been motivated to make any.
Maude stowed the last of the sandwiches and was about to go change out of pajamas when Bertha Mae made a grand appearance in the kitchen. “I found these in the back of your closet,” she said, when Maude simply gaped at her. “They’re...unusual, especially for me, but I thought the outfit would make a good impression on my cousin-in-law.”
Maude continued gaping. She hadn’t even realized that she owned anything so anti-stylish, and certainly not a powder blue, flowy, embroidered shirt, a pair of bell bottoms, or a silk-screened purple sash. Yet somehow the knowledge satisfied her, and she only paused a moment to give Bertha Mae a quick grin before rushing into her closet to hopefully find other lost treasures.
Bertha Mae was surprised at the smile, to say the least, as she hadn’t known just what her hostess’ reaction might be. She marveled at how she had justified herself when Maude had stared. On the contrary, her cousin-in-law would probably be more at ease if they were wearing house dresses, but Bertha Mae was reluctant to change. After all, she had assembled these clothes herself, and she might as well model them. Besides, they just felt like the right clothes to wear to make an important contribution to the world.
Bertha Mae placed the picnic and a blanket into Maude’s rusty and aging Oldsmobile, and returned to the house to apply her makeup. Maude breezed by her in a yellow tie-dyed sundress which had been a gift from a third cousin in Hawaii, but which she had never worn before. “No time for makeup, it’s almost lunch,” she said, as she noticed Bertha Mae by the hall mirror. She grabbed Bertha Mae by the elbow and led her to the door, caught up in the spirit of change and importance which also possessed Bertha Mae. Or perhaps it was just something in the reconstituted egg substitute. Maude checked the ingredients on the way out the door. They all looked suspicious.
* * *
Klkreeee was bored. Bored and angry and generally in an ill-tempered mood. She gathered a fistful of small ellipsoids from the top branches of her tree. The typical Terran would have recognized them immediately as airplane-grade honey-roasted peanuts, but, quite frankly, Klkreeee did not care. She dropped the ellipsoids, one by one, and they plummeted from the tree at an acceleration of 11.8 meters per second per second to land on small rodents with a chorus of resounding squelches. Klkreeee spoke in dulcet, harmonious tones: “Ha! I win! Who’s laughing now, you small rodents!”
This was a good game. Klkreeee collected more ellipsoids.
* * *
Maude managed to nervously allow herself to be merged among the rabid drivers of Route 270.
“So,” she asked her reluctant navigator, “exactly where does your cousin-in-law live?”
“I’m not quite sure,” admitted Bertha Mae, twiddling nervously. “But I think it involves I-95.”
Maude gasped. It was worse than she had imagined, much, much worse. She made a quick omen of protection against the tollbooth gods with her right hand, and muttered an ancient blessing. She took a deep shuddering breath. “Alright,” she conceded. “Where do I turn off?”
“Two exits ago,” Bertha Mae replied sheepishly. “But I have an alternate route,” she continued, proceeding to detail a complicated plan.
“Wait, wait!” cried Maude, “I can’t remember all that!”
“It’s really not too hard, dear-”
“JUST LET ME DRIVE!” shrieked Maude uncharacteristically, then paused, checked herself, glared in the rearview mirror at the diseased weasel tailgating her, and blinked. It really wasn’t a weasel driving, was it? “Bertha Mae, turn around and look at the guy in the car behind us...”
Bertha Mae obeyed readily, stared for several seconds, and jumped (at least as much as one can jump in a car). “THE WEASELS!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, shaking the small car. “They’re after me again!”
Maude was so startled at being right that she veered off the road. Luckily, she veered to the right and ended up on the shoulder, narrowly missing a jersey wall and several irate and probably caffeinated drivers.
“Just kidding,” said Bertha Mae in a small voice.
* * *
Klkreeee grew bored with her little game and decided to seek out something else to do. Unfortunately, there did not seem to be very many things to do in Klkreeee’s general vicinity. Disgruntled, she went and ate ambrosia. She thoroughly hated every minute of it.
* * *
The laughter of Maude and Bertha Mae shook the car once again, drawing well-rested yet still caffeinated looks from the tail end of the rush hour commuters. As they were waiting to reenter traffic, Maude caught the gas gauge sneaking toward empty. They took the next exit off of 270 and proceeded to get completely lost in a neighborhood maze.
Presently, after going in several circles, they noticed the hitchhiker on the side of a street, leaning against a signpost which warned “No Loitering.”
Maude approached the malingering vagrant. “Hello!” Bertha Mae called cheerfully out the passenger-side window. “We can take you as far as the nearest service station. That is, if you’re not carrying any concealed weaponry or,” she shuddered, “raisins. I can’t stand raisins. They’re little and wrinkly and smelly and when you bake them into bread the inside gets squishy but the skin doesn’t so it’s like eating a bug. Not that I’ve had much experience eating bugs, but my younger brother used to be very good at catching beetles when he was two.” She paused, and added as an afterthought, “He died in the war.”
“What war?” demanded Maude.
“Anyway, they’re a waste of good grapes. Like pickles. Pickles are a waste of good cucumbers. They start out tasting really good--”
“Cool as a cucumber,” Maude interjected helpfully.
“--but a pickle just tastes like vinegar. Sure, it lasts longer, but you’d think the invention of the refrigerator would’ve eradicated the thing.”
“Pickles,” Maude concluded, “are obsolete.”
“The hitchhiker lifted his cowl inscrutably and paused to indicate he was about to reveal something of great importance. “The schmerkelp have awakened,” he intoned with an edge of terror. “I carry no raisins, and hold no weapons but those of the mind. You,” another pause, “have been chosen.”
* * *
A million worlds away, a new star appeared in the night sky. It did not go unnoticed by Klkreeee, who, having nothing better to do, counted them every night. The sheer obsessive-compulsiveness of the act gave her a perverse pleasure. She had witnessed asteroidal collisions, super novae, and all manner of eclipse. But this new light was different. This one was an intense, degenerate green.
* * *
Maude and Bertha Mae exchanged an alarmed glance. “...Chosen,” repeated Bertha Mae.
An uncomfortable silence settled over the car.
“Chosen for...what?” said Maude eventually, and instantly regretted it.
He stood solemnly for a while, and then broke into a wide grin. “Nothing. I just like to say that. It sounds so apocalyptic. You know, like X-files end-of-the-world alien spooky-stuff and literary foreshadowing. Did I say literary foreshadowing? I meant...ancient evil. That’s right. Ancient evil.”
Bertha Mae glanced at Maude. Maude glanced out the rearview mirror and suddenly noticed that a large green van was rumbling up behind them. Taking impulsive action, she yelled for the strange hitchhiking character to hop in. No sooner had he closed the back door than Maude, watching the van bear down on her car, screeched around the corner, tires squealing. Bertha Mae gasped. The vagabond screamed in a disturbingly high-pitched manner reminiscent of nothing so much as a small rainforest animal being eaten alive. Bertha Mae turned around in her seat to stare when Maude suddenly put on another burst of speed and recklessness. It continued for several quick turns and near misses until the car flew over a speed hump, nearly shaking itself apart in the process, and landed only slightly left of a pointy-looking traffic sign directing a right turn to I-95 South.
“We’ve found it!” gushed Bertha Mae.
The green van was nowhere in sight. Maude, composure recovered, pulled slowly onto the interstate.
A thought suddenly occurred to her. “Where, exactly, are you going?” she inquired politely of the hitchhiker.
“Oh, here and there; everywhere and nowhere,” he replied in his customarily oblique manner. “I’m more along for the ride than the destination... are you perchance headed to combat malicious creeping fungus somewhere?” he asked.
Maude and Bertha Mae exchanged worried looks in the front seat.
“Because that,” he continued, with a rakish glance and an admonishing finger pointed in the direction of the rearview mirror, “would be quite fun.”
Maude answered guardedly. “Actually, we’re going to see--” -she gestured perfunctorily toward Bertha Mae- “her cousin-in-law.” She paused. “How are we going to explain this to him?”
Bertha Mae mused, then replied dubiously, “You two are my... friends from college...?”
“Peanut butter and banana!” exclaimed a pleasantly surprised yet somehow altered voice from the backseat. “What culture!” The incendiary hitchhiker had taken the liberty of beginning the picnic early and was contentedly munching on a carefully made sandwich.
The women turned their attention back to the greater problem. After all, they had plenty of victuals. “Should we just, kind of, you know, ask him?” questioned Maude.