Part Three



The house shouldn't be here.

It stood here before they built the subdivision. For decades, Cathedral Road ended at Base Line. On the other side stood two farmer’s fields, cornfields. Between them, a little ways in, stood a small forest. Developers replaced the land in the early 1970s with pavement and those classically oversized American houses, all rather similar. You enter by Cathedral Road, an extension of the road which leads, predictably, to the Cathedral, with its vaulted roof and tower to one side. At our end the streets twirl and wind in a traffic-calming, maddening profusion of No Exits and crescents and cul-de-sacs.

My house is the exception. It was already there, in need of repair. The city seems to have lost all records of its origins, though it has apparently drawn power and hydro since the 1950s. The house looks to be the same era as the old farmer's houses, a hand-built rural place from the late 1800s. It stands now beyond what should be the blind end of Field Street, right after it crosses Royal Crescent for the second time. Snoutish monsters of brick surround it.

It shouldn't be there. Prior to the 1960s, municipal records and surveys showed only the little wooded area. The farmer's homes and barns, torn down years ago, stood much closer to Base Line.

The previous owner, Professor Chernobrov sold it to me before he returned to Russia. He had bought it from the same impractically old woman who had lived there when they made the subdivision. She used to bake cookies and attend neighbourhood functions, such as there were, back in the 1970s, the early 1980s. Sometime in the 1990s she grew reclusive and strange, and anyway there weren't many neighbourhood functions anymore to speak of.

I live there now. In order to afford the upkeep, I advertised for a tenant.

That's how I met Gospherus and his cactus. They let upstairs, a second half-floor with two small rooms and its own washroom.

The cactus doesn't pay rent.

They share with me the secrets of the house or, I should rather say, those secrets the house has chosen to vouchsafe.

Sometimes I invite him down to my living room. Sometimes, we watch television shows that shouldn't exist. Beat the Carol sounds positively sadistic, but "The Carol" is a brilliantly talented young woman, mistress of trivia and physical feats, and contestants compete against her. She's clearly a person of note in whatever world the transmissions originate. Around here, no one has heard of her or the show. Moloch36 tells of the Moloch who helps to tend the great Machine from the station at Shaft Thirteen, Level Ninety-Nine. It's an older show, in black and white. The Far-Out Sauerkraut presents the slapstick adventures of some groovy 70s teens in outer space. They travel in a spaceship made of spare parts that wouldn't have flown in the old episodes of Doctor Who. They are joined by an alien called the Sauerkraut, a racist caricature of a German who looks like Albert Einstein and speaks in a fake accent that would've got him fired from Hogan's Heroes. The various planets look like studio soundstages, grassy fields, and stone quarries. I find it stupid and offensive.

Gospherus watches the show with his cactus. He laughs and laughs.

Sometimes when the phone rings we hear a young girl on the other end. She's experiencing distress. We never find out why, because the calls end. No number ever displays. Sometimes she asks for Charlotte.

In my spare time, I research in the town archives and the local history room of the library. Our house just appears in 1955. There's no record of it being connected by hydro or electric, but it was and is. A clerk suggests records were among those lost in the fire of 1965.

It's November. Without, we have the rich darkness of a rainy fall evening. I'm within, hurrying to a conclusion because I want to go home and catch the next installment of Fine Structure, another series broadcast on a channel no one else gets, at least not around here. It's an ongoing SF story with about a million characters. With the Moloch36 reruns off the air, it's the only thing I watch regularly. I turn through old pages that likely haven't been touched since they were filed.

I find something, a sneeze in the official records.

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