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  • It was like walking through a haunted house run by your friends - you see the artifice for what it is, you know the backstage secrets, and it is a different fun for you than it is for everyone else. The muppets dropped down from all over - as we passed through the belltower there were legs dangling before we even got inside. They jumped down to scare others; they jumped down to say hello to me. It was nice to take the long way and see everyone.

    I wasn't nervous till we got to the last gate. How many times had I done this? but it was still the most frightening thing. Everyone had to see him once a year and he would not be postponed.

    I stepped through the gate and was glad to see a friend I had begun to forget; he had been away for a long time. The thought flickered, did they bring him back just for me? but that seemed silly, ego! I told myself. He looked tired but healthy, which was such a relief, I couldn't help the tears. He hugged me as best he was able with his gigantic arms; he always was so careful. This year he was dressed as a monk or something, all tattered brown cloth.

    Through the gate. There he was. Everyone had to see the dark Skeksis and the light Skeksis once a year, and of course you understand, they were the same guy. All that remained was for me to go to sleep so he could understand my mind a little better. It was as easy as closing my eyes.

    I do not know how long I slept or what I dreamed. When they called me to come back, I took my time along the sliding path; there were flowers and small friends hiding in it. I wasn't stalling; one of the benefits of the sleep it that it removes anxiety; time would wait for me.

    I reemerged. Dark Skeksis is always first. I went to his side. He was like gray stone. He looked at me with weary kindness. I knelt down.

    There is no need.

    I didn't understand - we always knelt.

    There is no need for you to see me this year.

    What?

    No more words, he just looked at me with a long slow sad look and then, impossibly, he did something new for me, something I had never imagined of him - he smiled, and shut his eyes, and his attention was gone from me, and I was free of this level.



  • We all took pictures - in the end I took pictures through the windows of the bus, leaning in, trying to record the last minutes I would have with the kids, the last flashes of their faces. A lot of them were crying, and that made me happy, and of course made me cry. It will be 2002 before I see any of you guys again. It was too much, I hurried to my own bus and pulled myself up and said let's go.

    There was hardly room for me on the seat; I had to nudge him over. I hated to wake him but I needed to get at the seat belt; Tiny was driving like he meant it. The sleepy man had close-cropped hair; he might have been the lead guy from Live or he might have been Bob Rhodes. Either way he was always looking for the right words. He smiled sleepily at me and mumbled an apology when his head dropped onto my shoulder. No, it's ok, I said, and he nuzzled into my neck and went to sleep.

    His notebook was on my lap and I am not proud of reading it, but that is what I did. His scrawly handwriting was its own language but it was not a challenge to me. The first pages told how he had found a cassette he thought was a demo, with xeroxed handwritten lyrics. He listened to it and was just blown away and started telling people about it, trying to find out who these people were, how he could meet them and get them hooked up with a label. Turns out it was just a bootleg copy of a Weezer album, the lyrics were hadwritten in the actual liner notes, and everyone thought he was a fool and completely out of touch.

    "I wanted the bus to punch through a brick wall like a steel tube," I thought, and tried to go to sleep.

  • I am under the power of a dictator (queen?) as are a group of other people, some of them my friends. we are very afraid to do something wrong. There is much running up and down stone stairs, getting from one place to another.

    She wants us (newcomers/captives? visitors/slaves?) to play this game (national sport?) where two teams stand on narrow shelves attached to a wall and throw complex, double-ended sharp metal objects at each other in turn. I am afraid to play. Also, i can't find my throwing object. I hope if i hang back i won't be noticed, but as i hang back, i search through my boxes of stuff to try to find it. I'm really messing up the great packing job i did, it's going to have the be completely repacked before i leave, I'll have to refold all these beautiful cloths (i wonder where i got those?). There's a lot of weird metal junk in my boxes, but not the thing i'm looking for. Someone points me out/she notices me, and orders me to join my team. I find a (very inferior) throwing thing and realize i have no choice, even though i know i have a better one in there somewhere, and i don't really want to play at all. They have been discussing strategy. I don't think people die, they just disappear in some way, but the more complex throwing objects look all art-deco and very vicious. I approach the shelf, which is at about shoulder level and already very crowded. I put my hands on it to pull myself up and it starts to come away from the wall. I stop immediately. Someone leans down (precarious) to offer me a hand. I climb up but there really isn't any room for me, i'm teetering on the edge, and the shelf is tipping: it's not very well made. I jump down. She's not looking. She's admonishing the other team. I run for it.

    Outside the gates is the "compund" that Koresh lived in. It's a cute tiny, two-floor house, kind of strange architecture, and it's For Sale, since he's in jail. I go inside and check it out. I figure this might not be a bad place to hide out. There's all kinds of weird religious-oppressive paraphernalia and propaganda there, and equally strange s/m-flavored stuff. Except, the black fetish so common to s/m is replaced by a predominance of white lace. There are detailed manuals on the rights and duties of women (respectively: none, many). All promotional literature for the cult shows the women smiling, wearing white blindfolds. Then I see a poster over a door that shows a young woman "dressed" in wide strips of white lace wound loosely around her body, strategically, so she's just decent, and a white lace blindfold. She's holding a whip. The caption says, Everything is wonderful.

    I have to steal this. So i do.

    Later, i'm interviewing David Koresh in jail (i guess i work for a magazine), and i really piss him off when i tell him i stole his stuff. He looks tired and haggard.

    So I was out in Roseboro, standing in the living room of my aunt and uncle, drinking this big bottle of Coke, a bottle about the size of a water cooler bottle. After it was about three-quarters gone, I began playing the bottle, a latin beat. I thought about where I might find some Desi Arnaz circa 1940 Mambo, everybody! threads, when I headed back North; surely there were stores-a-plenty. I thought also about where I might find some more water-cooler sized Coke bottles upon which to play my irresistable mambo beats. I was stumped. I kept playing, kept singing.

    I went out to the front of the house, and sat on the porch steps. Gina brought me an ashtray. I thought about heading back North.

    Everybody mambo, come on!

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