It had arrived three days ago, a carved wooden box left on my doorstep. Within, a large brass key with a scroll of paper wrapped around its trunk. Thick letters drawn in black ink:


              If you must



/==-==\

Savannah, IL. Classic farmhouse, the Midwest's own. Barn and Silo are the Castles and Keeps of rural America. The Serfs are still here, we just import them from Mexico now. Pay 'em enough to eat in our free country. Never pay 'em enough to quit. The Serfs bow to the Sheriff ... and that's where they get lucky. The Sheriff in these here parts is none other than one Barney Fife, esquire.

I always wave at a Barney - they look funny when they smile.



/==-==\

A decidedly odd lock is centered in the farmhouse door. Very not farmhouse. The key slides in and turns after a little coaxing.

I can't remove the key once turned. I leave it and close the door behind.

The house is empty.



/==-==\

I take a quick fix in the front upstairs bedroom. The Amityville room. The weather outside has gradually gone from sloppy to what I like to call "rot".

It seems about right.

8 p.m.

/==-==\

The front door opens into a small foyer and then into a large living room, fireplace and obligatory Big Chair included.

I take a seat in the Big Chair, facing the front door, and try to focus. The best I can come up with is a tired slouch.

Dying is harder than I remember.



/==-==\

A dream I had seven years ago ended with my descending the stairs of a high school balcony. I'm still near the top when the fire doors below open inwardly and a man steps inside.

"Coming down is the hardest part," he says.

Coming down is the hardest part. Every spiked vein has a dead zone. Every pantheon has a Ragnarok. We were due.

The website was of a new design - no temples, no churches, no clips of carpet for facing East - just submission after submission by those who were true believers. A constant prayer of total dedication. A feast of faith.

No more.

Gods fade when followers flounder. For the past five months I've been noticing the changes. A subtle slide, at first, just little things. Eventually more profound, fundamental problems ... inabilities ... mistakes.

Accidents.

I called out to Nathan.

There were consequences.

A sacrifice.



It was worth it.



/==-==\



I knew now what they must be made to know.

The Gods would gather, a final time. I owed them one last story ... a rhyme and a reason. I owed them an ending.

I slouch a bit further into the chair. I offer up a brief prayer of my own.




                A prayer for the dying.



Ya know... years from now this will be funny.

We talk about e2 being eternal, and much of what we're here to do this weekend works along those lines... you all know what I'm talking about. Anyway, years from now we may or may not have our beloved database floating around in the cosmos to entertain us and keep us company days in and days out like a trusty security blanket of wholesome goodness...

Regardless: years from now, this will be funny. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon... for the rest of your life.

Alright... here goes... I admit it. I spiked the dressing at the e2 Gods Summit.

So there.

Jinmyo sweetly asked me if I would be so kind as to toss her a salad for the dinner, and being so kind as to allow that sort of innuendo to pass without a second glance I just couldn't avoid my other more pressing base instincts.

I hate to say it, but I simply can not sit through one more conversation with dannye where he tells me how important it is to have life insurance in this day and age. And these "editorial policy" things are a drag. We've got this nice safe place in the country, and I've got this nice cheap bottle of liquid, so I thought maybe I'd share...

I predict this will be a learning experience for us all.

Conflict Resolution.

Now let's see... we ate dinner... err.... twenty minutes ago? Oh lordy lordy. There's always this delicious sort of anticipation that builds up in the base of your spine but finally settles in your belly just before it all comes crashing down and you couldn't care less about anxiety from that point onward. I've got something mammoth in there right now...

...This is the first time I've ever dosed anyone. Much less these ones. I would like to think I'm the sort of person who would feel somewhat guilty about what I've just done. But now I know I'm not.

Hell. I'm elated.

Now: just a little low level math before I'm incapable of such things... I mixed in half a bottle and we ate maybe half the salad so that's 25 shared... and not a few had seconds... ("mmm mmm mmm that's some goooood salad wickie")... so let's just quit that line of thought and label it a heroic dose all around. Properly squeegied third eyes for all. Love and harmony and everlasting goodwill towards mankind. Just like the man says it's supposed to be.

Uh huh.

And if you believe that one... I'm to be trusted.

I didn't think I would enjoy this very much because the gods tend to disagree on so many things.

But everyone is so, well, sweet might be too saccharine a way of putting it. But they are.

dem bones of course was just as I had expected. Tall, stately, quiet, mellow. Really mellow. Really really really mellow. Won't take his sunglasses off.

The farmhouse seems a perfect setting for this Summit. Very rustic, very charming. I almost thought we'd be using kerosene lanterns but the place is not only wired but has DSL.

WickerNipple's a great kid. He helped me make a salad of wild greens. Very nice. Some wild garlic, sorrel, dandelion. A nice tangy bitterness.(Dressing might be a bit too oily though.)

I was quite thrilled to go mushroom hunting with ailie in the dark woods around the farmhouse. I haven't known her well but she put me right at ease, so that was nice. I determined to make the mushroom soup to end all mushroom soups. It's been simmering away now for about an hour.

I cleaned them carefully, sliced a few with this huge cleaver I found in the kitchen, sautéed some slices in a little butter, left some of them whole, and added the lot to a pot of simmering stock along with some salt. They were so rich that they almost immediately began to infuse the stock with flavour and I stood over the pot inhaling the fragrant steam for a while before taking a spoon from the drawer to taste the broth. It was really quite delicious without the addition of anything else. But I decided to add a few more ingredients and tasted with each addition - adding things slowly and tasting a little broth, a piece of mushroom, stir, a little more broth, another piece of mushroom. One must be very patient about these things, and really "listen" to what the soup needs.

The mushrooms swirled in the pot, swirlswirlswirl, and they seemed to do that even when I wasn't stirring them. And then one of the whole mushrooms said, "Oregano.". That was a bit of a surprise. But then it seemed perfectly obvious. It wasn't quite like the mushroom was talking, not as if there was a voice, more like it was communicating with shapes. So I tried to concentrate my attention on the mushroom to say something back, but I must admit I was feeling really quite silly. So I said aloud, "What?" And the mushroom said, "Oregano. One teaspoon. Go get it."

I reached for the jar of dried oregano, opened the twist cap and looked into the countless small pieces of dried leaves. I had no idea oregano was that colourful. There must have been 200,000 different shades of green in that jar. I'd have been standing there for who knows how long trying to remember why I was staring at the oregano but the mushroom very kindly said, "S'okay. Just give us a shake of the stuff."

I said, "Thank you. Anything else?"

A large butternut squash on the window sill sighed and said, "Fsck. (sic) Mushrooms. Why is it always mushrooms?"

"Shut up, t'isnt", said the refrigerator motor, and the room was filled with a droning interpretation of an old Aretha Franklin song which was actually not too bad.

Anyway, I stirred the oregano into the soup, dancing as much as my reach would permit, harmonizing with the refrigerator,
"(ooh) What you want?
(ooh) Baby, I got it.
(ooh) What you need?
(ooh) Do you know I got it?"
Then:

"R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me
R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Take care, TCB

"Oh (sock it to me, sock it to me,sock it to me, sock it to me)
A little respect (sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me)"

while the mushrooms had a discussion about further seasonings, resulting in unanimous agreement that more salt was needed.

One mushroom explained, "Salt is good. Salt is not bad for you. People are bad for you." So I said, "Yeah, you're probably right. Everybody close your eyes, here comes the salt. It's Kosher".

The butternut squash said, "Butter is good for you too."

The refrigerator said, "I got butter!" and promptly switched to the jingle for a butter commercial.

One of the mushrooms said, "A whole pound of butter would be good."

A mushroom chimed in with "And cream".

At that point, the wooden spoon complained bitterly about the prospect of getting covered in butter and cream and so I did a dunk shot which sent it sailing to the sink and replaced it with a plastic spoon. One of the mushrooms yelled, "She shoots! She scores!" and then commented that "Wooden spoons really don't know their place in the kitchen anymore because people are making them far too decorative". A lime in a fruit bowl behind me hissed, "Don't bitch to me about things being decorative. I've been in this goddam fruit bowl so long my skin is wrinkling." "Don't be so pissy" I said, as I walked past him to get the butter and cream. The lemon sitting next to him asked why limes get so much more attention. I said, "Don't get all shrivelled up about it - you have a thicker skin and can stand up to insult better." The lemon beamed at me. Salt and butter and cream added, all that was left was to serve it.

dannye's looking a bit...alienated. He keeps backing away even when he's not moving. dem bones has finally taken his sunglasses off. His pupils look like pinholes. Something seems to be coming out of the right pupil.

Lord Brawl has his face in his hands. His hands are hanging loosely at his sides. How does he do that? I'm glad everybody is enjoying the soup and salad. It's too bad the bread's that packaged stuff. Still it's not bad as crostini.

Haha.

I "ve got a sound inm y ears like a bee. I thinki"LL G o back torthe kitchenn

SOUP"S ON

Hey listen, my friends. Friend. The database, with all your eyes. I just want to say that i was always one you could trust no matter what i said to the contrary. I'm not half so crazy as you think. No one is half so crazy. There are many more halves than one(two).

I didn't think i'd make it here and here we are and some of us are friends already but we're still working out who we're sure of and what the names of the others are. Dannye is more unnerving than i thought he'd be but we're all a little nervous, un-nerved, or were, so i headed to the comfortable place, the kitchen. Left all else in fez's car, since that's been kinda home for so long. Portland: i say i miss it, but it's been so long, any idea of a fixed home is hazy. The front seat amid debris. The blurring landscape. Faces at the end.

Ah, the brilliant competency! I'd been wanting to cook with jinmyo and look she's whirling around the kitchen as if the ingredients themselves are commanding her about. I hardly have time to process what's going on, and wikkiteeth is grinning the grin i've known for years to mean something's up and i'll be finding out soon. It ought to be pleasant.

I suppose i'll update later. There's too much to see. People here are strange. I suppose the gods would be the exaggerated ones. I think the foregoing is a joke. This whole world is a jjjoke. I think I am optimistic. People are strange. I think i need to just watch for a while. yes, i need to watch.

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

McGlinchey Brothers Winery
Irvine, CA
Riesling
2000

Dear God. Four cases of it.

Was it on sale? Was it given to cover a bad debt? Did he invest in that depraved operation? Was his palate shot off in the war? Even without a palate, the screw-caps are hard to miss.

Of course you can't say anything, not in the man's home. Drink it and smile. Offer it up.

Drink it and switch to beer godawful quick. It's decent beer. It'd better be decent beer, because there's no food. Salad and mushroom soup. I am not a rabbit. I am a human being. I do not eat this crap. I had McNuggets in the car, dear McNuggets, but that was hours ago. There are Pop-Tarts in the kitchen, but the rats have been at them. Jinmyo gave me such a sad look when I found them. Jesus, woman, everybody's eating that veggie crap! Leave me in peace. I'd fight the rats for the Pop-Tarts, if I had the chance, but I missed out on the action there. Must've ate the damn things months ago. Pop-Tarts would go well with the Riesling.

One glass of wine, three beers. Or four. Whatever. I'll be flat on my ass in an hour at this rate. You, reader, my brother, whatever, do you have any goddamn clue how much time I'm spending re-typing every wretched word here?

You treasure your errors, if it's all you've got. No thanks.

What is thefez doing with her? That's ideath, I do believe. Uh...

Jesus Fucking Christ!

See, that's why I'm no fun at parties: I'd never think of that. He threw her over his shoulder, kicked the window out, and jumped. It's the first floor, but he jumped. That's style. He's still got the gun, too. He yelled something about ninjas. He's still yelling, you can hear him out in the yard. Moving pretty fast by the sound of it.

And there goes riverrun after him, bum leg and all. Shit. I should've thought of that, too.

Well, there you go. Here I am sitting on my ass, and life again passing me by. Fuck it. Empty beer. Easily fixed.

I file this dispatch to warn others. These noder get-togethers are a particularly bad idea. I try to exercise moderation in my life. In fact, that's become quite the little buzzword in my head, "Keep things in moderation, dannye. Just stay on the path of moderation." Well, the concept of moderation got stuffed up a goat's ass, pissed on by a crowd of Philistines, set on fire, and then it got blowed up, real good. Real fuckin' good. Like a cherry bomb in a toilet full of shit.


My warehouse hides my Arabian drums...
Should I leave them by the gate for you?


I see these happy shiny pictures from some of these other get-togethers. I wonder what a snapshot of this moment in Time, right now, would look like to someone on the outside? The bloody elevator in The Shining, just before Nicholson goes mad? The tooth found in the wall in The Tenant, just before Polanski goes insane? The guy standing in the corner of the basement in the Blair Witch movie, just before the girl gets gutted? The true nature of the evil around me now couldn't be captured on film. I've never been so ready to get the fuck out of any one spot in my entire life.


I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it;
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it...


And I'm too fucked up to drive. I'm seeing myself walk into rooms and say shit . . . to me. It's me talking to me. And my döppleganger is speaking a language I don't understand. But I can tell he's scared shitless, too.


My right hand drawing back while my left hand advances,
Where the current is strong and the monkey dances
To the tune of a concertina . . .


These girls here don't like me. They don't like my stunt double, either. Ailie thinks I'm a mean old man. Jinmyo is whack, and it didn't take any damn mushrooms to make her that way. But the one who's worrying me right now is Knifegirl. I now know how she got that appellation, and I know what is going to happen next. She's got some sort of knife she calls Athame, some hippie incense and some dusty-ass chalk that's killing my allergies. And she's in some sort of rush to get all this into the kitchen. It wouldn't take a Muppet psychic to know that we won't all be leaving this goddamn cabin alive.


. . . insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
(From) Desolation Row.


My only hope at this point is Dem Bones. Out of all these nutsacks and paddywhacks, he is the only one who seems to understand the concept of moderation at all. He's been humming these Dylan tunes inside his head and I can . . ((hear)) . . them. He gave up on trying to corral the Fez about half an hour ago. In fact, I fear the Fucked Up Fez is going to hurt one of the girls. Or he may be off to find some other girl to drag in here. None of the girls here now want to have the least thing to do with him. Drool is not a turn-on, fellows. (Just a dating tip from your ol' pal, dannye.)


Yonder stands your orphan with his gun,
Crying like a fire in the sun.
Look out the saints are comin' through!


But Bones is connecting with my core brain and he seems to be saying, "It's OK. Don't worry. I've got a surprise, just for you. Later." Truth be told? This is all that's keeping me from seriously fucking some of these assholes up.


I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way,
I promise to go under it.


This dude from Hollywood is a control freak. I shoulda known, eh? These fuckwits from the Northeast think because I talk slow it means my brain's not working. And Lord Brawl . . . Oh, Canada, reclaim your Queen and get hir off my leg. Know what I mean?


Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing . . .

ailie says I should write down what happened. The cops will want it. I can't find a pen, so I'll put it here for now. after all it's second nature. I can't see all that well, sio I'm going tpo do the best that I can.

It's all bones' fault really, if it wasn't for him this wouldn't have happened. The cops wont beleive that of course, not when they find the evidence. Maybe I should hide all that crap.

Bones come son like some sort of martyred father figure , it wopuld work better if I wasn't older than him., As it is it seems pretentious. E2 was his show though as much opr more than nate, so thought we owed him this. whis i had styae din Canada.

I should levave right now, but with my knee all crunched up I probably can't drive, even if I could see better. My hands shake too. and fez is out there somewhere.

I did a lot of pacing ear;ly on. nervous, uncomfrotable. I like to think it mnakes me look like a tiger in ca ge but probably it looked like I had to pee. not a problem since I went throught the windshield, but with all the ditch muck on me you can't tell.

Poor dannye. I don't care so much about wharfie but dannye and I go back to E1. I talked him into staying back in the day. lincoln logs that was the first time ,

I think my eyebrows are gone. I'll have to pull this bandanage off to be sure.

oh yeah, what happened. I don't know at the end, I guess ailie or someone found me in the roadway after the car blew up. Christ, I can't beleive it. They were in that car. Wharfie was dead anyway, but dannye maybe had a chance. It's all my fault. Except of course it's bones' fault really.

So sleepy. Got to finish this before

Did anyone call 9-1-1? Someone must have a cell phone. We're a long way from anywhere. I hear bones laughing. Punk. now he's laughing, after all that doom laden posing earlier. Now that it's gone to hell. Him and those damned drigs of his. He asks us to come here and now for what? It's all gone now anywya.

Damnit. I got the bandage off and now there's blood on the keyboard.='

uhm what happened. can't think. my head hurts, and my fingers look like Harrison Ford's in Bladerunner. Damn damn damn. I'm goign to jail. American jail, shit, Bubba for a roommate and never get out.

tell What happend. After the crash I woek up in the ditch. Couldn't have been more than a few minutes. Lay there looking at the barn swallows catching those big bugs for a bit until I remembered.

Wharfie wrapped that car around the pole like a sitck in a candy apple. candy apple red. That rental palce is gonna be pissed. Msut have been something in Jinmyo's soup. Dammnit, I told dannye it tasted funny. eat it be polite. soup and salad. bunch of granola eaters. I was supposed to bring fresh bread, ran out of time, had to buy it at a grocery, wanted to get it froma proper bakery.

dannye got tired of me following him around, but shit. how else was I going to talk to? I don't really know these people and it was like high scoool only worse, tho with better music. Got to credit bones for that, its the one spot of beauty in this nigthmare. "she said, don't go dark on me again" I was going to get the CDs duped by thefez. Too late now I suppose.

bomes shouldn't have given dannye the drugs, he's too old for that shit. Not that he's getting any older now, he's probably still cookin'.

Sorry, had to puke there. riverrun's gonna need a new futon. So very tired.What am I doing? Oh yeah.

Uhm, after the crash, I crawled back to the car, 'casue my knee's busted up. I'm still covered in burrs 'n crap from the ditch, except where i'm burnt. Wharfie was mashed like a potato so I tried to see dannye in the back. It smelled like gas everwhere so I didn't light a match. I tried the dome light. maybe that was a bad idea. Or maybe the car was on fire already.

I knew Wharfie was too drunk to drive. But I had to try and keep dannye breathing. He was blue and wasn't breathing right, just gasping like a gish. and sort of puking. He was serious messed up anyway, it was likely too late before wharfie wrapped us around the hydro pole.

dannye was kind of like someone drunk on tequila only way worse and not the same (cologod loves u usersr). I did that for kamamer. !lraK iH, p>9jpoun

Too mucyh blood , still bleeding, this isn't good, should have left the nadages on. ailie should have left me a drink, not that I trust her either. damnit, can't trust any of them. Hey cool. I wrote Blame Bones on the wall in bloof. Just like a horroh film, rinerrun would like it. Goes well with the dirty dozen poster, to. I wish I had that digital camera now, I'd take a pic and post it. I think wikkerniplpe had it, I remember him taking pictures of the grrls' tits with it. Or was that kinfey?

Sorry. concentrait. ailie sd write it all down.

After the screaming started, we picked dannye up, and I carried him to the car, we got in the back and wharfie drove. Not very far, he floored the gas petal and we shot gravel all over. I'll bet he stoned my new car, the bastard. sorry wharfie, you're daed and all. dannye was cyanpt cyhn cyanotic there blue damnit and couldn't breathe right. We should have noticed his eyes. eyes were wrong. eyye z

thius is judt a bad dream tight? deep breth.

What did that mf bones give dannye in the bathroom? We looked inside after he collapsed. EpiPens, syringes, pills. Black goop on the sink. it looks like a trauma unit in riverrun's goddamn bathroom. Epinephrine, that's adrenaline ailie says. Not smart for an old guy, if he took that. damn bones put him up to it. bones could probably mainline elephant semen and laugh it off. He's still laughng. bastard. i should o out there and shut him the hell up. why n ot> Hey bones puppetmaster murderer look what I found under riverrun's futon.

I'm going to jail anyway. No way I can get back across the border like this. Jeesus. STOP LAUCHING. Asshole. it's not funny damn youy. i'm going out there and stop it I'll finish this after.

I tracked the son of a bitch along the creek for half a mile. Towards the end he was dragging her. Her shoes fell, one after the other, along the way. Like one of those Helmut Newton soft-core scenes, it could have been. High heels, the muddy Mississippi, and fear; what a turn-on.

He took polaroids along the way but he must’ve known I was close. I found them next to her body. By the time the rain hit, I’d caught up with him. He fucked up his final defiant act, the asshole. His first shot missed, breaking his jaw. He could barely get the gun in his mouth to pull the trigger a second time. But I let him try.

What a freak thefez turned out to be.


God damn this internet lie. Leave it to the most talented bunch of nerds I’ve ever met to fuck it up for everybody.

All I wanted to do was help put E2 on the map, like it deserves to be. Throw some filthy lucre at a Good Idea Gone Bad. Buy bones and nate a house and a car apiece for their troubles. Play a little golf with dannye and Brawl. Instead we'll all be front-page news in the morning. With pictures. And you—clever Everythingians—you’ll know all about it won’t you?

Cause You Were Virtually There.

How’s it feel to witness rape, murder and insanity and not be able to do anything about it? Oh, you didn’t know? Did some of you even think about calling the cops maybe? Calling nate? Calling thefez’s mother for gods’ sakes?

I didn’t think so. You sat there, kings and queens of your virtual world, all safe and secure in the dark like you were watching an episode of Eight is Enough and you thought you could will it into a happy ending. Well good fucking luck. This ain’t the Sunday Night Movie, and no, you can’t have your money back. So much for "on-line community." It’s still dog-eat-dog in this sweet old world, isn’t it?

Welcome to the Real World, boys and girls and others. Survivor, Big Brother and The Weakest Link, not to mention Candid Camera, all rolled up into one.

Everything is more than the sum of its parts isn’t it?

They’ll blame it on the drugs, the press. They always do. The Time magazine cover will use that shot of bones I got that makes him look like Che Guevara. Maybe I’ll do the work for them right here, in Photoshop, while I’m waiting for Barney and Gomer and Channel 69 to show up. Give him that haunted look that screams tragic victim in journalistic shorthand after the fact. Multi-task this, motherfuckers.

The inside eight-page story will feature knifegirl’s legs. Ailie’s cleavage will be on prominent display, as will the crazed look in thefez’s eye. Yeah. Front page news and a feature story with sidebars. Just like the Manson girls and their crazy puppeteer.

Perspective is the thing they’ll be looking for. Perspective will keep this story in the public eye for weeks. Perspective will spawn a couple hundred thousand words from local columnists and feature writers too.

Some fuckwit, in the name of perspective and to make a buck, will turn it into a book.

In Hot Chat: a non-fiction novel.

And then will come the movie. There will be two hot love scenes and a rape and the blood will flow like the cheapest wine.

But before that happens, let me tell you what went down. What really happened at the Summit in Savannah. Cause I’ve eaten enough acid in my life to last another ten go-rounds. No way I’m gonna touch that grey-green gruel that that nutcase jinmyo whipped up. You could smell the bad mojo comin’ off that stuff.

I’ve been drinking tonic water all night, baby. Canada Dry with a Schwepps chaser. Iced. Yeah, I’m fucked up on quinine. To soothe the fever-dreams of the future of the Internet.

You think you know somebody just because they spit their guts up in a daylog on your website? Wrong. You’re assuming they can even get to what it is they’re about, deep-down. You’re assuming they know who they are in the first place and you’re assuming they can write about it in the second.

And you think your first face-to-face encounter with these collections of electrical impulses, gases, and temporary carrying-cases is gonna get you any closer to who they really are? From the evidence presented here tonight, doesn’t look like it, does it?

Who among us could have known?


I had trouble finding my way back. The rain had let up but there was no moon and I was trying to figure out what to tell the police. What was the most honest story I could give them that wouldn’t make these kids’ parents gag on the thought of how terrible, finally, it must have been?

There was light in the sky from the fire and I could smell the gasoline and I knew whatever I’d find, it had to be worse than the freak-scene I’d just left. Nobody else was insane were they? Other than me I mean.

I thought I could hear ailie screaming "No! Brawl! Please! Don’t," just like that, but the words rose and fell on the wind, along with what turned out to be dannye’s final request, on the box back at the shack at last:

No reason to get excited, the thief he kindly spoke,
There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.

And there, where Dylan's voice fades and Hendrix’s undead guitar begins to wail, a sound I never heard before literally flew at me from the left, forty-five degrees off my heading to the fire. Like a rush of cosmic freight train across an icy plane of fear, I thought it was some godhead stereophile’s idea of what the end of everything should sound like.

I flicked my flash in the direction of the sound, and—all at once—instead of falling off into the black night, the beam illuminated a wall of insects, high as an ocean liner in dry dock, a million of them maybe. A hundred million. A hundred million million.

Locusts. Thick as God’s shit. Solid, like fate’s fractal harbingers. Before I could compute it at all they were on me. Surrounding me, wings batting crazily, invading every orifice of my body, those stupid green grasshopper legs. Up my nose. In my ears. Tearing their way senselessly into my mouth. On a mission.

I beat stupidly at them, running in the direction I thought the fire was because the insects had stolen all trace of light from the sky.

And quick as they’d come, they were gone. No food here. Just passing through. Freak of nature. Move along.

The car was smoldering still. Though we'd met scant hours before, I'll never forget those two black-blistered crispy critters, the driver and his fateful shotgun. Wharfinger and dannye were dead as anybody I’ve ever seen. Rain began again to patter softly down.

The house seemed to ooze satiety, as though it had demanded and received the final installment on a profane contract, a primal debt. The husks of locusts who hadn't got the word lay spent on the old wood porch. Live and disoriented bugs fought their way back out the door as I pushed inside. dem bones lay in a pool of thick black blood swimming with insects who must have had a taste for it. Every once in a while a bug would tear itself free and bat senselessly into the air.

Bones’s head was not attached to his neck. Bones’s head was nowhere in the immediate vicinity.

And this bothered me. Not just a little bit.

"Where’s Brawl?" I demanded of the little knot of new-best-friends who gasped and heaved as one helpless organism.

Everyone tried to talk at once, and with that emotional rush came an outpouring from the heavens. A rolling—and then a crash—of thunder. And ailie, bless her, patient thoughtful ailie, pointed past me back out into the night now filled with rain.

The lightning caught our Good Lord Brawl as he fell to his knees out front, howling into the storm, eyes ripped from his face.

Lord Brawl, blood-boltered in the rain,
singing the horrible end of a song we called

Everything.


I arrived too late. I can add nothing here. See Savannah, the aftermath. Demeter

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