Being the Thirteenth and Final Installment



"One of us has to stay. Let me finally do something that matters."

I keep two of his things: the little broken red wagon—though I don't know what I'm to do with it-- and his cactus. Gospherus loved his cactus. I'm afraid I lack his attachment to it, but it livens up the place a little. I've never had much luck with plants. This one I can manage not to kill.

I wish more than anything we could have saved him. I arrive home sometimes and imagine his tousled hair appearing over the top of the chair where he sat do many hours. His death diminishes us all. I'm not certain he would have liked the final chapter of Fine Structure, but I know we would have enjoyed watching it to the end.

Sylvester's guts were falling out of his chest, and Charlotte had no time to perform emergency surgery even if that would have saved him. She had, I knew, teleported pieces of Yellow Ostrich II into several places; what crashed into the foul farmhouse contained as little of her technology as circumstances permitted. If we failed, the Blemîn would find little that benefited them.

What remained made me shudder.

A heffa shuffled past us as we returned to Yellow Ostrich II.

I think on the Blemîn. I see even now the maw of their rodentine mouths, hear the scuttle of arthropodal legs. The two in the farmhouse had died, but the potential, the larvae beneath our feet, terrified me.

Sylvester.

"One of us has to stay. Let me finally do something that matters."

We allowed him his wish. The decision made the most sense. He felt happy with it, heroic. I knew these things, but I cannot say that I find our choice entirely unselfish.

"That one," Charlotte said. "That one."

Tunguska experienced not such an explosion. Yet those who traveled by highway, such a short distance away, did not see or hear or feel the force.

Did she return to some version of the thirtieth century that birthed her? Does she walk our earth now? I don't know what happened to fair, fanatic Charlotte.

I awoke outside of where the Tazi Fields had been. A scent lingered in the air, like the one that fills your nostrils when you open a new refrigerator.

The explosion had taken everything within the intersecting fields. Across the city, at Yellow Ostrich I, the remnants of other Tazi forces continued to shimmer, and diminish.

I looked around. They were no longer there, not even in potential. But that ability would fade. When I awoke the following day, late to work (but Vanessa was to open the store, I recalled, from this other life), I awoke from dreams of the Horsemen. They had passed me, and receded, ghost riders in the sky.

I drink my coffee and look out my front door. Audrey, the little girl from down the street, passes. She smiles. Whatever pain this child may have accumulated in her short life remains hidden from me.

At work I see only what I may in people's faces. For me it has been a year in which I saw things I can never explain. They saw me last a short time ago. The sight of Vanessa fills me with joy, and she seems surprised and amused-- but not unhappy.

Sales go well that day. Rachel even stops by the shop, purchases an old Jan and Dean LP, the one with "Sidewalk Surfin'" and "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena." "I like 'One Piece Topless Bathing Suit,'" says she.

The sun sets. I reacquaint myself with the buildings on Cathedral Road. Stone and signs settle into familiarity. I look to where a haberdasher once stood, in days before my birth. That, too, I recall, but as something I might have dreamed.

My old tenant and friend had made some arrangements before we left. Perhaps he felt a premonition. Perhaps he was just being careful. In any case, I inherited a goodly sum of money, though time would pass before I could claim it.

I might travel. Or give it all to charity. I miss my friend more than I ever imagined. He did little and produced nothing tangible, but my life had I not met him would have been poorer and, of course, he saved the world.

I don't know if the other people like Charlotte have completed their goals. As the days pass, the house feels more ordinary. Only occasionally do I get those strange television programs on impossible channels. But one day, I hear a song being sung. The version I hear performed by an older group, but I recognize it as, almost certainly, the one Gospherus—Sylvester—heard sung by a children's choir, in those days before our encounter on a road that no long exists, that will never again exist. The tune falls somewhere between the anthems Victorians sang going into battle and the music that accompanies prayers at Chinese funerals. It finishes with a spectacular drumroll, a percussive tsunami. The lyrics walk the line between trite and stirring, empowering and terrifically creepy.

He had the gist of the song, all right, and he correctly reported the oddest of details. Three of the singers have skin the most charming verdant shade.

The Blemîn crawled out from a nightmare
They brought slaughter and misery
Our brothers, our sisters, our children
Cut down by the Great Vannderjhees

But out from the darkness rose voices
These vermin we’ll drive from our sight!
So take up the sword and the challenge
Terra's our children's birthright!

We're marching on Käm Dey Koré
We’re taking our homes and our land
The reign of the Blemîn is over
The Day of the Human at hand!

Then let us stand up for our people
Our sisters, our brothers, our kind
Cheer on their good fortunes and lend our
Hands whene'er they troubles do find.

We've torn down Käm Dey Koré
Reclaimed we our homes and our land
The reign of the Blemîn is over
The Day of the Human at hand!


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