Story:

When the Green House Bites You, Turn Left

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(waltzing through the universe)

It wasn't past, and it wasn't future; it just was. It felt good just to be, from time to time.

It put on its white shirt and dark sun-glasses, together with its human form. It looked good, it supposed, descending in spirals and watching its own reflection in the old, old ice-caps way down below. Provided you found humanoid forms attractive, of course. It did, sometimes.

Circling and circling again, with a flaming tail behind it, like a drunken comet, like a bat with burning wings, like Sirius turned loose and wild with rabies. A whip of fire in the night, lashing sparkles. Spark, spark, spark. It sang, out of sheer good mood. It felt like turning into a hot wire and cutting through deep-frozen butter. Or so it sang.

Through the nothingness, into somethingness - or maybe it was the other way around, depending on how you chose to look upon it. A very pretty sight, in any case. Barriers crashing, heavens shaken in their foundations, devils shaking angry fists like Sunday-drivers overtaken by a crazy biker. And an impression of flowers, flickering on the edges of it all, smelling recklessly of spring.

The flowers were a personal touch, not a necessity, and I appreciated it. The fragrance especially, since it covered the equally unnecessary but sadly unavoidable taste of sulphur. Tradition is strong in these things, and nowadays you somehow always wind up tasting it in your mouth, whether you use it or not. Funny, really.

There was a sound of crystal spheres breaking, and that made me sad. But this was a real thing, not an embellishment. It had to break the spheres in coming to me, the impossible creature I had invoked, it had to crush the fragile balls of the Universe in order to answer my feeble call. Because the spell had, quite unexpectedly, worked.

And then it was here, right in the middle of the signs that weren't written on the floor, its still somewhat hoof-like feet sinking gently into the sensuous abundance of the far-eastern wools.

"I'm here," it said, and its voice left moist touches on my skin.

"So I see," I said, and it made it laugh and take on gender.

"Wasn't there a reason for calling me?" he asked. He reached to take off his glasses. (It was dark in the room, the bulbs having suffered heart-attacks upon his coming.) Then he checked himself, hastily adding eyes behind the black plastic before uncovering them. And he smiled a flash of fangs. Or maybe a full house.

"I'd go easier on the teeth," I said in reply, for I don't like overdone effects. And in reality, I didn't as yet know what it was that I would like to do with the Never Invoked. You don't plan stuff like this. You don't plan it actually happening, that is.

Obediently, he gave up on the 1920-Nosferatu look and left only two fangs, ever so slightly bigger and sharper than they should have been. I decided to let it go at that.

"Actually, I was bored," I confessed rather meekly. Passing the time of day trying to awake the Never Awoken isn't much fun if it goes off, I decided. But now it was before me, and a he (a very good-looking he) and wanted me to command him. Or something of the kind. So I repeated, "I'm bored," and waited for something to happen.

"Would you like me to sing for you?" he asked half-heartedly. I couldn't blame him for his lack of enthusiasm: rising the Never Risen for a song is rather like picking your nose with a bulldozer the size of Jupiter. It was nice of him to offer it, anyway.

I pondered over the idea for a while. I had heard his voice as he was coming down. (or up, or whatever. The Earth is still round.) It was a beautiful voice, one that made stars sing backups in the manner of the old Shadows, one that made even vacuum hum contentedly as it sucked up the Universe. But it still didn't seem quite appropriate. Well, who cares.

"Yes," I said. "Please, do."

And so he sang, sitting cross-legged on my inherited carpet, and I listened like a bird waiting for a long-distance reply perched on a telegraph wire. It was a song of old, and it smelled of blood and of fire and of honey, and of sunlit, wet soils, rich and fruitful. It made the DNA's in my blood whirl like dervishes. It made my CD short-circuit with shame and turn into a slot machine. It made MTV's satellite hiccough in the sky and offer its programme to the germs on Venus in the hope that there weren't any. It was as beautiful as a cat basking in the sun, and more.

And then it was over. The particles of dust that had been accompanying him with tiny fireworks turned again into dull domestic dust and fell back on the floor. He got up, caressed a threadbare spot on the carpet with one absent, bare foot, and looked at me.

"Can I go now?" he asked calmly, his face a marble mask of emotionless beauty, an impossibility that turned all divisions by zero humdrum and easy to solve.

"I suppose you could," I said hesitantly, uncertain what would good manners have me do. Finally, as he went to the window, Something cracked. I brushed the manners off my shoulder, they fell but missed the carpet, hit the bare wood and shattered into pieces. Fragile things.

"Wait!" I shouted. "Wait, Unconceivable One!"

I bit my lips as they formed the word. He was the Unconceived One, not the Unconceivable One, and it was a bad thing to misname him. That's what happens when you get clumsy with your manners, I thought, awaiting my horrid death.

He turned to me, frowning, then he smiled. "I like the sound of it," he said. "No one ever called me that before."

"I know," I replied, still pretty much ready to disappear into an eternity of torment. He reached out with his left hand, opening the window with the right one.

"Come on," he said. "This deserves a ride."

And without thinking, I took his hand, and we were away.

Up and down and away. Not or, though the Earth is still round: and up and down and away. At once. Twirling, losing my breath in the incredible all-directions moving, almost a dance, and yet very concentrated, decisive, purposeful. Stars exploded around us, galaxies came to this world, unfolded, blossomed, wrinkled, aged and died in a single blink of an eye. We circled around a Universe or two, just to stroll, see the world, and then stopped, breathless, to rest under Yggdrasil in its youth, first fruit still unripe in its boughs.

A bird floated high above us, in the spotless blue sky; it may have been an eagle, or a falcon, or a simple pigeon. I looked at my companion and he smiled behind his dark glasses.
"Care for a drink?" he asked, and I accepted, of course. As time dawned on the meadow behind us, we flew again, or whatever it was that we were doing. Rode, maybe, at least I thought I did.

We stopped in a small café beside a highway. Weird things were happening on it, it seemed, but then nothing was really weird. There was a Crazy Monk at the table next to ours: he was drumming his fingers on the table in something like a ragtime, and drinking Irish coffee through a green straw striped with black. It went nicely with his brown habit, and also with the deep brown china of the cup. When we attracted his attention, he offered us two free tickets for the amateur play that was opening in his cloister next Sunday, and the play was called the Last Innocent Incest.

"It's all about modern pressures," said the Monk, and laughed a crazy laugh. And then he got up and joined a game of poker on the next table.

"Who's losing?" he asked in a loud voice, and I thought he was drunk.

"Not drunk," said my companion, "just Crazy. What will you have?"

Weird drinks ran through my head. I could have anything, I knew I could, so I ordered a love potion and some water from the well of eternal youth. The creature I had invoked had coffee, strong, black, three sugars, and a banana split.

The innkeeper was a leprous parrot, but he seemed like a nice middle-aged fatty, and sang Carmen as he served, sotto voce. We had our drinks and watched the traffic, or what little there was of it. Birds sang harmonies to the innkeeper's humming.

The love potion tasted like honey melted in 100% alcohol, and the water from the well of eternal youth wasn't quite as dry as it should have been. I should have said shaken, not stirred, or maybe just the opposite, the trouble was I didn't know.

A red racing car buzzed past us at terrific speed, only to crash into the wall of the inn. He had avoided the tables as best he could, but the poker players still found reason to complain, at least the losing ones. From the crash came a tired devil and waved to us in the passing.

"How many left?" asked my companion, spilling ice-cream on his spotless white shirt.

"Oh, just a dozen or so and I'm through for the day," answered the devil, disappearing in the direction he had come from. From the inn, a bunch of frogs ran quickly and set to devour the remnants of the car.

"A pity," I said, "it was such a pretty car." And the Never Seen called the innkeeper and ordered a large pêche melba for me to cheer me up.

The Crazy Monk had broken the poker game in the meantime, and was preaching ardently to the sole remaining member of the party. The sermon was about the eternal pleasantness of the original sin, and how sad it was that it could only be committed once, if you really wanted it to be original, of course. The member (a hand, I think) listened for a while, then sighed and went in search of his companions. My pêche melba was finished, and it was time to go.

We did little else, really. Made love to a cosmic wind, went to the End of the Universe to watch the stars fold down on themselves. He held my hand in the darkness, and kissed me as the lights were about to crop up again, sprinkling the velvet sheet of Nothing and turning back into a World again. And then he brought me back home.

"It was a lovely day," I said, not wishing him to go. "A really lovely day."

"Yes," he answered, not looking at me, "yes, as a matter of fact, it was."

"Will you...", I hesitated, "...will you come again, some time?"

He shrugged, toying with his glasses. "I suppose I could," he said finally. "Will you..." (a pause, he's biting his lip) "call me again?"

I sighed. "I'd love to," I said honestly. "But it's an awful strain, killing all those chickens and reasoning with demons and everything. Isn't there... a simpler way?"

"Sure," he said, laughing as if with relief. "You know this?"

On the blank wall of my room, there was suddenly a picture representing a part of my city. Well, the city I live in, anyway.

"Of course I know it," I answered.

"See the little door over here?" he pointed to an old, tumble-down house. "You enter it, and go through the yard. There's another house there."

The picture changed, and I could see a little green house half-hidden in the overgrown shrubs.

"And?"

"Walk around it," he said. "When it bites you, turn left. That's where I'll be."

"Always?" I asked, feeling very silly.

"Always," he said, blushing like a schoolboy. From behind his back, he produced a tiny pink rose and pushed it awkwardly into my hands. "You're fun to be with, you know," he mumbled, and then he was out through the window and up into the twilight sky, a whirling, living comet with a spot of ice-cream on the front of his shirt, singing his song that made entire summers weep with joy.

I sighed and closed the window, and lay down on my once-luxurious carpet, smelling the rose and smiling stupidly to myself.

In case you're wondering: I took his advice. I found him, though not always a him, but find it I did. And if you'd care to join us sometimes, it's just as simple as he'd said. Find a tumble-down old house with an overgrown inner yard. And when the green house bites you, turn left.