25: Burrowed into its bamboozling heart

“Hello, Cadbury Fife”, the voice was disconnected, pointedly sexual, yet with some type of indeterminate undertone.

Cadbury: I do not like your indeterminate undertone. Is there a light or any sort of illuminating substance in here?

Cadbury preferred to control the lighting levels. He stood in the doorway and smacked at the inside wall until something happened.

The light came on to reveal a woman sitting up in a bed with hair less frizzy than frazzled, eyes less sunken than scuttled, and an outfit less dragged from a dumpster than lived in by a family of feral hamsters.

Cadbury: You’re looking crazier than usual, Selia. [Stepping forward] What has Gullet been doing to you?

Gullet: [Stepping into the room] Madam Selia has been through a lot.

Cadbury: Yes, I see. What have you put her through, some type of feather duster torture?

Selia: Cadbury Fife, why do you speak so harshly of our mutual friend, Mr. Gullet? How many times has he saved us both from the world and ourselves?

Cadbury: He has also saved the world from me more than once. However, we are not here to discuss the dazzling promise of Mons Gullet’s underpants, we are here to discuss the matter of… the business of… the case that we have… with you.

Gullet: It’s the Case Of The Missing Self madam. Here, Epstein has a warm drink for you. Also, a shiny new pillow.

A waiter robot stumbled forward with the drink as Gullet propped Selia up in her bed with a pillow.

Selia: [Taking the drink] This better be loaded. [Tasting it, then falling back satisfied, propped on her new pillow] Good then. Let’s go. What is the news?

Cadbury: Not so much news as a mess of confusion… which is appropriate as we are in the messy mid-game of this case. Would you like a fish?

Selia: A fish?

Cadbury: Yes, a fish. A trout perhaps. Or, what is tasty? Barracuda?

Selia: Salmon?

Cadbury: You would like a salmon?

Selia: Sure, if you have one.

Cadbury: Well, see, that is what we call ‘the thing’… I do not have a salmon, unfortunately. Or any other fish. [Pauses] However we can catch our own… through the magic of fishing!

Selia arched her eyebrows at Cadbury.

Cadbury: I assume you enjoy fishing!

Selia: You are somewhat prone to erroneous assumptions. [She looked at her bandaged hand] In any case, I believe you need working hands to do fishing.

Cadbury: I doubt it. Don’t even worry about the details, Gullet will work them out. He’s good at details… obsessed with them, maddeningly so. Keeps jars of details in intricate cupboards, the identification of which is detailed in some sort of monstrous catalog of indexes. Bathes in details, eats them, makes passionate noises at night all alone with them. So really, really stop fretting about it – fishing will be great, I assure you.

Selia arches her eyebrows at Gullet, seemed to be thinking, but then falls back into her pillow.

Selia: Yes, well. Were you here to discuss something?

Cadbury: I hope not.

Gullet: [Filling a quaint, though sullen, silence] Your case is progressing madam.

Selia: Progressing!? My case is progressing? What does that mean? [She shook her hand as though it was in some pain] What?

Cadbury was also looking at Gullet as if to beg the same question. He arched his eyebrows.

Gullet: If I may describe it, in the agency parlance…

Cadbury: [Interrupting with a flourish of an arm] ‘Parlance’? No. Cobblerot! Listen, here, and I will speak.

Pausing and stepping back, Cadbury then proceeded to pace in a circle while giving his account.

Cadbury: We have come nose to nose with the soul-corroding core of this rotten, rooting, business. We have burrowed into its bamboozling heart. We have isolated its tenaments, and within them we have interrogated the residents, who have spoken to us in twisted tongues of the most manifest mindlessness imaginable. To summarize: we had everyone dance, while we held position, and we collected what shook out… Gullet put all the pieces in a sack… and let’s just say that soon… soon we will be having a party.

Cadbury stopped talking and swivelled to look at Selia.

Cadbury: But first you really need to clean yourself up. Seriously.

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24: Like projectile life through the narrowing tunnel of existence

The train chundered forward like projectile life through the narrowing tunnel of existence.

On the train were Cadbury Fife, detective philosopher at large, Mons Gullet, socialite techno-assistant, and Rafaella Ellison, Esq., of the reputable law firm Smithikins, Pillipilli and Leeb-du-Toit.

Cadbury: [to Rafaella] Do you enjoy your job?

Rafaella: Do you enjoy toothpaste?

Cadbury: I admire it. I confide in it. I pour my hopes for a sparklier mouth into it. It emboldens me and I would say that, yes, I am rather passionate about it.

Rafaella: I-

Cadbury: Just a few more things about toothpaste if I may. [Pauses]

Cadbury Fife liked to conduct interviews on neutral and mutually unexpected ground. And by protocol, he himself had no idea where the discussion would take place until it happened. On this occasion, it was on a train.

Cadbury: But first, you had a question?

Rafaella: Not at this time.

Cadbury:Will you have one in the future? Forward planning is at the forefront of advance management.

Rafaella: Thanks, I will pass on the questions though.

Cadbury: Very well, let’s move onto the topic of… Gullet- ?

Gullet: Selia.

Cadbury: Selia. This person is in your employ?

Rafaella Ellison was a distinctly appropriate package, all cut and dried and baked sumptuously in delicate fabrics, coming out ultimately like the perfect blend of business sass and fashion forward professionalism.

Rafaella: Arguable. But, let’s say ‘yes’ for the sake of argument.

Cadbury: What does she do?

Rafaella: Make copies of documents, substitute placeholder text, sign things…. um, occassionally respond to communications.

Cadbury: So, she provides high level legal services?

Rafaella: Billed at an almost inconceivable rate, yes. Also she is illogical, conceited and usually drunk.

Cadbury: In other words – a model employee?

Rafaella: Well, the legal profession is not for everyone.

Cadbury: Gullet, where do we stand on the legal profession?

Gullet: [Pausing for a moment to recall the official position, then quoting] The legal profession is the apex of imperial paper-shuffling elevated to the status of quantum surgery conducted on the brain of a pin-headed angel.

Cadbury: Yes, indeed, fine people. But back to our topic… Gullet-?

Gullet: Selia.

Cadbury: The other thing.

Gullet: Mark von Cola.

Cadbury: [Pointing at the air] What is the nature of your relationship with the deceased?

Rafaella: Deceased? I did not know that that has been determined.

Cadbury: Well, his presence is deceased. Or rescinded. Either way, I don’t use it as a technical term. I presume you were an admirer?

Rafaella: I am an admirer of beneficial things.

Cadbury:  [He seemed to enjoy this answer] Very well. I am going to do a dance for you, and I would like you to tell me if you recognize it.

Cadbury stood, took one cane and twirled it, and then launched into a surprisingly smooth sequence of moves that appeared to combine ballroom and hip-hop, rolling perfectly with the motions of the train. Then he sat.

Rafaella: I do not recognize it. Extremely impressive though.

Cadbury: Do you do a lot of fishing?

Rafaella: How much would a lot be?

Cadbury: Well… any.

Rafaella: Then, no.

Cadbury: Why not? Seems like it would be a fun activity. Strategic, physical, hunger-quenching.

Rafaella: How many reasons would you like.

Cadbury: None. I will accept it as a failing. For now. Meanwhile, please accept my open invitation for a spot of fishing. We are always ready to do some. Gullet, please stock the required fishing weapons and costumes.

Gullet nodded sternly. Rafaella maintained a steady, detached glare.

Cadbury: [Looking at Gullet sternly] Ok. Let’s talk about current affairs then. When was the last time you saw Mark von Cola?

Rafaella: A few months ago, he came in to the office with his partner to discuss various issues we were dealing with on their behalf.

Cadbury: [Somewhat surprised by this turn of events] Oh. Really. Most spurious. This partner…

Rafaella: Eastman Piper. We worked with their group.

Cadbury: And what was this discussion about exactly?

Rafaella: I am not at liberty to discuss that of course.

Cadbury: Hmmm…. can’t discuss the discussion. All a frightful coincidence wouldn’t you say?

Rafaella: What?

Cadbury: All our mutual friends at the same party. How did you get tangled up in the affairs of Mark von Cola.

Rafaella: We have represented him for some years. Selia met him at SPL.

The train began rolling to a halt, at what apparently was the discussion’s off-ramp.

Cadbury: Ok then, let me explain the quantum math of detecthievery. When the subject is in position the objects will dance around. When the objects dance, the movements caused will shake out their character. Once we have the characters, we can hold the Detection Party.

Rafaella: And what happens at the party?

Cadbury: I don’t know madam. The Detection Party is always full of surprises. You should, however, be marking it on your calendar.

Rafaella: [Rising as the train stops] Well, my calendar is quite full… when is the party?

Cadbury: I don’t know madam. There is still much dancing and shaking to do. I would suggest blocking out the next year.

Rafaella: [Collecting items and moving towards the door] Most convenient.

Cadbury: [To Gullet, as Rafaella moved away, his hands moving suspiciously in his pockets] Let us take a ride upon the tracks, Mr. Gullet. Let us slide down the slippery line and make a stop at the endpoint of stuff as we know it.

Gullet: You lost your ticket?

Cadbury: [Removing his hands from his pockets] My word you are a sniveling hound, Gullet.

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Dissolution Day

Do the Dissolution
The desolation dance at the party to celebrate
The end, go ahead just do it,
No need to consider consequence
Just don’t get too close now, stay apart,
Let’s disintegrate in perfect solitude

Let’s do the Dissolution
It’s the ultimate resolution of what we must have been looking for
As we swore to hold each other up
All we were doing was a pain-drenched dance
Off a cliff on the edge of a chasm at the blood-stained heart of an abyss
At the end of it all

Do the Dissolution
At the absolution party to celebrate
The end of pretense
We uphold our vows to do this hopeless dance
But don’t get too near, we must all dance alone
And grasp desperately at our chests on the endless drive home

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23: To vaporize, vanish, blink out like a black light in the void of the night

The man had too many airs and not enough graces. His stance was snooty, his excessively creased pants were trumped up, his gold-lined jacket hung at entirely too regular an angle. Even his shadow was overtly cocksure.

Cadbury: Who are you?

Eastman: Eastman Piper, Representative.

They stood by some trees in a section of The Park, a leafy destination in the political district of downtown. Both men wore thick coats, the type of coats you wear to protect yourself from the cold, but also to make it clear that you don’t care about the cold, or even know whether it is cold. The sort of coats that men wear to meet other men.

Cadbury: [Looking to Gullet] Does the story check out?

Gullet: The story appears to check out thus far.

Cadbury: Can you do that other thing that you do?

Gullet: [To Eastman] This is Cadbury Fife, the eponymous detective.

Eastman: [Holding out a large paw] Greetings Cadbury Fife, pleased to meet you.

Cadbury: I don’t shake hands. Too touchy, and more than a little feely. Also, I am not especially pleased to meet you, nor do I subscribe to the social foible that dictates that I should proclaim that I am. [Sniffs the breeze lightly] Nice to meet you though. Now, we have some questions.

Eastman: [Smiling slightly, Eastman is okay with Cadbury's obtuse verbal stylings] Ask your questions, fine sir.

Cadbury: I have no interest in asking questions. We have questions, much like we have trousers… there’s really no need to take them out and dangle them around. [Looks down at his pants] Do you enjoy cola?

Eastman: I do not.

Cadbury: Agreed. Too much sass. Too bubbly and abreast of the issues.

Eastman: I don’t believe cola has much to do with the issues.

Cadbury: Is that a political stance? It’s quite hot out, must say. Gullet, I don’t recall being advised of this heat. Could do with a cola.

Gullet: [To Cadbury] You might recall that when I told you how hot it was you suggested that “it seemed a good coat day”.

Eastman: [Preferring to move on from the heat discussion] My position on cola is one of the least political of my stances.

Cadbury: Name some of those stances for me. And forgive me, I do get lost in the gooey eyes of politics – can never remember a thing about it – so try to speak slowly.

Eastman: [Narrowing his eyes a little] Well, I represent the group Representation Without Taxation, we promote the cause of The Uptrodden, the overlooked minority of super powerful individuals and elitist groups that seek nothing other than everything. We are pushing for the removal of all taxes and the deportation of the jobless.

Cadbury: I presume I donate to this group. Gullet?

Gullet: You don’t believe in donations, detective.

Cadbury: Well if I did, I would certainly be donating to trucking companies… so as to get them to haul truckloads of cash to the premises of this group. Sounds really like a solid platform founded on thoroughly turgid principles. I know Mark would approve.

Eastman: Mark?

Cadbury: Mark von Cola – now there was a politician I could really trust. [Pauses, looks coyly at Eastman with one eye] Tragic what happened to him…

Eastman: What did happen to him? Last I heard he had disappeared.

Cadbury: Disappearance is not tragic? Not a happening? To vaporize, vanish, blink out like a black light in the void of the night?

Eastman: Well that depends, really. We all wish to disappear sometimes.

Cadbury: Disappearance is a hollow act without a curtain call.

Eastman: [Looking at a tree] Perhaps sir, however I am becoming late for a meeting cross-town with the… constabulation.

Cadbury: You are not interested in Mark von Cola?

Eastman: I have no time to be interested in him, or anyone else. I am too busy representing the people. However, do tell me what is the latest?

Cadbury: He was found to have a tie to your group Representation Without Taxation.

Eastman: Yes, I believe he was in the group. Although frankly I questioned his motives.

Cadbury: Why would motives concern you?

Eastman: They do not. Nothing concerns me except for The War On Losing.

Cadbury: A battle we can’t afford to lose. What was von Cola’s role in the group exactly?

Eastman: Building financial machinery, internal public relations, body politic platform development and I believe something to do with catering.

Cadbury: Something of an all-rounder?

Eastman: It is a small group.

Cadbury: How many people in it.

Eastman: Since Mark von Cola left? [Taking a breath] One. Suffice to say I’m more than a little miffed by Mark, however I can’t say I blame him. Disappearance comes to us all. And the odds were stacked all over him.

Cadbury: Humph. Let’s talk color. What do you think about mauve for winter?

Eastman: [Blinking loudly] My meeting with the Stipulators…

Cadbury: Do you eat ice cream?

Eastman: Sometimes.

Cadbury: You shouldn’t. [Dusting his hands lightly] Okay, look, good, you have been a very great help in this case. More than you would imagine. We need to make sure we are committing the right crime in the end.

Eastman was already walking away, nodding, smiling and waving in a highly coordinated dance of gestures, each individually awkward, but executed so seamlessly that one had to admire the overall effect.

Cadbury stood and applauded without feeling out of place at all.

Cadbury: [After 30 seconds of applause] Let’s get out of here. I need some baths.

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22: To be associated with pleasure, perchance it may offer something good

The lady shifted with uncertainty from one high heel to another. She was distinctively attractive, the cut of her dress was threatening, and her strawberry-blond hair was set off seductively by the sun.

Perhaps her uncertainty was triggered by Cadbury Fife, who had just approached in a tie-less pepperstripe suit and dual cane formation.

Together, they stood on the edge of a small cliff overlooking a beach.

Cadbury: Have we met before?

Lady: I don’t think so?

Cadbury: You seem nervous, as though you are standing on the edge. Perhaps you have committed a crime of some sort, or are positioning for some manner of hanky-panky?

Lady: [Looking out over the cliff] Perhaps I am merely standing on the edge, since that is where you requested to meet.

Gullet: [Stepping forward, seemingly from the shadows or perhaps out of a hole] Madam, this is Cadbury Fife, noted detective at large, and operator of the eponymous detective agency. Detective, this is Phaorette Muharajerin. You have not met before, however it is possible that the lady conducted some personal investigations. On your part, per regular operating procedure, you have not been briefed on this person of interest in our case.

Cadbury: [Looking at Gullet with disdain] Why thank you for that scripted address, I should like to use that in a speech sometime. Now, we are here on business are we not?

Gullet: Yes, we are.

Cadbury: [Still looking at Gullet with disdain] And what is that business exactly?

Phaorette: Yes, I’m confused about that too.

Gullet: This is The Case of The Missing Self… though we may need to rename it, because it turned to be a fairly idiotic name in retrospect… but it essentially involves the disappearance of Mark von Cola, the politician.

Phaorette: Yes, I was acquainted with Mark.

Cadbury: Interesting, but let’s do things in the right order here. How did you first kill him?

Phaorette: If you meant ‘how did I first meet him?’, it was at a rally. He spoke passionately about the rights of the worker, and  how they should be removed, and then he removed my clothing and we had passionate sex in his car.

Cadbury: Well in fact I was wondering how you first killed him, that is to say, killed him for the first time, and I do think you answered that. I would warn you against trying that passion trick of yours on me however, as I am passionless, and also I do not have a car.

Phaorette: Perfectly okay I assure you. I did not kill Mark von Cola, however, what would be my purpose for doing that?

Cadbury: Purpose is the daughter of the mother of desire. [Turning to Gullet] Let’s all sit on buckets shall we?

Gullet produced some buckets and began insisting that Phaorette sat on one. Eventually, after some confusion related to Phaorette having Cadbury’s bucket, they all were seated.

Phaorette: [The wind blowing her hair] Deluxe.

Cadbury: What is your position on international relations?

Phaorette: All relations are okay by me.

Cadbury: Doubtless. So really, why were you  at that rally? I sense that you have no interest in politics. No one does – even the politicians have recently give up the pretense of interest.

Phaorette: I enjoy groups of people, speeches, chants and the shape of hastily erected pulpits. Mark von Cola was a handsome beast, I saw him on the television. [Pausing in brief reverie] And he was certainly a beast to me.

Cadbury: Well, that is nice. Do you like to go to the sports?

Phaorette: The sports?

Cadbury: To see the sports squads dance around the sports park?

Phaorette: I don’t know what you are talking about, but let’s just say ‘no’.

Cadbury: Are you in a song team? Some type of typist club? A group dedicated to discussing discussions?

Being pleasurable to the eye, and a titanic force of ultra-confidence, people were generally inclined to like Cadbury Fife when they first met him. Everyone either enjoys pleasure, or would like to be associated with pleasure, perchance it may offer something good. Then, after some discussion, usually people drifted into a phase where it became clear that something was somewhat amiss, and, depending on their personal predilections, either fell madly in love with Cadbury Fife or began despising him. Later they usually had sex with him, and this typically reinforced their prior disposition.

Phaorette: I have a hair appointment. And my dog is sick. My dog also has a hair appointment. Do you have what you need from me?

Cadbury: [Looking at Gullet] Do dogs get sick? [Gullet nods] Make a note of that.

Gullet appears to take a note - he has been meticulously note taking as usual. It is not clear what his notes are however.

Cadbury: Did he, von Cola, love you?

Phaorette: [Making a bemused face] Of course not. People don’t love people.

They both stood for a moment, wobbling, if not nodding, in the breeze.

Cadbury: We need to go to my car.

 

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21: Juggle all the world’s detritus

Cadbury Fife arrived at the offices of Cadbury Fife’s Detective Agency.

He decided to surprise the world by entering via the front door.

Cadbury: [Entering via the front door] What is going on here!?

Gullet: Database Entry, Profile Assessment, Psychological Evaluations and Report Production. Also I have ordered brunch.

Cadbury: Ridiculous answers all. Except for brunch, which should have an outsanding impact on our bottom line.

Gullet: Late brunch.

Cadbury: Afternoon brunch. Eating before noon is crass.

At that moment a robot waiter appeared with their order. Gullet was having swordfish, sword-in, garnished with something red. Cadbury was having a whole Grapefruit, sliced into thirds, with Grapefruit Juice.

They retired to the balcony for brunch.

Cadbury: What is all this report profile do-whop diddley?

Gullet: The Case of The Missing Self. Discovery is complete and we are proceeding with the preliminary investigations.

Cadbury: Is this the thing with the, ah, crazy lady?

Gullet: Selia.

Cadbury: Yes, that one. I thought she possibly didn’t make it through our program. What happened to her?

Gullet: She has been under my personal observation for the last week. Quite an interesting case. Also, her case is quite interesting.

Cadbury: Hmmm, well it can’t be that interesting because I can’t remember a thing about it.

Gullet: Do not concern yourself, I have it all on file.

Cadbury is flicking grapefruit seeds into the air, and watching them sail out over the balcony edge. He imagined them flying into lawyers ears and implanting their brains with obscure thoughts of art and love.

Cadbury: Why do I need to do all these cases? It’e bewildering, befuddling, quite bam-slam-boozling. Must I juggle all the world’s detritus on my nimble finger-tips??

Gullet: Well, this is the only case we are conducting right now.

Cadbury: Huh, that’s a little odd don’t you think?

Gullet: Probably so. [Pauses a moment to consider this rather profound issue, before moving on] Tomorrow we will be doing some on-site interviews-

Cadbury: [Making a 'sour' face] This grapefruit is a real bitch.

Gullet: It’s a perfect grapefruit?

Cadbury: My compliments to the fruitbot.

Gullet: So tomorrow we will be doing some on-site discussions with associates of the missing person.

Cadbury: There is a missing person?

Gullet: Turns out, yes.

Cadbury: Really, a most peculiar case. Don’t know what to make of it.

Gullet: Well, a few moments ago you hadn’t even remembered it.

Cadbury: [Turning with mock or real disdain] Yes, but Gullet, if you would please tune in, while you were waving your reports around in the air like a Professor of Clouds, I have fully debriefed myself on the matter at hand. In fact, I distinctly recall solving this case already.

Gullet: Well, that is true. Hence it has just started.

Cadbury: Indeed. [Clearing throat] Is this juice 110 Proof?

Gullet: I think the 110 Proof juice struck export issues due to false advertising. Those Congoans are sticklers for math and reality.

Cadbury: Don’t I know it. The madness of out of control truthism. Anyway this juice tastes watered down, like fish urine – please have that corrected.

At this point Cadbury had finished his brunch, while Gullet had not even started his. Cadbury rose and rubbed his stomach.

Cadbury: I will need the following for our investigations tomorrow. 1. A large carving knife in a suitcase. 2. A heavy crushing weight 3. A defibulator in case of extreme medical emergency. [Afterthought] Also, do you know the location of my Detective’s Pipe?

Gullet: [Taking notes on an electronic device.] I do not.

Cadbury: Good.

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20: Coming from an axis of dementia

The world faded in without a modicum of decency.

It is true that Selia rarely recognized her surroundings when she initially awoke. This always gave her moments of glistening hope… which then proceeded to pop like soap-filled bubbles as she recognized the usual grab-bag of twirly lights and whistles from the same place she had left the night before.

On this occasion however she had been shades of awake for minutes without recognizing anything whatsoever. Soon she would be able to stand and that would yield great confusion as to the direction to head in order to find a shower or some type of running water.

Her head needed washing.

As the blur cleared, across the room, through a series of stinging blinks, she thought she saw a familiar face. A familiar unsmiling, unblinking, metal face.

That idiot robot waiter that kept giving her watered down drinks!

She realized after a moment however that though this was in fact a robot, it was not one she knew. And it couldn’t be a waiter because it wasn’t wearing a bow tie.

All this thinking was making her unconscious.

Some hours later Selia awake again in approximately the same spot, momentarily became excited that she may have materialized into a magnificent utopia, then immediately settled back into the vapid reality of reality. This time however there was a familiar face, although not one she was entirely sure she liked.

Gullet: How is the young lady?

Selia: [Straining to understand why Gullet was appearing at her bedside, in her dreams, or in the universe more broadly. Also straining to talk or think properly.] Say what now who?

Gullet: Ah. Confused, I see. Somewhat of a puddle you fell into.

Selia: Puddle what?

Gullet: You had some ‘troubles’ madam, let us just say.

Selia: [Pondering] Troubles… [A flicker of confused anger] Someone or something was watering my drinks down….

Gullet: I suspect not madam… perhaps you mean ‘watered up’?

Selia: I, ah…. [Eyeing Gullet suspiciously] Hmmm….

Gullet: Do you need any help?

Selia: Probably. I do feel rather helpless. My arm…

Gullet: Your arm?

Selia: [Shaking her left arm] It’s okay, it’s here now. Cold though. And a little hot. [Pointing across the room at the robot that had just reappeared in her focus] What’s that thing!?

Gullet: That is Little Zip, a Betabot. I use it to test various new features. Currently it can juggle carrots while reciting poetry. Would you like to see?

Selia: No. Not at all. But thanks. Poetry makes me ill, actually. Like being on a boat or something.

Gullet: I do understand. Poetry is certainly quite sickening. Perhaps you would like a carrot?

Selia: Carrots also make me ill. Where am I?

Gullet: In what sense?

Selia: Well, the sense of location.

Gullet: Oh yes, well, this loca… this location is my home madam.

At this point a robot waiter did appear, replete with bow tie and serving tray. The tray carried a fizzing drink.

Gullet: You should like this. It will reduce the effects of the alcohol and poetry.

Selia: [Pointing at the waiter] Why is that thing here?

Gullet: It’s my Test Waiterbot. I make them you know. I don’t really need one at home since I do not consume liquids, however I do enjoy being served things. And the testing is important at times.

Selia: [Pointing now at Gullet] Errr….

Gullet: Have this concoction. It is carrot-free.

Selia suddenly had a belt of queasiness hit her that made her think that any concoction, despite coming from an axis of dementia such as Gullet and the Waiterbot, could not make things worse.

She took the drink and drank it.

It tasted good, but with a disgusting aftertaste. Though the aftertaste may have been from what was previously in her mouth. In any case she did feel instantly clearer, if not better.

Selia: Thank you I think.

Gullet: Good. That had previously only been tested on machines. Do you think this Politician’s Strike will ever break?

Selia: [Feeling various body parts and taken by surprise by the question]  I don’t know or care. I probably should go to work.

Gullet: It is Sunday. You don’t work on Sunday any more than you care about politics.

Selia: I probably should go to church.

Gullet: You don’t go to church.

Selia: How do you know? [Moving on] Well I have to now to overcome this trauma. Wait, maybe this is church. It seems like one. Do they have robots at church?

Gullet: Mine does. So you never took an interest in your boyfriend’s work?

Selia: [Pausing momentarily] Well I have no interest in my own work, why should I have cared about his?

Gullet: What does interest you?

Selia: [Pausing less momentarily] There was a time when I thought my secrets would mean something. Might seem funny to say that. And it turns out it wasn’t funny – and they didn’t mean anything. And in the end the only thing that interested me about them was that they were secrets. [Scratching her head rigorously] I appear to have an itchy skull cavity.

Gullet: I have a secret. [Selia slowed her head scratching just enough to suggest she may be interested in his secret] I only pretend to walk with a limp because it seems to make people happy.

Selia: [Smiling slightly] That is really a terrible secret. It’s very nice of you though. I didn’t know you were so nice. I’m not nice at all. [Long pause, contemplating, smile dissipating] I didn’t really like Mark.

Gullet: [Leaning forward to a somewhat uncomfortable angle] What was wrong with him?

Selia: [Withdrawing somewhat as though she had realized an error]  Oh I don’t know. Things the size of nothing but the weight of everything.

Gullet: Imperfection is frustrating. Why do you always refer to him in the past tense?

There was a long pause as Selia stopped scratching, rubbing and writhing long enough to allow a terrible wave of sadness to overwhelm her. She began crying, trembling slightly, her controlled confusion giving way to a cruel befuddlement of tears.

Selia: I guess… because I hope he will never be found.

She put a finger into her mouth and bit into it until her teeth crushed the bone.

Then she started screaming.

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19: A beautiful man with bountiful brain-bosoms

After the Great Collision, Marquis The Poet was triumphant in an incessantly despondent bleat. The squad of archaeologists remained diligent in their pursuit of theoretical research. And Selia and Cadbury continued discussing the Case of the Missing Self.

Selia: Why do you insist that my boyfriend doesn’t exist? Why would I come to you to solve a case that isn’t real? Do you think I am insane?

Cadbury: Yes.

Selia paused to allow the response to be followed by some nuance of description that would make it feel less like blunt force trauma. Instead, she only heard the tickety tack of Gullet tapping out notes on a mobile computing device from a lounge area behind them.

Selia: Grand that it’s all so easy for you! Oh my, she’s insane! She’s insane! What a thoroughly male perspective! And when that aggravates her, it will be further proof of the insanity! It’s a self-fulfilling fulfillment fantasy! And from you, the King of the Deranged Lunatics! How lush, how precious!!

Gullet was typing furiously at this point, and wisps of smoke were potentially rising from his keyboard.

Gullet: [Whispering] Hear this on the grapevine.

Cadbury: The insane can be so hysterical sometimes. Why don’t they just embrace themselves? Be insane. Be proud. Out and insanely loud on a crazy cloud.

Marquis:
I am out, but not proud,
Gay as a caboodle of poodles,
But pffft who cares what grinds my groin,
You know relationships are for the underslime…

Selia: How does one defend one’s sanity really? Fortunately it doesn’t matter. I’m asking you to find someone, not to psychoanalyze me.

Cadbury: You are assuming that the person I am to find is not inside your mind.

Their robot waiter came and took some more drink orders. Selia ordered a Gin and Lemonade. Cadbury ordered a Detective’s Special. Gullet ordered an empty glass.

Marquis:
I’m straight too, as straight as my path to hell for being gay,
Decided to branch out and hate all people,
In a sexual way. You know they’re as fine as velvet,
I just wouldn’t want to touch them.

Selia: Well then, okay. Who knows what is rattling around in there? I am insane you know. Unabashedly. So let’s go.

Cadbury: It is not “going” that is required madam. It is “being”.

He paused, seemingly for effect, however the seeming effect was apparently taking a while to be achieved.

Selia: [Rapidly downing her drink] Well I was speaking…. speakaphorically. Really, not sure I care at this point. I mean I need to train more to sustain this relationship or something, I don’t know. It is very tough on the anabolic… fitness… and also perhaps a diet involving less than 5o% Gin. This poet is extremely annoying.

Marquis:
If I am annoying you, think what it must be like on the inside,
If it aggravates you to be asked to think about what it must be like on the inside,
Think about how I must feel having to ask you to think about how I must feel,
And then for just a moment, you will be The Poet.

Cadbury: Gullet, make 3 notes. Note 1: Client is physically and artistically unfit. Note 2: Cadbury Fife is a beautiful man with bountiful brain-bosoms. Note 3: Check on grapefruit supplies. Note 3.1416: Never smile in photographs or paragraphs. Note 2.7183: Check on architecture of space-time. Sub-note: Look for holes in things. External reference: remember to sleep an hour a week. Okay, where were we?

Selia was becoming somewhat inebriated and was embroiled in a tete-a-tete with the robot waiter about its service standards. For its part the robot was making good use of the full lexicon of it’s Customer Service Module, primarily involving the phrases “I understand your point but I don’t care”, “Would you like to consult another identical robot about that?”, and “Have I given you unconscionable service today?”.

Selia fell right off her bucket.

Cadbury: Alcohol. Truly the respite of the emotionally incorrigible.

Gullet: [Receiving another empty glass from the waiter] I will have the body taken care of. And the emotions.

Cadbury: [Rising] It is time for my act.

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18: The ultimate act of dance destruction

Selia was running again.

She ran past monsters in the mist, gawking inanely. She ran past wretched creatures with gummy lips and concave chests, reaching for her. She ran past a massive army of poles, positioned by a pole leader that had a great mastery of the battlefield.

She would consider taking up running professionally if it wasn’t so connected to sweat and fear.

On this occasion she felt like she was moving quite quickly, given that she wasn’t wearing her running dress or her running heels, but the room was inexplicably chasing her down. And the harder she pumped her arms, the faster the room moved… until she felt herself in arrested motion, flailing hopelessly, and then being swept past, pushed back and picked up into the air.

Picked up into the air.

Struggling, swirling, gawking inanely at the monsters in the mist, up and down and up some more, until Selia saw a familiar monster materialize and form a carbon outline.

Cadbury Fife, drinking a Grapefruit Juice.

Cadbury: Why thank you, Gullet.

Gullet placed Selia delicately into her chair, which could only be described as “bucket-inspired”, and then promptly pseudo-vanished.

Cadbury: Thought you might strike some sort of trouble, sprinting  off like that. The people here are… inquisitive.

Selia was panting, yet not breathing. Or at least she wasn’t getting any air. HurtyVibes seemed to have a shortage of air.

Even though her vision was blurred, or the room was blurry, Selia could see that, in the hours she had been running, the show had moved on. The Scientists were still hard at work, but there was no sign of Marquis the Poet, and the Floralator had been replaced by a crew of people that apparently specialized in crashing into each other.

Cadbury: You don’t want to miss the Slamdancing.

As he said this two of the dancers lined up on opposite ends of the stage, then, in perfect time with the bossa nova rhythm, made a serious of complex moves towards each other before colliding violently in the center. As they lay writhing, some other squad members danced out stylishly and, with perfectly synced moves, dragged the clearly injured dancers off stage.

Cadbury: Dance is a such a beautiful means of expression, don’t you think?

Selia: [Unsure] It really does depend.

Cadbury: Depend on you or the dance?

Selia: Am I some type of prisoner now?

Cadbury: Prisoner? Why would I imprison people when all I want is to escape from them?

Selia: Something to do with the insanity?

Cadbury: You cause me to chuckle madam. Chuckle out loud. Or you would, if my chucklebox hadn’t been lost in an amusing incident. In any case…. I am merely here trying to solve your case.

Selia: Oh yes, that.

Cadbury: For some reason you seem resistant.

Selia: [Staring coldly] Well, that is amusing.

The slamdance bossa nova had transfigured into a gut-tumbling assault of tribal drums, leading up to a grand finale in which the entire remaining crew of about 10 dancers was, apparently, to smash into each other in an ultimate act of dance destruction.

The lawyers below had been driven into a kind of competitive frenzy as though they were betting on which dancers would survive. An especially awkward looking dancer wearing a brash purple jacket and a snorkel face mask appeared to be a favorite.

Cadbury: I do have the case solved. I just have a few missing pieces to fill before I can commit the crime.

Selia: [Distracted by the building drama] What? Crime?

Cadbury: Yes I do have that question also.

The dancers were assembling around the edges of the stage, the music was cresting as a cacophony, and the crowd in parts was being ripped from its nonchalant ambivalence.

Cadbury: So, who is Mark really?

As Selia turned blinkingly to look at the detective, the dancers began their final sequence.

Selia: My boyfriend.

The drums marched purposefully into their final bar.

Cadbury: And if you didn’t have a boyfriend, who would Mark be?

With each beat the players bounded poetically from the edges towards what would seemingly be an explosive collision at the center. Cadbury was also blinking in perfect rhythm.

Selia: He is a Politician.

On the eighth beat, every drum in the world was struck… and the dancers collided face-first  in a horrible mash of flesh and newly exposed bones.

Cadbury: And if Mark didn’t exist what would he be then?

HurtyVibes shuddered for what seemed like minutes as the dying strains of the danceslam trailed off. The crowd strained forward just slightly to see what had become of the artists.

Selia: [Straining for the right answer to this questionable interrogatory] Missing?

Some dancers were starting to wriggle away from the mangled mess of body parts. At least two had been flung out from the wreckage and seemed somewhat intact. A gentle moaning was heard rising above the fading musical reverberation.

Cadbury: No, I don’t think it is Mark that is missing.

And from the central pit of wreckage we could see rising, as though transcending a sea of human misery, a single snorkel… a purple jacket… and, as the crowd oohed in appreciation the snorkeled dancer raised his arms, first in victory, then to his mask.

And he pulled the mask off and announced himself.

Cadbury: To be missing you must first exist.

Mystery Dancer: Yes, it is me…

The crowd cheered while Selia stared at Cadbury with her version of disdain.

Mystery Dancer: Marquis, The Poet!

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17: Relationships for the underslime

Two security guys stood on show outside the HurtyVibes Recreation Club.

Security Guy 1: [Whispering] It’s The Detective…

Security Guy 2 nodded into his muscles and cleared a path from some surrounding human foliage so that Cadbury and Selia could move forward.

Wearing his thickest Detective’s overcoat Cadbury came up with Selia half on his arm, adorned in a body hugging violet crush dress. The two sliced through a small crowd that was lingering with unclear intentions outside the club, and were birthed into the womb-like environment of the HurtyVibes lobby.

Once inside they rode on legs up a flight of impressive burgundy stairs, only to reach the top, nod at what were presumably more security staff, and then descend a seemingly symmetrical set of stairs.

At the bottom the scene of the HurtyVibes Recreation Club unfolded itself.

The Club consisted of a massive room, that could probably hold 10,000, though was not densely populated at the moment, surrounded on 3 sides by a continuous set of stages, subdivided in a haphazard and perhaps ad hoc fashion. At various places in the main area there were elevated sections that could have also been stages, however they were holding visitors. Some of the elevated sections had their own elevated sections, and it was to one of these that Cadbury walked Selia, along the way nodding sternly to a number of distressed looking individuals and some groups manifestly from an underworld or overworld organization.

Suffice to say Selia was glad to arrive at the destination, which was relatively regal in nature, even being demarked by a rope and a small hanging sign: “FIFE”.

Cadbury: Let us party.

Their area was empty, however gave a great view of the surrounds, which Selia perused.

A small party of what were certainly lawyers was assembled on the raised section below them… she could tell that they were lawyers based solely on their habit of drooling whilst standing excessively upright.

Below that, on floor level, the crowd was of all types, their primary characteristic seeming to be that they didn’t do anything especially intently, which included watching the stages.

On a stage to the left of them appeared to be a computer laboratory, with a square table of computer equipment and people operating it, and generally acting like scientists. It was not clear if this was a performance, part of the club administration, or sub-leased office space.

To the right was a stage with an empty, clear, hemispheric bubble, maybe 10 feet in radius.

Then, in front, maybe 50 feet out and raised from floor level but below them, was a stage area that seemed to be preparing for some activity.

An awkward looking man suddenly stepped out of the crowd, leaped onto the stage, struck the floorboards with a series of thuds and rolled. He lay there for a full minute, encouraging the thought that seemed quite likely, that he was badly injured.

Marquis: I am badly injured.

Marquis: [Getting to feet] But it is alright, because new injury does not matter. New sadness is beside the point. New failure is a bath of circumspection. Let’s hop into the hot tub with the Poet, people…

A hot tub is wheeled out and the Poet became naked, exposing a gangling, sublimely ridiculous body.

Marquis: [Grinning as he gets into the tub] I am The Marquis. You can call me Marquis.

The Marquis was getting marginal attention from those in his immediate vicinity, and reduced focus as one moved away, until a cusp was reached where people were equally close to the Flower Impersonator (The Imfloralator) who had entered the Bubble on the adjoining stage to the right and begun doing a surprising accurate impression of some Foxglove.

Marquis:
As the Poet I have failed before I get into the Tub,
I am 2 parts Idiot, -1 parts Genius.

Selia was strangely riveted by the performance of Marquis, whilst Cadbury had become preoccupied with a bug that had landed on his hand.

Marquis:
As the Poet of course, you can see, I am all alone in the Tub,
Though I will say that I could have had a girl, a real zoomer,
But I didn’t want one because, well, it wouldn’t have fitted with my per-son-a,
And it wouldn’t have fitted nicely in the Tub.

A robot waiter appeared to take orders. Selia ordered an Imploding Orgasm (50% Gin, 50% Lemonade) and Cadbury ordered a Detective’s Special.

The computer equipment on stage left had begun projecting imagery of archaeological digs onto some surround screens, along with streams of output from data analysis programs. The small crew of faux scientists typed at keyboards as though inflicted with some form of manic dysrhythmia.

Marquis:
There’s blood in the Tub, it’s gushing!
I’m cut and brooding, menstruating, peeing red for you,
Because I’m the Poet, and this is the Tub,
And I’m flushing my pain into your life’s sewer.

The fluid in the Tub had turned an ominous shade of dark.

Cadbury: Rampant idiot parading around as a fool!!

He was talking to the bug that was now mockingly doing circuits around his head.

Marquis:
Relationships, you know, they’re for the underslime of our so-called joke civilization,
Why cut your veins on the sharp edges of someone possibly even worse than you?
Cut your veins on your own veins, I say, I do, I say
I work alone, I am the Poet.

The Imfloralator had morphed into a Flytrap and was attracting more attention with violent, spasming attack moves. Simultaneously a cloud of bugs appeared to have been released into the Bubble.

Marquis:
Cut your veins on your own veins and bleed bleed bleed into a carafe fashioned from the flesh of your heart,
And drink your love for free, like me,
I alone am the Poet,
And I am the Poet so I may remain alone.

Marquis The Poet began to slowly submerge himself.

Marquis:
Now watch me go under.

As this happened, the cloud of apparently flesh-eating bugs was attacking the Imfloralator with some passion, though he was fighting back by trying to eat them. He also had become covered in a sticky substance that slowed the bugs down, however they appeared to be both outnumbering him and outmaneuvering him.

Meanwhile, the archaeology  data seemed to be reaching a intense peak of analytical euphoria. The screens were strobing rapidly between 3 dimensional mathematical structures and reconstructions of carnivorous dinosaurs.

The scientists had gone into uncontrolled body spasms.

The club was filling with a haze.

The robot waiter arrived with their drinks.

The Imfloralator screamed in a shrill and mortal pain.

Marquis the Poet disappeared below the surface.

Cadbury killed his bug and ate it.

Selia stood and ran.

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