Telly stood on the sidewalk next to the residential street holding a suitcase. He looked up at the sky with a perplexed expression on his face. Everything that was supposed to be there was there. The pale yellow sun was sitting high in the western sky. There were some puffy, fair-weather cumulous clouds sitting in the sky like fat little Buddhas. To the east, a waxing gibbous moon was hanging orange and low in the horizon. There was no wind and all around was silent, except for a solitary crow that was harking away in a tree nearby. The sun looked pale and white, but the sunlight around seemed diffused and reddish. He looked around at the townhouses that surrounded him. They looked very modern, but also very old at the same time. Some were in pristine condition, others were decrepit, some were burned out or looked like they had been abandoned for decades. They were all triangular shaped, with brick trims and cedar-board sides. Some were blue, others were brown, others red, or green, or grey, or so decrepit that they no longer had any paint on them. Some were very large, others were much smaller.
All around the houses were trees here and there, some which towered high up into the air. There were cedars, pines, maples, oaks. Carports stood along both sides of the streets. They were open ended, with spaces for seven cars in each. There were open parking spaces between the carports, with spaces for another five cars. There was plenty of parking.
Cars of various sorts were parked in the ports. Cars from the 1950’s, cars from the 1980’s, cars from every decade were represented. Some looked like they hadn’t been driven for years, others looked brand new and well cared for. Telly looked all around him. The houses seemed to go in every direction, crowding themselves into the surrounding hills, snaking up and down hills and valleys. Telly could see a huge, 300-plus-foot radio tower in the distance, its red light on the top blinking on and off like an eye. He could hear a river bubbling away in the distance.
He crossed the street and walked past the carport. He found himself in the middle of a communal area. To his right was a grassy quad area with two crabapple trees, and a large metal pipe arching out of the earth and back down again, a gauge of some sort on the side of it. To his left, and to his front, were houses. There was a small wooden park bench. Red bricks made up the floor of the central area, and a small fountain was playing in the middle. Telly heard a door open in a house just past the second crabapple tree to his right. He saw an old lady emerge from the house, walking a black, shaggy dog on a leash. She guided the dog into the grassy area. Telly walked along the sidewalk and soon found himself facing the woman. She had on a dark pants suit with a white sweater and glasses. Her hair was grey and she looked quite old.
“Excuse me? I was wondering if you could help me. I just moved here, but I don’t know which house is mine. Can you help me, perhaps?”
“You don’t know which house is yours? How the hell do you not know which house is yours? That has got to be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!” the woman snapped while the dog stared at Telly with almost total disinterest.
“I… don’t know… which one… it is…” Telly said, his narcolepsy starting to seize him. He staggered around with his eyes half shut, his ears ringing and the colors flickering in and out of a fuzzy black and white buzzscape.
“Don’t know where your house is! You shit kid!” Telly could hear the old lady’s voice echoing through his head. “Maybe if you actually looked you would see where your house is. Oh you idiot! You lying idiot! Liar! Liar! LIAR! LIARRRR!!!!!” He was now seeing an image in his mind of a frantic springer spaniel dog writhing and barking in a front of a window. The dog was becoming more and more agitated and crazy. Telly started screaming and tearing at his hair in his mind while he staggered and swooned around almost completely unconscious. The world was fading in and out of a dark field and he soon felt himself plunging into a deep, black abyss, screaming at the top of his lungs in absolute terror as he fell.
Telly suddenly snapped out of the narcolepsy attack. He had been having more and more of these attacks ever since The Move. Sometimes he would have as many as five a day, assuming that it in fact WAS a day that he was thinking back to. He would often have frightening visions during the attack. He looked up and saw that the old lady and the black dog were both gone. He decided to go into the house that he was standing right in front of to see if it was his. It was a large, brown, three-story with several windows of various sizes all over it. He went into the small courtyard in front of the house and opened the door. Inside he saw all of the familiar furniture that he was used to seeing, so he knew he had to have the right one. To his right was a kitchen, and he saw his father sitting at the kitchen table. He had a teapot in front of him, and he was sipping on a cup of tea while smoking a pipe and reading an afternoon newspaper.
“Hello, Telly. Have you had a busy day?” His father asked.
“Dad! How can I possibly know an answer to that question!” Telly shouted in anger.
“I’m just trying to make conversation,” his father replied. Telly dropped his suitcase to the floor and went to a cookie jar in the corner of the kitchen. He pulled out a package of Fig Newtons, took a few out of the package, and began eating them at the counter.
“Do you want any tea?” Telly’s father asked.
“No Dad! I don’t want any tea!! Why are you asking me that when you know I’m just going to say no?!” Telly screamed.
“Doug? Is that Telly?” Telly heard his mom say from upstairs.
“Yes, Doris! Telly is here now!” Doug shouted back.
“Doug is that Telly?” Telly said in a rude, mocking voice.
“Telly, don’t be rude towards your mother, please?” Doug whined.
“I suppose I’m going to have to go find my room now?!” Telly snapped bitterly as he picked up his suitcase and stomped up the stairs. Telly found an empty bedroom.
“Telly?’ he heard behind him. He turned around and his mother was standing in the hallway. Telly slammed the door in her face.
“AUGHHHHH!!! YOU DRIVE ME CRAZY!!! BOTH OF YOU!!! AUGHHHHHHH!!!!!” Telly began screaming at the top of his lungs in a total rage. Then he was hit by another narcolepsy attack. He clutched his head in his hands and began staggering around the empty room as the scene began fading in and out. In his mind he was still screaming, but he was actually flailing around the room like a mannequin in a boat stuck in the middle of a hurricane.
“Telly? I need to talk to you. Can I come in?” Telly could hear his mother’s distorted and echoing voice bouncing around the room and into his head. The sun was streaming through the uncurtained window.
“Telly?” he heard his mother say again. Her voice was reverbing like she was speaking through a ballpark PA. Telly finally spun down to the ground like a top and lay unconscious on the floor right next to his suitcase.
Telly was taking a walk behind the houses. There was a small road that ran behind there. Beyond was an endless, slightly hilly plain that went all the way to the horizon. To the left of the road a thorn hedge with barbed wire meshed through it ran parallel to the road, dividing the road and the steppe land beyond. It was then that a short, fat kid of twelve or thirteen came along, walking a small white whippet dog. The kid had a crewcut and a swarthy, Mediterranean appearance. Telly recognized the kid as Marion Dunstan. Telly also realized that he was no longer twenty-four years old, but was now fourteen.
“What’s up, Hemorrhoid?” Marion asked.
“Nothing,” Telly said.
“My parents are both working. Wanna come over?”
“Sure,” Telly said.
The boys walked off while Telly watched from behind. He was twenty-four again, and watching his fourteen-year-old self walk off down the path with Marion Dunstan towards Marion’s house a short distance away. He tried to remember why Marion had wanted to take him to his house, but he couldn’t recall the reason. He followed closely behind the boys, darting behind trees and bushes to avoid being seen. He looked to his right and the old lady and the black dog were behind one of the houses, watching the boys walk off. He heard a buzzing, looked up, and saw a large hornets nest up in a tree. Large black hornets were buzzing in and out of it. He moved on down the road and wound up right behind Marion Dunstan’s house. It was the last house in the row; a dirt path leading up to the street ran between it and the next row of houses. He crept behind the house and looked into the glass sliding door at the back of the house. There, he saw himself sitting on the couch with Playboy magazines spread out around him. He had his pants and underwear down around his ankles. The fat kid Marion was on his knees in front of him, giving him a blowjob while he sat with his head back. Telly recoiled at this unwanted childhood memory that he was suddenly seeing, put his hands on his head, and began staggering toward the dirt path. The narcolepsy hit him and he crumpled to the ground unconscious.
Telly woke up a short time later. The sun was still hanging in the sky where it had been the whole time. He had a splitting headache. In addition to the narcolepsy, The Move had also been giving him bad headaches. They usually didn’t last long, so he got up and resumed his walk down the path. He soon found himself in a small glade, with a giant oak tree, a cherry tree, and a group of pine trees providing a small canopy. A small spring was gurgling out of the ground, and the water flowed down into a valley beyond where it drained into a creek, which itself drained into a large river. The backs of the townhouses were still to his right. After emerging from the glade, he found himself in an open area. The row of townhouses ended abruptly at a steep hill, although the path continued on past them. He saw two women working in what looked like a large garden. One of the women, who was older, didn’t even notice Telly. The other one, who looked around eighteen, stopped what she was doing and stared at Telly while clutching her hoe in her hand. Telly thought she was very beautiful. He gave her a small wave and she immediately dropped her hoe and began walking quickly towards the last house on the end.
“Hey, wait! Wait!” Telly called out as he began running up the hill from the path towards the blue-painted house. As he began stepping around the garden, he froze when he saw a man sitting in a chair on the back porch, watching him.
“Please step no further. This is a sanctuary,” the man said. The woman walked quickly behind the man, opened a sliding glass door, entered it, and slid it shut behind her.
“A sanctuary?” Telly asked. He looked at the man in the chair. The man looked like he had to weigh at least 400 pounds. He wore a white XXL knit shirt, a pair of jean shorts, and white sneakers with no socks. He looked absolutely huge. In one hand he held a bottle of beer. His other hand grasped a small fan.
“Yes. A sanctuary. We are a sanctuary from the likes of you. I would appreciate it if you would please leave. There is nothing for you here.”
“The likes of me? What do you mean?”
“I don’t have the time today to explain it to you, assuming that you don’t actually know the answer. I have a sneaking suspicion that you do,” The man said as he fanned himself with one hand and took a swig of beer with the other.
“I… I don’t know. All I know is that ever since The Move I’ve been having these horrible headaches, or I pass out.”
“Well you got off easy then! Some of us are still trying to clean up the mess that YOU made! “ The Fat Man snapped. “That’s why we’re all here in this house. Don’t come around here and try to come off like you’re one of the Lost! I can smell a Phony from ten kilometers away! Don’t toy with me!”
“I’m… I’m not lying. Why does everyone think I’m LYING!?”
“Because after The Move everyone has been lying! Do you really require all of this to be explained to you?”
“I don’t understand… I don’t know what’s happening…”
The Fat Man’s features softened up a little. “Well… maybe you are one of the Lost,” The Fat Man stared at the ground a little, then looked up. “Tans Hansell!” he suddenly yelled out.
“What…?” Telly replied.
“Oh, I’m so sorry… you ARE one of the Lost,” The Fat Man said. He got up out of his chair, waddled over to Telly, and put his arm around his shoulder. He looked as though it was a struggle for him just to stand. “I’m sorry, but you have to be careful nowadays. Come, come inside. There’s a home for you here, if you want a home.”
The Fat Man put his arm around Telly’s shoulder, and gently guided him into the house.
The Fat Man led Telly through the back door and into the house. The inside was dark; there were no lights on. All around were children of various ages. Boys and girls. They were everywhere. They were sitting on sofas and chairs, two were playing with Hot Wheels cars in front of the stairs. They were sitting in groups on top of tables, in chairs, and on the floor. All were dressed in grungy looking clothes. There had to be at least a dozen in there. They all stared at Telly in silence, except for the two little boys playing Hot Wheels. Telly was looking through the crowd of children for the beautiful young woman he saw, but he didn’t see her anywhere.
“What is your name?” The Fat Man asked.
“My name is Telly.”
“Children! This is our new resident! His name is Telly! Please attempt to treat him with respect!” The children simply stared apathetically. “How old are you, Telly?” The Fat Man asked.
“Well, that makes you our oldest resident then! Aside, of course, from me. I’m close to double your age. The children here range from the ages of six to… well, twenty-four! The oldest until you arrived was Catherine. She’s twenty. She’s the one that you were chasing after when you arrived at our door!”
“Where is she? She’s beautiful.”
“I’m sure she would be impressed to know that you believe that,” The Fat Man said sarcastically.
Telly began to feel woozy, so he turned around and stepped back outside. The Fat Man followed him out to the porch, and sat back down in the chair.
“Catherine helps me run this place. She was actually the very first to move in. I’m sure she’s somewhere in the house assisting with the children, or the chores. That’s all she ever really does.”
“Uhhhmm… I really should tell you… uhh… what’s your name?”
“You can call me Big Bill.”
“OK, Big Bill. I really should tell you that I already have a place to live. I live here with my parents. I’m about twelve houses up that way,” Telly said as he pointed in the direction he had come from.
“Do you now?”
“Yeah, I really don’t need a place to live, and to be honest, if I did, I probably wouldn’t want it to be here.”
“Are you sure that that you really live there?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you really sure that you live with your parents?”
“Why wouldn’t I be sure of that?”
“Are you sure that it’s not that THEY live there, and you don’t?”
“Why should I believe that?”
“We have several children here whose parents live in this neighborhood, but the children don’t live with them. The Move was tough on a lot of families. Some of them stuck together, but just as many didn’t. You might live with your parents, but you don’t LIVE with them.”
“Big Bill, who or what is Tans Hansell?”
“Are you sure that you don’t know that?”
“I’m pretty sure, I guess.”
“Tans Hansell is the peddler.”
“Yes. He’s the peddler. If you haven’t seen him yet, and I’m almost completely sure that you have, then you will soon enough. Chances are that you just aren’t associating the name with the man.”
Telly began feeling another narcoleptic attack seizing him. He grasped his head and began to stagger around.
“Sit down on the ground until it passes so that you don’t smash your head open on the patio, will you please?” Big Bill said calmly as Telly staggered around. Telly sat down on the ground, slumped over on his side, and lost consciousness.
Telly eventually woke up, and he was in the same spot. He sat up and touched his head, to make sure it was still there, if nothing else. He saw that the sun was still in the same spot in the sky where it had been the whole time. He heard a noise behind him and quickly turned around. He saw that Big Bill was gone, but that he was not alone. Sitting on the patio was a dark-haired boy who looked about thirteen. He was surrounded by furs of different kinds, which were strewn on the ground around him. Telly saw the boy gently rubbing a mink stole over his face. He put it down and neatly folded it up. He took a mink coat that was next to him and started rubbing that against his face.
Telly heard a commotion in some trees across the dirt path behind the house. A group of seven or eight crows were gathered in a large tree that faced the house and were squawking away. Telly looked up at the roof and saw two crows facing the tree. One of them gave out a harsh croak and they both flew off. Telly saw that the boy was now rubbing one side of his face with the mink coat, and the other side of his face with a fox fur coat. Just then, a red haired boy the same age came out with some fishing gear, put it down, and sat next to boy, and started rubbing his own face with the fur.
“Why are you guys doing that?” Telly asked.
“I don’t know, probably because it feels good,” the first boy said as he rubbed his face.
The back door opened and Big Bill came waddling through.
“Evan! Take your furs inside so that they don’t get dirty out here!” he said as he sat down on the chair. The boy got up, grabbed the furs, and ran into the house. Telly saw that he was wearing a T-shirt and nothing else; the boy’s white butt mooned Telly as he ran inside. “And put some pants on too!” Big Bill yelled after him.
The redheaded boy got up and closed the glass door.
“Telly, this is Michael. He’s going down to the river to catch fish. Perhaps you can go with him and help out,” Big Bill said.
“I gotta extra pole if you want,” the boy said in a thick southern drawl.
“So you guys have to fish and catch all your own food?” Telly asked.
Big Bill laughed. “No! We go to the store for that! Haven’t you ever gone fishing before?”
“I have, just not here,” Telly said.
“Well you should go with Michael anyway. I don’t like him being down at the river by himself. Some very strange things can happen there,” Big Bill said. Just then, Evan, the fur boy, returned with two additional poles. He had put on a pair of shorts and some sneakers, and he had the mink stole around his neck.
“I… brought… you a pole… Telly,” The fur boy haltingly said.
Telly was suddenly seized with an intense blast of heartburn. It was so intense that he almost wanted to induce vomiting right there and then. He was concerned that the vomit would burn his mouth when it came up, so he kept it all down. His stomach felt burning and miserable.
“OK, thanks, I guess.”
“Come on, let’s go,” Michael said. The boys began walking down the hill behind the house and took a sharp right. Telly followed and was soon scrambling down a rock face which was right next to the house. At the bottom, he found himself in a large marshy area, and he headed towards the river. The boys walked side by side and were rubbing the fur stole on their faces as they walked briskly through the wet, marshy land towards the river. They came to a wooden bridge that crossed the creek, right where the creek drained into the river.
Telly noticed that it had become very overcast and misty. The river was about 50 yards wide, and its swift current made a dull roaring noise. By now the mist had thickened considerably. There were tangled limbs of trees, most of which were dead, hanging all around. Telly looked over at the boys. They were both frantically rubbing the stole over their faces and looked like they were about to start fighting over it. Just then, a big wall of mist came in and enveloped everything. He could barely see three feet in front of him. The sound of the river seemed to be all around him, and he became disoriented.
“Michael! Evan! Guys! Where are you?” he yelled out, but didn’t get any response. “Guys! Where are you?’
He started hearing voices from a large crowd in the distance. The voices were all angrily shouting, crying out, and cursing. They were getting closer and closer. Telly gasped in panic and started running away from where the voices were coming from. He ran through the thick mist, crashing into branches and tree limbs as he went. The voices were closing in behind him. He realized that he was crossing the bridge over the creek. Once he was across the creek the mist thinned out considerably, and he saw that he was once again in the open area. The sound of the river and the sound of the voices behind him intermingled into a single wall of sound. Soon, he heard footsteps on the wooden bridge. He turned around, and to his horror, he saw a mob of people running out of the mist and over the bridge, coming right after him. They were all running on all fours, like gorillas. They were laughing and shouting and yelling as they came after him. Telly saw that they were regular-looking people of all ages and from all walks of life. Many were wearing party hats. They all appeared to be enraged, however, and they were coming at him full speed.
Telly turned around and tried to run away, but it was as though he were trying to run through water. Soon, the mob overtook him, and he wound up on the ground trying to curl up into a little ball as he was surrounded by the crowd, who leaned over him yelling.
“You’re a liar!” one woman cried.
“You lie! You lie!” an old man shouted.
“Liar! Liar!! Liar!!! a group of children screamed.
“You liar!” a man said.
“LIAR!!!” yet another man said.
Telly put his hands over his ears and screamed at the top of his lungs. Soon, a thick flock of squawking crows flew overhead, blocking out what little sunlight there was. Telly gave a gurgling shriek and began running full speed towards the path as the crowd silently watched. He ran full speed back to his house, entered in a panic, and slammed the door behind him.
His father was sitting at the kitchen table with his newspaper and his pot of tea. “Hello, Telly. Have you had a busy day?” he asked.
“LEAVE ME ALONE! WHY WON’T YOU LEAVE ME ALONE!!” he screamed at his dad just before he ran upstairs.
“Telly? I need to talk to you,” he heard his mom say behind him. He turned around, and she was standing in the hallway behind him. To his horror, he saw a skull where his mother’s head should have been. He screamed in terror and slammed the door. He looked outside, and the sun, which had been in a fixed location in the sky the whole time, suddenly sank rapidly, and the world was plunged into darkness.
Telly sat terrified in his still-unfurnished bedroom as darkness enveloped everything. Some streetlights in front of and behind the house flickered on. He could hear his parents snoring away in the adjoining bedroom. He stripped down to his boxers and lay down on the floor and tried to get some sleep, but needles and pins began pricking him in the back as he lay there. He also felt like he was being bitten by insects. He decided to try to masturbate, but his penis shrank in his hand and tried to retreat into his pubic cavity. Eventually he became frustrated and got up. He climbed the stairs up to the third floor of the house, which was a large, single room with a high ceiling and a creaky ceiling fan that was whirling about above. He went to the sliding glass door and stepped out onto the large balcony.
Outside, all was dark. The plains behind the house stretched on into blackness. The path behind the house was illuminated by sodium street lamps placed every couple hundred yards or so. It was one of these lights that revealed what Telly saw next.
He was looking down over the railing when he saw a long haired, bearded man crawling along the path towards the house. The way the man was slowly kind of slithering along the ground reminded Telly of Gollum. The man looked up to where Telly was standing on the deck. He slunk over to the house, and to Telly’s horror, began to shimmy up the drainpipe. Telly quickly ran inside and locked the sliding glass door. He remembered that his bedroom window was unlocked. He began running back down the stairs as he heard the man trying to open the door. He got into his room and locked the window just as he heard the man land with a thud on the roof to the dining room that was just below his window. The man was trying to get the window open as Telly ran out of the room and down the stairs to the first floor to make sure all the doors were locked. As he went to the sliding door in the dining room and locked it, a face suddenly appeared in the window. It was the face of an infant, except that it was horribly distorted. It looked puffed up and had huge, bugging eyes. Telly screamed in horror and recoiled away from the window. Just then his dad appeared at the bottom of the stairs.
“Telly? What’s wrong?”
Telly turned to him in a rage as the hideous looking face continued to stare into the window.
“What’s wrong is that you don’t understand me! You never have!” Telly went to the front door and ran full speed out into the street. Eventually he found his way back to Big Bill’s house. By then the sun was up and the surrounding neighborhood was bathed in sunshine. As he stood in front of the house, the front door opened. To his pleasant surprise he saw Catherine emerge from the house carrying a laundry basket. She stopped in her tracks and stood still while she stared at Telly.
“Hello Catherine,” Telly said after a few seconds. “It is Catherine. Right?”
“Yeah. It’s Catherine. I guess Big Bill told you?”
“Yeah, he told me.”
“Well he never could keep his big, fat, stupid mouth shut. You’re in my way.”
“Sorry…” Telly said as he moved. “So, where are you going?’
“To do the laundry, duh,” Catherine said as she walked away. Telly turned and started following her.
“Where do you do the laundry, Catherine?”
“There’s a house over here that no one lives in, and it has a washing machine and a dryer,” Catherine replied.
“So how long have you lived here?”
“Since The Move. Just like you. Just like everybody.”
“Where’s your family?”
“I don’t know. Who cares?”
“I don’t really understand what The Move is.”
“That’s because you’re one of the Lost. I can’t stand talking to you people because you’re too stupid to realize what’s totally obvious.”
Catherine crossed the street and entered a vacant house by its rear door, which was unlocked. Telly followed her inside. There was a washer and dryer sitting in the vacant living room. Catherine opened the lid and began putting laundry into the washing machine.
“So what is it that’s so totally obvious that I’m missing?”
“You woke up today, right?”
“I… I don’t know.”
“Well you’re awake now. Right?”
“Yes… I guess…”
“So why don’t you know that you woke up today when you’re awake right now?”
“I… I don’t know…”
Catherine took a box of Tide that was sitting next to the washing machine and poured some of the powder into the tub. “See? This is why I can’t stand talking to you people. You don’t know anything. Even if someone explained everything to you from the beginning, it would be as though they were speaking Chinese or something.” She turned on the washing machine and water could be heard rushing into it.
“I’m sorry… I can’t help it…” Telly said. He was starting to feel one of his narcoleptic episodes coming.
“Look, do you see that over there?” Catherine said as she pointed behind him. Telly turned around, and in the floor of the vacant dining room, was a round opening about the size of a manhole that was filled to the top with water.
“Yes,” Telly said as his eyes blinked open and closed.
“You have to jump into it.”
“Ughhh! ‘Why… why… why’! That’s all you know how to say!” Just jump into it. Jump into it now!”
“I’m not jumping in unless I know why!” Telly yelled. He could feel the attack fully coming in, and the surrounding room was fading into black.
“Goddammit, because you have to! Don’t worry! It’ll take you wherever you want to go!” Catherine’s voice echoed through his head. He felt her push him from behind and he plunged into the dark water with a splash.
Less than a second later he was sitting on a front porch with several other people facing a deserted street, the sun setting in the west. To his left, on the ground by the porch, was another round opening filled with water. He heard a woman coughing next to him. He quickly turned and saw Connie Garko sitting by him. She was dressed in a pair of jean shorts and a T-shirt, smoking a cigarette.
“Hey, Connie,” Telly said.
“Oh. Hi, Telly. Good to see you again,” she said in a heavy New Jersey accent as she drew on her cigarette. Connie was in her early fifties, blonde, and had freckles all over her face. She, her husband, daughter, son-in-law and grandson had once been his next door neighbors.
“So where’s Max?” Telly asked. Max was Connie’s husband.
“Who knows? Who cares?” Connie replied. Just then one of the other people on the porch got up. It was Joey, Connie’s four year old grandson. He was wearing a T-shirt and a dirty pair of underwear.
“Grammy, I have to go inside,” the boy said.
“Do you have to go potty?” Connie asked. The boy nodded in affirmation.
“Hi, Jo Jo.” Telly smiled at the boy and gave him a wave.
“Hi, Telly.” The boy smiled and waved as he pronounced Telly’s name ‘Terry’. He then turned and rushed into the house.
Also on the porch were a woman with black hair and a bearded man who bore a striking resemblance to the man whom Telly saw climbing up the side of his house earlier. The woman was talking loudly to the man.
“Who are they?” Telly asked Connie.
“How the hell should I know?” she replied apathetically.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing here.”
“If you don’t know why you’re here then you need to go somewhere else,” she said as she flicked her cigarette out into the road.
“So… I need to go back in there?” Telly asked. He pointed to the water-filled hole.
“You can if you want, but I wouldn’t. Those water portals are bullshit. They only take you where you think you want to go. They don’t take you where you need to be,” Connie replied.
“There’s a creek out back!” The black-haired woman said loudly as she got up. “It’ll work much better! Come on! I’ll show you!” She grabbed Telly by his hand and they ran to the back of the house. Behind the house was a small creek. It was rocky and had an unpleasant smell.
“So what am I supposed to do?”
“Go into the creek and run! Run! Run as fast as you can! When you can’t go any faster, then dive in!”
“But it looks shallow.”
“It doesn’t matter! As soon as you can run no faster, dive in! Dive in head first! Go! GO! Run!” The woman laughed.
Telly stepped into the creek and started running as fast as he could as the woman laughed and cheered behind him. All around him were tires, rocks, old books, bottles, and the odd diaper or two. As soon as he could run no faster, he dived head first towards a group of rocks.
He found himself in the hallway of a house. He could smell dinner cooking in the kitchen. A large Doberman pinscher came into the hallway, saw Telly, and turned around and fled in fear. Telly could sense that he did not belong in this house, and didn’t know the people, so he snuck out as quickly and quietly as he could.
Outside he found himself on a street. Houses and shops lined both sides and passersby scurried past him. Cars and a couple of buses lumbered slowly down the street. He crossed the street and began walking down the sidewalk towards a group of about ten people who stood in a circle watching something on the sidewalk. When Telly approached the group, he saw that they were all surrounding a colorfully dressed man who was selling items out of a large trunk. He was in his twenties, stocky and slightly overweight, with acne and stringy blond hair that reached down just to his shoulders. He was wearing a pork pie hat, a collared shirt, shorts and sneakers, all of which were colorfully tie-dyed. He was pulling various items out of his trunk as he spoke to the crowd with a high-pitched carnival huckster-like prattle. The items ranged from tire irons to cheap perfume to an actual brick of pure gold.
“Ladies and gentleman! I present to you a bottle of the finest perfume ever to be produced in Tangiers! A fine gift for your ladies and a pleasant surprise for your gentleman!” the peddler barked as he held up a small bottle of perfume with an atomizer attached to it.
“It’s piss!” A man in the crowd laughed.
“Au contraire my good sir! This is of the rarest and the finest quality! It was the private stock of an actual sultan with a harem of twenty! Only this—and this alone—was good enough for his lusty flock! Perhaps it can have the same effect for you!” The crowd laughed as the peddler held the bottle out to the man.
“Okay I’ll take it. What do you want for it?”
“You may have this as a personal gift from me! Just be aware that I may require a favor from you in the future!”
“Don’t do it!” A Black man in the crowd warned.
The peddler scowled as he handed the perfume to the man. “Pay no attention to my sable friend here! He is still mad about his losses to me in a game of chance!”
“All of you, walk away now while you still can! You can’t trust Tans Hansell as far as you can throw him! I trusted him once, but I tell you to save yourselves from his web of deceit!” The Black Man shouted to the crowd. Telly realized that this was the Tans Hansell that Big Bill had spoken of. The crowd all smiled at each other and half of them walked off.
“Well, thanks a lot! You ruined my sale!” Hansell shouted at The Black Man.
“Don’t worry, Tans. You still have all these other pigeons. They’re probably lost. You can sell them anything, they’re so goddam spaced out and clueless,” The Black Man replied.
Telly looked around him. There were several other men and women besides himself who had stayed around. They all had blank expressions, a couple were smiling, and one woman appeared to be having a narcoleptic attack like the ones he had.
“You, sir!” Hansell said to Telly with his arms out. “You look as though you are in need! What is that I can provide for you? Would you like a house? Or a car? Perhaps an item or two from my trunk?”
“Oh sure, go for the stupidest looking one,” The Black Man said.
“No… I… I… don’t really need anything now.”
“Oh, come come! Everyone needs something! I can provide whatever it is that you want. Just ask! If it’s not in my trunk, I still may be able to provide!”
“I… I want Catherine to like me…”
“Catherine is a sweet girl! I would like to have her myself! However, she belongs to Big Bill. They might not be lovers, but they are as tied together as is possible to be! Catherine does all the chores in that house. She cares for the children, she does the laundry, she cooks, she makes sure that Bill always has a cold beer on hand! She will never part from that!” Tans Hansell replied.
The Black Man laughed. “Hey, man! Did you really just try to get Tans Hansell to pimp for you?” The rest of the crowd laughed too, except for the woman, who collapsed unconscious onto the pavement.
“You ask me for something that I cannot provide,” Tans said.
Telly looked down sadly at the pavement, turned and walked away. As he walked off he heard Tans coming up behind him.
“Wait! Wait, good sir! “
Telly turned around and saw Tans standing next to him. “Here, take this!” Hansell put in his hand a small object about the size of a golf ball. It was wrapped in wax paper. Telly opened it and saw a burnt, carbonized object. It looked like a piece of metal that had been subjected to extreme heat.
“What is this?”
“It’s what you need. You don’t realize it now, but you will.”
Telly watched as Hansell turned around and returned to the crowd, shouting and pitching like a carnival barker. Telly looked at the peddler, then back down to the object, which he placed into his pocket. He turned around and began walking away in the direction he had been heading before.
He soon got past the buildings and saw that he was in a big traffic circle. Beyond he could see that all the roadways were choked with cars that weren’t moving. Some of the cars had been abandoned, some on the road and others off it. People were wandering around in a daze. It was then that Telly realized he had to walk home. He turned in the direction of where he was pretty sure his neighborhood was, and started threading his way through the abandoned cars and the dazed passersby.
Telly walked for days, weeks, eons, epochs… he couldn’t tell. Soon after he and Tans Hansell had parted company, he walked through the stopped traffic and found power lines running in an east-west direction. There were power lines that ran near his home, so he guessed that he could follow them right back to the neighborhood. A paved path ran beneath the pylons. He got on the path, turned west, and started walking.
The power lines marched through woods, large open areas, flat areas and hilly areas. They marched through abandoned little towns, inhabited little towns, past occasional isolated houses, across rivers and over canyons. The steel pylons would go from tall poles, to skirt latticed towers, to latticed columns, and then back again. Telly walked through rain and snow, night and day. Sometimes it was cold, other times it was hot. Sometimes it was neither, and Telly could perceive no temperature at all.
Telly met many people along the way, and he was finally able to start distinguishing the Lost from the Normals and from the Phonys. The Phonys were the most dangerous. They were cunning, deceptive, and often harbored weird, selfish, or evil intentions. With a Phony, you had no way of knowing. Only the Phonys themselves would know what lurked within their dark skulls, or perhaps not. The Lost could often be just as difficult to read, but at least they were somewhat pure of heart. If they did have agendas, then at least they were relatively benign. Telly didn’t see too many Normals because most of them had the sense to stay in one place and not wander around.
He would often see Tans Hansell and The Black Man along the path here and there, usually behind an improvised booth, selling wares while The Black Man urged people to stay away. One day as he walked on the path as it wound through an endless expanse of lilies on either side, he saw Tans Hansell walking along swinging a walking cane while he whistled a tune as several people behind him all carried trunks and cases. A man whom Telly recognized as the guy who took the perfume from Tans Hansell before, was harnessed to a cart laden with various items, which he was laboriously pulling along. The Black Man was carrying a huge steamer trunk while several other people Telly had never seen were burdened with various items.
“Well, hello, my dear Telly! Fancy to be seeing you on such a lovely spring day! Perhaps I can interest you in some items in which you may be in need of! I have road flares! I have canned baked beans! I have rubies! I have diamonds! Perhaps some books and magazines to entertain you on your journey! I have manhole covers, bottled water, and gems of all colors! Why not peruse my selection? I know that you are a man of taste, my good Telly!”
“Yeah, peruse away, Telly,” The Black Man said. “Then you’ll get to haul this muthafucker’s shit around all the time like we get to do now! Yeah, go ahead and ‘peruse’!”
“Shhh! Quiet, you! I’m trying to make a sale!” Tans Hansell whispered angrily to The Black Man.
“You know what he got me for?” The Black Man said to Telly. “A goddam lemonade! A fucking little cheap assed bottle of lemonade! He said ‘Oh, here, just take it’! As soon as I drunk that shit I was pulling that cart back there that that dumb muthafucker with the perfume is pulling right now! HEY! How that perfume workin’ out for you, Hoss?” The Black Man shouted. The man harnessed to the cart simply made a grunting noise.
“If you don’t stop ruining my sale then you’ll be pulling the cart as well as carrying the trunk!” Hansell said sternly.
“Here, I don’t think I want this. Please, take this back,” Telly said as he pulled from his pocket the burnt object wrapped in cloth that Hansell had given him.
“But you need this!” Hansell said with concern.
“Why do I need it?”
“Because you need it! You might not realize it now, but you need this item very desperately!” Tans said.
“Yeah you might want to keep that, dude! If he gives you something that you don’t ask for and don’t agree to take, then you don’t have to carry around his shit,” The Black Man said.
“OK, I’m keeping it,” Telly said. “But I don’t think I’ll be needing anything else today, thank you.”
“That’s fine, that’s fine! Always another day. Always another need!” Tans Hansell smiled.
He began whistling again, turned and began walking up the path while swinging his cane. His minions filed past Telly as they carried their burdens with them.
“If you see Tans Hansell again, you better run,” The Black Man said as he shuffled past.
Telly watched as the wretched troupe disappeared along the path. He turned and resumed walking.
Telly wound up in the middle of a blizzard but he trudged on. It was unbearably hot right afterwards, but still, he kept right on walking and he never stopped.
One day as Telly walked along the path under the power lines through rolling farmland, he spotted what looked like a large, writhing, wounded animal up ahead. He soon came upon the furry mass just off the path to the right. The power lines were humming and buzzing up above in the warm sunshine. Telly recognized the twitching mass as a pile of fur coats, hats, and stoles. He turned over a couple of the coats and was immediately startled to see Evan and Michael, the two fur boys from Big Bill’s place. The boys both gasped and covered themselves up again with the furs.
“Evan? Michael? Hey, it’s me, Telly. What are you two doing out here?”
Evan peeked through a gap between one of the stoles and a coat. “We left Big Bill’s. We don’t live there anymore,” he said.
“Because we wanted to find more furs. We need new ones.”
“So what’s wrong with the ones you have?”
Michael peered out of the same gap. “Because the new ones are not the same. They’re different. We want to experience new furs. These ones are old, and we’ve rubbed against them enough. We need new furs and we can’t get any at Big Bill’s.”
“So how is Catherine?”
“She’s the same as she always was,” Evan said.
“I’m on my way back to Big Bill’s to see her. I’m going to see if she wants to start up a new home with me. Maybe you guys can come along too. We can start up our own new house. What do you guys think?”
The boys were silent for a few seconds. “That sounds sort of cool, I guess,” Michael finally said.
“Will we be able to get new furs?” Evan asked.
“We’ll try. We’ll always try. Come on, let’s go back so that we can meet Catherine. I’m sure she’ll want to start a new life with us. Once we have our new house, and have everything set up, we’ll get you some new furs. OK? Deal?”
The boys looked at each other, appeared to nod in agreement, and both rose up at once out of the furs. They were both fully dressed, and had large backpacks on. The gathered up the furs, and were soon walking along the path.
The three of them walked on slowly through all kinds of weather and scenery. They passed farms, towns, factories, waterfalls, swamps, industrial plants, houses, everything. Sometimes it rained, sometimes it snowed, sometimes it was night, sometimes it was foggy, but they kept on walking.
“So, what do you guys remember about The Move?” Telly asked them one day.
“I was sitting in traffic with my parents,” Michael said.
“I was hiding in a basement with my family,” Evan said.
“Do you remember when it actually happened?”
They both paused. “Not really,” they both said at once.
“I remember that I was sitting in the car. My parents were both really worried and had the radio on. There was some kind of attack happening. We lived in the city and were trying to get out. All of a sudden I was in that neighborhood that Big Bill lives in. I had a suitcase, and I had to find my parents. I checked all the houses one by one until I found them. But they wouldn’t talk to me. All they did was stare at the wall. Eventually I saw some kids in the neighborhood, followed them, and I wound up at Big Bill’s,” Michael said.
“I remember we were in the basement. My family and I were all praying. I remember that I suddenly had to go to the bathroom. I got up and was standing right next to a window. They all told me to get down. Next thing I knew I was standing in front of Big Bill’s house with a suitcase. I’m not really sure what happened,” Evan said.
“What about you, Telly?” Michael asked.
They walked along in silence for a few seconds. Big fat snowflakes were starting to fall out of the sky.
“I remember that we were at our house, on the porch. We had decided not to leave, but to stay right there. We were watching the TV, and had the radio on. It was an attack of some sort, like you said. I remember hearing that Russian soldiers were invading western Europe, and American soldiers were invading southern Russia. My dad was drinking tea on the porch and my mother was inside calling for me. Next thing I knew, I was in Big Bill’s neighborhood. I was carrying a suitcase, just like you guys were.”
“So, do you think The Move had something to do with that attack?” Evan asked as he rubbed one of the furs along his face.
“I think so,” Telly said.
The fat snowflakes turned into a torrent of small snowflakes, and then a raging blizzard. Telly and the two boys sat along the side of the path, using the furs as an improvised shelter. They could hear anguished voices within the howling wind. Occasionally a person would come walking by in the blinding snowstorm, screaming and wailing in agony. Eventually the storm ended, and the three of them found themselves sitting in bright noonday sun, with flowers blooming all around them.
They walked along in the stifling heat until they came upon a semi-deserted town. The power lines were now running along latticed columns, and the path appeared to be a paved-over old railroad bed. The deserted remains of a large freight railroad station stood nearby. A group of men were sitting around the station, staring silently into space. Then they noticed a water portal right next to the path. This was the first one Telly had seen since he had started this journey.
“Telly. We need more furs, so we’re going to jump in there,” Evan said.
“No! Don’t! It’ll take you to Tans Hansell! That’s what these things are for! You must not ever have any dealings with Tans Hansell! He’ll enslave you. Please don’t. I promise that I’ll get you new furs, but not this way. Please…” Telly pleaded.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be all right. Once we get our new furs we’ll come right back to you, we promise,” Michael said. The two of them then jumped into the water together. After a brief splash the water rippled out, and then was totally still again.
Telly shook his head and kept walking. He soon came upon a grey-haired man sitting on a concrete leg of one of the pylons. He was playing a harmonica and had a bottle of red wine next to him. When Telly walked by the man stopped playing and looked at him. Telly stopped and turned towards the man.
The Grey Haired Man smiled with a toothless grin. “Been walking a mighty long time, havencha?” Telly nodded in the affirmative. “You jumped into a water portal and got lost, dincha?” Telly nodded again.
The man threw his head back and started laughing. He looked at Telly with a mixture of kindness and pity.
“Well I guess old Tans got to you already, then!”
“No. He didn’t. I’ve not accepted any of his wares,” Telly replied.
“What about whutcha got in yer pocket?” The Grey Haired Man replied with that toothless smile of his.
“I-I don’t know what you mean?”
The Grey Haired Man pulled an item out of his pocket. It was a burnt piece of debris just like the one Tans Hansell had given to Telly.
“You ever wonder how the Lost stop being the Lost?” The man asked with a smile as he held the item up. “You see, EVERYONE starts off as one of the Lost, that is, unless they happened to see a Russkie missile drop to the ground right in front of them! Big Bill was one of those! He was sitting on his porch drinking a beer and saw the thing fly right past him just before it went off! He knew right where he was when he got here! I saw it too! I was on top of the USA Today building where I worked! I was up on the roof! I actually saw two missiles come in! I was watching one sputter its way right into the city! Next thing I knew, I was sitting right here!” He held up the piece of debris. “Come on, bring yours out!”
Telly could feel a sensation of heat coming out of his pocket, where the trinket was. He pulled it out and unwrapped it. He held it up and stared in wonder as it began to glow a dark red. The Grey Haired Man bolted up, put his trinket up against Telly’s, and Telly all of a sudden reeled backwards.
Immediately, Telly’s mind was filled with images of panicked crowds, crying children, cars clogging the interstates and expressways out of cities, people running around trying to find shelter, people praying, people urinating on themselves, frenzied mobs and people being trampled. All of a sudden, all of it was blotted out by a sudden white light that seared everything away instantly. Telly was blasted by a sudden narcoleptic attack, he reeled around where he was, and struggled to gain his bearings. He could hear The Grey Haired Man laughing in the background as he reeled about. Eventually, he felt himself collapse to the ground as he lost consciousness.
He found himself suddenly awake, but he was not in the same place. He was still on the path, and the power lines were now running along short metal poles on the left side of the path. There was a gurgling stream on the right side, running parallel. All around were trees, and the place was nice and cool and shady. Telly got up and resumed walking in what he assumed to be the correct direction, basing his decision on the fact that the power lines had been on the left hand side of the path for the entire journey.
As he walked, he soon heard a familiar whistling ahead of him. He recognized it right away and girded himself. Sure enough, before long he saw Tans Hansell walking along twirling his walking cane. Behind him were the minions carrying trunks and bags and pulling carts, although Telly sensed that their numbers had grown.
“Well, helloo again, my dear Telly. I wonder if perhaps THIS will be the day in which we can finally do some business, you and I!”
Telly looked at Tans Hansell in shock and rage. “You let them go right now!”
Hansell laughed. “Let them go? Why should I let them go when they provide such a valuable service to me in pulling this cart? The more carts I have, the more I can sell! I gave them what they needed; now they provide me with what I need!”
Telly looked at the boys. “What happened?” he said to them.
“He had furs! All kinds of furs!” Evan cried out. “He had every kind that we could imagine! They all felt so soft, Telly! We couldn’t resist!”
“Help us Telly, please…!” Michael said in an anguished little voice.
“I told you last time! You better run!” The Black Man said to Telly.
“Tans Hansell, I want to bargain with you for these two boys.”
Hansell gagged out a nasty-sounding little laugh. “You wish to bargain for them? Why, my dear Telly, that’s the buying and the selling of human beings! That would be unethical!”
“What you’re doing already is! You are tricking those that you are selling to into becoming your slaves! What you are doing is wrong!”
“Do you really understand what is right and wrong, Telly?” Hansell said, his face and his voice hardening. “After The Move, right and wrong ceased to exist! We make our own rights and wrongs now!”
“You are the worst of the Phonys, Tans! You swindle, you lie, you steal!”
“I give people what they want! “
“You turn them into slaves!”
“How am I supposed to maintain my selection without help? That’s all these people are doing—helping me!”
“You prey on their weaknesses and their needs! You take advantage of them!”
“I provide goods and services! It’s a free market!”
“There is nothing free that I’m seeing! All I’m seeing is bondage!”
“Please Telly…!” Evan cried.
“These boys had no idea what they were giving up when you seduced them into your servitude with your corrupted wares!”
“I gave them what they wanted! They wanted furs! I happen to have lots of furs! Furs of every kind! They wanted them and I have them! It’s basic supply and demand!”
“They wanted furs! They didn’t want to pull around your carts until the end of time!”
“It already IS the end of time!”
“Let them go!”
Tans smiled at Telly. It was not a friendly smile, but one full of cunning and hatred. “So, Telly, it seems like maybe we can do some business after all,” Tans said.
“I’m not doing any business with you!”
“Telly!” The boys cried out.
“Then we have nothing to discuss!“ Hansell said angrily.
“Let them go, Tans!”
“No! I need them to pull my cart! I gave them the furs! It’s only fair!”
“No it’s not fair! It isn’t a valid deal! You never disclosed the terms and conditions of your sale! You didn’t disclose that to any of these people!”
“Caveat emptor!” Tans replied.
“No Tans! Your claim of service against these people is invalid! You did not disclose the terms! It makes you as much of a thief as if one of them stole from you!”
A look of doubt briefly flashed across Hansell’s face. “But I provided the goods and the services! I have the right to be compensated!”
“You are required to name the compensation to the customer! The customer must know what their obligations are! “
Tans began turning a bright flaming red, and he began to distort, as if he were viewing himself in a funhouse mirror.
“I provide the goods and the services! I fulfill the needs and wants! It is within my rights to require services in return!” Hansell said in a deep and echoing voice.
“You have to let the customer know up front! It is your obligation to explain all the terms of the sale! You can’t keep those hidden! It invalidates the sale! These people have no obligation to you!”
Tans was now starting to burn. His face began peeling off as though he were in searing heat. Blisters were popping up as his face burned, and his body was distorting madly. Evan and Michael both hid their faces in their hands at the sight.
“The free enterprise system must have little or no regulation in order to be efficient! To do so otherwise compromises liberty, freedom, and social structure!’ Tans croaked.
“There is no liberty with you! There is only servitude!”
Tans burst into bright orange flames, his flesh and clothing all burning off him in strips. His face melted off revealing a skull. His eyeballs both melted out of their sockets.
“Positive balance of trade increases the wealth of all!” Tans said in an echoing, gurgling voice as the flames completely consumed him.
“Not if the customers all become slaves to you against their will! All that happens is that you become a tyrant and a despot!”
Tans gave a shuddering yell as he suddenly vanished in a giant puff of white smoke. All the carts and trunks disappeared at the same time, as did the furs around the boys’ necks. The ten people whom Tans had enslaved all stood blinking in the sunshine and staring at one another in astonishment.
“You mean it was that easy?” The Black Man cried out.
Evan and Michael ran over to Telly and threw their arms around him.
“Where are we?” A woman who had been carrying a trunk asked.
Telly turned to the group and smiled. “You are all free now. Tans Hansell no longer has any valid claim against you.”
“Oh great, now where are we supposed to go?” A man said.
“Yeah, thanks a lot! Now we’re stuck out in the middle of who knows where? Why couldn’t you mind your own fucking business, Muthafucker!?” The Black Man said.
“But… you’re free… I… freed you…” Telly stammered.
The group all moaned collectively and began shuffling on, in the direction they had been travelling before.
“Yeah, thanks for nothing!” The Perfume Man said.
“Go to Hell!” a haggard looking woman muttered as she walked past Telly.
“Nice going, asshole!” The Black Man muttered. “Tans Hansell wasn’t any picnic but it was better than being stranded out in the middle of nowhere! Yeah, this is WAY better!”
Telly watched as the group shuffled off while mumbling curses at Telly. The boys began feeling their necks.
“Our furs! Our furs are gone!” they yelled. “We’ve got to find Tans! He has furs! We’ve got to find him!”
“Are you guys serious…?” Telly exclaimed. “He had you enslaved to him and had you pulling around one of his carts against your will! Now you want to go back?”
“But… he has furs…” Evan said.
Telly rolled his eyes to the heavens, grabbed the boys by their collars, turned them in the opposite direction to where everyone else had headed, and the three of them started walking.
They soon left the glade and emerged into an endless expanse of rolling steppe land, very similar to the land their neighborhood was built on. The power line pylons turned into the same skirt latticed towers that ran near his home, so Telly figured that they did not have far to go. The boys were sullen and recalcitrant, as they didn’t have any furs now. Telly was starting to rethink his offer to make them a part of his new home.
Eventually they spied a cluster of buildings in the distance. As they got closer they saw that they had indeed arrived back at the neighborhood. They left the path and cut across the fields until they came across the barbed wire/thorn hedge barrier. The boys knew of a small gate, and they all squeezed through it. They soon found the little dirt road that ran behind all the houses. They walked right past Telly’s house, as he didn’t want to go in there. Soon, they were right back at Big Bill’s, where he was sitting on the back porch drinking his beer as usual. They all went up the hill to the house and stood before The Fat Man.
“So did everyone have a good journey? Did everyone get what they needed?”
“No!” The two boys said at once.
“We have no furs now! None at all!” Michael cried out.
“Relax, relax!” Big Bill said. “If you go up to your room I’m sure that you’ll find some furs in there. I got you some at the market. I knew that you would lose yours.”
The boys looked at each other in joy and bolted full speed into the house. Telly sat on the chair next to Bill.
“Telly, so you know, I’ve decided not to take in any more children. There are just too many now. It’s too much work for Catherine,” Bill said.
“Speaking of that Bill,” Telly said, “I want to ask your permission to ask Catherine if she wants to set up a new house with me. I’m in love with her. We can take some of the children with us, too.”
”If you do that then you might as well take them all. I can’t take care of them by myself.”
“I’m sorry Bill, but I love Catherine. She is all I think about.”
“Do you think she loves you?’
This caught Telly off guard. “I don’t know… I… hope she would.”
“What you have to understand about Catherine, is that she doesn’t have any love in her. She has a great deal of anger in her. She had a great life going for her before The Move. “
Telly paused. “Bill… while I was on my journey, I met a man who said that you knew what was happening when The Move happened, and that you saw the attack.”
Bill sighed. “Yes, he was right. When I heard on the TV that the Russians had fired all their missiles at us, and that we had fired all of ours, I knew I was a dead man. I didn’t even try to escape. I figured that even if I did somehow survive, what kind of life would it be? Instead, I got a beer out of my refrigerator and sat on my porch, just like I’m doing now. I remember seeing the missile fly right on by my house. It was making a sputtering noise, like it was running out of fuel. Then I was here.”
“That’s what I can’t figure out, Bill. Why are we all here? What is this place? Why aren’t we dead?”
“Telly, we ARE dead. All of us.”
Telly turned to Bill in shock. He felt a narcoleptic attack coming on but he fought it off.
“Do you understand much about how the human brain works?” Bill continued.
Telly just shook his head. “No, I don’t.”
“It takes 1/1000th of a second for any signal to reach the brain. Sights, sounds, pain, sensation of heat, anything. When the attack came, by the time those signals hit our brains, our brains were ashes in the wind, Telly.”
Telly just stared at Bill in astonishment, and he was starting to realize what had happened.
“Think about it, Telly,” Bill continued. “We were alive and then we were not, just like that. Since we never knew that we had died, our subconscious minds never reacted to it. We all died but our subconscious minds lived on. That’s why we’re all here now. Living frozen in the very moment where our brains and our bodies went up in clouds of vapor. What exactly do you see around you now?”
Telly paused as the answer came into his head. “It’s my old neighborhood from when I was a kid.”
“And who is everyone that you have seen?”
“It’s all people I have known,” Telly continued. “Catherine is my girlfriend from high school, Tans Hansell was my boss. You were one of my neighbors. The kids are all kids I knew back in elementary school. I’ve seen all these places before. I know all these people.”
“Exactly. We all see what our own memories and experiences brought with us. Right now I’m sitting and staring at the busy street I used to live on, what are you seeing?”
Telly looked out in front of him. “I’m seeing an endless expanse of fields behind a dirt road… a golf course… it was a golf course. This neighborhood was surrounded by a golf course!”
“And as a child you idealized it as an endless field, stretching to eternity, so that is the image that you brought with you.”
“So who do I look like to you?”
“You look like the mailman, Telly.”
Telly and Bill both broke out into laughter at that.
“What I’m trying to tell you, is that any pursuit of any relationship, be it with Cathy or anyone else, is impossible here. Neither of you are seeing the same world, she is not seeing you and you’re not seeing her. We can only see and experience what we already know of. My recommendation to you is that you pursue your happiness with whoever came here with you. Stop chasing after ghosts. Appreciate what you have right in front of you that is real. To not do so will only lead to nightmares and despair. Trust me, I’ve tried it too. it doesn’t work, and it’ll drive you crazy.. You simply have to accept what is there.”
Telly smiled at Bill, got up from the chair, and went down to the path. He turned and walked back to his house where his parents were. He opened the front door, and as he was expecting, he saw his dad sitting at the kitchen table with his tea and his newspaper.
“Hello, Telly. Have you had a busy day?”
Telly smiled. “I sure have, Dad.”
“Would you like some tea?”
“Sure Dad. I would love some.”
Telly sat down as his dad poured him a cup.
“Doug? Is Telly here?”
“Yeah, I’m here, Mom! I’ll be right up!” Telly said as he smiled at his dad and took a sip of tea.