Thursday, September 13, 2012

7/3-7/12 - The Gate is Straight, Deep, and Wide - pt. 5

You know, son, when I realized that I was actually !@#$ing immortal, and not just long-lived, anymore, I had a few nights when I lay awake, staring at the !@#$ing ceiling, and wondering what life might be like in the far, far future.

It was the 60's, and I was between missions, and I couldn't get that one !@#$ing  'in the year 2525' song out of my !@#$ head. And I wondered, if I lived long enough to see the year 9595, what would it look like? Would any of my friends be there with me? Would I actually have a !@#$ing purpose, or would I be some weird-!@#$ creature in a zoo for Martians, or something?

Would I really want to be there?

Well, son, it's the year three billion and change, and this parallel future Earth's interpretation of Jim Morrison and I are fighting like madmen to save what's left of this !@#$ed-up ball of dust from angry, walking cities carrying a techno-virus, localized entropy gone bad and rotten, and a decidedly non-Christian form of Jesus Christ.

All at !@#$ing once, no less.

The good news is that, even in this world, Jim's still got his sword and his his combat magic, and a keen focus that he didn't used to have, back in our world. The better news is that he was able to magic me up some big !@#$ing guns that don't seem to run out of ammo, much less miss.

(Even better news? He found me the world's last stash of tjbang sticks, and boy do I feel !@#$ing good right now to be chewing on a handful.)

But, as you might guess, there is bad news.

For one thing, the Moon's about to crash into the Earth, right over our !@#$ing heads, courtesy of a really !@#$ing weird thing. For another, an army of killer angels is flying here to destroy us for you-know-who, courtesy of His having returned at the worst possible !@#$ing moment, ever.

And, last but not least, and most !@#$ing pressing, we're running out of room to fight the !@#$ bio-automatons the anti-city we've just landed in is sending out to capture and convert us.

"You know," Jim says as he throws a wave of white-hot fire from the flat of his sword, boiling several cyborg brains in the process: "I really don't like this scene, man."

"Yeah?" I reply, firing away and relishing the utter lack of recoil on these things: "What's !@#$ing wrong with it, other than the obvious?"

"Expiring these people, man. They're just victims in all this. It's not really their fault this city got hijacked and decided to eat them all up."

"You got that !@#$ right," I tell him, nailing another wave of battle-borgs right in the groin, and watching with no little satisfaction as the blasts make their legs violently separate from their hips, dropping them to the ground like maimed cartoon characters: "But I think they'll !@#$ing thank you for it, later."

"They'll probably be the only ones left," he laughs, pulling off some complicated sword- and spell-craft to try and clear us a path so we can be done with this !@#$ faster. But we've got miles to go before then, waves upon waves of frenzied borgs to fight through, and I can see the !@#$ing waves of killer angels from here...

He sees the angels, too, and then something in him changes. The worry and concern are gone, suddenly, as though someone turned those feelings off from inside his skull. He half sings, half speaks a poem that I know all too !@#$ing well:

Bird of prey
Bird of prey
Flying high
Am I going to die...?

And then leaps behind me, watching my back with his sword and sorceries so I can blast our way through the waves with these lovely, big !@#$ing guns his magic has provided for me. With that change in tactics (which, to be honest, I should have !@#$ing thought of first) our way just got a little !@#$ing easier.

Will it be enough to succeed? !@#$ed if I know. But as the moon comes down so low it almost looks like we can reach up and write "!@#$ YOU" in its surface dust, I remember that Jim is never more !@#$ing magnificent than when the odds are stacked against him, the stakes are all-or-nothing, and the end is well and !@#$ing nigh.

So there's really no way we can lose this one, is there?

* * *

Did I mention this was turning out to be the craziest skull!@#$ing I ever embarked on? 

I don't know if it was the radioactive mares milk I was slugging, the Mongolian Shamans, the dead they whistled up, or that spectacular session of ghost-!@#$ing that I and my best ever frenemy had, back at the campfire. But I came to in this strange future on an alternate Earth, and here's Jim Morrison (More, as he's called here) to ply me with strange wine and listen to my numerous troubles. 

Of course, there's a trip involved. Ours takes us over a nearby Anti-City, slowly stalking its way to Yul4n-B4tt4r, and a close scan of its layout and defenses. Jim tells me it's part of the !@#$ing plan, too, but he's still figuring out what that plan is.

Not that he has a lot of time, by that point, given the Moon and the Angels and Jesus !@#$ing Christ, back and wanting to reign in blood. But there's a certain ritual about these kinds of things, as I've found out time and again with him, and he's not eager to disrupt the magic just to adhere to my sense of urgency in the face of the Moon coming in to crack this Earth open like a !@#$ing egg.

"You just got to be, man, you dig?" he tells me, pouring me more of that weird, bubbling, black wine as we rocket past the last line of the Anti-City's defenses and hurtle back into the deserts, well clear of its ability to harm us: "We're engaging in sweet subterfuge of the rules of the world, here. Every step we take from here on out is predestined for greatness, but only if we remain aware that the dance is half choice, half chance. You go too far one way or the other, and it's all over, man."

"You know I never get tired of hearing you tell me to calm down and follow your lead," I tell him, clinking my glass against his.

"'Gotta love your man,'" he sings, and I laugh black bubbles, unable to control myself. 

"Was I like this, then, too?" he asks, once I've stopped almost choking on dinosaur poop grape wine: "Back in your time, I mean."

"You were !@#$ing amazing," I say, having a heady swig: "Or he was, anyway. How do we talk about you?"

"He is me, he was me, he will be me," Jim intones, gesturing to the controls of the hover platform so as to make it slow down, change course, and take us towards his desert stronghold: "Many mortal lives, one immortal day. Into this house we're born, into this world we're thrown. Ever and ever, amen."

"So how do you know who's who?"

He laughs: "When the sun's at the horizon, do you know if it's morning or night if you don't know which way you're facing?"

"Good point."

"Yeah," he says, easing us down into the dunes: "Except I think this is night, here, man. The Moon's got something to say about that."

* * *

So what's this Jim like, then?

Well, son, he's Jim, after a fashion. His hair is lighter and straighter, worn down just past his skinny hips. He's got darker skin, maybe from somewhere on the Indian Subcontinent, and he's a head taller and quite thinner than he used to be. Wider nose, maybe. Thinner lips.

But it's the eyes, son. The eyes are exactly the !@#$ing same. Heavy and portentous, with a depth you could get !@#$ing lost in forever, and smoldering hot enough to catch even the coldest of hearts on fire.

He's wearing some weird, light robe that goes just past his ankles, high-tech sandals that seem to be synched up with all the electronics I've seen so far, and a green tabard that's part armor, part Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Every so often the brocade re-arranges itself, either to let him move easier or because it's adjusting to the differences in temperature, humidity, and exertion. 

He's also got enough metal in his ears to weld a !@#$ing Heathkit television together. Gold, silver, copper, brass, and a few other alloys and elements I'm having a hard !@#$ time identifying, all looped and stamped and dangling from every available millimeter of skin.

Oh, and he sounds almost exactly the same, too. His accent's a little off (Minneapolis by way of New Delhi, I'm thinking) and some of his slang's made up of weird Indian colloquialisms and concepts I don't have a reference for, yet. But the basic cadence and rhythm is almost exactly what I remember: slow and halting but yet strangely sure at times, and quick and winking at others. 

And he still sings like a !@#$ing angel, which is nice, seeing as how we might wind up having a fight a whole !@#$load of them, this day.
* * *

The change in tactics works like a charm, and before long my guns have cleared us a path right down the gullet of the anti-city, and straight towards its tall, beetling control center.

Of course, getting in there is going to be one big !@#$ing party. Between the fact that it's !@#$ing out battle-borgs like it's got angry metal diarrhea, and the way it's growing iron tentacles to try and grab us for a conversion job, this really is a case of going headfirst into the mouth of the !@#$ing lion to try and eat its heart out.

"We need to shift, man," he says, preparing some sort of more complicated spell as we go forward: "I'll tell you when to jump. You still remember how, right?"

"Yeah, I think I'm not gonna !@#$ing forget that one time in Reno with your band anytime soon."

"Ha," he says: "I'd almost forgotten about that. Those were some times, man. They still okay?"

I don't have the heart to tell him the truth, now that we're up to our !@#$ing clavicles in post-humans with bad attitudes, long silver talons, and brain-filled Cuisinarts for skulls.

"They're alright, man," I lie: "But the last reunion tour sucked !@#$."

"So did our last album," he says, unleashing a bright, pulsing light from his hands: "Jump!"

And we do.

* * *

Jim's stronghold can best be described as a massive, high-ceilinged, neo-retro-absurdist-Italianate mansion that someone had the good taste to completely bury under the dirt and sand.

The ground !@#$ing opens up as we approach to let us in, like invisible hands were digging us a massive grave, and then filling it in just behind us as we glide down into the front foyer of his place. And I can almost feel the oppressive weight of the earth above, leaning down on the roof and walls, and actually cracking through in places as little falls of dust and rock tumble down, their rustling echoing off the white and gold walls.

The place is filled with classical, white marble statues in varying degrees of togetherness. It reminds me of a scene from that stupid, weird-!@#$ movie where James Bond was running around in a red diaper and shooting psychic hippies, only without the strange need to choke the living !@#$ out of my guide.

"I've been working on saving as much of the really good old stuff as I can," Jim explains, walking us up the massive stairwell to a large hallway, which is also jam-packed with as many !@#$ing statues as could be in there, plus about ten more.

"What did you do with the bad old stuff?" I ask.

Perhaps in response he smiles, pulls out his magical sword (which is always right in front of him, even if you can't see it), and promptly decapitates what I hope to God isn't the Venus de Milo.

"Don't worry," he says, smiling, and putting the sword back where he keeps it: "It'll grow back, eventually."

As we walk away, I see that it does. The !@#$ing head on the floor turns to a cloud of steam, and then vanishes. Then a cloud of steam appears where it had been on the statue's neck and begins to reform there, where it had been.

Nanotech, maybe? Son of nanotech? Who can say? But this age has already impressed me with its almost casual miraculousness.

And scared me !@#$less, too.

* * *

Case in !@#$ing point? The tower we just teleported into is a meat machine, and we're dodging the blades as we go.

Leave it to whatever crazy-!@#$ electronaut decided to recreate this city in his or her own, insane image to put the city's central processing unit right under its control center. Does he stride around the parapet up there, watching people get conveyor belted into machines on his !@#$ing coffee breaks? Jesus !@#$.

Lucky for us, our sudden appearance gives us about five !@#$ing seconds to orient ourselves and come up with a new !@#$ attack plan before the machines over the conveyor belts turn right around and started try to fling us into the giant pen of victims at the other end. Unfortunately, there are a !@#$ton of machines, and only the two of us, not to mention all the poor victims of this city's hijacking that need a !@#$ing rescue, right about now.

So what do we do? Look at each other and laugh, and then start fighting again, we two killers on the road.

Fight our way past the borgs that are running off the other end of the reassembly line, all oiled and shiny and ready to kick !@#$ for their master. Fight the steel tentacles and iron waldoes that are trying to trip us up or hold us down. Fight through the lines of slicing blades, cutting beams, circuit printers, and other implements of reconstruction that should be remaking the anti-city's victims, but are trying to take us down, instead.

Fight off the floor and up the parapet, launched up by hover discs and magic spells, slashing up and shooting down and then changing the game around when we experience different obstacles, or weirder adversaries.

This is how we do this, son. This is how we win.

* * *

Of course, when he tells me the plan we're going to win with, in the first place, I have to not !@#$ing laugh, because it's quite literally the craziest !@#$ing thing I've ever heard. 

(And, considering some of the crazy-!@#$ schemes yours truly has come up with over the years, son, that is !@#$ing saying something.)

So what does Jim do? Lean back in the deep, cushy chair he plopped into when we got into his "office," which is just a large room full of teetering, vertical stacks of old books, outcroppings of comfortable chairs, and what seems like a fire in the center but is really the holographic interface for his mansion's AI, and smile at me.

"Look, Jim," I say, having more of that weird, black froth he's been plying me with: "It's not that I !@#$ing doubt your sanity, but are you !@#$ing crazy? That plan's got more holes than a wheel of baby swiss."

"I miss cheese," he replies: "All the mammals are gone, now, and the stuff they make and call cheese just isn't the same. So I want you to promise me something."


"Have a really big piece for me when you get back," he says, closing his eyes: "On my way, I'm going to imagine you biting into it, and taking your time to savor that everyday miracle. I'll take that thought with me, gladly."

"And that's another problem. Do you really think that'll get me back? I still don't know how the !@#$ I got here?"

"I do," he winks: "And when the time comes, you'll remember."


"You see, you're too hung up on the specifics, (REDACTED)" he says, leaning forward and talking with his hands: "Sometimes you just have to club the basics of the plan together, and let it evolve on the go."

"That usually leads to sloppiness, and being sloppy gets people !@#$ing killed."

He smiles: "And there you are, man. Why are you so afraid of that?"

"Of not getting people killed?"

"Of getting yourself killed."

I cough: "Jim, maybe you're forgetting? I can't !@#$ing die."

"I know. And I can't stop being reborn, maybe. But you do have limits, (REDACTED). I've seen them happen. And you are afraid of them."

What can I say? He's got me !@#$ing cold. "Okay, yeah. !@#$ it, I am afraid. But I wouldn't be human if I wasn't."

He shakes his head: "They had Samurai in your world, right?"


"Those men were fearless of death, man. And that's because they were already dead. The moment they took up their swords to fight, it was as if they stopped breathing, and were nothing more than the will of their leaders. They sought out death, then, because it would mean that the spiritual reality they had accepted would finally meet the physical, and they could rest in peace. But until then...?"


He smiles, and pours himself more of that weird, black wine: "Until then, they dared do anything, because death was no longer a barrier. They had transcended it, dig? They had walked through that door. And they weren't the only ones who learned that trick."

"So how does that save the world, today?"

"We remember the first rule of assassination," he says, getting up to pour me some more of that froth: "You can kill anyone, anywhere, at any time, so long as you do it without fear, and without worrying about your own life. As soon as you realize that your life was made forfeit the moment you made a plan to end someone else's, anything becomes possible."

"Who told you that crazy !@#$?" I ask him, scowling.

And he smiles, pats me on the shoulder, and points a finger in my face. 

And he's right. I did. A long time ago, in a dusty, dark bar, early in his career. And he sat there, looking at me like I was !@#$ing crazy, but somehow understanding on a level that was just below the surface, working in secret behind those amazing, dark eyes of his.

So now the student's become the master, and he's schooling me like a Trainee during Hell Month. Not a great feeling, let me tell you, son. But it's Jim, and he knows what he's talking about, and always has (even when it seemed like he didn't) so I'm happy to follow him into his madness, again.

I just have to hope I don't have to dig that second grave, today.

* * *

"You won't... you can't..." the Electronaut is insisting, getting weaker by the word.

He's in ten pieces on the floor, smeared and sliced and burned by all the power that Jim and I could direct his way. We didn't even give his sorry, metal and flesh !@#$ a second to gloat and monologue before all but tearing him to !@#$ing flinders. 

And yet his misshapen, too-many-brains-for-one-!@#$ing-skull head is still looking at us, and still talking. The weird, 80's progressive rock album cover metal suit he's wearing is trying to staple his body back together, but Jim's got his pieces warded from one another, so !@#$ that.

"We can, we will," I tell him, firing my guns down into the floor below, making sure the machines following us don't get any !@#$ing ideas. A few more shots free the prisoners in their pen, for which they're grateful, but they sure as !@#$ better get moving, because this !@#$ train's about to start moving.

"I think I've got it together, over here," Jim says to me, over by the central control nodule the Electronaut jumped out of when we got up here. He's ripped it apart and reassembled it in a new, strange configuration, and most of the lights and screens floating around it are lighting on and off in time with Jim's computerized sandals. 

"Will it work?" I ask, shooting a few more times at the Electronaut's sorry head as I stride over. It goes skidding across the floor, losing teeth and circuits as it goes.

"Well, if it doesn't, this is going to be a really weird trip," he laughs: "You ready for your bit?"

"As I'll ever be."

"You have it, right?"

I smile and pat my pants pocket: "I got it."

"Good. Now remember, as soon as I leave, I can't concentrate on the guns, anymore. You'll have to go it alone."

"No great problem," I lie, and clap him on the shoulder: "I wish we had more time."

He just smiles: "Time's all we'll have, soon, man. You get back and do your thing. You'll see me soon enough, after that."

"I'll... I'll look forward to that," I say, and head for the parapet. I don't want to look back because if I do, I'll probably get all !@#$ing misty-eyed or some such, and I really need to have my !@#$ing butch on, right now. 

"Hey, (REDACTED)?" he shouts after me.

"What?" I ask, looking down and seeing the masses of angry borgs trying to climb up to get at me.

"Just remember, the way out is the way in."

I look back at him, but by that point he's turned around and is convincing the anti-city to do the thing he wants it to do. I can't tell if he's !@#$ing me, or dropping one final pearl of wisdom. It's always hard to tell with him.

Of course, he's singing:

Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
This life will never end
Gotta love your man... 

And it's so beautiful and perfect that it makes me want to cry. But if I cry, I'm going to run over and hug him. And if I do that, I'm going to fall down and thank him for giving me the gift of this day, and these battles, and his simple wisdom that's finally kicked me in the !@#$ing !@#$ enough to be able to go home reborn, and take up my plans and my guns and go save the !@#$ing world again...

But there just isn't time. There never !@#$ing is. 

So I leap over the !@#$ing parapet, down into the teeming masses of borgs, and hope the magic guns hold themselves together just long enough to get me the !@#$ out of this !@#$ anti-city before it converts for space travel, and launches itself towards the !@#$ Moon. 

Cause that's the plan, son. And if you think that sounds !@#$ing crazy, just wait until you see the rest of it go down. 

(SPYGOD's listening to Riders on the Storm (The Doors) and having more of that weird !@#$)

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