Deal 408: Explorations

Some ideas seem smart at the time, but turn out to be remarkably bad ideas in practice. Of course, there are exceptions. This isn’t about one of those rare beasts, however. This is about the other kind.

Exploring urban ruins is fun, if you are in the right frame of mind, and also have chosen to wear the right kind of clothes. Think of it as being a lot like spelunking. You never quite know what you’ll find around the next corner, at the bottom of the stairs, or behind random doors. I visited a building once (in the dark of night, of course) where certain doors opened into a six or eight story shaft. They were locked, naturally, but if locks are going to block you from exploration, you have picked the wrong hobby. But as closet doors go, opening one on the fifth floor that reaches the third sub-basement does allow for some really long hanging hems. It is also a bit of a surprise if you duck in there hiding from security.

Floor plans of abandoned buildings may be hard to come by. But going exploring without one if it is available is just foolhardy.

For greater adventure, explore occupied buildings. Of course, this is only practical if you are in a position to explain your presence in the building once caught by security or residents. After all, it is really only in a Keystone Kops cartoon that those in charge are so incompetent as to miss an intruder trying doors and looking for the six story tall shaft. In reality, security will not fail that badly and they will have questions. And they will tend to not look that kindly on outsiders. So your job as an explorer is to make sure that security does not succeed at their job of keeping you out.

Without triggering charges of trespass.


Deal 407: Uncake

One minute it was there, and the next, gone.

The transition was so swift that it had no chance to set off any alarms. We hardly had a chance to notice it for ourselves before the muttering began. “How could this be allowed. What are they doing. Those incompetent fools. All that work, for nothing.”

And then it was back. Or so it appeared for a moment or two.

Then gone.

This time it stayed gone.

All we had was a large void where it used to be. Nothing there now. Nothing to see here. Move along. Move along.

Nothing is hard to see in any case. The eye just slides on past it, and it is as elusive as the blind spot.

Back again.


Nope, that was just an hallucination. Like the pain often felt from a missing limb.

It is gone, and attempts to see it missing seem doomed to failure from clumsiness. I don’t know what happens if you reach into the space where it was. There is nothing there, and if you reach into that space, you would replace nothing with something. The nothing would vanish without a sound, and become your hand.

There was a cake. Then there was a horde of hungry kids. Now there is no cake. It vanished so fast that space and time are just now noticing, and the cake-shaped hole in reality is slowly collapsing to reveal the absence of any cake at all.

It was good, though.


Deal 406: Visit to Death

One way tickets to the afterlife are our speciality, usually sold to be given as a gift. After all, it is a rare individual who requires our services to cross the river Styx.

Our actions have all the permanence of death itself. For Thanatos is our patron, Charon gives us a bulk rate, and even Hypnos knows our work. We are the darkness that knocks.

Our gift rarely involves the more crude or brute force techniques. Use or carry poisons yourself if you so desire, but don’t expect help from me.

Finally, find us ready in daylight to go. Special circuits and other unusual conditions can be handled as well.


Deal 405: Enya, continued.

“To absent friends”, she agreed.

She being Enya, currently occupying the guest chair at my reading table. And being more than usually generous by demonstrating her manipulation of space and time to replenish my sadly diminished stock of high proof beverages. This demonstration of power was clearly an attempt to generate good will, not to mention prove her claim to being not quite of the mundane, mortal world.

The later point I was accepting at face value. Even the Magician George from downstairs would have had trouble making that full bottle appear barehanded, especially while wearing as little as she was wearing right now. But trust is never simple or easy for me.

“We’ve established that we know some of the same people,” I said, “including a certain wise owl that prefers to remain nameless. What we haven’t established is why you are visiting me today. I’m reasonably sure it isn’t just to get an old psychic drunk, as much as he’d like that.”

She didn’t seem too surprised at this turn in the conversation. “War,” she said. “I’m sure you’ve guessed from hints the Owl’s patron has dropped that something big is up. You and I, we aren’t the major players, but we do have a seat at the table unlike most of those living in this city.”

This is somewhat of a surprise to me, Tina hasn’t really let much drop at all about her concerns. But I do know she is away.

“War between who, exactly?”

“Us and them. Who else? Doesn’t it always boil down to Us and Them eventually?”

“Yes, of course. And I know who Us is, but, who is Them?”

“Why, whoever is against Us, silly!”

Now it is clear she is taunting me. Her patron may have suggested that tactic, and it might well have worked in the past. But we aren’t in the past any more, and I like to think that Michel doesn’t dwell entirely in the past even if I have trouble letting go of one of my earliest names.

“So a war is coming, and your patron believes you are best positioned here. I can work with that much if we clear some space on the table.”

I ponder for a moment, then reach for the yarrow stalks to begin the ritual required to consult the I Ching. After only a few tosses, she grows restless.

“What is this going to tell us?”

“The secrets of the universe, of course. But only if you sincerely believe that is possible. And I think you are skeptical, so let me postpone that for a moment and try something a little more direct.”

The yarrow stalks were a test of sorts, one that I expected to fail. So I was a little surprised that she stopped me that quickly. But that tells me that patience is not a strong feature in Enya’s psyche. So I brought out a shallow dish which I filled part way with our finest vodka, starting with the glasses we’d been nursing. I added a few drops of ink, and stirred.

The images came swiftly, and fast, flashing by almost faster than I could register each one. At first, they were the usual mishmash of unanswered messages. The usual riffraff of your mailbox after a vacation, but nothing I needed to push Enya aside for. I quickly got the verification I had been putting off forcing. Enya was what she claimed, one of us cursed and blessed to walk among the mortals, undying, but not necessarily immortal. I didn’t get an answer to that question, but I didn’t expect one, and likely wouldn’t have trusted it even if it did come.

Her patron remained shrouded in mystery, possibly never revealed even to Enya herself. She also did see herself as on my side, whatever my side was going to be. So I probably could relax a little on that front.

I saw images of a great war to come. So as usual, no lessons from the past were going to prevent this war in the present. Watching closely for details that could identify who was at war, or why, I did see the unusual sight of large objects moving through the skies, apparently levitating with ease and sufficient control to be weapons of war. This was presented as a possible future that we could prevent.

But mostly I saw people who were afraid. I wasn’t shown enough detail to tell which side the people were on, but their fear practically reached out from my scrying bowl and grabbed me by the throat. Whatever else happened, I had to find some means to reduce that fear. I looked up from my dish and for the first time in her visit, met her gaze.

“Enya, what is to come is not going to be easy to handle.” I was sober now.

“Yes. I know. That is why I’m here.”

“Good. I think we can work together. Already, your presence has cracked some barriers for me. I think the next step is to introduce you to George and his menagerie. If they react as I expect, we can hold a full council of war and lay everything out on the table.”

I turned to the rat that I knew was nearby. There usually was one nearby these days. “You heard?”

It nodded. “Tell him we’ll be along shortly. Unless he can’t be interrupted. He knows how to get word to me when he’s ready.”

It nodded again, and scampered away. Another one turned up and settled down in the recently vacated post.

“So what do we do now?” asked Enya.

“We could play cards.”