part five (crisis)
Concern settled over the crowd. Several gasps. One of the gowned Hobo women shrieked. Sonja disengaged the safety. Joseph kept filming.
I don't think these beings had an intention to frighten us. I don't think this was a traditional haunting. I think these were old and innocent apparitions.
But then something happened. As they moved around and over the blaze, they caught on fire and howled with incorporeal agony. A supernatural fume was released like a gas into the room. Everyone breathed in the ghost smoke and began acting somewhat melodramatically.
"Excellent!" said Kris, with a dreamy look in his eyes.
As it turned out, they were not flaming with real fire. Being ectomplasmic, a kind of dubious combustion had occurred. It only appeared to be truly on-fire ghosts and spirits. But as they went a-gliding above and a-swooping among us onlookers, we did not know this. We panicked, melodramatically.
The Hobo guys and gals went nuts and bolted for the stairwell. I think they were used to wine-drinking -- they ran unwaveringly, like Olympic sprinters. The rest of us -- being poets and artists of various stripes -- held our ground. This was all too amazing and awesomely terrifying to miss. Even the rednecks stuck around, probably because I hadn't paid them yet.
But, oh, did we scream. It is fun to scream in communal delirium. Except for Joseph (filming) and Sonja (aiming). Also, Miriam, Lisa, and Fatima maintained their cool, even if the ghost smoke made their eyes look a bit funny. But they were not spazzing and gaping. Miriam, Lisa, and Fatima stood next to one another, with an air of sane observation. Their expressions said: panic is bothersome and leads to no good result.
Miriam shook her head while fixing an accusatory eye on one of the also-screaming, pyrotechnic demon-spirits. She declared, "Oy! I expect you to clean up any mess you make, after you've had your little fun!"
Lisa appeared to be sympathetic to these flapping, martyred effusions of old Earth and uncertain mythology. Fatima was taking it all in under her cool black hat. Her studious demeanor seemed one of pondering a new problem of content and form, of process and being.
But we others had turned into human pin-balls, bouncing off one another in happy gooseflesh terror and yelping mindlessness.
As I said, Sonja had been training her weapon on the flying, flaming nether-forms. Before Kris could shout, "Sonja! Don't shoot em. It'll bring me bad luck!" she squeezed off a couple plasma rounds at a dragon-spirit undulating through the air. It let out a hideous, polyphonic squeal, like copulating wolverines. And then went poof, disappearing into nothingness. Sonja rolled on the ground like a ninja assassin and took up a new position. She swiveled the barrel and locked in on a demon-spirit passing in front of Peter's special telescope.
She fired. The neon-green beam from her weapon arced across the room and just missed the creature. Instead, the sizzling Tesla-blast went straight into the lens of the telescope. As the Tesla-energy, coursing through the telescope tube, continued out the other end, a tennis-ball sized hole was blasted through the window glass. The green energy spattered and sparkled, onwards and upwards into space, toward the distant M-brane.
In the next instant, a blinding flash filled the party room. When we could see again, we saw this: our counterparts from the alternate universe were in the room with us. They had been sucked into our world though inexplicable Tesla processes. Yes, they were truly our alternates, our opposites.
Alter-Olga was dressed in a black-ruffled Berlin dress from 1920. Like a chanteuse with arms upraised, she sang in extreme soprano something about the joys of immodesty and recommending the destruction of all societies.
Alter-Charles was a goateed beatnik, howling verse that was laced with obscenities, dripping with superciliousness.
Alter-Miriam, a retiring wallflower, just stood there doing nothing. Real Miriam walked up to her and said, "What?!...Are you going to just stand there like a gornisht statue? Move around. Here...watch me. I'll show you how to do a modern dance that will release your pathetic, pent-up alter-soul!"
Alter-Yael was a Valley Girl, annoying the hell out of real Yael: "And he was all, like, 'don't have a cow,' and I go 'that's so bogus.' And he goes, 'then I'll meet you at the mall,' and I'm, like, 'will you buy me those white vinyl knee-boots? That would be so radical'".........
Alter-Nels was a sleazy corporate executive, with beady, predatory eyes.
Alter-Robyn was a brow-furrowed schoolmarm, holding a punitive wooden ruler in one hand and a length of didactic chalk in the other.
Alter-me sauntered up to me, like a debonair Buddy Love from Jerry's Lewis's The Nutty Professor movie.
And so it went -- each person trying to form some kind of relationship with their opposite self.
A few minutes later, I found Peter and whispered to him:
"Any ideas on how we get them back to their world?"
"It's not possible. I'm afraid they're here to stay."
I pondered this for about 15 seconds, then:
"Oh, well. I guess we can each take our other self home with us. For room and board, the alters can do our chores, even go to our jobs for us. That way, we can all spend even more time on Facebook!"
A few minutes later, it was so decided. Everyone -- real and alter -- thought this was a dandy solution.