The little twins just won’t leave me alone.
They insist that we’re long time friends, that I’ve taken care of them through thinner and thicker, but my new Collective memories don’t seem to cover all of that.
“Tokie messed up everything! She’s so stupid!” Little Hel has been going on and on about this, no matter where and when they take me.
“Oooh, she said stupid!” Cassie was a bit more subdued, but she was the first one to poke me in the ears during my last day in Minneapolis.
I had a whole day to try to process the episode with the golden jawbreaker. I had expected Dad, Gabby and Tokie to wake me up early with some important task or whatever, but they were nowhere to be found at the hotel. So, I took that as a sign that things were already going to hell, and that I was on my own until the big bad Helena got me.
I could half remember all of that, from way back in March. “The Fourth Event”, when Aurora and Tokie drugged me, and when I somehow left my body and went through an energy portal or shit like that. Very Poltergeist and 2001: A Space Odyssey , at least what I remember from Netflix.
I don’t remember where I went, or what I said when I was “gone”, but Tokie posted a transcript on her blog. If you’ve read this far then who knows, you probably already know it by heart, you stalker.
Whatever. Here is what I said from the great beyond:
2011.3.5.13:53:33 – Miranda “It hurts so much! It comes at night to give me new skin.”
2011.3.5.13:53:58 – Tokie “Satellite two locked!
2011.3.5.13:54:13 – Aurora “I need you to understand me. Do you know what day it is?”
2011.3.5.13:54:29 – Miranda “Don’t know where I am, if it’s day or night. I’m just so glad you found me….”
2011.3.5.13:54:51 – Tokie “Satellite three not resolving! Have to reset…”
2011.3.5.13:55:12 – Aurora “Who’s hurting you? What’s their name?”
2011.3.5.13:55:24 – Miranda “It comes in threes, different bodies same voices…. I’m not allowed to recognize their faces.”
2011.3.5.13:55:39 – Miranda grabs Aurora’s cheeks.
2011.3.5.13:55:43 – Miranda “The moon is molesting me… I keep having shadow babies.”
2011.3.5.13:56:23 – Tokie “I can’t resolve the position… I can only get October 2011 from the time code.”
2011.3.5.13:56:44 – Aurora “Please! Where are you? When was the last time you saw me?”
2011.3.5.13:56:58 – Miranda “I can’t listen to ghosts! There’s a monster under the sheets with me! Mom! Mom!!!!”
Tokie and Aurora are convinced that I was in St. Cloud at the time, and that someone was trying to etch me all up by force.
The only real hints are that I mentioned my Mom, and that there were at least three people involved, with “different bodies same voices”, and I wasn’t “allowed to recognize their faces”.
Right now, that sounds a lot like the big Figma robots could be involved – perhaps someone was projecting in and messing with me.
Before her plastic figure melted away, Tokie was increasingly convinced that it could have been one physical person, with more than one conscious entity inside of them. Kind of like someone was projecting into another person, instead into something plastic.
You would expect Aurora to have her own theory, but she hasn’t shared it. Like I said, I haven’t seen anyone since yesterday. That is, until the little twins came back.
So, all I had to go on is that sometime in October, I would be back in St. Cloud, and someone or something would really fuck me up.
Then, according to Emily’s blog, she’ll meet the post fucked-up me twice.
• Once in Portland, and I’ll be trying to kill myself on the Steel Bridge, only to fly away in the air. That’s in October.
• And again, when the little twins come in Halloween costumes to take Emily away to orbit around the Moon, where I’m waiting for her again. That’s supposed to be later on in the year – November? December? Probably December, right before things get really bad in time for New Years. At that point I kidnap Emily and she’s missing for months.
• Finally, I see everyone right before the big concert on July 4th, according to Tokie.
It all sounds like bad fan fiction, or a 500 yen bargain basement eroge without the sex. But it’s true, right? Like you’d know for certain, either.
I don’t know why I’m still so doubtful, so hesitant to leap right in. I think the big thing is that it’s not like those big Figma robots couldn’t be controlled long distance by someone on Earth, instead of “beyond”. It’s not like the little twins couldn’t have been a figment of my imagination, and that golden jawbreaker some sort of hallucination – maybe Aurora drugged me again.
I could think of all sorts of grand explanations for why my life has turned on Insane Parkway, but the sad thing is I don’t have anything to doubt any more, not after what happened at the Mall of America.
Like I said before – right across the street. So, after my bagel-jam-juice on the hotel’s dime, I took the five minute walk over to the front of the Mall, going past all of the construction fences and cranes, as big airplanes flew overhead, getting ready to land at the international airport on the other side of commercial heaven.
Inside, I didn’t even hesitate to ignore the huge, huge, huge LEGO statue of some knock-off Mecha (something like 3 or 4 stories tall), and walked past the Apple and Microsoft stores on my usual clockwise route. I didn’t care for Macy’s, Nordstroms, Sears or Bloomindales, because I’m not Mom-aged (I was about to say “not an old lady”, but I realize that not all of our elderly can even handle Sears). Instead, I liked looking at the little shops where they would do beautiful things to your visible parts, or sell you off-brand bags of nuts or bottles of soda for a dollar.
I also liked the architecture, which was something out of unbridled early 1990’s optimism, where all problems would be solved by jailing Bill Clinton and lowering the taxes enough that you could forcibly step on them over and over until they died. It was like that, only with two floors full of products imported from China, with your brand’s silk screen of choice to distinguish between them. Then you had the food floor, brought to you in spirit by Bayer and Monsanto, and overtly by strip mall fast food, topped by a huge movie theater that even had seats that rumbled, moved and spazzed out during the film, if you were willing to pay enough.
It felt like walking through a Capitalist theme park, one where the lights, air conditioning and shoplifter gates would never die even as the outside world crumbled into dust.
Yeah, I went there, and I wasn’t being all literary. As I walked around most of the first floor, I started to feel like I was being followed. At first I thought it was one of the MOA mall cops I had seen on TV, on their own reality show even, but then I started to notice that everywhere I looked, I could see the little twins looking back at me from a distance. Each time, they were wearing something else, seemingly from different stores in the mall, and by the time they appeared on a bench in front of me, the were wearing a particularly tweentastic ensemble from Justice.
“There she is! Do you have it?” I’m starting to be able to tell them apart without name tags. Hel is definitely more animated, plus she tends to wear more wigs. She had on something orange and Hot Topical.
“She doesn’t have it… she totally lost it.” Cassie was a bit more subdued, and she tended to not look you in the eye for more than a few seconds.
I guessed that they were talking about the golden jawbreaker, since it had disappeared when I woke up this morning. I even wrapped it up in the Vita.MN newspaper, and then put that in the safey safe the hotel provided, along with the hotel Bible that was giving me the creeps. When I opened it again, both the newspaper and the sphere were gone. The Bible was still there.
“We just finished reading your blog, from tonight. We’re small, but we can read really good.” Hel.
“Really well, too.” Cassie, as she suddenly appeared riding my on me piggy back, sticking her fingers in my ears. I heard a slight rumble, and that ocean sound everyone gets.
“OK, fine.” Hel grabbed me by my right hand, like she was my little sister. “Where should we go first?”
“In 5 hours she’ll write that we went to St. Cloud. Sounds good!”
The 4 floors of the mall collapsed on top of each other like dead leaves. I found myself lying in the middle of the kid play area at Crossroads Mall. Target was right around the corner. I could see that the store was extra tarted up for Halloween, like it found Mommy’s makeup and didn’t know when to say when.
There were other kids in the spongy-floored area, but they quickly ran to their parents screaming and crying as Hel and Cassie tried to pick me up.
“There you are!” Hel whispered, as they tried to hide behind a play structure. I could see someone who looked just like me, except that her hair was shaved off. She took a puffy blue coat out of her white and red Target bag, and seemed to disintegrate the various tags with her fingers, before throwing the bag into nothingness. She didn’t seem to notice us as she walked past the separate, seasonally engorged Halloween Store, down the hallway in the direction of the Food Court.
“You haven’t quite figured it out yet, but you will. We’ll help you!” Hel again. Cassie disappeared for a few moments, and came back wearing a white and blue sailor suit and fox ears.
“Strike Witches! I can do better!” Hel folded away, and came back looking all pink and plug suity, like Mari from Evangelion. She even had the cute granny glasses.
“What do you want to do now? Wait around a whole two months, or take your medicine now?” Cassie, miming a spoon entering her mouth, followed by a frown and squinty face.
“What she’s saying is, we just saw you coming out of Target. That’s you after the Fifth Event! We just traveled in time almost two months to the future! Isn’t that cool? Don’t you want to be her right now?” Hel was clearly hoping for the right now bit.
“Do I even have a choice?” I could read the writing on the wall, and it was made by scented marking pens.
“There’s always a choice.” I thought I heard Cassie from behind me, only with a deeper voice. Turned around, and I saw someone I only saw briefly a few weeks ago, but really recognized from my new collection of old memories. Cassandra, young girl 16 and knowing.
I stood up, ran over and gave her a hug, only to get an arm full of plastic.
“I borrowed one of Sasha’s bottle babies to project on in. Over the years she’s stashed them all over St. Cloud, in case of emergency. This qualifies.”
She motioned over the little twins, and they grabbed on to her wrists and waist.
“Big sister! We knew you would make it!” Hel. Cassie was even more shy than usual, looking down at the floor.
“Miranda. I don’t have more than a minute, before Helena finds me in this Variant. I’m dead and powerless – she controls all of Time and Space. No games – you still have a choice. You can wait two months, come up here from Minneapolis, and become the bride of the Nameless, of the Black itself. Or, we can skip you ahead until last night, until everything actually happens.”
“Or….” Little Cassie. “You can come with us, to our secret place, and never look back.” She was half in tears at this point.
“When I was younger, at this very moment, I still hasn’t quite grasped the sacrifices you were about to make. But she’s right – if you want to run away from it all, you still can. Everything will fall to pieces, but you can.”
Cassandra then turned around and walked towards the glass doors leading to the parking lot. I didn’t need more of a hint, so I followed. The twins folded away, and only when it started to stir did I notice that the world around us had been frozen for the past few minutes. Kids tentatively walked from behind their mothers and fathers, and went back to their interrupted play.
It was freezing outside. Cassandra was standing over the garbage can, and pulled out a plastic Coke bottle, which quickly disappeared past her jersey – she was wearing an old St. Cloud Rox uniform, the minor league team that ended decades ago. She pointed me past Target, towards the same route that Sasha and Mom had led me on earlier.
“Less than a minute, but I’ll go back and leave a file for you on your Mac, to explain. Just know that Tokie, while she held control over SAR.AI, looked at our dead bodies and tried to make everything better. She failed miserably. She…” As we turned the corner, she suddenly ran ahead towards the loading docks. Once I caught up to where she was supposed to be, nothing. She was gone.
Then, on the roof. It looked like Cassandra, only she had a wig on, some sort of plastic dreadlocks, and a colorful dress made out of patches, with a beauty pageant sash in front of it.
She was staring at me, but it didn’t look like she had eyes.
It has to be Helena. The Grand Supreme everyone was scared shitless over.
In the next fraction of a moment, she was standing right in front of me. I could see it was actually a wig of all sorts of USB cables. She looked over at the empty parking lot, instead of at me.
“The subway will not take your ticket. It’s the end of the line. Would you like your old hotel room, or a new one?”
I didn’t understand the question, or why she wasn’t looking at me. What was so fucking interesting about those bushes?
“Just kidding. The old one is far more charming. Please wait.”
Was Helena even in there? It seemed like someone was doing a poor job of projecting into her – she seemed like a marionette.
“Good. For obvious reasons, you’ll be offline after this, but we’ll give you three hours to tie up any loose ends. Key.”
She placed a white card in my hand. Her touch wasn’t plastic, but it wasn’t warm, either.
“Items.” My neatly packed bag from Minneapolis appeared at my feet. I quickly picked it up and ran behind me at a full sprint, only to end up right back the loading docks, still holding her hand.
“Items.” My neatly packed bag from Minneapolis appeared at my feet. Trapped.
“You can’t run any more. You understand this.” I understood.
“Walk over to the hotel, and wait in your room for us. We’ll be there at sundown.
I didn’t know what to do, other than what I was told. Stopped in SuperAmerica along the way for my last 32 oz joy pop ever, and then came her to the hotel, to the same fancy room I was so psyched about weeks ago. Months ago? It was Halloween now.
The little twins stopped by for a few minutes. Too cheer me up? To prime me for their big Sister?
“Tokie messed up everything! She’s so stupid!” Little Hel was putting on a brave face, but I could tell she was about to cry.
“Oooh, she said stupid!” Cassie seemed to be feeling better. “But really, I watched her float through the house and throw up all of the powers. Almost all of them! Didn’t she know that big sister Helena would suck them right up with the thing she stole from Tokie?
The thing? Massive Cloud Burst?
“She didn’t know, but she did it anyway. She thought she was helping, but it’s still hurting.”
“Don’t worry, Miranda. We’ll come back for you tomorrow, and then we’ll be finally ready to build our clubhouse. Until then, we have to put you back one day.”
And they did. Minneapolis TV news was full of day before Halloween infotainment, rather than the day of Halloween live remotes I was just watching as I started to write this.
I don’t know what else to say. I have my proof, and there’s nowhere left to run, or hide.
Will she even knock on the door, or just appear? Will I be awake, or asleep when it happens?
Will I be able to feel Aurora, months ago in Portland, as my body opens, and changes? As the me becomes not me.
I’ve been working on this blog post for hours. I have every reason to think it will be my last.
Do I even have any famous last words in me?
Cassandra is nothing but last words. I read the file she somehow copied to my Mac, then erased it as soon as I realized the significance.
When I looked in the luggage, I found the Bible from the hotel safe. There was an Oreimo bookmark that I didn’t place there, so I opened it up and read the first lines that struck me.
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
I wished I had that armor. For the first time in my life, I prayed for God’s protection, and forgiveness for everything I was about to do despite myself.
I know you can’t understand this now, but even the final storm will have calm.
It will be me standing over your ashes, but a lot of good things can come from ashes.