The Beginning of "Building a Better Mousetrap" (the story of a Deserite freedslave on the burning streets of Kansas, thinking of the when she was lost in Ohio....)
I’m going to use you to kill the dragon. Oh yes, that’s what you’ll help me do today.
She had spent most of the day in restraints. The mouth gag would come later, it always did when her masters paraded her around. They would again. The times demanded a show of power, and consequently, its sibling.
Back then, she had been a slave, with little knowledge about the events that swirled around her. But she had noticed enough then to understand how changes were at hand.
William Robert XIII breathed heavy with the stink that accompanied his terrible weight. She smelled it much more strongly whenever he spoke to her. Usually, the stink came in short bursts. Short and sweet, the smell of human decay. Then, the odor retreated when he stopped, for he never had many reasons to talk to her. Except for threats and demands. Yet she would smell him, though not sure if the stink still came from his decaying body, and still lingered in the air. Or she remembered it, a terrible memory and her only companion. A lone friend for an endless captivity.
But not then, she had smelled him as never before. Almost intimate. She felt special, though not in a way she would want to feel again.
-They will never love her. But it’s going to take more for the imperium to see me as an alternative. I don’t need them to love me, only see her for what she is. A monster.-
How wrong he had been that day! He must have known. He did know. If anyone was the monster, it was him. The Billy Bob King of the Lone Star Empire.
-No one will ever love her. Not truly. She’s a woman, and no woman can rule a man. Definitely not this world, which requires blood and iron. For the end is coming, and for the center to hold, it will need a man. With your help, that will be me.-
He crouched down, so he could get closer to her, and when he did, she had a better view of the skin grafts that covered his neck and the sides of his face. Ballooned up flesh, almost soggy, and nearly dead. If left to run its natural course, the disease would devour him. Sadly, this was not the case. And so his world suffered, as she had, ever since her captivity.
-I want you to play one of your little beehive songs. Something to rile my anger. You can come up with whatever you want, I really don’t care. Just make sure it doesn’t make fun of the Godstate, or my ancestors. It’ll be hard to spare your life. The Hegelians can be sticklers for things like that. It would be seen as treason against the state, after all.-
Oh, how she wanted something. To be free! And he promised emancipation, if she did what he asked. She just had to play a song. Easy enough. For she had played music her entire life. Before the raiders from the western Tejas wastes came into her Deserite village, and stole her away—she had played…
-My sweet desert flower….-
Her skin had crawled as he stroked her hand. She half-expected his skin to slough off.
-You’ll seemingly incur my wrath, and the Lady Kir-sten’ya —she’ll come undone. Then they’ll see the dragon, and I will ride to the rescue. A knight, come to rescue the lowercased-earth.-
How things had turned out differently! How the whole world had changed. All because of her song. All because she had played the part.
Even today, the roles still remained, yet the outcomes differed. And in that, she wondered.
But did the song still remain the same?
It wasn’t supposed to happen like this!
The slick floors oozed with a sheen of bubbles, and Louisa May Lee stood knee deep in the hoopla, so to speak. Neo-cola classicist thoughts suited the situation. With the wall shelves chock full of soda-esque, and ice creamie-cream in the freezers, the nostalgicist shop hearkened back to the classic days.
Too bad Shiloh, her great friend of the greater name of Vizier of the Regency, and all-around awesome rockstar, had been hit over the head, knocked out, fallen against a box of soda-esque. It was now impossible to enjoy the place. So much for the pop Louisa had hoped to enjoy at the counter of this neo-diner.
Louisa watched him snore, a stray red hair from his bangs crawled with each puff of his breath. Unconscious, she wondered next, what would happen to him. She didn’t fear his death. Oh no. The hand that had struck Shiloh did not mean to kill him. The blow had come from her kinsman, and his shadow stood over them now.
Yet no matter the darkness, Catal Huyuk Jerichius possessed too soft a heart to kill Shiloh. Even Shiloh…that wayward, rockstar-gazing Vizier, who had drifted to far to the right.
-Smooth one ex-lax. What's your next big move? Stick his hand in a bowl of warm water? Put shaving cream on his hand?-
Catal smiled a giant's smile. Gentle. A gentle giant in a tan robe who kneeled down as a few rays of light from the late day Kansas sun lit his dark face. She could see the embroidered salamanders on his shoulders. Strapped to his back, an electro-atlatl. On his belt an obsidian macuahuitl. Decked out and ready to rock the night - woe oh, woe oh! She listened closer as he repeated his chorus.
-No, I'm going to save his life, that’s what all of us are going to do. He wouldn’t have come if I asked him. And he wouldn’t have listened if I told him what was up.-
Louisa put her hands on her hips. She didn’t like being in the middle of friends. Oh no. She had brought him here to avoid that situation in the first place. Now this. And for what? She failed to understand.
-Every one has gone completely crazy? What happened to the dancing days?-
The man stood up and towered over Louisa. She couldn’t wait until she grew up. Her birth mother had stood tall, and a few inches would her help stand up to Catal Huyuk.
-Dancing days? Ha! You’re like them all who thought dancing days are here again. If you’d brought our beloved Vizier to Hessia—definitely Janus—they’d done the same thing I just did. But there’d be a difference.-
The names he uttered brought faces to her mind. The unsmiling ruination of Janus the pagan soldier, seemingly lost for for all time, but now found, and nearly ruined by her Christian enemies. And Hessia with the blue eyes that looked right through a man and tore his heart -- now the Captain of the Guard. Everyone was growing up. Even Louisa?
-Oh yeah?! Like what? Like what;s the difference from what you'd do, and Janus, or Hessia. Maybe they just wanted some answers from Shiloh? I heard...-
Catal walked closer to her, and grew in size as he did.
-They’d make him into a hostage. To trade to Thorogood, in the hope…-
If the name of the last King of Texas stilled her heart, then the mention of the name of the man who had enslaved her long ago -- even before he put the reins on the Godstate -- forced her heart out of her...it was all too much to think about. Thorogood the Destroyer, the Texian Tyrant. A ditch would never be big enough....
-Thorogood would kill if he got his hands on Shiloh. Shiloh's a fugitive. A band on the run. A rebel with a cause. Betraying the state will get a man raked over the coals in most parts.-
-Probably, but that’s the new dance craze.-
Louisa slumped. Catal was right. With Kirsten abducted, all the members of the Regency scrambled for any advantage. The glory days of Kansas. Gone.
-Goddamn fucking fascists -- all of you! Not you, Catal. You're one of the good ones. It's the Viscount! Robert Paul 'fucking' Luke. He gave me his word! He could help! And Shiloh...he was supposed to help, or that's what he said anyways!-
Louisa could almost hear Catal's reply before he spoke. But he was too gentle to rub her face in false trust. He instead put his large hand on her shoulder. She could see the rings on every finger. The Fist of Thunder. The glories of Kolob shone with the promise of distant stars. Kick some ass, bro.
-You shouldn't trust human's voice with a serpent's tongue. Why do you think he is going by his old nickname, the Cobra Warlord. But more importantly, the Viscount is going to find it hard to manage things in death.-
Louisa gulped. The Viscount of the Regency…dead! Once had been enough. But twice? How many lives could he be expected to have?!
-But why? Why kill him? He wanted to save the Empress?! I mean, he meant to use his penis, to do it, but still…-
-War is here, that’s why. Penis or no penis, though some would say, it’s a penis we have to deal with.-
-Holy Spaceballs! God damn penises...-
-Zealots...penises by any other name...have begun to kill squatters in the Palace, and some...some are members of the Demi-Corps. The word is: revenge for the murder of Janus.…-
Catal Huyuk had hit a homerun with that remark -- and no one would mistake him for a pseudo-intellectual. The price for hiring zealots...zealotry. The Demi-corps had seemed like a good idea at the time, what with bushwhackers everywhere and their attempts to kill the Empress. But the Demi-corps? Well, now they had a mongoose problem. They were all Zionists, and no bigger one existed than the one that had hired them. Janus, the woman who had saved her life not so long ago. Some people embraced the martyr lifestyle. None more than Janus.
Her kinsman motioned with big hands towards the door in the back of the storage room. She had half a mind to drown her worries in a root beer float - is that what he intended? Shiloh had promised to have one with her. Now he snored in his sleep. And now? Where would they go? What would they do? She realized then that another adventure loomed ahead. Just as she had returned from getting lost in Ohio, in the company of R.P. Luke, in the birthplace of the American presidents...another adventure beckoned.
She now knew what Catal had in mind and what this plan might mean. Kinda. If only they had let the Viscount try his plan! Could his solution have freed Kirsten? No way to know now…
Sometimes the best-laid plans came apart. All that glitters isn’t gold. And a million other neo-cola classicisms. Unfulfilled expectations described all their lives since victory in Kansas.
But what did she know, other than she had to save Kirsten...her empress...
Crawl on your belly and eat the dirt, Robert Paul Luke.
Road developed by immortal foliage/dark lined avenues cruised asunder/to the fields and meadows where mountains are unsown/the valleys have been pulled flat by time below.
The light never penetrated the thick tree cover of the Woods of Fortune. It merely hung on top of the trees as an intermittent glow, quickly cut out when one passed beneath the leafy canopy. Grasses underneath had died long ago, choked by the decay of dead leaves, near enough a footfall deep. The world was dark, the earth damp. So thick, even, that the sound of the wind could not cut through the thick growth. The only sound belonged to the watery passage of a brook, and even death had choked the life from that avenue. The rot was thick. It gave off a distant smell of life, though one in the later stages. Even when gone, a memory that lingered, and with its last trace, all of the mystery.
Louisa’s head still rang from the impact that had knocked her unconscious. The Viscount's medi-ticians had done all they could, even with the wares of technocentrism at their disposal. As the headache still gripped her, she thought about the influence of the Ohioan countryside. Even in the real estate fief of Robert Paul Like—even with its superficial pretensions for rural bucolics!—the power of 3001-year era technologies still waned. Give her a warm tea from one of her Deserite mothers any day! That would settle her head. Without that recourse, she sought solace in the Woods of Fortune, though under the blue-eyed gaze of the Viscount, R.P. Luke, she did not enjoy solitude. He walked with her, as well.
She would have preferred silence. That would calm the throb in her head. Even the sound of soggy footsteps through dead leaves and mud would have gladdened her heart. Instead, in the company of R.P. Luke, he forced her to listen to his poems. The paeans to the countryside.
Louisa just wanted him to stop. Oh no. He had to go on. Admittedly, nature had given him the gift of gab. Too bad about the mind that commanded his tongue. He had no talent for poetry.
-How do you like that, does that sound...cool?-
She didn’t want him to read another. She cared less about the feuds of his youth, the days that remembered him as the Cobra Warlord. Janus had told her enough. As for history? She saw that all around her! It choked out any attempts to own this place.
-You’re not saying anything? This is strange. But I guess not. You didn’t say anything when you were here with the Empress. It was such a lovely dinner. Too bad Southcross had to ruin it! But you don’t say anything now, because you don’t like me, do you? Never have, never will?-
Louisa did not stop to address his casual mention of Janus. Louisa only showed her back to his disrespect, as she trudged through the thick, wet leaves.
-Janus was right about you. You’re a fascist. You let the Empress get kidnapped. Fuck you and your shitty poems. Dumb fuckin beatnik.…-
R.P. Luke chortled. Did he laugh at the mention of Janus? The last she had seen of Janus, gangs of her enemies prepared to strike her down. A pagan soldier who saved a Mormon. And what had Janus received for that? Louisa could only picture Janus in death.
R.P. Luke's soggy steps grew louder behind her, the rustle of generations of wilted leaves. He was a monster, and he drew closer.
-Did I? Do you think I could have done anything about her abduction? Do you think, even if I had told Southcross, about the plan to abduct the Empress and, what the real plan behind her abduction was, that your brave Sergeant-at-Arms could have done anything about it?-
Louisa spit into the mud and wondered. How many others had done the same thing on this land?
-You could have tried! Now, Kirsten’s gone! And Janus is dead!-
A branch broke under R.P. Luke’s furious steps. Step on a crack, break your mother's backs.
-Oh, believe me. I would’ve had better success telling a chair than Southcross. Or Hessia! Unless it was a Gordian Knot….Maybe that dick-for-brains Texian…-
His haphazard mention of her friends' names made her yearn for something sharp and pointy to stick in his head. He loved to call Janus by her last name, to take the 'girl' out of her! And Hessia was just a meathead! As for Shiloh...R.P. Luke was just judgmental for the weakest of reasons settled on battlefields of brothers against brothers from a thousand years ago.
-Shiloh! His name is Shiloh. Janus. Call her Janus. And Hessia...she actually likes puppies and...-
-Of course, the great ex-David. Maybe that self-styled Vizier could have understood.-
Of course he would only mention Shiloh. These tyrants only liked the boys.
-Maybe. But you could have told Anacreon. He knew the Emperor, you know.-
She heard him huff at the mention of Anacreon's name. Sure, he liked Shiloh for his past tenure as the David -- a very good artist of the Godstate, mind you. But what was up with his derision of Anacreon? The poet's battle, maybe? No respect for the poet? How American...and she allowed him to plead his case.
-I do know! Don’t think there’s anything the Senile King knew, that I didn’t. As for Anacreon Oregenamen, with a name like that, I have a hard time taking him seriously. Let me be quite honest with you: this futile belief in the abilities of the Saints is, rather, quite touching. And pathetic.-
Louisa wished he would die, and she wanted to tell him. But she could not. She couldn’t because he refused to shut up. What a bitter old man! The Emperor should have given the Cobra Warlord his glorious war. Too bad, so sad…
-You can go down the list all you want, name all the heroes of Kansas as you like, and I will still say the same thing: none of them—even Anacreon, that former Secret Agent—would have understood what I was talking about. That’s because the real plot hasn’t emerged yet. But it soon will.-
Louisa turned around and bared her teeth.
-Janus was right! You are useless!-
The tree line opened up, and for a brief second, Louisa could see across the crabgrass frontier. A lone classical mansion stood in the distance. Behind its façade of tall colonnades and wide porticos, cloned repetitiously over and over again, stood another narrative of design. A three-car garage and backyard fences. The post-war accouterments beckoned, an invitation to the landless tenants with the promise of affluence. Those who looked for the creature comforts of a home. As well as security and privacy, and a respite from urban decay.
Yet the mansion seemed as if dropped from the sky, for so edenic did it command its plot of land. Almost too perfect, an exaggeration of an earlier policy, and time. The idyllic home in the Elysian Fields. The burbs.
R.P. Luke whispered, and Louisa could hear him through the break in the trees.
-But you’re not useless, my freed slave and minstrel. You’re the most useful one of all….-