Meanwhile, In Tampa... War Breaks Out Part 3!

“Where did you lose her?” God asked.

“Lose who?” Samson said, but he’d already guessed by the time he said it. Who else, he thought to himself, and then had to focus on the now-rising Valkyrie that had been knocked down by Fuzzy Bird’s arrival. He held up his ray gun, but the redhead was faster than he’d thought. He’d assumed she’d been stunned but it seemed she hadn’t, judging by how quickly she got up and had the spear up and was slashing it towards Fuzzy Bird. Samson head a yell and in his mind he felt her say:

You stole her from us after we’d finally found her! And in his mind he saw, as he’d surmised, Rachel, this time being lifted out of a hole in the tower on Valhalla, in the clutches of this… bird-thing.

Fuzzy Bird spun his head and saw the spear coming and even as Samson saw the spear end glow with a flash of energy, he was being lifted up and so was God, each of them clutched in one of Fuzzy Bird’s talon-paws and rising higher and faster than Samson would have thought possible. Definitely, he thought faster than anything I’ve ever been in and I’ve been in rockets and battle saucers. The battle was already tiny below them, flashed of color from spears mixed with bursts of flame where ray guns hit their marks. Horses lay on their side around the perimeter, many of them dead. Samson knew that wouldn’t especially bother the Valkyries or the horses. That was the horse’s role in life, after all, and Samson knew that the Valkyries were advanced enough to this point that they just kept cloning the horses and then imprinting their prior self’s memories on the new horse using the telepathy they were famed for; Samson was aware of all that because the military had tried it, two wars ago, in an effort to avoid the cost of retraining soldiers. But the humans had minded remembering their deaths, minded it terribly, which was when that project had been scrapped, as so many others had been scrapped by the military simply because of ethical considerations.

Speaking of which, he thought now and began looking for the man he’d brought with him. They were too high up to spot; the entire compound was just a tiny dot now and Samson tried calling up to the bird-thing.

“Hey,” he yelled. “We’ve got to go back.” He looked down again.

Fuzzy Bird kept climbing higher. It appeared not to have heard.

“HEY!” Samson tried again, a little louder. A hand reached over and touched his shoulder.

Try thinking it, God told him through Sharing, and Samson wondered again how it was that this incarnation of God had come equipped with a chip. He must have known, which only made sense, Samson supposed, but when creating an earthly human body for himself, why bother to include the chip and the nerve-wiring that went with it? Wouldn’t He have been able to communicate with all His charges anyway, even absent the chip? Or had He known, suspected, that He was going to be locked out.

“What?” God thought at him and said, aloud, too, and His hand pulled away, sharply as Samson realized that he’d been thinking those things while God had been touching him. He wondered how much had come across, but that was a stupid thing to ponder; the whole point of Sharing was that all of it came across.

All of it.

He thought for a moment and tried to decide what to say. He looked over at God, who looked stricken and confused and angry, all at once.

He was spared answering immediately because Fuzzy Bird stopped, and stopped so abruptly that it made Samson’s stomach lurch.

“How does he do that, so quickly”” Samson wondered aloud.

Then he looked around.

“Why’d we stop?”

They weren’t motionless, entirely. Fuzzy Bird’s wings were a blur as he hovered and Samson imagined he could see the strain on the animal-thing’s face as it worked and worked to hold position.

We are near the edge of the atmosphere, He felt the Bird think to him.

“You can share!” Samson said, like most people forgetting to think it out of his surprise. Even two generations in, Sharing didn’t come naturally to many, so new of an innovation it was in human communication.

Of course I can, Fuzzy Bird said, and then aloud said ***And I can talk, too.***

“We have to go back,” Samson said. He pictured the Compound, and the man, and tried to send a sense of peril, of helping this man.

***You don’t want to help him*** Fuzzy Bird said. His wings were buzzing and whirring. God was still glaring at Samson. ***You just need him***

Yes, that’s true, Samson Shared. But I want to help him because of that, and we DO need him.

“Tell me what you meant,” God said, suddenly. “About Me.”

Samson looked over at him. He couldn’t think what to say and just kept his mouth shut. All the times he and The General had talked about this, and he couldn’t for the life of him think of what they’d strategized about the moment God found out what was going on and who He really was.

Samson suddenly realized that God was reaching out to him and tried to block his thoughts.

“Don’t, Sir, please,” he said, and tried to have his voice echo with the authority of all his commands in all the past situations. If he could urge 3,000 men to charge across a field of molten lava simply for the greater glory of a petroleum company, he should be able to slow down the Hand of God.

As he watched, God pulled his hand back.

I can’t believe that worked, Samson thought, a feeling of immense pride and power flooding into him. I commanded God.

But God was looking over Samson’s shoulder, not at him, and so Samson looked over his shoulder, too, where he saw what God was looking at..

There was a hole in the air, a gaping wide hole that seemed at first to be looking into nothing, and then seemed to be glowing red. As they watched, the hole widened up, and a finger poked through. Then two. Then a whole hand, which reached out for them “We’re going to Hell,” Samson said, with a sigh of relief. “It’s the Grabber!” The troops had won!

He watched as the hand approached and thought to himself that as soon as they landed, he’d have them grab the man, too, to help get to the bottom of things about why God had ordered Rachel and this whole deal about the left hand, which was not supposed to have been on there.

But the hand got to them, and somehow bypassed Samson entirely. It grabbed God, pulling him away from Fuzzy Bird’s clawpaw, and God and the hand disappeared.

Meanwhile, In Tampa... War Breaks Out Part 2

Samson didn’t hesitate. He hadn’t been hiding because he was a coward. He’d hid because he was a veteran of four different wars, counting this one that the world didn’t even know was going on yet (or most of the world, which was the same thing as far as he was concerned, but, then, the last two previous wars hadn’t been general public knowledge, either. The fact that a war was secret, or that it now involved probably 16 different dimensions, didn’t make it any less fatal.) He’d hid because he had to assess the situation, and now, having assessed it with a combative intelligence that had been honed through those three prior wars and the early skirmishes here in Armageddon (for we might as well call it that, he thought to himself as he ran faster and faster towards the Valkyrie) he acted to save God by running directly at the giant naked woman whose sword was plunging directly towards God’s face.

Samson plowed into her with all the force he could muster, holding his ray gun in his right hand. He wasn’t particularly large but had unexpected amounts of strength that he attributed to the time he’d spent in Hell, time that was supposed to have been only a couple of weeks, at most, but the way time differed between the dimensions, he couldn’t tell how long, anymore, he’d been there. Decades, maybe, most of it still haunting the back of his mind no matter what else he thought about. He drove into the Valkyrie with all of that pent up might and rage, and… it did nothing.

Or almost nothing. He shook her enough that the sword missed its mark, didn’t slash through God’s face but narrowly avoided it. Samson didn’t fall back or drop off the Valkyrie, who at first did not seem to have noticed him. He pushed into her and wrapped his arms around her – grabbing around the slim-but-strong waist and pushing more, his right hand still clutching the ray gun. The Valkyrie faltered a little then and looked down at him, still holding God in the air with her other hand.

Samson fired, his right hand swiveling to shoot the ray gun up towards the woman, regretting even as he did it that it would damage her beauty. His finger pulled the trigger down and held it down and he heard the familiar sizzling sound, saw the results as the Valkyrie’s face and hair became burnt, the hair bursting into flame and her face scorching and twisting in agony.

She dropped God as in his mind he felt a burst of images and horrific pain. He was still in contact with her and tried to pull away before Sharing killed him, too. That was one of the first things one learned about hand-to-hand combat: let go before they die. He jumped up, still firing at her with the ray gun, the close range making it all the more effective, as God dropped to his hands and knees nearby.

Samson’s mind whirled with the brief blast of agonizing pain and torture he’d felt and he struggled to regain his composure, but only for a second. He leaned down and put his hand on God’s shoulder.

“Let’s go,” he said. God looked up at him.

“Did you have to do that?”

“She was going to kill you.”


Samson helped hoist him up to his feet. “We have to go,” he said, and he heard that sound again, the bird-thing, coming down, the buzz of its wings like a giant hummingbird, or maybe a helicopter (who’d seen one of those for centuries, he thought, absurdly) and he looked around for the source of the sound. His mind clouded, too, with more images and words as the Valkyries’ telepathy grew more dominant. He realized they were regrouping, forming up a defensive front against the bird and the compound’s guards.

Right around him, he realized with a chagrined feeling. They were enclosing him in a circle where he stood next to the Valkyrie he’d just killed with his ray gun, with God at his side. Words and yells and strategies flitted through his mind, a montage almost too fast and blurry to follow as the squawing sound got louder. He could feel the sound waves pummeling him and he braced himself, as he saw the Valkyries doing.

The squawing, the buzzing, grew louder, overwhelming the sound of the rest of the battle. A Valkyrie backed up, staggering before it, and bumped into him. She turned around. He looked into eyes that were impossibly large, and soft, and bright, surrounded by curly reddish hair underneath a battle helmet. This Valkyrie was only about 3 inches taller than him but still stronger-looking. She had her spear and she looked down at the dead, burnt woman at his feet, then scowled.

He lifted his ray gun as she whirled her spear around to point at him but they were both flattened and pushed back as Fuzzy Bird suddenly landed between them, the squawing stopping, as Fuzzy Bird looked at God.

“Fuzzy Bird!” God said. “You came back!”

“I found her,” Fuzzy Bird said. “But then I lost her.”

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Meanwhile, In Tampa...

Meanwhile, In Tampa:

Samson rolled down and over and came up with water pouring down on him and something heavy and squealing falling on his shoulders. Sputtering and gasping, he clawed at his face and gasped for breath, smelling oily fish scales and hearing nothing but roars and screams. It took a second for him to realize, as his vision cleared, that he’d been right next to the aquarium-wall and that the explosion, whatever it was, must have shattered that.

He stayed down, though, and pulled at the eel-like thing that had fallen on his head and flapped around, squawking and honking as it tried to get back into the water. He was soaked and breathless and needed to get this thing off of his head. In front of him, as the eel flapped, he saw:

Eel: red and yellow and finny and scalyh.

Then the man from the deli looking around blankly, his shoulder on fire.

Then more eel, as a fin drooped over his face and he continued pulling at it, thinking this thing must weigh 300 pounds. He was hampered in moving it because his other hand was digging in his coat.

As the fin lifted he saw one of the armed guards shoving the deli man out of the way and holding a rifle up only to have his head explode and the fin dropped down again.

Samson had grabbed what he needed and now pulled the small ray gun out of his coat where it had been hidden away. He also had shoved the eel off enough that he could try to sit up, only to have the fins flap up and block his view again, just as he’d seen what he thought was a horse flying down.

“Shit,” he said, as he processed that, and, thinking quickly, he ducked back down behind the eel, which continued to squeak and honk and flap, sliming him and blocking his view much of the time. But if it was what he thought it was…

It was. In between flipper-flaps, he saw the horse land and more horses land, with the Valkyries forming a protective circle, horses and spears facing outwards, shooting blasts of energy from their spears at the guards who were coming up the drive and across the forest and out of the house.

But where was God?

And how did they get here?

Samson sat below the eel and thought those things.

Two valkyries took shots from ray guns and went down, their horses moving forwards to cover them. Samson tried to blank his mind out. They would not be able to talk, here, he knew, and so would be using nothing but telepathy. And if they were looking for hostile thoughts, he would not be mask his mind from them. He doughted he could block his thoughts at all, anyway. Not with that many, and not with how his mind was racing. And not with his chip and wiring making it easy for them.

Where is God?

He watched from behind the now-slowing eel’s fins, the fluttering thick leathery substance more weakly moving up and down now as the eel suffocated, and he saw the Valkyries reorienting to take on the bulk of the guards. He saw the deli man come over to him, crawling. His shoulder was still on fire.

“Don’t you feel anything?” Samson hissed as the man got close enough for Samson to reach out and grab his collar. He pulled him closer and beat out the fire, which the man for the first time seemed to notice. “Where’s God?” Samson said, as the man was about to speak. Samson said it and shared it, the question coursing through the tiny filaments that doubled as nerve fibers, his chip picking it up and communicating it to the man’s chip. The image of God, in his sandals and sporty shirt, was transmitted, too.

The man didn’t respond but his mind was a blank and Samson got that. He also got a mixture of emotions back, a blast of confusion and fear and adrenaline and also, he noted, some anger and fear that was hidden in the background – a different kind of anger and fear than the other anger and fear, like tasting the pineapple in a pineapple-orange daiquiri.

It was aimed at him, he realized, and he looked at the man.

“No time for that,” he said, and sent shared some reassurance. “Trust me,” he said, and sent some more reassurance. At least he hoped he’d sent reassurance. It’d been a while since he’d had to do this. He looked out again at the Valkyrie-Guard battle and noticed that some of the women (and beautiful women they were, sexy and large-breasted and bare-chested in some cases and flowing hair and one of them had no pants on, either. Even in the midst of the battle Samson felt his cock harden a little at that and he tried to focus) some of the women were pointing up.

He looked up.

“What the fuck is that?” he asked.

The eel fin flapped once more and Samson missed the first glimpse. The fin lifted and he saw the second glimpse, a giant curly-haired sheepbird thing diving down at a screamingly fast speed, and screamingly was the right word for it, because the bird-thing was shrieking, squawing, so loud that the sound was like a force itself.

It was, in fact, a force, he saw in a moment, as the bird dove and the squaw got louder and the Valkyries were flattened by the sound – almost literally, as they and their horses were knocked over, falling to the ground and scrambling. The bird-sheep thing swooped low over them and through the area, drawing some ray-gun shots from the guards, too, who were uncertain whose side this thing was on and decided that if they didn’t recognize it, it wasn’t on their side even though it had just helped them.

With the Valkyries momentarily down, about ten of the guards swarmed in and began wrestling hand-to-hand with the Valkyries, who were themselves quick to get to their feet. The horses were slower but in seconds there was a battle between armored guards with electrified billy clubs and horses and six-and-a-half foot tall beautiful women holding short swords.

As Samson laid there, looking at the battle and for God, he saw one of the taller Valkyries square off against two armored guards. This was the one that had no pants – she was naked, entirely, her skin an almost-ivory, creamy white color that contrasted with the jet-black ebony flowing hair that was pulled into a ponytail but which hung to nearly her firm, round, buttocks, which Samson found almost hypnotic as they flexed and readied themselves to attack. The guards both held up their clubs, glowing blue with power, and the Valkyrie crouched, all three motionless for a split-second before she dove at them. Her sword jabbed towards the guard on her left, missing him, and missing him badly. Samson wondered how she could have been so far off but then saw: She’d jabbed but started her sword to the right, deliberately missing the blow, which had been a feint to the guard on the left in order to entice the guard on the right to attack her even as she leaped.

Which he did: the guard on the right, no coward, jumped forward himself as he saw the blade stab away from him. But he was himself a jillionth of a second too late, and the Valkyrie had already plunged her magnificent body forward enough that he missed her entirely with his down-sweeping club blow, hitting the club hard against the ground where a hair-breadth before, the Valkyrie had stood.

She, meanwhile, had moved forward while her sword arm swung back on the seemingly missed blow, and the sword arced around behind her, her right arm guiding it without the Valkyrie watching it at all.

Samson had heard stories of Valkyrie battles and he knew that they, through their telepathy, could link minds so that each Valkyrie saw the entire battlefield from the perspective of every other Valkyrie in the battle. They were impossible to sneak up on, impossible to surprise, impossible to outwit, he’d heard, and he saw why, now, as the Valkyrie’s sword, without being watched by its owner, swept around and sliced through the armor of the right-most guard, nearly cutting him in half. Samson heard the guard moan and cry out as the sword bit into him.

The left-guard, meanwhile, had only a brief moment to react, and his reaction had been one of relief as the sword-jab had missed him. His relief lasted not at all as the Valkyrie’s instantaneous, simultaneous leap had driven her into him – his body relaxed in that moment because he thought he’d been spared the sword-blow that was even now cutting his compatriot in half. His relief ended as the beautiful, sexy, deadly warrior drove into him and knocked him down underneath her powerful legs (and, Samson thought, if I was going to be stabbed in the face by a Valkyrie sword, I’d at least like it be while I had her legs wrapped around my head…).

The Valkyrie knelt there, pulling her sword up, and was about to stab down on the man’s face when the bird thing drew her attention, as it came swooping back through on another superfast, superloud pass, its squaw blowing the Valkyrie off the guard entirely and sending her sprawling again. Again, the Valkyries were knocked prone by the wave of sound as the bird thing made its run, and this time the guards were driven down, too.

Samson watched that, too, and saw, among the bodies struggling to stand and begin fighting again, one man already up, seemingly unaffected by this all but confused. God stood amidst the battle with a puzzled look on his face, staring at the receding shape of Fuzzy Bird as the bird-thing rose up to begin another turn and dive again.

Samson saw God’s mouth working, mumbling to himself, and he knew he had to act.

“Wait here,” he told the deli man, and shoved aside the fin to stand up again, hoping he could get to the middle of the scrum and back before that bird thing came back and before the Valkyries and guards began fighting again. Hoping, but certain that he couldn’t. “Don’t move a muscle,” he said. “I’m going to get God out of here.”

With that, he ran towards the middle of the battle, but was not quick enough, as two guards got up first, to be knocked down by a horse who had made it to his feet and was neighing madly. Before Samson could get there, before any more guards could get there, the naked, black-haired Valkyrie made it to her feet and grabbed God by the throat with one hand, lifting him off the ground and holding him in the air with her left hand.

With her right, she aimed her sword at God’s face.


My weekly reminder of what I'm writing and what I'm reading...

What I'm Writing:

The pause button lets me take a moment, as I recall my honeymoon, to explain why I chose those particular songs for my Honeymoon Mixtape. (Thinking The Lions)

Maybe getting dumped isn't all bad? It's certainly not if you're a character in a movie -- then you almost want to get dumped, don't you? (The Best of Everything.)

2012? It'll come a lot earlier thanks to Joe The Magician, whose first show went off without a hitch. Except for the part about hastening the end of the world. That's a small flaw. (AfterDark.)

Desperate for love, or sleep? In my novel Up So Floating Many Bells Down Sarah roams around her house in the middle of the night, thinking about her trip to San Diego with Peyton, her fight with Jane, and why photographs no longer seem real. (5 Pages)

School's almost back, so it's time for a landlord-tenant law pop quiz! (Family and Consumer Law: The Blog)

Zounds! I've figured out how to use midichlorians to boost my writing career. Take that, Darth Sidious! (Aaaugh!!)

It's literature's first pregnant ex-lover/sexy Valkyrie/mysterious clone/lesbian zombie love quadrangle! In the latest installment of her story, Rachel is almost shot down by a fleet of flying saucers, but is rescued by a revived Ivanka -- who's as sexy as ever. (Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!)

What I'm Reading:

Want to get published? Write good query letters -- with help from QueryShark.

The Boy is blogging? It's true -- and he's picked five movie sequels better than the originals. (Note: He's wrong about The Empire Strikes Back, and he'll be grounded for that.) (Mean True Things)

I never know how I find these sites, but I do -- which is good, because otherwise I'd never know how to get to the Electric Pony Sale. (Worst Sign Ever.)

Part 14D: Invasion!

I could hear the crackling and fizzling as the trees burst into flame and then into nothingness, and I watched as the cone-shaped beams flared left and right, wiping the trees down to nothing.

Rachel! Get out of there! I felt the Me say in my mind, and I thought back:


Or maybe I yelled it. I don’t know. I was panicking and those beams were getting lower and lower and I could smell the heat or something like that.

The ME thought back: Fall!

I thought But I just climbed back up here and I don’t want to leave you!

I’ll be okay!

No! I can’t keep… but the rays were just above my head, sweeping back and forth still and the sound was loud and I looked up as a flash of blue spun just over my eyes and the tree above my left hand disappeared, leaving a flat smooth expanse above which I could see the glorious blue air of Valhalla, the sky that I had only glimpsed through branches for the last day or two.

No!” I screamed, and pulled my hand down as the beam flashed back. I had no choice.

I let go, and dropped down and down and down, covering in seconds what had taken me what felt like days climbing up. As I fell, in my mind, I could see images of what the Me was seeing. She was looking at Brigitte, who was looking out the window with a shocked expression on her face.

I fell, and saw Brigitte staring down out the windscreen of the flying saucer with her mouth open in a cute O of surprise, and her hands pressed up against the glass.

I fell, and saw myself falling from above as the Me must have looked down at the ground below me.

I fell, and I saw below me a crowd gathering, a group of people that could barely be seen below the tree branches that I fell through in mere seconds. I saw all that and then I was almost to the ground and I dropped into a large cloth held out for just that purpose by a group of silent naked lesbian zombies all gathered around the tree.

I had flipped around in my fall and landed on my back in the blanket, which gave way a little and then was pulled tight by the people holding it, so that I actually popped up in the air just a little bit, and then I landed on my butt and sat up, disoriented. I’d expected to hit the ground, hit it hard and maybe die or go to Hell or something, but that hadn’t happened at all. I caught my breath and my wits and looked around, recognizing some of the faces of the lesbian zombie army, including Naked Girl, who held the blanket.

Rachel! A new thought came into my mind and I looked over my shoulder.


Rachel! Was all she thought again. I could see injuries on her and her left arm hung a little weird and she looked pale but she had a huge, beautiful smile on her face and her eyes were clouded over with tears. In my mind, I kept seeing me, images of me, coming from Ivanka, I guess: me on the blanket, me on the tree, me in Hell, me clinging to her back as she rode her horse out of Hell past the waterspout, me standing on the ground in the tank battle, me and her kissing…

And through it all she just kept thinking Rachel Rachel Rachel

Then she thought this: I love you!

Oh, man.

I looked up.

“Ivanka!” I said, my disorientation and fear and everything that was happening getting in the way of thinking it. “The Me, um, Me, um, Rachel. She’s up there. And Brigitte.” I pointed and didn’t make any sense. “They’re up there. They’re shooting down the forest. Help. I mean, we’ve got to help them.” I was scrambling to get off the blanket-thing they’d stretched out. As I talked, Ivanka’s thoughts flooded my mind:

I love you. I almost lost you. I can’t believe you were falling. We almost didn’t find you but then I searched for you with my mind and I felt you, a powerful pull. It must be love. I bet you love me too

While she thought that, I kept saying: “Ivanka, we’ve got to help them,” and pointing up, and I looked up, too, and realized that the flying saucer was a lot lower down than I’d thought, and the trees all around were fizzling and disintegrating and were down to only about 50 feet tall, and the destruction was spreading, rapidly. The Me was hanging above me, still held by the saucer that Brigitte flew.

“Ivanka!” I yelled, trying to break her train of thought.

Who’d had imagined a valkyrie would turn out to be a bit of a ditz? She finally looked up and saw what I saw, which was not just Brigitte’s flying saucer, but about 30 others, all over the forest and beginning to disintegrate it.

Part 14C: Brigitte talks to me!

It was Brigitte.

I nearly let go of the tree in spite of myself.

I clung there, fingers clutching the cracks in the bark and my face pressed against it, and then slowly looked up. All I could see was the silvery underside to the flying saucer.

Are you sure? I asked. I said it, quietly, but tried to think it, too. In response I got a picture, again, of Brigitte, staring at the Me, intently.

It was the same Brigitte and I felt my heart flutter involuntarily. She was leaning forward, I thought, and then realized that she wasn’t leaning forward as much as I’d imagined, or seen, at first, but instead, she was very pregnant. She must have been… I don’t know. I don’t know how people look at various parts of pregnancies but she was really really pregnant, and I was surprised at that and couldn’t stop looking through the Me’s eyes at Brigitte’s round, full belly, until I looked up a little more and saw her breasts, just above it, and they were bigger than ever. I stared at those for what felt like a long time –

-- still looking through the Me’s eyes, while I tried to keep climbing up the tree, feeling like I was going slower than ever, inch by inch up the hundreds of feet to where the Me was dangling upside down in front of Brigitte in the saucer.--

And I was going so slowly, now, because of those breasts, which I remembered so well I could almost feel them in my mind.

Hey! Came a thought, blasting at me.

Sorry, I said… thought. Both. I kept climbing. It’s Brigitte.
I know Brigitte, the Me thought back at me. It’s not that. You’re USING MY EYES.

What? I thought, and stopped climbing. I concentrated and realized that, yes, this wasn’t looking at an image of Brigitte, it was looking through her eyes.

Stop it! The Me yelled in my mind.

I don’t know how I’m doing it, I said back to her. I want to stop it… and then there was a blank, somehow. Like a door had closed, I couldn’t see Brigitte anymore or the saucer, not that way. All I saw was the inside of my eyelids, which I opened up and looked up. I was closer, but still hundreds of feet below them, and not going to make it there anytime soon at that rate. I kept climbing up. Like the time in Hell, I had nothing else to do and nowhere else to go. I kept my eyes on the Me, and on the saucer, and tried to focus on climbing faster while still trying to talk to the Me.

Me? I said, over and over. Rachel? Me? But there was nothing. After a minute of that, and 15 feet more of climbing, I finally grabbed on tight to the tree and yelled, at the top of my lungs:

I hung there, on the side of the tree, looking up at the Me hanging upside down and tears in my eyes, tears of frustration and fear. I stared at her and tried to see her face.

I didn’t get anything back. She didn’t call or wave or anything, and I was still blocked out by that wall. “Please!” I said, not yelling it. I just tried to beg her, in my mind and in my words.
Then I thought of something: I switched over and instead of trying to talk to the Me, I tried to talk to Brigitte.

Brigitte! I thought. I pictured her face, her hair, her… lips, and then tried to focus again on her face. I tried to imagine myself picking up a phone and talking to her. Whatever might help make a connection. I pictured her stomach, bulging out with the baby below it, and said again, outloud and in my mind: Brigitte!


I’d kept climbing but I was still far away. I was getting tired, too, although I’ve found I don’t get as tired as other people do. Whatever keeps me running doesn’t let me wear out as quickly as I would expect it to.

I thought for a second. I looked at the Me and she was still hanging there, unable or unwilling to move because she wasn’t. I hoped she was okay. I looked at the saucer and wondered how Brigitte had gotten here. I tried to remember all the stuff the Me had said about how to communicate through telepathy.

Then, I scrapped all that and hollered at the top of my lungs:


That did something. There was a flash of lights around the saucer and it moved up a little, then back. The Me still hung there, in the air, motionless, but I saw that she’d looked a little more down towards where I was. As I watched, the saucer hovered up a little higher.
There was a crackling buzz and then a voice, amplified and mechanical a little but still very obviously Brigitte, just Brigitte-through-a-loudspeaker, came out:

“Who said that?” the Brigitte-voice said.

“ME!” I shouted again. “DOWN HERE!”

In my mind I tried to picture her again, tried to picture her eyes. The eyes are a good focus, the Me had said. If you’re looking into someone’s eyes, even in my your mind, it’s easier to really communicate with them. I pictured Brigitte’s eyes, long lashes and deep blue and wide and bright and always a little wet, like she always had just really smiled big or had just finished crying, or both.

It’s me, Brigitte.
My mind felt confused, too, because the last time I’d seen her, I had been so betrayed, but there was so much emotion there that I had to try to focus, to calm down, to just picture her eyes and think that over and over: It’s me, Brigitte it’s me Brigitte.

The flying saucer went up a little higher.

“Who is that?” came over the loudspeaker again, this time even a little louder. I saw, as I clung to the side of the tree, that the Me had been pulled higher, too, so that both were clearly above the treetops.

“IT’S ME! DAMMIT, BRIGITTE! IT’S ME!” I shrieked it at the top of my lungs, my mind exploding in a vision of making love to Brigitte and the hallway where Samson, that damned soul, had told me she’d betrayed me, to her eyes after Church that morning that we’d first been attacked by the revenants to her hand clinging to mine in Hell. In my mind I almost started to cry and a sobbing shrug heaved out of me, making it hard to hang on to the tree. If my thoughts had words, they’d have been something like: It’s me, Brigitte, and how could you do this to me, how could you tell me you love me and tell me you’re pregnant and obviously you are pregnant but is it mine and what am I supposed to do about it because it was all fake wasn’t it, it was all a trap, it was just something that was set up but I really did love you so why are you being like this?

My thoughts were shooting out like that, and I hung onto the tree and looked up and saw the saucer start to lower slowly down.

Then, in my mind, I saw an image of Brigitte again: Her eyes had that wide, almost-cried look, and she was smiling. She was beautiful.

Then, in my mind, I felt: Look out!

Then I saw Doc! It was Doc! Hovering there, and it took me a second to realize that he really was there, right by me! Doc!

I said it: “Doc!” But he didn’t do anything, not right away, and then he shot straight up into the air, up to the saucer again. I lost track of him about a hundred feet up. “Doc!” I yelled again.

I was about to start climbing when I saw a ray shoot out of the bottom of the saucer, a bluish ray that began at the top of the trees. Wherever it hit the trees, there was a fizzle sound, and crackling and electrical smells began to fill the air. The blue ray was disintegrating the trees, right above me, sweeping lower and lower and lower.

Towards me.

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Part 14B: A surprise above the trees!

She shot up faster and faster, and I heard in my mind:

What are you doing? Stop it? Help! But it was growing fainter as she went up and up. I shouted and tried to think back:

“I’m not doing anything! Fight! Or something!”

She stopped, about 200 feet up, looking down at me, just a speck above me in the branches and speckles of light and leaves that looked small but which I knew (from falling through them) were as big as me, almost. I could barely see her.

And I could barely hear her. Or think her. Whatever. But in my mind, I heard, or felt… look, it’s easier to say heard, okay? That’s what I’m used to saying. In my mind I heard:

Rachel, you’ve got to help me. I don’t… stop that!

That last part wasn’t directed at me. I looked up. The Me was fighting or struggling, somehow. She was hunched over, it looked like, and throwing elbows. Her feet kicked back at something and she was writhing a little. In my mind, I heard no words at all, just feelings.

They weren’t good, they weren’t bad. They were scared, which I guess is bad. I didn’t know that you could project feelings, or maybe I did, because when we’d been making love, there’d been an extra oomph! to it, especially during certain parts. But I hadn’t thought those were, you know, emotions. Now I knew that you could, because the Me was sending me scared and fright and wonder… I don’t know how I knew that last one but it wasn’t one that was like fear, only it was, kind of.

I looked around, on the ground, for something to do. My mind kept being overwhelmed, buffeted by the feelings that the Me was sending: wonder… fear… wonder… thrill…fear...then it began being more fear fear fear, kind of the way a shower in your CleanZone might be set to begin with hot, then go a little colder, then get hot again, if you like to mix things up.

I couldn’t find anything that seemed helpful. There was a rock nearby, about the size of my fist. I picked it up, hefted it, and looked up again. The Me was dangling, now, upside down, apparently by one foot. I still couldn’t see what was holding her in there but it was something because she was really fighting around, trying her best to get free.

Don’t try to get free, I thought at her. Then, in case my thinking didn’t work, I yelled it, too. She looked down at me – I saw her face turning towards me – and I said and thought: “I’ll help you!”

Then, not knowing what else to do, I hurled the rock, as hard as I could, up at her, trying to hit whatever was holding her up.

It fell way, way, way short. It went up maybe fifty feet and then fell straight down, in fact almost hitting me – I had to sidestep it.

Help! A thought got through. I wondered if something was blocking her, or if there was a limit to how far telepathy could travel. I wondered if they’d take her farther and I wouldn’t know what to do.

The emotions kept coming, and I knew I had to do something. There was more fear than anything else and I could see the Me fighting and fighting. I looked around again, helplessly, and then heard another scream and felt a blast of emotion. I looked up.

The Me was going higher, still. She shot up a little more, now almost completely out of sight among the leaves and branches.

I looked at the tree in front of me. I remembered when I woke up in Hell, that first time. I looked at my hands. I sighed.

“I’m coming to get you,” I said. Then I thought it: I’m coming to get you! Hang on! I thought it as hard as I could, then I reached out and grabbed the tree, as high up as I could.

I pulled up and tried to find a footrest. Belatedly, I kicked off my shoes and dug my toes into the grooves in the bark. I pushed up with my toes and grabbed higher up, then felt around more, getting a knot in the tree where I could rest my left foot.

I began inching up that tree, watching with as much of my attention as I could, watching the Me dangling there, so high up, upside down and fighting and twisting and wrestling whenever she could, pausing now and then. I kept feeling her emotions in my mind but I couldn’t concentrate on anything, really, except climbing, so I tried to, in the back of my mind, just think reassuring things to her and hoped she picked them up.

It was tiring. It was exhausting, pulling myself up that tree inch by inch. It didn’t seem like I was making any progress, at all. A foot here, a few inches there. I had to move around the tree, too, trying to find good places to climb. There were little twiggy branches here and there but nothing for another hundred feet or so to really help me climb. I kept going, though, fingers getting torn and raw and bloody, knees pushing against the tree, arms aching, sweat pouring down my forehead.

I’m not going to let you get away, too, I thought at the Me. I’m going to save you.

I felt a wave of fear and gratitude come over me. When I saw the Me now, on those times I was on her side of the tree, she mostly hung there, motionless and tired. I felt, coming from her, mostly tiredness, now. I kept my mind on her, kept picturing her smiling and trying to make that a pleasant thought, a hopeful thought. I tried to climb on that side, so that she could see me.

Once, I looked down. I was higher up than I’d thought, maybe fifty feet up already. It felt like I’d been climbing for days. But I was closer to the Me: The emotions were stronger and I could pick up more words in her thoughts.

Let me go she thought a lot.

And What are you doing?

And What is this thing? When she thought that, I wondered what she was looking at. I looked up, wanting to wipe sweat out of my eyes, but I was clinging to the side of a giant tree 75 or more feet off the ground and couldn’t spare the effort. My hands were needed. I locked my legs and tried to take deep breaths.

What is it? I thought at the Me.

Nothing in return. I couldn’t hardly see her. I started to climb again when I got an image, thrown back in my mind, strong and solid, almost. It startled me, how strong it was, and how shiny it was, but that wasn’t all. It startled me so bad, in fact, that I almost lost my grip. I grabbed onto the tree, my heart racing and my pulse in my ears, sweat dripping down into my eyes and mouth. I gasped for breath.

“Hang on, Rachel, hang on,” I told myself. “You’ve done harder things than this.” I tried not to fall. My mind felt like a tornado. I felt more than ever that I had to climb up, but I also wondered if I wasn’t just making it up. Maybe my own mind had filled that in.

I pressed my face against the bark of the tree, feeling its rough scrape on my cheek. It was cool compared to me and I hung there, eyes closed and chest heaving. I got my breath and I got my bearings.

I looked down. About a hundred feet up, maybe.

I looked up. Maybe one-third of the way to the Me.

I shifted my right hand to get a better grip. I was desperate to just start climbing up again but I had to be calm. I had to make sure I didn’t fall, and that I didn’t give anything away.

Assuming there was anything to give away.

I kept my face against the tree, my eyes closed now. I pictured the Me, up there, upside down, in mid-air. Can you hear me? I thought.

I can.

I thought this, then: Was that what you see?

A pause. Then the thing again. Instead of an answer, the Me simply sent me what she saw:

Hanging above her, way above her, above the tree, too, above all the trees, was something shiny and silver and round and kind of flat, with little points and lights and gadgets and stuff on it. It had spots, here and there, that must have been windows or something, and things, too, that looked like weapons. (Weapons always look like weapons, don’t they?)

So it is really there, I thought. I kept the tree pressed tight to me, hugging it. I kept willing myself to hang on, to be calm, not to fall.

It is, the Me thought back.

Then, the Me sent: Why are you so upset?

I took a deep breath. I dug my fingers into the bark and grabbed on for all I was worth.

What else did you see? I asked her. I pictured in my mind the flying saucer that was hovering over the trees, holding the Me somehow up in the air. But I didn’t fill it in. I just waited for the Me, who sent back:

I saw someone flying it, and then she sent me the image of who was in the flying saucer.

It was Brigitte.

I nearly let go of the tree in spite of myself.

Part 14A: I learn some mind tricks.

It’s been two days, the Me told me, speaking into my head. I’d become more accustomed to her using telepathy on me, and I liked it. It was better than talking – especially for some things. As she said this, I got in my mind a flicker of days moving on a digital calendar, and the sun rising and setting quickly like in a sped-up movie, and also a feeling of time passing.

I tried to talk back that way: I know. And I don’t think we’re very close to those towers. I tried, as I thought it, to send pictures of the towers we were trying to get to, the once that Fuzzy Bird had pulled us from in his mad dash to freedom, the one that nearly every Valkyrie in the world had poured out of trying to get to us.

The Me went back to one of the two things we’d discussed, really, for those two days: Shouldn’t they be out looking for us?

I looked up at the canopy of trees above us. Way above us. Way way above us. I still couldn’t believe we’d lived through the fall. Then again, Naked Girl had lived through a similar fall. So I couldn’t be killed? Or I could, but not by falling?

Maybe not by anything, the Me said.

I stopped walking and turned around. “I forgot you can see my thoughts.”

Only if you want me to, she said. Only when you let me.

She’d said that was how it worked, that first night when we’d made love after falling through the trees and narrowly surviving. After we’d been laying there for a while, sweaty and exhausted and frightened and exhilarated (and, for myself, a little weirded out that I’d been having sex with myself, essentially, although not like that) the Me had asked about the weird blank space that she’d seen in my mind.

She’d been careful to explain that she wasn’t reading my mind. Apparently, that could be done, at least here in Valhalla, but nobody tried to do it because it was a horrible invasion of privacy.

“We just automatically make sure that we don’t look at what people are thinking, and you grow up learning how to control it, to have your mind open or closed or kind of screened off, or however you want it. As you get better at it, you can have it open to certain people and not to others, and like that.”

I hadn’t been able to figure it out. She’d worked with me over the past two days, little exercises like the Valkyries had taught her. I’d gotten frustrated with one, once, and balled up my fists.

God, I’ll never get it, I thought, and she’d patted my arm, then held her hand there.

It takes years and years and years, she’d said. When Valkyries, or Clones, or Horses, are little, they broadcast everything. Or nothing. It’s just like learning to talk.

As we’d been walking through the forest, eating fruit off some bushes that the Me found for us and drinking water here and there from streams or pools, she’d continued drilling me on telepathy while trying to talk me through the blankness, too, and she started up on that now, also:

We can practice some more, she thought, and images of us practicing before flashed into my head, too, along with, this time, some music.

“How’d you do that?” I asked, forgetting to try to think it.

The music? She asked me back.

I concentrated: Yes, I thought at her, and tried to replay it in my mind for her.

I heard it, as I thought to you. But I heard it in your thoughts, not mine. I didn’t think it to you, she said.

I opened my eyes and looked around.

Then who did? I carefully thought at her, the skin on my neck prickling. Two days, I thought, and got sad. For two wonderful days the Me and I had walked through this peaceful woods and nobody had shot me or kidnapped me or dropped me off something or tried to grab me with tentacles and demons and I’d thought very little, during that time, of all the rest of the troubles – I hadn’t thought much of Brigitte’s betrayal and of Mr Damned Soul and all the rest.

I had sometimes thought about Doc and felt bad, but the Me had been a great companion and kept me from feeling too lonely. I tried, those times I thought about Doc, to remember that he wasn’t alive. It would be like missing a Read-Or unit or a dirigible. Except that dirigibles didn’t keep people company when they were walking from New York to…

I closed that thought off. I concentrated on the music and hoped that it wasn’t the start of new troubles. Valhalla had been like a vacation, almost, if you didn’t count the exploding left hand and the dropping out of the sky and the whole being-grabbed-by-Fuzzy-Bird thing. I didn’t want, I desperately didn’t want, there to be new trouble.

Relax your mind, the Me said. I felt her hand take mine and squeeze it. We were facing each other in a little clearing in the forest, the trees around us stretching nearly a mile up, I figured, but their branches allowing a tiny opening at the top that created a 20-foot-wide splash of sunlight for us at the bottom, warm and yellow and calm. There were ferns and a fruit bush near us and not far away I could hear a stream, the stream we’d been sticking close to as we’d walked back to the towers.

Relax, the Me sent me again. I’d tensed up when I’d thought about the Valkyries towers. Where were they?

Relax, the Me sent me again.

I relaxed. Or tried to. I let my shoulders loosen and my mind focus on the one thing that almost always worked: sex. I pictured the Me holding me. I pictured her letting go of my hand and moving a step closer to me, until we were almost chest-to-chest and hip-to-hip. I pictured her, then, shrugging her shoulders in that way she… I… had, and I pictured her doing that and pulling her shirt off, the little light cotton-y thing that barely covered her breasts anyway and pulled up at her … my…waist, a little, to show just a little tummy. I pictured her standing there, bare-breasted in front of me and I felt myself relax. I pictured her, then, lifting up my shirt and pulling it over my head until I, too, was bare-chested and then I thought, as I relaxed, about her pulling me to her and me leaning into her and wrapping my arms around her…

Hey! I heard, felt, got whacked with a, shout in my mind. It was like getting slapped in the brain and I opened my eyes.

The Me was standing in front of me, her shirt off and her arms out and my arms were reaching out to her. She didn’t look sexy or nice or sweet, thought. She looked shocked, and angry.

What are you DOING? She yelled in my mind again, causing me to wince.

“I didn’t do anything,” I said.

Images flashed through my mind, though, and she looked exactly like the last of them.

You’re CONTROLLING me, the Me said.

She backed a few steps away from me.

“Don’t,” I said. “I didn’t…. I don’t… I was just trying to relax.”

She was about ten feet away now, at the edge of the clearing.

Nobody should control someone else’s mind, she said.

“I didn’t try to,” I protested. I took a step towards her.

She took a step back: Nobody’s ever been able to do that.

“I don’t know how I did it,” I said.

Don’t come any nearer, she said. I didn’t listen. I stepped closer to her and said:

“Don’t do this!”

She turned to run from me but before she could move an inch she screamed and was lifted into the air, flying up and up and up, still screaming, while I stood on the ground below her and felt helpless.