Part 22G: The Me Has Company In Limbo.

That Valkyrie, the one who explored Limbo, was named Rionya, and she served as a cautionary tale that parents told their children, and scientists told their clones, as they grew up on Valhalla, a warning that straying from the Valkyrie way could lead to madness and worse.

"Worse?" we would ask, as children, when the older folk would tell us Rionya's story.  "Worse than madness?"

OH YES, they would tell us.  There is much worse than madness, they would say, but would never elaborate.

Most people ended up assuming that Rionya was a myth, a folk tale, one of those things that parents tell their kids to keep them in line, not real like Hell or the Lattice World.

I say all this because it would be only natural to think of Rionya if you are from Valhalla and suddenly end up in Limbo.

And also because Rionya is standing over me as I wake up.

And she is mad -- in both senses of the word.

I can tell she is mad, crazy, insane, and also mad, angry, because she is literally frothing at the mouth, and because her eyes are wild -- wide and bloodshot and lacking any pupils whatsoever-- and her hair, which would have been down to her waist if not longer if combed stuck out in all directions, a bizarre hairscape of three, maybe four dimensions.  She is naked, and covered in strange tattoos that seem like words but aren't in any language I can understand.

She's standing there, probably eight feet tall, pointing a finger down at me.

And speaking in some sort of garbled voice.

I can't understand a word she was saying.

"What?" I say, as quietly and as nonethreatingly as I can.  I can't move -- all the stories about Limbo are true, that it is hard to move there, that physical effort won't move you -- and I am too shocked to be able to gather my thoughts.

Rionya garbles something back at me and sneers.

"I don't..." I say, a little louder, but she roars and interrupts me, leaning down and grabbing my left arm and lifting me up over her head.

I dangled there, held up off whatever passed for ground here, staring at her crazy face with little wordlike tattoos on it, those insane eyes looking into mine, for no more than a second before I manage to squeak out:

"Don't hurt me, please"

but if she understands it doesn't show.  She looks at me with one eye, then the other, and then with both again.  I can't imagine how she can see without pupils.

Then she puts me down in front of her, and I am standing, somehow, in the middle of a big blank empty nothingness.

She doesn't let go of my arm, though, and looks at me again, more closely, staring right into my eyes from less than an inch away.

Her breath is minty.

She would be quite pretty, actually, if she wasn't so scary and deranged and messy and tattoo-y.

We stand like that for a long time and then she backs up just an inch.

"Rachel" she says, and before I can say anything she pulls out a knife, slashes it down, cuts off my left hand, turns, and takes off running.

Click here to go on to the next part.

Shopping becomes more exciting (and you don't even need to have your own crickets.)

Let's face it: Shopping online needs to be jazzed up and made a LOT more exciting.

Everything you do online, including this blog -- especially including this blog, right? -- is exciting, EXCEPT shopping.

Here is my impression of someone shopping online:

*looks at tiny thumbnail photo of a laptop.*

*crickets chirp*

You should be impressed: I had to import those crickets.  They're from England.  Adds a touch of class, having crickets chirp with British accents.

Anyway, the point is, shopping online sucks and is boring and stupid, because all you do is page through stuff and click on stuff and spend more money than you want to.

But now, there's a way to fix that problem.  A way to make shopping more exciting.  And that way is...


*crickets rise up and cheer, applauding madly.*
See, even the crickets are excited.  But there are those among you who may not get it, yet, and who may be saying, What is DealDash? 

Don't fret: I will tell you.

DealDash is an auction site, but one with a twist, in that it's both fun and RISK FREE. 

DealDash works like this: You sign up (for free) and begin bidding by buying some bids.  Bids go for as low as $0.60, and DealDash is always offering discounts and sales on the bids.

Then you pick out some stuff you want to bid on.  Right now, as I write this, you can bid on things like Gift Cards, Xbox 360 games, handbags, and more.

And the deals people get on these things are incredible.  A 7" Android tablet just sold, just now, for $9.08.  A woman's 26" bike sold for about four bucks.

So you can see how it's like a game.  Let's say you want to get an iPad for someone.  Say, a blogger.  Someone whose blog you are reading right now.


Let's pretend you want to get me a present, okay?  I mean, I am here slaving away, typing up new stories all the time for you, posting pictures of hot women, coming up with phenomenal plot twists, importing crickets

*crickets cheer again*

and you never even thank me, do you?  So the LEAST you can do is buy a hypothetical gift for the purposes of this post.

Anyway, now that you have decided to get me that gift, you want to save money, so you go register, buy your pack of bids, and find the iPad you want on DealDash and begin bidding.  That's where the fun begins: each bid costs you about $0.60 (or less) and you get to compete with others to get the goods you want for the lowest price.  You might get that iPad for as low as $6.76, the sale price of one on DealDash recently.

And, it's RISK FREE, because if you don't win your first auction, you get your bids back, so there's no risk for being new to the game.  Plus, if you don't get the item you bid on, you can go buy it for the price on the site anyway, and if you do THAT you'll get your bids back, too.

It's like you can't lose.  Isn't that great?  Let's hear it for DealDash.

*crickets begin clapping, and a few do the wave before realizing nobody's into it and sitting back down*

 DealDash is for real: just check out this DealDash Customer Review to get another viewpoint on it.

OH! I should've said DealDash is for RealDash.  Dang it.  Missed an opportunity.

Anyway, I love DealDash.  Love it.  You should go check it out, too, and you will love it, as much as I do.  More, maybe.

That's all for now.  I got to go find a place for all these crickets to crash for a while.  Sweetie is not going to be happy if she comes home and they're lounging all over the house, watching soccer on ESPN2 and eating our Lucky Charms.

Part 22F: Harper's back, and some backstory on Limbo!

I spin back around, and see Harper staring at me from behind some kind of mechanical apparatus that she is also aiming at me.

"Um... no," I say, and Harper looks around quickly, taking in me, Target A, Simon the Horse, and the impending collision of Hell and Earth before looking back at me.

"So you're one of the clones," she says, and I nod.

"I'm... " but she moves a hand a little bit, hits some sort of button or trigger and the machine blasts a burst of energy at me, all greenish-yellow, and I black out...

...and wake up, what seems like immediately but I'm not sure it it.  Who can tell how much time has passed when you've been unconscious? Not me, not when I wake up in Limbo.

I know about Limbo.  Lots of people know about Limbo.  Limbo is what keeps the dimensions separate, and it's kind of a dimension on its own and kind of not.  It's the space between all the dimensions and some people, like the Valkyries, think that Limbo is to be avoided at all costs, that once you go into Limbo you cannot ever truly leave it, that part of your soul will always be anchored to Limbo and you will be stuck there forever, not again being able to fully participate in life on any other dimension.

The Valkyries even have a legend, about a Valkyrie who wanted to explore Limbo, who as a little girl listened to the stories of the haunted souls who went to Limbo and came back with vacant eyes and dessicated minds, women who had lost their legendary love of battle and sex and honor and instead took to sitting in the forests of Valhalla, keening in sorrow over what they had lost -- a piece of themselves, people said -- a vital one.  People talk about that Valkyrie and how she set out to determine what Limbo was, really, and why it did that to Valkyries, whether Limbo could be conquered and if so how.

That Valkyrie, they said, wasn't like the others.  She was different from the rest of them, a Valkyrie more in name than in spirit.  She'd never had a horse, never really had a lover, and when the Valkyrie would ride to battle, that one would hang back, avoiding the bloodlust of the battlefield, the carnage that made other Valkyrie feel alive.

At home, on Valhalla, the woman who'd wanted to explore Limbo hadn't spent her time furthering scientific research, the chosen hobby for most of the residents of that dimension.  She hadn't been interested in the forests, with their peaceful quiet solitude under the mile-high trees.  She had spent her time alone, in her rooms, staring up at the sky, as if she could look into Limbo from her bedroom window itself.

And then, they say, one day, she did -- she had announced excitedly at dinner that she had found a way to see into Limbo and her parents, leery of this development in their strange little girl had said to her that she should show them.

So they went to the window.  Valkyrie can travel the dimensions, but the young are not allowed to do it, and the parents suspected that this girl had simply, precociously, opened a portal between the dimensions without knowing it.  When the Valkyrie do that, they know how to tunnel through Limbo so they never touch its ether, but the girl may not have done that.

So they thought.

They got to her room and saw no portals, saw no dimensional rifts.

"Show us," they told their daughter -- the two women holding hands as they watched their little girl go to the window and stare, intently, up at the sky.

"Look," the girl had whispered.

Her mothers walked to the window and looked into the sky, and saw Limbo -- a great gash in their own beautiful, blue sky over Valhalla where Limbo was clearly visible, its eerie blackness dangerously close to them even up in the sky, and they shuddered.

"How did you do that?" the mothers had asked.

The girl had shrugged.

"I just looked," she said.

The mothers were afraid, though, because this wasn't looking at Limbo: this was an opening into Limbo, and a large one, into the dimension the Valkyrie feared most of all.

Part 22E: Worlds Collide!

So I rush outside, elbowing Target A out of the way, his smelly, saggy belly giving to my arm, and the horse backs up as I head up the stairs from this basement hellhole.

The air outside isn't very much nicer than it was down in the parts room. The street is grimy and dark and the buildings are tall and gloomy.  Raised on Valhalla -- clean, forested Valhalla with its few sparse towers that gleam like pearls made of platinum -- I'm pretty hard on every other place, but there's not many places that would suffer by comparison to New York City.  I felt bad for Rachel having to live here, but only for a moment because I remembered that she'd only lived her for about a day before Target A had taken her body, dismembered it, reassembling her with bits and pieces of others and trying to animate her.

Then I felt bad for Rachel for all different reasons.

The horse points up into the sky. 

There are flying saucers all over the sky, and the sky itself is ugly in a way that I don't like to describe.  It's... boiling, is possibly the only word I can use.  As these flying saucers are spreading over the sky, their cool, dull gray undersides lit by tiny blue running lights, the atmosphere above them is turning liquid and gurgling and churning, like molten lava which in a second was what I realized it was.

"Hell..." I said.

"What?" Target A next to me is barely holding it together.

"It's Hell," I say to him.  "The dimensions must be coming together."

We watch for a second the broiling of the atmosphere.  I wonder if the flying saucers are related to the sky or not.

"We should go," the horse says.

"Go where?" I ask.

We all stare again for a second.  The red glow from the sky is illuminating the street now, but not in a good way.  It's making it uglier, if anything, like everything has a thin sheen of blood on it.  But people have started noticing. I'm not sure what time it is or whether people in a neighborhood like this care much about business hours but whether they do or not, the commotion and light are starting to rouse people, who lean out of windows looking up or walk down the front steps of their tenements.

I hear a sound I'm unfamiliar with, a kind of snurffling followed by a whooosh and then a high-pitched whine that gets higher and higher until it can't be heard, falling right out of the top of the scale.

Above us, tiny missiles appear: someone is fighting the saucers, which are spread in (so far as I can tell) an even pattern above the city.  As the missiles near them, the saucers change their stance a little: I can see one drop below the others, and that one shoots out multiple blue beams, beams that freeze the missiles in their tracks.

The other saucers, above that one, are starting to glow on top, a blue light that is emanating outwards from the domes we can barely see.

"We should get under cover," I say to the horse.

"I'd rather leave."

"We can't cross the dimensions on our own."

"You need to cross dimensions?" Target A says.

I eye him distastefully.  He's important to the plans, in some way -- I was never told what -- but that doesn't change the fact that he's dirty, and out of shape, and that he spent his life cutting up women to make them into slaves.

He's also crying.

Dammit.  Can't the bad guys just be bad?

"Yes," I tell him.

"I know someone who can do that," he says.

"Of course you do.  The people you work for."

He shook his head.  "I don't want to work for them anymore."

A pause.

"It's someone else."

There is more whooshing and high-pitched whines.  I look up at the sky again.  The red, boiling pestilence of Hell's atmosphere is closer, and it's getting hotter, in fact.  Everything around us including us has a red tinge to it.  I can smell sulfur.  From the tops of the saucers, the blue glows are getting bigger and brighter, pressing back against the Hell-sky, almost, like holding the blanket up over your head.

"Who is it?" I ask Target A.

He rubs his hands together.  "I don't know..."

I sigh in exasperation.  "Horse, can you take us someplace more safe than this?  Fly low?"

The man interrupts as the Horse says his name is Simon and yes he can: The man says: "I don't know if we should call her."

"Her who?" I say.  Now, in the sky, there are more missiles bursting against blue force shields.  I can see bits of shrapnel raining down.  The blue saucers are holding steady but the red sky of Hell is looming even closer.  I can hear now a distant hissing sound that I know is a roar that is too far away to register as such.  Hell is crashing onto Earth and I am arguing with a fat vivisectionist in a dark alley.

"I don't know her name." Target A says.  "But I don't think she's very nice."

The protecting flying saucer takes a hit and explodes.  The sky is full of missiles now and I can hear, from farther away, some rumbling that sounds militaryish.  There are darkening circles in the Hell Sky that do not bode well.  We are caught in a battle that is forming in the intersection between two dimensions and one of those dimensions happens to be the one that every other dimension uses as a place of punishment and prison.

"Call her," I say.

The man gets wide-eyed and says "Don't say I didn't warn you," and pulls out a little pennywhistle, which he blows into.

I don't hear anything from that.

The sky is starting to fall:  there are large blobs of actual magma, fist-sized, dropping down onto buildings and another flying saucer has been exploded and people are starting to run and scream now.  We stand there, motionless for a second, staring at the man, who is blowing with all his might into the tiny whistle.

"Let's go," I whisper to Simon the Horse.

"Mom?!" I hear behind me.

Part 22D: You know what this story needs? ANOTHER RACHEL.

Things like is Rachel okay and let's get the hell outta here and back to Valhalla go right out of my mind and I stare at the Mosaic, as do the Valkyries and Target A, who has this gray, pale look about him but I don't notice much because seriously, this Mosaic thing talked.

"Free me," it says now, and we all look at each other, Czaranya and me and the other Valkyrie, but Target A is just shaking and drooling and Rachel is lying there woozily.

"From... um... from what?" I ask, taking the lead.

There is a shimmer in the golden squares that make up the Mosaic and it sort of ripples and shudders a little.

"From this wall," it says.

I have been looking more closely at it and I've realized it's made up of little squares and that the squares are chips, like the kind that are put in people.  Not even like the kind that are put in people. They are the kind that are put in people, on Earth, to let them Share, which is sort of like telepathy but not, as I understand it.

"Who are you?" I ask the Mosaic.

"I'm Rachel," it says.

I look down at Rachel, and think another one?  That's kind of a natural thought, maybe, when you are one of perhaps thousands of clones of one woman, and your whole life has been geared towards proving you are the best of those thousands and then the one that you are the clone of shows up suddenly and not only do you not mind that she's there and you might just have become totally irrelevant but you also fall in love with her.

There's a lot of Rachel's, is my point.

"You are not," Czaranya says, and her frown tells me she's been trying to communicate with the thing telepathically but had to speak. Valkyries hate talking.  Czaranya points to the Rachel on the ground, the one I'm kneeling over.  "That is Rachel."

"I am Rachel," the Mosaic says.  Then a shimmery thing happens and it says "I am Sonja."  The shimmer, again, and "I am Darlene."  Shimmer: "Angela." Shimmer: "Doris."

Now I'm backing away a little as the shimmers get faster and the names get faster, each one said in a different voice, each one clearly a different person:  "LisaJenniferRebeccaAlisonBreeAshleyKellyGretchenAlyssaKaren" it is going on and then there is a flash of light from all of them and it says

"I am Rachel" and things seem to calm down.

For the moment.

"What are you?" I ask.

"I am Rachel," it says.

Target A suddenly wails "It's true! They were all trapped and it's true!" and he goes even more pale and makes a gurgle sound and lunges at the cabinet, trying to I think close it up but Czaranya elbows into him and he falls to the side, clutching at the cabinet door.  The cabinet itself starts to fall forward towards Czaranya and she pulls back but it falls down onto her, trapping her halfway underneath it.  It's nothing for her, I'm not worried about her because the cabinet is really light and the fact that it fell on Czaranya means that it didn't fall directly on Rachel, who was just starting to sit up.

Then a bunch of things happen.  Czaranya starts to lift the cabinet off of her, but Target A is trying to get at it, too, and there's a glow of light from underneath it as Czaranya lifts it up and as I start to try to see if Rachel is okay, she's rolling away from the cabinet and towards Czaranya.  Before I realize what's happened, Rachel has grabbed Czaranya's spear and has pulled it towards her, the spear crackling with the energy that's supposed to kill anyone who's not a Valkyrie but dares to touch it, and the energy is dancing all over Rachel's body and making this fierce acrid smoke. 

"Rachel!" I yell.  "Let it go!"

But she doesn't, and she turns the spear head towards the Mosaic, touches it, and the energy leaps through the gridwork pattern and crackles around it and there is an explosion.  The cabinet is gone, and standing before us is an identical copy of Rachel, only instead of Rachel, or even me, she's basically this woman that looks like us, exactly, only she's made entirely of gold, and her skin is patterned in a tiny grid of golden squares, all over, making her look like a golden mirror ball that has been stretched into a beautiful woman's shape, and her eyes are dark and hollow, and her hair, somehow, is both golden and flowing and slinky and also made of tiny little squares, too.

"I am Rachel," she says again.

We're all just sort of staring there, and Rachel's still holding the spear, which is going nuts, there are blue and gold bolts of energy just arcing around the entire room, and Target A has to duck for it and crawl away, and the horse is backing out and Czaranya, I see, reaches for the spear but then Rachel-Mosaic raises her hands and says


and they are gone:



the spear,

and Czaranya, and the other Valkyrie who I didn't even know her name.

It's just me and Target A.

We stare at each other in the dim light of the workshop for a second, the stench of dead bodies and energy and fighting clouding our senses.

Then, the horse sticks his head in the door and says "I think you better see this."