Surrounded by wreckage of the once-familiar objects strewn about her kitchen, Gudren Thompson clutched the ice-pick even tighter and walked quietly across the thin path left open to her. The random shapes on the floor had made sense to her once but now they seemed ridiculous and useless --disjointed and somehow menacing, their colors even alien, disquieting. Everything in the room seemed to have sharp edges, rough broken lines, jagged points. The details of her own life were fading from memory. She had no names for anything now, could not even understand what a kitchen was for, much less that it was her kitchen. She was moving by instinct. Tin-foil and eggbeaters, boxes of herbal tea and sharp knives, pencils and broken glasses that had only moments before flung themselves wildly through the air --smashing almost everything in the tiny, yellow kitchen to bits, now lay still and inanimate. The floor was evenly covered with debris from the whirlwind poltergeist, except for a pathway that led around the overturned dining table and behind the bathroom door that opened off the kitchen.
She had been practising her marimba in the front of her railroad flat. A nice fall afternoon. Play some marimba, then ride her bike down to the pool for a swim before dinner. A nice quiet day. She might write a little bit later on or attend the newly formed community-militia co-op's first meeting.
It was the smell that had startled her first. The musky, ammoniated smell of an Old One. Palmer had shown her how to see them. Now she couldn't stop seeing them. She saw them everywhere --buses, at her office, the food distribution center, bars, the roofs of neighboring houses. How easy it had all been. You only had to wear a certain color, stand a certain way, held your hands like so, and a monstrous thing would come into view, sort-of. What you saw was actually more like a badly polarized, 3-D movie that was out of focus and transparent. What fun to make this simple magic. The forces all had different shapes but all shared that peculiar odor and seemed to uniformly equal the mass of a half Volkswagon.
Palmer had said the Elders were all around us, constantly, only nobody could see them or smell them unless you were lucky. She pointed out that smelling something that bad should not be considered luck. Palmer laughed but went on: a few could even materialize themselves, without an invitation from our plane. These were the hungry ones, the oldest ones, the demi-gods who sucked humans' minds dry. He said they were called Will Elders and must never be viewed directly. Would you look upon the Gorgon? Palmer said they were here to help, if they didn't eat you first. They were certainly ugly, Gudrun thought.
She didn't see much point in all this mumbo-jumbo, her crush on Janor aside, and resented Palmer for making her life even more complicated than it had been. The sex was pretty O.K., but now with this galactic war business, her sense of humor was wearing thin. Gas and food rationing, the collapse of the national government, a thousand other inconvieniences added up to a good case of future-shock. She was lucky to still have a job with what was left of the local state management system. And the rest of the SubGeniuses, it was enough to make her regret ever picking up their damn bible. First Smith and then his twin, Half-Smith, had insisted on Gudrun arming herself, once they found out Palmer had unofficially initiated her into the middle levels of Church secrets.
But not with something that made sense like a .45 automatic. No, now she had to carry around bits of red and orange plastic and a vial covered with SubGenius runes that contained a turkey gizzard. Armed! Oh, yeah. She felt real safe now. Still, she toted them around with her everywhere she went.
Then Palmer had started with his pre-historical biology lessons. He would ramble on and on at night while they lay there, telling her of glorious ages gone by, ages filled with long-dead races and not-quite dead races and Space Bankers and Jesus --Big Jesus, Little Jesus, Were-Jesus, more Jesii than she could keep track of, not to be confused with the Fightin' Jesus, the current, world-class Assoul who was slaughtering Earths' billions like a slum-dweller stomping roaches.
Some boyfriend Palmer Vreedees had turned out to be! In the last few weeks she had been forced into waxing her eyebrows once a day to keep up with the accelerated growth of the hair follicles around her Third Nostril. The large black strands were supposedly due to her new vulnerability to the plasmatic influences. An extra mat of organic protection for her expaned pineal gland. "Once you saw them", Vreedees had cautioned, "they could see you and since they were everywhere, you were permanently and irrevocably involved with their matters."
Now she had one in her bathroom.
So there it was-- a blob had shown up. The signs were all in place: the unmistakable stench of a half-ton, unwashed, mystic being; the crackle of ozone; and the animation of small, inorganic objects. Palmer had also said something about amnesia, memory loss as a sudden side-effect, but that bit of knowledge was becoming hazy.
All that loud noise coming from the back, too loud to forget, too loud to ignore, too distracting from thoughts of . . . of . . . something. What? She turned from the sink and walked towards the open door.
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