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The other man was overweight and balding. He wore a pair of old trousers that stank of a lack of interest in laundry skills, with suspenders over a yellowed wifebeater.

At the moment  the unappealing figure was rolling a joint out of a page of a Gideon Bible he’d ripped out moments before. Psalm 83.

“That’s got to be bad luck,” Spires told him. “Somewhere, anyway.”

“Well not here, it isn’t” the other replied in a piratical Devonshire accent. “Pages replace themselves anyway, got it off a hotel tree.”


A hotel tree grew most anything you could find at a typical late 20th century roadside American motel. This one had to be an import. They weren’t in 48 states. Packaged soap, bottles of shampoo, room service bills, bibles, all sprung in season from the baobab like entities that grew in orchards near abandoned Roman roadways. The wood was useless, as it was brittle when dead and developed horrible artwork as it decayed.

The joint was lit and the fat man didn’t offer to share. Instead he said “State your business and leave then. How’d you find me, anyhow”

Spires pointed to the small Victrola holding a wax cylinder wired to a blue conch shell, “I found your personal records.”

“Damned Bureaucracy.”

“Indeed. But I know my way around such things, and so here I am.” Spires said, with that sharp accent, half Babbager, half Imperial, “So, rumor is, you know The Way Out, and that you can be of some assistance for the right price.”

Outside the window a line of Rockettes formed from seemingly everywhere and nowhere and began kicking a line that stretched to infinity from one end of the Via Catholica to the other, wrapping longwise round the world. It was Teatime, GMT.

If you didn’t go slightly mad, you’d go mad here. In an infinity of universes this was the universe for all the things that didn’t belong anywhere else. Things that the Powers That Be had to remove, though with reluctance. There was no annihilation, no cold storage, only the Jumbles. Welcome to the Jumble, we got fun and games.

He’d been dumped after his non-existance into an oasis in the Sahara guarded jealously by armed singing frogs. An enslaved French cro-magnon caveman, who’d come here after deliberately waking up before he’d gone to bed one too many times in his own world, had done his best to explain the situation, if ever there was one. Trouble was, in most realities, Babbage and the lands around it didn’t exist, though the landmass, at least, did here, leaving Spires to the conclusion that Babbage might be closer to this cosmological bedlam than any other place. Certainly things had become more peculiar the closer he’d made it to home. Anyway he spoke perfect Amphibian now, though with a trace of French.

The fat man thought about it and ran his hands through a flat-top haircut. Haircuts were cheap here, for the land was barberous.

“Parcel of ol Crams. Who wants to leave, then? Got to be careful, the Powers don’t like it. But yeh.. I could. Cost you though.” A drag was taken, smoke exhaled.

‘And here we go,’ Spires thought, but he waited to let the guide tell him what he wanted. Then the bartering would begin.

“10,000 wampum, ain’t giving ought fer cheap.”

“Where I am supposed to get that? A man gets caught smuggling Iroquois money out of their territory, he gets castrated.”

“Janny reckon. They only cut off one ball, singular. You’ll live.”

“Try again.”

In the end Spires found him a bag of weed and the deal was done.

They wandered under the basements and subbasements of the local Bureaucratic Ministry of Redundancy Department, bribes of cookies and castor oil for creaky chairs and dangerous cookie monsters getting past the few clerks and guards who moved to and fro in the dim sodium light. The Guide occasionally stopped to scratch his butt, but mostly he seemed to follow his nose, saying he could smell the various gateways that led to multitudes of worlds. The doors ran out of numbers. The air become hot and oppressively thick. Now the doors were marked with symbols and formulae. They passed one quadratic equation scrawled in chalk on a grayed wooden plank door.

The guide sniffed, “No.. not yours, but.” he scratched. “Used to be?”

“It’s complicated.” Spires said, shrugging. The moved on, but not too far.

“lim_{x \to \infty} \frac{\pi(x)}{x/\log x} = 1. ” The door proudly proclaimed.  It FELT like home before he touched it, ornate brass work with rivets.

“Off you go then.”

And the guide was gone. Spires opened the door. It swung on well oiled hinges, right into a Wheatstone canal where he fell and sputtered and climbed onto a snow covered cobblestone road.

He shivered and smelt the smoke. “I’m home.”

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  1. Elleon Bergamasco Elleon Bergamasco November 23, 2012

    Bravo! I have goosebumps! Welcome Home Mr Spires

  2. Emerson Lighthouse Emerson Lighthouse November 23, 2012

    *Emerson reaches way into the back for a bottle of the good stuff then pours a single shot and slides it across bar.*

    Damn – that was fine indeed! Welcome home sir.

  3. Avariel Falcon Avariel Falcon November 23, 2012

    No love button?

    I’ll just give Mr Spires a unicorn hug instead!


  4. Kimika Ying Kimika Ying November 23, 2012

    *gathers some boards and paint (sounds of sawing and hammering) and sets a “Like!” sign into the ground*

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