(The first parts are under STORIES)

As we walked the Rebel strummed and sang a sweetly sad song of longing and of the hope of final rest. I think he called it Consummation. He shed a tear which ran and left a glistening streak down his face. The Priest was busy making notes on a map he had begun. Now engaged he was quiet and lost in his work. We had been like this for some time now just moving away from the lethargy of the destruction. Maintaining some kind of motion was all the plan I had. And the guys were occupied.
After some time we came to what seemed to be a footpath in the grass. It was just the hint of an impression, vaguely indicated in the undergrowth. And as we traveled it became more and more defined. As it was the only clue as to an actual direction we stayed the course. The Rebel sang and the Priest made his map. The path led to what looked like a well-traveled way, hard packed by many footprints. Once upon the road I noticed many similar pathways leading here. The Priest scribbled hard in his book and the Rebel changed his tune. A sense of anxious excitement was about the place. A heaviness seemed to lift and we picked up our paces. But not many steps down that road I saw that it was blocked. As we neared the place I saw the two figures sitting behind a large conference table filled with papers and pens and adding machines.
My heart sank. Bureaucrats! Paper pushers! They sat dressed in long black robes in high backed leather chairs. On expressionless faces they wore dark mirrored glasses hiding their eyes.  Not really what I wanted to deal with right now. We tried to go around them but we were halted.
“Excuse me sir,” said the precise monotone voice. It struck fear in me.
“We were just ahh . . .”
He cut me off. “We are aware of what you intended. We have been monitoring your activities for some time now. We have come to settle your accounts. You are denied access to out There until these matters have been disposed of satisfactorily.”
I gave no response but felt the nausea churn in my belly.
He looked to his partner and nodded. She opened the top file of what seemed a large stack of them. She flipped through the documents, found what she sought, and handed it to him.
“I seems sir that you have become insolvent. According to our records you have several thousand transactions over the last several decades with no records, not even a profit and loss statement. You still have credit out There but at the rate you are going there will nothing left this side of the Boarder to transact.”
“What Border? What transactions? What credit? Who are you?” I asked.
His mouth turned surly “You are so . . .” She touched his arm and he caught himself in mid-sentence.
She said “We are your Internal Revenue Service. We monitor the economy here and seek to carry out and enforce the Code you have established. I must say that has been a difficult task at times due to your lack of specificity. In such cases your habitual patterns become Law. While there are some positives on the balance sheet, at present you are in dire straits. We are very much aware the government here is currently undergoing an overall, these issues must still be dealt with. There can be no moving forward without these accounts being settled. We called you in today in an effort to forestall a total collapse.”
“I don’t understand. What does this have to do with out There?” I murmured.
“Everything.” He said. She cut him off again before he could say anything else. “Every time you cross that boundary between Here and There it is a transactional event. Something is given and something is taken. No exceptions. The issue economically is what is given and what are you receiving in return. As best we could determine, your policy was to indiscriminately exchange your best for the hope of a return without any kind of contract. There was no accountability and in most cases you did not even ask. It seemed from our vantage point you operated as though you had an endless source from which you could provide for others out There. Everything of value except what we salvaged, you have given away and squandered.”
“Squandered? I invested in people. I worked. I tried to make things right. People love me,” I countered.
“Yeah, where are they now?” he smirked. “Don’t mind my associate. I have something to show you.” She turned a screen toward me which flickered on and images of people began to come into focus. “We have temporarily sealed the border between Here and There in order to attempt this intervention. Now watch and learn.”
I saw people I recognized, who were a part that world. They were standing outside the boundary and talking. “Where did he go? I needed to talk to him about something.” “I know,” said another. “He has always been here before.” “He’s so smart.” “I think he’s hot.” “Well he’s kind of old for me but he is sweet.” “He can be an asshole but he did help me when I needed it.” “I heard he was having a hard time.” “What are we going to do if he don’t come back?” “I don’t know. I hope he is OK. I really need him to talk to my son.” “Hey did you hear about that new restaurant?” “No, is it any good?” “I don’t know but I’m getting hungry. Y’all wanna go eat?” “Yeah I guess. Don’t look like he’s coming out. Guess we will figure out something else.” “Too bad about him though,” was the last I heard as they all turned and walked away.
As the screen went dark a light turned on in me. The outside wanted my happiness because of the affection I had engendered from my work there. They wanted me happy because of what I had done for them, for how they had begun to depend on me. There was some anxiety around me not being OK not because of genuine concern for me necessarily, but some sense of guilt and perhaps some anxiety that I could not help them the next time they needed me. And now that I had nothing to give they moved on. I know there are exceptions. Even she said there were some positives on the balance sheet. But she had made her point.
“You cannot fix Here out There. Take this,” she said handing me a haversack filled with scrolls and other documents. I handed it to the Priest. “This is all that is left,” she said, removing her glasses. “See if you can do something with it. It could be enough.”
“Where has this been?” the Priest asked. I wrote this ten years ago. “Man this was a good song. I Need You. The Scent of Heaven, that was one of my favorites!” the Rebel exclaimed. They continued to look through the satchel, remarking excitedly, commenting on each discovery, each memory.
The gentleman rose from his chair, took his glasses off and tossed them in my direction. As he did his robe caught on something and ripped. I saw a flash of orange, hint of white on his neck. “I’m tired of this. He is still boring.” He moved his hands under his collar and began pulling at the skin around his neck and jaw. It stretched and tore revealing the caked on white and the creepy painted on smile. The crazy orange hair shot out in all directions. He finished tearing the robe and stepped out, free of its bonds. He did a little jig and shook himself. I still hated him but this meeting was somehow different than the last. Though I still shook with dread and fear there was something else there. Determination maybe, hope? All of this was at least new. Perhaps it will lead to a better place.
He looked to her and motioned that they should leave. As she stood she caught my eyes and held me there. I was transfixed, dreamlike. She said, “It was Me you gave away.”
The recognition struck me like a blow. Blood drained. I could not speak. I could not move. She removed her robe and loosened her hair letting in fall in waves down Her back.
“Come on girl. He’s stupid,” the Clown laughed.
She took his arm and walked away over the horizon.  And I wept as he danced and laughed Her away from me.

 

 

 

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