Marie laughed when she saw the storefront, and Dakota smiled. She turned to him and jerked her head toward the place he had brought her.
“Did I step onto a set of Our Town without realizing it? Is this the part where we sip the same milkshake out of bendy straws?”
“Only if it’s strawberry. Actually, the milkshakes are decent, but this place has some of the best french-fries I’ve ever eaten. They are obscenely good.”
“Great, I’m starved.” She led the way into the restaurant, which was modeled after an old-fashioned diner, and sat on one of the red pleather covered stools at the bar. She instantly gravitated towards the dime operated mini jukebox on the bar and started flipping through the tunes. Dakota watched her methodically scan and flick, scan and flick, until she paused and grinned. He fished a dime out of his pocket and passed it to her.
“What did you pick?” he asked as she punched numbers into the machine.
“It’s a secret!” she replied, shielding her selection from him. She shot him a sideways glance.
“I didn’t see anything, I promise,” Dakota said, as the waitress came by and offered them menus.
Marie smirked as she snapped the menu open.
“Mmmm,” she groaned, “I’m hungrier than I thought. Everything looks good.”
“So get one of everything,” he said cheekily. She laughed and elbowed him in the ribs.
She ended up going with a bacon hamburger and fries. Dakota ordered the same with cheese and onion rings. As a last minute thought, Marie tacked on an extra large strawberry milkshake, two straws. Dakota smiled.
“Bendy straws?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” she replied.
Their food came as the song Lollipop started playing. Marie cheered and pumped her fists in the air.
“This is the song you picked?” Dakota asked incredulously.
“This song is awesome!” she shot back. “It’s a classic! I can’t believe how much I missed this planet!” Marie sang along with the chorus, and Dakota grudgingly made the popping sound. She laughed.
“Told you this song was awesome,” she said coyly, dipping a french fry in ketchup.
“Oh, totally,” he replied sarcastically. Marie smeared the ketchup from her fry onto his cheek as he tried to dodge her.
“No sarcasm allowed,” she declared, eating the fry pompously as a laughing Dakota wiped off his cheek with a napkin.
“Ok, ok,” he relented, “It’s a great song. Happy?”
She bobbed her head in acquiescence.
They ate ravenously. Marie declared the burgers “sensational” and the milkshake “sexy”. They drank the shake Our Town style, bumping noses as they slurped the thick strawberry concoction through red and white striped bendy straws. Dakota stole nearly half of Marie’s french fries, which she willingly gave up for his onion rings, which were large and perfectly cooked.
“Oh man,” Dakota exhaled when both plates were empty, leaning back exaggeratedly on his stool.
Marie nodded in agreement.
“I knowww,” she moaned.
Marie pulled up in front of a brick building with weeds growing around the broken stones in the walkway. It was an Earth-seventies style design with bright yellow trim and a flat, angular roof. The fence, a rusty chain-link that towered over her head, bent slightly inwards towards the building, shying away from the street. Marie pushed open the corroded gate with hesitation, nearly tiptoeing up the walk.
The list of residents was water-stained and yellowed, adding to the neglected charm of the place. A lone spider dangled mournfully from it’s silken thread. Written in the slot for 2-C was Williams, Claire, in messy print.
Marie hit the buzzer somewhat nervously, half praying she wouldn’t be home. Her nerves doubled when Claire’s voice came through over the buzzer.
“Hello?” Claire said, voice fuzzy over the connection.
“It’s Marie. Everard.” Marie said back.
There was a long pause before the door lock clicked open.
Shit, Marie thought. She hadn’t expected that.
She took the stairs to the second floor and knocked on 2-C. Claire opened the door almost immediately. She wore striped pajamas and square framed glasses, and her dark hair was frizzy and somewhat greasy. She looked unapologetically disheveled.
“I didn’t fire you,” Marie blurted out.
“You did order me to ‘Get Out”,” Claire said flatly.
“Yeah, of my office,” Marie said in defense. “Not of the company.”
“Wait, what the fuck?” Claire said, running her fingers through her hair. “You chased me down in a different dimension on a different planet to tell me I wasn’t fired. Do you not have better things to do?”
“Listen, it’s been a weird day, but the bottom line is that you’re an awesome secretary and you’re not fired.”
“Don’t start sucking up to me.”
“I’m not sucking up.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. Look, we both said things that were hurtful. Yours just happened to be the truth, and I needed to hear it. Badly. If bettering myself means having someone around willing to kick me in the ass when I deserve it, then so be it. Especially on a different dimension with weird-ass shit happening. Like, I so don’t want to be dealing with this shit alone anymore.
Claire stared at her.
“I have. Inter-dimensional travel does that to a girl.
Claire sighed, and rolled her head in a long, languid circle. Marie looked down at her worn slippers, which at one point might have been fuzzy and pink, but were now matted and had holes in the toes. Her pajama bottoms were clean but neatly patched on the knees and lower legs. They showed about three inches too much ankle.
“Shit, what does a secretary even do here?” Claire asked. “Do you even have meetings to manage?”
“You’d be surprised, Claire.”
continued from here.
They ordered. Marie went for the veggie wrap, no broccoli, no peppers, hold the hummus, add spinach. Dakota got a peanut butter and ham grilled cheese on sourdough.
“Do you have sparkling water here?” Marie asked their waitress, Shay, who just turned and walked away.
“Okay then,” Marie muttered to herself. Dakota smiled.
“So, Marie, what got you into the fashion world?” Dakota asked, resting his hands on the table.
“What is this, a business interview?” she asked playfully.
“What if it was?”he responded.
“Then I would have worn a different pair of shoes,” Marie said, smiling and stretching her legs out to the side so that Dakota could see her sky-high black Louboutins.
Dakota didn’t take the bait. He kept his gaze on her face and cocked his head slightly to the side as if he was trying to catalogue a library book on a shelf where all the letters were out of order.
“So, what errands were you conducting outside of my office building?” Marie asked, changing the subject.
“Marie, do you ever get the feeling like your existence on this planet is a complete and utter waste of time?” Dakota asked, blatantly ignoring her question.
“Excuse me?” she sputtered.
“What if I was to tell you that there’s something vitally important that you have to do, somewhere far, far away from here?” he pressed on.
“I think you’ve lost your mind,” Marie replied indignantly.
“Thats fine. I just need you to remember the name Clayessa Preton. Can you do that for me, Marie? Just hold on to that name. You’re going to need it very soon now.”
Shay appeared out of nowhere with their lunch. Marie gazed down at her plate, and then looked back up at Dakota, who was staring at her intently.
“I seem to have lost my appetite,” Marie hissed, grabbing her purse and running out the door.
Dakota watched her go. Shaking his head, he sighed, picked up his sandwich in his right hand, and dematerialized into thin air.
I’m backtracking a bit. Deal.
* * *
Marie hurried through the double doors and nearly walked straight into Dakota, who quickly grabbed her shoulders to prevent a straight-on collision. They stared at each other briefly in surprise before Dakota broke into a wide smile.
“Couldn’t get enough of me?” he asked jokingly. “I’ve never had a stalker, but it’s pretty flattering of you.”
Marie was thrown off guard, and blinked.
“No, this is my office building,” she explained, jerking her thumb back towards the Everline skyscraper. He looked up at it instinctively, following her motion.
“And of course I’d be stalking you, who else would I stalk?” she added coyly, a beat too late.
He shot her a sideways glance.
“Out for lunch?” he asked innocently.
“Care to join me?” he added.
“That was the plan,” she shot back. He chuckled and started walking again, Marie tagging along.
“Where do you work?” she asked, to fill the silence.
“You know the old library down on King street?” he asked. Marie didn’t, but nodded anyway. “I work the special editions section, you know, all the really old or rare stuff. Cataloguing mostly, but some research stuff. It’s pretty fun.”
“So what are you doing in this part of town? King street’s nowhere close to here.”
“Oh, running some errands,” Dakota said vaguely.
He stopped in front out of a small restaurant with Vera Jon’s painted above the door in a pink that stood out from the garrish green door frame.
“How’s this?” he asked, looking down at her for a reaction.
“Here?” she blurted out incredulously.
She shrugged. Because I’ve never heard of this place? Because no one important probably ever comes here? Because hippies smell weird?
Dakota led her into the small restaurant, which had a bunch of small wooden tables packed between its crumbly brick walls. The chairs and tableware were mismatched and brightly colored, and several surrealist charcoal drawings hung on the otherwise unadorned brick walls. It had the air of a coffee shop, complete with several college students poring over piles of books and a shy couple out on their first or second date.
The perky hostess, who wore a brightly colored scarf wrapped around her weave and had different colored fingernails, led them to a back table between a student reading Shakespeare and a group of middle aged women clearly on lunch break. She handed them each an organic looking menu with Vera Jon written brazenly across the front, told them her name was Shay, and left them to her own devices.
They flicked open the menus and read in silence for a while. The restaurant was advertised as a ‘sandWhich’ shop, and the menu featured 3 or 4 pages of creative options. All could be eaten on gluten-free bread or as a wrap, and all could be halved and eaten with either a soup or a salad. The most expensive was 10 dollars and had lamb, avocado, basil, balsamic vinegar, walnuts, and pear slices between its two slices of challah.
“Ham and turkey on multigrain with cranberries, sliced apples, mayo, and cheddar cheese,” Dakota mused.
“Bacon and marmalade on pumpernickel?”
“Grilled cheese on country white with pesto, pine nuts, sundried tomatos, bacon, and garlic paste.”
“That sounds simultaneously terrible and amazing,” she said, looking at Dakota over the top of her menu.
“Most of these sound simultaneously terrible and amazing,” he replied. Marie nodded.
“But in a good way.”
“In a good way.”
Hey internet. This is post 150. Just in case you were wondering.
Marie woke up in a cold sweat as the sun began to rise.
She was not in her office.
She was not having a hallucinogenic episode.
She was still barefoot in a tropical rain forest with no money, no purse and no way to get home, and there was something slimy touching her foot.
Marie shrieked and jumped out of the way. Instinctively, she slashed out with the hand that was still gripping the broken piece of Louboutin heel.
The dog that was sniffing at her instep merely blinked and sat down at her reaction. It was a chubby, short legged mutt of some kind with a snout that was too long for its small face. He snorted and licked his nose in a way that suggested that he was far too old and apathetic to care about her shenanigans, thank you very much.
Marie sat up and brandished the broken heel at the mutt, but the dog didn’t move.
“Shoo,” Marie hissed, fluttering her hands. She was not a dog person. Not even in a tropical jungle.
The dog wagged his tail once, hitting the earth with a soft whumph, and squirmed his way forward so that he could rest his head on her shins. Marie tugged her leg away.
“Shoo,” she repeated, a little louder. The dog got up, turned around in a full circle, and delicately sat down on top of her leg. Marie made one more futile attempt to scare it away, but the dog closed its eyes and wheezed a long sigh, and she decided to let the issue drop.
Marie rubbed the sleep out of her eyes with her left hand and sighed as the dog snuggled into her lap. Around her, the jungle was starting to wake itself up with all the customary screeches and calls.
The dog in her lap let out a contented fart.
Marie started to cry.
So the Anomaly universe is one in which ten reincarnations of the same planet exist. These planets are labeled Aarth through Jarth and are about 1000 years apart in age. These planets all experienced civilization on very similar timelines and are geographically identical.
Hence (in Earth terms):
Aarth ~ 6000 AD
Barth ~ 5000 AD
Carth ~ 4000 AD
Darth ~ 3000 AD
Earth ~ 2000 AD
Farth ~ 1000 AD
Garth ~ 0
Harth ~ 1000 BC
Iarth ~ 2000 BC
Jarth ~ 3000 BC
At the time that our story is taking place, planets Aarth though Carth are missing and presumed dead. Xionsyes Zelo, a multi quillionnaire living on Darth (he’s in sanitation) has employed a group of scientists to recreate a copy of Darth within a separate dimension. This dimension is called 4A.
So now our chart looks like this:
Darth ~ 3000 AD
4A ~ ??? AD
Earth ~ 2000 AD
Farth ~ 1000 AD
Garth ~ 0
Harth ~ 1000 BC
Iarth ~ 2000 BC
Jarth ~ 3000 BC
Most of the action takes place within the 4A dimension. It is populated with a mix of people from planets Barth though Jarth. As you can imagine, given the wide range of advancements on all the planets, this can be… confusing.
More on that later.
I’ve had a manuscript related epiphany, internet, and if you’ve been following this blog even a little bit or know me in person, I think you will follow my train of thought at least somewhat.
So I’ve been working on this book for a very, very, VERY long time. The working title is called Alpha and the main character is called Marie and it’s a parody of those god-awful rich-teenagers-getting-whatever-they-want books like The Cliche and Gossip Girl that are inexplicably popular. I started it as as Ayn Rand fanatic when I was 18 and moody and nobody understood me, and quite frankly, it’s not very good, but for a number of reasons, I kept working on it unchanged from the original plot line.
The things I do like about the original idea, was the concept of an anti-hero who starts off as kind of a jerk and ends up as slightly less of a jerk. I like childish, self-centered, never-gets-the-point Marie. I like the snarky attitude.
However, this plot-line is dark, dramatic, and takes itself very seriously, and I realized the other day that I WOULD NOT READ THIS BOOK. If I picked this book off the shelf and read the description, I’d put it down, which is probably why writing it has been awful.
So I’m doing something drastic. I’m taking Marie out of her comfort zone and throwing her (quite literally) into another dimension in the updated version of Alpha, Anomaly.
That’s right. I’m turning my teen drama parody into a book about time and space travel. I am going straight up Doctor Who on this plot. I’m about to Vonnegut this up. Insert other dorky reference, yadda ya.
Tighten your trousers, internet. The new Anomaly details are coming at you next Monday.