Chapter Thirty-Six

Back home

After the war

Dear me,

Tonight, the piggels sleep, and I'm totally for that. I'm loading the last of my notebook entries into Gene's computer, for posterity's sake; and though I'm a fairly speedy typist, the heat is most definitely on.

Gene is scheduled to leave tomorrow - they're throwing him a big party, down at Topeka - and much as I'd love to be there, there are a few things that remain to be said. If I do it expeditiously enough, I might still get some serious dancing in. But first things first.

Final notebook entry:

I can't even describe what it was like to float around in Burzee Land, experience it in Skyrrla-Scope. All I can say is: the consciousness that devised the guys that devised Oz is the place to be, even if you're just a scattered mass of sentient subatomic particles. Any malingering fears of death I might have had were slaughtered in that moment, and painlessly. Discorporation is cool; you can take that to the bank.

All the same - as one who'd pretty much kissed this mortal coil goodbye - it was really fun to have my body back again. Materializing with Gene and Nick and Fonzie and the rest of the gang was religious in itself; knowing that we'd actually won was like the world's best frosting, liberally annointed on the world's best cake.

Thanks to the Burzee, the trip back to Emerald took about as long as the trip to Bhjennigh's: i.e., a couple of seconds, tops. No slogging through the battlefield. No hours for bitter reflection. Just that wild divine dissembling, followed by that soaring jolt, followed by reappearance in Ozma's courtyard, to the cheering of the multitudes who had actually survived.

And there were lots and lots of them: a surprising number, all things considered. More and more poured out of the woodwork, as news of our victory spread. The damage was astounding, and the casualties were cruel; as we gathered together, the dead were still splayed out all around us, most of them just as they had fallen. At the same time, the triumphant glow of the Burzee was a glorious euphoriant, impossible to deny. As such, we were bound together -  the maimed and the unscathed alike - in an odd blend of horror and joy.

Then Ozma emerged from the castle with Glinda, and behind them came valiant Lion and Tiger. They all looked hammered to shit by the conflict, yet remarkably hale, and the applause was thunderous. But for all the surges of noisy love that ensued, the hugest had to be when, moments later, Dorothy came out with Toto in hand, and a fully-reconstituted Scarecrow on her other arm. (For those of us who had considered him dead - and evidently, that was all of us - there was no sight in all of Oz more rewarding than to see him, beautifully sewn back together, dancing and prancing and grinning that unmistakable painted-on grin.)

A whole slew of big speeches ensued: poignant as hell, but you had to be there. The point is that we buried and revered our dead, then partied our asses off for days. Every single act of heroism, however small, got not just a toast but a whole reception; and every less-than-heroic deed, born out of fear or helplessness, was more than forgiven. It was redeemed.

As you can imagine, this was a full-time gig; and after a couple of days of this, I found myself itching to break away, start writing some of this shit down. Gene felt it, too. That compulsive itch to get it right: clearly remembered, and properly said. We'd catch each other's gaze, over and over, but we wouldn't talk. It was like, I don t even want to hear what happened until you write it down.

So we started breaking away, retreating to our corners. I mostly wrote at my apartment. Gene mostly wrote at Leidelei's. He was kind of shacking up with her, although she was hardly ever there, and she had no patience for his documentarian rigor. It wasn't a relationship built to last, but it had all the makings of a splendid fling; from the sheepish grin he often wore when we met to exchange pages, I'm guessing that she still found the time to fuck his little brains out.

She didn't much care for me, of course. Not only were Gene and I real close, but Mikio and I were now totally in love. I'm gonna take a cue from Gene here, and leave out the squishy details; but suffice it to say that I could write another whole book just about us in bed. (At the very least, I'm filling up a whole 'nother notebook. And you don't get to read it.)

Ah, well. Long story short: the more we wrote, and the more we showed it to each other, the more clear it became that this was a story Earth needed to read. I wasn't sure if it was the Pentagon Papers, exactly - we were, after all, in another dimension - but in its trans-geopolitical implications, it seemed like exactly the kind of behind-the-scenes shit that I know I've always enjoyed.

Gene, of course, was skeptical. "It's just a bunch of dumb stuff that happened to us. Nobody's ever cared before. Why should they care now?"

"Well, look at where we are!" I exclaimed. "Look at what happened! We're taking the exact same skills we used as fucking zine-mongers, and the next thing you know, we're war correspondents, in the most exotic location you can imagine!"

"Well, yeah..."

"And, on top of that, we've got the inside scoop! You were actually there when Bhjennigh came apart! I was actually part of the beam that took him out! You can't get more fucking intimate than that!"

"Stop yelling," he said.

"I'M NOT YELLING!" I screamed, dragging out the last word until he started laughing. "And I'm also not saying, '"Hey! We 're gonna get rich!'' Cuz, frankly, that means nothing to me. Earth money means less than nothing here. And I'm never going back.

"You, on the other hand, could make out like a bandit. Or get yourself killed. Or both."

"What do you mean?" Gene said.

"I mean that I'm really scared for you," I told him. "Really. I think about it all the time."

"Aw, come on," Gene said. "Suppose I post this, on some Internet news group or other. So, like, maybe a million people read it..."

"Or maybe fifty million..."

"Or maybe just fifty. So what? Do you really think anyone's gonna believe it?"

"Why wouldn't they?"

"Why should they? It's crazy!"

"Well, yeah! But that doesn't mean it's not true...!"

We went back and forth like that a lot. Basically, Gene believed that he could just go back and resume his normal life. That, publish or not, it made no difference. I asked him if he'd talked to Ralph about this, and he said that, actually, he'd been kind of afraid to.

Ralph, as it turned out, had no such illusions. He knew what was waiting for him back there, and it wasn't pretty. He'd saved the day, yes; but only by erring on the side of conscience, and breaking every order he had ever been given. Back in the good ol' U. S. of A., treason was still punishable by death; whereas, in Oz, they were throwing him parties. So, basically, he was staying put, if Ozma would let him. And, of course, she said yes.

Ralph thought that publishing our memoirs was a great idea. "Give 'em hell!" he said. "Stupid bastards. It's no sweat off my ass." But he agreed with me that Gene was a little fucking naive if he thought he could just waltz back in, blow a whistle of that size, and then return to business as usual. "At the very least," Ralph said, "you'll be under a lot of scrutiny, both public and clandestine. At the very most, they'll tie you down, peel your skin off, squirt you with lemons, and leave you for the bugs."

All of this made Gene feel pretty weird. He started having second thoughts about releasing it at all. "Great," I said. "Then all anyone will hear is the official story, which is total bullshit. And no one will ever know."

To which Gene groaned, "I know, I know," and made a miserable face. It wasn't that he was a big dumb knucklehead lummox who was doomed to be turned into dogfood or anything; he just hadn't thought things through.

But for me, the icing on the tumor came when I finally sat down with Fonzie: a bonafide casualty of U.S. and multinational corporate policy, who'd been lucky enough to get a new lease on life. I'd been putting it off, because it was so weird to see him like that, and plus he kept trying to get me to nurse him. But the fact was that he was awfully cuddly now, with his pink little baby skin, and I needed to know what really happened. Why they'd whopped off his head, and so on.

Once we established that he could snuggle at my bosom, but that he was not getting nipple, we got down to business. And the story, as it turns out, was this:

Fonzie had been contacted by Rokoko - who, incidentally, melted in the Skyrrla-glow, along with Skeerak and the jellyfish and the rest of Bhjennigh's gang; sorry I forgot to mention that - a couple months before his death. The fabulous C. Scott Rung, from Meaty Meat, was also in attendance. They had informed him of an offer that could make him an extremely wealthy and powerful man, both here and back on Earth.

Fonzie, of course, liked the sound of that; it appealed to the Magickal Hot Shot Within him. So he agreed to a series of meetings, mostly on Earth: his frequent business trips, which he would never discuss with me. Not only did they make him a stunning, multi-million dollar offer, but they filled him in on Earth's big plans for its little inter-dimensional neighbor.

As Ralph had alluded to previously, arrangements had been made by the Powers-That-Be to turn all of Oz - whether we liked it or not - into one big Disney-style theme park for tourists. It would be called "Oz Land"?; and it would be just like the real Oz, only sanitized for our protection. All the scary parts tamed. All the wildness removed. All the rough edges buffed down to a shimmery plastic sheen. Live shows would be staged daily, with Dorothy, Scarecrow, the Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion performing heartwarming song-and-dance numbers. The Lollipop Guild would conduct all tours.

Oh, yeah. Plus, we'd be converting over to American dollars. And charging for everything.

A few other details needed to be worked out. For instance, the capricious and discriminatory nature of access through the Gate. It was important than everyone be allowed to enter the magical thrill ride that was "Oz Land"?, no matter how undeserving. The more tourists, the better. After all, they were our new bread and butter. (Or bread and water, which was more to the point.)

The Powers-That-Be were certain that Ozma and Glinda would see the value of this, and be eager to oblige. In the event of the slightest resistance, however, the U.S. military was happy to help out, to the extent that it could squeeze arms and personnel through the Gate, then count on them to function as planned. Because they couldn't just march the combined armed forces in and nuke our asses into submission, they were forced to rely on more subtle methodology.

Hence Bennie. Then Bhjennigh. Then the big black cloud.

And where did Fonzie come into all this?

In order to promote tourism, and cash in on the home front, the good people of Meaty Meat Corp. - whose lucrative "Captain Meatballs"? franchise had made the $7.99 Bucket 'O Meatballs an American family tradition - wanted to start a new Oz-style concern; and, to their minds, the "Emerald Burrito"? chain was made to order. It had a catchy name, a flagship restaurant already established in Oz, and a cuisine close enough to Taco Bell's to entice Earth's fast food demographics.

So, basically, Fonzie was offered the chance to be the Colonel Sanders of Oz, with franchises from Portland to Pensicola, Hong Kong to Helsinki, Barcelona to Bejing. Munchkins would be imported to work behind the counter (all "little people" would be referred to as "munchkins"). They had it all figured out. It would be a global smash. Not to mention being the #1 restaurant in Oz, with the possible exception of those new Golden Arches.

And, if I played my cards right, I might even get a piece.

But there were complications, mostly regarding our choices in meat. Beef was immensely popular on Earth, as were chicken, pork, turkey, and seafood. Since no one in the tourist class had any prior goomer experience, it was reasonable to expect that there would be complaints. But what if they DEMAND a chicken taco? was a question often asked.

To that end, cross-dimensional "foodstuff exchanges" were secretly conducted. Chickens, cows, pigs and so forth were kidnapped from Oz and brought over to Earth. The ones that actually made it were examined for intelligence, difference in texture and consistency, etc.

To their Earthly chagrin, all the hostages they took reverted to simply being poultry and cattle. The smartest chicken in Oz became a regular chicken. The spiritual leader of the cows - long revered for her wisdom - became just another blank-eyed sow. And when they were butchered, cooked up, and eaten, there was no magical flavor enhancement. They were just the same old nuggets and burgers.

The same thing happened with all magickal objects, slipped back through the Gate by the Powers-That-Be. A broom that grew legs and walked around in Oz became a broom that just laid there until you picked it up.

Conversely, livestock imported from Earth seemed to perk right up when it landed in Oz. Lobsters demanded to know where they were. Pigs started spouting philosophy. This led the Powers-That-Be, in their wisdom, to one of their most remarkable, mind-boggling initiatives: the total illegalization of the Language Bush. You see, it was decided that conversations with the pay end of the food chain would only make people uncomfortable; therefore, only creatures that could be trained to speak English would be allowed to interact with the tourist trade. (You know. "Munchkins." Stuff like that.)

Meanwhile, a couple small herds of goomer had been smuggled stateside. Unaware of my magick goomer recipes - which, in all fairness, I hadn't come up with yet - they were gonna try to spread the great taste of goomer from sea to shining sea. Fonzie wasn't sure, for sure, how that had all worked out; but he never heard anything, so he assumed they weren't overly thrilled.

I listened to this for a very long time, without losing my temper or saying a word; then, with admirable calm and restraint, I began to choke him. As soon as his little eyes bugged out and his face turned red, I stopped; but I just couldn't help it, I was so pissed off.

"Okay," I said. "God damn you, Fonzie. I understand why I want to kill you. What I don't understand is why they wanted to kill you."

"Oh, Aurora," he implored to me. "Don't you get it? I told them no! I told them to sit on a fucking tack! I was curious, sure; I wanted to see what they had. But they were pendejos, total pieces of shit."

"And it took you how many months to figure that out?" I asked him, staring deep into his eyes.

"Okay, alright. I was tempted, sure. You shoulda seen the ads they had. Big pictures of me, with this really sharp suit..." He looked wistful. I wanted to slap him. "But the day they...got me, I gotta tell ya, was one of the best days of my life. At least up to that point. Because you know what I did? I listened to everything they had to say, and I waited till the cash was right on the table, everything ready to sign, and then I told them to kiss my ass. Not because I didn't appreciate the offer, but because I knew it was never gonna work. Ozma would fuck them up, they didn't even know how bad.

"And I told them she'd laugh when I told her what was up. Which I was going home to do, right now. Then I got up, thanked them for their time, and drove straight back to the Salinas Gate.

"And I gotta tell ya, I was in the best mood! Turning down all that money? You don't know how cool that was!

"Because it totally didn't matter, you get it? I had everything I needed. Everything I needed was back in Oz..."

At this point, he started to cry, and my heart went out to him. Poor baby. Next thing he knew, he was a skull with a stump, rotting away in the Hollow Man's dungeon.

"I'm proud of you," I told him, kissing his head, squeezing his tiny body tight. This made him feel better; so much so, in fact, that he popped the cutest little baby boner. But when he went for the nipple, I flipped him over and spanked him.

Not surprisingly, he didn't like that much. It made him cry again.

All of which leaves me here, at Gene's computer, more determined than ever to see this story told. If all goes well, it'll yank the pants off of everyone involved - Meaty Meat, the U.S. government, the CIA, etc. - and expose their sinister flabby asses to the clear light of truth, for all to see. Nothing would make me happier, except maybe Mikio, who wants me to go dance with him now.

So, in conclusion, I leave you with these words:

I know that Ozma is pretty much closing the Gates, cutting off ties with Earth altogether. It makes a lot of sense to me, but it also makes me sad. There are so many people, with decent hearts, who would love to experience this kind of magick. And now they won't get to. At least not here.

But if you are one of those people, I urge you to create as much magick as you can, right where you are. Just know that it's possible. Good deeds beget good will. Good will brings the energy higher. If the people of Earth could come together, with love, and raise that energy level, maybe Ozma would open the Gates again. And maybe then, the magick that flows from Oz could actually work for you there.

In the meantime, good luck. Question authority. Spank its ass to a rosy red. Don't take any wooden nickles. Have fun. Love each other. I think you know the drill.

And if you run into Gene, be nice to him. He's a really great guy, and he means no harm.

All my love, Aurora Quixote Jones

P.S. - If by any chance the Gates open again, and you happen to visit, bring more CDs!!! An amazing meal will be waiting for you. And if you want, it'll taste just like chicken.

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