Sunday, September 07, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 22, "X Marks The Spot"

  They had been driving for too long. Hubbard felt certain that R6 City would only have been a couple of hours away, yet here they were driving through the middle of nowhere. It was pitch black outside the burgundy velour cocoon of the Cadillac.

  "Say, ladies, shouldn't we be there by now?" Hubbard asked, putting his hand on the driver's shoulder.

  "Another cigarette, sir?" said Cigarette Girl proffering a fresh Kool.

  "No. I asked a question! Now, I'd like some clear com for once! Where the hell are we?" he was getting irritated again.

  "There should be a gas station or roadhouse up ahead sir, we'll pull over and find out how far away we are" said the driver calmly.

  "Oh no you don't. I can see it now, we'll go in there and there'll be Atilla the Hun or Aimee Semple McPherson, or somebody else who just has to tell me what a fuck up I am! No, sir. We're not stopping again." He was adamant.

  "Sir, we'll have to get gasoline sooner or later" said the driver. Cigarette Girl tried to make herself small and invisible.

  "Now wait just a goddamned second! Sid and I drove all over hell's half-acre and never stopped to plug in his electric car, but we have to stop and get gas? How does that work? How does anything work in this fucking place!?" exasperation was rising.

  "I don't make the rules, Sir. I just follow them" came the reply from the driver.

  "Well, I make the rules in this car, and we're not stopping!"

  "As you say, Commodore. As you say" said the young woman, staring straight ahead.

  They drove on with Hubbard slumped in the back seat muttering under his breath about "not many followers" and "insubordination" and "booby traps." They were off the highway, it had turned into the Main Street of a sleepy looking town when the engine began to sputter. The motor quit and the driver strong-armed the huge car to the curb behind a red Corvair station wagon with New York plates.

  "SonofaBITCH!" Hubbard yelled over and over again. He was in full tantrum mode, slamming his fists down on the armrests rhythmically with each uttered 'son' and 'bitch.'

  The girls sat silently in the front seat, waiting for the storm to pass. Eventually, the Commodore had exhausted his spleen and sat, panting and crimson in the back seat. "Well, now what. Now what?"

  "Sir, it looks like there is a bar open on the corner. We'll go in and see where we are" said the chauffeur. 

  "The hell you will! I'm not gonna sit here alone while you two go traipsing off into the dark. Not again. We'll go together" said Hubbard with his best Tone 40, command intention. 'Fake it 'til you make it' he used to affirm to himself.

  The small town they found themselves in was unassuming. They could've been almost anywhere from the looks of it. The place certainly didn't look like R6 City, it was too clean and tidy. The street signs on the corner read Water Street and South Walnut. The bar was on the street level of an Edwardian era apartment building. There was a red, neon sign in the window that spelled out "Toby's Bar & Speaker's Lounge" in cursive script. Below that was a funny, cartoonish alligator logo with the words "Best Sausage Sandwiches in Town" painted on the glass. There were other neon beer signs in the large plate glass window. The bar was tucked beneath two stories of modest looking apartments. Ron checked the clock in the car when they got out, it said it was 9:42, but who could tell in this reality?

  The night was crisp, and there were two couples laughing and smoking outside the bar's front door. He'd always loved bars when he was younger. He prided himself on his ability to go into any pub and within a half hour have a crowd of people in rapt attention, and usually leave with his pick of the ladies if he was really on the beam. Hell, he was getting younger in this place, maybe he still could summon the ol' Hubbard magic, he thought. 

  But then, he hesitated. This reality was so full of twists and turns. He'd just been ambushed by three wives, a prophet, and two dogs! Everyone he encountered came with a full set of opinions about him. It was unsettling to say the least. Would this place be just another one of those traps? He peeked in the window and saw what appeared to be an ordinary, bar in an ordinary town. It looked jolly and warm. "What the hell . . . ladies, after you" he said holding the door open in a courtly manner.

  Ah! There was that great bar smell. Stale beer, pine-sol and smoke, blessed, cigarette smoke. The crowd was thick and the chatter loud. He and the girls made their way to the bar against the far wall. The room was as long as the building with what appeared to be a large back room. Also packed with revelers. 

  "What'll you have, friend?" said the thick, bald bartender. Hubbard couldn't quite place his accent . . . sort of European sounding, or maybe Israeli? Odd. "What delectable drink can I create for you, Mr. Hubbard!" said the man slamming his hand down on the bar with enthusiasm.

  "How do you know . . . oh, nevermind, I'll have a seven and seven" he yelled over the din. "Ladies? A beverage for you?" he asked turning back to his Messengers, but they were nowhere to be seen. Oh well, they'd be back when he needed them, they always seemed to turn up. 

  He leaned back on the bar, lit a Kool, and scanned the crowded room. 

  Some of the people looked oddly familiar to him, though he couldn't quite place them. 

  "Here's your potion, Mr. Hubbard" said the barkeep cheerfully. "That'll be a buck fifty." 

  Hubbard was taken aback. Money? Then he remembered the bill in his pants back at Joe's, right before he got in the taxi. It seemed so long ago. He reached into his right pant pocket and there, sure enough were some bills and coins. These were twenties, also with his picture on them. "Can you break this?" he asked the squat man.

  The bartender held it up to the light. "Can do, sir! Nice likeness, not like some of the other crap I get in here! Look at this piece of shit!" he said offering Ron a hundred dollar bill from the till. 

  On the money, Hubbard saw a horrible, grimacing face wearing sort of war helmet, with the word 'Ramtha' under the engraved portrait. Ramtha. Ramtha. Where had he heard that name before? Television? Yes, it was television. He vividly remembered watching the Merv Griffin show in his motorhome in Creston, and there was a blond woman on the show claiming to speak for some disembodied spirit called Ramtha. Some of what she was saying sounded like she'd cribbed what he'd cribbed. He remembered thinking that she might be PTS, and writing that name down to tell Pat Broeker to get someone to look into it. Ramtha. 

  "So, what's this all about? Why does this guy have money here?" he asked the barkeep.

  "You'll see. You'll see . . ." said the little man laughing jovially.

  "I'll see what?" Ron asked, but the bartender had busied himself fixing a strawberry daiquiri for a heavily tattooed, bald, Indian further down the bar. 
  
  Hubbard sipped his seven and seven and looked around to see if anybody looked like they might know the score in this joint. Amid the rather ordinary looking crowd he began to notice that there were more than a few rather extraordinary looking characters now that he'd been able to settle in a bit. There was that Indian character down the bar and a few others in Flash Gordon get-ups. Maybe there was some kind of costume party happening. A tall, majestic Chinese woman in flowing robes, sipped a green drink while holding a white rabbit. Just as he was about to find the bartender to order another drink, there was a commotion at the door. The grimacing man from the bill that the bartender had showed him was standing there, bigger than life, in the doorway, and he didn't look happy.

  "Seth!" his voice boomed out dramatically. "Thou defamest me again!" bellowed the giant.

  "Oh shit, here we go again" said the tall Chinese woman, "asshole's back in town."

  The compact bartender climbed up onto the bar and held his hands in the air, "Ramtha! Good Ramtha. Friend Ramtha. There is no excuse for violence. Are we to have a repeat of last month so soon?"

  "I shall make last month's bloodbath seem as mild as one of your outdoor eating events!" roared the heavily muscled warrior in the same vaguely European accent in which the barkeep spoke. "I shall make you all my slaves!" he bellowed at a surprisingly impressive decibel level.

  The Chinese woman rolled her eyes wearily and leaned over to Hubbard, "don't worry about it, honey, he does this all the time, he's very insecure. It's just how he was written." Her rabbit squirmed uncomfortably in her arms.

  "Uh, sure. Sure thing." Hubbard said backing into the crowd. So far, this stop wasn't going too well. The giant, armored man lunged toward the bar knocking other patrons aside and roared, "I am real, I tell you. REAL!!!!" he said lifting his huge battle club above his head. The stout bartender stood impassively, showing no fear.

  To Ron's left, he saw that the crowd was parting, and a small, slender woman holding a glass of red wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other tottered up to the raging hulk. 

  "No, Rammy. No, you're not" she said dryly looking over her cat-eye glasses.

  The huge warrior froze in position, his eyes fixed on her as she approached.

  "Rammy, put your hammer-thingy down, you're scaring our guest here" she said looking directly at Hubbard. 

  "But I am RAMTHA!" the room shook and a few of the crowd fainted. Then, he slowly lowered his massive war-hammer, "I am Ramtha . . . I am." he said dejectedly.  

  "No, baby" said the small woman, "you were just made up by an angry hack in a suburban kitchen. Now you can stay here and have a drink with the others if you behave. Look, there's Lazarus over there. He's a good listener. He knows the score." she said patting the now dejected looking warrior on the back. "If you won't behave, it's back to your void." She stared-down the hulking man with intensity. "I mean it. Be polite or scram!" she said. 

  The huge beast-man looked half as big as when he came in. He went and sat in the front window next to a bearded, rotund man to sulk.

  This whole time Ron had been moving slowly toward the front door.

  "Not so fast Hubbard!" said the woman, "we have some shit to talk about. The name is Jane. Jane Roberts, and I believe you stole some of my ideas."

  He knew it! I was another goddamned trap! Jane Roberts. Crap, how did she know? How did everyone here know everything about him?

  "Come on back here with me, I've got some characters for you to meet. It's okay, Ron. We're all friends here, even him" she said gesturing toward the now contrite Ramtha. "He's just a bit out of control. His creator is still alive. He needs her guidance and discipline."

  The diminutive brunette led him through to the back of the bar and then through a beaded curtain with a hand lettered sign saying 'private' above it. "I know Ron, it's a bit weird being here, isn't it? I couldn't quite believe it when I got here. If I was dead, where was Seth? It was nothing like my after death vision, at least not like I had written about. Create my own reality? Hah!" she laughed. "Hey, your smoke's almost out, have one of mine" she handed him an unfiltered Camel.

  "Uh, no thanks. I'll have one of my own. Menthols, you know" he said as she set down her wine and picked up a huge mid-century lighter and flicked the flame into being.

  "Ugh! I can't stand menthols, but, to each his own, eh?"

  Jane Roberts was tiny, with a high, nasaly voice, but he felt as though she had a very powerful presence. To Hubbard, she seemed very comfortable in her skin and laughed easily. He envied that natural grace in others. He always tried to bluff his way through life, to emulate that ease, but he was certain people saw through it.

  "So Ron, you purloined a lot of sources my friend, a lot of sources. And speaking of sources, I see that you and Sid have been hanging out quite a bit. He's a real kick, isn't he? I like him. Not quite what I imagined the Buddha would be, but then again, nobody here really is, except, of course for them" she said gesturing toward the door leading to the noisy bar room.

  "What do you mean by 'them?'" he asked.

  "Most of those characters out there are, well . . . characters!" she said making a dramatic gesture with her cigarette. "The bartender? That's Seth. My Seth. From my own imagination now into my own 'life,' if you can call this life." She stubbed out her cigarette and proceeded to rummage through a large purse on the couch for another. "This place is my concept. The Speaker's Lounge. A sort of metaphysical contrivance where all the great spiritual teachers would gather and watch man's follies, like a football game on the TV. Somehow our characters have form here. It's kinda crazy. I wrote about the Speaker's Lounge a few times. It can get pretty lively in here on a busy night. Surely you remember . . ." she looked slyly at him as she wrestled the huge table lighter up to light her smoke.

  "I honestly don't remember reading your books" said Hubbard hoping she wouldn't pick up on his lie.

  "Oh, but I remember reading yours!" she said pointing her cigarette at him as she backed over to the bookshelf on the far wall. She turned to point to each book in order, "Typewriter in the sky. Fear. Ol' Doc Methuselah. Golden Age classics!" She grew more animated now. "You know I wrote sci-fi from the time I was a teenager. I sure as hell stole from you! I'm pretty sure you returned the favor in the '70s." She had now gone behind the tiki themed bar to open another bottle of red wine. "Check this out. Chateau Margaux 1995. Stunning Ron. Fucking stunning. Get this nose, you won't believe it. You can smell the earth in it! I love the smell of the earth. My beautiful, beautiful earth." Jane looked wistful.

  "Let me take a sniff" Hubbard said as he approached her.

  Jane poured him a glass and handed it over the bar. "Take a deep drag off that, Ron. Amirite? Superb. I could never afford wine like this when I was alive" she said looking into the distance.

  "Who are you kidding? You were a best-selling author! You must've been raking in the dough!" He wasn't going to fall for this story.

  "It was a comfortable, middle-class living Ron, but I didn't have the Midas touch. We bought a nice home, but my medical bills were through the roof. It was a struggle."

  "Cancer?" Hubbard said holding up his cigarette.

  "No! Can you believe that?" she laughed bitterly. "And I was a chimney! No, it was RA, rheumatoid arthritis and an overactive thyroid that did me in. Worst part was, I knew it was coming . . . that it would get worse. It was terrifying. It's what killed my mother, I just lasted a lot longer than that hateful cow did."

"I guess I can look back and be grateful for the experience . . . almost. I've learned that it's what motivated me to create Seth, the fear. The sheer, existential terror of what I knew would be coming, forced my creative hand, as it were. Seth was the benevolent father and mother I never had. Kind. Wise. Funny. A part of myself I just desperately needed to be real."

  "But wait a second, now. I remember reading about how you swore you were uneducated in science and physics and you used that as proof that you couldn't be consciously creating Seth." said Hubbard.

  "I thought you didn't remember reading any of my books" Jane said slyly. "No, Ron, remember how I said I was a fan of yours? I devoured philosophy and science-fiction books when I was a kid. They saved my sanity. My mother was a very broken woman, a resentful monster who terrorized me from her sickbed. The world of sci-fi and speculative fiction was my escape. It made reality bearable to me." She sat for a moment and exhaled a puff of smoke. Jane turned to Ron, "I was afraid, Ron, but I wasn't wired for religion. I wasn't buying what they were selling. Most religious experience is fueled from fear, don't you think?" She looked earnestly at Ron. It made him a bit uncomfortable.

  "Well, anyway, I think it was no accident that Seth 'appeared' to me just as my body began to deteriorate. You don't know what it's like Ron, do you? To slowly loose your mobility? To be crippled with agonizing pain? To not be able to do the simplest things for yourself and watch your beloved die a little every day as you struggle? No. I don't suppose you do, do you?"

  Hubbard fumbled with his belt loop uncomfortably. It was getting too emotional for him.

    "Anyway, I can see this topic is making you a bit uncomfortable. You don't do well with feelings, do you, hon?" she said with a look of compassion.

  "I never have . . . liked . . . those. Feelings, you know."

  "Well, I read your later works and that's pretty evident. Looks like you were projecting your own reality out on all your followers, Ron." Jane flicked an ash into the large ceramic tray on the table. "That's one thing I got right, boy. I made sure that there would never be an official Seth religion, not while I was alive, at least. Of course, people being people, my followers did exactly what I told them not to do when I croaked. The Seth Center. The Seth Alliance. The First Bank of Seth." She laughed at her own joke. Hubbard just stared at her blankly. "Well anyway, blah, blah, blah. Seth told them to run in the other direction if somebody told them they had the capital T truth. But people just don't listen. They want someone to tell them it's all going to be okay . . . boy, don't I know it." Jane stubbed out yet another cigarette and took a deep swig of her Margaux. "You did just the opposite. Started your own religion, and did it ever pay off! You raked in bucketfuls of cash. I gotta say I really hated you back then. Just hated you and your whole authoritarian thing. I thought you were such a charlatan. And, of course, you were!" She laughed that breezy laugh again and Ron's stony expression made her laugh all the harder, "Come on, Ron . . . admit it! Embrace the shithead that you were or you'll be stuck in this crap for ever, or at least as long as this place lasts."

  This was too much. Hubbard got up and started for the door.

  "Ron. Honey. It's all gonna come back to bite you in the ass. Haven't you figured that out yet? It's karma, baby, or intersectionality or, whatever . . ."

  He stopped, but his back was still turned to her.

  "I know Sid says there's no such thing as Karma, but Ron, look at how things have gone since you got here. Come on Ronny, sit back down, just for a minute." Jane was now settled into a rocking chair with a freshly lit Camel.

   He turned toward her. "How do you know what's been going on since I got here?" he said defensively.

  "Ron, I've been here two years longer than you, only I didn't go into a loop. I woke right the fuck up after decades of pain and fear. Suddenly,  I was young. I was strong! I could dance and run again! I embraced a vision of an afterlife, so I think I was just ready for it. I also didn't have much in the way of a body count to have to face. Let's be honest Ron, you made one hell of a mess out of one hell of a lotta lives.

  Jane rose and began to pace as she spoke, "I've had a lot of crow to eat since I got here. I had to face that I knew, deep down inside, that I was making Seth up the whole time. Sure I claimed I was skeptical, and I was, but I would spin these tales off the top of my head. They were so beautiful and seductive. A universe that cared . . . about me! About all of us! With the success and the fans, I just bought my own party line. The irony was that I'd end up in an afterlife to find out that the afterlife I invented was bullshit. We didn't create our own reality when we were alive. We didn't 'pull it in' as you put it. That concept did give me a sense of control over my declining body, it dulled my fear, but it also made me hate myself for creating such a living hell. What had I done to deserve it? For me, Seth was the joyous and positive side of my life, the compartment I put all my hopes into, but he couldn't save me from death. Nobody could. I lost that battle, just like you did.

  Hubbard thought about his fears. Dentists. Doctors. Pain. Death. Being alone. Feelings.

  Then a smile spread across his face. "Well, it looks like we both beat the grim reaper, now doesn't it? Maybe we weren't so wrong after all?" he said with a palpable smug satisfaction.

  "Well, it may not be the gift you think it is. You do know that we can't die here, right? Hasn't anyone told you about that, yet? No suicide. No accidents. Oh, you'll feel the pain, but they don't kill you. You come back and it drives you mad after a while."

  Hubbard shuddered. "I recall Sid saying something about that . . . and a few others. It is a bit of a daunting though, I suppose. So exactly what are we here for? Just what is it that I'm supposed to do then, fall to my knees, weeping for all my sins? Is that what's expected of me?" asked Ron.

  "Don't be glib Ron, it's unattractive. I can't tell you what you're gonna get out of this place. No one can. Not even the ones who've been here for thousands of years. Some will try to manipulate you maybe, but ultimately, you're your own worst nightmare here. You gotta let go. Deal with those you wronged. Owning your shit is a start, Ron and let's face it, you're full of it. If you want to think of it in your own framework, I'm here to help you through your own wall of fire."

  Just then, the tattooed Indian stuck his head in the beads and said "Uh, hey Jane. You seen Ish in here tonight?"

  "He's probably waiting for you back on the Peaquod, honey. Just like last night, right? You alright to walk?"

  "Oh, uh, right. The ship! Yeah, I'm alright. Thanks Jane" the Indian looked a little embarrassed and  said to Hubbard "oh, sorry man, I hope I didn't interrupt" and backed out leaving the beads swaying.

  "Characters, huh? Is Melville here?" asked Ron.

  "No, not tonight. I think he has a card game on Tuesdays" Jane replied getting up to replenish her glass of wine. "More?" she said holding up her glass.

  "Oh, sure. Why not? It's not like I'm going to be driving or something. What about all the other people out there?" Hubbard said gesturing toward the still swinging beads. "The ordinary looking ones, Where do they come from? They can't all be leaders or characters."

  "Lots of them are here to find the people they followed. Some are mine and our paths will cross. Some are William's, that's Will James. He lives just across the Chemung on Walnut. We hang out a lot together now that he's forgiven me for writing his "after death journals." God he was pissed. He's in here most nights. There are others. Depends on the night and intersectionality's strange pull." She polished off the glass she poured and lit another smoke. "Look, I've got people to see and a cat to feed and I've been up since dawn." She came around the bar and bent down putting a hand on Hubbard's knee. "I don't mean to jump all over you, Ron. But, for all the magical seeming abilities we have here, all we really have is each other and a few helpers. If we don't learn from each other we stay miserable. All that shit you did. You gotta own it. I'll be here if you want to talk." With that, she bent over, gave him a demure peck on the cheek and said, "nighty night, red. Go find your girls. I bet they're out there now."

  Hubbard watched her pass through the multicolored wood beads and into the crowded bar. He sat and swirled the Chateau Margaux in the glass. It had legs. He was looking through the glass when he felt a vibration. A thrumming pulse that shook the whole building. He got up and headed out to see what was happening. The crowd in the bar was nearly silent now, most had moved to the windows to see where the blazing white light that was bathing the town was coming from. The whole building was shaking as the sound began to drop in frequency. Glasses were now jittering to the edges of the shelving and falling like lemmings the floor. Seth and a couple of patrons tried to hold back the rows of moving liquor bottles behind the bar. Some plaster fell from the ceiling and then one of the big, plate glass windows shattered. The crowd jumped back from the remaining windows and moved into the center of the room.

  Whatever the source of the light was it was getting closer. The blazing white light was too bright to look at. All of the streetscape looked overexposed. Then he saw it, the huge saucer shaped craft that was emitting the blinding beam. It lowered itself over the lawn of the park across Water Street, vaporizing several trees in the process. An unseen force smashed flat several wrought iron benches and the small stone restroom in the park and the huge vessel settled onto its massive landing gear as the light dimmed to a dull glow. The thrumming continued for a few seconds and then stopped altogether.

  Ramtha was the first out the door, battle hammer raised above his head. "Who dares to come before Ram . . ." and before he could get out the "tha" there was a blinding pulse of light that left nothing but ash where he had stood. The crowd at Toby's was on the verge of panic now. Hubbard had dropped below the windowsill and was peeking over the edge, trying to get a better look.

  There was a sudden mechanical clank from the ship and icy vapor vented out of a growing opening on the underside of the saucer. A section of hull had lowered to form a long ramp from which a shaft of yellow-greenish light shone onto the flattened grass. There was movement inside the misty opening, and Hubbard watched as a phalanx of what appeared to be soldiers began to emerge from the vessel. They were about two and a half meters tall and dressed from head to toe in silver body-suits with elaborate utility belts, short capes and visored helmets. They all carried exotic looking rifles whose barrels ended in sharp, conical tips. Out they marched in perfect formation and following the first couple of dozen came an even more impressive figure. Clearly the leader, his massive physique was clad in form-fitting, polished armor that dazzled in the light. His red cape was floor length and there was a curved, upturned collar behind his head. The figure's reflective helmet came down over his face and he was followed by an equally muscular man in a short white toga and gold knee-high sandals. Behind them came an entourage of robed figures bearing a variety of cases and trays. These minions were then followed by another phalanx of soldiers bringing up the rear.

  When the last soldier from the last group had stepped onto the grass, the troops stopped and the massive, armored figure turned to one of his entourage and snapped his fingers. A robed figure rushed up to the leader, kneeled before the armored man and offered him a long pole wrapped in fabric. The mighty figure grabbed the pole and unfurled a flag that bore only a large X. He stepped out of formation and thrust the pole into the grass. The assembled soldiers raised their weapons and let out a roar of approval. They began to move forward in unison, they looked like they meant business and they were headed straight for the bar.


Monday, September 01, 2014

A quiz for my readers . . .

Hi Readers,

I'll be getting back to Hubbs, Sid, Mary Sue and the rest of the crew next week, but I was curious about a statistical development. Just going over my stats this morning and am absolutely fascinated by my popularity in Turkey (again)! Welcome back my Anantolian friends! I saw you were reading in the hundreds a few months ago. What has you all so fascinated by L. Ron Hubbard? Not much of a cult presence in Turkey from what I can tell. Do drop me a line a let me know what the draw is, won't you? And Ukraine! So much going on in your lovely country. Terribly sorry about the madman Putin threatening your sovereignty, but thrilled you're reading my little tale. Or is it just that there are OSA servers located in Ankara and Kiev? Who can say?

In any case, whoever you are, I hope you're enjoying the story so far. And for non-OSA readers, do comment more. This fledgeling writer can use the feedback. The story is not set in stone and is edited on a regular basis for clarity and especially grammar fails. And for any litigious or fatwah declaring types, let this serve as notice that this story is a fantasy. Fiction. Fake. 'Tis all from my fevered imagination and while inspired by a mixture of myth, real people and events, it is not meant to be a factual accounting of anyone alive, dead or in between. Capice?

Cheers,

Artoo

Sunday, August 24, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 21, "We Build A World From Broken Pieces"

  It's strange how some events don't quite turn out as we expect them to. Even slam-dunk, carved in granite, the-sun-will-come-out-tomorrow things can go awry. It's stranger still when, just before the moment itself, in that last fraction of a second, you know it's all going to go haywire. 

  So it was for L. Ron Hubbard, his cheeks wet with tears, supine in surrender to his third wife's repetitive accusation, when he heard the sweet sound of the key in the door. There it was, that feeling of "oh, shit," but it wasn't an "oh, shit" he could put his finger on, just a sudden, awful knowledge that things were somehow about to go south.

  In that moment of change, several things happened. Two small dogs burst through the barely open door, charging over the recumbent Hubbard, painfully crushing his left testicle in the process. Their goal? Their beloved mistress, Mary Sue, who staggered back, gasping in a lungful of air as though she just surfaced from a long dive. 

  "Vixie . . . and Tzu! Where? How? My babies, my babies . . ." she repeated as she slid down the wall for the second time that day, only this time it was in an ecstasy of recognition. The dogs were beside themselves licking her face, whining and yipping with joy.

  The next, nearly simultaneous event was Hubbard realizing exactly who it was who'd opened that door. "Fucking goddamn hell" he muttered to himself. 

  "There you are you sonofabitch!" Polly said, filled with rage at the sight of the man who had so abused her and her children.

  Ron was frantically kicking backwards across the slick, institutional linoleum, in hopes of protecting his one untrampled ball, which he was certain would now be in jeopardy from the charging Polly and Sara. Then there were . . . Mormons. More goddamn Mormons! Of course, they'd be at the bottom of this kind of mayhem.

  Mary Sue, who had indeed been deep in a loop, sat back in shock, taking stock of the surreal cast of characters before her. There was her husband, for whom her feelings were both powerful and ambivalent. Then there were her two predecessors, one was, by her husband's account, a needy, nagging harridan who tormented Ron and tried to poison his children against him, and the other, a golddigger and a slut who hoodwinked him into claiming paternity of a child she had with Jack Parsons. She recognized them from pictures in their Guardians Office files, but strangely, they were both about 35 and dressed like it was the '60s. Then there were two young men in white shirts. Were they policemen . . . or waiters? Everything was so strange.

  "Ron? Ron! What the hell is going on here? How did they get here?" she shot a withering glance at Hubbard who was rising slowly against the far wall. "And you two! I know all about you two! What were you doing with my babies!?" she said clutching the writhing dogs to her bosom.

  "That explains the dogs!" Sara said, trying to hold Polly back from doing god knows what to Hubbard. "Polly! The dogs! That's how we found him . . . and her, that's Mary Sue, they're her dogs!"

  Polly looked Mary Sue from head to toe and said, "Well, aren't we just pretty picture then, the three little wifeys, all in a row."

  Sara interjected, "Say, what did you mean by that 'I know all about you two' crack? I can only imagine what that asshole told you." Now it was Polly holding Sara back.

  "Now, now, can't we all just get along here? We have so much in common . . . me, for instance!" said Hubbard hoping to defuse a tense moment with some jocularity, but he was utterly ignored.

  "Mary Sue, we're on your side. That poor excuse of a man left you to rot in prison for a crime he planned! Why do you think you're in this place? It's a jail! My god, I read that he never even wrote you a letter!" said Sara with great emotion.

  Hubbard cringed and he looked around to see if he might slip out past the Mormons.

  "Prison?" Mary Sue said as if in a daze. Her face had lost all its color. She pulled the dogs close to her again. "I remember the trials, the appeals . . . prison" she looked at Hubbard with a lost expression. "Ron, you never even wrote me a letter . . ." she said rising, her once crisp dress whites now filthy with dust and dog hair. "I, I . . . believed in you. I trusted you. You said we were clearing the planet. I went to prison, Ron. You just . . . hid." 

  You could have heard the proverbial pin drop. Nobody moved.

    "Now, you just said it yourself Mary Sue, I was clearing the planet . . . WE were clearing the planet . . . you and I . . . together. But, I had to stay out of prison, to keep the research going." Hubbard said.

  "Are we exterior?" Mary Sue asked suddenly. "Am I finally exterior?" 

  "Uh, yes, Yes we're all exterior! That proves I was right, doesn't it? Here we all are in Target 2!" he said, going with the flow.

  "I don't feel exterior. Are these doll bodies? Where are we really? This all seems pretty solid to me. Don't you think it's pretty solid?" Mary Sue walked around touching the walls and doors as she asked this.

  "He doesn't know any more than we do Mary Sue. Look at him, bloviating and lying as usual. You can always tell when he's on one of his rolls, just making shit up on the fly. Only difference now, is I think I can actually hear the cogs turning" said Sara. "Listen. Don't you hear them Polly? Clickety clack! Clickety clack! 'I was, uh,  walking a zorpdog on Mars the other day . . .'" she said puffing herself up to do her best Hubbard imitation.

  For the first time in decades, Mary Sue Hubbard laughed out loud. 

  Mary Sue turned to Sara with a look of dawning awareness, "No! It was the Van Allen Belt! It was the Van Allen Belt, wasn't it Ron? Or was it Venus? You were always going exterior, weren't you? I tried for hundreds and hundreds of hours and you always said it was my own fault that I couldn't. I was CI or out ethics. But you! You were always off inspecting some implant station or Marcabian Ice Cream parlour!" Mary Sue was having her 'aha' moment. "It nagged at me Ron. My god, how it nagged at me. I told you once I thought you were making it all up as you went along. I actually fell for your excuses and explanations. Your stupid Wall of Fire! How could I have been so stupid?"

  "But Mary Sue, we're dead! Look at them! They're only in their thirties, but they're dead as doornails! We all are, but we're talking here in Target 2! I was right all along!" Hubbard bellowed.

  "This proves nothing. We could be in the Christian, or the Muslim heaven. Or, maybe it's hell!" She grew thoughtful and walked over to Ron, who backed away from her approach. "I suppose this could all be happening in my brain. Maybe I'm lying in a hospital somewhere, in a coma. That could be true, couldn't it?" she said looking at Polly and Sara as though they were some kind of museum display.

  "Um, no Mrs. Hubbard, we're not in heaven, at least not that our Prophet has been able to tell. We are all technically dead" said the taller of the two men in the white shirts. "The Prophet says that he thinks we're in a place, a reality where leaders of humanity go. I'm sorry, let me introduce myself. I am Elder Cooper, Orbel Cooper and this is Elder Chalmers. We're with The Prophet Joseph Smith. We've been sent to retrieve Mr. Hubbard."

  "Joseph Smith? The Mormon Joseph Smith?" Mary Sue looked puzzled.

  "They're all here Mary Sue. Oh, I've met Jesus, Mohammed and The Buddha. Hell, the Buddha and I are old pals. I call him Sid. And we met Joan of Arc and Chairman Mao and, well, some . . . uh, others . . ." Hubbard said, trailing off not wanting to bring up Quentin or Nibs.

  "Jesus? You met Jesus of Nazareth? Well, I certainly hope he never read any of . . ." 

  Hubbard cut her off, "Oh, very funny. Very funny. As a matter of fact, he did know about me. He did. He said I was right though, that he was just a man after all and that we were all in this together and suchlike. He gave me a smoke!" Ron looked nervous.

  Mary Sue had a puzzled expression, "So, Orville . . ."

  "That's Orbel, with a b."

  "Sorry, this is all very confusing for me. Why am I here? I'm no leader." said Mary Sue.

  "Well, you could be here to interact with Mr. Hubbard, to free yourself from your connection to him, but we think you might be here on your own merit. You have a small but loyal following to this day. Time will tell. You don't need a lot of followers to be here, just ask Mr. Hubbard." said Orbel gesturing toward a now glowering Ron.

  "What are you so upset about?" queried Mary Sue.

  "Oh, it's just a little joke at my expense that everyone seems to think is terribly funny." Hubbard said defensively.

  Polly turned her back on Hubbard and addressed his current wife. "Mary Sue, I hope you'll understand that we didn't mean to upset you, we were told that we had to find Ron, to free ourselves. We've been in a sort of netherworld since we each died. I've been 'living' in what looked like Philadelphia since 1963 and Sara here died in 1997 and had a house nearby, though we both just met today. Joseph Smith told Sara that we were living in a sort of 'waiting room.' Honestly, it's all new to us, too."

  "But Vixie and Tzu. How did you find them?"

  "Well, they were sort of the key to our finding you . . . literally. We were wondering who these dogs were, and why they showed up in the same exact way, both running out in the middle of the street and causing accidents. Vixie ran in front of Polly's car this morning and Tzu darted out in front of us on our way here. The coincidence was just too much. As you spend more time here, you'll see that there are no accidents in this reality. They were obviously attracted to us since we were looking for Hubbard and you were with him. It all just sort of fell together. What did you call it Orbel? Inter . . . something?" asked Sara.

  ". . . sectionality. Intersectionality. It's a force here. People come here to free themselves from intense and negative attachments to the leaders that dwell here. Intersectionality makes things happen. We don't exactly know how. It has to do with intention" Orbel explained.

  "So people who died will be trying to find Ron for some kind of release? A release to where? Aren't we already dead?" asked Mary Sue with a look of concern. 

  "Just those with an axe to grind, so to speak. Those hurt or negatively affected by Mr. Hubbard or his ideas" said Orbel.

  Mary Sue looked at Ron with an expression of concern which morphed into a sudden, impish grin, "Oh my, Ron, you're going to be a very busy boy."

  Everyone looked at Hubbard for one uncomfortable moment.

 "Well, what do we do now?" asked Sara. "Aren't we supposed to disappear or something now that we've seen him?"

  "Not necessarily" said a voice from the outer hallway. 

  A handsome man wearing khaki slacks and a white polo shirt walked in through the open door and extended his hand to Sara, "I am Joseph Smith, Sara. So wonderful to meet you in person. Our little mission was quite the success! And you must be Polly. Also a great pleasure." Then he noticed Mary Sue standing there, and a look of wonder came over his face. "And can this be Mary Sue Hubbard?" Mary Sue Nodded. "Oh, my dear, please call me Joe, so very happy to make your acquaintance" and then with a deadpan aside to Hubbard, "you're still in one piece, for now" a wink followed. 

  Sara shook the Prophet's hand, in awe of coming face to face with history in such a solid way. "So you're Joseph Smith? Really? Do you know Jesus too? Well, of course you would, wouldn't you? I'm sorry, that was stupid of me . . ."

  Joseph looked pained and said "No, not as stupid as you might think" there was an uncomfortable pause and then, "it's complicated." He took Mary Sue by the arm and started walking together toward the door, "You must have a lot of questions and while I don't have all the answers, I do have some. Are these little fellows yours?" he said pointing to the dogs dancing around her feet. Mary Sue nodded. "Oh, aren't they just darling . . . "

 "Hey, I thought you came for me!" said Hubbard with a hurt look.

  "It really is always all about you, isn't it? Well Ron, your wife has just come out of her loop, and if she will accept the invitation, will be our guest for a while at Mountain Meadows. Now, I didn't forget you. I had my boys drop off a tire for your disabled car. Your messengers are waiting just over there" said the Prophet as they all emerged into the afternoon sun. The two messengers waved enthusiastically to Hubbard from the old, silver Cadillac.

  "So Joe, Polly and I aren't going to disappear or go free?" said Sara, nervously. 

  "Evidently, you'e not done here for some reason, but this ought to help you feel a bit more free" Joe said gesturing toward a flawless, metallic aquamarine, '66 Thunderbird convertible. "You'll find your luggage in the trunk. Drive around, explore the universe a bit. The keys are in the ignition."

  "How did you know?" Said Sara beaming at the Mormon.

  "How did he know, what?" asked Polly.

  Sara looked expectantly at Joe who answered "a little fishy told me."

  Polly looked more confused than ever.

  "The car, it's from a movie that I really loved. Let's just say it was about two women who woke up from living as chess pieces in men's games" said Sara with welling eyes.

  "Did it have a happy ending?" asked Polly.

  "After a fashion, and besides, we've already got that part down pat. Let's hit the road, old girl and I'll tell you the story!"

  Joe stood there with Mary Sue on his arm and said, "Well put Sara. In Hubbard's game, you were just pieces to move about the board, all three of you. Now, you're not only the players, you'll making the rules in ways you could never begin to imagine before. You're not done here yet. This is a fascinating place, you never know who you're going to run into out there. If you need help, you'll get it."

  Mary Sue looked overwhelmed. "So, I'm going with you?" she asked Joe. "That sounds good. Wait a minute though." She walked over to Sara and Polly. "I know I said that I knew who you were, but I've a feeling I've probably been wrong about an awful lot of things. I may not know you, but I think I know what you've been through, some of it at my bidding. This is all so strange, so very strange. I hope maybe someday we'll meet again."

  Sara and Polly each took one of Mary Sue's hands. "It's a deal. You get your bearings. We'll see you around" said Sara.

  "Thanks again for taking good care of my babies, they mean the world to me." And with that Joe helped Mary Sue and the dogs into the back of his Escalade and they drove off with Elders Cooper and Chalmers bringing up the rear.

  Hubbard just stood in the doorway, looking dejected, trying to get his flyaway hair under control as Sara and Polly cruised slowly past, getting a feel for big T-bird. 

  "He's fatter than I remember" said Sara.

  "Really? He looks about the same to me . . . like a walking lie" said Polly looking back over her shoulder as they drove out the first set of gates into the unknown.


  Hubbard stood there feeling sorry for himself until he remembered that there were fresh Kools in the Brougham. He gestured for the girls to bring the car around to him. When it arrived before him, the taller Messenger got out and opened the door for him. As he settled in, Cigarette Girl handed him a Kool, he lit it himself, and the menthol and nicotine smoothed out his nerves and the world was back to a reasonable level of comfort. They'd reach R6 City by nightfall and then he'd read what was in those folders he'd stacked up in his room, and get to the bottom of all this nonsense.

•••

  When the Mk Ultra VIII Eternal Energy Cell™ was being marketed by the Voltar-Invay Consortium on Marcab VII, they were called to the carpet for their extravagant claim of "eternal" by the MBBB, who watched out for the best interest of some 850 billion citizens of the Confederation. It turned out they were really old Mk VIIs that been over produced a few decades before and sat in a storage orbital ever since. They just slapped some new cladding and graphics on them and hoped nobody would be the wiser. I guess things haven't really changed that much in the last 75 million years.

  Before he was sentenced by the Court of the Imperium on the litigant world of Tremant Prime for commercial fraud, Mirx Invay, CEO of the embattled energy cell Consortium was quoted as saying "Oh, come on your honor, so it's not technically 'eternal.'  The franxxing things should be good for 75 million years. That's certainly as good at eternal, isn't it?" The judge agreed with that point and like so many wealthy citizens, Invay got off with a slap on what would pass for a wrist had he been a vertebrate.

•••

  Meanwhile, in a certain Electronic Mountain Trap . . .

Sunday, August 17, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 20 "Over And Under The Rainbow"

  "You never even wrote me a letter."

  In his brief time since waking from his loop, he'd faced some intense people from his past, but this one was too much. Hubbard just turned and headed back down the long hallway of the prison. He didn't even say a word to the woman who'd taken what was undoubtedly the biggest of the many bullets life had sent his way. Like he'd always justified to himself, she had 'pulled it in.' She was out ethics. That's all there was to it. As the last great hope for planetary clearing, as mankind's bestie, he owed it to himself to KSW, and especially to keep himself out of prison.

  He knew he should've never set foot in this place. Now the hall felt like it was closing in around him. He reached the end of the hallway but the door that he'd come through was now locked.

  He turned around and there she was again, in her dress whites, not five feet away from him. Her face wore the same sad, disappointed expression she would get whenever he'd fucked up royally and she'd had to make excuses for him when they were alive.

  "You never even wrote me a letter" she said stoically.

  "I don't have to put up with this" Hubbard muttered as he brushed past her trying to find another way out of the cell block. Only the long hallway now seemed shorter by half, and there was Mary Sue at the other end of it. How the hell was she doing that, anyway?

  "You never even wrote me a letter." This time she said it holding the Scientology Justice Manual up in front of him.

  "So, what are you going to do Mary Sue, hit me with my own book? Lock me up? Beat me?" Hubbard sneered.

  "You never even wrote me a letter" she said again, with that expression that ate into his empty core.

  "Shut up woman! Shut the hell up! What the fuck do you know about what I went through after you went to prison? I may have been on my last legs, but I know that you only served a goddamn year! Do you have any idea what you and your GO fuck-ups did to me? I had the big plan and the tech in place to safepoint the whole fucking government and you ruined it! I had to spend the rest of my life in hiding! And because of you, that little shit Miscavige got into power and now he's destroyed my legacy! Didn't write to you . . . why the fuck would I you stupid bitch!?"

  "You never even wrote me a letter."

  They were like armor piercing rounds, her simple words. Every time they hit, they dug a bit deeper. He knew he couldn't take too many more direct hits. Soon he'd feel something, and well, that was just not going to happen. He grabbed the large binder of the Justice Manual from her hands, closed his eyes and swung it directly at her head. He had to silence her. 

   He got nothing but air.

  From behind him now, "You never even wrote me a letter."

  What the fuck? How was she doing that? In a blind rage he dropped the manual and lunged at her throat pinning her against the cinder block wall. He squeezed as hard as he could. She didn't even put up a fight. He finally let go and Mary Sue's lifeless body slid slowly to the floor.

  He backed away from her, beet red, gasping for air. She lay there, open eyes staring lifelessly at the fluorescent overhead lights. He shut his eyes. Now he'd really done it. He couldn't stand to look at her corpse.

  "She shouldn't . . . have said . . . that . . . to me. She just shouldn't have said that . . ." he was still panting heavily.

  "You never even wrote me a letter" he heard from his left. 

  There she was again! Just as he had first seen her. He looked back to where she'd slid down the wall, but she was gone. How was she doing this? Why was she doing this to him? Why was she being so . . . selfish?

  "HELP! Let me out of here, goddammit!" he yelled with manic intensity. He pounded on the cell block door. He couldn't breathe. Everything was closing in on him. "Where are my messengers?Get me out of here you fucking little bitches! You're all in treason!" he yelled so loudly his voice cracked. 

  "You never even wrote me a letter" came the words, now barely a whisper from his wife's lips, so close they brushed his right ear.

  He spun around and pushed her back, "So goddamn what!? So I didn't fucking write you a fucking letter! What, am I supposed to do, get down on my hands and knees and beg your forgiveness because you spent one fucking year in the clink? I'll bet you spent the rest of your life spending my money!"

  "You never even wrote me . . ."

  "A FUCKING LETTER! Yes, yes, I know! Shut up! Shut up! Shut UP!" The hallway seemed to be contracting now, so that it had become a cell itself. He was trapped. With her. 

  "You never even wrote me a letter." This was hell. Plain and simple. Hell. 

  "Okay, okay. I give up. I'm, uh, sorry I never wrote to you. I was ashamed of what I did and I just couldn't face you after your selfless act" he added with a theatrical bow. "Isn't that better? See how sorry I am?" he tried looking friendly and happy, but instead of a smile it was more of the kind of grimace one gets when straining on the toilet.

  She said her line again.

  "God, I need a cigarette! I need a fucking cigarette!" he patted himself down to see if he had any on him. He remembered his manifesting the lighter and the Cadillac this morning. "Okay, calm down. Calm down old boy. Use command intention. Breathe." 

  Mary Sue repeated her plaintive line yet again.

  "Okay, okay, I can do this." He he tried to breathe and quiet down. With great, studied nonchalance he said "now, where's my key to this door?"

  He waited a second or two, then patted down his pockets. Nothing. He listened at the door. Nobody coming. He was trapped.

••• 

  The huge Escalade in which the missionaries picked them up was beyond the most luxurious vehicle Polly had ever imagined. Both she and Sara had their own large, leather chairs in the back. Amazingly, they also had their own little televisions set into the seatbacks in front of them. They cruised in isolated silence. Things had come quite a long way since 1963. Vixie was dozing on top of Sara's coat in yet a third row of seats.

  "So boys, do you know where we're going?" asked Sara.

  "No, not really." The squeaky clean young man in the passenger seat chirped cheerily.

  "Well, how exactly are we supposed to find Hubbard?" said Polly with a note of concern.

  "Don't worry ladies, intersectionality will find him. Just relax and enjoy the ride."

  Just as the the missionary in the passenger seat said those words, two things happened, the driver let out a splendid obscenity, followed by a sudden spin that left the huge SUV in the opposite lane, facing the direction they'd just come from.

  After checking to see if Vixie was okay, Sara spun back around and said "What the hell was that all about, I thought we were going to flip over!"

  "Golly, I'm so sorry ladies, I really am. There was a little dog! I hope I didn't hit him." The driver was gripping the wheel tightly and deep-breathing to compose himself.

  Sara and Polly looked at each other with stunned disbelief. Another dog in the road incident?

  "Well, pull off the road, we don't want to get hit either" said Polly.

  Once they pulled over the two missionaries set about the grim task of checking on the dog.

  "That's just too weird, Polly. A dog runs out in front of us and we almost run off the road . . . lightning striking twice?" said Sara.

   In the distance the ladies heard, "Here he is! He's okay!" It was the driver talking. "Come here little guy . . ."

   Sara and Polly strained to see through the heavily tinted glass of the Escalade. They could just make out that the boys were returning with the dog. When they arrived at the car Vixie started barking, wagging her stub of a tail excitedly. Sara lowered the window to have a look at the latest wandering canine.

  "He's kinda dirty. Maybe we should leave him here" said the taller of the two missionaries.

  "Not on your life. You hand him to me and we'll worry about the rest." The new dog was a soiled, bedraggled little thing. It had a collar that was strikingly similar to Vixie's with a little brass plaque on it that said 'Tzu.' But more intriguing than that coincidence, was the key hanging where a license would normally dangle. Odd, that.

"How about it girl? Shall we bring Tzu along?" Sara said to Vixie, as if she could understand every word. Vixie let out one solitary bark.

  "Look, she's wagging her stump!" said Polly. "I think she likes him . . . or her. Hard to tell with all that hair."

  "Well, whatever this dog is, something tells me that it and this key, are all part of the puzzle we're in the middle of."

  "Alright boys, drive on!" said Polly. And with that the big Cadillac roared off into the night and out of the universe that Polly and Sara had known as home.

•••

  How long had it been? Hours? Days? It didn't matter, it was the closest thing to hell Hubbard could imagine. Mary Sue, who had been so bright and intelligent in her life was reduced to this . . . broken record of recrimination. At least they didn't have to go to the bathroom. That was about the only good thing Hubbard could think of at the time. None of his command intention seemed to be working. His Messengers were nowhere to be found and nobody was showing up to let him out of this cramped space. 

  All he wanted was for this woman to shut up about the goddamn letter he never wrote. Wouldn't someone come rescue him? Anyone? Nibs? That crazy PerĂ³n woman? And where was Sid? He always knew what to do. Ron didn't have the little Apple phone on him, it was just beyond the perimeter fence in the Cadillac . . . with his smokes. Smokes! Oh, god, why did he think of smokes! He craved nicotine worse than wanting to get out of this place. Where were his newfound, godlike powers when he really needed them?

•••

The Diamond White Escalade emerged into the universe next door. The missionaries knew that they'd end up wherever intersectionality took them. With these two women on board, the draw to Hubbard would be powerful, so they just drove calmly through the wooded hills they found themselves in once they'd crossed The Bridge. It was a muggy day, the air felt heavy as though it might storm at any moment. The sun was just up and they could make out a leaden gray sky above the bright green of the hardwood forest. The roads were still damp from a recent downpour. 

  Their passengers were asleep in the back, a dog on each lap when they came upon two young, scantily clad women standing by an old, silver luxury car. They blocked the roadway, waving their arms above their heads. The missionaries brought the SUV to a smooth halt and looked at each other, blushing.

  The dogs both went crazy, startling Polly and Sara out of a sound sleep.

  "What the hell's that all about?" said Sara trying to blink the sleep from her eyes.

  "Your guess is as good as mine" replied an equally groggy Polly.

  "Uh, ladies, we have a problem" said the driver. "I think these girls need some help. Looks like they broke down."

  "On their way to a strip club from the looks of it . . . " said Sara under her breath. That set Polly to laughing.  

  "Now, now, Sara. We were all young once." said Polly smiling knowingly.

  "Alright! Vixie! Tzu! Hush up! Be good dogs." Polly got the dogs calmed down as the two almost identical, young Amazons approached the driver's window.

  "Can I help you ladies?" said the clearly flustered missionary.

  "Our . . . grandfather is missing." said the taller of the two.

  "Oh, yes, our poor grandfather! We got a flat, and he wandered away from the car the other night, and we've been looking for him. Did you see an older man walking about out here?" said the younger girl craning her neck to get a look inside the Escalade.

  The dogs growled menacingly at the girls despite Sara and Polly's attempts to soothe them.

  "I guess they don't like hookers" muttered Sara, just loud enough for Polly to elbow her in the ribs.

  "Well, maybe we can help you girls find your poor grand-dad" said Polly, lowering her window. The girls came to peer in and recoiled at the sight of the growling dogs. 

  "Oh, don't be afraid of them, they're really quite sweet when you get to know them" Polly assured them. "What are you names, girls?"

  The scantily clad twins looked at each other for a moment too long and then said in unison "Sally!"

 "No, I mean she's, we're . . . I'm Sally and she's . . . uh, . . . Cindy! She's Cindy. We are Sally and Cindy . . . Smith!"

  "Are you sisters?" asked Sara.

  "Yes. We're sisters. The Smith Sisters. Can you help us find our grandfather?" they asked in unison.

   "Uh, sure. What say we help the Smith sisters find ol' gramps?" said Sara drily.

  "Are you sisters?" the taller of the two asked with her head cocked to the side, Vixie style.

  "After a fashion," said Polly.

  "Oh" said the girl blankly.

   There was an uncomfortable pause in the conversation as the twins stared blankly at Polly and Sara. "Well! That old man ain't gonna find himself, now is he?" said Sara in her best hillbilly voice. The two missionaries looked back at the ladies with no small amount of alarm.

  "What is it boys?" Sara asked.

  The missionaries both looked sideways toward the twins.

   "Well, put the windows up!" Sara hissed miming a window crank.

  "We'll be right with you girls!" said Polly as she and the boys raised their windows. 

  "Now, what's with those faces you two? What's the problem?" said Sara.

  "Uh, well, um, those aren't really normal girls" said the driver.

  "No shit Sherlock! What are they, then?" sniped Sara.

  "They're like us. They're caretakers. We're not really people, I mean we were never really, alive people. We come with the territory to serve our masters." said the missionary in the passenger seat.

  Sara and Polly seemed stunned. "You mean you're robots or something?" asked Sara. She was trying not to look too freaked out.

  "No, no, we're . . . manifestations of following. It's hard to explain."

  "Try me" said Polly looking down her nose in disbelief.

  "Everyone in this reality has a following, was a leader of some kind. In our case, we appear as Mormon Missionaries to serve The Prophet. It's what we do."

  "Uh huh" said Sara, drawing out the 'huh.' "So who exactly are these two following, Hugh Hefner?"

  "We don't know. We've never seen them before. But I don't think they're looking for their grandfather" the driver said with dead seriousness.

  Sara and Polly exchanged eye rolls. "Could it be that they're looking for Hubbard? Is that why we've run across them? Isn't that how things work over here with that intersectionality thing you keep telling us about?"

  "Possibly, we must call the Prophet for more instructions."

  With that the driver pulled out a small tablet and tapped at its surface. He held it to his face and spoke. "Sir, this is Orbel . . ."

  "Wait! You have names?!" interrupted Sara.
  
  The missionary called Orbel grimaced and mimed the international symbol for 'pipe down' with his free hand. "Yes, sir, we're here sir . . . looks like the American mid-Atlantic area . . . yes . . . daytime . . . yes, and I think we've encountered some other caretakers. We think they could be the target's."

  Polly and Sara mouthed 'targets' to each other in unison. The as yet unnamed missionary glowered at them.

  Orbel continued, "Yes sir. I will sir. No, we did encounter a small dog in the road. No. No, sir. It's with us now. Uh huh. Yes. I will, sir. Goodbye." Orbel pressed the surface of the tablet again, and turned to face the women in the back seat.

  "Yes, we do have names, but it just never came up in conversation, sorry about that. Yes, I'm Orbel and this is CalDean, but you can call him Cal. We will help you find Mr. Hubbard. The Prophet has instructed us to do as these girls wish. They may very well be Hubbard's caretakers, they're not to be trusted." said Orbel gravely.

  "So, what do we do now?" asked Polly.

  "Take these leashes and put them on the dogs, we'll bring them along as they may have a part to play in this as well. Anything can be a clue or a sign."

  "Like my fish?" said Sara.

  "Yes, like your fish . . . whatever that means" said CalDean.

  "It's a long story, let's get on with this, shall we?" Sara said as they exited the back seat. They stretched out a bit and got right to business, asking the girls what had happened and where they had looked for their missing pater familias so far.

  After a long confusing tale, they figured that the girls had investigated the direction that they'd been driving in rather thoroughly, but hadn't gone beyond the back end of their disabled Brougham. So the whole search party set off along the tall fence capped with barbed wire that ran along the road until they came to a series of open gates. The dogs were growing more agitated as they went further inside the compound, a series of a dozen long concrete buildings.

  "I say we let them go, Polly. They're itching to find something out there" said Sara.

  The 'Smith' girls looked horrified that these snarling curs would be free to attack them.

    "Don't worry girls, like I said, once you get to know them, they're really quite sweet." And with that Sara and Polly unleashed the dogs who took off like a shot toward the first bunker-like structure. They all jogged along behind the dogs, all of them except the twins who remained frozen in fear.

•••

   Tears. Tears were very likely next on Ron's agenda as he lay in a heap in the corner. He had been reduced to a seething mass of frustration, anger, nicotine addiction and just plain petulance. Mary Sue would simply not shut up. There was no silencing her. Nothing worked. "Someone save me" he mumbled to himself as he stewed in his self-pity. "Please, someone save me . . . anyone. Anyone!" He began to blubber softly to himself, as the hunger for nicotine clawed at him like Mary Sue's accusing litany. And then he heard it . . . it sounded like scratching at the door. He heard it again. Yes! Yes! Someone was out there. And then the most blessed, most glorious sound of all, the sound of a key in the lock. He was saved.

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 19 "Sisters"

  Had she dozed off? She'd been having chest pains and arrythmia again, and sometimes the meds made her a bit woozy, but this was off the charts.

  It was dark overhead, but toward her feet she could see a soft light. She seemed to be outside, yes, it was dusk and the fireflies were out . . . or were they? They were awfully big for lightning bugs. Maybe her oxygen line had fallen out. Yes, that was what it was. She felt for the clip in her nose, it was gone. No wonder she was seeing things. Yes, her poor brain was clearly starved for oxygen. She reached down her chest to find it, but it wasn't there. What was there startled her. She felt a pair of unfamiliar, firm, small breasts. And wait a minute . . . this was not her body, not by a long shot, and what the hell had happened to her stomach? With growing bewilderment, she held her hands in front of her face, only these were small and delicate, with long nails. There were beautiful filigree rings on the third and fourth fingers on each hand that danced before her eyes.

  This was crazy. It had to be the drugs, or maybe her chronic lack of lung capacity. She had to try to get up and find that hose.

  Getting up was a little too easy. After months of struggling to do the simplest things, Denise Brennan sat up with no difficulty whatsoever, unless you consider hitting her head on the low tangle of roots above her as difficult. That was when she saw the ephemeral silhouette, and heard the words "Welcome home sister, welcome to the Fae." That was when she knew that everything had really changed.

•••

  Sara put the kettle on while Polly took off her wet things and donned the robe that Sara left for her in the downstairs bathroom. The corgi watched Sara's every move. "You little beggar, I'll bet you're hungry . . ." she wondered if it was male or female. It was wearing a collar with an engraved plate bearing what she assumed was its name. Dog and collar were both so dirty that she decided to run some warm water in the laundry room sink to bathe the poor, filthy thing. Sara unbuckled the collar while the dog made every attempt it could to lick her face. It was very sweet and affectionate.

  "Well, let's see who you are, dirty doggy" she said. The dog looked at her so intelligently that she half expected it to answer her. The sink was filling, and she ran the dirt-caked collar under the warm stream from the faucet.

  "Alright then . . . Vixie" the dog cocked its head to one side in recognition. "Is that your name? Are you Vixie?" the Corgi was practically dancing with excitement at this point. "Well, I guess you are, then, aren't you, girl?" The dog's name must be short for 'Vixen,' Sara thought. Vixie had jumped up and was standing on her back legs against the cabinet where the sink was filling, she clearly wanted a bath.

  "Alright Vixie, let's get you clean." And with that the dog allowed herself to be gathered up and placed in the warm water in the washbasin.

  The kettle began to whistle and Polly chimed in from the kitchen, "where do you keep your tea, Sara?"

  "In the second largest canister on the counter, to the right of the sink." The dog was loving the soapy rubdown she was getting, she was clearly used to being groomed regularly.

  "So, did you figure out who our little friend is?" said Polly as she poured hot water into the yellow teapot on the counter.

  "Her name is Vixie, and she's a very sweet girl! Somebody must miss her terribly." Sara was rinsing the last of the soap from the dog's thick coat. She grabbed a towel off the linen shelf and scooped the dripping dog up in a single motion. The dog was writhing in ecstasy, wrapped in the fluffy towel.

  "What do you take in your tea, Sara?" asked Polly from the kitchen.

  "Black is perfect" came the answer. Sara came in from the laundry room with the wiggling corgi peering out from the towel.

  "Well, she certainly seems happy now" Polly said, "have a seat and I'll bring the tea over to you."

  "Thanks. You know, I really meant it when I said how much your kind words helped me through a crazy time. That's why I said we were going to look for you. I wanted to find you because you believed me when hardly anybody else would" Sara was drying off the writhing Vixie who was playfully biting at her through the towel.

  "I felt awful for you. Ron had cheated on me so many times by then that I really had no malice toward you. I just worried that he'd treat you badly" said Polly over the rim of her cup.

  "Oh, he did alright. Did you ever hear? Did you read about it in the papers? The kidnapping? The time he dragged me out into the desert in my nightgown and tried to have me committed?" the dog was now splayed out on its back as Sara dried its belly with another towel.

  "Certainly I did. I read about the divorce and how the bastard stole Alexis from you. I had all the clippings in a book. My poor husband, John, he tried to understand, but really, who'd believe half the stories we could tell?" A sad look passed between them. Polly went on, "The nerve of that man never ceases to amaze me. Honestly, once he was out of my life I tried to pretend he'd never existed. It was easy for me, but not for my children. Poor Nibs was drawn to his father like a moth to a flame. We've not spoken since my passing . . . or his. After John joined me here in, well, wherever we are now, I prayed that Nibs would find me someday. I saw that he passed too young, broken by his father's cult. Wherever he is, I hope he's alright, he was a gentle soul, Ron just ran roughshod over the poor boy. Whenever he was actually around, that is." Polly's demeanor had hardened talking about Ron.

  "You had a daughter, too, Katherine was it? Is she still back there or has she joined us here?" asked Sara.

  "My sweet Katherine May appeared at our door a few years ago, she was 74 when she died. I mean I've been here 51 years now, it's hard to believe sometimes. Almost dreamlike. She's lived with us since then. She seems so lost at times, like she's not all here." Polly stared out the window as she recalled being reunited with her daughter.

  "Polly, you just said 'dreamlike,' and I've realized lately that I've felt this way ever since I can remember, like I wasn't quite myself, until I got that phone call, and thought of you, that is" Sara set her tea down and looked intently at Polly.

  "That's right. You said you were going to look for me. And, well, here I am. Now that you mention it, it's odd, but I feel so much more . . . myself now, talking to you . . . like this." Polly held up her cup and joked "Say, what's in this stuff?"

  "No, no, you're right, this is exactly what was coming to my mind after I hung up with the Mormon guy, like I was awake after years of sleep. I don't think I ever explained exactly what happened . . ." Sara excitedly filled Polly in on her strange conversation with Joseph Smith. She finished with "and everything just happened so fast after that, I was just thinking about how leaving my safe life here was kind of bracing and then there you were, dripping wet with our little friend in hand. Strange. But then, so many things here are."

  "You know, I hadn't thought of Ron since Katherine showed up a few years ago. I'd seen some things about him in the news . . . but, honestly, I can't really remember when. I think I read Nibs' obituary when he passed. It's odd, I don't remember the details. So, maybe we really are together for some reason since Ron came out of this loop thing the Mormon told you about." Polly said with a dawning awareness.

  "Maybe we've been in loops all these years, biding our time until we can confront Ron in that other universe? Sort of spooky, don't you think?" Sara was clutching the dog close to her now, like a baby.

  "More like exciting! You said these 'missionaries' are coming to pick you up?" asked Polly.

  "I guess so, I thought you were them when you knocked on the door." The dog was now licking her face excitedly.

  "Well, I'm coming along, I'm not going to miss our chance to confront that bastard together." Polly was clutching her spoon like a gavel, banging her fist on the table for emphasis.

  With that, Vixie began to bark excitedly.

  "It looks like we'll be a threesome, then" laughed Sara.

•••

Denise struggled to take in her surroundings and the implications of them. She was flooded with elation and grief in equal measure. Was she dead? Was she truly of The Fae? Could it be that there really was such a storybook world?

  "Sister, there is such a storybook world. A world among worlds, among worlds. Stories within stories. I cannot explain other than that." said the radiant woman at the foot of the mossy bed in which Denise awoke. Her words were like music and gold.

  "But, this place, this body" then she remembered, "oh, my family! My beautiful, little granddaughter! All my friends . . ." the tears came in waves.

  "It's the way of all worlds dear sister. The cycles are immutable. Some long. Some just a flash, but everything comes and goes. All these worlds. Everything." The soft greenish aura of the young woman had turned to a deep purple, almost ultraviolet as she looked down compassionately as Denise struggled with this unreal reality.

  "All these feelings . . . this place. It's all so much to take in. And you! You're so beautiful. Am I beautiful now?" Denise asked stroking her long, slender legs.

  The glowing woman laughed, "Oh, my dear sister, you never really saw that you were always beautiful. Now come, rise up with me and let me tell you the story, inside of the story, inside of the story . . ."

•••

  Sara was now packed and ready to leave for who knows where. Vixie was watching her every move so as not to be left out of anything. "Polly, are you sure you don't need for us to stop by your car to get anything?"

  "No, I just think I should call John. I hope I can get through." Then she stopped suddenly. What was her telephone number? She couldn't for the life of her remember it. "I . . . I can't remember my phone number." She looked panicked. "I can't even remember how to get to my house! I know we lived in Philadelphia . . . I think." Her afterlife here, everything seemed to be fading away. A tear streamed down her cheek.

  "Oh, Polly. What's happening to us? I can hardly remember yesterday at this point!" She walked over and took Polly's hand.

  "I don't know, Sara. I just don't know. But, I'm not afraid. I'm just not. I mean, we're dead godammit . . ." with that they both started to laugh. Vixie jumped off her chair and stood up on Sara's leg, whining softly.

  "Well, don't you start too!" she said picking up the Corgi.

  Just then, there was a knock at the door.

  Their laughing stopped and the two women looked at each other with a serious demeanor.

  "Something tells me our ride's here, Polly"

  "Something tells me you're right, Sara."

  Sara took one last look around at this house that had been such a peaceful haven. She felt no regrets.

  It was time to move on.