|Subject: Chapter 18: ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’
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Date Posted: 00:03:30 12/13/01 Thu
In reply to:
's message, "Welcome everyone :-D and a repost of "It's Absurd"" on 18:05:34 12/01/01 Sat
Abandoning all other thoughts but comforting his angel and searching out the heart of this unexpected and unexplained mystery, Michael gathered a blanket from the bedroom. He placed it around Nikita’s shoulders and led her downstairs, intending to make her a cup of tea.
He settled Nikita on the couch and walked to the kitchen to put the kettle on.
As Michael busied himself around the kitchen, Nikita, still shivering, spotted a newspaper lying underneath the coffee table. ‘Where did that come from?’ she thought. ‘I don’t have newspaper delivery.’
She glanced at the front page, lying face-up towards her. Two stories were visible. One headline proclaimed “Missing Mouse Mystifies Management” and the other read “Top Dog Runs For Re-election.”
It was the pictures that caught her attention; Mickey Mouse and Goofy? Puzzling out the byline from the first story, she silently read “Disney is in a tizzy over the bizarre disappearance of its most famous employee. Star and actor Mickey Mouse, disappeared from his multi-million dollar home in the Hollywood Hills last Friday. Top executives at Disney fear their leading mouse may have fallen victim to a rat, in the dog-eat-dog world of motion pictures.”
Was this a gag item set up by Michael? Why hadn’t she seen it last night? Nikita looked at the other story. “The clumsiest President to occupy the Oval Office since Gerald Ford announced he will be seeking a new leash on his stay in the White House at the upcoming Primaries. President Goofy’s first term in office has been most notable for several public relations fiascoes involving tripping over everything from punch lines to podiums. His future running mate, Pluto, seems unable to keep the President out of the doghouse when it comes to putting his worst paw forward.”
Nikita turned towards Michael saying, “Do you know where this paper came from?”
“Paper?” Michael broke away from his preparations and walked towards Nikita.
“Yes, this…” Nikita looked underneath the coffee table, seeing the floor… and nothing else. She glanced up at Michael, startled. “It’s gone! There was a newspaper lying there a moment ago with crazy, gag headlines. I thought you might have put it there!”
“Ni-ki-ta…” Michael’s tone was kind, but concerned. He kneeled in front of her, stroking her cheek.
“I’m not making this up, Michael! I saw it!” Something colorful caught the corner of Nikita’s eye. Carefully, she reached out and turned Michael’s head towards a vase of flowers sitting on the kitchen counter. “Tell me you don’t see that!”
Michael drew in a sharp breath. The flowers were normal enough, but what was perched on them was not. A rainbow-colored butterfly, its six-inch-long, translucent wings a shimmering kaleidoscope of shifting colors, calmly regarded him as if he was the exotic, improbable creature. Like a chameleon, sometimes the butterfly blended with the bright flowers in the vase. Other times, it took on vibrant pink hues or cooler shades of mauve and aquamarine, perhaps according to its current mood.
The butterfly rose suddenly, on burnished wings, flying towards the closed French doors leading from the apartment to Nikita’s patio outside. It passed over Michael and Nikita’s startled heads and, untroubled by the niceties of physics, flew straight through the locked glass doors. It vanished outside, with a final parting wink of the false, psychedelic eyes decorating its luminous wings, soaring off into the sunlight.
Nikita would have swallowed her gum if she’d been chewing any. As it was, she choked on her tongue. It took her a moment to find her voice and rasp, “What the H*ll is going on, Michael? Things haven’t been right since I came home last night. Making phone calls to Elmo? Seeing newspaper headlines about Mickey Mouse that vanish without a trace afterwards? And I’ve never seen anything like that butterfly. I’m only now starting to notice things out of place, things that shouldn’t be and it’s getting worse. I’m remembering events that don’t make sense. Not here and now, at least. But they feel right, when everything else here is …” She faltered, looking for some way to express the growing chaos and disturbances surrounding them.
Michael sank down onto the couch next to her. His expression was caught somewhere between shock and thoughtfulness. For once, perhaps the first time in his career or life, Section’s Top Op seemed temporarily nonplussed. “Something’s been done to us by Section or someone else. Psychotropic agents, mind control, some new technology… It has affected our perception of reality. They’ve done it before, Nikita, to you and me. But whatever it is, this time it’s becoming unstable, slipping, and losing its control over us.”
Michael’s assessment surprised Nikita. “Isn’t it getting stronger? Things are becoming more—“ Abruptly, she thought of the CD she’d played when she’d been conversing the previous night with Elmo. “It’s absurd! Michael, I think someone’s been sending us messages, but they’re coming through, concealed in these surreal things we’ve been experiencing. I think the women I saw in the mirror represent aspects of myself. The fading woman was my emotions. The ice maiden… I think that’s Josephine, my Section self: cold, unfeeling, cunning, and blindly obedient. And this place, where we are now: I almost feel like I’ve been locked in a dungeon with my libido and imagination to keep me company. And you’re here, too, Michael. Somehow, this is all about you and me.”
“Good, Nikita!” Michael had an eager gleam in his eyes. She could see his formidable brain working things through. “Last night, I was the same. Doing things that seemed right at the time, but now seem irrational, unreal, holding the fading logic that dreams do, upon waking. If whatever’s happening was getting stronger, I’m sure we’d still be oblivious to the wrongness of things.”
Thinking of their activities over the past several hours, Nikita quipped, “I’m sure we’d still be… Oh, no.” Nikita’s face fell, not liking where her thoughts were heading. “This has Madeline stamped all over it. Using our love for each other to keep us blind to what’s going on around us. Making sure we stay… distracted… so we wouldn’t notice what’s being done to us.”
“But someone within Section, or on the outside, is helping us; dropping hints and clues. Maybe even disrupting the process enough so we can think for ourselves and try to discover what’s happened to us. Perhaps it’s the only way they could get through to us. But now it’s dangerous. Our world is literally falling apart around us.”
“Michael, did you ever feel like the world was a soap bubble, or a pane of glass… and that a single misstep, one clumsy movement, could shatter everything? I know what the newspaper and butterfly were telling us now. We have to break through this, move past all these… illusions, hallucinations. They’re holding us here. I’m afraid, if we don’t break free before the disturbances become too great, we’ll be lost here...”
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