(Sunday {Venuday}, January 7, 2035, and After)






          Squirming like a cutworm halved by the gardener's blade, the Corporal scrabbles past the chipped, meek, crusty commode that was the King's last throne, flailing with pain and confusion.  Reaching out and grasping at cabinets under the King's great, smoky mirror of funhouse glass; he pulls himself erect to confront a stranger's reflection - a wild-eyed, stubbled fanatic, creased with blood and wet soot...

          A bogie who wouldn't make it past the gate at Stimwood!

          No Henry Hat!  No Mondretto... no career and no future...

          For what?

          As if seeking out his most vulnerable spot… where Kruppe's prancer has punched a hole in his gut… the Veronica fairly twists in Norlin's pocket, insinuating itself against the jagged trauma - the bleeding slows, ceases.

          The milky light streaming in through the latrine's sole window… that which, through rusted security bars and wild roses, overlooks the half-submerged chandelier atop Graceland's front door... is (as reflected in the dizzy, careening, smut-speckled mirror) subtly blinding, even dazzling - an entity in and of itself that draws him stumbling backwards between an ancient barber's chair on his left... mottled with mold that pops and cringes with faces and song… and the King's toilet, to his right.

          "Eric, you keb!" Chester Aspid cries out, somewhere beyond the door.

          "You take the office and the safe," he hears Eric Ice alibi, his voice trailing away, as from a distant, retreating cosmos... "I'm checking out the attic!"

          "Officer, no!" Germany rallies, but the Sergeant has already sloshed past... not to the King's bedroom and Norlin, trapped within, but into the office, drawn towards the safe like an insect to fire.  "Get them back here!" he hollers to the Blue Man who can only stand, perplexed, Skarkless... red thing-poison coursing through his orphan veins… get Ice?  Get Aspid?

          The last patrolman, indifferent to his master's voice, continues trying to rub the blood of his comrades off his cuff, oblivious to the things inching across the ceiling, above him.

          Weapon drawn, left hand furiously scratching at something that has slid down his pants and is inching towards his crotch, Aspid achieves the office door.  "Leave it alone.  Norlin's the problem... take care of him," the Blue Man finally chooses, "and then we can tear the whole joint apart..."

          "Only a minute, Chief," the Sergeant promises, kicking at the safe.  Despite its derelict appearance, the vault holds.  "I can do this.  We can!"  Then he looks up, seeing more things crawling across the ceiling, and pushes the Blue Man back into the hall, appealing to a still-groggy Lieutenant Kruppe... "c'mon, loo, lemme have one of them grenades, just one..."

          "I, uh... oh, keb it!" and the grinning Kruppe hands over the grenade, over a burst of furious oaths from Germany Smith - sputtering that fails, even, to rise to the status of language.

          "Gonna get rich!" Eric Ice vows, over his shoulder, tugging at Graceland's attic door.

          "Thanks!" Aspid grins horribly, sloshing back towards the office as he pulls the pin...

          And, in unison, the Blue Man and Smith cry out in protest.

          Norlin, staggering backwards, hears and feels the explosion simultaneously... he falls into a lurching pirouette, collapses into Elvis Presley's antique barberchair which… creaking and rusted, beneath the water's surface… begins rotating, crazily as Homer Sack's roost at Stimwood.

          "Fex!… fex in there!" the Blue Man gasps, shuddering with greedy ecstasy…

          And Skark's surviving beadle plunges ravenously into the office before the dust, shards and splinters have wholly settled, before he perceives that the little baggies of foul, brown muck in the blown-open safe are guarded by a buzzing green horde of miniscule winged vermin, now erupting outwards as if released from a thousand-years' bondage.  Tiny, all but invisible, really, but ferocious, and loud, the cloud envelopes him... stinging and biting, shaping the piss-milking policeman, remaking him in the image of a creature from another void; a fractaled, angular universe.  They carve all of the curvature from his frame, shearing and squaring more perfectly than ever a thousand Zeutrons with a thousand switchblade knives could ever hope to perfect; the Blue Man is digitized whole, still alive, reconstituted... his becoming the Becoming of perfect New Plastic portraiture.

          Until, of course, he's Become a thing itself, and no longer, technically, alive...

          Reeling, vomiting... swatting an advance guard of green flies from his face… Chester Aspid totters back across the hallway towards the protection of Intelligence Chief Smith who is calmly, expressionlessly, flicking little red goblins off a screaming policeman - the Trouble Factory's last.  "O Jates!" the Sergeant blurts, through puffy, fractaling lips (tongue only partially squared, allowing him… at least… a semblance of speech.  "O Jates!… keb… jesk'ball!" and Aspid begins to weep rectangular tears.  "For Jayssake, man, put th' keb out of his misery!" the Sergeant appeals and Germany looks closer, flicks a thing off his cuff, shrugs, levels his revolver and fires into the center of a mass of red blotches where the officer's head seems to be.

          "Ice!  Ice!" Kruppe calls out, his command echoing against the swaying, mildewed door to Elvis Presley's attic, "get your kebbin' fexxer back here, back on the job.  Ice!"  The door hangs open, footsteps resounding as Eric ascends up, up, out of the deluge.  "Keb you!" the Lieutenant snarls, turning to his two remaining subordinates.

          "Time to finish this," Smith affirms, and he and Sergeant Aspid follow Kruppe into the King's rancid bedchamber.