Part I: Reinventing Bone Structure - Chapters 19 - 23

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Chapter Nineteen

This is your 5 o'clock update. There has been a rip in the fabric of the sky. There is no cause for alarm—two astronomers and a seamstress have been deployed to the site and are hard at work. Please continue your usual routine.

I dialed West-to-East Generik, trying to contact Mari without any luck. I hoped to whatever primeval forces were at work in our abysmal universe that she wasn't down at Hypocrite Wedding, that place stank with the decay of desperation—"under new management" was what I'd heard, which of course was code for something having gone down the proverbial tube. The girl certainly had more class than that—I tried to remember her as she was, but paranoia kept getting in the way.

The redscreen clock told me it was five minutes to the new Soundless Laser Light Symphony live broadcast I'd been looking forward to, so I drank some Pleasure Maximizer Tonic and settled in for a good listen. The music came to my waiting, confused senses from the dolby embedded in the walls, and for a moment, I saw everything as it should be. I was not an average man—I was a gallant Knight of the Rhombus Table. I sank into a crystal-laden ship of joy, spontaneity and gratitude, and no one watched me.

The result of mixing Generik Pleasure Maximizer Tonic and Vapor Ice Candy is that it is extremely potent but ridiculously short-lived. To prevent against this unfortunate shortcoming, I had taken 8x the recommended dose. Eight hours passed and I was sure the Syntonic Sisters had stiffed me, but it was only eight minutes more before I felt that placid euphoria. I visited ancient civilizations and read countless books, discovered new planets and composed songs for angels. I was flying over Baghdad on a magic carpet when Ernest's bearded head appeared, floating disembodied in front of my face.

"Told you so. Told you so," it said.

"I know, I know. But the crystals are too tasty, and there's nothing else." The head shook in disapproval, then vanished.

Ernest Emeritus was the only saint I had ever known. He was king amongst thieves, and honesty among all the lying, cheating, sniveling, pathetic little bastards of eWall Road. Girls I knew said he'd been devastating 20,000 years ago—Zeus in form, Alexander in strategy, and Shakespeare in contemplation. Without him, I doubt the colony would hold together—inside Ernest was an enormous magnet that kept the whole place from repelling apart in countless directions—opposing forces kept at bay by his charm and sheer will. Against the grey surfaces of security buildings he shone, a beacon upon the dark waters. I had learned countless invaluable things from him in the thousand years we'd known each other, yet retained none of it. He was my father, my mother, and my god. Without him, I might as well have regressed into the spineless, limbless, soulless worm I had once been—when I was only a vague concept in primordial ooze.

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Although the original Hypocrite Wedding NightChapel was on the East side, the West side quickly sprung up with its sister establishment, Narcotic Nocturnal Nuptials. Five days after the candy binge, and it was impossible to tell where the NightChapel ended or where it began. All girls dressed up like cellophane, with perfect skin and purple eyes. The theme was "Sexy New York Subway—The Third Reich." I was in love and on a high—my midnight maiden had gifted me with Everlasting Joy and I used it routinely throughout the night. Terra cotta electrodes and thrumming bass kept me upright during times I might have passed out all for the love of bells and whiskey. Light dawned far up above, illuminating the ice like mirrors and thawing cows that had been frozen a thousand years, but none of us saw it. The steady beat and frosted mint air kept us euphoric and at bay.

"I've only got three years to live," a girl of about fifteen with fire in her eyes and crystal sugar water in her nose told me.

"I'm sorry to hear that. I heard on the redscreen today that they're working on a new cure though," I said.

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