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12. yammer

Hilda Leek

Admissions.  They let you, but they’re also something that we often feel makes us look weak to some people.  They can be very difficult, whether you mean scoring an invitation or revealing truths about yourself.  I refer here to both definitions, but mostly the ones about giving out truths about who you are.  What you are.  And, yes, it can be weakening.  But there can be a strength in that, too.  I never want to do things that weaken me, and yet here I am admitting that I was scared.  Here I am; I’m willing to admit that Jamie Hiltraud scared me back then.  There’s no shame in admitting your history — only in succumbing to it.  So — yes — I was afraid of Jamie then.  Of all the Hiltrauds, really.  So I will talk about them here.  And — especially after what I’ve just described, what I saw that night — I’m sure you have questions about them, yourselves.  You want to know.  And that’s fair.  It’s human nature, and you are only human.  And, you know, it gets easy for someone in my position to forget what your life has given you, versus what my life has afforded me.  And that’s not fair to you; I really need to remember that the initiates of my faith weren’t there.  You didn’t see it happen right in front of you.  You didn’t get up every day and  re-enact the events for it to speak out this faith to the world.   The word was to be spread, but it was not.  That was the plan we were told, by Bellbrun.  That TK Wanderlad was a vessel.  Much like the Cosmic Circus.  We had that robbed from all of us.  Some of you may be reading this without having ever seen the show.  That was taken from those of us who made it, and also from you those of you who were meant to experience it.  And so I want you to know — I am thinking of you now.  And I realize I need to be fair to you, especially given what is coming.  There will still be time for the real details of the faith, but the show is so central a hub to understanding the nature of these rituals that I think it’s important to give you information about TK Wanderlad itself.  To speak only of the faith isn’t an accurate history.  And history is crucial to this understanding, so you will know what mattered in the imagery and events involving The Ritual of 1977.  Because it’s time for that.  It’s time for:

Part III.  Revelation

Where to start, though?  Depending on how and what I say, you might see it as wisdom or nonsense.  It’s a tremendous burden that I’ve been given in that regard, too.  Being the one who has to find the words that will not only describe the faith, but prove it and spread it and encourage it.  Fanning flames with words.  It’s harder than it sounds.  A part of me worries that these words could seem like nonsensical babbling, if you were to just pick up this once-profane now-holy book.  But the courage is in the conviction, and so I will press on, regardless.  So, let’s do just that.  Here is what you have to know about the origins of my faith.  Let’s start with the lyrics of the theme song:

In a magical forest
There’s a boy named TK
And he helps the folks in town
Even though they put him down
And the magic is waiting
You can find it every day
There’s a love we all can share
If we all join in and care

I don’t know how to write sheet music, so you’ll have to imagine the theme if you’ve never heard it.  Bellbrun later told me it was meant to sound like a religious song.  To get children clapping along.  Celebratory, right from the start.  That every day in the Magical Forest would be celebratory.  ‘Like sugar on the tongue,’ he said.  So … the lyrics will have to do; the sheet music was presumably lost in the Final Fire.  I’m getting to the Final Fire, soon; I wasn’t there.  The horses whispered into my mind about the Final Fire.  I will tell you what I know, later.  But that was how we opened the show, every week.  It was designed to be fed to children in short bursts — the story of our faith, in half-hour  chapters — but also with some special hourlong “double-scoops” and a few two-hour “quadruple-scoop” movies that were several new chapters sort of mashed together for the holidays because children would be home and advertisers liked how cheap our advertising rates were — is how they explained it to me.  I don’t know.   I remember doing some … well, I forget what they’re called.  The things where you stand in front of the set and speak into the camera and say: “Our 1970 Christmastime double-scoop of TK Wanderlad will be right back!”  And then, after two or three versions of saying the same thing, they’d have me saying “Our 1970 Christmastime double-scoop of TK Wanderlad will be right back!”   I remember that when we first did those, they had us do 3 of them.  All at once, in a row, for different years.  So I didn’t age, over those first three sets of be-right-backs.  I remember seeing them on television a few times, when my family would watch the show.  Which wasn’t often.  But I remember them, nonetheless.   And I remember that I was wearing my Friendlietta Flowergirl costume in all of them, but the thing was, even as I got older in the show, but I’d go back to looking younger in those little “double-scoop” or “quadruple-scoop” things.  Because they made them all at once.  In that curious way, we were sort of already outside of time.  We did more of them as the show progressed, but I was older then.  I remember that Cameron stood with me in at least one of those little welcome-back-we’ll-be-right-back things, and Stuart and Felicity were with me in another.  Oh, and a Treasureseeker another time — for a Halloween one.  Two Treasureseekers, actually.  I remember I had to run around a table covered with candy in that Halloween one, focusing on the camera the whole time and saying “We’ll be right back for the 1974 Halloween quadruple-scoop of TK Wanderlad right after these important messages!’  That had been exhausting, and for some reason I don’t recall we kept having to do it over again, which was unusual.  But the ones I remember best were the ones with Stuart and Felicity.  They played TK and Granny Ossity, respectively.  We all had to say the same thing, all at once, whoever was there.  Timing it was weird, because of how Felicity talked.  She had one of those … well, what I call Old Tea Lady British accents, so she said everything more slowly.  So the rest of us had to slow down how we talked.  That happened a lot in the show, too.  But there wasn’t much time for that, because, like I said, we didn’t usually get to do a lot of takes.  The Lord Hissyfitz puppet’s mouth was always coming unhinged, so it would just hang there sometimes — and Bellbrun would tell us to keep going.  So we’d have to look at Lord Hissyfitz in all seriousness, even though his mouth was agape like he was shocked.  Which fits Lord Hissyfitz, but — we were children.  It was hard not to laugh.  You would see Graham — the man who puppeteered Lord Hissyfitz — well, he’d be under that royal cloak struggling to keep it together.  And we almost always only ever did anything in one take.  You’d see Graham under the cloak, making up Lord Hissyfitz’s unseen coils.  He was a snake, you see, Lord Hissyfitz.  Supposedly a snake all coiled up wearing robes and looking all regally aghast about almost everything, but when Graham gave in to laughter then you’d see the cloak shake behind the puppet’s head.  Now, you see , both the Treasureseeker and the Lord Hissyfitz puppets were each just a head on a stick, really, so the puppeteer could hide underneath fabric coming off from behind the head and neck of the actual puppet piece.  The puppeteer would just move the head around to make it look like the puppet was moving.   Like there was more to the puppet than the head, hidden under the fabric that covered the puppeteer.  Of course, the Treasureseekers had just a black mannequin head made of styrofoam on the top, where the Lord Hissyfitz puppet was actually a word-carved puppet with that moving mouth that operated on a trigger where Graham held it; Graham had made all the puppets on TK Wanderlad himself, to Bellbrun’s specifications.  Graham took puppeteering seriously, but not much else.  But he often got what he called ‘frustrated with the process.’  The process being recording a show versus live theater.  And the number-crunching. He was sort of a secretary for Bellbrun, too. In the at-the-desk-on-the-phone sense. He wouldn’t do the number-crunching. He said he didn’t have the patience for accounting. Which you could tell when he got ‘frustrated with the process.’ Sometimes, he’d even have what he’d refer to as ‘an outburst.’ That’s how he referred to them during the apologies after it happened. Like breaking into laughter when a puppet’s mouth broke but staying in character and running around talking with the broken puppet. Making a scene. And saying mean things to everyone. He did it through the puppet – Lord Hissyfitz, mostly. So it always looked in those moments when Graham lost control like Lord Hissyfitz’s coiled muscles were going wild, going into some kind of a seizure.  And it was hard for us not to laugh.  But we usually managed it.  Because Bellbrun didn’t ever want to stop a take, but the one thing that would stop a take for sure was any kind of laughter.  That was not permitted on the set — laughing of any kind.  Not even in the stories.  None of the characters ever laughed.  I remember Bellbrun saying once, ‘People are suffering in the Magical Forest and every chapter of their story is a crisis.  You shouldn’t laugh in a crisis.  Crisis demands control.’  I recall another time when he said ‘I want warmth, but things are too bad right now in the real world for us to pretend there’s any such thing as joy where we are in the story right now. That’s another place. Another world. We’ll get there, eventually. There’ll be time for joy at the end of the story.’  And all that has stuck with me, to this day.  A lot of that applies to real life, as so much of what the show was about does, too.  There really isn’t time for laughter in most people’s lives, given the crises they face.  There’s too much that needs to happen to give in to that.  Too much to do.  Too much to accomplish and achieve.  But we were kids — we didn’t know better, no matter how much Bellbrun tried to teach us.  So, there was some contention about all that — about the younger cast behaving maturely … or not.   Then Stuart got an idea — to feign tears.  Stuart was so smart, but so disinterested in acting.  He was one of the only professional performers, in that he’d done plays in London until he’d met Bellbrun and they’d convinced him to come to New York to shoot TK Wanderlad.  And he said there was a trick he’d do on-stage, because of how he ‘often found acting so ridiculous.’  Whenever he felt like he was about to start laughing, he would raise an open-fingered hand palm-flat over his face; then he’d say something like ‘Oh, no, Granny Ossity!’  And he’d laugh behind his hand, but he’d tighten up his mouth and eyes like he was crying.  And it’d worked.  Bellbrun was satisfied.  And, within a few episodes, we all learned to do it with our own little movements to cover our faces or turn away from the cameras for a moment to get our composure back. lot of us would pretend to start crying if we were going to laugh.  And all the while, Graham would be waving the broken-mouthed head around and moan Lord Hissyfitz’s catchphrase: ‘Crocodile Tears for Crocodile Years!’ and we’d laugh even more in those moments, disguising it as crying the whole time.  It’s a memory I think of whenever anyone says ‘I have to laugh, or else I’ll cry.’  Except for us, it was the other way around.  I do miss Stuart, despite everything that’s happened since then.  Despite his betrayal, and Cameron’s after that.  But I try to think differently than strictly in terms of revenging myself on Stuart.  Stuart played such a pivotal role in the original show.  Embodying the Wanderlad, with all the responsibility of all that.  But, even as young as we all were — Stuart was only ten, just like me, when the show started — he was tired of acting by the time I’d gotten to know him.  I don’t blame him for not wanting it to continue when the show finally ended.  Something over 700, if I remember correctly.  We filmed virtually nonstop from 1966 until we stopped in 1975.  Nine years.  Eight ‘cycles’ of TK Wanderlad.  That’s what Bellbrun called them.  Cycles.  I wasn’t in every single episode, but I was in enough.  You ought to remember how I told you that there were hundreds of reels and how it had taken me all night to burn them.  I don’t know exactly when they all aired, what with all the ‘scoops.’  Airdates are not a concern of mine.  The show aired only on local stations that broadcast on the East Coast.  Well, mostly.   To my knowledge, anyway.  You have to remember that Bellbrun had poured all their money into making the show, and they had a lot of money between their two halves.  They paid to produce it, to film it, to edit it.  They even built Drum Lake Studios.  That’s where we filmed it.  Drum Lake is a few hours away from Drodden.  They paid for everything,  the entire time it was on, right up until when the show ended …. but the ending didn’t come because of issues of money.  I remember that, at one point, right before the show ended, Bellbrun had been working on designs for a kind of theme park about the show.  I remember seeing sketches of a big building in the shape of the Wanderlad logo.  ‘There’s going to come a point,’ Bellbrun had told me when he showed me the sketches, ‘where this stops being just a show to people.  The secret to that is longevity, which costs money.  And the stars have aligned so that we can afford longevity.’  So, no, money wasn’t an issue — not even at the end.  But the show never spread worldwide, like they’d wanted.  I remember that Bellbrun had paid some exorbitant fee into buying a big spread in some national magazine about the entertainment industry, making it look like an article when it was really more of a commercial.  Pages and pages of information about everyone in the cast.  And I recall the word ‘ambitious’ appeared over and over again everywhere.  I remember the ‘ambitious’ part because the headline of my section was:  ‘Ambitious Goals For a Fresh Shining Star.’   And, after that commercial-thing had been printed, I remmber Bellbrun showing us every month that the magazine was putting whole-page commercials for the show in every issue.  ‘MAGIC IS WAITING,’ I remember it said in big puffy colorful letters.  And, below that, it had a group photograph of Lord Hissyfitz, Granny Ossity, TK — and a Treasureseeker hovering over all three of them menacingly.  The commercial-article and the ads had ‘got people talking,’ according to Bellbrun.  And I I want to say there’d been a big announcement about it airing in some other places other than the East Coast, but I can’t say for sure because I never really paid attention during the part of Bellbrun’s near-daily speeches about how many stations did what.  It was boring numbers to me, back then.  But I also do know that the show had at least been successful enough that they’d made toys and a board game.  Some comic books, too and some other things.  I don’t have any of them, any more.  I remember not being very interested in that stuff, either.  Once I had been exposed to this faith, the truth in these words … I sort of lost interest in the materialism of this false world — or, more accurately, its material nature.  They never made a doll of me, or anything, I remember.  But they did make dolls of TK and Lord Hissyfitz and Granny Ossity, as I recall.  They were like rag dolls with plastic heads.  They didn’t really look like the people they were meant to represent.  And I remember wondering if, when Cameron and I moved on to the real Magical Forest, we’d see everyone like that.  Would the wrongbodies of Earth just seem like ragdolls to our perceptions after we had been enlightened, after the revelations of how things really worked had been shown to us.  I’m still wondering, all these years later.  And now the time is so close.  So, so close.  Oh, and there’d been a record album, too.  Thirteen songs from the show.  Sold in that hamburger chain — I don’t remember the name of it, now.  Hilly’s?  Hayley’s?  Hadley’s!  Yes — Hadley’s Hamburgers.  They’d sold the record there.  You could either buy it or get a full stamp-card and pick one up with it.  Bellbrun had paid for recording studio time for us to re-record the songs.  I had one part of one song: “We’re Always a Trio” was its name.  My only line in the song was:

If you have to be
In a set of three
well that’s fine with me 
Since we should all be free

It took forever for me to even get even that much right.  Singing was never my strong suit, despite what MOTHER believed.  But they used recording tricks to make it sound right.  I remember Graham had written all the lyrics and had come running on-set during a lull holding the album in his hands.   I don’t remember the cover, except to say that I wasn’t on it.   It was just TK and Granny and Lord Hissyfitz.  But he was pointing to the little blurb in tiny letters under the album’s title.  ‘Lyrics by Graham St. Sedgewick!’ he’d yelled.  I remember always thinking it was strange that both he and Lord Hissyfitz had what were described as British accents, but his real one was so completely different from Hissyfitz’s that I remember thinking to myself the question of how they could both be described as British.  He’d never sounded so excited that day, and never did after.  I remember him sitting during breaks that day, dressed in the dark stage clothes he wore when he was working, sitting on the couch behind the cameras off to stage right, just looking at the album cover.  He might have been crying; I don’t know.  But then when it came time for him to become the Treasureseeker he’d been especially full of flourish that day, and menace.  The Treasureseekers were menacing enough, being just those floating cloaks with that vague head-shape in them.  I remember them dimming the lights like they always did, because the Treasureseekers carry darkness with them.  I remember my scene was to pick up a piece of the Crystal Key and look into it and say ‘I think I see it!  I think I see it, TK!  I know where the other pieces are!’  I remember Stuart wasn’t there, because I was supposedly telepathically linked to him by then in the story because it was before the telepathic linked switched over to Prince Youknowme.  And, as Friendlietta, I was supposed to not notice that the lights in the dungeon we were standing in were getting darker and darker.  And then I was supposed to hear that droning sound that they’d add later that meant a Treasureseeker had locked on to you.  I remember I was supposed to look scared and then turn my back to the camera and turn toward Graham.  And I was supposed to turn around, and I remember turning and Graham was there, doing the same things he always did, but something was different, and he looked terrifying to me for some reason.  I’ve wondered since then if it was just having seen him so excited earlier that day, or just something special in his performance, but he just loomed over me with his black-clad arms and hands under the folds of the shadow-cloak that identifies a Treasureseeker, and it felt real.  And I remember feeling this ice in my stomach, like he really was a Treasureseeker out to collect the gold inside of me.  Because that’s what they did.  Do.  Treasureseekers, I mean.  They’re these shapes … empty shapes.  Shadow-people whose only purpose is to collect all the gold in all the worlds on all the paths of the Star Threads that make up the stitches the Cosmic Circus train rides on.  The Treasureseekers are so desperate for gold that they dedicated literally everything about themselves to its pursuit: their culture, their science, even their own physical forms.  They changed their own bodies into shadows so they wouldn’t have to ‘waste time’ eating or sleeping.  They changed their brains so they wouldn’t be distracted by any thoughts other than the need to find gold.  And when they did this, they threw away all the physical parts of their bodies and brains.  And all the physical parts of their world.  And then they threw all those physical elements — all those atoms and molecules and particles — out of their way.  And into the rest of the universe.  Where it came back together again, over millennia upon millennia.  Becoming the eventual physical universe.  I’m explaining this all to you as simply as I can.  Or, well, trying to anyway.  I’m a Princess, more than I am a teacher.  But a religious icon owes it to her followers to be able to articulate the truth.  Even you wrongbodies deserve truth, even as you burn.  And it’s time you found out why you’re called wrongbodies.  The origin of the essence of what it is about you that’s so wrong.  You need to know your life exists for a reason.  Existed.  Has existed.  I don’t know what’s right for this.  It’s coming direct from my thoughts.  And that’s part of the problem with explaining it this way, too — so much of it requires time and understanding on levels that you don’t have.  That I don’t have, either.   I want — need — to be ready for the final part of The Ritual of 2014.  Even now, I feel the energies inside Beery House pocket restoring me, but I’m not quite ready.  So I will use this time to tell you the rest.  To tell you about how the Treasureseekers made the wrongbody worlds.  But there were more than wrongbody worlds.  There was — is — a true world outside the universe of the wrongworlds.  The world that became the Cosmic Circus.  For, even as the Treasureseekers believed the only purpose of existence was to acquire things, the True People decided the only purpose of existence was to explore it through learning and sharing and loving.  The True People also undid their world, but rather than become shadows … they became light.  Beautiful, glorious light, shining brighter than anything I could ever describe.  ‘Enlightenment’ has the word ‘light’ in it because of that truth.  The True People studied the universe and found that it worked like a quilt — like a great, cosmic patchwork quilt.  With stitches big enough to travel across if you wanted to do it.  And they wanted exactly that.  So, just like the Treasureseekers, the True People undid their homeworld.  But they treasured what they had been given by the cosmos, and so they put every aspect of their world back together again instead of throwing it away.  They recycled their homeworld, and made something new out of it.  They built the Cosmic Train.  But they understood that key to learning is sharing.  And they wanted to share more than they wanted anything else.  So, they decided to combine the two — and they built the Cosmic Circus, to be carried by the Train.  The Train would pull the Circus along the stitches of the Star Threads.  The Cosmic Train was designed to use the stitches as cosmic railroad tracks, to convey the Cosmic Train and its Cosmic Circus cargo: the True People and all the things they had collected in their quest for knowledge.  But there was betrayal.   The Treasureseekers knew that the Cosmic Circus carried with it a great deal of things from what surely seemed to them like an infinite number of worlds.  And some of those worlds would one day become the wrongworlds created by the Treasureseekers casting off their physical forms.  And, as you know, Earth is one such world.  And Earth has gold.  And you might ask yourself why the Treasureseekers would cast off materials that could one day become gold.  The answer is easy.  Like all beings who crave only objects, the Treasureseekers do not appreciate time.  They have no concept of time any more, having made themselves sensitive only to gold, having excised anything from their thoughts but thoughts of gold.  They lost science and reason and patience.  They were left with only hunger — and it was a terrible curse they levied upon themselves.  To exist for all eternity in a state of want, never satisfied, never even knowing the concept of what it means to have ‘enough.’  And it angered them, when they one day felt and saw and smelled what they had ignorantly called refuse transform and change into gold all across the universe.  And that’s how they found the Circus.  Or — more accurately — how the Circus found them, because that’s how it happened.  For all along that burial shroud of cosmic space the Treasureseekers call home, there was a terrible crying that echoed through the cosmos.  It was a cry of hunger, though it was too raw and agonized for anyone from the Cosmic Circus to understand what the cry was about.  It was a hollow cry, a cry for gold.  But the Circus heard it and wanted to help, because it is in the nature of people who love and share and learn to want to help others.  So they traveled there, to learn of these people they knew nothing about.  And so the Treasureseekers met the Circus, after millennia upon millennia of existing on opposite ends of the cosmos.  And the Cosmic Circus sent their Cosmic Ambassador into Treasureseeker space.  And the Cosmic Ambassador came back … different.  Replaced.  The real Cosmic Ambassador was devoured almost immediately upon arriving in Treasureseeker space, torn apart as the hunger of the Treasureseekers drained all the gold from his body.  But the Treasureseekers wanted more.  They wanted all the gold in the Cosmic Circus.  Even so, they also feared the light they Cosmic Circus displayed, and feared that they were not as strong as the Circus’ knowledge and love.  So they conceived a treacherous plan.  They chose their strongest Treasureseeker and made him manifest in a physical way — temporarily, and disguised as the Cosmic Ambassador.  He boarded the Cosmic Circus with a story of the cry that had brought the Circus to that place was an echo of a lost people, and that there was nothing there.  Now, since that time, the True People have learned to spot liars and lies.  But, back then, they did not understand why someone would describe or act upon ideas that weren’t true, but were presented a fact.  So, the True People sadly believed the shadow posing as the Cosmic Ambassador, and so decided not to send anyone else into Treasureseeker space to investigate.  Instead, they simply got ready to travel on to find and learn new things.  But this is where things went very badly wrong for the Cosmic Circus.  Yes, we became aware of that grim space — the origin of all the evil in the cosmos.  All that is wrong with this plane of existence.  But at what cost?  We were innocent, then, the True People.  Not in terms of any lack of knowledge — for we had collected it from every corner of the cosmos.  No — our innocence was about just how far the lust of greed could drive a sentient being.  Just how deep the avarice of the Treasureseekers ran.  And we learned so much, but far too late.  When we first hard the scream of need coming from out of the farthest-out of the cosmos, our best scientists had studied the sounds.  The scream that had called us there.  That we had thought was a strange song of need and pain.  Pain we wanted to help.  But our vast machines of translation proved to be at a loss about what those sounds meant — except for two.  Two sounds that repeated over and over.  Those two words:

Wrong
and
Hands

The words meant nothing to us.  mapped the space, and we called that section of the cosmos The Wronghands.  But that was long after the Fall.  Long after the betrayal brought us to what surely must have seemed at that time like a total ruination.  A ruination that came from a betrayal.  But to understand how we were betrayed — the nature and depth of that betrayal — you need to know that the Cosmic Train is directed by a Cosmic Conductor.  But that is not the official name of his job.  His real title is: Wanderlad.  And now you know.  But there’s more to it than just that title.  It takes a certain kind of character.   It has to be someone special.  There are three rules:

  1. He must be a boy —  who always tells the truth.
  2. He must be a child — who has a clarity of purpose.
  3. He must be a dreamer — who has consistency of thought.

The Wanderlad uses a special hat — the Lost and Found Hat — that helps him turn Dreams into Directions.  As he sleeps in the Wanderlad Trunk, the Cosmic Circus uses the power of his dreams to guide the Train.  And this is where the treachery came into play.  The False Ambassador —  as we’ve come to call him in the time since, for we do not know his name — snuck into the Cosmic Locomotive under cover of darkness, when everyone on the Train was asleep.  And he opened the Wanderlad Trunk.  He lifted the lid with his left hand.  If anyone had been watching, they would have noticed — because all True People are right-handed.  That is where the power of the good, right hand comes from.  It is ancestral.  It is history.  It is destiny.  But the False Ambassador was of the left hand.  He was of evil.  And he did indeed lift the lid of the Wanderlad Trunk.  And he saw the slumbering Conductor lying inside.  And it was at that moment that the False Ambassador yelled ‘WAKE UP’ as loudly as he could.  He spoke out of turn.  And it woke the Wanderlad from the dreams that kept the Cosmic Train on-course.  And we fell, because someone spoke out of turn, at the wrong time.  Interrupting the delicate work needed to keep the circus riding the Star Thread stitch-tracks on the great quilt of the cosmos.  The Circus fell, tumbling into pieces, spreading across the cosmos, boiling hot as the light that powered the Train along the Star Thread stitch-tracks was released from containment.  The light became fire, burning holes in the patchwork of the universe as the pieces tore through the stitches.  Some were even set on fire, becoming unstable and unsafe.  Some burned up, the worlds they led to lost to some state no one knows.  And, because of the way the cosmic fabric flows, the holes and gaps mean that — at any given moment — worlds can drift into and out of each other.  Which is how Cameron and I came to be on Earth so long ago, when we were put here for safekeeping.  I’m getting to that.  But what you must know is what happened next is that the Wanderlad did not die when the Circus fell.  Because, just then, the Crystal Girl Trio came in.  Trio saw what was happening, and saw the Wanderlad trying to get out of the trunk.  And she made a choice — a tough choice.  She pushed the disoriented Wanderlad down into the trunk and locked it, knowing the Wanderlad might survive the Circus’ crash if he were inside.  Then, she uncoupled the Cosmic Locomotive from the rest of the train and, finally, she jettisoned the Wanderlad Trunk out of the Cosmic Train.  She was a hero, because as it turns out that’s exactly what needed to happen.  The Trunk fell through space for a long time, with the Wanderlad stuck inside.  But, eventually, it landed safely on Earth.  In upstate New York.  In the Earth year 1900.  The Wanderlad got out of the trunk, but all the spinning and tumbling and light-energy from the crash of the Cosmic Circus had taken a toll.  The Lost and Found Hat had been damaged.  And the Hat, in turn, damaged the Wanderlad . The Hat reversed the Wanderlad’s mind — turned it sideways.  The Hat turned the Wanderlad’s own internal Directions into Dreams, and his Dreams into Directions.  He couldn’t remember his old life.  What he’d lived, he thought was a dream, and what he’d dreamed, he thought was a life he didn’t understand.  And, on Earth, those thoughts seemed like madness to those the Wanderlad met.   But what he did, and who he met — those things are lost to time.  To fire, really.  Lost in the Final Fire, sadly, destroyed so much of the history covering what happened after that between then and when the show spoke our faith and began to reveal these truths to those of us who were worthy of Bellbrun.  I will tell you more about the Final Fire very soon.  But the story picks up again many years later, in the Earth year 1966, when a different boy — named TK — wakes up inside the Wanderlad Trunk, in the attic of Granny Ossity’s house deep in the middle of the Magical Forest.  With no memory of who he is, wearing the Lost and Found Hat.  Which was, of course, still broken.  Do you suppose that’s why his memory was gone?  That’s the theory, anyway.  Nobody knows for sure.  But Professor Owlsalot would do his best over the course of the years that followed to try to fix the mechanisms inside the lining of the Lost and Found Hat, hoping to fix it.  But even the astonishing technology of the Magical Forest Because, after we were taught the history, Cameron and I had to learn the rest of it from the show, as we went.  We would be given the scripts for every episode and sworn to secrecy like all the other children were.  Cameron and I usually read them together.  They were our sacred gospels.  And yours, too, as you’ve learned.  I have written down the details of the other episodes, from my admittedly-weak memory.  I have those texts in my bag.  So many memories.  How Owlsalot worked so hard to repair the Hat with the lost science of that world.  How TK saw the townsfolk outside the Magical Forest in such need, and sought to help them.  How we learned Trio was still alive after the fall of the Circus.  How we learned that the Magical Forest was what the True People had left behind of the True World.  How the light that broke from the Train’s containment caused the False Ambassador to be broken apart into all the shadow-spliters people now call Devils, with their dark red hoods and cloaks.  How those shadow-spliters were cast far and wide by the fall of the Circus, all across the cosmos, landing on so many wrongworlds to do their foul work and confuse the wrongbodies even more than their already-confused states.  How the Princes and Princesses of Time were True People who had decided to stay behind in the Magical Forest when the Circus had left, guardians of every moment that ever was or would be.  How they were legion: Princes of Hours, Princesses of Seconds.  A Prince or Princess for every kind of thing — even moments some might think insignificant.  How a girl named Friendlietta, who I had the honor to portray in our dramatic retelling, lost her telepathic link to TK — and how this was not tragedy, because she’d always been meant for another.  How that other was the Prince of Bedtime, who was shamed by his position.  How Friendlietta helped him achieve a greater destiny, but at a tragic cost.  How the Treasureseekers tried to make their own Wanderlad, but instead created the Rail Man, the inversion of everything the Wanderlad stood for.  The Rail Man: Opener and Closer of Gates.  The Beast Who Drives the Spike.  The Anti-Destined of the Anti-Destination.  How that terrible battle between TK and the Rail Man had racked the countryside and had almost destroyed the townsfolk.  How the Rail Man had been destroyed in that awful fight … but not his power.  How that power had been absorbed into the Guardians of the Anti-Destination, waiting for the time to come again when the Rail Man could rise again.  How the Prince of Bedtime was transformed into the Rail Man by the Devils.  How it had all been foretold, and how the journey from Prince of Bedtime to Rail Man would prove to be the steps needed to forge the crucial tele-path between the Prince and Friendlietta that would allow them to escape back to the Magical Forest from the prison of the Anti-Destination. How the Rail Man was actually the Prince’s shadow, which would be split from him and banished to the Anti-Destination for all time.  But that critical moment was where things ended.  Where it all just … stopped, in terms of them telling us the history.  How Bellbrun left us without a word.  Vanished.  Left Drodden behind.  And Drum Lake Studios, too.   And, most significantly, all of us who were their special children.  Forsook us, some of us said.  I didn’t believe that.  More than that — I simply knew it wasn’t true.  Everyone got their last paychecks, for instance, well after Bellbrun had disappeared.  Like I said, it wasn’t a matter of money, whatever it was.  As if I cared that I was getting paid.  I certainly didn’t see any of the money, nor many of the others.  But — whatever the reason Bellbrun left — I knew they had not forsaken us.  It seemed impossible to me that Bellbrun would do all they did, create all they made and draw such power to not finish what they had begun.  There had to be a reason.  It was actually Stuart who had suggested the germ of the idea, casually, one day — about a week before he and his family went back to London.  ‘Maybe they just want us to make up what happens next,’ he had said.  And it had clicked with me.  Not that Stuart was right; I didn’t believe that for a moment.   But he was possibly right in that, perhaps, the unfinished nature of it all was a test.  That we had been given all the knowledge of the True World to complete it ourselves.  And that this would tie to the Rule of 3.  Oh, how Cameron and I have disagreed on the Rule of 3. But this was one issue where Cameron eventually came to concede to me. That there were three parts to this: the real, true events — and then the re-enactment given to us — and then, finally, the two joining together to become a third thing that was one and unique and all to itself.  That is what we have been trying to do — what we will do.  Make the story real.  Bring it to a close.  And then it will happen — the reality and the fiction will become one.  And oh, how I puzzled over that at the beginning.  How to achieve that.  Until this night I just described a few moments ago —  am describing.  The night when I’d run into Jamie Hiltraud — again — on the way back to my house after dropping off Reggie Peak.  The night I fortuitously met Victor Marsh and knew it was Victor’s destiny to be part of all this.  That night when I saw Jamie Hiltraud’s Y-shaped stick — again.  Like the time when I’d first met her, I’d been disgusted that night by her holding the symbol of the True People in her evil left hand.  It was blasphemous, but not uncharacteristic for a wrongbody to do something so ignorant without understanding.  But there was a crucial difference between that first night and the night she came back into my life.  I had been given a new way of seeing things — the gift of the Horses.  And so I saw the power the Y-stick had — the power to repel the tapestry of blood.  At first, it simply filled me with fear.  The way the golden streaks of blood recoiled and shifted around the aura of the Y-stick.  After getting back inside my house, safe and alone, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  About the Hiltraud’s blasphemy.  And then it hit me.  The Hiltrauds were — despite all evidence, despite all of my understanding of the limits of what wrongbodies can do — somehow complicit.  They knew something.  They had to know.  It was only logical that they had an inkling of universal truths.  Because … if a wrongbody knows something of truth, they’re very likely a servant of the Treasureseekers, who are masters of wrongbody lies.  Servants who corrupt and invert every truth they can find.  And I had proof that the Hiltrauds knew some of the reality of the cosmos — that they somehow knew a … call it a technique … that repelled the tapestry of blood.  The tapestry that makes up the universe.  I wondered if there was some rational basis for my fear, after all, beyond fear of the unknown they represented.  And I decided that there was — because there had to be.  There was too much at stake, I remember thinking.  And then I thought of the other meaning of ‘stakes’ — the kind driven down to hold up tents.  And I thought of railroad spikes, securing tracks.  And of the Y-sticks of the Hiltrauds.  And how the letter ‘Y’ that was the symbol of the True People after the fall of the Circus.  But how it was impossible for the Hiltrauds to be True People, in that they had no radiance.  They did not shine, but rather repelled the glow.  I sat at my kitchen table and I began to draw.  I drew the Y-stick.  I drew the ‘Y’ from TK Wanderlad.  Then, I wrote the words ‘Enemies of the True People,’ thinking of the Hiltrauds.  And then I drew it, an upside-down Y.  And I realized that this had to be the 27th Letter.  The Lost Letter.  The ‘Un-Y.’  And, just like that, it was solved.  It was so simple that it was there in front of us the entire time.  To un-do what had been done, the power of ‘Y’ was not enough.  The power of ‘Y’ was rooted.  Grounded.  Imbued the land where the remains of the Circus lay with protection.  To hold the two ends of the ‘Y’ up to the Star Threads.  The Un-Y had to be the answer.  And so — here it is — revealed to you.  That glorious answer to a question never even asked out loud by Bellbrun to us — whether we could guess the Lost Symbol.  The 27th letter.  And we did.  We did.  We did.  I did.   And things started becoming exquisitely clear.  That the Hiltrauds were enemies.  Covert.  Disguised.  Watching me.  Trying to undo what I was doing.  Trying to reverse what had been created.  Trying to invert it.  Holding the ‘Y’ in the left hand — the mark of evil.  Laid bare before me, arrogantly, as if I wouldn’t notice.  Using the power in front of me, unaware I had been given the gift of true sight by the horses.  And so I wondered what the purpose of repelling the tapestry had been.  It didn’t take me long to think of it.  She saw my place in it — somehow.  She saw my destiny.  And she wanted it undone.  Wanted to drag the yellow threads of the universe away from where I was — to try to cut my connections to the cosmos.   And, in that moment of revelation, the fear of the unknown grew more and more vast in me — like a cold shadow, looming over me.  Like Graham as a Treasureseeker.  Like an actual Treasureseeker, really.  Making me feel colder and colder.  I got up and turned the house heat up high,  knowing I’d have to answer for it in one way or another once the heating bill came, not caring.   The heat didn’t seem to help.  The cold and dark around me felt like it was still growing, still encompassing everything.  And it felt unfair for someone who’d done what I’d done to feel like that, just after I’d solved the mystery of the Lost Letter — something no scholar of the Magical Forest had been able to do.  But here I was, staring at the cream-colored plastic control panel for the house heat, and the cream-colored telephone on the cream-colored wall right next to it.  It wasn’t right.  A True Person shouldn’t have to be scared.  Shouldn’t have to stare at plastic and paint.  Shouldn’t have to live like this.  So falsely, so pathetically.  But this was my reality — albeit, I was sure, a temporary one with what I’d uncovered that night.  But no matter how much I tried to boost my confidence, the fear had gotten to me.  And it was getting worse.  I was hearing sounds all around me.  The usual creaks of an empty house.  But they sounded sinister to me there.  Everything sounded like windowsills being pulled up, or latches clicking free.  My parents were gone and would be gone all night.  I didn’t want to be alone.  As much as I hated MOTHER and FATHER, even their presence would’ve comforted me.  If my house had been a small apartment like I dreamed of having the money to afford, I’d’ve even been OK with that.  A small apartment like the ones by the Liongold — that’s a controlled space.  You can see that the sound you heard isn’t a door opening.  You can tell the window isn’t sliding up and open in another room — because there’s no other room.   I looked over at the cartoon-cat clock on the opposite wall.  It was 10:00 PM.  Too late to call politely.  But I didn’t care.  I had to do something about the fear.  And the only person I could think of that I felt good calling was Victor Marsh.  I reasoned Victor was probably home by now from the babysitting job at the Peaks, so I grabbed the phone book and looked up the Marshes.  There were five of them listed.   I started calling them in descending order.  No answer at the first.  I could hear my own breathing in the receiver as the phone rang on the other end.  More house-sounds assaulted my senses after I hung up, trying to catch my breath for a moment before making the next call.  I dialed the second number without having fully gotten my breathing under control; what sounded like a tired old lady that I assumed was Phyllis Marsh, going by the name beside the number I’d dialed in the directory.  I don’t remember exactly the words we exchanged.  I remember that she groused unintelligibly under he breath when I asked for Victor, and gave me a brief speech about impoliteness amongst ‘the kids.’  I was going to hang up on her, but — honestly — hearing any voice was better than what I was feeling being totally alone.  She told me she was a relative of Victor’s, and asked what I wanted at such an ‘ungodly’ hour as 10:00 PM.  My fingers felt really icy.  I told her I was a school friend who needed urgent information for a presentation I was giving the next day, that I’d realized I’d forgotten and left it with him.  It was the lie I’d prepared to tell Victor’s parents.  The old lady and that the number I wanted was the one that said ‘Marsh, Philip & Cassie.’  Then, she hung up.  I dialed the number that I’d been given by the second Marsh listing.  As the fifth number rang, I practiced my lie to myself, trying to get it right if Philip or Cassie answered.  The voice that answered sounded kind of like Victor’s, but older and deeper: ‘Hello, this is Victor Marsh,’ he’d said.  He hadn’t sounded angry about the late hour, but other than that I don’t recall much from that conversation, either.  Just that I repeated my lie about the presentation.  All my exposed skin was feeling like ice by that point.  At the back of my neck, mostly.  Like the shadow that I’d felt hovering over me was behind me, always, no matter how fast I turned my head.   And then I heard a click like what you hear when someone else picks up a second phone line.  And this conversation, I remember perfectly:

“Hello?”

“Victor?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s me.  Hilda.”

“Hilda?  Oh, hi!  Hey.  I got it, dad.  She’s a friend of mine.”

“Okay, son.  Don’t stay on too long.”

“Dad-!”

A click of someone hanging up the phone.

“So, hey, Hilda — what’s happening?”

“I’m glad you’re there.  I was worried you’d still be at the Peaks’.  I thought about trying there, first.  Did Reggie get to bed OK?”

“Huh?  Reggie?  Oh, yeah.  He conked out right after he had pizza.”

“Good.”

“Hilda — are you OK?  You sound upset.”

“I- … ”

“My dad said you need help.  Do you need help?”

“With school, yeah, is what I said to your dad.”

“Is that true?”

“Can your dad hear what I’m saying or what you’re saying?”

“No, neither.”

“OK.  So, go ahead.  I’ll try to help with what I can.”

“OK … ”

“Why don’t you tell me the thing you needed help with.  Just tell me what you need.”

“I- … ”

“Hilda?”

“I just got home and I’m alone and I got a little freaked out.”

“Yeah?  I hate when that happens, man.  School can be tough like that sometimes.”

“You’re sure your parents aren’t on the line, too?”

“There’s a light when it is.  It’s not.  With a class project, it’s just you and me.  I’ll keep it simple, just in case, on this end, though.  I don’t want to make it too complicated for you to do your half of this.”

“Thank you.”

“No problem.”

Promise it’s just you and me?”

“Yeah.”

“And they’re not listening to you talk?”

“They went to bed, Hilda.”

“OK.”

“Seriously — you do sound freaked out.  What happened?”

“I need to just talk to someone.”

“Well, ok, hold on a second.”

“OK.”

“There.  Like I said, there’s a light that comes on if it gets picked up.  What’s going on?”

“I think someone followed me home.”

“What?!  Shit!  I mean — … sorry.”

“No, it’s OK.”

“Are you alone?”

“Yes!”

“Should we call the police?”

“No.  No, I- … Victor, it was Jamie Hiltraud.  Do you know them?”

“Wait.  The Hiltrauds?  One of the pioneer kids?”

“Yeah.”

“Why are you worried about them?  You think they’re going to braid your hair while you sleep or something?”

“Victor-!”

“Sorry.  Sorry.  Look, I get it.  They’re creepy.  But I think they’re pretty harmless.  Far as I know, they’ve never done a thing bad — not a one of them.”

“How would you know?”

“My uncle’s a cop.  He tells stories when he drinks.  About everybody.”

“But never the Hiltrauds?”

“Never.”

“Huh.”

“What freaked you out about it?”

“I was just — … on my way home from your place, and it had gotten really dark, and she was just standing there with her stick and being weird at me.  And I got freaked out.”

“Well, I’ll stay on the phone with you as long as you want.  But, yeah, now that you’ve told me what happened — I don’t think you should call the cops or anything.  The Hiltrauds are fine upstanding weirdos.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Cool.”

“Well, I mean, as much as anybody can call anybody else a weirdo.  I bet maybe they’re on the phone talking about us being weirdos.  If they use phones, I mean.”

“Victor-!”

“Maybe they use tin cans in their house to connect the rooms.  With string in-between.”

“That’s not nice.”

“But I’m making you laugh and not be scared, right?”

“Kind of.”

“Good.  Hey, listen.  I was maybe nervous about meeting you like that, so I’m sorry.”

“It’s OK.  I was nervous, too.”

“You were?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, do you want maybe to try to say ‘hi’ to each other again?”

“Hmm?”

“Like, a second try?  You seem cool.  I like hanging out with cool people.”

“Maybe.  Like — OK.  How about tomorrow?”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.  You want to meet up at the Liongold tomorrow?”

“Okay, Hilda.  Sure.  How are you feeling?”

“Better.  I mean, a lot better.  I turned the heat up in my house, too, and that’s making it better.  It was so cold when I got home.”

“My dad would kick my butt for messing with the heater.”

“Mine will, too.”

“Well, we have that in common, at least.”

“I think I’m going to be OK, Victor.”

“Cool.  You sure?  I can’t get out of here or anything, but I could come over in the morning if you don’t feel safe going out or anything and walk with you to the Liongold.”

“No.  That’s OK.  I think I’ll be all right.  I think I just needed to hear a nice voice.”

“Well- … ”

“I’m going to go now, Victor.  OK?  Tell your parents you’re going to meet me to go over the project, OK?”

“That’s what I was going to do, anyway.  It’s an inter-grade project, remember.”

“To make us more social?”

“Of course.  Encouraging good social behavior is essential.”

Essential.”

“Now, you’re sure you’re ok with the coursework we’ve talked about?”

“I’m fine now.  Thanks, Victor.”

“Cool.  Well — … Oh!  What time tomorrow?”

“How’s noon?”

‘Good.  Noon it is.”

“Bye Victor.  And thanks.”

“Thanks back.”

‘For what?”

“For calling me!”

“Oh.  OK.  Bye.”

“Bye.”

I went to bed after that, and dreamed of blood.  A few weeks later, I would make that dream come true.  Victor Marsh would also bleed, then.  And he would bleed just for me.

 Click here to continue reading the story

Published inpart 3

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