Welcome to Chillsville; Population 0
I don’t know how I got into the Dodecahedron. Maybe it was a fluke. I know I didn’t belong there among all the radiating chillers. You have to be cool to live in Chillsville and the Dodecahedron was the coolest place for the coolest people.
I was glad to get in there. I’d been everywhere else, seen everywhere else, done almost everything that could be done in Chillsville, at least the things that didn’t turn my stomach. Still, I never gave up on finding something new.
You hear lots of theories about the Dodecahedron. Something in the air makes time stand still. They say it could be an illusion, mass hypnotism, or just you have such a good time that you don’t notice these things. I noticed though. Yes it was a cool place, but to be honest it was still the same as everywhere else I’d been. Same old tired personas, acting as if they were unique and so conforming in the oldest way.
According to my watch, no time had passed, but then it never does in Chillsville. I wear it for show, not because I need to. (Although the fact that I need to show off my watch is worrying.) I talked to just about everyone in the club and none of them had any plans to leave when I asked them. I felt bored, like I usually do these days, and thought I’d take a chance at finding my way home. My tour guide had disappeared and was probably getting drunk, so I had to ask people if they knew where the door was. When I eventually got there the expressionless doorman didn’t want to let me through, but I persisted until he gave up blocking my way.
Outside it was dark and cold. The street was deserted and the doors back into the Dodecahedron had closed behind me. I decided to find some shelter while I waited for a cab and the only place with the lights on looked like an old library or something.
Messenger watched Spirit and gHOST play hide and seek around the columns of the nave. It was unusual in itself that gHOST was acknowledging their presence. Only on rare occasions would gHOST actually join in their juvenile games.
Messenger giggled quietly as gHOST sidled around a pillar to avoid Spirit, who was working methodically along the rows of vacant seats. Spirit’s lithe tail swished sharply from side to side marking its owner’s frustration. They had been playing for some time now and Spirit was used to winning quickly. It was either a rapid victory or Spirit would petulantly whine and dismiss the game as stupid.
Dust motes played in the light-beams that flooded through the high coloured windows. Each floating particle had been hand crafted over aeons. Messenger was no big fan of the sterile world they had, for want of a better word, acquired, and was putting time to good use while time was available.
Messenger released another fashioned spark of matter to catch the light as Spirit finally caught gHOST amid loud squeals of triumph. Then, as always happened when a game ended, the black doors to the outside opened. Another creature staggered through from the howling darkness outside into the peace of their dwelling.
This place seemed new.Messenger and Spirit eyed each other cautiously as the stumbling fugitive entered. Neither of them wanted to commit themselves too early so, as always, it was left to gHOST to greet the newcomer, gliding down between the rows of seats, arms extended in welcome.
At least I had never been here before.
And my watch worked.
The reaction of gHOST prompted a nervous smile. "I’m sorry," he said meekly. "I didn’t realise there was a meeting in progress."
"There was no meeting until you arrived," said gHOST serenely. Spirit’s expression changed, eyes rolling upwards in despairing embarrassment. Messenger grinned faintly. This was a meek one. Usually Messenger could claim the meek ones easily. They were, after all, the inheritors.
"I didn’t mean to interrupt," began the new arrival again. "It’s just it was very inclement out there and no-one else seemed open."
"Of course, of course," said gHOST soothingly. "Have you travelled far?" gHOST linked arms with the stranger leading him towards the raised dais that dominated the top end of the long room.
"Just from the club across the road," said the stranger as gHOST ushered him into one of the luxurious chairs.
Messenger raised an eyebrow. From Chillsville? That didn’t seem right. Then Spirit jogged Messenger’s elbow and interrupted the thought.
"Let’s talk," purred Spirit quietly, indicating the far corner with a nod. Messenger agreed with a slight bow of the head. The unaligned was in gHOST’s safe hands and gHOST would not stake a claim.
They wandered away from the other two, through a light beam that fell from a high window. Messenger’s faint shadow overlapped with the curling fractal chaos that Spirit cast, causing a delicate ring of light to form where the two shadows crossed. "Don’t do that," hissed Spirit, annoyed at the effect Messenger’s shadow had where it impinged. "You’re messing up my karma. It will affect my status when I report home."
Messenger withdrew slightly so that both shadows stood side by side, one tall and ringed with light, the other squat and grasping like entropic smoke. It was odd how eerily different the delineation appeared, given their heritage. The war had transformed them both over the millennia, yet neither of them cared for it anymore.
"Do you know what’s happening?" queried Spirit, suspiciously.
"One of them has crossed the street," replied Messenger.
"Yes and do you know what that means?"
"What do you think it means?" asked Messenger.
"Don’t go all Zen on me," hissed Spirit. False arm muscles rippled with repressed gleeful rage. "If Chillsville are losing people then we are going back to how things were!" There was an unpleasant gleam in those deep red eyes.
"Is that a good thing though?" asked Messenger quietly. Spirit’s casual use of the word ‘Chillsville’ was irksome, a reminder that Spirit had always adopted temporal terms, giving them validity when they had none. Camouflaging intent with current language as if the old aim was something new was a crucial aspect of Spirit’s successes. Back when both sides still had successes. Back when they kept score. Before Chillsville.
"What’s up? Afraid you’ll lose more to me than you did before? How could that be possible?" sneered Spirit.
"Do you know how many unaligned are currently occupying Chillsville?" asked Messenger. There, the word was said and now occupied the eternal.
"The Dodecahedron is the last point on the tour. For the coolest, the furthest out. It acts as the boundary, the final fulfilment, to keep the unaligned from questing further in their curiosity. What we see from here is but the edge. Beyond The Dodecahedron, the city stretches for years."
"How do you know that?" asked Spirit irritably.
"It is my business."
"Thousands waiting to be aligned." Spirit’s blood red tongue nervously licked the surrounding black leathery lips.
"Try millions," said Messenger. Spirit made a whimpering noise.
"Mistakes will be made."
"Yes," agreed Messenger.
"My overseers are less forgiving than yours," said Spirit.
"You picked the wrong masters and you must work for them," said Messenger in a stern voice.
It was the oddest meeting I had ever seen. My guess was that they were rehearsing a play, which could be the only reason for their outlandish get-ups. The winged satyr was very realistic, but the make up on the regular guy was amazing. Without wishing to sound like a queer, his face was so beautiful it made you want to cry."You remember why we chose this place?" asked Spirit.
Then there was the drippy chick in the long flowing dress. I got her number straight away. She was obviously in charge of the drama group because she kept asking me questions and every time I tried to get up, she made me sit back down to talk to her.
The whole thing struck me as being almost a cult. But her brainwashing wasn’t going to work on me. Hey, I resisted the Hugo virus, right up to the point where I moved to the city. (Why did I choose to move to Chillsville, anyway?) A couple of well-placed words from this girl weren’t going to get me to commit to anything.
I asked her if there were any cabs this time of night and she laughed and told me that there weren’t any. Then I asked her if she had any transport that I could use and she just looked confused.
I decided it was time to leave but when I looked back down the hall, the doors I’d come through seemed to have disappeared. That was when I began to feel a little nervous.
"I remember everything," replied Messenger, obliquely.
Spirit scratched an ear in a preoccupied fashion. The long nail rasped against the tough skin. "We chose it because it came with gHOST and we needed a filter. But since Chillsville was built, nobody comes through here any more."
"Do you even know what Chillsville is?" asked Messenger.
"Not really," admitted Spirit, with a wince at the pain caused by acknowledging ignorance in the presence of a rival.
"Like the original purpose of this place it was built to stop the unaligned from reaching us."
"Who built it?" asked Spirit, puzzled by this revelation and temporarily forgetting the ego-bruising pain caused by asking questions.
"The unaligned themselves."
"That’s impossible," protested Spirit.
"It’s true," insisted Messenger. "They postulated our existence and decided to create Chillsville as an intermediate place of rest that they could control. That is why the only unaligned we have served these past times have been the trauma cases."
Spirit looked uneasily around the space they had occupied for so long. It had once been formless, merely cold dark substance. The three of them had met on this bedrock and settled here. Then Messenger had decided to give it shape and depth.
Spirit had no idea how the adversaries could take void and render it with form, but there was no denying that it made things easier. Spirit felt comfortable here. The vortex that needed to be travelled in order to report to the masters felt unsettling now.
Meeting gHOST, back in that archaic non-night, had been a shock, but both of them had seen there was a need for an arbiter. Plus it was gHOST’s dictated responsibility to compel the unaligned and assess their story.
Spirit felt gHOST was sometimes too lenient, but Messenger, clinging to those ridiculous concepts of mercy and grace, always argued that gHOST was too harsh and strict. In rare equable moments, Spirit had to admit that gHOST struck a balance that was fair. Now a thought occurred.
"Their arbiter. Created by them to ensure fair dealings. Chillsville replaced gHOST because no arbiter is necessary there. One does not move on. Until Chillsville can no longer contain the wanderlust, as seems to be happening now. He is the first of many. Chillsville was meant to satisfy every need, but it could not satisfy the spark that lies buried deep within the flesh."
Learning the origin of Chillsville shocked Spirit to the light-swallowing core, leaving confusion and anger. It was possible to exercise the rage on the unaligned being that had abandoned the safety of Chillsville for it’s own unfathomable reason. Without being conscious of it, Spirit raised an arm to rent open a hole into the vortex and cast the ignorant creature in, but Messenger’s firm clasp halted the action and slowly lowered the arm back down to Spirit’s side.
"Listen," said Messenger with a note of urgency.
Spirit grudgingly shook free of Messenger’s grip and concentrated on the conversation between gHOST and the unaligned stranger.
"But you can’t stay here!" protested gHOST. "This is not a prepared place for you."
"I tell you, I’m waiting for a cab, or for the storm to die down."
"What storm?" whispered Spirit.
"The vortex beyond," replied Messenger quietly.
"What kind of fool doesn’t recognise the abyss?" asked Spirit.
"Something has happened," said Messenger, ignoring the question. "Unaligned, yes I can understand, but unaware?"
The debate between gHOST and the newcomer continued as the dust motes danced around the two puzzled onlookers, reflecting the black and white light of eternities.