"What is your best idea of the day?" Jenny cast out the line as a moonstruck lover might drop a penny into a well.
"The Uprighter." Savita tuned in, eyes the color of television. "He's a turtle god that you pray to when you're stuck on your back, legs flailing in the air. His church teaches you to help others who are on their back by setting them upright again. There was a great schism between those and the Rockers Cult, who felt that the best was to upright themselves was by rocking, reasoning that the Uprighter helps those who help themselves. The schism was eventually healed by the United Creed, who allow that any method to get back upright, be it by yourself or with help, is acceptable, since the important thing is that everyone is upright."
Jenny took Savita's hand, and dragged her out of the house. The girl's swollen head wobbled on her neck, eyes not fixed on this reality, but her little voice buzzed and then rattled on.
"Underground is magic. There is no logical reason why this should be, yet there you are. Children know this. They clutch your arm tighter as they descend. The air is different in your lungs, on your tongue. You become aware of being bounded, of knowing where the walls and ceiling are, and instinctively you keep track of the light sources, and the shadows that lurk in the corners, just beyond their reach..."
Savita's voice faded out, little clicking sounds issuing from her throat, but Jenny held her hand tighter as they came near the playground.
"Bellam's Giraffe followed a divergent evolutionary path. Where we normally associate giraffoids with longer necks, the better to feed from tall trees, Bellam's Giraffe evolved heavier ossicones, a thicker skull and spine, and extreme musculature. It's general feeding strategy is to knock the tree down by head-butting it, and then feeding off the fallen leaves." The sightless eyes were wide as Jenny locked her into the swing, static flickering across the irises. "The art of bartending has little to do with mixing drinks, but in saying the right thing that makes the customer look within themselves for a moment and then order another drink. A skilled bartender doesn't even need to speak. They can raise a thirst with a look."
Jenny liked the swings. She figured that Savita liked the swings too. When the younger girl got excited the channels changed more quickly. Like skipping swiftly through a playlist, catching snippets. Savita went up, and came back down.
"May all your gods be small ones, may all your devils be beaten back by the ringing of bells and snapping of fingers and spilling of earth; may all your stars be blind and all your winds dumb; let the little spirits of the earth and wood look on you as one of your own, and all the spirits of air and fire look you by; place not your hand in the trap, nor your feet in the flame; see the path before you and to either side, see the path behind you and remember why you took it; drink only what you can keep down and eat only what you can pass. So be blessed."
Up, and down.
"The horror host was your personal psychopomp, the dweller on the threshold of the page or the silver screen, who prepared you for the wonders and terrors you were about to experience...and, perhaps more than that, who took delight in the macabre, the gruesome, and the sadistic. They put a smile on horror, they showed you it was okay to smile at all the things that crawled in darkness beneath the rocks they lifted for your inspection."
Up, and down.
"There is no more a sense of movement in America; the frontiers have all been lost, the culture exists in a timeless now, generations grown up in blue jeans, which have persevered and evolved, specialized into a thousand shades and designs, some with eye-catching rivets or artful tears, ripped knees and camouflage fades, and yet all the same, always the same, for a pair of jeans is a pair of jeans on either side of the great millennial line. Now is the era of decay; it is no country for young men and women, come into their own to find only they are too educated or too ignorant, the jobs taken by those who cannot afford to retire, and the shiny places are too expensive for them to be where the action is. Bright young things are used up and burned out at a furious pace, but thanks to modern medicine more and more of them will live to regret their mistakes; the 27 Club never looked so inviting as when you look back from the wrong side of that milestone, and realize how you have already peaked and never known it, yet there is still the long, long decline ahead, and there is nothing to do but resign ourselves to the culture that has lost all momentum, it is not profitable enough to move forward, we bite and claw if they try to move back, and so we are stuck in the eternal limbo bequeathed by the tasteless Nineties to their children, refining the same flavors over and over again, and we too tired of religion to even say 'Amen.'"
"Amen," Jenny whispered, as Savita sat there in the swing, smiling. Jenny sat there for a while and hugged her tight, wondering how much of her was tuned in to this time and place.
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