As is tradition in this non-traditional house, this is the moment where chapter 1 of a new publication will the thrust into the world.
As you are reading this, this means you are part of that world.
I hope you will enjoy chapter 1 of “Til Death Us Do Join“.
Screams flew up as people plummeted into the darkness below. Gene’s mind notified him instantly that this had to be the greatest rollercoaster thrill ever. Maggie and he rode it for the fourth time that afternoon and each time this part surprised him. The steepness of the drop, the insane speed that the little cart reached and the black hole they literally fell into were just too wild. Finishing touch was the jolt with which the cart reached the end of the drop in total darkness, and then was thrown into a corkscrew spiral that took them upside down at least a dozen times while laser light painted crazy patterns in the fog around them. The cart slammed to a halt against a rubber block. Thank god there were seat belts or no one would stay in the little cart, Maggie thought as she heard Gene’s oompf next to her. “Wimp!” she yelled laughing, and yelped as the small vehicle was yanked to the left, just in time for the next one to slam into the rubber block. Dizzily she crawled out of the cart, holding on to Gene’s hand. She saw that he was swaying as much as she did, so they both leaned against the wall on the way out, behind many others who leaned against the wall towards the exit.
“Another run?” Gene asked out of sheer stubbornness. “Please say no, I’ve had enough.”
“Wimp,” Maggie said, glad that he was so honest. Had he gone, she’d have gone too, even when it felt her brain was backwards inside her skull from all the wild turns and shoves. Who knows, it might flip back.
“Let’s go for a beer,” Gene suggested, “or two.”
“You’re on, and since you’re so generous, you’re buying!” Maggie laughed.
Together they staggered to the nearest place that sold beer in the amusement park.
It was late in the evening when the two finally came home to the little cabin they’d rented. It had taken a few detours for Gene to find the right place as alcohol had severely clouded his judgement, but they made it safely. Before leaving the car they sat and looked at each other, laughing and feeling like a million bucks.
“And we came all the way from Oklahoma for this, lover boy,” Maggie said, “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”
“I know, I know,” Gene said, his head against the head-rest. “It’s been a long time since I had such a great time. That rollercoaster ride was so feckin’ cool. We have to hit it again before we have to go back.”
“Yeah, really, but not now. I drank too much, I don’t want to throw up.” Maggie fumbled with the seat belt and then pushed the door open. She stepped out and leaned against the car until the world had steadied itself around her. “Hey buster, get out of the car, I need you to get me inside.” For a moment she considered slapping the car roof, but the sound would probably be an assault on her ears as much as on his.
“Coming, coming,” Gene said as he left the car. “Always the feckin’ same with you, always need me to get inside you. But I’m not complainin’…” Together they staggered to the door.
“You’re drunk,” said Maggie.
“Look who’s talking,” Gene countered as he fumbled for the right key in the dark.
“Gimme those, you’re no good,” Maggie giggled as she grabbed for the keys that then fell to the ground. “Now see what you did…” She dropped to her knees and found the keys. Carefully she picked the right key and after only three attempts she managed to open the door. “Urgh, God, I’m never going to get up again.” She leaned over and crawled inside on all fours. Gene grinned and followed her the same way, just because it was funny.
“Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod…” Maggie groaned as waking up came with the sorest head in her life. “I’m hung over.” Gene didn’t respond so she prodded his side. “Hey.”
“I said I’m hung over.”
Gene belched. “Join the club.”
“You’re an animal.” Maggie prodded again, for different reasons.
“And I’m in bed. Hah. I’m an animal in bed,” Gene said, pleased with his deduction despite his headache. “I want coffee.” The latter statement sounded more like a lament compared to his earlier pleasure.
“Go make some. And make some for me too,” Maggie said with her eyes closed and her hands on her forehead. “Bloody shit, I drank too much yesterday.”
“Lately you drink too much every yesterday.” Gene fell out of bed as he attempted to get up. “Crap. That hurts.”
Maggie crawled to his side of the bed. “Don’t damage my shoes. They were expensive.”
“Hey, what about me? I’m expensive too.” Gene belched again and was rewarded with a slap over the head.
“You’re so wrong, mister. I paid good money for those shoes. I got you for free.” Maggie shattered him with her logic. “Now go make coffee and prove you’re worth something.”
Gene got up and looked at Maggie as he held on to the foot end of the bed. “You and your mouth,” he grinned. “Back to the rollercoaster this afternoon?”
“Coffee!” Maggie tried to kick at him but her feet were still under the covers so it looked amusing instead of threatening. She immediately calmed down as her head complained about the noisy abuse she inflicted on herself. As Gene made his way out of the bedroom, she knew that coffee would be available soon.
“This is not quite the vacation I had in mind,” Maggie quietly said as she inhaled the first vapours of her morning brew.
“I know. Skip amusement park today? Do something sensible?” Gene then muttered something as he almost burnt his tongue on the coffee.
“Sensible?” Maggie stared at him. “We’re on vacation. We don’t do sensible on vacation. At least I refuse to.” As Gene invited her to suggest something to do that day, she carefully shook her head. “Not sure. Not drink so much, perhaps.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Gene agreed. “We can go for a drive later.”
“Maybe. Maybe I put my head in bed again; this stuff isn’t helping.” Maggie waved the empty box of pain killers.
“Give it time. Maybe go for a walk.” Gene shrugged. “I could come with you.”
“A walk. The great Gene Hill suggests a walk.” Maggie looked at her friend. “No. Not making fun of you, just letting the idea sink in. Okay, idea sunk in. Let’s finish that coffee and take a walk. With sunglasses on.”
The couple had experience in dealing with coffee pots, so an hour later they sauntered through the streets of the small village. They had rented a small cabin not far from the edge of the village, the walk to the small community had already done them a lot of good, and now they were actually doing some window shopping and joking about all the odd, local things some shops had to offer. Several shopkeepers saw the couple laugh and invited them in to show them more of their goods and occasionally explain the use of those items. As this was mostly a farming community, lots of items had to do with life on the farm. Gene had the idea that many objects they saw would fetch quite a price at a museum back home and was already planning to buy some of them when Maggie dragged him outside again. “Hey, why’d you do that? That washboard looked fun,” he said.
“All that stuff is old and it brings me down. Sorry Gene, but I couldn’t stand it.”
They settled on ice cream and then had a hard time locating a place where that was sold. In the end they located ice cream in the town supermarket. The ice cream was locally made, fresh, cheap and delicious. “You should have taken the orange too,” Maggie said as they walked back towards the edge of town. “This is so good, I could eat my fingers.”
Gene nodded as he tried to keep his melting raspberry ice cream under control. So far it had only reached his elbows. He couldn’t lick the sticky stuff away from there. “This is great too. Want to trade?”
“No, but I’ll lick yours if you want to lick mine!” Maggie laughed. They tried each other’s ice cream and agreed that the stuff was fabulous in either flavour. After making plans to try out each flavour the shop had to offer they walked on.
“There’s a little lake out there,” Gene pointed a sticky finger. “Care for a swim?”
“I didn’t see you pack swimming trunks,” Maggie said.
“I didn’t. Let’s go skinny dipping. We’ve done that before.”
Maggie frowned. “Not in broad daylight with so much open space around.”
Gene sighed. “There’s not a living soul near. Most folks are at work and the rest sit at home and knit or something. Come on, let’s have a little fun there before we go back to the cabin for some more fun.” Maggie bit her lip. They’d done a lot of goofy things together but this was taking goofy to a new level. She turned around as she looked at the surroundings. As Gene had said, there was no one around. Luckily Gene knew better than to push her further. Anything else he said would make her oppose the idea, so he just stood there and waited while Maggie gave the idea more thought.
“Okay, let’s go there. But no whining when I change my mind after all,” Maggie announced.
“Sure, no problem,” Gene grinned as he took her hand. They started walking to the lake while Maggie kept watching out for people who might see them. There was absolutely no one around, so when they got to the small lake they started stripping. Gene was the first one in the water and laughed as he shivered; the water wasn’t as warm as he’d hoped, but once through the initial shock it felt good. Maggie stood in her underwear and hesitated for a moment, but her boyfriend’s enthusiasm and laughter helped to make up her mind. Quickly she dropped the last bits of clothing and rushed into the water. Maggie shrieked for a moment as the cold water hit her, but then she stumbled, fell over into the water and after a few moments it was all fine. She started swimming as fast as she could, hoping that it would warm her up a bit. Gene, always the better swimmer of them, quickly caught up with her. Together they made it halfway across the lake and then went back. Maggie knew she wouldn’t be able to make it all the way over and then back to where her clothes were, and walking around the lake dripping and naked wasn’t something she fancied either. The sunlight was nice and warm once they had left the water so they sat on the side to dry off as much as possible before dressing.
“I’ve got to hand it to you, this was fun,” Maggie said. “And I feel a lot better too now.”
“Yeah, this is great. We should do this again someday while we’re here,” Gene nodded. He lay back and folded his hands behind his head. “This is the life, Maggie.”
She looked at her friend and grinned. “Damn you, you look so comfortable. I’m not going to lie in the sand like that and get sand in my clothes.”
“Come on, I’ll pat you down,” Gene said.
“Oh yes, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Maggie grinned. “Say, how about that quaint little village we read about? Could we go there today? In the leaflet we got it looked cute, I want to take pictures there.”
“Sure. We can hit the roller coaster after that,” Gene grinned, knowing that they wouldn’t see the amusement park that day.
After a while they had dried up enough to put their clothes back on and headed back to their cabin. They had an entertaining, long shower together to make sure the smell of the lake was gone and then they got into their car and drove off to a nearby village that they had planned to visit.
In a place that neither Gene nor Maggie saw nor knew of, an entity named Mortimer sighed as it tried to cast an accusing look at its fellow entity named Freddy on the other side of the counter. “Please tell me this isn’t true. It can’t be true. Someone has made a horrendous mistake and I am not going to pick up those pieces.” The look didn’t make an impression.
“Listen, Morty. Glitches happen. All the time. Everywhere. And do you hear me moan about them? Nope, nada, totally not. So just take this assignment, bring it to a good end and get over it.”
“It’s Mortimer, not Morty, and I must insist that this situation is unacceptable, you should know. I am convinced that you could not care less about it, but I want this stated and noted. The fact that glitches happen, as you say, is well-known. I do feel I should state that it’s never you lot that has to wipe up behind those glitches. It’s always us, the guardians and soul-guides, that are liberally appointed to that.”
The entity behind the counter grabbed a sheet of paper and scribbled a few words. Then he showed it. “There. Happy?” The note said ‘I don’t care’. After a few seconds the note burnt away, leaving nothing but a puff of smoke.
“You do that to annoy me,” the wrongly assigned soul-guide complained. “And your smoke smells bad.”
The entity behind the counter sighed. “Listen, pal. I don’t make the rules, I just follow orders around here. Now be a good spook and follow your orders.” He picked up the three sheets with the official mission orders and pushed them against the chest of the soul-guide. “Here. Take them. Get out. See you around but don’t hurry. As usual you fail to make me laugh.”
Mortimer sighed once more and moved away from the counter. After a few steps he turned. “And I am not your pal.”
“Good. Let’s both remember that!”
The guide wished there was a door he could slam shut but that kind of door was from other times; this place didn’t have them. Most of the time that was good but there were these moments where Mortimer desperately needed one. Yet another sigh escaped him as he read his mission papers more carefully and shuddered at his rendez-vous point. “Oh dear. That can’t go well.”