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Jayjay, Thuy and the Pitchfork in 1496

We visited Rudy, Penny, and the twins in Berkeley yesterday, and I caught a few street images for today’s illos, ending with a paparazzi pair of me trying to get my camera back from Rudy.

Hylozoic is going pretty good these days. I got a contract for it from Tor Books, which is encouraging. I’m always grateful that I can get novels published.

Here’s a draft passage of Jayjay, Thuy, and the not-so-evil-after-all hillbilly pitchfork arriving in the Hibrane. It’s our man Hieronymus Bosch’s home town, 1496, and everything in the Hibrane is six times as big as it is here.

Jayjay took Thuy by the hand, remembering the tower of loops that the pitchfork had taught him. The scale links were still in place: a helix spiraling from below the subbies to beyond the galaxy. Feeling light and nimble, Jayjay revolved the helix to aim its axis in the direction they flew. He reached through his heart to that one particular cell and carbon atom; he reached up past humanity to the Earth and the sky. He and Thuy sped forward as if in a particle accelerator.

And touched down upon a stone street in a town with no lights or teep. The mild, damp night air bore the smell of human waste.

A gentle thump sounded at their side: the pitchfork. Somewhere nearby, men were roaring a slow, deep-voiced song. A fat full moon hung low above the stair-stepped gables, the buildings oddly tall.

Looking up past the walls to the panoply of stars, Jayjay saw familiar constellations. He used the north star to find the points of the compass, noted that the low moon was in the west, recalled that a full moon sets near dawn, and drew the conclusion.

“It’s about 4 a. m.” he told Thuy.

“There’s no teep to check that,” said Thuy fretfully. “This place isn’t right. Last time, the Hibrane was almost like our San Francisco, and they had lazy eight. But this is some kind of primitive backwater with no silps. Everything’s mute. How do people live this way?”

“We’re free,” said Jayjay relishing the bucolic air. Already he was learning to ignore the bad smells. “It’s great here. No Peng, no voices in our heads, no realtime video shows of our lives.”

Dogs barked in courtyards nearby, perhaps annoyed by the pitchfork. He stood beside Jayjay, balancing on his handle, vibrating his prongs at an ultrasonic rate. Now he slid down a few octaves, sculpting his reverberant tones into a voice.

“I got a powerful belief my harp’s somewheres near,” said the aktual. “She’ll answer when she hears me. I know it’s gonna work out. We’ve done all this before.”

“We have?”

“The harp and me are manifesting as time loops. ‘Cept we’re outta synch. Seems like God and the Devil could manage to show up the same scale, place and time—but that harp, she always takes a wrong turn.”

“You’re really saying she’s God?” asked Jayjay.

“Oh, I’m God now,” said the pitchfork. “And the harp’s the Devil. We swap places all the time.”

“Like yin and yang?” said Thuy.

“Out the yinyang for true,” said the pitchfork and went hopping down the street, his handle rapping smartly on the stones. Someone lit a lantern in one of the great houses, the window impossibly high above the ground.

A slow, draggy squeal issued from a faintly visible alley. Horn-shod feet clattered on the stones; a massive bulk was shambling their way. The high window swung open, and the lantern light illumined a muddy hairy beast the size of a an old-style moving van.

“Run, Thuy!” cried Jayjay, and turned to flee. The cobblestones were inordinately broad and high-crowned, with gaping cracks between them. At his very first step, Jayjay, clumsy with exhaustion, caught his foot in a gap and fell.

The monstrous creature was coming closer, slow but ineluctable, snuffling his way through the fetid night.

“Help me, Thuy!” Jayjay moaned. “My foot’s stuck.”

A red-faced man in a nightgown was yelling from the window, but his speech was doubly incomprehensible. The voice was warped like a screwed audio clip, and the words weren’t in any language Jayjay knew. German? Old English?

“Poor Jayjay,” said Thuy, helping him to his feet. In the faint, jiggly light, Jayjay could see that she was smiling. “I’m happy because now I can tell this really is the Hibrane,” she explained. “That means we have an advantage here. It’s like we’re one foot tall, dense as steel, and faster than weasels. I’m gonna kick that hog’s butt.”

And she proceeded to do just this. Thuy trotted towards the giant animal—who was, yes, a twenty foot tall boar. She leapt into the air and gave the charging swine a smack on the snout with her fist. The boar veered ever so slowly to one side. Thuy ran around behind him and planted a volley of sharp kicks, dimpling his muddy hams. Bellowing like drunken molasses, the giant pig bucked his way past Jayjay and further up the street.

“We’re super-gnomes,” said Thuy.

“Or demons,” added Jayjay. “These people are bound to be superstitious.”

—quoted from Rudy Rucker, Hylozoic, draft of a novel in progress.

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