Click covers for info. Copyright (C) Rudy Rucker 2021.

“Everything Is Everything.” SF Story.

Here’s the January, 2022, version of a story I’ve been revising off and on for a couple of years.  I think this version is pretty tight and funny.  I published an early version of it in the zine Big Echo back in October, 2020. And that would  make it hard to publish the new version on in a zine, so I’m posting it here.  And I have some hopes that this story may yet work as a chapter of a new novel.

The story’s a little long for a blog post, so I broke it into three parts with links to the parts—in case you want to read it in separate sessions.

Everything Is Everything, by Rudy Rucker
1. Vi
2. Wick
3. Vi

1. Vi

Vi’s husband Wick has always been a good napper. He announces one, settles in, and a minute later he’s gone. Vi neither admires nor belittles the behavior—it’s just an aspect of how Wick is. But, okay, maybe his napping makes him seem lazy. Like a dog. Vi prefers to stay awake and keep an eye on things.

Wick and Vi are spending an August weekday afternoon on Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz. It’s windy. Wick is half an hour into his nap. As soon as they arrive, he made a shelter by opening their beach umbrella, laying it on its side, and wedging the umbrella’s edge into the sand.

Vi walks down the beach to the lighthouse and back. The wind is strong enough that it’s the main thing she thinks about. Usually at the beach she thinks about the shapes of the waves, about where the pelicans are flying to, and about the possibility of sighting seals, dolphins, or whales. Also she likes to recall the bygone days she spent on this beach with the kids when they were in high school. Damn the wind.

Vi sits down beside the inert Wick. As far as Vi is concerned, the umbrella isn’t a wind break, not with her sitting on her beach chair. Her hair whips at her eyes. Her book pages flutter savagely.

“Wick.” Silence. “Wake up, Wick. We have to move.” Silence. “Wick!”

He makes a low noise. Moves his arm. He’s quick to sleep, and quick to wake. Maybe quick isn’t the right word.

. “I was in a dream,” mutters Wick. “I heard your voice. I thought it was part of the dream.”

“Fraid not,” says Vi. “I’m real. The wife. We have to move closer to the bluff. Or drive downtown.”

“Lie flat on the ground like me. Next to the umbrella. And put a towel over your head.”


Grunting with every motion, Wick sits up.

“I dreamed I was in the  seminar room on the top floor of Cal Berkeley math building,” he says. “Where they have these classic math models on shelves, things made of balsa wood or glass or plaster or strings stretched between pins. Not exactly that room because it’s my dream. And I keep trying to understand what they’re talking about in the seminar.” Wick pauses, then presses on. “They weird thing is that I keep going back to this same dream.”

Math seminar?” says Vi, fastening on that. She giggles. Wick’s thoughts amuse her. “Why not a wild party? Or flying in the clouds? Or sex? Why not let your dreams be fun?”

Wick rises to his feet. He’s out of sorts. “The seminar would be fun if I could understand it. The speaker—well, the speaker is an alien.” Wick snugs his straw hat down onto his head as far as it will go. Peers up and down the beach.

“The seminar speaker has a whole lot of faces,” Wick tells Vi. “Her name is Ma’al. She’s like a sea anemone with a head on the tip of each feeler? And the heads are telling riddles. All of them talking at once.”

“Riddles about what?” asks Vi, intrigued despite herself.

“Some of the riddles are from math. Like: Can you untangle Alexander’s Horned Sphere? Is Conway space larger than the class of all ordinal numbers?  What’s the square root of alef-one? Never mind. There were some children’s riddles too. Why is the Sun like a loaf of bread?

“You used to tell that one to the kids,” says Vi. “It rises in the yeast, and it dies in the vest!” She pats her stomach the way Wick always does after he tells that joke. “You got it from your father, right?”

Wick nods. “Yes. In fact I saw Pop’s head on one of the anemone’s arms just now, and Pop was the one asking that riddle. So is Pop the Sun, and my dream is a loaf of bread? Or I’m the son of the Sun and I bred the bread to make a Conway space sandwich?” Wick shakes his head. “Probably I’m imagining the part about Pop. But the math is real.”

“You’re saying that every time you nap you have this dream?” asks Vi, beginning to feel uneasy.

“It started last week. I didn’t want to tell you. I don’t think it’s really a dream. I have a feeling they’re homing in on me because of my papers about Conway space.”


“The anemone and her friends in the seminar room. It’s a place in Conway space—named after John Horton Conway, who formalized the mathematics of our world’s space-time-scale plenum. Absolutely continuous above and below. You’ve heard me talk about it a million times.”

“Yadda yadda,” says Vi.  “Tell me more about the weird aliens.”

“They welcome me,” says Wick. “I’m, like, a beacon for them. A couple of, ah, plenum scouts might visit. I’ve been talking to them.”

“Stop this, Wick. It’s not funny. You’re going too far.”

“I’m not trying to be funny. I’ve been dreaming the seminar room for days and days. Doesn’t that prove something?”

“No. I say you had the stupid dream for the very first time just now. I say you’re imagining you had it before. A fake deja vu. A Wick glitch. Not a conversation with Conwy space aliens. Come on now, Wick.”

He haves a sigh and gives Vi a loose hug. “I’m glad you’re here. You’re probably right. Thank you for living with me.” He hoists his pack onto his back. Folds up the umbrella. “So—screw the beach? We go downtown?”

“First let’s sit on the bluff,” says Vi. “It’s such a pretty day. Let’s not waste it on being crazy.” They start across the sand toward the stairs on the cliff.

“I was almost there,” mutters Wick after a bit, turning rebellious. “I only needed a little more nap.”

“Why do we even come to the beach if all you want to do is nap?” snaps Vi.

“A beach nap has twice the value of a couch nap,” intones Wick. This is one of his pet sayings. Vi can tell he’s trying to be jocular now, trying to recover lost ground. He raises his finger like a wag offering a quatrain. “I feast on ocean roar / Old dreamer in the sand / My skull transmits the sun / My canny brain grows tan.”

“It’s like napping is your religion,” says Vi. “A religion for dogs.”

Oh yeah?” goes Wick. “Just wait till those plenum scouts bring me my magic egg.”

Vi doesn’t bother to answer. It’s too ridiculous. They trudge along in companionable silence. They’re used to each other.

Seabright Beach is half a mile long and nearly a hundred yards wide. Vi was hardly able to believe her good fortune when first she saw it, thirty years ago. Wick had landed a job as a math prof at San Jose State. And Vi had a gig as a research librarian at Stanford—with a fatter salary than Wick’s. They had good careers, and they retired last year. And Wick is still writing papers about Conway space. And now he’s dreaming about it. Losing his shit.

Mounting the stairs, Vi admires the succulent, flowering ice plants on the bluff. Some wasps are feeding on a dead rat, the insects very elegant with their striped abdomens, like fashionistas at a low-down dive.

At the top of the bluff, Wick and Vi stash their stuff in Vi’s car, which is parked on a lane that runs along the edge of the cliff, with a sidewalk and a railing on the ocean side. They sit on a bench beside the car, enjoying the horizon, the wrinkled sea, the little sails.

“You see?” says Vi. “Perfect day.”

“The beach never disappoints,” agrees Wick. After a bit, his head droops and he slips back into his nap. Like a dog licking his balls, thinks Vi, exasperated with her husband. But she lets him doze.

Her mind drifts peacefully—but then here comes a new problem. A man and woman parallel-park their white Mercedes in the space ahead of Wick’s and Vi’s car. The couple sits there with their windows open, looking at their phones, ignoring the view. They’ve left their engine running. Boring, unnecessary noise. Vi hates that. And the fumes. She elbows Wick.

He snorts, snaps awake, and peers at the Mercedes—on high alert.

“Hear the engine?” says Vi. “They’re entitled pricks.” This  is a phrase Wick and Vi use. You need it a lot in the Bay Area these days. EPs for short.

“I was talking to my seminar crowd just now,” Wick tells Vi.

“Tell the entitled pricks to turn off their engine,” says Vi, bearing down.

“They’re the Conway space scouts!” exclaims Wick. “With my special egg.”

“I want that engine noise off,” repeats Vi. “You’re not hearing me.”

“I do,” he says. “But I’m shy about talking to the scouts.”

“Shy?” cries Vi. “A brick shy of a full load! I’ll do it myself.”

Vi marches over to the Mercedes. The blonde woman passenger is turned slightly away from the window, looking down at her phone. The screen shows something like a super-intricate tribal tattoo.

The woman’s hair is a mussed bed-head do. Vi can see the curve of her cheek, but not the corner of her mouth, nor the tip of her nose. The woman must know Vi is here, but she shows zero sign of noticing her. EP that she is.

Vi walks to the other side of the car and glares at the driver. His strong, tan arm rests on the frame of the open window. Naturally he wears a chunky, oversized gold watch.

“Hey!” says Vi, a little louder than polite. The driver turns toward her.

Instead of a face, he has a smooth, undulating patch of skin that follows the contours of his skull. As if his features have been sanded away—with a supple sheet of human leather laminated over the holes.

Vi hears a throaty giggle from the EP woman next to the guy. The woman has, Vi now realizes, a face like the man’s: a Zen garden of blank mounds and blind hollows, framed by her ratty blonde do.

Vi’s stomach turns; she tastes acid in her throat. The mannequin-like EPs have their heads cocked at snotty, confrontational angles. And now the mouthless man speaks. He’s humming from his throat, vibrating his skin.

“Take the magic egg, Vi.” His voice is a damp flutter. “In the back.”

With a machined thunk, the trunk of the idling white Mercedes pops open.

The EP woman is throat singing too, but not in words. Her grainy croon rises and falls. The EP man yodels a warped, screwed recitative—too fast to understand. Like a magic spell.

“Wick!” calls Vi.

Finally in action, Wick is out of their car. He makes his way to the rear of the Mercedes and reaches into the trunk.

“Score!” he calls to Vi, holding up a leathery little ball like a turtle egg.

Vi runs to their car and throws herself into the driver’s seat. Clumsy with panic, she presses the gas too hard, and she rear-ends the Mercedes. As if weightless, the vehicle skitters forward, hops the railing, coasts outward, and hangs in the air, thirty yards beyond the edge of the cliff. It’s not really a car.

The Mercedes-thing swathes itself in translucent shells of colored light. It makes a sound like neon bacon in an X-ray pan. The faceless man and woman stick their arms out the side windows. Their fingers grow and branch, silhouetted against the sky and sea, with the twig-tips sputtering black sparks. The vehicle expands like a trick reflection from a concave mirror..

As the phantom passes through Vi’s body she feels a sense of—exhilaration. Like an ozone gasp of Alpine air.

“A taste of the raw Conway space plenum,” babbles Wick, who feels it too. “The primeval quintessence. Absolute infinity, unmodified. Foof!”

The tingly sensation fades, along with any vestige of the alien craft. Vi is alone with Wick in her car. Time to go home. She sets the car into motion, and finds her way to Ocean Street—which injects them into Route 17, bound for their house in Los Perros.

“So what happened?” Vi asks Wick.

“It’s because I finally understood the math seminar,” says Wick, quietly exultant. “We found a cascade of diffeomorphisms that maps from there to here.”

“Give me an answer with no math.”

“I’m a beacon. I glow. The plenum scouts came to me. Riding that Mercedes like a UFO with my magic egg in the trunk.” Wick keeps shifting the little ball from one hand to the other, as if weighing it. “Not literally an egg, I hope. More like a capsule is what I’m thinking. With special stuff in it. They call it smeel. And once it gets out—” Wick’s voice trails off.

“This is a horrible,” says Vi. “A nightmare.”

“A dream come true,” says Wick.

2. Wick

Despite his show of bravado, Wick is afraid. The ball from the aliens has an adhesive quality against his palms. Like a barnacle wanting to settle onto a rock. Like a leech that’s ready to dig in.

He isn’t fully clear what the smeel is supposed to do. Surely Ma’al the anemone and the scouts explained this at the seminar—but it’s hazy. Something to do with the scale axis.

According to Wick’s papers, physical space is a transfinite, absolutely continuous Conway space, a plenum extending through every size level. Very few read Conway’s seminal On Numbers and Games, some read Donald Knuth’s Surreal Numbers, and nobody reads Wick. Such is the fate
of genius.

But now, yes, someone does care about his work! Off in some bizarre cranny of Conway space, Ma’al the alien anemone sensed Wick’s thoughts and dreams. And with mad recklessness, Wick has guided the space scouts here. Did they make some kind of deal?

Anxious Wick feels an overwhelming need for a session of deep meditation—what Vi would call a nap. But he doesn’t dare annoy her more than he already has. Nor, as a matter of fact, does he want to take the risk that the leathery ball’s tissues might, say, grow all over the surface of his body and transform him into a paralyzed stash of living food.

And so, during the half hour drive to Los Perros, Wick fills the car with what he imagines is cheerful chatter about his philosophy of the absolute scale-free continuum. It doesn’t go over.

“Put that sick egg on the charcoal grill and torch it,” says Vi as they pull into their driveway.

“No!” cries Wick. “How can you say that?”

Their house is on a slope, with a carport and a guest room beneath the main house and its deck. Beside the carport, amid straggling bamboo,  a small chicken coop houses a cock and a hen.

“Wrap the egg in newspaper,” instructs Vi as she kills her car’s engine. “Drench it in charcoal lighter. Ftoom! I mean it.”

“It’s valuable,” protests Wick, keeping the egg out of her reach. “Full of smeel. I’ll let our chickens watch over it.” His lips feel numb and his voice sounds quacky. His body feels overly tuned. Maybe some of that smeel is seeping through the egg’s rubbery shell.

Moving fast, Wick goes into the chicken coop and  nestles his wondrous egg on a clump of dirty straw. The cock and the hen don’t like it. They squawk and flap; they scratch compulsively at the dirt.

“You’re hopeless,” says Vi, nearly in tears. She stumps up the front steps to their house’s main door. Slam.

Wick takes the downstairs door into the guest room, flops onto the bed, and falls instantly asleep. He’s back in the seminar room. Break time. The semi-familiar figures are chatting. All along he’s been thinking of them as lumpy, shaggy mathematicians. But none of their shapes is right. They’re not humans at all. Funny he hadn’t noticed this before.

The massive, purplish-green anemone named Ma’al squats against a wall, feeding on a large smoked salmon, that is, the faces at the tips of the anemone’s feelers are nibbling at the pink flesh. Wick’s father’s face isn’t there anymore.

Maybe the food isn’t salmon. Maybe it’s Pop’s body. Like Jesus? Dies in the vest. Wick and Pop argued the week before Pop died—and Wick still feels bad about it. He peers at the salmon that might be Pop’s corpse.

“A treat to your taste?” says the faceless and deeply tanned entitled prick from the Mercedes. The plenum scout, with his partner at his side. Him with his gold retro watch, her with the expensive bedhead do. Wick wonders what they really look like. Or if that question makes sense.

“The egg you gave us,” begins Wick. “You say it’s full of smeel. But I can’t remember what smeel does.”

“Always happens when we make deals with low rezzers like you,” rasps the woman. As before, her face vibrates the sounds. “You goobs wave with it when you’re on the dark dream. But when you come down, you’re jaggy and lost. Voxelated. No flow. Mental gaps. Empty Dedekind cuts.”

“Smeel lets you control size scale with your eyes,” interrupts the smooth-faced man. “I’m Qoph and she’s Fonna.”

“I’m Wick.”

“We know,” says Qoph. “We had this conversation before.”

“Wick’s a lightweight,” says Fonna. “He’ll never learn to drift.”

“I fully understand the scale-free nature of Conway space,” insists Wick. “Down past the fractions and the irrationals, past the infinitesimals, past the reciprocals of the transfinite alefs. And upwards just the same.”

“A sniff of smeel, and you’re at the wheel,” Qoph says in an encouraging tone..

“I’d like to be,” says Wick. “I’d like having smeel. But what do you want? I forget.”

“We want to settle into your and Vi’s niche,” said faceless Fonna, with a toss of her tousled head. “Qoph and I will move to your level. Imitate you. So you and Vi have to clear out. Okay?”

“More of us will come later,” puts in Qoph. “Ma’al the anemone is heavily promoting Los Perros. Thanks to your mighty mind, Wick.”

Wick feels very uneasy. “And that egg is what Vi and I get in return?”

“The egg’s just a sample,” says Fonna.  “A taste. Once we close,  you and Vi get a keg of smeel.”

“A small keg,” puts in Qoph. “Round, with a handle and a nozzle. About six inches across.”

“Ample supply for wandering Conway levels,” says Fonna. “Wick and Vi sniffing out a new home! What an adventure!”

“This is a dream,” says Wick, not liking this. “It’s a dream and it’s not true.”

“We’ll be with your chickens in the coop when you wake,” says Fonna. “Ready to move in! We’ll peck open your sample egg of smeel. It’s a gas, gas, gas.” She does a giggle thing in her throat.

“Raw smeel,” adds Qoph. “Slippery. Tingly. Potentiating scale transformations.”

“Should our goob friends shrink or should they grow?” Fonna asks Qoph, pertly cocking her head as if in thought.

“Big is small,” observes Qoph with a shrug. “Small is big. Conway space has no standard meter. Right, Wick?”

“Main thing is that Wick and Vi will be clearing out,” repeats Fonna. She glares at Wick—or surely she would be glaring, if she had a face and eyes.   “O. U. T.”

“This is all wrong!” cries Wick.

“So right,” says Fonna.

All the creatures in the so-called seminar room are laughing at Wick. Including Ma’al the anemone, waving her stalks in glee. Wick looks again at the little objects in the glass cases. Those aren’t math models. Those are 3D images of houses. And this is a real estate agency.

Fonna flips into a fake flirtation routine.  She puts her arms around Wick. “Don’t fret, dear man,” she hums. “You’ll find someplace else. If you’re good, I might come visit you. We could have a fling.”  She moves closer, as if meaning to kiss him. But she doesn’t have lips. She’s a skin-covered skull with big hair.

Wick wakes with a strangled scream. Outside in the coop, the chickens are going wild. Crowing and cackling. Wick’s heart sinks when he sees that an extra hen and rooster have appeared. The new chickens are going after the leathery egg. Pecking the hell out of it.

The egg pops with a tiny sound, very clear, very precise, as if demarcating the end of Wick’s old life.

A heavy, amber gas oozes from the sagging egg.. It curls through the air like whiskey in water, an exquisite tangle of fanciful swirls. Smeel. It drifts into the guest room as if the house’s wall weren’t even there—and enters Wick’s body.

It’s near the end of the long summer day. The most gorgeous day Wick has ever known. The chickens are calm. He looks around the shabby guest room, perfect in every way, beautiful beyond imagining. He hears Vi moving around upstairs, perhaps making supper, perhaps not angry at him. Her sounds are intricate, delicate, refined. He’s in paradise.

Wick feels he can nudge the size scale with his eyes.  He narrows his gaze and—he’s a two-legged ant on the rumpled rug. Whoops! He widens his vision and he’s  back to normal size, no, bigger than that, he’s a gawky giant who hunches to fit below the low ceiling.

Here comes a sharp knock on the door to the yard. Wick’s smeel-rush fades, and he’s his own right size. Opens the door. It’s a man and a woman in business-casual summer attire, their voices  garbled. Qoph and Fonna.

They have features now. Standard-issue Los Perros entitled pricks who might be tech execs or heavy-hitter realtors. And a minute ago they were the extra chickens in the coop. And before that, they were Conway space scouts in the phantom Mercedes.

“So we’re ready to wrap this up,” says Qoph.

“I’m stoked,” says Fonna. “Ma’al has been pitching your place bigtime.”

Qoph holds up an amber plastic sphere with a hand-grip and a screw-capped snout. “Smeel keg!” he says. “Do you love it? You and Vi can go scouting. “Like newlyweds.”

But Fonna is frowning as she looks around. “I can’t believe Ma’al said this place has vintage charm,” she says. “It’s—shoddy. Grotty. The ceiling so low.”

“We’ll give it a try,” says Qoph. “A starter home. Gets into the Los Perros loop while we learn to blend in. Did you hear Ma’al say you can model a human personality as a Baire set of cardinality alef-three, Fonna?. Fun!”

Fonna is scowling. “I’m telling you now, if we acquire this this shitbox, we raze and rebuild.”

“Can do,” says the equable Qoph. “Ready to close, Wick? Go ahead, take the smeel keg. With that in hand, you and Vi can rove. Take a shot at being high plenum drifters.  Hell, you can take our Mercedes if you like.”

“We don’t really have to give them all that,” Fonna says to Qoph. “We could just kill them. That’s what some of the scouts do.”

“Not our style!” booms Qoph. “I’m giving Wick his keg, you bet! And, hey Wick, I picked up on you jiggling your scale just now. You’re born to be a scout, no doubt. So don’t harsh the man’s buzz, Fonna.”

Fonna switches gears. “There’s some especially nice territory if you scale down from here by a factor of -alef-two,” she trills. “Go homesteading among the wee!”

“That’s where you’ll find planet Gnab, as a matter of fact,” adds Qoph. “Where Fonna and I used to live. Take your smeel keg to wriggly old Ma’al, pay her a squirt, and she’ll show you the way to Gnab.”

“What’s Gnab like?” asks Wick, curious despite himself.

“Mostly water, with lush islands. No cities. Maybe a little like your South Pacific atolls. There’s some local humanoid Gnabbies. Fonna and I used to eat them. We were flying jellyfish there, you understand.”

“It’s an easy pattern to instantiate,” says Fonna. “Ma’al can show you that too.”

“Sounds fun,” says Wick, his voice flat. “But, um, Vi might not like it.”

Buk-buk,” squawks Fonna,  as if annoyed by Wick’s hesitation. She drifts back into chicken mode and begins scratching the guest room floor with a large, clawed foot. As if hoping to turn up worms. Worms like Wick and Vi.

Wick wishes this was a bad dream.  But it’s not. He’s here, and it’s real, and he can’t wake up.

Qoph’s face is beginning to flow. He’s remodeling himself to look like Wick. And Fonna—oh god, she’s changing into Vi.

“Does this work for you?” asks Fonna, cozying up to Wick once more. “As a mating trigger? Do you want to make love?”

Wick emits a sob of terror. He was a fool to have gotten himself and Vi into this.

“What’s happening?” calls the real Vi from upstairs.

“You wait here,” Wick tells the Conway space scouts. “I’ll talk to my wife. We’ll see what we can work out.”

He runs upstairs. The unwanted visitors stay downstairs, softly clucking to each other.

3. Vi

Giddy from the smeel, Vi is taking Wick’s ideas to heart. She likes them. Space is a glittering continuum that runs up and down, from Nothing to Everything, with stars twinkling within our very bodies, the stars like plankton in the sea, like spangles on an scarf. Yes.

Wick has been yelling at someone downstairs, and now he stumbles up the basement steps, carrying a six-inch ball of—piss? He trips on the top step, and falls flat on his face, still clutching his ball.

“What if I sink right through the floor?” says Wick, lying there. “Thanks to the smeel. I could dissolve.”

“Stand up, Wick. It’s scary when old men fall.”

Laboriously he gets to his feet. “The entitled pricks want to replace us, Vi. They want to move in. We’re supposed to trade our lives for this keg of smeel.”

“I thought I heard them,” says Vi. “The ones from the car?”

“Yeah,” says Wick. “At first they didn’t have faces. Then they were chickens in our coop. And now they look like you and me. Qoph and Fonna.”

“Here to live our lives?” goes Vi. She half-thinks this is a joke. “Why bother. It’d be a laugh to see them try and put on Christmas for our kids..”

“They want to be us, and we’re supposed to move to planet Gnab,” says Wick. “Scaling down by a factor of alef-two. I don’t want to do it, Vi. I’m scared.”

Vi looks out the window, thinking things over.

“Look,” she says after a bit. “If those entitled pricks can look like us, and if they can look like chickens, then they can look like anything at all. They can move here, fine.  But there’s no reason they have to replace us in particular. To hell with that. I’m not moving to fafa-two or whatever it is..”

“You go tell them that,” says Wick. “I’m not good at making deals.”

“Vi will fix.”

“Thank you.”. They go downstairs.

Vi starts right in on Qoph and Fonna. “You two look like crap. Like inflatable love-dolls. Like plastic masks. Uncanny valley, guys. Nobody will go for it. People will snub you. Being Wick and Vi is harder than you think.”

“We can do it,” insists Qoph. “You’re just a fractal Baire set of cardinality alef-three.”

“Fafa three? Ha. We’re deeper than you can ever know. You should imitate something easy. More your speed.”

Qoph is taken aback. Vi has him worried. “What if—what if we came here and lived as chickens?” he suggests.

“Are you crazy?” interrupts Fonna. “The chicken coop is even worse than this shitty house.”

“So rude,” says Vi. “Fact is, you’re not classy enough for our house, Fonna. Although, yes, the chickens are worse.”

“We’re not gonna just up and leave,” says Fonna.

“Be wasps!” intones Vi. She leans forward for emphasis, and stares into Fonna’s bogus face. “Yellow jackets. The most gorgeous creatures on our globe. Shiny and lethal. Like flying motorcycles. Amazing colony scene. They have underground burrows in our patch of bamboo. Yellow jackets’ bodies are striped, and their wings are iridescent. Ultra-chic.”

“Show them to me,” says Fonna.

“I’ll lure some to our deck,” says Wick. “Come on upstairs.”

Wick brings a chunk of smoked salmon from the fridge and sets it on a saucer on the railing.

It’s dusk, the time of day when the wasps fly back to their nests in the dirt of the bamboo patch. They notice the salmon smell right away, and five or six of them land on the pink flesh. The wasps are dainty, with elegantly curved surfaces, cool compound eyes, intricate legs, expressive antennae.

“I love them!” exclaims Fonna.

“You can replace the queen of a wasp colony right now,” says Vi. “The queen’s larger than the others.”

“What about me?” says Qoph.

“You can be a sexless drone,” says Fonna, needling him. “Or a male who dies after inseminating his queen.”

“No, no, Qoph can be the queen of his own colony,” says Wick. “Give this  scout a break. There’s at least three colonies in the bamboo, Fonna. I was looking at them the other day, wondering what to do. If you guys take over, you can get order the colonies not to land on our food while we eat. Win win.”

“Live in separate colonies,,” muses Qoph. “I like it. Fonna and I can have full-on wars instead of bickering.”

“Sting, sting, sting!” goes Fonna, taking to the plan as well. “We’ll invade other colonies and take slaves. Summary executions! Royal jelly!”

“Sweet,” goes Qoph. His eyes play across the rickety, unpainted deck. “I hope you’re not disappointed, Wick and Vi. I know it would be signal honor to have us assume your roles in the Los Perros ecosystem. But your house, it’s—”

“Beneath our status,” says Fonna, fully into her entitled prick mode..

“How did you two ever get so snotty?” asks Vi.

“We could ask you the same,” says Fonna. “Just remember: quite recently we were dreaded flying jellyfish on Gnab.”

“And before that we were writhing Conway space flaws,” says Qoph. “Like cosmic strings.”

“Titanic centipedes,” says Fonna. “Alef-seven miles long!” Briefly she pauses, coolly gazing at Wick and Vi. “But that’s enough about us. Toodle-oo, low peasants.”

The odd beings’ bodies flex, flow, warp, and rescale. And now they’re wasp queens. Vi has a fleeting urge to swat them, but surely this would end in tears.

The queens rise with the other wasps, angling through the dying rays of sun, threading through the bamboo shoots to their new homes—two of the underground wasp nests, larva-filled burrows in the dirt. They’ll decapitate the resident queens, and begin their reigns.

“Room for all of us,” says Wick. “As above, so below.”

“You and me,” says Vi. “In our substandard home.”

“And look,” says Wick. “They left us our keg of smeel. Let’s take a hit.” He releases a puff of the dense, amber gas. Like a cosmic bong. The aethereal substance percolates through bodies, like mist through trees.

Vi flops into a deck chair and stares at the railing, pushing and pulling against it with her eye-beams. Her body waxes and wanes. Wick’s doing the same. Getting the hang of it..

“Should we should go further?” asks Wick.

“Not yet,” says Vi.  “Let’s be ordinary for now. Let’s go inside and make love.”

Copyright (C) Rudy Rucker 2022. An early draft of this story appeared in Big Echo in October, 2020.

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