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In a strange land.



Life In Limbo

There's fog everywhere. Silvery. Like ethereal steel. It is cold, but, oddly, dry. There's no sensation of moisture. No humidity. As he walks, he tries to spot a familiar landmark. Any landmark. But all there is fog. And behind the fog, just more fog. No buildings, no trees, no cars, no people. No sounds. It is deathly silent. He can't even hear the sound of his own breathing, which is quite disconcerting.
    But not as disconcerting as looking down.
    There's no ground, either. Just more fog, and his feet walking on the fog.
    "Pretty freaky, huh?"
    He turns quickly, fog swirling about him. Leaning, but not leaning against anything, is man. He is probably in his mid-40s, with thinning brown hair, a thin face, a gangly body. He is wearing black slacks, beaten wingtips, and a navy blue turtleneck. Long sideburns frame his jaw. A filterless cigarette dangles from his lip. It bobs up and down when talks.
    "I'm Gary," he says. "Who you?"
    "Victor," the first man admits. "Victor Dumas. What..." Dumas stops and thinks for an instant, "Where are we?" He asks. He studies the man and wonders for a moment if this is some sort of psychotropic drug induced torture session being conducted by the Soviets. God knows they would do anything to get their hands on the plans for the Aegis armor or even the transdimensional vibrational attunement device.
    Gary grins, letting out a little snicker. "You're new here, then. That's cool, man. Happens to us all eventually, I guess." He takes a drag on the cigarette and exhales. The smoke vanishes, mixing in with the omnipresent fog. "We ain't anywhere, man. This is Nowhere, with a big en. Limbo, and not the dance. Can't see how low you can go here, because there's no difference between low, high, up, down." Gary pauses, studying Dumas's expression.
    "You do realize you're dead, don't you? Man, you must be, like, real new here. Sometimes when you die quick, the fact of it don't sink in right away."
    "Preposterous. Nonsense. Indeed. Dead. Psshh." He paused and then continued, "good sir, I am a man of science. Their is no afterlife. Well at least not in any sense that the average man would think. Their are however a myriad of dimensions that make up the multiverse. I have traveled to other dimensions myself. This.." He waves his hand at the air. " nothing more than a trick or if it were real, then its just a overlapping universe with its own laws and fundamental rules. Rule are what I live by and rules are what I win by."
    Victor turns away and starts to study the area with his scientific mind.
    Gary rolls his eyes and shakes his hands in mock awe. "Oooh. A man of science," he says sarcastically. "Man, the only cats I ever meet who can't tell fact from fiction are men of science. Look around, man, look around."
    And Dumas does. There is no ground. No sky. No buildings, no odors, no sounds but those made by him and Gary.
    "I'm guessing you died because you're too smart to see the forest for the trees," Gary continues. "The average man in all times in all places has believed in an afterlife, man. But you, the man of science, you've figured out that all them millions of cats are wrong and you're right."
    As Dumas tries to ignore Gary and examine the situation empirically, something makes him uneasy, something he can't quite put his fingers on, at least not yet.
    "That's hubris, man," Gary explains. "Just like in Milton. Paradise lost because a cat's too proud to accept it for what it is. You're looking a bit bothered, man. I think you're startin to notice."
    And, then, Dumas does notice. He's not breathing. There's not even any sense of involutary motor activity of the diaphragm. One hand leaps to the other wrist. No pulse, either. Dumas looks from his wrist to Gary. Gary smiles knowingly.
    As a million different possibilities race through Victor's head his mind draws him towards the one object of the two that are before him.
    "Very well 'Gary.' Lets assume that I am dead then. Are you dead as well and then where are we? Is this heaven or hell, and if so where is the supreme being or his counterpart. The god or devil?" Dumas asked.
    Gary grins. "Yeah, I'm dead. Heroin overdose, man. Christmas eve, 1953. Holidays got a little too happy. And I told you where we're at, man. We're Nowhere. This ain't heaven or hell. You so good you think you get to heaven? You so bad you deserve hell, man? No God or Devil here. Just us dead, lost cats."
    Always intrigued by a puzzle, whether it be a trap or not, Victor continued his line of questioning, "Where is everyone else then? Or are we the only two here? Please do tell me everything you know of the denizens of this dimension and the universe we are in itself." Dumas turned his full attention towards Gary. Gary takes another drag on the cigarette. Dumas notices that it doesn't seem to be getting any shorter as Gary smokes it. More gray smoke is exhaled to vanish into the silvery mist.
    "Everyone else? Not sure about everyone, man," Gary starts. "They're around, but not all them want to be found. Nowhere's funny like that. If you don't want to see no one, no one can find you. Most just wander around, like, lost. kinda sad. 'Course, being dead has a way of depressing a cat. I mean, this ain't exactly a real hip scene. Some cats here are okay, though. Like me, for instance. And maybe you. You're a little uptight, but seem basically cool. Others, though, the ones that don't like company but don't hide from company, they can be downright mean. Don't think they could kill a cat, since we already dead, but, man, they can sure make you hurt." Gary stops leaning against the fog, stretches his back, and scratches his head. "Don't know much about this 'dimension' or whatever you want to call it. I mean, it's Nowhere, man. Near as I can figure, we're stuck between Here and There, whatever that means. It's like this, man. At least I think it is. Sometimes, a cat can find, like, a door. The door always goes back Here, back to the land of the living, terra firma, man. You go through the door, you're a ghost, man. No one can see you or hear you, but sometimes people and animals, especially animals, they can pick up your vibe, man. Good vibe, bad vibe, all depends on how groovy the cat is."
    Another drag on the cigarette. More gray smoke vanishes.
    "Freaky, huh?"
    "Freakish indeed Gary. You mentioned that sometimes will find a doorway to the land of the living. Do you know where these doors are or someone who might know?" Victor had to ask. It was only human to fight to survive. Apparently even after dying.
    Gary shrugs. "The door change. Open and close. We can search around if you want. I mean, it like I got anything better to do, man. Pick a direction, man."
    Dumas does, and Gary begins to walk that way, tossing his cigarette behind him. It vanishes into the mist. Before he's taken two more steps, another cigarette, lit and glowing, is in his hand.
    "Part of my self-image, I guess," Gary says. "Can't quit now, even I wanted to. It's like some habits just stick around, man."
    And so the strange pair—the scientist and the beatnik—walk on nothing through the silvery fog of Nowhere. They travel in silence for a time, but, perhaps appropriately, Dumas can't get a very good sense of just how much time. Faintly, the sound of chimes floats to Dumas's ears.
    "Oh wow, man," Gary comments, stopping. "You hear that, man? The chimes, I mean. Stay on your toes, man. We're gettin close to Catharsis House, man. That place is heavy, heavy. Intense vibes, man, and not all of them good."
    "Please explain what Catharsis House is if you would?" Victor asked while readying himself for anything that might come at them in this strange place.

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