The Joneses #23

The Ghost in the Gaps

“So, what are these things called again?” Wolf asked Holly.
“Elder Gods,” she replied.
“Like Lovecraft?” Luna said.
“Correct. People are under the impression Lovecraft and his proteges wrote fiction.”
“He didn’t?”
“Have you ever seen a picture of him? That’s the face of a man who’s seen some things.”
“Okay, so what are we supposed to do?” Wolf asked. “I say we go underground until it blows over.”
“And come back to what?” Holly replied. “There won’t be anything after they’ve come through.”
“Then what?”
“We fight.”
“We fight gods?”
“They’re not really gods.”
“Sounds like they might as well be.”
“Family Jones,” Lovelace burst from the flight the cabin, “you need to see this.”
They walked with Lovelace back to the cabin and every computer screen was blinking out numbers.
“What the hell is this?” Wolf asked Lovelace. “Were you messing around with your computer voodoo powers?”
“No, ass, they just started doing that,” Lovelace protested.
Wolf tapped at the screens and the computers continued to relay their message. He punched at the console. Luna pulled him back.
“Does that ever work, hon?” she asked.
“Sometimes,” he replied.
Holly down and waved her hands around the holographic interface.
“I can’t regain control,” she said. She turned in her chair and looked to Lovelace. “Your turn.”
Lovelace put her hands to the panel. A purple light spread out. She shook her head and pulled her hands back.
“Shit, man,” Wolf groaned, “this is a new ship.”
“It’s coming in from the outside,” Lovelace said.
“Can you cut it off?” Luna asked.
“The ship’s systems have security out the ass and the signal is still getting through. I doubt we could do much more.”
“Their coordinates,” Holly said, staring at the screens. “Coordinates in space and a time. Three hours from now. The coordinates are about that far from here at top speed.”
“A rendezvous?” Luna asked.
“With who?” Wolf asked.
Holly was quiet for a moment, “The ghost in the gaps.”
“Great, brand new ship and it’s haunted,” Wolf threw his hands.
“I’m talking about the gaps in our memories. I think this is connected.”
“Best theory I’ve heard so far,” Lovelace said, looking at Wolf and Luna.
Wolf and Luna looked at each and Luna shrugged.
“Okay,” Wolf said. “Get strapped. We’re going.”

Ellers walked around one of her wetware doppelgangers, primping its hair, smoothing its clothing and touching up its makeup as it stared ahead, lifeless. She walked around the room waving her hands. Fountains and flowers erupted in her wake. Vines climbed the walls and blossomed in blue and violet. Colored lights of the same color sparkled under the fountains that sprayed out deep hued diamonds high into the air. The leaves of towering trees caught the droplet and they hung fat, but not falling, refracting the light.
“Her favorite colors,” she said to herself, shaking out her nervous hands. “I hope she got the message. Of course, she did. She’s smart. Smart enough not to heed a strange signal for a rendezvous in deep space. Would you stop? She’ll be here, she’ll know somewhere inside. She’s with the Joneses. Those people are like bulls in a china shop. They’re crazy enough to come.”
“Would you listen to yourself,” her doppelganger sprung to life. “When has Cheryl Ellers ever preened like a schoolgirl worried about whether her date will show up.”
Cheryl stormed over to her doppelganger, “Shit, I’m going to have to run another defrag.”
“The time between defrags is getting shorter and shorter. How long do think you have?”
“Long enough.”
“You lasted a lot longer than you should have.”
“Who are you to say how long I should live?”
“You. Admit it. You know it’s coming. You’re tired. You can barely hold it together. The longer you go the bigger you have to get and you just don’t have the energy to hold it all together.”
“I’m fine.”
“I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. That’s quote that’s going to outlive you. They should write it on your tombstone.”
“I am fine.”
“You cut out the memories of everyone you ever gave a shit about. Albeit that’s not many. An ego your size only has space for one person, really.”
“I archived them. I can access those memories any time I want.”
“And do you?”
“What difference does it make?”
“If you access them you’ll realize just how empty the millennia have been. You’ll know it’s time to end it and your ego can’t handle it so it won’t let you access them. Your ego, the densest firewall in the galaxy. You can gild this lily all you want, but it’s wilting.”
“Stop it.”
“Entropy, entropy, entropy for you and me.”
“Run defrag,” she shouted.

“You think we’re walking into something,” Luna asked.
“We’re always walking into something,” Wolf answered with a mouthful of eggroll.
“Not with our daughter in tow.”
“Are you nervous?”
“Of course, I’m nervous, Wolf, she’s our daughter.”
“If you want my opinion, the girl has her shit together.”
“I know, but I can’t help it.”
“And she’s a chip off the old block. Didn’t she run off to become the next Jobs, Musk, or Ellers and what did she do? Wound up in sleazy bars looking for an old enemy of ours.”
“That’s another thing. Lovelace? Do you trust her?”
“She seems different now that Yalda is out of the picture, but the point I’m trying to make is, she saw that something needed fixing and threw caution to the wind to fix it.”
“Telling me my daughter throws caution to the wind isn’t helping.”
“She does it for the right reasons. That’s what you should remember. You should be proud of her.”
“I am. She’s a good kid.”
“Kid. Isn’t she in her fifties?”
Luna gave Wolf a playful slap on the shoulder. He pulled her in and they started kissing.
“Ugh,” Lovelace said in the doorway of the lounge. “If you two aren’t too busy pawing each other, we’re here.”

Wolf and Luna entered the flight cabin. Outside the windows, there was nothing but the empty void of space.
“There’s nothing here,” Wolf said.
“Not nothing,” Holly said pointing to a screen.
The screen showed a large energy anomaly right in front of them.
“What is it?” Wolf asked.
“I don’t know but it’s colossal,” Holly replied.
Wolf leaned on the glass of the window, squinted into the blackness. From nowhere a rococo city began to appear, of deep hues and gold. It was a black, star-speckled veil was being pulled away.
“How about that shit?” Wolf said.
“It’s beautiful,” Luna said. “What’s it doing out here?”
“What’s the population of that place?”
“I’m just getting a single energy signature,” Holly replied. “One, enormous energy signature.”
“Take us in.”
Holly took the ship closer to the sprawling metropolis.
“What’s it like out there?” Wolf asked.
“I’m reading zero atmosphere,” Holly paused. “Check that. An Earth-like atmosphere just coalesced around us.”
“Whatever’s down there, clearly knows we’re here,” Luna said.
“Where should I go? This place is huge.”
“When in doubt I always aim for the biggest guy,” Wolf said. “Take us near that tower in the middle.”
The toward was surrounded by a densely wooded park. As the Starcrossed approached the tree near the entrance folded back and merged with the ground. The landscape smoothed and a spike emerged to reach the ship like a hand. It formed into a level platform. The ship set down on it.
Wolf and Luna donned their masks and helmets and took the lead. They descended the gangway and walked onto the platform. Holly and Lovelace followed. They took a deep breath.
“It’s fine,” Holly said.
“It looks fine,” Wolf said. “Don’t be fooled by looks.”
The edge of the platform twisted and narrowed. It descended to the ground and merged with it like a wax sculpture melting in reverse. It formed ridges that hardened its edges into a staircase. They walked down and approached the entrance. A set of double doors extended up the side of the several meters. The doors opened.
Inside was awash in blue and purple flowers and fountains spraying tinted water.
“I like the color scheme,” Lovelace said.
A human female walked toward them. Lovelace looked at her like she was trying to work out a puzzle.
“Who are you?” she asked.
The woman snapped her fingers. A smile tore across Lovelace’s face, followed by a wave of rage. She slapped the woman.
“You know I can just turn off my sensory apparatus before you make contact,” she said.
“How dare you do that to me?” Lovelace cried. “I thought I was going crazy.”
“I was kind of counting on that.”
“Miss Ellers,” Holly said. “The ghost in the gaps.”
“Yeah,” Ellers gave them a coy grin.
Wolf strode toward her and jabbed his finger at her face, “You fuck with my brain again and I will find a way to end you...this...whatever you are.”
“That’s fair, but you can all be angry with me later,” Ellers said. “We have a much bigger problem.”
“The elder gods,” Holly said.
“You’re too smart for your own good, kiddo. Take it from one who knows.”
Lovelace jabbed Ellers in the shoulder, weeping, “Why?”
“It was for your own protection, but that time is over. They know you know. We’ll talk and I’ll explain everything as soon as our last guest arrives.”
“Ellers,” called a voice from above. “You’re a pain in my ass, you know that.” Ray glided down a draft of wind and landed, walking toward Ellers. “You better have a good explanation for tampering with my memories.”
“I do. Let’s talk. We don't have a lot of time.”