The cough dropped. It tasted of lemon.He spat it out. A frog followed after, leaping out of his throat.
‘You are ident-scanned. Egg-head 52 from the Pick-Up; material from the loom stitched with needles culled from The Pinnacle.’
‘Thanks, this was registered as an event on the Anachronistic Register Extant, so I dialled in through the sub-text, and here I am. Pablum Grisfleur at your service. You’re a Bloop Hen, aren’t you?’
‘Blue Pen Designation Twelve, good friend of Tendrel Plaint.’
‘Why are you here?’
‘Met a guy in a bar.’
‘How did you know?’
‘Ah, well, stories like this are full of convergences, aren’t they?’
‘Are they? You just sent a Free Roaming Observation Grabber out into the environment, and dropped a viral flowing cough plant. What do you think you are going to find?’
‘Well, this place, Epilogue, is twinned with Eschaton, isn’t it? And the only reason a Bloop Hen, and one associated with Tendrel Plaint, would be in this place, is because there is an unauthorized edit in progress.’
The Hen smiled – it looked awkward.
‘So where is your Headitor? You’re on a pretty tight Consequence Leash whenever you’re active in the field, right.’
‘Right. So, what kind of Egg-Head has access to an ARE?’
‘I’m a Grey Flower, and I work in one of the Grey Libraries, so I have access to all kinds of books. All the world’s a page, you know.’
‘I think that quote is wrong.’
‘Maybe for you. Look, I dug around and I discovered that the only reason someone would want to be in this localspace time sector is to for an Essential Reaping. I couldn’t determine which one, though. I only know that it isn’t Quint.’
‘It’s Finn Essential – his grandfather; so-called because he ate a Salmon Of Knowledge, just like his great ancestor that built The Giant’s Causeway.’
A jagged line cracked down through the air in front of them. A Reaper Puss stepped through.
‘Cat’s Pause? Here? Weird.’
‘Why weird, Grey Flower? You know that a lot of those who work in the reality field have a terrible tendency to pun about everything – Reaper Puss equals Repurpose – they’re sent out from The Litter Box, the Castle where the Indeterminate Cat exists – in recent years he hooked up with Anti Reality Enterprises and they have been working on collapsing probability waves in ways that favour themselves.’
‘And that has actually had some kind of effect on the Central Narrative that circumvents The Blockchain? I thought that was an Inviolate Narrative.’
‘Sure, but with these guys – the Essentials, something else is going on. The Essentials are stressors on the fabric of reality, so if you hit them you cause the kind of damage a normal death wouldn’t achieve.’
‘So that building?’
‘Didn’t look like it before.’
‘It’s superpositional, so it is, in some sense every house. The ingress from the Cat is affecting that, so that they can kill him.’
A tall thin exclamation mark of a man stepped into the room, and a slightly shorter man with tall hair followed him.
‘I am Carter Brecht, Reality Engineer, and this is Tendrel Plaint. Hello, Pablum. Hello Twelve. That’s Finn I’m waving to over there. Hello Kitty.’
‘Fuck you, Reality Engineer. I am Felix Brill, of The Cat’s Pause. What’s the idea here, this looks like a trap?’
‘Well, that is the idea. We placed a hook in the ideational space, and you my friend have been snagged.’
‘Well, through you, an agent of The Collapsing Wave, we can uncollapse the wave. I had Tendrel here helping me out, and his Bloop Hen created a false check-in for Finn’s death – we knew if you could mask the assassination of an Essential you would.’
‘Who told you?’
‘Oh, a Salmon whispered to a Carp, and word got to a dragon, who I met in a car park.’
‘Yes, this world may be burning, but the avatar of that doesn’t want the universe to burn.’
‘It will burn.’
‘You misunderstand everything, cat. The world is on fire, but it will never burn – because it is eternal. When people talk of the end in fire they are making a mistake; they are really remembering a warning about the end of fire, and the lights going out. You look at the meat and mistake it for the spark animating the meat. The man that wrote of the burning world got caught in the illusion of the flames, that is all. People often do.’
The cat yowled. Pablum Grisfleur took his notes. Carter Brecht boxed the cat.The Bloop Hen and The Headitor left. Finn Essential cracked open a cold tinny and took a drink.