Here’s one for you.
There was this song playing throughout existence. It was new to some and ancient to others, known to a few and a mystery to the rest. It had permeated every available air-wave. In our infinite universe, it was heard an infinite number of times until the right person heard it.
~ * ~
# A sight for sore eyes to the blind would be awful majestic… #
Majestic means one important thing, to both myself and Jeff Fisher. It is our inspiration, our reason, to return to a better way of life. I have set in motion my plan to find Womble and resume our adventures. My interlude has come to an end. I negotiated with machines of war, I danced with beings long since deceased and I read stories that truly are best left shelved. My appetite for alcohol has been sated and I have emerged on the other side. There remains little to do now but listen:
Listen to the music broadcasting from my ship. It’s incomplete, of course, and it is that which irks me more than its repetition. The five minute song is missing its iconic 30 second guitar solo, a deliberate omission into which Womble can make his reply. Had I known I’d have to endure my third favourite song being butchered like this, I might have left Womble behind with a slightly better plan.
Listen to the engines as we drift gently through the voids of time and space. They generate nothing more than a low level background hum, like a giant elevator with its unique version of music, completely underwhelming their dimension-thwarting abilities. I just so happened to notice it in the quiet between the penultimate and final lines.
Listen to the voices of the universe. Something I’ve always been able to do, thanks to the ‘universal residue’ trick. I keep meaning to come up with a better name, like ‘telepathy’, except it’s not thoughts I can hear. It’s memories. Like History whispering in my ear.
It currently says nothing of my friend. Although it is more than difficult to measure such things, by my count and by way of time travel contradictions, it’s been nearly twenty years since I turned away from Womble, Nibbles and the Daedalus. We’ve been apart before but this is different. Sometimes it isn’t what you’re hearing, but the lack of it. This extended absence appears to me as deliberate, the quiet of somebody hiding, not just otherwise engaged. In essence, the precise opposite of what I’m currently doing.
A lot can happen in twenty years, even more than that can occur in twenty seconds and for whatever reason Womble has obscured himself from the rest of reality. I’d like to know what that reason was. To that end, and to make sure Womble doesn’t just reply for the hell of it, I’ve added a last-minute addition to the plan. You see my friends, this particular song comes spring-loaded.
It’ll also cut out a lot of unnecessary travelling. For me, anyway.
# I’d rather be dreaming of someone, than living aloooooooooooooooone… #
Where there had been silence a few hundred times before, a guitar chord sliced into the silence. I remained where I was, sitting on the floor with my back to the console, grinning like a lunatic. My friend played the solo perfectly, carving each chord through the ship, matched note-to-note with my memory. My blood chilled the same like the first time I heard it, with the unparalleled satisfaction that the song was complete and my friend had been found. The last-minute addition – some would call it a “trap” – activated. A teleport feedback loop acquired the source of the reply message and did what all teleports love to do:
A few feet in front of me, Womble popped into existence, still holding his guitar and still playing the final chords, his eyes closed. Part of me considered it, but ultimately, nothing could have made me stop him. My best friend playing my third favourite song; it was easily the best thing to happen since he left.
Womble freed the final note and let the last of the lyrics play, interrupted by my personal applause. His eyes opened to the sound and his guitar slowly lowered. He fixed me a Look which was, no other word for it, weird. What made it worse was I did the exact same thing in reverse. The excitement of the music over, my residue ability caught up with me and every single one of my instincts set up warning signs. This was Womble…and yet most definitely not Womble. It was like watching a well-known film played in the mirror. It’s almost right, but not quite.
And because the universe has never made itself easy to understand, the entire situation was equally improved and muddled by the real Womble crashing through the door. Definitely him this time. I recognised the chaos, not so much the new coat.
“We’ve talked about this!” Womble roared. Completely ignoring me, Womble grabbed his doppelganger by the scruff of the neck and hauled them out the same door he’d just barged through. With that, he slammed the door behind him, paused, and opened it again.
“And give back my headphones!”
Slam. Pause. Turn.
“He’s new,” Womble said. Not since “The End” have two words closed a matter so definitively.
I still had my eyes on the door. “We are in the Time Vortex right now.”
“He’ll be fine.” Womble waved an airy hand and took the nearest seat.
You don’t get to my age without learning that, just sometimes, you don’t need to ask. Except no matter when your birthday is, age and instinct don’t always agree. I myself felt it necessary to ask at least one question and I’d better make it a good one.
“Fifteen-all in mad tennis,” I muttered and leaned over the console. Odyssey quietly working in the background had located where we had stolen the “Other Womble” from. I shrugged and set it as our destination. It’s been too long since our last mystery tour and there’s literally no time quite like the present.
“You’ve redecorated then.”
I glanced around the room. “It’s a totally different ship. And, you’re one to talk,” I added, noting his new attire. It was difficult to discern where stitching stopped and the actual material began – Cinderella, eat your heart out.
“Any reason it’s shaped like a shark?”
“Just wanted to tick something off the list.” A simple, boyhood desire I’ve had ever since our trip to Melancholy Hill.
My console screen came to life, with the usual read-out of information pertaining to our newest location. I gave it glance, as Womble retrieved the dropped guitar. The word “science” appeared more than a few times. I decided to spend my one question. This one felt like it might actually go somewhere.
“Does the word Aperture mean anything to you?”
~ * ~
There’s no finite conclusion, here. I have lived long enough to know finality is just a pipe dream. Personally, I think Wax Fang sang it best:
If you’re searching the lines for a point, well you’ve probably missed it. There was never anything there in the first place.
There are ways of reaching someone when they’re lost. Sometimes all it takes is the knowledge that there’s someone else looking for them.
There was this song playing throughout the universe…