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04.09.04 10:42 p.m.

In learning this path, it is only important to walk on the real ground, to act on the basis of reality. The slightest phoniness, and you fall into the realm of demons.  



Previously in Xenology: Xen was reticent about living in an apartment. Emily needed a place for her dog Missy.

All the Proof We Need
"I'm warning you Zack, I am massively apprehensive about this whole 'apartment' concept," I said on our drive up to see the place.
Dead flowers  
This apartment is full of life
As evidenced by the last entry, I was not precisely looking forward to this experience. I can't justify this; I was already committed to spending a good portion of my week there. Whether I truly liked it was insubstantial so my lack of choice should have been soothing.
"It'll be fine and you know it," he attempted to reason from the passenger's seat.
"I know nothing of the sort. I haven't seen this place, our landlord looked at me like I was made of mold, and I am nervous in a general way." When I exited the car to sign the lease, Emily assured me that the landlord looked as though I might was well be clad in spiked leather. I had my hair tied back and was wearing a turtleneck, this is as inoffensive as I get. Noticing that the exits were getting smaller, I asked, "Have we been driving for a while? It feels like I've been on the road for a long time."
"It's been five minutes," he assured me.
We parked at the Walden Diner, which Emily assured me is "seconds away" from our apartment. She was standing in front, motioning to us. Despite this, I overshot diner and ended up in the next parking lot.
We began to walk up the hill to a row of brick houses. My fear wasn't abating as readily as I had hoped, even with Emily giving a fond hug.
Motioning the largest, nicest of house of them all, I wisecracked, "Is that my new home, Emily?" After all, obnoxious sarcasm always makes the situation better.
"Yes. It is."
The Apartment
Have you ever seen a cartoon character express shock by levitating feet in the air, their jaw drop to the ground? I previously had always thought that this was just hyperbole.
"But... that's... it's... nice." Nice didn't accurately cover it once I felt even the slightest possession of the building. It is a Victorian house that was equal parts Anne of Green Gables and Psycho. To wit, it even had a spire in the center for that added Gothic appeal.
"Wait'll you see the inside," she grinned off my stupefaction.
The inside was spare but furnished, containing a loft bed, ratty easy chair that had seen better decades, and a blue sofa in the middle of the room. The ceiling was much higher than I expected, allowing one to stand atop the loft bed and not hit one's head (which could certainly have its future uses). The top foot and a half of the walls consists of floral filigree, appealing to my recherché sense of aesthetics.
"Are we allowed to paint?" I asked, eying the flowered filigree greedily.
"Yes, as long as it is white," Emily informed me.
"Oh... varying shades of white?" I continued, hoping to salvage my idea.
"Ecru is as dark as you are going," she assured me.
"Deep sadness. Nonetheless, I will willingly spend my time here once we get an Internet connection." Emily grabbed me and gave me a firm kiss.
Aw yeah
Releasing me, she wandered into the kitchen and added, "And we clean. The old hippies who lived here before us were not the fastidious types. We also need to get a bottom step for the loft bed, because there is no way for us to get up."
Having played role-playing video games a few times, I recognized this puzzle immediately. I pushed the couch over to the edge of the loft bed, creating the missing step.
"You found a secret area," exclaimed Zack, equally familiar with such games. He climbed onto the bare mattress and dangled his feet over. "What are you going to do about your dog, M?"
Emily jumped. "I didn't tell you! Her real owners came in today. It seems the woman who gave Missy to the shelter was supposed to be watching her while the family was on vacation and instead just left her at the shelter. Missy was the happiest I had ever seen her when the family came in. She was jumping around and peeing everywhere. Usually we ask people to provide us with vet records to prove they are the owners, but her pee was all the proof I needed."
Zack laughed heartily. "It's all the proof any of us need," he said as he slid onto the couch.
"Hey, is that a fold out couch?" I asked owing to the metallic clang produced when Zack flopped down. Shooing him off, I yanked the cushions away, revealing the metal frame. Zack helped me pull it out, producing a mattress that had either seen no use ever or so much use that it scars the mind to consider.
"That's where Keilaina will sleep when she visits," I joked only because she was absent.
"Well, we do know that she will sleep just about anywhere," teased Zack, poking fun at himself in the process.
Emily called from atop of the loft bed, "Who said she was invited here?"
I doubled over laughing at the rapid fire jabs at Keilaina. "Ow, burn! Well done, Emily. Keilaina will now know better than to ever not hang out with us when we are all together. Or maybe she will know better than to hang out with us at all because we are bad people. No matter, some lesson will be learned."

Which Is Just a Small Indication
"I just remembered what I had called to tell you before," Emily exclaimed after hearing my library spiel at work.
"What would that be?" I asked, adjusting the phone.
The carbon monoxide does strange things to your vision
"We can't live in the apartment for right now. See, it's full of carbon monoxide. It seems the heater broke and the landlord shut it off. Well, our genius neighbors downstairs were having a party and decided it was too cold. So they turned on the heater. I am just not comfortable with our neighbors having the ability to kill us in our sleep. And the cat! Seltzer definitely has to live at my parents' until this gets fixed."
"This is great with the sucking!" I proclaimed. I had just started really making a place for myself there.
"Do you know what the worst part is? I didn't even find this out from the landlord. Our neighbor Bart told me when I returned the phone he lent us. He said he is going to move out if this isn't fixed soon."
"If the carbon monoxide doesn't kill him first, you mean."
"Right. So I say we put a hold on moving any more furniture in until we can, you know, actually breathe the fucking air."
You might think that this greatly derailed out plans for living in the apartment, but this is where you would be wrong. It seems that, despite Bart's insistence that he was going to call and ream out our landlord for placing us in danger, our landlord had no idea about any of this and furthermore stated that the building's furnace did not produce carbon monoxide. Our neighbor, like many of the people in this town, merely has different ideas of what constitutes an objective reality.
It does bear remembering that Walden is just one town over from Pine Bush. There is obviously some manner of bleed over.

Soon in Xenology: Tutoring. The apartment. The Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

last watched: Labyrinth
reading: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale
listening: Cheap & Evil Girl
wanting: An internet connection.
moment of zen: Seeing a new home.
someday I must: Get an internet connection.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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