under the direction of
/ / / / / / // Chapter 14: // / / / / / /
"I... I can't believe it!" Spencer was hugging his sister; she knew who he was now, too. She was still different; Spencer supposed she'd never be the same, but he didnt' care. She was his friend now, and she had parents and a brother who loved her, which was all, she discovered, that she'd ever wanted. She explained how the man in the black cloak was the one who sent her back to the bowl, and she'd started making the Bean Friends again, no longer remembering her time outside the factory.
Some time later, they found Richard, too. He seemed the only one not to have regained his memory entirely; he was quiet and kind, as he had never been before, and though he remembered some of his past he still carried with him the look of someone that was not completely in touch with his past and his world. Sometime after they found their friends again and began talking, Belisse turned and walked out of the subway.
"Free admission," the lady at the counter said when they'd asked about tickets for the next U-train to Sphere. "There was some guy came in and paid for every seat on those two trains, and told us to let anyone on that was headed for East Oaks, whatever that is, and that's where you guys said you're going, so you don't pay."
"Bobworld train boarding, please board quickly, and be ready to display your passes to the train attendant." The U-train pulled up with a whoosh of electric speed, the loud grind of brakes, the clack of the train's wheels as they met the rails. They were headed north and slightly uphill, as it looked from the way the track was sitting.
The Bobblins were finishing boarding their train as the U-train that would take the East Oaks students home pulled up. A woman's voice buzzed over a loudspeaker perched high on the wall and at the far end of te station. "Ok, this is a capacity 600 train, so you'll all need to fill up the cars about as much as you can. Once the six cars have been filled up, we'll pull another six up and have you board those." The doors slid open, and people immediately began to push themselves onto the trains. Spencer vaguely thought that this might be a trap, but he ignored hismelf.
* * * *
They didn't make the first train out, but Paul, Spencer, Tiffany, and Richard were all sitting together as the 3:15 U-train finally began its journey, which was around 3:35. It was only then Paul and Spencer remembered questions that they should have been dying to ask the moment they saw the kids at the station.
"How did you get here, I mean, out of the bowl and in the station?"
"Funny thing, I don't remember."
"What about your memory? When did you get that back?"
"I don't remember that either."
"Heh." Spencer breathed a little chuckle;
"I guess we'll never know, then."
They talked for some time while they were on the train, then, being very tired, Paul and Spencer slept a little.
When they woke up, Spencer looked at his watch and told Paul that it was now 4:30 in the morning. It took Paul a few seconds to realize what Spencer was saying, but when he did, he sat up. The train was still moving swiftly; their ride wasn't over yet. Paul turned to Spencer. "I was just thinking. What do you think people's reactions will be, I mean, when they see us coming back and our story?" The sentance sparked a lively discussion, in which Paul was sure they'd all get in a big war with Bobblinland, and Spencer thought they'd drop it all and give him and Paul a hero's welcome. Either way, it seemde like soemtihng exciting was up, and that this event would change the way a lot of people thought about thing,s maybe even about life. No longer would there be problems with overcrowding, provided Belisse succeeded in driving out the Bobblins from this place.
"Who knows how or what people will think," Spencer said, blinking, then yawning. "I don't know if we should even tell them the truth about this place, what we did. Who knows what kind of crazy things we'd be letting in if we suddenly opened our whole world to World Navel U-trains?"
"If it were just us, I'd say you were absolutely right. But there are a whole school of people here, and there's no way they'd believe any story we could make up about the whole school disapearing, so we may as well tell them the whole crazy truth, and have them not believe us that way."
"Yeah. It's too bad, too. We could have been big heroes if people would believe us."
"Maybe. But even so, look at your classmates, they've all gained new friendships, and a love of work and teamwork. You know how valuable that is? That's better than rewards or space or anything else, in my opinion. I've looked at the records of every school in the State of Virginia, and no establishment holds a candle to what you guys learned here. I may have to come join you in public school, now that there's goign to be a good one."
They continued to talk for another half hour, at which time the PA system sounded the call to stand and be ready to leave the train. The train stopped entirely, and after ten minutes of waiting, the PA system announced that cars 7 through 12, which included their car, were the next to be let off. Spencer stood first, and as the doors opened they stepped off the train and back into the tangled mess of ups and downs and all arounds that this World Navel station was. The sign above them read:
WELCOME TO SPHERE
EAST OAKS STATION - RED LINE
Spencer could not have been happier.
Kids were running, just dashing up the stairs. The calendar read October 19th, the day of the disappearance, and the kids all began to pile into their classes, looking at each other and knowing that they'd somehow been sent back to the very second before they'd left. Spencer had U.S. History 1st period. "Here, come to class with me," he told Paul, who agreed. Tiffany had a class in the Math department and left their company. Richard did not know to which classes he belonged, and so he was directed toward the office to get a copy of his schedule.
They were not talking to each other as the class began, but they were looking at each other, wondering each who would be the first to tell, or if the adults ever had to know.
As the bell rang for class to start, the students immediately burst forth - with meaningless chatter. The entire experience disappeared from their minds as the teacher started writing page numbers for their homework assignment on the board. Paul reached behind and pulled his History notebook out of his backpack. It did not seem strange to him that he should be going to school when he was usually at home this time of day; to the best of his knowledge, he'd never been home schooled. In fact, he'd never missed a day of school.
/ / / / / / // Chapter 15: // / / / / / /
When Spencer came home, his mother asked about the missing bowl.
"I really don't know where it's gone. No, I didn't take it to play with it or anything. Yes, I know that it's an old present, but this is the first I've heard of it being missing."
"Jones told me he'd come one day to pick up the bowl, I just thought maybe he'd stick around to say hello before going." Spencer's mom looked out the window in the kitchen that faced the backyard.
Spencer showed up at Paul's house at a quarter after four. Paul answered the door, already dressed in his best. "We're going to be late," He said to Spencer impatiently when Spencer got there. They had a play rehearsal at four-thirty.
There were two dozen people that showed up to the streetplay where they'd seen Atom and Eve, now looking no different than any other area of concrete, without its crowds and its makeshift curtain. The man that had approached them earlier was there. It was getting cold, and Spencer wished he'd put on a jacket before coming.
The people that were there were typically the kind of people Spencer saw at the plays - ten of them he'd seen in other plays and seemd to be regulars, the others seemd to be there, just like him and Paul, on the orders of the director. The Director stood up, and unzipped the green backpack that had been on the ground next to him. Out of it he drew a sizeable stack of papers, which he set down on the concrete before beginning to speak.
"Good, you're all here." Spencer noticed immediately that this man had been around the theatre; he was projecting his voice like an actor saying a line. "Now, I've got a couple things that I want to do today, and the first is to finish some casting. Those of you that I already talked to, you can go home now, we won't need you in this production of Food Fight". Half a dozen people picked up their things and left. Spencer wanted to ask why they weren't needed, but decided he'd better listen to the director.
"You said the name of the play was Food Fight?"
"Yes, that's it. A play discussing the psychological significance of the arcade original." Paul's face changed; he was now looking like a student in the presence of the sensai.
Paul immediately started into a string of questions relating to the particular aspects of "Food Fight" that had made it into the play. The director answered his every question with the same excited tone; no one in the crowd, Spencer excluded, found this in the least unusual or inconvenient.
Having finished their short discussion, which took about ten minutes, the director began to hand out parts. "I was only sure of two parts when I started this script, and the rest of you can choose which parts you want for yourselves." The director bent down and picked up the two scripts on the top of his pile and tossed them into the laps of Paul and Spencer. "I hope two of you will be familiar with the script when I talk to you next. I'll see you next Tuesday for your first rehearsal."
Paul stood and, clutching his script, left for home, Spencer tailing. It seemed to Spencer that this wasn't the first time Paul had been in a streetplay, though Spencer did not know how that was possible, since he'd known Paul for as long as the two of them had known about streetplays. Like so many other unexplainable things that had been happening, like Richard Gulch trying to be nice to him all of a sudden, he shrugged it off and forgot about it.
Their next rehearsals were pretty fun, though sometimes they took a lot of time, so long one time that Spencer was late for dinner. Paul had it easy, he only had to remember one line, and just had to keep saying it whenever Spencer addressed him. Spencer, though, had to memorize five lines, which didn't seem like a lot, but he was always saying them out of order, which, though he didn't see any difference, the director said was an absolute no-no. "You are the keystone of the entire play, your performance has got to reflect the psychology of the play as a whole." That's what Paul had told him; what it meant, Spencer was not sure.
At the end of six rehearsals, Paul and Spencer were asked to run through their material with the rest of the cast. They showed up at 7:00 and stayed till after dark. The director took the play from the top and Paul and Spencer's big scene, despite Spencer's slight reluctance to act, was met with enthusia and support by all. Though the scenes in which Paul and Specner appeared were at the beginning and their work was quickly done, they both stayed to see the rest of the play and give the same support to the rest of the cast that they'd been shown.
At the end of eight rehearsals, their scene was done, and they were asked to continue to practice their lines together and come back for the dress rehearsal in a week from Thursday. They did.
Spencer was hardly expecting the costume he got. His character's name was "Gordon," and he was listed first on the playbill. The clothes they had for him looked like they could have been normal-looking, slacks and polo shirt, had they not been made of enough fabric to clothe a 20-foot-tall man. He had some trouble getting into them, but once he had, the effect was instantaneous. He looked like a Gordon, and the reaction of the cast was also immediate. He was the perfect man for the part. Spencer couldn't remember when he'd felt prouder.
Paul's costume was a lab coat. His character's name was "David", and he was listed second on the playbill. Incidentally, the third person on the playbill was "Jones, Master of Worlds, not appearing in this production." Spencer thought it was all very strange, but Paul said that the director had told him it was the only proper way.
They came on and there were a few sitting where the audience was going to stand, and they applauded Paul and Spencer as they came on "stage". Neither Paul nor Spencer knew who they were, but they later learned that they were spouses and friends of other cast members.
They performed their scene, and stood silently for the next scene as the narrator introduced the main character, after that they slipped behind the curtain, where they remained for the remainder of the play, which lasted an additional ninety minutes. Back there, they silently played hangman with some other cast members using a pencil and notebook that Paul had brought for that very purpose.
At the end, the director was very pleased with everyone's performances, and was eager to begin the play tomorrow. He reminded everyone of the earlier than normal start time due to the time of year and gave everyone a performance schedule, indicating they should show up at least an hour early to get in costume, and told them, finally, to have fun, because that's what it was all about.
Early that next morning, Spencer and Paul were sitting in the back row of U.S. History, trying hard not to fall asleep as Mister Ferris prepared them for next eight weeks' new course material by giving a lecture on the accomplishments of the Presidents of the United States between 1844 and 1881. The first President of the time period was James K. Polk.
"There is a popular song that highlights the particular accomplishments of James Knox Polk very well. I've brought a tape of it to play in class."
As the song played, and Spencer chuckled, recognizing the band as one of his favorites, an administrator slipped into the room and whispered something in Mister Ferris's ear. When the song finished playing, Mister Ferris said, "Before I continue, I have a new student to introduce." A girl walked into the room, catching no one's eye. "Her name is Buleezy."
"It's Belisse." She seemed mild and a little nervous.
"Oh, I'm sorry, where are you from, Belisse?"
"I just moved from Vancouver."
"Oh, that's nice. Anyway, she's going to be joining us in class, I understand that she has already caught herself up on the material we covered. Now, find yourself a seat there and we'll continue. Those of you paying attention noticed that the song mentioned Matrin van Buren, who we've arelady studied. Since this is all in the same time period, when tensions were beginning to turn into what would eventually become the Civil War..."
Belisse walked to the back of the class, and sat down at the desk in between Paul and Spencer. "I decided to end my crusade against the Bobblins a little early. I figure as long as I'm here, guarding the front dor with you guys, they won't be coming back anytime soon."
Spencer burst out laughing. It was a laugh of relief. Suddenly everything was explained; he remembered where they'd been, what they'd done, and who this girl was that now sat next to him.
Something marvelous had occured, and though there only four poeple in the world that knew anything about it, that number would soon grow. Something was about to change at East Oaks. Nobody was to remember the whole story of what happened, except the three in the back row of Mister Ferris' 1st period, but it was to be something cherished and not forgotten for a long time to come.
Apparantly, Paul's memories returned, as well, because he, too, started laughing. Belisse started laughing. Mister Ferris slapped his ruler against his own desk.
"What exactly is so funny?" He was glaring at them; interrupting his lecture was not something he was fond of doing more than once a period.
"Never mind, Mister Ferris," Spencer said, still smiling. "I don't think you'd get it."
"Well, if it has something to do with James K. Polk, I'll be glad to hear it."
"It does! This lady saved the world from little green men, and I helped!" Someone else in the class burst out laughing. It was Wesley Morrison. Nobody ever paid much attention to Wesley Morrison. He turned around and winked at the three in the back row. Spencer smiled back.
Not replying, Mister Ferris pulled his eyes back to the front of the class and continued as though there had been no interruption. "Now, if you will please open your books to the beginning of chapter nineteen, and take out your homework, we'll begin correcting..."
Paul was writing something on his notebook, and silently tore off a little piece of paper, passing it over to Belisse on his right.
"Do you wat to go to a streetplay?" was all it read. Belisse nodded in response as Mister Ferris continued his lecture, not paying attention or not noticing what took place. Belisse turned to her right and smiled at Spencer. Spencer smiled back.
* * * *
It was half an hour before the play started, and people were aleady starting to show up. Paul was already in costume and behind the curtain, doubtless talking to Andrea, one of the other cast members with whom he spent almost as much time as he did with the director. Belisse had not shown up. The sun was shining behind the trees as it set; Spencer noticed it was no longer much like autumn. Only a few shriveled leaves remained on the trees now. The trees looked bare, as beautiful in their unadorned logic as anything can be, clear, and understandable.
Fifteen minutes until the play started, and Belisse was there. She walked right up to the front, and gave Spencer an energetic hug, which he returned. They talked some, and a girl came out from behind the curtain telling him they were ready for him to get in costume. He shouted back, "Ok!" then turned to Belisse again. "It's not like you to give up on a fight."
"How would you know? But you're right, it isn't. I think you're more important to me than the fight was. 'Friends above revenge' used to be a favorite saying of mine. I guess I didn't have the courage to live it until now."
"Friends? So that's what I am, a friend?"
Belisse only raised an eyebrow. Spencer laughed and went backstage. He put on his costume over his street clothes, which was pretty easy sinec his costume was far from tight.
One minute before he was supposed to be onstage. Spencer was getting nervous. There were a lot of people out there, people he'd never met. When he stepped out from behind that curtain, he'd have to do the scene he'd done over a hundred times by now, but he was going to have to do it, that one time, and not be distracted by whatever may be going on in the sometimes loud audience, and he was going to have to do it for Belisse, who was there in the front row, where she'd been for some time, waiting for the play to begin.
The director was now at the front of the audience, putting before them the poster-sized playbill, and announcing the play. Everyone applauded and he ducked, pointing to Spencer and Paul, mouthing "You're on." He then gave them the thumbs up, and Spencer and Paul appeared from behind the curtain to applause, which died down quickly, in anticipation of the play's opening lines. Belisse was glowing, the look in her eyes was one of wonder and admiration.
Spencer, as Gordon, walked toward one end of the stage, Paul following, and they Did their scene.
They walked to one end of the stage, and dropped their heads. Applause brought the narrator to the front of the stage, and behind him was the main character, Freddy Vigoro. After he was anounced, Paul and Spencer stepped behind the maroon curtain.
/ / / / / / // Chapter 16: // / / / / / /
"Time you said those things you've been wanting to say, before we go."
"Two old men in Scottish attire with Japanese platform shoes playing badminton with a large frozen strawberry."
Somewhere far away, a hyperactive nine-year-old named Daniel floated through the air of a dinner hall in which a wedding reception had been planned, its every detail set out, then forgotten.
He danced vigorously to music that was not playing on the understide of a large chandalier. Two or three small crystal jewels dropped from the chandalier and smashed on the ground below. Pleased with himself, he continued eating the wedding cake, and finished it not long after that.
Slowly, the lights dimmed in the dining hall. Daniel pulled on the doors; they were locked. He then sat down at the head of the long table, and made no further motions.
"That was really great, you two. I think we did very well, all things considered. Don't you?" They both nodded.
Jones, carrying his bowl, then began walking with them down the beach down which they had been walking when that first fateful "Brilliant!" was said. In the distance, the island with its fallen castle could be seen.