I don’t think I’m an exception in any case when I say I don’t like it when people hang up on me. I try to be solicitous and let people know when I’m leaving the conversation. I understand it when people have to go unexpectedly, but I like the whole, “Talk later,” or “Mm-bye,” or distracted whatnots that with their small rituals close the…well, yes, maybe I have a little bit of an obsession. Closing portals is what I do. I may be a one trick pony (you can see me waggling my eyebrows, right?) but it’s my trick, and I’m an awesome pony. Woman, get on my horse.

No, wait, that’s not what that phrase means. Any of them.


Starting over, yes, I might have a problem. I always get one step into those solutions, and then get lost. Sure, I admit I have this problem and then what? I should look up the second step, I think.

I don’t think there’s a twelve part program for quitting Dragons. Really, I don’t think I was ever addicted. Then I say something like, “They’re after *me*,” with a little bit of emphasis on that last word, and I sound like I’m in denial. You see my quandry? Of course, psychotherapy probably isn’t the solution. I could try and ask Peredur about his mother, maybe run the MMPI, see if there’s Rorschach analysis on the patterns of smoke damage he’d leave behind in disintegrating me… (And where’s my Acme Reintegrator Gun? It’s not like I don’t have enough life-shattering ka-booms!)

So, Sylvia. Boulder is at least an hour’s drive, and worse depending on weather and traffic. I had been trying to be gallant in offering her the ride, and, well, without being a “creeper” I was also aware that I had control of the transportation. That way we didn’t have to muss with parking logistics and the rest, especially knowing that her car was shared amongst her roommates and she’d been monopolizing it to take care of me. The practical side of it stunk, but I can do gallant, right?

I looked at the empty apartment and swore. I’d read Niven’s essay against teleportation at an early enough age that even were I a full-blown wizzy wiz McWiz (thanks, troll) I don’t think I’d be able to believe in such spells. I know that there are shortcuts with portals, but while it changed the measure of distance, I am also personally aware that opening and closing portals come with effects. Maggie and I had probably weakened some barrier near Sylvie’s place with our banishing of the -cubi. All of which was useless meandering because I wasn’t able to create portals, but trust me, worrying and wishing are like fraternal twins.

Maybe I misunderstood that last bit. Maybe her roommates grabbed her for a sorority tickling session, and she just dropped the phone and is too busy ripping off clothes and playing with pillows and feathers would be flying across the room, and… I don’t think my fantasies are particularly strange, actually, just my timing.

Switching my thoughts around at least 120 degrees (because 180 is just a mirror reflection and 270 is just weird), I called Ed.

After a few minutes of catching up, (“What have you been up to?” “Slaying dragons, I guess,” “I hear ya, we’ve all got our demons to face. [Epithet] those [bleepin’] pine beetles, by the way. Great convention but dismal prospects. So, is it time to schedule your biannual?”) I made my plea.

“This is going to sound kind of strange,” I warned him.

“E, as one of your friends, I’m kind of used to it by now. What is it? Multitentacular cloud babes from Jupiter? I think I’ve got a mixture for that.”

I found myself grinning. “You’re a good friend, Ed. I’ve a girl up near Sugarloaf.”

“Oh. Oh? And? She’s a cat vampire or something?” I think it was an anime reference.

“Nah, just a witch,” I said. “And something funny just went on, so what’ll be fifteen for you will be almost ninety for me. I’ll owe you one.”

“Another witch? Yeah, you’ll owe me. Well, I guess frogs are a kind of exterminator, too.”

I chuckled. I didn’t think Maggie could turn anyone into a frog, but who was I to put limits on her?

He mused for a moment and got the address. “Mrs. Mollins will be pleased if I can reschedule. I was going to interrupt her` Wheel of Fortune’ time or something. Um, E?” Ed sounded worried.

“Yeah?” Worried meant he was about to ask me something reasonable that had to do with the real world, and not wherever it was my brain usually functioned.

“Shouldn’t you be calling the police or something? I mean, if she’s got ants or any wiggly-nasties, I’ve probably got it. If she’s got, I don’t know, cultists or anything, I’m just another hostage.”

“You’re a good friend, Ed.” I sighed.

“You say that now. When you have to come rescue me and I make you pay up by buying the drinks and singing at karaoke, we’ll see what you think.” Ed has been trying to get me to do karaoke with him for ages now. Could be worse. Could be that he wanted me to go bowling. (Nothing against people who like it, but it’s super loud and those yawning pits where the pins go give me the heebie-jeebies.)

“Seriously, Ed, if there’s anything weird, call the police. I’m on my way now.” Well, I had to put on some clothes, but I cradled the phone against my ear with my shoulder and started the process by choosing a pair of pants.

“Anything weirder than you getting spooked and sending me to ogle your new girlfriend? I can handle that. I’m on the case, man.” He said his goodbyes, and I got dressed and into the rental, heading West.