The Fringe

I realize that I may not be speaking for everybody on this issue, but most of my life has not been spent in the lap of Luxury, spoiled by social and financial privilege among The Beautiful People.

My gramma used to say Water seeks its own level. I always found the coolest treasures at Low Tide. The Stuff that got left Behind. Castaways, Castoffs, The Broken, The Orphaned, The Dropped and The Lost. Stragglers who missed the Warning Bell. They called out to me. They knew me by my name, and I knew them by sight.

“Hi, my name is Darcy and I am a Lost Soul.”

“Hello Darcy” the group droned in a mocking parody of All Twelve-Step Program introductions before breaking into raucous laughter. She had stood up suddenly in front of the backlit waterfall that had been constructed inside a sort of grotto of Banyan trees that had formed the canopy that shielded it from the sky and sun on even the brightest days. It was an impromptu audience of maybe six people or so that happened to be in the general area at the time, yet they seemed to chime in as if on cue, or perhaps it was a pre-determined straight line to set up their chorale if and when such a remark presented the opportunity…a comedic wave, if you will. They were visibly and audibly self-impressed by the success of this…shtick they had jointly constructed, and it was very obvious that humor was held in the highest regard within this camp. She grinned a sideways banana-eaters’ display of dental hygiene at its best as she shook her head wildly, throwing her long, straight blonde hair in every direction. It had been six months since she had come to Florida, and this was the first place she had been since she got there that even remotely interested her on this level. It was good to shake off the stuffy airs of pretentiousness that surround most professional research facilities. They usually failed to effectively account for the ubiquitous wild cards that often gravitate to scientific research in the first place. Next she shook her entire body like a Cuban Merengue dancer, arms and legs wide apart, as if to embrace the world. At least for a moment, she had found a niche. And if that niche just happened to be a deck of wild cards she was a whole deck of Queens of Hearts.

“…no offense, but that’s also pretty much the way I find most of my friends….” (To No One in Particular.)

“…and none taken, Darcy. In fact, that is usually the way most of my Parishioners find me. My name is Ashtar. Welcome to the Home for Wayward Souls. My friends call me Ash.” He had approached her from behind, silently as she spun around at the sound of his voice. He extended his hand to Darcy, which she grabbed with her left hand as she placed it on her left hip while she grasped his left hip with her right hand, pulling him to her so she could whisper in his ear.

“I’ve heard so much about you from Mark…I will most certainly call you Ash then, as I know we are going to be really good friends.” Darcy was on a roll, cocked and locked and ready to rock. Everything about this place exhilarated her, body, mind and soul alike.

With that, she nuzzled his earlobe gently as Ash tried to discern if she really had dragged her tongue across it as she spoke.

Ash blushed slightly as their eyes met, but Darcy just smiled like a Cheshire cat, knowingly, yet ever so enigmatically.

Like perfume on a light summer breeze, Kali encircled Ash and Darcy with a touch as light as a languid, caressing tickle. She was of average height, full-figured, fair of skin and dark of hair and eyes. She focused her attention on Darcy with wide, knowing eyes so affectionate and engaging that Darcy shivered slightly as if her optic nerve had suddenly been short-circuited to her clitoris.

“Mark has spoken so highly of you that I couldn’t wait to meet you. In fact, I planned to visit the Sanctuary on Monday just to find out more about the woman who has captivated our Mark.”

Kali winked at Darcy so slowly and affectionately that Darcy felt as if she was being willingly hypnotized…and seduced. It was a feeling she embraced like a child stepping into the van of a familiar stranger with candy.

“Where ever are my manners? Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Kali and I am just so glad to meet you. Our home is also our retreat…in days long gone, we would have called it our Church, but it has been Ash’s experience that some words are so likely to be misunderstood that they are best not used at all, just to avoid confusion and too many apologies or explanations…the accommodations are not lavish, but you are welcome to come anytime and stay as late or long as you wish. Please feel free to help yourself to whatever pleases you. There is plenty to eat or drink and no shortage of every sort of companionship, conversation, or entertainment you desire…and if you don’t see it don’t hesitate to ask…you may be surprised.”

“Oh yes, and one more thing…speaking of labels…some of us may be married to others of us, but we all are also nonetheless co-conspirators of common mind and interests in pursuit of Polyamory. Here there is no need to hold back your impulses, desires, or your heart. Sometimes I come on too strong for some people, but I have learned to trust my instincts…so know that you are among friends, because I want us to be the very best of friends.”

As Kali spoke, it was like listening to the purring of a large feral cat. Her expressions were beguiling, and her movements choreographed by Salome. She held out her arms to embrace Darcy, gliding forward until their bodies touched as Kali flipped her head to the side, simultaneously tossing her hair away from her face and placing her mouth over Darcy’s. Her lips were full and moist and parted so slightly as her tongue lightly darted out to part them. Darcy lifted her hand to caress Kali’s face. They lingered for a moment as knowing looks were exchanged, and as suddenly as she had appeared, she was gone, floating away to mingle with the others, leaving Darcy standing next to Ash, her mouth slightly agape, as a slight smile blossomed into a wide grin, her arms hanging by her side. Her face and neck were flushed and she suddenly realized how wet she had become.

Ash smiled and winked at her.

“And that, my dear was Kali. I know her well enough to venture that she is quite fascinated with you, and if my instincts are right, it is mutual. Mark and I are like brothers who share everything together. I would be remiss not to mention that I can see why he is so attracted to you, or that I share your desire that we should be the very best of friends. I applaud your choice of words, by the way…it is an expression that has become something of a term of art here…The Very Best of Friends…Kali could not have heard you, and if she had, would not intend to mock you. It is an expression whose definition you will find, becomes more limitless by the day.”

By the time that Darcy saw Mark again, he was talking with Merle, a pharmacist who worked for PharmaCorp, the parent company that had most recently acquired The Habitat and turned it into a primate research facility. Frederick was gingerly approaching Merle from the safety of Mark’s lap, only to turn and run several times. For his young age, he was quite adventurous and securely attached, but as soon as he caught sight of Darcy, all other interests were swept away as he ran straight to her, leaping into her arms, and hugging her tightly. Lilith would never have let anyone but Darcy leave the Habitat with Frederick, and it had taken Darcy several months of preparation, with increased duration and distance before she ever dared to go this far away. Mark had assured her that it was the perfect atmosphere for Frederick, as most of the grounds were landscaped tropical jungle. They both knew that Management would never be able to make a decision to let him off the premises, so they just neglected to ask.

While Darcy and Frederick exchanged signs and kisses, Mark drew Darcy and Frederick into the conversation, introducing Merle in the process.

“Hey, Babe. What do you think about the place so far? Frederick has been flipping out over the foliage, and I can barely keep him out of the trees. I’ve never seen him grin so much, and I can barely keep up with his signing. He’s very excited.” (Early on they had recognized that the same harnesses that had been in vogue in the 50’s to help restrain children, especially in public places would be the best way to protect Frederick any time they took him outdoors. A forty foot leash gave him enough range to roam comfortably, and most of the time they didn’t need it, as he tended to stay close in unfamiliar territory.) “Oh yeah, excuse me Darcy, this is Merle, one of the Pharmacists I told you about. Merle, this is Darcy…”

“Nice to meet you, at last, Darcy…You’re something of a celebrity in these circles, especially since Mark can’t seem to stop talking about you…and now I see why.”

“We were just discussing Merle’s latest discovery…courtesy of PharmaCorp…they were researching a new variety of anti-depressants. Turned out that one of the formulae has a bi-product that is just an analog isomer of the final product. It gets thrown out whenever they make a batch, but Merle discovered…well speculated at first, and it turned out he was right. The primary bi-product produces an effect on the brain that resembles a cross between Molly and electrical stimulation of the left parietal region…”

“…the God Phenomenon? Fucking brilliant…wow! Plus pure MDMA? Must be like the best Acid trip you ever had with a side of Yopo…”

“…well, that was a crude analogy on my part…Merle says it has to be experienced to really know…of course. And gratefully, it contains nothing that even resembles MDMA that could get it labeled as such, and it’s not in the least illegal…at least not yet, if we can keep a lid on this…but…Ash has already taken it. In fact he’s on it right now…so is Merle, and they are convinced it’s The Sacrament…”

“I prefer to think of it as the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil…I keep thinking about the part in the Bible were God says ‘they think they are as we’, also implying a polytheistic view in the beginning of the Old Testament…way before the trinity…some people want to see God…others prefer to be God…in a half-dozen trials so far, it seems to be very flexible…as far as connecting the missing parts of any of our subjective realities…to give continuity to all things you see. I am Blissed beyond description…and charmed by your countenance, I might add.” Merle spoke in such calm, measured tones that Darcy and Mark hung on every word.

As Merle spoke, he began slowly standing up, or at least it seemed slowly, considering that Merle had been sitting cross-legged on top of a high-cut tree stump, and simply straightening out his long, lanky legs to stand up looked like an unending process, even though he accomplished the task effortlessly, with the grace of a crane. He was well over six and a half feet tall, somewhat thin, but wiry and almost too good-looking for a man. He wore a sort of Kaftan, or robe of some kind that bore designs unfamiliar to either Mark or Darcy. There was a sort of refined aboriginal look about it, as if it was a synthesis of several systems of hieroglyphs. Darcy and Merle just smiled knowingly at each other. She smiled reflexively, as she often did any time she saw a man taller than her near-six-foot stance, and he because he already knew how she felt…that all people either very short or very tall felt. The remarks (in good humor, but tiresomely inane), the looks they could feel whenever they stood up, or entered a room, or the isolation that one experiences every time you have to either stand on your toes, bend down, or otherwise attempt to either make eye contact, kiss, or align yourself in some way as to be on their (everyone else’s) level.

“It’s a good thing we’re outdoors…Ain’t you one long drink of water?!” Darcy quipped.

“I bet you play basketball…” Merle retorted.

How’s the weather up there?” Darcy asked.

“If you stand up too fast, do you ever get nosebleeds?”

“Wow! They should put a red light on your head to warn low-flying aircraft.”

“You have the most beautiful eyes…How’s that for one we don’t usually hear?”

Darcy gasped slightly, or perhaps she was afraid she did, as she found herself looking upwards into Merle’s eyes. Egyptian blue, which markedly contrasted his dark, almost black straight hair. Merle was Apache, except for his curiously blue eyes, (courtesy of one of his grandmother’s indiscretions, he was told). Darcy had become accustomed to only making that kind of eye contact in bed. This was proving to be one of the most interesting days she could remember in a long time, and for her that was saying something.

“At least that is how it appeared to me, and since I live here, take it on good advice, not for nothing considering how much weird shit I see around here all the time, but this day is special…speaking of bad manners, you’d think I was raised in the jungle or something…Please allow me to introduce myself…I am your narrator for this portion of your edification, enlightenment, and entertainment. I am Raul, a Cuban Tree Frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis).”

(Camera zooms out to reveal that last shot was over-the shoulder POV of small frog clinging to the bark on the trunk of a banyan tree. Next zoom in on eye of frog until all is black…)

“Hey! You don’t need five million dollars worth of special effects to suggest to you that you simply imagine, do you?…Go ahead, Reading could use a quantum leap like that in its conceptual development too…and so could we all.”

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