Gorey held a funeral party for Gorey, he’d decided to end it. He called his trusted colleagues Herbert and Kirk to his lonesome tower on the big horizon. It was just his apartment, on the top floor of the lone building in the long valley that survived the stupid flood. Gorey designed the tower himself. When he tried to get people to live in it, they laughed at him, saying why would we live so high, and pull our bodies and local produce up the floors by your ridiculous pully-system? They kicked and spit and laughed at him. They taunted him by feminizing his first name from Eddie to Edie. He was not offended by their ignorant response, but he did not like the pointing fingers of the townspeople. When the flood came most of them were wiped away, reaching up towards his building, not remembering what to call him, yelling, Edie, Edie, Edie until they were just a small part of the big sea.
When Herbert moved here he installed microphones into every known crevice of his split level ranch, out in the wide plains. He soundproofed the walls so full of foam that when the big stupid flood washed away his new town his house popped off its foundation into a boat, his unwittingly airtight vessel. Before the flood he spent all of his days digging through video and audio samples of his daily routines, cutting them into tiny pieces, and feeding them to a synth modulator to make music from. There is an entire ten-track album of him chewing, entitled Mouth Suite. His house was both instrument and dungeon. His private place and a place too private for him to withstand.
The great sonic reinforcement saved Herbert’s life’s work, but now untethered from land, he was without electricity, so he dipped deeply into the private stock of rums, waiting for an electrician to show up. When his houseboat crashed into the lone tower, he saw that bearded wizard prowling around. Then the wizard, Gorey, saw him. Each man raised their hand at the other, staring blankly, then the old man in the tower nodded, and waved Herbert in.
As of late Herbert had befriended a cricket who couldn’t stop whispering in his ear. It was distracting his work prior to the flood, and became his only solace afterward. They’re conversations went on for hours, often only about the particular wobbling sound the cricket could make with a single leg. As Gorey waved him in he pointed to his shoulder and mouthed, and the cricket too? The old man inside the tower shrugged this off as if to say, why the blorg not.
Roland Kirk Junior had long been stuck in the body of a sixteen year old. He played a classic body switch game years before, and won or lost depending on the day one asked him. The teen that he switched with lost Kirk’s body on a camping trip to a forest monster. So Kirk remained in the body of young Steggle Thorman. He rebelled against Steggle’s fresh-faced outer appearance and unsoiled organs by smoking lavender dipped cigars in a near constant state of delirious drunkenness. He moved out of Steggle’s house, in a violent screaming match with Mr. and Mrs. Thorman that tracked surprisingly well as a teenage rebellion.
Kirk moved into Space Mountain, back to his glass house, a marvel that stuck out of the jagged rock, which contained his ghost laboratory and his spaceship. Before the flood came he left the planet for a disco in the Nebular system. He lost his whole crew in a dance bet, and returned to his hometown to find it waterlogged, soggy, lifeless. Even his body’s biological creators, the Thormans were gone. After he cleared his way through some debris he saw the silhouettes of his two future besties up high in the lonesome tower on the big horizon. He didn’t ring the bell to let them know he was out there. He flew back to his glass house, then put on a light show. When the top floor of the tall building across the valley started blinking its lights on and off, he knew they knew.
On the long table in his giant dining room the trio studied the map for their campaign. It had gone on like this the past year. Herbert held a microphone and tried to capture various guzzles as he slugged his own bottle. Kirk slurped wine coolers at the table’s head, drawing characters and naming his friend’s future destroyers. Gorey had tilted back a bottle of poison in front of his friends before, but cracking a second bottle made even Herbert stop paying attention to his own body for a moment.
You serious abouts this funeral party, Gore? asks Herbert.
Serious as an underwater snail, chaps, says Gorey.
Well I think you’ve got it all wrong, says Herbert.
Tell you what, says the old man in the child’s body, let’s make it a contest.
Make what a contest? asks Herbert.
The campaign, says the man child.
What are your stakes? asks Gorey.
Oh, only everything, says Kirk Junior. If I survive, we fly off planet for good.
And what if he concludes our story, Gorey nods to Herbert.
If I wrap it up, says Herbert, we turn this tower into a boat. The professors looked at Gorey, who was spinning a wooden nickel over a drawing of a large roach eating a bag of crisps.
Oh, do you need a response? Ha, if I survive this riddle... we die, says Gorey. We, drink ourselves under. Here. Now.
What the men found, after the flood, spiraling around their planet in Kirk Junior’s space machine was an endless ocean beyond the valley where Gorey’s tower stood. The men believed they were all that was left of life here. Though they did not cover every inch of the planet, what was left was almost entirely water and after flying a great distance, they decided to turn back before losing the direction for the one home they knew. It was only a matter of time before Gorey longed for something else, and now he was ready to move onto another dimensional plane altogether.
Very well, says the old man with the death wish, let’s begin.
It is a dark mountain, says Kirk Junior.
Is there a flood? asks Gorey.
Listen, you know where we left off, says Kirk.
You were an Orbling, weren’t you Kirk, says Herbert, or some such creature of the night. He plucks a string of floss looped around a tooth recording into a handheld device.
Yes, says Kirk, I am known to live off the blood of the living, whilst caring for my worms.
The worms that mine the blood? asks Gorey
Yes, those are the worms, says Kirk, my pretties mine the blood of the living, and I eat the worms once they’re full like leeches.
But they’re not leeches? Asks Herbert.
Yes, to be clear, they’re not leeches, says Kirk.
Because they’re worms, says Gorey.
Do you fellows want to begin this campaign, or not? demands Kirk Junior.
Well, says Herbert, I imagine we’ll have to at some point. Or the game itself might be our end. He motions to Gorey, slurping another guzzle of poison back, spilling a cup’s worth into his beard. He rings out the hair over the bottle to salvage what spilled.
We begin on a dark mountain, says Kirk Junior.
Anything like the mountain where you park that ridiculous ship? asks Gorey. The teenage face of professor Kirk beats red, a kettle set to boil. A tantrum brews beneath his many freckles.
Alright, alright, walk us through -
Dark mountain, says Kirk Junior. The Habbleknots are knocking on our doorstep. We’ve held ourselves up in the mines of Curbleslorm. A demony demon known as the Cham-cham has dug a powerful series of tunnels where it hibernates for decades on end. These are the tunnels we’ll need to navigate to escape the Habbleknots when they break down our door.
The mountain has a door? Asks Gorey.
Enough, says Herbert.
It’s a big door. It was manufactured in the days of firebreathers and the long-nightfishers, when the dogs bit back, and the women had six hands and birthed double babies with deep green skin.
I remember those ones, says Herbert.
Oh, me too, says Gorey, toasting to the air.
We have to go deep into the cave, says Kirk.
I nominate you, Roland, says Herbert, to lead our expedition.
My name. Is Emerald, Capricornious Mufflington, shouts Kirk.
Listen, Muffington. We’re nominating you, says Herbert, laughing and patting the pubescent shoulder of his old friend.
What the devil is that, says Gorey, suddenly clear-eyed, as if the buzzard had swallowed a marble.
What’s what? Says Herbert. A shadow dashes across their faces between them and the sun. In the hot heat of this old valley Gorey’s windows are open to every element unless it is raining sideways (the acid stains his leather, and he’d rather not put up with it). A winged thing, says the old buzzard.
What thing? Asks Herbert.
Out the window, old boy, says Gorey.
What are you on about? Asks Kirk. Then, a second flash of shadow between them and their sun. This time all three see it: A bird flying across the day sky.
Where’d that devil come from, says Gorey.
It’s impossible, says Kirk.
What’ll we do? Asks Herbert.
The bearded professor, Eddie Gorey puts down his poison, slamming it against the glass top of his decadent dining table. Your ship ready, old man, he asks Kirk.
Is the campaign over? asks the body switcher.
You’ve won, mate, says Gorey. Maybe we all just did.