“Oh. My god.”
“What now, Dick?” sighed Anna, straining not to roll her eyes.
“That. Do you see that thing?”
Anna looked up at her (admittedly unfortunately-named and unfortunately bland) date. He was standing stock still in the middle of the sidewalk, apparently oblivious to the rushing nightlife crowd around them, and staring straight ahead.
Anna tried to stare too, peering through and around the bodies flowing past her. And yes, there was something in front of them. Something that looked quite like a praying mantis. Or, no, she thought, like a tree. And were those hands?
“Quick, Dick!…wait…*snirk*” Anna snirked.
“It’s the Mantis Lord! Get him!” Anna cried, tearing off her plainclothes to reveal a latex leotard.
Anna, aka Missus Wow!, flew at the Mantis Lord and threw him into a building with her super-strength.
“Aw, what, now? But we were on a date…fine.” Dick wiggled out of his clothes to reveal…a less-attractive latex suit. The Dickless Wonder aimed his palm at the Mantis Lord and prepared his laser beams.
Her scream pierced the night. Another damn nightmare. For weeks after that lousy date, Anna had been dreaming for that guy. Not that she was actually interested in him or his unfortunate name, he just kept appearing. She could go through the whole day without thinking about him, but every dream lead her back to that night and their plain simple date.
Still, she hadn’t seen anyone else since then. It was simply that no one else had come into her life, or so she told herself. Trisha from the office was still to get her second cousin Bill in town to meet Anna, but nothing had come of it. So instead she laid in her bed in the dark of night, terrified of her walking dream.
“Would you like that dream expunged? That awful date, those terrible comic book references? I can make that happen for you. No more nightmares and no more datey thoughts…for a price.”
She looked up, startled, from her bed at the hunched shape in the corner. Half convinced it was another dream, she would only say: “What price and who’s asking?”
“The Motley Man asks, and his price is quite reasonable,” came the oily-smooth reply. “Or would you rather go back to being Missus Wow to your awful date’s Dickless Wonder for the rest of your slumbering life?”
“All right,” she said. “I don’t care what the price is. Just take away the dreams and the memories of that date.”
“Deal,” said the Motley Man.
The memories were gone. The dreams were gone. But that, perhaps, was because she was now an inanimate bookshelf frozen in a silent scream.
Inanimate though she was, Anna was still aware. Trapped inside her head and inside another dream which was, if possible, worse. Time was wrong. She sat on a throne, that crooked Motley Man at her side bearing a tray of all manner of strange things and before her knelt a man.
“Who are you?” he asked. “Why can I not understand you?”
She laughed bitterly. “I do not even understand myself.”
“Please,” he said, “tell me, oh Time, how I can better understand you, better spend you, and better find you.”
The words rose as if she had been born to say them.
“You must go to the Jungle of Luud. My servant will go with you. Do everything he tells you and you will find yourself in the Sacred Geometry. There you will find the one you seek. When you have pulled her from the Geometry, then you will understand what you seek.”