By Jo

PART ELEVEN: Given Over to Squirrels

"OK, then, the next chapter will be given over to squirrels." Quoting the illustrious statement

at the end of Part Ten.



Hercathia had been listening, and not all that patiently, to the silly, useless conversations of

the humanoids.  Narrowing her beady blackish-brown eyes, she kept them trained on the male

with the ridiculous plastic hair and the supercilious smile. It was out of his mouth that blasphemy against squirrelkind had been coming, and it must stop. It did not escape her

notice that he was somewhat less than popular among the rest of those standing there on

Smallman Street just past the earthquake crevasse.  She smiled. They might even be grateful

to her for getting rid of him. All but that one little redhead who seemed to have procreated

with him. She was the only one who truly smiled at him. The man in the rust-colored cape

certainly never did. But she was not so sure about him, either. Any man who wore fur draped

around his shoulders as he did was suspect in her mind. Who knew what kind of fur it might

be?  It never crossed her mind that the fur was faux.  Thalamus, however, knew it was. He'd

sniffed it carefully while the General had been seated at the restaurant during the time Terry

was ingesting vast amounts of cholesterol.


Speaking of the Aussie, well, one of them anyway, Terry had just said, "I'm hungry!"


"You can't be hungry," Bejay protested, not after the Heart Attack Hoagie and whatever

that other horrid sandwich was."


"My stomach was pumped," he reminded her. "Food I ate three years ago was removed,

along with several inches of stomach lining. I AM hungry!"


"Please," she begged, clutching his camo sleeve. "Oh, Terry....please! Think of your heart."


"Ah, but I think only of your adorable heart," he smiled. "When it comes to myself, all I can

think of is...."  His seagreens just then fastened upon a flashing neon sign, BIG BACON BARN.

"Bacon!" he finished, striding toward the swinging doors, only pausing to one side as the

stretcher bearers removed a dead body or three.



Bejay gasped in a breath of abject horror. Why, oh, why did the name of the place have to

remind her of the color of regurgitated pea soup? "Terry, WAIT!" she called after him, but

the swinging doors had swung behind his behind and he was within.


"Himself!" she panted, grasping what was left of his arm and pointing to the Bacon Barn.



The look on her face told Himself all he needed to know. Terry was risking his life...again...

and must be stopped.  The entire enlarged (except for Himself, who had been ensmalled)

cast followed him into the Barn, a large place made of planking and with hay strewn about

the floor for atmosphere, though most of the bodies still showed through enough so that one

could, with the use of a modicum of watchfulness, manage not to trip over them. The sound

of pigs oinking blasted through the sound system and they could see that Terry had already

bellied up to the bar and was examining the menu posted above the half-desilvered mirror

that reflected his eager face from the wall behind it.



"Pigs?" Meggie frowned. "I thought this chapter was to be about squirrels?"


"Patience," Joimus smiled. "It will be quite squirrelly, I promise."


Terry was enthralled, not just with the delectables on the magic-marker menu, but with the

way the staff seemed to appreciate the whole concept of baconness.



"I'll have three of those," he said, pointing to what the gasping man to his right was eating,

blithely ignoring when the person slipped off his stool and crashed into the hay.


"Three baconturtles comin' up," smiled a waitress.


"I like your shoes," he said, looking down at her attractive footwear.



She smiled again. "You like a camobacon to go with that, soldier?"



 "Terry...don't!" Bejay came up beside him, looking at him with sad, pleading eyes. "Remember

the unpleasant pumping process."


"I was unconscious at the time," he smiled. "No memory. And bring one of those for my lady

here." He indicated a baconcone. "And something for her to drink," he added.



Bejay's eyes filled with tears. "You know I can't eat...that."


"Oh, right! Bring the lady a salad instead." And he ate her cone and her mug, handle and all.



The 'salad' came in five bacon bowls.  She was briefly distracted from her anguish by the groans

of a whole boothful of people as they slid from their seats under the table, twitched a while, then

were still.


"Ooooo!" Terry exclaimed, finishing up his three baconturtles, "Bring me a dozen of those

bacon apple pies! A man's gotta have dessert."



"Terry," Himself said, his voice low but firm, "drop the bacon and step away from the bar."


Terry turned to face Himself. "You made me stop smoking just because you did. I can't smoke;

I have to eat."


Himself had the grace to blush. "That...that was a few blocks back up Smallman Street," he

whispered so that no one could overhear his confession.  "I've...I've...well, I've had a few...



Terry narrowed his seagreens. "You stand there, half gone, and tell me you've 'had a few'?"



"I do," Himself said, hanging his head just a little. "A man can't live on fig peelings and walnut

sprouts like I've been doing and...not have a few."


"He could," Phyllis said, always near his elbow, "if he knew what was good for him."


"Not and bike 475 miles during the morning and lift 9000 pound weights all afternoon, then

run until midnight.  Not then. Not on fig peelings and walnut sprouts."


"You tellin' me you done all that in that there hole thing?" Ben asked. Of course the entire

cast had heard every word Himself had spoken and if any had missed even a word of it, it was

all available in Part 11 on the internet anyway.


" was a big...hole," Himself mumbled.


Sid was the only one who had not gone inside the Big Bacon Barn. He had little use for pigmeat

and one could only hope the stomach pumpers might arrive too late this time. He smiled to

himself. It was a happy thought.



Meanwhile, Hercathia had sent out a minion squirrel to lay a trap. She knew the people had

been following her arrows all day. Now it was time for something somewhat less subtle. An

arrow still, but an unmistakable squirrel arrow.



Smelt had just placed the last nut when Sid noticed the arrangement on the pavement and

walked over to have a look. He stared down, smiling. Who did the large-tailed rodents think

they were fooling?  Grinding the nuts beneath one perfectly-polished shoe, he went on...alone...

down Smallman Street.



Gorft, a scout squirrel, hung on a nearby fence, watching Sid, then ran to report to headquarters.



"He's coming!" Gorft chattered excitedly. (Note to reader: Squirrellish has been translated

in the print copy to facilitate ease in reading.)


"Who is coming?"


"Number One on the Squirrel Hit List, that's who."


After destroying the nutarrow, Sid continued, however, in the direction of the direction it

directed.  He hummed as he walked, the theme song of the Slayers from Krull.


Did the stupid ratlife not KNOW he knew they knew he knew they....  He smiled to himself,

pondering the possibilities of an enormous squirrel stew, with turnips and...and...prunes...

to feed the rest of the cast.




Suddenly he noticed what looked like one of Himself's characters standing in the grass and he

paused, unable to give a name to the character. That surprised him as he thought he knew all

of them. Dammit, he DID know all of them!


What Sid failed to realize was that it was actually Bosworth, cleverly disguised as an early



"Who are you?" Sid asked suspiciously, but the character made no reply, only blew out a long

puff of smoke and jerked his head in the direction of the forest that no one...ever...had known

grew in the Strip District.


Intrigued, needing to know the identity of the strange, dark-glassed character, Sid followed him

into the forest, not once thinking of leaving a trail of bread crumbs.


It wasn't until he was deep into the forest primeval that the character he was following suddenly

turned, whipped off his dark glasses, and let his cigarette fall to the ground.


Clearly then, Sid saw it was a squirrel he'd followed. Narrowing his eyes, he growled, "You've got some balls, rat."



Bosworth grinned. It was true. He knew it was true.



Suddenly, for this unknown plot is full of suddenlies, a squirreltiger roared from a nearby

branch, distracting Sid's attention long enough for...



...Gorft to rush up and stab him in the ankle with a specially formulated formula that solidified

nanogoo.  Pittsburgh squirrels were...educated, most of them having grown up in the University



Instantly...and suddenly...Sid went entirely stiff and toppled onto his back in the grass, conscious, but unable to so much as blink an eyelash.



Only then did Hercathia come forward, walking around him slowly. She paused, regarding

the evil, disgusting villain, then said, "You shall never persecute squirrelkind again."


He could do nothing, could not even reply, could not even scream because the rodent spoke

perfect English, though with a Pittsburgh accent, which did have the result, alas, of rendering

it all somewhat less than perfect.



He was...immobile, helpless, when even the squirrel younglings began to come out and coat him

with honey. All he could do was gaze helplessly up into the sky, where even the clouds formed

themselves into disgusting shapes.



He was being stickified. His Armani would be ruined!



As if things were not bad enough, Hercathia went to a conveniently nearby chicken and had a

rather involved conversation with her and before long she came over to Sid and lay an egg on

his nose, where, due to the honey, it remained, stuck fast.


How utterly, utterly...displeased...he was with Joimus. She had promised squirrels and it was

ALL her fault that he was now being so cruelly tortured by the rodentia of Pittsburgh. She

would pay! Maximus, too, would pay. The whole economy of Greece would pay!! Not that the

Greeks had anything to do, mind, with chicken eggs, honey, and disguised squirrels, but much,

much payment would be required after this outrage.


"You intend to LEAVE me like this!" he thought furiously at Hercathia, not realizing that

not only did she speak fluent English and chicken, but also read nanotech minds.


"No," she replied into his brain. "Not like this."  She had...other...things in mind.


From out of the surrounding forest, hordes, literal hordes of squirrels began to appear. They

ran across the greensward, dropped from trees, helicopters, dirigibles, came up from a vast

underground network of tunnels, all of them coming toward Sid.



Sid was, to say the least, appalled. He had no idea squirrels had such varied modes of transport.

But it was Hercathia he could not take his eyes off. What was the rodent...doing?



Now that squirrelkind had gathered, Hercathia moved her paws in the air, a small whirl of blue beginning to appear between them. The longer she continued with her motion, the larger the whirl grew until Sid, horrified, suddenly realized she was the creator of the blue vortex that had been in a corner of the room with the escalator.


No!, he screamed silently, his nanogoo frozen in his veins, his lips, moreover, sealed with honey.


"I wonder where my Siddums has got himself to?" Stacey wondered as the cast stepped, at last,

out the door of the Big Bacon Barn. 


"Sid? Who cares?" Beej replied. She was overcome with gladness that her Terry still lived.

Well, he sort of lived...anyway. He was much larger than when he'd gone inside the Bacon

Barn and she was actually terribly concerned at how swollen he was all over, even his

equipment. That, well, that was just amazing and she could hardly keep her eyes off it.


"You need to jog," Himself announced, looking at Terry with a critical eye. It was much

easier for him to do that now that he, himself, was not beswelled as he had been when he was

Mr. Knife.


"Can't jog," Terry mumbled. "Need to be rolled." From a distance, he did, in fact, resemble

a basketball.



"I would roll you," Beej replied, trying unsuccessfully not to leer, "but we seem not to have

much hay."


Maximus ran his hand over his faux fur, producing several stalks of the wheat which always

seemed to cling to it. "Will these do?" he asked most gallantly.


Beej took the six wheat stalks from him, holding them out toward Terry. "What do you think?"



He smiled, very, very full of bacon, trying not to belch. "Maybe later." Then he began to roll

down Smallman Street. Beej hurried after, resisting the urge not to bounce him.



Bud stopped, squatting, to examine an area of squashed nuts. To his detective's eyeballs there

were definitive traces of an obviously squirrel-formed arrow. If Sid had followed this, he could

be in trouble. What a pleasant thought! Standing, he said nothing to anyone.


"Oh, look!" said Essie. "A forest!"


Brennan frowned. "There ARE no forests along Smallman Street." He knew there weren't.


"But, John! It's there!"


"It can't be there. It can't!" he insisted, turning for moral support to Doree.


Doree stared at the forest. She was Swiss. She knew a lot about forests. "Yes," she nodded, "it

is a forest."



"I like forests," Robin smiled. "Come, Lady Meggie, let us away forestward." Taking her hand, he strode quickly into the oddly-ominous green depths.


Himself turned on Joimus. "Why...why is there suddenly a forest on Smallman Street?"



"How should I know?" she shrugged. "It would take a plot to know such a thing."


"Bah!" he bahed, following after Robin and Meggie. Soon the entire cast was forestwarded,

not entirely to the satisfaction of all amongst them, especially not Hando, who had a definite

fondness for cracked concrete.


"No." Himself said the word flatly, with great resignation.


All the cast soon came up, gathering in a great semi-circle about him, staring at what he was

staring at.  In the center of a grassy sward lay four letters, large, Times New Roman, just lying

there in the grass as though dropped casually from the hands of the gods.


Himself sighed, "I never thought it would come to this." He looked at Joimus. "Never."


The four Times New Roman letters were a P and an L and an O and a T.



Nash felt weak in his knees. It couldn't be. Nothing like this had ever...not ever...been done in

epilife.  He closed his eyes then reopened them, hoping the Times New Roman letters might be

gone. No, they remained, just the barest trace around their edges of a blue swirl, the scent of

honey, a few purple threads.


Stacey moaned. "Sid? My Sid is...gone?"


Himself took hold of her arms, supporting the unhappy Texan lest she sink down in anguish

and get honey on her knees.


"The worst has happened, my dear Stacey. The very worst thing that could possibly happen in

epilife.  Sid is not only gone, he has been besucked into a..." he could barely form the word,

"besucked into a," again he pulled in a large draught of air, "plot."


"NO!" she shrieked. "Not that! Anything but THAT!"


"I fear it is so," Jack nodded sadly.



"Indeed," Maximus agreed, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up, even the faux in his

fur standing on edge. He looked warily at the innocent blonde in pale yellow at his side. Did she epis again? He closed his eyes. Probably she did. He loved her anyway, but

she was a trial to him at times, indeed she was.


As though drawn by an invisible force because, well, they were being drawn by an invisible

force, the entire cast began to lean toward the four Times New Roman letters with their traces

of blue vortex and their scent of honey and their scattering of purple threads.


The unthinkable had been thunk. There was no going back. Smallman Street was no longer

there. The forest primeval itself began to fade. There is little more inevitable than inevitability.