Naturally, the hub was pitch dark when Kitty and Margot walked into it. They hit their headlamps and waited. The others came in, two by two, starting with Stephen and Eric. Ten seconds later, Madonna and Marc walked in. Ten seconds later, Jordan and Lance entered.
“I suspect blasting off in a rocket is a lot more exhilarating than that,” said Lance, sounding a bit disappointed.
“My bad,” said Margot. “We should have driven over, and walked in. That way, your first tunnel trip would have ended more spectacularly, with you walking into something much more exciting than a dark expanse, in an underground labyrinth. I cheated you. Sorry.”
“Are you kidding?” Madonna asked. “You have nothing to apologize for. Far from it. That was trippy. Short, but trippy” Pointing a finger at Lance, she said, “We just walked out of a hotel, and into a cave, ten miles away, in no time at all, and you’re disappointed? You fucking kids these days are pretty blasé about experiencing the super natural. A little too much virtual reality is to blame, I think.”
Before everyone else could echo Madonna’s scolding, Lance threw his hands up, and said, “You’re rigt! I’m wrong. Thank you, Margot. But, I really am looking forward to the next trip, now.”
All the others expressed their gratitude to Margot, who responded by saying, “My honour. Now, before the four of you have the pleasure of getting a proper tunnel trip, everyone form a circle, and join hands, please.” Margot’s wish was honoured, and she said, “Kitty has something to say.”
Although Kitty was not expecting that, she felt Margot’s energy pulsing into her, as they squeezed each other’s hands.
Turning her head just a bit, to catch Stephen in the beam of her headlamp, Kitty said, “I am absolutely certain that I speak for everyone when I say, thank you, Stephen, for bringing us all together.” The others echoed Kitty’s sentiment in their own ways, and she continued.
“I suppose I should make this confession rigt now, before the two of us disappear back into the tunnel together; I’ve never read one of your books.”
Stephen laughed, and replied, “We can go back to Valhalla, and grab one. I can read it to you in the tunnel.”
“No!” Kitty shrieked. “There’s a damn good reason I’ve never read one of your books, oh, King of Horror. I’m not a horror fan, but I checked out a copy of Night Shift, from the library, a few years ago. I randomly selected The Mangler as my first tale. It was about four in the morning. I was home, alone, stretched out on the couch, just a reading lamp on.”
Stephen smiled at the idea of Kitty stretched out on a couch, all alone, with only a reading lamp on, but Kitty didn’t pick up what his dirty mind was transmitting.
“The story is preposterous. An industrial laundry press that has been possessed by some dark force, and is murdering people? C’mon! I was laughing at the absurdity of it. But, by the time it breaks from its moorings, and starts thundering through the streets, looking for new victims to mangle, I was scared half to death! I swear, I got up to go to the bathroom, and I turned on every God damn light along the way. You scared the Hell out of me. I left the book on the coffee table, and never opened it again. If you could do that to me, with an absurd short story, I didn’t want to know how much terror you could inflict with a full length book.”
Kitty’s hyper animation had Stephen clapping out loud, and the others laughing. “So, no, we will not be reading any of your stories in any damn tunnel, unless you want to go see Gotcha on your own, thank you very much!”
Still grinning, King said, “Okay. Fair enough. No stories. But, I could recite some of my poetry to…”
“No! Stop it, or I’ll borrow a ball gag from Madonna, and jam it in your mouth, before we leave!”
Wondering if his travelling companion really was packing a ball gag in her overnight bag, Lance stared across the circle at the woman he had called mom, just the day before, and laughed along with the others, until Kitty put an end to the hahaha by saying, “But seriously folks…. I chose to share that tale with you because there is hope in it. If Stephen King, the King of Horror, he who has plunged his mind into demonology to conjure all manner of diabolical demi-devils, and danced with them in the dark, for more than fifty years, has brought us together to bring light to a rapidly darkening world, there is hope for this rapidly darkening world. We, my friends, are that hope. We and those who join us. We are the hope that will not hide; we are the turning n the tide.
“In every corner of this planet, people are pondering, probably for the first time, the insanity of the world we live in, and the roles they are playing in it. The overwhelming majority of people on this planet are good, or at least decent, or at least mostly harmless. But they have been trapped inside a paradigm that was created, and is controlled by people who are not.
“The good people have forgotten what it is to truly live life. The magic that sparkled in them in childhood has been all but extinguished. They have been turned into automatons, doing whatever is necessary just to survive, serving any master that will feed them, but keep them in chains, ignoring the realities that are painfully obvious, and numbing themselves with any kind of third rate soma they can lay their hands on, when those painfully obvious realities scream at them on every corner, and from every rooftop. But they are not beyond hope. They are not yet dead, for the children they once were, once upon a time, are still somewhere inside them.
“It’s times like these – when people have a chance to breathe, for the first time in forever; a chance to imagine again, imagine the way the world can be; a chance to remember what is to be alive and full of wonder at the magnificence of the natural world, remember when all we needed to entertain, and enthrall us was our imagination – it’s time like these when those long buried, silent, and forgotten inner children start to stir.
“It’s times like these, we learn to live again.”
“For every problem the world has, there’s a solution. As hard as it is, at times, we have to understand that we have actually come a long way, as a species. We have come as far as we have because it is perfectly natural for us to give of ourselves.
Behind us in the annals of human history are legions of geniuses, who gave us everything their minds could churn out. Think about the incredible treasure trove of genius that has been bestowed upon us, by those who walked this planet before us. The scientists, the artists, the dreamers, and the schemers, and the fearless blasphemers, who dared to stare down conformity, and orthodoxy, and reject the stagnation and inevitable entropy that would have been our demise, if the rulers and reichlords, the oligarchs and overlords had succeeded in keeping us all in our place, mired in ignorance, and spiritual poverty.
“Now, think about the collective genius of the human race today. Think of all the scientists and artists, the dreamers and schemers, and fearless blasphemers who can come together, and give us everything they have, as payment to those who gave us everything they had, and as a loan to those who will come after us, who will pay it forward to those who will come after them, and on and on it will go, until we figure it out, until we get it rigt, until we become what we are capable of becoming, until we live up to our mind blowing potential.
“Every single person on this planet has something to give, and no one ever made a bigger mistake then those who gave nothing, because they thought a little wasn’t enough, wasn’t enough t make a difference.
“Between us, we have so much to give, and the more we give, the more others will give, and give again.
“It’s times like these we give, and give again.”
“Of all the things we have to give, love is the most important. Everyone has love to give. Even those who have been emotionally and spiritually crippled from a scarcity of care have a dram of love left in them.
“The love that we all have inside us is a well. Wells fill from the bottom, so even if they are poisoned from outside, from on high, a well of love can swell and swell, until the poison is diluted, and eventually spilled into a filthy place that can be rendered harmless by quarantine until it dies.
“Every heart has the capacity to create love, love, and more love. But it has to be fed love, love, and more love. Love is the most valuable natural resource we have, and the most sustainable. If there is a purpose to life, it is to love, and be loved in return.
“Of all the schemes that we have schemed, and all the schemes we will scheme down the road, and all the dreams that others will bring to this sacred mission we embark upon today, Margot’s is the most crucial to our success, for if she succeeds in flooding the world with love, none can resist. Even the most selfish, greedy, heartless ne’er-do-well will succumb to the power of love. And when darkness creeps across us, as it is creeping across the world rigt now, we have to love the most
“It’s times like these we learn to love again.”
“In times like these it is prudent to remember that there have always been times like these. And we have always overcome. We have always lived to love another day. We have always survived to try, and try again, and again.
“Throughout the course of human history we have had to rise up to do battle with evil, time and time again. It is absolutely heart wrenching, perverse, and obscene that we have to fight ourselves over and over and over, but by doing so, and triumphing, those who have won the battles before have fortified us with the resolve to cry, ‘Once more unto the breach.’ Our victory, in this battle of the never ending war we wage against ourselves, cannot be declared by a simple stalemate. Going back to normal is not a victory. We have to progress. And when we do, we will be better equipped to win the next battle. And there will be another battle, and another after that.
“In times like these, it is prudent to remember that there have always been times like these. In times like these, we have to call upon the ghosts who have won the battles they fought, and won for us, time and time again, because rigt now, it’s times like these time and time again, once again, my friends. And this time, it’s our time.”