Hunting Midnight • Ep 6 • Part 21: Manifesto 🦞

This is Episode 6-21 of a serial urban fantasy & paranormal story.

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Part 6-21: Manifesto

Deluxe is listening to my story with her eyes closed. The snake has traveled up into her hair and makes it hard to stay serious. My tale had ended a good fifteen seconds ago, but she is still in a bit of a trance, so I say, “And so that’s me. That’s why I can’t just… sell it.”

I wait for some sort of reaction, peeking over at Gary to make sure I hadn’t warped to some sort of time-frozen world. He is still writing. The strange idea of a circular courtyard floats into my head. I chase it away and look back at Deluxe. One eye is open.

I make the ‘well?’ gesture with my palms.

“You’ve only got half,” she says.

“What?”

Her other eye opens a smidgen. “Or maybe two thirds.”

“…Of?” I say, not sure I want to hear the answer.

“The muffin formula. Anyway, I owe you the lobster manifesto. Together they could be unstoppable.”

“Right,” I say, lost as usual.

She blinks slowly, and I expect her eyelids to move independently, like one of those wall clock cats. But it is only the careful and considered expression of someone searching for the right way to start. I take the opportunity to relax my cinched face and shoulder muscles.

“For me, the lobster manifesto once again comes down to efficiency,” she says, after several long seconds. “It is not about perfection, of course. But where there is obvious waste, I tend quite powerfully to want to reduce it. If you were to happen upon a mound of camel feces on your front lawn, the most common instinct would be to rectify the situation, yes?”

“I am waiting with bated breath for you to draw a relation between a heap of camel shit and the defense of sea life. But yes, I’d not be a fan of finding camel dung on my lawn.” I leave out the part about my lawn being an argumentative one only; I currently rent a bachelorette pad in a run-down part of the burg.

“And if it were instead a mountain of fresh, steaming excrement I suspect a minor municipal emergency would be declared! But only if the molecules of waste are arranged in a certain way, see? That’s part of the issue. Say I sever key atomic bonds within our significant mass of dung, reducing it to gas, and place it in the same place. Different outcome.”

“The world’s largest camel fart,” I summarize. Gary clears his throat in a way that sounds much like a scoff.

“Unpleasant, but likely no emergency, as the waste is now invisible and redistributed among the many, taken away on thermals, gusts, and other dynamics of air pressure. But it was still there.”

“And still gross.”

“Precisely, precisely!” she taps the tabletop with a curved index finger, fast like someone operating a telegraph. Her point is still miles above my head, but I beam at her enthusiasm, hoping that there’s more to it.

Deluxe lets out a little puff of air and, to my tenuous relief, continues. “I personally chose to engage in a vendetta with the waste, no matter its form. The vendetta is particularly sharp when the waste is particularly insidious. Do you know the caloric content of one lobster, mass of 2.2 kilos?”

“Deluxe, I should think you’d know I haven’t the foggiest.”

“Sorry—do you know the caloric content of a one pound lobster?”

I take a wild guess. “Four hundred calories.”

“Correct, within five percent or so.”

“What, really?” slips out of me before I can pretend to be a genius.

“Mostly from protein, of course,” she goes on, seemingly oblivious to my incredulity. “One point six seven million joules of energy. That’s if we consume it, mind you. How much energy do you suppose the lobster manages, creates, and converts per day of regular lobster operational activity?”

Despite the sudden onslaught of first year physics terms, I have a feeling I know where she might be going with all this. I’ve heard the story from the vegetarian camp before, though never quite in this wrapping.

“You’re saying that if we don’t catch and murder the sea bugs, they can go on living and using their energy in a much more efficient manner, rather than having it all one-shotted in a vat of soup for Brenda Banker or Todd Teacher,” I say.

“Or Gary th’ Garbageman,” adds the old man.

Deluxe aims her finger Garyward, without breaking her eyes from mine. “Since I was little, I was good at finding imbalance,” she says. “When I got older, I found the abstract easier to manage. As fate would deem, there’s an industry or seven built on the management of abstract imbalance. I got mixed up in two. First: authoring code, which is simply arranging dominoes against special rules, so that when they fall circuits open and close the way you wish. Second: shepherding numbers, from one person’s or entity’s legal possession to another… often with the aid of the circuitry circus.”

“Online stock trading?” I venture. I think I’m close.

She smiles with one corner of her mouth. “My methodologies cross and criss that particular checkpoint at ultra high frequency, yes. Yet only one nexus for the great domino cascade.”

“I think I was following the camel fart analogy a little better…”

“Farts are effectively stardust,” she says, with a completely straight face.

“Of course.” I match her expression.

“Born in the high fusion core of a star. What makes all this now,” she points her fingertips at the upper corners of the wall behind her, “what makes all lobsters, grass, camels, their gas, crossword puzzles, soup, me and you—what makes it is a particular, incredibly precise, bizarre, unlikely, and magical arrangement of starlight and stardust. Right now, I move it around for other people and they let me keep some. No one’s moving it around on behalf of lobsters. I had my turn. I did good. I want to share now. There is great waste in the world, and it masquerades within industry, within incentives tilted too far to one end, within culture and a trillion small decisions that are individually innocuous.”

“And this starts with buying up my shop?”

“What if,” she places her bent finger on the bridge of her nose. I can practically hear her mind whirring away. The finger pops off, shaking in my direction. “What if: we share a shop?”

 
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Continued in Part 6-22

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Thank you for reading. I own the license for all images in this post. Episode 6 cover art was made with a Canvo Pro license & a Midjourney AI art prompt. Follow me or the #huntingmidnight tag so you don't miss new parts! I can also @ tag folks to alert you, just ask in the comments to join the readlist.

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