The Philistine Detectives
[Excerpt from “The Philistine Detectives”]
As they arrive in the allocated worldline, Watt and Krikksen wonder about what to do first.
“Shouldn't we get on the job immediately?” Krikksen, the elder of the two feels a little more responsible.
“No, rushing in fools nobody. We better get acclimatized first.” Watt, the younger and more playful companion.
“Acclimatized? You mean accustomed?” With a frown on his face Krikksen slides a hand through his long, sleek black hair.
“Indeed. We have to switch over from Scottish rain to California sunshine.” Watt answers as he shakes the transatlantic wetness from his curly blond locks.
“I get your drift. We’ve got to exchange the stiff upper lip for the cool native tongue.”
“A transit through eight time zones and nine billion worldlines does get to you.”
“Yeah, we gotta get into the groove!”
“So let’s head for Telegraph Avenue!”
Telegraph Avenue is quite different from what Watt and Krikksen expect. No colorful, eye-teasing boutiques and small, cozy bookshops but indistinct stores and dull warehouses. No crowded, bustling open-air cafés but dark bars with shaded interiors. No groovy street scene full of jugglers, musicians, living statues or other performers but gray-clad locals hurrying on to their businesses, hardly talking to each other.
“What has happened here?” Watt wonders. “Has somebody stolen the colors from the painter’s palette?”
“It looks like a collective bad trip,” Krikksen muses.“as if the bringer of bad vibes didn’t leave after the hangover was over.”
They roam the austere streets where they stick out like glittering gemstones on dark volcanic rock. Yet, in any other world their overdone outfits would at least have provoked some reaction, jaws would have dropped, fingers would have been pointed and the brashest ones would have started asking questions at the two alien apparitions.
Here, however, it seems there is a collective understanding to act as if these weird strangers do not exist. The initial reactions are there but wondering expressions, slightly bewildered looks and upcoming smiles are rapidly hidden behind a mask of feigned disinterest.
Then a person in a conservative business suit walks past them and—in passing—presses a piece of paper in Watt's hand. Before Watt can react the man has turned a corner. Watt unfolds the wrapped paper and reads:
The existence of a repressed majority automatically implies the presence of a derelict minority.
—‘The Electric Ant Runs Empty’
In this strange atmosphere of repressed emotions Watt and Krikksen walk toward a small record store.
“A record store. Here we can check out what’s really happening.”
“Maybe they have the first edition of ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’. Should be out about now.”
“Or the double sleeved version of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’.”
“Let’s go in and get going.”
To their displeasure Watt and Krikksen find no psychedelic extravaganza in the small record store. The shop is dedicated to classical music and obscure jazz records. On the counter, between displays of upcoming classical re-releases are some pulpy SF magazines. Behind the counter is a bearded clerk with a haunted look in his eyes while his fingers lightly tap along with the classical themes being played in the store. He seems to be lost in thought but when an attractive female enters his attention is immediately drawn to her. Not for long, though as Watt and Krikksen bombard him with enquiries.
“Do you have Pink Floyd’s debut album? It should be out by now.”
“Didn’t know they were working together. But both Pink Anderson and Floyd Council are in the blues section.”
“Where are the Beatles? Can’t find them anywhere in here.”
“Sorry, but are you gentlemen not aware of the ban on subversive overseas imports?”
“A ban on the Beatles and the Who? But then surely you must have some Jimi Hendrix?”
“Never heard of him.”
“Come on, young black guitar player shaking the scene to the core!”
“Well, for obscure blues artists you better check out Nick’s Blues Cellar.”
“And local artists like Jefferson Airplane?”
“Is that another bomber they’re sending out to Vietnam?”
“Then what is going on? What is hot?”
“I do not follow the contemporary music scene. But we are fully stocked with classical masterpieces, like for instance Händel’s 'The Little Fugue in G Minor’ that’s playing right now.”
“Well, if it’s not grooving and moving,” Watt begins.
“And not kicking and tripping,” Krikksen continues.
“Then we’re not interested.” They both conclude as they get out the store, leaving behind a slightly puzzled clerk.
[End of excerpt.]
- Originally appeared in The Journal of Pulse-Pounding Narratives #2: Death to the JPPN, March 2005;