- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode One
- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Two
- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Three
- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Four
- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Five
- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Six
- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Seven
Carried Through the Gates as the
Contraband of Time
Illustrations by Morgan Wagner
The French Quarter was often replete with odd skirmishes, but even the most hardened derelicts paused to stare at the melee. Tourists abandoned their plans to take photos of steamboats along the Mississippi River to gawk at the bizarre showdown. Vehicles backed up at the toll gate from the Brewery parking lot on Decatur Street and people got out of their cars to watch.
“You came for your precious ponies thinking you could smuggle them back to Narius with your little shrink ray?” howled Snord, his mustache twitching with delight. “Ha! The joke is on you. When was the last time you checked if you still had the device?”
The women froze. They had not even thought about the shrink ray since they first arrived on Earth. After they had met Weeb, played their first terrestrial concert, and come into ownership of Hoobie and Froobie, they began to fall in love with humanity and had lost focus on their mission.
Danzi thought back to the last time she remembered seeing it – in the van, under a pile of the clothes they wore that day they had come to Earth. The van had been parked in front of Ed’s house — the very house where the meeting for Kindness In Narian Communications was held, which Snord had tried to infiltrate in disguise.
The deranged usurper pulled the tiny contraption, no bigger than a matchbox, from his pocket and held it up like a trophy, gleaming in the unforgiving New Orleans sunlight. The civilian onlookers and members of PORN didn’t respond, but the Narian women tensed and Luna glanced at Danzi.
“Why does he still have that ridiculous mustache?” muttered Luna. “He looks like a villain in one of those life-simulations…films, I think they’re called.”
A gust of wind, normally welcome in the fierce New Orleans heat, blew Snord’s long locks ominously around his head. Members of his cult, each one wearing a messenger bag, began to gather behind him.
“You’re not the only ones archiving emotions!” he cackled. “See if you can process all this, you delicate little flowers!”
On cue, the men and women of People for the Ousting and Removal of Narius opened their bags and began to pelt the two priestesses with paper airplanes. Luna scoffed when the first few sailed over her head, then nearly crumpled to her knees as one lightly grazed her shoulder.
Danzi plucked one out of the air, but shrieked in pain and dropped it like it was on fire.
“What the hell are they?” she shrieked as she dodged the air barrage of white paper. Avatar snatched one from the ground and unfolded the offending missile. “Dear John, it breaks my heart to tell you this, but I can’t be with you anymore. I am so sorry…” he read out loud.
Another landed on the pavement next to Luna, revealing part of its message handwritten on one of the wings, It’s nobody’s fault. I’m just so tired, everyone…
A third read, Mirror just reminds me that I’m older than I wanna be…
These were other people’s grief, other people’s struggles. How wounded did someone have to be to amass a collection of breakup letters, suicide notes, and private diary pages?
To the outsider, this probably looked like a fun game of paper airplanes. But for the beings whose sacred duty was to preserve all thought energy, it was a lethal attack, and the enemy was prevailing. All the sorrow, anger, rage, and fear they were being pelted with was wearing down the interplanetary women. Their fierce fighting skills began to become muzzy in their minds as they staggered under the invisible weight of such tragedy.
A familiar-looking van screeched to a stop next to the tracks flanking the Riverwalk. Its side door was thrown open and out charged a baby goat. It made a beeline up the levee straight for Snord and delivered a well-placed head butt to the backs of Snord’s knees. A second goat was close behind and jumped on top of Snord when he hit the ground and began bouncing up and down on him. More creatures poured out of the van like a swarm of angry wasps: dogs, cats, and even a potbellied pig with a tiny anole lizard riding on its back. A split second later a man emerged from the driver’s door – a sight for sore eyes, even as he was grim-faced and pale.
They didn’t know how Ed had managed to find them, but they were grateful he’d brought an army. Animals live in the here and now, reflected Luna. They can break the negative energy of the past that seems to be debilitating us.
Pinned to the ground, Snord flailed his arms as a cockatiel swooped at his face, tugging his long mustache in its claws. The pig chomped down on his hand holding the shrink ray. He yelled out in pain and the device flew out of his hand. It went skidding across the ground, stopping directly in front of Danzi. She looked down at it in disbelief.
“Danzi! Do something!” bellowed Luna as she tried to get Hoobie and Froobie away from Crazy Man Michael. The miniature horses squealed and kicked as he started dragging them towards the river by their leads.
Danzi bent over and snatched up the shrink ray, holding it up victoriously.
“Open the portal!” Danzi hollered. “I’ll shrink the horses to pocket size. We can escape to Narius and close the portal before Snord catches us!” Danzi started fumbling with the tiny device. “I don’t remember which way this thing points…”
“Just point and shoot it!” Luna yelled.
Danzi aimed it at the beasts, closed her eyes and squeezed the device with her thumb.
Foom! A pillar of sparkling dust shot two stories into the air and a huge smoke cloud obscured the entire levee. People stopped in their tracks, coughing, unable to see or breathe. As the glitter faded and the air cleared, two mammoth-sized horses towered over the crowd.
“Um. I must have reversed the shrink ray,” peeped Danzi.
Hoobie whuffled and began to pick her way through the screaming crowd who scattered from the equine’s massive hooves. Froobie let out a confused whinny, sounding for all the world like a shuddering air raid siren.
Snord cackled. “They’ll never fit through the portal now!” he crowed as he kicked the goats off him and stood up.
A muzzle the size of a city bus came down over Snord. The dictator swiped at the massive nose and Hoobie’s violent reaction to the tickle caused a massive sneeze.
Combatants and spectators went sprawling into the nearby parking lot triggering a pandemonium of car alarms. Danzi recovered with a forward roll, but the shrink ray flew from her hand into the throng.
A sudden blow to her head didn’t hurt, for it was only a bag full of letters. But it was enough to make her lose her balance and crash against her partner. Luna saw Snord coming at them. They sprang to their feet in unison, but something invisible lashed the two Narian priestesses together.
“Now I’ve got you!” crowed Snord, circling them. “Where’s the ray?”
“In my pocket.” Danzi said, feigning defeat. He reach into the blonde woman’s pocket and pulled out an oyster shell.
“What’s this?” he demanded.
“I hid it in there.”
Prying open the rough mollusk, he staggered back at the sudden auditory assault of Luna and Danzi’s attempted hit song comprised of a dozen genres at the same time. He dropped the shell and covered his ears in pain. “Is this the crap kids are listening to these days?” he wailed. The invisible force field loosened slightly on the women, but the dictator remained standing and the women were still helpless.
Blue flashes of police cars began to fill the evening sky. The howl of dozens of emergency vehicles grew louder and drowned out the music. With a wave of Snord’s hand, a cluster of bangs filled the air as if scores of tires suddenly ruptured. Distorted chatter through the cars’ PA systems tore through the evening air, but the vehicles drew no closer.
“That’s it! No more games.” he roared. “I will finally be lining up the Interdimensional Destructive Generator And Firestorm. I will blow up the earth, take you through the portal, and when we emerge, I will imprison you two. I…”
In a shimmery, pink puff, Snord was suddenly the size of a mouse.
Raphael emerged from the crowd, shaking his lank hair out of his eyes. He flashed the device at Luna, grinning sheepishly before pocketing the gadget again.
Hoobie set her huge hoof over the shrunken tyrant. The masses, comprised of friend and foe alike, went still.
“Is he dead?” someone peeped.
“How’s anyone going to know?” snapped Luna. “Do you want to pick up her hoof to inspect it?”
“Get me out of here!” shrilled a muffled falsetto voice from somewhere beneath the beast’s foot.
The mammoth horse pawed the ground in irritation and something almost too small to notice went bouncing and rolling along the gutter. The object came to a stop, and a tiny figure tried to rise dizzily to his feet.
Luna was not about to let Snord get away this time. “Does anyone have anything I can put –”
Suddenly Avatar was next to her holding out an empty mason jar. “I thought this might come in handy.”
Without wasting time to ask why he had a jar, Danzi snatched it from him, bounded over and scooped up the diminutive villain, covering the top with her hand. Avatar was close on her heels.
“You don’t happen to have a l—”
Avatar produced a lid seemingly from thin air.
“Thank you! Oh. Air holes.” Danzi screwed the lid on before Snord could regain his senses. She fixed the friendly piercer with a stare. “You know something, don’t you?”
Avatar sighed. “Okay, look. There’s a reason I added a little extra gem to your earring. It contains a sensor that was intended to warn you whenever Lord Snord was close.”
“How did you know about Lord Snord?”
“Because I’m Narian. I came in another portal about two years ago. It’s no coincidence that there are cults that know our planet’s existence. Narians have been coming to Earth for centuries. Escapees—mostly men, because let’s face it, being a Narian male sucks. We typically live solitary lives and can’t consort with terrestrials of any gender. If they saw us naked, they’d know we weren’t from this world, since males have two, uh…” He glanced around furtively.
Weeb balled his fists. “Just come off it!” he snapped. “I feel insecure enough, but it’s hard being secretly in love with a Narian woman knowing I will never measure up. There, I said it!” he spat, looking pointedly at Luna. “I’m in love with you, and I know I’ll probably be a disappointment if I only have one…” He gritted his teeth and looked down at the lower half of his body, embarrassed to say the word.
“Navel?” supplied Danzi quizzically. “Why on Earth…” she paused for effect, “…do you think you can’t please a partner just because you only have one belly button?”
The terrestrial male stood stupefied. Luna sighed. “Avatar, would you show him?”
“Um, I’m kind of a private person…”
“You will do as I…” Luna caught herself in the middle of her command. “Wow, I never realized how imbalanced the system is until I spent time on this planet.” She reflected on the men she’d gotten to know: Weeb, Ed, Miklos, and other kind souls. She was resolved not to return to her old way of thinking.
“Okay, um, let Weeb have a peek, just for a second?” Danzi chimed in. “Please?”
With a beleaguered sigh, Avatar hiked up his t-shirt. Weeb peered at the double navel as if he had never seen a belly button.
“It’s an evolutionary thing,” Avatar mumbled. “The extra navel contains a retractable lasso used to arouse females in the ritual mating dance. And no, I will not be demonstrating this,” he growled, yanking his shirt back down.
The uneven sound of limping footsteps made Danzi’s heart skip a beat. Her Raphael sidled up to her and slipped the shrink ray device into her hand. “Don’t you think it’s time to put things right?” he smiled. The Narian woman nodded, took careful aim and zapped one giant horse, then the other. As they dwindled to their diminutive heights in a cloud of pink sparkles, she laced her fingers with her love’s and squeezed his hand gratefully.
Luna swung her head around, scanning the crowd. “Where’s Ed?” she rasped. “Has anyone seen him?”
She was about to call out his name when a rumble of boots on the ground changed the subject as scores of police with helmets and shields approached on foot.
“This is an unlawful assembly!” a distorted voice shrieked through a bullhorn. “Disperse immediately!” Luna’s heart sank.
Danzi calmly, with her hands up, walked over to approaching officers holding their shields in front of them in a transparent polycarbonate wall. They were clearly trained to handle civil disturbance. Their batons, longer than her arm, didn’t look like anything she’d want to deal with.
“I will, I will, I promise!” she addressed a man with the megaphone who appeared to be the commander on scene. “But first…I could really use a giant stuffed Winnie-the Pooh. Also a Tiffany-style floor lamp. We don’t have any money, but I’m sure that won’t be a problem…right, Luna?”
Her companion’s mouth flopped open as the man gave a slight shudder. He raised his megaphone and ordered, “Retreat. I repeat, retreat immediately. Report to Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas at once.” Danzi began to hum in low tones. The rank turned on their heels and marched down Decatur Street, back to any vehicles that still had functioning tires. The rest wandered off aimlessly in a daze.
“Why didn’t you use that trick on the crazy cultists who tried to abduct us?” hissed Luna.
“Um…because they didn’t have bullhorns and stuff?”
“Ed!” Weeb shouted over the stunned crowd. “Ed! Where are you, buddy?”
The only other sounds were retreating footsteps and a distant splash as Crazy Man Michael tried to hurl himself into the river.
The crowd dispersed, blinking as if unable to process a dream. The animal army had wandered or flown back home. The levee was deserted except for the two Narian women, Weeb, Raphael, and the miniature horses.
Sorrow hit them in waves as they took stock of their situation. Ed was gone, the mission was over, and they all knew it was time for Luna and Danzi to return to the planet that needed them. There were tears all around, of course. The women had never experienced much in the way of crying, and they had never quite figured out how to mitigate the waterworks without sounding like howling dogs.
They had other options, of course, but this was the only choice that seemed to be the right one. What was the point in getting attached to people, only to lose them again?
Luna knew the answer in her heart. I’ll just sing about you, she thought as she looked at Weeb. Songs I wrote to make you happy. In the darkness I can pretend.
Raphael tossed his lank hair out of his eyes, straightened his glasses, and took Danzi’s hands in his own. “You made me feel handsome, and I got suspicious,” he confessed in his velvet tones that made the blonde woman melt. “I knew you were special, and I couldn’t believe that you saved me. I rejected you because everyone else had done the same to me, and I guess I felt the need to beat you to it. Maybe I wanted to see what it was like to push someone away for a change.”
Danzi blinked and moistened her lips. “I see now that people transfer hurt. Like energy, it can’t be created or destroyed, only passed along. But we can all change it for the better. Um, since you’re here and you don’t seem to hate me after all, can we try that kissy thing again one more time before I go?” She reached up to cup his face.
Luna gave her friend a moment with Raphael, then cleared her throat loudly enough for everyone to hear. Danzi pulled herself away from Raphael and scrambled to the other woman’s side. Hoobie and Froobie trotted alongside them as they walked to the edge of the Moonwalk, facing the Mississippi River, with their friends and the goats, trailing behind.
“This feels like the right spot,” said Luna to her partner. “Do you see how the stars align there?” She pointed to a point low in the sky that the terrestrial men couldn’t see, and Danzi nodded. They grabbed the horses’ halters and smiled.
The sable-haired Narian hummed a note and the two began to chant in harmony, “Y’ed varda lodar ves…” A green light arch formed in the air over them. Hoobie and Froobie pressed themselves against the priestess’ sides, sensing they were headed to a new home. The light grew brighter, but only the two men and the animals seemed to be able to see it. It enveloped the women and beasts until it almost consumed them.
“What will I tell all of your fans who love your music so much?” pleaded Weeb as the four interplanetary voyagers began to fade from sight.
Luna’s last visible feature was her gold-ringed gray eyes. “If they call, I’ll be gone by the river.” Her voice receded in a dulcet echo.
A crimson flash left the bystanders momentarily blinded, and when the men recovered, it was as if Luna and Danzi had ever existed, except for the deep emotions seared into their memories. They stared out at the river that seemed as if it had stopped flowing.
A single baby goat bleated its confusion, breaking through the silence. The river started to flow again, and the air was filled with traffic and the sounds of Earth. They all took a deep breath and looked around, trying to figure out what to do next.
An unctuous voice drifted up from the river. “Hey, can someone help me? I think I broke my arm. And I could really use some dry clothes…”
They took a few steps to the edge of the levee and looked down. A bedraggled figure was dragging himself out of the water, slipping on the rocks. Raphael shook his head and walked away with a new spring in his lopsided gait. Weeb simply stared. Crazy Man Michael would have to figure this one out by himself.
Narius was a sensory overload of reverse culture shock to the two women. Floating transport discs looked as though they might tip over any second. Domed dwellings looked monotonous and unimaginative. Even the highly effective compost towers appeared strange and garish. People gathered around them, fascinated by the horses. They were bombarded with questions and excitement. Word spread quickly that the Snord vanquishers had returned. It was a grand but overwhelming homecoming.
“We’ll adjust. We’ve already adapted to so much,” mused Luna.
Danzi shook her head. “I’m still trying to understand the sadness of loss. I already miss our friends.” The little horses whinnied and pawed the ground and Luna bent over to soothe them. “I just wish I knew what happened to Ed.”
“Well, maybe I can tell you,” said a familiar voice behind them.
Ed was pushing his way through the adoring crowd, grinning sheepishly.
“How—. What—” Danzi sputtered.
“Er, Avatar created another portal for me after you left. He found me in the Brewery parking lot. It wasn’t hard to convince me it was my duty to help with this brave new world. I’ve been hoping for this opportunity for years.”
“You snurri!” scolded Luna. “Why didn’t you just come through the portal with us?”
“Would you have let me?” he answered rhetorically.
Neither priestess had an answer.
“Maybe this is your experiential frontier: to see what it’s like to have an alien among your people for a change,” he said.
“What about the animals and your beautiful home?” Danzi demanded.
“Weeb took me back to the house to grab a few things and I signed it all over to him before I left. He has some unfinished business at the nudist colony, and the goats will love it there.” Ed reassured her.
“We can catch up later. Right now we need to archive everything we’ve learned and documented before it fades,” Luna reminded them of their mission. “Danzi, please tell me you didn’t lose your journal and those color-sticks?”
The blonde woman patted the pocked on her leather pants. “It’s all here,” she said.
“Isn’t it fortunate that I also brought my guitar and bouzouki along?” Ed chuckled. “I daresay you two earned them. I think it’s time you shared your experiences with your people. Including your revelation that all genders are equal and all emotions are important, hmmmm?”
Luna took a deep breath. “It’s going to be a hard sell, but yeah, let’s go for it.”
One year later, the nudist colony was thriving under Weeb’s management. The goats loved their new pastures, with lots of brush and forty acres to run around on. Proceeds from the sale of Ed’s house funded new cottages and even a small amphitheater for weekly concerts by touring musicians.
Folks from all over were willing to give the shirts off their backs—as well as the rest of their clothing—just to see its main attraction.
Plenty of people with former reservations about going naked suddenly got a boost of confidence. They stared at the jar containing a tiny, perpetually enraged naked man. Below his enclosure was a plaque that read: THINK YOU’RE TOO SMALL? RELAX.
Even with his regime overthrown, Snord was obstinate. “You’ll never get away with this!” he squeaked. “You are all just worms. I will destroy this planet, do you hear me? Annihila—aaaaa!” His threats were cut short as Weeb picked up the jar and gave it a little shake.
“Don’t mind his insults, folks!” Weeb grinned. “He’s used to being a tiny dic…tator.” People laughed at the joke, but Weeb was smiling about something he clearly couldn’t share with them as he looked up at the night sky. How can a blind man steer by the stars? he wondered.
A single full moon hung in the air, but if he squinted his eyes, it almost looked like three.
Meanwhile on a distant friendly planet, far, far away … as triplet moons began to rise, Hoobie and Froobie galloped across the grasslands with a tiny foal bumbling alongside the mare’s flanks.
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