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The Phantom Coal Chute


The Phantom Coal Chute


Copyright 2016 Richards Hall and e.

Published by Richards Hall and e. at Shakespir

The Phantom Coal Chute



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It was a black hole, as black and as hole as he had ever seen. “How deep is it?” asked Danny.

“How would I know?” asked Hark.

“You could have put a stick in it,” said Danny, “for starts. Did you try shining a flashlight in it?”

“Not this one, but others. All you can see is black.”

“And this is where mascara comes from?”

“It’s where it ends up, at first,” said Hark.

Mascara? Maybe not so much, not that kind, and in more ways than one.




It didn’t happen often, if ever, but Hark Mulligan found the potential for a friend. Hark was a ward of an aunt – a great aunt, as in family matriarch and the conduit between the Mulligans and Bossche Bol, which may as well have represented the Whirled as far as the Mulligans go. Hark’s contact with the Whirled was highly scrutinized and controlled, but it wasn’t as if he was political royalty under constant threat. For as wealthy as the Mulligan’s were, softly wealthy as was, they could be very laid back, even if severely selective when it came to playmates for their children.

“I hear-tell you found a little friend to play with,” said Old Lady Mulligan.

Hark, being who and what he was, felt he had seniority over his aunt, with no obligation to keep her informed and fumbled at buttoning his lip, because seniority or not, she could swat him. “I found someone to toy with,” he lied. A friend? Is that what you called it?

“It’s no crime to have friends,” said his aunt. “But it’s good to know who you’re really toying with, isn’t it?”



The great curse.

Along with all the rest of them.

Was there ever even a connection? Had one been possible? That was a specific question Hark Mulligan wondered about him and Danny Birnbort. About the kid. And if there was a connection, was it pure enough to count? Between him and the kid. Pure gave Hark the shivers, and more so as he got older. Pure was as particle as true was wave. Or was it the other way? Both were a ceaseless challenge to grip. Even if you thought you weren’t losing it, you probably were, one way or the other, if not all three.

thump Thump thump.




Hark still vividly remembered all the hubbub wracking the Mulligan compound the day Winston Poelzig came to town. Word came down from on top, even specifically to Hark as delivered by Old Lady Mulligan herself: behave.

Behave as in behave, not as in don’t misbehave, but behave as in speak a few syllables, say hello to a neighbor, let a neighbor get near you.

Let an eye or two blink out of order.

The Mulligans had trust issues. Their motto? Goodly sized border territory teaming with lions and tigers and bears, and laser turrets to shoot down choppers and drones, make for good neighbors.

Winston Poelzig came anyway. Came to all out stay and live, as neighbor. Came in answer to royal decree practically. Mulligan decree. Against most odds Winston still knew where they roosted, as they did him. Of course they did, otherwise he wouldn’t have been who he was, nor them them.

The Mulligan and Poelzig families could both be traced back to Old Bossche Bol, from where the Mulligans went out in search of secrecy and seclusion, more of it that is. The Mulligans actually came from beyond Old Bossche Bol, but the Bol was where you would find that earliest trace of them, until next week at least, now that Winston Poelzig was at hand to do some erasing.

If men could be their own men, Winston Poelzig certainly was. Mathematical mechanic extraordinaire, squared, Mulligan’s lured him to Bossche Bol, the newer one, to build them a boop.

Now, starting then, in time, where more things would never change.




Danny Birnbort came from the wrong side of every and anything, all five of them, that being because his being took place outside the Mulligan continuum and it’s holdings. Continuum? Don’t get me started. They had a hold, a grip, on many people. Danny, like Hark, was an orphan, orphan-ish, Hark that is, Hark’s parents just perhaps misplaced. Danny’s parents died in the great mine cave-in. The great Mulligan’s mascara mine cave-in.

Danny was drawn and re-drawn to the site of the catastrophe as if by magnetism, and the Mulligans tended to let him pass thru the small Mulligan forest, home to rabbit and squirrel, and sometimes, bear, separating the mine from the town of Bossche Bol. Pass thru the whole forest as it was. It was open tree territory, but the closer one got to the part of the mountain that held the mine, the more uninviting it became until it became outright fenced in, as fenced in as possible, with the back up step of fencing everything else out. Still an arrangement with kinks to it and links in it. Few dared climb the fence, and fewer still climbed the fence and got caught by Hark Mulligan, self designated child protector of the Mulligan mine that he was, except the child part, which was true but under denial. Someday the mine would be his. He was smart, no one else knew that, that is that the mine would be his, to have and to hold. Could be, maybe.

“Hark, who goes there,” Hark called out when he caught Danny that first time. He always called out, “Hark who goes there,” as long as it was only another kid. He was weird, even if no one knew it. That’s sort of how it works. Blink, Hark. Dare you. He only protected the mine from children, as if they would even dream of running off with hordes of mascara. Mascara may not be transportable as horde, but we’re still awaiting an update on if it were mascara. It certainly must be some times.

On the other hand, would a horde of women, or men, sigh, running off wearing mascara equate?

thump Thump thump.




The Mulligans had so many philosophies one couldn’t count them. That was one of them. They were wealthy, but not as wealthy as they seemed, and they worked to keep it that way, preferring no one even knew they were wealthy.

The key to their success, what they liked to call their success, which was little more than the attitude they were on the road to success, was to appear wealthier than they were, so as to lure in allies with the promise of sharing in their wealth. At the end of the day that wasn’t how it worked. At the end of the day they got their allies on their own roads to success and the Mulligan’s then shared in their wealth.

They didn’t care about money. Especially making it. They were intrinsic valuers out to produce value. Such as by valuing allies, enriching them ability wise, steering them towards success. Idealists? Not so much. Realists? That would depend on their motivation, and they were motivated, motivated by survival no less, but was their motivation real? They preferred to think it was real enough, meaning they couldn’t exactly prove it was, and took the attitude no one would believe they were being real.

Hello distrust. Backed in a corner, keep away from me, distrust. They saw themselves as a system of government up against a political system of poisoning, thorned snakes out to poison, suffocate and shred them to pieces.

It was the slightest of touches that proved them wise and otherwise.




As for adult trespassers, Hark left those to the tigers. The tigers were generally not released on children.

Halfway up the fence, Danny paused to size up Hark, and kept climbing.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Hark asked, stunned that Danny kept going.

“I’m visiting my parents,” said Danny.

“Not during work hours,” said Hark, already suggesting the hard-ass boss he was to become.

“My parents don’t work here,” said Danny. “They died here.”

That gave Hark pause. It was true then, mascara miners could afford to have families. At least think they could. And one way or another a woman could work making an extra delivery into her work schedule. Danny was proof. Or was he? Talk about opening a can of worms. “That’s too bad,” he said, trying to be neutral as he thought of what action to take. What further action to take, that is. He tried to stand in Danny’s way without actually standing in his way. He stood so as to suggest Danny had better not proceed.

Danny wasn’t open to suggestion at the moment. “Who are you?” he asked.

“This is my mine,” said Hark, assuming that’s what Danny came about.

“Say what?” asked Danny.

“I am Hark Mulligan, the heir to everything.”

“Oh,” said Danny. “That Hark Mulligan.”

Hark didn’t know what to make of Danny. No one in the Mulligan community knew he chased kids off the property, and kids had always run with little prompting, practically running at just the sound of twig cracking, or a far off caged lion growling. Maybe yawning, lions are so lazy. Danny was like chaos waiting for instruction, or to instruct. Or not. In time to come, when Mulligan’s got on track, baaaq on track, their Department of Communications, brain milk, would reword chaos as havoc, defining chaos as thought put in motion to thwart havoc, whether successful or not, which they defined, havoc that is, as potential out of hand, or even chaos out of hand.. Havoc that wasn’t certainly suggested success, if one were checking results. At the end of the day, chaos and havoc, along with potential, would be thought of as the stuff of POTENTlAL, although they never wrote any ideas in stone. Some they did write bigger. Chaos and havoc, heck, they share four of their five signals, a, c, h, o, o. Bless you. Might have miscounted. Signals? That was the brain child of the Department of Electro-magnetic Gravitational Mirroring. All bases, and plates, were covered, and used as covers. Classified stuff.

As for mayhem, still under review. Hypothesis one was that it applied to disorder, and seams, and hems. Ahem. Amen.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Hark said.

That was an insult if ever. Danny backed off wondering what next. Old Lady Mulligan had specifically told him he could visit his parent’s place of rest whenever he liked. None of the bodies could be extricated from the site, and a place of memorial had been established. For Danny cutting thru the forest was a short cut and his only means of visiting the memorial whenever he liked as the road to the memorial was impassable on foot, what with the threat of mascara slides at every turn. Old Lady Mulligan never thought to consider the logistical tribulations for a non-motorized orphan.




One might say Mulligans, the unknown, was in a holding state of play. Who was the Mulligans? As continuum beyond family? That was the question. And they were all over the place.

All over the places.

Leaving one to wonder, were one to have access to much more than their own place, who was in charge? Was it one Mulligan, two, more? Was it even a Mulligan? Mulligan’s didn’t want it known, and they were discreet, and they had a huge head start at that non-knowledge.

Whoever said the rich were different hadn’t met the Mulligans. Difference couldn’t lay a hand on them, maybe because they weren’t all that rich. It were as if their blood had mutated, and was mutating outsiders they wanted to turn to insiders, and thus becoming, as noted, more a continuum than family. Let’s not even get started on that. At least not started more. For their part, the Mulligans were trying to do away with their start. OH my, I shouldn’t have gotten started. Let’s see if I can work my way back.

The Mulligans took on big questions, seemingly with little reason, apart from that maybe motivation. Always had. Maybe always had. Maybe always, someday, when they did away with their start. Starts and stops, the obstacles to always. OH OH OH, hard to stop after start. Someone brake me already, I think I’m broke.

For all the money they had, they didn’t always have it. They didn’t want money, they needed it. Along with refueling their wealth and happiness, they had to pay for their purpose, and that was answering those big questions, which took a lot of money. At the moment a void existed between active answering, and they were outright losing the momentum to even think what to ask next. Hark was the spark that would restore momentum, but currently all was on hold, as Mulligans, starting to break down, break backwards even, was content to refuel for as long as ever, mining money as it were. Specifically mining mascara, the black gold behind the white gold to be had man-u-factoring Mulligan’s Quant?m X Factor Make-Up, the stuff that could make you look any age you chose. Yes, man-u-factoring. A heady endeavor for disguising a face.

Oh yeah.

Oh no.

It went beyond disguising.

Think of that mascara, that mascara of the mine, as a potential ingredient for mascara, and beyond. Beyond as Mulligan’s Quant?m X Factor Make-Up. It was more age re-arranger than make-up, it was more anything than make-up because it flat out wasn’t make-up. There were knock offs made by other companies, even Mulligan’s had the lessor Mulligan’s Factor X line, which was make-up, all natural and healthy and self-healing and devoid of any of the stuff of Quant?m X. The big seller was the unisex 30 weight quart of midnight black eye black worn alike by athletes on ball clubs and kids at dance clubs. See the ball, be the ball, see the floor, be the floor. Put enough, that is, put more than more than enough around your eyes and you could fully darken in those windows to your soul, in case you’d sold it and didn’t want to let the secret out or any lighting in. Unless there was another reason for getting extreme about it. It looks kueul?

Mulligans had it’s best of the best, who called themselves the best, as did all the rest, but near obviously there were their low life’s of them, the mutated who hadn’t quite made it, those working for Mulligans who engineered the idea of Quant?m X as simply something to buy in your spare buying time, when you couldn’t think of anything else to have. Buying time, as in time not well spent, time shot up for temporary junk joy. And they couldn’t even keep enough of it on the shelves to sell. Quant?m X that is.

Fucking time, a different, perhaps even more highly prized, more organic, more orgasmic joy, might have been getting a little overly-engineered, too. But it was a way to pass time. The question was, to where? To who? To whom? Thwoom?

Thwoom-thwoom, the sound of time about to pass faster. Duck already, you knucklehead.

thump Thump thump.




Winston Poelzig became Danny’s adoptive father. He and the missus had come to realize their pure son, Hjalmar, needed an older brother. Talk about not thinking ahead, and that being Winston no less. Luckily, he was a man with connections.

Winston’s official capacity on the contract with Mulligan’s was to head up the Department of Timing, the department of departments as it were, one of them, where Quant?m X was being hailed as the answer to always, as if always ever bothered to ask anything, aside from everything. There wasn’t just a little magyck involved in taking off fifty years, or adding on ten or fifteen. Adding on years got old fast, so so so surprisingly true, and was abandoned almost faster.

The trouble with Quant?m X for marketing was fifty years of take-off meant packaging it up it in a fifty year quantity, in what they called a stone, which was the most efficient way to distribute it as the mascara tended to congeal into a fairly consistent sized and shaped lump that could be sold as such. Unbroken. No trouble yet, frankly. A smaller take-off of years meant trouble. FYI, it didn’t literally take off fifty years, it kept them off, slowed them down. You wouldn’t look like you were twenty years old for fifty years, but you might max out looking in your mid-thirties, and looking good and maybe even better, if you applied yourself.

They couldn’t crack the mechanics of a fifty year stone, not with exactitude. They could break it into pieces but couldn’t factor it at will, couldn’t control the breaking action and predict the size of pieces, and breaking it weakened it. The smaller the piece the weaker it was, in effectiveness and longevity. Still, where there’s a will, there’s a way. As for the heavy buyers, an industry term, when those fifty years were up, just before, lose all your mirrors. Just sayin’. Hollywood and the networks bought up the majority. Their mission, their motto . . . er, maybe not the place.

There were three downsides to Quant?m X. A gaseous liquid-ish, truly a byproduct of the stone – an elixir of potion and lotion which emanated from the stone just visibly enough to give the illusion it did – it was stored in a special pocket which was lined with a special bag. It had to be applied to your hair at night, by wearing that special bag that captured the gaseous-ness emanating from the stone. Wear it during the day if you like, but, just don’t. If you preferred you could wear it over your face, but why, and again, just don’t, your face would be midnight black black. So add it all up and downside one was black hair, unless you already had black hair, which is not a downside in my book. Still, they say blondes live longer, and there was a possibility Quant?m X made that truer.

Downside two was sleep, think ten hours of hard sleep a day, in one block, like it or not, sort of solid asleep – an interesting concept – while wearing a bag. On top of that, think dreams that were almost not-quite-random moving geometric shapes and patterns. Oh, mama, there is a difference Think artistry without architecture, or the reverse. Think doodling near the brink of idea. Think understanding you were going somewhere . . . but not knowing where . . . as you weren’t quite there yet . . . and at best the where was no where more than faith there was room for you somewhere when you awoke. They considered that the Quant?m X induced dream was a visualization of your mind recalculating you, slowing down your aging process. Plus you had to watch your beverage intake or feel awful in the morning, and a special fire alarm was available if sleeping thru a fire was a concern. Don’t think louder alarm, think ouch ouch ouch. A specially prescribed psychological pain. Getting fitted to the prescription was the worst of it and a lot of people just focused on fire prevention or sleeping curled up around a fire hydrant. Been there, done that. Cold cold cold.

But what downside is there without an upside. So think up. Think Grace Pobbible Industrial Sleep. Better times to come. As for all the downsides, we’re talking day one downsides. Nothing stands still if it isn’t falling. Try wrapping that around your head.

Downside three was those fifty or twenty or ten years catching up, fast, as fast as they possibly could. One had better have a good hearty breakfast that morning. Maybe not all that fast. It did take a few years for the aging to slow to near hold and eventually release and start to speed up. It could be depressing if you couldn’t set your mind to prepare, and couldn’t convince yourself you weren’t living as long as you might have.

All in all, what the heck, life is a performance, and how well you look is just as important as how well you perform. Ask any performer, or even just a wanna be. Then again, there was what one might or might not call downside four, that being that Quant?m X voided itself from the body via the eyes, creating something of a mascara look, except that it pooled alongside the edges of the inside of one’s eyeballs, doing a full circle, turning the whites yellow unto brown over time. It created a problem for movie make-up artists until they, being them, passed off the look as a look and got people on the street trying to recreate it. Sheesh. Gross. If that wasn’t downside four, then downside four might have been the potential that there was a time-wise external byproduct to Quant?m X, and no one had it figured it out, or where or when it occurred. Stay tuned.

There was crazy money to be had from Quant?m X, but Mulligan’s wasn’t crazy and maintained wealth integrity, exercising due diligence at managing that point where more than enough did equate to enough, after which point they invested heavily in micro art and architecture, and the resultant 360-degree micro defense, the stuff of another story. More about geometry than physics. Making enough what it was and not what it wasn’t. That maintenance actually tempered the profit taking of their allies, establishing a cee of distrust within the greater realm, with dubious eyes cast to Mulligan’s so called ulterior motives. At the end of the day Mulligan’s was left to consider whether ultimately it’s true quest wasn’t simply mastering the business of distrust.

Heads up, ‘the Mulligans’ is a family reference. ‘Mulligan’s’ is more a continuum/business reference. Luckily, they can be used inter-change-ably. Hardly matters except to my equilibrium and maybe grammamarians. Head ups two, gave it a lot of thought and decided to go with et al. anyway.

Theoretically, and not just quite theoretically, the Mulligans surmised if one commanded trust, one could take everything without it costing a cent, even get ‘em to give it away. But that wasn’t their style at all. More philosophers than capitalists, certainly much more than vulture or cannibal capitalists and those waste byproduct big mouth, all mouth takers and their jockeys championing the proliferation of taking and especially being taken – you know the ones, the big winded ones that speak and act as if they just swallowed their anus (is that why all the skewed, sterile grins, chattering skull teeth and otherwise yucky faces? Maybe they didn’t swallow hard enough and they’re tasting back-up.) – the Mulligans were most interested in the making and taking of place. Of how they took their place, not someone else’s, and what they made of it, not someone else. In the first place, first, until they could rid themselves of first along with start, they didn’t think the Whirled had a valid monetary price tag, the issue being a number, nor did the EARTH have a price tag. In the second place, and they weren’t all that up in a bind over second, which lead to seconds . . . mmm, no, maybe that would be too much information today, and we need to save some room.

Still, on that line, Hark’s ultimate choice, in time, was to be the protector of days. Hark was out to keep our time our time, even if he had to make it his time to get it done. A could-be point of contention. His issue lie in beating the pre-requisite required, not to mention getting past the could-be point of contention. Beating start and stop. Time. Timing. And time has many faces, and doesn’t like make-up disguising make believe, and even less getting played or beat, let alone gamed.

Hark didn’t know much about Winston Poelzig, and all would have been different if he had, if he had simply known who he was. Danny was or wasn’t lucky Winston wasn’t his pure father. Had he been, Hark wouldn’t have laid a hand on him. Danny, ever grateful, was a true, if not pure-born, Poelzig, he just wouldn’t spell or pronounce it that way, and not just the one time.




Word easily flowed from Danny to Winston to Old Lady Mulligan to the mine security staff and finally to Hark that Danny was to be left free to roam. Overkill, actually, and Hark took it the wrong way.

“Maybe you’d like the tour,” Hark said the next time he encountered Danny climbing the fence.” This would be after he caught Danny the first time, and before his aunt advised caution.

“The tour?”

“The tour. Would you like to see where the mascara flows from?”

Danny hadn’t actually cared, because he had never had heard the reference to mascara, which was uncommon slang for it. All the kueul kids talked about the styling of jeans and, especially, their pockets. OH? Genes, and not their those pockets? Not their them pockets? “Sure,” he said.

Although being protector of the mine seemed elemental, Hark was also keen on being a tour guide. He was especially keen on the blazers they wore, and the special red hard hats. Needless to say there were no mine tours, the tour guides he had in mind lead tours in the plant. Needlesserly to say, the plant bored Hark. Plus it was loud and stinky.

It was the underground spring of mascara that fascinated him, along with it’s secret. Very few miners even knew of or had access to the spring. The idea was to keep it’s secret secret. Think double secret. The secret-er secret was there was just one spring and it relocated itself, worming it’s way deeper and deeper into the mountain, leaving behind pockets of ready to be processed mascara, pockets that slowly filled in with time as the mascara was mined out, vacuumed to be more precise, using flexible hoses they called snakes. They didn’t work out that it was time, and long passed time, for a long time.

Danny didn’t really know the details of the fateful cave-in, no one fully knew them, but it seemed a sort of shaft that shouldn’t have been where it was caved in. Not so much shaft as pocket, as if all those pockets once juicy with hot mascara relocated in one place, but not creating one huge pocket, as there was only room for the one-sized pocket, thus establishing an intense normal sized pocket that just barely didn’t defy natural law and didn’t grow bigger. But then there’s cave law, which allowed the pocket to exclude the misplaced pockets once there were oh so many, and actually get smaller. The calamity of the cave-in resulted from the speed of the smallering into collapse, almost like a black pocket collapsing into itself. Under normal circumstances the victims might have been removed easily enough, but the circumstances present were terrifyingly unstable, when they weren’t defiantly as solid as Rand Heavy Metal’s brand of steel.

When Hark grew up he would close down the mine, when that decision was finally his, but his discoveries were yet to be made.

The first big discovery Hark made was handed to him by Danny. Winston took it upon himself to educate Danny on the geometry of time and mine, including the advanced concept of oh so many, since Danny seemed abnormally receptive to it, time that is, along with time that wasn’t and any ol’ other time. Danny was always getting into his tools and messing them up, so Winston finally showed him the various orders in his tool box, and first he showed him I O U. One, oneness, and, as is obvious, you. Or is it obvious? Is it really you, or just ‘U’, or is ‘I’ growing and going the same two directions at once? Or has oneness split from one and started moving towards two or twice-ness? As almost two of ‘I’, differing yet sharing sameness? Is it ‘U’-enough, or the growing of two of ‘I’ at once-enough? Is enough enough?

Probably more so, this time.

Thus Danny was enabled to reconstruct the secret formula used to locate the whereabouts of the next mascara pocket, and when. Winston’s face got redder than that tour guide hard hat when Danny pieced the formula together. It was like he showed the kid how to add one and one speck of time together and the kid turns around with the know-how and giddy-up to dig up square roots of time. It occurred to Winston that Mount Bossche Bol might not be the safest place for Danny to hang out, not for Danny, not for the Mount.

thump Thump thump.



(first course)


(this section is not mandatory reading, as goes for all of them, feel free to skip to the next |m|* marker none the less in or un-formed)


When it came to making that boop, Winston did not pass GO, he went directly to the epic work of change and breakage, Spheres, Points, Tori and Imagination. It was in fact his very own work, now, it having passed onto him from Jules Iffen, and of a nature of endlessness, and here’s hoping he could edit from the beyond to help once the work also became his two poor boys’ work.

One thing Winston felt for certain, and while a little shy he wasn’t too shy to announce it, “For the time being, the bible of traversing through EARTH and beyond space, beyond the heavens, and through imagination, was Spheres, Tori, Points and Imagination. For the time being, that is, a being of time. That, which is, what I would call, mine.”

Danny was actually stoked to get to carry on the torch. Hjalmar not so much.

For Winston, it wasn’t about seeing the light, it was about seeing a point. You might say Spheres, Tori, Points and Imagination was a bit ambitious even for Winston. The book had a quality to it where, were you to accidentally skip a page, or ten, you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking at page numbers, which Winston cleverly hid in a place I’ll never reveal. Hid? Between him and Iffen the secret of the page numbering was a conspiracy. Also, Winston was close to factoring in how to make the book readable upside down and backwards. Points come and go, so why not? Or so why not, Winston wondered. Plus the plan was to make it breathe and keep the planet breathing.

Consider Winston’s Kikierian point geometry, before it became Danny’s, (Hjalmar’s? Sheesh, again, not so much) which dictated motion or movement, and room to move or grow, was an essential aspect(s) of a solid point. Even a dot on a piece of paper was in motion, and moving in more than one direction. Flimsy but solid. Really? Or only surreally?

Blowing off the point-making technicalities of S.P.T.&I, as they bordered on mind curling, the great example of the two part nature of a truly mighty point was the EARTH and her orbit, the combination of counter point and base point making an orbital point – an orbital point, here a sphere, a big one, one that counts, a counter point, moving within her base point, which is room to move, an orbit. The EARTH’s orbit is essentially imaginary in contrast to it’s counter point, and without add up count-ability, as the orbit is actually nothing except for where or when the EARTH is located in it. Negate that whole organic shape idea of the point process, reversing real and imaginary, coming from the mind’s eye view, into dimensional shape via action and you produce something like ’O’, with an open center to let a shallow line pass thru, or link up with another point to build a complex braided path built point upon point.

Unless one were otherwise ambitious and thought, ‘OH’, considering the almost conjoined double dimension feat. Just weigh in on those four inner right angles of ‘H’, the braking representation of the human would-be want-out orbit, a deconstructed rectangle, but don’t weigh in or weight too much, or you’ll start going sceavy, and now is not the time. Lay an ‘H’ on top of an ‘O’ and you might not fall in an open ‘O’. Might safely cross over. Open ‘O’? How not? Well, not if it had a lid or a bridge. There is so so so much to the great fiction puzzle. Now may be the time to discuss that puzzle, but it’s not the place. Too many words listening in. Don’t start crowding me, kids, I bite, too.




Hark, being Hark, was already calling ten year old’s, ‘kid’, when he was five. Not to their faces, he didn’t talk to or at many faces, but he now had the Danny conundrum with whom to deal. He had no idea how old Danny was, certainly didn’t care. He was just a kid. But not just another kid. It were as if he were the first kid.

NO NO NO. Damn It, Hark, not another first.

The conundrum grew, as kids do, and so so so fast. Vrroom-vrroom.

When Hark wasn’t toying with Danny and the mine, or his Danny, as he came to think of him in time, they explored Mount Bossche Bol, in their spare time. Neither had much of a concept of play, yet, and neither ever thought to bring a ball. Winston toyed with the idea of explaining the concept of ball to Danny once, but was concerned Danny might nudge the EARTH out of her pre-destined orbit. Mercy, maybe even her post-destined orbit.

As the boys quest for exploration and maybe discovery lessened itself towards gaming, they came upon one, based on a dare. Danny was always rather quizzical about empty mascara pockets, and Hark wasn’t all that interested, it were as if he’d seen a million of them, and they were all the same. Danny wondered if it wouldn’t have been nice to have something to drop into one that bounced back, helping them calculate how deep the pocket was. If they could find something that could bounce back. A thing of magyck.

“Why don’t you just drop yourself into one then,” suggested Hark.

“Have you ever been in one?” asked Danny.

Hark hadn’t. He hadn’t been curious, and there were kids climbing fences to be on the lookout for. “I have not,” said Hark. “Why don’t you just hop in quick for a look-see?”

“I might if I knew it had a bottom,” said Danny. “And not one ten feet away.”

Fall down go boom.

The seed of a dare was planted, but it was too soon to take root, and there was the question of any soil at the bottom of a pocket. What did happen next was a discovery of a whole different sort. Almost a whole different sort. More a hole different sort, a sideways hole.

Danny had gotten on his hands and knees to try to look into the pocket, and looking up and ahead, saw a black spot on the wall a few yards in front of him, a perfectly rounded black spot. “What the heck is that?” he asked.

Hark was quick to investigate and found it was a hole, a hole that turned into a tube. “It’s a tunnel,” he said. A very small tunnel, almost more a tube.

Interestingly, by calling it a tunnel it became more appealing than it would have been had Hark called it a tube, as one with any sense would. A tunnel was the sort of thing either of them might be willing to investigate. A tube, not so much. A tube might just be mine engineering.




Where the Mulligans didn’t care to make money, they also didn’t care to mine mascara. Rand Heavy Metals did the mining. They swore up and down they knew nothing about where the tubes were from, but they did know a thing about where they going, at least a few, and that was all the way to the far side of Bossche Bol, where Rand’s central operations center was located. They had been using the tubes to siphon off mascara, which they sold on the black market.

So what was this stuff? Rand couldn’t figure it except to mine it. It was, as noted, practically and peculiarly, gaseous, when it was. If the black market hadn’t come to them first, and they had plotted on their own to abscond with it, they would have been stuck with it, with nowhere to go.

But, OH, they would have had a way to go nowhere.

They still did have a ways to go, because Mulligans didn’t seem to care, about the absconding, or the black market. It seems Mulligans was behind the black market, just another arm of the continuum. They were trying to stimulate competition and discovery, specifically discovery of other uses for the mascara, if only to use it up. Up, good ol’ Up. Winston Poelzig always even kept some ‘UP’ in his toolbox. “Don’t fall down without it, “ he always said.

Were it not for Hark and Danny’s curiosity, and their near insanity in crawling five miles to see where the tube ended, Rand would never have known they were the played and not the player. Did I say tube? Hark wound up wizened up as to how Mulligan played, and was thus also rewired as to how to interact with Danny.

As for mascara, it wanted to be down, maybe. Tests showed it had a gravitational pull, very slight, but it certainly married easily with the EARTH’s gravity, although that marriage interfered with mascara’s personal grip on lighting, leaving that lighting that it was using for cover to go on it’s merry way escaping all gravity, for a time, after a time, especially night’s gravity, while night stuck to and about the EARTH, even when you couldn’t see it.

What night brought with it, under the cover of lighting, was NO-ness, and the byproduct of NO-ness at play was night dust, uncommonly referred to around Bossche Bol as mascara. Less complex than powdered motion, and hard to get a grip on before it got a grip on you.




Where Hark went to his uncle Alexander to report the tube, tunnel, and Rand Heavy Metal, Danny went to Winston to report. Winston knew about the tubes, but just about them. Figuring out their source was on his doing list, and he was coming up blank. He knew the current scenario however, not so much the details of the pirated mascara, but the intended line of study – virtual surreality. It was perhaps the nature of the mascara that duped the boys into thinking tunnel instead of tube. Seriously, the tube was pretty small to be thought of as a tunnel, plus it was one continuous piece.

The thing Winston hadn’t done was look at a tube first hand. They were something of a secret, not a closely guarded one, just a don’t ask don’t tell one. Now Winston had Danny to show him the whereabouts of one.

“So what is this stuff, Dad?” asked Danny, when they stopped at the pocket where the tube was found.

“It’s left over night, Danny,” said Winston. “Night dust. The debris left from the night’s fighting to catch and hold onto lighting.” Lighting, that which illuminates imagination.

No, Winston did not have a sense of humor and Danny was speechless. He couldn’t think of the right question to ask.

“So that’s the tube over yonder?” asked Winston. “I wonder if this place isn’t crawling with tubes.” He always felt good at leaving Danny speechless. It was hardly do-able.

Now something seemed to be crawling all over Danny. OH, just his skin.

“An infinite non-number of tubes,” mused Winston, a steady fan of inconceivable. “That would be something to write home about.” Oh yes, non-number, sort of like the boop Winston was devising. A boop – as far as any thing of any set of any sort of man-u-factored thing or illusion got towards infinity minus one, making a boop a half-number based hybrid, an un-number-able. The issue was in counting the suckers. How did you reproduce one that wasn’t mutating into two? Mercy, it was the counting and making of numbers, or anything, that was infinite, as the chore became more and more finite, the un-finish-able production and counting and recounting and production and counting and recounting and counting and counting and counting . . . Stooge labor. Don’t get yourself on that assembly line. Or was GOD making the stuff in advance of mathematicians and physicists in his spare time, along with storage? Winston couldn’t learn more about surreality fast enough. In the meantime Winston and the Mulligans could only work at getting always working for them. Still, if you closed one eye, counting by boops, even just two, left infinity eating your dust. Speed speed speed – and cough. Sneeze? Just take a pill already.




The next time, the last time, the boys stood above a pocket they were two different people. Still two different people, of course, but two more different people. Considering those two they may as well have been four.

Danny had brought along a candle and some matches, thinking he wanted to see what organic lighting did inside the pocket.

It went ‘whoosh’ and not much else, leaving nothing to be seen.

“Are you going to jump in today?” asked Hark. “My uncle Al told me they weren’t much more that six feet deep.”

“Did he really?” asked Danny, thinking that had the beginning sounds of coffin hole specification. He had asked Winston and Winston had no idea of how big a pocket could be, not anymore, and he ought to know. “What’s up with the tunnel? What did uncle Al say about Rand?”

“He said it was just a tube and we should mind our own business.” That is, Hark should mind his own business, and Danny his. Maybe Danny had seen enough of Hark’s business, which he did think of as his, or her’s, all Mulligans did, and were, his and her. Their business, not Hark’s, as his, yet.

Danny leaned over the edge of the lip of the pocket a little more than made Hark comfortable, since it was beginning to occur to Hark that he’d like to get someone in that pocket to see what would happen, for the sake of progress. He rested his hand lightly on Danny’s lower back, somewhere on it’s way to push or pull, he hadn’t quite decided.

Danny was beginning to think he heard the pocket, something in the pocket, echoing him inwards. Was it the spirit of his parents trying to look out for him? Was it something else, something utterly dark? “Is this one supposed to be emptying or filling?” he asked.

“I don’t think it’s supposed to be doing anything,” said Hark “They never seem to act reasonable either way.” Hark was firming up the location of his hand while at the same time infinitesimally withdrawing it. He was thinking he could think this kid into jumping in on his own soon enough. “Jump already,” he said. “I dare you.” Smart, Hark, very impressive.

Danny was naturally jovial and had bounce. His joviality had been in low supply since his parents passed, but it would bounce back. A little surprised at what Hark suggested, since Hark was generally patient, a flash of light made him ask, “What’s it worth to you?” But he asked as he abruptly stood up straight, backing into Hark’s still firmly placed, even if retreating, hand, and slipped, bounced, forward and into the pocket.


Danny vanished without a sound and Hark stood aghast, frozen, mortified as he stared into the abyss. “I didn’t push you,” he said to the pocket, although he may have unwittingly crowded his young friend some so much, and results are results. And Guilt was almost instantly consuming him, making him feel ill, and he watched and waited. Weighted? Surreally? And it wasn’t before much more than seventeen or eighteen seconds passed when the sound came of something like coal dropping down a chute, and it were as if the pocket was filling from beneath as it pushed Danny out of it riding a bed of night dust. Sprung him out one might say.

Understandably puzzled, shocked even, Danny mindlessly debated what was more shocking, getting pushed into a pocket or getting pushed out. Did nothing want him? “You pushed me!” He shrieked.

“No,” Hark denied.

“You pushed me, YOU RAT!,” Danny shrieked further.

OH, that stung. Trust me, from then on, per Hark, they starting putting lids on pockets not being worked and bridges on ones that were. “I was reaching out to hold you,” Hark argued. Maybe not exactly, but he would have gripped if the option presented itself sooner, or not as soon as it had.

And just like that Danny was gone, fast. Faster than fast. Oh yes, one doesn’t just fall into night dust without negation saving them, not if there’s any fitness to them. As was, Danny had been momentarily de-synchronized, allowing lightlessness to intertwine with him, and not the last time.



(second chorus)


(mmm. . .)


Negation saves? Not so much. Not as a rule, not exactly, not with that direct intent.

De-synchronized? Also not so much, but also not just a little.

This might be the place to discuss negation, night, night dust, acid night, nemesis motion, cave law, et al., but we’re running out of room.

Night dust navigated Danny upwards, re-synchronizing him. Saved? A bit of an exaggeration, he had no where near spent and certainly hadn’t trashed any of his potential, but maybe the dust charged him up a little. Nudged him back on the path he got himself nudged off. No big, no bad. Just a breaking notion not fixed quickly enough, although pretty damned quick, I’d say, and fixed all the same.

Fixed? Maybe not in entirety. Still, maybe not the very best outcome or come out.

And no room to discuss cave law? There’s always room to talk about cave law.

thump Thump thump. Talk is cheap, so that may be enough said and it’s getting repetitious. OH, but on the bright side repetition might be the next best thing and you may already be a winner.

On that note, as we rush out, time to queue up some back-wards, feel-good banjo music, no? Let’s call this familiar advertiser’s ditty Simpleton’s Delight. And an eight, and a three, and a . . . Dear deardear dear dear dear dear dear dear, . . .Dear deardear dear dear dear dear dear dear, . . .(OH my, those dears do add up and it’s a trickier tune that it looks like.)


Moving on and heading home.




“Where’d you go?” Hark asked somewhat quietly, somewhat very puzzled, at Danny’s amazing exit. “Hey! Come back here. We have to talk about this.” Despite himself, Hark half thought they had to talk about the experience of the pocket.

Also, in a corner of his mind, as he visualized Danny’s rising, he remembered a glimmer of something ghostly crimson in Danny’s hand. Some sort of luminous rock? Hark immediately thought lava, but he was geologic enough to know no one could carry around a glob of that molten stuff.

“No,” Danny called back, sounding as if he was close to being out of hearing range. “I’m never talking to you again,” he continued, his words trailing towards silence. Yes, he was little hyper-sensitive those days. Currently more so.

Hark briefly conferred with his better judgment and started rushing after Danny, knowing he knew his way better in the mine, which had short cuts he had never shown Danny because they had never been in a rush to get anywhere. Taking every short cut he knew, he was positive he got himself ahead of Danny and waited and listened. All was silent, but Hark’s heart . . . thumpThump . . . thumpThump . . . Feeling a little panicky after a while, he tried to shake things up. “I know you’re in here and I will find you,” he shouted.

There was a long silence until Danny replied, in a voice that was peculiarly confident, and coming from everywhere,“Oh no you won’t. Not now, not again, not ever.”

“Oh yes, now,” Hark called out. “And any time I want.”


Game on.




-- > STOP < --




The Phantom Coal Chute

  • Author: Richards Hall
  • Published: 2016-03-03 19:20:19
  • Words: 8169
The Phantom Coal Chute The Phantom Coal Chute