As we sat down on the train I couldn't see a thing. But it felt a lot better than living in that mirror-image world, that was for sure. The darkness helped return my mind to normal, and when I tried to picture things in my head they all appeared the right way.

I could feel Shadow beside me, and I felt good. It was nice to have a companion.

"So, are we going to look for Mary, now?" I asked after a while of silence.

"You bet," Shadow reassured me, and he went back to thinking.

"You wouldn't happen to be a member of the IDIOT Club, would you?" Shadow remarked after a while.

"Uh, I don't think so. But, what is it?"

"The Inter-Dimensional-Information-Office-for Travellers. It's kind of like AAA and a Lost-and-Found rolled into one. People are always jumping through time and space and other dimensional universes looking for something or other. An IDIOT representative plots out a TRYPTIC, you know, a travel plan."

"Wow. That sounds perfect for us. But how do we get in, if we're not members?"

"Not to worry. I'm a shadow, remember. Or at least I think I am. Anyway, shadows have ways."

While we waited for our stop, I asked Shadow how come he knew so much about things I hadn't ever heard of.

"I don't know. I guess it's because shadows are more close- knit than you objects," he postulated. "When you're all sleeping we must get together some place dark and shoot the breeze. You can pick up a lot of useful information that way."

I nodded in the darkness.

"You know, shadows are a lot more help to you objects than you give them credit for," Shadow continued; it sounded like he was trying to convince himself of something.

"Sometimes when you're walking along and an idea just 'pops' into your head, well, that didn't come out of nowhere, you know. Your trusty old shadow is in there looking after you. Or when you think someone's behind you, and you think you just 'sensed' it. Nope. It's your shadow letting you know!"

I was impressed. Then the train stopped, and Shadow pushed me up. "Come on. You lead and I'll be right behind you."

I looked out the open door and saw the thin wisps of gas just floating around in mid-air.

"Are you sure I can step out there?" I gasped, afraid to move.

"Trust me," Shadow insisted.

I stepped out and found myself walking on air. "Hey, this is fun!" I thought. It felt much different from walking on the hard ground. I felt so light and airy myself.

Shadow was sighing sadly. "This place used to be empty once. That stuff floating around -- it's pollution from all these visitors. Ah, but, oh well, that's progress. Hey, over there," Shadow pointed, and we walked toward a bustling building where people were flashing in and out in bursts of color.

When we got closer Shadow stopped me. "OK, now follow me into the lobby, but stay out of view and wait for me. If you go in, they might ask a lot of questions, but a shadow can slink around, if you know what I mean."

We entered the building and walked down a long corridor. "Wait here, and don't move no matter what happens!" Shadow whispered, and pushed me in a corner.

I watched as Shadow slid down the hall and began mingling with the other shadows that followed behind their masters and I waited.

And I waited...

Cobwebs were starting to form in my hair, and I had the urge to brush them off, but Shadow had told me to stay put.

"Sorry I took so long," Shadow apologized as he shook me awake. In his hand was a flat plastic object with several knobs. It looked like an Etch-A-Sketch. He handed it to me and looked around while he continued talking.

But while he talked I fidgeted absently with the Etch-A- Sketch. I watched in fascination while brightly colored lines moved all over the whole screen. "Hey, this is fun," I cackled.

"HEY, GEORGE. WHAT ARE YOU DOING!" Shadow screeched, and he grabbed the Tryptic from my hands.

He turned a few knobs on the Tryptic and then let out a huge sigh. "Thank goodness it had the backup program loaded. You know what they do to you if you ask for directions twice? No. You don't want to know. It's not a pretty sight. Now, don't play with it anymore," he chided, handing it back. "This is not a toy!"

He sighed and went back to explaining what had happened.

"I snuck in line behind this cat-shadow that apparently seemed to know me. The cat was looking for a ball of yarn it had lost while Time-skiing. Don't ask me why he was Time-skiing with a ball of yarn. Everyone knows you can't bring things like that with you. I mean stuff could fall off and crash down someplace in space or time...Oh, yeah, anyway. This cat was in real big trouble with his old lady, and just had to get her favorite ball of yarn back. I spotted some old ball of yarn in a corner, and he was sure it must be the right one. If it wasn't she'd never know the difference. He was quite a nice chap. Seemed a little wild, but just the type you'd like on your side if you were in a scrap sometime..."

I coughed impatiently.

"Anyway," Shadow sighed, "he agreed to ask for directions to your pumpkin for us. Now he's happy, and we've got our map."

I smiled.

"Of course, it wasn't easy tracking her down, let me tell you. The IDIOT computer had a real tough time. You'd think a pumpkin named Mary would be easy to locate. Turns out there are three. The computer came up with all the probable paths we need to take. I'm afraid we're going to have to check them all out."

I looked down at the Tryptic. It looked like a million lines zig-zagged all over the screen. "How the heck can you read this thing?"

"It's an art," Shadow shrugged. "Luckily, I must have picked it up somewhere or other. Let's see," he sighed, leaning over my shoulder. He pointed to something on the Tryptic. "Right there it says, 'You are Here'."

Is that what it says?" I laughed. You could have fooled me.

"Trust me...Now, one Pumpkin Mary is over here." He pointed at a dot that was circled in red. "Another here, and the third one is...Oh, here she is."

I looked at the three circles and the one that said where I was.

"Excuse me. I don't mean to question you or anything, but why do we have to follow all these lines? I mean there's millions and they zig-zag everywhere. Why can't we just go straight here, then if it isn't her, go to this one, and then jump over here?"

Shadow shook his head. "George, George, you don't understand. We're not just walking down some street back home. We're time travelling, man. And not just that, we're ODU jumping, er, 'Other-Dimensional-Universe' jumping," he added slowly, like he was talking to a child. "It's also called YODELing by some people."

"Hey, I know about YODELing," I exclaimed.

"Right. Well, things have to be done just so for other things to have happened."

"You mean happen," I corrected. I was quite familiar with the rules of cause and effect, thank you.

"You're seeing it all wrong, George," Shadow sighed. "Once you step out of your own time and dimension, you're in Eternity, man. Then you realize that all vantage points -- the past, present, and the future -- all happen at the same time, objectively speaking. It's just a question of ODU jumping or YODELing from one point to the other. Actually, YOGI YODELers are so good they can be at every point at the same subjective time."

Shadow could see that I had no idea what he was talking about. "Look, don't worry. I'll help you out until you get used to it," he assured me.

He took the Tryptic from my hands, and I felt relieved.

"Look, see, right here. It says you find her eventually. So it's already happened. We just have to follow the lines and we'll reach that point. Unless you're a YOGI YODELer? Then we can just go there directly."

"Nope. OK, how do we start?"

"Well, first off, you want to find her in a reasonable amount of subjective time, right?"

"Yeah. I'd like to find her right now."

"Well, we'll just make it a little easier for ourselves."

"How do we do that?"

"Well, we divide up, assign a path to each of us, and then we all meet back at some given spot at a certain given time, and report back on what we've each found."

"But I don't want you to leave me alone."

"George, I wouldn't do that!"

"But, you said divide up."

"Yeah. Oh, I mean Time-wise."

I had no idea what Shadow was talking about.

"Just blow a bubble, would you. I'll explain when we get there."

"What about the train?"

"It's too risky. We could get caught, you know. They don't like you travelling through Eternity without giving up your soul for some tokens. Besides, the exercise will do us good."

My mind was full of questions, but I just shrugged with a sigh and reached into my pocket for a new piece of gum.

"Now blow it nice and hard," Shadow instructed. "This is a big trip."

I chomped and chomped like a cow, and then he held on as I blew as hard as I could.


Map To You
( Chapter 29- MP3 song demo by Lyndon DeRobertis)

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