Lisa* and I wound our way from the river toward our tents. We spent the morning watching the buffalo and wildebeest go to water. A few small crocodiles sunned on a sandbar, while hippo eyes watched the ungulates drink.
Lisa’s normally pristine safari outfit showed the wear of countless encounters with the thorns that seem to grow everywhere here. The smell of smoke and the oppressing heat became the norm.
We stopped to let a small group of buffalo pass in front of us. “I don’t trust those things,” she said.
“You shouldn’t. Robert Ruark once said they look at you as if you owe them money.” I took off my hat and wiped my brow as they filed past. “What do you think about a trip to town?”
“There’s a town out here? Why couldn’t we stay there? Do they have WiFi?”
“WiFi, a spaceport, and best of all an air conditioned library.”
We made our way to Camp Research, as designated by the sign Lisa made. She used the hand pump to fill the Land Rover, while I gathered my iPad and some notebooks.
“What’s the name of this place?” She asked.
“I don’t know. My imagination just goes on and on. Sometimes a town pops up.”
“What? No, seriously?”
“Yup. The town is called Lisaville. Now get in the car.”
The drive involved a dirt road and one stop for a mother elephant who seemed more angry with her calf than our car. We merged onto a tiny paved road, followed by a four lane highway. Ours was the only car on the surface. Everyone else flitted overhead on the Skyway system.
“Why didn’t you get us a Skyway vehicle?” Lisa asked.
“Ambiance. I’m trying to get the flavor of Africa. Today is all about the other outlines. I’d kind of like to get back to science fiction.”
Lisa pulled to the curb in back of the library. “Robot girls are all in favor of science fiction. You have your phone. Let me know when you’re ready to go.”
“Where are you going?”
“There has to be a shower around here somewhere, and a store, and an Internet coffee shop.”
We parted ways, and I started my research. I found a bio-hack to include in my Grinder outline. I’m going to include this article in the next Idea Mill post. It basically has the potential to not only become the next street drug, but to invade the very food we eat. I’m going to use it, but others may get some ideas too.
Research into the story about yak guy is almost impossible. His growth has to be more spiritual and I need to find that without a book or deep research. I stumbled across a book of magic items, and may use one in my fantasy outline.
It’s getting to the point where each idea, and potential outline has merit. They all have at least one big flaw too. This is the thing about outlines. They never come completely together until you start writing. Getting a chapter down creates new ideas. Character interactions and situations build fences that limit possibilities. This is a good thing.
I packed it in for the day and took a walk. A bar, decked out in neon, caught my eye. Cars descended from the Skyway into its parking lot.
Humans and aliens of every stripe filled the place. I made my way to the bar and looked at the menu. Some of it was in a language I didn’t understand. I told the bartender, who had four complex eyes, to give me the house special.
While he worked on my order, I watched a multi headed slug thing swim across a bowl of something blue atop the bar. I didn’t know if it was a living garnish in someone’s drink, or a patron small enough to swim inside his own drink.
My order was green and bubbling, and served in a frozen erlenmeyer flask. It looked like something right out of Mad Science 101. I carried it to a quiet table in the back and decided to people watch, thing watch. I took a sip. It was cold, refreshing, and tasted slightly of licorice.
She just appeared out of nowhere. Green, transparent, beautiful. She never said a word, but slid into my booth and leaned her head on my shoulder.
Ideas flowed. I knew the yak guy would be attracted to a place like this, and made a few notes. Grinders and bio hackers would like this place too. I made notes. Characters could get in all kinds of trouble in a place like this.
A barmaid came by and topped off my drink, using a hose from a brass backpack she wore. I watched her tail wag as she made her way to the other tables. My new companion slid in closer, and wrapped her arms around me, as I sipped the top off my flask.
Lisa came through the door, looking like a page out of a safari clothing catalog. Her clothes were pressed and snag free. Even her pith helmet had been cleaned. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Having a drink. Are you ready to leave so soon?”
“I’ve been texting you for hours.” She stuck a freshly painted nail in my flask and placed a single drop on her tongue, swirling it about. “Ethanol, propanol, butanol, and…yup, thujone. This is absynth.” She pointed a finger at my companion. “And your new friend is your old friend, the Green Fairy.”
I slid away from the fairy and looked at her. She made a pouty face.
“Lorelei told you years ago she would be your Muse, but you had to choose between her and the Green Fairy.” She grabbed me by my shirt and yanked me from the booth. The fairy wiggled her fingers in a seductive bye bye.
She dragged me out to the Land Rover. It was already dark outside. She made a u-turn on the empty surface street and headed for Camp Research.
“So what did you do today?”
“I found a public bath house. I needed to get the sand and woodsmoke out of my hair. The people there were so friendly.”
I looked at her perfect torso in the moonlight. “I’ll bet they were.”
“Then I bought some new clothes, got my nails done, backed myself up to the cloud, and downloaded everything I could learn about Africa. It’s a good thing you sent Lorelei over to Charles Yallowitz’s blog. If she found you cavorting with the Green Fairy again, she might just quit.”
“I just ordered a drink. I didn’t know what was in it.”
“In a science fiction town? You really ought to know better by now. Maybe you really are better suited for a tent under the stars.”
“I wonder why there’s no bourbon fairy? Maybe I should write one.”
Lisa slapped her own forehead and groaned.
*Lisa is the main character in my first book, Wild Concept. She’s a robot, and works as my writing assistant these days.