I am writing this sitting in the half-submerged lobby of a rotting, half-finished condominium complex surrounded by cavorting fresh water seals, two pearl-handled revolvers in my lap, a bottle of vodka in my right hand, a human body in the freezer in the kitchens behind me, and a rather large displaced rock hopper penguin staring me in the face. Upstairs, on the second floor, is the room I’ve made my headquarters. It has a bidet but no bath. The toilet seat refuses to stay up. The wallpaper has succumbed in places to a grainy black fungus, despite the moderate climate. I smell mold everywhere, and fish. (Because, you know, fish have appeared in the lobby on occasion.) Sometimes the electricity works, but mostly I hope it doesn’t because I’m convinced what with all the water everywhere I’m likely to be electrocuted, perhaps even while I sleep.
I don’t know the name of the condominium complex because the tattered, half-dilapidated sign out front is in Cyrillic, but it almost certainly includes the words “Lake Baikal” in the title. For example, “Lake Baikal Prison Camp Suites,” perhaps. Or, “Lake Baikal Indoor Swimming Pool & Seal Habitat.” Or, “Lake Baikal Zoo Suites.”
Still, it is a magnificent view, as the front wall of the lobby has eroded to the point that the windows have fallen out and there’s nothing between me and the lake but a bit of mortar and marble. Sunsets are particularly magnificent, if marred by the seals snuffling in to sleep on the soggy carpeting, on the couches and sometimes even on the tables. As for the penguin, her name is Juliette.
Did James tell you that my contact glasses have been inscribed with tiny mystical symbols by the local Shaman, who goes by the name of “Ed”? His real name is so long and convoluted that he long ago gave up making anyone learn it. The symbols supposedly bring me luck and ward off the Devil. (I’m not sure it’s working; I’m also not sure how he managed the trick.)
I admit to being more than a little confused as to how I wound up here. (And, for a long time, I was confused as to how Juliette got here.) But, then, anyone would share this feeling, if put in my position. That I blame your brother is understandable, I think. That the vodka permeating this part of the world like a particularly harsh clichÃƒÂ© dulls most of my anger is also understandable.
My splendid isolation–although how can one truly feel isolated surrounded by a convocation of such magnificently oratory mammals?–I have received several calls from your brother. Right here in the lobby. On this weathered battle tank of a telephone next to me–a black one that looks like a prop from Dr. Strangelove. The last call came just a few days ago. Did James tell you about it? I imagine not.
And that’s the beginning of “Errata,” which will appear in Argosy sometime between now and…