The Moon King (Neil Williamson)

It is the moonlight reflecting upon the waves around Whale Rock just off our shore that visitors to Cayucos exclaim about. But in the evenings I prefer to sit on my second floor deck. The view from there is of green hills rising above the rooftops of this beach town to which I've moved myself. I can also look down into my wee realm of nearly 200 square feet and see the giant cactus that grow in beds surrounded by the planking of a meandering deck, the sundial that needs perpetual tuning, and the two boys harassing lizards where I planted an avocado tree in a whisky barrel on the platform raised above the decking.

It's actually a whiskey barrel, having once held Kentucky bourbon, but I prefer to think of it without the 'e'.

I haven't lived here long enough to be sure yet, but I believe the green will soon be fading to brown as the brief rainy season is put behind us. Only last week, I received a tweet from the local fire brigade about a fire in a nearby river bed. There is something wrong with a world where river beds are appropriate places for wild fires.

I tell myself to ignore the desire to sing the Midnight Oil song aloud.

Living alone brings a matched set of pleasure and difficulty. One difficulty is restraining myself from talking to the cat, singing random snatches of song, and interacting with imaginary people. Some day I would like to rejoin society and I have no desire to crash land in it with a cart full of off-kilter behaviors. So I am doing my best to ignore the two boys crouched upon my deck near the avocado because they are but evidence of some unhealthy misfirings in my brain. And the worst part is that although my brain has invented them out of whole cloth, it refuses to remind me of the name of one of the boys.

Still, one cannot allow the local fauna to be terrorized by the figments of one's imagination, right? The ice clinks as I put my Godfather on the railing and walk down the spiral staircase to investigate. As always, I use a little technique I've come up with to ferret out what's going on in situations like this. I call it, 'asking questions'.

'Hey, what are you lot doing?'

Prasad doesn't bother to straighten his tie or stand when I interrupt. 'We are making luck lizards,' he explains.

'Obviously.' It's never wise to let your imaginary crowds think you aren't keeping up. 'And I assume you got the idea from some book. The true question is why are you making luck lizards?'

'Because there aren't any monkeys in this place, obviously,' pronounced the boy whose name I cannot remember. 'Have you thought of living somewhere else?'

'I have thought of living many places, but you and the rest of the imaginary crew always find me. I thought there'd be peace by the seaside.'

Prasad catches another lizard and places a coin in its mouth. He puts the lizard on top of the wooden fence between my yard and the one that seems to belong to the Dalmatian next door. When Prasad releases the lizard, it raises and lowers its feet in diagonal pairs, testing its freedom. Then it scampers away. It never drops the quarter.

When it comes to being inspired by books they read, I suppose a bit of trinket redistribution via lizard is not the worst they could have come up with after reading The Moon King, Neil Williamson's latest bit of weird fiction.

'I don't know if it qualifies as weird fiction,' Prasad tells me. 'It's rather gentle.'

'Gentle?' I'm surprised by the word. It feels right, but... 'But there are riots and mayhem. It's clearly weird. This novel is easily on par with the best of Ambergris.'

'I think it owes as much to Calvino as to VanderMeer. It's almost musical.'

'Oh, right,' says the kid with no name. 'That's your shtick these days: finding the so-called parents of the book at hand.'

'This one is a hard one,' I admit. 'In addition to those, I see Foundation, Baudolino, Diamond Age, and Soldier of the Mist, all wrapped up in a beautiful package. It's a lazy shorthand, but --'

'It's not lazy; it's insulting. As if the books are not true creations in their own rights, simply mere mashups derivative of early work.'

'Oh, that's not my intent at all. I think it's more like there are sympathetic vibrations from these other works in this book, as if each one resonates with this at a particular level, though it is not a mirror or copy of any of them.'

'Perhaps it is a conversation the book is having with the other ones, much like you are having with us,' Prasad suggests.

'I'm not having a conversation with you.' I wave my hands in frustration. 'You don't exist. You are not real.'

The other boy puts an ankle bracelet around the neck of another lizard and sets it free. Both boys stand up. 'Then you won't mind joining us down at the beach?'

'What's at the beach?'

'We're going down there to wait.'

'And to watch,' Prasad put in.

'No, I am going to sit on my deck and finish my drink. You two run along.'

I watch the boys walk past the house to the road. I'm sure they'll be safe: after all they don't really exist. As I'm sure that whatever it is they are expecting to emerge from the waves is not real. I am not afraid.

I just want to finish my drink.

And I am definitely not humming any songs by The Mountain Goats.



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