20 Magic CityMature

Pastor Domnick Luzak and his niece Charlene now stood beside Dave, Karen and Louise. They stood looking across the thickly packed crowd that went past them going left to right, and right to left, while moving along the 9th Avenue Corridor. On the opposite side of 9th Avenue, they were looking down the length of the 39th Street Corridor, where its thickly packed crowd moved toward or away from 9th Avenue. 

The Corridors were brightly lit. The shops along both 39th Street and 9th Avenue had flashing signs, identifying themselves and the types of merchandise they had for sale. The overly warm and humid air was filled with recorded music that mingled with the sounds of the uncountable people moving through both the 39th Street and 9th Avenue Corridors. 

"Here we are ladies and gentleman." Dave repeated, "The City of Manhattan Building. 

"Manhattan." He then repeated an ancient saying, "'The Magic Island at the Center of the World!'" 

Karen said, "Now I'm hungry." 

Dave told her, "We all are." He pointed across the Avenue, down along 39th Street. "I see a place." 

Domnick asked him, "How do you make your way through this crowd?" 

He said calmly, "We wait for the light." 

Above the center of this intersection, a traffic light hung below the ceiling. The light facing the five, who'd just emerged from the fire stairs, was red. Then the light changed to green. All the pedestrians moving along 9th Avenue halted, and the five rushed across the intersection, along with hundreds of others, and began moving east along West 39th Street. The light behind them changed again, and the crowd on 9th Avenue resumed moving once more. 

Now the five moved with the crowd on the downtown side of 39th Street, passing stores on their right. They passed a stationery shop, a pharmacy, a lighting store, and a hardware store. 

The crowd was thick with people. On this side of the corridor, those on the right moved away from 9th Avenue, while those on the left moved in the opposite direction. The crowd on the corridor's opposite side, moved the same way. 

In the warm and humid air, most of the people were dressed casually, wearing short sleeved garments. Some of the men wore no shirts at all, and were bare above the waste. So were some of the women. 

A few people were dressed in blue uniforms, and wore badges. They also carried night sticks, and had laser pistols holstered on their belts 

Pastor Luzak spoke. "I am a total stranger here. I know nothing about anything here inside the City of Manhattan Building, and yet I have been sent here to begin preliminary talks with your Government. I know nothing about your Government, and I'd be very surprised if any of you know anyone who's a member of your Government." 

Louise told him, "We were talking about that before, after I talked to you on the phone. Our School's Principal, Mr. Charles Avery might be able to help." 

"Your School's Principal?" 

"Yeah. That's what we were thinking. He knows people who are on the School Board. He can introduce you to them, and the Chancellor of the School Board can introduce you to the Mayor, the City Council, anybody else you'll have to talk to." 

"Good." Domnick asked, "And how soon do you think I'll be able to talk to your Mr. Avery?" 

Louise looked at Dave and Karen. Dave looked puzzled. 

Karen said, "Monday morning Pastor. Everybody gets to talk to Mr. Avery, in his office, on Monday morning." 

She, Dave and Louise chuckled. 

Louise added, "Especially when it comes to things that are totally unexpected." 

"Monday morning?" The man sounded troubled. "That's a long time to fast. Tell me, would any of you know someone else, who might know someone in the City Building's Government?" 

Dave said, "Pastor MacDougal. I told you about him. He's the Pastor of mine and Karen's Church. He's a highly respected member of this Community. He is able to contact anybody in the Government, and they do take his calls." 

"Good." The man said, "Then I'd like to attend Worship with both of you tomorrow morning. It'll be fascinating to speak with the Pastor of a Church, inside the City of Manhattan Building." 

Now Karen asked, "You said something about a 'Fast'?" 

"That's right." The Pastor said, "Right now, after that very long walk, and exhausting climb, we're all very hungry, but I know what you'll be eating. It's something that Charlene and I won't eat. Now Charlene and I have packaged meals in our back packs. I'm sure that if we did go into any eatery with you, we wouldn't be allowed to eat our own food there." 

The City Building kids all chuckled. 

Charlene asked. "Would any of you happen to know, if there's some place around here, where the two of us can eat the food we brought with us?" 

Dave, Karen and Louise looked puzzled. 

Louise said, "I have no idea. None of us have ever been down on this Level before." 

Domnick said, "You haven't?" 

"No sir." Dave told him, "We all live up on the 1,378th Level, and we hardly ever leave our neighborhood, except for weekends, holidays and special occasions. We've never had any reason to come all the way down here before." 

Now Louise asked, "How about the Glad He Ate Her?" 

Domnick said, "Gladiator?" 

"It's where we kids hang out; about three blocks from our school. They have microwave ovens, where you can cook anything you want in them. People are heating stuff they've brought in from the outside, all the time." 

Karen said, "Right. Sounds good." 

Charlene said, "Wait a minute. It's three blocks from your school? You just said you live up on the 13 hundred something Level." 

"Level 13-78." 

"Well, just how long does it take to get all the way up there?" 

"Well," Louise said, "It took us an hour and a half to get down here this morning, but that was in the middle of the rush hour. At this time of day it might take about an hour." 

Karen said, "Well I don't want to wait another hour, when there's an eatery right over here." 
They stopped moving outside an establishment, where enticing cooking aromas came through the entrance. On the window beside the entrance, a large poster displayed the advertising photo of full figured Warrior Women dressed in bikinis, while armed with swords and spears, and wearing shrunken human heads on their belts 
Above the women in the photo, printed words declared, "Paradise Meats! Healthy Tasty Treats!" 
Charlene told them, "No! Forget it. I can go without a meal every now and then. I do need to go on a diet anyway." 

Pastor Luzak told her, "I believe that this would be a good time, for both you and I to begin that fast, Charlene." 

Louise sighed. "When you two get hungry enough, you'll change your minds. The rest of you can do what you want, but I'm going in and get something to eat now." 

"So am I." Dave told the Pastor and his niece. 

He and Louise entered the Eatery. 

"Me too." said Karen, who went inside after them. 

The Pastor and his niece stood outside the Eatery, with their backs to the poster. 

"Uncle Domnick." She said, "The aromas do smell very appetizing." 

"Charlene." Her Uncle said, "It looks like as of now, you and I are on a two hour fast, or however long it takes, until we get to this place called the Gladiator." 

She asked, "And after that, then what? What do we eat, when the packaged meat runs out? How long can we fast?" 

"The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, who'd asked what to do about eating meat that had been offered to idols." 

"Offered to idols?" 

"He told them to eat whatever was put in front of them, but not to ask questions about it, for the sake of their consciences." 

"Not to ask questions? Here in the City of Manhattan Building, we don't have to ask." 

Charlene pointed to the armed women in the poster behind them. 

"That's the only answer." 

He sighed. 

"But that's not the only question." Pastor Luzak told her, "We also have to ask where are we going to stay, and how are we going to pay for any of it. Our money has no value here." 

She asked, "Did the Apostle Paul have an answer to that?" 

"The Lord Jesus had an answer. He said, 'Do not worry saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." 

As he said this, three bare breasted girls around Charlene's age walked side by side, passing her and Domnick. At the same moment, two teenage boys walked past the girls, going in the opposite direction. The boys looked back at the girls. 

One of them said, "How'd you like to be eating one of those?" 

The other boy said, "I'd like to have any of them for a holiday roast. Meat in my mouth, just falling off the bones." 

One of the girls looked back and him. She whispered to her friends, who looked back. Then all three of them giggled. 

Charlene asked her uncle, "You don't think that's the kind of food that the Lord will provide for us, do you?" 

"Before I answer that," he told her, "I'd like to speak with the Pastor at Dave and Karen's Church. I'd like to know what the teachings, of the Church inside the City of Manhattan Building are, about this." 

Inside the Eatery, Karen stood on line with Dave and Louise, waiting to order something to take out. 

Dave said, "I don't like leaving the Pastor and Charlene alone out there like that. They don't know what's what. One of us ought to stay with them. Karen, do you want to tell us what you want, and we'll order it for you? Then you can go out and stay with them." 

Karen asked, "Why can't Louise stay with them?" 

Louise told her, "You've spent enough time with my boyfriend already, Miss Bennet." 

"That's right, Miss Torelli; and in that time, things have changed." 

Louise turned to Dave, "Have they changed?" 

"Out there they changed." He looked at Karen, "Now that we're back in here, I'm not sure." 

Karen said, "Oh you aren't?" 

"Karen." Louise said, "Dave told you that he didn't want memories about me. He wanted me. Now that's what he's got." 

They both looked at her. 

He asked, "How could you possibly know that I said that?" 

Louise told them, "Remember, I told you that I was sure I'd been killed, during the last combat game, but it turned out that I'd only been wounded?" 

She lowered her voice. "Well, the truth is that I was correct to begin with." She lowered her voice even more. "I got a sword thrust straight between my boobs, and it ripped my heart open." 

She told Karen, "What happened to you, happened to me. A photograph of my gashed open corpse was printed in the Students Newsletter too." 

She went on. "I became a ghost, like you did. While I was in that condition, I saw both of you being dropped off by the police, outside the Church in Zabelton Pennsylvania. I saw you speaking with Pastor Luzak, and a man named Frank. I went with you when the Pastor escorted you to the Motel, and I went into the office with you, where Charlene was watching the movie 'Soylent Green' on the TV." 

"Okay." Karen said, "I believe you." 

Dave said, "So do I. Was there anything else you saw or heard?" 

"Don't worry." Louise told him, "I didn't hang around long enough to watch you fucking her." 

About ten minutes after they'd entered, the three emerged from the Eatery, to where Domnick and Charlene remained waiting. The three were munching on long fat brown sausages in large buns, and drinking from plastic cups containing a red liquid, with plastic straws poking up out of the lids. 

Charlene said, "Buns? They come on buns?' 

Domnick asked, "Where do they get buns? I thought they only had meat here." 

Dave told him, "The buns are made from bones that have been ground into a paste. I really don't know anything about the process." 

The man repeated, "Bones?" 

"'At the West Side Meat Company," Karen quoted an advertising slogan, "nothing is wasted'. 'Everything is used, except the death scream.'" 

Then they began moving along, going through the crowded corridors, toward the nearest express elevator, that would be going up. 

"Karen." Charlene asked, "Doesn't it bother you, knowing that when somebody looks at you, he might be thinking of you as something to eat?" 

"No it doesn't 'bother me'. That's the way I look at people too. We all look at each other that way." 

"Is that how you look at Karen, Dave?" 

"Yeah, sometimes. Louise too. That's how they look at me, sometimes." 

Karen said, "Most girls think of it as a compliment." 

"Compliment?" 

"That's right." Louise said proudly, "We warrior girls are good to eat." 

Then she began to sing. 

"We are the Warrior Girls! 
We wear our hair in curls!" 

Karen joined in the song. 

"We walk with our boobs bare, 
To make the boys all stare! 

"We only bang with guys, 
Whose things are giant size! 
And when we eat their meat, 
We get a special treat!" 

Then both girls started laughing. 

"I'm sorry Pastor." Karen laughed in embarrassment. "I apologize, but those are the lyrics." 

Pastor and his niece were not amused. Neither was Dave. 

"Hey girls!" He said, "We're trying to make a good impression here!" 

The End

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