In the arms of anamorpheus

Milo found himself standing together with many others in sand that still held traces of the day's warmth, a little distance from the ocean shore. San Francisco was gone. There were no buildings, no roads, no boats or bridges. Just them. He looked around and though he had not met most of them he found knew who they were -- there were Kesey and Brand, Mountain Girl and Cowboy Neal, Weir, Leary, Wavy Gravy and Alicia Bay Laurel, Alpert and Garcia, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Ken Babb, Sam Perry, Gottlieb and Thyseldew, Hypatia of Alexandria, Guy Fawkes, James Joyce and Italo Svavo. And hundreds upon hundreds of others from all the epochs and eras of Earth, and beyond.

As Milo surveyed his dumbstruck companions, a metal locker door opened some distance from them, swinging out from what had appeared to be an oversized postcard vista of San Francisco Bay. Peering closer, he decided it actually was an oversized postcard vista of San Francisco Bay. It seemed to be projected from behind onto an indeterminately huge curved wall. Like Panavision.

A blinding white light split through the door, backlighting to within an inch of their lives a disintegrating old man wearing a helmet, walking arm-in-arm-in-arm-in-arm with a giant beauty of a woman in a flowing, blue, sheer sari, her swanlike neck adorned with a necklace of severed human heads.

Everyone stood frozen as Furlonger and Kali strode across a portion of the Bay into the midst of them. They stopped, scanning their audience slowly. Furlonger 's sly grin evoked Milton Berle. About to say something really naughty. Then -- predictably and on-cue -- Kali smiled and stuck her tongue at them.

"Thank you for coming tonight, everyone," began Furlonger. "You know why we are all here. The future of not just our own galaxy, but of all concurrent Universes, is in grave jeopardy at this moment. You, of course, are aware of the source of the problem. It is a cosmic cross-rip, exacerbated by the morbid curiosity of one individual who is also here tonight. Someone who knows too much. Someone who has, regretably, consistently ignored his responsibility."

The crowd murmured and eyed each other. The air snapped and flashed with bright, random color as thick as a pot-fog, strobing between changes that obscured the curved panorama around them.

Furlonger's melting face still managed to express seriousness as he stretched his unoccupied arm. The trembling forefinger, the physical integrity of which was in some doubt, stopped. It pointed accusingly at Milo.

Furlonger, gauging the crowd, paused maliciously, dramatically. Then he bellowed, "That someone is Milo Pavlov! GET HIM!

Sam Perry immediately turned screaming, and ran. Milo involuntarily gasped and wheeled to flee. He lost his footing, fell hard, and the crowd engulfed him.