Chapter Eight: Drag King's Lair
Wasn't Stanley talking about rebuilding society? I thought. The plan, it seemed, would involve eugenics. I wasn't too fond of the idea, and guessed that the rest of his plan probably involved even more ideas that I wasn't a fan of. I thought maybe somebody should stop him. Looking around towards the industrial zone, I remembered those lovely ladies with their iron tools and developed musculatures. They would likely have few problems stopping the grand designs of a couple of nerds.
I began running through the blocks of rubble and past the small tent sanctuaries where neo-urbanites still dwelled. I was soon in the industrial zone but I heard no machinery whirring. There were no friendly butch faces either, the only face I saw peeking out from behind a steel press was a very femme raccoon. She dodged my questions and ran away to gossip about me with her friends. I came upon the site where I had received the suppository aid which just saved me from a life of IT work. The table I had dined at was laid bare, and the campfire was out. Smoke still wafted wearily across the scene.
At the far end of the campground, separated only by a thin metal fence from the worksite, was the iron worker's dormitory, made from plywood with a baby blue paintjob that looked barely dried. I stepped in to find the dorm room experience any aging lesbian would be happy to have. Three of the friendliest cats I'd ever seen came up to greet me by rubbing their backs on my legs. There was plenty of natural light and plants at every window. The floor was varnished and smelled great. I peeked in one of the rooms and saw posters of Sheryl Crow and Aimee Mann. The beds were all messy. The floors were littered with denim, plaid, athletic wear and boxer brief harnesses. The place was too wonderfully chaotic to search for clues as to my gay guardian angels' whereabouts. There was no time.
I felt my mind scrape at the walls of my skull as my face grew red and my stomach churned. I felt the stinging in my eyes that precipitated the flow of tears. No water sprang forth, as I was at that moment distracted by an ominous creaking from around the corner at the end of the hall. I grabbed the nearest armament- a blue 8-inch toy with a bumpy head that Erika Moen had given a good review before queers from the fractured revolution had cancelled her permanently. Cautiously, I approached the corner, silent as a trans woman in a public restroom. I leaped out into the kitchen, wielding the phallic apparatus like a sword.
"Oh, hey Riese," said Nash from below the kitchen sink. She was dressed even butcher than the other day, in torn blue jeans and a dirty wife pleaser shirt. She barely glanced at me before turning back around on her knees and continuing her assault of the pipe with her wrench. Her strong arms worked with a confident ease and her steady but intriguing face seemed focused on the task at hand though I could sense her watching me in her periphery. I didn't move from my peculiar position one inch.
"Stop pointing that thing at me or I'll have to use it on you," she said without looking back at me, "And we both know you'd like that way too much."
"W-what are you doing here?" I asked.
"I was supposed to visit my partner Val this weekend. But something's wrong. She should be here! I'm guessing you don't know anything..."
"No. I met Val though. She makes a damn good milkshake!"
"Careful, kid. This could've been the work of the Quentin Containment Force for all we know. Then we'd really be fucked."
"Kid? I'm probably older than-" I began, when the pipe finally fell loose and a ring fell onto the floor. It rolled a bit than stopped next to a promotional accent area Carol rug. Nash picked it up and examined it. I kneeled down next to her and gave her a hopeful look.
"Sorry, kid. Not much of a clue. Unless we're investigating lesbian marital drama, and Val doesn't believe in marriage."
"What I wanna know," I said fussily, "Is where the hell everybody went!"
"Yeah no shit Shelock," said Nash, "Why don't you look for clues too?"
I attempted to search the area, placing a tentative finger against my pursed lips and looking from the sink to the counter to the floor. I quickly made a rather startling deduction that I had no affinity for detective work whatsoever, and would be better employed as a cat masseuese or a reviewer of fine peaches found on countertops. I was especially adept at eating said peaches in a way that demonstrated no capability for performing cunnilingus and only my ability to make disgusting slurping noises that made Nash visibly shudder. While I snacked I leaned back over the rug and murmured happily at Cate Blanchett's tender and loving smile. The image of Rooney Mara stared out at me blankly, leaving no strong impression. Something about her face, however, stuck out.
"Hey, Nash, what about this? Is this a clue?" I said, pointing at the rug. Upon Mara's face was a thin black moustache. Not the image of one, but a real moustache laying on the rug.
"That isn't a clue," said Nash, "It's part of my costume for my drag character, Graham Cocks. I just put it there because I didn't want it getting wet."
"Well, best laid plans, am I right?" I teased.
"Riese I don't have time to have sex with you right now. I just want to find my partner."
"Oh of course I totally get it! I mean I totally ship you two! But unrelatedly, would you like to check my tits for any cancerous growths or the like?"
Nash groaned and turned to give me an unimpressed look. She then looked back at the rug and suddenly her eyes lit up.
"Wait a second," she cried, "Since when does Cate Blanchett smoke a pipe? I don't remember that from the press tour!"
The two of us kneeled down and she picked the pipe up off the rug, turning it in her hand to my awe. It was wooden, dyed purple and varnished, with a thin bit and a huge bowl. I could see that it was decades old if not more.
"There's only ever been one pipe like this, Riese," Nash spoke slowly.
Of course that was true. I knew exactly where I had seen this pipe. It was from a comic strip published in 1978. The strip attracted very little public attention for many years, and it wasn't until 2017 that the meaning of "The Pipe Strip" was uncovered, on some dark corner of the internet. The pipe was a symbol- religious, political, sexual, and economic, and the ones smoking it had been doing so without our consent for centuries. These "Fat Cats" controlled everything, even public perception of who was being wronged and how. Racists, anti-Semites, homophobes and the like all had their ideas but their eyes were opened when the truth began to spread like wildfire. Not everyone believed in its message, but those who came to trust in the strip formed a political force that couldn't be ignored, or even catered to. The only satisfaction the Arbuckles ever received was through bloody conflict. This was right as society fractured, and there was no faction they wouldn't fight: the QCF, the True Scum, the Sixth Reich, the Himbos, and most of all the Cat Men and Women.
"Riese," Nash continued, "Tell me now: is Jim Davis alive?"