Sunny Santa Barbara...
Apparently, this town is famous for its amazing beaches. It’s a resort in which hundreds of thousands of people live and thrive. It is one of the only southern-facing coastlines in this beautiful state of California, and thus has a unique outlook (haha, get it) on the ocean.
Delta already has a dreadful look on her face. She drips with sweat even minutes after we have stepped out of the train station. “I hate summer. I really hate summer.”
“It’s fine, you wuss,” says Francis. “You’ll be fine once you adjust.”
“Adjusting is for wusses. I will continue to hate the sun until one day it finally burns out and turns into a white dwarf and then shrivels up into nothingness.”
“I’m not sure you will live to see that day.”
“Oh, I will,” she says. “Trust me.”
“I see...” Francis rubs his hand against his chin inquisitively.
I’m not sure what they are talking about. It’s quite silly, whatever it is.
Wow, I love the design of the buildings here. The orange roofs and the white exteriors... It feels like a truly classical place, like one that has avoided the perils of modernity without sacrificing the advances that the passage of time has given us. It is a relic and a current item all at once.
From almost anywhere in the city, I can see the ocean, as well.
It’s quite beautiful. The Pacific Ocean. It has been a constant presence throughout our train rides, but to see it again in person for the first time since we left San Francisco reminds me of just how much I love the planet Earth.
Not that I didn’t love Mystix. In fact, I still love that place. But it is simply not the same.
We walk along the lovely beach front for a moment, biding our time as Francis looks up information regarding this city. I see travelers relaxing in chairs. I see street performers dance and sing away just to help others enjoy their day. I see a young toddler drop their ice cream cone and burst into tears within seconds.
“Oh, children,” I say. “How precious are those little ones of ours.”
Delta and Francis both shoot sharp glances in my direction. “Baby...”
“Tell us about your children,” they say in unison.
“Huh? What do you— OH! That! Of course. Silly me, I had nearly forgotten that you had been confused about my discussion of my offspring. Yes, of course. I have barely even mentioned that fact, I just now realize. The facts of my fatherhood.”
“You...’re a dad...” Francis grips his head with both hands as if he is experiencing some sort of dark revelation. “You have parenting skills... You had a child...”
“Not ‘a child,’ my dear friend Francis. I had four children, sired from three different women.”
“Wait, you went on adventures even with kids back at home?” Delta asks. “You’re one of those deadbeat dads who goes off on journeys to find himself while abandoning your own children?”
“Of course not,” I say. “I was the one who gave these children life, and I raised them in their infancy, but the Solbourne clan collectively raises them now, as do all children in our family. Even now, they are being raised by fathers who love and care for them.”
I failed to mention that eighty years have passed between the time that I died on Mystix and the time that “now” exists on Mystix, and all four of my children are elderly or passed away.
“So you North Spire people, basically, are a bunch of hippies living in a commune?” Delta asks.
“What is a hippie? If they are a race who frolic in nature and enjoy the finer side of life, then I would say that North Spirans are very much akin to them.”
“Mhm. You’re a hippie. Short hair and no beard, but still a hippie. It makes so much sense now...” Delta shakes her head.
“Delta, quit being rude to Eryk,” Francis says. “Listen, though. I’ve been looking on my phone about places to go and things to do in Santa Barbara. And, well...”
“Well?” I ask.
“Well, you know how we got stopped by those pirate dudes on the train and half the people on there got robbed?” he asks.
“I do recall it, quite vividly in fact.”
“That’s because Santa Barbara was taken over by a Surf Clan about a year ago. A high-powered gang of rufians staged a coup and toppled the existing city government. They seceded from the United States of America, and are now functioning as a de jure military dictatorship.”
“That is quite alarming. So we are now in a foreign nation?”
“Well, not one anyone recognizes officially, but kinda, yeah. The same money, the same language, the same people, just controlled by King Bodhi, the Duke of the Surfers.”
“So we gotta be kinda careful. Otherwise, we could—”
A burly, shirtless man bumps shoulders with Francis as he passes by, and the man immediately turns around and growls at him. His orange face scrunches up together and he shouts, “Get outta here, shoobie!”
He marches away, and Francis shakes his head. “You see what I mean?”
Now that he mentions it, there are in fact a great many of these surfer type men. They glide across the ocean waves in the distance, yes, but they also inhabit the beaches and the sidewalks in great number as well. Some of them wear no shirt, and some of them wear elaborate American Flag outfits. Almost all of them carry surf boards with them. Almost all of them are tan skinned and blonde-haired.
“So what shall we do?”
“Well, if we can pay the exorbitant markups on everything that this banana republic likes to place, we’ll be fine to survive,” he says. “The only problem...”
“We lost all our shit and we don’t have a place to stay,” Delta says.
“Oh, that is indeed a problem.” I think for a second about the predicament, but then a very easy solution presents itself. “Wait, why don’t we simply sell my gold bars to this King Bodhi? I’m sure that will go well.”
“...I mean, it’s not the worst idea in the world,” Francis says. “It might be close, but it’s not the worst. But real talk, do you think the ATMs will work with my bank here? I bet the credit cards won’t, so I’d need to withdraw a bunch of cash. But seeing as we’re in Santa Barbara...”
“I’m serious!” I shout. “We cannot simply stand by while tyranny reigns. We stopped the evil in Paso Robles, and we can do it again here in Santa Barbara!”
This time that I shout, many surfers nearby turn to look at us.
They do not look happy.
“Sounds like shoobies are out to play,” one says to another.
“We need to get out of here,” Francis says. “Quick.”
We leave with great haste, just as the dozen or more surfers begin to slowly advance towards us.
Let us explore a different part of Santa Barbara.