A Conversation Between Brothers
GAFFNEY: I suppose you are wondering why, after so long, I’ve decided to grace you with my presence.
MILO: I imagine a certain degree of boredom. Haven’t you been allowed to flay the giantess yet? I thought that was your entire reason for supporting the program.
GAFFNEY: In due time, although it worries me.
MILO: It is unlikely that you’d be worried about anything.
GAFFNEY: No, for once, I am worried. Genuinely unnerved.
MILO: Now you’re lying to me.
GAFFNEY: If I am, are you discontinuing this little trek?
MILO: Far from it. I appreciate the extension of the lie. In some small way it seems as if you notice my desires to not be lied to, although it continues your previously expressed opinion of my gullibility.
GAFFNEY: I don’t think you’re gullible, not at all. Simple, yes.
MILO: That’s a mild improvement.
GAFFNEY: No. No. Briefly consider the giantess, tiptoeing around the subject.
MILO: I know some aspects of the project, and I know you’re attempting to discern what I know. Your opinion of my supposed simplicity makes you assume I am also easily impressed by you and your general presence, and although the murderous threat you have quite succinctly proven in the past may have been dulled by time, you know that I am actually just as capable of sociopathic facade as you. In fact, you know that I pretend to be the fool specifically to remain beneath your notice, and you consider this fact a natural extension of your omniscient awareness of the scene around you.
GAFFNEY: Gadzooks, Milo. You’ve gone all self-aware on me.
MILO: You forget that I’m so full of toxins that at any moment I may be on the cusp of clarity. I seem to be there now. Make use of it before I fog away back into my usual negligent stupor.
GAFFNEY pauses briefly, considers stabbing his half-brother with a knife he has hidden in his sleeve for such possibilities, but decides to continue the conversation for curiosity’s sake.
GAFFNEY: Well then, this leads us to the uncomfortable question of remuneration for exactly what you’re going to tell me shortly.
MILO: Supposing I didn’t tell you anything at all, Gaffney? Supposing, just once, I divert from your scheme, and allow myself to be an individual of my own stance momentarily?
GAFFNEY: I don’t think you’re capable of it. You’re going to tell me what you know of the giantess project, and I’m going to give you a little vial I have in the sole of my shoe, containing a liquid whose name you would never gasp in even your most debauched of reveries. And you’ll go home, and probably overdose on it.
MILO: Or, perhaps even better, it’s just simple poison, and you’ll be rid of me at last.
GAFFNEY: You confuse me for some other person. You know I enjoy the infliction of pain.
MILO: Supposing I don’t want the vial. Supposing I simply want to be involved.
GAFFNEY: (chuckling) Oh, that’s rich.
MILO: No, hear me out. Supposing I know something about Gibney that you don’t.
GAFFNEY: I know everything about Gibney.
MILO: You don’t know what I know.
MILO continues to walk silently. He forgets that he doesn’t even know where GAFFNEY was taking him.
GAFFNEY: Now we’re off-script, Milo. I don’t care for it.
MILO: I know.
GAFFNEY: Tell me, I pray you.
MILO: You’re not praying hard enough.GAFFNEY: Don’t expect any more than this.
MILO: I’ll take that as deviation enough, then. May I consider it a small victory?
GAFFNEY: A pathetic one.
MILO: Of course.
MILO points up at the Greeves Institute, and GAFFNEY realizes that a single light in the tower is on. It glows with a weird green light.
MILO: What is that room, Gaffney?
GAFFNEY: One of the laboratories.
GAFFNEY: Damn you.
MILO: That is Gaffney’s private laboratory. The one you have bugged for years.
GAFFNEY: And the one he knows I’ve bugged for years.
MILO: And, in your paranoia, you have assumed that the one room you’ve bugged for years is exactly the one he’d never perform his true experiments in, because, being your twin, he is as paranoid as you are. However, unlike you, he’s also not a megalomaniac, and is capable of the clarity you and I could never achieve. It’s there that he’s finishing his latest toy.
GAFFNEY: You’re clever, Milo. I like you on whatever it is you’re on.
MILO: What is the problem with murder, Gaffney?
GAFFNEY: They never choke fast enough.
MILO: That says maybe, but for those of us not immediately concerned with constant and perpetual spree killing, the disposal of bodies does seem to be a pressing annoyance.
GAFFNEY: And he’s working on the way to...
GAFFNEY snaps his fingers, understanding what GIBNEY is up to.
MILO: Just as you were skulking around trying to resurrect the Argus Project, he’s already rebuilt the Disintegration Ray. It’s already done, now he’s just in sort of an existential angst about it.
GAFFNEY: Oooooh, Milo.
Our two momentarily central Zanzibarbarians walked in silence for the remaining quarter mile, neither one making eye contact with the bedraggled streetgoers as they passed. It was unnecessary. For once, Gaffney was too dumbstruck to accept their silent praise, and Milo had spoken more than he had spoken in months, except perhaps to certain marital aids he kept in reserve.
When they arrived at Gaffney’s fortress, both walked creakily up the stairs to the second floor, to the room Argus was kept. Silently, Gaffney pushed open the door. In the rear of the bedroom, Argus was licking a brass bed knob, hoping to find some sustenance. For the next day and a half, in preparation for the fete, the three brothers reacquainted themselves. Milo was most notably interested in Argus’ tendency to lick nearby inanimate objects. He mentally noted it as vital, similarly licked the bed knob, found nothing jazzy about it, and proceeded to question Argus about life in the oubliette.
That evening, under the pretense of getting prepared for the party, Milo soaked a bit of the fungus around the oubliette door into a rag. He sucked on it like an infant with a gin sop. He had the greatest high of his life, experiencing communion with digitally etheric eyeball-fairies.