Chapter 1: It will all pan out eventually
The man with the lobster-claw hands put down his shotgun, jumped from the front porch, and attempted to shake the hands of the star-people who had suddenly and abruptly interrupted his gun-shootin' marathon. He surveyed the visitors with his lobstery eyes (really most of him was lobstery except for his height, the fact that he walked upright, his overalls, the fact that he could speak, etc):
There were between 6 and 18 of them standing huddled near the edge of his cleanly-trimmed lawn, and every single one of them looked terrified and cowering, which is sad to see, especially when all you wanted to do that day was some gun-shootin' (a lot of gun-shootin'). And when I say that they were star-people, I mean to say that they looked like a starry sky. Each one of them was dark black like a void with many pinpricks of light zipping out of their bodies in every direction. They wore normal clothing that was not starry, but was vibrant and offset the alternating brightness and darkness of their bodies. It's like they had stepped out of the night sky and were personifications of the vast endlessness of the universe. They looked sad as heck. The lobster-clawed man (known as Berquist) couldn't see their faces, mostly because they didn't have what you'd call a face, but they were all turning the fronts of their heads away from him as if they were afrighted of his gaze. Or maybe these strange beings were afraid that they'd turn Berquist into stone or blow him to atom-y smithereens if he allowed them to look him full-on in the face.
Then one of them looked him full-on in the face.
"Please, sir," said a booming voice that appeared to come from a face that glowed with each word, "We are in grave danger and in need of your assistance. It will be of no material need, but a metaphysical need."
Berquist tipped his straw hat back on his head, scratching the top part. He repositioned the shotgun to his other shoulder.
"What?" he said, drawl-ily.
"We need your help," said the booming voice, "Please, you are the only one who can save us from oblivion and doom. You are the only one in all of existence who can provide the Manifestation of Berquist, which is much needed in this time of Universal Peril. The entirety of civilized thought, nay, sentience, rests on you and we must begin this process forthwith."
"The Many infestations of Berquist? My name's Berquist. You need me to be a varmint and infest somewhere? I don't right like being infested or infestin' no one."
"My friend. Please. We do not have time for jokes. It is the Manifestation of Berquist that we seek. And you are Berquist, if our Many Cosmic Guides are not mistaken. Are they mistaken?"
"Yeah, I'm Berquist, but I don't know about any guides like that. What do you need from me?"
"We need the Manifestation of Berquist. Do you really not know what that is?"
"Fraid not. All I know is I'm Berquist. Who are you?"
The star-man gestured at his fellow star-beings and said, "We are the Sub-Guides, a race of beings from beyond the Curtain of Reality, on the other side of the Boringham Gulch, proud protectors of Sentience and Wisdom, Awareness and Intelligence, Reason and Rhyme, Sound and Sense, etc. We are the weavers of the great loom of Dark Matter that sits before the Unspeakable's Throne Below."
"Okey doke. Well, if you're cold, come inside. I'll get a fire going."
The sun had gone down very rapidly while this conversation happened, so it had indeed become quite chilly. None of the star-people seemed to be shivering, though maybe they didn't get cold, on account of being made of stars and inky blackness. How in the darn heck was he going to fit all of them into his house? Were they going to stay the night? What did they eat?
"Are you going to stay the night? What do you eat?" he said to the main Sub-guide.
"We have plenty of sub-food", said the main Sub-guide, proffering a sub hoagie from under a starlit cape. "Would you like?"
“I already have supper fixed up if ya’ll want some. It’s sandwiches, too.”
The main Sub-Guide glowed a bright teal color in answer.
Berquist shrugged and gestured for the star-people to follow him into the house.
Inside, it was not quite as cramped and he would have thought, because it seemed that the star people could reduce or increase their numbers at will, which made it seem as if there were only 5 of them now, and they had shrunk to the size of garden gnomes. He blinked and rubbed his eyes as they crossed the threshold behind him.
"How are ya'll doing that?"
"Changing ya'lls shape and number like that."
"Oh, we're the Sub-Guides. We're actually from another dimension, so we do not have to adhere to a lot of the physical rules that you have to abide by."
"I knew you was the Sub-Guides, because you said it a lot of times. Just don't know what that is."
"It's us," said the main Sub-Guide, "We are them. The Sub-Guides."
"Gotcha. Ain't you the proud protectors of Sentience and Wisdom, Awareness and Intelligence, Reason and Rhyme, Sound and Sense, etc."
"Ok, great. Say, before we get to doing what you're looking to do, do you mind if we just set and talk for awhile? I haven't had any visitors since Annabelle Lee was gone."
The Sub-Guide morphed into a several round figures. The main one said, "Sure."
After a hearty meal of boiled sandwiches, the 5 star people morphed into 30 and shrank to the size of church mice. Berquist eyed them.
"So what do I gotta do again?" he said, boiled sandwich still in his mandibles.
"We need you to find the manifestation of Berquist, which we believe to be hidden somewhere either within the confines of your mind, or at least within these premises. We have traveled beyond distance to try to find the Manifestation of Berquist, which our Many Cosmic Guides have proclaimed to be the hinge-point of the multiverse. We don't know exactly what it is or where to find it, but we're told that it's the key. That's all we know because our Many Cosmic Guides are not great communicators. They take unnumbered years to tell us anything and by the time they get to the point, we've already run out of, for lack of a better word, "time". This "time", we decided we couldn't wait. In the span of ten gadrillion Universes we waited for the Many Cosmic Guides to say the following:
"Seek. The. Manifestation. of. Berquist. And."
The word "The" alone saw a blarsec of galactic empires rise and fall and rise and fall again before the full word was uttered. We decided to be like shepherds and get the flock out of there because the last time we waited for an entire sentence, there wasn't anything left and a Big Reset began, so it was pointless. We were hoping to figure this thing out before another Reset happens. Every time it happens we have to start figuring this crap out all over again, and frankly it's getting tiresome. Can you help us?"
"Hey, so are you all one being, or are you a buncha beings?"
"Us and the Many Cosmic Guides?"
"Just you. Not the Many Cosmic Guides. I can tell from context clues that they're more than one."
"They are infinitely more than one, as well as just one. The same is true of ourselves. In fact, we are ourselves a lower manifestation of the Many Cosmic Guides, who are themselves a manifestation of the Grandiloquence, which is itself a manifestation of The-Eater-of-Tarrasques, which is itself a manifestation of Mark Gormley, which is in turn two thirds of the Barkonicopianeshaflamigoaterastericks (the other two thirds are called UZ), which is a manifestation of Aleph the numbered One, an avatar of Etc, etc. The list goes until ultimate infinity and beyond." "That sounds pretty neato. Do ya'll want another sandwich?"
"Oh yes please. I especially love how soggy and fall apart-y it is. How you'd manage that?"
"That's my mom's secret, but I'll tell you," said Berquist conspiratorially. "Come here close so that I can whersper it to ya."
The Sub-Guides morphed into their singular form and leaned in to Berquist's red face.
"I just boil them. I know it seems weird, but it works somehow."
"Oh! I didn't realize that it was literally a boiled sandwich! How fun!"
"Yeah, I find it fun."
“Cool, so,” said the main Sub-Guide, “We’re pretty bushed after travelling here from our home. Do you have any sleeping bags for interdimensional star-folk such as ourselves?”
“I got an air mattress, which is pretty good and it don’t spring leaks. I’ll have to blow it up, though. Takes awhile. Do ya’ll think ya’ll can fit on a twin?”
The Sub-Guides changed to two beings.
“One of ya’ll is probably better. Twin don’t mean what it usually means for a bed.”
“Gotcha, thanks,” said the now-one Sub-guide.
Berquist set up the air mattress in the den and went to bed upstairs. He plopped onto the mattress, suddenly overcome by a foreful sleepiness (possibly from the high levels of tryptophan that occurs in boiled sandwiches, though the science is still being collected on how tryptophan affects lobster men). Downstairs, the Sub-Guides stretched out on the mattress and yawned, but you could only tell from the sound that came out of where their mouth was supposed to be. They layed on their side and sighed. After a few minutes, the stars faded and the Sub-Guide was a human-shaped inky blackness without stars, blanketing the room in a soft darkness.
If the light had still been shining, perhaps the Sub-Guide would have seen another inky black shape smoosh its body through the floorboards neard the front window. The shape slumped down in a chair across from the Sub-Guide, and proferred a mug from somewhere inside of itself.
“Mmmmmmmm,” said the shape inaudibly, “I do love a nice chai.”