Day Nineteen – Andrew Lost His Keys While George is Engulfed in Flames

fot

On the third day, the grand and omnipotent entity known as Va’alamyr walked the grounds of his creation. He reveled in the squeakiness of the wet grass beneath his bare feet. He turned his eyes to the blinding sun he had created two days earlier and saw that it was good. The trees were coming along nicely, and, as the god stood there, several woodland creatures of his design scampered up to sniff his robes.

Va’alamyr was pleased with himself, and he spent the good part of that third day just walking the green fields of his ultimate design. The god swam in the waters of the vasts seas he called into being across a good part of the small planet. He marveled at his own ingenuity as he held a shell in his hands. A beaming smile broke his typically somber face as a flock of birds soared over his head.

Everything was in perfect harmony, a perpetuity of order that would go on forever. Va’alamyr sat upon a rock at the pinnacle of a high mountain and surveyed his handiwork. Only the sound and caress of the wind shared the moment with him in that moment.

And so, the voice behind him scared the shit out of the god.

“Oi,” the voice said. “Bit borin’ innit?”

Va’alamyr struggled to prevent himself from sliding down the side of the mountain as he gaped at the entity who had spoken to him.

“Whatcher self there,” the entity said to him, quickly moving to help the startled god. “Nearly took a nasty spill, dincha?”

“What art thou?” Va’alamyr demanded in his most holy booming voice. “How dost thou come to exist in this place without my knowledge?”

The other entity had two arms and two legs, a head full of jet black hair, and a clever mustache. He was very much almost sort of the spitting image of Va’alamyr himself, only Va’alamyr preferred his flowing white beard to match his flowing white robes. This stranger wore a Tubeway Army t-shirt, dirty jeans, and a pair of poorly crafted Skechers (though Va’alamyr did not know what these articles of clothing were called).

“Oh deary me, but you ‘ave got a way with words, eh?” the stranger replied, clucking his tongue. “All ‘igh an’ mighty, I ‘spect. A right bloody proper god ‘n all, eh? Come off it, ’nuff with the pompous words.”

Va’alamyr blinked his eyes in confusion for a moment, before abruptly attempting to make the stranger vanish by his will.

“Nice try, old bean,” the stranger laughed. “Look, I might as well introduce myself. I’m Evil.” The strange man offered his hand for Va’alamyr to shake, but the white bearded god merely looked at the filthy hand in horror.

“I don’t understand,” Va’alamyr stammered. “I thought–”

“You thought you were the only one,” Evil said with a grin. “Infinite universe, and you, all ‘igh and mighty as you were, figgered it’s all just you and yer lonesome to create and pontificate as it pleases you, eh? Bit pretentious that, innit?”

“Whatcha call this we’re sitting on?” Evil asked, patting the rock of the mountain beneath their feet.

“I had not thought of a word for it,” Va’alamyr said, taken off guard. “Why does it need to be called something?”

“Everyfing needs a name,” Evil said. “Let me help. I fink it should called a mountain. Howzat?”

Va’alamyr straightened up and boomed at the stranger, “I demand to know where you came from, and why you are here in my realm!”

“Bloody hell, mate,” Evil said wiggling a finger in his ear. “Pop an eardrum with all that shoutin’. Whatsit matter why I’m here or where I came from? Let’s just say I’m here to help you out. And, boy, let me tell you plain ‘n proper, you need it, mate.”

Va’alamyr was about to protest when it appeared that his curiosity had suddenly taken over him. “What — what do mean, exactly? Is this not … good?”

Evil beamed at him. “Oh, it is. And that’s the problem.” The mustachioed stranger grabbed Va’alamyr by the arm and began dragging him down the mountain. “For starters, it’s always so bleedin’ bright. Watch this.” As they walked, one being led by the other, huge billowing thunderclouds rushed in from the horizons and filled the sky, blocking out the sun.

Va’alamyr grimaced at the invasion and was about to protest when Evil turned around suddenly and asked, “Look, this’ll take forever. Can’t you just zap us down somewhere else?”

Within the blink of an eye, both entities were standing just outside a small copse of trees. At a wave of Va’alamyr’s hand, the clouds dissipated and the sun returned.

Evil frowned at this, but let it go. “Right, well, take a look at these fings,” Evil said, gesturing at one of the cute and cuddly woodland creatures that had come running up to them. “Whatsit do?”

“It lives,” Va’alamyr explained. “I will it to live, and it does so.”

“What, forever?” Evil queried.

“Well, yes, of course,” Va’alamyr replied, confused that there would even be a question about something as simple as life.

“Well, that’s borin’, innit,” Evil retorted. “Watch this.”

The creature Evil had been pointing to abruptly collapsed in the grass and ceased to breathe.

“What have you done?” Va’alamyr exclaimed. “You have made it cease to live!”

“Yeah, killed it,” Evil said frankly. “Necessary for progress, old chap.”

“Progress?” Va’alamyr replied, his face melting with sorrow for the loss of his creation.

“Oh, get over it, mate,” Evil said, waving the incident away. “Stuff staying the same is borin’. Fings need to change, and to change, fings need a reason to change, like death, ’cause who wants to just exist so they can die?”

Va’alamyr was not paying attention to the invader who had brought death to his realm. Gently, he reached down and cradled the dead creature in his hands. Somberly, the god blew a mouthful of breath at the limp body. After a moment, the creature began to stir, life returning to it. The smile on Va’alamyr’s face suddenly turned to horror as from out of the sky, a hawk swopped down and snatched the reborn creature away.

Furious, Va’alamyr spun on Evil. “How dare you make a mockery of the world I have created!”

“Nice one, eh? Look, mate,” Evil said frankly. “You definitely ain’t the only conjurer in this biz. Like I said, this little universe ain’t the only one there is, and you ain’t the only bloke out in the great wooly void making pretty li’l rocks and furries and shit. I’ve been doin’ this for nigh on eternity. I’m what you might call a consultant to the creators.”

Va’alamyr’s left eyebrow raised slightly.

“It’s not so much that this is all rubbish,” Evil explained. “It’s just that it can be better. And, if you let me help you, we can create the best bit of fluff the multiverse has ever seen. Dig?”

“I’m quite happy with what I’ve done here,” Va’alamyr replied, raising his chin slightly. “I see nothing wrong with it.”

Conspiratorially, Evil put his arm around Va’alamyr and whispered, as if others might hear, “Fact is, mate, the other creators are having a bit of a laugh at you. Here you are, out here all alone and playing with yer bits of fluffy happiness, and the rest of the creators are bustin’ out huge masterpieces of glorious beauty. They’re outdoing you by miles, old chum. You’re a laughing stock.”

Mortified, Va’alamyr tugged anxiously at his beard. He did not even realize there were others like him beyond the void, and now they were making fun of him?

“Relax, old bean,” Evil comforted, patting his shoulder. “Let me help you.”

“Would you?” Va’alamyr asked desperately. “Only, I do not wish to be seen in a poor light compared to the others.”

“Ain’t it the way?” Evil chuckled. “Not to worry, Val. We’ll do this up right.”

Evil led Va’alamyr to an open field where the grass was growing at an alarming rate.

“Let’s start right here,” Evil said, pointing to the the grass. “There’s too much of it. Way too much of this grass shit you’ve got everywhere.”

“I will remove it then,” Va’alamyr replied raising his hands to cause a portion of the grass to vanish.

“Hold on, hold on,” Evil exclaimed, grabbing Va’alamyr’s arms in exasperation. “You don’t have to be waving yer arms about all the time wasting yer powers. Why not let nature take care of it?”

Evil snapped his fingers, and suddenly, a dozen sheep appeared around them. Immediately, the sheep began to eat the grass. Within moments, the small hill they were standing on was sheared down to nearly nothing, and the sheep kept going.

“But they’ll devour it all,” Va’alamyr said in anger. “They eat all of it until there’s nothing left.”

“Wait for it,” Evil replied, raising a hand. “Next, you need predators.”

Snapping his fingers, Evil conjured up a pack of wolves, which then ravenously dashed after the sheep, who were already beginning to multiply.

In horror, Va’alamyr grabbed his head with both hands. “The carnage! They’ll devour them all!”

“See, now we’ve got to be clever, eh?” Evil replied confidently. Holding out a hand, he gestured for Va’alamyr to look at what he held.

“I don’t see anything,” Va’alamyr said, shaking his head.

“Microscopic,” Evil said, grinning evilly. “It’s a virus. A parasite. See, when I toss this into the grass, it’ll multiply a hell of a lot faster than those sheep or those wolves. It won’t hurt the sheep, but it will damn near decimate the predators. The sheep will eat the grass, catch the virus, then pass it on to the wolves when the wolves eat ’em. Then them wolves’ll die, right? Brilliant, eh? It’s all circles in creation these days, next big thing, cycles and shit.”

“I suppose that makes sense,” Va’alamyr replied reluctantly. “But why the violence? Why not just let everything live in harmony, perpetually forever?”

“I told you, mate, it’s borin’,” Evil explained. “Death makes fings interesting. These creations of yours, now that they can die, will do whatever it takes to survive. In doing so, they’ll get smarter, faster, and more resilient. The wolves will develop an immunity to the virus, but the sheep will have flourished so much by then that there will never be enough wolves to cull them all, just enough to keep the balance, you see?”

“I think I do,” Va’alamyr said, nodding his head. “But doesn’t this take me out of the equation? Once this is all set in motion, what place do I have in this world?”

Evil’s smile grew exponentially. “Well, that’s the thing. Even gods need to die.”

With a casual thrust, Evil slipped the black blade he had been hiding into the celestial flesh of the great and omnipotent Va’alamyr. The god died with his eyes wide and full of fear, sputtering his last breaths.

“Hurt a bit, dinnit?” Evil cooed at him. “There, there, old bean. Settle down for a nice eternal nap, eh?”

Evil let the limp body fall to the ground. Using the same blade, Evil cut into the god’s chest and broke off a rib. Casting it to the ground, he began to hum. The vibrations grew tumultuous, shaking the ground for miles around him. Dirt from the ground began to gather around the rib, forming a shape not unlike Evil’s own form.

The human rose from the dirt and looked at its creator.

“Have fun, kiddo,” Evil said to it. He then blinked out of existence, on his way to another universe and another creator.

Reach Three (in Gha’Cre Stoh Rage Haiku)

If you don’t know what Gha’Cre Stoh Rage Haiku is, you shouldn’t. I invented it for my fictional multiverse.

Rules: Seven lines, each line no more than seven syllables, one line must contain only two words, the final line is a single word. Written in multiples (Gha’Cre) usually numbering seven, a final stanza (Stoh) is written using the single-word endings to the other Gha’Cre. Additional words can be used to tie the single words together and the rules of the Gha’Cre do not have to be followed.

Developed by the Cult of Gha, a fringe religious sect living in a habitat in the wilderness of Titan, Gha’Cre Stoh Rage was a trance the adherents to the Cult’s tenets aspired to achieve through extreme fasting and semi-exposure to the environment of Titan’s surface. It is considered a rage trance due the extreme pain the cultists inflict on themselves (exposing naked flesh to Titan’s air, suit-diving into methane lakes with minimal thermal insulation) during the creation and recitation of the haiku. The pain is met with rage, and a successful Gha’Cre Stoh Rage should erase the effect of the pain … eventually. Most verbal repetition of Rage Haiku is done so at maximum volume, nearing the level of primal scream, mimicking the likely original performance by the haiku creator. That particular vocal facet of the complex art of Gha’Cre Stoh Rage Haiku is, of course, lost in written versions.

PREFACE: Reach was one of seven men named as such who existed in seven separate universes as multiversally intertwined souls. It was impossible for them to meet; and though, theoretically, it was possible for Reach to cross over to another universe, the chances of encountering one of the other seven were ridiculously low. This was also complicated by the fact that any one Reach jumping universes was being mirrored by the other Reachs.

The origin of Reach is unknown, because Reach himself has yet to create his origins. Reach exists suddenly, and not due to any epic mingling of chaotic strands of eternity in well-defined intersections of “now”. Reach just was and just is – seven times over. He exists sevenfold in time and space, but lives in a dysphoric misalignment with the rest of the universe each iteration of himself inhabits. Frequently, the outsider’s presumption of Reach’s insanity serves only to further separate the heptaphrenic traveler from the only realities that could actually shed light on the purpose of his multifaceted existence.

To further complicate this already complicated tale, Reach does not know he is connected to seven other beings and that everything he does is either influencing or being influenced by one or more of his other existences.

This is Reach Zero, the beginning you’re allowed to consider as such, but not the one that was.

—-

an arm’s length in

with punctures at the elbow

Reach was bitten

and in agony

considered the beast:

a Vurl

inconsiderate

***

a fly on the wall,

Reach became the jungle cat

springing from on high

and at impact

sank his teeth into

his wife’s

betrayal

***

“Mourn the undevoured”:

words offered by Reach

to the assembly who

in their wisdom

had eaten

their kin

alive

***

cyanide ran down

Reach’s dry throat

as he stared down

the long abyss

and saw

his mistakes in

akinesia

***

Reach mourned her,

the heavenly mermaid

who in her haste

had swallowed

the long hook which

tickled her stomach

wickedly

***

the dents in flesh

turned to pits

before erupting into

volcanic gore

while Reach continued

his self-cannibalism

undeterred

***

sweetened by rarity

the fruit tasted

like transcendence

from a world full of

blandness; and so

Reach, in digesting this,

escaped

***

after the inconsiderate betrayal

he was alive in akinesia –

comatose yet wickedly undeterred

he escaped into a void of his making

Day Eighteen – 15 Reasons Why the Person Next to You Will Likely Burst Into Flames

torpor

Judith, again, turning her head over her shoulder just before she disappears around the corner. It is cold, but with a tepid wind in the canyons of the greater metropolis. I can feel the wind knife around that mysterious corner, that exit from stage center, and she has disappeared into it – extant but extorted by the emptiness of the open sidewalk.

I rush to close the difference between us. We have not crossed paths in many days, and the loss of that randomness is too much order in my life for me to take. I am missing these things that open holes in time, these portals to places I have been, and things I have traveled to. Judith is a column of fire and smoke in the desert, a green light across the harbor. I pursue her in an odyssey of intention, without meaning and without purpose, only to find that she will and has never existed in this reality.

I turn the corner, and, to my surprise, am met by a flock of canaries.

On Wednesday, I have an important meeting with dignitaries from a firm my business partners feel I should be jealous of. They have arranged a meeting at a small coffee shop a number of blocks east of the trendy uptown area so many people are mistaken to assume their custom is a sign of status therein. My business partners have done this in a blatant attempt to set a new standard of status – they want to be the sharp-shirted noticeables that those who have the eye for trendsetters automatically gawk at and reach for their smartphones to inform the masses of their passing. I anticipate that within five minutes of our arrival there, the old uptown area has turned from “trendy” to “last year’s mocha jazz poser party”. I mention all of this because upon my arrival, I am floored to discover that Judith herself is the leader of these dignitaries. Her right-hand man has a Tubeway Army sleeve, blown-out lines – what a waste, what a misuse of ink, what a terrible scene he must have felt himself a part of.

“It is nice to meet you,” she says with her canary voice. She shakes my offered hand, and I can feel the dampness of ages in that embrace. It is as if centuries of death in the company of one another still demands the clamminess remain between our bodies, only to be felt at close proximity.

“A pleasure shared, I’m sure,” I reply. But, I am not sure. The deep, rich wood paneling of the coffee shop is disorienting, offset to annoyance by the poorly selected steel accents. They make no sense, and, in a matter of moments, my lucidity awakens my dreaming mind from its poison passion play.

I wake up, and I weep for the loss of that canary voice, again.

I find myself entering doors I have left behind, intending never to cross those thresholds again. But, alas, I am present in those places in repetition over the next several weeks after my dream. I attempt to appear as if I am interested in purchasing pastries and hats, but the charade is lost when I continuously and desperately tear away the curtains from fitting rooms, or kick open toilet stalls, hoping to be attacked by canaries and birdsong.

To be the seeker of things beyond this reality, knowing deep within that the truth of my existence is bound up in the press of alternate universes from either side of my consciousness, is a privilege that I cannot fathom as a reward for my service, though by intense study it must be. It must be. My entry upon the mortal coil, as disastrous and melancholy as was intended given the trends of the era, did not go unnoticed. I have not completed the tasks that have been set out before me. I have wandered, lustfully, into dens of lassitude and liquor. I have pursued the inevitable needles of verisimilitude, wanting them to pierce me with suggestion in absence of substance. I have wanted to believe in the illogical, the mundane, and the idiotic.

It is my intention to find this woman, this caricature of Lovecraftian mystery, and be devoured by the hidden maw of her malevolent subsistence in this tangle of reality and unreality. Surreal though our romance may be, she is the black nail upon the flesh of my pessimistic hatred for myself – pure it is, and pale, when compared to her dark intentions.

The following month finds me wandering through a cemetery in the rain. With optimistic and wild windmilling movements of my arms, I attempt to obtain a rubbing of a gargoyle perched upon a lichen-black crypt. When I pull the rubbing paper away, I am shocked to witness the monstrous face transform into the face of Judith, her dimples wicked in Italian marble.

She says to me: “I don’t believe I’ve shared the pleasure. I am sure of it.”

I descend, without intent, from my own perch upon the crypt, backwards, my windmilling arms now seeking purchase against gravity. The battle lost, I am impaled upon the wrought-iron gate that inappropriately places a boundary around the old corpse shed.

Judith looks down at the violence and clucks her tongue disdainfully.

“Out with the old, in with nudes,” she chuckles.

I wait for canaries – but I am disappointed by ravens.

Reach Two

Feeling cheeky today. To give you an idea of the Reach progression, here’s the second one.

PREFACE: Reach was one of seven men named as such who existed in seven separate universes as multiversally intertwined souls. It was impossible for them to meet; and though, theoretically, it was possible for Reach to cross over to another universe, the chances of encountering one of the other seven were ridiculously low. This was also complicated by the fact that any one Reach jumping universes was being mirrored by the other Reachs.

The origin of Reach is unknown, because Reach himself has yet to create his origins. Reach exists suddenly, and not due to any epic mingling of chaotic strands of eternity in well-defined intersections of “now”. Reach just was and just is – seven times over. He exists sevenfold in time and space, but lives in a dysphoric misalignment with the rest of the universe each iteration of himself inhabits. Frequently, the outsider’s presumption of Reach’s insanity serves only to further separate the heptaphrenic traveler from the only realities that could actually shed light on the purpose of his multifaceted existence.

To further complicate this already complicated tale, Reach does not know he is connected to seven other beings and that everything he does is either influencing or being influenced by one or more of his other existences.

This is Reach Zero, the beginning you’re allowed to consider as such, but not the one that was.

———

REACH TWO

The rubble shifted and Reach felt his pelvis shattered beneath the granite block laying across him.  He imagined tiny bits of bone like machetes cutting through intestines. He spat blood and stared blankly into darkness.

The granite was supported on one side by a steel beam that had collapsed nearby. By luck or curse, this had prevented Reach from being completely flattened in the collapse of the building. Regardless, Reach was too near the acute angle created by the granite block to escape being mortally wounded.

He flailed his arms wildly as his abdomen alternated between radiating waves of intense pain and doldrums of complete numbness. Reach didn’t have the patience to consider how long it might take a rescue team to find him. Shock settled over him like a heavy wet blanket.

As his hands danced about on the dusty floor, he suddenly felt smooth skin. Turning towards it, Reach saw a little girl in a yellow dress, her auburn hair dangling over her shoulders in curly waves as she crouched near him.

“You’re all alone here,” she said to him.

***

Reach had looked both ways. He ran back through the series of events preceding his final impact with the ground and confirmed with his memories that he had indeed looked both ways.

People pawed at him, removing his clothes, prodding his skin. Someone slipped an oxygen mask over him. Some distance away Reach saw his wife bent over and wailing.

Ripping the mask from his face, Reach called out to her, “I looked both ways.”

One of the paramedics forced the mask back over him. From behind it, Reach muttered to him, “Where did the car come from?”

“His pelvis is completely shattered,” one of the paramedics stated.

“Check that head wound,” the other ordered.

Reach could see the car – a green and yellow 1970 Boss 429 Mustang. His eyes widened. “That’s my car,” he mumbled under the mask. He had to blink his eyes several times to tear away an encroaching fog over his vision.

Weakly pulling the mask away again, Reach whispered to one of the paramedics, “My car hit me.”

The paramedic ignored him and Reach felt himself being transferred to a padded flat surface. The scene shifted as he was carried away to an ambulance.

Just before he lost sight of the crowd, the car, and his wife, he saw a little girl in a yellow dress, her auburn hair dangling over her shoulders in curly waves as she crouched near the car that had run into him.

She had written in blood on the side of the car, “You’re all alone here.”

***

Reach pressed his hand against the Talos Orb and entered the arena. Spinning his sword by rolling the hilt in his palm, Reach reflected on the orb. Millions of gladiators had touched it before their death. There was a legend that sometimes, a great warrior who was nearing his final battle could transfer his soul into the obsidian orb and enter the body of another warrior who would touch it later.

Reach had felt no transfer – he was still Reach, his soul intact and as it ever had been.

The roar of the crowd suddenly died down as they caught sight of the creature the Talosians had chosen for this match. Heated protests started at a whisper and grew to a cacophony of outrage.

Reach felt his soul suddenly trying to claw its way out of his body.

The Gathrak took a step forward and its reptilian foot hit the ground with such impact that Reach could feel the vibrations up to his chest. Gathraks were large barbaric warriors, usually topping out at seven feet tall, but this one was well over that. Its scales stuck out at odd angles as the creature’s impossibly massive muscles pressed outward against them. The Gathrak carried only one weapon – a giant iron hammer.

Reach clenched his hand upon his sword hilt tightly, feeling the slickness of his sweat already compromising his grip.

“Unfair! No contest!” came the cries from the crowd.

The Gathrak suddenly roared, showing his four rows of sharp, needle-like teeth. Charging forward, it closed the distance to Reach in five long strides. With an uncanny swiftness, the creature swung his hammer at Reach’s mid-section. Reach hopped backwards and the hammer just missed colliding with his ribs. The hammer tore through the air, blowing Reach’s long hair into his face with the power of a hurricane’s winds. Unfortunately, Reach’s sword had remained in the path of the hammer and shattered as the mighty weapon struck it.

Reach’s sword arm went numb with the impact. Before he could react, the Gathrak swung his hammer in a reverse arc, slightly lower than before.

The blow shattered Reach’s pelvis, obliterating his abdomen with thousands of shards of bone slicing through flesh and organs.

Reach flew through the air a good ten feet before crumpling in a pile of human suffering.

As the Gathrak approached to deliver the killing blow, Reach saw a little girl in a yellow dress, her auburn hair dangling over her shoulders in curly waves as she sat upon the Gathrak’s shoulder.

In its guttural voice, the Gathrak said, “You’re all alone here.”

***

Reach had left his glasses inside, but could make out the shape of the paper boy coming up the sidewalk toward the gate to Reach’s house.

“Wait just a minute son,” Reach called out, struggling to push himself up out of his chair on the porch. He felt his old, frail bones cracking as he straightened up. Grabbing his walker, Reach began to shuffle over to the steps leading down into his yard.

The boy slipped Reach’s paper into the mailbox and kept walking down the sidewalk.

“Now wait a minute,” Reach called out to him. “Come back here.”

Trying to maneuver down the steps, Reach cursed himself for not having a ramp installed.

“You owe me a quarter,” Reach accused. “I didn’t get my paper on -”

Reach missed a step and fell. Tangled in his walker, his weight caused him to vault over the walker and slam heavily to the concrete walk. His pelvis shattered in the impact.

Reach cried out in pain and grabbed at his chest to press the button on his emergency device. It wasn’t there. He had left it on the porch.

Near his head, Reach caught a glimpse of yellow in his periphery. Turning his head, he saw a little girl in a yellow dress, her auburn hair dangling over her shoulders in curly waves as she crouched near him. She had a newspaper bag over one shoulder and was holding an issue unrolled before him.

The headline read, “You’re all alone here.”

***

Leaping over the fire escape, Reach angled for the dumpster.

He could hear his pursuers as their footsteps clanged against the metal above him.

Landing in a pile of cushioning trash, Reach quickly righted himself and vaulted over the lip of the dumpster. Gunshots rang out as the thugs above him fired. Bullets ricocheted off the concrete as Reach sprinted away from the scene, the stolen briefcase in his hand.

Turning the corner of the alley, Reach put on some extra speed and made for the theater four blocks away where he had parked his car. He knew the thugs sent after him wouldn’t try to jump the fire escape like he had, so that gave him quite a lead. For once, Reach thought he might make out big on a heist.

The bullet hit him right on his hip and shattered his pelvis. Collapsing to the ground, Reach’s face scraped against the asphalt. The briefcase skittered away down the street. The pain was intense, but Reach was only wondering why they hadn’t fired again to finish him off.

Rolling over onto his back, Reach looked above him at the rooftops, scanning for the sniper.

Next to a large billboard atop a building nearby, Reach saw a little girl in a yellow dress, her auburn hair dangling over her shoulders in curly waves as she crouched at the edge of the building’s roof, a sniper rifle in her hands.

The billboard read, “You’re all alone here.”

***

The proton blast tore through the shields and ripped a jagged hole through the port side hull. The ship’s displays quickly changed from yellow to red as the engine room vented into space and forward propulsion stopped. The Nemesis had been skirting along the atmosphere of the planet when the pirates had attacked. The sudden cessation of the engines caused the damaged ship to slip towards the planet and enter a decaying orbit.

Reach righted himself in his captain’s chair and bellowed orders to his crew.

“Can we get that engine back online?” he screamed over the wailing of the disaster sirens.

“What engine?” the engineer yelled back to him. “That blast tore engines three and five away into the space.”

“Pump the cargo room with flexcushion,” Reach ordered. “And get those men out of there or they’ll be permanent residents in the safety foam. I want that cargo secured at all costs.”

Turning to his second officer Reach stated flatly, “We may crash and burn to a hellish crisp, but by God, those relief supplies are going to survive so the refugees can get to them.”

“Yes sir,” the second officer replied.

The second impact of proton blasts threw Captain Reach from his command deck. He collided roughly with the tactical console and his pelvis shattered in the impact.

Crying out in pain, Reach doubled up into a fetal position.

His second officer rushed over to help, but a third blast threw the unprepared officer against the forward glass, killing him instantly.

Pulling himself up against the tactical console, Captain Reach took in the scene.

Of the seventeen bridge officers required to pilot the starship, only five remained.

“Captain,” the communications officer called out weakly. “The pirates are hailing us.”

“Put them through,” Reach gasped, steadying himself against the console. His abdomen was a fiery ball of pain.

On the forward screens an image of the pirate ship’s bridge appeared. In the captain’s chair Reach saw a little girl in a yellow dress, her auburn hair dangling over her shoulders in curly waves as she leaned forward with a sneer.

“You’re all alone here,” she said.

***

“Daddy, please don’t die,” the little girl said.

Reach touched her cheek and smiled. “It’ll be okay, little one.”

The infection had moved from his abdomen, and Reach could feel it coursing through his systems, slowly destroying his body. It had been a careless accident. Exploring the strange planet he and his daughter had crash landed on, Reach had lost his footing and tumbled from a ridge. He had fallen against a sharp rock, which had pierced his hip. Weeks passed before Reach realized anything had gone wrong. The fall itself wasn’t terribly painful, and Reach had recovering quickly enough to continue hiking the rest of that day. The cut on his hip, however, slowly became inflamed with a strange infection.

As the infection had worsened, Reach began teaching his daughter how to fend for herself – which berries she could eat, how to find water, how to avoid predators, and how to create shelter. The little girl was only nine years old, but in the short time she and her father had been stranded on the planet, she had matured rapidly.

A week before, Reach had lost his ability to walk. The infection had spread into the bone of his pelvis and eaten it away completely.

Laying on his back in the crude shelter of a cave they had found, Reach caressed the cheek of his daughter.

“You’re all alone here,” he said to her.

“No,” she replied. “You’ll always be with me.”

Day Seventeen – His Most Holy Purveyor of the Remedy to My Madness

ogle

“Lift your eyes to the light above you. The cleansing god of ages descends to this mortal coil in fury, and, for our future, he brings tidings of empty joy. This ground upon which we quiver, cowering on bent knee, praying for deliverance is not ours. We came to this land, and toiled in its dust and its blood with only our own comfort in mind, and for that we shall pay an ultimate price. This is the end, children! Behold the great and glorious–”

Jack Spencer kicked the plazbrik containment unit out from underneath the street preacher and jerked the filthy man to the ground. Slipping his stunrod from its holster at the small of his back, Spencer prodded the man twice in his chest, knocking the man unconscious.

The crowd, which had been blocking the main thoroughfare for a good hour or so, immediately began to disperse. Earlier, the fringes of that same crowd had begun to thin when Security Chief Spencer had been witnessed heading towards the lawbreaker. The aging portcop had stopped and listened to the echoing diatribes for a moment, whether out of politeness or curiosity, the crowd was unsure.

Spencer flipped the preacher on his stomach and roughly bound his prisoner’s hand behind his back. Without needing a further signal, Spencer’s shadow, a jet black security droid with a blank face, gathered up the criminal and carried him away.

S.C. Spencer watched the crowd disperse under the continuous drone of the aircars overhead. He was slightly irritated that the crowd was not dispersing faster. His RecTact optical implant registered an aircar on manual exceeding the speed limit in a lane one hundred yards away and sixty feet up. Spencer pointed a gloved hand at the violator, and the vehicle pulled out of traffic. After negotiating two lanes along its way, the vehicle stopped just next to the Security Chief.

“Good morning, chief,” the driver said nervously stepping out of the vehicle immediately.

Spencer, not responding, held his hand over the registration glyph on the vehicle. No alerts pinged, and no previous citations were in the system for either the vehicle or its owner.

“Is there something I can help you with?” the driver pressed.

“Manual operation of an air vehicle in this zone is prohibited,” Spencer gruffy stated. “That’s one citation alone. Beyond that, you were exceeding the speed limit, and that is citation number two.”

“Look,” the driver started, but Spencer raised his hand and cut him off.

“Hold out your hand for identification,” Spencer directed.

“Officer, I don’t think this is necessary, you see I’m not from–”

Spencer yanked his stunrod out of its holster and brandished it threateningly. “Hand. Now. Or you’ll be identified in a holding cell after you regain consciousness.”

The driver, startled, stepped backwards and began to speak.

Spencer started forward, raising the stunrod. Before the blow could land, Spencer was vaporized.

Looking around him, the driver, a man named Michael Ross, slipped the destabilizer device back into his pocket. Looking at his wristpad, he spat curses at the time, seeing that he was now excessively late. Re-entering the vehicle he discovered it had been locked down.

With no option left open to him, Michael Ross began to run.

Earlier in the day, Michael Ross had made a terrible discovery, a frighteningly horrible series of events had been set into motion that only Ross could set right. He had left his job without notice and stolen the first air vehicle in sight. Spencer was the second security officer he had run into, the first being the Security Chief Spencer from the neighboring parallel universe.

As he ran, Ross jumped through the veil again, unable to prevent it.

Before him, Security Chief Spencer was stunrodding a dirty street preacher.

Ross ran from him, not caring whether he appeared suspicious or not. In the universe Ross had just jumped into, Spencer had never seen him before.

Sprinting across the elevated walkways, Ross desperately attempted to gain back lost time. Looking at his wristpad, he noticed he had gained five minutes from the jump.

Again, Ross jumped through the veil, only this time, the position of the universe was shifted ever so slightly.

Ross fell a very long way before he collided with concrete. Several minutes later, the same broken corpse fell on a street preacher who had just mounted a plazbrick containment unit to talk about the apocalypse in yet another parallel universe. The collision killed the preacher, but no one noticed that both men were the same person.

Security Chief Spencer had his android assistant clean up the mess while he wondered if he would get to use his stunrod that day.

Reach One

Continuing project. I’ve yet to decide whether or not I’m including this in Salvatore Ambulando’s Detritus.

Reach is one of my favorite characters – he’s never anywhere, but yet.

PREFACE: Reach was one of seven men named as such who existed in seven separate universes as multiversally intertwined souls. It was impossible for them to meet; and though, theoretically, it was possible for Reach to cross over to another universe, the chances of encountering one of the other seven were ridiculously low. This was also complicated by the fact that any one Reach jumping universes was being mirrored by the other Reachs.

The origin of Reach is unknown, because Reach himself has yet to create his origins. Reach exists suddenly, and not due to any epic mingling of chaotic strands of eternity in well-defined intersections of “now”. Reach just was and just is – seven times over. He exists sevenfold in time and space, but lives in a dysphoric misalignment with the rest of the universe each iteration of himself inhabits. Frequently, the outsider’s presumption of Reach’s insanity serves only to further separate the heptaphrenic traveler from the only realities that could actually shed light on the purpose of his multifaceted existence.

To further complicate this already complicated tale, Reach does not know he is connected to seven other beings and that everything he does is either influencing or being influenced by one or more of his other existences.

This is Reach Zero, the beginning you’re allowed to consider as such, but not the one that was.

———

REACH ONE

After Reach’s palm connected with the face across the table from him, most of the civility left in the dark fog of the opium den slithered out the cracks between the warped walls.

“Jesus, I didn’t mean to hit you like that, sir,” Reach stammered. “For a moment …” Don’t suggest he looks like a Rottweiler, Reach.

“For a moment, your craggy visage was interrupted by a most disturbing phantasmagoria and I felt, uh, that perhaps sudden -” There it is! Reach slapped the brute again. “-violence might do well to erase the offending illusion from, uh, your-” Rottweiler. “- lovely and most handsome-” Dog face. “-dog’s face.

The brute swung wildly, but with great and sudden force. Reach stumbled out of synchronization with the brute’s timestream and inadvertently dodged the fist.

The handful of patrons sharing the drug-hazed room were too caught up in their own hallucinations to notice that Reach had just blinked out of existence briefly.

The brute lost his balance, tipping over the card table. The oil lamp crashed to the floor and ignited the filthy rugs haphazardly tossed on the floors. The immediate burst of flame was enough to send the rest of the patrons running. The brute hesitated, wondering how he had missed the wiry man who  had slapped him.

“Elixirs!” Reach shouted at him over the sudden roar of fire. “That’s what you need, chum.”

***

Hurtling towards the star, Reach suddenly blurted out, “Elixirs!”

His crew, all locked into their duties, suddenly turned to look at him. The roar of the freighter being blasted by stellar radiation had the floor in the silence of their confusion.

“That’s what we need,” he explained, as if the crew might understand.

Ignoring him, his engineer shouted, “We’ve lost prime and tertiary thrusters, Captain.”

“SHIELDS FAILING,” the computer intoned.

“Angle for the fifth planet,” Reach ordered. “Take us in at a harsh angle and see if we can’t let gravity play savior. With luck, we’ll skim the flares and shoot off into -”

In a sudden lurching of the ship, Reach tipped over his coffee onto a console, which immediately erupted into sparks.

Batting the sudden flames with an emergency manual, Reach cried out, “Someone get me a-”

***

“Towel. Off with it,” Reach commanded.

“I’m already naked,” the girl responded.

Looking at the girl, Reach started violently. “So you are. How did you get there?”

“Where?”

“Naked.”

“You told me to, sir,” the girl said meekly.

“Do you smell fire?”

“No, sir.”

“Yes well, angle for the fifth planet, let gravity play savior,” Reach hesitated. “Where we about to …?”

“I’m here for an exam.”

Reach retched into a nearby trashcan.

***

“I feel ill,” Reach said weakly.

“I would think so,” the judge said condescendingly. “I do hereby decree that you, Reach, are condemned to death for the malicious murder of -”

“Oh my god! She’s naked and I’m supposed to examine her?” Reach burst out.

Banging his gavel, the judge barked, “I will not tolerate your continued harassment of your own defense. One more outburst and I’ll tack on three decades of torture.”

Seeing his legal defense for what appeared to be the first time, Reach twitched.

“I’m sorry I spilled coffee on you,” Reach said to his lawyer.

***

Reach walked happily down the street, politely tipping his hat to those that passed him. The sun was out, the weather was pleasant, and not a single cloud was making its way across the sky.

Stopping at Smitty’s Market, Reach pocketed two apples and flipped Smitty a fifty-cent piece.

“Lovely morning, Mr. Reach,” Smitty said with genuine pleasantness.

“Indeed it is, Mr. Smitty,” Reach replied, continuing his happy walk. “Indeed it -”

Reach suddenly burst into flames. A girl on a merry-go-round screamed, her voice oddly affected by the Doppler Effect as she spun around.

***

Reach ineffectively pressed his hands against the bulkhead where water was pouring into the communications room.

“Reach!” screamed his counterpart. “Get above, she’s going down!”

“Torpedo!” came the cry from the radar man.

“Angle towards the fifth planet!” Reach screamed back at him. “Let gravity play -”

The submarine exploded.

***

Reach raised the lit match to his cigarette and puffed repeatedly to light it. Staring up at the starry night through the wisps of tobacco smoke, he took a sip of his coffee, then set it down on the caretaker’s desk.

Mary, the freshman he’d seduced into coming up to the observatory, came up behind him, wrapping her slender arms around his chest from behind.

“Thank you for slugging that brute, Reach,” she said into his ear. “He looked like a Rottweiler.”

“I didn’t like that way he was looking at you,” Reach explained. “You’re too good for him.”

Turning to her, he gently kissed her lips. “So what are you studying again?”

Smiling, she pecked him back. “I’m going to be a lawyer. I have a big examination next week.”

“Can I see you after its over?” Reach asked. “I’ve always wanted to date a lawyer.”

“Who said we were dating?” she responded coyly. “Maybe in a couple of weeks. My kid brother is joining the Navy and I promised to see him off back in Missouri. He wants to be a submarine captain.”

Slinking over to the telescope, she pulled away the voluminous towel the caretaker use as a cover over the eyepiece. “Aren’t you going to show me the stars, big boy?”

“Angle towards the fifth planet,” Reach instructed. “It’s called Jupiter.”

“How do I know where it is?” she asked, looking up at the opened roof.

Smirking, he walked over to the telescope and adjusted the rotator’s lock to the peg marked “5”.

“Set to five, then,” the telescope swung smoothly into position, nudging the unprepared female into his arms. “Let gravity play savior.”

They slid to the ground where the towel was waiting for them.

“Is that an apple in your pocket?” she asked.

Day Sixteen – Numbness in the Toes

soy

Metal men and bloodsucking aliens would be preferable. There are hints of lavender in the sky among the oranges and pinks. Thomas likes lavender.

Thomas’s sweater is coming unraveled.

On this day, Thomas rises from his bed and begins to unravel himself from life, from responsibility, and from the oppressive gaze of the okapi skeleton he purchased on safari in Chad. The first few inches of his sweater pull away easily, and it is only after a moment or two of the cautious approach that, with reckless abandon, Thomas accelerates the disassembling of the final mystery of his life.

The sweater has purples and blues, but no orange. Or maybe there are oranges – Thomas cannot remember. Call it farcical expression of Wernicke-Korsakoff meant to excuse the obliviousness of his existence. There are no blues, though, regardless of what I may have indicated in the past few sentences.

Thomas wraps the remains of his sweater around his left hand and soon feels the bite of the cold January wind. Unlike the traditional sweater, the one he wears has been knit in a bizarre pattern. As he nears the end of the line, he notices, to his horror, that it terminates in a Kocher’s incision just below the right side of his ribcage.

Curious, Thomas pulls the string and the incision opens up, leaking a milky substance into his lap. With the incision open, the string comes easier and, undaunted, Thomas continues to unravel himself.

When he expects to see organs tied to the string in carrick bends, and lighterman and buntline hitches, he sees instead a series of small knots devoid of purpose. They cause him to hiccup each time a knot slips through the incision.

Suddenly, without any warning at all, Thomas’s own scruffy head breaches the incision, tearing it further, the string tied in a loop around his neck.

Shocked by his own actions, Thomas continues to pull at the string, removing his own full body from the incision, and notices that the other Thomas is knitting a sweater from string extending from a Kocher’s incision of his own.

Perhaps there was lavender, after all. And orange.