Saturday, June 24, 2017

Flurry: Lost in Space (Part XI)

Click here for the previous installment...

As Serkan was waiting to listen to Ace’s story about meeting Quivira a long time ago, something took him by the arms. In literally the blink of an eye, he was transported to a different place entirely. He was suddenly standing in a jungle. Or a forest. Or whatever you call it, it definitely wasn’t Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Standing before him was a man. “Who are you?”
“My name is Mario. Mario Matic.”
“What do you want with me?”
“We need your help.”
“I just got done helping someone, which was a tangent from trying to help someone else, which was already a tangent from trying to help an entire city.”
Mario stared at him with his mouth half-open. “I don’t know what that means. I’m salmon. I was sent to retrieve you so you can help my friend. That you were in the middle of something important was completely out of my control.”
Serkan took in a deep breath and prepared to officially accept the mission. He had never planned on traveling through time, but once he did, he at least hoped that the once would be it. This was getting to be a little inconvenient.
“If they let me take you back to the exact moment you left,” Mario continued, “I will. We really do need you, though. You’re the only one who can do it.”
Serkan exhaled. “Very well. What am I meant to do?”
Mario was hesitant to explain. “First, you should know that we’re in the future. I’ve not been authorized to reveal the exact date, but I am allowed to reveal that we are on a different planet as well.”
“What?!”
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Some people can jump through time, others teleport, and some can even go to other planets. It’s this whole thing. I just don’t want you freaking out if you see a strange animal you’ve never heard of, or something.”
“I guess I’ll...thanks for warning me.” He was this close to just giving up on everything. It was so overwhelming. “Who’s your friend?”
“That’s the most complicated part.”
“There’s something more complicated?”
“You’ve met this person already.”
“All right. Who?”
“He will be happy to see you. We’re hoping you can sort of talk him off the ledge. He’s become...lost.”
“Why aren’t you telling me his name?”
“It’s Reaver. Horace Reaver. A future Horace Reaver.”
“Oh.” He couldn’t come up with a better response. This wouldn’t be the first time he met a future version of Ace, but it would be the first time he realized it.
“He’s been dealing with a lot. I mean, we all have, but he and I have had it the worst here. At least, out of everyone left. I don’t have a good enough memory.” Mario went on after a pause, “Of course, the Horace you meet will have knowledge of what happens in your personal future, but he’s been doing this long enough to know that he shouldn’t tell you too much about what happens to you. We ask that you respect that, and reciprocate it. The events on this island, in this time period, are very sensitive. You can’t go ‘round altering them, which means when you return to your own time, you can’t say anything to your boyfriend...or to anyone else, for that matter.”
“I understand. Just one question.”
“Where’s the future Serkan?” He guessed.
“Yeah. That’s...that’s what I was gonna ask.”
“I can’t tell you that,” he answered matter-of-factly.
“All right,” Serkan said. He didn’t know what we was going to find. He was just learning about a new side of his Ace in 2024. Having to speak with someone who had been through God knows how much more bullshit in this world...and apparently the next, was going to be difficult, at best. Future Horace Reaver. How much time had it been since their lives in mid-early 21st century, and how much had Ace changed? More importantly, how was Serkan going to be able to help? Perhaps even more importantly, though, how would he react to seeing his old boyfriend? Yes, by nothing more than Mario’s few words, and his tone of voice, Serkan suspected that sometime in the future, he would die before Ace. That was the only logical explanation for why he was brought in, rather than that version of himself. However, he had agreed to avoid learning too much about his future, and he was going to do his best to honor that commitment to temporal integrity. “Take me to him.”
Mario took him through the jungle and onto the beach. They were soon at some sort of encampment. In the distance, he could see a woman presumably fishing in the ocean. A guy he didn’t know was tending to a fire with Lincoln Rutherford, who seemed both completely out of place, and at home, at the same time. A second woman wasn’t technically in their way in this wide open space, but it was clear that they needed to speak with her first before they could go see Horace.
“He understands the rules?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am.”
“I’m doing this as a favor. The psychological consequences of these experiences are meant to be part of those experiences. I shouldn’t be interfering with the process, but Mateo has...rubbed off on me.” She sort of trailed off in what looked like a private existential crisis. “And so has Horace. So I am allowing him to be here, but I can order you to take him away at any time, and I will exercise that power at my will.”
“I understand,” Mario responded. “And he does understand what he can and cannot know.”
“Okay.” With that, she disappeared.
“Come on,” Mario said. “He should be in the new privacy hut. Be gentle, he doesn’t know you’re coming.”
They walked up to this sorry excuse for a hut. Mario stayed behind while Serkan entered alone. Horace was sitting on a surprisingly well-made bench, carving a piece of wood with a pocket knife. He looked up and stared into Serkan’s eyes for a moment, all but confirming Serkan’s suspicions that the Serkan he knew was dead. Then he just chuckled once. “They send you here to get me back on track?”
“Are you off track?” Serkan asked, trying to channel every fictional therapist he had ever seen.
“I’m more myself now.”
“What happened?”
He stopped whittling. “I don’t believe I’m allowed to tell you that.”
Serkan said nothing.
“Eh, whatever.” He sported an exaggerated shrug, and broke eye contact so he could focus on the wall. He continued to slice into the piece of wood, but no longer had any drive to mold it into any particular shape. “Keanu is dead. I killed him, Mal. Killed him with a sword. How weird is that?” Yeah, he was not doing well.
“Why did you have to do that?”
To anyone else, that could sound like an accusation, but Horace would know that it was a legitimate question. “He had our daughter. He was gonna kill her this time, Serkan. He really was, he was gonna do it. If, by some miracle, he had failed, he would have found another way at another time. I had to end it.”
“But could one of his powerful friends not just go back in time and stop it from happening?”
He shook his head many more times than necessary. “Not this time. I was...not the way I did it.”
“I believe,” Serkan began, trying to find his words. “I believe they brought me up here expecting me to try and bring you back; to tell you that killing is wrong, and that there’s always another way.”
He finally looked back at him. “But you’re not gonna do that?”
“I also believe they underestimate our love for Paige.”
He nodded. “They always do.”
“I can’t imagine how you feel about her now, after all this time. For me it’s only been a year since we met her, but you’ve built a life around her. Honestly, for as bad as I expect it to get, I can’t wait.”
He smiled through the tears. “It’ll get pretty bad. If I can give you one piece of advice, though, it’s to not underestimate her. To say she’s precocious would be an understatement.”
“Understood.”
Serkan pulled up a chair so they could sit in silence together for a little while. Serkan continued once he had thought of something useful. “Horace, I’m not here to make sure you’re okay. I know you’re not. I’m here to make sure that you’ll be okay.”
“I can’t promise that.”
“If you killed Keanu to protect Paige, then she must be somewhere around here, right?”
He glanced towards the door. “If you didn’t see her on your way here, they’re probably purposely keeping her hidden.”
“Then hold onto her. Use her as a rock. I don’t know exactly what went down that made you take up the sword—or even where you got your hands on a sword—but I do truly hope you had no other choice.”
“I didn’t.”
“Just...don’t use that as an excuse to go back to how Lincoln Rutherford thinks you once were.”
He laughed knowingly.
“Let her be there for you. She’s family. Whenever you’re worried about your...dark passenger, for lack of a better term, picture her face.”
“That’s what I used to do with you.”
“I know.”
“Do you know why I don’t, why I can’t, anymore?”
“I have a pretty good idea.”
“What if that’s not enough?”
Serkan slid down to his knees, hobbled over to Horace, and took hold of his hands. “If you end up doing something like this again, they’re gonna pull me out of time so I can drag your ass back out of the darkness. That may sound like a gift, but it’s gonna get us into some paradoxical trouble. Plus, it’s going to take precious time from me that I could be spending with a Horace I still know for a fact still listens to me.” It might have been harsh, but it was exactly what Horace needed to hear, and Serkan honestly believed it.
“Okay,” Horace replied.
“Good,” Serkan said, standing up. “I can’t be your crutch forever, so I’m gonna go home now.”
“That’s fair.” He stood up to take Serkan in what was obviously a much-needed embrace. Neither one of them really wanted to let go, and eventually, Horace started nuzzling Serkan’s neck.
“I should go,” Serkan said.
“What?” Horace asked, nuzzling deeper.
“I should be getting back to my boyfriend.”
I’m your boyfriend.”
“Not yet.” They both laughed. It was then that they knew that it wasn’t going to end like this. Serkan hadn’t gotten any in days, and he didn’t even want to hazard a guess as to how long it had been for Horace. So they took the opportunity to sleep together on an uncomfortable wooden hut floor. Click here for the next installment...

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