Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Burning of Effigy: Chapter Two

Before even looking, I jump out of my seat and reach for my sidearm at my hip, which isn’t there, because I left it in Kansas City. I don’t recognize the woman that’s standing at the back entrance, but she’s smiling in a familiar way. “Effigy?” I guess.
“That’s right,” she replies. “No need to stay in fight or flight mode, Bran. I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Why should I believe you?” I ask. Realizing I need to protect Ezqava from this threat, I move between the two of them.
“Well, I certainly wouldn’t ever hurt her,” she tells me.
“What do you want?”
“To thank you,” Effigy says. “An alien literally lands at you feet, and you nurse her back to health without hesitation. That’s very big of you, and if we were living in a stable time loop, I would be personally grateful to you.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I remain tense and alert. I’ve not actually seen her do anyone harm, but I obviously can’t trust her. She’s powerful and has admitted to having ill intentions for the future.
“You haven’t figured it out. How long have you been doin’ this Kally?” Effigy asks rhetorically. “She’s me. You’ve been helping me.”
I entertain the possibility that this is true, and suddenly jump away from Ezqava as well. Then I worry there’s a third one elsewhere in the house, and start jerking my head around like a paranoid chicken.
“Fear not,” Effigy says. “I do not sense this version of me turning out like I did. She has you. You’ve changed my history.”
“Then why are you still here?” I pose. “If meeting me created a non-evil version of you, why does evil you still exist?”
She doesn’t act like this is a problem. “Eh, I survived your meddling with the timeline. I suspect somebody sent you back here to fix the future. They’ll have to do better than that.”
I’m still wary of Ezqava, who has been characteristically quiet this whole time. I want to know what she thinks about all this, whether this will make things worse for her—if there’s no stopping the devil inside her—or if she’s still the injured, vulnerable, yet strong, and independent alien woman I met weeks ago. Either way, I have to keep a cool head. “Look at her.”
“What?” Effigy asks, not sure where I’m going with this.
“Look at this other version of yourself.”
“I am,” she says, still lost.
“No, really look at her,” I argue. “What’s the difference between you and her?”
“I just told you,” Effigy replies. “It’s you.”
“Okay,” I say, allowing that to be a fair proposition. “How do I make her better?”
“Well, you’ve been nice to her.”
“But you never had that.”
She’s losing her patience. “No, I didn’t. What’s this about?”
“Bear with me,” I assure her. I start walking around, and talking with my hands, like I’m presenting the introduction for an electronics corporation’s hottest new device. “So you’ve accepted the fact that Ezqava is better than you?”
“Well, I guess you have to stipulate what you mean by better.”
“People want to be around her,” I pose.
Effigy breathes in deep, not happy with admitting the truth. “Yeah. That.”
“Would you...want people to do the same for you? Do you want people to like you? Would you say this life Ezqava is on the brink of having is...preferable to the one you’ve lived so far?”
“I understand what you mean now,” Effigy says. “You’re suggesting that because I see a version of myself who people would call a good person, then I should strive to be more like her?”
“Your words, not mine.” By letting her come to the conclusion of my argument herself, she has no choice but to consider its validity. If she thought of it before I explained it, maybe it’s actually right. If I say too much, though, it may feel like a trick. I can’t have that.
“See? This is my problem,” she begins.
“You just have one?” I ask playfully.
She cracks a smile, but moves on, “people keep trying to fix me. They constantly appeal to my better angels. Pun intended.”
I don’t get the joke. I’m sure it’s a reference to something I don’t know about.
“And I’m not saying I don’t have a good side of me, I would never. I just find it bizarre that everyone I encounter seems to try to use this tactic on me. I expect so much pushback...anger...violence. All I get is love. It’s...”
“Reminiscent of home?” Ezqava finally says. “Of how home once was, that is. When all we knew was love?”
“You see, that’s the thing,” Effigy responds. “I am thinking of home. We left people behind. They’re trapped in hell, and I’m not talking about the crew members who were thrown into a universe where they’re looked upon as demons. I’m talkin’ about our home world. The problem has not been solved. Shuhana—” Just saying the name of this Shuhana person almost makes her throw a fit. “That bitch travels the bulkverse with the Crossover, but not once—not once!—has she gone back! She could save everybody! Why doesn’t she?” She gets up in my face. “You wanna know why I’m bad? You wanna know why I’m pissed off? It’s because I’m trying to save our people, and everyone is livid about that!”
“They may be under the impression that, if you bring your people here, they may not be quite as pleasant as you are,” I offer.
“That’s exactly right,” Ezqava says. “She opens a portal, the first to come through will be the warriors; the ones that have lost all hope, and any sense of decency. Whether she wants that or not, they’ll push their way to the front.”
Effigy is shaking her head. “It’s not that simple.”
“You know this to be true, and you don’t care.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Effigy starts talking with her hands too. “Our universe is the size of a solar system. They come here, we’ll have all the space we ever needed. This world is cut off, lightyears away from the nearest civilization. I’ll get them all here, and once they see that everything is gonna be okay, only then will I let them leave.”
Ezqava stands up and gently places her hand on her other self’s cheek. “You and I. We are not leaders.”
“Well neither is—”
“Neither is Shuhana,” Ezqava finishes Effigy’s complaint. “This isn’t about her. We’ll deal with her later. This is about you, and your misguided plans.” She composes herself. “This man has told me the things you’ve done. It sounds like you destroyed a whole town.”
Effigy’s anger seethes. “Everyone blames me for that. Correlation does not equal causality. We were thrown to this world, because it is the universe’s cesspool. Springfield and I are two separate victims of the same thing. This world took the city from its place. I had nothing to do with that.>
“Effigy,” I begin.
“I’m sorry for what you’ve been through. Just so you know, I never blamed you for Springfield. When I was investigating it, I never considered the possibility that an individual did it on purpose. I’m sorry that others have.”
“Now you’re being nice to me, like you are to her.”
“Is it working?” I ask.
“A little,” Effigy confesses. She’s calm down by now, and is able to speak with Ezqava with respect. “Eqoz, I need your help. Maybe my plans weren’t all the way thought out, but I did have good intentions. I...I got a portal open. But it’s, umm...”
“What is it?” Ezqava asks. “You can tell me.”
“It’s incomplete? Our people keep crossing over, but they aren’t right. The humans call them monsters, but they’re just temporal anomalies. They’re just fragments of memory and attitude, with no cohesion, no identity. I guess they are monsters. Whatever it was that brought Springfield here, I ended up doing the same thing.”
“Then close the portal,” I suggest.
“I can’t. I’m not powerful enough.” She directs her attention to Ezqava. “But maybe together we are.”
Ezqava thinks this over. “Okay, I’ll help you, but only to close the portal; not to fix it, and let them all through.”
Effigy wasn’t particularly pleased by this, but does give in to it. “I can deal with that. I just want to end their suffering.”

No comments :

Post a Comment