Saturday, February 25, 2017

Voyage to Saga: The Lost (Part VI)

Vearden opened his eyes. Above him he saw light filtering through bamboo stalks, and other trees. He could hear lots of jungle sounds; chirping, squawking, and rustling. But the sound that dominated his ears was that of buzzing. A mouse was using his chest as a little table to eat its seeds. It didn’t seem to be bothered by Vearden’s waking up. He took the little guy and placed him in his vest pocket as he was standing up. He was wearing a vest now. The buzzing was coming from bees. He couldn’t see a nest anywhere around, or really any particularly concentration of the bees. They were just all over the place; more than he had ever seen before. Fortunately, like the mouse, they weren’t bothered by his presence, so he just started walking in a random direction.
The buzzing eventually subsided a little, and were replaced by the sounds of people. He continued to walk towards it, and ended up in some kind of encampment. A few dozen people were going about their day. Some were building shelters, others fire. Some were sorting through luggage on the beach, while others were just resting. A man came in from his flank carrying a bundle of sticks. “Hey, excuse me...” Vearden tried to say, but the man just ignored him. He wasn’t being rude, it was more like he literally couldn’t even see Vearden. Likely no one could, if that were the case. This theory required further testing.
Vearden continued to walk through the camp, quickly seeing the wreckage of a plane about a football field away. It wasn’t smoking, or anything, so it had obviously crashed some time ago. The survivors had already gotten over the shock of it, and were just trying to figure out what to do next. He tried interacting with a number of people, but none of them could see him. He even took someone by the arm. She jumped and pulled herself away, trying to figure out what had taken hold of her, but was unable to find anything. So it wasn’t just that Vearden was in some kind of other dimension, he was invisible. He could use that to communicate with people, or he could protect them emotionally, and avoid touching anything. “All right, Shepherd!” he called out to the aether, confident that no one but her would be able to hear him. “What are you having me do here?”
He looked around, searching for The Shepherd, but she wasn’t there. It was worth a shot, though, right? Then he saw it. The Shepherd never showed herself, but someone else did. A young woman was staring right at him. It was either a coincidence, or an exception. She looked around as well, possibly noticing that the others could not see what she could. She said something to who could have been her older sister. The other woman nodded and went back to threading shoelaces. The younger woman waved Vearden towards her before walking into the woods. He followed her.
Once they were far enough away from camp to be heard, she stopped and turned to him. “Why can the others not see or hear you?”
“I’m not certain,” Vearden answered.
“Were you on the plane?”
“I was not.”
“So there are others here.”
“There is at least me. I assume we are on an island.”
“We wouldn’t have set up camp if we could have walked to civilization.”
“Where did you come from?”
In science fiction and fantasy stories, there’s often this concept of the “underworld”. Most people are just living in the regular world. They have nine-to-five jobs, they drink beer, and they watch trash TV. But then there’s all this other stuff going on that they have no idea exists. We could be talking vampires, aliens, people who can read minds, demons, whatever. It just has to be something so realistically hidden from the rest of the world that it’s technically possible it’s actually real for the audience, but they just don’t know it. The beginning of one such of these stories usually involves one or more characters stumbling upon the truth, and starting their adventure. While they’re at it, they’re charged with protecting their loved ones, the general population, and possibly the secret people. No one who doesn’t already know this truth can know, for it will have terrible consequences. Or maybe that’s just a load of horseshit, and these secret underworlds aren’t giving humans enough credit. Maybe they can handle the truth. Maybe this woman can too. “I’m from a parallel universe,” he said truthfully.
She nodded, not in surprise, but with caution. “Do you mean an alternate reality, or another timeline?”
“I do not.”
“How did you get here?”
“Someone very powerful can cross into other worlds, and she sent me here to help with something. If I succeed, I might get my friend back.”
“So you want me to help you help us?”
“That’s how it’s been going for me so far. Is there anything you need?”
“Besides getting rescued?”
“Besides that,” Vearden confirmed.
“Hmm...” she said, thinking. “Well, Stuart is teaching us how to hunt. Do you speak Japanese?”
“No, sorry.”
“Oh, too bad. Kazuo seems to have a lot to say, but we don’t know what.”
“I know more of those people’s names than yours.”
“I’m Monica.”
“Hi, Monica, I’m Vearden Haywood. Why do you think you can see me?”
She shrugged. “I’ve always been able to see things others can’t. It’s just never been quite so literal.”
Another young woman, maybe just a hair older than Monica came through the brush. “Monica, who are you talking to?”
“I see dead people,” Monica whispered, jokingly.
“You’re not well, are you?”
“I’m autistic.”
The other woman didn’t know what that meant.
“It means I’m fine, Danielle. I am not the way I ought to be...I’m just the way I got to be,” Monica answered with a song lyric that Vearden recognized from his own universe, which was strange. She turned back to Vearden. “Do that thing again you did with the arm.”
“What?” Danielle asked.
“No,” Vearden said.
“Come on, this is my universe, you have to do what I say.”
“No, I don’t.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Just do it!”
“Fine.” Vearden gently placed his hand on Danielle’s shoulder.
She freaked out and stepped back.
“Told you!” Monica cried in delight.
“I should not have done that,” Vearden said out of immense regret.
Monica shrugged again. “She’ll be all right, she’s rich.”
Danielle started backing away more, like she had come across a snake.
“Isn’t that right?”
Danielle kept going.
“I see you, Danielle! I know who you are! I know what you did! I can see into people’s souls!”
Danielle turned and ran off.
That was weird. “Why did you do that?” Vearden asked.
Monica was still looking towards where Danielle had been. “She knows why. And deep down in her heart, she knows what she must do now. That’s all that matters.”
“Yeah, I’m lost.”
“Yeah, I’m not anymore,” she said with relief. “I see now why you’re here, especially since you’re obviously about to leave.”
“How do you figure?”
“Is that your bed over there?” She gestured behind him.
His bed from the hotel suite was just sitting in the middle of the woods. “It is, yes.”
“Well...unless your boss wants us to have sex, I think it’s probably just your exit.”
“I guess so.”
“It was nice meeting you, Vearden.”
“You too, Monica.” He turned away and muttered under his breath, “I think.”
“I heard that,” she said flippantly.
He sort of plopped himself onto the bed and started massaging his eyes. When he reopened them, he found the Shepherd lying next to him. “What was the point of that one?”
“Danielle has a lot of work ahead of her. In order for her to get it done, and get it done right, she needs to be honest with herself. Her lies are holding her back, making her sick.”
“And Monica?” Vearden asked.
“She plays her part too.”
He knew he wasn’t going to get any details, which was...whatever. He moved on, “what now?”
“You can have one night’s worth of sleep.” She stopped, and paced. She finally spoke again after a few minutes, “nah, you’ll get more than that. This next one is going to be weird. I mean, you see magic every day, because you don’t live in linear time. The next one is going to be different, though. You won’t be able to explain this magic away, not with the toolkit you have now. It’ll also be the most...menacing.”
“That doesn’t sound pleasant.”
“No, but you’ll be okay. Just, be sure not to get...” she paused for dramatic effect. “...left behind.”

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