Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Departure of Hokusai Gimura: Chapter Five

We’re standing in some kind of copse, coppice, brush, or brushwood. I’m not sure what to call it, but the undergrowth sure is thick, it is. “Be prepared for anything,” Sanela says. “I don’t have full control over where we go.”
Proving her point, a group of people appear out of the darkness, and into the dimness. They’re running for their lives, much like Hogarth was, but with far more fear in their hearts. The last one in line is Hokusai Gimura; the one I’ve been trying to track more recently. She manages to gain some ground on the young woman in fourth place  just as a dark mass gains ground on all of them. As it draws closer, I can see it’s a vague bipedal monster, like if The Incredible Hulk had been drawn with darker tones, and in impressionist style of art—or whichever style is the one that didn’t use very many pronounced lines. He looked kind of like a giant man, but was also more fluid, often changing the imperfection of his shape, so that you could never really tell where he ended, and the darkness behind him began. The monster overtook the woman Hokusai had passed, and for lack of a better term, ate her. It didn’t seem to have a mouth, or really any facial features. The front of his “head” would change even more dramatically than the rest of him, reminding me of the mask that the comic book character, Rorschach wears. Wow, I feel like most of my descriptions come from pop culture media that I don’t even read or watch.
“Loa! No!” Hokusai tries to scream, but it’s coming for her next, so she has to go back to running. Not that it matters, for the monster consumes her as well.
I try to fight him off, but my body just passes right through him. If ever there was a time I would want Sanela’s ability to merely witness the past to bleed into interactivity, it would be now. But still no one can so much as see me, not even this monster, which breaks a number of laws of physics, I know it.
One of the other three women seems to think that running is no longer an option, so she turns around and freezes, remaining as still as possible. The monster kills the other two, but leaves her alone entirely. It then walks off, apparently satisfied with its four-course meal. Once it’s out of sight, the final girl looks around. “What just happened?” she asks herself. She looks for clues, but there’s nothing around her but dead undergrowth. She shrugs and says, “I better get home.”
“She can’t remember her friends,” I say to Sanela as the survivor is casually leaving the scene.”
“That...thing must remove people from time. Somehow.”
Determined, I take the Rothko Torch out of my pocket. “Take us back.”
“To where? 2022?”
“No,” I say. “To just a few minutes ago. You can do that, right?”
“Rewind? Yeah, sure. But why would you wanna see that again?”
“It might hold a clue. Just...let’s just watch it one more time.”
“Will you want me to slow it down.”
“Maybe a little.”
Sanela holds one hand out and mimes turning a dial to the left. The scene begins to reverse, pulling the survivor back in place, and then the monster. It un-eats all those women, one by one, and they all continue to run backwards, getting back to where they were.
“Okay, stop it there,” I request, once they’ve all disappeared into the black. I approach a spot I know that Hokusai passes over, and get down on my knees.
“What are you doing?” she questions.
I’m digging in the soil, pushing dead plants away, and making a nice open space. I lift the Rothko Torch and jam it into the ground, so that it’s sticking business end up.
“Are you...are you trying to plant the flashlight?”
“I am, yes,” I reply. “Have you restarted the scene?”
“I have. It’s in slow motion.”
“Go ahead and put it at regular speed, it should be fine.”
“You think she’s gonna find that flashlight?”
“I’m hoping.”
She purses her lips. “Yesterday, I’d have told you that wouldn’t work, but now all the rules are out of whack.”
“Well, hopefully the flashlight puts this all back in fine whack. I can’t be here to watch Hokusai die. I won’t do it.” I really won’t.
Sanela snaps her fingers, letting the scene play out in real time. Unfortunately, though Hokusai does indeed pass over the flashlight, she does not see it.
“Dammit, send us back again!” I cry in frustration.
“I can’t just keep doing this,” she protests.
“You answer to some higher power, right?”
“That’s not generally how we put it, but yes.”
“If they don’t want you to do it, they’ll stop you. Until then, let’s go again.”
Sanela agrees, and we try the scene again. This time, I turn the flashlight on. D’uh. But it doesn’t work either. I guess the light isn’t passing through the barrier between our dimension, and hers. Which is crazy. Out of all the things the Rothko Torch can do, it can’t do that?
We try again after I move the flashlight a few inches back. No, that doesn’t work, so I move it a few inches forward, which finally does the trick. Well, it gets the job done, at least. Hokusai doesn’t trip on it, but the woman in front of her does. I guess that’s close enough, as long as Hokusai notices what it is. She does.
“The Rothko Torch,” Hokusai says as the other woman is helping her to her feet. “How did it get here?”
“He did it,” Sanela answers, knowing that no one but him would be able to hear.
“Does it matter?" the woman asks. “We have to go.” The others in their party have already run out of their field of vision.
“No we don’t,” HG says with confidence. Good, she has some idea of what she’s going to do with it.
“Hokusai! Please, let’s go!”
“Trust me, Loa,” HG says in a calm voice. “You can run if you want to, but with the Rothko Torch, we shouldn’t have to.”
Loa remains next to her friend, still frightened, but hopeful for Hokusai’s plan, whatever it may be. As soon as the mass appears before them, Hokusai turns the flashlight on, and aims it at the monster. It stops in mid-air, now covered with lava and fire. At least that’s what it looks like from this dimension. This heat overwhelms the monster, and ultimately destroys it.
“What did you just do?” Loa asks. “What kind of weapon is that?”
“Oh, this ol’ thing?” Hokusai asks with the smile of a champion. “Just the Rothko Torch. No big.”
“She’s amazing, isn’t she?” yet another woman says as Hokusai continues explaining the time object’s power to Loa.
“Who are you?” I ask of her.
“My name is Bhulan, and I just wanna thank you for all your help today. This.” She points to the other two women, who can clearly not see Bhulan. “This is what really matters. You distracted Effigy long enough for Escher to get to safety. You helped Rothko fully understand his mission. And you stopped Smith from becoming an even more dangerous threat to Hogarth’s life. But what you did here, giving my ancestor the flashlight, that’s gonna save two worlds. They could have all died, and it wouldn’t have mattered if Hokusai didn’t have all the ingredients she needs.”
“Was that you with the basketball?” Sanela asks. “Did you bounce that to Kallias so he could defeat that Smith guy?”
Bhulan shakes her head, still watching the scene. The other three women have come back to them. “No. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
The others are in the middle of arguing about what they’re going to do next, and that other monsters could be close. They turn out to be right as several of these monsters begin to growl from all around them.
“That’s my cue,” Bhulan says. “You have done everything you can, Bran. Go back to your own time period. There’s a lot of work in the mid-early 21st century, and you’ll be vital to that.” She walks into the center of the group, and transitions to their dimension, so they can see her. “Give me the flashlight.”
Hokusai complies quickly.
“Get down!” she orders them. “And shut your eyes!”
A blast comes out of the Rothko Torch, even brighter than the one that Hokusai released. It spreads farther than I or Sanela can see. Though it does them no harm, even they can feel its heat from this observation dimension.
Once the danger has passed, Bhulan says, “we’re good. You can stand back up.”
“Thank you,” Hokusai says. “Not to sound ungrateful, but who are you?”
“My name is Bhulan...and I am your great great granddaughter.”
“Come on,” Sanela says to me as the conversation continues. “Let’s get you back home.” She crosses her wrists, and then separates them, repainting the scenery to something else. Just as she does so, though, she disappears along with it. I’m still standing in the same place. Well, maybe it’s not quite the exact same place, but the terrain is quite similar.
“Hello? Sanela? Bhulan?” No answer. “Vearden?” I venture, but quieter. There’s no one here.
Before me, a few meters above the ground, a fire ignites, fueled by nothing apparent. A figure bursts out of it and strikes the ground, still burning. I pull off my coat and desperately work to beat and smother the fire out. The smoke clears and I can see the face of the individual I’ve possibly just saved. It doesn’t seem to be an animal, but it’s also not human.

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