Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Departure of Hokusai Gimura: Chapter Three

“You’re a Matic?” Vearden asks. “Any relation to Mateo?”
“Yes, actually,” Sanela answers. “I would have been great grandmother.”
“You would have been...?” I ask.
“He went back in time to kill Hitler, which created a new reality; one in which he was never born.”
“I know of a device that can fix realities.”
She shook her head. “I know what you’re talking about. That’s for reality corruptions. This is just a new timeline. There’s nothing to fix. Thanks, though.”
“What does it mean that your The Screener?” I ask.
“I can show you the past. You won’t be able to interact with anybody, or anything, but you can watch.”
“So you can show me where Hokusai Gimura is?”
“I don’t know where she is, but I can take you back and let you retrace her steps. That is, if the powers that be allow me to do so. I operate at their behest.”
“So, how does this work? Do you need a picture of her, or a specific date and time?”
Sanelea takes a small bottle out of her pocket and removes the cap. “Lean your head back.”
I’m about to ask why, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll do anything. I lean back and let her drop one drop of some unknown substance into each of my eyes. It stings a little, but is at the same time pleasurable. I can feel a warm sensation pulsing through my veins, reaching every square inch of my body within seconds. After I’m done instinctively blinking, I open my eyes and find myself in what looks like The Construct from The Matrix. Sanela is here with me. She explains that this is The Antapex; another dimension. It’s not the first time I’ve been in one, so it’s no big deal, except that there is nothing here, which gives me a feeling of isolation and emptiness that I didn’t know was possible.
“What’s that stuff you gave me?” I start looking around even though, again, there’s nothing here but whiteness.
She walk around as mirror to me. “Nothin’ but my tears.”
“You mean anyone can do this if they just have your tears?”
“I can take you anywhere I want you to go,” she begins to explain, “tears or no. I gave you my tears so you can decide where, but you still need me to drive. If I just left you with a sample, you would only be able to observe your own past. We’re waiting here because it takes a few minutes for your mind to bond with the solution.”
“Is my body just slumped against the wall back at Vearden’s safehouse?”
“No, your body is here. You can only observe the past, but your body is still here.”
My head grows hotter, not feverish, but a heat the likes of which I’ve never experienced.
“Okay, this is it; we’re entangled,” she says. “Just think about when and where you wanna go, and we’ll go.”
I try to think about Hokusai, but my brain isn’t working right. The heat from that eye solution is overwhelming. My thoughts wander further and further back, until I’m hyperfocused on Escher Bradley, the child whose disappearance started it all. Suddenly, we’re back inside that wretched house. Escher is just opening the door, carefully but inquisitively. He places one hand on the inside knob while taking a cursory look at the foyer, causing it to break off. He puts the knob in his pocket and continues to explore.
“I thought we were looking for a woman,” Sanela notes.
“We are,” I say. “I took us too far back. This is the first person to go missing. Well, technically second, but I was a child during the first one.”
“Is this gonna help with your investigation?” she asks me.
“It could. I believe they’re all connected. I believe they’re all in the same place.”
“I don’t know how long the powers that be are gonna let me work this case,” she says tentatively. “We might want to hurry this along.”
The whole time, I’ve been watching Escher, but now I turn towards my guide. “Can you do that? Can you speed this up?”
“Speedwatch? Yeah, I can.”
“Keep us with him,” I order, somewhat rudely. “Wherever he goes, we go. I don’t want to have to run twice as fast.”
“I can do that too.”
She doesn’t seem to need to move a muscle to make this happen. We remain connected to Escher’s location as he moves, our feet sliding across the floor as mere observers, like a true three-dimensional movie. Everything moves at least twice as fast as real-time. She slows down sometimes so we can hear things he says, and sometimes speed up even more when little is happening. Escher, completely hopeless and alone, starts out by activating some kind of portal in the mural above the fireplace. He crawls up into it, and then falls back out, now in another dimension of his own, and somehow upstairs. He looks out the window to see his mother, who still apparently has her memories of him, and is wondering where he is. Escher tries to walk down the hallway, only to be transported to a basement. He begins to cry so much that a puddle forms from his tears. He ends up falling through it as well, as it has become a portal. He’s in a new basement, and just as trapped as before. I try to comfort and help him, acutely aware of how pointless my attempts are.
Escher continues to run through the maze of rooms, which could not possibly fit within the confines of a single-family home. Sometimes these rooms are basements, but not always. He hears noises, and sees dark masses pursue him. He keeps running for his life, eventually learning the power of what I’ve been calling the Escher Knob. Eventually he comes across a little girl named Effigy, but she is not what she appears to be. She’s a monster in disguise, and all but admits this outright. She shows him a magic mirror that reveals my first meeting his parents, when I was trying to investigate his disappearance. She later puts him through a series of incredibly dangerous challenges, eventually releasing him to the outside on what’s either an alien world, or Iceland...but probably an alien world.
“Pause it,” I ask of Sanela.
She complies, and also removes our lock on Escher, so we can move around the scene at will.
“Where are we?”
“I’ve no idea. I’m not a tracker, and I’ve never been here. I can tell you that it’s not Earth, nor is it in another dimension.”
“We’re on another planet. I had no hope finding them as long as I stayed on Earth.”
“I wouldn’t think so,” Sanela agrees.
“All right, play again, but at normal speed.” The scene continues, but now we can hear the dialog.
Effigy returns again, still in the form of a little girl, but maintaining no illusions that she is innocent. “You made it,” she says to him.
“Is this your world?” Escher asks.
“It is now. It’s not where I come from; just where I’ve been trapped. Until you came along.”
“What? What did I do?” he questions. “How have I freed you?”
“You're a little young for the physics,” she says dismissively.
“Try me. I’m smarter than you think.”
“The tests I put you through were not arbitrary,” Effigy says. “They served a very, very specific purpose. They are what ultimately allowed you to come here. Well, you could have come here at any time, I guess, but that would have been a waste. What I needed was a bridge, and you built that bridge for me. Thanks for that, by the way.”
“I don't remember building a bridge,” EB says, showing his youth.
“See? I told you that you wouldn’t get it. It’s not an actual bridge. “Then she mutters, “idiot” under her breath.
“Hey, leave him alone!” I shout at Effigy. For a second there, I think she can see and hear me, for her eyes dart at me ever so quickly.
“All right,” Escher says coolly, giving no impression that he might be able to see the two observers. “Calm down. Yeah, I’m young, but ya just gotta give me a chance. The challenges were...connecting the dots?” He guesses.
“Yes,” she confirms. “Particles needed quantum entangling and you got the chops to entangle them. Not everyone does, mind you, but you’re special.”
“That's lovely to hear,” Escher lies, almost convincingly.
“Well, you asked the question, and since you don’t like the answer, you wanna get all defensive. That is not my problem. In fact, you’re not my problem. Not anymore.”
“If I’m not your problem, then you can let me go back home.”
“Nah, sorry. Not possible. “You’ve done a brilliant job getting us here in the way I needed you to, which means you’re stuck here.”
“Umm...sorry?” She does her best to pretend she has any empathy for him, or that she’s even capable of it.
“No, that can’t be true!” EB cries defiantly. “You have to have a way back to Earth, I know it! This whole thing is about escaping. That’s one of the first things you told me about yourself!”
“I thought I did, yes,” Effigy says. “But when I discovered that you could bridge worlds, I realized I had to take advantage of that. I can escape later. I have more work to do here.”
“I've been helping you this whole time,” EB says, near more tears. “I think I always knew that that was a mistake. I shoulda been stopping you.”
“You coulda tried, but you’re no match for my power, I’ll tell ya that much.”
“That might be true, but you said I have power of my own. I don’t understand it—but I will—and I will find a way to use it against you.”
She grimaces. “Good luck with thaaaaat. I’ma go get my friends so we can take the universe for ourselves. We certainly deserve it after what we’ve been through.”
“You're gonna lose,” he says, bolstering his own courage. “You may win a few battles here and there, but I’ll figure this place out, and you will ultimately lose the war.”
“Good luck,” Effigy repeats. Then she blinks away for one second. Escher doesn’t seem to notice that she never really left. He starts moving away, hopefully looking for shelter. “Sorry about that,” she says, apparently to herself. “That conversation went on longer than I thought it would.” She looks right at my face, like she can see me. “Are you gonna say something, or just stand there like an dumbass?”
“You can see us?” Sanela asks, shocked.
“Sure can!” Effigy responds excitedly.
“How is that possible?” Sanela takes out her special tear drops. She removes the cap and smells it, but she doesn’t really know what she’s looking for.
“That ain’t gonna give you no answers, honey. My power can’t be explained.”
“Who are you?” Sanela approaches Effigy with caution, and nudges her on the shoulder.
“Yes, amazing, I know.”
“This has never happened to me before,” Sanela says to me. “There’s something wrong with her.”
“Or something right,” Effigy suggests.
“You’re an alien,” I say.
“Very good. But even more alien than you could know. I’m not even from this universe. I was screwed over. And while The Shepherd got a cozy job in the military, I got stuck here.”
“We can’t let your friends come here,” I tell her. “Whoever they are, they have to stay wherever they are.”
She sports what must be her signature smirk. “Like you got a choice.” She apports a remote control into her hands, and points it at the two of us. “Act Two, Scene One.”
She presses a button, and apports us back to Springfield, Kansas.

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