Thursday, May 31, 2018

Microstory 854: Between Man and Wolf

When I was a child, my grandmother would tell me stories of a new species that showed itself to the world when she was younger. They were hideously deformed, but a naïve girl had convinced them to reveal themselves, believing that people would treat them kindly. While no one was hurt or anything, the creatures decided it was best to go back into hiding, and eventually, the truth of their existence was transformed into legend. No one in my day believed they existed, but I was always convinced. I spent my entire life savings on a trip across the ocean, and to the Dolomiti Forest. It took me days to figure out exactly which village housed the girl from the stories. I was surprised to learn that she was still alive, but also unwilling to help me in my quest to meet the hyperintelligent Dolomiti wolves, and learn from them. So I began my search the hard way, tirelessly trekking through the forest, looking for any evidence of an intelligence, and just hoping they hadn’t move somewhere far away in order to avoid people like me. Finally I came across their encampment, and the pack that lived there. It seemed that I had merely found a group of a few dozen humans who lived amongst some very large wolves. They greeted me politely, provided me food and a place to sleep, and told stories around the fire. Of course, they told them in Italian, so I didn’t understand a word they were saying, but they sounded wondrous. Though they did not speak English either, they clearly understood that I was there to see whether werewolves were real, so they made it clear there was nothing to be found. Still, I was suspicious that the rumors could have been borne simply of a tribe who had domesticated wolves. I indicated that I was leaving, but instead circled back around to watch them in secret. I soon learned that I was right, but the reality was even more astonishing than I was told. The wolves in the camp, thinking no one else was around, could transform themselves into humans. Meanwhile, those I met as humans were capable to turning themselves into wolves. The stories were true. They were all true, and more. Smiling at my success, I left for real, respecting their wishes to remain a secret.

Years later, I was still in Italy, having fallen in love with the city of Verona, and also a man. I told no one of what had brought me to the country in the first place, or what I had ended up experiencing, yet out of the blue, he suggested we take our honeymoon in the Dolomiti Forest. Thinking there was no way we would run into the werewolves again, I agreed. What we didn’t know was that the area was experiencing a severe drought, and resultant forest fires. Many woodland creatures had died, or been forced from their homes. It was not uncommon recently to see a herd of deer on the road, or an owl in the daytime. We still wanted to go on the trip, though not so much on a honeymoon, but to see if there was anything we could do to help. We were staying in that same village again, which had actually grown since I first visited. We were eating outside when a young wolf came up. Though he was thin and malnourished, he was quite a bit larger than your average wolf. His fur was mangy and dirty, and he was obviously thinking about eating us. The only thing that stopped him was that there were two of us, and he was probably trying to find a way to incapacitate us both at the same time. He attacked me first, but since I had lived my life well-fed, I was able to knock him away from me. I yelled at my husband to run away, which he did for a few meters, but couldn’t bring himself to leave me entirely. Yet he stayed back when he saw me take a brick paver from the ground, and threaten the wolf with it. “Yes,” I said to him in Italian. “You know what this is. It can be a weapon. Show yourself.” He just growled. “Show yourself!” I yelled. “I know what you are; that you know what I’m saying.”

Cautiously, he absorbed his fur, twisted his bones, adjusted his face, and stood up. Now in human form, his sickliness was even more obvious. “Please,” he begged. “I’m just hungry.” I told him that I understood completely, and that I was perfectly happy to help. We gave him the rest of our food, then we took him back to our room, and let him sleep in the bed, while my husband and I shared the corner on the floor. My husband, the more proper of the two of us, watched in horror as the werewolf ate breakfast like an animal the next day. He had quickly accepted what this individual was, but didn’t agree with the way behaved. He said that the forest is no longer an acceptable place for him and his people to live. We were evidently going to teach him to be civilized, and if it worked, we would do the same for the rest of his pack. The wolf looked between the two of us, and seemed amenable to the idea. But then in one final surprise, he asked, “what about all the other packs?”

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Microstory 853: Sleeping Gods Lie

I am a dreamwalker, which not only means that I can enter other people’s dreams, but also exercise full control of my faculties while I’m traveling. Most people believe that dreams are just the mind’s way of understanding their past experiences, and consolidating new information. Though this is indeed true of sleep’s biological necessity, it is not the full story. The unconscious mind is capable of entering independent parallel universes, called branes. These worlds are inhabited by free-thinking individuals who generally aren’t aware that you don’t really belong. They also don’t last very long after you wake up, because you were the only thing keeping their world alive. There are some worlds, however, that are created by someone else, but which you can enter while asleep. Dreamers can’t usually tell the difference, but since I have such acute control over where my mind goes, I can actually do this on purpose. I don’t do it for fun, though. Many years ago, I started noticing some odd behavior from the “locals”. They expressed an awareness that they lived in a simulated reality, even though that description does not really do them justice. They are real, just short-lived, except these people weren’t even that, because they lived in dreamworlds that should have long ago collapsed. I started tracking these strange occurrences, hoping it would lead me to the source of the problems. It took me weeks of real time, but I finally figured out where the culprit lived. At first, I thought I had just met another dreamwalker; one using his power to harm others. I even entertained the possibility that he had learned how to deliberately stabilize dreamworlds, and perhaps didn’t realize that he was harming them. But the truth was far more sinister than I could have imagined...and I have a pretty good imagination. I found myself face to face with a god-monster that had started out merely as a non-playable character in someone’s dream, but had spontaneously become self-aware, and was now spreading his evil influence to others.

Despite his hideous appearance, and clear disdain for me, I attempted to reason with the monster, hoping to show him that he didn’t have to be like this. “The point of becoming self-aware is that you now get to choose how you live your life,” I tried to tell him, but he refused to listen. I was forced to fight him, but he was much more powerful than he seemed. He was able to wake my mind up in my own world, but keep my body from knowing it. People experience sleep paralysis all the time, and as an expert, I know how to free myself, but this time was different. I was stuck there for an entire day, missing out on work, but unable to notify my boss. To this day, I’m not sure if I got myself out of it, or if the monster eventually just let me go. The next day, I confronted him again, armed with more determination, and a few dream weapons I didn’t think to bring last time. In the end, I was forced to kill him, which I didn’t want to do, since he was technically a new lifeform, but he did not give me a choice. I stopped walking through dreams for years as a result of what I had to do. As soon as I felt safe and comfortable enough, though, I went back out there, and learned that I had been terribly wrong. The god-monster was not dead, but instead had continued his wicked ways starting about a year ago. I sought him out once more, which was considerably more difficult than last time, because now he knew someone like me might come after him. It was worse than before, with entire worlds being turned apocalyptic. I had to stop him, even though I was afraid, so I figured my best bet would be to contact what few other dreamwalkers I knew. We pooled our resources, and shared information. A week later, they called me to a meeting in a neutral location, claiming to have found the monster. When I arrived, they tied me down with ropes, and started interrogating me. I had no idea what they wanted from me, or what they thought I knew, but after hours of torture, he showed up; the god-monster. In the mirror. I had not killed him at all, but had somehow absorbed him into my own mind. He cackled and freed us from the ropes, then he killed every single one of my friends. I tried to tear him out of my mind, but I was powerless against him. He forced me out instead, but now I wish he had killed me. I’ve broken the record for the longest time in sleep paralysis, by about five years.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Microstory 852: Evil Noisemaker

I am the youngest deer in the herd, and the others tend to try to protect me. Today, however, they believe it’s time that I venture out on my own and complete a mission. There is a noise coming from the square trees down the hill, and my herd believes it’s being made by some kind of evil demon. Most of my kind would run away from this, but we’re different, and we’re worried about the creatures living in the square woods. Our ancestors used to run scared whenever they heard something they didn’t recognize, as will other deer today, but we’ve learned better what is dangerous, and what is innocuous. Some of the square-tree dwellers do everything they can to prevent us from seeing them. They build their squares on our trees, and they slither on the ground like snakes. These are the bad ones; the ones that are trying to kill us. If a square-dweller, on the other hand, is trying to get noticed, and walking towards us with wide eyes, and showing its teeth, it is a good one. It wants to meet with us, and be friendly. My mother was once trapped in the teeth of a headless, bodiless demon. One of the square-dwellers came to her rescue, freed her leg from the demon, and took care of her. She started this herd on the idea that deer can live in peace with the square-dwellers. And if there’s a chance the evil demon down the hill is planning on hurting one of them, we have to go down and destroy it. For all we know, this is retribution for the dweller who helped my mother those years ago. I don’t know why the herd decided that I would go off alone, but I am honored by the opportunity, and ready to prove myself a contributing member of our society. I am the only doe with antlers, so if anyone can fight this evil off, it’s me. I run through the woods, but stop when I hit the clearing. This could be a trap, so I have to be cautious. There are no places to hide here, though, so I don’t think any of the bad square-dwellers are waiting for me.

I race down and enter the realm of the square trees. The evil noisemaker I’m looking for has not ceased, and now I see why. It’s coming from one of the smaller squares, spreading its deathly blaze all around. I hear the crackle of the fire, the popping of the wood, and the screams of the dwellers inside. Mustering all my courage, I smash my antlers against the tree, over and over again until it breaks apart. The fire is all around me, but I’m determined to complete my job. I focus my hearing, and home in on the where the noise is coming from. The demon is smaller than I thought it would be, a small disk hanging on the square branch above me. I jump up and break it apart, ending the noise successfully. Unfortunately, the evil noisemaker’s fires remain active, even now that it’s dead. I can still hear the screams of square-dwellers in another part of the square tree. I leap over the fires, and headbutt the tree just once, tearing it apart with ease. The dwellers on the other side are huddled together. They’re the little ones of their species, and are even more afraid than deer are when we hear a frightening noise. I lower my neck to the floor and wiggle my tail. Getting the hint, the young square-dwellers climb onto my back. I leap over the fire again, and race back out of the square tree. I hear more demons running towards us in the distance as I’m letting the dwellers off. I get in a defensive position and snort at the demon cavalry, but the square-dwellers stop me. “No,” one of them says. “They’re here to help.” That’s so strange, I didn’t know I could understand their language. I wonder if they can understand me too, so I wheeze and grunt at her, but she doesn’t seem to know what I’m talking about. She just shows her teeth and giggles. The apparent good noisemaking demons come upon us, and I can see that I’m no longer needed. I say goodbye to the children, knowing they don’t know what I mean, but hoping they get the message anyway. Then I run off and return to my herd to tell them that everything is okay.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Microstory 851: Preacher Man

Flying is difficult. It’s not like in the movies where someone will just jump up and go. It takes a lot of energy and concentration, and you’re always at risk of falling. In many of my dreams, I’m either capable of flight, or just jumping to incredible distances. Sometimes it’s a hybrid of these two abilities, allowing me to jump up really high, and then jump again while I’m still in the air. Most of the time, being able to do these things doesn’t seem strange at all. I’m living in a world where they’re possible, and my avatar doesn’t realize life could be any other way. But other times I’m lucid, and aware that I’m just dreaming. One thing I’ve learned about dreams is that they are also real. Dreaming literally transports you to other words, inhabiting new bodies, most of which are synthesized specifically for you, while others belong to preexisting characters. The majority of these dreams take place in unstable universes, which means they can only exist while you believe they do, and they collapse soon after you leave them. Other can exist permanently, or semi-permanently, and we tend to call them fictional stories. LOST, for instance, is about a group of very real people who exist in a parallel universe, and whose adventures are merely being reenacted by actors in our universe. Their world is self-sustaining, but limited to the scope necessary to tell the story. Other galaxies in the lostverse don’t exist, because they don’t need to. Not even the stars are real, because there is no plotline within the context of the story being told where travel to them, or even study of them, is mentioned. Now, as I said, the characters who live here don’t think any of this is strange, and are totally unaware that things are different in other universes, and that most of us think they’re not real. When a dream becomes lucid, you are reestablishing your consciousness in your own universe, while still maintaining a presence in the dreamverse. This acts to stabilize the dream world even more, allowing it to have a fighting chance of surviving past your morning alarm, though that is no guarantee. While in this state, you are to varying degrees capable of manipulating events to your liking. You are, at the very least, able to analyze your surroundings, and solve problems with the benefit of two personalities; those of your true self, and your dream counterpart.

I not infrequently become lucid during my dreams, and in one such instance, I was also able to fly, which gave me a sense of joy I could not usually feel in the real world. I encountered a preacher in this world, who told me that he was a real person in my world, and that if I found him when I was awake, he could teach me how to fly for real. He gave me his address and everything, so this was not a difficult task. I scheduled some last-minute vacation time for next week, which my boss wasn’t super happy about, but also not too upset. I got in my car and drove across the state to find this preacher, knowing full well that this was more than likely all in my head. I found myself to be wrong, though, when the preacher opened the door with a smile. He looked exactly like his avatar did, and claimed to have been waiting for me. We made use of my holiday, and immediately started my training. This involved meditation, sedatives, and a lot of time just standing on the roof of the church, “getting to know the wind.” After a week of this, much to my surprise, I started making some real progress. I could actually hover a couple meters over the ground, proving that this was all very real. The preacher man said my studies were over, and that I now had the tools to practice on my own. I went back home, suffered through work the next day, but went back to my exercises in the evening. And I continued to do this this every day, working extra hard on weekends, to get better and better. After months, I was able to fly anywhere in the area at will, still having to concentrate on what I was doing, but no longer afraid of falling to my death. I was midflight when I woke up in my bed, and realized all those lessons were simply another level to my dreams. Only a few hours had passed in the real world, and I hadn’t actually taken any vacation time. I was so disappointed, but out of desperation, instead of driving to work, I jumped off my backyard deck. And that’s how I became the real world’s first ever human capable of self-propelled flight. That’s right, folks, I can actually fly, and for twenty dollars a class....I can teach you too.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Advancement of Leona Matic: September 4, 2181

Vito was right when he claimed he could make anything invisible. Not only could he do it with other people, but he could protect an entire compound. All the survivors were living together in the original housing, save for a couple loyal to the Maramon population, which had grown to massive proportions. Seven-year-old Esen was still alive and breathing every few seconds, supplying the world with a current estimated thirty-four million people and change. Adamina was still around as well, though there was evidence to suggest she could control her power. Unlike Esen, she should be able to halt this miniature universe’s progression at will, but she had no reason to. With a Maramon being born every few seconds, they felt they needed all the space they could get, even though technology wouldn’t advance enough to reach beyond this one planet for many thousand years.
At the moment, there was still only the one orbital, along with its suborbital, the moon. There was also a full sun, which was Adamina’s greatest achievement to date, and led to the creation of a new holiday. Though, it was still unclear when that holiday would be observed, since no one really knew how long a year was, how they would break down the calendar, or how they would measure these celestial movements. Over time, Vito learned how to maintain stable invisibility of anything he wanted without him actually being nearby. This allowed him to venture out from the compound and gather intelligence on the natives. He was able to use his power to pose as a friendly, forming an illusion around his entire body that made him look like one of the giant white monstrous creatures. He learned many things about how they operated, and what kind of society they were forming. They were developing their own language, which Vito was studying, and teaching the other humans upon returning to the compound every week for debrief. The Maramon spread rumors that the gods who created their world lived amongst them, but they never found any proof that the compound existed, so the humans were safe...for now. Only an elite few protecting the children knew the truth.
When Serif returned to the timeline, she interrupted a deep discussion among the compound leaders, which included Saga and Camden. They were debating whether they should separate this dimension from The Warren entirely, whether it was time to do that now, and how they would go about even trying such a thing. Legal adult, Vitalie was apparently in the room as well, but she forgot to reveal her astral projected self to Serif, which made for some weird conversations to witness. She was presently in bed sleeping, which was the only way she could form a stable connection to this pocket dimension, leading many to believe it would one day soon simply break off on its own, and begin floating in the metaphysical bulkverse, completely independent of its parent universe. This would be ideal, if they also knew how to get out before it happened, and could trust that it would do so without human intervention, because they weren’t sure they could figure out how to do it.
“I may know someone,” Vitalie said after allowing Serif to see her. “There’s a woman in pocket one who has used her paramount power to reestablish order to the pocket.”
“How did she do that?” Saga asked.
“She threatens to end their existence. She claims not only to be capable of destroying a whole pocket dimension with nothing but a thought, but also that she’s already done so, and is the only thing holding it together now. She says it’s on a dead man’s switch, and if anything were to happen to her, the dimension would collapse, killing everyone inside.”
“That’s terrible,” Serif said.
“Well, it’s worked. Her threat created a peace the likes of which those people had never known, even while living on Durus.” She took a beat. “The point is, she may be able to tear pocket four away from The Warren, and into this bulkverse you keep talking about.”
“It’s the space in between parallel universes. It’s nowhere and everywhere, all at once,” Serif tried to clarify.
“Okay, that helped,” Vitalie said sarcastically.
“What makes you think someone who can destroy dimension could also emancipate one?” Saga posed.
“I don’t know for sure, but he might.” She pointed towards a young man sitting quietly in the corner.
He wasn’t a compound leader, but they were holding this meeting in the common area, and it was perfectly fine for him to sit there while they were talking. He was born with the ability to diagnose other people’s time powers, inherently understanding what they could do, even before they manifested. On Durus long ago, his bloodline was used to coordinate for the Mage Protectorate, placing mages in the optimal positions for defending against the monsters that once roamed those lands. He was the one who figured out that Esen could create whole people by breathing, and that Adamina could expand the dimension. “Me? I can’t diagnose someone without being able to touch them. That is—pardon the pun—vital.”
“Can you diagnose yourself?” Vitalie asked.
“Yourself? Have you ever diagnosed yourself? Full work-up.”
“Well, no, that would be ridiculous. I’m part of a bloodline. We can all do this, and I’ve already proven my power.”
“Yes,” Vitalie agreed, for the sake of furthering her own argument, “but if you never diagnosed yourself, you don’t really know your own limits. Have you ever tried to diagnose someone as an astral projection?”
“Of course not.”
“So maybe you can?”
He took a deep breath. “I suppose it can’t hurt to try.”
“Great,” Vitalie said, having brilliantly come into her own as a leader. “Then let me tell you my tentative plan.”

Hokusai had a week ago finally figured out how to reopen the pocket dimensions. It took all these years because she needed to invent a few things along the way, using the synthesizer, for which she didn’t always have the necessary materials. She tried printing her new objects by using scraps from the material reclamator, but this was not going to be enough. She needed more, but Paige was unwilling to provide her with anything. She spent a not insignificant amount of time just pleading her case for letting her cannibalize the ship just a little bit. Unfortunately, with no proof that what she ultimately created would do them any good, she was unable to secure authorization. Frustrated, and at the end of her rope, Hokusai decided to tear apart her own bed, leaving her and Loa with nothing but a mattress. Paige was not happy about this executive decision, but was presumably tired of fighting with her about it. If she wanted to sleep on the floor, then fine.
Hokusai first came up with her idea from an old television show that hadn’t been created until after she left for Durus. On her down time, she would go through the library database, not looking for inspiration, but just needing to clear her mind of the problem. Some escapist entertainment was the only thing keeping her from literally banging her head against one of the Ubiña pockets, in a desperate attempt to get it open. She had no idea she would get any help from the library, but this show included a plotline where characters used something called a dimensional assimilator to automatically transport people from several other pocket dimension, back to their home world, all at once. That alone would do her no good, since there was not enough standing room for everyone inside the pockets, especially not since more had been born since. She would have also needed to somehow prevent pocket four from coming through, since there were now tens of millions of individuals living there. The show did allow her to rethink the problem, though, and come up with something that could work.
She used the synthesizer to create six dimensional generators; one for each pocket. Instead of trying to restore the links between the ship, and the other dimensions, what she needed to do was shift parts of the ship into six new pocket dimensions, each one precisely tuned to the properties of the one it’s trying to access. She spent the last several months tirelessly building these new structures, using their bed, as well as several other things Paige eventually agreed to hand over. In the end, they looked like bathroom partitions, extending the pods by about a half meter. This made it hard to walk from one half of the ship to the other, but most people still there were willing to suffer through that for the sake of getting their people back. They still had not yet heard from Leona, so it was even more important to get back into those pockets, and find out what had happened to her. Today was her day, though, so if they didn’t do it now, they would have to wait an entire year, and that was not acceptable. Fortunately, Vitalie was back with a tentative plan for solving everybody’s problems.
Vitalie’s plan was a good one, but it was predicated on the idea that Hokusai could establish a connection between the Warren, and the pocket dimensions indefinitely, which was not the case. She spent most of the day letting the diagnostician help the dimensions destroyer figure out how to destroy part of a dimension, thereby closing it off, but not the whole thing. They were approaching midnight, though, and if they didn’t get this done by that time, Serif could be stuck in pocket four forever. Not to mention the fact that they still needed to figure out where Leona was. She went into a weird sparkly portal in Annora’s quarters, but never came back.
Vitalie raced back and forth between the dimensions, mustering all her strength on retargeting faster than she ever had before. As soon as Hokusai activated these things she called dimensional generators, the alarms began to blare, making it abundantly clear to Hokusai that this was a temporary solution. Unlike Annora, she did not possess a natural ability to create pocket dimensions. Nor did she have enough time to study a stable pocket to create one. In the end, she was really just going off her minimal exposure, substantial education, and massive intellect. She warned Vitalie what was happening, so Vitalie went into crisis mode, taking over the ship, with no protest from Paige. She ordered Loa to look for a way to get Leona out of pocket seven. She told Brooke and Paige to block the entrances to the pockets, because people were starting to come through. Of course, this wasn’t doing much good, as people were desperate to leave their prisons, even if it meant running into a new one. Vitalie came out of her pocket in physical form and ran into pocket one to retrieve the dimensional destroyer, and escort her to pocket four, leaving her at the entrance while she made sure all the humans were going to come through. They were already running up the hill to get to the exit.
“Where’s Serif? Vitalie asked.
“She went looking for Vito,” Camden answered, ushering his people though the portal.
“Where was Vito?”
“He was kidnapping Adamina from the temple.”
Vitalie put on her game face and took a deep breath. “Get everyone through.” She reached out and sought Serif, since she didn’t know exactly where she was. Once her mind found her, she sent her astral projection towards her, and watched in horror as Serif ran through the valley, holding onto little Adamina’s hand. They were being pursued by a horde of Maramon, angry about one of their primary gods being stolen from them. Vitalie wanted to help, but could do nothing as a disembodied consciousness.
“We’re coming!” Serif yelled.
“Where’s Vito. Can’t he turn you invisible?”
“He didn’t make it.”
“The exit is going to close! You have to get there now!”
“If we don’t get there in time, close the door and cut this dimension away from the ship!” Serif commanded, out of breath, but pressing forward. “You need to end this whether we’re back or not! Do you understand?”
Vitalie didn’t want to do that.
“Do you understand!”
“Then go. You’re distracting me, and I want you to help find Leona.”
Vitalie disappeared, and sent her mind to dimension six, where Loa was standing in front of where the entrance to the portal would form, had they any way of opening it from this end. She used her remote viewing power on the wall, and opened one of her windows. It was showing the corridor of a block of prison cells. Four of them were occupied; two by Leona and Ecrin, and the other two by men neither Loa nor Vitalie recognized.
“Are your windows two-way?” Vitalie asked.
“Not through this,” Loa answered. “It’s taking everything I have just to keep it open. We can’t communicate with them.”
“I can.”
Vitalie sent her mind back to her body. They could now see Serif and Adamina running towards them in the distance, the mob right on their tail. “Don’t let the monsters get through,” she ordered the destroyer. “If that means Serif and the girl don’t make it, then so be it. But you better goddamn wait until the last second.”
She ran back through the portal, and into the ship. She struggled through the crowd of overzealous passengers, and grabbed Paige by the arm. They ran into pocket six, which was the only one still populated, since the people in there were still operating under Ecrin’s command. Vitalie combined her power with Loa’s, to send Paige through the window. Without hesitating or asking questions, Paige used her incredible strength to tear the bars off, and free Leona and Ecrin. She pulled them back through the temporary portal just in time for Loa and Vitalie to both pass out from exhaustion, trapping the men in there.
Ecrin’s security force carried them out of the pocket while Leona followed. When she entered the ship, she found it to be larger than it was before. It had somehow grown.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Missy’s Mission: Ghosts and Creatures (Part VIII)

The leader monster walked off, leaving Missy and Dar’cy to be escorted to the nearest alien building by a fairly large group of extremely cautious guardsmen. They placed them in what appeared to be their version of an interrogation room, and one came in to ask questions, first getting the basics out of the way, like their names, ages, and time of departure.
“Have you ever been to our world?”
“Have you ever known anyone to come to our world?”
“We’ve never heard of this place.”
“Do you have more of those translator masks?”
“Will you share with the other humans, so we can communicate with them as well? We would rather not have to request interpreters from West Borakon.”
“We will share,” Missy answered.
“You already have people who speak English?” Dar’cy asked.
He ignored her, and just moved on. “What is your business here?”
“Ours, and none of yours.”
He appeared to smile, but their faces were so strange that they couldn’t tell exactly. He asked them a few questions about who they were, which they generally felt comfortable revealing. Secrets weren’t really all that useful for them. They were in foreign land, and totally beholden to these...things. Once he was finished, he told them he would relay this information to the covfefe, who would meet with them shortly.
Missy couldn’t help but crack a smile. “The what?”
“Covfefe Junyj. You met him.”
“Is that where...?” Missy began to joke.
“Her translator must be malfunctioning,” Dar’cy interrupted. “I’ll take a look at it. Thank you.”
“Dar’cy,” Missy said, once their interviewer was gone. “Covfefe was—”
“I know,” she interrupted again. “Just let it go.”
Missy wanted to laugh again a few minutes later after guardsmen escorted them deeper through the building, and into an obnoxiously overdecorated office. The leader was waiting for them there, holding a glass of alcohol, presumably. He introduced himself as “Covfefe Junyj, Lion of the Lords, Savior and Deliverer.”
Before the conversation would continue, another monster slipped into the room and informed the covfefe, “he’s awake.”
“Bring him in. I suspect he’s connected to these other two.”
The servant left and returned with the man Missy and Dar’cy witnessed being sucked into the portal in the past, and later punched by the covfefe.
“Thank you all for coming,” Junyj said, but something was strange about the way he said it.
“We didn’t have a choice,” the man corrected.
“Quite,” Junyj agreed. That was it. His mouth was moving in sync with the words he was saying. He was actually speaking English, which would explain why this other human understood him. “You don’t need those things anymore,” he explained, confirming this.
As Missy and Dar’cy were removing their translators, Junyj offered them drinks, which all three refused.
“Do you all know each other?”
“We don’t know him,” Dar’cy replied.
He barely registered her response, and looked at her like he was trying to figure her out in a more general sense, and the words she uttered were less important than the way she said them. He regarded her position as partially in front of Missy. “You are her protector,” he guessed.
Dar’cy tensed up. “I am. You don’t wanna find out everything that entails.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I like a strong woman. You would make a fine seventieth wife,” he said, raising his drink. “If my form does not displease you, that is.”
“Your form is irrelevant,” she replied. “I am uninterested.”
“I understand that you’re from a planet called Earth, but you arrived here from a place called...” he looked back at his notes, “Durus? Is that true for you, sir?”
The man said nothing.
“Look, human, I’m not a bad guy. I’m just trying to do what’s best for my people. It’s my job to decide whether the humans who invaded us are significant threats. I just ask for a little cooperation.”
“Bullshit!” the human man cried. “You’re the invader. Durus was overrun with your...temporal mistakes!”
He looked back over to the women. “They said nothing of that.”
“The monsters are gone in our time,” Missy said to the man.
“Good.” He directed his attention back to Junyj. “So we defeat you. That does not mean you did not invade us.”
“That world was meant to be unpopulated. We chose it for that reason.”
“You chose it as a staging ground, knowing it would get you to Earth. I spoke with Effigy. She told me everything.”
“Effigy?” Junyj didn’t know who that was.
“Uhh...” he stammered, “Ezqava.”
Junyj laughed. “I doubt she told you everything. She barely knows anything. Now, if you spoke with Shuhana, that is a different story. We are very interested in knowing what happened to her.”
“I don’t know. She was mentioned, I never met her.”
Junyj was notably disappointed. “From what I gather, Mister...”
“Bran,” the human said. “Detective Bran.”
“Detective Bran, you’re here by accident, no?”
“This is true.”
“But you two came here on purpose?”
“We...went out looking for something,” Missy began. “We didn’t know our mission would end up taking us here.”
“What are you looking for?”
They hesitated.
“I might be able to help you, but I need to know what you need.”
“We have time powers,” Dar’cy said bravely. “She’s trying to get rid of hers.”
“Oh,” Junyj said, scratching the back of his neck. “Well, you’re late.”
“How late?”
“Few thousand years,” he responded, almost doing a good job of pretending to feel bad for them. “Historians tell us of something that could do that, but it doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t even know what it was.”
“In that case,” Dar’cy said, “I need you to show me an object from that period of time. Do you have artifacts from your history, in a museum, or something?”
“Why would you need that?” He was suspicious.
“It might have trace amounts of the substance that removes time powers,” Dar’cy lied. Well, she wasn’t lying so much as coming up with a plausible story that might even be true. For all they knew, that was exactly what they needed to end this once and for all.
“That’s not going to happen,” Junyj said frankly.
Before Dar’cy could protest, the servant from before barged into the room. “We have to get you out of here, Covfefe! They’re attacking.”
“Who’s attacking?” Junyj asked, and received his answer right away.
A hole appeared in the servant’s chest, yellowish blood dripping out of the wound. Dar’cy pulls Missy out of her chair, and backs her up against the wall. A man was fast-walking into the room with his game face on. Without looking, he swiped the air in front of him, sending the servant’s head across the room in a million little pieces. “We are.”
“Lucius, stop!” came the voice of a man behind the killer. “I wanna speak with him first.”
“Curtis?” Missy asked. In her previous life of jumping around time, meeting other people like her, she came across a teleporter named Curtis. He could only jump as far as he could see, and compared to all the interesting people she had met over the years, he was fairly underwhelming. The gorgeous behemoth working with him, on the other hand, Lucius, was a god. He was tall, wide, muscular, and commanding. If he didn’t have superpowers, he would still be able to kill everyone in this room with one move, and without even looking.
“I thought I saw you in the ring,” Curtis said. “You’re here to get rid of your powers?”
“Yeah, aren’t you?”
He shook his head. “We’re here to kill him.” He gestured towards Junyj.
“If you’ve already met him, you know the answer to that question.”
They could hear the march of enemy soldiers behind them. Eyes fixed on Junyj, Lucius reached his fist behind his shoulder, then opened his fingers. They could hear the screams of monsters as they were being torn apart, and no more footsteps.
“Mister Covfefe,” Curtis said to Junyj. “You are a joke on my planet. Literally. I’m killing you here for the satisfaction, but have no fear, I’m going back in time to stop you from existing in the first place. Your whole universe will be destroyed before it begins, and Durus will be a safe zone.”
“Curtis, that’s a major alteration of the timeline,” Missy warned.
“That’s what we do.”
Junyj sported that same sinister smile. “It doesn’t matter. You can’t go back and stop my universe from being created. As soon as it broke free from your universe, it became fundamentally independent. At that point, you can create as many contradicting timelines as you want, we already exist.”
Somehow, Curtis grew even angrier. “That’s not what we were told.”
“You were told wrong,” Junyj said simply. “Or it’s hard to hear through that dark skin of yours.”
Lucius, the one with the darkest skin of them all, waved his hands in venn circles, separating Junyj into his tiniest bits, which then faded away like sparks from a reciprocating saw, cutting through bolts. “Racist mother fucker,” he said in a deep Michael Clarke Duncan voice.
“I wasn’t done with him,” Curtis complained.
“I don’t care,” Lucius said.
“Do you have a plan to get out of here?” Dar’cy asked Curtis.
Curtis sighed. “That wasn’t part of the deal. We’re here to destroy the universe, whether it be now, or a thousand years ago. Our survival is not required.”
“Required by who?”
“By whom.” Curtis corrected.
“Required by who?” Missy repeated.
“We don’t know.”
“Well, before you destroy the universe,” Dar’cy began, “could you let us get to a museum?”
“Dar’cy, we can’t let them destroy this place. It’s unethical,” Missy whined.
“It’s also not our problem. What we came for is in the past. I can get us there, but I need something that existed back then.”
“I know just the thing,” came the voice of someone in the doorway. It was one of the monsters of this world. She held her hands up defensively when Lucius offensively held up his own. “I just want to help. This is a diverse world. We are not all like him,” she said, suggestive of Junyj.
Everybody hesitated.
The woman continued, “look, you can clearly kill me with the snap of your fingers, so if you don’t like where I take you, you can always just do that. I wanna help.”
“Why do so many of you speak English?”
“Don’t worry about it,” the woman said, walking away, hoping they would follow, or at least not kill her. “I’m Khuweka, by the way.”
Khuweka led them across the city, which was eerily vacant of the monsters. “We’re now in a transitional period,” she explained. “Half the population exists about forty-five percent of the day. The other half exists for another forty-five. In between, nobody exists, except for a select constant, many of which you just killed.”
“Why is it like that?” Dar’cy questioned.
“Our population is too great,” she went on. “We don’t have enough room for everyone, so we take turns. The empty transition the universe can breathe. It’s part of our religion.”
“Why are you helping us,” Curtis demanded to know.
“You’re the gods,” she said matter-of-factly. “You think we can temporarily remove half our people from time all at once? We learned that from you.”
“We’ve not been treated as gods,” Dar’cy pointed out.
“How would you treat your gods if you met them, and found them to just be regular people?” She opened a door. “Everyone’s an asshole, even to people they like.” What a cynical view.
Khuweka walked them through a maze of historical artifacts, until finding the one she was looking for. She admired it reverently. “The Wrench of Creation,” she said in a breathy voice.
“That’s Étude’s,” Missy realized. The ship that brought them to Durus in the first place did so in order to retrieve The Last Savior of Earth, an important teleporter that the powers that be used to save people’s lives. It was pretty much the only decent thing the PTB did impulsively and voluntarily. Étude’s womb mother, Andromeda died months before she was born, leaving the fetus to develop in an artificial uterus. She left her daughter a plastic wrench toy that symbolized her paramount power to build structures at will, which she did to create nearly all the major buildings on the planet. On its own, the wrench could do nothing. It was just sentimental.
“How did that get here?” Dar’cy asked.
“It’s always been here,” Khuweka said, as if the answer could be nothing but.
“If it’s really been on this world since whatever can remove time powers existed,” Dar’cy said, “then it’ll work.”
“Oh, you can’t touch it,” she warned. “It’s a holy relic.” Her body was torn apart into its constituent atoms.
“God..dammit, Lucius!” Missy screamed. “Will you stop just killing people!”
He made this face like it was the first time anyone thought to suggest such a thing. He answered genuinely with, “I shall consider it.”
“What’s done is done,” Dar’cy said as she took off her shirt, and used it to break the glass between them and the wrench. “It’s time to end this.”
“We can’t go yet.”
“Why not?”
“There are hundreds of other people here looking for the same thing. We have to take them with us.”
“I’m not that strong,” Dar’cy reminded her.
“We have to find a way,” Missy said plainly.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Microstory 850: Relative Majority

Even before he was elected, I knew that the mayor of this fine city was corrupt, but nothing could have prepared me for the whole truth. He took money from people he shouldn’t have, promising to return the favor with unethical preferential treatment. Of course, as any good married Christian man, he also spent a lot of time sleeping with people who were not his wife. Now, normally this wouldn’t bother me so much. I don’t personally care what a political leader does on their own time. It’s only when those extracurricular activities begin to have a negative impact on their constituents, and the area that they’re meant to be serving. During my research, however, I uncovered that the mayor used campaign contributions to pay off his primary mistress—which is a sexist term I don’t particularly like, but also the one the mayor himself used to refer to her—so that she would keep quiet about their affair. Evidence suggests that their relationship has been over since the night of his swearing in ceremony, but that doesn’t mean he’s passed the statute of limitations. I’ve recently learned that he has taken up a new extramarital relationship, this time with a man who lives thousands of miles away. What’s strange is that there is no paper trail showing that that he travels there regularly, or that he’s ever been out that way at all. After all, his business is with the city, he has no reason to go all the way to Kentucky. I spend weeks trying to figure out how he’s paying for shopping sprees on a secret account in Bowling Green on a Saturday afternoon, then having dinner with the Somerset comptroller’s family that evening. It should take at least eight hours to fly from one city to the other, and that’s assuming there’s an airstrip close enough to each location. I hire a private detective in the Bowling Green area, which as an investigative journalist, I’m not keen on doing, but I can’t be in two places at once. The mayor, on the other hand, almost can. He’s a speedster, like you find in comic books, except that he’s real.

I don’t know where he got his speed, or what he does with it when he’s not just off to see his lover, but my instinct is to confront him on it. Sure, I have proof now of what he can do, but if revealing his secret identity puts innocent people in danger, I can’t take that risk. I have to understand him myself, and if that means being pushed into a wall going a thousand miles an hour, then I just call that an occupational hazard. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who knows what he can do, and I wasn’t exactly able to be choosy when it came to finding a P.I. who works on the other side of the country. He flies up here, and interferes with my plan, deciding the best course of action is to kidnap both the current paramour, as well as the earlier mistress, and make the mayor choose which one he’ll save. As the detective and I calculated together, he’s fast enough to make it all the way to Bowling Green before a supposed bomb goes off if he leaves right away, but not if he has to spend precious time searching Somerset for the mistress. As he races off for Kentucky, I use my own investigative skills to find where the woman is, and try to rescue her myself, but my former business associate just kidnaps me too. After his watch begins to beep, the kidnapper looks at it in horror. “He’s not that fast,” he says. “He shouldn’t be so close already.” He takes out the detonator for our building, and heads for the exit, apparently deciding to cut his losses.

Before I know it, though, a blur of light bursts into the room, and I feel myself being lifted from the ground, still tied to my chair. Adrenaline pumps though my veins, and time begins to slow. I can feel the heat around me, and see the fire rising from the explosives. We don’t make it all the way out of the building before a flash of purplish light overcomes my eyes. When it dissipates, we’re all the way on the other side of town. My skin is still scalding hot, and itchy. My clothes are seared, and in rags. The mayor is trying to catch his breath, and the other two of us are vomiting from the trip. He makes sure we’re both well enough to stand, then he zips away. He returns seconds later, holding a newspaper from a hundred and fifty years ago. He guesses that he ran so fast, he sent us back in time, but he doesn’t think he’ll be able to do the same in reverse, so he takes out some futuristic gadget, and makes what appears to be a phone call. We find an abandoned building to hole up in while we wait for who he calls his future mentor. He hasn’t even bothered asking who I am, or why I was kidnapped as well. He almost acts like a hero, like maybe I haven’t read him right. But no, I have. He’s as bad as they come, and the fact that he saved me at the same time says little about his character. The next day, a creature walks into the building, and greets the mayor like they’re old friends. “I’ve found you a subliminal ship,” it says to him. “I’ll send you on a trip seventy-five light years away, and program it to turn around and head back after that.” When I question what we’re supposed to do for a hundred and fifty years, he just smiles. “It’ll only feel like eighty days.” Still...this is gonna be awkward.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Microstory 849: Waters Run Deep

I wake up in a different reality, and the first thing I wonder is what in my other self’s past would have driven him to become a runner? All my life I’ve hated running. Walking, hiking, backpacking, even, I get. But running? It’s bad for your knees, and isn’t better exercise than cycling, which at least allows you to take a break once in awhile, and still make progress. Yet, no matter how hard I fight it, I can’t shake the urge to go out and jog. Apparently this version of me uses the activity to clear his head, and if ever there was a time for me to need sort things out, it’s today. The last thing I remember, I was just sitting in front of the television, having recently turned it off. I wasn’t quite ready to get up and go to bed, because of a hard day at work, but I don’t recall anything interesting happening while I was sitting there. No blinding flash of light, no queasiness, no weird sounds. Suddenly I’m just back at college, in what’s clearly my dorm room, surrounded by magazine cutouts of who I can only guess are my athletic icons. It isn’t painful or tiring when I’m out jogging; part of the benefit of being in this new body. It’s still horrific, though, because the part of me that hates this is still rattling around up there in this brain. At first I think I’m running aimlessly, but then I start getting the feeling that this is either my usual route, or one of them. Everything looks familiar, even though I dropped out of school so fast in my reality that I didn’t even see this side of campus. I sense that I’m nearing some destination, and barely even have to stop to open the door to what I would otherwise believe is just a random building. It feels like a different planet, with a much lower oxygen concentration, and higher gravity. I’m so much heavier than I’m supposed to be, so I have to drop to a walk. I pass by little pods, each one containing what appears to be some kind of alien specimen mid-slumber, floating on a bed of water. As I continue, though, I come across several that are completely awake. They’re more shocked to see me than I them. I’m not sure if this is the weirdest thing that’s happened to me today, so I don’t let it get to me. “Ain’t no thang,” I find myself helpless but to say out loud. They act like they understand my language, because they give me the same look any human would if I said something like that around them.

I don’t really black out, but I lose most control of my motor functions, and the next thing I know, I’m tinkering with one of their machines, and flooding this building with pure oxygen. Though the aliens who are awake seem strong enough to suffer through it, they aren’t strong enough to fight me. They have to use all their energy trying to repair the problem, which they may be able to do, but not before all of their sleeping friends die. The stasis pods leave them in highly fragile states, and need to be precisely calibrated to maintain equilibrium. I’ve just screwed with that stability, and I know in my heart that they will not survive. How I know this, I couldn’t tell you. None of this makes any sense to me, yet at the same time, everything seems perfectly reasonable. One of the aliens realizes the rest of his people are goners, so he directs his attention to me, and I have to run again, which is now far easier with more oxygen than before. I race across the little alleyway, and into the next building over. There’s a secret entrance to a hidden passageway though one of the locker rooms, but I can’t remember which one. Nor do I remember how I know any of this at all. One of the showers is still on, and the water is hot enough to burn my skin. The pain jolts me, and it’s like I’m waking up for the first time in my life. Now all the answers are right in front of me. I’m not just from another reality, but from several. One version of me ended up a brilliant scientist, and has figured out how to create something he calls a quantum conflux. He’s assembled a legion of alternates, and converged us into the body of one of our counterparts, so that we can use our respective skills together to solve the problem of the alien invasion. I am but one of these alternate versions, but the question remains, how do I contribute to this effort? I’m no scientist, and I don’t know anything about secret shower passageways. While I’m trying to figure out why Scientist!Me brought me along, the alien catches up with us, and prepares to attack. I reach back and punch him once in the face. He falls on his ass, and doesn’t get back up. Oh, that’s why he chose me. I’ve been in a lot of bar fights.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Microstory 848: Airplane Parents

Flying is risky business now that the bladapods have released their reality warping gases all over the planet. While everyday holds new surprises, conflicts, or obstacles, most of what is going to be altered pretty much already has by now. There are only two ways to experience a new base modification now: direct contact with a bladapod, or passing through the bladosphere, which commercial airliners do on a regular basis. Engineers have figured out how to protect aircraft from exposure to the gases, but it still happens from time to time, which is why air travel has suffered greatly. There are really only a handful of surviving airlines these days, each one providing significantly fewer flights than they once did, serving fewer cities than I would like. I’m a consultant, looking to either secure new business, or maintain the accounts my firm already has, so global travel is an absolute must. The hyperloops are great when I’m trying to stay on the continent, but I don’t have time for a ship to reach overseas. So here I am, with a few hundred other brave souls, just hoping nothing bad happens, but it does.

Of course, none of us has any idea where the leak is, but it’s too late now. If you see bladgas, it is already in you. The flight attendant stands up, and raises her voice to address the crowd. I’m close enough to the front to see that her intercom is not working. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she says, “as many of you have noticed, we are experiencing a bladgas event. I want to assure you that the cockpit is completely sealed off from the cabin, and operates on a separate system. While I am unable to communicate with them, the sensors have alerted them to our situation. Protocols demand we remain in a holding pattern above the bladosphere, over the nearest airstrip, which we will land on as soon as our case has been codified. Please understand that, no matter what happens here, the plane will land safely. I am requesting assistance from anyone with a technical background that could help me repair the communications system. We appreciate you remaining calm as we work through this as a team. Make sure that your identity tag is visible, just in case.” A teenage girl raises her hand and stands up, informing the flight attendant of her education as a technician. The rest of us try to do what the woman said, and stay calm. Many of us prepare final messages to our loved ones. Others attempt to fall asleep. There has been some reported correlation between being unconscious, and being unaffected by the bladosphere, but no causality has been proven. I just go back to my book.

About an hour later, changes begin to manifest. It starts off small, like it always does. Someone is pouty and inconsolable. Another is fussy, looking through his bag, desperately searching for something. At first, the rest of us aren’t sure that anything’s wrong, and are still praying that the gases do nothing but turn the plane black. But then a pattern forms as people become more unruly. They start crying and screaming, acting like total children. And their children are acting more like adults. Behavior fluctuation appears to be the name of the game here, on a group level. So far, it seems only the parents and their offspring have been changed, but that doesn’t mean it’ll stop there. Sure, it’s incredibly irritating trying to read while all these people are freaking out—at least children crying on an airplane don’t have much trouble with legroom—but I know we’ll come through on the other end. I doubt things will end up like on the infamous Flight 522, where half the passengers suddenly started thinking they were rhinoceroses, and possessed the strength to prove it. It was one of the first flights after the gases were released, and since there were no survivors, it ushered in years of massive paranoia. The young technician twists one last wire, and claims to have solved the problem. We can hear the captain on the other end, but she’s not assuring us everything is going to be okay. She’s singing. She’s singing a lullaby. We can hear the voice of the copilot, singing as well, but his is the theme song to a popular Danish children’s TV show. A five-year-old girl stands up from the front row, and demands the use of the intercom system. “Mom?” she asks. “Mom, can you hear me? Mom, you stop singing right this instant, and land this plane!” We hear the sound of the captain blowing raspberries into the mouthpiece. Then the plane takes a dive.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Microstory 847: Crabby

My friend runs an animal shelter; one of those places that specializes in temporary placement for exotic animals that are illegal to keep in this area. One of his veterinarians was working late one night when a gangster walked in seeking medical attention, which the vet obliged. Sadly, the people who had tried to kill him before caught up with him, and finished the job, taking the vet as collateral damage in the process. Even worse, animals were hurt at the same time, and the killers apparently stole a baby monkey from the cage of its now dead mother. Something even stranger happened as a result of this, though. The animals remaining began to exhibit extremely odd behavior, and even seemed to change on a genetic level. A snake broke out of its cage, and became hyperprotective of the capybara. Two birds lost their wings, and grew longer legs, which gave them incredible speed. And then there was a lepon crab—an incredibly rare species already, and so interesting; you know, they have human-like lips?—whose intelligence was increased enough to rival that of a teenage human. Since it was so much smarter than before, my friend knew that it was no longer ethical to deport it back to its home country. The crab seemed keen on me, though, so I agreed to give him a nice home, until he could find a job, and get his own place.

He decided to name himself Monticello, in honor of the street that the animal shelter was on. While notably a little grouchy, he became part of our family, and we treated him as our equal, but we still had to pretend he was our pet around other people, since they wouldn’t understand. We even brought him with us on our trip to the Keserint Islands, which my sister had chosen at random by literally spinning a globe and dropping her finger. Monticello was so excited to finally be back by the ocean, even though his memories of life before the incident were understandably hazy. One night, we were sitting at the hotel restaurant, when my spontaneous sister suggested we look at a Keseriti menu without English translations, then pick something at random. We agreed, anxious about what we would end up with. The waitress looked at my sister funny when she noticed Monticello sitting with us. She didn’t seem bothered by us eating next to a crab, mind you, but only when my sister ordered a native dish called baktopin. That was our first hint something was wrong. We were astonished when our food arrived, and the waitress placed a big ol’ plate of dead crab in front of my sister. We were all horrified, no one more than my sister. Of course, it was an honest mistake, but Monticello was not happy. He leapt up from his high chair, and tried to attack my sister, but I was quick enough to knock him out of the air. He turned around with rage in his eyes and said, “I will kill you. I will kill you all.” We immediately raced upstairs, hastily packed our belongings, and drove to the airport. Thinking we were finally safe, we came back home, and tried to get some sleep. I wake up the next morning to a crab on my chest, ominously snapping his claws in the air. I ask him if he’s going to kill me, but he just points to another creature, sitting in the corner of my room. I recognize it from the shelter at the creature my friend couldn’t name. They evidently found it on the street, and they don’t even know where it’s from. They think it’s a new species entirely. “The bladopod has talked me down,” Monticello says. “We need your help.”

Monday, May 21, 2018

Microstory 846: Shelter

I have a special ability, but I am no superhero. I have an innate sense of life and death. Everywhere around me, plants, insects, and animals are dying, and I can feel it all. I can also feel life around me, but it’s not very fulfilling. I’ve tried to sequester myself from people, because humans feel the worst when they die, but there’s even more death in the wilderness, so that didn’t work. There’s really nowhere I can go where I’ll be absolutely alone, unless I travel to some place so barren, that even I won’t survive. Which I considered actually doing every single day I wake up. I’ve worked with a few therapists, but they all just want to figure out why I think I have these abilities, and whether there’s anything I can do to break free from this delusion. Not one of them has believed in what I can do, even the ones who’ve seemed like they do. They were really just using a tactic to make me feel at ease, so I’ll come to the so called truth on my own. The only help I’ve gotten is from spiritual practices, like meditation. You would think I don’t need to be any more aware of my surroundings than I already am, but it helps me focus my energies on what I’m doing, and ignore all this death. Still, there are good days and bad. Tonight is really bad. I’m walking past an animal shelter at night; one of those places that specializes in temporary placement for exotic animals that are illegal to keep in this area. I get a rush of new life, which is the absolute best feeling in the world. I’ve tried hanging around maternity wards to exploit this sensation, but I make people as uncomfortable as you would imagine, so I can’t do it too often. Right now I’m sensing an animal being born, but it must be some kind of primate, because it feels pretty human-like. I sit on the nearest park bench, and enjoy the respite. Unfortunately, I start to feel impending death too, which is quickly evidenced by the sounds of gunshots. I hide behind a dumpster until I can tell that everyone who was going to die already has, and the survivors have left.

I break into the shelter as well to find a horrific scene. But it doesn’t bother me much, because it’s not anywhere near as disturbing as living through it every day. Two men are lying dead on the floor, one with a gun, and the other in a white lab coat. I take a guess that the former came in here after hours, looking for some extracurricular medical attention, but he wasn’t able to get it before his enemies discovered his location, and finished the job. Like I said, when you have such an intimate relationship with death itself, the aftermath is a relief, so these dead bodies mean nothing to me. Sadly, however, the animals were caught in the crossfire, including a sugar glider, and a monkey. I can still feel life from that cage, and realize it’s the baby that had recently been born. It was his mother that was killed, and as young and confused as he is, he’s noticeably distraught. Instinct takes over, and I open the cage. The baby monkey immediately jumps into my arms, and climbs up to hold onto my neck. I hear police sirens, so I get out of there right quick, taking the frightened animal with me. He proceeds to hold onto me literally all day, even while I take a nap on the couch. It’s a good thing my condition already doesn’t lend itself to having a roommate, or I would have some splainin to do. He won’t even let go of me when I have to go out and find food for him, so I put on a sweater in the middle of July, and try to not look too awkward. My route takes me past a hospital, because there’s less foot traffic down this alleyway. I would normally avoid it, because hospitals are pretty well known for all their deaths, but I’m not having any issues. I should feel some residual death as I’m walking right by the basement mortuary, but I feel absolutely nothing. For the first time in my life, I concentrate and try to reach out to the myriad bug deaths all around me, but nothing is there. I don’t sense other people around me either, which normally manifests as this constant hum in the back of my neck when I’m close enough to a crowd. My God, it’s this monkey. He’s blocking the signals, or something. I have to find a way to keep him my entire life.