“I don't believe it.”
Alan sits sprawled in his chair behind his desk, his mouth agape. In the doorway to his office Wendy and Desmond Roberts have arrived for their hastily scheduled afternoon appointment. He had not heard them emerge from the elevator and cross the outside foyer; they have simply materialized in his doorway, like old loved ones arrived suddenly in the midst of a dream.
Desmond is standing.
Barely standing, granted; Wendy has her arm around his waist, and is holding his own arm looped over her shoulder... But they are standing there, in Alan's office doorway, the both of them, looking at him.
Desmond's face seems to have subtly changed. That simple smooth puffiness has given way to a somewhat more muscular definition, and his eyes, while continuing to cast about in their usual aimless manner, are increasingly stopping their wandering orbit and fixing directly onto Alan. Every time this happens Alan feels a small jolt of energy pass from Desmond to him. There are no thoughts accompanying these transfers, and for this Alan is grateful. In fact it seems as though Desmond's brief glances are helping to fade the accumulation of thoughts that has been plaguing Alan in recent times... After several seconds Alan realizes that he has been staring and saying nothing. He gets up from his chair onto shaky feet.
“Let me give you a hand,” He says, stepping forward. Desmond reaches out towards Alan with his free hand and fixes him with that cleansing gaze. Alan hesitates a moment, before taking Desmond's hand in his own.
Thank you, Alan.
The voice is clear and strong within Alan's head and comes as no surprise to him. It all seems quite natural, in spite of his trepidation over this very thing, mere seconds earlier. He glances over at Wendy. She looks back at him with an open yet noncommittal expression, a look that seems to say: anything can happen from here on in. The two of them guide Desmond slowly and shakily over to the main chair in the examination section of his office. His hand feels light and cool in Alan's, still weak but with a sense of strength on the rise. In fact, with each step they take, Desmond seems to be growing stronger.
By the time they reach the chair Desmond is able to lower himself into the seat on his own. Alan and Wendy back away and then Alan offers her the couch. She seats herself demurely and looks up at the doctor expectantly.
Wendy pats the couch beside her. “Please, doctor.”
Alan glances over at Desmond, who is watching the both of them with an air of patient insistence. After hesitating for a moment, Alan sits himself down next to Wendy.
Desmond looks around the room, his gaze having less of a wandering nature as time passes. There seems to be a lightness to his expression, like the subtle delight of a man enjoying a fine spring day after a long winter. Eventually Desmond's gaze fixes on Alan.
Wendy and I have been arguing.
Alan unconsciously glances over at Wendy. She remains inscrutable, sitting up straight with her gazed fixed at a point across the room. He looks back at Desmond and sees the wistful joy amplifying on the man's face, animating him in ways Alan could never have imagined before. He half expects Desmond to leap up from his chair and start flying around the room.
It's not a very consequential argument, in the broader scheme of things, although it's quite understandable that she would care as as she does on a personal level. With this Desmond nods slightly in Wendy's direction. He then leans forward and settles his gaze deep into Alan's eyes.
You see, Wendy has been quite determined upon believing that I am, in fact, her own husband. That I'm the same Desmond that stepped into that transponder three years ago.
And before Desmond continues, Alan can already sense what he is about to be told. Because it only makes sense for things to be this way, after all. Given everything that Alan knows, the only logical conclusion is that-
I am a different Desmond. I am a Desmond from another world, another version of this world.
A silence settles upon the room. Alan stares in deepening astonishment.
“None of which,” Wendy speaks up, “Changes the fact that you are my husband. Another version, but of the same man.” Her eyes lock defiantly onto Desmond.
Desmond smiles warmly back at Wendy. The man's face continues to settle into a greater level of intelligence, an energy with which he turns his gaze back to Alan.
And so we stand. But as I mentioned, this is a minor distinction in the face of things. Really, we felt it was the best way to introduce you to the true nature of the current situation. Of course, you were already somewhat prepared for this revelation of ours, weren't you Doctor? What you've experienced so far does correlate rather strongly with the information we have to share. And now I believe that you are ready to gain a broader perspective on the how these events are unfolding around us all...
At this point Wendy turns to face Alan at the same time as Desmond is leaning forward in his chair, both of them fixing Alan with a mutual gaze of shimmering intensity and depth.
In order for you to understand it is best to show you. Desmond reaches out his right hand. Alan stares down at the hand, no longer pudgy and pale but rather strong and sharply formed, held steadily before him. He looks up at Desmond's face – a face turned hard and determined, bristling with vibrant intelligence. Wendy sits back next to him, her arm draped across the back of the sofa behind him.
Alan thinks of Maria Jantzen, of her parents Lawrence and Patricia. Old friends. Now Maria is at the facility, her mind seemingly shattered beyond repair, in some way due to her reaction to Desmond. Due to the phone call that Alan had made about that very same reaction. What are her parents going through right now? He hasn't heard from them. Are they even still around anywhere, or had they suffered some similar fate?
Alan wipes his hand across his brow and takes a shaky breath. There has to be some way to make this right. He is responsible. For a moment he thinks of his own wife and daughter, pictures their faces in his mind's eye. He could go home to them, pack their things and leave, head out west, or to the east coast, someplace remote... But no. He knows he has to try to make this right.
With a resigned shrug Doctor Alan reaches forward and takes Desmond's hand in his own.
They wear garments of living flora, standing guard at the Meridian fireblend between air and water. A shell of vibrational frequency surrounds the Meridian as it rises into the sky and descends through the earth, weaving a continuous geometry of water drops formed within vortexes of flame. Their garments undulate in time with the meridian's oscillations, between polarities corresponding with their changing formations along the perimeter of the Meridian. Not just their clothes, but their bodies and voices align with the frequency of this ascending point of energetic convergence. They are thirty three in number – human in form, aligned together into one unit as the prime defensive force of this realm.
Alan seems to be perceiving this from an undetermined position... Undetermined due to the very dimensional nature of the scene before him. Everything is moving in all directions at once, yet at the same time perfectly still. To his senses, the Meridian is like a shell of a teardrop shape, comprised of all four elements working somehow in tandem to form the structure of the event. And it is in fact an event, more than any one place to which he is bearing witness, Alan realizes.
The thirty three have arrayed here against an oncoming attack. Alan can see and hear and read their thoughts broadcast throughout their garments of vines and dust. Every one of these guardians displays a unique form of anticipation that takes the form of patterns and waves across Alan's field of perception. And despite the clear level of discipline within which these beings have steeped their consciousness, there can be no doubt that their anticipation is accompanied by more than a tinge of fear. Things have been moving in a very harmful fashion for some time, well beyond the normal rhythms of destruction and creation, chaos and order. Something has been seeking to circumvent the process altogether; a personality that prefers a strategy beyond mere chaos, but rather a state of permanent and total misalignment. Misalignment creating a friction in reverse – a type of inverted energy powered by entropy.
There has been a hunt for this personality, and much loss. It has sacrificed so much of it's own aspects while being pursued, while pursuing it's own self. Universes of blood. But all of this has not stopped the breach that is about to occur. And now Alan realizes that the fear these beings are experiencing is borne on a sense of resignation, of inevitability.
They know that they are about to die.
It happens almost instantaneously, and yet Alan witnesses it as a series of continuous sequences that seem to echo into perpetuity; constant refracting elements of processes sinking deeper and deeper through time and space. Within this continuity Alan sees for the first time the arrival of the North. She emerges from within the vortexes of flame surrounding the water – the frequency barrier surrounding the Meridian. She is multi faced – not facets but faces – flitting across her form, just faces across an emergent form is all she seems to be as she effortlessly extends a single lengthening finger through the thirty three... It is very difficult for Alan to understand how a finger can extend from nothing more than faces and pierce through the chests of thirty three human protectors, but she is in fact doing this very thing, she has moved through the guard and is now continuing her attack to the centre of the meridian. And now Alan can see, he can just barely envision what is occurring before him...
The Meridian's core is something akin to a set of dual spinal columns of glowing energy, spiralling around each other in a constantly reforming multi dimensional pattern. It is a thing so great as to be barely within the limits of perception – not just Alan's, but he somehow understands that all perception is drawn up just beneath the Meridian's centre. A thing so great, yet equally so very vulnerable...
Like a pillar of dust, the North's finger enters the Meridian's core. By now the thirty three have all fallen like marionettes cut from strings, and the supreme effort of these beings' final defense has passed with less substance than a dying breath. And now, with this ultimate breach of the core, there is no great cataclysmic event, no flash of light or peal of thunder. Everything just stops.
Stops and fades; droplets of water dissipating through flame into the ground and outwards to the air, as the meridian holds itself frozen in mid spin, blending slowly into white. At first Alan feels a moment's panic – I'm trapped here! - but then a warm calm settles over his awareness and he allows himself to just be, alone and observing in the midst of this unmoving white moment. He still isn't sure of what he has just witnessed. Some sort of unalterable change, but leading to what? The North's invasion of his world?
Of all worlds.
Through the haze of white Alan can observe first one figure approaching... Then, from the other side of his perception, a second figure appears. As they emerge from the mist the two of them are revealed to be wearing heavy robes, with hoods draped over their heads. One figure is large and seemingly masculine; the other smaller, feminine. The figures approach each other before stopping face to face. Then they pull back the hoods on their robes and reveal their faces.
Alan is not surprised to see that the couple is Wendy and Desmond. Of course. They are the Assassins, multiple killers of the North, called to transformation by this moment. All that is left for them to do is draw together, and seal the moment with their silently observed kiss.
When Alan returns to the office, the first thing he sees is that the chair Desmond had been sitting in is now empty. A quick glance to his right reveals the couch to be empty as well. They've both gone? He jumps up from his seat and whirls around -
The two of them are standing at the window, in a close embrace, gazing silently into each other's eyes. After a few seconds they both turn to the doctor, who gapes back at them in astonishment, because by now Desmond has fully returned... His face is square and strong and his eyes shine a bright blue beneath his glasses. Alan had not noticed this before, but now he sees that Desmond's old moustache has returned, fully grown above his upper lip. And Wendy, as well, has a much stronger presence to her, calm and serene yet with a fierce determination simmering just beneath her peaceful demeanor. The couple regards him with an unspoken expectation; they are waiting for him to make his decision. Will he go with them now?
At that moment the phone on Alan's desk begins to ring. The device emits a shrill cackling sound that instantly lets Alan know who is calling him. The Facility.
The Director has resumed her interest.
In a few short strides Alan reaches the desk and gazes down at the phone. It's insistent wail hammers up at him, and he knows that no matter how long he waits here, the phone will continue to ring until he picks it up. Alan can feel Desmond's stare against his back as he stands before the summoning bell. In a rush of decision, the doctor takes hold of the phone's cord and with one quick movement yanks the cord free from it's body.
The phone keeps ringing. Alan freezes, cord in hand, gaping at the shrieking object on the desk. After a few cycles the phone's ring seems to alter itself in some way; the phone is both producing it's own echo and yet somehow consuming it. The phone is eating it's own echo... And he is outside of this. He is hungry, Alan realizes. Because the bells are calling to him. The noontime bell tower ringing out the breaking of communal fast. Come, cry the bells. Lift the receiver. Come inside. Join the table, the feast...
Slowly, with hands that feel swollen from the multiplying frequencies before him, Alan reaches down and takes hold of the phone. As he holds the object in his hands, the face of the phone with its nine digit rotary dialler wavers in his vision, and when he blinks he can see that now the dial is turning on its own, turning and ringing because the phone is both calling and receiving, at the same time. The phone keeps ringing and the dial keeps turning, clicking out the numbers on the wheel. Somehow the sound of the spinning wheel has become louder than the ringing, overriding the exponentially reproducing bells with a series of clicks that bite into the echoes, because now the feast has gathered, the tower is fully in residence and the eating has begun-
The doctor staggers around his desk to it's facing side and abruptly thrusts out a shaking hand to grab hold of the side drawer and pull it open. As he drops the phone into the drawer the dial continues to spin crazily up at him, seeming like a smiling mouth, a biting grin, a devouring face...
A hand reaches forward and slams the drawer shut. Alan looks up and sees Desmond standing next to him. Wendy is already walking past him and making her way silently to the door. For a few seconds Desmond regards him calmly, before turning to join his wife on the way out of the office.
Alan looks down at the desk drawer. He can still hear the phone ringing from within the desk drawer, but what's more is that he can hear the sound of the grinding tearing clicks from the rotary numbers dialling around and around, growing louder from within, louder from within... And what will happen here after he has left? Will the desk catch fire? Will the building go up in flames?
It takes all of Alan's will to tear himself away from his desk and join his friends as they exit from the office. Leave this building and it's bells to their own devices. Let the tower burn if it will.
PREVIOUS CHAPTERS: Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three
Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen
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