Episode 9 - The Sleeper Awake

Page 9

Eddie stared up at Tim.

"You're Tim," Eddie said in a whisper. "You're... how..."

Tim stared at him a long time.

"Tim?"

Tim stirred as if from sleep. "Sorry. I... I'm still fuzzy in the head. Hi." He gave a small wave.

"Tim, what's happening? What happened to me? To you?"

"I've been trying to work that out for a very long time." Tim walked out to the edge of the tower platform and stared out at the city. "I've been asleep Eddie. I've been meditating on the things I've seen for... it feels like forever."

"What did you see? What happened? I remembered something... something about us before the mishmash event."

Tim spun. "The what event?"

"You know. The world has changed, gone crazy. You should know. I've seen you enough times, in Holcomb, down in the badlands—"

"That really happened?" Tim closed his eyes and rubbed his temples with his index fingers. "I thought those were dreams. They were like distant memories—childhood fantasies." He dropped his hands and laughed. "We were in a city that stretched up into the sky like a hammer."

"That's right."

Tim frowned. He turned to look down at the city again. "Except I wasn't there. Just like I'm not really here now."

"Where are you then?"

"Hmm? Oh, still in my cocoon, still dreaming, back in the apartment on Lincoln Avenue."

"Cocoon?"

The new voice startled Eddie. He turned to find Ruby standing behind him, rubbing her arms and staring at Tim. "You're the person in the cocoon?" she said.

Tim glanced at her. "Oh, hey. Hi, neighbor. I haven't seen you in forever. I can barely see you now. It's too dark."

Tim nodded upwards. The sky exploded with blinding light. Eddie threw his hands over his eyes. Ruby gasped.

"I'm sorry. Too bright?" The light between Eddie's fingers dimmed.

Eddie drew his hands away and looked up. The night sky now glowed with a pre-dawn gray. The moon still hung in its same position, but the stars faded into the pale light.

"How... how did you?" Ruby stammered. She moved to the edge of the platform and stared out. "You lit up the whole world?"

Tim shrugged. "Maybe. I'm not sure. It's easier to talk this way, don't you think?"

Eddie tried again. "Tim, what happened to—"

Jarrock bucked Eddie off of him. Eddie had almost forgotten the man was there. He fell to the side as the priest leapt up, his hands both poised to blast Tim with his power.

Tim turned almost lazily towards his attacker. The instant he made eye contact, the high priest stiffened with a wild, body bending spasm. A rending, crunching noise came from his body, and he fell like a boneless heap, hitting the ground with a wet, gelatinous slap.

Ruby stepped back, horrified. Eddie stared down at the lump that was once a man. "Holy shit, Tim."

Tim stared down at the former priest. "Oh, uh... I guess that wasn't cool. Sorry. This is going to take some getting used to."

Eddie stared at Tim. The man regarded the mess on the stones with puzzlement. As Eddie watched him, he thought he perceived an after-image of Tim, superimposed over his own body. When Tim looked away from his work, a glowing, incorporeal Tim remained, grinning maliciously down at the heap of flesh. Then the image faded, and Eddie wondered if he really saw it at all.

"What happened to you, Tim?" Eddie asked, climbing to his feet and backing a step.

"Me? Oh, I saw God."

"How?"

Tim shrugged. "That's part of the mystery I've been trying to work out. As far as I can tell, I looked through a tear in the universe."

"Oh, uh, what did he look like?"

"Who?"

"You know. God."

Tim smiled. "God isn't a 'he'." He glanced at Ruby. "Or a she, or an it or a they or.. well, throw out your pronouns, folks, because none could possibly apply. No word applies. No poem comes close. What lies on the other side is simply glorious. I still don't know how to feel about what I saw."

Tim said all this with an expression of humble awe, but the after-image Eddie saw earlier re-appeared. As Tim spoke, the "other-Tim" expanded, his head rising above Tim's true head, a thrashing, cursing distortion of Tim, raging at the sky. Eddie stared up at it, horrified. He glanced at Ruby, who looked just as shocked. She moved back another step.

"What is it?" Tim asked.

Eddie turned back to him. The after-image was gone. "Are you feeling okay, Tim?"

Tim shrugged. "Never better. I'm not really here, remember? This is a dream, and I feel electric."

Eddie stammered for something to say.

"So your body is still at the apartment building," Ruby asked. "Is my brother Dennis there?"

"Dennis?"

"He stayed with your cocoon. He thought it was important."

Tim tapped his chin a couple of times, then smiled. "Oh, yes. Dennis. Good guy. Very loyal. He's run a few errands for me."

"Is he okay?"

"Sure. Never better. He's got skills now. You wouldn't recognize him." When Tim said "Skills" the "other-Tim" momentarily reappeared, making faces at Ruby.

"I'm still trying to understand what's happening to you and me. We were in your apartment, an—"

Tim held up a finger. "Hold that thought."

He vanished. The after image remained behind for half a second, a glowing blue Tim with a wicked grin. Then that was gone too.

"What's going on, Eddie?" Ruby asked.

"You recognize him?" Eddie said.

"Sure. He's the guy you used to visit at my apartment building. You were there the day the world broke."

Tim reappeared, looking puzzled. "Okay, that was weird. I just saw myself. I mean, I just visited myself in my cocoon. It's breaking up now. It will be gone in a few minutes. I looked like some shadowy Buddha, and thinking of that made me think that now I've got some power and I can free Tibet. Except I went looking for Tibet, and it's not there anymore. The continents have all changed. Did you know that?"

"Uh," Eddie said.

Tim laughed. As he did, the other-Tim laughed as well—silently, but with mad hysteria in his eyes. "Don't you get it? I've got power now. I can do anything."

"How did you get this power?"

Tim sobered. He frowned and tapped his lips again. "Good question. So there I was, talking to God. Not talking. Communing. And I said I wanted Lila back."

"Who's Lila?"

Tim frowned. "You don't remember your own aunt?"

"My... aunt?"

"Your aunt. My wife. This is about her, Eddie. It's always been about her."

Eddie remembered Tim saying something like that before. Was it in a dream? It's all about her .

"I asked God to give me my Lila back. She was too young to die. She didn't deserve it. It was my fault. The whole reason for the portal was to save Lila."

"Portal?"

"Eddie, keep up. Look, it probably doesn't matter anyway, because I don't need God anymore. I have power. Watch."

Tim pointed at the grotesque form of Jarrock's remains. As Eddie watched, Jarrock's body unfolded. His arms and legs straightened with wet popping noises. His misshapen face restored back to its original gaunt form.

Once mended, Tim continued to focus on him. He frowned. He raised his hands and pointed them at Jarrock.

"What are you trying to—" Eddie began. As he turned to face Tim, he was startled to see the other-Tim again. As Tim stood still, focusing on the body, the other-Tim expanded, twisting and snarling, his face an obscene mask of animal rage. The other-Tim thrust its hands out as well, cursing at the fallen form.

"It's not working," Tim said, dropping his arms. The other-Tim dropped back inside him.

"What were you trying to do? Bring him back to life?"

"Exactly. But maybe raising the dead is something you have to practice at. I've still got a lot to learn."

He turned to Ruby and smiled. "I'll need to start smaller. Could you stand still for a minute?"

Eddie stepped in front of Ruby. "What are you going to do?"

"Nothing bad. I'm just going to stop her heart for a second. It won't even hurt."

"No." Eddie held up his arms. "You leave her alone."

Tim raised an eyebrow. "It's no big deal. We've already torn the world apart, Ed. What's one more body. Look if she means so much to you, then when I figure this out, I can make you a dozen more just like her."

"No." Eddie said again.

"Don't you have any respect for your god?"

"You aren't God."

"Of course I am, Eddie. Don't you get it? I can do anything."

Eddie closed his eyes, trying to root out any fragment of memory that might explain what had happened to Tim. How could he be stopped? His old friend... his uncle... was a chemically unstable bull in a cosmic china shop.

"You know," Tim said, folding his arms (the other Tim grew larger, folding his arms as well leering at Eddie like a menacing genie), "I haven't figured out how I feel about my new station. What kind of God should I be? Benevolent? Forgiving?" His eyes darkened. "Vengeful?"

"Tim, what are you talking about? You're not like this?"

"I thought you couldn't remember."

"I remember you in Holcomb. You were a nice guy. Smart, helpful."

"That was just a dream, Eddie. I was also a tyrant in my cave dream."

"Yeah, but even there, you cared about something."

"I cared about her." When he said the word 'her' the other-Tim reached for his host's throat and mimed choking him.

"Her. You're talking about the woman with you in the tunnels. That was Lila?"

"That was my WIFE!" Tim ended this sentence in a slavering rage. The other Tim disappeared as if the rage was now manifesting itself through its host. "I'm getting her back, Eddie. You and I have torn up reality itself. We've destroyed the world, and it will have no meaning at all if I don't bring my Lila back. I'll kill everyone on this earth if it will help me restore her. Now get out of my way!" He stepped towards Ruby, but Eddie didn't back down. Tim scowled down at him. "Move."

"No," Eddie shouted and shoved him in the chest.

The instant they touched, a blinding flash of light exploded out of the contact. Pain shot up Eddie's arms, and he fell back into Ruby, who caught him before he could fall. Tim wailed in rage and pain as the light continued to engulf him. Soon, he was a disintegrating body of white. The other Tim flared out, thrashing as if caught in a bear trap. Tim gave one last shriek before the brilliance consumed his body. The light collapsed and disappeared.

The glow in the sky blipped out, and Eddie and Ruby were left on the tower under a moonlit night.

next page...

page published 8/19/2017