I’m counting this as two pieces. It’s just over 2450 words. I could spend twenty minutes chopping it in half and posting two separate things. Which would just be done to satisfy the challenge and would read terribly because there aren’t really two parts here. So, let’s just say that I did that… 😛
So, 5 posts counting as 6 – the Longest Eulogy parts II – Truth in the Light (~3000 words), III – Enter, Stage Left (~1800), and IV – A Breakfast Lecture(~2450), plus the Bullies and the Bullied (~1750) and Dedorak’s Land (~1600) brings me up to a total for the May/June challenge of just over 10,000 words, which was the aim.
I learnt a lot. And I’ll post about that later this week. I haven’t slept properly since Sunday morning sometime – though I did have a nap in the mid-afternoon. My point is I am tired and wish to go the fuck to bed.
One last important note about the below piece. I wrote most of it today and it has had only the most cursory of edits. I also cheated in the long, lecture part. It’s pure exposition down there, which is bad form. And I imagine hard to read unless you’re like me and enjoy RPG source books… My intent for that section as always been to have MacGregor give the lecture whilst her and Sylvie were doing something else. So, I wrote the lecture planning to go back through it and flesh it out with a bit of action between each couple of lines from MacGregor. But, I hit 2400 words and I’m exhausted and I suspect my writing is terrible as a result. So, I figured I’d leave that for the next review. Anyway, I’m rambling and starting to get into topics I want to cover in a separate post-challenge piece. Good night all.
I slept a timeless sleep and awoke from it gradually. First I occupied that space where you are conscious of your dreams and know that it’s not quite right but don’t know why. It is, after all, so very real. Then I knew I was dreaming and just wished to stay there. Consciousness seemed so very undesirable. Not for any particular reason. Just because this dreamland, this comfortable, snuggled warmth was enough to momentarily sate my every need. And then, ever so slowly, I was aware of the scent of bacon. The sizzle of its fat in the pan. Behind that the faint odour of sausage and tomato, of eggs and toast. The pleasant sounds of the kitchen were interrupted, sporadically, chaotically, by curses in languages not quite decipherable. I spent some time in this state. Not cognisant of all the recent events. Not thinking that it was strange that I was wrapped under a doona on my spare mattress. That someone had undressed me and carried me here and tucked me in and cleaned the vomit off me. As my consciousness slowly drifted towards language and reason, I noticed the drip stuck in my arm and the bag of saline hanging from a chair.
I sat up. My head spun, but only momentarily. I looked around the room. My lounge was much as it usually is, though where it was differet it was starkly different. Couch, tv, coffee table. The mattress had been pulled out from under my bed and placed in the corner of the room. There was no sign of where I had vomited earlier. How long ago? I wasn’t sure. Surely it couldn’t have been more than a couple of hours. It didn’t feel like anytime had passed at all.
On the coffee table rested a pair of pistols. Large chunks of metal. Their presence felt foreign and wrong. Under the table was a duffle bag, not mine. On the couch was a sleeping bag, also not mine.
A string of foreign expletives from the kitchen broke my reverie.
Reluctantly, I pulled myself from under the doona’s warmth and looked around for my clothes. Nowhere to be seen. At least I still had my underwear. I grabbed the sheet off the mattress and turned it into a makeshift toga.
In the kitchen, MacGregor was preparing a feast. At first glance it looked like chaos. There were pots and pans, bowls and plates, ingredients and scraps everywhere. It seemed every time MacGregor moved she knocked something or burnt herself. And each accident was followed by a curse. Occasionally in English, but generally in another language. Some sounded like what I imagined Scottish would sound like and others sounded distinctly un-European. I watched her move about the kitchen for a few minutes, leaning against the door frame. Despite the seeming chaos, everything seemed to come together like clockwork. Before long, MacGregor had two plates heaped up with sausages and bacon, eggs and hash browns, tomatoes and fruit, pancakes and croissants. She seemed oblivious to the world around her, not once looking up from her work. But as she flipped the last egg on to one of the plates she spoke
“Well, don’t just stand there. Set the table. This food isn’t going to eat itself.”
We ate in silence. The food was fantastic and when I sat down in front of it I found I was starving. After stuffing myself on her feat I asked,
“How long was I asleep? And where did you get all this food?”
“You were out for nearly two days. And I got it at the shop, I figured if I was back to playing medic then I should at least have something to occupy my time.”
“Two days? I slept for two entire days?”
“The sedatives I gave you probably helped with that. You needed it. Your body isn’t used to rummaging through the minds of others. I’m somewhat surprised you didn’t kill yourself looking through Derek’s like you did. And then running hard into my defences didn’t help things. And don’t worry, I know you’ve got a million questions. I’ll answer what I can for you.”
“What about Derek? How is he?”
“Unconscious still. I suspect he will be for quite some time. I’ve called in some favours and a few acquaintances of mine are looking into what’s going on with him. I’m hoping he just needs rest, but it seems more serious than that.”
“I guess I should thank you for looking after us. You’ve stayed here the past two days?”
“Yep. By the way, your movie selection sucks. Where are the action movies? The thrillers? All I could find were bad dramas and worse romances.”
“Thank you. Ummm, by the way, who exactly are you…?”
“Good question. Everyone calls me MacGregor, probably because that’s my name. I know Derek from a few years back. We met in Africa on business and our paths crossed a few times. I guess we were sort of friends there for a while. Drifted apart when I decided to come back here and help my brothers run their business.
“I don’t know why Derek had my name down as his emergency contact. I guess he’s always been a bit short on friends. Kind of hard to make a good impression when your mere presence scares them. Even if they don’t know why.
“But we’ll get to that later. You have just entered an entire world you never knew existed and are probably not even close to ready for. Few ever are. I sure as hell wasn’t. You and I are what people call Soul Seers. As the name suggests, we can take a peek inside others’ souls. Which isn’t always a pleasant trip but can be quite handy in business negotiations.”
I opened and closed my mouth a few times. A dozen questions tripping on my tongue. I couldn’t find the words for any of them. I wanted to say that this was insanity. And maybe it was. But I’d shared memories with a man I’d just met, seen the memories of a stranger on my doorstep, had her talk to me telepathically, and seen a man shot 4 times and emerge without a scratch. More than that though, it just felt true. It felt like what she was saying was right.
“I can see you’re brimming with questions. How about I explain some of the basics of reality that you didn’t know and then we can move on from there?”
“Legend has it that this all started in the year 1666. I’m not sure that I believe that. A lot of people you meet will say it started with the Great Fire of London, that the fire caused the first fracture. I think that’s bollocks. Eurocentric trash. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the Middle East and Africa and they all have their own version of how it all started. Everyone seems to agree with the date though. It was within a year or two of 1666.
“I don’t think the Great Fire caused the fracture, but I’d certainly believe that the fracture caused the Great Fire. And even if it wasn’t the first fracture in the world, it was the first one noticed in Western Europe or the British Isles. And there were plenty more of them within a few short weeks, so I’m not sure it really matters which was first.
“The world is breaking apart. Fracturing. Ever so slowly other realities are seeping into our own. They do so at points we call fractures. The other realities have their own rules, their own ways of doing things, and they interact strangely with our reality. That’s where we get our powers from. Some other reality’s rules mixing with our reality’s rules and for whatever reason in us that results in the ability to live other’s memories and emotions. Derek’s touched by a reality often thought of as the Underworld or the Realm of Death. I don’t know the specifics of its effects on him, but he spends a lot of time helping trapped souls continue their journey. It would seem that our reality always had souls, but the fracturing means they don’t always get to where they’re supposed to go.
“Our reality, by and large, isn’t so keen on all these other realities shoving their way in. It fights back. Most people, we call them the untouched. They’re unaware of anything but our original reality. They’re incapable of being aware. Our reality simply won’t let them. It rewrites their memory, it ensures they never see the unusual in the first place. They explain it away through some other means. Anything to avoid noticing that the rules of reality aren’t quite as strict as they should be.
“Sometimes the untouched react poorly to the rules being broken. They go mad, they snap, they react impulsively. Things tend to get messy. That’s why you never see this stuff on the six o’clock news.
“There are plenty of people like us though – the changed. Something happened somewhere along the way and we get to exist in multiple realities. There are lots of different types, though really we defy categorisation. No two Soul Seers have exactly the same abilities. And ours are worlds apart from Reapers like Derek or vampires or shifters or any of the others. The only thing we have in common is that we’re uncommon.
“There are also plenty of people who aren’t changed. They have no innate abilities, but they’re aware of the fractures anyway. We tend to just call them the touched. Yes, I’ve heard every high school joke you can think of about that name. A further subset of them are the talented. They’re touched who have actually bothered to learn how to use the powers of the other realities. Sorcery is probably the most common. Though demonology seems to be a growing trend and most people who stay active in the community for long enough will pick up a Word of Power or two. Derek knows a lot of them. And a lot of the more scary ones at that. Most people know harmless ones. Things that will light up a bulb or help a flower blossom. I’ve seen Derek incapacitate an entire squad of men with one word.
“There are other powers too of course. Too many to list. More than I’ve heard of, let alone seen.
“You see that’s the thing about the fracturing. It’s not a static event. It didn’t suddenly happen in 1666 and there were all these powers and that was that, new world order here we come. It started slowly and it’s just kept building. There are more fractures now than when I first changed fifteen or so years ago. And it’s not just volume that has changed, it’s content too. Sorcery was one of the first, though some say necromancy. Derek is quiet on the matter. He just says it’s not something his kind can talk about and changes the topic. Wordsmithy came soon after – that’s the words of power I mentioned. The power vampires draw from didn’t show up until the mid 1800s. Other powers have shown up more recently, but I’m not exactly a scholar of the topic. Most of what I know I learnt from a Soul Seer I found not long after I first gazed into another’s soul. And most of what he knew, he learnt from a Soul Seer twenty years before that. We certainly seem to have been around since nearly the beginning.
“I do know that the types of abilities the changed get seem to be getting more varied and more powerful. Humanity seems to think that climate change is going to wipe us all out. I suspect reality change will be a bigger concern. Then again, it might just all go away one day. Ours is not a typical life, we live outside the normal rules of reality. Don’t expect things to go according to plan.
“Also, don’t believe what you read in the books. Many myths predate the powers. People had some aspect of a mythical creature or the local populace got scared and thought that they did. If you get in a fight with a vampire and expect them to recoil from garlic, you’re going to have a bad day. For that matter, if you serve a vampire blood you’re going to have a bad day. Most don’t drink it. I don’t think any of them need to, though I’ve heard of some that enjoy doing so.
“They actually feed on specific types of emotions. Blood is just one of the more direct ways of absorbing the emotion.
“Demons aren’t from hell. They’re from a world very different to ours, but with a society not to dissimilar. Or so a guy I dated a couple of years ago kept telling me. People just thought they were demons when they first encountered them because they have cracked grey skin, claws on the end of their fingers, and their language sounds like what we think a demon should sound like.
“So, some poor schmuck demon is tending to his fields and along comes some rip between the realities. Perhaps some idiot kids in our reality are performing a ritual they really shouldn’t. And this poor schmuck gets torn out of his dimension and trapped inside a pentagram. And so he starts screaming and tries to get out. And what do the kids assume? Well, clearly they’ve raised a beast from hell and it’s trying to kill them. Meanwhile the poor schmuck is just screaming “Send me back to my kids”. Or something like that. I don’t even know if demons have kids.
“My point with all this is don’t assume you know what someone is capable of because you hear they’re a certain type of changeling. That’s a good way to get embarrassed or dead.
“I’ll teach you how to control your sight so that you aren’t forever rummaging around in the heads of passers by. It won’t be a quick and easy process though. And it’s not necessarily safe. Derek’s mind was an extreme case. Especially for a first go. But it was also only a few seconds contact. I can teach you how to prolong your contact without getting so hurt. Still exhausting, but less vomit and less risk of death. More importantly, you can learn how to choose when to see and when to just be looking someone in the eyes.
“But, we have more important things to worry about first. We need to get Derek some more help and we need to make sure that whoever went gunning for him doesn’t come again.”