The now, research and reality, part 1
The library wasn’t to his taste. More window than wall, the room was all light and airiness and glittering edges where the wall was thinned to near translucency. The world beyond the walls was a blur of uninteresting greenery and brick that was both chipper and monotonous.
The whole was rather depressing, the expected.
About him within, there were short shelves that he could tower over simply by standing on tip toe. The few other patrons –all school students, coerced here by the general air of surliness about them- didn’t have to tip toe. It was a state that a few of the more malicious had commented upon. He didn’t respond to their taunts, simple noting who said what and storing the information for later.
Young and stupid might have been the nicest thing he thought of the pack of backpack wielding Neanderthals. They didn’t traverse the shelves where the respectable materials lay, rather the were clustered around the shiny boxes and from the muffled sounds coming from within the cluster research wasn’t what they were up to.
To those few who were actually working… well he quietly scoffed at the limitations they’d crippled themselves with. These studious souls were simple creatures unable to see past the glimmer of artificial illumination. While quick, computers were fixated upon theories that were the most popular, books on the other hand held no prejudices. While occasionally flawed, the intelligent could easily winnow false from truth from a text. For one there were sources quoted, a quick span of backtrack and it was simplicity to spot dross from gold.
With the internet you just hoped that someone would quote something retraceable to give an article some validity.
Dropping his first load he grunted, rubbed arms that were vaguely sore. He wasn’t in pain, not real pain. He was familiar with the multitude of hues agony was captured in, from the burn of a scrap baring the salt of sweat, to the sear of broken bones grinding. Vaguely he recalled (without the horror, the experience felt a world away) true pain. Of flesh burning, of skin blackening, parting in a near liquid rush as the epidermis came undone...
But the roots of basic knowledge, those evasive elementary aspects known as when, where, why, and how, were beyond him.
Piling the books at whim –he’d sort it in finer ways as the day wore on, for it was going to be a long day by his reckon- he pulled out his one indulgence. Paper, pen, spirals served as spine, colored slips the covers. He flipped to the first blank page that felt right. It was not, as logic said it should be, the start, but the sixth. There he began, not at the beginning, but some depth in. Upon the unlined span, he scratched out the following.
Fact: I died.
He stared at the span. Three words, two symbols, utter madness which was more than alluded to.
And before that stark behemoth of an idea all motivation faltered, failed, fled, died.
Logic reared its head: Sane men only die once.
Gritting his teeth, drawing on stubbornness and no little bitterness he pushed off apathy and snapped up the first book form the pile. One history of many.
He needed to know the world, this world.
Because there were others, and they were as far as the stars. So, for now, this one would have to suffice.
What did he expect, reimbursement?
There wasn’t enough. Not to pay him from this indignity. Not enough, not even a life without all the… all of whatever it was normal, sane, people dealt with whilst living… was enough. Not now. Not with the uncertainty rearing its head. Glaring down the stair well, rather rumpled, not showered, slate hued hair a mess, he was dressed as he’d been the day before. Frozen, one arm half in half out of the black jacket he’d tossed on to better hide his sorry state.
He was not in his best frame of mind.
But then after being awoken in the pre-dawn light by an ice rimmed branch tapping out S.O.S. on the window plane was enough of a start him out of half remembered dreams.
The ice on the window, with letters scratched out of the sheet in thin lines, (nails, someone had written it with their nails… the thought wouldn’t go away, nor would his wide wondering eyes) was more than enough to force his half-awake mind to full activity in a heartbeat.
“GET OUT OR THEY’LL LOCK YOU IN.”
G-iso. It’s what his shrink called it. Government forced isolation. Living in a box with nothing. Because of who he was and what he done he wasn’t allowed anything. And he wouldn’t be allowed to see anything. They’d black out the windows and it would be dark, and there would be nothing and he’d wonder and wander the barren familiarity that was the start of each day, going mad via sensory deprivation.
A day, two, three… He had no food. Surely they wouldn’t do more than three days.
They’d done a week before… Once, when he was allowed food. And he wouldn’t sleep, couldn’t sleep, for they’d set something to the walls that caused them to thrum tunelessly.
Seven days, scrabbling around in the rumbling blackness, scraping with cans and can openers, not knowing what he’d eat, if he could eat, sick and shaking with the vibrations that spawned unending migraines….
Not again, never again.
He was up and scrambling in pre-dawn darkened corridors, fighting on the clothes he wore yesterday. One arm in, the other not, he paused only to stumble over nothing at all, ripping open the door to glare down at the scene unfolding under silvering skies.
One man, the stairwell was empty save a blockish brute of a man in black. Black suit, black tie, the polish of his boots glistened in the chancy illumination of a wakening heaven. One set of keys. Blue eye met black shades, though dark skinned the stranger ascending paled and adverted his gaze from the traitor.
Guilt perhaps, fear certainly. He could smell that latter, both bitter and sweet and clingy.
Who was I, that a man twice my strength fears me?
The question, like all others, remained unanswered.
Save one exception, one exclusion.
For, the Before breathes, in another, high pitched acid scarred voice, we start at one, one is the logical place to begin. It is the orgin, that which defines what is.
Closing his eyes, least he faint, least he fall, least he be locked in, he opens them, matching aversion with dead on confrontation. He descends, stuffing coat under his arm as he goes.
He’ll fix it later, fix him later.
He needs out, he needs gone.
And the man below, seeing his victim approach, tires for control.
“You need to go back up. Back to…”
Gruffness should shake. Terror does, not courage. He draws in scent and knowledge with a grin that’s all all teeth no warmth. Thus, armed with such a bitter expression he hisses.
“Get out of my way.”
Hands first, taking courage in hand (a desperate type, all brittle and broken) the man tenses. For fight, for flight, for one and both. One of this mans’ arms equal two of his pressed together. Physically it’s no contest.
For some reason, this doesn’t bother the traitor. Doesn’t’ stir up his fear or concerns. He’s a step beyond his heart, though he knows of consequence of what may come it doesn’t touch him.
Not then, not now.
“Out of the way.”
“Or what?” The man rasps.
What indeed? He has no power. He is no villain. Though someone somewhere has cast him in this role, brushed him with that stripe of evil intent and action, he has now power. Intent… now he has it, but now power.
He has no power.
The air is chill… Too chill for season. The man looks about, startled eyes wide behind his shades if the smell of him is anything to go by.
Do too. The Winter whispers, a person all it’s own in this moment.
Do not. Murmurs sense installed.
Before snaps control, snaps sense, disregards Winter. His hands move, as if reaching for something just behind his back.
“Tell me.” A voice, his own but not, murmurs. “Have you perhaps heard of the Lexicon?”
One step, back, a near fall. The man’s shaking now. Whatever they mean, whatever this is, there is a threat to these ambiguous meanderings. There is a promise to the tone, and a threat to the insane syllables that make no sense to the man who’s speaking them.
The Traitor uses it. He has nothing else save this make believe now. “I’ll use it, summon it…” Because summon felt right, the Before assures it is right. He’s summoned it before. His hands ache for its absence.
Though confidence of surety is gone he pushes forward, hoping if he holds to facsimile the façade won’t fail. “Right now, right this second. Unless…”
A nod, the man has nothing to say, nothing to his mind, save terror and hope that’s been doled out by would be assailant.
Who has nothing to assault with.
He’d be laughing if he didn’t want to puke, both of which he’d be flopping between like a beached fish if he was touched by the emotions of this moment. Which he wasn’t, not right now…
Which he should be.
I think... I am mad… mad enough to see I am mad.
The last thought is detached. His, in his skull, bit neither Before, or Now, or misplaced Winter, or installed impulse.
It just is.
Like he is.
“Drop the keys, then run, run and don’t look back.”
The clatter, of key upon stone summons something. Pain in his chest, echoes of intensity.
Pain, fury, loss. He nearly doubles over at the assault all unintentional. Once steady, once breathing no longer hurts, the rest of his descent is made in silence. For the man has long fled.
Long fled, and never looked back. Hence how he misses it all. This would be jailor. By the time burning eyes cease, and the wetness that’s leaked out from there edges has been dried away dawn has arrived, dropping the “pre”.
The sun is shining up high, all bright and yellow, not a scratch of cloud or cold to the sky.
And he hates it.
Hates the sun. The bright. The warmth. Hates them all.
And wonders in that detached way of his as he stoops over, fetching key and a small scratch of
control –won’t be locked in, never ever again- what he’s lost. For hate isn’t born without loss.
So he’s lost the sun, not this one, but one assuredly. Lost a light, not this one, but one from before.
But Before is quiet, and the Winter has fled.
So he’s alone, key in hand, left to wondering, left to wandering.
Only sure of one thing.
It’s going to be a long long day.