Under the Weight of Time (Desert Trilogy #2)

By Eric Freyer All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Thriller

Chapter 24


Raymond distanced himself at the meeting.

On his arrival to the back-alley hideout, an attractive, and seemingly homeless women met him, walked him through the cloak and down the stairs to their hideout. He hadn’t the same reaction to the cloak due to accidentally walking through one at headquarters, multiple times.

Down one, two, and it’s made of insulation, only pools of frayed color. He hit the floor, only barely getting his two feet together. He didn’t realize his eyes flashed like razor wire. All he could see were their sideways glances they gave each other when they thought he was looking the other way.

Raymond asked for food, and as he ate his white meal, he listened to what they had to say.

During their individual discourses the skin on the underside of Raymond’s thumb became raw from picking, and he noticed himself chewing when he had already swallowed what was in his mouth. It was hard for him to pay very close attention to anything they were saying. He wanted to talk, nodding, making sounds of understanding between each clause, but the older man would not let him get a word in edgewise. So he sat and ate.

The food was hard to get down, since most things down here smelled of crotch.

He wondered how long he had been blinking like this. The corner of his mouth twitched, he had burrowed too deep. He started on the other.

To Raymond the other three seemed on edge. There was something wrong between them. Even before noticing the strange twitching and stretched subsection of corner-only foodbin storage, Raymond realized their intriguing dynamic. One of them sat with their back against a wall, picking at her fingernails—she was the one giving the most looks around the room. Raymond was doing the same, only under the table.

He had already known before heading in what they were going to ask of him. But he had come in empty handed, with hands waving above his head in a sign of surrender, thinking it would get him off the hook: He had no more carrier. It was gone, and they did not need him any longer. So why were they still talking to him as if it didn’t matter?

“Lucky for us…” Icarus stepped aside to expose a metal briefcase. Raymond could only assume what was inside.

He leapt up from his seat, unsure if he should be relieved or terrified.

All he wanted now was that carrier in his hands. As if he needed to vindicate himself and further legitimize his qualifications, such as during a job interview, he began to talk about his last carry. But the old man held up his hand, stopped him short, and instead ushered him out the door with the carrier in a suitcase under his arm. No one needed convincing.

Raymond only picked up on the few words he needed to hear: Carry, headquarters, perbitor, secret room. He had no idea what a perbitor was, but he was fairly certain he knew exactly where it was. Though knowing where it was, and how to get to it, were two totally separate things. The carrier would hopefully tell him how.

That very night he slept hardly at all, too excited by being in the presence of a new carrier. Between the bits of furniture, turned over in an earlier fit of rage, he sat on the floor and rocked with the carrier connected to his head. It was most of the night. The dreams were good besides one from whom he inferred was a product of the old man living next door.

In this dream his skin sagged to the floor. He walked around with it dragging against the hard concrete, bleeding and sore wherever it was in contact with the ground. Even the skin around his eyes sagged below his chin. It was short, but forced Raymond to throw the carrier off his head and try to sleep himself. Though he knew sleep was not necessarily the right word. It would be more like a cycle of waking thoughts that would repeat ad nauseum; his mind becoming obsessed with one phrase or set of images that would then get replayed in his mind with no sign of stopping. It was what he assumed it felt like when being awake during an operation after the anesthesia was already administered. But the plus side was the ease to wake up and get going in the morning, even if he was aware of the horrible comedown expected sometime in the middle of the day.

At the beginning of his shift he already felt sick. He had carried the suitcase through the service entrance so as not to stir anyone’s suspicions as to why a large suitcase was propped between his arm and ribcage. The break room—or stock room, depending on the time of day— was loud, and the man on the night shift stirred in his seat when he heard Raymond come in. He had been sleeping, and in the 10 years they had been doing this rotation, where one leaves and the other comes in to start their day, not enough words had been spoken between the two of them to join together and formulate a single coherent sentence. Neither had any reason to befriend the other. It was an unspoken code of conduct. Raymond couldn’t even remember his name.

The worker quietly gathered up his things and left while Raymond sat with the briefcase under the table. He thought about the throngs of people in the streets he had passed on his way here. Thousands of them lined the avenues. Some with metal pipes and war paint, and others with humble looking books in their hands, yelling up to the skies. Carts, handmade from the debris found on the streets, wheeled goods, and led groups of people with satchels and sacks tied to their backs to the edge of the city. There were old tires set on fire, and people kneeling close by with hesitant eyes. Teenagers with no mothers pushed playfully at one another, and teenagers with both parents helped to push the carts along. There were still babies crying. Groups with weapons were huddled together to discuss plans. Some had helmets, all had dirty faces. People wore brown leather clothing that hung heavy towards the floor. And then there was Raymond with the suitcase.

Along the way Raymond was convinced he would be stopped and questioned about the contents of his package. But everyone seemed too preoccupied to care. New things were happening all around, and someone carrying a suitcase through the streets was of the least peculiar.

A man in all white climbed above a crowd and leaned forward. Cries came from the large assembly below, but as his deadened thud made some reconsider their life choices, the crowd resumed its chanting.

Now he sat in wait. He could feel the tired behind his eyes. It was too much for him to hold up his shoulders. His feet tingled. The bottle of pills still rested in his pocket. He shook them, the sound was sparse, like a beggar down on their luck shaking a tin cup.

Usually when he arrived at work he would want to start cleaning right away, but not today, the briefcase weighed him down. The door clicked from the nightshift worker leaving. Still holding onto the plastic briefcase handle, Raymond got up to lock the door, fully.

He had decided this before even arriving at work: He must first find the schematics of the building so to locate the closest secure area to the lieutenant’s chambers; somewhere he could hunker down and try to carry one of his dreams.

The table fell away and the suitcase slid across the floor. Bits of grain helped it along in a grinding procession. The break room itself had not been cleaned for ages. It was hard to find a spot to sit, and a clean pocket of air to breath. Behind a superior’s chair who had yet to exist, or had just never shown up to work, were stacks of drawers made of dented tin and stained lacquer. The slots where organizational type cards should be placed held numbers in thick, black ink. Their order made little sense, but Raymond knew that in the cabinet labeled 23.2, with labels 7.8, 626, and 77.01 stacked above, were maps of the floors to clean, as well as one schematic, though less detailed, with floor plans to the entire building, including where the lieutenant slept. He would need to cross reference the two in order to find where he must prepare his session.

It was hard to imagine there was enough energy in his body to do such a thing so he began to jump. His head neared inches from the ceiling. On every hop he would shake his head and flail his arms. His breath followed that of his body’s movement, and he soon found a rhythm which he felt as though he could keep up for quite a while. Tools and bottles of cleaning solution quaked, and screws fell into their natural oblong, circular paths. A bit of stomach acid left a bad taste in his mouth, but the break room still moved in streaked tails, and blurry clouds of dust.

He slammed the palms of his hands down on the table and spread the maps out, one on top of the other. It wasn’t labeled as such, but the room where the lieutenant went to bed every night was only one floor above the uppermost level Raymond had access to, and was meant to clean. Raymond overlaid the two, with hands trembling from low blood sugar, to mark the perimeter of the suite on the map, and in doing so, marking a section one floor below, directly beneath the bedroom.

He rolled up the plan marked with a large rectangle, and stormed out with the carrier wrapped neatly in its box.

Twelve floors up, a left, another left, straight, a right after the maintenance closet, and he found himself outside of room 716. The card chain to his belt ran between his fingers as he placed his key card up to the knob. The lock turned. He was in.

Small shimmers from metal sheets, rods, and tiny-boxed containers, scattered the light like white teeth. Their fluorescence created enough of an image of the surroundings to see what was there. He carefully sidestepped over what looked like an old corded vacuum cleaner—the kind he saw mother use as a child—but the would-be plastic body had a rather unsettling viscosity to it. On the shelves around him hung heavy shadows from piles of objects he was too frightened to touch, and sagging matts of damp paper, rolled into tight cylinders. Farther back, bundles of wire. He opened a box at random and saw glassware full of clear liquid.

The suitcase was on his toes. It must have dropped.

Setting up the carrier was easy. The headpiece was no different from his own, though the edges of it were sharper, like it had been pulled off a head many fewer times than his. This didn’t surprise him.

The headpiece scraped the tops of his ears. It was warm the second he flipped the switch behind the mat of wires, much faster than his.

It was easy to locate the lieutenant’s dream, dark and brooding, just as he suspected. A heavy burden that sunk below the rest, like a weighted body falling to the bottom of the ocean; bound at the legs, arms roped behind. Raymond had felt this kind of dreamer before from the nasty son of a bitch living somewhere upstairs in his building. He had never again willingly engaged with this type of dreamer again, but now it was something he had to do. He stopped for a moment to wonder if all this was worth the mental degradation that could arise from such exposure. It was something different. Something that sounded exciting from afar; a plague haunting people who always believe the next chapter is going to make everything better; their escape from their prisons. Why is it that running away from the past means moving towards the future? The prison stays the same. It attaches to the spine, and for a little while the scenery looks nice, the change is exciting, and you believe it was always meant to be this way—until you realize that you’re still in a cage.

He felt the headpiece begin to work as he honed in on what he hoped to be a dream of the lieutenant’s. It better be because it was one he otherwise wanted nothing to do with.

Outside he could hear explosions and police car sirens, proceeding in doppler effect curiosity. It’s started, he thought.

At this moment of recognition his eyes snapped shut. The blackness fogged, in a rim of twilight, small pinpricks of light formed new worlds orbiting like bits of food flowing around a drain. He had never felt so alone. He was not sure whether the floor was shaking or if he was already that deep within the dream. Screams that could have come from outside filled the spaces between the lights. Emaciated suffering. Then, a sudden twist in gravity with feet pushing through a thick brow of viscosity.

A pair feet and legs were bare, but besides that, Raymond could not tell. Tall metal cabinets lined his periphery. The squirming feet squeezed brown liquid between its toes. It was too slippery to stand. Raymond could feel the hands touching the warm liquid as well. Chunks of apple-like pieces floated throughout. He cringed, imagining his genitals and anus submerged in the stuff.

Tiny wooden hammers were in his hands now, and the compulsion to slam them into the ground was too great to resist. He couldn’t control the bizarre and aberrant action of plowing the hammers through the liquid until they met tiled floor.

The smell became apparent as some rested on his upper lip. Laughs were escaping from the body’s mouth; tight snickers, as a grown adult trapped in a baby’s body. The body wiggled in the luke-warm as the hammers came down on either side. It was mentally exhausting. The sickly yellow light paid too little attention to lightning the far corners of the room, and the ground seemed like a high reaching plateau above space itself. Waterfalls of the retch cascaded over the edges without pause.

A crashing from the hammers being thrown across the room reminded Raymond that he was trapped.

Hands spread tight began at it instead.

Still in quick bursts, the laughing persisted. It was madness. Raymond had no air to swallow.

He imagined being in a stomach.

The body rolled through the liquid. Raymond wished it would close its mouth, but the laughing only forced its to open wider.

A table with glassware rattled as he hit the table’s leg, stopping the body from going any farther. Raymond wanted to feel sick, but the body did not. Plates, and objects suggesting breakability, flew from the table’s surface. There was nothing to hold this body’s mind in one place for very long, no way for it to comprehend the rolling around in filth. Raymond felt shards of glass, passed through the viscous interpretation of stomach contents, on their back. The sensation wasn’t of pain, but rather registered as an idea of such. The body was soaked through, and the fumes from the floor burned his eyes.

The lights were dimming but the body wanted not to be aware of it, condensing to nothing more than a spotlight. The liquid was now black as ink, staining everything it came in contact with as it pooled and drained from the distribution of the body’s weight.

This is when the feeling of dread came over them both, the laughing turned to nervous muttering. It made their tongue sore, their lips parted, and their eyes afraid to blink. Deep, giant heartbeats banged from somewhere in the distance. Screeching metal undulated across spanning landscapes behind the walls, and for a moment, blackened hands covered their face. It was worse than seeing whatever awful thing was ahead because now they were afraid to see once again.

The ears heard more banging. Something else had picked up the hammers. Through a small space between their fingers appeared all white. Small blotches of black scattered across. It had black knees. The body stood up, dripping vomit turning back to black as it hit the pool. The ground was looking up into space—a giant mirror. There was no ceiling. The two sheets of black met or did not meet; there was depth, yet it went on infinitely.

They walked forward towards the child as the floor of the room pulled away, sinking them deeper. Though the one in the distance with the hammers had no physical attributes, Raymond could see out of the periphery that it was watching them sink with fiendish amusement. Raymond wanted so badly to be able to see what they were doing. All instinctive defenses were non-existent here. It was as though the body was unable to see what the brain was perceiving. But it was there, and Raymond couldn’t help but feel complete and utter terror. The hammer drops were slower now, more malevolent. The black was above their waist. The bare feet gripped like they had scales. The floor felt tiled. Chunks of something were getting stuck beneath the soles, and the liquid kept rising. The thing in white came more into focus from clawing its way towards them, across the ground on all fours.

Ripples in the surface of the black, now close enough to feel its warmth on their chin, skirted around the neck. The view followed the rippling towards the body watching them from a distance. Raymond could feel the ripping of his self from the body walking into the deep. The momentum sent him slowly up and orbiting around his own view. The deep liquid edged with vibrant blues—things were moving down there.

Raymond found himself on all fours; watching a man with vomit dripping from their nose, and black covering their cheeks, descend into the ink. Raymond’s new body hissed with vapor. Streams of self-conscious waves drifted off. One hammer continued to slowly smash at the floor while the other hit their thigh. There was a hole in the bottom of their leg. Above the hole rest a pocket. Inside was hard metal Raymond could feel on every swing. He was afraid the hammer was going to cut the leg clean off.

He turned back just in time to see the top of the head disappear into the ink. There were now two black surfaces separated only by a soft glow coming from somewhere in the distance—an obtuse V of light.

One more good hit and the bone snapped. The V of light turned on its side. Inside, Raymond opened his mouth to scream. The liquid looked solid, and the moment of impact was interrupted by opening a drawer. It squealed to expose nothing but a faint hint of technology. Two miniature children rolled a ball around the bottom of a cave—for that is how the inside of the drawer now looked. A hand reached next to the cavernous pool, pristine greens and blues from algal blooms. The flesh of the hand was in the water and splashed some of the stalactites hanging from the only rocks that gave way to proper overhangs. The brown and jagged rocks were needles. The ball was now in his hand with the children dangling from it, holding on for dear life. It soared into the air and was caught in a palm that closed, and crushed. Their bones sounded like dead leaves. Everything tightened.

Raymond was introduced to a new room, this one more descript. The change in time had made their movement of looking away from the hand that had crushed, aggravatingly slow. The fist was brilliantly in focus. The benches were reset, and large magnifying glasses showed tiny black pools with the man walking in, and the lady with the hammers watching from shore; a scene from the past. Raymond walked by four of them all set in a row (4,27,23,11), all lit in slightly different ways.

The man disappeared as a drop of water.

The fist holding the orb and tiny bones used a sucher to peel away the fleshy covering of the safe. A stack of thinly sliced brawn wilted from the weight on top. Reversed wails flowed out, and a pool of blood circled the small globe. The motions of living were not there; an authentic still life. The globe pulsated an azure blue. The wails were quickening, and the muscle now continued to sag and melt onto the cold floor.

Quick instances of what were behind made the room phantom. Too much of one view would shake into place, and for a moment Raymond would lose sight of the other. It wouldn’t stop. Raymond wasn’t sure of how much more he could take, but was not enough aware to consider figuring out a solution.

The image of the one legged women was disappearing into the black that had already grasped the man, all while looking directly into the safety of the orb.

A memory of collecting firewood long past. Everything felt hot.

Soft clicks from the lady’s mouth were resonant in the right ear. Her bloodless lips found spaces within the purple veins of her face to twist and writhe. It was oil slick between the fingers. The skin began to stink, but the vision was singular once again, unable to see the lady. For a split second a man danced in strange hand movements behind the safe.

Raymond felt trapped, more than he ever had in the past. There was no feeling comparable to having a body lost, and the mind of another.

The orb continued to pulsate and blink with congested growls accompanied by long gasps for air. More children dressed in strange costumes, red leather breastplates, and worn leather skirts, circled around the orb holding hands. They stampeded through the blood as the man who walked through the ink had done. Their chanting was angelic. Their heads rose up towards the top of the safe where the light shone like bones in the sand. As if they had all in the same moment realized their surroundings, they looked up at the one standing in front of them, and froze.

The first moments of silence.

Wings began to sprout painfully from their backs. Most fell to the floor in agony, flailing their arms about as the newly formed wings ripped through their backs. They were angels; bright white feathers until they fell into the blood. For now, their cries were silent.

Raymond watched, pressed into the back of the safe, as the giant man bent down in wide-eyed amazement at these little beings in pain. His face filled the entirety of the opening. A smile, only subtly, entered his face.

The blood was deeper than Raymond assumed when he saw the safe from the large man’s perspective. All around the now giant effigy rolled blood soaked children of god. The man grinned in sharp angles, and the lady behind stood out of focus. He was going to close them in. Raymond could see it in his eyes. The whites were yellowed, and the edges of his skin looked sick and withering.

The children were slamming into the sides of the safe, unintentionally taking flight in consequence from the inexperience with their new appendages. Their cries were accentuated from the hollow metal; rapt and curious vibration.

The interior started to dim before the feeling had left him, and Raymond found the children giving up, hugging their legs on the floor, hoping it would all soon be over. Raymond looked up to see the last of the light, the one eye of the man, still peering in to get one last good look, before there was only blackness.

Nothing could have prepared Raymond for the sounds of agony appearing out of the aphotic asylum. He was unsure if he was still seeing the same dream as the lieutenant, or if the true dream was off doing whatever the man outside the safe was seeing. Either way, the cries would not stop, and the body inside was planted firmly on the ground. The fear of moving and brushing against something was too great to overlook. Lips were quivering. A finger was picking at his thumb. This was him…this was Raymond…He wasn’t apart of anyone’s dream, it was his own. He had fallen asleep attached to the carrier.

He began to scream. It seemed pointless above the other wails of torment.

Raymond was knocked off his feet and fell over. He tried a step forward but felt something give as it met his toe, something like a fallen blanket. He recoiled again to the back of the box. His hands fell over his face, and he began to claw at his scalp and forehead. It was all too much to take. The riotous banging conglomerated into one loud drum; a constant, deep rattle. He could hear the banging from above as well; some were still trying to fly out.

Raymond thought he had backed up into something sharp, but the wall was somehow out of reach. He tried grabbing at his back to feel what was there, but his arms were not long enough to reach. The pain hurt through his chest, something was growing inside. Like shot with white fire something grew out of his back. It took his breath away, and for a moment, there was a blinding light shining forth from the backs of his eyes. He looked with two large spotlights. The scene was worse than the pain. The children banged their fists on the ground, begging for it to stop. Some were bashing their heads against the walls to either try and kill themselves, or to take their minds off the pain. He looked away and without intention, saw one trying to rip the wings off another. They were allowing it to happen. From the center black fluid—and when smudged, green—seeped out from the top of the orb like a fountain. Without thinking Raymond ran towards the orb, wanting nothing more than to smash it to pieces. His wings forced him to take flight, but only for a split second. He was on the ground again. His hip slammed into the floor, and the headpiece lay next to him.

He took a moment to thank any god that may exist and quickly packed up the carrier.

The noises outside were greater than ever. Raymond peered out the window: Faint glimpses of static reds and fluid yellows that could only be fire scattered around the grid of the city like small points of interest on a map. He didn’t have time to consider the implications.

There were groups of hurried footsteps above. A door slammed, and then silence. Raymond held his breath. The ceiling sagged in the center where a brown stain had formed at its nadir.

As he stared, waiting for someone to come bursting through the door and send him away to prison for the rest of his life, he had time—too much time—to allow what had just happened in that dream to sink in. He fell to the ground and sobbed. There was nothing he could do to stop it. He didn’t care who heard. Those images would stick with him for the rest of his life. He may as well turn himself in now. How could he live with this for even a day?

But no one ever came through the door of the storage closet, and there was no way he was going to turn himself in. He was still safe.

He lay on the floor for quite some time. Every now and again the ground would shake and rumble, and a wave of sirens would fall into place. But suddenly he was sad no longer. This is what he had always wanted to do. Here he was, going against something as powerful as them, and it was all on him. He felt valiant, strong, like there was worth to his existence. Get up you damn buffoon!

The carrier was back in its case faster than the tears were able to dry from his cheeks. He ran through a set of double doors, fell through a long, narrow corridor with tremorous lights, and practically crawled into the rounded room which he so hated to clean.

The suitcase banged against his knees as he waited patiently for his mind to catch up with his body. He was out of breath, light headed, and on the verge of passing out.

He counted three doors around the circle, and without thinking twice pushed his elbow in with such force that the hinges rumbled, and his shoulder pulsed. He should have taken it as a warning that the door was already slightly ajar, but it was already too late. The door slammed into the wall, any mirage of reconnaissance had been shattered.

Something turned. The pressure in the room changed. Raymond tried to stop his body from moving forward. His left foot caught his momentum going forward and he inadvertently leaning towards the ground in a great bow. He wondered if he had just ruined it all, cursing to himself under his breath.

Tiny white shoes, the size of a child’s, were dirtied with one big toe coming through the top material. It too was blackened. A sudden image of that inky pool. There was no apparent source of light, but those feet glowed, regardless. As their back straightened, so did the knees connected to those white shoes. Without notice the feet were covered; a cloth of black dropped over top, short enough to hover over the ground, yet long enough to capture all light from reaching underneath. Raymond didn’t need to look up any further to know who it was: The phantom in the hallways. Tabulath. The one he was afraid of the most. All this time Tabulath had been scurrying with rat-like steps, not floating at all. All will of going through with the plan would have fallen to pieces had he known he would need to come this close to Tabulath. They sensed each other’s nauseating paralysis. Raymond feared for his life, and Tabulath feared for what was inside the suitcase. A bomb was not out of the question, especially now. But Raymond could see no face, and could sense no other emotion than fear.

Raymond was the first to move. Tabulath mirrored. They stopped. Tabulath’s cloak lagged gracefully behind like slow motion. Tabulath’s head wagged from side to side from its weight. There was absolute absence of light within. Raymond blinked wildly. A cold scrape on the ground signaled movement, yet neither of them budged. Tabulath instead raised their hands above their head. A scampering of syllables escaped from the confines of the dark, anonymous face. Raymond watched as the cloak fell to its elbows. He wasn’t sure whether he should run or continue listening. It was intriguing to hear such alien song, yet at the same time it scared him. The black gloves covering Tabulath’s hands were leather and shone phosphorescent from the blue-green glow of the wall behind. Raymond let the suitcase down slowly, setting it onto the ground without the smallest of sounds.

Something about the environment become sullen and more empathetic, in a way that made Raymond no longer frightened of the one standing in front of him. The motion of raising its hands into the air was archaic; yet hit Raymond as so much more human than he had ever taken the thing to be. The hands descended to the top of the box. Raymond’s eyes widened, he knew what was about to happen. The hands grasped at the side of the box while the quiet hymn still played in full. Its two pointer fingers found an indent located somewhere on two of the planes, and compressed a hidden button on either side. A loud hiss of air escaped. Raymond took a step back, turned his foot sideways, and anchored his body for what might come next. But there were no sudden movements, no foreign bodily gestures, nothing to merit any kind of defense. Only the box slowly rising off its shoulders; a sanctimonious gesture of giving in. It felt like they were moving through water with the black box being tugged in the opposite direction of where it was they were falling. Tabulath’s black fingers were spread wide across the outer planes.

At first, the separation of shoulders and head were arbitrarily somewhere along the long black neck. There were no shadows to give Raymond’s brain any clues. He wanted to look away. The hiss of escaping air was replaced with a gasping for any close enough to be inhaled into its tiny and shriveled lungs.

The first bit of light reflected was from its chin: Smooth, pale, feminine. The lips now came into view, large and white. Raymond could not believe it. This was the body of a women. Her cheekbones verified it, and her eyes, though sunken and dark, were radiant. She held the box under her arm. She was beautiful. Her hair was pulled tightly back behind her head, and her skin was beautifully pale from being unexposed to sunlight for so long.

“I thought I needed to tell you in person,” Tabulath spoke in long, broken tones, “real person.” Raymond didn’t dare yet answer. “They know what you are doing,” Raymond’s stomach wretched, “but I can help you.” She spoke as if every word pained her, yet continued on. “What you need now, more than ever, is a friend. I’ve watched you for some time. We are not that different, you know. Living in the shadows, afraid to show our faces.” Raymond noticed her chin had begun to wrinkle. “I needed to tell you—to make you understand that you are not alone. Behind me is what you are looking for…and I will give it to you. But you have to promise me one thing.”

“What’s that?” Raymond couldn’t help his voice from quivering. The skin on her chin began flaking off, and the eyes that were once so radiant, looked old and haggard. Her cheeks began to fall flat and turn a broken, blood vessel purple.

“You need to promise me that your plan is going to work.”

“Plan?” It was the first time Raymond had considered that there was a plan larger than he.

“To save all those people…To stop their suffering and starving in the desert. You must find them in the future and let them know they can return.” Her lips drooped and curled over the tops of themselves. “They are out of control,” she continued. “For years I helped them gather intelligence for the galactic armies. I traded in my whole life to help them. But my pleas of…” she coughed, “a celestial confrontation were shot down. They have known they were coming for quite some time. A few generations even. It would…cost them too much money to save everyone. They would need to shift funding to train soldiers, and build ships for those troops to fight. But of course this means losing their fortunes. To give up their own comforts for the…greater good. They have no intention of trying to save any they deem unworthy to live in this city. So instead, they built a machine to transfer it, to run away. To close themselves off to the problem, not fix it. I curse myself everyday for trying to help the people I thought I loved. I have taken on more space-time than most any human. I was exposed to too much radiation…And for that I must—for the rest of my life—wear this.” She motioned to the box under her arm. She looked unwell, pale green. “I am sure you can see…how fast my body deteriorates when exposed to the air. I must put this back on…But please,” she stepped further to the side to expose an open safe with an orb glowing blue inside, “make sure…that you can get this into…the right hands…and quick…They know you are here. Run!”

The box went back over her head, and she became once again the silent spectre that walked the gloomy halls and decrepit rooms with mirrored constructs.

She meant for him to grab it himself.

“Thank you,” he said humbly, sure she hadn’t heard, before he took the perbitor and walked out the door, too afraid to look back.

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