It felt like hours before I fell asleep. Outside the room I could hear Meredith pacing about the apartment and, though I did not hear her voice, I was certain she was speaking with someone. Why I should feel this way I could not say, but it was of a piece with the rest of the inexplicable day. Multiple universes. Seekers. Hidden Societies and secret wars. I had no idea who I was, what city, or indeed what world, I was in and each of Meredith’s revelations offered no solid ground on which I could stand.
The crux of the matter, it seemed to me, lay in Meredith’s identity and her relationship with me. Friends of convenience, she had said. Acquaintances. What did these things mean and why did I continually feel she was lying to me? All that she had told me to this point fit the facts as best I understood them and she had saved me from the Seeker. I was under no illusions as to his intent, or his otherworldly nature, after our encounter that afternoon. Still, I could not bring myself to trust her. Who was she and why was she involved in my life?
If I could only remember something of myself. It was strange to me that I knew the fundamental laws of this world and had an understanding of how things should be here, yet I knew nothing of these other universes. Meredith had told me I came from another universe, should I not have the same basic understanding of it, of all of this? Nothing made sense, nothing seemed right, and I had no idea what to believe.
Sleep came to me eventually, but my confused state remained, pursuing me into my dreams. In them I was being hunted by hundreds of insect-eyed men. They were everywhere I turned and no matter where I tried to hide myself they could see me. One moment I was in a forest of dandelion-like flowers, their heads white with long, spindly seeds that rattled in the wind. The next I was deep underground, in a vast empty complex, my footsteps echoing down the metallic corridors. As I scurried through these strange places, twisting and turning, doubling back on my path, the army of Seekers always discovering me regardless, I found myself wondering if these places were real. Were they a part of the other universe that I had been to before? Continue reading
My words hung in the air, the silence growing uncomfortable as we both avoided each other’s gaze, unsure of how to proceed. After the momentary relief of my confession, the need to carry on with the poor charade I had attempted now obviated, my unease returned in full force. My future was now tied to Meredith, and a precarious future it was with the specter of the Seeker looming on every horizon, and I had no way to tell whether the trust I had given her was earned.
“I’m going to make some tea,” she said. “Would you like some? This could take awhile.”
“Sure,” I said, glad for the distraction. It was good to have something in my hands, something to do, otherwise I kept twitching my fingers, touching them together in weird patterns to get the feel and sense of them. Nothing about them felt like my own. While Meredith was making the tea I wandered about the apartment, picking up books off the shelves and glancing at them. All of them were about various religions, origins and histories, anthropologies and comparative studies. The words became a blur after a time.
When the tea was ready we sat beside each other on the couch again, Meredith curling her legs underneath her and wrapping both hands around the steaming cup. We were near enough to touch one another and her closeness felt deliberate, an attempt to establish a rapport with me. I told myself I was being unfair, that it was just my own discomfort, the totality of my confusion, which made me suspect her of manipulating me.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened,” Meredith said, blowing on her tea. I felt my hands tremble at her words, my whole body seeming to go cold.
“When was the first time?” Continue reading
Meredith was the first to move, releasing her grip on my arms and plucking the button from my neck. She returned it and the one she wore to her jacket pocket while I rubbed my throat, the cold gradually receding from my skin. I was giddy with relief at our apparent escape and had a thousand questions, but Meredith’s face was marked by a coiled sort of anger that warned me from asking any of them just now.
Nightfall approached, the sun low in the sky and the shadows long, by the time we left the apartment building, slipping out the back into a taxi Meredith had called. She sent the driver on a circuitous route, watching out the back window for the entire trip, with the same grim expression on her face. When she was satisfied we had not been followed she directed him to an apartment building called the Ivanhoe, an older brick building in a neighborhood I thought was close to where I lived. Each floor, I noted as we ascended up the stairs to the fifth, had a slightly unpleasant odor in its hallway, all of them distinct from the others somehow.
The apartment that Meredith brought me to was cramped and narrow, filled with ornate antique furniture too large for its rooms, forcing us to navigate with care in order to move about the place. There were shelves heavy with books, some of them very old, and the air was heavy with the smell of them. Everything here seemed to run counter to the person I had met that afternoon, it had none of Meredith’s care or precision.
Seeing the look on my face, Meredith said, “It’s a friends. Someone they couldn’t possibly know, so it should take them awhile to find us again.”
“How long?” Continue reading
Meredith dragged me along as she ran, pulling my arm so violently I feared my shoulder might fly from my socket. Behind us I heard a cry in a strange accent, a word I thought I knew, though I could not place it. I whispered it to myself as I tried to keep up to Meredith and she glared at me furiously, yanking even harder upon my arm. The sounds of pursuit grew nearer as we ducked around a corner and into a broad alley, weaving around trash dumpsters. One of the pursuers—the man with the goggles, I was certain—uttered a command and somehow I knew they were splitting up to cut off our avenues of escape.
I began to say something, but Meredith silenced me with a glance. Directly in our path were two cooks in stained white jackets outside having a smoke break and Meredith headed for them with me in tow. They glanced up in surprise at our rapid approach, their astonishment soon replaced by fear as they saw the man behind us in pursuit. Their conversation silenced they watched us, open-mouthed and frozen in place, as Meredith blew past them, carrying me with her. She threw open the door leading into the kitchen, with such violence it almost rebounded off the wall to hit us, and we plunged within before either cook had time to recover and do anything.
Inside we were met by a shout of anger from another cook and a stunned shriek from the waitress we bowled over as we dodged through the galleys. By the time I noticed the scalding heat hitting my face, we were already out of kitchen, emerging to find ourselves near a bar. A couple, with their arms slung over each other as they leaned against the counter, glanced up at our sudden entrance. Again I noted the long delay before the surprise registered on their faces. Was time moving slower for me, each instant fuller than the last?
I had no time to think about that for Meredith did not pause, flying around the bar, shoving aside anyone who came near our path, and it was all I could do to keep up with her. The staff was slow to react as well, only moving in our direction when we reached the entrance to the place. By then shouts and cries began to arise again from the kitchen and a low murmur of consternation erupted, cut silent by the door swinging shut behind me as we returned to the street. Here Meredith paused for a second to get her bearings, glancing left and right. My face felt hot and my pulse echoed loudly in my temple. I could not seem to get enough air into my lungs. Continue reading