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Unread 16th of August, 2009, 10:24
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Psychonaut

You cannot hide.

The thought rips through Will's mind like white hot shrapnel. The world around him explodes as colors and sounds - textures and smells combining synesthetically. Pure primal panic engulfs him as he struggles to stand, his every cell screaming with nine million years of genetic programming -

RUN

His brain felt like it was breaded with glass and salt and shoved into a skull four sizes too small. His every footfall sends waves of suffering cascading across his vision, making the alley even more difficult to navigate. Something hits him, knocking him backward through the air like a rag doll. For an instant it feels as if he belly-flopped off the Brooklyn Bridge, but then his back hits a wall with such force that bone and brick shatter on impact. He hangs there for a moment, half imbedded in the rain slicked wall before falling to wet, garbage strewn ground some twenty feet below.

We are...disappointed the voice fills his mind.

Disappointed... other voices echo in response.

Will is unsure how long he had been laying there, face down in a puddle of his own blood. For a brief moment he thinks he is dead, but the lancing cries of the ragged tissues of his broken body convince him otherwise.

Stand. Invisible hands of mental energy wrench him into the air. He hangs there spread eagle, as the bands of force twist and wrench his limbs in and out socket with loud, wet, popping noises. He can feel his intestines swell and burst from his abdomen like confetti from a party popper.

He would scream if his ribs weren't crushing his heart.

Why he stayed conscious is beyond him. He wanted to pass out, or go into shock. Even death would have been preferable to the raw, unending agony. His mind hangs shackled to the suffering sack of writhing meat, feeling every torment as if it were new. The torture stops for a moment as the voice again flows through his consciousness.

Tells us of the others,

Yes, the others... the chorus repeats.

In the alley the shadows begin to move, flowing off of the urban detritus in murky sheets of mist it coalesces in front of him into a roughly man-shaped pillar of roiling smoke. A mask hangs in the air where a face would be. A mask that looks as if it is made of hammered bronze and crafted in a Hellenist style. Patches of patina cling to the lines of wild hair, and lie moss-like in the tight curls of the mask's beard. But it is the face that is most striking. Wide, golden eyes are frozen with a look somewhere between divine horror and mortal sorrow.

Tell us...

The weight of a thousand suns crushes against his mind, burrowing deep into the core of his being. Memories begin to hemorrhage into his consciousness; his first Christmas, the day he graduated from college, his first sexual encounter, holding his mother's hand as she died of pancreatic cancer. Everything he was wrenched from his brain and violated. He feels shame and impotence, unable to control the most private and personal part of him.

Where are you hiding...

Hiding... the chorus repeats, and Will is vaguely aware of other masked phantoms dancing about him, their forms nebulous save for their gold masks. As incorporeal as their bodies were, their minds trampled through the vistas of his consciousness like Gulliver through Blefuscu.

Suddenly the dancing stops. As one the shadows turn towards the end of the alley, their bronze masks intent on its opening to the street beyond. At length they turn towards each other as if in conversation.

You cannot hide from us, the voice returns, resonant with frustration.

We will find you... the chorus replies.

With a wet thud Will's body falls to the ground.

Last edited by -J-; 4th of June, 2010 at 05:02.
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Unread 1st of September, 2009, 13:54
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Will’s world is a land of soft lines and blurred features. Objects bleed together, sharing the same point at the same time. He smiles. All things in this world are connected. No man is an island. The chair is a part of the floor as surely as the IV is a part of his arm. Harmony reigns in her summer court, passing gentle benedictions to her loyal subjects. All is as it should be—even his prone, shattered body immobilized in this hospital bed. It is a small price to pay to be part of this perfect world.

Eyes close. Eyes open.

Seagulls cry. He’s sitting on a beach in khaki pants that are rolled up to his knees. Nearby, a crumpled Oxford shirt lies next to a pair of brown socks and dress shoes. The wind plays along the beach, running and laughing as it runs its fingers through his hair. The air is warm, one of those achingly rare days where the temperature is just right. His feet are curled in the wet sand in front of him. The tide rolls in, brushes his toes, and then retreats to consult with itself before returning to say hello again. Will’s toes extend a welcome, and offer a token of friendship by wiggling. So begins the great Atlantic-Crozier peace talks.

Eyes close. Eyes open.

He is lounging in a pond of quicksilver. It feels like bathing in something like chocolate syrup without the stickiness. When he supinates his palms and raises his arms out of the pool, the argent liquid runs off in rivulets and he cannot help but feel reluctance on its part. It is lonely. It is missing something. It is searching for a completion. Will submerges his arms once more. Across from him an enormous butterfly lands upon a Brobdingnagian flower. It rests its gossamer wings as it drinks deep of nectar. It isn’t stealing from the flower. They are kissing. What the butterfly takes it also leaves and when it flaps its wings once more, the two are better for it. They will be together again.

Eyes close. Eyes open.

Will sits at an old wooden table in a small house. Through the window he can see September in her finest dress. The trees are a riot of colors; Mother Nature’s own fireworks. A mug of tea sits in front of him, steam curling and arching like smoke. Henry David Thoreau takes a seat opposite him. His nose is prominent and his hair disheveled. His eyes are serious and dark ringed.

“Water is the only drink for a wise man,” Thoreau says, “but tea has its place.”

“It is a luxury,” Will says.

“Aye.” A smile touches Thoreau. “But writing has its demands. You must find a balance.”

“Will it get you a bridge named after you?”

“For Walt.”

“A luxury,” Will says.

“Yes.”

Eyes close. Eyes open.

Will is strapped to a long wooden bench. A dozen imps beset him. They have cruel, curved knives. They cut of his flesh and bone. Will screams again and again. He begs. He pleads. He admits to his sins. He admits to the sins of others. He asks for forgiveness. They give him nothing but steel. They take brushes to his body, dipping them in his belly like a can, and paint terrible pictures along the stone walls of his prison. They are looking for something. They can’t find it. They do not stop.

Light blossoms in the room. The imps quail and quake and scatter, leaving cloven tracks of his blood as they disappear into the shadows. The radiance is too strong. It blinds him. The last thing he sees before his eyes are burned from their sockets is the beautiful face of his savior. Her eyes are so kind that his heart fractures and crumbles. He will never know the compassion she holds for him. A smooth hand brushes through his hair and he sighs.

His Angel of Morphine.

Eyes close. Eyes open.

Will awakens in the bed again. The lines are hard and firm. All things are apart. Every man is an island. Queen Harmony has died and her brother Grim has taken the throne. Will’s eyes stray up to the IV. It trips down into his veins. The curtain next to him is drawn, but he can hear the ragged breath of a man on his way to meet death. The stench of sick and pledge makes his stomach quiver. The painkillers are wearing off. His head is clearing. He sees the layers of bandages and casts set about him. He starts to cry. There is no one to listen.

Will is broken.
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Unread 26th of October, 2009, 16:42
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William, can you hear me?

Will's eyes crack open. He can't manage any more than slits. Liquid sunshine oozes through the window. It is mid-morning and the day revels in her brilliance, lavishing the tiles in a warm embrace. Slowly, ever so slowly, his gaze slides across the room. The walls are a sterile off-white that only serve to reflect the sun's saccharine smile. A seat is pulled up next to his bed, empty. He stares at the hard plastic seat. Its vacancy is strums a painful chord within him; an emotional accompaniment to the physical pain he feels. No one is here to see him.

His head lolls to the side. Focus is elusive, slipping away like water through his hands. He can't remember what happened or how he got here. He just knows that everything hurts. One leg is elevated and is surrounded by a hard cast. his arm is in a sling, tucked high on his chest. He can feel the gauze pressing against his stomach and sides.

Something bad happened. Something very bad.

William...?

Will opens his mouth and finds it impossibly dry. A nurse, or maybe a doctor, is talking to him. He needs to find out what happened. He needs to tell them to call his parents. Not since he was 14 years old and had broken his arm playing JV football has he felt the overwhelming need for his mother and father. Fear grips him and he regresses.

He never should have moved to this city.

"It'll be okay, honey," his mother's voice calls. Will’s head rolls to the side to see her. She’s hunched forward in the chair, her face full of worry and love. He can smell something: pumpkin chocolate chip. A plate of cookies sits nearby covered with saran wrap. Stillborn tears hang in his mother’s brown eyes and when she lays a hand on his Will's own eyes brim.

"Mom?" His voice is little more than a rasp. "How did—?"

"Shh. The doctors said you need to rest. No talking. I got the call last night. I was on the first flight out this morning. I couldn’t sleep so I made your favorite cookies. I thought you might want them when you get…” She bites her lip, fighting for control. “Oh, Will. We were so worried about you."

Will closes his eyes and forces down the lump in his throat.

We don't have much time.

We never do. The moments that are purest and best, those that make life worth living, are always those that are most fleeting. These short seconds are what we cling to in the dark times. They serve as a reminder of all the beauty this world can hold when we are lost. A kiss, an embrace, a simple act of kindness; each is as varied as the person, but the one constant is that it always involves another human being. These moments of euphoria are defined by a connection to another person. And while they may be bittersweet at times, stinging as much as they soothe, these vignettes are the marks in our life when our souls sing with joy.

"Dad?"

Something unreadable flickers across her face. "He'll be here soon. There was only one seat left on the first flight. He's on the next one."

William Crozier. You need to listen to me.

"There's something else too," she says. "I hope you won't be upset, Will. It's just that...well...I called Katie when I landed and told her you were here. She said she was leaving work to come see you."

"Mom—”

“I know. But I thought it would do you good to see her too.”

He opens his mouth to reply, but no words come out as Katie appears in the doorway. Her dark hair hangs in waves that come to rest on her shoulders.
She’s dwarfed by Will’s father standing behind her in the doorway.

“Hi, Will,” she says. Her eyes are pale green like lichen. They normally sparkle when she’s amused but now they just look incredibly wide. Will feels the heat rush to his cheeks. He doesn’t want to be seen like this.

“Son,” his father’s baritone reminds him of being a five again and hearing the rumbling laughter as they watched a movie together. John Crozier’s normally stony face is chiseled with anguish.

My name is Alicia Roberts, I am a licensed and bonded telepath with the Mount Sinai center in New York.

“Hi, guys,” he says. His voice feels small.

In a flash they are over to him. Katie has her arms around his neck, burying her head against his. His father has one giant hand gripping Will’s good shoulder. In this room are the three people in the world he loves best and in this moment they all love him too. Will closes his eyes and savors this brief taste of paradise. Heaven is not an empyrean plane of halos and clouds. It is this moment here. He drinks it in, feeling as if he might burst from joy.

William, you are hallucinating.

“No,” he whispers. This cannot be fake. It means too much. The mist in his father’s eyes is too real. The warmth and feel of Katie pressed against him makes his heart so glad it aches. It’s just the drugs making him paranoid, that’s all. He can’t let that cloud his mind.

I’m sorry, William. But I know what happened. You and your father haven’t spoken in two years.

The hand gripping his shoulder vanishes.

You drove Katie away with your insecurities.

The warmth disappears, leaving the scent of lavender in the air.

And your mother…

Will opens his eyes and holds the gaze with his mother. She is so sad. He struggles to sit up, reaching for her with his free arm.

“I’m sorry, Will,” she says. In a blink, she’s gone. Will’s hand trembles.

She died.

In a blink, she’s gone. Will’s hand trembles.

You have to listen to me.

“No.” It is as much a refutation of the command as it is a denial of reality.

William, you are dying.
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Unread 27th of December, 2009, 05:21
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“Wake up, Will!”

His eyes flutter open. It takes him a moment to parse the dream from reality, gripped by the vividness of it all. The skin on his back is hot and slick with sweat from the nightmare and his chin feels like there is drool drying on it. He blinks several times forcing his mind to shake off the fugue. Katie is lying next to him, a tiny smirk on her face.

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” he says, his mind foggy. “Yeah. That was weird.”

Sunlight streams in through the gaps in the curtain between the window and the wall. It projects slats of pure golden energy against the off-white walls of his bedroom. He and Katie are a tangled mess in bed. Will is on his back, sheets and blanket askew and one leg foot dangling off the side into space. Katie props herself up on his chest and stares down at him with those mossy eyes of hers. Her skin is warm against his. Her hair hangs past her shoulders, in the gap between them, just barely brushing against him. The light streaming in catches her head which is tilted just right to create a blazing corona around her.

It takes his breath away.

Will is suddenly filled with the knowledge that this is one of the perfect little moments in life. It’s the counterpoint to our biggest triumphs; it is the mortar that fills the gaps between our pinnacles. Nothing about it is important, but that is the point. It is these warm seconds that gladden the heart and sends our spirits soaring—even if only for a short while. The encounters are as varied as those involved. Sometimes it’s the warmth of a hand held within our own, other times it’s the pure romance of a kiss stolen in a shadowy corner. He makes himself soak in these uncounted minutes, reveling in their glory for what they truly are: bliss. It is nothing more than a lazy Saturday in bed with the woman that he loves, but to Will, it is perfect.

God, he thinks. Remember this. Remember this.

Fragments of the dream return, worrying his psyche like the shadowy wolves that they are. Echoes of loss and pain and heartache flood him. The dark waves do not drown the surging feelings of love, but create a brilliant island surrounding by churning iron seas. It makes him want to cling to the beacon of light all the more. He does so, crushing Katie against him in a suddenly frantic hug.

“Hey,” she says, her voice muffled but amused against his shoulder. “Hey! It’s okay.”

One hand is wound through her hair and cupping the back of her head while the other encircles her waist. His eyes are closed and he tries to hold onto the moment for as long as he can. But the pursuit of it is like chasing the dream you have just awoken from. Every step you spend running after it sends it ten paces away until it disappears over the horizon and you are left holding nothing but the disappointing strands of reality.

Katie holds onto him for one last beautiful moment and then gently disengages, propping herself back up again. Her head is at a different angle this time. There is no solar halo.

“It was that bad, huh?”

“Yeah,” he says.

She casts an eye at the clock perched on the nightstand next to his bed. A book, a watch, and an errant sock are also strewn across its surface. The oak is stained a dark shade of brown and it sits slightly off kilter due to one leg being shorter than the other. It is the only remnant of his failed attempt at picking up carpentry as a hobby after college.

“What time were we supposed to meet your parents again?”

He yawns, tired despite the long night’s rest. “I don’t know. Twelve?”

“Shit,” she says, looking back at him, eyes wide.

Will closes his eyes and rests his hands on her waist. “We’re late, aren’t we?”

“No,” Katie says, “I mean, we’ve got at least a whole three minutes to get downtown.”

They lie there for a moment, looking at each other, before leaping to their feet and running into the bathroom, laughing as they throw on the shower and scramble to get ready.



They made impressive time, all things considered, arriving just 20 minutes late. His mother spotted them first. She was wearing an overcoat that was cinched tight against the autumnal chill. But were the date different Will suspected he would have seen her garbed the same in early June as late October. She leaped to her feet at the site of her son and Katie coming through the double doors of the downtown restaurant and bar and waved energetically.

His father John had been sitting in a chair next to her, looking for all the world like a slumbering giant. His head was bowed slightly and a copy of the Tribune was folded in half in his hands. Will had inherited his physique as a cross between the Croziers and the Gibsons. His father and his brothers were all a few inches shorter but broader whereas his uncles from his mother’s side were tall and lanky. Deborah Gibson Crozier herself was a slender bird of a woman with fading straight blonde hair that fell just to her shoulders.
Deborah was all smiles and moist eyes as Will and Katie approached and she hugged both of them fiercely. John, meanwhile, stirred in his chair and rose to his feet. His face was ever-rough, but tell-tale sparkle was in his eye when he was happy was there and his lips were curled ever so slightly at the corners. How these two had ever come to pass as a couple still mystified Will to that day.

A few minutes later, they were escorted to their table by the maître d’ that expertly guided them between tables.



“So, dear, was traffic bad today?” His mother asks leaning on the table. His father studies the menu as if it contains the secret formula for transmuting lead to gold. Perhaps not, but Will hopes he at least finds the regents for turning hunger into happiness.

“Um,” he says. Katie smiles into her water glass as she quickly raises it to her lips. “Yeah. Also, I might have overslept a bit.”

“You boys!” Deborah rolls her eyes and offers Katie a conspirator’s wink. “Next time he does this just do what I did when he was twelve. Roll him out of bed! I still have to do that to his father now and again, you know.”

A chuckle rumbles from his father. The conversation is interrupted, and Will is saved, by the appearance of their waitress. She has dark almond eyes and black curly hair and she stands at the side of the table between Will and Katie.

“Good afternoon,” she says, offering a brilliant smile. “My name is Alicia and I will be taking care of you today. Just wanted to tell you all about the specials we have. For soups we have a wonderful new white chicken chili and a minestrone. For our main course we’re offering a shrimp manicotti. And for dessert we have a Wake the Fuck Up, Will—You’re Dying.”

Will blinks. His family and girlfriend are unperturbed.

“Thank you, Alicia,” Deborah says. “Are you guys ready to order?”

“Um,” Will says.

“I’m ready,” Katie says.

“Me too,” John says.

“Uh,” Will says.

“Okay,” Alicia smiles again, and shifts on her feet. There is no pad of paper in her hands. She simply stands there and waits for them to proceed.

“I’d like the cobb salad,” Deborah says. “With, um, bleu cheese.”

“Very good,” Alicia says and turns to face Katie. “And for you?”

“Chicken and pesto sandwich?”

“Excellent choice,” she says. “Sir?”

John Crozier peers at the menu again, searching it for secrets. “I’ll, ah, have the salmon.”

“Wonderful,” she says. “It’s fresh from the market. And you, sir?”

“Um,” Will says. “What was the dessert today again?”

“Will,” Deborah says, admonishing him. “Dessert before lunch? Didn’t we raise you better?”

Alicia gives him a knowing smile and says, “The special is the Wake the Fuck Up, Will—You’re Dying.”

“Right,” Will says. “I thought that’s what I heard. Okay, uh, could I have the manicotti then?”

“You sure can,” Alicia says. She stares at him, eyes boring a hole into his skull. “And anything else?”

“…and a Wake the Fuck Up, Will—You’re Dying?”

“You know,” Deborah says. “That sounds good. Why don’t we all get that for dessert too?”

“So, four orders then?” Alicia appears to make a mental note.

“Yes,” Deborah says.

Alicia smiles once more. “Perfect. I’ll bring them out once you’re finished. You’re going to love it. The pain is freshly made here.”

“Mmm,” Katie says. “That does sound good.”

Will’s mouth is agape. Meanwhile, his loved ones descend back into chatter. His mother asks Katie about her job in HR while his father listens for a time but his eyes keep straying back to the front page of the Tribune. A moment earlier it had said something about a local election runoff for the port commissioner but now the bold typeface has changed to reveal a new headline.

TIME IS RUNNING SHORT, WILL!

“Wonder who’s gonna win,” John Crozier says, looking up from the paper and at his son.

Will quietly slides his chair back from the table with a mumbled pardoning and makes his way toward the men’s room. His face is flushed and his heart jackhammers in his chest, trying to escape its fleshy prison. Something is very wrong. However, before he can make it to the sanctum of the facilities he’s intercepted by Alicia the waitress. She’s smiling the same easy smile as before; it’s one formed from hours of practice of putting on her best in the face of a customer’s wrath.

“Excuse me, sir,” she says. “I just had one quick question about your order.”

Will blinks. His heart pounds in his chest. She stands there expectant of a response so he gives her one.

“Okay?”

“Did you want your reality brought out to you now? Or would you like to wallow in your fantasies longer?”

He looks around. Everything here is real. The restaurant bustles with the activity of a noontime rush. Patrons are scattered throughout each having conversations where they laugh in jest or nod seriously or speak plainly about the mundane. The servers move back and forth, managing their own personal pandemonium to the best of their ability, juggling orders and plates and bills with all the agility they can muster. A bartender works with quick, purposed hands, crafting cocktails or pulling beers as fast as she can.

In dreams, we accept what happens as reality. Gone are the waking questions of motivations or the hints and thoughts of ulterior purposes. There is only what is and nothing more. The purity of consciousness is striking. There are no layers beyond what lurks on the surface. In dreams we believe that, yes, perhaps we are capable of flying or that fifty foot lava monsters could conceivably rise up out of a volcano and chase us down its rough slopes. Meaning does not matter until we are wrenched back into physical existence. So it is that this bizarre turn of events has Will at odds with the fact that he cannot accept this as truth. If it was a dream he would have gladly ordered the absurd dessert and thought nothing of his family’s remarks. It would be something to reflect on in his waking hours, briefly mulled over and then cast aside as a random piece of his subconscious.

This has to be real. He wants it to be. And even if it is a dream then it is being ruined by this one waitress—this one god damn singular entity that is cursing his fortune and was what was, no, is a perfect part of his life. His eyes narrow as he turns back to her, wroth at this interruption.

“Oh,” Alicia says, “you’re angry. Good. You want to maybe put some of this energy toward, you know, living?”

“Okay,” he says. “Clearly something is going on here. I mean, nobody would agree to the crazy shit you were saying at our table. So what’s the deal? Is this some sort of prank by my family? Or am I dreaming now? Is that it? Because I’m okay with that. Let’s roll with it. My subconscious has gotten pretty weird lately, but fuck it. I’ll take it. It’ll make a good story later.”

“Yes, Will. This is all a dream,” she says. “That’s why I’m wasting all this time trying to get your sorry ass to wake up and live. Jesus Christ! I’ve never met someone who’s so willing to indulge in this self-deceptive bullshit. Do you want to keep breathing or not?”

“Fine,” Will says, folding his arms over his chest. “Let’s wake up and live. Let’s do that, Alicia.”

“Good,” she says. Her smile is not sweet this time. “This will hurt.”

“What do you mean?”

“Listen now, Will,” she says. There’s something unreadable in her voice. Perhaps a sudden wave of compassion, or maybe it’s professionalism. Yet it is not her voice that captures him, but her eyes. The iris of each look like twin pools of chocolate and gazing into the pupils is like looking through binoculars into the infinite reaches of space. Will leans forward, transfixed. He imagines he can see the clusters of tiny galaxies and the hazy swirls of nebulae. “You must remember this. You must hang on.”

“I don’t understand.” And he doesn’t. Their faces are inches apart. To any observer outside observer it would look like a pair of lovers moving in for a kiss. But it is not an amorous gesture by Will. He can see forever.

She does not reply but simply reaches out and places her hand on his cheek.

It is then, and only then, that the pain begins.

Last edited by Cadrius; 29th of December, 2009 at 13:48.
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Unread 26th of February, 2010, 09:24
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"Where the hell are my scans?" doctor Pierce's voice cut through the ER operating room as decisively as his scalpel slid through the flesh of the mangled body on the table in front of him.

Mangled didn't really do it justice - the...meat...in front of him looked as much human as a lump of hamburger looked like a cow. He'd already lost a nurse and two of his interns - one intern fainted, the other one and the nurse were outside dry heaving. That left him and doctor Jacobs as attending physicians and his two interns, Alicia and Larry.

The door to the OR bursts open and the on duty radiologist rushes in, a stack of shiny x-ray films in his hand. The portly black man staggers as he slips on the growing pool of blood on the floor.

"About time Abrams," Pierce says, his eyes fixed on the mess of viscera in front of him. Puffs of smoke and steam curl toward the bank of lights above as he guides a cauterizer with the skill of a twenty year surgical veteran. Hemostats blossom from the man's ruined torso like a field of bloody chrome clover.

This boy is going to die.

Pierce had seen his share of lost causes. Ten years as an army surgeon exposes a man to just about every horror modern technology could inflict on the frail flesh of its creator. He had seen enough GSW, shrapnel, lacerations, burns, and IED trauma to make his dreams perpetually run sanguine. Through all of it he had kept a solemn vow - never give up before your patient.

"Holy fuck..." Jacobs exhales as the scalpel falls from his hand. He stands in front of the glowing bank of lights looking at the films the radtech had put up.

"Speak to me Jacobs."

"Um...ah..." the fact that he was at a loss said it all.

"Clamp that bleeder, Larry. That's it. You're doing fine." The intern nodded as his gore covered hands moved robotically. Trust your training soldier... Pierce glances at the heart monitor - amazed to still find a steady pulse. With a moment to spare he slides next to the rad-tech, Abrams, the slack jawed Jacobs.

"What is it..." he starts then the words simply vanish.

This boy should be dead.

His entire skeleton was powderized and white shards of bone fragments dotted every organ. They had started with his abdomen mainly because he was already split open when he arrived, but now...

He didn't even know where to start - he only knew that the boy should be dead.

Halt shock, normalize blood flow, and God will take care of the rest, his CO would say.

He didn't know how the boy was still alive, and he didn't know how to save him. All he knew was that right now he was alive, and that he had to try.

"OK....OK....Abrams get on the phone I need the thoracic, cardiac and neurologic surgeons on call."

"Everyone's tied up right now with that bus rollover, but i'll see what I can do," Abrams calls over his shoulder as he hurries toward the door.

"Oh and Abrams, tell the rest of my team to either mask up, or clean our their lockers." With a nod the technician pushes through the door.

"Doctor Pierce?" Larry's pleading voice brought both surgeons to the table. The intern had been doing well, but there simple was too much damage for him to deal with. "Take a break Larry," Pierce says. He deftly resumes his suturing as Jacobs smoothly slides in.

"We'll need to crack his chest to pull out those fragments in the pericardium."

"Right. Larry bag him, Alicia, I need a fresh set of hands over here." Larry slid to the head of the table, but the blonde intern continued her rythmic pumping of the ambu-bag.

"Alicia, sometime today." Pierce glances up and swears softly. The girl has to be in shock. "Damnit Alicia get your head back in this." Maybe it was Pierce's tone, or maybe the touch of Larry's bloody hand on hers, but the blonde intern's eyes snapped open with a start.

An instant later the room erupts with the sharp squeal of electronic monitors.

"Blood pressure is bottoming. He's going into v-tac."

"Paddles!" Pierce yells as the boy's heart tries to hammer out of the crushed remains of his chest. The whine of charging capacitors fill the room as Jacobs rubs contact gel on the metal plates of the defibulator.

"Clear! Alicia goddamnit, CLEAR!" Larry moves to pull her hands away from the boys face, then stops as the heart monitor cries out the monotone dirge of a flatline. In a blur of motion Pierce grabs the bone saw and begins opening the boy's chest.

"Get the hell out of my operating room!" he screams as the high pitched whir of the blade sends bits of blood and tissue splattering across her face.

"I can save him." Her voice is almost a whisper.

"GET OUT!"

"No."

Pierce turns, his eyes bulging at her defiance. "Larry, get her out of my operating room." Shaking, the intern reaches a bloody gloved hand to pull her away from the patient.

No

A voice, her voice, resounds in the three men's minds. It is then that Pierce realizes that he is no longer in control of his own body. He impotently watches as his own hand sets the bone saw on the tray next to him.

I'm sorry it had to be this way doctors. Now stand there. The command ripples through his nervous system like lightning. He struggles to move, but his body remains rigid. Out of the corner of his eye he can see her throw her head back, her face twisting in silent agony. With a twang the hemostats snap open and begin to levitate, and he watches in horror as rolls of bloody gauze and sponges follow suit. Inside his flesh prison he screams in rage as in seconds hours of work unwinds.

There was nothing to do now but wait for exsanguination.

A shudder ripples through the mass of flesh before him, followed by another. Soon the entirety of the boy's body is twitching and quivering as if manipulated by thousands of unseen hands. Bones groan and creak as they slide, and merge back together. Limp, noodle like limbs stretch and once again became firm. Suddenly the baleful wail of the flatline monitor ends, replaced by the steady beep of a perfect QRS wave. The boy's chest swells upward under the rapid stacatto of ribs popping back into place. Entrails twist and unknot, before settling behind a red wall of knitting muscles and fascia.

A nose and cheek bones rise out of the bloody mush that was his face and with a sudden gasp his eyes flutter open. A muted scream struggles around the plastic tube in his trachea as his eyes dart around in agonized confusion. Suddenly the force holding Pierce immobile is gone, and he rushes forward in time to catch the swooning Alicia.

"Sedate...him. The pain..." she mumbles pulling off her mask. Red trails of blood trickle from her nostrils and slide from her cheek to the floor.

"I'm sorry..." her voice trails off as she slips into oblivion. On the table above him Pierce can hear the boy's thrashing ebb away on the sweet wings of morphine.

Pierce sat silently on the floor holding the limp body of the blonde intern wondering if Christ had days like this.
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Unread 9th of April, 2010, 14:06
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The sights and sounds of a hospital are as comforting as they are alien. IVs lean as close as concerned family members, pouring support into the beleaguered patient. Machines whir and hum with their own small talk. Beds are drawn up with crisp sheets to nurture and hold. The human denizens help too, living testaments to the science of healing. They talk to the LCDs and syringes, and shake hands with the pills and gauze, working to restore what is broken.

But while the strange contraptions with stranger names may soothe, there is one thing that all hospitals share that cannot be changed.

The smell.

It does not smell like death. No. That would be too obvious, too overpowering, to ignore. What lurks in the air of a hospital is a softer menace. It is the odor of sick, a cloying stench that is masked by a flood of Pine Sol and Lemon Pledge, but it can never be wiped out. Not if you closed down the hospital for a hundred years would the smell leave those dusty halls. It is a part of the building. It is part of the process. While some rejoice at the sparing of their loved ones, others weep over their loss. And some, far too many to be just, die with none to bear witness to their passing. They have no gathering of family to clutch each other in grief. Perhaps they could not arrive in time. Or perhaps they simply don’t care.

Will opens his eyes and finds himself in bed in the hospital, wrapped in a bubble of analgesics. Were it not for the Percoset, Demerol, Vicodin, Oxy, or God knows what painkiller he is on, Will imagines he would be in exquisite agony. As it stands he can sense the dull presence of pain being held at bay. He thinks on it, detached, and imagines himself stuck in an outhouse with a ravenous bear prowling the grounds between him and his home. He’s technically safe right now, but it cannot last. The animal lurks outside and if he wants to get home he'll need to face it. Well, that or live on the supply of granola bars in here until it gets bored and goes away.

No, it isn’t a bear and an outhouse. It’s a life raft and a shark. No, two sharks and maybe an octopus for good measure. That’s more accurate. He’s sitting in his raft now, having been forced to flee the ship, while it bobs up and down, rolling with the endless waves. No land is in sight. There are just the fins slicing through the surface reminding him of what waits for him should he leave his rubber Zodiac. The tentacles don’t help either. The octopus is the brains of the operation. He knows it.

Jesus Christ, he thinks. The thought sounds like an echo in his own head. Get a hold of yourself.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to go. His family should be here. Katie should be here. They should be waiting for him when he wakes up. He shouldn’t have to do this alone. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. There’s not even a roommate in the bed by the window to entertain him or make him feel better about his condition. And why the fuck didn’t he get the window seat? His brow creases as much as is able. His body only half-listens to his brain’s commands. Or maybe his brain is only half-listening to…to what?

No. Focus. This is wrong. He’s the hero of his story. He doesn’t need to be saved. In his story he’s a little bruised and worse for wear but that just means a batch of cookies from his mother and that look from Katie—the one where he can see all the love she bears for him crystallized in her eyes. It is equal parts worry and relief. It’s the personification of the idea that if he hadn’t made it, she would have been ruined as a result. It’s a look that we live for. Not the pain of loss but one of those precious moments where you can be safe in the knowledge that you are truly loved by another human being.

His raft crests a wave and rides down it, carried along toward some distant land.

Will raises his hand to scratch his face and notices he has one of those things stuck to his finger that he always saw on TV. He still wonders what it’s for. Eyes sway downward to his hospital gown and the mountain of gauze and plaster wrapping his torso and encasing an arm and a leg. He doesn’t know what happened and that, perhaps, is the most terrifying part of it all.
Tears begin to well up. They threaten his raft. It will capsize. But no. No. He’s done this before. He hasn’t room for Pity. It clutches to his arms as he shoves it overboard, trying to pull him over the side with it. He resists; Pity drowns. The raft drifts on.

He is getting tired again. His eyes are heavy. A nurse enters the room, or maybe a doctor. His vision is blurry.

“William? Are you awake?”

“Sorry,” he slurs. “Going back. You can…join me…if you want…”

The heat from the sun pulses down on the raft. It’s pleasant, but if it were a few degrees higher it would be unbearable. There is no shelter to be found. He shifts in his position, listening to his shoes squeak on the rubber. A light breeze is in the air. The sharks lurk.

Then she sits down in the raft next to him.

And everything changes.
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Unread 4th of June, 2010, 00:11
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They sit side-by-side, patient and healer, cresting waves and rolling down into the trough. Something looms in the distance. Perhaps an island, or some off-shore oil platform. They ride in silence with nothing for company but the ever rolling sea and the wisps of clouds above.

“Pretty day,” she says.

Will grunts but keeps his eyes fixed on the horizon. The object is closer now. It’s not an island. Perhaps it really is a platform, or something else altogether. The haze makes it hard to see, and he only catches glimpses of it as they reach the apex of a wave. He cranes his neck with each passing before they descend into the bottom where there is nothing but water all around.

They are swept upward again and suddenly it is there, right in front of them and the raft butts up against not an island, not an oil platform, not a stretch of strand, but a giant photograph, fifty feet long and twenty feet high. The film slices down through the ocean, disappearing into the depths, and serving as an impermeable barrier to salt and brine. It’s old, he can tell even from here. It isn’t so aged as to be in black and white or rich sepia tones, but it looks worn with time—perhaps from the tide.

The picture is of a summertime scene in a small town square. Thick July sunlight dapples the sidewalks and benches. Doors on storefronts hang open with people frozen in mid-motion entering the bakery or leaving the local department store. Stray bits of trash, not garbage, litter the ground. It’s festive. A parade had passed some time before the picture was taken. It looks like a place that had been happy an hour earlier.

Will knows this picture.

“Come on,” she says, wobbling a bit as she stands up in the unsteady Zodiac. When she passes through the membrane there is just the slightest ripple. She leaves Will there looking at a dark haired woman now frozen in time in the afterglow of the parade.

He pushes himself to his feet and rests his hand against the picture for a moment, feeling it give beneath his flesh. Will steps through…

…and enters the July sunshine.

The heat is not less, just different, but his skin still feels cracked and raw from the salt and sun. People move to and fro, paying him little heed. They pass each other on the sidewalks, making eye contact and saying hello in a way manner that only lives on in small towns. The corner of Will’s mouth twists upward. He forgot about that quirk of rural life.

He follows her down the sidewalk, past the bakery where people are eating eggs and home fries and bacon and toast. The digital clock on the bank on the corner shows that the time is 1:13pm, it is 88 degrees Fahrenheit, and 31 Celsius. He knows the building though he only ever stepped in it once. It is air conditioned inside. As he passes he peeks in the window, but it is dark, and the bank is not open.

They walk side by side down the street, rounding the corner opposite the bank, and heading past a small business that will close its doors five years later. For the life of him, Will can’t remember what they sell beyond greeting cards and lollipops. He has no time to investigate as she walks with purpose. Outside the plain courthouse they cross the street to the small park. A pair of boys, college kids who elected to stick out a summer in a place that had but three bars to its name, are throwing a Frisbee back and forth. The disc arcs gracefully, spinning its way to the waiting hand.

Cement walkways lead to the gazebo at the center. It is empty. They walk up the steps and, following her lead, Will sits down next to her on a bench.

“Odd place to come, all things considered,” she says.

“Not really.”

Her eyebrows arch. “No?”

“This was a good day,” he says, omitting the part where 27 minutes earlier when his seven year old self had been reduced to tears. “More or less.”

“So,” she says.

“So.”

“Let us begin.”

And they do.
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Unread 4th of June, 2010, 00:12
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There are no bird songs surrounding the gazebo, not at this hour of the afternoon when the hot July sun beats down. No, the bird will be back in the evening and again in the early morning. All that remains is the occasional car cruising by at 25 mph and the buzz of crickets and beetles. The two guys have stopped playing Frisbee and retired to an apartment for Corona—the Bud Lite of Mexico.

Alicia and Will sit across from each other. It’s an awkward distance, one that’s too far for any intimacy of conversation. Will prefers it that way. He’s still trying to sort through all the events of the last day and, frankly, he’s kinda sick of these psychological mindfucks that turn into reality. His nurse or doctor or whatever she is should not be following him into his sea of consciousness. He would dismiss it all as a pain-killer induced dream, but Will somewhat suspects he wouldn’t have this clarity of mind and self-consciousness if it was the morphine talking.

“So why here?” she asks.

“I told you.”

“No,” she says. “Why here.”

“Well,” Will says, “this was where the cool kids always hung out when I was in 5th grade.”

“But you’re younger in this memory.”

“Yeah.”

“So this is an attempt at capturing some youthful angst over not being popular then.” She says it as a statement and not at all a question.

“We all have our demons,” Will replies. He shrugs his shoulders and leans against the wooden wall surrounding the gazebo. Above at the peak, a spider wove its thick web and waited for lunch.

“And is this one of them?”

He folds his arms over his chest and levels his gaze, meeting her dark eyes. “Does it matter?”

“Yeah,” she says. “It does.”

“Explain.”

She sighs. “I thought the dreams were enough, but really, Will? Are you this stupid?”

“Maybe,” he says. “Never underestimate the powers of my stupidity.”

“Low self-esteem,” Alicia says, “self-deprecation, self-delusion. You’re shaping up to be a real great prospect, you know that?”

“What?”

“Jesus Jumped-Up Christ.” Alicia raises her eyes heavenward, looking up into the spider’s web. She looks back at him again. “You’re different. Can we start there?”

“Okay.”

“You have something inside you.”

“Yeah.”

“Something special.”

“Yup.”

“Man, fuck you, Will,” she says. “I’m sick of this patronization. You want to do it the hard way. Let’s do it the hard way.”

She stands up and moves toward him, but she doesn’t walk so much as she melts. She streams through the air in a molten blur. Before he can flinch, her hands are on his temples, fingers pressed tight through his hair and against his skull. They’re on his skin. They’re in his skin. They’re in his brain.

The world melts, streaming downward in thick globs of color. The gazebo swirls past, a mixture of white and green running over his body. A block away he sees brick and steel liquidate as the courthouse floods away. Then, above, a cerulean sea comes down in a deluge. He bobs on the surface of an ever darkening expanse of colors, mixing and churning from all colors to one.

And then Will too melts and he joins the cosmos.
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Unread 29th of June, 2010, 11:57
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“Can you hear me Will?” a voice echoes through the black eternity that surrounds him.

“Will?”

He remembers staying in his aunt's cabin on a small lake during the summertime. He would lie in bed on those early August nights, staring up at the skylights overhead. Most nights the stars would glitter and wink, or the moon would pass overhead casting a blade of pale white across the floor. But on the evenings where the clouds were thick, where the loons trolled the water, singing their haunting lament, Will would turn off the light and be enveloped by darkness. That far out in the countryside there wasn't the ever-present fuzz of a city tinting the night sky. There weren't any street lamps to pool their lonely islands of light. It was complete and utter darkness. The sort dark that is palpable. It weighed in on him. He would lie there and imagine he was in some sort of cavern in the depths of the earth.

The darkness he feels now is different. It's worse. Lying in his bed he could still smell the night air wafting in through the partly cracked windows. He could still hear the loons. He could still feel the cool sheets of his bed against his skin. But here, in this dark, he can't feel anything. It's a situation only describable by its complete and utter lack of sensation--like being inside an isolation tank but without even the feeling of water on his skin. He feels nothing, sees nothing, smells nothing, hears nothing. He cannot even feel the familiar pull of gravity. He can't even hear the voice. It's reverberates inside him somewhere.

“What the fuck?”

It's not the most articulate response he's ever given.

“I’m taking you on a field trip.”

“Oh yeah? Did you get a permission slip from my dad?”

Silence.

“...where are we going?”

“Into your memories, or at least what’s left of them.”

Shapes begin to appear, dim and hazy. They're spherical in nature, and about the size of his head, but floating and elastic like a soap bubble during its ephemeral rise into the air. They bob and move along with currents or breezes that Will cannot see or feel. She is there next to him now. He sees her. It is not what he expected. She is an angel, but not how he thought one of the seraphs would appear. She's not the kind-faced, halo-adorned being of radiant light. Nor is the she curvaceous vixen that Will secretly hoped angels actually look like. She's hard. Her features could be, and perhaps are, chiseled from a smooth, cold marble. Six white pinioned wings spread out from her back in a manner that he suspects is not conducive to normal flight.

Not that anything about this is normal anyway.

She is Old Testament. The type of angel that might be on the side of good, but isn't afraid of calling down the fire and brimstone on your whore-loving, sodomizing ass. He immediately regrets his previous fantasies about sexy angels. He blames Victoria's Secret for such things and hopes it provides a suitable defense for when faced with the inevitable divine wrath.

But if she knows anything of his less-than-chaste musings she does not tip her hand. Instead, she reaches out to one of the bubbles and places her hand on it, in it.

There is a blur of movement and a flash of color. Everything so bright now, so loud, so real. He's in the schoolyard. It's kindergarten. Kids are running around and yelling. Some are playing marbles where the pavement has cracked enough to form a hole to shoot them into. Others are on the merry-go-round or see-saws. He's by the jungle gym staring at a crane fly, thinking it's the biggest god damn mosquito he's ever seen. A child kicks it, smashing it against the wood. Will stares at its tiny life smeared against pressure-treated wood and wonders if that will ever happen to him.

Colors blur like smeared paint and he's now standing there in front of what would become his first high school girlfriend. They're saying good night awkwardly--extremely awkwardly. She has mouse brown hair and blue eyes as pale as a glacier. She won't be the prettiest girl he will ever love, but she will be the first. When she cheats on him several months later he will be devastated and it will have a downstream effect on how he approaches relationships—with apprehension and jealousy. But he doesn't know that yet. All he knows is that he's summoning up the courage to kiss her for the first time.

Now he's in college, skipping class to play some game on his computer. He rationalizes it by thinking that he'll never be a software engineer anyway. C++ hardly seems a priority when there are aliens to kill.

Now he's crying, hot tears streaming down his face. It's dark in the parking lot. He's in his old red station wagon with his arms and head draped across the wheel. Visiting hours were over two hours ago but the nurse let him stay, holding Her hand.

His mother is dying and there is nothing he can do to save her.

Enough!

The world fragments, shatters and rains down into the dark. He's back by the floating globes again, next to his Angel of Christmas Past.

“I'm sorry, Will. But there is more at stake here Will. A lot more.”

They plunge back into the nothing once more--save for one sensation: gravity. He's falling. He's falling through the void and it is terrifying. He can't feel anything but the feeling of falling impossibly fast. He cannot see the end but it will kill him. He knows it.

Lightning flashes, illuminating his descent. The bolts come fast, too fast for any regular storm. Each bolt shocks him with the fragment of memories and thoughts gone by.

He's five and his mother is Going to take the driver's test so he can go to The local fair for the first time where he'll ride the spinning wheel until he Falls in love for the second time with the sweetest girl that he will destroy when He gets knocked from his feet during a lacrosse game and then scoops up the ball to Stand on stage in college as part of a fairly mediocre improv team that managed Once he dreamed of greatness, now he merely dreams of Losing his virginity to a girl he doesn't care about because Time is always running by, always running out, and he watches The tide rolls in and rolls out and He wonders if he will ever someone that he can Find a purpose, find a reason--

In a flash of light the chaotic memories resolve. Warm rain falls between the buildings and splatters heavily Will’s face. The air is thick with the smell damp brick and concrete.

“What the fuck…”

He is nothing if not eloquent.

The sound of something heavy rebounding off of a steel dumpster makes him spin in time to see a man fly against the ally wall, and then fall in a broken heap. Even through the blood and dim lighting Will recognizes himself.

“No...”

“We are…disappointed.”

“Disappointed…”

Gooseflesh dance across his arms, dance across his legs, dance across his back. They spin and cavort across his brain and his psyche and his soul. His whole body is a sick cocktail of fear and panic. Not this. It can't be this. This is the thing that his mind locked away. It knew better. It knew he couldn't see it, remember it. It tucked it away in Will's safest place, his most sacred refuge. It wants to protect him. To keep him safe from the monsters.

The memory is wrenched from his subconscious like a bulldozer shreds through a wall of a condemned house. There is nothing gentle, nothing respectful about it. It is brute force tearing at his essence.

The whole scene flickers. There is a loud pop.

“Where are you hiding…”

All control is gone. They are in the deepest part of his mind, the darkest part of who he is. He can feel it. They are searching for him. He crouches in the shadows like a primate ancestor hiding from a stalking predator. But this great cat, this ravenous bear, can smell him, can feel his fear. It knows where he is. It is only a matter of time before it sinks its claws, its fangs, into his flesh and rends it from his body. Primal terror roils and churns throughout him. He is trapped. There is no flight.

Fear gains purpose, takes shape and expands. It grows, filling him. He can't focus, can't think. He can only gnash his teeth and rage. It builds and builds and then explodes in a burning wave of light that envelopes him, spirits him along in a wave and, ultimately, consumes him. He melts into it becoming part of the wave, part of the particles, and speeds along knowing nothing but the rush and the pursuit and the speed.

Eyes open. He is in his hospital room again. His limbs are back within their plaster shackles. An IV drips into his arm. A monitor beeps its approval at his sustained life. But something echoes within the recesses of his mind, sending his heart running again.

“You cannot hide from us…”


J and Cad
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Unread 1st of July, 2010, 14:24
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Alicia slumps onto hard wooden bench and stares into the dark, recently emptied recesses of her locker.

Four years of residency…just…gone…

The thought sinks deep into the pit of her stomach. In the heat of the moment she had simply reacted but now that she had time to think – to reflect on the enormity of her decision she couldn’t help but question herself.

Why?

Why him?

Polnoch had always told her that the price of agency was living with the why. A presence flickers through her consciousness. It was Dr. Pierce, coming to give her the governing board’s decision. Not that she needed him to tell her.

“Alicia?” he says loudly, his volume more to alert any other women that a man was about to enter.

“Yeah,” she answers, wincing slightly as his anxiety slams against her mind. Usually she was pretty good about filtering the mental background noise around her, but she was still exhausted from her stunt in the ER.

He nervously rounds the corner and comes up short when he sees her sitting on the bench, the contents of her locker neatly tucked into a large Harvard duffle bag.

“So you ah…heard…know…with the um…you know…” he ends making a spastic gesture by his head. She can’t help chuckling. It was hard to tell if he was calling her crazy or having a seizure. “Sorry. You know…this…thing…its just…just weird. That’s all.”

“Yeah.”

Four years…

There is nothing left but to carry on. She stands abruptly and slings the duffle bag across her shoulder. “I suppose there are things to sign?”

“Yeah,” he answers and hands over the brushed aluminum clip board he had been holding shield like to his chest. Alicia skims the documents before signing. It was more or less what she expected. The hospital didn’t want to create a public relations firestorm by bringing the incident before a full review committee, so in exchange for her silence and resignation she would be allowed to leave due to a debilitating “medical condition”. Her pen scrapes coldly on the metal clip board as she signs.

“I’ll need your security badge too,” he says softly. She drops the hard plastic ID case into his, grateful that he had finally calmed down.

“Have you ever…you know…um…”

“Read your mind?” she finishes for him. “No.”

“Really?”

“Yes really,” her tone is a little more edgy than she would have liked. She liked Pierce. He was an amazing surgeon with a firm yet sometimes surprisingly sweet personality. He was entitled to be curious, it wasn’t everyday that you come face to face with a metahuman.

“Sorry its just…I don’t know. I guess I’d have trouble not peaking.”

“Its not as hard as you think.”

“Reading people’s minds?” his face broke into one of his signature witty smiles.

“No, the not peaking,” her response causes his expression to scrunch incredulously.

“Think of it this way – do you spy on your neighbors?”

“All the time.”

“No not in the ‘I notice who’s stealing cable’ or overhearing them having sex, I mean do you spy on them. Do you tap their phones, or sneak monitoring software into their desktops, or watch them take showers at night with night-vision binoculars.”

“Well no.”

“Why not? You have the means to do so. You make enough money to buy the best gear or hire someone to do it for you. Why not?”

“I suppose because its…wrong.”

“Exactly.” Alicia takes a deep breath to steady her own nerves. “Which is why I’m…so…so sorry for what I did in the OR. It was such a violation of you as a person that…” she trails off as her shame boils into her face. Her eyes fall to floor as she shifts nervously. “I’m just really sorry,” she blurts out as she moves past him toward the door.

“Ali wait,” his hand catches her arm and spins her toward him. “Tell me what I’m thinking,” he whispers.

“What?”

“Tell me,” he takes her hand and puts it on the side of his head, “what I’m thinking.”

She is drawn to him instantly – her mental self floating through the layers of his consciousness as they open like the petals of a flower. In moments all that he was, every instant, every event, every thought and feeling that made John Raymond Pierce who he was flooded through her -his youth in the rolling hills of Appalachia, the bloody horrors of his service in the military, his climb through the hospital bureaucracy to become the head of the ER. He opened himself to her, stripping himself of all of his shields and walls. He stood in their shared consciousness naked and defenseless, his very being resonating with a single emotive thought:

I love you.

The purity of it is narcotic. It courses through her mind like liquid fire, melting through her own defenses with such force that she suddenly found herself struggling to keep their minds apart. It was a rookie mistake, letting herself be drawn in too deep – wanting to be made whole by complete and utter union.

Wanting absolution.

And for a brief moment she finds it, in him.

Through half lidded eyes she watches a single tear slide down his cheek and she knew.

She knew that he loved her.

She knew that he would die for her.

She knew he could never let her go.

“Goodbye John,” she whispers as her tears run into the corners of her mouth. Gathering her strength she pulls free of him, and as she does she takes all of her that he had within him. Thoughts, memories, even feelings evaporate as she surgically cuts herself from his mind.

She steps back, hastily wiping her cheeks as she watches Pierce swoon and stagger into the cold blue-gray lockers.

“You alright doctor?”

“Ugggh…um…I think so.” He blinks several times and shakes his head. “Why am I in the woman’s locker room?” he asks slowly.

“You were just having me sign some papers before I leave.”

“Really?”

“Are you sure you’re alright? You look pretty tired doctor.”

“John. Call me John,” he looks at her, his pale blue eyes searching for…something. “This might sound strange but…do I…know you?”

“No,” she lies slowly. “We’ve only just met.”

“Hmm,” he shrugs. “Well then. It was nice meeting you…”

“Alicia.”

“It was nice meeting you Alicia.” As if on cue his pager goes off. “You know the way out?” he asks. She nods, shouldering her bag. She glides through the hospital unnoticed – her powers making sure that to everyone she passed she was just another faceless drone in a sea of worker bees. She pauses for a moment in the lobby, a great sadness weighing down on her. John had been the last she made forget her, and by far the most painful. Deep in the recesses of her own mind she could still hear the echo of his love for her – and she always would.

She takes a deep breath and quickly sifts through the thoughts of the people in the building looking for anyone that she may have missed. When she is satisfied she reaches out to Sam Wisczech in human resources and goes through the process of deleting herself from the hospital’s computer records.

Gone forever.

Self loathing roils in her gut as she steps through the automated door and on the street. She was telling the truth when she said she didn’t peak. It was a vow that she had kept for the past ten years, but now…

Now is not the time to be weak Alicia, she repeats to herself quietly as she hardens her heart and trudges towards the subway.

There is no room for weakness in war.
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Unread 7th of September, 2010, 07:37
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Location: The Emerald City
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Will is staring down the wrong end of a .45 ACP. If he knew anything about guns he’d recognize it as a modified M1911A1. It has been lovingly cared for and cleaned regularly. Each piece is in peak condition and primed to shout out into the night. In a fraction of a second, the gunman’s finger will compress the trigger, causing a riot of combustible gasses to propel the bullet at somewhere around 800 feet per second. The spent casing will be ejected as a fresh round slides up into the barrel.

John Browning would be proud.

The gunman’s hand is steady, lacking the faintest tremble of hesitation or fear. It is the grip of a practiced shooter and, likely, a professional killer. The manual safety is off; the grip safety is already depressed. He is going to be shot at least once—probably several times. This one will make sure he is down. The muzzle will flash, lighting up this dark warehouse and the bullets will hit him as fast as the gunman can pull the trigger.

But Will has a trick up his sleeve. He has little time, but he needs next to none. A bullet may travel at 700 miles per hour, but the speed of thought is without boundaries. Before the gunman can send the impulse that will contract the finger muscles that will pull the trigger, Will’s consciousness is kicking down the door into his assailant’s cerebral cortex.

The door shatters off its hinges, blown apart from the force of the mental blow. Will’s thought floods through the gaping doorway into the mind of the gunman—and finds nothing but a brick wall. It extends impossibly far and unimaginably high within the infinite space of the mind. It is guarded and fortified, trained to combat those that would seek to trespass. It as is impenetrable, impermeable, and impregnable; as well as any other –im word one can think of.

His time is up. The electric impulse reaches its target muscle fibers. They obey with gusto. The trigger is pulled. The muzzle roars. Fire, Teflon, and steel sing a terrible song amidst the shelves and crates and metal drums. The first bullet hits him in the chest, lined up perfectly to puncture his right lung. He stumbles backward and falls. The second bullet is timed perfectly with his descent and hits him in the in the ribs. The rounds introduce themselves forcefully to Will’s chest and tell him how they’d like to introduce him to their good friend, hydrostatic shock.

He lies on the floor, clutching his torso, staring up into the black gulf of the steel rafters above. Footsteps on cement. The gunman stands over him, the .45 pointed down at his head. This is the kill shot. Goodbye, cruel world. You shall not miss this failure. His eyes close. He takes a shuddering breath.

“Again.”

Will sighs and plucks the bullets from his Kevlar. He looks up at Alicia while she gestures with a flick of the gun to get back into position.

“And be faster this time,” she says.

“Well, it’s not like this is fucking easy,” he says, pushing himself to his feet and wincing from the additional bruises he can already feel forming underneath the body armor. He takes an experimental breath and wonders if that rib is broken. “Your mind is trained for this kind of mental warfare shit.”

“This ‘mental warfare shit’ is something you need to master, Will,” Alicia says. “If you can get through someone that’s had defensive training, you’ll be able to get into a random thug with a Glock without thinking about it. God forbid you actually go against someone that’s been trained, or even another mentalist.”

“Yeah, well, I think you just wanted to shoot me.”

“There’s also that.” Alicia checks the clip and slams it back in. “Now. Again.”

Will walks back over to his spot between a row of crates and a forklift to resume his training. He’s already been shot seven times today.

There’s really nothing like being a hero.
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Unread 16th of October, 2010, 12:26
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Cadrius
Refusing to Sow [Epic GM]

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Join Date: Jan 2002
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Posts: 5,728 (0.99 per day)
Saturday night in July. The Pearl District and Burnside are alive with the young and drunk streaming from bar to bar, from club to club, from strip joint to burrito cantina. The air is warm but not oppressive as it had been a few days earlier when the Willamette Valley sweltered in the summer heat. It had only dampened the enthusiasm of the weekend revelers but a bit. Those establishments with the foresight, or the folly, to spend money on an air conditioner in the Pacific Northwest were particularly grateful of the business.

Will leans against an alley wall and does his best not to draw attention. He worries he’s not pulling off leaning so much as he is lurking. He’d already been moved along by one suspicious officer earlier in the evening, forcing him to relocate his position. Will had walked down closer to the waterfront, near where the Saturday market had been set up just hours earlier. He imagines he can still smell the cheesesteak from the stand where a beautiful redhead works every Saturday. Will vows to eventually buy a sandwich from her. Then, perhaps someday in the future, perhaps two, three years from now, he’ll actually have a conversation with her.

Concentrate, asshole, he thinks, snapping himself out of his daydream of having a small freckled babies with cheesesteak girl. He’s here on business. The fantasies can wait.

Will stops thinking of the market and of seeing the redhead’s tits. His breathing slows. His eyes shift focus out of the alley and across the street and past the parking lot. On the broad face of a building, tinted strangely with the orange streetlamps, Will can see the gold lettering emblazoned on black.


KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD

That shouldn’t be a problem.

His eyes lose focus further, fixing on nothing at all. The sounds of merriment soften and then quiet and then disappear altogether. Pupils dilate as the muscles around his irises relax. His breathing slows, his chest and stomach moving in a slow, deep rhythm beneath the black buttons of his Oxford. Even the nerves along his skin grow still, feeling nothing of the warm air or the rough brick.

Will’s mind expands.

It isn’t quite as dramatic as he had originally imagined it would be, mentally skimming through a crowd of people. He’d always imagined it would be something like God sitting upon a throne, hovering a hundred feet in the air, one great calloused hand stroking a snowy beard or perhaps smoothing out part of his thick moustache. From this soaring bird’s view, He would look down into the souls of each of the mortals beneath him, judging the sinners from the saints. He would know their innermost secrets and darkest thoughts. He would know which one He must stop.

Okay, it’s a little like that. But Will lacks the all-encompassing power of a monotheistic deity so it’s a much more inexact and distinctly lacking both levitation and facial hair. To him, it’s more like skipping a rock across a glassy pond by his aunt’s cabin. He’d pick through the shore along the front of the house, searching for a rock that was flat enough and carried enough weight to suit his purpose. Standing on the round fist-sized stones that his uncle had planted to form a ramp into the water, Will would wind up and sidearm the rock parallel to the water. When it made contact it popped up, and for one brief, glorious moment, that rock knew what it was like to be a bird.

Skip, skip, skip, skipskipskipskip

His mental surveillance is something akin to this. He touches on someone for just the briefest instant. It’s the mental equivalent of glancing at someone as you walk past, and, just like with looking, you quickly look away if they make eye contact. It just brushes the surface of what someone is thinking or feeling. Yes, it is an inefficient way of looking for crime, but it does at least tell him if there are any immediate, premeditated threats. The more intense the thought or emotion, the bigger the skip is in the lake. And this is where the analogy falls apart, because unlike Will’s record of nine skips with one stone, in this mental lake the rock known as Will can go forever.

Each point of contact lasts but a second. It’s the shotgun approach to finding trouble. He cycles through hundreds of minds floating in various amounts of booze. Some are almost incomprehensible, running almost solely at the discretion of the Id. Others are more collected. There are happy drunks and maudlin ones. There are angry ones and loving ones. He struggles to make a mental note to further explore the various humours of the inebriated.

He’s looking for something specific. It would be of little trouble to go mess with a trashed University of Portland student. No, the exercise Alicia gave him was beyond that. The point is to sift through the howling chaos of the mental strata and sift to the layer he’s looking for. In this case, he’s hunting for drug dealers. The Pacific Northwest is a haven for meth use and while Will doesn’t particularly care what people do with their recreational time, being no stranger to smoking out, he also doesn’t like seeing lives ruined.

Ten minutes pass as his mental net dredges the waters before finding what he’s looking for. He cuts the connection and opens his eyes with a sharp breath, his immediate senses suddenly filled with the physical world. The air is more fragrant, the sounds are sharper, and the bricks are rougher. He takes a moment to focus before hustling off down the alley toward the waterfront, his footfalls echoing just slightly in the warm night.

He finds the man sitting on a bench wreathed in shadows near the retaining wall that separates the banks of west Portland from the waters of the Willamette thirty feet below. Will smiles. This may be easier than he thought would be. The would-be vigilante hides behind a solitary tree thirty yards away and closes his eyes.

Slipping into the man’s mind is far easier than expected. Where Alicia’s mental fortifications were nigh impregnable, this man’s cerebral defense is akin to leaving your front door open and going on vacation for a month. Will can feel booze and something else burning in the synapses. He enters without a blemish, a ghost in the machine. Yet despite this, he treads carefully, having been warned of the dangers of personality transference. He shields his projection in a steel sphere and takes a moment to observe.

This mental listening is nothing like reading a file on a person, immediately keying into all of their key statistics and information. That sort of excavation is more intrusive, and is more conspicuous for discovery, than eavesdropping. Will does not know his name, or his age, or how he came to be who he is. What he does know is what’s on his mind: meeting a dancer that he got hooked a couple weeks ago, getting her high as shit, and fucking her in the park.

Quite the romantic, Will thinks.

The man’s head perks up and looks around, eyes scanning the dark. Will’s mind goes very still, placid as a small lake at dawn. A moment passes, then two, before the man shakes his head resumes staring out at the eastern shore and patting the small pipe in his pocket, reassuring himself of its presence. Will, very carefully, curses himself for not paying attention to how his thoughts can transmit. But the tell gives him the info he needs. Will slips the slightest hint into the man’s consciousness that he’d left some receipts in his pocket that he should throw out. The man reaches into his pocket and pulls out the glass pipe, lighter, and white dragon and nods to himself.

Throw these away, Will whispers into his mind, sending images of crumpled paper and a napkin from Subway into his mind.

The man stands and looks around for a garbage can. Spotting one not too far off, he walks toward it.

“Hey, baby,” a woman’s voice calls from nearby. “Sorry I’m late.”

Fuck, Will thinks, experiencing vertigo for a moment as his eyes are open watching the scene while part of his mind lurks within the man.

She’s short, perhaps 5’2”, and wearing some of short black dress. Will can’t see her too well in the dark, but he thinks he spots peroxide hair and a tattoo above her left breast. He scrambles to focus, pouring some of his consciousness back into his body. He wants to throw up, shifting his mind back and forth between the physical and the cerebral.

“Shift ran a little bit long tonight,” she says, wrapping her arms around his waist. “What’s that you got there? Did you bring me a present?”

The man looks down at the items in his hands, blinks, and then bobs his head, smiling. “Maybe. If you behave.”

She presses herself closer against him. “Are you sure that’s what you want?”

“Come over here,” he says, drawing her to the bench.

God damn shit motherfucker ass balls, Will thinks, watching his opportunity slipping out of his grasp.

They sit down on the bench and he places the Pyrex tubing in his mouth and flicking the lighter to life. The flame dances just beneath the tube, causing the crystals to turn into a swirling vapor. He inhales, holds it, and passes the pipe to her before exhaling into the night. A smile spreads across his face. He lazily reaches over with his lighter and flicks it again as she puts the pipe to her lips. She takes a deep hit and then leans against him.

Will considers flooding into the man’s cortex and seizing control and…doing what? Throwing him into the river? Compelling a man into what would potentially be suicide isn’t exactly a great solution. Will also doesn’t know what it will be like trying to operate the controls when the nerves are going to be questionably responsive. He eases back into the man’s mind, and lurks for a few moments before getting an idea.

The man looks down at his pants, and pulls out his phone. He sees a text message.

Call me right now

“What’re you doing,” she asks, running a hand up his thigh.

He brushes her hand away. “Just a sec. Gotta make a quick call.”

The man gets up and walks toward the edge of the wall. He puts a hand on one of the rails while punching a number into his phone. Will focuses harder, playing interpreter.

“911, what is your emergency?”

“Everything okay? Yeah? Okay. Bro, you’re not gonna believe what I’m about to do,” he says, his voice a hushed whisper. “Remember that cunt I told you about last weekend? I’ve got her fucking high by the water. She’s gonna be begging for my shit.”

“…sir, high on what?”

“What the fuck do you mean? You know what.”

“And where exactly are you, sir?”

“Right by the river. Near the fucking market. Jesus. Why did you text me? Did you actually need anything?”

“No, sir. Why don’t you stay put? An officer will be on his way.”

“All right. Well don’t fucking bother me again tonight.”

Three minutes later, flashing blue and red lights bathe the waterfront. Will had withdrawn a ways, but couldn’t resist leaving the scene entirely, smiling to himself as the man briefly struggles with the officers before getting a nightstick to the jaw and thrown in the back of the squadcar.
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