Wednesday November 12th, 2014

The exercise:

It is time for our second to last visit to Vancouver Irrealis.

Okay, I've got last month's adventures open in one tab, an email from Greg in another, and a vague idea of how I'm going to proceed. Let's see how it goes.

Edit: long, that's how it goes. Sorry, there was a lot of ground to cover with only one more entry remaining to me.

The horses arrived this afternoon. Max was pretty excited to see them again (he saw them on our last visit to Dawson Creek) and the two horses appeared to approve of their new home. I suppose that's to be expected, seeing as they were getting overnight lows of -30 before they left.

Kinda makes it hard for me to complain about it reaching -11 here tonight.


There had been an argument after Tristam's offer to do what needed to be done. Of course there was. Rewand's objections had been feeble, nearly drowned out by Anne-Marie's outrage. But before things managed to get fully out of control Ertrob had stepped between them, wearing a mixture of concern and fear on his face.

"We have to go back," he said as he held out his hands to the trio. "Now."

"Why?" Tristam had asked, glancing at the screens. "What's happening?"

"The worlds are coming together again," Ertrob said, grabbing a fistful of Rewand's sweater. "You cannot remain here during an overlap... unless you wish to never return."

"Let's go then," Tristam said, taking hold of the boy's free hand with his right hand and reaching for Anne-Marie's hand with his other. She shook her head and began to speak but the instant their fingers touched the room went black and they found themselves tumbling back to the secret room in Rewand's apartment building.

The impact of their return was even more jarring than their departure had been, but Ertrob had no time for apologies.

"That was much sooner than it should have been. This one feels... different. Like it could be the last of the overlaps. You will have to hurry if you wish to... just hurry! You know the building you must find, Tristam."

And with a crack like a miniature thunderclap he was gone again.

Now, as he raced through predawn streets filled with people and buildings flickering like ghosts suffering from dissociative identity disorder, Tristam began to wonder if they might have been better off staying... wherever it was that Ertrob had taken them.

"Where are we going?" Anne-Marie yelled from a few steps behind him. She had insisted on coming and there had been no time to convince her otherwise. Rewand had returned to his apartment, his body too old for this adventure. His disappointment had been unquestionable.

"The only place Ertrob could have been talking about," Tristam called over his shoulder. "The only place that would make sense. The o-"

He skidded to a stop as a woman stumbled out of an alley entrance and teetered to a standstill in front of them. One moment her face was clearly Asian, a long black ponytail hanging down her back. The next she appeared to be a pale blonde with fashionable glasses. A wordless scream united them as she clutched both sides of her head before collapsing to the pavement.

"Come on, come on!" Anne-Marie dragged Tristam forward and out of his stunned horror. "You have to lead the way! Where are we going?"

"The... there's just one possibility," Tristam said, forcing himself to not look back. "The office building that I worked in back home."


Greg said...

Long is good! You don't often let yourself have so much space to write, and it's always a pleasure to read what you've come up with. And... wow! That city seems genuinely scary all of a sudden with the worlds overlapping like that; the bit where the people are overlapping as well and trying to come to terms with it is really cool (and kind of unpleasant at the same time)! I particularly like that it's Tristam's office building too, as it ties a neat circle in that I don't think Tristam's ever told us where he works, or why he might have been chosen by Nkare to swap with :)

Ten breathless, chest-heaving, lung-burning minutes later Tristam stumbled to a stop outside a tall steel-and-glass building and bent double, his hands gripping his knees in an effort to stop his legs shaking. Next to him Anne-Marie was less out of breath, still standing upright, but red in the face and sweating despite the chill of the air. She looked up at the building, the rising sun just turning the glass in the windows to mirrors, and noted that there was no company name on it, or anything to identify what it might be called or who might work there. Then she glanced through the doors and saw a security guard rising slowly from behind his desk, looking at them.
"Is this it?" she asked, her voice catching on the first word as she caught her breath back. "He doesn't look friendly."
Tristam lifted his head and looked, then shook it. "That's Joe," he said. "Well, on my side it is. Damn, I work here in my world but here in this one...."
The security guard opened the door and for a moment he blurred into two people, ghostly silver, and then he snapped back together again.
"Tristam?" he asked, sounding puzzled. "What's going on? Things don't look... right. I'm actually really glad to see you, the building's full of strangers."
"Hey Joe," said Tristam, trying hard to keep the tone of relief from his voice. "It's all good, but there is a problem. And... damn it, I've left my badge at home." He gestured at Anne-Marie. "This is Anne-Marie, she's from the Ontario campus. Will her badge work here?"
Anne-Marie held her breath, wondering if the guard would ask to see her non-existent badge.
"No, all badge are building only," said Joe. "Here, come in and I'll get this sorted out, and maybe you can work out what the hell is happening on the fifth floor."

Greg said...

Sorry; apparantly I ran over the 4096 character limit. Here's the rest:

Five minutes later the lift doors pinged and Tristam and Anne-Marie looked out in awe. The entire fifth floor was a silvery glow where two building seemed to be competing to exist. Ghosts drifted back and forth looking agitated and angry, and there looked to be hundred of rucksacks laid out in neat rows. Some of the ghosts were on mobile phones, and every time they solidified for a few seconds the calls clearly dropped. Swear-words echoed around the floor like whispers of universal rage.
"Oh my God," whispered Anne-Marie, holding the lift doors open with a hand. They protested, nudging her like an insistent dog. "They were just going to leave the bombs around the city like this?"
Tristam opened his mouth, and then closed it again. Across the floor from him he could feel a powerful pull, and although he grabbed at the lift doors to hold himself in place, his fingers slipped away and he was forced to walk, or fall and slide across the floor on his rump. Opposite him, a petite, attractive woman with black hair was solidifying and being pulled towards him as well.
"Nkare?" said Tristam, his voice high-pitched. "What?"
"Oh!" Anne-Marie's hand covered her mouth. "Tristam! If she killed Tamtris to cross over...."
"Then she's my counterpart?"
There was a bright flash of light as the two of them collided, forcing Anne-Marie to close her eyes and turn her head away. She knew that only one of them could survive.
She forced herself to open her eyes again and look back into the room.

morganna said...

Wow. Okay. This is going to take some thinking and I have to go to work. I'll be back later today.

morganna said...

As Anne-Marie opened her eyes, she saw Tristam standing in front of her, flickering slightly and looking grim. "We have to work fast, Anne-Marie," he said, his voice wobbling oddly. "Nkare is in my head, and I know how to disable the bombs, but she is fighting me for control. Listen carefully."

Anne-Marie listened as Tristam explained how to disable the bombs. Then they set to work, methodically working their way down the rows of rucksacks, pulling out wires when they solidified, and dodging angry cell-phone ghosts when their reality was ascendant. Sometimes Anne-Marie felt an odd tug on her skin or in her mind, but she ignored it. She didn't have time to deal with being her double.

They finished pulling out wires from the last rucksack when suddenly the room started flickering like crazy and Tristam became translucent. The air was filled with a high-pitched keening. "Rrruuuunnn, Aaaannnne-Mmmmaaarrrrieeee," Tristam yelled, his voice stretching out.

She ran for the emergency stairwell, not looking back. She had to get out of there before the change was permanent. She prayed that Tristam could win the battle over Nkare, and perhaps they would both survive this chaos.

Down the stairs, flight after flight, she ran. The building was shaking now. Sometimes other people were running with her, sometimes she seemed to slip between dimensions and was running alone.

She stumbled as the stairs came to an end. A fire exit door loomed in front of her. She pushed it open and fell, panting into the alley at the side of the building.

Anne-Marie was pushed out of the doorway by people streaming out of it. She dragged herself across the alley and propped herself up on the neighboring building. The world flickered in and out of existence, vibrating faster and faster.

Suddenly, as the flickering and keening reached such a high pitch Anne-Marie could hardly stand it, Tristam's office building collapsed on itself, and a cloud of dust rose to the sky. The world was silent.

Anne-Marie looked down at her hand. It looked a little different. The fingers were longer, and the webs were shorter. It was still her hand, but subtly different. She wondered if it was all over. What had happened to Rewand and Terpe, not to mention Tristam? She got shakily to her feet and headed off towards her father's apartment.

Greg said...

Oooh, that's perfect! Lots of tension, lots of excitement, and a cliff-hanger to boot! I was looking forward to this, and I really wasn't disappointed :)
Of course, Marc likes killing people off, so I'm now really curious to see who survives his turn next month!

morganna said...

I'm glad you like it -- I always worry about getting my part right, since I get to it last and set us up for the next month, it seems.

Marc said...

Okay, first off I just want to say that both of you absolutely knocked this one out of the park. This was an important month for this story and you guys totally pulled it off.

Greg - yeah, his office building felt like a logical choice to me. Glad you approve :)

Really like that the worlds came together just in time for Joe to let them in the building, that's a great touch.

Some excellent details on the fifth floor as well, with the cell phones and the nudging elevator door.

Good to see some longer work from you as well :)

Morganna - heh, I can appreciate why you'd need some extra time for this one. I'd say it was put to good use!

That's a smooth transition from Tristam to Anne-Marie that you two pulled off here. And you included such great details too, especially the escape down the stairs.

I like that your ending hints that the overlap is complete but doesn't require it to be. The description of her hand is a great lead in to next month too.

I am just so pleased, you guys :)

Greg - I do not *like* killing people off. It just... happens sometimes.