Monday December 1st, 2014

The exercise:

December? Already? What?

The final installment of 2014's yearlong prompt, Vancouver Irrealis? Today? What is going on around here?

Enough with the questions. Let us seek an answer or two. Let me bring you to the beginning... of the end.


After the dust finally settled and he had cleared enough filth from his eyes to be able to mostly see where he was going, Tristam began limping his way back to Rewand's apartment. He didn't know what to expect to be waiting for him there, if anything, but he had nowhere else to go.

Nkare, on the other hand, was a different story.

Turn left here, she whispered at the first intersection they came to. Tristam paused, turned his head to look in the indicated direction, then continued on his original route.

Debris littered the streets and sidewalks where the buildings had struggled to accept the intrusion of their counterparts. People lay crumpled on the ground every few feet. Some of them moaned. Most were silent.

Go to your own apartment, Nkare suggested. You know it's safe there.

"What do you have stored in my home?" Tristam countered, hobbling around the splintered remains of a Japanese maple tree. Silence was his only response.

With many lengthy breaks, most of them his idea, Tristam took over an hour to retrace his steps to Rewand's front door. He stood there for a long while. Maybe it would be too soon to see each other again. Maybe she would need more time to adjust to this new reality. Maybe...

She's dead.

"Shut up."

Go home. The codes are all there.

"No, you... what codes?"

Together we can rule this place. Go now, before they find you. The government will consider you a threat. A threat that needs to be eliminated.

"You're insane." Tristam raised his fist, ready to pound on the door. But he couldn't make it move.

I can help you avoid them. Keep us alive. You don't need her. Or the old man.

Still he couldn't close the distance between the oak and his hand. Muddy sweat began streaming down his face.

Even if she's alive she won't be the woman you knew. She'll be the other, I'm sure of it. She was too weak to win her battle.

"That's where I know you're wrong," Tristam muttered. "One final mistake to seal your fate, bitch."

He knocked.


Greg said...

Dammit, you only killed random passers-by and other innocent characters! I was expecting to pick up a Tristam stood knee deep in guts and have to try and get him through his trauma! Instead... he's got a poisonous little voice in his head and we don't know what's happened beyond that door. Nice work, and an excellent choice of places to leave it. Let's hope I don't spoil the story now :)

Her name's Maryann and she's a mother of six. Tristam took a step back from the door, stunned by the vicious strength of the thought. As he did so the door opened into a dark hallway. No-one stepped out or called out a greeting. Puzzled, he called out Anne-Marie's name, but there was no response. He stepped forward, and then across the threshhold, squinting as he tried to make out shapes in the shadows.
Something grabbed him by the throat and jerked him round, pulling him off his feet. He slammed backwards in the wall by the door and heard something fall. The pressure on his throat was strong, and keeping his feet an inch off the floor. He tried to breathe, but the air wouldn't seem to go down his throat.
"How many times did we sleep together last night?" demanded a voice, and in the dim light coming through the doorway Tristam made out Anne-Marie's face. It was hard to tell in this light, but she looked like her.
You slept with her? Nkare sounded shocked and for a moment she seemed to fade back slightly.
"I-" wheezed Tristam, unable to force up his throat to speak either. He waved his hands frantically, and then hit on an idea and held up both his fists.
What did you tell her? How many? Nkare sounded angry again, and Tristam realised that she couldn't have a strong grip on his body if she didn't know what he'd done with his hands. The pressure at his throat released and though he only fell an inch his knees still buckled and he found himself crouching on the floor rubbing his neck all around.
"I had to be sure it was you," said Anne-Marie. "Oh God, I didn't hurt you, did I?" She crouched as well, just as the lights in the hall came on.
"We won then," said Rewand, and Tristam looked away from Anne-Marie's concerned face.
"Yes, I know," said Rewand. "Seems like my counterpart in your world had a slight accident that I avoided. Luckily this... contraption... came through with him." He was sitting in a wheelchair.
"Oh my god," said Tristam. "Is it permanent?"
"How would I know?" Rewand snapped back, and Tristam realised that it was more of an issue that the older man was letting on. "Terpe is fine though, he's called and let us know. What happened to Nkare?"
Still here Her voice was definitely quieter now.
"She's in my head somehow," said Tristam. Anne-Marie stood up and backed away to her father's side. "She's weak I think, and she wants me to go to my apartment. She said there are codes there, but I think she's lying."
"What if she's not?"
Before Tristam could turn to see who had spoken Anne-Marie's face lit up and she squealed, "Terpe!", pushing past Tristam to hug her brother.
"Then I can still wait until she's gone before I go there."
"Or maybe I can go and see what's there right now."

morganna said...

I hope you like it...
At Terpe’s words, Tristam felt Nkare take over his mind. Apparently the connection was stronger than he had thought. Before he could stop her, his body flew at Terpe, reaching for his throat. Terpe’s fist punched out, striking Tristam in the jaw and knocking him out.

Tristam opened his eyes. He was standing on a giant checkerboard that stretched out as far as he could see in front of him. He turned around cautiously, and saw that there were stands of some kind, bleachers, rising in the other direction. Before he could make out who was sitting in the bleachers, he heard a voice behind him.

A woman’s voice, rude and taunting. “Hey, boy.” He spun around to face the gray checkerboard spreading out into the mists of distance. Out of the mists stepped Nkare.

“You weakling. You are too much of a coward to die. Now I have to deal with you on the Board of Judgement.”

“Where are we? What is going on?” gasped Tristam.

“We are on the Board of Judgement, between your world and mine. The gods will judge who is the winner and is therefore allowed to return to the world of the living. They sit behind us, waiting for our combat.” She sprang at him, her fingers clawed, reaching for his eyes.

He turned beneath her, shielding his eyes, and twisted. He grabbed her ankle and pulled, bringing her to the board with a thud. She lay beneath him, stunned. He looked down at her, at her beautiful face, and realized he was going to have to kill her or he himself would die on this board. He wanted to live, to see Anne Marie again, and marry her if she would have him.

Nkare stirred and Tristam knew it was now or never. He put his hands around her neck and squeezed, throttling the life out of her. When she was limp and cold, he released her neck and picked her up. He strode over to the stands and faced the misty beings sitting there.

“She is dead and I am not. I have won.”

“We will take her to her just reward,” came a slightly hissing voice from the mist. The mist curled down and lifted Nkare from Tristam’s arms. She floated into the mist and disappeared above the stands. “As for you, you may return to your world, or what is left of it.”

Tristam blinked and when his eyes opened, he was lying on the floor of Rewand’s apartment, with Rewand and Anne Marie staring down at him. Anne Marie was crying.

“Oh, Tristam, we thought you were dead. You’ve been lying there without moving for two days now. You’re back!” And she flung herself on him.

Tristam put his arms around her automatically, but he looked a question at Rewand.

Rewand answered. “Terpe went to your apartment. There were codes there, just as Nkare said. They control the machines in the government building that were built to move the dimensions around. The government officials who wanted to kill everyone in your world have disappeared completely. Terpe is working with some other people who disagreed with the government, including Ertrob’s family and their organization, to figure out how the machines work and exactly what has been going on. It will probably take years before everything is figured out and back to something approaching normal, but it looks like our side won.” He smiled at Tristam. “I hope you are planning to marry my daughter as soon as possible.”

Tristam smiled. “As soon as we can get a license and a ring.”

Marc said...

Greg - I'd say that's some excellent continuation of the ending. I'm left with an uneasy, mistrusting feeling about Terpe... but then, I've more or less had that from the start :P

Morganna - the checkerboard is a neat idea, and nicely pulled off. And I like the tie-in to Ertrob at the end there as well.

Thank you both for coming along on this yearlong journey! Ideas are already spinning around my head for next year's installment :)