(If you’ve missed chapter one, you can find it here.)
(This story contains violence, nudity, coarse language, and mature subjects. Reader discretion is strongly advised.)
After the Grey: Currently
Her eyes were closed; her eyelids fluttered as she recalled the dream.
“You’re not supposed to be here,” she had said.
“It’s time,” came his reply.
“No. We had a deal.”
“You told me to give this to you..”
It had to have been a dream. No one should have been able to reach her that far out.
A dream. Yes. That was all it was.
She opened her eyes to find herself stepped down out of the neutral relay. No one ever used this one. It existed from the times before the division between the government and the veil. It was located in an old motel on the riverfront: room 13. Used to be owned by a retired reporter Daniel Bach. When he went missing and part of the place burnt down, Daniel’s brother had a relay built in hopes that they could find Daniel with it. First and last privately owned relay. The Architect went missing after that. Rumour had it he is holes up in the Dominion’s dream prison; locked up tight.
She couldn’t remember whether Daniel was ever found.
Room 13 was decorated in velvet stripes and modern tastes at one time; only now in its abandoned state the room had gone to rot. The windows were boarded up long ago to keep out the dust. The bed removed and some ratted chairs strewn around the room. The whole place seemed of mould.
She remembered the dream and reached down to touch the necklace dangling on her chest: a gleaming silver Möbius strip with a blue gem inset within.
Her face grew tight with regret. Her heart heavy with grief as she said, “I wasn’t ready to go.”
A tear fell down her cheek. She touched the wetness: she had forgotten what it felt like to cry. She had been gone a long time. So long a time.
She shivered. She wasn’t wearing much, just a white undershirt and a pair of boy shorts. Coming home was always a cold endeavour. The Grey had swallowed the suns years before she was born and now it was always freezing. No place like home.
The voice from the dream she knew so well it haunted her replayed in her mind.
“Don’t say it,” her dream self had begged.
“We are bound soul to soul, you and I. You are never alone.”
“I’m not ready,” Orleans repeated out loud.
Slightly muffled from outside in the hall, came footsteps and voices steadily approaching.
She came to her senses and quickly faded out of sight back into the embrace of the relay.
Two men dressed in jump suits stepped into the room.
* * *
The well dressed Bartender wiped his bar down with a soft white cloth. A radio played behind him softly filling the room with music. There were few patrons in the bar as it was still early. The lights dimly set in the high ceilings barely casting shadows. The windows as always boarded up, the glass having been blown out of them years ago.
The Bartender rolled up his sleeves revealing intricately detailed tattoos on his forearms. His concentration on ridding the wood finish of a particularly sticky stain was broken by something he heard.
“Shh,” he whispered to the patrons sitting loudly discussing something nearest to the bar.
“What is it, Swain?” asked one of them.
Swain ran his fingers through his silver and grey hair messing up his neat slick. He shook his head then turned the volume up. “Did I seriously hear that right?”
“Breaking news this hour: the Dominion and the Sector of the city known as the veil, have finally reached a landmark deal which will end what Minister Providence has labeled ‘the single biggest threat to the repopulation efforts’.
‘Leaders of both parties inked out a deal late this morning to officially ban any and all forms of time travel.
‘In a statement given this afternoon at a press conference, Minister Victoria Providence declared the truce a ‘momentous occasion that will unite two great powers towards protecting our fragile repopulation efforts in this post apocalyptic world. Never again will any of our citizens have to fear the disruption or chaos that unregulated time travel terrorists can cause.’
‘John Hunter leader of the Veil Sector is declining public comment on these stunning turn of events.
‘Now here’s Jill Taylor with the weather report: ‘it will be dry with a chance of drifting dust, high of -’”
Swain turned down the radio. “Well I’ll be damned.” The faces of the patrons were blank. Swain’s left eyebrow raised on its own accord as he wiped his hands and discarded the bar cloth. Drying his hands on his white apron.
His lips were tightly set as he said, “Hope everyone got home or somewhere safe before they shut it all down.”
* * *
“I am the shadows of an empire. I have no name. I am the aftermath of all civilization. I am the Dust of what remains.” (Dust, Cell 145, unknown date)
Oswald the Third had a terrible habit of jumping on the kitchen counters and it vexed Mr. Bishop to no end. No matter how many times he swatted that damn cat off the counters, every morning there Oswald was.
“Get down, Old Man,” snapped Mr. Bishop as he pushed the cat gently down. “Remember your manners, now.”
He opened the refrigerator and retrieved some milk to pour into Oswald’s bowl. The cat purred happily and lapped at the offering.
Mr. Bishop poured some more milk into his own coffee mug and put it away back into the fridge. He sat down at the little yellow Formica and chrome table. Before him was a grand spread for breakfast, including buttered toast with the crusts cut off. He took a slice and spread some orange marmalade over it.
These are the good days; the days of home; the days of regularity; the days of your own bed at night;and of sunshine in your mouth for breakfast. None of that cheap artificially flavoured crap they peddle as marmalade. No, Mr. Bishop preferred the real stuff hand made by his neighbour Marjorie who lived near the park.
A satisfied smile grew across his face. He looked out his kitchen window to the busy street. The school bus was picking up the young ones. The other cars were waiting patiently.
Of all the places he’d ever been to, and he’d been to plenty, Mr. Bishop preferred this quiet little part of Ottawa, where the world seemed little changed by the ravaging effects of time. He was very tired of travelling.
A knock came at the door. Mr. Bishop hadn’t seen anyone walk up. “Who is it?” He called through the slightly opened window.
No one answered and the knock came again. Mr. Bishop realized the knock was coming from across the house at the backdoor.
He rose and walked through his unused dining room into the sitting room that looked out on his own little patch of fence and grass. There on the other side of the sliding patio door was a sheepish looking Lucas Phelps dressed for business in a sleek black suit with a steel grey dress shirt. Two shiny silver pins decorated Lucas’ collar. He was carrying a black leather briefcase with silver accents.
“Lucas?” Mr. Bishop opened the door. “It’s a bit early for a walk don’t you think? On your way to work are you?” He started back for the kitchen and Lucas followed.
“Is it early? I just got back yesterday.”
Mr. Bishop sat back down to his breakfast. “Oh, I see. Jet lag then?” He motioned for Lucas to take the other seat. “Would you like a coffee? It’s a fresh pot. Help yourself.” He slathered another slice of toast with marmalade and bit in.
Lucas went over to the window and stood looking out at the passing traffic. “I couldn’t sleep a wink last night and I’m still wired. How have you been, Bishop?”
“Pretty well for an old guy.” Mr. Bishop finished his toast and wished he could lick his fingers. He wiped them on a napkin and furrowed his brow at his uninvited guest instead.
“Make any trips lately?” asked Lucas as he went to the coffee-pot directly behind Mr. Bishop.
“Not too many no. I get too tired for anything more than waking to the park.”
“Well get your coat on. I’ve got a little surprise.”
“Oh how nice. Let me finish my breakfast and we can be off. Where we going? The museum again? I liked the paintings.” Another slice of toast and more marmalade.
Mr. Bishop felt an arm come down around him from behind to hold him down. Before he could struggle he felt a cold needle prick his skin and something was injected into him. He tried to speak out but couldn’t say a word before slumping into his chair.
Lucas still having hold on Mr. Bishop, let him down gently to the floor.
He went back to the briefcase lying open on the kitchen counter next to a steaming cup of black coffee. He took a cautious sip of the bitter hot liquid. Mr. Bishop began to snore and Lucas smiled as he put down his mug.
From the case, he pulled out another syringe: this one was a little different. It had a silver disc inside a light blue gel like substance. Lucas tapped the syringe and examined it closely. When he saw a faint green light blinking, he walked back over to the sleeping Mr. Bishop and injected the disc into the old man’s arm.
Mr. Bishop’s cat stared at the proceedings with his large intense green eyes. Lucas stood up and pet the cat. “He’s okay,” Lucas found himself comforting the animal.
The cat growled and ran under the table continuing to stare.
Lucas took a sleek black device from his pocket and tapped the screen a few times until it read “sensors deactivated”. He returned the device to his pocket. From his collar he took one of his two matching silver pins and pinned it to Mr. Bishops shirt.
The cat jumped up to the window and began to claw at the glass. The scene of the passing traffic and the beautiful quaint neighbourhood hood flickered as the cat scratched madly. Lucas took one of the kitchen chairs and smashed the window to reveal a broken video screen.
He calmly put the chair back neatly as the alarms sounded and the room went black as the power was cut.
“The lengths they go to keep you here,” he said as he smoothed back a lock of his hair the had fallen into his eyes.
The cat hissed and ran off.
Lucas ran and grabbed the bag from the counter and pressed a button on the device from his pocket.
A bright light flashed in the room and the two men were gone before darkness fell again.