Written by James Wylder, Illustrated by Annie Zhu
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Chapter 5: Alternities
They spun through nothing. Graelyn felt her eyes take in light and things that weren't light. Her ears rang, and sang, and she heard colors and saw scents. Her dreams seemed to replace her blood, and her vomit was flower petals. The floor vanished and reappeared, and for a moment her feet were on a plane of endless glass with fine sand under it with a single moon in the sky. A man at a desk looked up at her from writing, and set his pen down.
She was then falling, clutching Arch's arm tightly as they dropped through airs filled with birds the size of jetliners with a hundred eyes. And then she dropped again, but this time onto metal.
It took her a second to move, to think, to do anything. Eventually, she heard the sound of her own breathing, that calm and saccharine in and out of air, calm trustworthy air. She looked down to see her glasses a blurry shape on a steel floor that seemed to be fading in and out between being red or silvery gray.
She tried to pick them up, but ended up collapsing. She pushed herself up to a sitting position, and grabbed her glasses, placing them back on her face. The floor was changing color because there was a flashing light. That should have been obvious, but clearly she wasn't entirely cognizant at the moment. Her hands were rough, like shed been rubbing them on sandpaper, and her knees were a bit bloody to. Looking to her right, she saw a railing, and pushed herself up on it. Her legs could hold her up, though they were a bit shaky. Where was Mr. Sprinkles? Was he okay? She tried to shove the cat out of her head, but somehow she couldn't. The distance she was from the cat felt tangible, like she had touched it when she went through the portal. That was silly though, she was clearly not doing well, and there were more important things going on than her cat like... Wait-- where was Arch!?! She looked around, and spotted him a bit further down the corridor she was in (ah, okay, a corridor) trying to pull himself out of a dent in the wall he'd made. As she creeped towards him, he succeeded.
“Hey.” She said, raspingly.
“You don't look so hot.”
“Worry about me later. We're lucky we can breathe. We could have come out anywhere.” That she was in an alternate dimension was not as exciting as she'd hoped. She could be anywhere, the people here could be nothing like those she knew, or not even people all together. That she was breathing and the corridor was built with handrails seemed to be a good sign though. Still, she was in another reality. The thought was awe inspiring, and she only wished she was more capable of enjoying it.
“Any idea where we are?” Graelyn shook her head, and kept walking down the corridor, till she reached a sign that she stared at for quite a bit of time.
“All Anubis Corp. Employees must make sure they are wearing proper protective gear before entering this area.” Graelyn staggered forward a bit more, and saw there was a door next to it. She really was struggling.
“Anubis Corp. Its possible this means we're... In... Sorry I need to catch my breath... A universe where John Aril also exists and is also doing things like he was in our reality. At least probably.” Arch reached out, and supported her.
“You got through all that pretty well it looks like.”
“I'm pretty durable.”
“Built Ford Tough.”
“Forget it.” The hallway didn't seem to seem to lead anywhere they could get through, locked and sealed doors, so they returned to the door with the sign telling them they needed protective gear.
“Want me to go first?” Arch asked as Graelyn stood wobbly in front of it.
She pressed the button by the door, and a hand print scan appeared. Throwing caution to the wind, she placed her hand on it. The scanner took longer than those things normally did, but finally responded in a cheerful voice: “Welcome Director Scythes!”
“You must be a big shot in this reality.”
“We must have arrived in the future of it. No way I'd be a Director at 17.” She neglected to mention that being a director wasn't a surprise at all, just that the technology also could make portals through time. She hadn't anticipated it being able to do that, which meant that she had a lot of recalculating to do.
The door slid open. Graelyn and Arch saw a vast platform, stretching out into a beautiful view of the stars. Corpses littered the platform, strange corpses, some human, some... Decidedly not. There was a glowing light at the platform's end, and it seemed to be spiraling out of control. It reminded Graelyn of the light from the portal. Standing not very far in front of them was an older man, not elderly, but his hair had lost his color. Vapor trailed up from his eCig.
“...Mr. Aril?” The man turned, and looked her up and down.
“Miss Scythes. You're looking Twenty years younger. I'm impressed.”
Graelyn followed the handrails, staggering as the enter structure shook.
“Where are we Mr. Aril?”
“This is my great creation, a machine that can draw in anything I want from any reality. Unfortunately some people weren't as keen on it as me, and its going to explode. Maybe implode. Honestly it will be educational to find out which.” Arch walked ahead of them both, and looked at one of the corpses. It was a Korean man in a suit with mechanical parts interspersed all over him, his head lilting in Arch's grasp.
“So it worked, we latched onto your portal.” Graelyn almost sounded proud. Aril looked at her, and puffed again at his eCig. “Really. I'm impressed. I wasn't expecting any stowaways on my project.” Graelyn smiled, not realizing there was some blood in between her teeth.
“Doesn't look like it was an easy journey for you.”
“Doesn't look like your facility is going to last the night.”
“Its not night, this is a spacestation.” That made sense.
“But no, its not. I'll need to be getting off here soon-” He was cut off by a rush of metal that threw him and Graelyn against the walls. The dark Arch ran toward Arch, swords out. The two collided with the sound of a car crash-- swords jabbing and gnashing lightning fast at each other. Graelyn turned to see if Aril was alright, only to see him running far off into the distance. Graelyn got up, and ran toward the fury. She needed to save Arch, not that she really knew anything about him, but he was the only familiar thing here and that meant something. Looking at the corpses, she saw something she'd recognized from research, and picked it up. It was heavy, and she could turn it, but she managed to turn it so she could access the selection screen, and point it in the general direction of the two Arches, tapping on the screen on the dark Arch over and over, who was going in for a blow at Arch's belly. The machine began to whirr, and then activated a powerful electromagnet and gravity distorter. Dark Arch looked at her for a moment, feeling a tugging and then flew back towards the wall smashing through it like a cannonball. Graelyn ran towards Arch, who looked impressed, taking his hand again and pulling him towards the violent blue swirl.
The dark Arch began to crawl out of the crumpled hole it was burrowed in. How much damage could he take? She and arch ran. Hard. Behind her, she thought she saw a person in a strange gray sweatshirt, but she had to still be groggy. The dark arch lurched forward.
“You can't seriously be thinking we go into another one of these.”
“Name another plan.” She tugged, he relented, and the two jumped into the blue swirl. She could see a face as she dived in, a red haired woman. She didn't recognize her at all.
This time was worse. Her legs felt like they were being torn apart. Her eyes rolled back so far in her head they ached. Her senses blurred. She felt sick. She landed in a pile of rubble that used to be a wall, looking into a bathroom. She worked herself back to her feet, checking Arch was still beside her (he was).
She worked forward again, towards some voices coming from the end of the hallway. Loud clear voices, she recognized one but couldn't quite make it out. Working her way out an open doorway, she greeted the sight of other humans welcomingly for half a second, before the reality of the scene set in.
She was high up in a skyscraper, and there were men and women there with guns. They were wearing sort-of-uniforms with matching patches that said “WRC”, like they were some sort of rag tag resistance. The wall in front of her was all glass, and she could see the Skyline clearly. She was fairly certain this was New York City. One of the people with guns was clearly in charge, a red-head with a beautiful round face and sharp chin, her hair short and practical. There were people lined up in front of the glass windows who were not armed. They were wearing suits. Many were sweating. There were nooses around their necks. Her eyes focused in on one in particular. A woman wearing a blue blazer, a blue skirt, a white blouse, and a black tie. Her lapel had a pin on it of a cat. She wore glasses over the small lines on her face, she was probably in her mid thirties.
The red-head spoke, and listed off a lot of names, but really Graelyn phased most of them out as she stared at the woman in front of her. “...John Aril, Vivian Marvel, and Graelyn Scythes, you are hereby sentenced to death by the World Revolutionary Council. May the gods have mercy on your souls.” Graelyn rushed forward, towards herself, as the men and women with guns each kicked a member of the lined up people with suits through a glass pane. She met her own gaze for just a moment. She could see her pupil's grow wide. Graelyn watched herself fall out the window, the rope going taut as she disappeared out of view.
Poet, Playwright, Game Designer, Writer, Freelancer for hire.