I did not know there were different types of darkness until I came to Ostium. Though, to be honest, I still don’t really know this for a fact, or whether it’s a constant of this universe, like shades of blue for example. But it feels like there are. I’ve been through a lot of doors and experienced a significant amount of darkness and, honestly, they’ve all felt a little bit different, like they were different compositions of darkness, different recipes of the black. Like different blends of coffee, or different types of wine. Or I could just be spouting a bunch of mumbo jumbo, but this is what Ostium has made me become. I think. Maybe I was always like this and Ostium has just helped me release my introspective inner monologue, helped me open my philosophizing senses, my . . . Oh thank god, light’s starting to coming through. I felt like I was going to get stuck in that downward contemplative spiral forever.
The light comes through steadily and evenly, like when you dive deep into the pool and slowly rise to the surface with your eyes open, watching that sparkling surface get lighter and lighter. And then it gets too bright and I have to squint. After the nonstop night of that fucked-up house in Fort Bragg, this feels the polar opposite. It’s bright blue skies and a burning hot yellow sun shining down on me. Feels glorious. I look around at wide, sweeping vistas and . . . This is starting to seem familiar. Like, a little too familiar. And I’m not talking familiar as in it’s a place I’ve been to and learned about at some point in my past, I mean it’s a familiar place because I’ve been here recently. In the last week or two. In Ostium.
It’s . . . Africa. South Africa. Where we were however many days ago it was, after the whole earthquake and opening up of the bowels of Ostium and then the magical undoing of all that. This was where the cave of the skull cult was. I scan around, turning as needed, to see if I can spot it from where I’m standing. I make an almost complete circle before I find it, a couple hundred yards away down the hill. But that’s secondary now to something I’ve just realized. There’s no door behind me. I didn’t come through a door. Which doesn’t seem right. That’s not the modus operandi of Ostium. I think back to what I was just doing before I came here . . . It takes a while. Which it shouldn’t. Why? My head feels kind of mushy, like I just rolled down the hill. Let’s try to concentrate here. Focus. Well, shouldn’t Monica be here too if I came through a door? Yes. Definitely. We’ve been together – in many senses of the word – for some time now. She should be here, with me, exploring Ostium. No doubt. So we’ve got no door and no Monica. A double whammy of weirdness. So what was I doing just before it got all dark and I ended up here . . . Think . . . Think . . . Think . . .
I was with Monica. Back in that dark, fucking creepy place in Fort Bragg. The place I stayed at with Anne. Only it wasn’t really that place. It was a fucked-up Ostium version, with a dose of Ozzy Osborne and a couple of the SAW movies thrown in for spice. We were . . . In the last room. That’s it. We were having a confrontation . . . No. No! I was really pissed at her. Fucking furious. For not telling me something . . . The words! The words that were written in blood on the floor. Like fucking Deep Throat. Trust no one. That’s why I think it hit me so hard. The inferred reference and the actual words. What were they . . . Something like how . . . It’s all Monica’s fault, and . . . She can stop it all anytime she wants. What does that mean? That she has some control? That she’s in control? That’s what I was so angry about. That she’d been holding out on me again. She knew things about Ostium and she wasn’t telling me. I know we have our secrets with each other, but then who doesn’t. But when it comes to Ostium: that’s the sort of stuff we share. We have to share.
This hadn’t felt like the first time either. I’ve been suspicious of Monica before. Never had any proof, just hints and curiosities here and there. This was something concrete. Bloody concrete . . . Or bloody linoleum.
But that wasn’t everything. No. We came back to Ostium. Went through the door. Got back to the clock tower. I was at the map table, all ready to put the eyeball on top of the door number. I started yelling at her. Demanding answers. That was it. She said that she would tell me. Tell me everything. But at the same time she was doing something . . . Reaching for something. Her pockets. She was taking something out of her pockets . . . Gloves. Those glittering, sequined gloves. Michael Jackson gloves. That’s what they reminded me of. They were familiar to me. I’d seen them before at some point with her. I was . . . Scared of them. Scared of her using them. Scared of her using them on me. That was it. I don’t remember when it happened, but it had. Maybe more than once. Whatever they did, it wasn’t fun. It made me want to be anywhere but where they were, even if Monica was there.
And then . . .
And then I dropped the eyeball artifact. That’s right. And it rolled onto the door. There was a bright red light and then everything went black.
And now I’m here. Back in South Africa. Many thousands of years ago.
That ain’t right.
I sit down on the grassy hill, taking in the sights and smells and think about what the hell I’m going to do. What are my options? Well, that depends. Am I trapped here? I listen and look for any sign of the darkness. Negative on both those fronts. I find where I have my mental block of the blackness and slowly lift it off – if the blackness suddenly surges, I’m ready to enforce it again – but nothing happens. Wherever or whatever this is, there’s no blackness here, somehow. Well, that’s definitely an advantage.
So next consideration: am I trapped here? Good question. It’s going to need a good, hard, firm answer, not just vague hopes and theories. So the next logical step is to go down to the cave and see if there’s a door there or anything like it.
Sounds like a plan. I stand up and take a single step down the hill and then stop and throw myself behind a nearby boulder. Landing on my side, elbow out, I’m grazed and bruised, but nothing broken. Good. I slowly peek around the rock and look down toward the cave.
There are two people who have come out of it. It takes me all of three seconds to recognize myself and Monica. Okay, now I know I’m where I thought I was, and I also know when. I watch us look around, then turn and go back inside. I go first and Monica makes a move to follow and then stops. She turns around and begins searching through the pockets of her coat she’s wearing. She’s looking for something. Then she draws out those glittering gloves again and puts them in the front pockets of her khaki pants. Ready for easy access and use. Then she goes back inside the cave. And I had no idea. She’s been doing this for a long time. Maybe from the very beginning. She must’ve. And if she has these special gloves that do something which scares the shit out of me, what else does she know? Or have?
Making the call, I start walking down the hill. I know pretty much everything going on inside that cave right now. Once I found the first skull I remember Monica was right by my side. It doesn’t take long to reach the bottom the hill, long enough for the other me to reach the far end of the cave. I stand at the entrance, weighing my options. It’s not like I have a ton of doors to choose from here. And I know there’s a door just a little further along in this cave. So what options do I have? It’s pretty much this one choice, or start gallivanting around the African plains looking for another door that in all likelihood is not there.
I step into the cave, treading slowly and carefully, trying to be as quiet as possible. I can hear echoing voices and sounds. It’ll mask most of mine, but I can’t be 100% certain. I’ve watched the Back to the Future movies thousands of times. Read tons of books on time travel, as well as many other movies. I know every writer has their own way of interpreting the space-time continuum and what rules do and do not, or may and may not apply. I don’t want to find out what happens if I confront my other self in one of these created worlds of Ostium. It can’t been good. Also if we’re going to hold one rule of time travel to be true, it’s this: my other self isn’t going to hear me and find me right now, because the other me never did the first time I was in this cave. If you get my meaning. Last time I was here, I didn’t see another me. Ergo, I should be safe.
But you can never be too sure when it comes to time travel.
I creep up to the door which is open and inviting in the wall of the cave. There’s no Ostium on the other side, just blackness. I can’t remember if that’s how it was the first time I came through here, but again, I’m all out of options.
I step through into the darkness again.
All dark like before and then light starts coming through, only it’s a different light this time. Whiter. Bright in a different way. And then I feel the temperature, the drastic change from that enjoyable, dry heat to this freezing snow, because . . . I’m in a blizzard. Just great. Snow is flying all around me and I can’t see shit. I start running in no particular direction, looking for some shelter. If I’m still in South Africa somehow and now there’s a sudden blizzard, there should still be a cave or rock outcropping to help me in some way. But I have no clue where I am right now, due to the zero visibility. Then I see a shadow within the white. I head towards it and find a ladder. I can’t afford to waste time. I climb it and enter a small hut. Once inside I fall to the ground on top of animal skins and furs. Perfect. I find others piled up nearby. I grab one, then two, and wrap them around me. This will definitely help with the cold. I huddle down, wrapped in the skins of other animals, and slowly stop shivering. When my teeth stop chattering I know I’m going to be alright.
And then it comes to me. Anjikuni. The Inuit village. The blizzard. Yes, it’s all coming back to me now. It was the next door after the skull cult of South Africa. Okay. Well, instead of getting back to Ostium as I’d hoped, the door took me to here. The next door after South Africa. Is this the start of a pattern for whatever journey or mission I’m on? Could be. My quest seems to have a direction. Good. That’s the sort of thing I need. The conditions I thrive in. So, next question is what is Ostium trying to teach me with this? This is all happening for a reason, right? So I’m supposed to get something out of it. What? At the end will I possibly have some answers to Ostium and my link to it?
I take a look around the inside of the raised hut and see the little polar bear artifact.
If the time continuum is continuing in the same way here as it did with the door to the skull cult, then I can’t have much time. I keep the furs wrapped around me. It’s too fucking cold to leave them behind. Plus, the other me already had furs from one of the other huts, so the fact that some are missing in this hut shouldn’t be noticed. I peek my head through the hole covered by a skin and check for any signs that other me and Monica are approaching. I can hear crunching feet in the snow, but they sound pretty far away. Not bothering with the ladder, I jump down and start running away. Then I stop and head back and this time as I move away, I drag my foot, breaking apart my retreating footsteps. Other me and Monica probably won’t notice, but I can’t afford to take the chance.
I go back about twenty feet. I can’t find another hut, so I’ll just have to hunker down in the snow here and assume I won’t get spotted. I naturally fled in the opposite direction to where I heard the snow-crunching footsteps. But the furs are doing their job well and other than a cold head, I’m staying decently warm, or at least not cold. I wait and soon two shapes appear from the blizzard, arriving at the hut. They both go inside. Time passes. Then other me comes out, with the artifact in hand.
I think for a split second what would’ve happened with the continuum if I’d taken that artifact just now?
I can’t stop myself from shivering, and I’m pretty sure it has only a little to do with the cold.
Other me is standing there, waiting for Monica. That’s right. She did take a little while coming back down. What was that about? Was she doing something in there? Getting her special gloves ready again, just in case? Then Monica is coming down the ladder. Other me is trying to decide which way to go now, whether to try to find the original door or somehow find another one. Monica is also looking around, but it seems like she’s trying to find something else. Her eyes pass over the area where I’m huddled. I can barely see them in this blizzard that is getting worse by the minute, so she shouldn’t be able to see me. And yet, I swear she spends a few seconds on me before continuing to scan around. Maybe she’s looking for Steve? Could be. Don’t know why he’d be huddled out in the snow like this though, even if I am right now.
Then they’re off in search of another door back to Ostium and I slowly follow in their general direction. It should be enough to find that last hut. I stop once they’ve found it, keeping my distance again. They kiss, and I remember how warm it felt at the time. If I were kissing her now, I think it would feel a lot colder. Then they’re going through the door and back to the clock tower.
I run towards it, stopping just in front of the door. The run helped a little with the warmth, but this cold is starting to seep into my bones, even with the furs. This time I climb into the blackness, half wishing I might end up in Ostium.
At least it would be warm there.
A new darkness. A new place. But it’s definitely warmer. And dry. Sticking to the agenda I find myself in the humming environment of a starship. I have the same thrills in this place as the first time, like being on the Enterprise. Literally every Trekkie’s perfect dream. I try my best to recall our steps here, what we did before. The turbolift, as I called it, the trip to the bridge, and then to the hanger where Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were. That’s it. So where am I now? I look around and I find a completely empty room. Well that’s helpful. I have little option but to go through the door and see what’s on the other side.
It whooshes open and I wait, not revealing myself, listening for any voices or footsteps. Sounds quiet. I poke my head out and discover the coast is clear. I step out and try to familiarize myself. It’s the hallway where Monica and I first arrived here. I can see the door marked with OSTIUM. Okay. Which means that the other door at the other end is the turbolift. Good. I have no idea how much time I have here, and it’s not like the other doors. I don’t have long-range views of everything going on. Meaning the other me and Monica could come through that turbolift door at any second. I can’t take the risk. I make my way toward the Ostium door but am stopped in my tracks at a sound.
Was that a door opening somewhere nearby? It sounded real close. But other me never went through a door close to here other than the turbolift door and the one that leads back to Ostium. So what the hell was that? I jog over to the window real quick, just in case I see anything new out there I didn’t see last time. I don’t, but it’s still an incredible sight. Okay, I choose another door that we just walked by last time. It’s kind of inconspicuous, but it’s is in the vicinity where that sound came from. It whooshes open and I peak through: like crossing a road, I look left, then right. No one here. But to the right at the end of this short hallway is another door. That was probably the door I heard opening and closing. I jog over to it and jump to the side as it opens. I peek around and see something I never expected to see.
A person at the far end of the hallway, walking away. It’s a man. Pretty tall. Black hair. Can’t make out much else. Dressed in a coat and jeans. I don’t recognize anything about him. I’m torn whether to say anything. Get his attention. He’s moving pretty fast. Like he wants to get away from something, or get somewhere fast. I don’t know what to do, because there will be repercussions whatever I decide to do. Possibly grave repercussions. And then I’m out of time. He’s through the door and it closes behind him.
Shit. Or maybe not.
But . . . what if it was Steve?
That has me running toward the far door as fast as I can go. I reach it and it opens to another hallway. This one has many doors, but no signs of the man who went through. I could try and find him. It’s obviously important. But there are A LOT of doors. I’m also getting further away from that Ostium door with each hallway, which increases my chances of getting completely lost and not being able to find my way back to that door.
No. I’m not going to risk it. If we’re meant to cross paths again through the doors of Ostium, we will. And if it is Steve, he seems alive and well, which is something.
I make my way back through the hallways and get to the one leading to the Ostium door. I peak around and watch the turbolift doors. Shit! There’s other me and Monica. I’m ducking back in the hallway and running for the other door. As soon as it opens I duck inside and hide from view. Then I wait and listen, holding my breath.
[DOOR OPENS] [FOOTSTEPS] [FOOTSTEPS] [DOOR CLOSES]
[LETTING OUT BREATH]
Okay, I think I’m in the clear, but I’m going to give it a good five minutes to be sure.
Then I go back to the hallway and see the Ostium door closed with no signs of other me or Monica. Good. I can’t help wondering if I’ve already changed something. When we originally came back down that hallway, we were running from the blackness. I never took the time to check on a sound I never heard. Now that’s changed. But I’m still here and I feel the same, so looks like nothing major got changed with the space-time continuum. Got to be more careful with that from now on.
Alright then, on to the next place.
I step through the Ostium door and find myself . . .
. . . In Columbia. Well, that’s what I’m guessing. I do a full turn and confirm this. Yep. I’m on the ground floor of the Columbia City Hotel. Where I stayed once with Anne. AND where Monica and I visited through door 325 just four days ago. It feels much longer than that, weeks ago; and at the same time, much sooner, like yesterday. I see all the familiar furnishings, the boardgames and books. Nothing has changed, unsurprisingly. I wonder where the other me and Monica are. I stand still, but don’t hear any movements upstairs. In an old wooden building like this, you could hear a person walking around in their room at the far end of the hallway, with all the creakings and groanings. Groanings of wood that is, not . . . Supernatural. But that means other me and Monica are outside.
On their way here.
I step to the window and look through.
Shit. I see other me and Monica just twenty feet away. Fuck. What do I do?
First thing: I launch myself up the stairs, going as fast as I can without tripping and falling all the way down to the bottom. The sound is like a whole forest crashing to the ground. I hope my foot doesn’t go through one of these stairs. It doesn’t. And soon I’m at the top and quickly walking down the hallway. I don’t have long to decide what room to go in to. I cast my mind back quick to what we did. We . . . Checked every single room. Well, that’s fantastic, I’ve got absolutely nowhere to hide.
And then I remember.
I run over to the door on the left marked SHOWER and step inside. The water isn’t running and there’s no one in here. Good. If the water had been, I would’ve lost my shit. I close the door behind me. That’s when I hear the door downstairs creak open and voices. They’re here. I pull the shower curtain back slowly just a little and step into the bathtub, trying to make as little noise as possible.
So should I turn the water on now? Wait a bit? I’m trying to remember what I heard last time. When I noticed. It wasn’t until Monica opened the door that we heard the water running. Could that be because this bathroom is pretty sound proof? Has new and modern plumbing for noise reduction? Unlikely. But we saw steam billowing out over the shower curtain, meaning the hot water was running. So do I run it now or wait? Maybe it takes a while to get hot. But if I turn it on now, it might be wrong, might be too loud; they might hear and come check this door out first. That would fuck everything up.
Once again, I just can’t take the chance.
They’re upstairs now, anyway, so I’m out of time.
I wait with my hand on the hot water faucet, making sure the shower setting is turned on. I aim the shower head away from me so I don’t get totally soaked. It’s not exactly a comfortable position, hunched over like this, but it shouldn’t be long.
I hear doors opening and chatter, but can’t make out the words. I count down the doors as other me and Monica come closer. One. Slam. Two. Slam. Three. Close. Four. Close. Five. Close. Six. Then I hear a muffled yell. Close. This door is next.
I count to three then turn the water on. I’m getting a little wet but not much, and the water is coming out boiling hot. Clouds of steam soon start forming and billowing upwards. The door opens. I count slowly to three in my head, remembering the steps. Then I turn the water off. Part of my coat has gotten pretty wet and drags along the water, making a strange sound. Was that right? I reach for the shower curtain. Rattle the rings a little. Then slowly start pulling them open.
The door slams.
And I let out a long pent-up breath. Phew. Got through the first act. Now to get ready for the second. I close the shower curtain fully again and stand close to the faucet, opening the curtain a little at this end. I want to watch them go through and see how it looks from an outsider’s angle. I can see the window. It’s closed and looks like an ordinary window. Nothing like a door. A sense of dread steals over me. Was that right? Did I do something wrong? When is it supposed to change into a door?
I don’t know. So I just wait. Imagining them going through the other doors. Getting once piece of the artifact, then the other. And now they’re coming back, quickly running out of time with the blackness coming, but I can’t hear a thing. To me, there is no encroaching blackness.
Then they throw open the shower room door. I’m still staring at the window and as the door is opened, it magically transforms into a solid pane of glass with a glass doorknob on its side.
They run inside, other me throwing it open.
Monica starts to go through.
I wonder with me not hearing or sensing the blackness at all, if I’m in a different dimension or phase to them here. Can they actually see me? Can I touch them? Or are we all ghosts?
Other me is about to go through the door. On impulse, I reach out with my hand behind him, just to see if I can feel him. But he sees the hand coming at him out of the corner of his eye.
“Fuck!” other me says.
He tumbles through and the door closes it and that’s the end of that.
I step out of the shower, wondering. I’d forgotten about the arm reaching for me when I went through the glass door.
Could I have touched him? I still don’t have an answer.
I leave the shower room and figure I have to go all the way back down Main Street to get to that original door that leads to Ostium, right?
As I’m thinking I see a ghost walk down the hallway. No! It’s Anne. A ghost form of her. In a different time. A different life. But as she passes through, I feel a coolness descend over me, forcing a shiver. She stops just a second and looks back, as if she’s felt something, then continues down to our room where, presumably, the ghost me is waiting for her. She never mentioned any strange experiences.
Then I decide: no, I’m going to give that door a try. It worked for other me and Monica, so why not me in the present.
I go back into the shower room, hopefully for the last time, and I try the glass door. It opens on blackness.
I climb through.
And just like that I’m back in the desert. The land of the Anasazi, the ancient ones. And, thankfully, I check my surroundings fully before taking a step, because if I’d taken a couple I might’ve gone right off the edge of the ledge and plummeted to my death below, no matter what phase or state I’m in. And other me and Monica would’ve had no clue who just plunged to a hard end. Speaking of which, where are they? I really hope they’re above me. But first I gingerly look down, since that’s easier and there they are below, on the first ledge. What the fuck, Ostium? You’re not making this easy on me. What’s the logic in this? Do you want past me and present me to meet face to face?
So what the hell am I’m going to do now? And, as usual, I don’t have much time. I look around and head for the nearby granary. Like the others it’s got a bunch of picked corn in it, unshucked, and waiting to be eaten. I don’t have any other option. I start digging myself a hole, moving the corn around and stacking it so it still looks right. Then I carefully climb in and bury myself in the many ears. There’s lot of gaps to allow me to breath, and I’m not too uncomfortable, a few corn points digging into me, but nothing I can’t handle.
And then I wait and wait and wait. I know it’s going to take a while. Climbing up those tree ladders was no walk in the park. Then I hear them coming and switch to statue mode, keeping perfectly still and holding my breath. I can see them through a chink in the corn and watch as they walk through, quiet and reserved. Other me stops for a moment and looks down at some corn on the ground. Shit. Some must’ve fallen. But then he continues on and I’m off the hook. I wait until I hear them climbing the next tree ladder and wait some more until I’m pretty sure they’re on the next ledge, the last one that leads to the cave with the artifact and the door, and then I break free of my maize prison. It was anything but a-maize-ing. Get it? Maize. Corn.
I leave the granary but keep close to the wall so I remain out of sight of other me or Monica looking down. I look out at the incredible view from up here. It’s just breathtaking. And then I see movement. But it’s really far away. I wish I had a pair of binoculars. It’s definitely a person, far away, walking among the rocks. I can make out black hair. It’s got to be that guy I saw earlier. Maybe Steve. Or one of those military guys who is somehow still alive. But he’s not in camo gear. Did he come through the door that other me and Monica came through? He’s walking around, like he’s looking for something. Probably a door. Maybe someone else. Like what? No clue. He goes behind a rock and that’s all I see of him. He doesn’t come out the other side. He’s just gone.
I was going to follow other me and Monica up to that door in the cave, but I think I’m going down now. I need to just look around down there and see if I can see anything. But I can’t go now. I need to know other me and Monica are completely gone. So I wait for a whole fifteen minutes. It’s agonizing. But the view is still great.
Then I start making my way down. Taking it real slow on those tree ladders. It’s actually not too hard, as long as you take it slow. Another fifteen minutes and I finally make it to the bottom, on solid ground. And then I spend yet another fifteen minutes looking around trying to find where this guy might’ve gone and if there’s any evidence of him around here. Or perhaps I’m just losing my freaking mind on this mandatory trip down Ostium memory lane. I don’t really find anything, though there are some footprints, but I’m not enough of a tracker to follow them or work out who’s is who’s.
Then I call it and look for the door that is sitting around out here. Doesn’t take me long and I prepare myself for some Moai action.
Another sunny day; blue skies; grassy fields. I’m in the middle of somewhere, not sure where Ostium has dumped me now. And this whole thing is starting to take its toll. It wasn’t like I started this fucked-up road trip on a long good night’s sleep. It was at the end of a considerable amount of time through one of, if not the, most stressful doors Ostium has taken us to so far. And I’m starting to feel pretty wiped. No food. No water. Just walking and looking for answers. I’ve learned some interesting things, but still not sure where this is all going.
I’m huddling behind a moai because I don’t know where other me and Monica are right now, so I can’t blindly go walking around. I peak around and see no one on the other side. I cross a few hills and hide behind the next moai. And go through the same routine. This time I see something.
It’s Monica and other me doing the dirty on the grass right in front of the moai I’m hiding behind.
Before you ask. No. I’m not going to watch. And I’m recording this specific commentary after I’ve put plenty of distance between me and those two love birds. Though that seems like a weird way to put it, since I am one of those said love birds. I couldn’t help gasping when I saw them; it’s really er . . . Discombobulating to see yourself . . . Live so to speak, in coitus with someone. Fortunately the groans and good times happening guaranteed I wasn’t heard.
At this point I don’t care what Ostium is trying to show me here, on Rapa Nui. I’m done with this place. I go in search of the door, looking for indicators of familiarity. That photographic memory coming in handy yet again! And there’s the door and I leave the lovers’ den.
And this is what it all comes down to. I hope. I don’t know if I’m going to have to live through that experience in Fort Bragg again. And if so, what happens after that? Am I trapped in my own Groundhog Day? Doomed to live through these doors and worlds over and over. If that’s the case, obviously having sex with the girl isn’t the solution, since that’s happening on the other side of one of those doors. No. The more I think about it: it’s go to be here. Things came to a caustic head with what I’m now calling the hell house and then back at the clock tower. And while they likely began in their inkling form long ago, the world of the Dyson Sphere was where the fire really began. That’s what I feel. That’s what my logical brain is telling me. But I don’t have the specifics, because I have a big black hole in my memory about that place. Because, and now it seems obvious, Monica must’ve used her special gloves on me. Because of what I saw, or what I said, or all of the above.
And that’s when I have a wonderful, awful idea. I’m going to need to check something on my phone real quick. I’ll give you a hint: a recording. See if you can work out what I’m talking about by the time I get back.
Bye for now.
Well. Ahem. Now I’ve got the proof I wasn’t so sure about. I also have a much better idea about what happened to me in this place. I went back and checked the recording. I knew something happened to me. I was pretty sure Monica did something to me. But I didn’t know what. Turns out, Monica took care of me, but forgot to take care of the recording. It’s all there. My voice and hers.
I heard the whole part about the photo and story about me in that glass case. The pressure it put on me. How I pretty much lost it in there. And then Monica coming at me with the gloves. There’s a sizzling sound and then a thump, which is presumably me hitting the floor like a sack of potatoes. Then there are a few signs I can’t really identify. I’m going to guess it’s Monica finding and picking up the artifact. Then there’s a grunt from her as she throws me over her shoulder and carries me back to the clock tower.
And there you have it. She probably has her reasons for doing all this, just like she was going to tell me before this whole grand adventure started. But once again I’m . . . Fucking incensed! Was the sex just a smokescreen all along? I don’t know. I’m not going to suppose and dig through that baggage. Maybe another time.
But it means something BIG has to happen to break this ongoing pantomime, this Groundhog Day from hell. Something to break the mold, throw the train off the rails . . . Disrupt the space-time continuum. I know, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made and risks have to be taken, you know that more than anyone.
I start walking through the doors, being noisy, not caring, trying to get my bearings. Then I find the big hangar-sized museum room. I start marching, spotting my photo in the glass case from afar. It’s big, and I know my mug real well. And beside it I see my crumpled form. Monica is crouched beside the other me, putting the little artifact ball in her pocket.
I walk up to her with loud, heavy footfalls.
Her body becomes tense, ramrod straight. Slowly she turns around and her mouth literally drops open when she sees me.
[Yelling] “This ends now!”
She looks back at the crumpled form other me, then back to present me.
[Screaming] “This charade is fucking over!”
She is stunned. Speechless. Her eyes are so wide, like saucers.
“I know what you did here. I saw it. I saw you try to do it again later. You’ve done it to me before. Multiple times. That’s why my mind’s all fucked up. Isn’t?”
She still says nothing.
[Small voice] “Yes,” she says.
Hearing her actually say it – finally say it – disarms me a little. Cools me.
[Croaky and hoarse] “I just want to know why. Why Monica?”
Monica takes another look at the collapsed other me, then looks back.
“Because I had to. Because you knew too much. You were learning too much. Because you were going to find out, and I couldn’t let that happen.”
“Because it would start the avalanche. You’d know a little, then you’d find out more, then you’d figure out even more. And that can’t happen.”
“Why can’t it? I thought we were a team. I thought we were . . . close.”
“The fucking was real. I never faked it. It was fun. But I was also controlling you.”
“Because I had to. Because it was part of the rules. [Laughing] It was the main rule.”
“What? What rules? What are you even talking about?”
“If you knew everything. If you got all those answers you keep looking for, it would be the end of Ostium. The end of me. And the end of finding Steve.”
“I . . . I still don’t understand. How could it be the end? Why am I so tied to Ostium?”
“Honestly Jake, I don’t even know the answer to that. That’s a big mystery to me. And I still have no fucking clue.”
“So what do you know? What can you tell me without ending all this?”
[A deep breath] “I can tell you Ostium isn’t what you think it is. It’s something very different, and much greater. With such potential. That British friend of yours. Dave. He actually had it almost right. But then they had to come in here and fuck it all up.”
“They? Your military friends?”
“They were never my friends. They were . . . I guess you’d call them my coworkers. And they weren’t military.”
“What were they?”
Shake of the head. She can’t say.
“What about you? Were you military?”
Another shake of the head.
“So all this time it’s been lie after fucking lie.”
“Not all of it, Jake. It’s been a mixture. A cocktail.”
There’s a smirk on her face now; she’s trying to win me over.
“And what about Steve? How does he fit into all this?”
She takes her time to answer, thinking long and hard.
“He’s not military either. And he’s not a crush of mine. He’s someone I care greatly about. Someone I love.” [Breath] “He’s my son.”
Now it’s my turn for widening eyes of disbelief and impossibility.
“He was the first of us to come to Ostium. When it was ready to receive visitors. He didn’t know what he was getting into. They didn’t know what he was getting into. They hadn’t a fucking clue. And when I found out I lost my shit. But I got here as fast as I could. And they followed. And I did what needed to be done. I took care of them. I got back at them for what they did to my Steve. [Emotional] And I still don’t know where he is, or if he’s alive or hurt. I have to find him, Jake. I have to. It’s killing me inside.”
“How did I end up in Ostium?”
“I don’t know, Jake. You’re the misnomer here. The anomaly. The impossibility. But you are connected. Somehow. That’s why I changed the game plan and started working with you from the beginning.”
“Apart from occasionally wiping my mind with shock therapy.”
“I’m sorry Jake. I did what I thought was right. I did what I thought needed to be done. To protect myself. To protect Ostium so it would keep existing. And to protect Steve.”
I look at my feet, millions of thoughts and questions running through my mind. I’ve gotten some answers, but there are so many more questions again, and Monica’s only giving me so much.
I raise my head to ask one that she might answer, but that’s when there’s a terrible crunching sound and the floor starts to tilt. Klaxons begin screaming as something is horribly wrong.
“It’s the blackness Jake. It’s attacking the Dyson sphere! We have to get the fuck out of here!”
She bends down and throws the other me over her shoulder like it’s no big deal. Then she’s heading back for the door to Ostium.
I follow slowly behind, my mind still abuzz. I hadn’t heard or felt the blackness, but it’s definitely doing something to this place. Whether it’s mattered with the earlier doors, in this place it can clearly do me harm. I keep pace with Monica, not wanting to lose her. It’s important we all get out of this if things are to go on. They’re not going to be normal, not by any means, but when is anything ever normal in Ostium? How we will regroup and go on from here I don’t know. How the timeline will get fixed when I go through the door I don’t know either. But Ostium will have a way. It has with everything else so far. I’m sure after lots of tea and rest and talking we might be able to salvage something of our friendship, especially if she continues to give me answers, tell me what she knows about this place.
At the same time my science fiction mind is whirring. Going through the literature; checking the research; analyzing the theories; and calculating the math. And there’s only one definite answer at the end of it.
I follow Monica up to the door back to Ostium. She looks back to make sure I’m with her. I’m not sure if she’s thought about the repercussions of me going through. Of there being two mes in Ostium. But she doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.
“Ready?” she says, as she throws open the door and takes a step.
Monica stops, and looks at me.
“I can’t go.”
[Fear] “What? Why?”
“Because of the rules.” It feels really good to throw this line back at her. “There’s two of us Monica. A paradox. In science and reality that’s not allowed. Only you and other me can go back to your time. I’m from . . . A different one. An alternate one.”
“What the fuck are you saying Jake? The blackness will fucking kill you.”
“I know. But the space-time continuum has already been fucking up enough. Me going with you might cause space-time disruptions that could have an effect on the entire universe.”
[Yelling anguish] “You don’t know that!”
“No I don’t. But I also don’t know that it won’t happen. Like when they turned on the Large Hadron Collider for the first time. There was an infinitesimal chance it would create a black hole that would engulf the entire planet. It didn’t happen. There’s a chance now. With me going through. I’m not willing to take that chance.”
“But what . . What if I changed things in my time. Told the other you about what I know. Tried to change the way things turn out . . .”
“No! No. You can never do that. It needs to continue along as it already has. You need to be you and say nothing, so we get to this moment again. Changing a little thing could have a catastrophic knock-on effect.”
“Yes,” I say with a smile. “And we’re completely out of time. Go now, while you still have the chance.”
Monica wants to do something: a hug, a kiss, something, but she doesn’t have the time. She turns and jumps through the doorway.
Moments later the blackness . . .
[MONICA:] When I go through to the other side, I drop Jake. He’ll get a few bruises. No worries. I turn and hold the door open. I . . . I watch as the blackness comes and covers this other Jake. Engulfing him. Obliterating him. Making him nothing. Then it keeps coming and the tentacles start reaching through the doorway.
I let go of the door and jump back.
The door slams shut.
That was the end of Jake.