I’m pretty sure I’m going to fucking die here in Ostium. Pretty grim. I know. But I woke up this morning and there was that moment when I didn’t remember all the shit that’s happened. A moment of bliss. And then my brain started working. It all came back. Jake gone. No way out of Ostium. What options do I have? I’m fucking trapped here. I don’t think the food’s going to last forever. It’s just a really good supply, that’s all. Same with the water. There’s a giant tank – like swimming pool sized – under the town, but eventually it will empty. As for the sewage system, I don’t think we really need to talk about that. Suffice to say, there’s a septic tank. Certain things will happen if it gets full. They’re not pretty. But I can’t go through any doors. If we were still attached to, you know, a planet, I could at least get to Jake’s car and use that. So I’m just fucking stuck. Shit out of luck.
Not that I ever had much to begin with.
I forgot to talk about the kiss last time. When we were down there, in the bottom of that stairwell. When you could cut the tension with a fucking knife. No. I didn’t forget. I just wasn’t mentally, or physically, ready to open up that can of worms. Yet. But today is a new day. I got a full tummy. A fresh mug of tea – and now you know why. And I’ve got the can opener for that aforementioned one containing C. elegans. That’s right bitches. Jake’s not the only one able to spout the technical mumbo jumbo. I know me some Latin and some nomenclature to boot!
So. The kiss. All of our emotions were pretty fired up. We were both wound tight. Like metal springs and spirals and shit like that. Whatever you wanna call it. However you look at it. The stress was palpable. We both needed a release. I knew it would help. Not just him. Both of us. We fucking needed it. A little good in our lives. I didn’t really think about it. What it might mean. Where it might lead. How he might take it. I just . . . Did it. And it felt great. He wasn’t bad. And we both felt better after.
That was the first time I used the Hands of Kimura on Jake . . . when we went through that door back to a changed Ostium.
Dr. Kimura is . . . Or was . . . Or is it is? I don’t know if I should be referring to people at the Ostium Network in past tense or not? If I’m never getting back there . . . No, I’m sticking with present. There’s always a fucking chance right? She is one of the many brilliant people we have working at the Ostium Network. She’s kinda of like Q for James Bond. She can’t make pretty much anything if you ask her to do it. It’s a personal challenge she always wants to take on. During the development stage of the first Ostium town – the one I now call a permanent home – I knew in addition to failsafe doors and the like we’d need something more . . . Well, effective. For a specific situation. The Ostium doors were always meant to be one-way, in that one of the Ostium Network’s carefully chosen members would pass through, conduct whatever business he or she needed to on the other side, and then return. No other person would ever come back with them. Certainly not someone from that time or place. That was the hard-fast rule we all agreed on conclusively and without question. But I wanted a fall-back plan for the if. If it ever happened, whoever was there in Ostium needed to be ready. To have a way. We talked about this in one of our big meetings. There were lots of nodding heads. I took it to Dr. Kimura. I referenced a really old movie that involved what is basically a fucking trope of the science fiction genre: the little doohickey that let’s you wipe someone’s short-term memory and implant new memories under hypnosis. The movie, of course, was Men in Black. Dr. Kimura, being as brilliant as she is, knew right away what I meant. She actually helped me form my ideas into words using terms like short-term memory and hypnosis. She knew exactly what to do.
“What container would you like this device to be housed in?” she asked me next.
“Come again doc?” was my response.
“Do you want it to be a gun? A pair of glasses that emits a beam? Or a predictable phallic object like in Men in Black?”
That made me laugh. She was one of the few people who could always make me laugh.
“Why don’t you surprise me, doc.”
Then it was her turn to smile. A different kind of smile.
In less than a week she let me know she had the gloves ready. You can kind of adjust them to what level of mind wipe you want. It’s all short term memory. But . . . There is a setting for like full blackout that leaves the person basically a blank slate. They don’t remember anything about themselves or who they are at all. I didn’t want to ask how Dr. Kimura had tested this to be sure it worked. Nevertheless, I trusted her 100% that it would work.
They were the one item already locked away in the secret compartment in the bathroom of the clock tower, should they ever be needed.
I brought them with me when we went through the hidden temporary door under the bed. Said I needed to use the bathroom before we left and hid the sound of me taking the plate out of the wall with running water. I didn’t know what we’d be finding, but I knew it wouldn’t be good. Since the fucking earthquake was the “warning sign” for whatever we were getting into, I needed to be ready. The Hands of Kimura seemed like the right weapon to be ready with.
Also, doc was totally on board with the name
Okay, you caught me. The kiss was a bit of a distraction for Jake. After everything we saw. Not just the clones, but what we saw on the screens. What Jake had me verify on his phone. It was devastating shit. It was getting to him. It was fucking getting to me. But I knew I could handle it. Process it. Jake. He wouldn’t be able to handle it. My head started running through scenarios. Each one ended with Jake losing. Jake backing out. Jake wanting to leave Ostium and not come back. Because of what these images and stories might mean. That Ostium was exacting a toll on the people of the world. Some-fucking-how. It was some pretty strong, damning evidence, especially with our first-hand experience in Catalina.
I knew once we stepped through that doorway, back to Ostium, things would change. Especially with Jake. He’d have second thoughts about this place. The doors. Ostium. Everything. He’d start to question what he was doing. What he was thinking. What I was doing and thinking. What the reason behind all this was. He’d start questioning everything. I didn’t know where that would take us. I knew I didn’t want to go there. We needed to stay here. In Ostium. And keep looking. That’s why I put on the gloves and gave him his first experience with the Hands of Kimura.
I’ve never regretted doing it. Any of the times I administered the gloves. Fuck! Anytime I zapped him and caused him pain. They weren’t easy. But they were all . . . Necessary.
We came through the doorway and I was standing, he was on the ground. Like he’d just fallen asleep. This was the first time I’d ever tried the gloves. Yes. I was taking one big fucking risk. But Dr. Kimura had assured me . . . She’d promised me they would work exactly to my specifications. And they did. I’d been told at the setting I had at would give me fifteen minutes to play with. Then my victim would start coming around.
The door had closed behind me and I looked towards where we’d originally come through, but something else stole my attention. There was now a ladder attached to the side of the wall. And remember: this wall was just one side of the giant chasm that had opened up straight through Ostium. There had never been a hint of some way to get down to the bottom other than outright falling.
And now there was a fucking ladder.
I didn’t have a ton of time to play with. I threw Jake over my shoulder. He’s puny weight was no match for my impressive strength. The rungs of the ladder were made of stone. The same stone as the side of the stone chasm. Like they’d been carefully carved out of the wall. They went all the way to the top. I guess they were kinda like those crazy invisible ladders I used to climb up the clock tower and then water tower. So this would be fucking easy. So I shouldn’t’ve been surprised. Up I went and in just under five minutes I was at the top, throwing Jake off me and hopping up.
That’s when the rumbling started. Earthquake-type rumbling. A type of rumbling I was now very fucking familiar with.
I looked down between my legs. Down into the chasm. I watched as the ladder rungs popped back into the stone wall like gun clips being rammed home. I actually yelped. Then grabbed Jake by the front of his T-shirt and dragged him back away from the edge. I gave us a twenty-foot cushion, hoping it was enough.
The rumbling got worse. I crouched down next to Jake, holding him close. Not sure if this was going to be the end . . . The end of us . . . The end of everything.
And then I watched it happen . . . I shit you not. The fucking giant crack that had only been around for what? A couple hours? More? Less? I wasn’t fucking sure. Not damn long. Put it that way. I watched it close up. Like the world’s largest fucking zipper. Closed right up and perfectly aligned. Only with earth-shattering rumblings instead of zipper sounds. The ground knitted together and reformed, like it’d never been apart. It was . . . Fucking magical. And very fucking terrifying.
And just like that: it was done. The rumbling ended. The ground stopped shaking. Things calmed. My heart started slowing down to a normal rhythm.
And that was when Jake started to wake up. I hadn’t given him any suggestions. Any thoughts or fake memories, while he was under and in this semi-hypnotic state. But I also remembered what Dr. Kimura had told me if this happened: the victim would retain a hazy, fuzzy memory of the last five hours, almost as if it’d never happened. This are obviously my words. Not hers. She put it a lot more clinically. And probably clearly. So even though I’d fucked it up this first time round. With the Hands of Kimura. I was still doing okay. Because she’d made sure this sort of thing was built in. Because she was brilliant. Is brilliant.
You know. Going over all this now. I think I might’ve started to have a thing for Dr. Kimura. Good to know.
Not that I’ll ever be seeing her again. But still. Good. To. Know.
The rest you already know. I gave Jake the doctored spiel . . . Get it? Because I used the Hands of Kimura. As in Doctor Kimura? Yeah. Jake woulda been pissed he didn’t come up with it. But he took it and believed me. Plus he had his whole melt-down about his internet connectivity problems.
But that night. While he was sleeping. I could hear him snoring away. I did some heavy thinking. About the future. The future of Ostium. And the future of us. I knew Jake was going to have these same issues with cost. The cost of lives. Or supposed cost. The possibility that all these people were somehow being killed. Murdered. Because of Ostium. This didn’t get to me. At all. Because . . . We didn’t know if this was all actually happening or not. If people were actually getting hurt. There wasn’t undeniable proof. Also . . .They’re not my people.
Okay. I may not have outright said it, but it should be pretty fucking clear to you. If you’ve been listening. Following along. Putting the pieces together. I’m from the future. Quite a bit in fact. Not gonna give you the exact date yet. Too much risk involved. If you’ve watched Back to the Future, you know what I fucking mean. Or Bill and Ted. I’m from a different time. Therefore -basically – a different world. These people. Here. In this time. They don’t mean anything to me. Because they’re not my people. They’re people of the past. People I have no bearing on. My people are in the future. They are still so much bits of dead stardust floating around in space at this point in time. Yeah. That line’s not originally mine. And yes. I know. Jake would’ve fucking loved it.
This was how I was able to disconnect from it all. How I was able to disassociate myself from these possible lives that had been snuffed out. That and we still didn’t know if it was all true or not.
Of course. Now. I’m permanently disconnected from “my people.” So it really doesn’t fucking matter anymore. But before any of you jump down my throat. Screaming at me that I’m a heartless bitch. That I’m soulless. That I lack a single mortal bone in my body. Well . . . Now you should understand it all. Better.
But what about killing my men? Those people from my time? Don’t worry. We’ll get to that. In time. When we’re at the right point in the chronology. Don’t rush me!
So I was thinking. Thinking about how Jake was going to feel and what he might think. And then I thought about what I wanted out of this. It was a wild ride so far. Fun. And whatever was happening between Jake and I was . . . Interesting. It had some interesting potentiality. But this wasn’t going to sustain me. I had to look at why this all began . . . Why I ended up in this fucking predicament to begin with. That made it all much more easier to understand.
He’s why I was here. The only reason really why I was here. And the only reason I am still here. Well, that and being stuck here. If before, tracking down and finding Steve had been my journey. My quest. I know that’s what Jake’d like to call it. Now it was a fucking crusade. My fucking crusade. I had to find him. Dead or alive. One way or another. I needed to know. Definitively. If he needed my help, I needed to be there. In any way I could.
Jake had his thing he was doing. I had mine. And that’s when our ways parted on different trajectories. We were still headed in the same general direction. But just more parallel than in sync. That’s when I was done with being part of his recordings. Having my own. It felt right. It felt healthy. Felt like I was getting more out of it. It was helping me. Just like this is now. Because it’s making me forget about the shitty conundrum I’m stuck in here.
So let’s keep talking and trying to temporarily forget.
But first I need a pick-me-up.
I thought that one time with the Hands of Kimura would be enough. No. That’s not true. I hoped it would be. When the doc had explained it all to me, she’d made it clear what a fucking mind-altering experience it would be for the victim. I guess Jake had a much stronger mind that I thought. Not that surprising. When you look at it. After all he’s been through. To come out the other side. With his mind intact. Not to mention that photographic memory.
Those nightmares were rough. On both of us. I felt for the guy. I was able to keep my mental distance from the possible loss of life. It wasn’t in any way proven to be a fact that Ostium was causing all these deaths, and this still remains a mystery. I guess Jake will never know. [Short pause] I probably won’t either. I was gonna give it some time. See if he could find some catharsis. In some way. To put some distance between what’d happened and himself. I tried. It didn’t work. A few days passed and he wasn’t really getting any better. I was gonna have to step in.
First, let’s clear up a few questions before we get into that heavy fucking baggage.
When we were in that frozen fucking wasteland. What did Jake call it? Anji-something . . . Anjukuni. There was that bit when Jake went out looking for the artifact. I didn’t follow. I stayed inside the hut. I know once each of us starting doing our own recordings we’d drifted apart a bit. At least when it came to learning and experiencing Ostium. In other ways we were definitely getting closer. Physically. If you catch my drift. Yes. I’m talking about the sex. But I wasn’t hatching some nefarious plan in there. It was cold. Really fucking cold.
I could tell you that in the future where I’m from the temperature is at a perfect level all the time: not too hold, not too cold. Fucking Goldilocks zone. It’s not. I could tell you because of climate change everything is fucking hot now and there’s no ice left anywhere on the planet. But that also wouldn’t be true. It took a while; over a century, but we got that big shit-storm you put us in taken care of. Part of it was us doing certain things – no, I’m not giving you hints; if you gave a shit you’d be fixing your problems already – and the planet just fucking fixing itself, because it’s that fucking awesome. And time. That was also the key. So there are still plenty of cold places to go. I just don’t ever fucking go to them. I got Jamaican blood in my genetic makeup back aways, so me and the heat get along just fine. Like a rum punch on the beach. And I do my darnedest to steer clear of the cold.
So I just stayed where it was warmer. Tried some of the chow. Wasn’t bad. Made a change from the usual stuff I’d been having at Chez Clock Tower. And now that I think about it, it’s gotta be the only time I’ve ever eaten something on the other side of an Ostium door. Pretty fucking stupid. But I’m still alive. Guess I didn’t get anything that could kill me. Guess that tea vaccine cocktail really works.
Seeing Ramirez just lying their. Really fucking dead. In this hut. In the middle of fucking nowhere. In the middle of fucking nowhen. It was tough. Got to me. As it should. I’m a fucking human being after all. When I sent them through the door I had no fucking clue what was going to happen to them. I may have imagined some bad things. I may have wanted some bad things. But never this. I took a little time checking him out, going over him, looking for scars, signs, something that might tell me how he’d kicked the bucket. There was nothing. That should’ve been the warning sign for me. But it wasn’t. Not till later that I put two and two together and got the special little gun.
The kiss? That was just fucking impulsive, man. See above RE the cold! I wasn’t worried we were gonna be trapped in this icy Hoth hell. But Jake found a way, just like he always did – except for that last time. He got us out and back to a warm place.
I woulda done more than kiss him for that.
In time, I would.
Private Tanaka was another big shock. Again there was the pointlessness of it all: him just lying their on the seat on the bridge in deep space where no one was gonna find him. It also was another body. Dead from the same conditions. And it was proof: proof of a pattern. The body count was up to a new total of three. And it started to make me really worry that the next body would be Steve’s.
Just as lifeless. Just as pointless.
Anyone who’s ever had an interest in space exploration knows about the Voyager program. Even if it’s something akin to ancient history in my time.
Oh, and if you are wondering. Yes: we have found aliens. And yes, they were friendly, though not completely at first. And that’s all I’m telling you about that. Deal with it! If I’m telling the truth that is . . . [evil/dirty laugh]
It was on the day we were to go through the door to Jake’s past. Columbia. That I started thinking about using the gloves on Jake while he was asleep. To see if I could help him with the nightmares. And dealing with everything. I felt the clock was ticking. For him to just throw in the towel and quit. To just give up on everything. The weight of guilt crushing him down like an invisible boulder. Tell him what to think so he could have a fucking decent night’s sleep.
Columbia was . . . A fucking trip. Fucking trip and a half. It was Jake’s history, and given the . . . Ahem . . . History on that, I should’ve expected a crazy, fucked-up ride. I did get Jake to open up though, about his ex and his past life. That was good. Maybe that helped him a bit. The fucked up stuff behind those doors certainly didn’t.
And then when he went in the shower room and that door just slammed shut, like some poltergeist was firmly holding it closed. I lost my shit. For him. But also for myself a little. Hammering on that door; kicking it; trying with every ounce of strength to break the fucking thing down. But there was something goddamn spooky about it.
And you know what? I never asked Jake what the fuck happened in there. What with everything that happened afterwards. Once we got back to the Clock Tower. You know. With the fucking and all. Things were pretty . . . distracted. All around. I don’t even know if Jake would’ve given me a straight answer. He might’ve been too fucked up by the whole experience to tell me something concrete.
But we got through it. And at the end of it both of our emotions and thoughts were going fucking light-speed. And then he started to tip and lose. I had to do something . . . Fucking incredible to pull him through. And I did. I wanted it just as much as he did. And it helped.
And then. Once he was asleep. Satisfied in every way. I did use the gloves on him. Told him to forget about all that bad shit. And just remember the good. The good shit that made him feel so great.
And it totally fucking worked.
And things got into a routine. The sex. Using the gloves. Him doing his thing. Me doing mine. Us doing it together. In weird places. Man, Easter Island. That’s gotta top the Mile High Club, right? Especially since fucking time travel was involved! I guess if things do end right here, I at least have the memories of getting it on in the land of Moai to console myself with.
And then there was the Dyson Sphere. Our final chapter together, basically. I know there was another door and another place after that. And I fucking honestly never want to say anything about the fucked-up shit in that house by the sea. So I’m not gonna. Not even here. The Dyson Sphere was where it all came to an end.
Where Jake met his end. Made his choice.
I still think he should’ve come with me. We would’ve made it work. Somehow. The end of the fucking universe would’ve been better than this. Maybe we coulda had a threesome? Now there’s a downright dirty thought.
At least I wouldn’t have had to deal with all this shit on my own.
It fucking hurts. And it’s not getting any better. No matter how much time passes.
Seeing that display. With the info about Jake. Talk about a curve ball. I just didn’t know what to fucking think. I didn’t. Couldn’t. There was nothing to fucking think about. And then when Jake started completely falling apart. Which was totally his prerogative, given all this shit, it helped. Helped me focus and gave me something to do. To help him. To make things better. Even if they were just getting worse. No matter what I did.
And then Dyson Sphere Take Two. With the other Jake. Seems like it shouldn’t be possible. But time and time again Ostium has shown that not to be.
Which is why I’m doing these recordings. If I’d’ve totally given the fuck up I woulda slit my wrists, or dropped off into the blackness days ago.
But I’m not a quitter.
And in Ostium there’s always hope. No matter what happens. No matter how bleak things may seem.
A certain nerdy, wordy, strange-historied, Beatles-loving guy taught me that.
So I’m going to keep going. I think there’s still a chance. Just like there is for Steve. Just like there is for me.
I’ve got hope.