NaNo: Chapter 28

Chapter 28: Carem Comes Home

“Well then, so you’re Truu, and in mass, too!” said Carem, tilting a drink in the newcomer’s direction.

“I’m glad you’re home safe,” Truu said.  “And you look so…the same. Honestly, I can’t tell the difference between seeing you here, and seeing you on the test plane.”

“I was going to kill you on the test plane, too,” said Carem.  “You’re lucky you weren’t Vair or Chein, because them, I might not have stopped.”

“I’m sure that sounds like a great idea in your head, Carem,” Chein said, seated across the room.  “But if you were to think through it, you’d realize that ideas like that are why you still haven’t retired.  You kill me, then what? I just go back to the prior plane, and probably leave you in purgatory for another ten million years, or whatever.”

“Hey, go easy,” said Vair, sputtering into their own drink.  “Carem doesn’t remember any of that, do you, old fella?”

“Look, mister smarty pants,” Carem said, “everything I DO remember about that hell is because you people just can’t keep your damned mouths shut.  And Chein, I don’t care what they say, you smell bad in person. This is only, what the third time we’ve seen each other in mass?”

“Fourth,” said Chein.  “You always forget about Buxos’ retirement party.”

“Whatever.  You still smell.”

“We smell the same in the planes,” said Vair.  “Honestly, everything is the same. I don’t know why we even bother with meeting in mass anymore, it’s not like it makes any difference.”

“Because of tradition, and to keep us grounded,” said Wyndos, appearing suddenly in the doorway.  The group fell silent as Wyndos crossed the room and extended a hand formally to Carem. “It is good to have you back, Carem.  We were very worried.”

Carem seemed flustered at the formality.  “I, uh, appreciate everything you did for me, director, er, controller?  Sorry, I don’t know your title.”

“Wyndos suits just fine.”

“Then thank you, Wyndos,” said Carem.

Wyndos nodded.

“Let’s not get too somber in here,” said Chein.  “This is a celebration, after all. Let’s all get some drinks in us while Carem regales us with all the details they don’t remember.”

“I’m in for drinking,” said Vair, glancing self-consciously at Wyndos.

“Something smokey, with a bit of lime,” said Truu.

“Get it yourself,” Carem scoffed.  “I’m having beer.”

Wyndos cleared their throat.  “I do not generally imbibe, though given the circumstance, a sherry would not go amiss, as far as I am concerned.”

The others laughed.

“So tell me this, Wyndos,” said Carem, drops of beer falling from the glass.  “Did we learn anything useful from my misadventure? I mean, I don’t remember it, but it sounds galling.  At least tell me it was productive somehow.”

“Indeed it was, friend,” said Wyndos, clapping Carem on the back firmly.  “In fact, not only was your own misadventure, as you aptly put it, a great discovery in itself, but the efforts to retrieve you from that plane led to further developments that will direct research for years to come.”

“Let me guess,” said Carem, “whatever it was that got done to me, you’re gonna do it to future miscreants as a deterrent.”

“As the chief miscreant I’ve ever met, you’ll be the very first to know,” said Chein.  “Wyndos, don’t spoil the surprise, if so.”

Wyndos smiled.  “Nothing of the sort.  The discoveries were more…esoteric.  They have to do with the relationship between planes, time, tethering, and onion rings.”

“Onion rings?” said Vair.  “That’s a killer idea! Hey, we should have some music in here!”

Almost immediately, a loud bass line materialized, followed by drums and a synthesized melody.

Wyndos grimaced.  “Turn that off, Vair, now is not the time.”  

Vair looked sheepish as the music came to a halt.

“We have so very little time in mass, we should spend it enjoying each other’s company, don’t you think?” Wyndos said.

“I guess,” said Vair, arms folded.

Carem and Chein sat together near the drink dispensary, chatting loudly, while Vair sulked in silence with his drink.  Seeing an opportunity, Truu approached Wyndos.

“Hey, can I ask you something?”

“Of course,” said Wyndos.  

“That final instruction you gave me…why was it so important that Carem keep quiet?”

“It has to do with the way planes work,” said Wyndos.  “We all knew that Carem was having a hellish experience, being abandoned and alone for what must have felt like ages.  It certainly was years. However, experience teaches us that those memories, even if the upload subject is self-aware, do not persist across more than one planar jump.”

“I still don’t follow,” said Truu.  “You mean Carem wouldn’t have noticed even if they had spoken?”

“That’s just it,” Wyndos said.  “Carem would not remember being on that third plane regardless, but if they articulated anything about it on the intermediary planes, they would remember what they said, and that would allow the memory of the memory to persist, so to speak.”

Truu thought for a moment, and then shook their head.  “Too complicated for me. I’m but a lowly programmer.”

Wyndos clapped Truu on the back.  “You did a fine job. I appreciate your help.”

“This party is more than enough thanks,” said Truu.  “I’ve never been invited to a mass celebration that wasn’t for a rite.  In fact, the last time I was even out of my habitation was- hey, Wyndos, are you all right?”

Truu had raised their voice, and the others glanced over, concerned.  Wyndos looked perplexed, mouth slightly open, eyes focused off into the distance.

“Hey, Wyndos!” said Vair.  “What’s up?”

“Are you okay, Wyndos?” said Carem, rising and walking over to them.

Wyndos mouth shuddered as though speaking, but no words came out.  

“Somebody help Wyndos sit down before they fall!” said Chein.  

Truu and Carem each jumped to Wyndos’ side, catching their arms and steadying them.

Wyndos’ mouth opened again.  

“I…I…want to…”

“I said sit them down!” Chein shouted.  Carem and Truu each took two heavy steps forward, trying to guide Wyndos to the nearest seat.  Vair sat, frozen, staring with a look of horror.

All at once, Wyndos’ body stiffened, catching Carem and Truu off balance, and Wyndos fell flat onto their back.  From somewhere deep in the chest, a sharp and loud intake of breath came, sounding like a gasp. Then Wyndos was still.  

“Oh my god, somebody call for help,” said Vair.

“Raise the head a few inches, use your clothing if you have to,” said Chein.  “And for god sake, give them some space!”

“Hang in there,” Carem said, speaking directly into Wyndos’ frozen face.  “We’ll get you some help. You’re going to be okay.”

But Wyndos was gone.  

(1129 words)

Published in: on November 29, 2018 at 2:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

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