Friday, December 6, 2013

Day Five-Hundred-Ninety: Puncture

As we breached the jungle and returned to the fields, something I've suspected suddenly seems to be fact.

Still very much of the opinion that I need to gain control of the Crimson Catastrophe lurking somewheres in my body, I cleared out Engineering during Libby's nap once again and had Plato and Jeffrey come down to help me practice. The rhino rolled, our quiet conversation echoed, the trip continued.

We tried again with Plato's weird Non scythe, using different, unpredictable attack angles and swings while Jeffrey kept me from running. Each time I cringed in fright, trying to summon up the desire to block Plato's feigned attacks; each time the Crimson Catastrophe would not come. Plato stopped short, and practice remained stymied.

After a solid hour of attempts, my fright turned into sour irritation. "Well, fuck me, this isn't working. I've crapped m'pants so many times that I think I've doubled my body weight, but no weapon. What're we doing wrong?"

Jeffrey, whose brow was beaded with sweat from the exertion of holding me in place, shrugged. "Maybe you do have to be angry to make it appear. Or perhaps it won't come out because you know you're not really in trouble?"

I glanced at Plato. He'd retracted his scythe and was drinking from a small cask of water. Dunno how he managed it, but he dropped the thing three times and spilled most of the water before managing to raise it to his bill. And then he... dumped the rest of the water on his shirt.

"I'm pretty sure I was in trouble most of the time," I replied. "Butter fingers over there ain't inspiring confidence in his scythe-swingin' abilities."

Jeffrey grimaced. "Yeah, I guess. Well, think back. What happened to bring Crimson Catastrophe out the first time?"

I didn't have to consider that for long. "The clone. Eve beheading the clone. You know, when I... thought... well. You know, right? You know."

Awkward pause. Very awkward.

"I suppose I do." Jeffrey cleared his throat. "In that case, um, you responded because somebody else was under threat. Perhaps that's how we should bring it out, then: by having someone else stand in front of Plato's blade."

Libby, Fynn, and Eve all flashed through my mind as the candidates most likely to get a rise out of me. "No, no, I can't do that. We can't do that. First off, I don't wanna tell anyone -"

Jeffrey waved his hands. "Not anyone else. Me. Try it with me."

I took a step back. "Uhhhh... you... sure, about that? I... I don't... I mean, it's not very fun, man. Trust me."

He rolled his eyes. "I already know. He's been swinging at me, too, you realize. The danger isn't much greater."

I considered the proposal. He was right, for starters: Plato's scythe is long enough to go through two grown men latched together. Might even be less dangerous if one of them's not struggling. And if it worked... if it worked...

Nevertheless, I paused. "You could get hurt."

"I know."

"You could die."

"I know that too."

"'n what if it doesn't work, and Plato accidentally comes at you for real? I won't be able to save you. Don't even know that I can save you if it does work."

"What, do you mean to say that you don't like me enough to save? I'm wounded, Dragomir."

"You did toss me in jail, once."

"You tossed me in jail once. And punched me in the face! I never did that to you."

"Maybe, but I never forced you to wrestle a walrus."

"I never made you do that! Why would I even ask?"

"Your memory's fucked up from back then, Jeff. Lotsa stuff you don't remember, or remember correctly. Like that time your head got shaved? That was pretty funny."

"That wasn't funny. My son drew a buttcrack on my skull. What's funny about that?"

"Maybe the fact that I watched 'im do it."

"You helped him draw a butt on my head?"

"It seemed poetic at the time!"

We squabbled jokingly for a while. At length, I threw up my hands. "Okay. Okay! We'll try. We'll give it a shot. Hey, Plato!"

The platypus, who by now had dumped two full casks of water onto the deck of Engineering, quacked inquisitively.

I stood back, giving Jeffrey some room. "You're up. Swingin' at this fool for a while. Don't ask why, he's got a death wish or somethin'."

Plato asked why anyway. I explained. He shook his head disbelievingly, probably wondering why two people would be willing to risk their lives under his blade, but powered the scythe up regardless. It slipped through a fleeting hole in space and blazed in his hands, shaking slightly as the platypus steeled himself for what was to come.

Jeffrey did much the same. The laughs faded to silence as he planted his feet, forcing himself not to move, not to run. I might've done the same pinning motion as he had for me, but I had my own job to focus on. The Crimson Catastrophe.

Plato took a practice swing. It stopped several feet short of Jeffrey. All three of us nevertheless jumped. The room suddenly seemed much more intense.

Plato took another practice swing. We didn't jump this time. Nevertheless, my mouth went dry. I felt inexplicably nervous, in a way that hadn't hit me even when the scythe was aimed at my belly.

Plato took a deep breath. He pulled the scythe back over his shoulder a third time, spread his legs, and let it fly.

Jeffrey sighed and smiled. Just a little. 

Time slowed.

When I sleep, I see things. I see events that have yet to transpire. I saw the castle on fire. I saw the door beneath the castle. I saw that I would be a mayor. I saw that Grylock, some day, will be skewered by a darkened tendril. I saw, albeit in a sentence, that someone would die. Someone would die.

But always in dreams. Not when awake. Not as a vision. Not as I saw this.

I jumped forward and pushed Jeffrey out of the way. We hit the ground, hard, the both of us cursing and sweating. 

Plato's scythe stopped well short of hitting Jeffrey. At least a foot. He would've been completely safe.

"Why?" I yelled, grabbing at Jeffrey's shirt. "Why in the hell would you even consider that?"

Bewildered, Jeffrey threw me off. He stumbled to his feet, looking around the room as though doped out of his mind. He ran towards the stairs and up to Sustenance without a word.

Shaking, trying to collect myself, quite aware that, yes, pee was present, I stood. Nearby, Plato shut down his scythe and squawked loudly for an explanation. His eyes were bugged out and terrified.

I couldn't tell him. Couldn't tell him what I'd seen. Couldn't tell him that, in those few, slow seconds as the scythe came forward, I saw an image of Jeffrey superimposed over the real thing, moving at normal speed. Jeffrey, stepping forward, arms out, smiling so sadly, allowing the scythe to plunge into his belly.

Jeffrey dying. Jeffrey committing suicide.

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