The Nick Of Time (and other abrasions)
Al Bruno III
Bit by bit, reality fell back into place.
For Lorelei it was like waking up, with each breath, with each blink of her eyes the world slipped back into focus.
Yes, there was her heartbeat, followed by the clammy feeling of the rubber and polythene outfit next to her skin. Next was the pain, the pain of her bruised face and aching gut but at least there was no one standing on her back.
The only illumination came from a streetlight shining in through a nearby window. Lorelei realized she had no idea where she was, but she also realized that since she'd hooked up with Jason Magwier such things were becoming a semi-regular occurrence.
She stood as best she could considering she was wearing stiletto heeled boots- one of which no longer had it's heel. Lorelei steadied herself on one of the room's many wheelchairs and tried to get her bearings.
That got a double take out of her. The room was filled with wheelchairs, all kinds of wheelchairs; antique wheelchairs, modern wheelchairs, motorized wheelchairs and one wheelchair that looked like some kind of BDSM rickshaw. All of them were empty and covered with dust. “You have got to be kidding me,” she said.
“Ah-ha!” Magwier's voice echoed from the hallway, “There you are!”
It took some doing but Lorelei managed to edge her way around and through the tangle of wheelchairs but the missing boot heel didn't make it any easier.
The hallway was no better, just more and more wheelchairs. “What is this?” Lorelei asked, “It's like a traffic jam at an old folks home.”
“Help me here would you?” Magwier panted. Zeth was leaning on him woozily, one half of his face was a caul of blood.
Lorelei fumbled into the hallway, wheelchairs clattered against one another with her passing. “Is he all right?”
Zeth raised his head and glared, “Even for you that was a stupid thing to say.”
“Now, now,” Magwier chided.
“Why are you trying to carry him?” Lorelei said, “Just sit him down in one of the wheelchairs.”
He gave her a quizzical look, “Wheelchairs?”
“Oh for the love of Gaia...” Lorelei look hold of Zeth's other arm and jostled him into a nearby chair. She examined him in the hallway's shadowy light. “You'll be OK. It looks worse than it is,” she said, “but just in case...”
She ran a fingertip along the wound in the old soldier's scalp and whispered a few well chosen words from a forgotten dialect. The laceration began to shrink.
“Thank you,” Zeth's tone was both begrudging and grateful.
“My goodness,” Magwer turned in a circle, “will you look at all these wheelchairs?”
“How about that,” Lorelei sat down beside Zeth and began pulling off the stolen boots, “now where the Hell are we?”
Magwier paused thoughtfully, “Somewhere near Thorn Park I imagine.”
“And how did we get here?” Zeth was using the sleeve of his jacket to dab at the blood on his face.
“I suppose on some level we always were here,” Magwier wove between the chairs, studying the floor.
“Oh here we go...”
Magwier raised an eyebrow at Zeth before continuing his search, “We were here. Jack Diamond was in an empty theater on Coachwheel Lane. The Sallow Sultan was on the corner of Garabaldi and Moon. Dr. Flesh was on Haruspex Boulevard.”
Lorelei was clearing a path for Zeth’s wheelchair, it wasn’t easy and she eventually began grabbing the lighter ones and flinging them out of the way, “Even for you you’re not making sense.”
“Don’t you see my dear? Every thing and every person on Route d’abbaye came from somewhere else,” he paused and bent down. When he came back up he was holding one of the red phials. It was in perfect shape and glowing red, “And why? Because there never was a Route d’abbaye at all.”
Zeth put a hand to his temple, “As if my head doesn’t hurt enough. What you’re saying is impossible.”
“Anything is possible when you have four Serendipity Spirits in the same place. Four spirits working together. Four spirits that are in a sense the same creature.”
“O....K,” Lorelei said. The path to the door was almost clear. This was a hard idea to understand. It was harder still to believe that an entire street had been created specifically for this bizarre little adventure. But on the other hand, why was it suddenly becoming so hard to remember the details of Route d’abbaye? Why was it fading like a dream?
“The Serendipity Spirit wanted to be free so they asked me for help, I was only too happy to oblige... With a few considerations of course.”
“If they...” Zeth began then corrected himself, “If it is free now why is it back in your hand again?”
“Think old friend,” Magwier smiled, “these entities are beyond time and space so their one moment of freedom was all the eternity it needed.”
“So we risked our lives in a place that never existed for an adventure that technically never happened?”
Lorelei sighed, “We’ll talk more about this back at your apartment, maybe you can draw up some flowcharts or something. I think-”
A loud wet gurgling noise interrupted her, it was as though an enormous drain was regurgitating a clog and spilling over. A pained expression crossed Magwier’s features.
“Jason...” Zeth began, “How exactly did you defeat that formless hellbeast?”
“Heh... I didn’t so much defeat, as escape it.”
There was a splashing, geyser like sound then a crashing as though wheelchairs were being thrown every which way.
“Here we go again!” Lorelei began wheeling Zeth towards the door, “Run!”
The Demons of If turned away from the scene, knowing that somehow its liberators would survive, knowing that this was not The End. Knowing that the time of Jason Magwier’s defeat was still in the future.
But not far in the future, not that far at all.