Month: August 2015

Chapter 66: What’s Left; What’s Lost

She didn’t know where she was. She remembered a monster chasing her. She remembered doing something to drive it off. But now she was standing in a field of mirrored grass, and even those few memories were being crowded out.

Noise filled her ears. Noise like she had experienced as a child, when everyone was talking but she couldn’t join in. She searched for something, a strand of coherent thought that could make everything make sense. But there was too much.

She collapsed.

She was staring at the boots of someone she didn’t know. Or maybe it was someone she used to know. He stood above her, conducting the meaningless noise as if it were a thing of beauty.

She tried to stare at his face, but it kept changing. It was her father, it was Burnout, it was Rachel, it was Will. The faces all fit perfectly, but none of them belonged.

Tina opened her mouth, but no words came out. The man-thing in front of her stopped. His eyes searched across the field, towards the city in the distance.

His mouth opened and a powerful voice rippled towards the city.

“The city is built on the souls of its founders.”

For the briefest moment, the noise stopped. Tina felt her muscles relaxing for the first time since she had awoken in the field.

He looked down at her.

She tried to say something again, but he shook his head.

The man dropped to one knee and placed a single finger on her forehead. A whisper echoed between her ears.

Do you know who I am?”

She managed to shake her head, and the man’s face dropped. All at once the noise returned. Tina pulled her legs towards her chest and focused all of her attention on the man’s shoes. For the briefest moment, it worked. But the noise was too insistent to be blotted out by such a cheap trick.

“The buildings have memories.’

The man’s voice rang out again. This time, it did not stop the noise; the meaningless sounds only grew louder, as if they were trying to push the one coherent sting in their mass as far away from her as possible.

Tina covered her ears and shut her eyes. The man didn’t stop conducting the noise, but his whisper echoed in her head once again.

You can’t escape; you can’t hide; you cannot control what you will not face.”

The noise doubled in strength. What little help covering her ears had done, it now only trapped the noise closer to her brain. The sound reverberated in her skull and in her chest, forcing the air out of her lungs. She tried to scream, but it didn’t make any difference. The only one who might have been able to hear her didn’t even glance at the girl at his feet.

Tina crawled towards him, reaching out to grab onto something; praying that he could stop the noise even for an instant.

Her fingers brushed against his shoe, and the noise stopped.

“The streets are filled with the pain stamped into them day after day.”

And you ignored it.

The venom behind the whisper drained the warmth from her blood. The man’s eyes met hers for the first time, and the icy blue gaze pierced through her. A little bit of strength started to work its way into her.

“No.” The sound of her own voice surprised her.

Yes.” The man raised his hands again, but the sound did not return yet. “You failed to listen. You failed to hear their cries. Now, it is all you shall hear.”

The noise came back, louder than ever. Only now, it wasn’t random. She could hear scream sof pain and rears of joy. She could feel the rivers of sorrow being boiled into steams of hatred.

“You wasted me on toys. You saved a few when you could have saved thousands.”

A man imagined the stain his fall would leave on the pavement in front of where he worked. It was the funniest thing he’d thought of all day.

A killer felt the weight of the gun against his thigh. He walked slowly away from the aller as the sirens drove past him.

Tina pulled at her hair. Every thought every emotion these meant felt echoed through her entire body.

“Why?” She croaked.

It is who you are. It is who I am,” The whisper echoed. “We collect what they leave behind. You chose to take what you could use. They chose to keep what gave them joy. Now everything left behind flows into the only source it has.

In the next instant, Mach was on her feet.

You cannot control what has passed. You can only choose what to do with what is left behind.”

He turned towards the city again. Tina followed his eyes and saw two figures approaching.

They were made of mirrors too. Effigies of humans made from silver and glass. One moved quickly towards her. It was trying to say something, but it had no mouth to talk with.

She looked at the man.

They have come for you. They want you to wake up.”

She stared blankly at him, and turned backed towards the mirror-person. He was gesturing towards the man; he seemed to be concerned, but she didn’t know why. The noise didn’t seem nearly as loud as before. He gestured for her to follow him; to go away from the field.

You can leave if you go to the city. But it will only grow worse if continue to act as you have.”

The mirror-man nodded and made a gesture to follow him. Tina took a step forward, the silver grass was surprisingly soft against her feet. She turned towards the man.

“Who are you?”

The man began to conduct the noise once again.

I am what was left behind.

A thunderous clap echoed through the field.

I am what was always here.”

The noise seemed to swirl towards him. The mercurial sky began to bulge towards the field.

I am what gives you strength.

The sky burst and a flood of liquid metal spiraled down towards him.

But I am not what makes you strong.”

The flooding silver forced Tina towards the city. The mirror-people were already gone.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&7

Mach woke up.

There were people around her. She recognized them, but it took her a moment to understand who they were.

Burnout leaned in from the side of the bed. “How do you feel?”

She groaned as the light hit her eyes. She felt the needle sticking into the back of her hand. She felt the bed pressing up against her back. She felt the cool metal pressing up against her arm.

“I can’t feel my legs.”

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Chapter 65: Glass Houses

She wore a black suit.

Will walked down the hospital corridor towards her. Even without the suit, he would have easily recognized one of his father’s agents. By the time they were allowed onto the field they all always had the same look in their eye. It was cold and dark, but it wasn’t anger, or sadness, or pain; it just was.

“You are William.” It wasn’t a question. Will nodded anyway. “I have been told to offer you my services until you are satisfied or I am certain no more can be done for the girl’s health. I was told that I am to forget any information regarding her true identity or personal life the moment it is no longer relevant. I was also told that you would wish to accompany me into her mind. Is this true.”

“If you take me along, it won’t hurt the chances?”

The agent nodded.

“Then I’m going.” He continued walking towards the room. “And you can stop that. I’ve been told reading my mind gives people headaches.”

She followed him silently.

The smell of medicine and cleaner filled Will’s nose as they travelled further down the nearly empty hallways. The sound of heartrate monitors and praying mothers echoed out from each room he passed. He could hear the rest of the group waiting ahead. Each one of them had delved into  their own nervous havit since he’d left.

Red was pacing. Of course, Red’s pacing involved going from one end of the corridor to the other in the time it took most others to walked ten steps. Every time he walked by a nurse or doctor making their rounds, they had to fight not to stumble.

Hawthorne was fiddling with her vest. Brambles and roots were constantly growing from and shrinking into the living armor. They never reached more than a few inches off her outfit, but it gave the impression of thousands of tiny hands grasping for a chance to escape their prison.

Allspades had started tapping the wall he was leaning up against. Each rhythmic motion of his fingers echoed along the corridor as if someone was using the wall as a punching bag. The nurses walking by shot him glares, but the rooms were sealed well and none of the patients were bothered.

Burnout was the most still, but he also seemed to be the most nervous. He had sat cross-legged on the floor and leaned up against the wall with his hands on his knees. His eyes were closed and he was taking deep slow breaths as a light blue aura shined from him. With each breath the brightness varied just a tiny bit.

Red slowed down to walk by Will. “Who-“

Will shook his head. “That’s not important. She can help.”

The glow around Burnout vanished and he opened a single eye. “Where did she come from?”

“And why is she wearing an Agent’s outfit?” Allspades asked. “Didn’t you beat a couple of them in a fight last week?”

Will ignored them. “I don’t know her name and none of you want to. She’s here because I traded a favor and I have a guarantee that she’ll do everything in her power to help Mach. You should all go home and get some rest.”

None of them moved when Will and the agent walked into the hospital room.

The agent brushed passed Will and moved towards the bed.

“I can only pull us in for an hour, and you’ll have to stay within sight of me.”

Will nodded. “Time differential?”

“4 to 1.”

“What’s your exit?”

She raised an eyebrow. “I’ll have a pair of mirrored sunglasses inside my jacket. If I put them on we’ll both come out. You’ve done this before.”

“Twice. It’s unpleasant.”

She placed a hand on Mach’s head and held the other out to him. “It doesn’t get better.”

Will grabbed her hand.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

The noise was deafening, but there was nothing to here.

The agent immediately turned completely around; her eyes danced all around the city street.

Will closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Entering other minds cut out any physical power. The last time, Will could handle it relatively well, but for some reason the power loss was hitting him much harder in Mach’s mind.

After a moment he opened his eyes. Among the thousands of sounds a single clear voice broke through.

“The city is built on the souls of its founders. The buildings have memories. The streets are filled with the pain stamped into them day after day.”

He watched as the stone and pavement around them changed. Hundreds of thousands of mirrors stared down at him from every angle. He looked inside, and the man who stared back wasn’t him. Not anymore.

The agent tapped on his shoulder and he turned around.

She pointed to her mouth and tried to speak, but if the words left her mouth it was only to join the jumbled mess of sound around them.

Will shook his head. Sound wasn’t flowing the way it should.

She pointed to her eyes and gestured to the mirrors while shaking her head. Then she pointed at the sky.

Will followed her finger. The sky was made of liquid silver; it flowed around itself, waves and eddies forcing their way over and around each other. He glanced back at the agent and she pointed more insistently.

He focused more closely on the movements in the sky.

The eddies were more or less stationary; no matter how strong the wave, the swirling water always returned exactly where it started. The waves, similarly, never left their course, but oddly they never seemed to interrupt each other either.

The waves had a central source. Will followed their path backwards, but the building blocked his view.

Will looked at the agent and pointed towards the source of the waves. She nodded and beckoned him to follow her.

Will avoided looking into the mirrors. He didn’t want to remember what the city was trying to show him.

He noticed the agent in front of him hadn’t reacted to the city at all. Was there nothing for her to see? Maybe the city had never changed for her, or maybe the mirrors seemed to just leave her out of them.

A teenager in a hoodie with bandages covering his mouth walked parallel to Will. His eyes darted left and right, not searching but rather identifying what he already knew was there.

Will kept walking.

The teenager was gone. In his place was a man in his early twenties. His body was obscured by a long cloak and his face was hidden by a smoot jet black mask.

Will kept walking.

A broken man sat with his back to the wall and a bottle cradled in his arms. His face was hidden in his tattered jacket but his shoulder shook with silent sobs.

The agent waved her hand in front of his face.

Will didn’t know when he’d stopped walking.

She glared at him lightly and tapped her fist against the side of her head.

He needed to focus. Mach’s mind was trying to drive him out, and none of them could afford that.

Will looked up at the sky, they were close to the source, but it was still obscured by the buildings surrounding them.

He didn’t know how much time had passed since their arrival, but they couldn’t afford to waste any more time.

The agent started walking again and Will followed closely. He kept his eyes glued firmly to her back.

One step the city surrounded them. The next it was gone.

They were in an empty field, the source of the sky was right above them.

There were two people standing directly below it.

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A Little Something

Hey all, there’s no chapter this week. I’m having to adjust to a new sleep cycle for work and my free time’s being eaten up. But I feel like I should give you something, so I’ve posted a little thing below. It’s got nothing to do with Rumor’s Block, its just something I typed up a few weeks ago to get a bug out of my head. I’ll have a new chapter up next week.

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His home was dying.

Koma couldn’t run. The great tree had protected his entire nation for decades, but now it was going to end.

They crawled and slithered and bored through the city like an unquenchable fire. The roaring sound of their thousands of legs and the crackling of their teeth forced all thought from his mind. Their gaping maws glowed with heat and hunger, consuming everything in their path.

Koma tried to turn tried to flee, but such thoughts were incinerated as soon as they grew. His neighbors were crying out to him, begging for his aid. He heard their screams as the unending torrent reached them. He could feel their agony in his bones as they clawed at their own eyes to stop the burning.

Their roar grew as the infection neared him. It filled him, drew his thoughts towards their onslaught. There was nowhere he could go. The tree was everything; when it fell to their wrath, there would be nothing.

Over the cries for aid, a new voice joined. Louder than all the others. Its cry was high, unnatural even. More than any other, he could feel the pain in this voice. His skin burned under its pain, and he began to grasp at it, begging himself to put out a fire that wasn’t there. His own throat grew sore from the scream’s agony, his knees buckled under the weight of its pain. They had reached the owner of the voice, but though it grew quieter it did not stop. He felt a warmth leaking from his ears, and eyes. Koma tried in vain to ease the soreness lurking behind his eyes.

He rubbed and scratched and eventually pulled to find the source of the burning pain. The scream was almost silent and he triumphed at finding the cause of his pain.

Koma drove his hand into his empty eye socket.

Chapter 64: Father

Dreamer: Out of town.

Brainwave: Dead 3 months.

Psyren: In hiding.

Hospitalized.

On sabbatical.

In another dimension.

In space.

Dead.

Dead.

Dead.

Trapped in the past.

Dead.

Will’s list of tel’s was growing very short very fast.

He still had most of his old contacts, but they were old guard. Tel’s had a habit of dying and being replaced unusually often.

Will looked over his mental list again. There were still a few names he hadn’t crossed off yet, but he didn’t hold much hope for the ones he had left. They barely topped Aidos in power, and one of them slept in airplanes more than in his own home.

He looked at his phone. It had been three hours already, and he had no way of knowing how much time Mach had left before her power would baste her brain in its own drippings. His nostrils flared and his eyes narrowed when he pressed the unnamed contact near the top of the list.

The man on the other side of the phone was personally responsible for the actions of well over nine hundred powered and non-powered persons in the country, and nearly 5 times that number spread through the rest of the world. Each one of them was ready to receive his orders and follow them without hesitation.

Almost 40 years earlier, he had been responsible for spreading propaganda and discouraging anti-war protests throughout the entire country. His powers were unrivalled in range, and when focused on a single mind he could plant entire languages into the subconscious. He was simultaneously one of the most powerful and most valuable assets to the United Nations. To most of the very few people that knew of his existence, he was a figure of shadows that controlled the world with strings of thought. They called him The Memetic.

Will’s father answered on the second ring.

“Will.”

“Warren.” Will’s voice was flat and quiet. The air in his lungs escaped slowly as the pressure built within them.

“Are you actually calling me for the second time in as many days? At this rate we may actually have talked for an entire hour before the year’s over. But right now, you have five minutes.”

“I need your help.”

“Of course you do. What is it this time? Did another of my agents go rogue and decide to play vigilante? Or maybe you need to pull a child out of another dimension, and you need my help to figure out which one. Or perhaps you finally want to work through those suppressed feelings of abandonment.”

Will held his tongue. This was just another one of the games he played. The man never experienced more joy than when he drove others to lose control. If he could do it without his powers then even better. Will didn’t know if his father could turn this side of him off, but he knew that it would never be for his sake.

“Go on, boy. I can’t do anything if you aren’t gonna open your mouth and tell me what you need.”

“I need a tel. One that can help suppress another’s subconscious power flow.”

“For a moment I thought you wanted me to help you myself.” If Will heard a touch of sorrow in his father’s voice, then it was gone before the sentence had ended. “Tell me then, why would I waste one of my asset’s time away from missions that could actually save our country, just to save the mind of some tel who I can assume is one of your little misfits? What’s in it for me?”

Will’s grip on the phone tightened. His father never gave aid easily, and as far as Will knew, his mother was the only one who had ever received a free favor.

“I’m waiting, Will. Surely you called me with something in mind. I know I didn’t teach you to jump into a decision like this without a solid plan in mind.”

“One day.”

“Oh?”

Will took a deep breath. “So long as I don’t have to fight, injure, or abandon anyone in need, I will give you one day where I will use my powers for you.”

“Two days.”

“No,” Will spoke quickly. The haggling was just another trap. His father wouldn’t make deals with people who didn’t understand the vaule of what they offered. If he let his guard down, his father would never accept no matter how much he offered. “One day, including travel. That’s my offer.”

“Hm.” Will could hear his father’s smirk through the phone. “Very well. I will lend you an agent for 4 hours. She will be more than capable of helping your young friend to keep her head. She will meet you at the hospital and you will give her whatever aid she deems necessary. And if she says it’s hopeless, the deal is still on.”

“Fine.”

A strange sense of satisfaction rolled through Will, and he fought the urge to puke. Half the country probably had the same feeling, and he had an immediate sense of living too close to his father.

“I will be holding your ‘one day’ in reserve for the foreseeable future, but do try to keep your schedule open. I would hate to interrupt something important.” His father paused, and Will knew he was checking his watch. “Do call again Will, I so do miss our little chats. And please, tell your mother that she’s still welcome to visit any time she pleases.”

Warren Writer hung up the phone.

Will stared at his own phone with heated eyes and fought the urge to crush it. All at once, the pressure in his chest lessened and a deep sigh emerged from his lungs.

It had been one of the most pleasant conversations he’d had with his father in almost a decade. At the rate their relationship was progressing, Will might be sorry at his father’s funeral.

If he lived a very long life.

Will pocketed his phone and quickly moved towards the hospital. The longer he took, the less time the tel would have to fix Mach.

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