Okay, I know I pushed out a fun bit of fluff yesterday, but here's Part Seven of The Cephalopocalypse! You're welcome.
The earlier parts are available via INDIGO ON DEMAND using the links below:
Prologue: Early Whispers Of Christmas
Part One: Definitely Inside The Lines
Part Two: The Wisdom Of Invertebrates
Part Three: Ready To Tell The Tale
Part Four: Before I've Found My Slippers
Part Five: Under Endless Blue Skies
Part Six: Filling A Leaky Bucket
Their world is small, dense, claustrophobic.
The darkness doesn’t help, and the flickering light of the brazier playing on the gathered array of lost faces only makes this feeling more profound. Embers take flight, fireflies in an urban tangle, but their eyes don’t see them.
I've seen a lot of things on my travels for The Agency: empires raised from dust by sheer ambition; towers so tall they dwarf even the ingenuity that gave birth to them; and acts so vile, so desperate, that it destroyed me not to intervene.
Each Reality different, each Reality the same.
But this sight, this neglect of humanity and dignity, never fails to move me. The disenfranchised, the abandoned, the mentally ill, the homeless. Faceless souls huddled round light and warmth to give their shared existence meaning and duration.
I shake my head. Humanity.
But things are not always what they seem. And today, Abbey assures me that this is the case.
My name's Elliot Nesh. I'm an Elephant. And a Special Agent for The Unity Agency. And, as ever, I'm here on business.
My companion, Abbey, is tired. Her face has aged ten years in our travels, though it feels like we've only been away for a few weeks, relatively speaking. Her hair is dry, her clothes distressed, her gloves dirty, her feet bare and dark. And still she is smiling. She moves among the small crowd as I watch, nodding quietly and touching a shoulder or two, soothing, reassuring.
I scratch my trunk absently from a distance, flapping my ears gently to fend off the heat of the fire. Roth is very fond of Abbey, and trusts her. And so he should. But if he knew what I knew, he'd struggle with the reality of her.
Abbey sees things I can't. I have technology at my disposal. Science. But she's aware of exotic energies, auras, moods, the stuff of metaphysics. Of Faith, even. In another life, we'd make great Agency partners, with complementary skill sets.
But right now, I'm off the books. A rogue elephant, if you will.
I adjust my glasses, scanning the scene from a dozen scientific standpoints. They all look different - ultraviolet, infrared, gamma - but tell me the same story; this is a bunch of homeless people gathered round a fire.
I've told you before Elliot, says Abbey, her back to me, You have to look with your heart, not your eyes.
It's freaky when she does that, but I don't show my surprise. My ears flick as I sigh.
Oh, don’t be like that, she grins, And the good news is that we've found them.
This time, my surprise shows.
We have? Where?!
Abbey sighs and heads over, her face dropping into darkness.
Do you see the tall chap on the left, the threadbare tweed suit? Flat cap?
I nod, examining him closely: tall, old, bearded, his eyes hidden my the reflection of the fire in his spectacles. I reach for my own glasses, for Science. Abbey slaps my foreleg down impatiently.
Stop that! She signs, shaking her head a little, an out-of-character admonishment; this kid really is tired. Dimensional travel is physically demanding, but the expanded awareness that comes with can be downright grinding. Sorry, she smiles, gathering her composure, that's Mikey.
And the others?
Abbey indicates a elderly couple sat together. His bare head is balding and grey, with sweat glistening on it, while hers is covered against the chill outside the influence of the fire. The are both silent, contemplative, looking for wisdom in the flames.
That's Muriel and Ralph. Brother and sister, as far as the group is concerned.
I chuckle, A clever disguise. But then, this whole scene is. And the last one?
She moves me slightly to the right and points to a short man, huddled up tightly, rocking gently. He seems to be muttering to himself as he absently paws at his ginger hair and beard.
And that's Old Gabe. The poor man seems a bit worse for wear.
I have to ask her. I hate to, but it's my job.
And you’re sure these are the four we're looking for? They look like any other number of lost souls we've encountered.
She doesn’t look at me, her certainty final. Yes.
I loosen and re-tie the belt of my trenchcoat, and try to have Faith.
This would be easier to accept if I could see what you see.
She smiles and removes her gloves.
Well, now there's something to show you, she concedes, it only seems fair. You've been very patient.
And, saying no more, she removes my spectacles and takes my hand.
My vision flares exponentially, and I see what Abbey sees.
The light is bright, and hurts my eyes. Have you ever seen magnesium burn? It's like that, but more so.
I yank my hand away, eager for the light to fade.
Okay, okay. We've found them.
Minutes pass, and ghosts and shadows twist my vision. I set my gear for Roth's reality past these visual echoes, and hope this crazy solution will be enough; at the fire, Abbey gathers the shambling foursome for transit.
I wonder how Roth is getting along. Will we be in time?
The void between realities offer no answers as we jump home.
But now, I have Faith.
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