Ch. XIV, p.3

Her eyes wandered upwards. There was still some light in the dark cave, and she made out the features of Dr. Ada Kerry, lips smiling amusedly at her as if she were a child; a warm and kindly look.

“How are… How did you get here?”

“We all exist on every level of existence. Past, present, future, simultaneous lives… I am but one aspect of one being, projected as individual consciousness. As are you.”

Maria’s mind was coming back into her body, struggling for a hold on reality.

Ada continued, “This concept isn’t new to you. Think of your dreams, connected as they are to your daily life, but separate. Maybe you feel like a bit of a different person in the dream; or some aspect of your life is changed, but much is similar. It is the dreams that feel the most ‘real’ that usually are.”

The idea made more sense to Maria than she would have expected, but she caught even herself off guard with the question she then posed: “What happens if we physically move to the place that our dreams come from?”

As she said it, she wondered, Is that really what this is?

Ada took her time in answering, speaking slowly and with gentle tone. “As you now know, ‘Self’ is by no means limited to the physical or to a single reality. And body, while more limited, is also held to no one place permanently. But there must always be exchange—just as you dream of other worlds in which you exist, so do they dream of you. And just as you have stepped out of your world and into this one, so have elements shifted, at some time or another, between this universe and others.”

“And have I… Existed here before? Are there…” she paused; the question was so strange, “More of me here?”

“You, like everyone, have been many places all at once. Most of the time, you won’t recognize yourself walking about on the street, but you have crossed paths with other aspects of your being, even back home in Idest. They just didn’t look like you, so you didn’t notice, but they may have felt familiar, even without you having met them.”

She was stunned. “But, what does this all mean…”

“Nothing dramatic,” Ada replied, her warm, bright smile still soothing Maria’s struggling mind. “Everything is as it always was, and so shall it continue to be. Your knowledge of what is doesn’t change the fact that it is. Only your perception of the thing itself.”

“How many?” she asked, feeling a bit woozy as she wondered who was also her.

“Five or six people. Frank being one of them.”

The truth of her words hit Maria like a poisoned dart, suffusing heavily through her chest until she couldn’t deny the truth. She was Frank. Frank was her. Everything about the man was some part of herself that she had rejected, and it couldn’t have been more clear than right now... The ego. The drive. The carelessness that they both employed in the name of advancing their individual statuses in the world…

“Oh…” she said quietly, her eyes welling with tears. She swayed gently, barely able to hold herself up upon the cold, grimy earth.

“Let it out, dear.”

“Hah…” Maria laughed half heartedly, repulsed by herself. “What do I do now?”

Her words were forlorn, mumbled almost inaudibly. Ada sat at her side, an arm around her shoulders, and said, “Nothing.”

. . .

Dominic made his way through the dismal, bony forest, and emerged to find an elaborate stone wall twenty feet high or so, upon which sat an old docking space. Walking around, he climbed a set of rocky, decrepit stairs, which crumbled delicately beneath his steps, and emerged to find the space abandoned. He was used to the lack of yellow cabs silently alighting and departing, but for a single moment he imagined that things were back the way they had been.

He tried to shake off the feeling. It’s the diazepam. He ran upwards along the dirt hill, mottled with patches of gray and brownish green. His skin chilled at the thought that the crowd might have dissipated. More gunfire, not too far from here… they’ll be there. They have to be.

He emerged within sight of the arboretum. They were gone.

No… maybe I’m in the wrong place… He swung around, looking this way and that. He saw a sign, and read, “Reihvass Center.” His head was still swimming. He ran on, towards the building’s entrance.

Maybe I took too long… And they went inside… Maybe… maybe they were never there at all… “Fucking Diazepam,” he growled, a churning desperation rising in his chest. How could he let this happen to himself? He breathed heavily, desperate; annoyed; aggravated by his own inadequacy. How could he...

Then, roaring, “Fuck!” With a loud shout, he ran at full thrust towards a pair of still intact front doors and, with a heavy kick, separated a pane of glass from its steel frame, exploding into the building’s lobby in a bullish rage.

“Raaah!” he cried, adrenaline lighting up his veins. His voice echoed loudly in the space, cramped with rubble and collapsed ceiling.

The room was empty, save for a a stairway dropping tube-like into the earth. He would be descending into its stony bowels, into the dark; completely exposed and vulnerable.

That was why he wanted the people there; he had been depending on them for a distraction. But they weren't necessary--he knew there was a pretty good chance that Detroit and Berin had been disabled by the DEID wave from earlier that had crippled his gear. And if not…

He swung the rifle off his back and shouldered it. He was going to get some answers.

Well, that, or die horribly… Either way, Hell is just around the corner.

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