Layla Noir: Chapter 14
It was at this point that I understood what Wiz had said about The Escape Pod being more turbulent than other methods of travel between narratives. The first instant was pretty intense but then it was almost like surfing on a sea of calm, gray water in a gray fog. The air shimmered and shifted around us but never really resolved itself into anything more recognizable than a twisting cloud of smoke. I opened my mouth to continue our, *ahem*, dialogue… but I found that I could not. In fact, all that I actually seemed to be able to control were my eyes. There wasn’t much to look at but thankfully the trip didn’t last long. With something sort of like the sound of a bag of chips being opened, but played in reverse and slow motion, we returned to a reality with more form and colour. The ride had been smooth, but obviously not without its own type of stress on the body as I discovered when I collapsed to my knees upon reentry. Wiz swayed but remained standing, some type of travel experience at work I guess, and began to survey our surroundings. I was just about to push myself up and go back to yelling at him for being a liar and a traitor when I got caught up doing the same thing. I don’t blame myself; it was unlike anything I had ever seen. I’m sure that all of this is familiar to you, but at this point I’m trying to be as detailed as possible for my own sanity’s sake… maybe if I can remember everything, I can finally decide whether or not I’m crazy…
I’m not crazy. I am a sane, healthy individual. I must be. I have to be… Anyway, this is what I saw: we were in a relatively small room, but the ceiling was much higher than what felt normal to me. It was somehow unmistakably a storeroom, despite the fact that all the “boxes” that surrounded us were complex geometric shapes made out of some dark, nearly obsidian material that seemed both sturdy and malleable at the same time. When I say complex, I mean it… I tried to count the vertices of one on a lark but failed to keep track of them all and lost my place at 21. The space was well-lit, but I couldn’t find a light anywhere. I would later learn that the slightly brighter seams between the walls and the roof were actually full of a type of bacteria that produced light from natural toxins that it removed from the air. The light that was created was an eerie, unearthly blue that seemed new and unique to my eyes and mind. The floor was covered in intricate, interlocking glyphs, sigils, or something similar. Perhaps random mathematical formulas? I didn’t recognize anything, nor could I make sense of them, but it was immediately intriguing and mysterious and visually pleasing. Still, none of this compared to what I noticed last: the small aperture in the corner. Standing up, muscles trembling, aware of Wiz watching me wearily and likely preparing for some form of combat, I staggered to what turned out to basically be a window, gasped, and almost fell over. The structure that we were in was huge. Massive. Gargantuan. I don’t even really have the words for it, it was that big. As far as I could see below the window were more windows, and looking upwards was the same. The building was in a crescent shape, so some of it was visible to me across a vast distance. I swear, it seemed to go on forever both up and down. Blueish, yellowish clouds were floating peacefully in the space between, or they usually were, except when small, streamlined crafts would whiz by, pulling the air behind them at their wild speeds. It was like watching a bunch of hummingbirds, except as far as I could tell by comparing the crafts to the windows on the structure, these hummingbirds were at least the size of a small house, perhaps larger. The chaos in front of me slowly resolved itself into patterns in my mind as I began to notice that everything appeared to be in sync with everything else. Everyone knew where they were going, it seemed, and they didn’t need to worry about others since they, too, knew their own path. I saw two ships fly within what must have been inches of each other without any issue or anyone near them reacting in any way. Completely blown away, I slowly turned to face Wiz.
“I assume that awe has superceded anger, but I know your species relatively well now”, he said, with less distain than he would have a few short days ago, “I can only assume that anger will return shortly. Allow me to take this opportunity, therefore, to make my case before you finish your judgement. When you first activated my Escape Pod, you did so without any comprehension of what you were doing, or how to do it correctly. Furthermore, as I mentioned, the machine itself seemed to be confused by your DNA during the bonding process which heavily suggests to me that it made a random jump. It wouldn’t have remembered the coordinates of anywhere, anyway, because that isn’t how it works, but if it did make a random jump, not even our best technicians could find the data within it that would locate your narrative. Then, as I told you before, you accidentally destroyed my anchor. Since I also lost my main travel device, any piece of tech that would have had your narrative’s coordinates within it is lost to us forever. Therefore, I divorced myself from the sentimentality of the situation and used logic to make my choice. That is to say, I realized that the only hope we had at all was to return to my reality and engage in combat with The Agents of The Overarching Narrative. There is still the theoretical possibility of finding the necessary information that would allow you to return home, but in this instance I will not raise your hopes. Believe me, as little as I deserve it, when I say that the only way that I can imagine us getting that information is to receive it from the Editors, and given their failure to endure, I see that as nearly an impossibility. I will not ask for your forgiveness, for I do not deserve it. However, what I will ask for is a logical appraisal of circumstance. Think about it: you were in a world that was familiar to you, yet painfully and confusingly different. You never would have been happy there. Even in a best case scenario, without having met me and having anything explained to you, you would have ended up always feeling a sense of confusion and regret as you missed the narrative that once was, even as you felt unable to speak to any other living soul about it for fear of being labeled crazy. I will not waste time on worst case scenarios. Therefore, you are no worse off now than you were before. Yes, you may perhaps be in greater danger here, although I would submit that The Hunters likely would have killed you without my intervention. Even if that is ignored, the potential for greater danger here is balanced by the potential for greater meaning. If you remain with me, we may be able to make a difference. We may be able to help not only my people, but yours, and literally every other being that exists in any narrative. This level of meaning could never have been reached in that random, somewhat familiar narrative that we left. I will not deny that I lied to you, betrayed your trust, and took advantage of your ignorance. I can do naught but apologize, profusely. I have come to quite like you, and even to respect you as a unique yet relatively equal being. You have opened my eyes to the merit of your species by displaying your capacity for critical thinking and ability to accept change. I greatly regret what I did, but I will never agree to a proposition that it did not need to be done. If we cannot move past this infraction, I will quickly give you a few tips on surviving here. If we can, please join me in my quest. There is much to do and your help would be invaluable to, as you might say, a lone warrior behind enemy lines. What say you? I hate to rush you, fearing that it serves only my own detriment, but we are fortunate to have remained unnoticed for this long already, let alone further time. Thank you for patiently allowing me to speak my piece. I await your decision…” he finished quietly, almost sadly, and stood there. His eyes bored into mine. I was lost…
“Well… fuck, man”, my words eventually splattering the silence, “You aren’t making this easy! That was low, you know? Lying to me? You say that you have grown to respect me, but you could try acting like it! I’m not sure what to be angrier about right now, your blatant lying or the fact that I can’t really argue with the logic of what you just said… You could have told me, explained it like that before, instead of lying. That would have made this so much easier but… I dunno. You didn’t make your narrative sound all that pleasant. I’m not trying to get picked up by the thought police or whatever. So I guess I’m stuck with you. Maybe if we survive, I will forgive you sometime. For now, just be fucking honest, alright? You can start by telling me how you managed to port us into somewhere that seems safe even though you used The Hunters’ shit, and I guess by estimating our chances of not dying. Then go fuck yourself. Then we can be partners again you asshole”. What can I say? I had grown attached… and things would have been hopeless and more confusing than ever without him. I was stuck. I didn’t really have another choice.
“Fine with me. I hope that things can resume the slow progress to genuine camaraderie soon, but for now, we will be essential in each other’s goal of simple survival. I have knowledge that you need and you have a capacity for awareness, interaction and violence that will greatly increase my chances of continuing my narrative. I have answers for you, but first we must relocate. Currently I put our chances of survival at 4.2%, but the number is falling as we speak. This way…” I froze for a second, thinking, wait… 4.2? Out of 100? But his urgent tone quickly reached my brain and I followed as he beckoned. He walked up to one of the walls, the one opposite the window, and then he stopped. “Ah…” he muttered, “I forget a key thing: my shell. These appendages will do me no good. Prepare yourself, Mick, for this may be unpleasant or even terrifying for you. I’m about to resume my true physical form. Please do your best to remain calm…”
“I’ll try not to faint or cry, bud” said I, with as much sarcasm as I could muster, and he shrugged and began to massage his temples, slowly at first but ever quicker. They began to glow, and I realized that he was incanting again, quietly, under his breath. The glow spread quickly until his whole body was a shining light, not super bright but still overwhelming somehow, and then suddenly it was gone. Standing before me was… well to be honest it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. His warning had me expecting some giant insect or something, but Wiz was still vaguely humanoid. Vague being the key word there, though. I mean I guess you know what he looks like… hey! Come to think of it, what the fuck ARE you? You don’t look anything like him, and he never mentioned a second sentient race here, let alone one that wields political and legal authority…?
Christ sakes. Are you mute or just an asshole? Fine. Moving on. Just to waste everyone’s time, I’m going to describe him anyway. As I said, Wiz’s true form was vaguely humanoid, mostly in that he had a torso, a head, two arms, and two legs. That’s basically where the similarity ended, though. His head was hairless, and I got the sense that it wasn’t a stylistic choice. His eyes were huge, or rather, the two eyes that were placed basically where a human’s eyes would be were. They were three or even four times the size of my eyes. He had a third eye, though, like you would see in cartoons or on posters in the basements of true acid heads, and this was closer to the size of a human eye, but it was completely black. His third eye had no pupil, iris, or anything, it was just a black hole of pure darkness that practically ate the light around it. His other two eyes were a blueish-white with golden pupils that seemed to glow slightly. His skin was a deep, almost black purple. His nose wasn’t there at all, although further inspection would later reveal two tiny slits between his eyes. I also noticed later that he had three rows of teeth, one on top, one on the bottom, and another one on the bottom behind the first that looked a good deal sharper. The really weird thing, though, was what was over his mouth: instead of lips resembling anything like what a human has, he had a tangle of dozens of small tentacles that moved and wiggled as he spoke, breathed, or moved at all. Later I would see him control them like any other appendage, raising them to eat, moving some of them like little hands to grasp portions of his food so as to drop them into his maw. They were a dull pink, actually almost close to a Caucasian human’s skin, or at least relatively close, and they seemed pretty strong for their size. His arms and legs were almost the same as mine, but they were longer and thinner, not just compared to mine but also proportionally to the rest of his body. He had 8 toes per feet and 3 fingers per hand and they were all creepily thin. Also, he was a full two feet taller than me. The final difference that I noticed was a pyramid, presumably made of bone, jutting out from the center of his chest by about 3 full inches. I made a mental note to ask him about it later, then said, “Naw that’s not that bad, Wiz. You almost look like what we on Earth call Grays… you just have an extra eye and a different skin colour”
“Sure. Whatever you say, Mick” he said, distracted, while slotting his slender fingers into 3 holes I hadn’t noticed in the wall. They lit up a brilliant white for an instant, then twisted 90 degrees and made a quiet but just audible click. The wall was suddenly split down the middle, and before I had fully registered that, it was an open door. Wiz stepped out into the hall, turned back to me and asked, with a voice that would have accompanied a devilish smile if it weren’t for his weird maw tentacles, “So, Mick… you ready to overthrow a world-wide dictatorship?”
Author’s Note: Confused? Find chapter 13 of this sci-fi noir novel that I am writing and releasing live, at least one chapter every two weeks, right here. Enjoy! I really am excited for people to read upcoming chapters and I hope to hear back from people soon :) Leave a comment if you have anything to say about this story so far, where you think it is going, where you want it to go… whatever you like. Thank you for reading!