425: Back to Square Minus One

A fat man loses a lot of weight and he is now one of the normies. It’s all he really ever wanted, not to stand out for his failings. Now he stands out for his achievements. Well, the one achievement — being able to stand in one leg of his old trousers.

Yay! He did it. Everyone knows how hard it is to get rid of those stubborn folds of fat. Cake is delicious. Kale is not.

It’s a kind of superpower, a strength of will, to push yourself to the point where you can do something others would like to but never managed. Although they were never that fat, so another slice of cake wasn’t so bad.

And so the ex-fattie carries on with his life. He no longer has the impetus to follow his strict eating and fitness routine. He was supposed to get a dopamine rush from the treadmill, but he never did. The hate-rage from looking in the mirror was his addiction. That’s all gone now.

And slowly the weight comes back, the pounds pile on, no shits are given. He knows he could lose it all again if he wanted to. But what’s the point? He’d only end up back here. He has the power to make his dreams come true, he’s proven it. That doesn’t mean he has to use it.

There have been previous times when I’ve been able to activate my abilities to their full extent. I’ve felt the breakthrough, the upgrade in intensity, the barely controllable force of life and death at my fingertips. Frankly, I’d prefer a slice of cake.

It’s not like Superman where his powers are always there, waiting to be used, at 100% charge even though he forgot to plug them into the charger last night. My powers are never where I left them. It’s a struggle to work out where the On switch is most of the time.

Currently, I was in a flow state. Everything was working as intended. I mean, as intended by me. Usually, it worked as intended by a barrel of monkeys with early-onset dementia. I had no doubt my access to the pure unadulterated source wouldn’t last for long.

Not with that attitude it won’t, you might be thinking, but consider your own experience. There must have been times when you’re at work or playing a game and everything slides smoothly from one moment to the next. Effortlessly, you complete your objective, you dominate. Does everything carry on like that from then on?

Obviously not. I mean, just look at yourself now.

It always slips away. Always.

James Bond hits the million-to-one shot every time, the rest of us manage it about once in a million. But that one time… hold the front page! (of Reddit).

I opened up and expanded the entrance to the void like I’d been stretching transdimensional gateways my whole life. A black pit of negative space visible only to me and able to transport me to wherever I pleased.

Jenny and the others watched me pushing invisible walls like a demented mime (so, any mime).

“What are yo’ doing?” asked Flossie, always ready to ask the obvious questions.

“It’s a door. Can you get the dragon inside?”

She looked a bit miffed but did as I asked.  “Coom on, Vikchutni. Let’s go through the pretend door.”

The dragon resisted, more interested in eating the weeds growing around the tombstones. Flossie grabbed the hair hanging from the dragon’s chin and pulled him forward, through the rubble and remains of the church.

“Coom on, this way.”

“It’s over here,” I said, pointing at the perfectly real and present portal. I guess it was nice of her to humour me when she thought I was mental, but then it was about time she returned the favour.

She paused at the entrance, and then made a big show of stepping over an invisible line. It took her by surprise when her leg disappeared.

“Eek,” she yowled, and pulled her leg back.

“For fuck’s sake,” I said as I shoved her in.

The dragon followed her in, wings folded and waddling from side to side. Must be nice to not care about anything but what to eat next and looking forward to your next nap. Also, it would be cool to be able to take a dump wherever you pleased. If I could work out how to shit while running at full speed, I think it would make my life a lot more efficient.

Dudley followed suit, minus the wing-folding. I motioned for Jenny to go through, ladies first, and I came up the rear. Don’t even.

Inside the void, time and space were meaningless. It was like visiting Slough on a Sunday. The dragon looked a bit upset, probably because it couldn’t eat anything here. I wondered what would happen if it dropped a giant turd into the abyss. Serve the abyss right.

I could now enter this place without having to leave my body and transfer my consciousness to the adjacent world. I could also bring people into the void with me. This was clearly an enhancement and amplification of my ability.

Fast travel, unlimited firepower, girl who was willing to sleep with me — where would it end?

Somewhere terrible, most likely.

I wasn’t expecting it to last long. In fact, I was expecting it to last until exactly I needed it most, and then phut, phut, stall, stop.

Yes, I know. It’s annoying when someone’s relentlessly negative. Even if I was right and disaster was around the next corner, what good does it do to dwell on it and milk the situation for all the dread I can squeeze out of it?

Well, you have your hobbies and I have mine. Dread-milking is an art form, you uncultured swine.

“Was there anyone here when you entered?” I asked Flossie.

She scowled at me. “Yo’ sent us in first when you thought there might be someone waiting to attack?”

“I didn’t expect anyone to attack, and if they did, you have a dragon.”

“So yo’ were expecting us to be attacked.”

“Are you even listening?”

“Don’t worry,” said Dudley, the voice of reason. “I wouldn’t have let anyone hurt you.”

“Ah know, love.” She hugged him.

Dudley, also the voice of distraction. Good man.

If Wesley, Arthur and Shroom had been here, they’d probably be nicer to Flossie if I wasn’t with her. No one appreciates how considerate I am when I let others go into the pitiless darkness of the infinite void before me. But where were Wesley and co? Where had I sent them?

“Where do we go now?” asked Flossie.

“One of these doors leads to Fengarad,” I said confidently. I was genuinely confident one of them did, it was just a matter of finding which one.

“Yo’ can see doors?”

“Yes. There’s one right next to you.”

Flossie mimed turning an imaginary handle and opening a door. “Did Ah get it?”

“Just get on the dragon, all of you.” I’d already been through the Fengarad door so you’d think I’d know where it was. But they all looked the same to me. I made my way to the nearest doorway and stuck my head through.

There was a mountain, snow, wind — that’s all I saw before I jumped back.

“You’ve got snow in your hair,” said Jenny.

“Wrong door,” I said. “Let’s try over here.”

Sometimes you get lucky, or so I’ve heard. After seven attempts I was looking like I had no idea what I was doing. If nothing else I was living up to my reputation.

“You’ve got sand in your hair,” said Jenny.

The plan was fairly simple. I expected to find an opening on top of a spire. I no longer had my rubber body-suit, so falling from a great height would not end well. If I broke the body I was in, Jenny would be upset. It was pretty much the only thing that kept us together.

With a dragon, we could glide down to street level. Makes sense, right? Look at me, all sharp and focused.  If only I could find the right bloody door.

And then I would find Joshaya — or he would find me — and we’d have it out once and for all. After which, if I managed to be successful, Peter would probably ambush me. Then, assuming I survived that, well, I’d deal with whatever came next. Now that I was fully charged up and could blast a hole in the side of a mountain, I planned to use an excessive amount of force to end things once and for all.

A reasonable person would have negotiated a peace that kept everyone in line and allowed for people to find a way to live happily and safely. I didn’t really want to invest that sort of time into the process. I was aiming for a more WW2 Japanese solution. Bomb. No? Another bomb. How about now?

Mind you, we might have gotten the Japanese to surrender by nuking the shit out of them, but they did then refocus their energies into flooding us with anime, so who really won in the end, onii-chan?

My plan, what there was of it, would not get very far if I couldn’t get to Fengarad. At this rate, it would have been quicker to fly there on the dragon.

“Should we back out and try flying there?” asked Jenny. Even she was beginning to lose patience with me.

“No, that’s a ridiculous idea. Also, I can’t remember which door we came in. Get Vikchutni to raise his head. I’ll try one of the doors up there.”

I got on the dragon’s neck and climbed up to his head which Flossie had coaxed him into raising by telling him there was a mango up there.

“Ooh, look, mango. Big juicy mango. Up there, look.” It actually worked.

The last time, the door to Fengarad hadn’t been up in the air, but maybe they moved around, or maybe there was more than one. Yes, I was clutching at straws.

I stuck my head through the door as Vikchutni searched for his imaginary mango.

My head poked out on top of the spire. Finally!

“Right,” I said as I clambered back down the neck and onto Vichutni’s back where the others were waiting for me. “Through there.”

I’d already widened the doorway and stretched it down to floor level. I could move the doors with my thoughts, I’d only just figured out. I should have stayed where I was and made the doors rotate. Live and learn. That’s the theory, anyway.

Flossie clucked at the dragon and he lumbered through.

I probably should have told Flossie to fly us through. The dragon fell into open air and plummeted towards the cobbled streets of Fengarad.

Fortunately, Vikchutni was accustomed to our reckless and inconsiderate ways. He spread his wings and we swooped over the rooftops.

Below us, the main square was packed with people in front of a stage of some kind. Public execution? Revival of Mamma Mia? I knew which one I’d prefer to be part of.

The atmosphere seemed calm. Thy city had recovered from its previous ordeal, so the perfect time for a new one.

I was mentally prepared and emotionally numb, the perfect pre-battle state to be in. As the people screamed and ran away (the other perfect pre-battle state to be in), I noticed that the stage had the Fairy Queen on it along with Claire and Maurice. Very chummy.

Caim stood in between them, flanked by his druid guard. Joshaya and Arthur were also in attendance. No one was trying to kill anyone.

A trick? A trap? An alternate dimension where everyone I knew wasn’t a dick?

The dragon came down in front of the stage, the crowd keeping its distance.

“Don’t,” shouted Claire. Wise words to live by. “Don’t do anything. We’ve fixed it. Everyone’s agreed to talk things over and come to a peaceful resolution.” She was speaking quickly like she was worried I might do something stupid if she didn’t insist on me not doing anything at all.

“Fixed what?” I said. “How?”

“Everyone’s going to work together. We’ll give everyone what they want, and share what’s most in demand,” said Claire. “I know you think no one can be trusted, but let us do this. We’ve all agreed to try. You don’t have to kill anyone.”

It was a bit rich accusing me of being some kind of crazed degenerate after what she’d done to the Cool Kids. Sucking them dry to power arcane instruments of death — not exactly endorsed by the Geneva Convention. But then, the Geneva Convention has that bit at the back that says everything stipulated as a war crime only counts if they catch you and you admit to it and you weren’t drunk at the time. You didn’t know? Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

My initial reaction was to tell Claire she was mad and it would never work (even though I wasn’t sure what it was). I had psyched myself up for this. It probably didn’t look like it, but on the inside I was a seething cauldron of kick-ass stew. Okay, maybe just simmering off the boil — but I was finally ready to do what a man had to do (some measurements may be estimated).

I wanted to shout, “Get out of my way, I know what’s best, I have the power, Show me the money,” and so on and so forth.

But who would I be impressing with my show of strength? Wasn’t being left alone while they sorted out their petty squabbles amongst themselves my ultimate goal? I’d gotten what I wanted, no violence necessary.

Sure, it made me feel inadequate and surplus to requirements, but since when had that been an issue? I prided myself on knowing when I wasn’t wanted, although I’m not sure why. Odd thing to be proud of when you think about it.

Was this a happy ending? How likely was that?

A happy ending for everyone else? That did feel plausible. But hadn’t Joshaya desperately wanted my body for his own nefarious purposes? Didn’t Peter want to use me to unlock the secrets of the spires? Wasn’t Arthur going to come in swinging with his giant Megazord and try to claim the win for himself?

Everyone was looking at me like they were terribly afraid I was going to fuck everything up. I knew I should have copyrighted that look.

“Okay. Well done. I’ll be leaving, then.” I backed away towards the dragon. If they were going to pull a sneak attack, it would be any… minute… n—

“We’re leaving,” said Jenny. “If anyone tries anything, I will kill every motherfucking last one of you.” My girl. She had her moments.

I made it back to the dragon and we took off. Mission sort of accomplished (by someone else).

“Now what?” said Flossie. “Can we go back to the island. I liked it there. Sunny with beaches.”

This wasn’t really how I’d envisioned this ending up, but it was actually better than I could have hoped for.

We flew back up to the spire. No flying ships, no sign of the Council. How had Claire managed it?

No, no, nothing to do with me. Get out and keep getting while the getting was fair to middling.

Flossie flew us back into the void on top of the spire. It had closed itself off last time, but it stayed open this time, which was handy. We parked the dragon and they waited for me to make the next move.

“I’m not sure about the island, but somewhere warm with beaches shouldn’t be too hard,” I said. They looked hopeful and expectant.

I called a door to me and stuck my head through. Might take a while to get a good one, but we had time.

It was night, but there was enough starlight to see by. I was on a castle battlement. It seemed familiar… this was where I’d seen Claire that time. On this battlement, telling me how great things had turned out in the end. It was looking more and more like that was some weird dream, or maybe even a blatant lie, but I wanted to be sure. I stepped out of the door.

I’d just have a quick look, I thought, then go back. If I could figure out where this was, I’d be able to come back at some point.

There was an intense desolation and abandonment to this place. Maybe it was a fixer-upper. I tried to make a light, but it didn’t work. Had my powers run out already? My fingers were stiff and hard to manipulate, so maybe it was just me being cold and tired.

There was a door, leading down into the castle, but it was locked. The door handle felt odd, thin and springy. There seemed to be some kind of sign on the door. It had writing on it:

Fire Exit.

It took me a moment to realise what was strange about it. It was written in English.

I turned around and looked at the landscape. I could see it fairly well because of the moon. There was a moon. There was no moon in Flatland. This wasn’t Flatland. This was Earth.

I tried to make a light again, but I could tell I was just twiddling my thumbs, literally. I looked around for the door back to the void, but there was nothing there.

I was back. I had found my way home. Alone.

 

End of Book 9

 

BOOK 10: Welcome Home continues the story here: LINK

Afterword from Mooderino
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