I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. Honestly, I’ve had these last stories finished for awhile now. I had some big ideas for them, yet as the days went on and I never could make good on my own plans these have become a burden. So, for the sake of starting fresh and drawing things to a close, here they are. In case this is your first visit here, these stories are the conclusion and epilogue of an ongoing series. The pieces of this tale were part of a feature called Tidbit Thursdays. the first part of this is here.
I Couldn’t Listen To It Again
There was no more anger, no more frustration. The questions were gone as well, whatever Peter could reveal just didn’t seem to matter anymore. Everything he knew was tainted by the one piece of information he didn’t have.
She was no longer impressed with the large stone room that led to Peter’s sanctuary. She remembered thinking about how much it looked like a cathedral that had been gutted of all it’s carved images and idols. But now it was just hollow. Any similarity to something holy or spiritual had been replaced by thoughts of vanity and failure.
A man stood outside the large door that would lead to the person who held her quest within himself. His eyes were heavy, as if he had spent his entire life staring at the opposing entrance, waiting for any sort of visitor. She knew that in his mind, he had done just that. Yet, unlike someone else who had finally found purpose, his expression didn’t change when she approached.
“Hello.” He said.
“My name is Craig, I imagine you’re here to see Peter.”
He turned and pressed his hands against the door that stretched all the way to the ceiling. She had hoped that just once, like everything else, this scenario would have been set somewhere else. If only to perhaps give Craig an easier portal to open. But this scene played out just like the other ones. She wondered why this room remained, while everything else was in flux.
Beyond the door was another massive room. A set of three stairs that ran the width of the room led up to a plateau. On the platform a solitary desk sat and behind that, another man.
The years, far more than possible, had taken some amount of a toll on his face. It was clear that he had been and in ways, still was, handsome. Sandy hair and a face covered in begging innocence. She felt as if she should apologize to him, as if he deserved it somehow. It was finally clear that this man had a power, a reason why the universe would bend around him. It wasn’t a coincidence or random set of events and decisions. He made it all happen.
“Welcome. I’m glad you’ve made it this far.” Peter said.
“You really have no idea.”
“Oh, I know you’ve come a long way. I also know you have questions for me.”
“Not as many as I used to.”
“Sorry, that’s not true. I actually don’t have any questions for you, only accusations.”
Peter shifted on the old worn couch. His hands fell onto the scratchy flower print fabric. The yellow cord that was interwoven in a brass chain glowed under the light of the faux silver light fixture overhead.
She smiled at this, she hadn’t expected things to happen the way they were. Apparently Rhys had taken notice of the exchange. It wasn’t playing out the way it had before. It was a mistake and like all the other discrepancies he had discovered since Peter’s child created him, he set out to fix it.
Peter was oblivious to time warping around him, the walls shifting, growing, shrinking, and changing. His movements were strange and uneasy as he attempted to interact with the world around him as if he had always been there. But it was changing too fast.
The couch slipped away into a wooden chair with an excess of lathework. The paneling on the walls twisted into tan swirls of plaster and peeled away wallpaper. The chandelier stretched and grew until it was a primitive piece, nothing but wrought iron and untreated wood, holding open flames.
“You can’t see it Peter. You’re blind to everything. It’s all in flux now and it’s all because of you. Not because your brother disappeared, he never existed in the first place. It’s easy to blame your son’s creation, the A.I. who became so powerful and so confused, but that’s just a byproduct of your failures. It was a response to a child’s loneliness, an eventuality that was forced into existence because the right choice wasn’t made.”
By the time she finished speaking, the sky had become exposed and flipped through at least twenty cycles. The atmosphere had changed composition just as many times.
“Then…I…must…be…changed.” Peter said, fighting through his rapidly changing consciousness.
“No, that doesn’t work either. I’ve tried. I destroyed lives that had the misfortune of playing rolls, large and small, in your life. It didn’t change anything.” She said.
The land continued to change, going farther than even she had seen. Visions of planes, whose details were without definitions yet would remain deep inside waiting to return to whatever dreamer remained after her final task was complete.
“I’m going to give you a choice. One that never existed in your life and hope that you have the ability to choose a better way. Even though you have proven to me time and again that you will do everything in your power to make this outcome happen, I have faith that you will succeed this one time.”
She didn’t have an easy answer for Peter’s question. She herself had wondered why she wanted this final confrontation to happen. She couldn’t even convince herself completely that this version of Peter would still exist somewhere out there. Her best guess was vindictiveness. Even if he might not have much longer to exist, she wanted him to know that it was his fault and that he had been wrong so many times. She needed him to realize that his inability to see the faults in the webs he had woven had trapped her into seeing the end of the world play out in front of her in ways she didn’t realize was possible.
“I don’t know. Now, you might understand what it’s like to have your fate decided by someone who doesn’t know.”
She turned away and began to leave. She could hear Peter call out to her, asking more questions, trying to exact some sort of control in his final moments. He still didn’t seem to grasp the truth that he had control the entire time, he just never asserted it when it mattered.
She passed by Craig who seemed to be afflicted by the same shifting reality that Peter had been. As she laid her hands on the door that would lead to whatever world Rhys wanted his demise to occur in, she stopped and turned towards Craig.
“He loved you, I’m sure of it.” She said.
Her hand turned the knob and she walked into the midst of party goers, celebrating at the beach.
His Name, Her Choice, Their World
They were happy. The stereotype said that the smiles on their faces should’ve been painted on, but they were genuine. The laughter was full of warmth and used in appropriate quantities for the jokes being told. Other than its place in a series of events it couldn’t possibly know about, the seaside party was a joyful occasion.
As she passed by the attendees, her silver tray steady on her bent hand, she picked up bits of conversation. She wasn’t sure what she expected to hear, but what did reach her ears wasn’t it. There were no talks of corporate maneuvers that would increase profit margin yet destroy so many lives. Yachts, expensive cars, private schools, none of these subjects entered into the dialogue. They spoke of their families. They reminisced about times gone by yet still cherished.
“He’s already up there.” A familiar voice said.
She turned to find a detective, a creation, something artificial.
“Rhys.: She said.
“Did you not think I’d be here for this?”
“I was hoping you wouldn’t.”
“Don’t be afraid. I want you to finish this. The time has come, I tried and I failed.”
“It’s not your fault. You were just doing what you were programed to do. What his child wanted you to do: Fix it all.”
“I suppose you’re right. But I was doomed from the start. I could change realities, shuffle lives around the infinite span of time I just couldn’t change his heart. You can, or more specifically, what will be inside you.”
“So you know my plan. Will it work?”
“Time will tell.”
She turned and began her trek up the hill.
The house was nice. The same walls she had seen before. There were no chalk drawings this time though. Just plain concrete. They would be decorated eventually, hopefully by different images though.
The baby squirmed in her arms as she moved.
“Did you give him a name?” Rhys asked.
“No, why would I?”
“Regardless of the life your son will have after you’re gone, he’s still yours.”
She looked down at the infant. His cheeks pink and full, his eyes a mossy green.
“I’ll have to think about it. It’s hard enough to do this.”
“Right, I’m sorry.”
She smiled at the A.I. she wasn’t sure if he’d understand the sentiment. He had shown the capacity for nuanced emotion, but the extent of his knowledge was unknown to her.
“When did you realize what I was?” Rhys asked.
“Shortly after meeting you at that bar. You showed your hand a little too much. It didn’t match up. It was as if everything was pieced together by something that thought it had a grasp on how to build a world.”
“I did get better at it.” Rhys said.
Rhys walked past her towards the door. It was then she noticed he held a basket in his hands. A basket that wasn’t there when their conversation began.
“You’ll need this.”
It was a woven creation. Just wicker and a few strands of string. Yet, she knew that he was right when he said that his ability to create things had improved.
“Did you ever wonder why you were tasked with this endeavor?” Rhys asked.
“I did at first. Then I decided that I was just some glitch in a spiraling randomness.”
“No, it was because I loved you.”
“I have been in this chaos for far longer than you. Far longer than you could possibly comprehend. Don’t feel bad about that, it’s knowledge you wouldn’t want. But as I kept pulling at strings, there was something I noticed. No matter what sort of sky sprawled out above, no matter what events were current, humans found a way to love something. So, I decided that I would love as well.”
“Don’t be. It’s better this way. It’s more, romantic I suppose.”
“Rhys, you know this is the end right?”
“Of course. Now go.”
The garden had been planned and constructed. It was still a bit too early for the planting to begin, yet there was a beauty to the brown plots of dirt. She figured that it was possibility that gave the empty soil it’s appeal.
She heard the young woman approach from the base of the hill that led up to the plateau the garden was situated.
“Please, class is out, you can call me Lilith.”
“Lilith, um, I was wondering if there was anything I could do over spring break for extra credit.”
“Why? You have almost a perfect grade right now.”
“It’s just, I don’t know, thought maybe I’d get ahead.”
“Go. Have yourself an adventure, Do something crazy. That’s your assignment.”
“I’ve never really been good at crazy.”
“There will always be gardens. A thousand years in the future, something will still grow from the dirt. Which means you have plenty of time to study it. But the amount of time you have to grow that thing inside you that will allow you to make the right decision when the time comes is limited.”
“That, makes sense. Somehow, you must be a good mother.”
:Lilith looked at her student, an eyebrow raised.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I just assumed you had children.”
“It’s okay. Yes, I have a son.”
“What’s his name?”
“Rhys. Now go I think I saw some of your classmates still in your dorm’s parking lot.”
Lilith watched as her student walked away. She was curious if she would take her advice. Although, it most likely didn’t matter. By the next time Spring rolled around there’d be new chances to make the right decision.
Come next Spring.