The Writers of the Universe
11. Permanent Ink and Tattoos
She stood frozen, like a computer that had run out of memory, waiting for a process to complete. Her entire working body and mind appeared to stop moving as she awaited instructions from her controller. Once she was relinquished from Radfewx’s invading thoughts, she returned to her somewhat animated self and replied in an emotionless flat voice. “No, I feel nothing. The only thing I know is my master and you. I’m afraid I am losing my ability like a muscle being exercised too much.”
“I think I could fix it. I think I know how to make it so you feel everything again,” Jeremy offered, trying to appeal to the real her.
“You can do nothing for me. I must start my duties,” she answered while pulling a slender knife, about 9 inches long, from the side of her belt. “You have stolen writer technology in your blood. When you first used the quill, it fused with your genetic makeup to enhance your abilities and give you the necessary instructions on how to use and manipulate the quill. In order to extract the technology, it must be bled out. This procedure is very painful, but will not be deadly unless you make it so. Now lie still, here’s something to bite down on, and it is vitally important that you do not try to escape. With the loss of blood, you will not have your regular strength. This all will take approximately a week and a half until all of the tech is out of your bloodstream.”
“A week!” Jeremy exclaimed, before biting down on the chunk of leather Mai had shoved into his mouth, as he felt the knife slide across the skin halfway between his shin and his hamstring muscle. He gulped nervously as a flood of painful nerves finally reached his brain.
Mai worked endlessly as Jeremy passed between consciousness into a numb haze. He soon stopped feeling more than a prickle as her needle-like knife worked its way up his body, spilling blood into tubes that connected to a machine. Jeremy had no way of understanding what the machine was doing, but he could tell when blood was leaving his body and when it was being pushed back in.
This procedure went on for days Jeremy heard voices around him but, when he was awake enough to see, no one seemed to actually be there. He felt like everything around him was turning into phantoms of his imagination. At one point, he began to wonder if he had gone mad.
Unable to distinguish reality from the haze, he was not sure but he felt like he could see Saesha on the one side of the table he had been strapped to for the better part of two weeks. He smiled at the Mirage, hoping to reassure and comfort the frightened image before him. The soft and pleasing idea that Saesha might be close to him eased his mind, but it was quickly washed away as Radfewx appeared much closer and completely real.
“Welcome back to life,” Radfewx smiled at him.
Jeremy fumbled with a few words before discarding the notion that he needed to respond.
The director clapped his hands and Mai stuck something under his nose. In an instant, Jeremy was back to regular clarity, interrupted only by a full body sneeze that caused his head to smack hard against the table. Radfewx motioned again and the straps that had bound Jeremy for so long snapped open.
“You are free to try and move again, but I suggest taking it slow as your muscles are likely to be weak and will need to recover.”
“Why are you doing this?” Jeremy asked while pulling himself into a sitting position. Mixed colors of red and blue swam before his eyes as he nearly passed out from the change of elevation.
“I want you to be awake and of a sound state of mind before I begin the next part.”
Jeremy nodded while stretching his limbs. They were in the same room, with the burnt planet serving as a constant reminder that Jeremy could cause a global genocide if he decided to resist. A plane of glass separated him from Saesha. Behind him sat Noal and Cis, They appeared to be bruised from beatings but happy to see Jeremy alive.
The director moved so that he was between Jeremy and Saesha, blocking anything more than a few seconds of silent worry from passing between them. “Now that we have extracted what you have stolen from us, I can show you the full power that comes with one of these little quills.”
Radfewx twirled a long silver quill in his hands, gleaming happily he continued, “I believe the best thing to do would be to show you the future we are trying desperately to prevent from happening.”
“So what are you going to do? Write on something and I’ll see it like it’s real?”
“No, not exactly. I’m going to have my dear assistant here use her remarkable gift to drive you mad with the sights and sounds that all us writers fear most. I’m just going to use this quill to guide her mind to make sure that we show you the full picture.”
Mai placed one of her clammy hands over Jeremy’s wrist and stared into his eyes. Jeremy looked into her milky eyes, hoping desperately that some form of recognition would cross them, but it never appeared. Instead, Jeremy gasped as she invaded his mind and filled it with terror.
Jeremy saw himself standing in the middle of a city, or what had once been a city. He was at the center of where it had happened. The bomb, the big one, had landed right here and as he spun in circles looking over the vast destruction, each building lay toppled over like dominoes as far as the eye could see.
The scene evaporated and he was now on the Fifth world. Saesha lay before him on an altar, her body engulfed in flames. All of the strange creatures were chanting, but it wasn’t a cry for vengeance. They were happy to see their princess dead. Their booming chant grew in volume to a level that felt like the entire planet was shaking. Jeremy had to shut his eyes as he felt everything rip apart. Tearing open his eyes, Jeremy saw lightning split out from the ground and strike the air above them. The sky literally split open and started dissolving. The universe was crumbling before Jeremy’s eyes. An earthquake splintered the ground below Jeremy, as the entire chanting crowd was swallowed, disappearing into a bottomless abyss.
It was a long time before Jeremy dared to open his eyes again. He was back in the planetarium. Mai still had a slight grip on his wrist, but it was weaker and more relaxed. With a burst of speed, Jeremy flipped his hand around and pulled Mai into him. All he knew was that he needed to complete the circuit, just like she had done so long ago in the bunker below the desert. He wrapped his legs around her as their lips connected. For a second, nothing happened then, like a dam close to bursting, Jeremy felt a trickle of the pain Mai had known for so long spill into him. Their kiss was breaking the connection Radfewx had with her and re-opening the flood of voices that Mai normally received.
Jeremy felt her being ripped out of his grip by a furious Radfewx. The director sent her spinning out of his way, as he landed a quadruple tap of fists into Jeremy. Once Radfewx had decided Jeremy had felt enough pain, he knelt down beside Mai and whispered into her ear. She responded, but not in a way that the director must have enjoyed as he hesitated before answering her.
He turned away from her looking slightly frustrated, “So you’ve broken my toy. You’re a very hard person to deal with. I wasn’t going to but I think you should watch as I torture your number one fan over there.” Radfewx threatened with a jerk of his thumb towards Saesha.
The giant stood and walked to the plane of glass that separated Saesha from Jeremy. She looked tiny and scared as she backed away from the looming giant. He slid through the glass partition as if it were a sheet of water.
Jeremy was on his feet, but that was quickly ended as he flew forward onto his face as the muscles in his unused legs buckled and spasmed under the sudden duress.
“Jeremy, you should have been a good boy and done what we told you. Because of your actions, your friends will suffer pain like none they have ever felt,” Radfewx called.
Jeremy shut his eyes as he saw Radfewx writing in a small hand size journal. Whatever was going to happen would be worse than everything previously done to them. Before it had all been fake and inside his mind. This was not. This was real and he had no idea how to save the princess.
Saesha’s scream brought Jeremy out of his worrying. He rolled and spun until he slammed into the partition. His fists landed against the glass as a dark cloud engulfed Saesha. He couldn’t see her, but her screams were enough to know those terrible things were happening. He could hear her fighting, but her shouts were getting weaker and more strained as her strength was running out.
Jeremy pounded against the glass with every ounce of strength he had. His hands and knuckles quickly split open from his repeated attempts to break the glass. He looked over at his friends who had not moved at all during this entire ordeal. They both sat in the corner like spectators viewing a sport.
He did not have a moment to reflect on how lifeless they appeared as he returned to slamming against the wall. On shaky knees, he fought to stand but quickly stumbled and fell again as they refused to take his weight.
Saesha’s face slammed into the pane of glass in front of Jeremy. Tears streamed down her face, not tears of fear but ones of terrible pain. Tears that were brave enough to hold back as they would only get in the way of her struggle. Blood streamed down a nasty gash right above her left eyebrow coating her face. In a small attempt to reach Jeremy, she placed a hand on the glass wall. He was able to mirror her hand before something lashed out and dragged her back into the dark cloud.
“Saesha!” Jeremy yelled in vain as he rammed his shoulder into the glass. He knew he was running out of time, but had no idea of what to do. Panic was pumping through his heart. He needed to do something and now was the time to act.
He heard the noise like a bullet being fired in a library, the noise of a very important bone snapping on the other side. The fighting noises instantly stalled as a second thunk was heard as a body hit the floor.
Rage replaced all of the fear that had prevented Jeremy from breaking the glass. Jeremy found he was now the one who was screaming, but it was an incoherent rage. He could feel blood vessels popping in his face as every thought that he had was replaced with one. Kill the director.
He felt invisible hands fighting him, but they were no match as he easily ripped out of their restrainments. Nothing could stop him from avenging Saesha’s death. The invisible wall vanished as he fell forward again. This time he crawled like an alligator towards Radfewx who stood above him with that stupid smile he always wore.
Jeremy could hear other voices shouting around him, but he paid them no attention as he madly crawled to Radfewx. With a lunge of speed that caught Radfewx off guard, Jeremy bowled into the six-armed creature and tore into him. Jeremy felt a devilish grin spread over his face as Radfewx’s knee splintered and bent backward in a way a knee should never bend.
Radfewx fell back, his face white with pain. Even the monstrous six-armed giant was no match for Jeremy in full-on rage mode. The director tried deflecting Jeremy’s attack but for some reason Jeremy was faster and quicker. Easily diving between his wide swings, Jeremy landed more hits with two arms than Radfewx could manage to do with six arms when Jeremy had been bound and defenseless.
Jeremy could feel himself shouting Saesha’s name over and over again as if repeating it would bring her back. But with each blow to the Director, the more he felt her death sink in. With an uppercut that sent Radfewx flying, Jeremy grabbed his quill and with little forethought, he stood over Radfewx and stuck the tip of the quill into the skin of his own chest.
“I don’t think you got all of your tech out of me!” Jeremy screamed down at him. “But here just in case you missed some, I’ll give you more.” He finished by ripping the edge of the quill through his skin. He cut himself until an unmistakable word formed down the side of his chest, Saesha. Shallow blood streamed from the fresh wound, as Jeremy looked down fascinated as the blood dripped from him.
A cautious hand gently landed on his shoulder. He spun around ready to attack but jumped back when he recognized the disfigured face of Tal-sen. “Tal-sen! You’re alive!”
“Me am, you be okay soon too,” Tal-sen responded.
Jeremy quickly looked around, everything had changed as if by blinking night had been turned into day. He was in the same planetarium and Radfewx was still crumpled at his feet. But all of his friends were worriedly looking at him as if unsure whether he was about to attack them also.
“What’s going on? Saesha! You’re alive, I can’t believe it!” Jeremy exclaimed truly happy but afraid to believe the sudden and miraculous change.
“You mind lowering that thing,” Cis requested, as Jeremy lowered the quill he was holding like a short knife ready to stab into someone else.
“We need to run again,” Noal cautioned. “We can celebrate this victory later but we must go now before Radfewx regains consciousness.”
Everyone turned to follow Noal as he began walking up the many sets of stairs to the top of the hive, except for Jeremy. “Wait! “I’m sorry but I need a moment and some explanation. I just saw Saesha being murdered. I need to know if this is real or just another illusion of Mai’s. Where is Mai?”
“Over there, bud,” Cis pointed. Mai was curled into a tight ball in the corner of the room. Jeremy walked over to her and carefully sat down beside her. He gave her a moment to trust his presence before he spoke.
“Can you tell me what happened?” Jeremy asked respectfully.
She visibly shook as she remembered the details. “He asked me to open you up from the inside out. All the past 2 weeks have been in reality no more than a few hours of concentrated psychic warfare on your brain. He got me to push too far. I resisted as hard as I could but he had such control over me. I’m so sorry. You have to know how hard I tried to fight, but he had the clamps on me and my brain. When you grabbed me and kissed me, restarting that physical connection we made the first time we met, I don’t really want to know why, but somehow that action broke through all the darkness. You somehow mentally walked back our link into his brain and caused possibly the biggest short circuit to his brain. Then everything got crazy. I couldn’t control you and then your friend Tal-sen showed up and was able to free your friends. You and Radfewx were both kind of lost in your own battle and none of us could tell what was happening. Your brain was like fire I couldn’t even begin to try and slide into it without being pushed out of the way like a bull after a matador.”
“So what happens now? Is he alive?” Jeremy asked glancing at Radfewx’s still body for a moment.
“Oh yes, he is alive. Just simply caught up in a few of his own mental prisons. Once he works his way out of them, he will regain full awareness and be back to chasing you and your friends around the universe.”
Jeremy smiled, but only a little. They were safe, if only for a moment. He took a gulp of air that felt like the first drop of water after days in a desert. “You could come with us. We need all hands on deck if we are to stop them from controlling anyone again.”
“I’m afraid that if I come with you, he will be able to get back inside me and control me. I’m not even sure how he got me in the beginning. I could be used as a weapon against you.” Mai replied, but Jeremy could tell her whole body was beginning to relax and feel more at ease.
“Look, I won’t lie or pretend that wouldn’t worry me, but I’d rather have you close so that if he does try and control you again, I’ll be around to try and stop him. At least I wouldn’t have you randomly popping up wherever I go.”
“Thank you. I’m not sure which is worse being near me or not knowing where I could be but thank you. I think I’d go crazy if you left me here.” Mai looked up at Jeremy with her normal milky eyes that always conveyed so much more pain than she had words to describe. Jeremy was glad she was on board with following them, not only would she make a great ally but she could help Jeremy deal with everything on a level that the others simply couldn’t.
Without another word, Jeremy stood and backed away from her, leaving her to recover further. He rejoined the original group, happy to see them all alive and well. “Okay, she’s coming with us. You all can trust her. I need to know what happened since Radfewx took Saesha. I feel like everything is so wishy-washy in my memory.”
“We really should be going now,” Noal spoke first. “I don’t think this hive is safe. There are stories of terrible things happening here. We need to vanish again.”
Saesha grabbed onto Jeremy’s shoulder, meeting him eye to eye. She hesitated to say something, as unexpected tears appeared in her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.”
“For what?” Jeremy did not understand her reaction.
“For everything, for causing all of this to happen,” she pointed at the still bleeding wound that spelled out her name on his chest. “It’s all my fault. You should never have met me, You should never have been able to save me, and now you’ve gone and fallen in love with me.”
“I regret none of it,” he said with true sincerity. “I kind of thought this wound was part of the illusion. I’ve done all this to myself, you have nothing to feel sorry about,” he said while gingerly touching the wound on his chest. His fingers outlined each letter as they traced the inscription.
Saesha reached up and cupped his face. “I don’t feel sorry that you are here. I feel sorry that I have caused you this pain. But I will help you heal.”
Jeremy thanked her and turned to face Noal and the rest who were waiting for them. “We should get as many quills as we can find. I can’t do this all by myself but I think I know how we can stop everything that is going on here without destroying everything.”
“But only you and I would be able to use the quills for anything other than writing words on a page.”
“Wait. Why?” Jeremy asked as terrible ideas sprung up in his mind.
“Look! There are many things that just happened that are beyond my knowledge. That tattoo on your body will be something of legend once the other writers hear about it. You’ve gone beyond what any writer would ever do with a quill and I fear the worst for you has not yet begun, my friend.”
“He’s not down. We need to left at now,” Tal-sen called while charging passed them and pulling princess Saesha along with him.
Jeremy spun and saw that Radfewx had regained consciousness and would soon be able to stop them from leaving. Without a second glance towards the group, Jeremy drove his fist alongside Radfewx’s face before getting up and following the others up the many flights of stairs to the top of the hive.
Next Chapter – The Writers of the Universe – 12. The Library
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2014 © Stew Stunes