The Writers of the Universe
13. My History
Ellen sat down beside the gentle stream that divided the town where she lived. With absent-minded calm, she stroked her golden hair as she watched a group of ducks turnabout in the still water.
Night was falling fast as the sun set early on the blustery October evening. Ellen sat watching nothing in particular, her mind vacant and at ease. She felt a hollow sadness that could not be explained in words. The closest feelings she could use to describe it was failure. Much of the last three years of her life had been spent in between the pages of her textbooks while she studied for a degree in Mathematics. She had been well on her way to obtaining a perfect 4.0, until about three weeks ago when she received a call that her parents had passed away in an automobile accident. The news had crushed her and taken all of her drive away from her, but even still even more bad news was forthcoming.
A week later after the terrible news of her parent’s death, she discovered that they had been in massive debt despite telling her that they could easily send her to college with zero hassle. Snowballing from there, she was quickly dismissed from her university and an hour earlier her landlord had just handed her a week’s notice to vacate her apartment.
Now she was homeless, without a direction or plan, preparing to spend a night on her favorite park bench. While she was studying she would often take breaks and walk down to this bench to allow her mind to unwind. Without fail, every time she was stuck on a particularly hard problem, by the time she was ready to return home she had worked out the answer in her head. This bench had been her place to get away if only for a moment and now it was the only thing left that attached her to the life she once held.
A group of passing students broke her from her depressed thoughts and brought her back to reality. She had to make a plan or she was never going to make it. A gust of wind ripped at her loose hair as if it were trying to pull her in the direction towards the freeway and on past to some distant location where she supposed all wind finally rests.
Arrested in her thoughts, Jeremy stood invisible to the entire scene. He stared into her bright blue eyes and recognized how they mirrored his own. This was the woman he had never met but had dreamt so often of meeting. He felt a tear in his eye, but he did not bother to wipe it away as he was content to share the still moment with his mother.
Night had fully taken over and nothing but a dim street light illuminated the young woman. Her eyes grew heavy as she hugged herself trying to generate as much heat as possible. She hoped that no matter how hard things were to get that she would never be forced to beg for food and a place to stay. Despite her misgivings and all about depression, she couldn’t help but fight back against her dark mood as she held onto the belief that all this had just been a temporary setback. Once she got her feet back on the ground she knew she would be off running again.
Out of the silent dark, a cold hand crunched down on her shoulder. She made to yelp but was quickly silenced as another arm came around and held onto her mouth, muffling any protests she might have.
“I’ve been watching you for hours. You’ve got no one coming to meet you or nothing. You’re all mine,” A nasally-yet-gruff voice croaked in her ear.
Ellen tried to plead and fight, but the man held her back. His hand that had once crushed down on her shoulder had now encircled her neck and threatened to squeeze and cut off what little breath it allowed to pass. While his own hand held her at his mercy, his other began traveling over her body.
This made Ellen fight much harder, no longer caring that he might crush her windpipe. With a surprising burst of speed, she ripped out of his grip and fell forward letting out a roar of defiance into the night. There were many bad things happening to her all in a short span of time, but this was one thing she would rather die than allow to happen.
She was able to get halfway on her feet, before a large mass collided with her, knocking her back down on the ground. Her head smacked against concrete, as red and blue lights flashed in her vision obscuring the scene of violence. Ellen was able to get out one more scream right as one of the attacker’s calloused hands clamped down around her mouth, shutting in every sound she could make.
“Quiet!” the attacker urged as he climbed over her and held out a skinny pistol. “Not another word,” he said with the implication that he had used the same pistol many times before and would have no qualms with using it now.
Meanwhile, Jeremy screamed himself hoarse trying to stop the scene in progress. He punched and kicked, yelled and cursed, and yet nothing would break through. Even worse was that he knew it was something that had already happened, unchangeable history. That did not stop him from trying though. The moment the nameless raper pulled out his gun, Jeremy fell silent. Too scared to utter a single extra noise should it alert the crazed man and cause him to fire the steel slinger. He hovered above the scene watching and praying the ending would not turn out the way he saw it happening.
Ellen held her breath while she tried to control her rising panic. Every muscle in her body told her to run and fight but she was more terrified of the gun. It looked so instant and final. She wondered which fear would overcome the other.
“If you don’t yell, maybe you’ll get lucky and I won’t kill you afterward,” the cruel-faced man commanded.
A strange silence fell over them as he tore her shirt open, but it was at that moment that Ellen’s brain decided to break. Under all of the stress of the last few weeks, from one unlucky event to another, she thought that she must have been cursed by some voodoo to cause her this much misfortune. The moment was too much for her and she began to laugh.
It was not a small quiet giggle, nor was it a polite exhale of air from her nose. No, this was a full body tears-in-eyes, can’t breathe, can’t stop, laughter. She laughed harder the more the word lucky trailed across her thoughts.
“Hey! What the hell,” called a third voice from far away. At once the great pressure on her chest was lifted as the foul person scattered away and she heard a rush of boots running toward her.
She continued to laugh, her face red and streaming from the extreme double takes. Ellen tried to control her eruptions as she struggled to get on her feet. Stumbling like a freshly born doe on new legs, Ellen was only able to pause for a moment and take a deep breath before another series of hysterics overran her.
With her attacker having run off, the man who had intervened stood confused and slightly embarrassed as he waited for the woman to regain control of herself. After another full five minutes of outrageous laughter, Ellen was finally able to regain enough control over herself to the point that she could stand still and bite the inside of her lip to keep herself from another outburst. With a final hiccup, her laughter came to an end and she was able to lift her head and take in the man standing before her.
“Hello,” the man spoke with a confident, calm manner. “My name is Brad Tierney. You’re safe now.”
The scene in front of Jeremy’s eyes froze. Each character buffered as if they were trying to move forward but the writer’s quill was working overtime to erase the previous few pages from existence. Giant slashes ran through the air all around Jeremy, indiscriminate faces were dragged and dropped as everything was reset to the moment Ellen sat down on the bench to watch the setting sun.
The writing began anew.
Night had fully taken over and nothing but a dim street light illuminated the young woman. Her eyes grew heavy as she hugged herself trying to generate as much heat as possible. She hoped that no matter how hard things were to get, that she would never be forced to beg for food and a place to stay. Despite her misgivings and all about depression, she couldn’t help but fight back against her dark mood as she held onto the belief that all of this had just been a temporary setback. Once she got her feet back on the ground she knew she would be off running again.
Just as the sun had fully set behind the slight rise beyond the horizon, the last remaining thoughts of happiness and hope dissipated from Ellen. She was drained and she knew it. Maybe in a different time or a different life, she would have had the strength to overcome this unfortunate round of setbacks, but this time it was different. The light and smile she so easily wore had been taken from her and no matter how many lies she whispered to her heart. She knew this was the end.
Her eyes glanced around the immediate area, making sure that no one was around. It would be so easy to just close her eyes and fall below the water. A memory from her childhood ran through her mind. She remembered a summer canoeing trip with her family. The water had become very fast due to heavy late spring storms. Her body shook remembering how their canoe had slammed sideways into an enormous rock splitting the stream. The boat had bounced so hard against the rock that it ejected everyone from the craft. Ellen remembered going under and how cold the water had been, but that was the last of her memory. Only a dim haze of the strong arm that had pulled her above and rescued her.
This time it would be different, she thought. The water looked calm and welcoming, nothing like the raging torrents from her childhood trip. An involuntary shiver went through her body, as she stood on uneasy legs. A brief moment of hesitation and reasoning crept into her brain, but it was quickly washed away as she stepped towards the water. The call of the void was upon her and she was fully entranced by its beckoning.
Dipping a toe in the water, her body ignored the icy temperature as she placed both feet in. This was it, she thought, as frozen tears stung at her eyes. She hadn’t ever before considered an afterlife, but for a moment she hoped that if there was one, that she would be granted the chance to see her parents again. If only for a moment, to thank them for the many sacrifices they had made for her to have such a chance of success. The last feeling of sentimentality left her as the water rose to her chest. Only a few more steps and it would be entirely over her head and then all she had to do was wait. And if there was one thing she had learned from her long hours of studying and preparing for tests, waiting for the result was at once the hardest and the easiest part.
Although there was no reason to, she took a deep breath before plunging her head into the freezing water. The icy shock made her heart and chest burn as she fought to keep her mouth from opening. It felt like her brain was burning as it cranked at every muscle trying to force herself to go above. The struggle became real as a cloud crept over her thoughts, slowing her movements and actions. As the cloud in her mind was beginning to form into something much more permanent, a simple thought struck out from her. “This is not what I want.”
The realization that she did not want to die swept through her stronger than any emotion she had felt the entire evening. Her fist broke through the water, just as a warm hand grabbed on and pulled her out of the water. Sputtering and coughing as her body rejected as much water from her lungs as it could, the person swam her back towards the shore and quickly rolled her on her side allowing her to empty her filled lungs.
Everything on the inside of her chest burned like fire as she heaved, the gentle padding on her back reassured her that this was all real and that she, in fact, had not died. After one last ferocious belch, she sat up, panting, and locked eyes with the person who had pulled her above the water.
She started to apologize as real tears and emotion flooded her. So much had happened and she wanted to explain everything to the beautiful man sitting beside her because she didn’t want him to think she was weak. But instead, all that came out was a mix of “sorry’s” and scattered retellings of her recent history.
The man gently laid his hand on her back and held her close, “Shh. It’s all right. I saw you trip into the water. Luckily for you, I happened to be running late to my midterm. Don’t worry now, I’ll teach you how to swim so that next time you fall into the water you can get yourself out.” He smiled the warmest smile Ellen had ever gazed upon.
“What’s your name?” She asked, breathless and relieved that he was giving her an out so that she did not have to explain everything at that exact moment.
He smiled with a slight air of cockiness, “My name is Brad Tierney. You can rest easy, you are safe now.”
The buffering began again as the scene froze and rewound as the pieces of the story were put back into place. Jeremy wondered what the writer was trying to do. It seemed that every time his father showed up to save Ellen, the writer would get angry and have to start over. This must have truly been the moment that his mother was supposed to die, and yet for some reason, the writer could not kill her. His eyes skimmed the next rewrite. This time a gaggle of gang members surrounded his mother as she sat watching the sunset. And through a surprising twist and feat of strength, Ellen was again saved by Brad Tierney.
Jeremy could tell the writer was getting frustrated as the handwriting was becoming more and more jagged with every retelling of the incident. The writing was also becoming less proficient with an abundance of spelling and grammar errors. The writer was losing steam and ideas.
Pulling himself out of the story, Jeremy returned to the present as the group around him came into focus. They all eagerly awaited his words, hoping for some clue that would help them all succeed in the coming battle against Radfewx. “They were trying to kill my mother, but as far as I’ve read they weren’t able to. My dad kept interfering with their plans.”
Saesha was the first to respond, “Then you need to find out how your dad was able to fight them. He is the key to all of this.”
“She is correct,” Noal seconded. “But I insist you hurry. I believe we are running short on time and they will soon have realized our location. If they have not already.”
Jeremy nodded to everyone in the group and picked up the book with his father’s name inscribed on the cover. Brad Tierney. Something about the name rang false to Jeremy but he had no idea why.
Brad David Tierney, was born December 18, 1970, a cold and snowy night. The story began and ended.
“What the hell,” Jeremy muttered under his breath as he flipped the page over. There was nothing written, just simple white space waiting for the decisive mark of a writer, but none would be coming as Jeremy knew this story was long finished. Gripping half the pages, he flipped the book open at the middle and still nothing was written upon the pages. His father had been born, and that was all the writers had ever known. For completest sake and while expecting more of the same, Jeremy turned to the very last page. One single paragraph was all that summed up the entirety of Brad Tierney’s life.
On a blustery day at the end of October 1987, two people met and fell in love. Together they had a son. Name unknown. Birthdate Unknown. It was Fate.
It was a long time before Jeremy realized he was crying and his tears were making the ink on the page blot and run. Wiping his eyes, he picked his head up and faced the group. Not a single one of them spoke, uncertain of what Jeremy had read and doubly uncertain of his emotion.
“Fate,” was the only word he was able to speak. His throat felt rough and much tighter than Jeremy thought possible to get words out.
“I feared this might be the culmination,” Noal confessed. “It is the only thing powerful enough to produce people outside of our control.”
All eyes turned to Noal, awaiting further explanation. As per usual, the professorial part of Noal took over as he cleared his throat and began. “Fate is something we have only recently begun to define and understand. At first, we thought it must be another civilization, unknown to us, controlling other parts of the universe. But we could find no traces of such an existence. Many began to speculate that it was a machine built by the founders as a way to regulate nature. I never believed that as there again was no evidence. The only explanation is that it was something beyond even what our top scientists could understand. It is the essence, the building blocks, the wind, the air, life as some would have claim. Everything material is a part of it and everything not is equally a part of Fate. But who controls it? What can we do with it? These proved to be the hardest questions to answer as we could never touch or quantify Fate in any meaningful manner. Years of study went on and then suddenly Grand Master Kildaire declared that Fate was our greatest enemy. It was able to resist our control and must be eradicated from all of our universes. The problem began. If we cannot touch it and we can not know what it truly is, how then were we supposed to identify it and kill it. The Grand Master at the time told us we could do the one thing we knew best. We could write and lay traps for Fate in our pantheon of books and stories. The witch hunt for Fate is so grave that even to speak its name in the open is grounds for treason against our civilization. The Grandmaster’s great, great, great times a few thousand or so grandson is Radfewx. He was a student of the writer’s guild most devoted to finding Fate and destroying it.”
“So what now?” Cis asked. “What do we gotta do to chat with Fate.”
“I haven’t a clue,” Noal confided. “All I know is that boy is the closest link to Fate we will ever know and see.” He held a single finger marking Jeremy as the one.
Next Chapter – The Writers of the Universe – 14. Fight the Universe
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2014 © Stew Stunes