J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: There is Only One Pill: The Rabbit Hole--Part 8
The time at the beach was nice, though a day in the sun and sand couldn’t quite ease the stress level I had begun to develop. And we couldn’t stay for more than a day, since time--as I had come to realize with an ache in my bones--time was always of the essence. We had to track down a moment in time before some unforeseen hiccup of the universe tore apart the small respite we had built. I say built, but really I just shot a laser beam, or ray, or something. Samir is the one who had built it, who had planned every second and every move of everyone to make sure we stopped--at least temporarily--the people who had been chasing us. According to Sam, the agents from his time agency were unknowingly frozen in the moment in which I had shot them. That sounded terribly perfect to me--to be able to simply pause someone until you were ready to unpause them. I mean, for the device to stop hunger, stop thought, stop the most basic processes of our body in a moment in time, and without that person even knowing..it seemed too easy. Not to say that the device and planning weren’t things of genius. They were. But the device and freezing them had absolved us of three entire people. It had absolved us of them for as long as we want, and all throughout time. They were there in that room and nowhere else.
I knew this was a good thing, and that we were coming closer to being able to fix the whole mess, and yet something still tugged at me. Perhaps it was the fact that I had helped completely nullify the existence of three people, even if temporarily. Only a small voice ever said this in my head. The loudest parts of me were still overjoyed that the plan had worked and, even if just for a little bit, I probably had less people trying to kill me. It was easy to shelf any guilt when I thought of that.
I couldn’t really complain, though, because poor Sam--Sam was looking more and more like the next calculation he solved, like the next element he factored in, like the next time stitch he had to consider would bowl him over and leave him there.
I’d like to think that I understood how he felt. He probably felt like I had when I first tried to comprehend everything that was happening to me, like my head was going to explode at any moment. There was a constant pressure and a slight nausea that would rear up at the most intense moments with a red haze. I figured Sam’s haze must be all the time. And I wondered what would happen when the haze closed in on him, or his head did finally explode.
I had never been any good at puzzles, and so I didn’t know if I was qualified for putting him back together.
He must have been talking to me. “Yes?”
“So, you missed all of that, then?”
“Completely,” I admitted.
Instead of his eyebrow drawing down as they usually would, they went up. “What are you thinking?”
“I was thinking that you look stressed. Really stressed. On the verge of a meltdown, if you haven’t already had it, kinda stressed.” He stopped walking and I looked around. We were in a forest area, and we had been walking through the forest for a while now. “Where are we?”
“I look stressed?”
“Very.” I ignored that he had ignored my question.
“I am stressed.”
I sighed and slung my backpack off, sliding to the ground to pull out my thermos. He kneeled beside me. “I know that you’re stressed. You asked what I was thinking. I was thinking that you looked stressed, that you look like you might fall apart at any moment. And I thought that I won’t be very good at putting you back together.”
“Sure you will,” he laughed, clapping me on the shoulder. He didn’t take his hand away immediately. It was warm. I didn’t mind it. “You’re the only thing that’s kept me together so far. I hate that I got you into this…”
“You saved my life.”
“And trapped you in a loop of time jumping.”
“There were...ripples. I’m just glad to be alive.”
He smiled. “Like I said, I hate that I got you into this, but I’m also very glad that I have you.” And then much quieter, he said, “I needed you.”
I think that, in a way, I had needed him, too. So I said so. Then, Samir took his hand away and we stood back up. “So, where are we?”
“Your headquarters, or your agency’s headquarters?”
He gave me a look and I could tell he meant the latter. I tried to control my breathing. Samir was an ex-Stormtrooper, and he had taken me to the Death Star. No, no, he was Morpheus--except he wasn’t offering me the red pill or the blue pill. He was offering me one pill that was two colors. And I was going to have to swallow it.
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J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacheri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.