Chapter 6.13 – Bridge

It finally makes sense.
Kacey has manipulated everything… the dreams, the temporal loop, the meeting with Faith, and who knows what else? But why him? He was nothing more than a homeless, vagrant eccentric; living a miserable existence on the streets of France. How did Kacey even know he existed? Or was the artifact responsible?
He had been comfortable believing the dreams he shared with Hope were echoes from the future caused by the temporal loop. At least it seems romantic compared to the cold truth. He was little more than a tool deemed best capable of facilitating Kacey’s rescue. And he followed the piper’s flute all the way to Sunset Valley. Granted, the subtle manipulation of spacetime was an awfully neat trick. But he does not know whether to feel honored or violated. Is it possible to feel both at the same time?
These are questions for another time, perhaps. Now, he must focus on finding a way to help restore things to the way they were before Khaliq stepped in. And if there is one thing he doesn’t mind sinking his teeth into, it is a good paradox. What he really needs is a bridge between the broken realities; a way to complete the circuit, so to speak. It has to be something that exists in both places at the same time. There is a pretty good chance a gadget he built years ago, might just do the trick.
Kacey and Gerard return from a long walk on the beach together while Doc finishes sorting out the facts. He tells them about the machine he designed to measure the temporal loop. It should be able to open a bridge to this reality. In theory, it would act like a kind of quantum drainpipe, allowing the realities to flow together again. Obviously, somebody will need to “filter” out all the garbage from flowing back into the main reality. Doc pushes at the bridge of his glasses with his forefinger, and informs Kacey of a slight snag in the plan. The machine was left powered down in a cellar belonging to Jared Wily; the pudgy little proprietor of the Bits-n-Bites cafe. Even if there were some way of contacting him, Jared isn’t exactly the cooperative sort. Kacey lets a rare smile play across her face. Her eyes light up when she compliments Doc’s unmatched ability to solve impossible problems; and promises that the machine will have power when the time comes.
The trio go fishing together that evening and prepare their catch for dinner. After eating, they discuss the plan of action. Doc feels pretty strongly that the first priority is retrieving the artifact. Kacey agrees, but states that it will be dangerous. Khaliq has hidden himself away in the rugged mountains where warlords still fight for dominance over scattered villages and tribes.
Then, in the quiet hours after the meal, Doc is shocked beyond words when Kacey and Gerard retire together to the tiny bedroom. They had not shown any sort of affection or attraction toward each other. In fact, he’s sure the entire thing is completely innocent. It must be his weary mind making something more out of it. Nonetheless, he lay awake on the sofa, late into the night, aware of the complete silence filling the cabin. He wonders if, perhaps, they consider each other “safe”. But then it begs the question, what do they both consider him?
His curiosity about the odd sleeping arrangements eventually drifts to thoughts about Hope, and then to a restless night’s sleep. There is little conversation in the morning. Both Gerard and Kacey act as though sleeping in the same bed together was completely ordinary and unworthy of discussion. Seeming somewhat eager to avoid the topic, Kacey asks both men if they are ready to travel. But neither one understands what she means when she informs them that they are going to take a walk to Africa.
It is still damp and cool when they begin walking, with low clouds obscuring the morning sun. Doc forgets about the awkwardness he felt last night as Kacey begins to explain how her ability works. She is powerless while at the cabin or near any of its many reflections throughout reality. But as the distance between her and that place grows, the more potent her ability becomes. It seems easier to use when she is moving, imagining small changes as she goes. Grass and conifers may slowly give way to sand and palms. The cool sea breeze warms, and then becomes a hot desert wind. Cloudy skies clear to a baking sun overhead. These things obediently manifest, exactly as she imagines them.
Having been completely enthralled by her description, Doc has failed to notice what Kacey has done. She has achieved what should be impossible. They have traveled to Africa by way of a short hour-long hike. Doc and Gerard are both speechless from the experience. Kacey seems to enjoy the reaction, as though it brings novelty to something she has done hundreds of times. Then it strikes Doc; this is probably the only time she has made this kind of journey among “friends”.
They have come to an abandoned village. It’s houses are covered in a thick layer of sand and dust, and there seems to be no living thing present. Kacey leads them to a small home, built from earthen brick. She signals them to remain quiet while she attempts to peer through latticework covering the windows. They all hear the sound of a man sobbing inside. They enter quietly, ready to react should the home’s occupant greet them with violence. There is no need, however.
Khaliq stands over the body of a young woman. Her heavy robes are stained with blood. Khaliq turns to face Kacey as tears stream down his face. He clears his throat and admonishes the chrome-haired woman for coming to gloat. She eyes Gerard and shrugs her shoulders to indicate she does not understand. Gerard moves toward the woman and notices she been dead for just a few hours. He says a prayer for her, then quickly retreats. Khaliq faces Kacey and frowns in disgust, claiming his plan to save his mother’s life was perfect, and that he feels no pity or regret for deceiving her. Khaliq smiles bitterly and claims his victory over Mark Barimen. It is a hollow victory, however.
Khaliq’s face goes pale as he recalls the event. The moment he arrived, he went to the village plaza and announced that he had discovered an infidel living among its residents. At once, the villagers dragged Mark, who was still disguised as Rakim, out of the home and started to beat him. They removed his disguise and stood him up to be shot. Khaliq demanded that he be the one to take the killing shot. Finally victorious, Khaliq should have been elated. But he was not. The wailing of his teenage mother, who was being restrained by villagers, chilled his bones to the core. He could not understand why she would continue screaming and crying over the imminent death of an imposter; the same man who would walk away from her and her child and never once look back. Conflicting thoughts and emotions were spinning uncontrollably in Khaliq’s mind. He could not understand why his mother did not hate Mark Barimen for deceiving her. Still she begged, screaming for them to release Mark. What happened next, could have been avoided had she moved an instant sooner, or an instant later. She broke free and ran like lightning to protect her husband.
The same bullet that killed Mark, had also taken the life of his young bride.
Khaliq spits at Kacey and tells her to take her devil machine and leave the house, before he kills all of them too. Kacey gently retrieves the alien-looking device from beside the body of Khaliq’s mother, and quickly leads the way out.
Author’s Note – see Chapters 4.7 – Brainwashing,  4.11 – Insurgent,  4.14 – Wounds, Chapter 5 – Supplemental)
Nobody mentions hearing the distinct report of a single gunshot ringing out from the home as they leave; though all three clearly hear it, and understood its significance.
Gerard eventually breaks the silence as they walk back to Kacey’s cabin. He mentions that Khaliq’s mother had only just been killed, no more than a few hours ago. Kacey nods, appearing to struggle against some unseen force. Breathing heavily from the effort, and with sweat dripping into her face, she tells Gerard that spacetime is doing something really bad.
It is an effect she had not accounted for. And it may turn out to be a fatal mistake. From her own point of view, it has only been several days since leaving the Barimen Estate. From Khaliq’s perspective, it appears to have only been several hours; even though the village seems to have been abandoned or a number of years. She tells them somberly, that the timestream is fraying. Doc’s eyes narrow as Kacey resumes the walk, now grunting with the effort of each step. It his been two long and painful weeks since that night, waking up in the French slum. He wonders how long has it been for Hope.
Finally, they walk around the bend of a large, convex cliff face by the seashore and see the familiar curve of Sunset Valley’s beach. Kacey drops to the sand, exhausted, while Gerard tends to her. Spotting a nearby apple tree, Doc grabs a few fruit for Kacey, then quickly returns. She thanks him, and frowns. Khaliq was the last living Barimen in this reality, and also the linchpin holding it together. Now that he is gone… Kacey’s voice trails off, leaving the thought unfinished.
They must find Doc’s “bridge” within the hour. Past that, not even her abilities can save them.

4 thoughts on “Chapter 6.13 – Bridge

  1. I, like h, am wondering what is going on with Ben Barimen, or all the Barimens for that matter. This has got to be the best chapter so far, zoxell, even surpassing 6.12! I love the action that we’re experiencing, and I can’t wait to see how these “Three Musketeers” are going to save things before what they know is gone forever!


  2. Oh goodness!
    I wish Khaliq would have know why his father left, but he died without the knowledge, and now the trio have even less time to fix that bridge.
    This was another well written, suspense filled chapter. I cant wait to read more about these three and their task!


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