Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Immortals: Chapter Two, Part One

Chapter Two: History

                Kendra finished shaking the hand of the fifth immortal she had met today – a smiling woman with a narrow scar along her cheek who went by the rather simple name of Z  - and walked with Bijay to the final building in the little gated community. The apartments were all – according to him – owned by a trust fund that Sean had arranged to ‘ripple’ into existence. That kept out others and let them act how they needed and wanted to act.

                “What about when you have to move?” Kendra asked. “Or…do you guys all just stick in nor-cal?”

                “We actually don’t need to move as often as you would think. Most immortals have started to come to America – it is easier to alter your past so that someone made it rich here than it is to make yourself…important in previous eras.” Bijay grinned. “Of course, not everyone needs money and fame to be happy.”

                Kendra nodded, looking past him to the wall of the gated community. It seemed woefully little to protect them against a bunch of other maniacs with the ability to alter reality at their whim: A short concrete wall, unable to even stop the sound of the nearby freeway from intruding.

                Bijay tapped her shoulder. “Hungry?”

                Kendra, who was feeling the wearying emptiness that crashed home after a hard shot of adrenaline, nodded mutely.

                Bijay led her back to the first place he had shown off: The open air food court. It was set up near a large pool – the water didn’t steam like it would have earlier in the morning, but the hot tub looked remarkably welcoming – and had been cobbled together with a few BBQ sets and fold out tables that had been fancied up with cloth coverings and other accoutrements. Bijay went to a cooler that sat near one of the BBQs and flipped it open.

                “So, how many people do I need to kill?” Kendra asked, her voice soft. Bijay pulled out a big old hunk of meat that she couldn’t recognize and tossed it onto the BBQ, his hands working the machinery to start up the burners within. Sizzling started to fill the air.

                “It depends. We ten…eleven, now…” He paused, looking a bit somber – she had noticed that his face seemed well built for somber stoicism. It was weird that he smiled so often, but then again, he seemed to be really good at smiling too. Maybe his face was like a swiss-army knife and able to suit many emotions. Kendra realized he was thinking about Sean…soon to be ten again, soon.

                He shook his head, then turned to face her, saying: “We are those who want to keep immortals in check. Our changes on the world are not noticed by mortals. But that does not make them good changes. Sean…” He sighed. “Sean is sacrificing himself.”

                “Oh?” Kendra’s brow furrowed.

                Bijay nodded. “Lives matter. If a life is unlived, it can have shocking consequences. Sean…if Sean was not born in 1925, then Hitler would have won the war.”

                Kendra was rather glad she hadn’t been drinking anything. If she had, she was pretty sure it would have gone all over the table. “How!?”

                Bijay shrugged. “We do not know. There are too many variables, too many instances where a tiny decision influenced a larger decision. It may not have even been Sean: It may have been his parents, his grandparents, his family…everything that would need to change to have him be born later, all of it built into a cascade that ends with this compound…” He gestured around himself. “…being a center of resistance against Nazi occupiers.”

                He grinned. “Personally, I’d be game for a good fight. But the thirty million people in New York and Washington who got nuked were a tad much for my own entertainment.”

                Kendra rubbed her temples. “Jesus Christ…”

                Bijay turned back to adjust the meat.

                When the meal was actually finished, it was remarkably delicious if incredibly weird. He had done something with spice and the meat wasn’t what she had expected – lamb, not beef – but she was so hungry by that time that she didn’t really care. Once the plate was clean, Nef had emerged from one of the buildings and sat down next to Bijay.

                Her face was grim.

                “Is…Sean okay?” Kendra asked, her voice soft.

                Nef breathed in, then breathed out. She nodded. “He’s happy that a new member is joining us. You…are…right?”

                Kendra put her hands on the table, frowning. “I don’t know why Immortals need to fight each other. You guys can freaking recreate reality to your whims…”

                Nef smiled, bitterly: “Every change impacts everyone else. Most of the time, it is a little change. But usually, when one Immortal improves their life, it creates unforeseen consequences for everyone else. But if there were only one…”

                Kendra nodded.

                “I don’t want that psycho Crichton to be God. Really.” She looked up at Nef and Bijay – Bijay was smiling at her.

                “So, you’re with us?”

                Kendra nodded. “Officially.” She smiled and held her hand out. Before this moment, she 
had been here to learn, to escape, to try and get her handle on things. But she had seen enough.

                These people were willing to die for the world. How could she turn that down?

                Nef took her hand, and shook it.

                “So, the tour is done.” Kendra stood with the rest of them. “What now?”

                “Now…” Nef smiled. “Now, you get to see what it is like when someone else ripples you.”

                Kendra brushed her hands through her hair. “In the future, I’ll be able to fight this, right?”

                Nef nodded. “For now, your immortality is mostly reflexive. Just keep this secret and come here when you have some free time.”

                Bijay smiled and added: “Your normal life still matters, at least for as long as you want it to.”

                “That’s comforting…” Kendra muttered, then smiled. “Do either of you have cellphones?”

                They both nodded.

                “You can’t keep the physical recording of them,” Nef said as Kendra started to tap the numbers into her cellphone. “Remember them, and then input them once we’re done.”

                “Got it…” Kendra closed her eyes and started to repeat the numbers.

                She repeated them again and again and again…

                “Wait. Wait. Wait.”

                Kendra opened her eyes. She was standing beside the traffic light, her hand on the cool metal of the button. She was holding her thermos in one hand. But this was not the morning – she was standing beside Jessica and Theresa.

                “And, like, is it just me or is Miss V getting even crazier?” Theresa asked – her hands were clasped around a pizza box. They were returning from the food court, Kendra realized. She whipped her phone out, tapping in Bijay’s number – saving it as “superhot guy.”

                “What’s that?” Jessica asked, leaning over Kendra’s shoulder. “Oooh, superhot guy?”

                “Guh!” Kendra looked at Jessica, flushing.

                “Oh, the light’s changed!” Theresa pointed. “Back to the music room!”

                “R…Right…” Kendra gulped, and together, they waked back into her normal life. 

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