Three stuffed shirts sat behind an antique polished wooden table looking with various degrees of disenchantment at Mary Culver. She sat alone on a wooden chair a few feet in front of their table. Two large windows behind the men shone bright midmorning sunlight straight into Mary’s eyes. After images gave the men green haloes. She blinked, dropped her gaze, anything except stare directly at her panel of accusers and the halo of light surrounding them.
“Mary Culver, do you know why you are here?”
She frowned, and with a hint of sarcasm responded, “Well lets see. My immortal lost his head, I wasnt there and now you want mine … metaphorically speaking of course.”
The men confered quietly eventually the central figure asked, “So you dont deny that as a result of negligent behaviour the Chronicles will miss the passing … “
Mary tuned out the rest of the old man’s ramblings. It was obvious to her that they’d made up their mind already. Whatever she said would merely be noted down and lost amidst the crumbly dust covered shelves of the archive.
She noticed a bird of prey circling outside one of the windows and she smile as it made a dive for an item of prey invisible to her at the present time. What she found funny was that it looked like the bird had dived straight down into the head of the right-most of the panel, vanishing into the void that it represented.
“… and we hereby move …”
She began picking at her nails, deeply engrossed in a hangnail on her left hand.
“… and expelled from the Watchers. Do I hear any dissenting voices?”
The voice of Joe Dawson rang out clearly from behind her jolting her awareness off the hangnail. She turned in her chair with a shocked look.
There He was stood leaning on his cane. “I speak for the accused and plead a stay of execution on the mandates of the court. Say, a 30 day recess to investigate and allow the accused time to exonerate herself in some way?”
A ferocious debate erupted among the judges settling down finally into two stony faced men on the left, with the bird-of-prey-head answering for the court, “Petition granted. If in 30 days the accused can prove her worth this court will withdraw charges. If, however, she fails.” He paused for emphasis and the other two men slowly nodded, “We shall reconvene to decide additional measures of censure. Case dismissed.”
Duncan woke up. His face was covered by a thin sheet of fabric, as he twisted his head it seemed to snag on something and move with him. A similar thing happened as he moved first his left then his right hands; the sheet seemed to be snagging on something and moving with him. As he raised his hand he felt something cold and wetalic brushing along the bare skin of his thigh. Something sharp. He exhaled a long breth raising his hand and saw a long slendar needle poking out of his palm. The tip was embedded deep enough that the metal seemed rooted at the intersection of two creases in his palm. He raised the other hand and saw a similar needle. With a shudder he guessed the reason that the sheet was snagging each time he moved his head. Before that could be addressed he had to deal with the other needles though. With teeth gritted he began pulling the right needle out then the left.
He paused, steeling himself for what was to follow. He raised his right hand and followed his nose upward. His eyes locked on the small spot of blood in the centre of his palm. Yes. Another needle embedded in his forehead between and slightly above his eyebrows. The third eye? He grasped it and pulled it free with some effort. What was someone doing placing an accupuncture needle there? The sheet didnt budge so he felt higher – another needle at his crown.
Four needles. He pushed the sheet down off his face and found himself staring at a light blue painted ceiling with a few light fluffy clouds painted at intervals. He sat and noted that the sheet didnt immediately fall free of his throat. He lifted the sheet off and started removing more needles: throat, heart, solar plexus, stomach … with a groan of intense displeasure he removed the ninth needle at groin level. For a moment he sat there taking stock and letting the endorphins race through his system.
The light blue ceiling extended down the walls past recessed lighting. It faded to white for most of the wall. To his left and right were a pair of small beds. One had a large pink unicorn on its bedspread, the other a rocketship. Duncan had been laying on a large wooden table in the centre of the room. There was a window between the beds and bright sun shone through net curtains.
As he swung his legs off the table he discovered the final two needles embedded in the soles of his feet. What sort of body-piercing freak did this to him? Why wasnt he at the barge? For that matter, where were his clothes? What the hell were eleven accupuncture needles doing embedded in his flesh?
He pulled the sheet close to himself and turned around to see the rest of the room and came face to face with the owners of the beds – two small children. He guessed they were about 10 and 8, the eldar a sandy haired blue eyes boy and his younger sister, dimmpled cheeks and a riot of dark brown curls cascading off her head. They were engrossed in a game of cards and didnt notice Duncan.
“You cheated!” the boy exclamed, throwing the last of his cards onto the floor between them.
“Did not!” his sister replied and stuck her tongue out for emphasis.
“Alright. You win. No changes this time.”
Duncan coughed experimentally and they both looked up. The boy looked annoyed at losing the game while his sister grinned at him.
“Hello.” she said in a cheery voice.
“Uhh, hi. Where am I? Who are you two?”
The boy looked at his sister and put a finger to his lips. She copied him her index finger pressing tightly against her lips. The boy spoke, “You shouldnt be here.”
Duncan shook his head and pulled the bedsheet closer to himself. Were these kids the reason for the needles?
“I shouldnt be here? I dont even know where here is!”
The boy smiled, “It isnt.”
Duncan frowned, “You’re talking in riddles. Where are we?”
The little girl fought to keep her finger pressed against her lips while smirking. The boy flashed her a venomous look and turned to MacLeod, “We arent anywhere really, and we dont exist.”
“What do you mean we dont exist?”
The little girl could no longer contain herself, “You exist, but really you shouldnt. It’s us that are pretend. We’re …”
Her older brother cut in, “We are the dichotomy of change. We’re the ‘should I’ and ‘shouldnt I’ – the ‘radical evolution’ and ‘conservative stability’ – the ‘can I’ and ‘cant I’ – archetypes. And she’s right – you shouldnt exist. You shouldnt be here.”
Duncan sighed a deep sigh, “Here doesnt exist. You dont exist. Where am I and what’s going on?”
The little girl pointed to the wall where a bright clock was ticking. No, it wasnt ticking. Each time the second hand thought it could escape a given moment it ticked back to the same moment.
“We are between – between life and death in your case. We see your kind pass through here on their way back. You shouldnt be here – or there – at all. A man is born once to die and after that face the judgement yet you immortals die and return time after time.”
Duncan nodded. Trapped between the moments. “So what do you have to do with it?” he asked.
The boy got up and circled the table once his eyes scanning Duncan. “There’s so much about you that I could tweak and improve. In the moments between tick and tock there’s so little time to work on those of you who pass through here.”
The girl squealed, “You promised. I won the game and I chose. No changes!”
The boy walked over to one of the beds and retrieved a well-loved brown teddy bear from under it. His sister grabbed it out of his hands and wrapped her arms around it crying.
The boy looked at Duncan. The eyes. Blue pools speaking of an eternity past, present and future. Fire blazed within. Duncan was drawn to him. Drawn into the gaze. “You wont resist me”
“Good. This is going to hurt … a lot. You shouldnt have been awake for this.”
“What about …”
The boy resumed pacing around Duncan, “Ive spent an eternity crafting that bear to draw her influence off me. An eternity of her moderating influence reduced. Her infernal tears no longer ringing in my ears. I am the force of evolution; the whirlwind of change. Each time you die I ammend you a little. You should see some of my creations, the ones who come through here countless times in ages past! When you rise again stronger its me you should thank. Its me you should pray to!”
Small hands plunged into Duncan’s back. He felt his flesh flow and part like pudding around the finger tips as they reached inside him. Finally he screamed. There was laughter from the boy.
Mary followed Joe in the same way that a puppy follows its master in the park. She walked faster than Joe with his prosthetic legs and walking cane so she’d get some distance ahead then would stop to admire a painting. He would pass her, turn a corner or start up some stairs and she’d follow along happily. She found the building a total fascination – everything from the wood panelled walls to paintings by obscure artists. Joe was glad she wasnt yapping or making sarcastic snipes at the other Watchers that they passed in the hallways.
Eventually they arrived at a high-tech annex at the very rear of the building. Double doors led to a corridor and another air-lock at the far end with signs along the final corridor that only authorized personell could pass. Joe found the doors locked and guarded my another computer terminal that asked for his ID number and a password. Mary stood nearby but she seemed no help – she was staring off into space, vacatly looking at one of the “no entry” signs. Joe tried the badge number and his name as password. The computer denied him access. He tried again, this time entering “MacLeod” as the password. Still no dice. He thought for a moment while running his left hand through spiky grey hair. As he reached to enter his ID a third time the computer screen seemed to glitch, turned entirely blue and began a complicated readout of numbers and commands in white letters. The doors slid oopen now that their guard was incapacitated. Joe and Mary slipped inside.