by: CJ Fogarty
My eyes open and all I see is white. The basic white color of the ceiling to exact, illumined by the pale morning light. I raise me torso with care, but it doesn’t keep my brain from waking up and realizing that I’m supposed to be hungover. My body always ends up punishing me for having fun. Running a hand through my short hair, I clench my head in a fruitless attempt to alleviate the headache. That hand then passes over my face itself, and I am suddenly struck by the inquisitive sense of there being more hair there than usual. I suppose I’ve forgotten to shave for quite some time.
I take time to observe the room. There’s a bed next to mine ordered and made up well, a leather couch next to the curtained window, and a door that appears to be dark on the other side, darker than this room.
In times like these, I am inclined to be more than cautious. I’ve had nights in which I’ve woken up in other people’s beds after my alcoholic misadventures. Most cases I’m able to slip out, but other times some brutish idiot’ll bop me in the eye before I’ve had time to explain not remembering getting into his wife’s bed. Hmm, well, the two trench coats on the chrome rack in the right corner must indicate some inkling of what I remember last night: Duke was involved somehow.
I am suddenly startled by a voice in the other room.
“Sonofabitch”, it cries, sounding like Duke, “Miri, how the hell do these lights work?”
After a few seconds and the sound of bare feet lightly stepping on hardwood floor, a young girl’s voice responds, with a touch of annoyance “You know, for someone who looks no older than thirty, you’re worse than an old man.”
“Oh, well, pardon me for not being able to see a goddamn thing.”, the other voice responds, sarcastically, yet with an air more joking than angry. That’s definitely Duke.
“That’d be because you’ve got the darkness set too low.”, the girl continues as I keep listening through the door, “anything you do on that little blue pad effects how the whole room will look. And control that sarcasm around me, D.B. I’m still in charge of you.”
After a few more seconds and shuffling footsteps, I hear, “Honestly, D.B., it isn’t that tough. Just access the little blue pad and slide the dial to how bright you want it in here. There you go”. And with that, a yellow light appears through the cracks in the door.
“Sorry, boss. Thank you, Miri”, Duke replies, half-apologetic, half-playful.
“I’m gonna go check on our friend, okay”, the girl replies, no sooner after which I hear the doorknob turn and the girl enters in.
She’s wrapped in a white towel down to her knees, her right hand holding it across her ample bust, accompanied by another towel wrapped about her head. She’s largely fair-skinned, average height, and her bright, grey eyes stare at me, inquisitively.
“Ah, good. So you’re awake finally”, she begins, then crosses to the bed next to mine. Her voice is authoritative, yet youthful
Removing the towel from her head, she uses it to clean her ears, as she continues, “Now, I’m sincerely hoping you’ll be a little more cooperative today, considering you’re behavior last night was , well, a pain in the ass to say the least.”
Her eyes turn back to me for a response, but I cannot think of anything to say. My head pounds as it tries to recall what ill-fortune befell me last night.
She goes on, setting the towel down and her hands to her sides on the bed.
“Listen, I’ll make this quick, R.S. As the final testament of grandmaster John Morris, you and D.B., codenamed ‘the Great Guardians’, are to be found, brought in, charged with assisting the Order’s leadership in the coming years. You and D.B. will both come with me back to central headquarters. You’ll be brought up to speed as to exactly what your tasks will involve. Any questions?”
I stare back at her for a moment, my brow furrowed in disbelief.
“So”, trying out my voice, “ol’ Johnny boy is dead, eh? But, the Order’s still around, that’s good, I suppose”, my voice trails off, my head still struggling to remember. Not just the events of last night, but of everything else. No small feat considering I’ve spent the past few months trying to forget everything.
Miri’s eyes stare at me inquisitively yet again.
“R.S., do you remember me? Or anything you did last night?”
I try to think of an educated way to say, “I don’t know”, but all I manage is, “Well….I…uhm-“
“-Don’t expect him to remember first off, Miri”, a casual voice calls from the doorway.
I turn to see Duke, his tall figure leaning against the wall near the door, dressed in a white t-shirt and tan knickers.
“Give him a few hours, alright”, Duke continues. Then, turning to me, “You fell off the edge last night, Rich”.
Him saying that was the best explanation I could receive.
I reply, more confidently, “Oh, yes, of course. I must have had another one of those nights, again.”
Feeling genuinely remorseful, I sit up straight in my bed and turn to the girl with, “I suppose I should apologize for my conduct thus far. I’m guessing I made quite a mess, right?”
“Yeah, uh, this time was kinda bad”, Duke replies.
This, however, leads me to ask, “Did I kill anybody this time?”
“Oh no, it wasn’t that bad. We did, however, get in fight with the cops this time”.
Hm, suddenly the image of me knocking out a brunette copper comes into my head. I moan as it all suddenly comes back to me. The Brown Bess, the King and Queen, and Duke found me there. Then I started remembering again, because I knew the street we were on and I remembered where I’d been when the planes started coming. My head convulses a little more as the images, the noises, all of it suddenly comes back full circle. I don’t see the planes first, but I sure as hell feel the bomb because in one instant our cannon goes from iron defender of London to an exploded wreck. I am tossed backward at least a meter, I can feel my ears ringing in the room just as they did back that very day. I become less and less conscious of the room around me. I get onto my knees and the sharpest pain is in my gut, like I’ve been hit by a fuckin lorry. I hack violently onto the brick ground and blood appears in front of me, my entire view caught in a smoky haze that makes my eyes tear up.
“Rich, Rich!”, I heard a distant voice shout, “Rich, come back to us, man! Miri, do you have any brandy on you?”
I look up and that’s when the planes comes into view, black, avian nightmares crossing a piss-colored sky.
“Miri, I’m serious!”, the voice shouts again, “any hard drinks, it’ll bring him back to consciousness!”
And I suddenly see the sky and the planes fade away a little to the large figure of Duke, holding my right shoulder. My mind also becomes conscious of words coming from me, yet they too seem distant.
“Planes”, I whisper wearily, my voice trailing off, “the-the planes. Get the people to the metro. Where’s-where’s the captain.
I can pick out Duke and the girl in front of me, but they seem to be behind a veil. Miri quickly hands Duke a small glass, which he snatches, bringing it to me. As I feel the liquid pour down my throat, it almost feel like a slight burning. Yet, the unpleasant sensation is reassuring, because it feels real, and it helps me find my way back. The strong aftertaste of the alcohol kicks in, forcing my mind back to reality. The sky fades away and I can make out the white room clearly, along with beleaguered figures in it.
Looking down, I notice the purplish carpet is stained, thankfully, with spit, not blood. I slowly get to a sitting position on the floor, leaned against the bed. Duke and Miri, panting, take seats opposite of me, the latter sitting atop her bed.
She is the first one to speak with, “Okay. This is going to need an explanation. Later though.”
Well, I suppose there’s no need to be soft and supportive. I think to myself. After all, my mind did just try to convince me that the year is 1940.
“Are you okay?”
The words suddenly surpris.////////,e me. Not because they were said but because the girl said them, when I expected it to be Duke.
“R.S., I asked if you’re alright.”, she repeats, firmly, but, with just a hint of care.
I respond with a nod that attempts to be reassuring.
“Goddammit, what year is it anyway”, I think to myself, only, it’s out loud this time.
“2069”, Duke replies, “looks like we didn’t catch you on a good day, did we, Rich?”
“No”, I reply, “you didn’t. I’d gone to the Brown Bess to try and clear me head. Guess I got a little too drunk for that to ‘appen.”
Duke had set the glass down to my side. I pick it up, bring the deep, dark red liquid to my lips and say, “And you don’t need to explain anything, really. Anything I don’t remember know will come back piecemeal. Every fucking detail, I assure you. I was never was too good at blacking out”, then, with a shrug, “but, that’s tolerance for you”.
I take a long draught of the glass, only to find that it tastes terrible. Like bad lager mixed with even worse wine.
“Ah, bullocks!”, I exclaim, “what the hell is this shit!?”
“I’m guessing you’ve never had Martian Ale, then?” Miri replies with a hint of humor, “it’s a type of beer distilled on Mars. Beer in the sense that we’re pretty sure they use wheat, or some type of it up there. There’s not a whole lot of regulation on the planet so people tend to brew what they will. They say it’s only good for killing brain cells, so natural gas miners take it in order to dull their senses, considering the smells are even worse in those reservoirs”.
Leaning forward, she takes the drink from her hands and swigs it herself, a submissive shrug following a small grimace.
“Ugh. Hotels usually provide it free considering it’s about one and a half US credits, which would be about”, thinking for a moment, “two royals and a twenty-five pence. A lot of people, I suppose, are willing to ignore shitty quality for affordability.”
“Hmph, people just don’t have standards anymore, do they?”, I retort. At least that hasn’t changed in fifty years.
Miri then gets up and moves toward the closet, I realize the lass has had her bathrobe on this whole time. Opening the closet and blocking us from her view, I suddenly see the bathrobe drape itself over the door. At this point, things start to get a little bizarre as, apparently, a woman suddenly sees fit to change her wardrobe whilst we’re in the room. I look to Duke and nod my head to the left in whispering, “should we get out, or something?”
At first, Duke furrows his brow. I gesture to the closet and he turns around. Once determining the private practice playing out innocently before us, Duke turns back to me, a playfully licentious look on his face.
Tut, at least I know Duke hasn’t changed anymore than I have.
I lean in closer and whisper to him, “Really? You don’t we should leave the room? Where the hell’s your respect?”
“I’ve got respect”, Duke replies boldly, “you don’t see me trying to move the door, do you?”
To this I roll me eyes, and he continues, half-trying to be quiet, “I mean, come on man. She’s a little young but you gotta admit she’s an attractive one”.
“I’m right here Duke”, we hear in a surprisingly-indifferent tone over the bed.
To this, Duke get a look on his face like we were two schoolboys caught peeping, but it’s all in jest of course.
There is a noticeable sigh of discontent from the closet, either directed at Duke or something else, “hey, did you two see my phone?”
I get up and look around the room. Duke does the same.
“What’s it look like again?”, Duke inquires.
Miri looks up from checking under the pillows with, “it’s black.”
Well, that helps, I think to myself. It doesn’t matter considering I have no idea what these holophones really look like.
“It’ll look like an oversized wristwatch, Rich”, Duke suddenly states. Reading my thoughts apparently.
No sooner do I hear that I turn and see, what else, an oversized wristwatch with a large blue screen in the corner.
“Is that it?”, I hear two voices ask, one mine, the other Duke’s.
“Yes”, Miri replies with relief. Bending over to pick it up, she slips the elastic band over her wrist, which appears to contort and become rigid, fitting perfectly onto her forearm. She presses the screen and a blue, holographic image pops up. It’s backwards but it looks like a list of cities next to a set of times, all of them also in blue letters. Where can I get one of those? I think to myself, feeling that Duke is thinking the same thing.
Miri glances up at us awaiting orders, then states curtly, “thank you”, followed by, “okay. As long as there won’t be any more trouble from you two, we will going back to central HQ. You will be debriefed on what your tasks will be there.”
Miri, pauses, shaking her head and, for the first time, smiling.
“I’m going to be frank with you two: I honestly don’t know what you’ll be debriefed on. Or what your jobs are really supposed to be. And also I won’t lie, I don’t really believe the stories about you guys being thousands of years old and shit. In fact, I think the Great Guardians are nothing more than folktales spread around the Order to give Godeseye kids everywhere a sense of hope and aspiration. But then, what would John want with you, I wonder?”
“That’s something we’re trying to figure out”, Duke replies.
“But, so, we’re back then? That’s just it?”, I inquire, “We’re going back to the Order. Back to our old jobs? Are you even up to this, Duke?”
“Well, after some careful and dedicated convincing”, Duke replies, glancing at where Miri is supposed to be, “yeah, I’ll give it one more shot”.
I think about this myself for a moment, but considering where I’d probably be if it weren’t for this girl finding Duke and saving my arse, I guess I owe her one. Added to it, there’s always a certain allegiance we give to the Order and it’s grandmaster in particular. We’ll never admit it outright, but, when you’ve lived as long as we have, well, internal stability is often a switch away from insanity. In a way, the Order gives us some people to, try and understand us. Additionally, we give the kids advice on how to deal with their jobs and their lives, as trivial as normal human concerns really are. It’s a pain in the arse sometimes, but, in the end we help each other.
With a shrug, I reply matter-of-factly,”Well, so am I then”.
“Good.”, Miri replies, “get dressed yourselves, boys. We’re scheduled for the next plane in a half hour, so make it quick.”
She turns to leave but my question apparently stops her dead with, “so, it’s still on St. Helena then, right? Godeseye central?”
Turning around, that inquisitive look appears again as she replies, “Yes. Yes that’s correct”.
She thus proceeds out the door, when I ask, “And, if John’s no longer with us, who’s grandmaster now”.
Miri peeks her head from behind the door and answers, with a bit of pride, “Well, that would be me”, she then smiles and cocks her head before closing the door.
Duke, meanwhile, has gotten up and begins slipping the trench coat over his white shirt, the knickers he needs already on him.
I meanwhile, am left dazed again by the character of this Miri, grandmaster of the Order of Godeseye, a position that often tends to shorten one’s lifespan, taken up by a lass who looks no more than twenty-one years.
Duke notices my shocked face, and thus replies, “I know right? It’s crazy. She’s only twenty-years-old, and ol’ Johnny boy trusted her to run the Order. I gotta say though, what she has in attractiveness is multiplied by her character. I’ve gotten enough from her to know that she’s tough as nails, and she won’t go down easy”, his tone changes from complimentary to more somber with, “still, I know, that she is, pretty young”
We share eye contact for that moment. From the look on his face, I know what’s he’s thinking. It’s what we both tend to think at times like this. At these times, usually, the vibrant, strong young lass or lad we’re thinking about is one who’ll grow up either broken or bitter, or worse, won’t be able to grow up at all. We know because it’s happened a thousand times. It’s probably humanities’ greatest curse.
But, now is the time where we bounce back from our reflections.
We both share a shrug, and Duke throws my coat and to me then says, “So yeah. We’ll give it one more shot, eh?”
I nod. Then, however, I remember a few thing’s I’d read about the past, and it makes my spine tingle and my head hurt again.
I reply with foreboding “Sure. But, I won’t lie Duke. There’s a lot of bad things that have occurred while we’ve slept”.
“Sure”, Duke answers, that classic optimism of his shining through, “which is why, we ought to get started, don’t we?”
To this I can only nod again. I put on the coat and I think to myself that I’m not entirely happy that I’m back, but I’m content knowing that there’s more left that we can do. Eternity, I suppose, isn’t over yet.