Our History Is Important Because It’s The One We Cherish
I knew I’d find him here, but I’d never expected it would be so easy. Like a dimwit and a minnow he had never left, too dear of his role in the great scheme to run away. So I had come for him, as inevitable as the lingering curse of a dying crone, as inevitable as a bearded man on a deserted beach, dried tearstains burning on his cheeks as he watched the gulls and waited for his last day. I followed him idly past streetlights, taking a step off of the train platform and into the hunt.
Two, three, four times he stepped into the hazy pools of light on the streetsides, not even turning around. Oh how the fool strode, bouncing about as if he owned the place, that little braggart and sot. I would gurgle with infantile pleasure when his swagger turned into a stagger and he descended the steps into his own grave. Why, the moment of my revenge was upon me and I was giddy with anticipation, for I would at last be free.
He turned a corner, another, knocked at a door and let himself in. I lit up, then stammered and tossed, crushed the butt underfoot. And the door wasn’t even locked.
Was this his home? I laugh, I stamped up the stairs – he’d hear the fate that was rapidly approaching and shudder. The stairway ended with linoleum floors that stretched away, up into a gray wall with not one but two clocks showing different times. The lights welled up out of the ceiling, minimalist in their recessed sockets. He looked back at me and bit his lip; leaned against a kitchen counter that coiled around the room and fuffed with dismay. Uncrossing his legs, he snapped the stove off, the pot lost its froth and his bare feet stuck to the floor leaving footprints of damp as he stumbled about his business.
I told him my name, and that he would pay he would pay he would pay, but he didn’t even take a step away. Instead a smirk crossed his face as the condemned man, scratching under his collar, told me he knew my name better than his own. I laughed triumphantly and answered with a lunge, a spark and a shiver as the blade in my hand – the very blade that he’d used to earn this vengeance – said its greetings. But naturally he would not stand and take such an affront. I gritted my teeth, seeing him end his bound with an awkward half knee on the counter. He thrust his hand in the pot, pulled out a clockwork egg, and with a pull of a pin filled the air with light. The floor decayed beneath my feet, allowing me passage through its fading surface, but as it peeled past my face I was in a different place and again on the chase – he ran with his back to me, stepping off a linoleum floor onto a sudden wave of sand, and then with another step into a deep watery pool. His next onto a grassy meadow and his next ankle deep in snow. Rubbing my hand past my face to get sweat from my eyes, I pursued him onto the blinking patio of worlds and shapes.
Each movement beyond the limits of the building was a sparkling crack of static as the seasons and weather all assailed me with their jealousy. I barked an insult at the retreating coward, but it was lost as I passed from a forest to a cave, my hand brushing against the sectioned edge of a trunk. I kicked up stones in my hurry and they held me back from my passage to the beach and the tundra, the taiga, the glacier. I crumpled and fell over the borderhugging rocks, the invisible boundaries pinching or tugging at my clothes. That scoundrel would not escape again! The bite of frosted soil I took was hastily spat out, yet there was still a sharp pain as I continued crawling towards him, the boundaries forcing missed grains right into my neck.
I won’t let him get away, I won’t let him get away. But he was! Oh how he was, and the blade that thirsted for its home, quartered so ineptly in my hand jutted to and fro as I scrambled after him. It wasn’t me that wanted him dead it was everything – the entire cosmos cried out his accursed name and mine! He turned to face me in a patch of shimmering sand, replacing the pin to his machine. At once, cells started being torn from the worldmesh, being rent into pieces as the dream of his brass egg concluded its story. To my left, a swamp took a nick from my shoulder and chin as it was ripped out of existence. Numb, I scrambled up, sliding into the tile of desert as everything ended around me, and at once so had I. But the veil once again lifted up through my face and it all spread out before me: A baked desert on a starry night.
Staggering and clutching my shoulder, from which I flowed freely but for my worldly hands, stinging with the sensations of twenty lives. “Turn around and face me, criminal!” And he did turn, a glance over his shoulder, but continued to jog. Another pin from his egg and another flash and great pillars started to rise of the sands. Taking shape as the excess earth fell away, a city took shape out of just sand and desert plant scraps. Towering scrapers bit into the sky and strung their tails and cables betwixt each other like a modern man’s view of the future. Bleak in a gray and beige, my adversary fled into the grit streets and I followed, a dog with the taste of blood, albeit my own. I tore with gasping breaths through arches and sculptures of classical sand eras long gone. There were no streetlights in this city, just the glint of the stars and the haze of the dead heat.
And we wove and wept through streets, behind empty newsstands with their papers, sand cars with hanging bumpers and the accoutrements of working men lost in the desert. He hid in homeless shelters and bus depots and I kept at him, my wound becoming caked in dry red sand. This city, what made it any different from our own homes besides the tired wastes he had torn it out of? No matter where I had turned, in any world in any place, the people had all fled with their handbags dropped on the side and left to split. Was I from the real city or from a simulacrum born of an egg in boiling water? Did my unfortunate friend’s brass machine create, recreate, find, or recall? And did it remember me? He stopped and we both knew we had reached a last stand in a station. He slipped the device he’d made into his pocket and turned with his brow furrowing and unfurrowing like an indecisive rodent. “What makes you special, chaser?” he sighed, opening his arms welcomingly and confusedly.
I had no answer for him, and once again I made a desperate stab. And once again I found that he could see any injury I sought to give him, and lazily stepped aside. I found a crushing blow to my hand, a fumble, and a familiar knife in a familiar change of hands. He shrugged, laughed, and repeated the quintessential strike, yet I could not repeat his escape. A thin hole was made just above my heart, and it grew as his knife (my knife (his knife)) pierced my skin for the ten-thousandth, twenty-thousandth time. I cried out but my voice was sand and dust on the breath of a mirage, with everything caught in its own cycle and lock, nothing extraneous and not a phrase misplaced and no way to escape. I fell to the ground, watching as he walked away with his confidence and his righteousness, calling me dead with his body language. But oh no, I was not finished. Not until they nailed me to a casket could they stop me, and not even then. I took the knife that was not mine from the wound that was as my blood turned to sand. Standing up beside a great, crumbling, stone train, I had all the time in the world, and, haha, I knew just where to find him.