Fiction,  Issue 4,  Serializations

Point Blank, Part 3 by Paige Bagby

Chapter 6

In a primeval rainforest filled with beings that would eventually tread the earth again as rubber and oil, a dejected Ca’al mourned the loss of his mate to a rogue landslide. The mourning was brief as he was momentarily crushed beneath the foot of a large herbivorous lizard. 

At nearly the same moment, the various Calvin Brigsteins and their effortlessly bemused Candace took their first steps into this same jungle. Calvyn, still clutching his duffel, let out a squeak as he stared around.

“No one ever said anything about jungles,” he said. “I left my bug spray.”

“When exactly is this?” Cal asked. 

“A little pit stop of mine,” Brigstein replied, pocketing his license and beaming around at the damp leaves. “I’m quite proud of this one. You should all be grateful that I’m letting you see it.”

Cal attempted to give Brigstein one of his trademarked dead-eyed stares, but his heart wasn’t in it. Candace was busy swatting ants off of her pant legs, and a sense of responsibility quite rudely intruded on his thoughts.

“But how did the Protectorate find you so quickly?” Kal said. “If you’re so good at hiding, then explain that.”

“Aha,” Brigstein said, wagging a finger in the sort of way that begs one to be slapped with abandon. “But I had nothing to do with that. Someone must have tipped them off.”

“Who would do that?” Kal’s gaze cruised suspiciously over the assembled persons, probing for understanding.

At which point Brigs broke down and made a running leap for the undergrowth.

“You!” Kal, being more athletic and quite enraged, easily caught Brigs and threw him into a tree. He crumpled to the ground in a frightened daze. “You could’ve gotten us all arrested.”

“They’re criminals,” Brigs said. “And you’re breaking laws yourself, going and fooling around in your own alternate timelines. The lot of you belong with the Protectorate and far away from good versions like me.”

“You’d be arrested too,” Calvyn said. He seemed to be on the verge of tears, or perhaps he was having a sudden allergic reaction to the dense pollen that hung in the air. 

“They’d see that I had nothing to do with them.”

“You harbored us, as I seem to recall.” Brigstein stepped forward and reached into Brigs’s pocket, removing a license. “Naughty. I thought I’d taken this from you.”

Imagine for a moment a bull with an especially easily aggravated rage reflex. Now, if it pleases, imagine this bull was a punky time traveler who had just discovered her entire life was to be uprooted because of one man’s self-righteous attitude. Further imagine this woman whipping around to Brigstein where he stood inspecting the offending license and snatching it from him, twirling it around her head like a set of bolos before sending it flying into a tree. 

Having imagined such a scenario, one would have an excellent vision of Brigs’s license shattering against an ageless oak. It was quite irreparable.

“How dare you,” Brigs said. He reconsidered speaking when Kal’s scowl became directed at him once again.

“This could’ve been taken care of so easily,” Kal said. It is important to note at this point that she was nearly growling as she spoke and was advancing on Brigs much like a tigress baring down on a remarkably unsuspecting lamb. “We could’ve gotten Candace back where she needed to be, and we wouldn’t have had to mention the Protectorate. We’ve all got prices on our heads now because of you.”

Before the metaphorical tigress could make a much less metaphorical mess of Brigs’s neck, Brigstein stepped forward and placed himself between the two.

“Some of us are much more wanted than others,” he said, raising both hands in a peaceful gesture. “Now, I assure you that we’re much safer in this timeline than anywhere else, and I also assure you that the life of a time pirate isn’t nearly as unfortunate as you seem to believe. Before you do anything that few of us would regret, might I suggest that we take you and your companion off the grid and regroup? We can decide who lives and dies once we’ve all had a nice hot meal.”

“You’re going to cloak our licenses?” Calvyn asked. He had been in the midst of a violent tap dance as he was being surrounded by a group of determined ants. 

“Precisely. If the Protectorate can’t see you, then they will be much less likely to find us here.”

“I wouldn’t drag my heels if I were you,” Cal said, piping up with his first productive words in some time. “They’ll already be trying to trace them.”

“Cal?”

“Yes, Brigstein.”

“Kindly bugger off.”

“Of course.”

So Cal, once again the target of hateful stares, found his way to a patch a moss and busily took to looking through it. Behind him, he could hear the other versions of himself mumbling, and he assumed they’d begun their tampering. He took out his own license and inspected it. For a moment he was struck with a profound sense of gravity, as if he’d never fully considered the sheer power he held in his hands and what terrible things he had done with that power. The people whose lives he’d effectively destroyed. The life he was ruining in attempting to save it. 

Then he relieved himself on the moss and felt significantly better about the whole thing. 

Brigstein would work whatever evil he had in his heart and make everything go somewhat closer to normal.

Candace would be returned to her never-ending cycle of death.

And the remainder of the group would most likely dump Cal into a black hole while he slept.

A nice and tidy affair.

“Cal, when you’ve quite finished poisoning the wildlife,” Brigstein called, “you may rejoin the group.”

Upon returning to his place of shame, Cal saw that Calvyn and Kal were busily secreting away their freshly cloaked licenses while Brigs glowered at everyone assembled. Candace had receded into a state of quiet acceptance which was more disturbing than when she’d been screaming at all times.

Brigstein, after reviewing the assembled to ensure that everyone was present, gave a little chuckle and examined his license. “Now that we’ve gotten ourselves properly in order, we’re more than ready to go someplace safe and get this taken care of.”

Calvyn blanched. “This wasn’t your safe place?”

Brigstein blinked at him. “A random clearing in the middle of the jungle? Heavens no, do you think me a fool? Why ever would I dare take you to my safe house before I’d made sure you were untraceable?”

Kal’s face turned an even more unpleasant shade of red. “So we’ve been sitting out in the open this entire time?”

“Quite. But we’re leaving now.” Brigstein gave Brigs a pointed stare. “I suggest you forget where we’re going now. It’s only my good humor that’s kept you alive this long.”

Brigs believed him and took to cowering for the time being.

“Now if you’ll excuse me,” Brigstein said, fiddling with his watch. “We’ll be on our way.”


Chapter 7

The hideout, as Brigstein referred to it, seemed remarkably similar to the location that the group had just left except instead of an impenetrable jungle filled with violent animals and hostile natives, it was an impenetrable jungle filled with violent animals and hostile natives that happened to also possess air conditioning. 

The actual location appeared to be nothing more than a shallow cave at the bottom of a sheer cliff. Upon entering the cave, however, Brigstein revealed a clever little notch in the wall that opened a door and revealed a comfortable studio apartment. Besides the creature comforts of carpeting and central air, the space also boasted a fully stocked kitchen, a sitting area, and a California king, the comforter of which was littered with rose petals. In fact, the rose petals started at the door and led all the way to the sleeping space, which was decorated further with candles and lotions.

The petals were black and shriveled with age.

Cal, unfazed by his traveling partner, entered the apartment and dropped onto the loveseat, nestling his forehead in his hands. The others, however, chose to stand at the door staring.

“Who are you?” Kal said, frowning at Brigstein.

“It’s better not to ask that question, honestly,” Cal said. “Just take it and move on with life.”

“Indeed,” Brigstein said. The observant listener might’ve caught the slight shift in tone, away from obnoxiously pleasant and closer to retrospective, but no one in the group was particularly interested in that sort of thing. “Now if you’ll please enter. You can’t imagine how ridiculous it is to keep this place powered, and you’re letting all the cool air out.”

Candace, moving less like a person and more like an automaton, found her way to a distant corner of the apartment where she hunkered down and eyed the Calvin’s. Brigstein went to investigate the fridge while the other three versions hovered uncertainly in the center of the room. Once he had satisfied himself in finding a glass of water, Brigstein positioned himself at the corner of the kitchen’s island, swirling the glass so that the ice clinked on the sides.

“Don’t look so dower,” he said. “We only have to break through a Protectorate blockade, and we’ll have this ordeal handled in a beat.”

“You know that technology better than any of us,” Cal said without looking up from the Persian rug. “It’s beyond our abilities.”

“It’s beyond your abilities,” Brigstein said. “He, however, is more than talented with this level of encryption.”

With that statement, Brigstein took a pointed sip of his drink while staring at Calvyn who merely shuddered. 

“Hacking the Protectorate is horribly dangerous though,” Calvyn said. “And illegal.

So is cloaking your license,” Brigs mumbled.

“It’s the only way to get Candace back where she needs to be,” Brigstein said. “Unless you’d rather turn yourself over to the Protectorate now, of course.”

Kal, who had been standing in silent judgement up to this point, looked over at Brigstein in the sort of way that suggests she was beginning to understand what was going on. 

“You didn’t just happen to land in his timeline,” she said. “You were looking for us.”

“Well, Calvyn,” Brigstein said with a shrug. “I suppose you can find a way to be helpful too though.”

Kal threw her head with frustration that bubbled over to her voice. “You can’t make him do anything. This could get us locked up for all our lifetimes.”

Calvyn rested a hand on Kal’s shoulder and gave her a sad look. “We’re past that point, I think. Tampering and traveling to unmonitored timelines puts us in lockup for a long time. At the very least returning your Candace would take one thing off our sentences. We might even be able to avoid getting our memories snatched.”

“Finally someone who sees reason,” Brigstein said. “We’ll hack the blockade and be off to better things in no time.”

“Better things would have us never being involved with you to begin with,” Brigs said.

“Never fear,” Brigstein said. “It happened somewhere. You’re just the lucky ones that get to experience the now.”

“I don’t understand why this is such a big problem.” Much to everyone’s surprise, Candace had spoken up in the corner. “Why is it such a difficult thing to take me back home? If you guys can go back and forth, then why can’t I?”

“Hm, ah, yes, well Cal, it seems like you have some explaining to do,” Brigstein said. He traipsed over to the sofa and settled in, resting one heel on the coffee table. “I’ve got to work out the details of hacking with this one, so you can go enlighten the poor girl.”

“Oh I wouldn’t trust him if I were you,” Brigs said, casting an accusing finger at Cal before he could even look up from the ground. “He’s trouble.”

“Do you have any rope in this hole?” Kal said, looking over at Brigstein.

He waved a hand dismissively towards the sleeping area. “In the wardrobe, darling. Just don’t fray the ends.”

Brigs, sensing his alternates’ intentions, made a run for the door only to be cut off by a more than eager Kal. In a scene worthy of Benny Hill, the two danced around the apartment, Brigs screaming for help while the other leaped over seating and furniture to catch him. It was only when he got too close to Candace and she gave him a panicky shove to the ground that Kal managed to pin him to the ground and render him unconscious with a swift punch to the jaw. Without wasting a moment, she found the rope where Brigstein had instructed and secured the flighty version to one of the dinette’s chairs. 

Brigstein surveyed the apartment with an air of distaste. “You could’ve avoided muddying the furniture, but at least he’s out of the way. Now, Calvyn. Please make yourself comfortable while I assemble the hardware. You’ll forgive me for not having it set up, but I’d been hoping to avoid another one of these affairs.”

While Brigstein stood and ambled over to what appeared to be a small closet, Calvyn nervously took a seat on the loveseat by Cal. He clutched his duffel in the sort of way one holds on to an object when one feels the world is on the verge of collapse.

“He’s . . . not a good person,” Calvyn said. It wasn’t so much a question as a fearful statement of the obvious.

“I can’t say either of us are,” Cal replied. “Or maybe that’s just the kind of person Calvin Brigstein is, eh?”

With that, Cal stood and walked over to where Candace was eyeing the tied up Brigs. Gratefully, she seemed to have lost the fear in her stance, but seeing Cal approach, she appeared to shift her weight onto her toes as if leaping out of the apartment and into the jungle were preferable to being in his presence for a moment longer than necessary. 

“I’m not going to cause more trouble,” Cal said, holding up his hands. “You want to know what’s going on, right?”

“You can tell me from over there,” Candace said. 

“It would make a lot more sense if I showed you.”

Candace narrowed her eyes. “I don’t trust you.”

Cal nodded and looked down at his feet. “That’s fine. You come from her timeline, right? The female version?”

She shrugged and nodded at the same time. “Maybe? She knows me, and I know her. Doesn’t that mean we’re from the same place?”

“Maybe.”

“Listen, what does that have to do with anything?”

It was Cal’s turn to shrug noncommittally. “All I’m saying is that you aren’t my Candace, so you wouldn’t know me the way you know her. Timelines have a habit of keeping holding patterns, so the same people will tend to be in the same places at the same times even if they aren’t identical. It’s . . . complicated. But I can show you why I did what I did. If that will help you understand what’s going on.” 

“Will you stop looking at me so strangely?”

“Maybe.”

Candace seemed to struggle with an array of emotions as she stared Cal down. Accept the offer from the man who makes her uncomfortable with his presence or stay with the four other versions of that same individual who didn’t exactly give her butterflies? 

She threw her hands up.

“Fine. Show me what you want. It can’t be any worse than what’s going on now.”

“It’s going to traumatize you, just so you know. Like, existential crisis stuff. Because you aren’t supposed to be seeing the things that you are. I don’t think you ever are supposed to.”

“If I got this far, then I can handle your little sideshow.”

Cal gave her a look that suggested her didn’t believe that statement, especially not considering the events of the last several hours and the degree of panic she had displayed. All the same, he pulled out his license and accessed his favorite destinations. 

Witnessing one’s own death had a way of changing perspectives anyway.


Chapter 8

At this point, the laws of time travel became tricky for Cal. He’d made sure to promise himself, so that no matter how many times he went back to his own timeline, he’d never run into a past or future version of himself and create even further problems than he already had. Specifically, it was a matter of making sure that all of his future selves knew exactly which spot to avoid if, for whatever reason, he found himself with a Candace Styles that didn’t die, and he wanted to show her exactly what would’ve happened to her in a rescue, or rather kidnap, scenario. 

He’d originally been under the impression that he would have a much more heroic sensation than he had leading Candace up the service ladder of the drug store on the corner of Weston and Pike.

He checked his watch.

The twenty-third of June, fifteen minutes after five.

That was hardly enough time to delve into the depths of time travel with anyone let alone an emotionally distressed, unlicensed time traveler, but he’d give it an unenthusiastic go as was his wont to do.

“Why are we here?” Candace asked. She peered over the edge of the roof at the people below. “This is home.”

“No. This is my home. My original timeline. But I don’t know if I ever come back here.”

“You confuse me so much when you talk like that. Can’t you just tell me what’s going on like a normal person?”

“I guess. I’m a time-traveler. I use this watch to go through time and space. Like a tourist since I’m only allowed to watch. No touching.”

“You touched me.”

“I rescued you. And I caused a lot of trouble for doing it.”

Candace huffed and crossed her arms. “Why is this about you? I’m the one getting dragged around by psychopaths. I just want to go home to I can get back to my life.”

Cal put his hands in his hoodie pockets sulkily. “You wouldn’t do that. But you can think you would. Like it or not, I’ve changed your life. A whole new set of timelines surround you now. So you’d never be able to go back to what should’ve happened before.”

“There you go again, talking about that nonsense. I’ve had guns pointed at me, and people have been treating us like criminals. Just put me back.”

“I don’t want to do that.”

Twenty minutes after five.

“Why not?”

“You saw the truck, right? When you were crossing the street?”

“The one you pushed me in front of?” Candace huffed and tossed her hair. 

The way she stood and stared Cal down made him pause as the dozens of Candace’s he’d seen splattered on the side of the road flashed through his mind in a macabre parade. Some of them had smiled at him, mistaking him for their version of Calvin Brigstein. Some of them hadn’t even looked his way. All of them tossed their hair in that way that suggests there’s a spunky attitude hiding under that professional exterior. Emotion that had eluded Cal’s shriveled little heart for what felt like years started to trickle back in only to be swiftly smacked back into submission by Candace’s merciless backhand.

“Why did you do that?” Cal said. He touched his cheek as if to make absolutely sure it was still there.

“You’re ignoring my question. Again. If you’re not going to answer me, then take me back to that cave or whatever.”

Cal felt that pesky emotion bubbling up in him again as he looked Candace in the eye. Yes, that was hurt. Sad offense from the rejection of the woman whose life he was so determined to save. Perhaps speaking to her was just the medicine he needed to make a correction on his course of life. Maybe he could come back to his own timeline and resume living life as he should. If he hadn’t already fallen in with his own criminal self, that is.

“If I take you back to your timeline, then I have to leave you in the place where you would’ve been standing at that exact moment.”

Candace narrowed her eyes. “So I’d die. You pushed me in front of that truck. You’d kill me!”

“You were going to trip in that timeline. I tripped with you.”

“How do you know what was going to happen to me? If you hadn’t stepped in and started trouble, I could’ve been just fine.”

Thirty minutes after five.

Cal didn’t respond to this except to give Candace a sad look as he walked over to the edge of the roof. He scanned the crowd below and spotted his own head bobbing along the sidewalk. Next to him was Candace. His version of Candace. 

“What now?”

“That’s us,” Cal said, pointing their alternate version out of the crowd. “Well. That’s the original me. That’s my version of you.”

Thirty-one minutes after five.

The two were holding hands as they meandered down the sidewalk, both dressed in their work clothes and looking quite pleased to be together. Cal wasn’t looking at the Candace standing beside him on the roof, but he could feel the weight of her eyes rolling beside him.

“So you kidnapped me to replace that one? What did we break up or something and you couldn’t handle it?”

Thirty-two minutes after five.

“No,” Cal said. His heart beat a painful rhythm in his chest as if his entire body was attempting to make him reconsider his presence in that particular moment. It reminded him of the absolute futility of his quest. It was just his lot in life to know that this all could not have been, but he just happened to be one of the versions where it was reality. 

Thirty-three minutes after five.

The Cal and Candace on the sidewalk stopped at the corner of Weston and Pike, waiting for the lights to change so they could cross the street. A hooded figure approached the pair from behind, attempted to yank the purse from Candace’s shoulder. Cal took hold of her in as heroic a gesture as he could as she lost her balance trying to keep hold of her belongings. 

Thirty-four minutes after five.

The would-be thief released his hold on the bag, ending with Candace fully losing her balance and flying out of Cal’s grasp and into the road. She stumbled into the path of an oncoming vegetable truck just in time to make acquaintance with the grill.

A mischievous little tear crept past Cal’s defenses as he watched himself collapse on the street beside Candace. The reaction on the street from the onlookers was immediate. The hooded person had disappeared.

“I could’ve saved you,” Cal said. Much to his pleasure, his voice was even despite the supreme discomfort writhing in his gut. “I should’ve. It’s my fault that any of this is happening.”

Cal shoved his hands in his pockets dismissively and started to walk back towards the service ladder. 

“So I’m sorry I dragged you into all of this time travel stuff. Somewhere out there, you’re happy, and you’ve probably never met me. But I just wanted you to live. I’ve been looking for a timeline where this doesn’t happen to you, and I haven’t found it yet, and I thought that maybe if I could save you I could go back to normal and be happy again.”

He stopped walking halfway to the ladder and looked back at Candace. She was staring at him, her mouth open in a way that suggested she wanted to say something or perhaps ask a question but there were no words to voice the thoughts she was trying to formulate. 

“Believe me, I’m sorry I saved you,” he said. “I know I’ll never be able to have this life back. But I was desperate. If you can forgive me enough to cooperate with us, we’ll put you back where you belong, and we can all forget this ever happened. You won’t have long to dwell on it anyway.”

 When Candace’s only response was to close her mouth and nod absently, Cal gave a little sigh and nodded over to the ladder.

“Let’s stop and grab a bagel before we go back. I don’t trust any of the food Brigstein has in that cave.”


Chapter 9

At this point, having witnessed Candace’s death and acquired breakfast foods, Cal returned to the apartment with Candace. To avoid running into themselves as they left the cave, however, Cal went five minutes into the future. Not too close but also not so far that Brigstein would presume the worst and go into search mode.

As the apartment materialized around them, however, Cal and Candace became distinctly aware of a sudden shift in tone in the room. Calvyn was cowering behind the sofa while Kal raged in the center of the apartment, a disturbing knot bulging from her forehead. Brigstein loomed, his smile lethal. 

And most notably, Brigs was gone.

“You!” Kal roared, pointing an accusing finger at Cal. “Where have you been?”

Cal tilted his head to one side, as close to emoting as he would allow himself after his display on the rooftop. “We should’ve only been gone five minutes. I was explaining everything to Candace so she’d stop freaking out on everyone.”

“Calvin,” Brigstein said. His voice was tight as it usually was when Cal had done something to irritate him. It was becoming a more common occurrence these days. “Did you perhaps go to June twenty-third? You know the specifics.”

“You know when I went to.”

“Did you bother to check and see what the date was here before you left?”

Cal didn’t answer with the sort of silence that made it quite clear that he had not bothered to do any such thing.

“It was the twenty-second, you boob,” Brigstein said. “You’ve been gone for a whole day. And would you like to know what’s happened in that time?”

Cal shrugged in the direction of Brigs’s empty chair.

“I guess that one ran off.”

“The piece of garbage undid the knot overnight,” Kal said. Her voice was nearly a shriek as she advanced on Cal. “He stole my license. I don’t care what kind of criminals you two are. I can’t be out here without my license.”

“I assure you that you missing your license is the least of our concerns,” Brigstein said. “We’ll need to find him before he can inform the Protectorate of our location again. Cal, you have a nose for finding trouble. You’ll join me in the hunt.”

It was not a suggestion, and Cal knew better at this point than to argue. 

“Will you come too?” he asked, looking at Kal.

“She shouldn’t,” Calvyn said, his voice a nervous squeak from the safety of the sofa. “She’s been woozy all day since she got hit. She might have a concussion.”

“We won’t need the help,” Brigstein said. “He seems to forget his place. I’ll remind him.”

He whipped out his own license and clicked a button menacingly. With that, the watch projected a small, cube shaped hologram. This was similar to the hologram that Cal’s license had produced except instead of a dangerously calm alternate version of himself, Brigstein looked down at what appeared to be a map of sorts. There were four red dots, three of which were assembled near each other. The observant in the group would note that those dots were the occupants of the apartment, meaning the fourth was their missing version.

“You can track us?” Kal said.

“I can do more than that,” Brigstein said. “Come, Cal. We’ll need to move quickly before he makes a mess for me.”

Cal, knowing full well that whatever Brigstein was leading him into would be unpleasant, heaved a sigh and dutifully followed the ever-smiling version out into the jungle. It was simmering outside. 

“Don’t wander,” Brigstein said, following some invisible path through the overgrown foliage. “Or you’ll be eaten, and then I’ll lose my only source of entertainment these days.”

“You don’t strike me as being all that amused lately,” Cal mumbled, eyeing an oversized anthill as something’s writhing corpse was dragged into its depths.

“You’ll do well not to remind me.”

By all appearances, Brigs had made a mad dash through the jungles only to stop quite suddenly about a mile away from the apartment. Brigstein seemed confident in himself as he pocketed the watch and continued forward.

“You never did say why you needed a hideout,” Cal said.

“I certainly didn’t.”

“It’s an awfully dangerous place for you to spend time.”

“It is.”

Cal nodded and took the hint, doubling down on watching for more oversized insects and primordial beasts. So concerned with his own life, he hardly noticed the walk, and the pair had arrived at their peculiar destination in stupendous time.

“Now,” Brigstein said,” if you’ll keep your hands to yourself and keep calm this will all be over momentarily.”

Cal would’ve asked what Brigstein meant if he’d been paying attention to what was being said. Instead, he was more focused on the village before him. It was Amazonian in style, built into the jungle and by all appearances straight from the glossy pages of a National Geographic magazine. It would’ve been quite stunning to witness if it weren’t for the still moist skulls impaled upon pikes that seemed to ring the huts around. They seemed almost human.

Amidst the huts was a man, an irritated expression on his face and a bow and arrow clutched dangerously in his hands. He stared from Brigstein to Cal and back in understandable confusion as he said something that was beyond Cal’s understanding. A demand, he was certain.

Unflinching, Brigstein responded in language. A reply.

The man, a question?

Brigstein, a nod, and he held out his watch, clicking through some buttons to display a holographic video of a chimpanzee riding on the back of a very concerned looking miniature pony.

The man nodded as well and jumped with excitement, then called to what seemed like the jungle itself. He made a comment to Brigstein and pointed to Cal.

Brigstein waved a hand carelessly and uttered a solitary word.

The man nodded once more and waved the two forward into the definitely safe village. Brigstein went forward, confident and calm. Cal decided that remaining close to the person who spoke these villagers’ language was the wisest option.

“You’re very familiar with this timeline,” Cal said. People were coming out their abodes and pointing at the two as they were paraded through what appeared to be the village’s main path. Many of them joined until there was a trail of onlookers behind them. It was made all the more unnerving by the good number of them that appeared to have just left a rather undercooked meal.

“They treat me quite well here,” Brigstein said. 

It was at this point that the parade arrived at what was clearly the center of the village. A makeshift throne of sturdy branches and tremendous leaves had been erected on a low platform of similar constitution. A ring of villagers surrounded the platform, arms raised in a praising gesture that wouldn’t be out of place in an ecstatic church service. The recipient of the worship was none other than Brigs, who sat huddled upon the throne, eyes wide and sweat stains spreading profusely all over his body. He clutched Kal’s license as if it would save him from the joyous cheers that surrounded him.

“Having fun, are we?” Brigstein said. 

“You!” Brigs cried. “You didn’t have to wait so long to come find me. I’ve been trapped here since last night. Help me. They act like I’m a god or something.”

“King, actually,” Brigstein said. “Or rather, chief.”

“They tried to feed me something. Meat. I couldn’t tell what it was.”

“Did you eat it?”

“No.”

“Then I wouldn’t worry about that.”

Brigstein clapped his hands and gestured at Brigs. He spoke, and whatever he said created a ripple of disgust in the villagers. What had once been praise turned to anger as they ripped Brigs from the throne and tossed him to the ground. Most of the crowd hurled what appeared to be abuse at him, and some spat, but none of them did any harm to the cowering man. Brigstein said something else, and the villagers cheered before returning to their business and leaving the three Calvin’s alone.

“You knew he was here all along,” Cal said.

It wasn’t a question.

Brigstein stared down at Brigs, his smile more unpleasant than usual.

“He needed to learn his lesson. What do you say? Will you behave from now on? Or shall I have them demonstrate where they acquired that meal they’d prepared for you?”

Brigs appeared to be on the verge of a snide remark, but something within him broke. He lowered his head and flung Kal’s license at Brigstein’s feet.

“Just take it. And take me back to the apartment. This humidity is killing me. I don’t know how you can keep wearing those hoodies.”

Brigstein scooped the license off the ground and slid it into his pocket with a triumphant little flourish. “Good man. Right this way. Although, it really is a shame you didn’t take what was offered to you. Their monkey steak is perfectly rare.”

____________________________________________________________




Paige Bagby is a lover of all things science fiction and fantasy. Drawing on her favorite authors like Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut, she writes out of northeast Pennsylvania and looks toward a better future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.