Enemies Within: Part Four

Submitted by C B Wright on
Unknown, Tropical Climate

David Bernard finds the fishing cottage right on the treeline. It’s old, but someone has lived there recently—the area around the house is clear of brush, the roof is in good shape, and the walls were painted within the last year. There doesn’t appear to be anyone around at the moment.

David should leave the place alone—it’s obviously still being used, and there’s too much of a risk, given the lack of any other information, that whoever uses it will come by today. But David’s head is throbbing harder than it was earlier, he’s getting dizzier, and his vision is blurring with more frequency. The cottage is kept up. Someone lives there. It might have medicine.

He sways on his feet as a wave of nausea washes over him. He’s going to have to risk it.

The front door is unlocked. A part of him finds that unusual, the rest of him is too relieved to care.

The cottage has four rooms: living area, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, all furnished and fully stocked. It also has electricity and running water. This is not a shack that someone comes to on a fishing vacation, this is someone’s home. David goes back to the front door, locks it, and slides a deadbolt across for good measure. That should give him some warning if the occupant returns at an inconvenient moment.

He goes to the bathroom and starts rummaging. The mirror over the bathroom sink opens up and David sighs in relief when he sees pretty much everything he needs: a thick roll of gauze, tape, rubbing alcohol, scissors, cotton balls, needle, thread, and—probably most important—acetaminophen. He was afraid he was going to find aspirin. He usually prefers aspirin, but he has a half-formed memory of a doctor lecturing him about aspirin and how it can make the bruising of a concussion worse.

He fumbles with the acetaminophen bottle, cursing the plastic child-proof cap as it takes him six tries to twist it open. He tries to read the recommended dosage on the back but he can’t focus on text that small. He guesses the dosage, counts out six, and swallows them dry, two at a time. He gags the third time, but manages to force them down.

Next he sets about cleaning the wound. His eyes keep unfocusing, so it’s hard to see what he’s doing in the mirror, but leaning against the bathroom wall keeps him feeling steady, and his hands aren’t shaking like they were earlier. He picks up scissors and starts cutting his hair, clearing it away from the wound so he can clean it more easily. There’s no way he can do this with any precision, so he ignores his vanity and cuts off as much hair as he can. When he’s cleared as much as he can manage, he turns on the spigot, grabs the cotton balls and the rubbing alcohol, and starts cleaning the wound.

The cut isn’t deep, just bloody. Cleaning it stings like hell, but when he’s finished and he covers it with gauze he feels better. He wants to sleep, but he knows he can’t sleep there. The owner is going to return, and he needs to be gone by then.

His stomach growls. Maybe he’ll raid the refrigerator first.

The kitchen is fully stocked, and whoever lives here eats well. The refrigerator is packed with healthy food, fresh fruit, and there’s even a gallon jug of milk. He grabs the milk, finds a glass in one of the cupboards, and sits down at the kitchen table. He unscrews the jug, gives it a whiff. Smells fresh. He pours the milk into the glass, and it looks fresh. He drinks greedily.

It’s not until he’s finished pouring a second glass that he notices the expiration date on the jug. He starts, spilling a little milk over the side, and hastily sets the jug down on the table to get a better look.

EXPIR 7/22 92

That’s when he notices the calendar hanging on the wall between the kitchen and the living room.

JULY 1992

Some of the spilled milk starts to seep into a newspaper folded up and sitting to the right of the chair. He picks it up.

PORT LIBERTAD DAILY

Saturday, July 18, 1992

He stares at the date for a moment. The paper doesn’t feel that old—and the milk tasted fine.

You have a concussion. You can’t be sure the milk tasted fine.

Except that he’s pretty sure. What’s more, he’s pretty sure the milk wasn’t twenty years old.

The bottom half of the newspaper falls down, revealing the entire page. David is immediately drawn to the large photo in the center: a white-haired man in gleaming metal armor, a cape bolted to his shoulders, a circlet or crown of some sort resting on his head. He has a noble and benevolent face. He looks familiar.

The caption reads: Emperor LaFleur addresses the nation today. He is expected to make it clear that he will tolerate no attempts by so-called “liberation forces” to set foot on sovereign soil.

LaFleur? David looks at the picture again. That face… he’s seen that face…

He’s sitting in the cargo bay of a plane, checking the straps to his parachute for the seventh time. LaFleur is sitting across from him, doing the same.

“After we jump it’s likely we’ll be separated.” LaFleur has to raise his voice to be heard over the engines of the plane. “I’m sorry for that. It’s going to be a difficult transition…”

The memory fades. David stares at the photo in amazement.

“Overmind.” It’s the first thing he’s said since he woke up that morning. “This man is Overmind.”

David stands up. He’s feeling lightheaded again. He really needs to rest, soon.

“This man is Overmind… and I know him.”

Comments

Comments are active for 30 days after publication. If you wish to comment after 30 days please use the Forums.

I am trying to figure out

I am trying to figure out what is going on.
Known: David and LeFleur were going to investigate magic.
Known: Magic in this universe is dangerous and Lovecraftian.

So...
Time travel? Does time travel even work in this universe? That doesn't explain David's memory problems, why LeFleur isn't with him, or have any obvious relationship to magic. Looped time would help account for the note David found in his own writing.

Alternate world? In-story references say this is a possibility. That still doesn't explain David's memory problems, why LeFleur isn't with him, or have any obvious relationship to magic. It also doesn't explain why an alternate world would be on an earlier timeline.

Locked in a dream or illusion? It is easier to explain bad mental states that way, but magic the magic shown so far isn't that subtle.

Insufficient information so far. And a bit frustrating because the disconnect from previous scenes is so complete.

I'm focusing more on the

I'm focusing more on the island next issue. I don't promise all your questions will be answered by the end of it, but I do promise some of them will.

--
Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

/Looks for Next link, doesn't

/Looks for Next link, doesn't find one. Looks at date.

I'm not caught up, am I? There should be at least another month of material to read. I'm not ready to be caught up :(

Sorry!

Sorry!

There SHOULD be an Issue 18 out RIGHT NOW, but it's kicking my ass and I'm not ready to publish it yet.

--
Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

This is about my third read

This is about my third read-through. Your stuff reads smoothly - I am not an English major so I don't have more technical terms to describe it, but the writing just flows. And it does it without being boring. So I am thinking that you are one of the writers who polishes their stuff a few times before it sees publishing.

In any case, I am looking forward to the next installment.

“He fumbles with the

“He fumbles with the acetaminophen bottle, cursing the plastic child-proof cap as it takes him six tries to twist it open.”

This is the kind of detail I really like about your writing. I remember those caps. They were a real nuisance. And that makes the whole scene abruptly much more vivid.

“and his hands aren’t shaking like they were earlier. ”

Feel free to ignore this, you are using an informal style, but in formal grammar this would be as. Like a noun, as a noun + verb. Given that this rule is generally ignored in spoken English and you're using a conversational style, you may not want to follow it, but I thought I would mention just in case – it will make a few people wince.

“After we jump it’s likely we’ll be separated.” La Fleur has to raise his voice to be heard over the engines of the plane. “I’m sorry for that. It’s going to be a difficult transition…”

LaFleur is one word everywhere else – is this exception deliberate? Not complaining if it is, just thought it was worth checking.

"like a noun, as a noun +

"like a noun, as a noun + verb" seems very awkward for this particular instance. That would be "As they were earlier, his are no longer shaking" or something like that? I probably don't fully understand the rule because I can't see that doing anything but making almost everyone wince. :)

Yeah, it should be LaFleur. Dunno why it isn't. Will fix.

--
Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

As doesn't have to start a

As doesn't have to start a sentence. :) If you followed the rule strictly, it would be "His eyes keep unfocusing, so it’s hard to see what he’s doing in the mirror, but leaning against the bathroom wall keeps him feeling steady, and his hands aren’t shaking as they were earlier." That does sound a bit awkward; it's not wrong, but the straight formula with as is only really used in formal writing, and you have a lovely informal style. If I were writing, I'd use some substitution like "the way they were earlier" to avoid taking any stance on the matter, but that's me. >.>

Do you want me to point out when you have likes that should go to as if/as thoughs? That one is less unusual in casual writing (consider "he looked like he had seen a ghost" versus "he looked as if he had seen a ghost" - that's another example of the same rule), but I also wouldn't blame you if you didn't really want to bother with it.

Fixed La Fleur->LaFleur. Will

Fixed La Fleur->LaFleur. Will be changing that in future issues too (can you tell that part was copied and pasted across issues? Heh.)

Hmmm... I'm still chewing on how formal a style I want this. I was never particularly good at the grammar side of English in school -- the way I got through it was to picture how I would say something clearly, and write that. That trips me up a great deal when it comes to the particulars, but it seems to work rhythmically. I don't even know if it's possible for me to explain that, other than when I'm writing fiction I like the story to have a particular cadence, and when I look at the more grammatically correct examples above it "feels" like it's off-rhythm... if it were dancing, a foot would be hitting the ground either just before or just after the beat. I wish I could think of a clearer way to describe that.

That said, it's as likely that it feels that way because I'm unused to the rules. But in your ghost example above, when I think of the phrase, I think of someone saying "You like you've seen a ghost" and I NEVER think of someone saying "You look as if you've seen a ghost" even though there are probably tons of people who actually say it that way.

I need to mull on this. I do think the informal feel of the story works, and I want to avoid marring that, but if there's a way to bring it in line to ease the suffering of grammarians while still keeping that feel, I'm not necessarily opposed to it. (I suppose I'm opposed, at least in principle, to the extra work involved, but that's just normal "gah no I don't wanna" stuff).

--
Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

... No, you described that

... No, you described that incredibly clearly.

Although it probably helps that I usually see things in terms of rhythm myself. Which would explain why your work never trips my "rhythm's off" instincts...

Anyway. To my ear, both are correct but - note that your example had a different subject than mine. ^^ "You look like you've seen a ghost" is more common even to my ear (though I'm intellectually aware it's grammatically incorrect, still everyone uses it - that's the point of "in formal grammar....") ... but "He looked like he'd seen a ghost" is less common than "He looked as if he'd seen a ghost." I think it's because the first sentence appears much more in conversation or dialogue (and conversational english is generally fine with "like I said") and the second in formal writing (where "like I said" is uncomfortably ungrammatical).

... anyway! If it's OK, I will point out "like I said" type constructs in narration and not in dialog, until you say to cut it out - that way you'll have them if you do decide to do something about it, and can just ignore them if you don't.