Ch. 53 – Chaos and Mindscapes (4)

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Determined to turn his hope into reality, Zach crawled up the slanted, shaking floor toward Angeline. She was scrambling up. Her sixty-year-old face and body were shifting shapes again as if the quaking environment had made her forget who she was.

‘Angeline, let’s leave. If you are willing to leave your mind, that is. I’m not sure what will happen to you in the real world when you do, but—’

‘What is this?’ she said, terrified. ‘This never happened before. You’re tricking me. You lied. You aren’t him. You can’t be him.’

She tottered. In rhythm with her tottering, everything here shook more intensely: The spiderweb. The wrongdoers hanging on it. The airy Zachs. Nora. The doctor. Multiple Angelines…

The air hummed with melodies and mosquito-like string vibrations. It was as if a storm had hit the spiderweb. The entire thing with all its prey bounced up and down, up and down. The crest ever higher. The trough ever lower. The amplitude ever increasing…

The web was going to break. All connections to the chaos were going to break with that web.

‘I am him,’ Zach shouted to Angeline. ‘I am the him. I am the Zacharias Steele.’

He couldn’t see Angeline’s reaction clearly. By now, the air vibrated at such a high frequency, nothing could be seen, felt, or heard without first going through distortions.

But he could tell that after a brief moment of shock, Angeline was crawling toward him. Encouraged by this, he struggled to reach her. Just a little bit more. Just a little bit…

They reached for each other. Grabbed… Angeline’s hand slipped through Zach.

Everything was thinning. The spiderweb, Zach, Angeline. A great wave of frustration blurred Zach further. Without the ability to touch each other, how was she going to trust that he existed at all?

But what Angeline said next surprised Zach:

“You are him.”

She had spoken, truly spoken to him as someone other than a figment of her imagination, although she, too, was blurry, shifting, and distorting. Zach felt a piercing headache, as if he were being split into finer pieces.

Nevertheless, she focused on him and he focused on her.

“I can tell,” she said. “You aren’t part of me.”

“Yes,” Zach said. “And I’d like you to leave with me, if you’re willing to risk it.”

“You want to leave with me after all you’ve seen?”

“Of course.”

“How is that ‘of course’?” She sounded almost angry. “You’ve seen the real me. I lied to you. I let you die. I took a child from you, a child who could be yours as much as he’s mine.”

“And I have only recently seen the real me. You’ve seen him before I ever did. The one who’s too romantic, and at the same time too weirdly pragmatic. The one who is above all, naive. Yet you loved me, didn’t you? You remembered me, all these years. You remembered me and loved me beyond all reason. That’s how they couldn’t find me here until we came into contact. You’ve protected me and my memory. And I love you.”

And the more he spoke, the surer he was of this:

“I don’t care about anything else,” he said. “I only care about us. I am never going to give up again. I will do everything I can to stay with you.”

Angeline was speechless for a moment. Then she said, “You know how to get out of here?”

“I think I do. But I don’t know if your physical body will be all right if you leave with me.”

“My physical body,” Angeline said.

Zach nodded.

Angeline seemed to have so many questions. But she only nodded back.

“I want to leave with you,” she said.

“Are you sure?”

“I don’t care about anything else either. I have given birth to a boy and raised him. I lived for decades, at times happy and at other times miserable. He has lived for decades too. He has grown. He is his own man now. Your family has been kind to us. We have loved them and they have loved us. I am old now. Now, I only care about us.”

They hugged each other. It felt as if stars were bursting inside and all around Zach. He felt both hot and cold. He felt light and dark. The sensation of touching her, although neither one had a concrete shape, made him feel more solid than ever. Like air mixing with air, they became one, falling into each other, combining for a moment.

Then, when everything that was Angeline tottered wildly, and they almost dispersed completely, they stopped embracing each other. If things worked out, they’d have plenty of time to ask questions, get answers, and hug—later.

Right now, the web that was supposed to lead them to a different Seamus was thinning. Zach and Angeline crawled toward the web and grabbed the nearest string. Like clumsy, ethereal spiders, they climbed up, up until they reached Seamus. And from Seamus, more strings spread into the hazy nothing.

But there was one string that was thicker than any others. It pierced right through Seamus’s head. Unlike the string that had taken Zach from the chaos to Angeline’s mind, this string didn’t suck him toward itself. Zach thought that this was because he wasn’t Seamus. This thick string here, it connected entities that were different from Zach; the many Seamuses.

As the person who was familiar with the concept of the chaos and the many worlds, Zach led the way.

© 2022 Ithaka O.

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