Ch. 55 – Chaos and Mindscapes (6)

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The presence of the reapers, albeit in the pitiful shapes of smoke-worms, relieved Zach greatly. He was also pitifully formless right now, but what mattered was that he and Angeline weren’t alone in this directionless chaos, only defined by a spiderweb that was thinning by the second. They had allies—allies who had been powerful once upon a time, and were bound to regain their powers—if they managed to keep remembering who they were.

That was why they’d been making the f and p sounds. They’d been calling each other’s names. Flip. Flop. Flip. Flop. That, according to Flop, had been the only way to endure the rapid recalibration of the worlds without completely forgetting their identities.

“Recalibration?” Angeline asked.

Flip and Flop nodded their tiny smoke-worm heads.

“As a means to remove Zach from his afterworld home,” Flip said in her tiny worm voice, “they are in the process of adjusting the puzzle pieces, so to speak.”

“And have they finished doing so?” Zach asked.

“We don’t know,” Flip said. “We went around looking for you as soon as we could.”

“It was a good thing that you were wearing parts of me,” Flop said.

“What does that mean?” Angeline asked.

“You see, I can change shapes,” Flop said. “All reapers can. And before this happened, Flip and I were better at keeping the changed shapes. So, giving part of me in the form of a mask and a black suit, for Zach to wear, posed no problem. While the recalibration was happening, that mask and the suit were taken from Zach. They scattered. I barely caught them. Still am barely catching them, as you can see. I’m barely me anymore. But those particles led us halfway here. They were moving away from you, toward me. And after that, we started following the sounds.”

“The music,” Flip said.

“It sounded like a piano,” Flop said.

“Certain strings reacted more strongly, like they knew the melodies and feared them.”

“They were strings connected to the Carningsby people.”

“Then we saw you.”

“And Angeline.”

“I’m glad,” Zach said. Truly, these reapers were loyal friends. “And I’m sorry this happened to you. When Shevlin told me that Angeline died already, I just couldn’t stop myself from… I don’t know.”

“He said that? That I was dead?” Angeline said. The outrage overshadowed her curiosity.

Zach nodded. “I didn’t want to be trapped by the rules that the women in black imposed on me. I wanted him punished, and with him knowing that I knew who he was, that wasn’t going to be easy back at the hotel. It sounded so appealing when he said that we should…” He stopped, realizing that he was referring to Shevlin and himself as we. “When he said that he and I should blow everything up, well, I agreed. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t you worry about us, dear,” Flip said. “We are reapers.”

“Grand reapers,” Flop said.

“We don’t vanish easily. We have too many options, too many possibilities, but that’s always been the challenge of being a reaper.”

“And because of that challenge, we have each other. To make us unvanishable.”

“And it’s worked similarly for you.”

“You have her, she has you.”

The worms nodded solemnly. Angeline and Zach smiled at each other.

“So, what now?” Flop asked.

“I’m going to return to the hotel,” Zach said.

And he explained the plan.

© 2022 Ithaka O.

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This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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