Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Familiar Adversary - Episode 11

Part 11: Inner Cues

I was still shocked. How had I fallen back into the Alt-World? This whole jumping back and forth thing was getting quite confusing.

I stared at Nick Boyd with large, round eyes. He could tell I was a bit freaked out.
“I.. . I thought someone had captured you,” I said to him.

I glanced around the room where I had awakened. It was a cell. Apparently, someone had been expecting us.

“Someone did capture me. Although I’m not really certain how they got the jump on me,” he said, the same confusion I possessed mirrored in his eyes. “I’m usually pretty good at anticipating other people’s moves. But this guy -- he took me totally by surprise.”

Nick pointed his thumb to the men shuffling around on the other side of the bars. The two men were wearing black fatigues and flack jackets. In the middle of the night they would easily blend into the darkness. I didn’t recognize either man, but there was something familiar about them.

“What’s going on?” I whispered to Nick. “A minute ago I was back at home trying to get back to sleep and now I’m here with you in a cage.”

“Good question. I’d like the answer to that myself.”

“When I was awake, I saw you on tv.”

“What do you mean,” Nick asked, confused.

“You were responding to a call with your partner. Bank security footage showed you approaching. Then you just disappeared as if someone had plucked you out of reality. Your partner was pretty surprised by your sudden exit.

“Not surprising. He doesn’t believe in magic. He believes in evidence.”

“That sounds a lot like you,” I observed.

“Yeah, well, the evidence is showing me a whole new world. If I hadn’t seen you materialize out of thin air next to me, I never would have believed it,” Nick said, his eyes never left our 2 captors. “If we want to get out of here, we need more information.”

“My first question would be, why us?” I said.

“I do have a bit of an inkling, but nothing solid,” he said. “You told me earlier that you wrote about a character named Nick Boyd and later discovered he was real. You may not realize this, but I’ve dreamed about you too.” This was a bit too odd. I thought I was the weird one in this story.

“What do you mean,” I said.

“When I dream, you’re always there, sort of sitting on the sidelines. Always watching. Always observing. You don’t engage in the dream, though. You’ve only spoken a couple of times, and in those moments, only sending warnings. Those dreams have saved my ass more times than I care to admit.”

“Technically, I’ve never dreamed about you. I thought I was making up stories.”
“I dream about you observing and you write about me. Sounds like we’re both on the same wavelength. Maybe latently psychic.”

“I still don’t understand why you, though. I wrote about you before I created The Legacy. No one’s ever seen the few chapters but me. It was the one story I could never completely grab a hold of.”

“Tell me about it,” Nick said. It was a little strange relating a story I only half knew to the man who had actually lived it in the flesh. Maybe I should have been the one picking his brain. Then maybe I could understand why I never finished the manuscript. “You were a police officer. There was another man, John Holland, who was a sketch artist, and a woman named Tessa Wainright. She was quite hostile. She chased my main character and John onto a commuter train. Before the train went into the tunnel, they both jumped to safety. Tessa seemed pretty pissed. I think she worked for a secret organization. It was called the Foundation or the Trust. I could never make up my mind about it.”
Nick seemed to be greatly interested in the characters from my unwritten story. “Tell me more,” he said eagerly.

“I can’t. That’s all there is. The characters never went farther than that. I do know a man named Davis was connected with this organization and his wife, Hollie knew my main character through email and chat rooms. Hollie got my character to leave her house in one version before it exploded.”

A horrifically tense look filled Nick’s eyes.

“What was your main character’s name?” he asked.

“Angela Hastings. She was just a normal person this group seemed to target for no reason. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the plot, so I stopped writing on it. But the characters were always there in the back of my mind.” “Angela?” he said with a slight croak in his voice. His mouth set in a grim line as if he’d just realized something important. “It was Davis and Tessa?” he asked sharply.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I said.

“They killed her. That’s why you lost your connection to the story. I was never certain but I always suspected they were responsible.” Nick’s voice had taken on a hard edge.

“In my story she never died. The house explosion happened in the beginning. She was with John when Tessa was following them. They both escaped. I never had the feeling she died.”
Nick seemed to know more of the story now that he had centered his mind on what he thought were the facts.

“She disappeared ten years ago. Later, we found bones identified as Angela’s.”
“Classic red herring,” I muttered. “I would bet money she was alive, and I’m not a betting person.”

Nick didn’t seem quite as convinced. “She would have shown up by now if she was alive.”
“I know it’s easier to believe she’s gone, especially after all this time, but I’m not convinced. The headquarters of that secret group I mentioned was not far from the place where John and Angela escaped from Tessa.”

Nick was listening but his jaw was locked. Losing Angela must have nearly killed him.
“I have two scenarios that have been wiggling around in my mind. Scenario number one: The Foundation captured Angela for an as of yet unknown reason. Scenario number two: John knew why the Foundation was after her and faked her death.”

“John would never leave me out of the loop. He knew how much I cared about Angela.”
I lowered my head. He was still in pain. It was so obvious how deep the wounds were.

“Because you cared about her so much, that was probably the reason he kept her escape a secret. Your grief played well to whomever wanted to kill Angela. Your performance convinced the Foundation that Angela truly was dead. Plus, if I know Angela at all, she wanted to keep you safe. She didn’t want unscrupulous men touching your life.”

“You think my best friend would put me through something like that? You’re crazy.”
“Better ten years of grief than a lifetime of dead,” I said.

“That night changed me,” Nick admitted. “The night she died something inside of me died along with her. I went from good cop to the renegade officer. I took every dangerous assignment I could get my hands on.”

“You were grieving. Everyone grieves in their own way,” I said. Even the idea that she might be alive weighed heavily on him.

“They don’t have a death wish so they can join the woman they love.”
Our captors were loading things into an awaiting SUV. I could see it through the front door. It was black just like Ethan’s. Then an idea blossomed in my mind.

“Oh, God,” I whispered. “This isn’t about the Legacy at all. It’s psi-ops. Psychic operatives. They are purposely confusing me. They probed my mind until they found you. They needed a link to her.”

I ran my hands through my hair. “Because of me they’re going to find her.”
“What are you talking about,” Nick whispered.

“The part of the story I never understood was cloning. I knew it had something to do with the plot but I never knew why.” I paused and glanced to my captors making sure they were busy. “I think the reason they want Angela is because she’s a clone. Their first successful self-thinking clone.”

Nick was not quite on the same wavelength with me. It was hard to remember that he didn’t know the same things about my characters as I did.

“But why me?” Nick asked, again. I could tell he was completely confused.

“What if the Foundation created a clone. Then before they truly realized what she was, she escaped. In the beginning her memory must have been nearly empty. She had no experiences. She gained those first experiences by befriending you and John. But she never knew what she truly was.

“So, you’re trying to tell me that Angela is.. . or was a clone?”

“She’s alive,” I said. “You can be sure of that. But she’s not merely a clone. She’s an advanced human being and she’s evolved. The Foundation wants that advanced technology. They want to make more people like her.”

“And I’m bait?” Nick said. “I get it.”

“My theory is that the medical researchers employed by the Foundation can’t replicate her evolution. They’ll need her DNA to do that.”

The men guarding us came closer. They were now watching us, and my bad feeling came back in spades.

“Something’s wrong,” I whispered to Nick.

“You really do listen to your inner cues and follow your intuition,” said one guard. His voice was quickly recognized. It sounded like Ethan. I couldn’t tell by his facial features, though. “Not many realize they even have such an ability.”

“I’m not most people,” I snarked. When he came into my view, I realized it was Ethan. “Why are you doing this to me? You couldn’t just use your psi-ops division and hack your way into my head like normal operatives?”

Ethan said nothing. He glanced back to his partner then again to me. As his head turned, something about his face flickered. I blinked and focused harder trying to see what was really there. The face flickered again. Between flashes of Ethan’s face came another, a man I didn’t recognize.

“He’s not Ethan,” I said to Nick. “I doubt any of this is my Legacy universe. It’s like a very powerful mental simulation area. That explains why I was able to manipulate the characters. They were only mental simulations created by someone else.”

“Who’s behind this,” Nick said to the guard. He reached through the bars for him and with a powerful pull thrust the man into them. The mental image of Ethan’s face dissolved and revealed the man’s true identity. He was one I recognized. Fear raced through my veins. What in the hell was going on?

“We’ve got to get out of here,” I told Nick.

“Ya think?” he replied sarcastically.

I mentally opened the cage door and Nick pounded on Kevin’s face until it too flickered and revealed yet another hoodlum pretending to be someone he was not.

“This is crazy,” Nick said. “How do you fight someone who can mentally create a universe this realistic and maintain it for this long?”

“I wasn’t supposed to be here,” I said softly, finally getting it. “I was the unknown variable.” I paused. “They have to be using my mind to create this.”

“What?” Nick said, pulling me toward the front door. “You’re sounding crazier by the minute.”

“I’m already captured. The way they found you is that they tapped into my mind.” I pushed away from Nick. “Stay away from me,” I yelled running out the front door. Before I could warn him of the dangers of staying in my presence, everything went black.

Familiar Adversary - Episode 10

Episode 10: It's a Dream World

I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow I’m stuck back in my bedroom with no idea how to return to the Alt-World. To say I’m freaked out is putting it lightly. The tugging sensation in my chest was now gone but tenderness remained.

I got what I wanted. I was finally home. But I couldn’t revel in my sudden good fortune. I felt compelled to go back. Not for myself, mind you, but for Nick. He didn’t deserve whatever lie in wait for him on the other side. I couldn’t in good conscience leave Nick there to fend for himself, especially not when I might be responsible for trapping him there in the first place.

I expelled a few deep breaths and tried to calm down. This whole encounter had been one fantastical ride and my heart still hadn’t slowed down, not one beat.

Darkness surrounded me but I did know one thing. I was home. I was home in my own bed. The clock on the nightstand blinked angry red digits at me revealing that it was midnight.
12:00. 12:00. 12:00

Truthfully, it could be any time. My clock only blinked when the power went off. Maybe my reemergence into this reality caused a fluxuation in the electric. At this point, I could only pose theories since I had nothing to base my observations on except what was before me in the moment.

I raised a hand to my forehead and brushed away the damp hair from my face and neck.

“Could this whole nightmare have been a dream?” I whispered. Maybe I had done what some experts have called ‘lucid dreaming’. I had done it only once in my life. I wasn’t very successful at it, if you want the truth. In lucid dreaming, you should be able to control any part of the dream. It should become your own personal fantasy land.

When I did it, every character disappeared and went on a much needed coffee break. I was in my dream alone and with no power to change anything. I intended for things to happened, I willed them into existence and yet, nothing happened. So much for the ease of lucid dreaming.

I noticed that the television was on. My mom tends to leave it running all night. A reporter was breaking into the programming to reveal a special news bulletin. The reporter showed a man on a security camera. He appeared to be a policeman, but I couldn‘t see his face.

The reporter revealed the man’s name. Nick Boyd. He and his partner, a hulking black man were approaching the entrance to a bank, guns drawn. The journalist was marveling at what seemed to happen next. Nick was there one moment and gone the next. He had literally disappeared. A security camera from across the street caught the act.

I couldn’t believe this was happening. Nick Boyd hadn’t merely been kidnapped in my dream. He had been snapped out of reality all together. What in the heck was going on?

My mom appeared behind me. I jerked in shock at her sudden appearance. I should have known she’d be up. She had her days and nights all mixed up. She slept most times during the morning hours and stayed up all night. She was wide awake with a cup of coffee in hand. She gestured to the television. I jumped and gasped.

“Sorry to startle you, honey,” she said. “What do you make of that Seattle cop disappearing. Bizarre, huh?”

“It’s weird,” I said. “I just dreamed about him.”

“Do you have any other kind?” she chuckled. “You and weird dreams seem to go hand in hand.”

“This dream was a little more weird than normal. I dreamed that I had been somehow transported to my Legacy universe and all the characters were trying to kill me.”

“And you saw this Nick Boyd there?” Mom asked, a sudden realization lighting her face. “Isn’t Nick Boyd the name of one of your characters?”

I nodded.

“Wasn’t he the one someone emailed you about? The guy who turned out to be real?” Mom said. “I remember thinking at the time that only you could draw in the signals from the universe, or wherever you get them, and create a story about someone you’ve never met. And somehow include a lot of details about their real life.

“When I was writing about him, I had no idea he was a real person. My psychic sense must have been working overtime.”

“I don’t think your psychic sense could make a man disappear into thin air,” she speculated.

“I don’t think so either,” I said. “He appeared suddenly in my dream too. Everyone else in the dream, I could manipulate them by merely thinking thoughts. I couldn’t do that with Nick. He didn’t know where he was. He was wandering through the woods. It looked from his appearance that he had been lost for at least a day wandering around the forest.”

“What do you think happened to him?” Mom asked.

“I don’t know. In my dream, someone captured him. They implied they would never have found him without me.”

My mom patted me on the back. “Try not to dwell too much on it. Go back to sleep. Maybe when you wake up everything will be back to normal.”

“One can only hope,” I said.

I laid back down fixing the sheet and covers back into normal order. I wasn’t sure how they had become so haphazard. My theory was that my dreams were seeping into reality. When I moved around in my dream, I thrashed on the bed making the sheets a jumbled mess.

I tried to sleep but my mind wouldn’t stop racing. I went back to the kitchen and took a couple of supplements. One to lessen my anxiety and one to make me sleep. It was nothing too exotic. St. John’s Wart and Valarian. It wasn’t long before I dozed off.

A sharp noise startled me. I sighed. I’d forgotten to put my earplugs in which were usually a nightly necessity. I reached my hand out toward the nightstand to grab them but I found nothing but empty space where a table should be.

I rolled over to look at the table and bumped into something very large. I immediately jerked awake, my heart beating in my throat.

“Settle down. Settle down,” said a calming voice. “It’s only me.”

The man sitting next to me was cast in shadow. He was leaning back against the wall as if he’d been there for quite some time. Strangely, I was no longer in my bed but lying on a hard, cold concrete floor.

“Me who?” I asked inching away from the stranger. If this was another dream, it was very, very real.

“You know. Nick. Nick Boyd. The guy who saved your life yesterday.”
All I could do was stare.

I was back in the Alt-World and I was captured by some unknown assailant. Sometimes life really sucked.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Familiar Adversary - Episode 9

Part 9 - String Theory
Sometimes when you think you escape, you don’t. 
It’s all an illusion that the fairy-tale allows you to believe.
Last time we spoke and I reflected upon my ongoing tale, I was escaping from Ian, Evie, Nigel and Echo. Yeah, I know. It’s hard to believe I’m running away from the good guys, but I can’t help but be suspicious. I don’t know what’s really going on.

I’m sure, if you haven’t read an episode before, you’re wondering how it’s possible that the author of the series is unaware of the plotline. Let me recap.

When I first found myself in this Alt-World, I thought it was just like my own. It seemed similar. It seemed like the terrain I had seen every day, day in and day out. But there was something a bit odd about this land -- my characters had become flesh and blood and they were trying to kill me!

It started out as me against my main characters Ethan, Kevin and Michela. Kevin faked me out and made me believe he was on my side, and I fell for the ruse. He was my favorite, so of course, I wanted to believe him.

I escaped from him just in time to discover the “real” Ethan Fairchild. When I say ‘real’, I mean a real person from the real world. When I originally created my spy guy, I had a real person in mind for him -- of course, it was only a person I had ever seen on the MetroLink train I rode to work on Wednesdays. I never saw this man very often, but he looked like the man I would cast as my perfect spy. He was the type of man that if you only glanced at him you would swear you had just seen Matthew McConaughey. This was the man I saw in the Alt-World. Kinda freaked me out, if you want the truth.

To keep myself from confusing the fictional Ethan with the real man, I deemed him, Thornton. It was the middle name of my character. Not long later, Thornton revealed to me that he was truly the not so evil twin of Ethan. I should have known. But I didn’t. They had fooled me again.

There was really no one to trust in this world but myself. And that knowledge was a bit daunting to grasp.

He and a few other minor characters from the series claimed to be on my side. They said that the Black Council was attacking Legacy agents and compromising them but altering my storyline. They told me that the Legacy was a real agency and I was merely picking up their stories by a bizarre version of fictional remote viewing.

Then I discovered that I had a few powers in this Alt-World. I could make the characters freeze and throw them across the room merely by thinking it. It’s a cool power. Wish I had it in real life.

I used this cool power to escape, and now I’m on the run again. I’m not sure where I’m running to. I’m just running away. Away from my minor characters to a place where I can figure out what to do next.

That pretty much gets you up to speed about my journey.

Currently, it’s dark and I’m running.

At first, I thought I was home free. No one had followed me out of the place where Ian had me bound and gagged on a very hard, uncomfortable surface. It wasn’t long until I realized that a figure was dogging my every move.

I stopped and stood still. My breath hard and ragged. I could feel the fear inching up on me. I attempted to use my new cool power and thought about transporting the man far away. No matter how hard I pictured the outcome, I could still hear his footsteps breaking twigs as he grew closer and closer to my position.

“Why isn’t it working?” I whispered to myself. “It was working a minute ago and now it’s not working. Dang, my new power is broken and I haven‘t had time to even wear it in properly.”

A haggard man appeared from the shadows directly in front of me and I yelled a short, surprised burst of noise that was more like a bird cawing than a woman screaming for her life. “Please don’t kill me,” I begged, short of breath from my recent run. Did I mention that I have asthma? Running isn’t exactly the best exercise for me.

The man reared back. He seemed almost as taken aback as I was at my appearance. There was a real fear in his eyes. A fear that was mirrored in my own.

He held his hands out toward me in a non-threatening gesture. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to scare you. But I have to know -- where am I?”

I inched forward attempting to get a better look at him. Underneath the days growth of beard and leaves stuck to his hair and clothes, I thought he looked a bit familiar.
“What’s your name?” I asked curiously.

He came forward extending his hand. I eyed it as if it was a snake about to bite me. He glanced at his hand and rubbed it against his faded, well-worn jeans, then extended it again.

“Nick. Nick Boyd. I’m an officer with the Seattle Police Department. I woke up this morning lying outside in a town I don’t recognize. Do you know where I am?” He paused. “Where is the nearest town?”

I smiled humorlessly at him. I knew Nick Boyd. Nick Boyd was a character from my series, “By Any Other Name.” He was someone that I knew had a real life counterpart. I didn’t know what he looked like, and considering he didn’t look like the character I had cast him as, I assumed he was the real deal.

“I’m not exactly sure myself. My best guess is England. But that’s under the assumption that we’re in a location where I have set one of my series. Other than that, I have no clue. I sort of just woke up here myself.”

I quickly relayed my situation to him. I told him all about Ethan and the spy guys who were after me. He gave me the same humorless look that I had given him earlier. He wasn’t quite convinced that fictional people would be after me. I guess it must have been the police officer part of him. He had to see it to believe it. He needed some evidence.

Nick spread his arms wide and gestured to the woods around us.

“You’re telling me that this is all make believe?” he asked skeptically.

I shrugged. “As far as I can tell, the only real thing in this reality is you and me.”
“How do you figure that?”

“Simple,” I said. “Everyone else is a character from my series.”

I never realized until now how hard it was to understand my series. The man was looking at me like I was the crazy one. He had no clue what a web serial was or how I could even be in this situation to begin with. I had to agree with him there. I didn’t know why I was in this situation either.

“If you believe this nonsense, that’s up to you. I just want to get on the phone and call my partner. He’ll come and pick me up. I’ve had just about as much make believe as I can take.” He placed his hands on slim hips. “Where is the closest house to here?”

I thrust my thumb behind me. “Back at the place where evil twin, Ian, was holding me. Maybe you can break in and do your police thing. Confiscate a phone or something. Then try and call your buddy. If no one’s ever heard of him, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” I saluted him and began to walk away down a path that would take me in the opposite direction.

“Hey! Where are you going?”

“Not back there. They won’t recognize you since you don’t look like the person I cast as Nick Boyd in my series. So, you’ll probably be safe enough. If that doesn’t work, click your heels together three times and say ‘there’s no place like home.’” I nodded. “It worked for Dorothy. It couldn‘t hurt.”

I kept walking and didn’t look back. Maybe if they did try something funny back at the house and eventually captured Nick, if he thought the words and thought of home, it might just save him. I was pretty sure that if I had my special power, Nick could have it as well since he was a real person.

As I walked I contemplated as to why Nick would show up here. He’s not a main character in my main series. I hardly write on him at all. But there was a time, before the Legacy that I was writing about a policeman named Nick with a woman who strongly resembled Gia but went by the name Tessa Wainright.

When I first thought about writing an espionage series, they were the people who came to mind, along with a man named John Holland who eventually morphed into my version of Ethan Fairchild. John was a police sketch artist. So how he ever eventually became Ethan is hard to figure. My mind threw everything into the mixing bowl of my brain and it came out The Legacy.

“When is this going to be over?” I silently asked myself. I was so tired and I just wanted this game to end.

A ringing sound echoed through the forest. At first it sounded far away, but soon the noise was coming from the stump next to me. On the stump was an old tin can. Attached to the can was a piece of string. I picked it up to examine it and the echo ceased.

It was only a tin can, but somehow I could hear chatter on the other end. As I put the can closer to my ear, I realized someone was talking on the other end.

“I just wanted to thank you.” The voice said. “You provided exactly what I needed. Without your help we never would have won the war against The Legacy.”

I gasped. “What are you talking about? Who is this?”

“Thank you, Ms. Walker for bringing Nick Boyd to us. You may go home now. Your contract has expired.”

The caller never identified himself. But I could distinctly hear Nick shouting in the background.

How had they gotten him so quickly? And why did they even want him?

Before I could think of a way to save Nick, I experienced an immense tugging. It was almost like someone was pulling my soul away from my body and my body refused to relinquish it.
Suddenly, I awoke in my own bed.

My face was dripping with sweat. I had apparently left the tv on while I dozed and could hear the newscaster relating a story about the sudden disappearance of a police officer in Seattle.

“It was real.” I whispered. “It had to be real.”

Oh, God. What had I done? Because of me they had Nick.