A blur. Endless. Limitless. Potentiality given form, compressed.
Sorrow. Determination. Anger. A billion year plan, moving incrementally towards an inevitable conclusion, hidden in the ticking of the clock, a zugzwang that closed off every possibility save those which were beneficial behind the tiniest of incidents – the perfect, unchanging path to –
Viv inhaled a long breath of panic. Where was she, where was Andy, what –
Hospital corridor. Fluorescent light. Confused faces of doctors and nurses.
She hauled herself off the bed in one impossibly smooth arc. Then looked at herself in confusion. How the hell – and her leg –
Was fine. No pressure from resting her weight on it. A doctor approached her, holding his hands up. ‘Miss – ’
She shushed him and tried to think. Had she – had she died again? That seemed to heal her of her injuries. If so – how long had she been dead? And where was –
Andy, vomiting blood. Cheeks flecked with red, eyes wide and rolling.
She ran, ducking between the doctor’s outstretched arms. A nurse attempted to halt her, but Viv shoulder checked them and they flew backwards, thudding against the wall. Wait – what? Viv slowed her mad dash. She’d hurled that nurse back – and knocked out Ern with one blow – and killed a motherfucking utahraptor with one punch –
‘Alright.’ She grinned. ‘Super strength. I can work with this.’
Whereupon three orderlies tackled her at once and Viv found out that no matter how much super strength one had, throwing off three muscled guys working together to pin you was really, really hard.
She just couldn’t get the leverage to bring her strength to bear. She lashed out with one foot and managed to sink it into someone’s stomach hard enough that they proceeded to vomit all over her, thick sticky reeking strands covering her legs, but then her face was shoved into the linoleum floor, inhaling the rich odour of cleaning fluid. She thrashed.
‘What. Are. You. Doing.’ Voice cold with anger. Hint of a French accent. She struggled to look round from the hard white floor.
‘Doctor – ’
‘Get off her at once.’ Viv was unpinned and leapt to her feet as quickly as she could, finding herself face to face with Cannelis.
‘Hello – Nimue.’ His face was frozen with anger, but it warmed a little on seeing her.
‘Where’s Andy?’ She did her best to sound confident and angry and not absolutely shit scared.
‘They called me in after they found the pair of you given her medical history. I just got here five minutes ago.’ He extended a hand. ‘Shall we find her?’
‘She’s dangerous, sir – ’
‘She’s concerned for her friend. Perhaps if you had talked to her rather than hurling her to the floor – ’ He cut off his snarl. ‘No matter. She accompanies me. Oh, and get me some wipes for her legs.’ He strode away with long, clicking footsteps and she hurried after, grabbing a wipe from an orderly’s hands and hopping as she tried to get the sick off her legs.
‘What happened?’ She tossed the wipe aside in the nearest bin.
Cannelis threw her a glance over his shoulder, somewhat askance. ‘I was hoping you knew that. An emergency was called in and you were both found lying unconscious on the pavement. According to witnesses you’d both been fine one moment then – not, the next.’ He shook his head. ‘Useless.’ He bounded up a flight of stairs two or more steps at a time with fast controlled motions, and she hurried after him.
‘How – ’ the words stuck in her mouth, ‘ – how were we?’
‘That’s the strangest part. You were both – ’
A yell from above. Cannelis’ progress up the stairs increased exponentially, and he leapt out of sight in moments. It took her a moment to recognise the timbre of the voice, and then she was running too, using her newly discovered strength to jump up five steps at a time in vast bounds, like some demented pogo stick.
Round the corner. Passing Cannelis. Then –
Andy, struggling with an orderly while Paul tried to pry them apart. Her clothes were disarranged, but there was no blood, and the panic on her face was normal, not the insane bloodlust of her fight with the raptors.
The orderly caught sight of Viv and Cannelis and relaxed his grip, Andy sinking her knee into his stomach causing him to – wait, her left knee? But that leg was –
And then she was clattering down the steps, running, awkwardly with no crutch but no limp either, face alight with some wild, terrible joy, hurling herself down the last few steps and colliding with Viv hard enough to knock her over onto the landing. The fall stunned her enough that she almost didn’t feel Andy’s arms seize her in a grip worthy of a boa constrictor, didn’t feel the deep shaking sobs pounding out of her body, didn’t feel the wetness as Andy peppered her cheeks with tear-stained kisses.
She did hear Andy’s words, half-muttered into her skull, ‘– thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou – ’
The light. Reaching out to help Andy with anything and everything she had as she was dying on the pavement. The strength and the flashes.
It probably said something that her first thought was the one she voiced, and also hardly surprising that at its utterance Paul face-palmed and Andy delivered a swift, laughing punch to her shoulder.
‘Holy shit, I’m a D&D cleric.’
‘Dinosaurs.’ Paul’s voice wasn’t even incredulous. It had moved beyond that into a zen state of sheer incomprehension at the weirdness of the world. ‘He attacked you…with dinosaurs.’
‘In an alternate dimension with lighting stolen from Carcosa. Yeah.’ Viv blew a stray strand of hair out of her face. She really needed to get round to brushing it. ‘Say, you don’t think he’s a cultist of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?’
‘Your murderer works for Voldemort?’ Andy was striding up and down with ferocious energy, such that Viv would have been worried if it clearly wasn’t simply enjoying her newfound ability to walk. She still had a limp. Whatever Viv had done hadn’t reversed nearly a decade of muscle atrophy.
‘The King in Yellow. Hastur. He’s a fictional demigod from the expanded Cthulhu mythos.’ Cannelis was, if anything, less incredulous than Paul. They’d had to tell him the truth, all of it, after Andy’s miraculous healing. And while he’d frowned, he’d listened. And believed. Apparently given that he’d seen MRIs of the longstanding brain injury that had given her the limp in the first place he’d accepted that the only likely cause for a cure was supernatural. Viv had also demonstrated her newfound strength on some bedrails. ‘It’s unlikely though,’ he continued. ‘Even his high priests can’t transport you to Carcosa – only he can do that. And it still doesn’t explain the dinosaurs.’
He shifted a little under their stares. ‘I enjoy the books. Chambers is a considerably better author than Lovecraft anyway.’
‘Passing over your – interesting – taste in fiction.’ Viv stood up as she spoke. ‘To summarise – I’m dead, every time I die we think he gets more powerful, I can heal people – kinda – and I have some kind of super strength. Also apparently I’ll be faced with some kind of terrible change in the near future and what happens will be entirely due to bad luck. Any thoughts?’
‘Well,’ said Cannelis, ‘well, do we know the trigger for your healing?’
‘Or your strength.’ Andy’s voice was clear and sharp. ‘You haven’t ripped off any doorknobs, damaged any electronics, and before you realised you had it – well, it only seemed to trigger when you felt you were in danger. Honestly it sounds more like point-blank telekinesis to me rather than super-strength.’
‘Sure, but in that case, why can’t she simply prevent things from hitting her? Murderer dude was able to knee stamp her in the middle of her raptor punch. Surely some kind of instinctive TK could’ve blocked that?’ Paul grimaced. ‘Also, we need a better name for your murderer.’
‘Hazel,’ she said instantly. ‘It’s the main thing I remember about him. Those eyes…’
‘We can test the healing trigger now, I suppose.’ Cannelis looked around, reached for a scalpel. ‘A small cut on each of us – ’
‘Excessive.’ Andy shook her head. ‘We know it works – how it works isn’t as important at the moment as keeping Viv safe. Hugh – we need you looking into the overall situation. Have there ever been – were there ever any other patients like me? Who had imaginary friends who died and who they insisted were real despite no records of the fact?’
‘A couple. Looking into their case files – ’
‘May indicate similarities, patterns.’
‘A number will simply have been schizophrenic.’
‘Or they may not have been. They may give clues, methodology as to Hazel – or others like him – and his behaviour patterns.’ Andy’s words were commanding. ‘At the very least, we can take a look at it. Viv – we need to head back to the shop. It’s probably closed now. I…need to either invent a miracle as to why my leg healed or pretend it still doesn’t work. Fuck, I can’t believe I’ve still got to go to school tomorrow after all this shit.’
‘You could bunk off.’
‘They’d ring our parents.’ Paul rubbed his head.
‘I’ll call the school. Tell them you need a few extra sessions, that you were in a traumatic accident.’ Hugh paces. ‘I doubt they’ll be happy, given my previous communications with them, but frankly I don’t care. Andy – are you alright?’
‘Viv is real, and I get to find out why she died. I’m fantastic.’ Her grin is skull-wide.
And Viv laughed, for once not bothered by her own apathy because Andy was alive and ok, and that was what mattered.
They had started working on lists of allies, opponents and capabilities as soon as they got home. At some point these lists had become a veritable web, surrounded by queries and theories. And arguments.
‘It makes no sense for the spell to be based on the pigeon’s own psychology. Pigeons are thick! It has to be due to overwhelming some kind of energy threshold in the spell, likely to do with the excess mass required to turn a pigeon into a dinosaur.’ Paul was beginning to sound frustrated.
Andy had returned to pacing. ‘Pish posh. The energy required would be ludicrous anyway, let’s not put more constraints on it since we clearly don’t know how it works. The psychology however – there has to be a reason for pigeons. If it was simply mass conversion a garbage can would’ve done the job.’
The chart’s antagonist section had two major components. ‘Blue Police Lady,’ which was mostly questions like ‘who?’, ‘why?’, ‘motive?’ and so on. Also ‘cat’ and ‘good with guns’.
The second part was Hazel’s. Initially was written a long list of arguments as to why he was the King of Wands, followed almost instantly by a long list of arguments for him as the Reversed Hierophant. Following this was a list of his known and assumed abilities – sword summoning, the dinosaurs (they still couldn’t work out why dinosaurs), and likely some method of tracking her. He found her too fast for there to be anything else.
Viv was currently concerned with something else.
It was hard to finger an exact time. She knew when she’d arrived at Andy’s, but the freezing rain-walk had taken an unspecified eternity. Paul obviously didn’t know what cemetery she’d been in, and even Andy wasn’t entirely sure.
But roughly…very roughly…it had been twenty four hours since she’d awoken in her coffin.
She looked at the chart that her life had become, complex, webbed, frustrating –
– and alive. God, she’d never felt so wire knuckle on edge for so long, like those days when she smoked cigarette after cigarette just for the buzz, even when her teeth seemed to wobble in her skull.
She smiled. Maybe this wasn’t so bad.
So she got up and went to work.