Chapter One

“You’re a myriad of gloom.”

“What?”

“You’re a myriad of gloom. Like, you exude sadness.” The truck bounced over another pothole. And Cynthia grasped the ‘oh shit’ handle. “Oh, shit!”

“You’re fine, these curves are well known to me and the Bebop.” John patted the steering wheel lovingly.

“Your fascination with naming things that can’t love you in the way you love them is incredibly sad.”

“What an attack. Such precision. Such melody.”

“Melody?”

“Yeah, melody,” another hole. “You just talk in a way that makes people interested.”

“You didn’t say that when we were dating.” John went silent. No he didn’t. There was plenty of good things John didn’t do, and the stuff he did do wasn’t great. But there was a good working relationship here, its just the barbs Cynthia would make often clued him in that the apologies he had offered were useless in the same way a pipe over the head would clue one into the feeling of being assaulted. “Sorry.”

“No need,” he turned sharply in his seat, but slowly on the road. “I just haven’t established enough of a pattern yet.”

“Your pattern is being consistently sad that people who will never like you will never like you. You let all these people fixate on your mistakes, then you fixate on them, then you get so sad you die.”

“Was that a prediction?”

“It was a spoiler, John. You claim to have accepted the choices you’ve made, but you still dwell on the things you can’t change. You can’t make people love you, John.”

“Great. I would cry if I wasn’t driving.”

“There’s a shoulder right there.”

“I think I’ll survive.”

“Yeah, you will. That’s all you do. Survive. You don’t live.” John fell silent again. The road was lit only by the Bebop’s headlights. The sky was cloudy and there were no stars glittering, nor was the moon shining. Black pavement, yellow paint, and no other cars. Their drive was still quite awhile and the first half hour had already produced a discussion that John had been running from for the past five years.

“Why did you break up with me?”

“You serious?”

“I never found out. Other people told me a hundred different reasons. Why did you?”

“You just were…a myriad of gloom. So sad. You slept all the time. You stopped writing. You kept moaning and groaning about people who were dying. Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher, Adam West, Harold Ramis. Like, you never knew those people John. Why cry over them?”

“They helped me know me. They taught me lessons my family didn’t…couldn’t. Gene Wilder taught me that you can’t cheat to get happiness.”

“Didn’t stop you from trying.”

“Didn’t stop you either Cynthia.” Now Cynthia fell quiet. “Carrie Fisher taught me that my mental illness was a part of me, but it wasn’t me. To resist. Adam West taught me that you must never waver on your morals. Even if they aren’t clear to you. Even if it would be easy and no one would know.”

“But what morals do you have? They seem to be real different from person to person. Like you decide who gets kindness and who gets to be used.”

“I don’t…I mean…”

“You’re fucking smart, John. You should know better.”

“And what about everyone else? Does everyone else get a pass for some reason?”

“You aren’t in charge of everyone else, dumbass. You’re in charge of you. You choose what you do. If you aren’t the diseases that rot your brain then don’t let them make any decisions for you. For someone who always feels really good when people say he’s smart, you have no idea how to handle yourself.”

“Then why are you taking so much of your time to lecture me?”

“I’m not lecturing you. I’m answering your question. You’re a smart guy John, but when you treat yourself like crap, you treat other people pretty shitty too. Granted, I was not the ideal girlfriend, Hell, I thought your depression was just an act so you wouldn’t get up in the morning. But the self-deprecation, the unreliability. People see that shit. They stop trusting you because you can’t take care of yourself. Eat, work out, dress yourself. You can barely do that. The fact that you can drive now astounds me.”

“I do drive pretty regularly now.”

“Yeah, and you’re not half bad. You’re not half bad at alot of shit. Hell, there are one or two things that you’re pretty damn good at.”

“Like?”

“Don’t push it John, we’re having a coming to Jesus moment here and I don’t need your Han Solo bullshit right now.”

“Okay, sorry.”

“Your professors in school liked you. Your directors liked you. You had plenty of friends. Then you started treating people really shittily. Not really on brand, but you did. While you were in therapy you dumbfuck. You were learning but not applying.”

“How do you know this?”

“Because I watched you. I paid attention. It was like a plane crash. Actually, it still is a plane crash and you’re just now realizing you’re a pilot and can get control back of the plane. It’s either that or the alternative.”

“Tailspin into the ocean at 180 miles per hour.”

“Tailspin into the ocean at 180 miles per hour. Your exit would be a spectacle and memorable and just that. An end. And that’s what you’ve wanted this whole time.”

“I…”

“I mean, in everything you write. When you speak. Death lingers like its the punctuation to your sentences. Why would anyone want to be around that? You don’t even like being around that. That’s why you perpetuate the death thing. How’s that song go? The one you like? And don’t pull any type of ‘I dunno what you mean’ with me.”

John cocked his head to the side and mumbled, “I imagine death so much it feels like a memory…”

“And it does. And you do. You remember our song?”

“Uh, it was that Sugar Ray song. Uhm, dammit. Uh, OH! Fly!”

“Right. Remember that song?”

“Of course I do.”

“Do you remember how it made you feel? Or what about Vacation by Vitamin C?”

“Of course I remember those songs.”

“But do you remember how they made you feel? That glee and thirst for life? Like the sun was shining even on your darkest day. Your Mom told me that those two songs were the first things you listened to when you got released from the mental institution.”

John was awestruck, “I didn’t know you knew I was hospitalized.”

“I, like many others, still watch John. We still care, but we have to care at a distance. Everything seems so big with you and its so draining. You’re like a parasite. Not one that knows its a parasite, but you act like one. Feeding off of other people’s happiness until they aren’t happy around you anymore. Not creating any happiness for yourself. When was the last time you did something for yourself and you were happy because of it?”

“You know I don’t have an answer to that. I’m just proving your points.”

“And some people have stuck through all of this, but even they hesitate. They love you, unconditionally, but you see the wear in their eyes. You hear it in their voices when you call them every single day. You have given yourself to so many people so often you have nothing left for you. You’re empty. A shell that wants to die and hurts people. That’s what you are. A used condom.”

“That seems a little harsh.”

“But harsh gets through to you. Heavy metaphor hits you like no brick can. Admit you can learn and change and grow for you. You aren’t a dead plant. You’re a human.”

“But who else would believe it?”

“Who cares!?!? It shouldn’t matter! You’re not doing it for them, you’re doing it for you, for Chrissakes. You’re onstage for you. You’re writing for you. You’re singing for you. Drive for you. The rest will come with time, you impatient bitch.”

“I really do like how you talk to me the exact same way you did when we dated.”

“I really do like how you learned not to talk down to me when I did, despite you being upset.”

The road still curved and they were silent for awhile. Country roads were not taking them home, but they were taking them forward. The meteor hit about 30 more miles down the road and since the war started the Emergency Services were the only ones who could respond to such things.

When it hit, a wave of energy jumped from person to person for over one hundred miles, making them more susceptible to truthful suggestion. The few scientists that were left in the area believed that if it impacted near world capitals, it would end the conflict. But no one had been able to get close enough to the crater safely. So John and Cynthia were sent in to investigate.

“John, do you think its safe?”

“No, this is ringing all my sci-fi warning bells. But we have to try.”

“Heh…”

“What’s that?”

“My brother, when he joined up. That’s what he said…I asked him if he thought his participation would make a difference. He said the same thing. ‘No, but I have to try.'”

“Is he still in Bosnia?”

“Yeah, and its still a dark zone. Like that whole half of Europe.”

“Well, let’s hope a small impact crater in Tennessee has the resources and capability to bring about world peace. I think the ever unstable road is a safe indicator that we are close.”

The road was cracked and broken and in the distance was a large mound of dirt. John pulled up to the top of the mound and Cynthia and him got out. they grabbed flashlights from the back and made their way, slowly, to the center of the crater. They were wordless until they got to the center and found…nothing.

“What the Hell? There should be something here, shouldn’t there?”

“Not unless it moved.”

Suddenly, a sharp honking came from the Bebop, left unlocked by John. They both rushed up to the car and found a man sitting in the driver’s seat.

“I…haven’t seen one of these in almost…400 years…I think.”

“Sir,” Cynthia said, “Please step out of the car. Where did you come from?”

The man groaned as he got out of the seat. He was wearing a burlapesque pair of pants, a dirty cream shirt, and a chocolate vest. “There.” He said pointing to the middle of the crater. A ring gleaming on his right pinky.

“You came from the crater?” asked John. The man nodded in confirmation. “What’s your name? Why are you here?”

The man looked John in the eyes, like two gleaming sapphires they met John’s gaze. “My name is Pompelion Antypas Ishtar. And I’m here to help save the world.”

 

End of chapter one

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