Quick Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or the world they inhabit. They were created by the fabulous people at Zombie Orpheus for their equally fabulous RPG, Masters of the Metaverse! Be sure to tune in to Twitch.TV/zombieorpheus every Monday at 6PM PST to see more!
“The only reason he didn’t reset it this time is because Riptide and I convinced him to give you a chance.” said Molly.
Butch’s chest tightened, “So, Riptide was on board with his plan. And so were you.”
Molly shook her head, “We’ve all been on board with him at one time or another.”
Butch barely heard what she said next. There was a ringing in his ears, it was hard to breathe. He’d known that Migraine had betrayed him. He’d accepted that Riptide probably had. He’d never thought that Molly would. Ever. But she’d known. Even if her father had coerced her through less than honest means, she was powerful enough to retain some of her own mind no matter what. She’d known and she’d gone along with it.
His stomach twisted as he thought about all those little moments that had seemed normal just a few hours ago, but now took on new meaning. That time she erased his memory because he was late, the times she would control his mind to change the conversation when they were kids, how she left all at once without letting him go with her…without letting him help her.
Everything was a lie. Worse yet, it was a lie that he had lived out over and over and over again. Running through the same scenario like a puppet in a show. He had thought he was a hero. What a joke.
Molly was rubbing her eyes, explaining how she had suddenly started receiving messages and images from her father. How she had suddenly started seeing the truth, just moments before she called them.
Butch’s mouth twisted in disbelief and he nearly spat out the words, “So, you just now remembered the four hundred years?”
Molly looked at him, eyes wide, “I guess.”
Looking down Butch muttered, “He was probably right to put the dome up in the first place.”
They were supposed to be better than this. They were supposed to do the right thing, protect people. Not violate minds, twist lives, bury secrets, break promises. Break hearts. Maybe the world was better off without them in it.
When was the last time he had done something truly heroic? Something truly good? Something super? When was the last time he had done anything worthwhile, instead of just running in place like a hamster on a wheel? When was the last time he had saved someone? When was the last time he had made a difference? Had he ever?
A twinge of pain caught him in the chest like the ghost of a punch and he rubbed it absently. His fingers traced scars he didn’t remember getting, scars he thought he had understood but now doubted. Who was he really? Was he even who he believed himself to be?
Hex was looking at him expectantly, “What?”
“Do you have a problem if we bring down the dome?”
“No. We have to.” he said, more confidently than he felt. He knew he was right, he just wasn’t sure if he was the right person to do it any more.
Hex nodded, as did Bombshell and Lady Veil. All in.
Butch looked at them, “OK. Win or lose, we have to take down the dome.”
Molly began explaining where they needed to go next. It seemed to Butch that he had heard all of this before. He probably had, in one version or another. But there was something else, something more solid to this feeling. It was like he had already lived that life, already seen it. It was like he knew what was coming even before Molly said it.
“Something freakily familiar about this.” he said, under his breath.
“What?” asked Hex.
Butch turned to answer but she wasn’t paying attention to him any more. His chest was throbbing now. He really felt like he had been punched by a bank or a mountain, something titanic. Then again that was probably just his emotional trauma bottling itself up again, like it had so many times over the past four hundred years. He focused again when he heard someone mention bringing Molly along.
“No, she’s not allowed to come.”
Molly nodded and seemed unbothered by his statement, but Butch hated himself instantly. While it made the most logical sense for Molly to stay behind, it wasn’t logic that prompted him to speak. He was angry. He was hurt. He was heartsick. The person who had meant so much to him, the person who had been with him, the person who had seen him at his most vulnerable, the person who had been his person could no longer be trusted. He wasn’t even sure if she ever could have been.
A small part of him had felt happy in that pretend world, in the world where he and Molly were together, were married. He had thought at the time that it was because he was with her, back beside her like he had wished so many times after she had left. But now he wasn’t so sure. Now he wondered if it was because it had been Molly at his side or because it was someone who accepted him as Butch Baker and nothing else. Had he been happy because he was Molly’s husband or because he was just a normal man, living with someone who accepted him as he was?
But who was he?
“I could leave behind a nano-wasp if you like, so that you can communicate with us.” Bombshell offered Molly.
“I wouldn’t leave a piece of yourself with her. I did it once and I’ve never gotten it back.” Butch said, bitterly.
Hex giggled, clearly imagining that he meant something more scandalous than he did. Butch didn’t correct her, it was easier that way. Better that she didn’t understand what he’d really meant. Better that she didn’t realize that he was talking about his heart. Better that she didn’t know that the missing piece was part of the reason why he never felt happy, never felt whole, never felt enough. Because he hadn’t been. Because he still wasn’t, not in four hundred years.
In that moment he suddenly felt lonelier than he ever had in his entire life. He found himself wishing that he could find someone who had known him before. Before the dome had ever gone up, before the lies had started, before four hundred years had come and gone in the blink of an eye. Someone. Anyone. Just one person who knew him when he was sure he was Butch.
But he was surrounded by paper clowns and shadows, by lies and tricks, by people who were just as twisted up as he was. The odds of finding anyone who knew him before all this started, who really knew him, knew who he was, were infinitesimal.
It would be like remembering someone you forgot, a best friend you didn’t even know you had.