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!
Fury clouded her vision but she still saw her fist connect with his cheek. Abbi watched Butch stumble backwards, an expression of shocked pain on his face, as the blow impacted. She was about to swing again when he looked up and met her eyes. In an instant she was in red spandex again, crying as she stood over his bruised form, hand cuffs fastening around her wrists as she sobbed. And then it all came back.
She had not been alone on that mountain. A second soul had taken up residence inside of her. How could she have forgotten that? Andi. A woman so unsure of her own personality that she used the voices of others to speak. Abbi remembered her now. She remembered the feeling of something sitting just behind her left shoulder, someone watching as she acted the part of a villain. The woman did little to interfere, mostly allowing Abbi to lead the way. But she sang. Every part of her was music and song. Abbi had heard it in her head for days after, finding herself humming a tune she didn’t know the origin of. It had been Andi’s soul echoing back to her across time and space. But she had disappeared…left Abbi as quickly and quietly as she had come. Only she hadn’t been the only one to find their way inside.
The presence of TOM had been disconcerting. For a start, Abbi had been alarmed to find another being inside her mind, someone who took far more control than Andi ever had. She remembered the feeling of being pulled away, forced down into the dark, watching someone else move her arms and legs, open her mouth and speak. But more than that, TOM had been devoid of emotions in the instant he had appeared. Abbi had felt him like a tiny black hole in her chest. But that hadn’t lasted long. Emotions piled into him, faster than anyone could think. All at once there was one overwhelming feeling from TOM. Fear. TOM was drowning and he didn’t know how to swim. So she had reached out and taken his hand. She hadn’t let go, not until something else pulled him away from her, leaving her alone on a mountainside surrounded by rubble.
Abbi remembered pulling down the mountain, leaping out into space, watching her friends fall toward the earth. She remembered letting the rage overtake her, surrendering to the fury. She had expected to die. But she had lived instead. Standing on the edge of a cliff, surrounded by broken rocks, she had tried to catch her breath. Her lungs felt too weak to take in the air. Her ears were ringing, her vision was beginning to tunnel. It was as if a great force had been removed from inside of her and her body was trying to remember how to survive without it. She had looked up in time to see a speck of a person take off at a run. Her mind was moving so slowly that it took her far too long to realize that they were coming right for her. Her limbs wouldn’t obey, she couldn’t move. She was so tired. It was all right. This would be the end and it would be okay. Because they were all safe. Because he was safe. And then someone got in the way.
The sound had been sickening. The crunch of bone and a wheezing groan as all of Butch’s life and air was forced out of him. The world slowed to nothing and went silent as he fell. Abbi felt the blood drain out of her and she dropped to her knees, staring at his twisted body embedded inside a stone. In the distance someone was screaming but she didn’t know who. It wasn’t until Titan had pulled Butch out and raised him to the sky, that she realized it was her.
Abbi stumbled back slightly and stared at Butch, covering her mouth as she did so. She watched as his eyes changed as the memories began coming back to him as well. In a moment she saw his face alter, his expression moving from hurt and surprise, to relief and recognition. Her emotions spread over her in a wave, empathy unchained. But this time it was different. For the first time, the rush of feelings did not come with a flash of rage. She no longer felt angry. She felt complete. The missing piece was finally found.
All those lost moments.
There had been times when she remembered him but he didn’t know her. Other cycles, he had called out her name but she didn’t hear. Then there were the loops where neither one recalled the other. Those were the worst.
Back on the mountain on that terrible day…the man with the broken smile and the twisted heart. The fingers on her forehead, the words be happy. Her mind wiping itself clean, a smile that was not her own on her face. She remembered it all now. All the endless cycles of chasing their own tails with their hearts breaking a little more each time and no one knowing why.
She didn’t want to lose him again, to forget his name and why he mattered. For the first time they were in the same place at the same time with the same memories. She couldn’t bear to go back to how it had been before.
All at once it clicked into place. Why the world had been stuck for so long, why she had felt a hole in her heart every single day for as long as she could remember, why they kept finding themselves in orbit around each other even when they didn’t know it. No matter how many times this world pulled them apart, they kept finding their way back to each other. It meant something.
This was the moment it had all been waiting for. This was the moment that needed to happen. They had to find each other and remember. They had to remember because…because…
Because he gave her the courage to be the person she hoped she was. Because she gave him the strength to be the person he needed to be.
A tickle at the back of her mind, a rise of static electricity in the air. Another reset was coming. Abbi moved toward Butch, to touch him, to take his hand and pull him close to her before it was too late. But she couldn’t move fast enough. She knew it wouldn’t be in time.
Abbi felt the full force of her empathy rise up from within her, an invisible essence moving out faster than she could breathe. It pushed toward Butch and he responded in kind, his eyes never leaving hers. It wasn’t empathy but some other kind of power that reached out from him and connected. The bond was instant and unbreakable, and for a brief moment she felt his arms around her. Then the world began to grow dim and blur.
The word rose up from her heart, pushing its way out with each beat. He stood slowly, as time began to collapse, and smiled at her.
She felt her mind begin to fade, memories dissolving into shadow. But deep inside there was a connection forged into her very core. The knowledge of TOM, of Andi, of Mount Rushmore, of all the missed moments and reset cycles, these all remained. And at the heart of everything was Butch. His crooked smile, his bruised heart, his sad eyes. The shadows reached for him and were repelled. She would never forget again. Neither would he.
Abbi smiled, “Hi Butch.”
She smelled strawberries and the world started over.