Gestures And Memories

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!

“Did they go through?”

Monday nodded as she approached, “Yup. Bruno checked it for trip wires and Andi made sure there wasn’t a bucket of water. Which, if I didn’t know them better, I would find insulting.”

Rhodes slowed his pace, allowing Monday to catch up, “Well, that’s one part done. Hopefully they’re what you think they are…”

“They are.”

He shrugged, “I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve seen a lot of people who were supposed to be something and ended up not fulfilling their end of the bargain.”

“I know. I guess you’re just going to have to trust me.” Monday said, reaching into her bag, “Here. I brought you something.”

Rhodes looked down at the white paper sack that he had just been handed, “What’s this?”

“A milkshake.” she replied, “And a burger and fries.”

He stopped walking, “Is this from Joe’s?”

“No, it’s from the other diner out here.” Monday snarked, gesturing to the grey, misty landscape they were currently traveling through, “Yes, it’s from Joe’s.”

“I’m not allowed to eat at Joe’s.”

“Right. At Joe’s. You’re not allowed to eat at Joe’s. Nothing was ever said about eating food from Joe’s. Besides, it’s not your food. It’s mine. I ordered it, I get to decide what happens to it. And I’m giving it to you.”

Rhodes carefully opened the bag and peered inside, “You know eating technically isn’t the same for me…”

“It’s a gesture, Jonathan. One that you’re killing, by the way.”

“Fine.”

He reached into the bag and pulled out a french fry. Regarding it, he turned back to Monday, “Is this going to disappear when I try to take a bite?”

“Oh my God! Do you want me to just take it back?” she snapped, “Jonathan Allen Rhodes, sit down and eat the food!”

“All right! All right! You don’t have to get annoyed!”

He walked over to an amorphous boulder and sat down, “You’ll forgive me if I don’t immediately assume I can eat something I’ve been forbidden from for several thousand years.”

Rhodes began eating. Monday walked over and sat next to him, “So?”

“Good.”

She smiled, “Good.”

“I’m surprised you made the gesture. Given your relationship with Hollywood.”

“Oh? What relationship is that?”

Rhodes looked over, “You’re friends. Which generally means you shouldn’t be overly fond of me.”

Monday shrugged, “Everyone is an unreliable narrator at some point in their story. Plus, I’m not really big on holding mistakes made in moments of pain against people.”

Rhodes said nothing and went back to his lunch. Pulling out the milkshake, he looked at it with a mixed expression.

“These were Wendy’s favorite.”

“I know”, Monday smiled, “Who do you think made me want to try them?”

“You knew her?”

She nodded, “In a way. Everyone knew Wendy, she was so…not subtle. I used to try to catch up with her when she visited the diner. I liked to listen when she told her stories. Even though she didn’t know me, not really, she always let me sit nearby and write them down.”

“I’d have liked to have heard those.” Rhodes murmured, “You forget so many things when people aren’t there to remind you of them. Plus my head…it’s filled with cases and criminals, there isn’t much room left over.”

Monday looked over, “I remember them. I even know a few stories from before you two teamed up. I could tell you.”

Rhodes grunted and turned back to his food, “I don’t have time for stories. Usually they’re a bunch of lies any way.”

He caught himself and froze, “I’m sorry Monday. I didn’t mean that.”

“I know. It’s okay.”

His face darkened, “It’s just been a bad day. Being the guy who carries out the sentences, not the one who makes them. Easy enough to say ‘death’, not so simple to lead someone into a dark hole and leave them there to wait for a century or two. Hearing them crying, begging you not to go. But that’s the job, right? That’s what the rules say goes. I inflict pain that others call justice because they never have to see it carried out.”

Monday said nothing as Rhodes sighed and slowly crumpled up the now empty bag. He crushed the ball in his hands, his knuckles going white with the effort.

“I don’t know.” he said, “ All the years. All the crimes. All the terrible things we do to each other. All the people we lose. Sometimes I can’t see the purpose of some of what we do. Cutting the strings on little kids kites just because they flew too close to the fence. Meanwhile, some guy slaughters hundreds of people and I can’t do a thing about it because he’s in his clubhouse and has pulled the ladder up behind him.”

He looked over, “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret my service. And I still believe in what we’re doing. It’s just…”

“Times are changing.”

“I guess.”

Monday looked out across the bleak landscape, “Why did you agree to go along with my theory?”

“You had Hollywood’s blessing. Regardless of any personal differences we might have, I respect his input enough to know that that means a lot. And…”

“And you’d already been thinking about it.”

“I thought you said you didn’t write my story.”

She smiled, “No, I didn’t write your story. That doesn’t mean I’m not aware of it. You are interacting with my narrative after all.”

“Fair enough.”

“Is that why you did it? Because Hollywood said to?”

He shook his head, “No. Hollywood was why I agreed to hear you out. Getting me to go along with it? That was all you. You’re pretty convincing actually. Or maybe you just tell a good story.”

Monday laughed out loud and even Rhodes gave a small smirk. He took a sip of the milkshake and closed his eyes. It was just for a moment but it was more peace than he had felt in centuries.

“I did it because I promised her I wouldn’t let it be for nothing.”

Monday looked over. Rhodes was staring up at the sunless sky, “I promised her that day and countless times after. And every time I see Gates, I promise it all over again. Because if that moment doesn’t mean anything, if that hole in time was just an accidental nothing, if the destruction of a person goes unchecked and unfelt…then what the hell is the point of any of it?”

He turned back towards her, “What about you?”

“Me?”

“You’re a Chronicler.You’re supposed to sit and observe, watch and record, not do…whatever it is that we’re doing. What made you change?”

She leaned back, “I got stuck. Stuck someplace that I shouldn’t have. And I was there for centuries. Four hundred years of just watching. Watching people suffer, watching hearts break, watching the same evil happen over and over and over again. And when it was all done, when the cycle was broken, they said I had put it right. That I had helped fix what was wrong. But in my heart, I’ve never felt like I did. I don’t think getting unstuck had anything at all to do with me. I was too scared to break the rules. I was too scared to try.”

She closed her eyes, “I don’t even know what I am any more. I’m changed, that’s all anyone will say. I feel it happening. I just don’t understand it. So how could I go back? How could I stand and watch? How could I let myself get stuck?”

Monday wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and sat up, “I’m not doing this for the Metaverse. Not really. I’m doing this because I sat in a truck and watched a man’s heart shatter with doubt. I’m doing this because I heard a woman’s soul scream when she realized her friend was gone. I’m doing this…because people have died, people have been hurt, people have been used. I’m doing this because the people who live in the Metaverse matter more than the Metaverse alone. And somewhere along the way the rules seem to have forgotten that.”

She looked over and blushed as she found Rhodes staring at her with a strange expression on his face. “Sorry”, she said, “I know I tend to ramble.”

“No, no.” Rhodes looked down at his hands, “I was just thinking that that was the closest I’ve come to actually smiling in a very long time. But I’m pretty out of practice so I’d probably come off looking possessed or something.”

“You have a nice smile.”

He looked surprised, “Oh?”

“Yeah. Whenever Wendy got you with one of her jokes, you’d smile. I always liked it.”

“Oh. Right. Well…thanks.”

She nodded, “I’m sure it’s still there.”

“I doubt it. But then again, I might be more willing to consider breaking it out again once this is all over. Provided it goes well.”

“It will. And don’t worry. I’ll take the fall if it doesn’t. You’re too close to the end of your term. We don’t want to be clichéd about things.”

Rhodes raised an eyebrow, “What happens to you? At the end of this I mean. I can’t imagine the Order is going to welcome you back with open arms.”

Monday considered, “I don’t really know. I’m not something they have a rule for any more. But I’m definitely doing a lot of things I’m not supposed to. Even if it all goes well, I don’t really have a place any more. So…at the end of this, I’m on my own I guess. Or maybe I go to prison.”

She looked at Rhodes and smiled, “Who knows?”

“I wouldn’t arrest you.”

“You might not have a choice.”

“Well, let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. But I’m not going to arrest you. Look at Ronald Zenda. There are means to an end regardless of the sentence.”

She leaned over and bumped his shoulder with her own, “You’re a good man, Jonathan.”

He grunted, “Don’t let that get around. Every hero needs someone to prove wrong.”

Rhodes got to his feet and Monday followed. He stuffed the crumpled paper into his pocket and took a long drag of the milkshake.

“I have to get moving.” he said, “Another case. You know I can’t stop for long.”

“I know. I thought I’d walk with you.”

Rhodes looked at her, surprised, “Walk with me?”

Monday smiled as she locked step with him, “Yeah. We walk, you pretend to drink a milkshake, and I tell you a story.”

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