They were standing in the same research facility with an orange sky and bright pink clouds. Before the lab was dark and cold but this time it was illuminated by the golden light that reflected off clean instruments and equipment all at rest. The potential of all the things that, in the hands of Perdita, could change the world or save so many people. Unlike the greats before her, she had done the things they had simply strived to find the answers to. If gods, saints, or saviors were real—then Perdita was as close as they would ever come.
At that moment though, she was lying between Liam and Amara unresponsive. The two of them wandered through the lab until Amara found a door that led to a small apartment that, whomever worked here spent their off time. So, they moved Perdita on the bed with tight blue sheets and four pillows. Liam then went about using his rudimentary medical skills to do a routine check to see if she was coming back from whatever was going on while Amara scouted the rest of the lab to see what there was to be seen.
The bedroom was small with no books. There were two dead dried up long ago. There’s a layer of dust on all the shelves and everything smelled musty. There weren’t any sounds of machines running or cars outside. He told himself that none of that mattered and he had to figure out how to bring Perdita back out of whatever she was in. There was, of course, no science behind the thing that had happened to her.
“None of this has any rules,” he murmured as he checked her reflexes.
He stood up, walked into small kitchen with a small two chair table with a stove and refrigerator. There was the hunger again. There was no electricity so he didn’t bother checking anything that would have perishables. Instead, he opened the cabinets only to find ruined cans and molded pasta. The hunger was growing, and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could go until he needed something to eat.
But there was nothing and he assumed that Amara had found nothing to eat either, though she wasn’t affected by it like he and Perdita were. He assumed it was because of the golden eye that was always staring at them and whatever the thing calling itself Perdita Prime had done to her. It was technology that was beyond anything he had ever seen but the woman sleeping in the other room had the potential to make it. She had already sacrificed parts of her brain to move through time just to find another version of her daughter. She had proven time travel and reincarnation in one formula.
He shook his head and as popped open a coffee can and ate the contents with a spoon and stared out the window to the city below. Unlike the last place they were, the buildings rose high into the air and stopped at the top where massive balloon-like structures floated. Every single structure was built the same and they moved back and forth in an unseen wind.
There were so many worlds with different ways that he couldn’t imagine what was out there. Whatever there was, he wasn’t sure that if he wanted to see what else was out there. He was tempted to take one of Amara’s guns and blow his brains out right there and just let go of this idea of saving his wife that was no longer his wife anymore. The spoon rattled in the empty coffee cup.
“This place is bad,” Perdita said.
Liam spun around and saw her standing with her hand on her chest and eyes narrowed. He could see that she was still pale around the mouth but her motor skills as she walked across the floor and started checking for food seemed to be doing fine.
“I don’t think there are any humans left,” he said.
“Then why are we here,” she asked.
“Your world was being destroyed by a massive wave,” he said.
“Oh,” Perdita said. “That. Well yes. It was.”
“What’s wrong with this place?” He asked.
“It feels wrong,” she replied.
“Did you just…wake up?” he held out his hands.
“No,” Perdita said. “I watched you jump without me. I watched the wave swallow up the city and the thing inside the wave began eating the souls before they could diminish. I was scared and worried, but I knew that I could move between worlds. So, I pushed against the walls and slipped through. It just took me a while to get here.”
“What did you see?” he asked.
“Every single thing,” she said. “All of time and space.”
The way her face twisted in pain, Liam knew that if he asked her, she would probably slip back into a coma. Instead, he pulled out another can of coffee and offered it to her. She frowned but didn’t argue as she ate with the spoon he offered. He sat there and watched her eat while the sun began to set.
“I don’t think there’s a use for me to do this anymore,” Liam said. “Nothing has meaning.”
“No,” Perdita said looking out the window at the city. “None of this has any meaning anymore.”
“Then why are we doing it?” He asked. “What’s the point of running and looking and trying.”
“Because we’ve fucked up something,” she said. “There’s something coming for us, there’s a price we’re going to have to pay, I can feel it.”
“And you want to fix it,” he said.
“She’s the problem” Perdita said. “That Prime version of me. That robotic version that Amara had met. All of them are a problem.”
“That’s what Prime said,” Liam said looking at her. “That souds like the same argument from a different person.”
“No,” she said. “There are only so many of us meddling. They need to be stopped. The rest of us can just live.”
“Then what do you want to do?” He asked.
“The lines that we’re on,” she said. “There’s got to be something at the center.”
“I was told not to go there,” Amara said walking in and holstering her gun.
“What’s out there,” Liam asked. “Is there anyone?”
“The people have been pulled to the streetlights and wrapped around them in a deformed ball of disfigured bodies,” she whispered. “The light was still on in the inside.”
“I don’t want to see it,” Liam said. “I don’t want to even know.”
“Did you pick on any version of me,” Perdita asked.
Amara looked at her for a moment weighing something.
“Yes,” she said.
“Can I see her,” Perdita asked.
“I don’t want to do this,” Liam said but the women didn’t look at him.
“She’s close but it isn’t pretty,” Amara said.
She was right. It wasn’t far. It wasn’t pretty.
“This is horrible,” Liam said away from the streetlight.
“That’s true,” Amara said.
Above them was eight naked human bodies were stretched and fused together. Where the flesh met there was a raw and bleeding gash where an orange light pushed through. The faces were long, and the mouths were wide. The tongues hung from their mouths and waved in the wind.
“That one,” Amara pointed at a woman. Her belly had been opened and then sewn back.
“She lost her again,” Perdita said.
“What was your child named?” Amara asked.
“Ophelia,” Perdita said.
The woman’s eyes shifted down and her head looked down at them. There was the smell of skin splitting and a smell of heat and rot. Her chest, leathery and dry expanded out. They could hear the bones crack as the worn lungs filled with air one single time. And then she screamed with her tongue flapping in the air.
Amara responded by putting a bullet in the woman’s head.
Then the others began screaming and writhing.
“Shit,” Liam said.
“Fuck,” Amara said.
“Wait here,” Perdita said. “We have to see.”
The light grew brighter, and the skins swelled and expanded while the screams grew higher and higher. Along down the lines there were more people screaming as they swelled and stretched. Amara pulled her gun back to the circle of skins when a slender obsidian shaft pierced through the belly reopening the wounds.
“We have to go,” Liam said. “Now.”
“But what’s in there,” Perdita asked.
“No fucking time now,” Amara said.
A set of silver teeth pressed out of the narrow whole and began chewing. The light flickered and went out leaving them in twilight. Around them they could hear the chewing at the skin.