Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"It wasn't always like this."

It wasn't always like this. He was pretty sure of that. Normally, at least, he didn't wake up in alleys listening to familiar voices in his own head. The cryptic message was still there, staring back at his, apparently, nearsighted eyes. The voices started a sort of dull murmur, so he hushed them by reading it again. He read it a third time on autopilot, while he tried to turn the rest of his brain to remembering anything before now.

After a minute, he still remembered nothing, except the beating of the rain. He gave up and began to slowly work his way down the alley, gingerly stepping his bare feet across the concrete. The voices, too, started to balance themselves out. Each one started to take on more distinct identities in his mind, four dominant voices echoing around and jockeying for his attention. He tried to ignore them and search through his mind, trying to figure out what he was doing here. Failing to reason a solution, he decided to talk out loud.

"I'm going to assume," he said to the voices, "that message was meant for me. Seems logical, right? So, that makes me Jack."

"That's a good thought," said one voice. This one was gruff. It was his voice, but jaded. "So, someone tossed you half naked, killed a cat, left you a message? Makes sense."

"Your sarcasm isn't helping," said the second voice -- measured, cautious, analytical. "First though, what were you doing in the alley?"

Jack didn't like being questioned by the voices. He didn't like that the voices were so careful about making it seem like they were separate from him. They sounded like him, and they lived in his head. They should at least understand that this was a joint enterprise.

"I don't remember," Jack said.

"Well," came a third voice. This one was him, but with an aristocratic air, by which Jack meant, with a British accent. "Isn't that just the cherry on top?"

"Am I the only one trying to be constructive here," The calm voice asked. Jack decided he'd need to come up with a name for these voices.

"So, who are you," Jack asked the voices.

A fourth voice spoke, this one was animated, maybe even upbeat. "Part of him, I think."

Part of me, Jack thought, not some sotto voces, a part of the greater Jack. The angry one broke into his head: "Who cares? What is this your last chance to do? Let's go do it." That seemed like a reasonable plan to Jack.

"Not everything that can be done should be done," The analyst remarked, and Jack swore he heard a sigh. His own voices were sighing at him.

A cheerful whistle, followed by, "Can't decide if we want to do it till we know what it is, so let's not bicker."

"Sounds like gambling," the aristocrat said. "I'm quite good at baccarat."

"There's no skill to baccarat, all luck," The jaded voice said.

"Actually, baccarat is quite subtle," The analyst said. "Still, luck over shadows skill, to some extent, in a limited set. But, that is true in poker and blackjack."

"Don't worry, I believe in you," Came the chipper voice. "Luck is a kind of skill."

"I'm cold and wet," Jack said. "I don't care about card games. I want clothes and food. Then, I want to figure out what's what."

The voices agreed and settled in the back of his head. He took steady steps and splashing in the puddles. Jack left the alley behind him, wandering around the city, a little lost.

"What city is this?" He asked. The voices were quiet; they didn't know, he guessed. The skylines started to disappear into the dark, raining sky. His bare feet slapped against the sidewalk.

"The only downside to baccarat," the aristocrat said, breaking their silence, "is that we're probably not the house."

1 comment:

  1. Table of Contents here. Later if you lose your place, the tag is Everything Wild.


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