This One Time, 115

This one time I was lurching through these underground catacombs, wrapped in shredded rags, and apparently scaring the bejeezus out of everyone I met. The catacombs were pretty crowded with living people, or so I was thinking. Either that or I was rough enough to scare ghosts. I couldn’t exactly rule that out. I was pretty rough.

It wasn’t so long ago that I could get my leg to bear weight. I’d have loved an x-ray to prove to myself it was only a greenstick fracture and not something a teeny bit more complicated. Also, I’d have loved something to eat other than wriggly grub sashimi and I was pretty dehydrated. Also also I wanted to shave something awful. My beard was growing in and itching like hell, and I’d been scratching it with my muddy fingers. I’m sure everyone would have agreed that a bath would have been nice. If I’d turned up like this at my mother’s house, she would’ve turned the hose on my ass for a good fifteen minutes before letting me in the house.

I couldn’t really make out the language that the people I was running across were muttering. I had the poor judgment to sit very still in a corner until one pair of people got pretty close so I could hear what they were saying and try to work out where I was. My leg was pretty angry about how I was crouched down and the grunt I let out when I had to shift it ruined my “playing dead hidden in the shadows in the corner” routine.

The woman was screeching something I’m sure only dogs could work out, while the guy was shouting something and shoving me up against the wall hard enough my ribs were creaking. I could almost make out what he was saying, though. He stopped thumping at me when he heard me croaking out, “English? English?”

He let go and backed up. “By preference,” he answered.

Apparently that blew my cover as a revenant. Over his shoulder, almost down among the octaves humans could routinely hear, I heard a quavery, “Stai bene?” Italian. Italian didn’t bring back good memories for me, but lately memories were rare creatures and I was happy to see any at all.

“Where am I?” I asked. New York, Chicago… Where else had strong Italian neighborhoods?

“Milan,” she answered. I guessed they had Italian neighborhoods there too.

The guy asked, “Where did you think you might be?”

I scratched my head. “Not too long ago I was pretty sure I was in underground caves beneath pyramids in Central America. I could barf up some of the grubs I’ve been eating and we could ask them if they’re native to the area.” What the hell was I saying? I’d just met these people. Did I want them to run away?

The guy seemed unfazed. “We have wine and cheese.”

“Okay, you’ve convinced me it’s Europe. If you’re of a mind to share, I’ll take a nibble of anything that doesn’t wriggle. And God I’m thirsty.”

“They also give us water at the cathedral. We can go back up after dark.” She was apparently completely done freaking out, turning me gently and patting me down to help look for injuries. It really was pretty dark down there.

“So I didn’t dream the sun thing?”

“Nope. You didn’t dream the sun thing.” He was keeping a hand firmly on his woman. Even in this light I could tell it was less of a proprietary thing and more to reassure himself that she was real, that this was all real. He had a beard about like mine, but less muddy.

“Cathedral, you said.” He nodded. “Damn. If they were Baptists, I could get a bath.” She looked confused, but he laughed like it had been a while since his last laugh.

“So. A dead jaguar god made me cut a hole in the air to the sun. Before I fell down a hole in, I dunno, Guatemala. Did I dream that?”

The woman drew back a little. The man opened his bag and started going through it. “I’m a man of science, but causality’s been on holiday for weeks. If our math is right, things ought to start going back to normal in a few days. It’s symmetrical.” He brought out a lump of something wrapped in waxed paper. “This isn’t wriggling yet, but it’s cheese. Give it time.”

“Should I take any kind of glee from the fact that you sound crazier than I do?”

“Cheese,” he said, holding out a broken-off lump. “Have some. And here’s the rest of our water. I have a feeling we’re switching back to wine until sunset.”

“You smell like a dead jaguar,” she said. I could hear the smile in her voice.

“So does this cheese,” I answered. And then I put it in my mouth.


April 25, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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