Mr. Lockhart: Master of the Octopi

The other was Brigitte’s dad.

“You,” he said, and tried to push the guards off of him, but they piled on top of him and held him down.

I backed away a little from him, but there wasn’t much of anyplace to go, there on that ledge. Naked Girl’s head was only a few feet from my hand, I realized; the ledge was about six or seven feet up and she was standing below me.

“What’s he doing here?” I asked.

“He’s our coup de grace,” Steve said. “We own him, now.”

Brigitte’s dad was sitting up now, held by three guys on the ground. He looked horrible: he was all mismatched and I could see scars on him stitching almost. His left leg was shorter than his right leg and his arms were different lengths, too. He was barefoot and one foot was a different color than the other.

“Oh, no,” I said. I looked down at my own hands and feet. I looked up at Steve. “He’s not…”

“He is. He died. As you know. But we needed him. Not past tense, even. We need him. Because of the octopi.”


You have no idea what it’s like to almost never have anything make sense to you, to have about every other sentence that you hear be complete gibberish. Imagine that, and then imagine, too, that someone’s always shooting ray guns at you, and also that you keep getting dragged places or going to Hell, and you’ll have an idea what my life was like for a long time there.

“The octopi. Like your own octopus. He controls them.”

“He what?

I know I sounded dumb, but that’s about all I could muster. I looked at Brigitte’s dad, who was trying to pull free. His head was a little crooked, too. I looked down at myself again. Is that how other people see me?

“Mr. Lockhart invented Octopi. Didn’t you, Mr. Lockhart.” Brigitte’s dad glared at him. I tried to remember if I knew Brigitte’s last name was Lockhart. Had she told me? “They’ve even got his symbol on them. If you look down on the bottom of the octopus, there’s a little heart-shaped padlock. That’s the Lockhart Industries symbol. He invented them and he secretly controls them all, something all the people buying octopi don’t know. He invented Read-Or units, too, and people don’t know what they can do, either.” He held up the little Read-Or unit he had and pointed to a little flywheel on it. “Want to see what Mr. Lockhart is thinking now? I bet it’s something about me. Or maybe something about you. But we can find out.”

Brigitte’s dad glared at him but kept his mouth shut.

“It was a shame when he died, but not as big a shame as it could have been because word never got out that he died. Our revenants were there and got his body to me and nobody has yet heard of the death of wealthy industrialist and CEO of one of the Three Powers. And nobody will.”

Steve really should have paused before that last sentence. Or at least laughed maniacally or something. But he didn’t. He wasn’t even talking dramatically. He had no flair whatsoever.

“Because we have him,” Steve was going on. He looked now at Mr. Lockhart. “We have both of you. This is her, as you know. You knew it when you and Reverend Tommy first grabbed her, didn’t you? Ironic, isn’t it? If only you’d known her career would end up like this.”

There it was again. Gibberish. But before I could ask what that meant, another guy came running down the tunnel and burst out, nearly tripping over Mr. Lockhart and panting.

“Sir. Steve! Sir. We’re under attack.”

“What?” Steve asked. He was calm, though. “Details.”

“There’s a hundred-foot-tall demon pounding at the gate at the front door.”

“Oh.” Steve turned back to me. “Now, we should continue.”

“Sir?” the man said.

Steve turned back to him. “Yes?”

“What should we do?”

“Is the Gate turned on?”


“Then do nothing. One demon won’t be able to get through that at all. This wasn’t unexpected, you know. Sometimes they find us. It’ll get bored and go away after a while.”

There was a booming sound somewhere. Steve looked up at the ceiling. “So he’s punching it. Well, it’ll be fine.” He motioned with his hand and the man left. “Keep me posted,” Steve called after him. He turned back to me.

“There’s much more to tell you but we may not have much time.”

I looked down the hallway after the man. “Because we’re under attack?”

“No. Not that. That doesn’t worry me at all. What worries me is your old friend Samson. He’s desperate and might be desperate enough to try to make God remember who He is.”

It might have been more polite if it had been called "web design for people who don't know much about designing" but that's not very catchy.

"Why you should dunk your splash page."

That's the first thing that caught my eye when I clicked over to a site called "Web Design for Idiots," a site I clicked to for two reasons: First, I want to know more about web design, and second, I'm kind of an idiot when it comes to these things. Everything I know about web design so far I've had to teach myself, and here is what I learned since I first started a blog back in 2005:



I can type things into my blog.

So when I found out about
About Web Design for Idiots and begin reading through there, I was expecting a lot of technical jargon and HTML and OSC and XIRLRDKR (I made that up typing randomly. That's another thing I can do, web-design-wise.)

But it's not that, not at all. True, there are technical terms, but it's pretty hard, I guess, to talk about web design and NOT use technical terms. And around all the technical terms are blog entries and articles and pages that give actual good advice on web design.

Like the article on "dunking your splash page," which caught my eye because, well, I had no idea what it might be about. I didn't know if "dunking" was a web design term, and what a "splash page" might be. So I read the article, and learned that a "splash page" is that annoying first page of a website where you have to sit through a bunch of animated garbage before you get to enter a website -- and I learned, too, why it's not a good thing to have a splash page (which is good, because I was thinking I would have to have one even though I hate them, and now I know I don't need one and it's better if I don't.)

What I liked most of all, though, was that the article was written not for idiots -- catchy as the title of the site is -- but written instead for people like me, who are smart, and all, but who don't know the first thing about websites and web design. In a few quick paragraphs, the author set me straight on what a splash page is and why it's a bad thing and also threw in a bunch of other information, like how search engines work and why splash pages mess you up for them.

You can look right on the web design for idiots main page website tutorials to find the topics you're interested in, or click around to get your web design questions answered by web design for idiots, or just browse through the site to find well-written, interesting, and informative articles that'll get you going on web designing and make you more informed about what you're doing on the Internet.

The site can can even teach you to teach yourself oscommerce for newbies oscommerce file structure -- whatever that is; I began browsing it and bookmarked it for future reference. I plan on going back to that site more and more.


Steve Explains Why They're Called Blockers.

I just stared and stared. I’d never imagined anything like this, and I’d seen a lot of weird stuff in my two weeks. As I watched, some of them flickered and lit up or dimmed down.

“What’s going on?” I asked Steve, forgetting for a moment that I was repulsed by him.

“They’re coming and going. Technically, we only have their souls here. Their bodies are still back in the dimension we live in ordinarily. When the bodies they inhabit sleep or are shut down, they come here. So long as the bodies are intact, that is. If the body is destroyed, the soul might get lost.”

“They’re dead?”

“They’re zombies.”

So, yeah. They were dead.

And I’m dead.

I didn’t say that to Steve. I guess I knew, really, before that moment, that I’d died. After all, I’d known I was different, and Samson had really pushed it into my mind that I was a zombie But I didn’t … know it, didn’t feel it inside me. It’s one thing to have something be part of your background awareness, and another entirely to have it suddenly consume your whole mind. As I stood there looking at the naked zombies I shuddered and looked again at my own body and I wanted to tear it off of me, throw it away. It wasn’t even my body.

It wasn’t even my body.

I felt tears starting up but Steve was staring at me and I decided I had to be a little stronger than that.

“Why do they come here?” I asked.

I meant why do they come to this cave, the souls, but I guess Steve didn’t know that because he said:

“Because we’ve blocked Heaven.”

I was startled and looked at him. “What?”

Steve turned to me, flappy gross eyelids lifting in surprise. “Why do you sound so surprised?”

“Why wouldn’t I be surprised when someone tells me that they’ve blocked Heaven?”

“You knew that, of course. Didn’t Samson tell you?” I shook my head. He looked at the two guys who were kind of guarding me. “Didn’t you figure it out from our name?”

“What name?”

The Blockers,” Steve said. “Granted, it’s a dumb name, but we did not give it to ourselves; it’s what the third group started calling us. I suppose we needed a name, and we’d never given one to ourselves. So they started calling us ‘the blockers,’ and we took to it. Even had logos designed,” and he pointed to the little logo on his polo shirt, the gate with the bar over it.

I sat down.

“Why would you block Heaven?” I asked.

“We had to,” Steve said. “It was absolutely necessary to avoid Armageddon.”

There was a bit of commotion down the hall. I put my hands on my face and said “What does that mean, you blocked Heaven, anyway?”

Someone said “Stay here, please” but it was far away.

Steve was, when I looked up at him, looking at his Read-Or unit.

“Quit reading my mind,” I snapped at him.

“I can see you’re upset,” he said.

“You don’t need to look at my thoughts to see that.”

Steve was studying the Read-Or, though, and he looked up at me then and said “It wasn’t pleasant at all, I’m sure.” He mumbled it, almost to himself. He looked at the two guys. “What’s going on out there?”

“I’ll go see,” said one guy.

Steve looked back down at me. He bit his lip for a moment, and when he let up on it the lip stayed indented. Gross. “When Armageddon began, we realized it quickly. Not just me. I wasn’t even created then. But the people who originally ran the Blockers realized it. They had a Map room in our dimension and had noticed the increase in warfare, the rapid increase in warfare, across the dimensions, and were monitoring it. Heaven itself, as a dimension, is very hard to monitor. It’s in the center of all the dimensions, of course, and to watch it one has to get through a lot of other information, plus Heaven’s information is well protected by that wall God put around it.

“But they monitored it anyway. They were, I suppose, the government, almost, back then, although they didn’t have much power. But if you trace it down, we might be the remnants of the last real “government” the way people think of it. Not that it’s much to be missed. It’s not missed at all, in fact, since people think it still exists.

“A few people realized what was happening, though, or suspected, and so they began taking steps. They created revenants, like me, for one thing.”

Steve paused and looked off into space, staring blankly for a second. Almost, I felt almost sorry for him. But he was disgusting and he’d kidnapped me and he’d blocked off Heaven, or at least worked for people who did.

“They had to do that, because revenants, like other undead, can move more easily among the dimensions. Like you can. If you try. Otherwise, it takes a great deal of energy to do that. A great deal. Moving our things to Hell, for example, depleted about one-half of the entire power supply of the world for an entire week.”

“Sir,” one of the two guys interrupted. “I think we need you.”

“What is it?” Steve asked.

“He’s… trying to come down here.”

“What? How did he escape?”

“He wasn’t really tied up anymore.”

“This is ridiculous. I’m trying to talk here. Take him back and sedate him or something.”

The man looked back down the corridor and nodded. “Um. Okay. All right,” he said, and he walked back down. I could hear voices but I didn’t listen to them. I watched the lesbians flicker and listened to Steve.

“I may have to save the longer explanation for another time. Anyway, they began preparing to do something, the government did, our group did, suspecting that Armageddon was coming and then one day, they realized it was here. They looked in the Map and saw that the Gate of Heaven was open. The Gate opens, of course, only when God comes or goes. Angels use a side door. So they knew that God had come out of Heaven, and they knew they had to act.

“The Gate, you see, has to remain open. Heaven is the source of God’s power, in a way. He’s inextricably interlinked with that dimension. It was the first dimension, maybe the first he created or maybe both came into existence at the same time. Nobody knows. But we do know that God and Heaven are linked and that the Gate must remain open or God is cut off from His power.

“So when they saw the Gate open, they put their team to work. A group of revenants was sent to Heaven and told to close the Gate and block it off, and they did. That was before my time, too, but they recorded it and I’ve seen it. There was a brief battle, as the Angels tried to fight off the Revenants, but they were really no match for the Revenants because there weren’t many of them left in Heaven – too many were off setting up the other dimensions for the End of Times. And our group had the element of surprise. So we were able to close the Gate and block it off, trapping God out of Heaven and cutting off most of his power. And stopping Armageddon until we could figure out what to do next.”

There was more ruckus and I heard some yells including He said you’re not supposed to go there. I was trying to absorb what Steve had told me when I heard more running footsteps and someone trying to punch or hit someone and tackle someone and then a couple of guys came tumbling into our little ledge area. I recognized, to my surprise, two of them. One of them was the guy who’d gone up the hallway at Steve’s direction.

The other was Brigitte’s dad.

“You,” he said, and tried to push the guards off of him, but they piled on top of him and held him down.

Meet the Army.

“Who?” I asked. I continued staring at the maps as they moved slowly around and rotated and glittered.

“God, Inc.” Steve tried to pull me back from the maps, but I was looking at another circle, or sphere, I guess, and reaching out my hand and I pulled away from him. I reached out and stuck a finger in, my hand passing through it without resistance and feeling a wash of heat and warmth and color come over me. Yes, I felt color. I felt what blue and red and yellow feel like and how they swarm together and mix and hug as they create other colors, too, and I felt pulled around, a little, wrapped up, and kind of dizzy, as I smelled and heard and saw and felt all at once and I felt compressed, a little, like I was being pushed and pushed and pushed from all sides at once, like someone was standing on each of my pores and pushing inward.

I stumbled backwards and Steve said “There are some dimensions people really can’t go to. That’s one of them.” He shook his head. “They’ve got it all muddled up there. Their war is particularly bad. Someone there managed to fold them, warp their reality so that all the lines blur.”

I kind of knew what he was talking about.

“So now there, men are women and things are not-things and everyone, I think, is going mad. You see what we have to do, don’t you?”

I stood up. “No,” I said, simply. I was still looking at the maps. A man walked by carrying a few small boxes and stopped and looked at me.

“You,” he said. I turned to him. He was wide-eyed with excitement. “What are you doing here?” he asked. “No, wait. Sorry. Are you with us, now?”

“Um. No,” I said. Steve sucked in through his teeth. “Maybe,” I added.

The guy reached out his hand. I looked at it, not knowing what to do.

“Go away. Do you have business to do?” Steve said.

“I’m sorry,” the man said. “I’m just such a fan. Such a fan.” He gave a sad look to Steve and picked his boxes up off the desk and moved on.

“What was that?” I asked.

“Nothing,” said Steve.

“You’re lying.”


“Shouldn’t you maybe tell me the truth if you want me to help?”

“Shouldn’t you help if you want the truth?”

I turned away from where the man was and looked at Steve, trying to concentrate, which was hard because he was in front of the map and I just wanted to stare at it.

“The truth first,” I said.

“No,” he said simply. He glanced down at his hand. I looked at him and then realized what he was looking at.

“Hey, no more reading my mind,” I said, and reached out, but he lifted up the Read-Or unit and held it up. “Give me that,” I said, jumping up. God, he was tall. I couldn’t reach his hand. Not that I’m much of a jumper. “Give it back to me,” I said. “Those are my thoughts.” He just held it up and said

“So you really do want to know what that was all about.”

I tugged at his shirt, trying to ignore the clammy, oystery quality that revenant skin has. “Give me my thoughts,” I said.

“I can tell you,” he said calmly.

I stepped back and thought for a second.

“Okay,” I said. “Give it to me or I’ll wipe it off.” I licked my hand and held it over my forehead.

Steve laughed. “Then you wouldn’t be able to do even the limited things you do now, like when you touch the map. You won’t be able to see those dimensions. You won’t even see the map like it is now.”

I held my hand over my forehead, still, and said “So?”

Steve shook his head.

“Plus, if you leave it on, you might be able to Share with Brigitte,” he said.


“Maybe I’m mad at her.”

Steve looked up at the Read-Or, still held over his head.

“Apparently, you’re mad at her breasts,” he said.

I put my hand down, and thought about Brigitte’s breasts for another moment or two. The two guys near Steve, the guys that had been watching me, moved closer and tried to see the screen. Then I dove at Steve as quickly as I could, trying to tackle him, but he simply turned a little and stepped to the side and I went flying straight into the map, falling into it as I passed through two or three of the spheres – glimpses of horses and a starry sky and some kind of giant machines shooting at each other and once, a boat sinking and a woman sitting in a window—and fell to the ground, knocking the wind out of me.

“I knew you were going to do that,” Steve said. “Now, shall we calm down? Trust me. If you’re not prepared to cooperate, I’m prepared to make you cooperate. But I’d rather that you help us voluntarily. It will make you feel better and me feel better.”

“Revenants don’t have feelings.” I said, gasping.

“Neither do zombies, then.” Steve said.

“You’re not very nice.”

“I’m an undead man who survives by sucking the life force out of the living, and I’m the field commander for a group of people who are trying to stop Armageddon using a lesbian zombie operating out of a base in Hell. No, I’m not,” Steve said.

I sat back on my knees and tried to catch my breath.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked. “Not that I’m agreeing to anything.”

“Follow me again,” Steve told me and started walking off. I had to try to stand up and get after him while still out of breath. The two guys stayed behind me. I noticed neither of them had ray guns that I could see.

The people that were working in the map room had watched this, but they went back to work now and we walked around the map and out a little cave in the other side. It was darker here, the lights dim and the cave looking new and rough. Ahead, I could see a little flicker of light here and there.

It wasn’t a long trip. We went through the cave and came out onto a ledge where Steve stopped. I almost bumped into him and moved to the left, but he held out a bony arm and stopped me. He felt like a dead lizard. His hand fell right across my breasts.

“Hey,” I said.

When I did that, I heard a whole fluttering kind of sound, a shuffling or movement or something. I realized we were on a ledge and there was no rail. I’d almost walked right off of it. There were flickers of light, like lightning bugs, almost, every now and then here and there throughout the cavern but it was very dark, for that.

“This is what you want me to see?” I said. Again, that sound. I’d heard it before, almost. There was a feeling in the air and a sort of undercurrent. “What is this?” More of that sound, or hush. I didn’t know what it was.

“You’ve actually been here before, do you know that?” When Steve talked, that extra current didn’t follow him.

“I have?”

There is was again.

“Yes. Not long ago. You were over there,” I couldn’t see where he was pointing. My eyes were trying to adjust to the dark. I tried to focus on the little flickers of light but they were either very small or very far away. “In fact, I tried to come talk to you.”

“I…” I didn’t know what to say, and that echoey-thing that was happening after every time I tried to talk was unnerving me, freaking me out.

“You were sitting by some rocks and there was a girl with you.”

“Naked girl,” I said. More shuddering echoes, and somewhere, a sound like a slap or handclap or footstep.


I thought back. “That was you,” I said. “Outside the cave, trying to talk to me or get me?” I could hear footsteps now. I looked over my shoulder. Those two guys were there, nobody else. Besides, it was coming from the dark.

“If you had talked to me it would have made things so much easier and we wouldn’t have had to grab you with the giant. But I suppose this way you were able to see just what Samson and God, Inc. are really like.” I kept hearing those footsteps. “So it might have worked out for the best.”

“But…” That shuffling again, and the footsteps were closer. It was weird. I stopped talking and Steve looked at me.

“Turn on the lights,” he said. One of the men reached over, and the first thing I saw was blurry lights and cavern walls and rock ceilings.

The second thing I saw was Naked Girl, walking towards me. She was the footsteps that I’d heard. She was naked again, and barefoot, of course.

The third thing I saw was hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe more, of other naked girls, lined up in rows. Rows after rows after rows of naked girls, standing there mutely, staring at me.

“What…” I said.

“This is our zombie army,” Steve said.

Armageddon out of here. (I couldn't resist.)

Steve had no flare for the dramatic; he should have said that in a minute or so. But instead, he said it as we plodded through a dimly-lit cave hallway, with the two regular guys behind me. We walked in silence until we got to a door and he pulled on a lever and the door swung open.

Inside the room was full of desks and chairs and people and high-tech stuff all of which I didn’t notice for at least 10 minutes. Someone could have been chewing on my leg and I wouldn’t have noticed that for 10 minutes, because the room was dominated by a giant holographic display that at first appeared to be like a giant bunch of grapes. I’m no good with descriptions, so that’s the best I could do at first – a giant bunch of grapes. As I adjusted to looking at it, I realized that it was a huge cluster of spheres, projected into the air and filling most of this cavern. The spheres weren’t in any particular order or shape, really, but just were all glommed together, some touching, some overlapping, some barely next to each other. They were all roughly the same size except that towards the middle they got bigger.

Each sphere, as I walked in and as I began to notice more and more detail, was subtly a different color, and they whole thing was moving slowly: spheres were rotating and some were moving up, or down, or more towards the middle, or out from the middle. They cast a hazy light over the whole cavern, so that when, eventually, I looked away, everyone in the room was bathed in it as though they were underwater and there were 73 suns above them.

I kept walking closer and closer and saw that there was more detail in the spheres, each of which was about 3 feet in diameter. I could make out shapes and features on the closest ones. At first I thought they were patterns but when I was about 5 feet away from the nearest one, a big yellow-and-blue hologram I saw that they weren’t just random patterns but were like continents. I’d seen continents since waking up—Doc had shown me a map of the planet when I’d been asking him questions, and had explained what continents were and had shown me how our own continent came to have the Straits in them, that giant divide that split what used to be North America diagonally and left a huge waterway between America and West America. He’d explained it all and I’d been bored and hungry so I hadn’t paid much attention but I did remember continents, and I looked at this sphere and tried to figure if the shapes were continents.

It was hard to focus, though, because the spheres flickered, too, and I couldn’t make out what the flickering was. “Flickering,” again, isn’t the right word. “Glittering” maybe, is better because it gives a better idea of how it looked. Flickering sounds bad, like your screen is going out. “Glittering” sounds good, like things are sparkly and you’re getting ready for a party. The sphere I was looking at, and the others nearby it, were glittering and sparkling and I tried to focus on that for a second and I realized that the glittering was tiny pictures – moving pictures, moving images, hundreds if not thousands of them in the spheres, so quick and so small that I could see them only as an impression: a man here, something with tentacles there, a chariot carrying a giant glowing spear, rain, a table with food – all in detail but all flickering so quickly that my eyes must have registered it and then later I remembered seeing it.

I was holding my hand up near the globe and I almost touched it. But I stopped and looked at Steve.

Again, no flare for the dramatic: He simply said “Fine. Everyone wants to touch them. Go ahead.”

I gingerly touched it, not knowing what to expect. When I did, my hand barely touched the light that made up the globe and all the glittering images began to be more clear and I had an impression, a glimpse: Mountains, mountains taller than anything I could imagine, covered with snow at their bases, piles and piles of snow that never melted, which faded away to rock as the mountain went up, and then to grass and forest and trees and on the very top of the mountain, a flat plain in which a lake sat surrounded by pristine white beaches. People roamed the mountains in lopsided chariots, one wheel smaller than the other. The giant glowing spear…

I took my hand away. I was kind of dazed.

“You won’t get the full effect, of course, because you can’t Share,” Steve told me. “But that digipaint imprint gives you an idea.” He moved closer, and looked at the globe. “Dimension 63,” he said. “A weird one. One planet, only. One sun. The whole planet is mountainous, and the sun’s light doesn’t reach into the valleys, so they are in continuous ice age at the base of the mountains. At the top of the mountains, though, it’s perpetually summer.” He looked at me. “How much did you see?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Some.”

“They’ve discovered flight, and that allows them to get between the mountains more easily. Prior to that, I imagine, intermountain commerce wasn’t very big. They’ve also got a war going on, like all the other dimensions. Except Hell. Although I suppose Hell would have a war going on, too, if it could.”

He turned around, looked at one of the men. “That’s odd, you know. There should be a war going on here, too.”

“Why should there be a war?” I asked him. He was drawing me in, I was curious. And I still hadn’t looked away from the globes. I was forgetting, even, that he was a revenant.

“Because it’s Armageddon,” Steve said. “I thought I made that clear before. The end of the world is coming, or is trying to come, and we need you to help stop it and to save the 73 dimensions.”

“I really don’t understand,” I said back. I was still staring at Dimension 63, as he’d called it, trying to take in the glittering little lives that kept flashing at me, trying to picture life in a world of mountains. But I couldn’t really even picture life in this world, or at least not a life that didn’t involve kidnapping me and shooting me with ray guns and ending up all the time in Hell talking to revenants. Mountains seemed pretty nice at that point.

“This is a map of the universe,” Steve said, flicking his bony gross hand towards the globes in a dismissive gesture. He should have swept his arm wide and used a better tone, but revenants are sort of dead inside. Not even sort of, I guess. “These are the 73 dimensions that make up the universe, or the part we know. You can see how they interact and move. We’ve mapped them out as best we can using the best technology we can, something various groups have been working on for a long time to achieve.”

“Like the government?”

Steve looked over at me. I hate when revenants look at you out of the corner of their eye because you see only those ragged ripped eyelids.

“There’s no government. You should know that. There hasn’t been a government for a long time. There’s just us, and another group, but that other group doesn’t really exist anymore, and God, Inc.”

Steve the Revenant.

“Why does she keep thinking of underwear?” I heard, off to my right.

So much for nothing there with me.

“Who’s there?” I called out. My voice sounded quiet, dim.

Silence. But the kind of silence that you hear when people are trying to be quiet. I waited and then said “Who’s there?” again. I was met with more silence. “You might as well come out, I heard you,” I said. I was trying to sound brave. I was mostly scared and a little woozy, still.

What’s she thinking?” I heard someone whisper.

I tried to clear my thoughts. I tried not to think of anything.

A hallway,” came the whisper. “Here, look. A hallway? What were they talking about? But I remembered, then, and listened to the voices describe my memories: See? It’s got those lights. Definitely part of their operation. Yep. There he is. Call Steve. He’ll want to see this. That’s definitely Lieutenant Samson. Who’s that girl? Oh, yeah, the one she was thinking about before. With the underwear. That’s the other one we’ve got, down in the cave.

The one with the underwear. Brigitte! I remembered, then, clearly, what had happened in the hallway.

Why’s it blue?” I heard. I tried looking in the direction of the voices but couldn’t see anything over there.

Shh… I’m calling Steve. It’s blue because of her emotions.

A cave is probably not the best place to keep secrets. I think their voices were echoing because they were talking pretty quietly. I had pretty quickly gathered that they could somehow read my thoughts or my memories or something and was trying to calm them down. Then I had an idea. I pictured myself tearing off the straps and going after them, beating them up. I didn’t know who they were, but I figured it might scare them a little.

Hey, look at this,” one of the voices said. The other was saying something to Steve about she’s awake and Lieutenant. She’s trying to fool us,” the voice went on.

I gave up and instead went back to tugging a little on the straps. I spent a few minutes doing that and gave up on that, too. I tried not to think of anything and that kept not working. All kinds of images and memories flew through my head as I kept working on not letting these guys see anything important, and also on not thinking about Brigitte, which worked about as well as you’d guess it might. How could she do that? How could she pretend to be in love with me?

“Oh, this is unnecessary,” said a new voice. I recognized the kind of voice and looked around. An ugly face came into view, just off to my right. “Why is she naked?” I saw the revenant clearly, his tattered eyes, his gray, drawn face, his greasy and straggly hair – he was an old one, around a long time. But he had a very nice polo shirt on, too. Very business-like.

“That’s a side effect, sir,” said the guy who had called Steve. I couldn’t see him yet. “When we bring her here, it strips off her clothes.”


“I don’t know.”

“We should know,” said the Revenant, Steve. He leaned over me. I didn’t like his old, rotting smell. “How are you?”

I didn’t answer.

“Now, come on. That’s not going to work at all. I don’t want to fight with you and I don’t want to have to force you. We brought you here for a specific purpose and it’s one that I think you’ll agree with. Plus, we saved you from a very untenable situation, don’t you think? Getting gassed and attacked by that Lieutenant? And it was hardly working out with Brigitte, was it? I could have warned you about that.

“Oh, no,” he said, then, after a pause. “I’m not going to bad mouth her.” He sucked in a breath, which surprised me. Revenants aren’t supposed to breath, except when they’re sucking life out of people. He was too far away to go after me. He must have been doing it for dramatic purposes. “I know that you loved her. I’m just sorry she used you the way she did.”

I was instantly on my guard. He was trying to get on my good side because they knew about the whole Brigitte thing. I didn’t want to listen to him.

“You don’t want to listen to me, I know,” he said. He motioned a hand and one of the other guys came up. “Let her go,” he told him.

“But,” the guy said. “Orders.”

“Orders that I’m now changing. She doesn’t need to be tied down and embarrassed. You,” he said to the other guy behind him, “Go get her some clothes.” He turned back to me. “It’s going to be a polo shirt,” he told me, a little apologetically. I noticed that there were little flecks of blood on his forearm and he saw me looking.

“Sometimes this job is messy. You’d expect that, wouldn’t you? After all, I am a revenant. Then again, we can’t help what we are, can we. I didn’t ask to be this soul-sucking damned thing, and you didn’t ask to be brought back from the dead as a conglomeration of pieces of other people, did you? I know you didn’t.” The straps were off now and I was sitting up, looking at him. I was very suspicious of him but also I wanted to move around a little.

“You can move around a little,” he said. “I suppose it doesn’t matter if you’re naked right now. You’ll be clothed soon enough.” I looked to my right and to my left as I stood up, trying to figure out where the entrance was to the cave, a way out. Steve laughed. “That’s what I’d do, too,” he said. He pointed to his right. “The entrance is that way. You won’t get out.”

“How are you reading my mind?” I asked him.

He reached up and pointed to my forehead. I put my hand there but didn’t feel anything. “You wont’ feel anything,” he said. He held up his hand, and I saw a little Read-Or device there, a smaller one than the others I’d seen. On the screen I could see my own face and my hands. The color was yellow. “Yellow means confusion,” he said. He reached out a finger and I shied back. “May I?” he said. “I won’t hurt you, and you don’t have the right kind of life force for me to live on, anyway.”

I relaxed a little, and saw his eyes flick towards the screen, then back to me. He pressed a finger against my forehead. “It looks like a tattoo, almost,” he said, “So we tried to make it like that. I’m sorry that it had to be on the forehead, since that’s the best place to get a reading from but also it’s pretty noticeable.” He traced his finger back and I tried not to shudder or pull away. His finger was cold. “It’s digipaint.” He sounded like he was explaining, but I didn’t know what that was. “It helps transmit your thoughts to us. You can’t Share, you know, and we needed to figure out if you were really who we thought you were.”

I looked off to my left, to his right, involuntarily, almost. He looked that way, too. “I’d have to try to stop you, and I don’t want to. I’d have to try to stop you though because if you made it to the entryway of the cave, you’d find only a huge force gate and a couple of heavily armed guards. The gate isn’t just to keep you in. It’s to keep the demons and other denizens of Hell out. And if you got up there and touched the gate, it might be enough to disintegrate you. And we don’t have time to have you put back together, plus there’s no promise that you’d still be you and we’ve looked a long time for you, Rachel.”

He reached out again, and picked up my left hand. I pulled it back but he kept his grip on it. “This was the giveaway, the left hand.” I got it back from him.

“What’s going on?”

“I’ll tell you, Rachel. Come with me. Oh, wait, your clothes are here. You’d better get dressed. Unless you want everyone in our organization to see you naked. It’s really your choice.”

“I’m not coming with you.”

“You are. And you’ll want to. I think you’ll really want to come with me, rather than sit here in the dark in a cave and wonder if I’m right about the force gate and what it would do to you. And you’d rather, I imagine, come with me than wander out into Hell on your own and hope that your sexy Valkyrie friend finds you. Because this is your real body here, you know. We brought your whole body here, this time, not just your soul.” He paused and looked at his little monitor. “Yes, we had a lot of time to read your thoughts. I won’t apologize for that, either. The stakes are too high. We do what we have to do. And so will you, I bet. I can also offer you food, and drink, and I think you’ll like that better than running around a dark cave.”

He paused then and looked back at me from the archway where he was standing. “Plus, I’m going to ask you to help save all 73 dimensions from certain doom.”

Part 11: The Blockers.

Rachel wakes up in a cave, having been pulled away from Albuquerque by a giant hand ...

1. I think I'm alone now...

2. Steve the Revenant

3. Armageddon Out of Here (I couldn't resist)

4. Meet the Army.

5. Steve Explains Why They're Called The Blockers.

6. Mr. Lockhart: Master of the Octopi.

7. Meanwhile In New York.

Part 11 (1): I think I'm alone now.

Part Eleven:

I wasn’t in New York. I wasn’t in the diner. I was in shackles. Bound, again, and spread-eagled. And naked. Always naked. I realized all of that as I came out of a stupor. I hadn’t actually ever slept, I thought. Maybe I had. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. The diner sort of melted away, disappearing in swaths and patches and being replaced by… a cave.

I was in a cave. That’s what I realized as I woke up fully and tugged at the armbands that were holding me. My feet felt asleep and tingly and I worried about them for a moment, then decided that I couldn’t do anything about them just yet. I tried to wiggle my toes a little as I looked around.

No Doc.

No Brigitte.

I realized I was sad and confused about that, about Brigitte not being there, and tried to work through the confusion and cloudy thinking. Brigitte was… mad at me? No, I was mad at her. I kept trying to look through the gloom. I only knew I was in a cave because on one side there were rock walls and there was a rock ceiling above me. Off to my right I couldn’t see much at all. It was too dark and gloomy. My skin tingled, though, and I looked down over my body, past my naked breasts and down over my naked legs and through my wiggling toes – I was relieved to see I was wiggling them – and saw more gloom and then maybe a little patch.

Of red.

My skin was tingling and I didn’t like it.

I pulled at my left hand, but no go. I tried to lift my head more, felt a collar at my throat. I pulled at my right hand. No go, either.

Okay. So nothing I could do. Should I yell? What if someone came? It’s a pretty sure bet that whoever came would have had something to do with locking me up in the first place, tying me down. And why naked, I wondered? Why was I naked again?

I didn’t call, though. I decided to think a little more. I was trying to think of a way out, but all I kept thinking about was Brigitte and I didn’t know what to think about her. It’s like my thoughts were circling around each other, waiting to begin to fight. They just kept circling, though, never actually mixing it up.

I wished Doc was there. I tried to think what had happened. Recreate how I got here. I kept focusing on Brigitte and then tried to not focus on Brigitte. But it was no good. She was always there. In my mind, I mean, not there with me. As far as I could tell, nothing was there with me.

“Why does she keep thinking of underwear?” I heard, off to my right. So much for nothing there with me.