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.”

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