God Is Nowhere


margaret_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Also featuring:
bella_icon.gif s_deckard_icon.gif francois_icon.gif ghost_icon.gif hana_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

and Walter.

Scene Title God Is Nowhere
Synopsis Teo dreams a strange if familiar host of angels.
Date July 20, 2010

Whatever they put the hybrid in, for lack of a spare sci-fi sedation coffin, smells like fresh plastic, mealy and cloying. So: he dreams of the new Jeep first, with its new-Jeep-smell. Peter's gift, delivered in Darien, Georgia, in 2011 to a version of Teo that is neither Ghost nor the dumb kid, but someone in-between. Characterized by a wardrobe primarily of khakis, chronic unemployment, great talent for fishing, and two tattoos the hybrid does not yet have, and might never. He is fiddling key into ignition, breathing in the stink of factory-fresh calfskin, and not surprised to see Teo in the rearview.

"Sweet car," Teo says, smoothing his palm over the upholstery. "I like it."

"We both did," the other one answers. When the engine comes on, the resonance breathes buttery through the whole car.

"You and who?"

"Him," the little one answers. "The reason you're doing all this, but you forgot his name."

"Then," Teo says, irritably, "he can't be

The only reason Teo goes to church anymore is for clandestine Ferry operations, mostly involving plumbing, so he doesn't know why he's here at first. It's a cathedral, and not St. Luke's, either. Something Catholic, medieval, its floors the texture of sweat and trodden smooth like wax.

It takes him a few minutes to realize that there is something wrong, and even then, he isn't sure what it is. The nave and aisles are boxed in by walls rectangled to represent the stability of Earth, ascending along countless increments of brick toward the ceiling, rib-vaulted and swooped with arches to represent the curvature of Heaven. Everything is stone except the paint, medieval portraitures of angels garlanded by spinachy-mottled marble scrolls, a lady Liberty singing songs across the dead surface of a pond. The four Evangelists, Mark, Luke, John and Peter preside over great muralled parade floats of people garbed and complected of various dead cultures along the four first rivers. Pupilless, sinewy-shouldered busts of nameless angels and saints who flank Mary and her child. Teo leaves all adult depictions of Jesus, both painted and sculpted, out of his dreams. He has never liked that particular portrayal, thinking that it makes their Savior look weak.

It is terribly dark, except for one point of light coming through the double-doors. Teo goes toward it, and realizes that it isn't the sun through the keyhole or broken-off locks, but that the sun is inside the church, pierced through by a thin, wicked black hook through its center. It is about as big as an infant's head, wriggling urgently, bouncing waves of light off the jointed ceiling. The iron binding the door is fused, molten a dull, glowing red around it. It shines too brightly to look at directly.

Movement behind him. Teo turns his head to see Dr. Sheridan sitting on the front pew, a veil over her face and the knot cinched with a round, silver brooch under her chin. She seems rather tense, looking at him, perhaps because he had shot her in the leg. "If you could get us out of here, I'd appreciate it," she tells him.

"Maybe if there were windows," he says. "I'm not going to burn my hands off for you. Or even for me. You do it."

Dr. Sheridan frowns at him, and then glances off to look at a painting, perhaps expecting that eventually testosterone inspire in him the urge to do something, even if it's something stupid, far sooner than her patience will run out. Uneasily, he supposes this is true. Teo looks around and spots a ragged lump folded up in the corner of the nave, and steps toward it. When it looks up, it doesn't really have a face.

(He had nightmares about this one often, back in 1997, while he had worked with clean-up. Photos of those damn West Point kids who'd caught the Bomb's second-wave heat-flash head-on, and held formation seated on the curb the uncomfortable heat of fall afternoon, absurdly disciplined even in the shocky stink of death, waiting for the emergency personnel to come. They had perhaps not realized that their eyes were now jelly-melt down their cheeks and mouths puckered scabs, the tidy cuffs and edges of their uniforms charred into the flesh-melt of their bodies. Someone had gotten them a melted slurpee each, slid the straws onto their slicky, blistered tongues, two red ones and three blue ones, as they they had asked. Someone else had had a Polaroid on them and got them at an angle that lined them up in exsquisite symmetry.)

Though Teo had never known their names, this one seems to be Jerry, and already an officer. He drops into a crouch and says, "I didn't expect to see you again."

"I'll open the doors for you," Jerry tells him in a funny Southern twang, and holds up his misshapen crab-claw hands, skin sloughing like stretched-out gloves off his wrists. Teo promises to himself he'll try to find a seamstress for them, but internally, unwilling to get the boy's hopes up. "Just walk me there and tell me what to do. I'm a goner, anyway. No use all of us dyin' in here together."

Hard to argue that logic. Teo tries for a moment, then he says, "All right, if you're sure."

He grasps the boy's uniform, and pulls. Immediately, something inside gives way, a thready wet pop splatter, either charred fabric shredding or thinned membranes herniating, but Jerry just mutters something incomprehensible in dialect and puts an arm over Teo's neck. He smells horrible. They go toward the star on the door, hurdling chunked stone, veering around the lacquered corner of the benches, a three-legged race. Dr. Sheridan makes a slightly facetious grimace, before turning her attention to the lion's head carved into the arm of her bench.

The melted ore is pooling on the floor. Teo lets go of the little officer. "Straight ahead, level with your chest," he says, but the boy steps off and there's a horrible groan, a hiss of scorching boot-leather, a nauseating stench; he reaches forward to catch the teenager's arm, ruthlessly yanking his stride back on-balance. The liquefied iron cuddles closer around Teo's feet and his toes curl inside his shoes. "Just put your hands straight out," he repeats, loudly.

"I can't fuckin' see," the boy is starting to cry. Probably because he hurts everywhere. "You have to move my hands. Please! Please, just hurry up."

"This is really terrible," Dr. Sheridan observes.

So Teo does. It's pulpy and wet and disturbingly warm, like shucking a thawed leg of lamb out of the package, and the sun also has an odd give to it, upon contact, although the screaming starts with the heat, earlier. They start to pull the sun of its hook, but it's slow going, and the knuckles and finger-bones start to poke out of the back of the kid's ropey-sludged hands like the deteriorated corpses they had dug out of the sewer grille in the riverbed in early February. Teo hears his own voice coming through the door, buckling with perspective and warping physics, but it isn't himself as he is now; it's the little one, and there is a hand reaching through before he can call warning, scar-notched fingers closing around the sun. The West Point kid falls

heavy on Teo's neck, but Walter is still small, so it's just the oof of impact. Teo shifts his hip, hitches the boy up higher, and then he feels light. A tiny snore blossoms into Teo's hearing, under his ear. He keeps walking along the dock, listening to the tide lap and click against wood garlanded with barnacles and discolored by paint and sea chemistry. There is a white buoy floating his right, galloping gently in place between aluminium cans, uprooted kelp, and ascending ropes, all these things moving together, synched into the frequency of the tide, but it's the buoy that makes Teo pause. He stops to stare at it. Forgets where he had been going, but Walter yawns again, trying to awaken. "Ummmf," he says. "Dad. Let's go insi-ide, I wanna go to my

room with white walls. No: a white ceiling. An EEG squeaks erratically somewhere, and it takes Teo a moment to catch his heart-rate up with the instrument's frenetic skittering. He tries to find something to hit with his forehead but someone's hand gets in the way: a girl with brown hair and brown eyes gone big with fear. She says, "Darkness

had been the ghost's least favorite medium of close-quarter combat. Water he could do, even if he wasn't the burliest sociopath who had ever studied grappling, and he loved heights— or rather, watching the exsquisite fear of it botching the needlepoint-constriction of pain in the pupils of his opponents when he hit the in the neck. No one dreams of true darkness, though, not even the lucid. There are flickers. Ghost can see his own hand for a second, knows the wall is there before the driving thrust of the enemy's elbow drives into his elbow and drives him into it. Uff.

Darkness threw Ghost off. It made his ability essential yet sickeningly unpredictable to use. Gave him no sight to steal, dispersed sound over uncertain architecture and unpredictable echoes, made borrowed touch treacherous: he'd never know whether he was about to sense the sweep of a kick coming through low a moment before impact, or the crunch of a knife guided into his own body a second too late and then the twitching details of his own death from the wrong perspective seconds before the shock yanked him back, elastically, to die with his body. Every such battle was a reminder of the law of real death. He dreamed of it often.

And he always dreamed winning, of course, and maybe that's why the hybrid dreams it the same way. At the end, the light comes on over a puddle of blood viscously contoured like a figure-eight over some shallow depression in the floor. Sandstone building. Israel or Palestine. It had eventually ceased to matter which.

The ghost is counting his fingers, before he strokes them across the tattoo that edges silkily onto his neck. "I wonder if Delphine will be able to get me my body back," he says, blinking at Teo. "I did like this thing."

But Teo isn't looking. He's looking downward, staring, really, with growing suspicion at the stack of armored limbs, dark hair tufting up and snaking out from under the folded collar. You'd think

the recurring figure of Hana Gitelman should be a welcome thing, but ambiguity, by definition, refuses to be that or any other one particular thing. He isn't sure what she said— whether it was one of those impossibly cold, inadvertently scathing monosyllables that eventually made him stop trying to save them both, or some momentary, irresistable vulnerability. He doesn't know whether he's fucking her or comforting her, whether they are contorted in a clinch or a kinder embrace, whether his fingers are biting into the sheen of sweat between her shoulder-blades or caging the panicky burst of her heart through the sobbing shudder of her back, whether it's a puddle of mingled clothing his knee keeps sliding in or some kind of revelatory rainfall. It's always a dream he feels guilty about waking from because it's a lie; his mind playing tricks on itself; an idealized copy; a cowardly inability to cope with the fact that, in the real world, he had gotten as close to her as he humanly could and they were both still

"Lost," Teo observes. He is twenty-six years old, and scratching at his head through his very short hair, frowning very seriously. "I had just the place. And not Mexico, either."

The hybrid struggles to catch up, but it's very careful going because the cobblestones meet at odd angles and his old, old shoes have all their tread worn away. It is peculiar and irritating, how much more guilt the younger-him had had to compel him, and with it, so much more innocence. "What," the hybrid stops with his shoulder against the alley wall, catches his breath. "What are you holding?"

"Flint's skull." The younger one smiles ruefully.

"Put that down!" the hybrid waves his hands and is frowned at for his trouble. Where are they? Palermo, somewhere, or maybe Berlin. All these back-alleys look the same. The working class of every major city makes their burrows in such hive complexes, laundry-lines their underwear out with the same selective indifference to privacy, bangs on their ceilings, lives between lease to year-long lease, ever opportunistically aware, penny-pinching to upgrade from one shitty box to one with twenty greater square-footage or a nearer grocery store. Teo might be the only man in the world who would readily admit to wishing he could be a mermaid. There are no other skulls around here. He startles when a big black raven takes off from an AC unit too close to his head, follows it with an envious glare as its tailfeathers give a flippant little flip and vanish over somebody's tiny satellite dish. He can't tell who's in it. "What the fuck are you going to do with that?"

"I'm growing roses out of his eyes. Unfortunately," the younger man holds it out to look at it from an arm's length and backs across stones without having to look where he's stepping, "to do that, he has to eat shit and die." He turns around and shades his

eyes had been brown. Are brown, Teo reminds himself. Gone doesn't mean dead. Not for Bennatis, especially, and Rommy had been one; Lucia had never let him forget.

It takes more effort, though, to keep memories alive enough to remain relevant without the certainty of life behind it, and he has always trended toward nostalgia enough to do it. Christian 'Einliter' Powell, in a green messenger bag and a multitude of stupid little pranks, military traditions. Conrad in every stolen vehicle, Minea in running shoes and forged nurse tags and secrets sold to anybody who wasn't obviously a threat. Somebody in a lock of red hair, erased from discrete memory but preserved in a familiarity of

small gestures actually keep just as well as grand ones, perhaps by merit of repetition. Francois setting an unfamiliarly long table in the familiar brownstone, his precision with origamied napkins and multiple silverware somehow greater now that he has surgeon's memories than they had been before. Domestic freebies to go with the lobectomy and hospital code colors, maybe? Pink for missing minor, black for bombs. Matte-ruby tablecloth, bluebells in a vase, the rooster print prancing the wall. Smallest fork for salad, opposite the implement for soup. It's nice to think they could've gotten good at this on their own, given enough time.

Where there should be dessert ware, however, there is a pistol, above each setting. A dull gray revolver, not too long nor tailor-bevelled short, just the right size for homicide; that's Deckard's. Abby's is a fashionable little pearl-gripped pistol, the like for Southern belles in films Teo never watched. Wilbur is at the head, and Felix's SiG opposite a blocky, interchangeable Glock that had disappeared with Ethan the other month. Daphne gets an air gun. Ironically small, a purse-sized Firestar makes its allegiance to Delilah opposite Wilbur.

"And what do you think you are you doing out here?" Francois voice breaks his reverie.

Teo's back goes straight. "Uh," he says, and stops looking for his own weapon. "Well…"

"You're supposed to be cooking, aren't you?" Francois gestures at the door behind Teo and there is a sudden arpeggio of herbal notes in the air, tomatoes and sweet vinegar, cardamom wafting through the air. Teo has the sudden certainty that there is something fully-formed and cinamonny under the cake bell in there, but Francois is right. He's supposed to be cooking. He pulls a wrinkle in the tablecloth flat and immediately (automatically) produces an excuse.

"I brought you half an apricot," he says, holding it up. Its cross-section is the shape of a heart, and Francois nips it out of his hand, a teaspoon still ringed in his own fingers. He chews on it while the Sicilian sidles over to the table and looks at the bluebell. "Did you put that there?" and Francois shakes his head, so Teo tugs it out of its swan-necked vaise, breaks its stalk into starchy segments, grinds up the leaves to brittle dust.

Francois watches him with mild interest. "Thank you for the fruit. It was sweet."

Teo shrugs generously and puts an arm out, around him. He decides that this is nice. Maybe he'll realize he got it wrong when he wakes up, but right now he still remembers how Francois looks and feels and smells. He likes thinking about his man in terms of contrasts and reliefs, of those who pursued their dreams to America only to fail or fall into mediocrity, and Francois Allegre who had dogged the heels of a demon across oceans and succeeded. "I keep waiting for this to degenerate into something fucking awful," Teo admits. He overturns Francois' wrist and makes a game out of their fingers, his callused palm the convergence of Francois' perfect metacarpals around the knife-span seam of scar tissue. "Or there's a dead kid's severed head in the soup toureen, and it has red hair, or blood under the table. Or— fuck, I don't know, the roof peels off and our house has caught nuclear fire, this time."

The roof does not move, or even creak ominously at this suggestion. Francois laughs a little. "Not when you are dreaming about me."

Teo pulls at him. "I like this," he declares. "Maybe I can make this dream about sex. What do you think?"

"I think that would be nice," and the texture of Francois' voice has gone champaigne-y with mirth. He pads a step closer. "But we have larger problems, oui? Pour exemp, the flower did not belong here, like the buoy. And we are apparently having war before our coffees. Also, I am not really here. C'est une probleme plus grande, n'est pas?"

Teo scowls. "But I'm tired."

"You're tired!" Francois unbends from his grasp and turns his face away, then further away, so that Teo can't see it, even when he crabwalks sideways to try kissing it. "Pauvre con. Imagine how I feel."

"You have other things going on," Teo points out, feebly.

"I think," Francois says, "I have made it clear what I expect and want."

Made to feel like a jerk, Teo necessarily subsides, if unwillingly, huffing air up at his bangs. Francois looks back, doesn't exactly soften, but his mouth concedes a smile and he forms his next request gently against the coil of Teo's ear.

An Actual Place

It is like rooting on a tilting iceberg, but Teo stays awake for two seconds. Maybe three. He has to fight to breathe, to perceive the cloy of cotton-mouth and to to identify the irritating padding of the restraints buckled shut around his wrists. He says something rude. Decides, despite the unrealistic meteor shower sound-effect rushing through his ears, that the mousey girl is real and probably more like a young woman. She is wearing a suit that must have either been made for tweens or tailored, depending on whether she's government employ or an expensive outsource. He wonders what he could possibly know that could be worth such expense, and decides that is unlikely. He has enough time for a brief, hysterical memory of Gabriel vanishing out the window and the floor going blurry against his face, before he passes out.

"No— no. Just use the sedative!" Margaret drags at the technician from the white fabric of his sleeve. "If you give him another dose of the compound, you'll brain damage him."

The technician shakes her off, but subsides, his fingers still around the IV. "Technically it isn't a compound," he says. "It's a mixture involving many comp— did you finish with him?"

"No. Yes," she snatches up her clipboard and sidles from her chair, pressing the sheaf of papers against her belly defensively. "I made substantive progress. He's the one we're looking for. This is the one. Teodoro Laudani. But I don't think we should let the doctor dispose of the other one. Not— not yet."

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