Continuing project. I’ve yet to decide whether or not I’m including this in Salvatore Ambulando’s Detritus.
Reach is one of my favorite characters – he’s never anywhere, but yet.
PREFACE: Reach was one of seven men named as such who existed in seven separate universes as multiversally intertwined souls. It was impossible for them to meet; and though, theoretically, it was possible for Reach to cross over to another universe, the chances of encountering one of the other seven were ridiculously low. This was also complicated by the fact that any one Reach jumping universes was being mirrored by the other Reachs.
The origin of Reach is unknown, because Reach himself has yet to create his origins. Reach exists suddenly, and not due to any epic mingling of chaotic strands of eternity in well-defined intersections of “now”. Reach just was and just is – seven times over. He exists sevenfold in time and space, but lives in a dysphoric misalignment with the rest of the universe each iteration of himself inhabits. Frequently, the outsider’s presumption of Reach’s insanity serves only to further separate the heptaphrenic traveler from the only realities that could actually shed light on the purpose of his multifaceted existence.
To further complicate this already complicated tale, Reach does not know he is connected to seven other beings and that everything he does is either influencing or being influenced by one or more of his other existences.
This is Reach Zero, the beginning you’re allowed to consider as such, but not the one that was.
After Reach’s palm connected with the face across the table from him, most of the civility left in the dark fog of the opium den slithered out the cracks between the warped walls.
“Jesus, I didn’t mean to hit you like that, sir,” Reach stammered. “For a moment …” Don’t suggest he looks like a Rottweiler, Reach.
“For a moment, your craggy visage was interrupted by a most disturbing phantasmagoria and I felt, uh, that perhaps sudden -” There it is! Reach slapped the brute again. “-violence might do well to erase the offending illusion from, uh, your-” Rottweiler. “- lovely and most handsome-” Dog face. “-dog’s face.
The brute swung wildly, but with great and sudden force. Reach stumbled out of synchronization with the brute’s timestream and inadvertently dodged the fist.
The handful of patrons sharing the drug-hazed room were too caught up in their own hallucinations to notice that Reach had just blinked out of existence briefly.
The brute lost his balance, tipping over the card table. The oil lamp crashed to the floor and ignited the filthy rugs haphazardly tossed on the floors. The immediate burst of flame was enough to send the rest of the patrons running. The brute hesitated, wondering how he had missed the wiry man who had slapped him.
“Elixirs!” Reach shouted at him over the sudden roar of fire. “That’s what you need, chum.”
Hurtling towards the star, Reach suddenly blurted out, “Elixirs!”
His crew, all locked into their duties, suddenly turned to look at him. The roar of the freighter being blasted by stellar radiation had the floor in the silence of their confusion.
“That’s what we need,” he explained, as if the crew might understand.
Ignoring him, his engineer shouted, “We’ve lost prime and tertiary thrusters, Captain.”
“SHIELDS FAILING,” the computer intoned.
“Angle for the fifth planet,” Reach ordered. “Take us in at a harsh angle and see if we can’t let gravity play savior. With luck, we’ll skim the flares and shoot off into -”
In a sudden lurching of the ship, Reach tipped over his coffee onto a console, which immediately erupted into sparks.
Batting the sudden flames with an emergency manual, Reach cried out, “Someone get me a-”
“Towel. Off with it,” Reach commanded.
“I’m already naked,” the girl responded.
Looking at the girl, Reach started violently. “So you are. How did you get there?”
“You told me to, sir,” the girl said meekly.
“Do you smell fire?”
“Yes well, angle for the fifth planet, let gravity play savior,” Reach hesitated. “Where we about to …?”
“I’m here for an exam.”
Reach retched into a nearby trashcan.
“I feel ill,” Reach said weakly.
“I would think so,” the judge said condescendingly. “I do hereby decree that you, Reach, are condemned to death for the malicious murder of -”
“Oh my god! She’s naked and I’m supposed to examine her?” Reach burst out.
Banging his gavel, the judge barked, “I will not tolerate your continued harassment of your own defense. One more outburst and I’ll tack on three decades of torture.”
Seeing his legal defense for what appeared to be the first time, Reach twitched.
“I’m sorry I spilled coffee on you,” Reach said to his lawyer.
Reach walked happily down the street, politely tipping his hat to those that passed him. The sun was out, the weather was pleasant, and not a single cloud was making its way across the sky.
Stopping at Smitty’s Market, Reach pocketed two apples and flipped Smitty a fifty-cent piece.
“Lovely morning, Mr. Reach,” Smitty said with genuine pleasantness.
“Indeed it is, Mr. Smitty,” Reach replied, continuing his happy walk. “Indeed it -”
Reach suddenly burst into flames. A girl on a merry-go-round screamed, her voice oddly affected by the Doppler Effect as she spun around.
Reach ineffectively pressed his hands against the bulkhead where water was pouring into the communications room.
“Reach!” screamed his counterpart. “Get above, she’s going down!”
“Torpedo!” came the cry from the radar man.
“Angle towards the fifth planet!” Reach screamed back at him. “Let gravity play -”
The submarine exploded.
Reach raised the lit match to his cigarette and puffed repeatedly to light it. Staring up at the starry night through the wisps of tobacco smoke, he took a sip of his coffee, then set it down on the caretaker’s desk.
Mary, the freshman he’d seduced into coming up to the observatory, came up behind him, wrapping her slender arms around his chest from behind.
“Thank you for slugging that brute, Reach,” she said into his ear. “He looked like a Rottweiler.”
“I didn’t like that way he was looking at you,” Reach explained. “You’re too good for him.”
Turning to her, he gently kissed her lips. “So what are you studying again?”
Smiling, she pecked him back. “I’m going to be a lawyer. I have a big examination next week.”
“Can I see you after its over?” Reach asked. “I’ve always wanted to date a lawyer.”
“Who said we were dating?” she responded coyly. “Maybe in a couple of weeks. My kid brother is joining the Navy and I promised to see him off back in Missouri. He wants to be a submarine captain.”
Slinking over to the telescope, she pulled away the voluminous towel the caretaker use as a cover over the eyepiece. “Aren’t you going to show me the stars, big boy?”
“Angle towards the fifth planet,” Reach instructed. “It’s called Jupiter.”
“How do I know where it is?” she asked, looking up at the opened roof.
Smirking, he walked over to the telescope and adjusted the rotator’s lock to the peg marked “5”.
“Set to five, then,” the telescope swung smoothly into position, nudging the unprepared female into his arms. “Let gravity play savior.”
They slid to the ground where the towel was waiting for them.
“Is that an apple in your pocket?” she asked.