“Simon, I’m coming in there in a minute.” Amoc was now speaking through the door. “We really do have a lot we need to get ready.”
Simon again woke to darkness, and again conscious thought was a struggle. The hood still over his head was thick, and impossible to see through. That or it was still night outside. Simon’s hands were restrained. He felt what he assumed was the seat of the SUV beneath him. It was rocking back and forth like they were on a very unimproved road. Simon had seen enough movies to know what this meant.
Well, I’ve died plenty of times in the dream so far. It is a definite way out. Still not sure what The Veil wanted out of this one.
The SUV came to a stop.
“Good?” One of the unknown people asked.
“Good enough.” From the other. “We’re running closer on time than I’d like.”
“We find out what he knows, and then leave him for the Hunter.” Back to the first, deeper voice.
“Leave that to me.” From the second voice, their words more precise.
Hunter? Maybe I am going to find out what The Veil wanted.
Simon suddenly heard one of the doors open, and someone got out. It was several minutes later before his own door opened. Simon was unceremoniously dragged out of the SUV, walked a good distance, and his hood was then removed. They were standing in the middle of a wooded area, though the light pollution told Simon they weren’t all that far from civilization. Clearly this area had been picked as an out of the way spot to dump him after they were done.
Simon finally got a better look at his captors. The large man was well north of six feet tall, and built like a brick house. The second was much more slender and average height; with features so ambiguous Simon wasn’t entirely sure of their gender. Neither said anything, but the slender one’s eyes locked with Simon’s, and he suddenly found that he couldn’t look away. A gentle tugging came at the back of his mind. Simon instinctively resisted, and felt the touch recoil.
“This one’s had some training.” The slender one commented. “I wonder who would have done such a thing? We’re going to need some lubrication to get started, it seems.”
That sounded very decidedly kinky, coming from the slender one. And what training? Dreamwalking?
The large man started walking back to the SUV. Simon chose to remain silent. Yelling for help was unlikely to yield any results. The minutes he had waited before being pulled out of the SUV was likely the large man clearing the area around them. Run for it? Simon was clearly dealing with at least one non-human in the slender one, and that meant the large man likely was non-human as well. Running and fighting were out. These two clearly had some agenda on who they thought he was, and that seemed the most likely candidate for what The Veil wanted to show Simon. The only play now was to wait and see what happened next.
A couple of minutes went by, and the large man hadn’t returned. The slender one was clearly becoming impatient.
“Oh, he better have remembered to bring it.” The slender one stated. “It’s going to be quite a lot more difficult, and unpleasant for you if we have to do this the old fashioned way.”
Simon continued his silence. The large man still failed to return.
A howl came from the darkness. It seemed to come from no direction in particular, but it was close.
“Oh shit!” The slender one exclaimed, and bolted into the dark with inhuman speed.
That howl was not a wolf. I think the Hunter they were talking about arrived early.
Simon was now alone in the woods. There was no sound beyond the rustling of trees. He wasn’t sure what to do. The hood was off, but Simon was still restrained. Running with restraints in dark woods didn’t seem like a great idea, especially while non-human forces were out there. Go back to the SUV and try to find a way out of the restraints? The large man might still be there, but also might not, if the Hunter had found him.
Simon started moving in the direction the large man had gone, and after fifty paces or so he found the answer to what had happened to him. The large man was a bloody mess on the ground next to the SUV, his throat having been ripped out. There were other lacerations indicating he had managed to put up a brief but futile struggle. Simon tried to ignore the mess of the dead man and moved to attempt opening one of the SUV doors. The door handles were high, and his hands were tied. It seemed impossible.
Simon heard a branch crack behind him, and spun to look in the direction the sound came from.
Out of the pitch dark of the woods stepped a nightmare. Nine feet tall with yellow eyes glowing in the dark, clawed hands covered in blood, the Garou in war form was unmistakable. Its pace towards him was slow. The Garou had wanted Simon to see it coming, otherwise he would already be dead, he was sure of that. The other two had been a threat, but the human was not. The Garou didn’t need to use stealth now. As it got closer, Simon could make out that its pelt was solid brown from head to toe.
Solid brown. Amoc said solid colors were rare among Garou. And a Hunter? What are the odds?
The Garou was practically on top of him now, and its intent was not at all clear.
“Amoc!” Simon exclaimed.
The Garou instantly stopped in its tracks. They just stared at each other for a moment.
“How do you know that name?” The Garou suddenly demanded.
The question rattled Simon’s chest, it was so intense. He had never heard or felt Amoc use the war form’s voice with so much force. Simon steeled himself and went with his gut on a reply.
“I know it because the Garou it belongs to saved my life, and told me his name when we met.” Simon began. “He later told me that he picked the name because it was one letter away from a word of chaos: amok. He always felt like he was on the edge of chaos as a child, and didn’t understand it until he learned what he was. So he picked the name after his first change, in the presence of his father while on a camping trip deep in the Adirondacks.”
The story spilled out of Simon’s mouth with amazing clarity, despite the speed at which he was trying to tell it. Amoc had told him that story on one cold snowy night during their time in Logan’s compound. He said only two other people in the world knew the complete story: Amoc’s father, and Logan. It was such an intimate and personal story, Simon had been floored that Amoc was willing to tell it to him, and it had been the first thing that came to mind.
The Garou had taken a step back while Simon retold the story. Clearly it had come as a surprise.
Is this Amoc? Was I right? Is this my Amoc, or the dream’s?
The Garou suddenly moved to bring its face within inches of Simon’s. Real or not, the effect was still intimidating, and Simon reflexively closed his eyes.
“Who are you?” The Garou snarled the question.
I’ve heard that tone before. Amoc used it when Maggie pointed that gun at me in New York City. That story was maybe too personal.
“Simon.” Came the quiet response. “I’m Simon. I know this is a lot, but I know you. Maybe. I’m not sure. I thought I was Dreamwalking, but I don’t know anymore. I went to sleep on a boat in the Potomac… you were on that boat with me… and I woke up in a hotel not far from here, alone, in a different time. I don’t know why this is happening or how I got here… but I could really use your help.”
“Why would I help you?” The Garou snorted. “I should kill you.”
That hurt, a lot. Simon wasn’t sure who this Amoc was or what the hell The Veil’s game was, but this was clearly not like anything Simon had experienced before.
All in, cards on the table. No point in holding back now.
“Because in about eight to twelve hours, the world is going to end.”
The Garou moved away from Simon’s face.
“How?” The question was calm.
“I don’t know exactly how.” Simon began. “But I do know where. Below the Mall in D.C. That’s where it starts. Somewhere in the Metro tunnels, or something that has access to them. I’ve seen it, in visions. I verified it through correlation of those visions. I’ve been trying to get here for months, but this wasn’t how I thought it would happen.”
The Garou once again took a step back.
“Fuck.” Again, the response was calm. “I wasn’t expecting today.”
“You knew this was coming?” Simon was incredulous.
“Suspected, for some time.” The Garou stated, flatly. “My name is Amoc. I don’t know you, or how you seem to know me, but we clearly need to talk.”
I fucking knew it!
“But not here.” Amoc continued, looking around. “Follow me.”
Simon followed, but suddenly remembered his backpack, and the iPad full of strange emails. He turned back towards the SUV.
“Wait!” Simon exclaimed. “My bag, my notes are in it!”
At least, Simon assumed they were notes. He tried the back door, but it was locked. The front door was locked as well.”
Simon suddenly felt the looming presence of Amoc behind him. He brought a clawed hand to the window, and sharply rapped one claw on the glass. The tempered glass shattered, and Amoc stepped away.
Reaching in and being careful of the glass, Simon unlocked the door. Finding his bag between the seats, he grabbed it and quickly opened it to confirm his things were still in it, and followed after Amoc. They walked through the woods for a time, until Amoc came to a halt next to a tree. Simon noticed a backpack had been hung in that tree, at war form height. Amoc carefully plucked it from the tree and placed it on the ground.
“If you know me, you’ve seen this before.” Amoc stated.
Simon knew exactly what he meant. Amoc had explained how he managed transformations when it still was necessary to do it in secrecy. Simon simply nodded.
Amoc began the transformation to his human form. At the end of it, Simon was relieved that the naked person standing in front of him did, in fact, look like Amoc. He had been a little unreasonably worried that it still could have been someone else.
“I usually don’t have an audience for this.” Amoc commented, while opening the backpack.
Simon realized he had been staring.
“Sorry, I just… had to be sure.” Simon replied.
Amoc shrugged, and began pulling clothes out of the backpack. A thought suddenly came to Simon, one that he hadn’t had to think about in some time.
“It’s William, right?” Simon asked. “The name I should use in public.”
Amoc, in the middle of putting on some underwear, looked over and raised an eyebrow.
“I’m going to avoid public places with you right now.” Amoc began, moving on to pants. “But yes, that is my human name. I don’t know how you know all of this, but let me be very clear about something: I should have killed you back there. You being alive, knowing what you know, is extremely dangerous to me and everyone I know.”
Simon attempted to get a word in, but Amoc quickly raised a finger to silence him.
“But I didn’t.” Amoc continued. “Because there’s something different about you. Part of it is just the fact that you didn’t piss your pants and go running off screaming into the woods when I first approached you. It’s one thing knowing about our world, but something else entirely to be able to face down a Garou in war form and not mentally shut down. That tells me you’ve lived in our world, without going crazy. I’m not sure what that makes you, but I have a theory. And I know someone that can confirm it.”
“So you believe me?” Simon asked.
“I think you may know things that could save us.” Amoc reasoned. “I think that makes you worth the risk, because if you’re telling the truth, your danger to me and my own isn’t going to matter much longer.”
You may not be my Amoc, but I’ll take it.
“My car is this way.” Amoc finished putting on a shirt, put the backpack on and began walking. “Fortunately the two idiots that bagged you didn’t go far. We should make it to my friend’s place by sunrise.”
“Who were those two?” Simon asked, following behind Amoc. “I got the impression they weren’t human.”
Amoc looked back for a moment, probably gauging if he should keep talking about things Simon wasn’t supposed to know in this world.
“Big guy was a Shifter.” Amoc began. “Lion type. Strong bastards. The slender one was a Vampire. Mental type I think. Probably was going to try and probe around in your brain for what you know. I’d been following those two for a while. They were goons for something bigger that I’ve been tracking. You were a surprise, in more ways than one. They probably expected me to kill you after they were done. Would have been convenient for them, less convenient for me.”
A Vampire. The first Simon had ever encountered. It was probably a very good thing Amoc had arrived when he did.
Amoc again turned to look at Simon.
“So we’re going to disappoint them.” Amoc continued. “But no more on this until we get where we’re going, understood?”
Simon didn’t ask what was going to happen to the bodies and the SUV they left in the woods. Questions like that were things he didn’t really care to know. The car ride went by largely in silence, and it wasn’t long before they were back in civilization. Amoc turned into a neighborhood which Simon instantly recognized as old money. There were plenty of places like it in upstate New York, and he knew this area of Virginia had them as well. Amoc turned off the main road and wound the car through the labyrinth of side streets before finally turning into a long driveway. The house that came into view was old, but well kept. It was also very ‘earthy’. The grounds were heavily wooded and the house seemed to fit perfectly into the landscape. True to Amoc’s estimation, the sun was just starting to poke holes in the woods around the neighborhood, producing sun shafts of various shapes and sizes.
“We’re here.” Amoc announced, upon bringing the car to a halt. “Follow me, but keep quiet.”
Simon nodded. They both exited the car and walked the short covered path towards the front door. Simon noted that while the vines covering the path were dense and bordering on overgrown, it stopped just short of being wild. That was a theme for the plant life around the home. It all looked very natural, but not out of control.
The very moment they arrived at the front door, it opened. A woman stood behind it, dressed in a simple pair of slacks and a button down shirt. Long black hair flowed down her shoulders, but otherwise Simon thought she looked fairly ordinary. That was a dangerous assumption in Amoc’s world, though, and Simon had to assume she was anything but.
“I’ve told you before, you shouldn’t bring your toys to my home.” The woman stated; Simon had to assume she meant him.
“This is business.” Amoc countered.
“Well, dear, you know how this works.”
“I think he’s a Traveler.” Amoc stated, plainly.
The woman’s eyes briefly betrayed surprise before she caught herself. Traveler was a word with meaning in Amoc’s world, clearly.
“Well why didn’t you lead with that?” The woman’s tone became more welcoming. “Come in, dears.”
Simon caught the smell of food cooking as he walked in behind Amoc. He had the sudden realization that he was starving.
I’ve never been hungry before in the dream. What the hell is a Traveler?
“I’ll put some more food on.” The woman offered. “Make yourselves comfortable.”
Amoc motioned to the large fabric sofa. Simon took the cue and had a seat. Amoc took the large chair on the other side of the wooden coffee table. Looking around, the home was full of earth tones and natural materials, but notably no leathers of any kind. There were bonsai trees and other small plants Simon couldn’t identify, as well as various knick-knacks that appeared to be hand-crafted. Simon was beginning to suspect he knew what this woman was.
“Oh don’t sit there and brood in silence on my behalf.” The woman shouted from the kitchen. “Why don’t you tell the human what a Traveler is, for starters. The poor thing clearly has no idea what that means.”
Simon looked over to Amoc. He clearly still wasn’t comfortable with events so far, but he leaned forward in the chair.
“A Traveler is what the name suggests.” Amoc began. “Someone who has come from another place. I don’t just mean the next state or another country, I mean another world.”
“It’s extremely rare, at least the accounts we can mostly verify.” Amoc continued. “It’s basically impossible to confirm, for obvious reasons. But it explains… how you know what you know.”
“Does it speak?” Came from the kitchen.
“I… yes.” Amoc stumbled on the reply.
“Well it should be asking questions, don’t you think?”
Amoc sighed, and held out an open, upward facing hand towards Simon. He took the cue.
“So I’m not Dreamwalking?” Simon asked. “This is real?”
“Oh yes, quite real, dear.” Again from the kitchen. “There’s not a hint of dreamer about you. You are very much here.”
Amoc could have actually killed me in those woods?
“Oh, don’t worry.” The woman continued, seeming to read his shift in mood. “You will go back to your world at some point, once what you need to do here is done.”
“We’re likely going to find out what that is very soon.” Amoc added. “Today, in fact. Time is not on our side in this.”
“Well, dire portents do tend to arrive with Travelers.” The woman brushed off Amoc’s warning almost casually. “But the world won’t end before breakfast, and I can hear this one’s stomach rumbling from in here.”
Simon was genuinely starving now, especially with the delicious aromas wafting from the kitchen.
The woman stepped out of the kitchen holding a plate with freshly toasted bread slices and a couple of very homemade looking jars of preserves, and placed it on the dining table. Simon needed no prompting to move to the table.
“Something to get you started, dear.” She offered. “I’m Martine, by the way. I assume you’ve met Amoc, the very broody Garou over there.”
Simon suddenly remembered he hadn’t even bothered to introduce himself.
“I’m Simon, by the way. Thank you.”
“Lovely to meet you Simon.”
If Martine was put off by any of this, it was impossible to tell. Amoc just shook his head, but got up to move over to the dining table as well. Amoc had definitely been very broody and stoic when Simon had first met him, while he was still fighting his instincts telling him this was all wrong. This Amoc wasn’t all that different from his, it seemed.
“And as you may have guessed by this point, I am a Witch.” Martine confirmed Simon’s suspicion. “And we make a mean breakfast. Which a Garou that’s been out all night and a human Traveler are sure to need.”
“Sorry for this, but… you’re not exactly what I was expecting.”
Simon wasn’t quite sure why the comment had come out of his mouth, and immediately regretted it. Martine, fortunately, seemed to take it in stride.
“A bit too housewife?” Martine laughed. “ Appearances, dear. Appearances. It’s amazing how easy it is to keep humans, no offense, from asking the important questions like ‘why don’t you ever age?’ when they’re too busy gossiping about the lonely widow living on her late husband’s fortune while occasionally having her favorite young, muscular caller over.”
The last part was said while Martine looked directly at Amoc, in a rather suggestive way. Simon couldn’t help but chortle at the interaction, and Amoc rolled his eyes before returning to his toast. Simon was starting to like Martine.
“Oh, maybe they’ll think we’re having a threesome today.” Martine mused while turning back to the kitchen. “That could keep them talking for weeks.”
Amoc said nothing further, choosing to focus on his toast. Simon suddenly remembered his iPad and the emails full of text blobs. Now might be a good time to distract him from Martine’s teasing, and to see if this version of Amoc was also up on his technology.
“There’s something you can maybe help me with right now.” Simon began, getting up and going over to where he had left his backpack on the sofa. “I think my alter ego from this world really did know something about what was going on. There are these weird emails on this iPad.”
Simon pulled out the iPad, walked back over to the table, and put it down in front of Amoc. Amoc put down the piece of toast he was working on and took a moment to tab through the emails.
“Encryption.” Amoc began. “PGP maybe, but the blocks aren’t complete. Split between emails maybe. Someone was paranoid.”
“Not paranoid enough, it seems, if those two goons found me.” Simon countered.
“True.” Amoc conceded. “Mind if I look through this?”
“I wouldn’t know where to start.” Simon admitted. “Other me was apparently a lot better with tech. Other me. Man, that’s weird to think about. Also, if I’m here… where is the Simon from this world? Am I in his body?”
“Now there’s an interesting question.” Martine was again shouting from the kitchen; her hearing had to be as good as Amoc’s. “Your mind is here, in the body of Simon from this world. What happens on the other end we do not know. We’ve never confirmed a Traveler that originated from our world.”
“Ah, well… I guess I’ll find out when I get back.”
“I do wish you could return to tell us.” Martine mused.
“Got it.” Amoc suddenly stated. “There’s a simple cipher in the subject lines that indicates the order. Needs a passphrase to unlock the private key, though. Hope you have some idea what that might be.”
Simon could only think of one password he would use for the truly secret stuff he would never want anyone else to see, and he hoped that this world’s Simon was similar enough to use it too. He took the iPad from Amoc, tapped out the password… and was amazed to see it succeed.
“Well look at that.” Amoc commented. “Let me know if you find anything interesting in there.”
“After breakfast.” Martine had suddenly appeared, and placed two plates full of food in front of them. “Dig in, boys.”