Sylvia stared into a glowing pool in her garden, watching the images of future and past scurry through her vision. She gazed in a trance as the water spoke to her about things to come. She shuddered and scrambled to her feet, racing about the house throwing drawers and cabinets wide until she found a blue cookie tin. Inside were all manner of seamstress’s implements. She pulled the sheet off her bed and began cutting it into pieces. When she was satisfied with her collection of linen scraps she set about sewing them together into the likeness of a man. A man bearing a crude resemblance to Delareux. She set the cloth figure onto an altar and sat before it. She placed a metal wastebasket on the floor and shredded some newspaper into it and then lit it on fire.
“My deepest apologies, detective,” she whispered. “This is selfish and unfair of me, but I need you to dream your dream, detective, dream. Seek out the High Priestess.”
She placed her finger on the head of the Delareux doll and tipped it into the fire.
Delareux awoke the next day and opened his eyes. He couldn’t decide whether the ceiling he was looking at was familiar or not. It wasn’t the ceiling he went to sleep under. His head was ringing and the light pierced his eyes, rendering him blind to detail. Of what he could ascertain, the ceiling was brown, maybe wooden. Next to his uncomfortable bed was a blue blob.
“You’re awake,” the blob spoke in a woman’s voice, and it was gentle.
“Have I been kidnapped?” He groaned. “Again?”
“Maybe. You were pretty incoherent last night.”
“You were banging on the street access to the basement and ranting. Do you remember?’
“No,” Delareux said. “I’m in a basement?”
“Sounds like a kidnapping.”
“Well, since it seems like you’re in control of yourself, I don’t see why you can’t leave if you want to.”
Delareux swung his feet off the bed and planted them on the floor. He rubbed his eyes. The light wasn’t so bright now and his vision started to clear.
“Where am I?” he asked.
“In my friend Bart’s basement.”
“No, what city?”
Delareux grunted and pressed his palms into his sore eyes.
“You must have had quite a bender,” she said.
“Well, before you go- can I ask you something?”
He took he palms from his eyes and saw the blue blob. It had resolved into a woman in a blue dress. He estimated she was in her late twenties or early thirties. She had long black hair that fell in bangs over her brow and provided a stark contrast to her pale skin. Her eyes were wide, dark as night, and kind, but laden with worry. He knew it was worry for him, that there was something heavy going on, and that he probably didn’t want to get involved with it. He wasn’t interested in being interrogated no matter how amiable or compassionate she seemed. She could be the good cop. He got ready to leave and give her curiosity the bad news, until he spotted the book she was reading through the oversized spectacles that were sliding down her nose. A large, leather-bound tome. He knew this book.
“Where did you get that book?” he asked.
“I think you’re supposed to call it a tome.”
“Right, the binding. Where did you get it?”
“From my mother.”
“Where did she get it?”
“From her mother.”
“Where did she get it?”
“It goes on like that.”
“Who was your mom?”
Delareux felt his heart palpitate.
“That makes your great-grandmother Sylvia Winthrop.”
“How did you know?”
“That makes you the High Priestess.”
“Which brings me to my question…”
“Why were you screaming that you needed to see the High Priestess?”
“Not sure. It should come back to me.”
“How do you know Shelby and Sylvia?”
“Friends of mine.”
“You hardly look old enough.”
“I don’t have time for long stories.”
“I know. Your eyes told me. Fill me in on the details, maybe something will lift the fog.”
“Have you ever heard of Yaldabaoth or the Demiurge?”
“We’ve never met, but I’ve cleaned up his messes before.”
“He’s making a big mess now.”
“What kind of mess?”
“Galactic domination or annihilation, I stopped caring about his motives. He traveled from the future to do it.”
“Remember that long story?”
“Are you a time traveler too?”
“You’re not wrong.”
“Did Yaldabaoth do this to you?”
“No. It’s been happening for a long time.”
“Are you from the past?”
“Not sure. I’ve done this so many times I’ve forgotten where I started. I’m not even sure I go anywhere or if it really happens. It seems like I go to sleep and start to dream. The next thing I know the dream is real and I’m in a different time and place. This could be a dream.”
“Well, if you’re dreaming me can you dream me a happy ending?”
Delareux chuckled a jaded chuckle.
“It smells like manure down here,” he said.
“It is manure.”
“It’s killing me.”
“Let’s go upstairs. There’s someone who wants to talk to you.”
Bart had three couches in the living room all forming a square with the beat up Ikea entertainment center, which housed an ancient CRT television. Billy always sat on the couch to the right of the television, in front of the window with the air conditioner that was perpetually blasting on him. Delareux sat on the couch facing the television. He sat quietly regarding Blaylock, who was bound by his ankles and wrists and wedged next to Billy. Cheryl and Sophie sat on the remaining couch, regarding Delareux.
“Were you kidnapped by bounty hunters too?” Blaylock asked Delareux.
“No, by a dream.”
“Well, I mean she’s cute for a human, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘dream’.”
“Would like your mouth stuffed with a dirty dishrag?” Cheryl said to Yalda.
Blaylock sighed and turned his head toward the television he couldn’t see due to Billy’s prodigious belly.
“Okay, Sophie’s latest stray, who are you and why were you banging on the door of our secret hideout?”
“Secret hideout? Like the Little Rascals?”
“My patience was thin with you from the get-go.”
“I know exactly how you feel.”
Cheryl looked at Sophie.
“He seems to know things,” Sophie said.
“Like what?” Cheryl asked Delareux.
“I know a lot of stuff.”
“Start with who you are.”
“You can call me Tom Delareux, if you like. Or T.J. Washington. Or Thomas Stovall. I usually let people get my attention to find out whatever they’re calling me wherever I wound up. What I know for sure is I’m a voodoo priest and a detective and I feel like I should be dealing with a mummy, right now. Or did I already take care of that?”
“Sophie says you time travel.”
“Am I ever getting sick of hearing that,” Blaylock sighed.
“Dishrag,” Cheryl reminded Blaylock.
“You could call it time travel,” Delareux said. “But it happens through my dreams. Honestly, I’m never certain if it is just a dream. I have no idea whether I’m in one place dreaming or if I’m in another. One thing is for certain, this time was different.”
“Usually, the dreams just do their dream things on their own. Sometimes I’m here and sometimes I'm in New Orleans in the 40’s. Sometimes elsewhere. This time it feels different. Like somebody made it happen. It also usually doesn’t take this long to shake the fog off.”
“Who do think made this happen?”
“I have a lot of enemies. But I can’t figure out why any of them would want to make me do something I do anyway. All they’d have to do is wait.”
“Maybe it wasn’t an enemy.”
“You were asking for the High Priestess,” Sophie said.
Delareux sat back and stared at the ceiling in thought. His intermittent humming formed a strange tune.
“Sylvia,” he said.
“Who is Sylvia?” Cheryl asked.
“My great-grandmother,” Sophie replied.
“She’s a friend,” Delareux said. “And if she sent me here without telling me, it must have been for a damn good reason.”
“Better be a good reason,” Cheryl muttered.
Sophie gave her a scolding glance.
“Detective Delareux,” Sophie said, “Let’s go for a walk.”
Yalda stormed through the corridors of Vijeda’s warship, ranting about heads rolling and shooting anyone he saw.
“Where’s Vijeda?” He yelled. “Bring me that traitorous lizard.”
A Draconian soldier tried to apprehend him and Yalda shot him in the face, taking off half his muzzle. It howled and lumbered away.
“Don’t expect a coup de grace,” He told the disfigured soldier. “Get me Vijeda.”
Vijeda appeared and trained his rifle on Yalda.
“Which one are you?”
“The one you betrayed.”
Vijeda narrowed his eyes and placed his claw on the trigger.
“Knock it off,” Yalda said. “The idiot version you traded me in for forgot that his ass gets captured by the Joneses.”
Vijeda lowered his weapon, “Forgive my actions, Demiurge.”
“I’m not mad. I would have mutinied too. In fact, technically, I did.”
“What’s the plan?”
“Same plan. I never leave home without an assload of contingencies, V. Are you aware of the Seraphim genetic enhancement program?”
“Can Medical perform the procedure?”
“Of course, my Demiurge.”
“The procedure takes days. We should get started ASAP.”
“The Draconians perfected it into a fast acting injection.”
“Good. That should be good for a show. Get them ready.”
“Who are we performing the procedure on?”
“You heard me.” Yalda produced a vial of blood and tossed it to Vijeda, “I want some extra ingredients added.”
“What is this?”
“Shiva’s blood. Spin out the DNA and insert it into the matrix. I want a vial of yours too.”
“Right away, my Demiurge.”
Delareux and Sophie stood in the center of an empty basketball court at a nearby park. Delareux dragged on his cigarette and made a sour face.
“I forgot how awful 2016 cigarettes are,” He said.
“Then why smoke them? It’s a nasty habit anyway.”
“I thought your husband smokes?”
“Assuming I’m married? I’ll chalk that up spending a lot of time in the 40’s.”
“Or my time frames aren’t chronological. You’re going to have to have a kid to pass the book to.”
“Can we stop talking about my personal life?”
“You’re right. Show me what you can do.”
She lifted her bow and fired off five rapid rounds of light arrows. They landed between the eyes of each of the faces on the mural on the side of the building that bordered the park.
Delaruex looked at the burn marks on the wall then turned to Sophie with his eyes wide.
“Damn good shot.”
“It’s been a hobby since I was little.”
“What about the arrows, what’s going on there?”
“Concentrated light. I guess you could say they’re lasers.”
“Keep going. I know you got more.”
She held out her hand and the area around them dimmed in a small radius like the sun had gone out. But outside of the radius, the sun beamed down strong from the clear sky. The ball of light grew until Delareux had to shield his eyes from the pain.
“Alright already, before you permanently blind me,” He said.
Sophie dismissed the orb of light and the park was bright again.
“I still don’t think I’ve seen what I needed to see. Got anything else?”
“One more thing, but it’s pretty invasive.”
Sophie held her hand out and her fingers made motions like she was sifting through a file. A pinpoint of purple light appeared and expanded into a tall, lanky man with white hair in a dapper white suit. He was holding a long sniper rifle. Delareux turned and trotted backwards.
“Winston Cross,” Delareux said, shaken. “He’s not real, right?”
Cross lifted his rifle and aimed at the fleeing Delareux. Sophie shot Cross with an arrow and he shattered into shards of blacklight, along with the bullet that had just left the muzzle of the rifle.
“They’re corporeal,” Sophie said.
“I see that. So you can rummage in people’s heads and manifest their fears?”
“It’s not just fear, it could be anything, but the monsters in the subconscious are the most effective.”
“Have you ever done that with your own mind? Have you ever rummaged in there?”
“No. I haven’t.”
“So where do you get off invading the minds of others if you don’t even know what that’s like?”
“Do I have to use my power to see my own mind? Isn’t that just thinking?”
“Thinking is a real good way to obscure what’s really going on inside. Why don’t you cast that spell on yourself and see what I mean?”
Sophie looked at Delareux, her eyes were nervous as she bit her lower lip. She placed her palm against her forehead and closed her eyes. At first, she was still and quiet, but then started gasping. Delareux wondered if she was imagining herself drowning. The subconscious is often represented by a dark sea in human symbology. The tears streaming down her face betrayed the gasps as sobs. These sounded like sobs of profound loss. As soon as she had started, the sobbing stopped. Her mouth dropped agape in awe as her head tipped back. Her breathing was heavy as she struggled to speak.
“Who…” she paused to catch her breath. “Who is she?”
“How the hell should I know?”
“She knows me.”
“Of course she does, she’s in your head.”
“No, she knows everyone. Everyone descended from Abigayle Rosenkreuz and before.”
“Your mind is applying faces to the names in the book.”
“Even future descendants.”
“Your mind is inventing things.”
“I thought we weren’t talking about your personal life?”
“And…” Sophie began howling with laughter.
“I’d love to hear the joke.”
Sophie opened her eyes and removed her hand from her head. “You wouldn’t get it if I told you. I need to know who she is.”
“She’s a construct of your subconscious. A symbol. She’s you.”
“Right, but she’s all of us.”
“No. All of us. My family, everyone from before Abby on to Holly. She’s part of us, but at the same time separate, her own. She said her name was Sophia.”
“I rest my case.”
Yalda peered into a glass syringe filled with a viscous green liquid. He gave it a few flicks with his thumb and middle finger, popping the little bubbles within.
“Can’t wait to see their faces when I shapeshift into a comet eater and swallow them all whole,” he grinned at Vijeda. “How are the repairs to your fleet coming along?”
“Repairs are proceeding according to schedule, my lord. 32 hours is the current estimate.”
“Good. Prepare for a planetary assault in 32 hours. I tried to do this the easy way.”