Shadows of the Past – Part Three
Brand was falling. The pains searing his right shoulder started to dull and then disappear completely as the feeling of falling continued forward. It seemed like a year went by, then a decade, then a century. He kept descending toward an unknown destination in the blackness of his mind. Perhaps he was dying. He wasn´t sure what just happened, but he was sure it wasn´t good.
When the sensation finally stopped, he could feel himself shaking. Then he could feel someone´s hands on his shoulders and his head bobbing against the hard surface of the ground. Large, rough hands squeezed into his shoulders as the voice finally broke through sounding distant and weak. "Brand! Wake up, Brand!" It was Buba.
Struggling, Brand opened his eyes. The world around him was a haze of unfamiliarness. The towering shape of Buba, it had to be Buba but he couldn´t be sure, blocked out the sun as it hung low in the sky behind him. He could hear Lisya´s voice off to his right somewhere, telling Buba to be careful. Focus remained illusive, his eyes refusing to clear and show him the face of his old and dear friend. The good news was he wasn´t dead. The bad news was Buba´s breath was not the freshest it could have been.
"He´s alive! Brand! Brand? Are you all right? Can you talk?"
"I´m fine," Brand managed to croak. His voice sounded wrong in his own ears, but there wasn´t much he could do about that right now. It was his eyes that he wanted back at the moment and he kept trying to force them to focus. Maybe Buba was standing too close. "Give me some room, old man."
Buba took several steps back, releasing his deathgrip on Brand´s shoulders. Brand thudded back against the ground, the back of his skull bouncing with painful pleasure. He´s alive! Yes, he´s alive. No doubt about that now, says the pain in the back of his head. Oddly, though, his shoulder seemed fine. Not even a whimper of pain.
"Where´s that guy?" Brand asked. He forced himself up into a seated position and rubbed his eyes. The world cleared faintly, but not enough to matter. He felt like he was trying to look through cotton.
"What guy?" Lisya asked.
"The guy, the one that told me to duck."
"Nobody here but us, Brand," Buba said. He glanced at Lisya for a moment before looking back to Brand. "You sure there was a guy? Maybe you just imagined it?"
Trying to stand was a mistake. Brand dropped back to the ground and grunted. "There was a guy." There was a guy, right? Now he wasn´t so sure.
Brand closed his eyes, squeezing them tightly shut. He repeated a mantra over and over again in his head: Work eyes, work eyes, work eyes. And when he opened his eyes again, he immediately closed them. When he said he wanted his eyes to work, it was the opinion of himself that his eyes would actually work right. The vision he just saw was not right, not by any stretch of the imagination. He rubbed his closed lids once more, hard enough to bring a sparkling light show to the forefront, then reopened them to behold that which was in front of him.
Unfortunately, the world didn´t change. Brand could only stare at Buba. He was wearing the pinkest, most unflattering leotard that squeezed against his body in all the wrong places. Maybe there was some thankfulness in Brand´s eyes at the sight of the tutu around Buba´s waste. It did a little in covering up some of the unsightly constriction. The ballet shoes were the final piece of the disturbing image. Buba´s feet did not fit in them well, but he seemed oblivious. Brand was almost too afraid to look to his right and see what Lisya was wearing. Almost. He turned his head and there she was dressed in the tightest leather outfit he´d ever seen. Her breasts were much fuller than he remembered, round orbs of flesh bulging out of the top of the halter–like top. Her exposed midriff was ripped to the bone with muscles Brand didn´t even know women could have. The barely concealing leather bottoms were just that, barely concealing. Thigh–high leather boots that zipped up the side shined with an unnatural expression of glee. She was much taller than normal, given the stiletto heels. Hanging from her right hand was a whip. Not the normal whip one would associate with such an outfit. This was a bullwhip.
For a moment, as Brand stared with his mouth hanging open, there was a deafening silence all around. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, doing his best to impersonate a fish out of water, then finally forced the words out. "In the name of all things that are holy and sane, what in the hell is going on here!"
Again Buba and Lisya shared a look. There was a degree of concern in that look, but it melted away and Buba do a little twirl on the tips of his toes. "Brand, are you feeling all right? What happened to you?"
Brand shook his head again and again. "No, no, no, no, no! Don´t you spin around and then ask me if I feel all right! You´re the one dressed up like some queer ballerina! Where did you get that outfit? And what in the hell are you wearing it!"
"Spin around?" Buba gawked at Brand, clearly mystified by what he was saying. "I think you hit your head too hard."
Brand raised his hands to his face, intent on blocking out this bizarre reality, but he never made it. He froze, suddenly stricken with a horror he´d never experienced before. Both of his hands were normal. The Arm of Destiny was no longer a part of him. Before he could even get a word out, demanding to know what happened to it, there was a loud CRACK at his feet. He shoved back in the dirt and glared at Lisya, who stood there grinning at him like a fool.
"Relax, Brand. Everything is a–okay." She took several steps toward him, her hips swaying back and forth in a manner all too seductive for Brand. Her tongue slid out, wetting her lips. "I think you just need some TLC. Let mama Lisya help you with that little bumpy–wumpy."
Again with the gaping mouth, Brand shot a look at Buba but Buba was no help right now. He was busy pirouetting his heart out to music only he could hear. Brand forced himself to his feet and staggered back, pressing against one of the trees. "You, you stay away from me! Is this some kind of sick joke? Buba! What are you doing! Help me!"
"Can´t Brand, I´m starring in Swan Lake next week. I have to practice."
CRACK. Brand let out a yelp and jumped away from the tree. He found himself directly in front of Lisya, blinking. Had he not be so damned freaked out, he´d be mighty turned on right about now. His nose was practically burying itself into Lisya´s cleavage. Those stilettos were way too high.
"I feel pretty, oh so pretty!" Buba sang twirling and bending in completely inhuman ways. Ways that were extremely inhuman for Buba.
Lisya ran her hand through Brand´s hair, wiggling his face against her breasts. "Oh, hello there. Nice of you to drop by." She giggled like a schoolgirl.
Brand shoved Lisya away, sending her ass first into the ground. He took one more look at Buba, then ran through the nearest trees and didn´t look back. He ran and ran, having no inclination to turn back and find out what in the blue hell they were smoking. After what seemed like hours of running, he flew out of the forest and into a clearing. Then he skidded to a halt, sending a wave of dirt into the air. Straight in front of him was a bottomless canyon. As he turned, he found himself unable to breathe. There was Lisya striding toward him in that same seductive manner and there was Buba, spinning on one toe while holding a leg straight out in the air. Lisya flicked the whip at Brand. It cracked at his feet and he stumbled back, now on the edge of the canyon.
"Naughty, naughty," Lisya said in a voice far too deep to be her own. "You´ve been a bad, naughty boy, Brandon. Now it´s time for your spanking."
He was trapped. Nowhere to go but down. So down he went. Without even thinking about it, Brand jumped back with his arms outstretched. There seemed to be a moment when he just hung there in the air. He wasn´t sure if he actually heard Lisya say, "Aww, poo," and stick out her lip in pouty protest. He was sure that he was falling now. Falling fast, in fact. Rocky walls of death surrounded him as the sky pulled away at an alarming rate. Smaller and smaller the sky above grew; deeper and deeper he fell. When the sky finally disappeared from view, Brand gasped, trying to suck in a breath of air. Several seconds later, he passed out.
"Brand? Brand wake up."
There was something familiar about that voice, those words. The nightmare was fresh in Brand´s waking mind. Nightmare was the only way he could describe it. The only way he wanted to even think about describing it. He was waking up now, though. The world would be right; all would be normal again. This was his new mantra, repeated several times, as he remained unmoving with his eyes closed. He didn´t want to open them and see that bizarro world once more. He wanted to be sure he was truly awake this time. So he waited.
"Brand? Wake up. Wake up, Brand."
When Buba´s hand pressed against his shoulder and gave him a hardy good shake, Brand couldn´t wait any longer. With hesitation supreme, he forced himself to re–enter the world. He opened his eyes and sat up.
There was Buba, smiling at him with that warm, caring smile Buba always shared with the world. The best part of all, he was wearing normal clothes. He was in his security guard uniform and all was right in the world once more. It was just a bad–
He was wearing his security guard uniform? Brand blinked and rubbed his eyes. Sure enough, Buba was wearing his security guard uniform. But that couldn´t be right. Buba had lost a lot of weight over the past year, that uniform was way too big for him now.
Brand stared at Buba, a sharp frown creasing his lips. Problem was, Buba didn´t ask that. The voice came from behind him. Brand closed his eyes and counted backward from ten. When he reached four, he couldn´t wait any longer. He opened his eyes and turned around in his chair. There was Megan, watching him with that sweet, puzzled expression one might have when they were stuck on a particularly hard crossword clue.
There was no holding back now. Brand shot out of his chair and tackled Megan, squeezing her to near death. "Uncle, uncle! Let up, Brand. You act like you haven´t seen me in a year."
"You´re alive, Megan! You´re alive!"
"Of course I´m alive. Have you been smoking that wacky–tabaccy again?"
Brand released his hold and looked around sharply. He was in the break room of the bookstore. Outside, the door chimed as someone entered the store. Brand looked from Megan to Buba, his eyes finally planting on the magazine that lay open on the table. There was a sizable puddle of drool smearing the words. "It was all... all of it was..." A great sweeping sigh exploded from Brand´s lungs. He let out a laugh of near madness and cried out, "It was all a dream! The whole damn thing was a dream!"
Megan and Buba peered at him like he was a nutball. Nothing new there.To be continued...