Shadows of the Past - Part Seven
For the next several hours Brand could do nothing but sit through an endless barrage of insults and bad puns that almost caused him more pain than the exasperating pain that ripped through his right shoulder. William Shatner, a.k.a. the Sword of Destiny, was becoming the image of Death in Brand's mind. An image he would not be able to forget for a long time to come.
"Okay," Shatner said. The thrill in his voice was just what Brand needed. Not. "Enough of this... wallowing... in pain shit. Good God man! We're in your... head. That pain is all... mental. Will it away." This brought another hearty chuckle to Shatner. "Get it? Huh? Huh? Will it away. I'm William Shatner. That's good. Come on, admit it!"
Through clenched teeth Brand asked, "Can I will you away, too?" There was something to what Shatner said, though. As Brand tried to push the pain away, he felt it slipping from his shoulder incrementally.
Shatner wobbled around on the countertop, for a moment giving Brand the perfect image of a beached whale, then landed on his feet in a standing position. He snapped his fingers and the counter was gone. Brand stumbled forward and crashed into the ground with a thud. "Let's play a game, Brandy," Shatner bellowed. He waved his hand at the first three bookcases and magically they transformed into three wooden doors. Each door stood there in the middle of the air with no support from anything and on the face of each one stood a large black number. "Pick a door, any door. 1, 2, 3. But be warned, my fine agonized friend, once you pick you can't go back."
Struggling to his feet with a grunt, Brand shrugged his right shoulder. The pain was all but a memory now. At least in his head. Somewhere in the real world (or whatever was passing for it these days), he knew he was still bleeding and in a lot of pain.
His eyes scanned the doors with a frown. "I ain't playing your stupid games, Sword," Brand said.
Shatner pouted like a teenage girl denied the keys to the family car. "But..." he said, "you have to! Pick a door or I'll be... forced... to pick for you."
Brand rolled his eyes. "Fine. Two," he said.
The door swung open before he even finished saying two. He was then sucked into the gaping blackhole of nothingness behind the door, feeling very much like a spider caught in the forceful pull of a vacuum.
As they trudged through the forest, Buba and Lisya said nothing. A cool breeze blew through the tall, alien trees. Their quivering leaves did nothing to easy Buba's mind as he searched for some way to pull off the miracle that would save Brand's life. He needed Brand as much as Brand needed him.
In those moments of miracle-fleeing thought, his mind brought him back to the beginning, to their first meeting, to the moment their lives forever became entangled. Maybe it was the forest that reminded him of that arboretum with its assaulting aroma of plant-life. They walked along a path much similar to this, almost. Brand, of course, wasn't dying in his arms.
Buba remembered his first look at Brand, so young and disturbed. Lashing out at the world seemed to be the only thing Brand could do, but in that first moment, Buba saw a potential beyond what all his advisors were saying. He was warned to not get too involved with this kid. Trouble was the only thing he would bring, they said. But Buba wouldn't accept it. He saw a young man in need of a friend and part of him knew even then that he needed someone like Brand in his life. Over the years they fed off of each other in some bizarre symbiotic relationship. He could never pinpoint the connection for what it was, but it was there nonetheless. Brand was a son-
"Ben, stop," Lisya said. Her hand came to rest on his arm as she looked ahead with a thick expression of concentration. "I can see two people up ahead, not far. They're cold, very cold. Almost mindlessly so."
A frown, the first of many to come, sank into Buba's face. He carefully lowered Brand to the ground. "I'll check it out," he said.
As Lisya kneeled down to check on Brand's wound - those sickly green veins were spreading at an alarming rate, already they had covered most of Brand's shoulder and were now starting to reach up his neck and across his chest - and sighed, Buba pushed through the large hanging branches.
The forest walls around him thinned. There was less and less trees spread further apart. Up ahead he could hear the faint whistling of a man and as he got closer he racked his mind, for the tune being whistled was familiar. But that wasn't possible, was it?
Three more feet and he came to a halt behind a tree that soared forever into the sky. Its thick, black bark was smooth to the touch as Buba kneeled down to scout out the people up ahead. That whistled tune haunted him, now perfectly audible but still alluding his recognition. Not that it mattered. His mind was turned in a whole new direction as soon as his eyes fell upon the two men in their army fatigues and their giant Hummer.
Disbelief wasn't exactly the way Buba would put it, but that was the case. He thought for sure he'd passed out from carrying Brand so far and that this was some kind of nightmare. First the whistling, now a Hummer and soldiers? Was that possible? Of course it's possible Buba, don't be stupid. Brand was shot in a world where there are no guns except for yours. And you all are here are you not? What makes you think you are so special that you are the only ones?
Two choices lodged firmly in Buba's mind: take the Hummer (Brand would say borrow without any intention of returning) by force or ask for help. If they were soldiers, surely they would help. So, the right thing to do would be to ask for help and they will help. Right. But the influence that was Brand put other thoughts in his head, thoughts of evil soldiers mixed up in conspiracies to rule the world under a military regime of power.
Brand was the type to believe might makes right. Buba, however, was not.
With no more thought, Buba stepped out of his hiding place and walked toward the Hummer and the soldier that rested on the hood with his very large, very deadly gun right next to him. His approached was stealthy unintentionally. So stealthy was he that the other soldier walked away into the forest cover to take a leak. Thinking back on this later, Buba found himself suddenly believing in fate and destiny and all those weird concepts just a little bit more.
The black-skinned Hummer stood pointed toward a dirt road that led, presumably, to civilization. Once Buba explained to this fine gentleman that his friend was dying, they could take them to a doctor and all would be well. Suddenly, as Buba neared the rear of the Hummer, he remembered what Lisya had said. They're cold, very cold. That was no weather report.
Buba stood there, frozen for a moment. Somewhere not too far away a second soldier with an equally menacing gun would be returning. If he had orders to shoot first then there would be no hope of survival. In that second, Buba made his decision and let it go. He could fret over his choices later. Right now was his only and last chance to save Brand's life and there was no way he was going to jeopardize that chance.
Now intentionally moving with stealth, Buba slithered up the side of the Hummer until he was standing right behind the man resting on the hood. With lightning speed, one hand went around the soldier's head and grabbed his mouth. The other wrapped around his neck and squeezed for dear life. Buba's yanked him off Hummer and held him against the ground, face down, as he struggled for breath without much success. The bucking soldier twisted and turned in a mad dance for control of his failing consciousness. Buba squeezed tighter, not wanting to kill the man, not by any means, but he needed the soldier to pass out. It seemed like an eternity of struggles but finally the soldier slumped underneath Buba. He held his arm around the soldier's neck a few moments longer (fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me), then released the man and let him lie unconscious next to the Hummer. One down, one to go.
The next one, however, was not so easy. As soon as Buba stood, a loud voice shouted, "Freeze motherfucka!" behind him. It was the voice of Death, come to take Buba away. That didn't bother him so much as his death would mean the death of Brand and possibly even Lisya. Then it struck him in that endlessly long moment of time that this was most likely his punishment for killing Megan.
"So much as take a breath and I'll blow you-"
The second soldier's voice stopped when it was accompanied by a sickening thud and followed by another thud as someone, presumably the soldier, collapsed on the ground.
"It's okay, pal," someone said. "He's gone."
With much reluctance, Buba turned around. Behind him, on the other side of the Hummer, he found himself looking into the face of a stranger. In the man's left hand was a large, gnarled hunk of wood that dripped with the blood of a soldier that didn't belong here. The man wielding the stick of death wasn't very tall, maybe five-six or so, Buba judged. His thinning, sand-brown hair framed his face as it hung down over his shoulders. "Well, nice to meet you," the man said. He yanked open the Hummer's door and started to climb in.
Buba blinked then shouted, "Wait!" He bolted around the Hummer and grabbed the door before it closed. "What are you doing? I need this."
The man furrowed his brow and gazed at Buba in amusement. "Listen, buddy. The likes of you don't even know what this is. So what would you do with it? Just go about your business now and let me be."
"It's a Hummer," Buba said. The man frowned sharply. "And I know how to drive. Learned when I was thirty-one. My friend-"
"Howdyouknowthat?" The man asked, climbing out of the Hummer. He calmed himself visibly. "You not from around here, are you?"
"No, I'm not," Buba said. This was taking too long. Each question was bringing Brand closer to death. "My friend is dying. You can have it..." Buba's eyes drifted down the soldier with the head wound. He was still breathing. Hopefully he wasn't going to die. "But, I need to get my friend to a doctor first."
"Okay, deal. You get your friend, I'll take you to a doctor."
And Buba did just that. As he headed back for Brand, part of him started to wonder if that fellow and the Hummer would still be there. Thankfully, they were. Buba packed Brand in the back seat then hopped into the passenger's side of the Hummer. Lisya got in back with Brand. As they headed off down the dirt path, the miracle seemed like it was becoming a reality.To be continued...
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