Chapter Sixteen

Paisley still staring at the discolouration. I am too scared to get off the bed. The fine layer of sand that was not there in the morning is now a fingernail deep. Paisley isn’t moving. Feel like the room is sinking into a sand pit. The discolouration has grown. I can see it even from here. Liquid Man told me about his memory, about turning to sand. I have read through his journal. Read about the woman at the kiosk and what she said to him. 

I have an awful sensation inside myself. I think I am inside his dream. Perhaps he is not dead at all? Perhaps it is me who is dead? His liquidation in my world could actually be him waking up in his. I must write down the circumstances that have taken him from his entrance to Couldwell (as he called it) to the explosion by the reactor. The sections of his memory that he gave to me are solid, they are not turning to fog as my own memories are. Perhaps more proof that I am not in my own world. Perhaps. 

It was only yesterday that I knew everything. And now? All it has taken is a few words from an old woman, and a few grains of sand and everything has changed. Outside the window I can see the cracked concrete is barely visible. Sand is covering it. Across the courtyard, by the grocery store, the concrete fronting has been replaced with a wood veneer. Seems like the town is changing. Silently regressing. Who am I? 

I must recall now what sent Liquid Man on his quest. From life, through death to the NeverRealm. To his gateway world. I must recall what he told me. How all this started. 

She was dead. Lucy. My love. His love. She died in her sleep in the year 1815, huge tumours on her back. Last words were unheard, but they were sad. That much he was sure of. She was sleeping in Brekker’s Mansion, Holstenwall, just south of Tropic of Bath. It was summer. Heat wave made her fever worse. Brekker sent word across town to Master G_. Telegram said, “Come now, she is dying. It is time.” Master G_ did not rush to Lucy. Instead he finished his shift at the factory then went home. Ate. Drank. Slept. He went in morning. Lucy was holding on for him. He said he later regretted not rushing. But he didn’t want to see her in that state. She was repulsive. She had to lie on her front. Tumours like Alps on her back. Oozing. Pulsating. Unknown disease but a known cause - Brekker had been experimenting on her. Testing limits of radiation crèmes. Lucy had volunteered. At least, Master G_ had suggested it to her. He had volunteered her, he told me, and Brekker had taken her in. Lucy went willingly. She knew her limp (from falling from horse and getting trampled on) made her unattractive to Master G_. Simple maths. Master G_ said he felt the way he and Brekker looked at her had made her want to take part in experiments. He said Brekker took her in and applied many crèmes to her back.

Master G_ said Brekker was obsessed with radiation technology. Obsessed with The New Future, as the papers called it. Times were changing back then, I guess. (I have only memory of this world and my life, depleting though it is)

Master G_ told me of steam-powered trains, Model-T cars, 10,000 seat dirigibles and uranium power. All of that was in Brekker’s grasp. His knowledge of all worlds and dimensions was too alluring, Master G_ said. Over drinks in a bar (Master G_ could not name the bar and said something about it being a dune in his memory) Brekker laid out all of his plans for all the worlds but he needed subjects to test on. Then Lucy’s accident happened. Brekker said that he could cure her using his new methods. Master G_ was happy to have her become a brave test subject. Was an honour for him. They coerced Lucy into the lab. She went and the experiments began. 

At first the crèmes and tonics worked. Her skin tightened. The three moles that looked like maelstroms dissolved. She screamed in pain and Brekker held a mirror up so she could see the good effects. He thought this would stop the screaming. It didn’t. Didn’t stop the experiments either. After the crèmes and tonics came the balms. These turned her fingers and toes luminescent. Like Northern Lights Master G_ said. I don’t know what that means. Don’t know what Northern Lights are. But he said that when it happened, he and Brekker went out drinking to celebrate the breakthrough. Master G_ said that he never saw the true results of Brekker’s experiments until the end days of Lucy’s life. He thought the experiments were working and that Brekker was curing her. Combating her limp and its subsequent ravaging of her immune system. Brekker would not let him see Lucy. Would only feed him reports. Master G_ didn’t mind, he had faith in The Master Engineer. Didn’t know he was cause of illness and was blindly mixing cocktails in the dark. To Master G_, Lucy was damaged, but not beyond repair. He loved her soul but loved her looks more so. ‘Weak-stomached imbecile’ - that’s what he called himself. 

To Brekker, Lucy was canvas, palette and mixing bowl. Master G_ said they went drinking to celebrate a breakthrough in diagnosis, and that Brekker said she was nearing recovery. Master G_ professed nothing but love for Lucy. Don’t know how much to believe. Could be genuine love for her. Could be guilt over what he did. Counter-argument - guilty men do not do what Master G_ has done. They do not travel to seek out their transgressions. Guilty men shy away. Guilty men stay away. This man came forth! Tracking her down, so he was. Beyond the ends of the earth! If he knew Brekker had done all this to Lucy, why did Master G_ write so lovingly about him? Could he not remember? Did he not care? Did he forgive? Why did he want to meet Brekker in TheNeverRealm? I digress…back to story.

Brekker’s balms caused tumours. Tumours grew almost visibly. Lucy began to grow pale. Fevered. Experiments continued. She was force-fed Uranium Ophiochloa, an active grass compound. Stuffed down her throat. Forced to swallow. Tumours accelerated. Brekker began to sense he had gone too far and let Master G_ into lab. Master G_ saw the beast that used to be his Lucy. Recoiled in terror. He said Lucy uttered; “I am in pain, I am in pain and he won’t stop.” Master G_ fled the laboratory and hid in bottles of drink and factory work. Brekker had gone mad with desire to push his discoveries further. Lucy was a gateway for him. A canvas upon which to journey into his mad science and realise his dreams. The experiments continued. 

Lucy died soon after Master G_ had deserted her. He told me that she had just given up and died. Alone. Brekker was in the mixology centre when she expired. Lucy died alone and dissolving. When Master G_ saw her body he truly saw the extent of his betrayal. He saw his whole life before him and all the evil he had done. Pushing his sister into the pond. Laughing at his grandmother’s arthritis. Failing to rescue his love. He said he could never remember what happened to Brekker after the day Lucy died. He simply vanished. 

Must sleep now. Tiredness coming on fast. Will continue the story tomorrow. Sand on floor now mounting up around chair legs. Grocery store no longer a concrete compound. Now a wooden shack. 

I feel hollow inside.

Sand in socks.

Graham Thomas