The Traveler walked slowly through the village. She tried not to see but was unable to turn away. These were not people. They were animals, screwing in doorways, cutting themselves to feel the pain, killing animals to drink the blood and taste the raw meat, killing each other to taste that meat as well. Kartesh walked slowly in the cold and misty morning, ignored by the locals until she reached the well. Then everyone stopped whatever they were doing and turned their heads to look at her. More than a hundred dead, staring eyes to haunt her dreams for centuries.
The Traveler pulled the Polos behind him, not that it would make any difference. Mafeo was already grabbing at his head. There was a mind, a genetically enhanced alien mind reaching out to possess them and Lee could do nothing to stop it. It had hidden from its own kind to survive, but now that the alien cyborgs had abandoned the planet, it had awakened, and it was hungry for experience. Thirty of its own people came staggering out of the cave. Lee’s own battle weary troops abandoned their horses to run toward the cave. The mind wanted to play war, and the Europeans were in the middle, helpless to resist. If Marco Polo never arrived at the court of the Kahn, history would be irrevocably changed.
The Traveler had crashed on the planet. Well, she had taken out three enemy ships before her own had taken a fatal blow. She got her people away on the shuttles and escape pods, but her own escape pod was damaged. So she crashed on a planet with a small human colony. That should have been her salvation, but a genetically designed mutant mind had reached out to possess all three hundred colonists. Why would anyone create such a thing? Bridget, though, was untouchable and the thing was frustrated. She was strapped to a table and about to be drugged. That could not happen. She had to be conscious to stop the mind from breaking out into space, from creating a super race of super minds to possess the galaxy.
Glen blinked. Alice of Avalon stood in front of him and he was not even looking in a mirror. She was the most intense, unattainable, untouchable beauty in the universe, he thought. He could not help what he thought next, but it felt so weird. She was him in another lifetime after all, and she frowned.
“Sometimes I don’t like myself very much,” she said.
“Me neither,” Glen said. “I mean, me too.” He had imbibed a bit on Saturday night and though it was Sunday morning he still felt it. He was going to feel the hangover when he woke up, too.
“Pay attention.” Alice snapped her fingers in his face. “An abomination has come into Manhattan, ninth street, your old stomping grounds.”
Glen attempted to pull himself together but he was not altogether successful. “Is it human?” He asked.
“Mostly.” Alice gave a very unsatisfying answer. “It does not belong in this universe.”
“What, some alternate reality junket?” Glen joked.
“It is a child. A rough guess would be twelve-years old. Apparently the mother was strong enough to shred the fabric of reality and deposit the child here to incubate.”
“What?” Glen was not laughing now. “But what can I do about it?”
“You are the only one who can. This is your life. Others can help, but you must decide what is to be done. Only you must decide quickly. People are already possessed and some have already been discarded.”
“Their lives drained and their bodies thrown out like empty husks.” Glen understood.
“People are dying, and all of New York City is the playground.” Glen sat up in his bed. He was sweating yet his mouth felt bone dry and his head hurt. He stumbled to the bathroom and managed not to throw up. Then he could not get back to sleep. It seemed to him that was the strangest dream he ever had. He decided since it was Sunday morning, he might go to church. Given the way he felt and the dream he just had he probably needed to go to church.
Glen drove all the way down the Garden State Parkway, but when he got to the turnoff for home, he turned toward the city instead. He drove in via the Holland tunnel and went uptown to the north end of the Village where he found parking in Chelsea. He had a ten block walk to ninth street, but Glen did not mind walking in the city. It was the driving that wrecked his nerves. Besides, he needed the air.
He started out serious, though he had no idea how he was going to find a psychic monster in the midst of so many people. Half the people he saw could be possessed already and he would have no way of knowing. Possessed people behaved normally enough because the abomination usually used their minds and memories in order to explore their lives. Glen supposed it was entertaining for a while.
After five blocks, Glen decided that it was just a dream after all. It had to be. He remembered a short story he wrote for a class at the New School about an abomination—his word. It was an abominable story, but surely he made the whole thing up. I mean, he confronted the abomination with a goddess. Okay, so Kartesh was a lesser goddess, and forced to become one at that—she wasn’t born a goddess, but that did not make it any better. The critiques he got all said he took the stupid, easy way out. There was no tension. It was no contest. Of course Supergirl was going to defeat the cub scout, one person put it. Honestly, Glen had to agree with them.
By the time Glen arrived at Ninth street, all he really wanted to do was go by the Lion’s Head and have a drink and a bite of lunch, if they were open. Still, he had come that far so he decided he might as well check things out, stupid as the whole idea seemed.
Glen went by the New School, but it was locked up on Sunday morning. He took a few courses there several years earlier, but they were night classes. He supposed most of the classes at the New School were night classes. He shrugged and moved on.
He stopped at the eternally locked door that was the entrance to Electric Ladyland Studios. That name was a stab from the past. He wondered if the ghost of Jimi Hendrix was still haunting the place. He decided he did not want to know.
This is stupid, Glen finally objected to the whole enterprise. Alice, if you want to stop some abomination, you do it, he thought. He was a bit surprised when he heard her voice, just as he remembered it from the night before. It rang loud and clear in his own mind.
“No. This is your lifetime. You are the one who has to do it.”
He shrugged it off as his imagination and turned into a side street. It was one of those narrow streets in the village just barely big enough for one car. The people there were all in the street and Glen imagined it was a block party going on until he got into the midst of them. The people all stopped what they were doing and with one motion, all heads turned and all eyes stared at him.
Glen swallowed the lump in his throat. Maybe he would throw up after all.