FICTION: Pillar of Fire 5

Eleven dimensions. That’s how the math works out. Ten physical dimensions and time. String theory, M-theory, blah blah. We occupy three of those physical dimensions. That’s the world we exist in. You have to wonder. What’s the fifth dimension like?

No. Wait a minute. I’ve been thinking about it as a neat, ordered progression. As if dimensions one through three are ours and then the rest is crazy quantum land that doesn’t really affect our lives as we know it.

But that’s a very ego-centric way to look at it. What if we’re really occupying dimensions two, five and seven or something like that? What’s going on in dimension one? There’s a natural tendency, for some reason, to put time at the end. It just feels right to group all the things that seems similar together. Maybe time is the sixth dimension. What would that even mean?

Remember “Flatland”?

To Mr. TwoDimensionalSquare, Mr. ThreeDimensionalSphere was an alien, a magician, a godling. Manifesting on the two-dimensional universe like an apparition. Changing appearance in impossible ways, growing and shrinking.

I blacked out. I still don’t remember what happened when my lights went out. I was standing there one second and then nothingness. Then all of a sudden I was fully conscious again watching Gabriel tumble away from me through the air and crashing violently through a plate glass window. In my peripheral vision, Lily was shouting something and pulled a high tech looking machine pistol from somewhere. I watched her level the barrel at my chest and —

Lights out.

It was like my consciousness was strobe-lighting. Each time I came to was like being born — a violent dunking into wakefulness. Thinking back, I don’t think I was breathing when my lights were out. That whole autonomic nervous system thing, crashing and rebooting. I was not in control of myself.

Lights on. Lily with a bloody nose and her fist complete with brass knuckles hurtling toward my face like a meteor. Bystanders screaming and yelling. I almost had enough time to wonder what happened to Lily’s gun.

Lights out.

Lights on. Lily still launching her super soldier fists at me but now with a bruise beneath her left eye. Gabriel roaring in my direction.

Lights out.

Lights on. I slammed against a city bus on the other side of the street. I admit that I’m slow but I suddenly realized that I was in a fight. I was battling Lily and Gabriel in the middle of the day on a crowded street in downtown Washington, DC. Well, that thing — that Laws of Physic defying shadow monster — was battling Lily and Gabriel but it was using my body to do it. I looked down at my hands and saw a faint but distinct shimmer around them.

Lily ran at me, gun drawn.

I could barely speak. Disoriented would be understatement. “No! Lily, it’s me!”

I saw her pull the trigger. I saw three muzzle flashes.

My lights didn’t go out that time. They dimmed. I distinctly remember dodging to the left of the first bullet, swatting the second one out of the air, and willing the third bullet out of existence. Even I, engulfed in some other-worldly entity wearing me like it was trying on a rack of cheap suits, and on the verge of dying to death had to be impressed. I don’t like to give props to any entity from beyond that’s violating my will in order to possess me for who knows what reason, but those were some boss moves.

People screamed, ran, and cowered. Car horns honked. It was chaos.

Lights out but then back on a little too soon. Just in time for Gabriel to cover a lot of ground in very little time and connect a glancing blow to my — body area. I crunched backward into the bus, rocking it and shattering more of the windows. Angels — at least Gabriel class angels — are effing strong, y’all. They also have ways of breaking the laws of physics and nature. Each of them has their own bag of tricks but my advice would be to stay on their good side.

Bullets disintegrated into dust an inch from my head as the Shadow Monster operating me like a mecha reverse mecha tried its best to multitask.

“Wait. Stop. It’s me,” I slurred, trying to blink bullet dust out of my eyes.

That’s when Shadow Mecha made its mistake. I’m a firm believer in the motto, “Those who turn and run away live to fight another day.” That was one thing we had in common. It tried to leap to the top of the bus. Made it, too, but what Shadow Mecha didn’t know is that I’m prone to muscle cramps.

Leaping nine feet straight up after you’ve been in a brawl with enhanced super soldiers and divine beings and having your nervous system repeatedly rebooted? That’s a great way to trigger a global thermonuclear calf cramp. Boom. I yelped in pain and fell right off the bus. I thought Gabriel was going to catch me. He took a decisive step back at the last second.

Luckily, the concrete broke my fall. “Owwww. You ass. You could have caught me.”

Gabriel put a hand over my forehead and did something. “What did I tell you about taking care of your soul?”

“Is it gone? Shadow Mecha?” I said through gritted teeth.

Lily stood over me. Her gun was still out but down at her side. “Cute. It better be.”

The bruise beneath her eye was almost gone already. That’s some fancy bioengineering.

“It’s gone,” Gabriel said. “From you, anyway. Your body’s way too weak to keep that up for long.”

I was trying to get into a position where I could stretch out that cramp from hell. “Glad I didn’t eat that banana this morning. Mineral deficiency and electrolyte imbalance might have just saved the world. Or something. Whatever that was about. Ow. Why do my shoulders hurt so much?”

Lily holstered her weapon. “Human physiology isn’t really made to move fast enough to sidestep bullets and slap them out of the air like that. You should get checked out. It would be a miracle if you don’t have some torn muscles and ligaments.”

I gave up on trying to stand and laid back down on the concrete. “Is Homeless Joe okay?”

“He’s fine,” Lily said. “Nobody was seriously hurt–”

Laying on the concrete I felt the ground rumble. If traffic hadn’t already been at a standstill and in chaos I would have thought it was a bus rumbling by. Or a train. “What the hell was that?”

Gabriel stood up quickly. “I don’t know.”

Lily said, “This doesn’t feel right.”

That’s when it happened. You know that iconic photo that was all over the news? The photo that went viral? Man, I wish I had taken that picture. I’d be famous.

The grass in the park suddenly sunk a few inches as if a large sinkhole was about to form. Then it buckled up with a groan that faded into silence. A confused and apprehensive silence fell over the street.

Then all hell broke loose when a metro train burst out of the ground. I remember in vivid detail the looks of shock and horror on the faces of the people through the windows. The first train car vomited out of the ground, landed awkwardly on its side, and skidded, sparks flying, to a halt against a tree. The two train cars behind it piled up into an unstable bridge like a giant, metallic letter “A”. The rest of the train cars were jammed underground.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse or weirder, a horde of zombies surged around the train cars out of the sinkhole.

Gabriel did the sign of the cross thing and then some odd gesture with his hands. There was a flash so bright I had to shield my eyes. When I could see clearly again he was holding a staff. “I guess your Shadow found some place else to go.”

I struggled to my feet, gingerly testing my leg muscles. “A stick? Really? Y’know, I still don’t understand the point of any of this.”

Gabriel rolled his eyes at me and his staff burst into a blue-white flame.

Lily had a gun in each hand now. “What a clusterf—.”


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