Alright, I've picked and picked at this for over
two months. I have other things to do, darn it all! Feedback, good
and bad, is deeply appreciated.
Marvel Characters, Alicia's marvelous concept, the Shadowlands.
Sequel to "Somewhere, Over the Rainbows", "Under a Blood Red Sky",
and before "Clouds on the Horizon". Or maybe
after. I can't decide. The Cable and Logan could be Alicia's, though
they aren't necessarily. And I'm a member of the I Adore Mel club
-- she should get co-author rights for this. The title is thanks to
her, as are the incredible images of toys.
Dancing to the Thunder
It was a dark, and stormy, night.
The storm, however, was a very long ways off, and all was placid
between Bobby and I, a light breeze blowing and keeping us cool. The
weather around our little camp was fairly calm, though it smelled
like electricity in the air. If I strained my ears, I could hear little
booms, somewhere far off in the distance.
Thunder. It's been a while.
"They're laughing at us, you know," Bobby says. He's holding a little
stuffed teddy bear -- I think it's name is CareALot -- up to his face,
and making it dance around, being goofy like always. He crosses his
eyes at it, sticks out his tongue, and then waves its arm at me. He's
trying to be casual, but I get the feeling that the statement was
And so I answer, "Who are?"
The bear he's holding dances a jig at the end of his arms, somehow
in keeping with the bass beat coming from the earth itself. Boom --
the furry feet move gracefully through the air, and it turns into
a pathetic attempt at an erotic dance, little paws holding non-existent
genitalia and everything. I almost mention how much longer its legs
would have to be to make it effective, but realize he still hasn't
At the end of it all, he bends the bear from the waist and it waves
a gracious paw as if accepting applause.
I ask again, "Who?"
As if my words have broken the spell, he puts the teddy bear down
again -- suddenly not interested in it anymore. He turns away, his
attention on something else. But somehow he places it so it's looking
right over here, that eternal teddy bear grumpy confusion focused
I try and puzzle out who 'they' might be. For a moment I think he's
talking about Nate and Logan, but ... but Bobby and them seem to have
a bond that wasn't there when we were first separated.
And I can't see Nate laughing at anything anymore.
Those glass eyes stare up at me from it's perch in the dirt. The
bear is dark brown, and despite it's foray into dancing just a moment
ago, its face is sombre, watching me. I keep thinking about 'They'.
Who? What? We were talking about horrible dreams, of blood, and ripping,
and a leering, smiling face that looked like a demon, but was so much
more familiar. I don't know who it represented.
I can't see that face laughing at anything either, except perhaps
pain. It's somehow all attached to the reality bending that's been
Bobby is quiet, enjoying his play. We found a child's box of toys,
and he's kept busy. It was sitting underneath a dead tree, half-buried
in the mud. He picked it up, and sat it next to our fire to dry off.
He used his precious coat to wipe off the treasures inside, even though
the cardboard box was molded right through.
Children's toys, in every land, are made of sterner stuff; plastics
and fabrics that don't let go of life that quickly.
Bobby still doesn't answer; he picks up a globe and starts tossing
it in the air.
He holds it out, like a garishly colored peace offering. A laughing
world? Maybe he meant the world, but why he used the plural form I
'The worlds are laughing at us.' That couldn't be it, though it's
phrasing in character for him of late. Sometimes he sounds like someone
who's been pushed a little too far -- like playing with toys and joking
about blood. Instead of telling me who he was talking about, he starts
to mumble to the globe. "This is the kind of world I can handle."
I don't know if he means plastic -- fake -- or so very small. Perhaps
a little of both. I don't move to take it off him, and he throws it
violently far away. He's been a little high-strung of late.
We were talking about the dreams, and he was finding it all too funny.
He has them too, he said. They were terrible, and I had them every
night, of blood, and death. And hopelessness. Sometimes, I almost
let them get me down, but I can't. They're just dreams, and I have
to keep my head on straight to try and survive this, to make something
better, and eventually win.
I'm the only one around, lately, who seems to still have a grasp
on the hope to win.
No one will tell me what really happened, not even Bobby. He wears
a trenchcoat day in and day out, and cries himself to sleep at night.
He thinks I don't hear him, and I don't want to embarrass him by mentioning
it in the morning. I've asked him why the realities are bending, where
he went once we were all separated after the first wave hit ... I
don't know what happened to him.
I don't know what happened to any of them.
Bobby sits, quietly staring off in the direction that Nate and Logan
went earlier. I try and ignore the growling in my stomach, picking
at my food slowly to make it last. Bobby's all skin and bones, but
he says he's never hungry. I can't force food down his throat. If
I try, he just wastes it by throwing it into the dirt, or worse. I've
tried to force him to eat, but Nate and Logan make sure I don't press
He eats if I really plead with him; he hasn't deteriorated mentally
so much that he's starving himself. I push a little of my food to
one side, saving it for him for later.
I'm also trying to ignore the bear lying in the dirt, staring up
at me with hollow, accusing eyes. I can't help but notice how much
it looks like Bobby. I've been doing the best I can, but things are
Nate and Logan are leaving, they say. They've had enough of this.
But of what? I tried to make them remember what it was we always fought
for, but I know they weren't really listening. They've all changed
so much. Even Nathan, in his own way, always used to believe. I guess
the strain has gotten to them. I'm trying not to let it get to me,
but it's getting harder.
The 'shifts', as Bobby calls them, have no pattern, so every second,
we might be pulled somewhere else. They've been going on for about
three months, if you count the first month and a half of semi-normalecy.
The power and other utilities were the first to go, and so the riots
and normal chaos hit hard.
I don't know why, to begin with, people didn't notice reality warping.
Maybe the mass destruction got in the way. But rioting, and looting,
and normal anarchy reigned. There was a normal death toll -- a believable
To begin with.
Then the riots stopped, and people started dropping like flies. I
did my best, separated from the team, to save as many as I could,
but there was only so much I could do. It's not an excuse. I can't
really do anything anymore, because there are so few survivors, and
the ones that wander around with no minds, no food, and no hope ...
what can I do for them now? I can't restore power if every attempt
I make to reach a generator leaves me with a pile of goo or melted,
twisted metal; I can't feed myself anymore, much less anyone else.
Bobby is still staring after Nate and Logan, rubbing a thumb along
the hem of his trenchcoat absently. I didn't notice him grab it, I
was so deep in thought before, but there's a puppet on his arm. It
hangs limp at his side, and its gaze has the same feel a corpse does.
It's been dark for about two hours, and I wonder what time it is.
All the watches have stopped.
What else? I started keeping track of what I saw in the shifts, trying
to write it down, but it's gotten impossible. The things I've seen...
God I miss Jean.
But that's not productive -- no -- must keep moving. If Logan and
Cable are going to go off on their own, I'm going to have to find
some way to keep in contact with them. Don't get distracted by Bobby's
strange behavior, focus on the problem. Nathan said his telepathy
only works intermittantly, and not across a shift, but there's got
to be another way.
We're X-men. We don't give up.
I look over to Bobby, rummaging around through his box of dirty treasures.
He pulls out a Barbie doll, and makes a disgusted face, then tosses
it into the fire with a flick of his wrist. It snaps and pops and
melts grotesquely, until I can smell the charred plastic.
He bends over again, and comes up, triumphantly holding a packet
of crayons. He places them to one side, and digs for some paper, I
guess. Apparently the child he's pilfering from wasn't an artist,
because he gives up, empty handed. He tried again, and was a little
more successful, finding some chalk. I saw him contemplate it with
a wicked grin that almost reached his eyes. He started drawing grotesque
little pictures, and then wiped them out again, before I could lean
over to see them.
He's so secretive. I don't know how to reach him.
I don't know exactly what happened to Bobby. He's wearing, I swear,
Gambit's coat. Why he'd consider Gambit's coat sacred I don't know.
Maybe it's for luck -- Remy always did have more than his fair share.
I made a Cajun joke -- it must be the end of the world.
Nathan acts like the end of the world is the least of our problems.
I'm worried the most about all the people. Even though we can't find
them, there has to be people alive still. The power, water, everything
being down and unavailable makes life just another survival trip.
Anarchy, nothing more, and the longer it goes on, the worse off everyone
Still, the massive power outs and water shortages were devastating,
but they can't have been that devastating. We have to be in
the heart of it, and there's still the odd survivor around here. We
still might be able to help. Perhaps it's another reality altering
mutant doing all of this, though it's been going on too long, I think.
At any rate, we have to be ready for anything.
Bobby stares into the fire, as I finish eating my pathetic dinner.
I'm thankful we've had a semi-normal day, because it's given me time
to think. Normally, our days are full of waiting, and frantic activity,
and foraging. Nate told me once, 'We all have our roles to play.'
He had such sad eyes when he said it. I do most of the foraging. Bobby's
one for frantic activity, off and on. Nathan, well... all he does
anymore is wait. Logan too. I can't for the life of me figure out
what they're waiting for.
I actually asked them before they went to go find more things that
burned for the fire. They both laughed.
Bobby looks at me, with those eyes that were so much older than mine,
and I realize he wasn't even waiting for much of anything anymore.
He says to me, in such a low voice, "Death."
I'm surprised. "Death, what?"
Bobby laughs, and it grates on my ears to hear. Bobby never would
have laughed at me, not when it was serious. Something's changed him
so much -- he's different than I knew him to be. He answered, "They're
waiting for Death."
Bobby turns away, pretending to be intent on his latest prize, the
hand puppet, as if he's never seen it before. "Everyone's."
I decide to change the subject. Bobby seems to be in a more talkative
mood, so I think I'll take advantage of it. "Are you waiting for anything?"
The puppet smiles at me, then goes down low to whisper to the teddy
bear. It was still staring at me with blank eyes. He mumbles, "Not
really. Not anymore."
The puppet turns to me, and I don't really expect an answer. "Yes,
I'm hoping for something."
There's not much harm in asking, I think. "What?"
He pokes the fire with a stick he's holding in his free hand, and
says dully, "It doesn't really matter. It's not going to come true.
The Twelve thing didn't happen in my world, and it didn't happen in
yours, and maybe it did in Cable's and it doesn't really matter because,
when all's said and done, it won't bring him back."
We were getting somewhere, finally. It had been almost three weeks
travelling with these guys, and they wouldn't tell me anything. I
could tell Nathan had been going at it longer than that. Possibly
much longer. After a pause, in which I jumped as the wind picked up
and there was the faintest pop of thunder, I ask gently, "Bring who
Bobby's amusement is clear, and he answers through the cheery face
on the end of his arm. In what was close to a falsetto, he answers,
"If you say a wish, it won't come true."
I decide to try a different tactic. "What are the Twelve?"
Bobby dropps the puppet arm, and cradles it in his lap. His face
closes off, and it is a long time before he answeres, "We are. Well,
you and I and Cable, and Logan is connected, certainly, being the
epitomy of Death..."
The puppet whispers, "Maybe that's why Logan-san is waiting for Death!
He was Death..."
He was making no sense. Logan was Death? I was the Twelve? Unless
this was metaphorical, there was nothing I was a part of that I remembered.
"Are you talking metaphorically? A spiritual thing?"
He watches the flecks of lightning on the hills, dancing to the off-tempo
beat of the thunder. He mutters to his arm, "You should be named ...
What do you want your name to be?" He sits up, and to me, says, "Sure,
why not. If it's easier to understand that way. Destiny saw it that
"You're telling me that Fate, in some way, is tied into the Twelve
as a metaphor for everyone?" This was getting to sound less and less
like Bobby and more and more like--
"Is that what Bobby just told you, Scott?"
I look up to find Nathan, expression one of amusement, and yet, one
of horror. I answer, "He's being rather vague."
"Oh." A pause, then, "That's fine then." He looks at Wolverine, and
they put the wood and things on the fire. It flared up, just as another
flash of lightning lit up the sky and our crude camp. For some bizarre
reason, I think of campfire songs. Any minute, Bobby's going to get
all strange again, and start singing to me in a cute voice, making
the toys around him dance and come alive.
He's starting to scare me a little.
Bobby put in, "I used the word Destiny, though." Cable's face, already
twisted into half a grin and half a grimace, intensifies.
Logan went to work on the little food we had, while Nate and Bobby
stare at each other. I try to read their expressions, try to re-familiarize
myself with the body language that was second nature to me to read.
I don't know why I can't read it anymore ... it's like they're strangers
to me. I don't know what happened...
I still don't know what causes the shifts, either. I ask Nathan,
"Is it true? Is what Bobby said true?"
He looks again at Logan, and I get the distinct impression that they're
telepathically discussing what to say. They'd been censoring what
they say around me lately. I don't know where they went after the
first shift separated me from the rest of the X-men, but I finally
found this pair, and they were ... well, if I didn't know better,
I'd say a pair. Nathan finally mumbles, "More or less true."
I look at Bobby, who is extremely uncomfortable. If I hadn't known
better, I would have said that these weren't the same people I knew.
But that's ridiculous. I ask, "So ... I am part of whatever
the Twelve is?"
"Are ya havin' nightmares?" Logan ask. I nod slowly, and he went
back to his food, obviously assuming that I'd answered my own question.
I want to ask what the dreams mean, but I don't think he'd answer
me anyway. Everyone was acting so oddly.
The puppet's staring down at that damned bear, and they're having
a conversation. I can't read Bobby's lips, and he's talking so quietly
that there's no way I can hear him. I start to think about Jean again,
when Bobby interrupts me by saying, "Wouldn't it be awful if that
lightning got any closer? I can already feel it on the back of my
He was right -- the hair on the back of my neck was standing straight
up. As if to answer Bobby, a streak of lightning hits a tree not a
hundred feet away from us, sparking the dead branches into orange
life. Nathan telekinetically manages to stop it from setting ablaze.
The sound is deafening, and my ears start to ring loudly. We all
look around then, waiting for the next spark.
Almost so faint I can't hear, Cable murmurs to Logan, "You think
Logan answers him, "Who knows? Could be. We never found out whether
anyone was controlling the shifts."
Bobby watches the two of them, and I open my mouth to ask what they're
talking about when --
"There. That settles it." Cable looked down at Scott's body, and
almost let the tears lurking in his eyes out. "It was his doing. Bastard."
Logan grunted, and moved the charred body farther away from their
camp. He came back, and sat down beside Cable. Nathan didn't say anything,
just put his arms around Logan tightly. Bobby dug into the box one
final time, and clenched his fist around something tightly.
To Bobby, Logan said, "Listen, we're moving out tomorrow morning.
Going to try and make it to Egypt. What are you plannin', Drake?"
Bobby looked a bit embarrassed. He said, "I think I'll go west from
here. There's a Cajun I'd sure as hell like to find."
Logan nodded acknowledgement, as did Cable. Bobby looked over to
the hills, where the lightning was still dancing. He glanced at where
what remained of Scott sat, before bursting into helpless giggles
as Cable and Logan stared at him.
He was still laughing to himself when they packed up and headed out
a few minutes later. Only once they were safely out of sight, did
Bobby move towards the body again, examining the charcoal flesh all
down one side. He opened his hand slowly, and stared at the pieces
of plastic sitting in his palm. He bent down, and very slowly placed
a scatter of brightly coloured action men on what was once Scott Summers,
with an air of benediction. The puppet nodded, then dangled from his
arm, lifeless, before Bobby wrapped his trenchcoat more tightly around
himself and left the spot.
In minutes the clearing was bare but for a solemn-eyed bear and the
smell of still-smoking hope, settling slowly and resolutely into the
dust. Like footprints on the moon, this was a monument that wouldn't
be tampered with. The wind had died down to nothing, leaving the air
oddly still; the bones and ashes wouldn't be disturbed any time soon.
Not that there was anyone left to see them.
Bobby walked on, alone, and no one with a heartbeat heard the words
he left hanging in the air, his choked out, "What are the odds?"
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