a ‘fast and bright’ movement in sonata form,
complete with exposition, development, and recapitulation
Simon hits the conversation they’ve just had again, ready to bounce off it, as if it were a wall.
“Well,” Nathan had said with an imitation of his usual manner that had fooled exactly no one, including Nathan himself, “when you get there, you could always go back and shag yourself! I would. Best I’d ever have, right? Of course it’s you, back when you were Barry, so – well, let’s be honest, Barry was a bit creepy. Nice cock though. Not as good as mine, but whose is? No, wait, I know! You go back and you AND Barry shag Alisha at once? I’m sure Former Me would totally video it for you, mate. Or help, you know, if you need an assist. I'm there for you. Fifth hand always… handy.”
“Nathan,” Curtis had shouted, “shut up. God.”
“Lighten the fuck up, will you? I’m just adding a bit of comic relief to the situation, sorely needed, I might add.” Nathan had been looking grey; none of them were sure this would even work, except that it obviously had, so it would. Probably. After all, with Nathan’s help, the second pig had arrived alive… unlike the first pig.
“I have to go, Nathan,” Simon feels himself say just as he had before, when time was running the other way. “I have to save her. Besides, you don’t want to rot underground forever with no way out, do you? That ipod battery’s going to run down pretty soon.” When there’d been no response, he’d added, “I have to go, and you have to help. Don’t you see? We already did.”
“You’re not sure of that though. You can’t be. I can’t go through with this, man. Alisha will kill us. You’ve not even said goodbye.”
“If I don’t go, Alisha will be dead. And the rest of us will be completely fucked.”
“And if you’re right…” Nathan had trailed off then, his voice shaking, and Simon could see his eyes reddening. “It’s a one way trip, Simon. There’s no way back. The guy in the hoodie, he died there. I don’t want to do this to you.”
“We all die,” he’d replied calmly – though he hadn’t felt calm – and then he’d placed a hand on Nathan’s shoulder, gripped it firmly, tried to communicate with the touch all the things he didn’t know and would never know how to say with words. “Except you. Think of it as practice in letting go.”
Nathan had glared. “You’re just a proper ray of sunshine, aren’t you? Fuck you very much for that.” His voice had broken on the last word though, and Simon had smiled.
“It’s time,” Curtis had said gruffly, looking at the sunrise; Nikki had nodded then, and taken his hand.
Simon had squared his shoulders, underneath the weight of his pack – photographs, laptop, supplies. “Let’s do it.”
Okay. Now he’s got to stretch out a metaphorical, mental foot so he can gain momentum by swinging off the precise moment he’s selected to keep propelling himself further back: the arrival of the first pig.
“Simon, d’you want to fucking explain why there’s a pig here on the doorstep?” Kelly had shouted.
“Why ask me?”
“There’s a fucking note from you on it, you wanker.”
“You’re doing time travel experiments. With a pig. A fucking dead pig,” Kelly had said with disbelief.
“Why would I do something like that?”
“Here. Read it.” She’d shoved it at him then, and he’d looked down to see his own precise penmanship, covering the page. She had gone on. “Doesn’t say anything about it being dead either. Just that you and Katie were trying to put your powers together to send things back in time and space. Can you do that?” Simon blinks. This is... different. Who is Katie? It was Nikki who'd covered him in the teleporting bubble of space that protected him from jumping back into his own former self that allowed there to be two different Simons in one time stream, and Curtis who'd taken care of the time travel. This is... odd.
“Apparently when you do, it kills them, because this pig is stone dead, man,” Nathan had scoffed. “Pork chops.”
Katie --but surely it had been Curtis who'd said this, and Simon didn't recognize this girl at all-- had narrowed her eyes at Nathan then. “Clearly when we do this," she'd said, "we’ll need you to help.”
Okay, it's different, but it’s still bloody working, because he’s doing it: he’s free-running… through time. He peers out at the stream hurtling past to judge the next jut of time that he ought to lever himself off of. He reaches out towards what he thinks is the right one, but it lands him wrong-footed, and now, London was burning rubble, great flashes of lightning were laying waste to the sky, and there was nothing at all to catch hold of, there was no Simon, he wasn't there, there's nothing to push off against, none of them were there, this was a time where they had all died, and Simon doesn't understand how this can be, Nathan at least can't die. He stretches out in blind, uncontrolled desperation, sees different pasts spiraling by him in sharp flashes -- now, a bullet in the chest for Nikki -- now, Kelly and Alisha choking on something white and foamy -- now, all five of them in a small flat, unknown and broke, instead of the famous heroes he remembers -- now, all dead except for a bruised and broken Nathan who lights a candle for them by the community center -- and all the while, in the corner of his mind's eye, he can see with disbelief an infinity of other shadow-Simons, also bouncing off other time-streams, spinning and leaping, as he falls past them, down, down, down -- and then suddenly, when he's almost lost hope, it's there, a familiar timeline to help him arrest his free fall, a moment so rock-solid, it will give him enough force to make it all the way back.
Simon can feel Alisha’s arms round him again; her smile had been as bright as the lights of Las Vegas behind them. Days they’d stayed there, just the two of them, blessedly anonymous for once in a place where it seemed no one cared enough to recognize their faces, and it had felt like every dream he’d never dared to have, had come true. Her head had rested on his shoulder. “D'you know how much I love you?” she’d said softly into his neck; he felt her lips and the puff of her warm breath against his skin.
“I think I do,” he’d said, and it had been true.
His eyes open. He is standing on a pavement in a park on some morning, all parts present and accounted for. People are rushing past him, paying him no attention at all, which hasn’t happened to him in so long, he has to check that he’s not invisible. A man in a suit, probably hurrying to work, flings a newspaper into a rubbish bin as he passes. Simon’s eyes flick to the date. He’s made it, he’s there, he is back in that long-ago halcyon time, before everything changed. Is this the right time stream, though? Eh, he thinks. Close enough. Someone has left a hoodie on the park bench. He picks it up; it’ll do to hide his face for now, he figures, in case he runs into his friends. Plus, it’s orange. Something in him is tickled at the idea of wearing clothing the same colour as their community service jumpsuits.
He looks at the date again. Soon, he remembers with a hint of shame, his younger self will be leaving Nathan behind to fend for himself against the Virtue people. He has to save him.
He’s going to need to steal a bicycle.
a slow and stately movement, haunting and dreamlike; literally ‘at ease’
Simon’s eyelids fluttered once, twice, three times, as he rose up through the walls of sleep; actually, it was quite like the trailer for that film about dreams that’s coming out next year – he literally felt himself breaking through the ceilings and skies of the dream as it crumbled around him. He fumbled for the answer; he knew he’d found it somewhere down there, solved it really, but the trouble was that he couldn’t quite remember the question. Or was it a riddle?
He was free running, he thought, in the dream. Funny, he’d always wanted to learn how to do parkour. But he knew he never would. In some other universe, maybe, where his superpower wasn’t just an extension of his pathetic self, where the words in his head actually came out of his mouth instead of dying a choking death inside the prison of his brain, a universe where he hadn’t set a house afire, or one where if he had, he’d also had the guts to let the cat burn, a universe where he hadn’t killed someone. Two someones. Well, one and one-fifth someones, to be perfectly fair.
In this universe though, Simon knew he had to remember that he would never, ever do anything cool, or get anything he wanted. The worst part of the past few weeks was that for the first time in a long while, his days began with hope for a future, friends, love, sex, a life, and unfortunately days that started with hope apparently ended with murder.
And yet, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to stop.
a playful movement; literally ‘a joke’
He rides through the crowd of Virtue-zombies, swerves and then pivots the bike so Nathan can climb on. Sadly, Nathan does not seem to take the message.
He jerks his head, motioning Nathan forward; when that doesn’t work, he yells, “Get on,” in a hoarse mumble that is meant to disguise his voice, and Nathan finally leaps on in a gangly, awkward motion, gripping his shoulders tightly for balance. Simon starts to pedal faster, making up for the extra weight.
“FASTER,” Nathan screams, his hands digging in painfully. He wants to shout back – what does Nathan think Simon is trying to do, go slower? But he refrains; he doesn’t want Nathan to recognize him. Although, come to think of it, this Nathan probably wouldn’t recognize his own arse if he met it in a crowded room.
When they are finally clear, with a sudden brake and thrust of his hips, he sends Nathan careening backwards off the bike onto concrete. Simon privately admits to himself that he probably enjoys this a little too much. But it’s just so… satisfying.
“Who are you?” Nathan calls after him, his voice sounding awed, and Simon chuckles to himself as he rides on. “Thanks for saving me and everything,” he can hear Nathan shouting after him in the distance. “You could have just stopped and let me off.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” he asks, grinning, but of course he is much too far away for Nathan to hear.
a movement that returns to the original theme or motif
Simon is watching from a tree that overlooks the graveyard. He looks on as the not very large crowd melts away, until there are only four familiar figures standing there, overlooking the coffin. They look so small from this distance; rigid, uncomfortable, grief is still a surprise to them, like shoes that haven’t yet been broken in and raise blisters where they touch.
He can’t believe he ever used to be that young, and yet there he is.
Alisha can’t even reach forward to awkwardly take Kelly’s hand. She doesn’t know – none of them know – that the future is waiting for them, a future with friends, love, life. He’s the one now who has no future. Only a past, and not much of it left now, either. He’s okay with giving her that, he really is. He just wishes that it didn’t have to be so lonely.
It’s dark, when he finally jumps down from the tree, and stretches out next to the grave. He puts on his headphones. If, as he lies there, he puts out a hand to touch the mounded up earth, imagining he can feel the music from Nathan’s ipod vibrating through the ground, well, at least there’s six feet of solid ground and a coffin between them to protect Simon from the mockery that would ensue if Nathan could see him.
In a comparatively short while, Nathan is going to be back from the dead for the first time. A while after that: in love with him (something Nathan never manages to completely get rid of, Simon realizes), grabbing his cock, and trying desperately to hump his leg. This had horrified him when it happened, but actually sounds pleasant at the moment; Simon just barely manages to resist digging up the coffin, so he can yell the news of his imminent gay future in Nathan’s ear. It's really tempting, but he is a little afraid he will start trying to cuddle the corpse for comfort, and this is a little too retrograde, even for him, and he’s probably come closer to necrophilia already in his life than most normal people should.
Besides, he’s pretty sure Nathan would’ve mentioned it if he’d done this, so it’s unlikely to end well if he tries. Space-time paradox and all that. All though, come to think of it, is paradox even possible anymore, with all the different time-lines and universes running alongside one another? He has a headache just thinking about it.
He realizes he’s carrying on an imaginary argument of a somewhat romantic tenor through multiple, parallel time-zones with his best friend, who is at present dead (or at least buried), and groans. When did life become so complicated?
Anyway, he can’t stay here. He has things to do.
When he returns to their flat, the chains of the lift grind just as he remembers they will.
Simon looks at the wall, all the pictures of his friends that he’s collected over the next few years; they are pasted up sequentially – he can see the precise moments he needs to hit, everything that needs to happen, each domino that has to fall to hit the next, to create the a steady inexorable stream of events that must be.
There will be no error; he will not allow it. He remembers the other time-lines he saw briefly, and shakes his head. They won't happen. He won't let them.
He looks around what will be their safe haven, their Bat-cave. He almost can’t believe he’s the one who built it for them, and yet somehow, he feels as if he always knew. If he squints, he can see the future hanging in the air like a ghost– Kelly ruffling his hair, as she passes by him, Alisha curled in the corner, holding his hand, rolling her eyes at Nathan shouting something crass, Curtis pulling Nikki onto his lap.
It’s all going to be so cool. The corner of Simon’s mouth lifts up in a small, private smile, as he starts his clock.
“JESUS!” Nathan leaps about ten feet into the air. “Where did you spring from, mate?”
“I’m… dead, I think.” Simon looks round, and watches Curtis and Nikki wince at Nathan apparently talking to nothing.
“You only disappeared a second ago… did it not work?”
“No, it worked… perfectly. Dying there… it must have sent me back here to my proper time.”
There is a slight, awkward pause, and then Nathan clears his throat. “So, you’ll be buggering off then? To wherever it is dead people go?”
Simon waits a moment to test it, to see if some force is pulling him off somewhere against his will. Then he smiles. “You know,” he says, “I don’t think I will. You lot need someone to stick around and look after you. Incorporeal or not.”
Nathan shakes his head. “Oi, Curtis, Nikki. Someone run and tell Alisha her boyfriend’s back. Just sort of… Patrick Swayze at the moment.”
“Patrick what?” Curtis asks.
“Ghost, man. Patrick Swayze? Demi Moore? You've got no culture at all, mate.” When Curtis and Niki just stare at him, he throws up his hands. “What? My mum loves the eighties.”
“So,” Simon says, “does that make you Whoopi Goldberg?”
“Listen, I’ll be happy to enable your surrogate sex any time,” Nathan says with a grin. “You fondle, I’ll narrate. It’ll be like phone sex. Only, you know, on the astral plane.”
Somehow, even despite this offer, and well, being dead and all, Simon is pretty thrilled to be home.