The Alternative Limbo
“...are there any notable side effects, Arthur?” Yusuf asked, having monitored the Point Man’s dream state. He had just formulated a new compound, which Arthur agreed to test.
Arthur leant forwards in his chair, rubbing his temple. “A pounding headache?” he replied, sleepily. “....uhm...uhm...” his eyes closed and he fell forward. Jerking back upright, he said “did I mention a pounding headache?”
“So that’ll be some short term memory loss then, tiredness, headache, disorientation...” Yusuf muttered to himself, scribbling on a piece of scrap paper which he then pinned onto his board.
“How many fingers am I holding up? What’s seven multiplied by twelve? When is your birthday?”
“Three, eighty four, second of the second....”
““You go have a rest now, Arthur. Ariadne? Tidy him up, would you? Give him a paracetamol and let him sleep for a bit. I’m going to grab a coffee.”
“...no...paracetamol...just...sleep...” Arthur muttered.
“Just... a ... moment” the Architect said, concentrating on her latest dream model. There wasn’t an upcoming dream job, but Cobb wanted her to keep up the practice. She straightened up and walked towards Arthur, who had fallen asleep in the deck chair. She raised an eyebrow at the sleeping man who had dragged her away from her work. Lengthy cables coiled around his shoes, reaching from his wrist over to the PASIV. After releasing his wrist from the aluminium machine, she allowed the retracting wires to shoot back into the silver case, closing and locking it before leaving it by the chair. Shrugging, she bent down to peck the Point Man on the cheek before returning to her creation, smiling.
“I saw that!” called Eames, from across the warehouse.
Arthur woke in his deck chair in the late afternoon, surprised he wasn’t at his desk. His headache was more or less gone, but he knew from experience that an early night would do him good. He checked his totem quickly, before deciding to leave now, as opposed to staying through until nightfall. Rising up, he stepped quietly over to his desk, shuffling papers and the odd beige file from his immaculately tidy work space into his briefcase. His slender fingers curled around the worn handle of the leather briefcase, and he lifted the case carefully from the table as he straightened up to face his colleagues.
The Point Man nodded at each of them in turn, straightening his tie. “I’m heading back to the hotel now, Cobb – Ariadne – Yusuf – Mr. Saito – Mr. -”
“And me, darling?” Arthur let out a small sigh and rolled his eyes in irritation. The piercing English drawl that carried through the entire warehouse could only belong to one British bastard. “You know, it’s snowing outside. You might want to call a taxi, pet.” The other man spun 90 degrees in his spinney chair from a light conversation with Ariadne to face the Point Man. He winked. Arthur’s eye twitched in annoyance. The opened-necked loud shirt that screamed polyester didn’t help.
“...Mr. Eames.” Arthur replied curtly. He rechecked his totem, having forgotten he had already done it. I was about to say you, you know, had you not been the terribly impatient man you are. He wrenched open the door of the warehouse and stepped into an icy puddle.
“Bloody snow...” he muttered under his breath. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled, as he felt the whole team watch in anticipation. It was common knowledge that Arthur did not do whatever Eames suggests, so he either had to sacrifice his freshly pressed three piece suit, or wound his pride and call a cab.
A rainbow coloured umbrella exploded beside him, as the noisy Eames approached, narrowly avoiding hitting him in the face. Water dripped down his face from his hair, but the effect of the umbrella was immediate. “Snow is definitely not for me, when you’ve just spent half a year in Mombasa,” he announced. Definitely not the cab, Arthur decided, closing his eyes in exasperation.
A muscled arm shot out, causing Arthur to shift backwards to prevent being thwacked in the jaw, as the arm waved to hail an oncoming taxi. Arthur watched as the other man closed his umbrella swiftly, shaking snow over Arthur’s neatly shined brogues, and scooted into the leather seat. “Care to share the ride, darling?” he patted the seat next to him and flashed a grin at Arthur, which he did not return.
“I’ll walk,” was the abrupt reply from the irritated Point Man. The Forger pouted. “C’mon dar -“. The threat of another pet name was enough to make Arthur extended a thin arm into the rain and slam the door: the taxi swiftly shot off along the misty carriageway. Arthur breathed heavily, pinched the bridge of his nose with icy cold, white fingers and swiftly began the lengthy, slushy walk to Mr. Saito’s hotel.
Stupid...annoying...Eames. Can’t let me get my own taxi. Although he knew it was his own stubbornness that brought this cold on him, he couldn’t help but blame the man a little.
Arthur kicked at lumps of ice, chipping them and sending chunks of the cold stuff skidding down the path. The Point Man trod through the ice, frowning at each potential hazard on the pavement. He was recalling all the pet names Eames had called him that day. Always the same, every day: Pet...darling...love...dear... The one instance Arthur had questioned him about it, Eames had answered, “I know you love my little terms of endearment, pet.”, and accompanied this comment with one of his winks. At the time, Arthur had narrowed his eyes. “In your dreams, Mr. Eames”, had been his sharp response, before he had continued his research. The Point Man was frustrated, not so much at Eames, but at himself. Why do I keep thinking about this...him...Eames? He’s just a bloody bastard he kept trying to convince himself. Arthur stopped and twitched his head, his wet hair curling out of its usual gelled back smoothness and into his eyes. A loud scream stopped him in his thoughts.
“Please quiet down, miss and –“as he looked up as she shrieked. He caught sight of the man to his right, across the seat with the gun. He jerked his own hand towards his hip where his own glock was tucked away, before a hellish heat ripped through the hand on his waist clutching the handle of his gun. He felt the bullet shatter through the bone and flesh, imbedding itself into the soft tissue in his side. He registered this much: the man was dressed similarly to himself in a three piece suit, and a bowler hat. Dissimilarly, he was a complete wreck, cackling insanely as policemen tackled him to the ground.
Arthur’s eyes widened, as he recognised him as a previous mark they had worked on. A man they had extracted information from, without consent. Without authority from him. Illegally. Arthur’s head moved again, as he noticed more policemen, running towards the man.
During that jolt of pain that wrenched him to the ground, the Point Man felt very calm – after all, he had died many times before, and his mind was fixed upon the one thought: that dying would just mean waking up. After all, that was part of the basis of being in “the dream job”. Literally. Arthur smiled at the pun. He had already forgotten what his totem had previously told him. His brain dimly acknowledged the flashing blue lights and sirens of police cars and ambulances alike, and he felt the warm wetness of his blood spilled over his fingers where he clutched his ribs, spreading across the side of his suit. This was what he loved about dreaming. At least it’ll be clean when I wake up. Lying on the sodden pathway, he felt in his pocket for it – the small red die that would determine his fate. Just in case. He let the warm weight roll of his bloody fingers and onto the ground, watching it tumble onto the ice and slide away from him. Four.
Arthur closed his eyes as the foggy tendrils of his subconscious dragged his mind into the unknown. Shit.