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sometime yesterday

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Desmond wakes up in the forest, his cheek against dry moss, something hard digging into his chest – fallen tree branch. There are leaves and roots and grass under his hands, winding into his fingers. Somewhere above him, there are birds, chirping.

After moment of laying there in confusion and strange, faded sort of wonder, he turns to lay on his back, awkwardly squirming to get the branch from under him, throwing it haphazardly to the side. It really is a forest – he's in an actual forest, with bushes to the left of him and canopy of tree branches and leaves above him, sunlight screening through their foliage. It feels and sounds real, the rustling of leaves, the slight dampness of the mosses under him, the touch of breeze on his chin. It even smells real.

When was the last time he'd seen a forest – a real, proper forest, not a simulated one in the Animus, or the well maintained one of the Central Park? He can't even remember – it had been years at least, years and about three life times. Four, if he counts his own.

Weird place to end up after death. Maybe it's his own brain simulating it now – in his final moments his last living brain cells desperately trying to reach for some peaceful, cool image that is completely unlike the scorching agony of the Eye, burning him inside out? It's definitely cooler here, and more quiet too aside from the birds chirping. The sound of leaves is nice.

Damn, he's really dead, huh? Or dying, very soon.

Sighing, Desmond leans his head back and closes his eyes.

Maybe if he just lies here, the moment will stretch out on and he won't have to deal with whatever comes next, be it nothing or… or something. At this point, he'd kind of prefer it to be nothing. Just black void of nothing, no thoughts, no damn memories, nothing. Nothing to deal with or fear or worry or regret. Nothing at all.

A stray bit of grass tickles at his wrist and with a sigh Desmond lifts it to lie on his stomach. He can feel buttons, digging into his palm – he's wearing a jacket with buttons. Weird. It feels like… not fleece. Rougher, thicker, familiar…. stiff. He's wearing a denim jacket?

For a while he just lies there, his fingernails scraping at the stiff fabric, feeling around the stitches, the seams, the buttons. Underneath it he can feel cotton, and under that his own stomach, rising and lowering with breaths. Up with inhale and down with exhale, slow and easy.

Damn it feels nice just to breathe – the air is so clear here too. Earthy and damp and just foresty. It's nice. Weird, but nice.

Minute passes. Five. Ten maybe – and the moment doesn't end. The end doesn't come.

Desmond draws a breath and opens his eyes again. Above him, there's a flutter of wings as a bird takes flight, chirping its way out of there. Blinking, Desmond watches it go for a moment and then looks around. This place… it looks familiar. He knows these trees. Pines, birches, and spruces. The ground is uneven around him too – rising towards the left. Rising like up towards a hill… or a mountainside.

Suspicion rearing its ugly head, Desmond pushes himself up to lean onto his elbows before finally sitting up. Yeah, he knows this place. Dry, forest covered hill land, boring and utterly unremarkable. He even knows the bird song, he knows those birds – he listened to their chirping every damn spring of his youth.

This is Black Hills.

This is where he ran through to get away from the Farm. Whole night he spent running through these hills, through these forests, keeping barely track of the direction he was going by the sight of the moon over the branches, until clouds covered it and he couldn't see his way anymore. He stopped…. He stopped in the first dry place he could find and sat down to wait for the sun to rise so that he could keep going.

Slowly standing up, Desmond looks around. Yeah, yeah this is the place. He ended up falling asleep here, exhausted and terrified, his heart pounding like a drum in his chest – he'd more passed out than slept, really. He woke up late in the morning, sun already climbing upwards – and instantly panicked and didn't stop running until he made it to the nearest road.

He jumped onto the first truck that would take a scruffy looking hitchhiker, like that, he'd been out.

Looking down on himself, Desmond isn't too surprised to find himself wearing the clothes he wore when he ran. Blue jeans and black denim jacket, grey hoodie under it. There's the backpack he'd squirreled away over several days, filling with essentials – and as much money as he'd been able to steal away, bit by bit. At that point of his life money had been sort of a abstract concept to it – he'd only visited a real store couple of times in his life in heavily supervised trip with his father, and they'd never felt too real. They were more like… things you saw on television. When ever the television worked, anyway.

Crouching down, Desmond rummages through the backpack. Two sets of clothes, rolled up with military precision into little packages. Medical supplies in a Ziploc bag, including everything you needed to extract a bullet. Food – MRE's, protein bars, supplements. Water in two canisters, and handful of pills to treat water gotten from the wild. Extra socks, switchblade and a Swiss knife, a flint stick… Hell, he even has a metal tin that can be used for cooking if he needs it.

Shit, he forgot how well he packed when he ran. Training of an Assassin, the stuff he worked about nine years to forget afterwards – he has a whole bug-out kit, right there. With this stuff, he could live on his own in the middle of nowhere for few days if he needed to.

Repacking everything as nearly as he'd found them, Desmond shakes his head, weirdly amused. Funny – everything the Assassins taught him, he'd used to get away. Distraction in the farm – he'd tampered with one of the generators, his father had spend all evening fixing it. Sneaking out – he'd worked about a week making his route out, making a gap in the fence bit by bit, loosening a window, carefully arranging a crate under it so that he could get out silently. He even prepared treats for the dogs to keep them quiet and mapped out the security cameras so that he could sneak by them without being caught.

It was a full on prison escape, and thanks to the harsh training he'd been put under all his youth, he got it pretty much perfect. Granted, the Farm hadn't precisely been designed to keep people in – all its protections were for detecting people coming in, and keeping them from getting in too easily, but still… He'd escaped the Assassins.

That's almost a thing to be proud of, isn't it? It fucked him over eventually, but for nine years he got everything right. Nine years, until he stopped caring and got complacent. Nine years on foot, and when he finally decides to get himself a set of wheels…


Idle, Desmond reaches for a nearby branch of a young, scrawny looking spruce, and snaps a bit of it off. The needles feel prickly and real in his fingers – and when he bites on them, the bitter tang is real.

It's been about twenty minutes now. He's still not gone.

"Right," Desmond mutters and touches his throat with a frown. "Weird," he mutters in a weirdly higher voice. Then, shaking his head, he hauls the backpack to his shoulders and stands up again, peering up at the sky. He headed south when he ran – then doubled back four times to mess up his tracks as much as he could. The Farm should be to the west of him now. Yeah, the hills are rising more to the west side – the Farm would be over them, hidden in a valley. Right.

To the east it is.


"Bit of an odd time to be hiking," the truck driver, Dan, says after Desmond has settled in on the shotgun seat, feeling impossibly small and scrawny in the enormous, swaying cockpit. "You sure you weren't with anyone?"

"Nah, it was a bit of a last moment decision," Desmond says. "I was doing a nature hike on one of the paths up there – it was supposed to be just couple days trip, but I got a bit lost."

"So, heading back to Rapid City?" the trucker asks.

The Assassins would be scouring the nearby settlements for him by now, as much as they dared to anyway. Rapid City would be one of them.

"Bit further away actually – where are you heading?" Desmond asks.

"Minneapolis," Dan says thoughtfully, giving him a look. "I can stop you anywhere along the way there, kid, but I should be there around midnight tonight, so I can't be taking any detours."

"Any chance I can catch a ride with you all the way?" Desmond asks. "I can pay you. Not much, but you know, a bit."

The trucker gives him a look.

"I got some friends up there, and I've got a flight booked from Minneapolis," Desmond explains. "It's three days from now, but anyway…"

"Oh? Where you from then, kid?"

"New York," Desmond says and then waves a hand at the look the man gives him. "Yeah, yeah, I'm long away from home, I know. I just like visiting little less known places for my breaks – you know, less touristy, more wild places?"

"Right," Dan says and rolls his eyes in that kids these days way. "Well, I can get you to Minneapolis anyway. Buckle in kid – it's good six hundred miles until there. It's gonna take all day – and I ain't stopping for piss breaks except when I need 'em."

"I can live with that, thanks," Desmond says, and settles in.


It's around the sixth hour of the road trip – while taking a break in a wayside gas station – that Desmond figures that this isn't actually his imagination. The detail keeps piling up, bit by bit – the roads, the cars they pass, the breaks they take. Also, neither in Animus nor in hallucinations does he need to piss or take a shit, and there's something about the feeling of needed to take a bathroom break that's just a little too real to be anything but… real.

He's standing in front of a mirror in the gas station bathroom, eying his own face and trying to make sense of it when it finally settles in. There's a sixteen year old kid staring back at him from the mirror, just a hint of fuzz under his chin and his eyes clear, grey hood peeking out of a denim jacket collar, and it just… yeah. He's shorter, five foot seven or something, wouldn't get the last growth spurts until next year, which would tip him over six feet. His hair is longer – sticks up every which way too, and up at the front.

Running his hands through his hair, Desmond takes a deep breath and then releases it slowly.

"Shit," he mutters. His voice is still bit high – won't settle until next year too. That's why he decided to leave now, wasn't it? It had been logical. Last stages of adolescence, his voice is almost done cracking, his growth is almost done, he's already lost all of his baby fat…

Soon, he'd stop looking like a kid and start looking like the man he'd spend the rest of his – very short – life being. So, logically, it was good time to run. That way, the Assassins would keep on looking for the kid he used to be, while in the meantime he'd become a man they probably wouldn't be able to recognize.

In hindsight, he's damn proud of his younger self for figuring that stuff out – because it worked too. It worked, until the adult him got sloppy and put his fingerprints on things that led Abstergo to him. Still, the premeditation he put into his flight, it surprises him.

He was a lot smarter as a kid. Or, at least, better trained. He lost that in the years following – he'd spend those years wilfully and meaningfully forgetting, really. Becoming normal. Becoming weaker, sloppier.

Trying to become happier and ultimately failing at it.

Rolling his sleeves up, Desmond examines his arms. No tattoo and no puncture marks – his skin sits surprisingly tight on corded muscle. Farm training, obstacle courses, and fifty pull-ups and push ups and sit ups and the rest of the bullshit, every damn day. Under the denim jacket and grey hoodie he knows he already has a damn six pack, at age of fucking sixteen.

At sixteen he has a body of an Assassin. It's almost funny. Body of an Assassin… and memories of four of them. Five, if you include Haytham, what little of him Desmond really learned.

And it's not just four-to-five Assassins either, but future too. Nine years of future. It's two thousand and three, now – March the 13th, 2003. Nine years before the end of the world. Nine years of freedom, before Abstergo, Lucy, his father and the Pieces of Eden. Nine years before his own death.

Squeezing his hand into fist and feeling the muscles under the skin of his arm flex, Desmond flicks his wrist back. No hidden blade. Assassins of modern times rarely use them; guns are just more efficient, sniper rifles far easier to kill with. Death isn't nearly as difficult when it's done from half a mile away at the pull of a trigger – rather than up close, feeling the blood splatter, face to face with the horror of it. Less chance of being caught on surveillance footage too.

He misses the blade now, the comfortable, secure weight of it on his arm.

"Shit," Desmond mutters again and hangs his head for a moment.

Then he washes his hands, and heads back out to finish his coffee with Dan. Another three hours at minimum until Minneapolis. Maybe by then he will have some idea about where to go and what to do.


He could go back to the Farm. He could. He'd be disciplined to hell and back and put under restrictions that would probably last until kingdom come, but he could go back and people might even be relieved to see him. His mother at least would be – and Desmond would be happy to see her, even if it came at the cost of his father beating him half to death. He hadn't seen her since, not even after being included "back" into the Assassins' Order. He could… go back and change that. He could go back.

Like hell he will, but he could. It's an option. Options are good.

And what are his other options? Make his way to New York and become bartender again? That took some work, though – it took about two years of infinitely shittier jobs and worse hands dealt his way. It took lot of bad decisions. It took alcohol and drugs and getting his ass beaten more than once. In the end, it took pity from his eventually employer. Come on in, kid. Let me show you how to fix a martini…

Desmond Miles, the Bartender. He could be that again. Bury his head in that alcohol soaked sand and pretend the world was just fine without him. Maybe it even would be.

Hah. Yeah, no. That's… not happening again.

What else then? Head to the Grand Temple? Get the Key, hunt down the power sources somehow magically without Rebecca's and Shaun's back up? Good luck with that. Well, he can get the Key anyway, that'll be easy, all he has to do is rob a grave, no biggy. It wouldn't do anything for him yet, but it would be good to have. Though on other hand… it's safe where it is right now. Safe until – and if – it would be needed.

So, then what? Roam around the world as an aimless vagabond?


Desmond leans his elbow onto the armrest of the truck door, watching the forests and fields and roads pass him by, and wonders…

How hard would it be at this point to get fake ID, a passport, and a flight out of the US? He knows some people, but are those people good enough is another question. They're not Assassin good, he doesn't think. But they might be staying out of Abstergo's radar good. After all, right now, Abstergo doesn't even know he exists. The Animus Project isn't yet up and running properly. People's genes don't yet have the value they would eventually.

It might be enough for him to slip away, unnoticed… might be.

"What's in your mind, kid?" trucker Dan asks, casually steering with one hand while reaching for a can of coke with another.

"Thinking about my next trip," Desmond admits and glances at him. "Ever been to Europe?"

"No, I can't say I have," Dan says. "Furthest I've been is to Mexico and once or twice to Canada that wasn't much of a trip. What's in Europe?"

"The old world?" Desmond asks and shrugs. "I've done the hipster thing of visiting unknown places – maybe next time I'll go to a proper public tourist trap. You know, get the whole experience."

Dan shakes his head. "Damn. In your age I was lucky if I got to make a trip down to the mall," he mutters. "Damn, kid, you must have some money to burn."

Not really – Desmond has few hundred and it's not enough buy him even a halfway decent fake IDs, or get him a ticket out of US. Which is another problem – or it would be until he found a good place to pickpocket people for a bit. It was early 2000's anyway – people hopefully would still be carrying more cash than plastic cards. After all… digital era hadn't quite yet taken over everything.

Mobile phones were still keypad based too – poor Dan still has a old Nokia, and the guy's so proud of it too, the car kit he has for the thing which kind of looks like GPS thing, except… it isn't a GPS. Just a way to hook the phone onto the dashboard and use it with a sort of remote for actual phone calls, no maps or really any proper smart functions in sight.

iPhone isn't really a thing yet, which is kinda… weird.

"So you're parents rich or something?" Dan asks.

"Nah, not really. I just work summer jobs and stuff," Desmond muses and leans back, thinking about future, about stuff coming up. He never much paid attention to the stuff – in his position keeping track of most modern tech just wasn't that safe. But he hadn't been completely blind to it. "It's all about how you save it. And maybe… maybe how you invest it…"

"Jeez," Dan mutters. "Kids these days."


It's nearly pitch-black when they arrive in Minneapolis and say their goodbyes.

"I don't know what you're up to, kid, but I wish you luck with it," Dan says. "Don't get into trouble now."

"I'll try not to," Desmond says and waves a hand at him. "Thanks for the lift."

Dan heads to a truck stop to have a nap in his truck before delivering the actual cargo he was hauling in few hours. Desmond heads off to wherever, to aimlessly wander the dark streets of Minneapolis wherever the cameras aren't watching. To figure out his next move.

He has a list of problems and potential solutions.

Problem one; money, getting it, and getting it safely. Pickpocketing is a short term solution, thievery and burglary another, he could get by with that if he had to, he'd just… prefer not to.

Potential solution one; investing in tech he knows will gain popularity in future, into companies developing them. He's met enough bankers back in Bad Weather to sort of figure it out, maybe. It would probably be pretty good way to get a lot of money, in long term. Except of course that lead to…

Problem two; identity, hiding his own and faking a new one. He'd need money to get it done properly and he can't trust that it will be done well enough – and even if he gets it done perfectly there is still a problem of genes and shit. Abstergo will need only one good blood sample to trace his genes and then, once Animus would be up and running properly and Ezio Auditore would be pinned down as The Guy with the Apple, he'd be screwed.

Potential solution to that… uh. Get really good fake ID and don't get blood drawn, ever? That worked for nine years last time, but this time he isn't going to hide in the back of a dingy alley or in shadowy little bar. He has stuff to do this time. Lot of it.

Problem three; getting all that actually done… and not getting caught either by Assassins, Abstergo or the actual authorities while doing it. Alas, what his Assassin training did not include was contacts in the underworld. And even if it did, he couldn't use that, because, after all… they'd be Assassin contacts.

Potential solution… someone on the outside. Someone good, better than Abstergo at least, maybe better than the Assassins. Someone who might be persuaded to not work for either party.

Someone, Desmond thinks while tucking his hood up to hide his face, like Clay Kaczmarek.

Clay had been in Desmond's head – and Desmond in his – for a bit. In the Animus Island they had… mingled a lot in ways Desmond has tried to not think too hard since. Clay died after – died again, really – so there wasn't really any point thinking about it, it just made him feel sad and guilty. But now…

Clay Kaczmarek would be around twenty one years old now, in college if Desmond remembers it right – getting his engineering degree, being a normal pre-Assassin and Templar war person. It's kind of… awful to involve him into the whole thing while the guy still has a chance of being normal, but at the same time…

Even if Desmond leaves well enough alone, Clay will get recruited eventually anyway. The guy had the bad luck of being related to Ezio after all – even if William Miles didn't find him, then it would be Abstergo's Lineage Acquisitions who would, eventually. After all, Clay didn't know to hide his own genetic history, and for all that Ezio slept around like nobody's business, he didn't have that many clear descendants. Clay would be easy pickings to whoever got to him first.

It might just as well be Desmond.


Desmond hovers at the edge of the darkened campus, hands shoved into the pockets of his hoodie, hood pulled up. It's taken him good half a week to get here from Minneapolis, all the while accumulating funds wherever he could as he travelled. Now, four days, a haircut, two clothing changes and couple thousand miles later, he's here.

And somewhere in here is Clay Kaczmarek, going to school like good college student, trying to become a normal contributing member of the society. And Desmond is about to destroy his life. Or make it better, depending on the point of view.

He's… still not sure if this is a good idea. For one, Clay became hacker out of necessity – and only after being trained by William Miles for the specific task of breaking into Abstergo. He wouldn't be anywhere near that good yet… but he would eventfully. And hacking the Animus, that's on a whole level of its own. It takes more than just smarts.

Desmond is kind of relying on that covering more subjects than ancestral memories, here. Which, all things considered… is probably dumb of him.

Sighing, Desmond leans his shoulder onto the wall next to him and hangs his head. There are lot of cameras here. They're pretty low quality, wouldn't catch his face unless he went up to French kiss one – and internet isn't yet at the Cloud Storage stage anyway, so chances are that whatever they record is only stored in internal systems and even that only temporarily. It's still enough to make him uneasy and nervous, though.

Clay is his best, his safest bet though. He can't go to anyone he knows. Even if Shaun hasn't been recruited yet, he would be eventually. Rebecca… Desmond doesn't even know when she joined, or why. And he has no idea where to find either of them, inside or out the Assassin Order. Lucy had gone undercover seven years before they met – Rebecca had known her already then. Two years from now, which… probably means they already do know each other.

And Lucy… is a born Assassin and eventual turncoat. That's a whole barrel of worms and Desmond is not getting anywhere near it, thank you very much.

Desmond checks his watch. Midnight. The school campus is dark now, most lights turned down for the night – the college building itself is almost completely dark. Time to get moving.

Avoiding the cameras isn't hard – they're all stationary and their fields of view limited, it's pretty simple getting around them even before he starts climbing rooftops. After that, it becomes piece of cake – just stay low and press on. The fact that the campus guards stick to ground level and there's no snipers on rooftops to fear makes the whole thing bit of a breeze – it feels almost too easy, even. Easier than anything in future – or in the Animus – had ever been, anyway.

It doesn't hurt that his sixteen year old body is trained to the brink – it feels pretty much weightless, to freerun in it. It doesn't so much vault as it flies over obstacles, easy and nimble. Damn, he really wasted something good when he let his training fall to the wayside – even after months in the future, he could never do the sort of splits and bends this younger body does as easy as breathing.

On the third floor of the actual school building there is a window open – Desmond rolls right into it from the rooftop, and lands silently on a desk inside. A classroom – not particularly useful. He needs an office – preferably, a dean's office.

Someplace where he can find a list of students – and their addresses.

It takes him almost four hours of roaming in the dark corridors and hallways, avoiding the few campus guards who roam them at night. It's easy but a bit tedious to peek into rooms and to break through half a dozen locked doors only to find nothing useful behind them. Worse yet are the computers that might be useful – but which naturally are password locked.

Without Rebecca's voice in his ear, Desmond has no hope of breaking into them. He's never been much of a tech guy, and brute forcing it without right tech in the middle of the night in the damn early 2000s…yeah, forget it.

It's starting to turn to dawn when he finally gets something useful. The administrator's wing – and there, a secretary's office. Their computer is powered down and password locked just as was everyone else's was – but what they hadn't locked… is the file cabinets.

And there are folders for all the students currently in attendance. And under K, there is Kaczmarek, Clay, Class of 2002, student in the Engineering department.

"Oh, Clay," Desmond mutters, glancing through the teacher's notes on the guy – one complains attention deficiencies and absences, other praises for high quality work, attention to detail and perfections. Suspected ADHD and OCD at work there. He's getting pretty good marks, though – scoring tests in As. He's also taking a programming class – and acing it judging by the looks of it, which is very promising.

But what Desmond is after is his current address on campus – and his class schedule, both of which the file supplies nicely. Quickly taking a clunky 2003's digital camera he acquired not so legally from a poor tourist along the way, Desmond snaps a few pictures of the file and then eases it back into the cabinet.

Tomorrow, sometime after Clay's classes let out… he'd see if he could exchange a few words with him.


In the early morning the next day, Desmond scouts the campus area more fully, blending into the milling student population and wandering aimlessly amidst them. Blending in is easy when you fit right in age wise it turns out – but also, Ezio's courtesan tricks weren't just mechanical. Something about that acquired body language just made people… not mind him walking shoulder to shoulder with them.

Like that Desmond figures out where he might catch Clay. The guy’s dormitory is on the north side and his classes are on a building on the opposite end of the campus grounds – logically, Clay would walk right through the place on his way home. Problem being, people aren't always logical. Clay least of all. He could still take a wildly different route.

In the end there's nothing to it but wait – unless he wanted to break into the school and Desmond really doesn't want to risk making noise about himself. He's not in hurry – he can wait and see.

Wait and watch with Eagle Eyes blazing away under his hood.

He's never had a proper chance to watch normal people with Eagle Eyes, not outside Animus simulations anyway. In the simulations people are just that, though – simulations, empty and hollow but for their appearances and how they happened to interact with Desmond's ancestors, hundreds of years ago. In Animus, large majority of people are just grey, neither good nor bad, just insignificant.

In reality, everyone has a colour and the colours have shades. They're mostly faded out colours, very light reds and blues, barely visible, with colours blending to shades of purple. Some people have even shimmers of green on them. It's interesting and weird and more logical than the simplified colour coding of friends and enemies, really. And he'd never realised it before.

The colours aren't tags – they're shades of people's personality. Or... no, not personality. Thoughts, emotions – their general mood, maybe. Red is aggression and blue is calm – or maybe, understanding? And no one is just the one thing – it all blends and mixes. And the longer he looks, the more… the more it seems like it's not really even a colour at all, is it? It's just… it's a feeling that people have with them. Or energy.

Yeah it makes sense now – how differently his ancestors saw things. Ezio even learned to see echoes of people's presence after they'd already gone – he was reading the after image of the energy people had within them, and Connor way of marking people… and of course that thing how sometimes object glowed golden with importance – like footsteps and touch and echoes of presences, people's thoughts lingered on things.

This, Desmond thinks, is the Sixth Sense of the First Civilisation.

It's also what the Pieces of Eden manipulate to enforce their power on people – they tap into the energy and twist it. And with enough of the energy… thought could become reality.

The understanding sits heavy in his head like a rock – and then he sees gold splitting through the glow of light blues and faded reds. Clay, marked in shade and feeling by Desmond's own interest, blazes in the crowd.

Desmond blinks out of Eagle Vision just as Clay passes him by, carrying a backpack on one hand and cellphone in other. He's writing a text, it looks like, thumb working madly over the keypad. He's younger, his hair shorter, darker – he walks a bit hunched. Less confident more self-conscious – when people stand in his way he jumps around them awkwardly.

Desmond watches him go and then rises to follow. He's still not sure what he's going to say but whatever it is, out in the open isn't the place. Better to tail him to the dorms – or somewhere with less people anyway.

Clay never notices him, his attention completely on the phone - he's barely looking where he's going, never mind looking behind. Desmond thus makes all the way through the campus grounds and to the dormitories before Clay even glances at him and even then it's only to look away quickly, unlocking dormitories’ front doors before ducking inside.

Desmond – who is starting to feel a bit like a stalker now – follows him in before the doors can close after him.

Clay turns, looks at him again and frowns. "Okay, you're definitely following me – and definitely too young to have a room here," he says and shoves his phone to his pocket. "If you got a friend here, tell them to come and open a door for you, kid, I'm not going to –"

Clay reaches out to push Desmond back through the open door, his hand impacting Desmond's chest with an audible zap, like static electricity being discharged. Clay jumps at it and freezes, his eyes widening.

And then Clay's eyes roll back and he collapses onto the floor in a dead faint.