is was the tapes, and the tapes are were Jon. So when the they spooled out into a hundred thousand cracks in the universe, it was only natural that they pulled Jon with them, and that each tendril wrapped around someone in another world, pulling them along the warped and twisted ribbons.
Where Jon went, Martin went, too; one way or another, together. That’s the deal. So it wasn’t surprising when he was pulled into a moment devoid of anything at all, still clinging to Jon’s body (oh god his body, unmoving and covered in blood with a knife wound on the left side of his chest). The magnetic tape twisted out from the bloody hole, wrapping tightly around Martin, almost shielding him from that infinite void.
In another world, Timothy Stoker grinned viciously as his finger squeezed the detonator—and a thin black strand wrapped around his wrist. He barely had time to register it before the Great Yarmouth waxworks building exploded, and he was pulled through the vacuum.
In yet another, Sasha James clutched a tape recorder as she crept through artefact storage. She clipped something as she walked by and turned to glare at the offending object, but irritation quickly gave way to a kind of fascination as she traced a finger along the grooves in the top.
“Oh, hey. I’ve found…I’ve found that table you were talking about. Don’t really see what all the fuss is about. Just a…basic…optical illusion. Nothing special… just…just a…wait…”
She tilted her head and strained to hear. Yes, those were definitely footsteps, faint but growing closer. She clutched the recorder closer, whispering into it frantically.
“Jon! Jon, I think there’s someone here. Hello? I see you. Show yourself!”
Something curled out of the shadows, something with a thousand shifting faces and a rictus grin, and it called back to her in a voice that isn’t quite human.
“Hello?” It warbled. She dropped her recorder, knew Jon would forgive her this—for leaving behind the record—and staggered back to flee.
The thing reached for her with twisted and ever-changing fingers.
“I see you,” it crooned, and as its hands began to close around Sasha’s shoulders and its face loomed over her, teeth shining, the recorder at her feet exploded, shooting strings of tape out and dragging Sasha along them. She barely heard the creature’s enraged scream before she blinked out of existence.
None of them could say how long they were in that in-between place, not alive, not dead, no light or color or time. No breath, no life. And then there was a pale blue sky overhead, dotted with wispy white clouds. They were in a field of tall grass and wildflowers, waving softly in the breeze.
Sasha sat up, squinting in the golden pre-evening light.
She heard a strangled cry that may have been her name, shouted through tears and grief, and suddenly a pair of arms were around her, strong and warm and familiar.
“Easy there, Tim,” she murmured. “Any idea where—“
“Sash— fuck —is it really you?“
“I just saw you. You went back for Jon and Martin, I went to find Elias. It’s been ten minutes, tops. Am I really that forgettable?”
“It’s been—it’s been years—“ he crushed her to his chest and she lets him, rubbing soothing circles against his shoulders.
They both went still and silent at the sobbing form a few yards away. Martin, covered in dirt and ash and blood, cradling someone in his arms like they were the most precious thing in the world.
Tim stood, pulling Sasha with him, and hand in hand they walked over, cautious and trying to untangle the black tape from their arms. It was connected to the still figure in Martin’s arms, retracting as they went, spooling in the closer they got.
“Jon?” Tim’s voice came out louder than he intended.
Martin’s head snapped up, eyes huge, tear tracks cutting through the grime on his face.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Sasha said faintly. It was meant to be a joke but fell too close to the mark and he made a small, wounded noise in response.
“Something—something like that,” Martin breathed. “Christ, I missed you two.”
Sasha and Tim stared in quiet horror. The tape pulling them in finally released them, snapping back into an open wound, a gash in Jon’s chest, ugly and rough like it was made with a serrated knife. As it disappeared, it filled the gaping stab wound, stitching it shut and collapsing into an ugly, vicious scar.
No one moved.
Then Jon’s chest rose, just slightly, and fell again. He let out a thin, rasping cough.
Martin pulled him close and wept, burying his face in Jon’s hair, so much longer and shot through with silver than Tim and Sasha had ever seen it.. Jon clutched the back of his jumper in his scarred and trembling hands.
“We did it. We’re somewhere else. And we have company, Jon.”
Jon didn’t look over, just leaned up and kissed Martin, and Sasha and Tim exchanged smirks over their heads. Tim gave a wolf whistle and Jon pulled back, his eyes wide, a dark flush across his cheeks.
“Somewhere else, huh? Sounds like we have a lot of catching up to do.”
Jon didn’t make to move out of Martin’s arms, just settled comfortably against his chest, his head tucked under Martin’s chin as if it belonged there, and stared in wonder at this last gift from the tapes, which had reached out and pulled close the people he was most desperate to save. Because Jon
is was the tapes, and the tapes are were Jon. They wanted what he wanted. And he wanted...this. A second chance. A fresh start, for all of them. Somewhere else.