‘Now, Whitey, what you see?’
‘Everything looks fuzzy.’
‘Close one eye?’
‘Not fussy, there’s only a choice of two, dontchaknow?’
‘Right. I’ll choose right.’
‘Now what you see?’
‘Everything looks, like, normal.’
‘Switch eyes…open right and close left. Now whatchasee?’
‘It looks…not like normal. Like no one’s cleaned in a week. Smelly. An old place.’
‘What am I wearing?’
‘A long black dress. Long coat.’
‘Black gloves. Patent leather I think?’
‘Yeah, like. How did you know?’
‘A guess. I like black. I can feel it but can’t see it.’
Bianca looked down. ‘Ooh! New wardrobe. I’m in blue. Long dress. Short coat.’ She alternated eyes. ‘I’m wearing both. No I’m not. I’m now, like, all retro. Cool!’
‘We’re in a reality shift but I still see both.’
‘It caught up with you. We better find out how far things have changed. Hang a sec, I want my cd player.’
‘You picked up, like, a book, Sheena.’
This time, Sheena alternately blinked each eye, before cursing under her breath as she tried to get it playing but carefully put the player back on the shelf.
‘Was it important?’
‘I like some Ramones while thinking. A book won’t play music in either reality.’
‘It’s all gone…both eyes…I can’t see home anymore. I’m scared, Sheena.’
‘Don’t! You with me. We can’t stay here. I need to find out what is going on. I can’t see what you’re seeing. I still see modern but nothing works.’
‘Will it still be, like, there?’
‘The form might change but it should be there.’
‘Stay focused, Whitey, You’ve got to find us some transport. Can you ride a horse?’
‘That’s the thing with four legs and a tail?’
‘And a head, Whitey. Some things never change. I doubt if there are any cars.’
In the end, they arrived in London by horse and carriage, grateful not to go side-saddle. They left both at a livery stable and Sheena explaining to Bianca that it had nothing to do with the Consultancy, they proceeded into east London.
‘This is, like, steampunk then?’
‘It’s a smelly, dirty place.’
‘Aren’t you glad you’re in blue and not white? Careful where you walk, whoever did this didn’t perfect the sewer system.’
Bianca looked down with a sniff. ‘That’s really, like, shitty.’
Sheena gave a brief chuckle to the Blank’s bafflement. ‘I’m sure the toilets are all right in north London, dontchaknow. The rich always got new things first.
‘So why are we in east London, Sheena?’
‘Searching for some criminal classes, Whitey.’
‘Can’t you, like, spake to anyone?’
‘Signal’s muted. It’s like someone’s turned the volume down…or off.’
‘Will my family be alright? Should I go and, like, check on them?’
Sheena stopped and gripped Bianca by the shoulders. ‘Whatever is happening is affecting us…you all. Me less so. If we’re all right, then so are they. They’ll just take the change in scenery as a matter of fact and go on living perfectly normal. OK, Whitey?’
‘Mum will miss her soaps.’
‘She probably won’t even notice they’re gone and just resume things when we get things back to normal. Promise.’
‘You’re part of the repair crew, so I just need you to help me. Tell me what you see. I’m only seeing modern London. They aren’t quite the same, dontchaknow?’
‘So how do you, like, see what I see?’
‘I don’t. Read books on steampunk, dontchaknow. It’s just 19th century London with a bit of steam power.’
‘Steam? It looks like someone has scrubbed blackstuff on the walls.’
‘You mean coal?’
‘Is that a pub over there?’
‘Fine. Some things don’t change. I need to get some control and find someone.’
‘You need a drink first, dontchaknow?’
They entered and the drinkers there looked briefly and then to the bar before getting back to their conversation. At the bar, a blonde women in red looked at them both before nodding towards a booth for some privacy, signalling for some drinks to be sent over.
‘Long time no see, Sheena. Not wearing leather and chains. That’s a rare feat.’
‘Hello, PollyPut. I don’t know what I’m wearing. I think it’s still black. I saw the steampunk initially but now only modern day. Nothing works so somewhere between. Whitey has to guide me around. Muzzy head. It’s like we’re in two cities at the same time. Not everything is the same, dontchaknow? Maybe you don’t know. What happened?’
‘Max. You knew about Max? Something bought his power up all the way. Sara and the Baroness went to stop him and…they didn’t come back. Reality stabilised like this.’
‘You found anyone else? Spaking is well…’
‘Empty. The way the Norms are. But you’re still spiking people?’
Sheena nodded. ‘Maybe. Haven’t tried yet. Maybe Max couldn’t touch that.’
‘You’re also strong-willed but it might attract his attention. Maybe that’s why you’re resisting his control and not seeing his distortion of reality.’
‘Where is he?’
‘No! I know what you’re thinking. And you shouldn’t seek him out. Remember what else you do and if he’s raised a level. Spiking him wouldn’t be fast enough if you boost him as well.’
‘How close is this to the original Victorian London or steampunk?’
‘Don’t know. I send my people out but they see it as normal. I think some of us are being adapted to roles in this time. Almost like he’s testing us. You’re the first to get to me.’
‘I’ll take Whitey with me, see if I can form a second front. Find some of them, dontchaknow. He might want to get some of us classed as serial killers. Popular back then.’
‘It won’t be us?’
‘You think? We’d all be tainted. Us. Fey, Vampiri. Maybe the Pattern.’
The drinks arrived. Ginger beer.
‘Better not hang around here. Max could be watching. Sorry you can’t stay for a longer drink…Bianca, isn’t it?’
The Blank nodded, having taken a sip. ‘I was trying to follow, like, what you’re saying.’
‘Where did you get lost?’
‘Leather and chains.’
The two Psionics looked at each other wit raised eyebrows.
‘We better move. Be safe, PollyPut.’
The pair of them continued their walk as dusk was setting in.
‘Men setting fire, like, to the streetlights, Sheena.’
‘No electric. Gas. That’s the way they turn them on.’
‘Oh! It looks funny.’
‘Tell me, Whitey, you ever heard of George Bernard Shaw?’
‘No? Who were they?’
‘Only one, Whitey. What about Pygmalion or My Fair Lady?
‘Is he some sort of rap artist?’
‘Doesn’t matter. Being st…not well-informed will make it easy to play the part, dontchaknow?’
‘If we’re going to maybe hang out in the upper-crusts so we can get a decent toilet and though I can convince them I’m posh and a cover story for you.’
‘Upper-crusts. Like bread, like, you mean?’
‘If anyone asks, Whitey, you tell them I’m giving you elocution lessons so you can speak proper. Can you remember that?’
‘I say you’re giving me electricity lessons.’
‘It’s close enough.’ Sheena stopped and looked around. ‘Well, I got street lights, an’ you?’
Bianca sniffed. ‘Is that gas?’
‘Used before electricity.’
‘Like in the lessons.’
They continued walking.
‘I thought you told…Polly…like, that we were going to hide out. This is Whitechapel. There’s a sign, like, over there.’
‘We are but later. I know you had problems with that newspaper but we need to find out how close this version of London is to 18th century. All it needs is one of us being placed as Jack the Ripper and all hell breaks loose, dontchaknow?’
‘Jack the Ripper. A mass murderer of women back then…or where you currently are and I’m trying to look in.’
‘We’re, like, women. Are we, like, safe?’
‘What else am I, Whitey?’
‘Should I say it aloud?’
‘Is there anyone listening?’
‘Go on, what am I? Normal voice.’
‘A Psionic, Sheena.’
‘If you see him, point me in the right direction. I can see people, even if they look normal, so should be able to spike him if he’s knifing people.’
‘What if he’s, like, a Blank…like me?’
‘Then I’ll thump him. Blanks aren’t the only people who give vision problems, dontchaknow? The Fey and the Vampiri. You had heard about them.’
‘I thought they were, like, stories.’
‘They’re nice people, most of the time. It depends on what Max might have done to them. They could be seeing things like you or me.’
‘Should I be, like, scared?’
‘What we…you are experiencing is a reality shift, dontchaknow? Have you met Mary Travers yet?’
‘She told me to go and sit in the corner.’
‘Mary was in nanny state. This is what she does at a much larger scale. We’re seeing two different things. If this follows the pattern of the 18th century, then it would have a serial killer like Jack.’
‘Who are you safe with, Whitey?’
‘Trust me. All you have to do is tell me how many people you see. I’ll do the rest.’
‘How can I see these Vampiri or Fey? I think I was told they were, like, invisible.’
‘Just difficult to see if they catch your eye, dontchaknow? They flicker like a candle about to blow out.’
‘Like that one over there?’
Sheena sighed. ‘Which way?’
‘Fine. Walk after him and I’ll be a little behind you. Let’s hope he sees me.’
‘I just need a line of sight. You don’t have to get close.’
To Sheena, the lanes were still brightly lit from modern day streetlights. Trying to imagine what a dumb Blank like Whitey would make of long shadows in gaslight was anyone’s guess. At least she wasn’t jumping at how many shadows she was seeing. The only thing she couldn’t anticipate was whoever it was jumping out of the shadows at them. Could she afford to lose Whitey? Her only eyes into this alternative reality. Would Max try again? Could she shield him out? At least she trusted her. Would it be better to move into this reality or act as an anchor to pull anyone she found back to normality? Her normality.
Ridiculous! Whitey had out-paced her.
Lifting her non-existent skirt, she ran forward and around the bend in the lane. Bianca stood there waiting.
‘My road is clear. Whatcha seen, Whitey?’
‘A rat. A rat I think.’
‘What colour? You have enough light to see.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Knowing the details makes something less frightenin’. Red, white, blue, brown…it wouldn’t have been a black. We lost them a couple centuries back. You’re a nightclubbin’ Essex girl. You see them all the time. Even those on two legs.’
Sheena looked around, other than another alleyway nearly directly opposite her, there was no one else around. She paused. Something wasn’t right. At least Whitey hadn’t said it was foggy. The last thing she wanted was a Max image of London based on an Avengers episode.
‘Well, it’s gone now.’
‘Shall we go on…Sheena?’
‘No! You’re a Pattern. Do not move.’
‘I will not move.’
‘Where is the real Whitey…Bianca?’
‘Over there in the alley.’
‘You hit her?’
‘I will stay here.’
It might have been darker in the shifted reality but the light from current reality revealed the Blank slouched against a wall. Gently, she shook Bianca’s head. The Pattern was right, she had only time to stun her before the switch.
Bianca struggled to her feet. ‘Where am I, Sheena?’
‘On the ground, Whitey. A Pattern tried to double you.’
Sheena helped Bianca up.
‘Didn’t speak like you. What colour are rats?’
‘The last one I saw had, like, two legs. He was a rat.’
‘This one couldn’t even tell me the colour of one.’
They returned to the lane but the Pattern was gone.
‘Shit! I wanted you two to meet.’
‘Did you, like, spike her. Never seen you do that, Sheena.’
‘Probably boosted as well. Side effect. We go. Can you walk?’
Bianca nodded. ‘Never fallen off my heels, like, yet.’
‘We have to stop her before she gets too far.’
‘Shouldn’t we be running, like, the other way?’
‘Do you know why I don’t do much fieldwork?’
‘Too valuable boosting. Same reason, like, Philly Craven doesn’t.’
‘Boosting is sharing. I might have boosted a Pattern. Only way to beat a spike or she wouldn’t have run. Mustn’t let that knowledge spread among them.’
‘Don’t they look like, like, other people.’
‘Currently, she looks like you. Wouldn’t have time to duplicate anyone else.’
‘Oooh! That’s, like, creepy.’
‘She might also have some of your memories. Know anyone in Whitechapel? She might still be acting like you.’
‘Would they be, like, here?’
‘Everything else seems in place.’
‘One of my exes.’
‘I’ll have to follow you. Use any short-cuts, donchaknow?’
They walked on.
‘Is he, like, in danger?’
‘Wouldn’t know. She’s masquerading as you. Why? You fall out?’
‘Let’s hope he has a short memory.’
The silence continued for a couple more streets.
‘You can stay outside.’
‘What else can she do?’
‘Visit your mother. Would your mother be able to tell the difference if she met you both?’
‘She might think, like, I had a twin that was, like, given away at birth.’
‘Happens, like, all the time in the soaps.’
‘There’s the problem, dontchaknow? She becomes part of the family an’ the next thing y’know, she substitutes you completely.’
‘Wouldn’t I, like, know?’
‘Not if you’re dead, Whitey.’
Bianca stopped. ‘Coffin dead?’
‘Not even a coffin.’
‘Now stay focused. They might have been planning this before the reality shift.’
‘But you would, like, tell the difference. This, like, Blank thing…?
‘We see you but nothing else so you become part of the background. Easier to spot leopards, dontchaknow?’
‘You spotted her, like, now.’
‘Right now, I’m very alert. Just answer any question I ask truthfully. Remember that.’
The Blank pointed across the road. ‘Second floor.’
‘Can’t remember the number. Second one in. Every second.’
‘Watch for me.’
Sheena closed her eyes and scanned.
‘One person. Indistinct. She might not have arrived yet. Damn! Scanning’s messed up with this reality shift.’
The Psionic looked to Bianca, who was gently drumming her fingers against the wall. Wasn’t there a memo about her being taught to do this to concentrate?
‘Whitey, you go on and say hi to…’
‘I’ll spike anyone coming this way.’
‘And, like, Chadwick?’
‘I’ll spike him so he doesn’t remember your visit, dontchaknow, or what we do. But keep him occupied, dontchaknow.’
‘Cool. I can tell him, like, what…’
‘Just keep him occupied while I look around. If there’s a fight, get him on the ground.’
‘Trip him up. How far are you into that judo course?’
‘I can, like, tie my white belt.’
‘Just do your best, donchaknow. Keep both your heads down.’
‘You think they might be, like, armed?’
‘Better safe than sorry.’
‘If someone comes to the door, get your boy to let her in and you stay out of sight. I’ll be right behind.’
‘Who knows, just keep him occupied without going to bed, yes?’
‘You’re, like, the boss, Sheena.’
‘Good to go, Whitey.’
Bianca walked across the street and Sheena stepped back into the shadows. At least, she thought it was shadows. Modern day lighting was brighter than whatever everyone else was seeing.
Looking up at the flat, she watched the door open and close. Satisfied this Chadwick was distracted, Sheena followed her. Out in the street, she would be too vulnerable. More so if the Pattern had gotten any Blank qualities. The Pattern could run again. The bottleneck was upstairs. Although her body hadn’t shifted, the clothes she could feel but not see certainly weren’t going to let her run fast. Was the reality shift catching up with her?
A old woman opened the door of her ground flat as she came in, looked her up and down and gave a tut-tut.
‘I’m no one important. Stay in your flat until the morning.’
‘You’re no one important. I’ll stay in my flat until the morning.’
At least her spike was as strong as ever. If it wasn’t for the fact that she could boost psionic ability, they’d probably have nicknamed her control freak than rooster booster. She strode up to the second landing. Better to be too close to Whitey than having to spike the Pattern on the way down.
Sheena kicked the door in. Across the room there were two Biancas facing her in identical clothes.
‘Sheena. He went into the bathroom and, like, came out, like, me.’
‘No, like, Sheena. She did it.’
The first Bianca grimaced. ‘Ugh! I kissed him…! I kissed a girl.’
There was a noise behind her and as Sheena turned, someone identical to her strode past her and lashed out.
The last thing the Psionic heard was, ‘There’s two of you, Sheena.’
Sheena slowly came to her senses. She was gagged and tied to a chair and scanned. The Pattern weren’t there but several other presences. All watching her. All armed.
‘We know you’re awake.’
She rolled her head back and opening her eyes confirmed ten armed people and across from her sat Bianca, also tied to a chair but no gag and shrugged. Another man had a gun to her head. The concussion just made her see double. They were either in modern or Victorian clothes. That didn’t mistake the firearm. In whatever era, it was dangerous.
‘We’ve been told you are very dangerous, lass,’ the man with the gun to her head said. ‘We were told that your words are power, keep you gagged and shoot if you make a move.’
Another voice called out, ‘Move now, we shoot and go home with our fee.’
‘Let’s just shoot them.’
Death over rape. The Pattern weren’t taking any chances.
Sheena looked at Bianca and squinted her eyes, hoping she remembered some of the training.
‘We can, like, offer double that if you, like, untie us,’ Bianca said.
Sheena eyed the door behind the Blank.
‘Oh and, like, let us go.’
‘You’re not carrying any dough.’
‘Sheena knows where to, like, get it.’
One of the men began to approach her.
‘Weren’t we told not to ungag her?’ the man with the gun to her head said. ‘I didn’t think you were that smart.’
Sheena looked the gunsman in the eye. That was all that was needed. He turned and shot first him dead and then the man with Bianca. In short order, each man shot each other, leaving her own armed guard standing. She couldn’t take any chances with wounding them. Looking at him, he emptied the bullets and placed his gun on the floor and untied the gag from her mouth and worked on her bonds.
‘You did good, Whitey, dontchaknow?’
‘Distraction while I got my head together.’
‘But you didn’t, like, do anything. They just, like, shot each other.’
Sheena winced. ‘That was me. You do know what I do, dontchknow? I don’t need to speak.’
‘Don’t worry about it, Whitey. We still have two Pattern to find.’
The Psionic looked around, noting several doors in what was part of a warehouse, turned to the standing guard, who was passively waiting.
‘OK, sunshine. I doubt if they’d told you where they are going, so which door did they leave by?’
The man pointed to a side door.
‘You will sit here and wait for the rozzers.’
‘I will sit here and wait for the rozzers.’
‘And be grateful I was left alive.’
‘I will be grateful I am still alive.’
‘Your prisoners escaped. I wish to confess all my crimes.’
‘My prisoners escaped. I will confess all my crimes.’
Sheena turned to Bianca as she opened the door. ‘After you, Whitey.’
They stepped through into a forest glade of snow and the door slammed behind them.
‘Oooh look, like, winter! A faun!’
The End…for now
Psi-Kicks, The Stable Consultancy, Blanks, Sheena Ramone, Polly Kettle and Bianca White © GF Willmetts 2017
All rights reserved
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