So anyway, a bunch of online fiction writers did an April Fools swap, and for various reasons, it didn’t work out for the person who was supposed to write for me to actually do so.
As it happens, Gavin sent me something last night. Think of it as a prequel to what I wrote for his story.
I stood on the Cohens’ lawn with Daniel.
“Does stuff like that happen a lot?” I asked.
“What, with my grand-dad? It’s not that bad. My father and I can usually talk him out of whatever disastrous idea a telepath with dementia can come up with from time to time…” Daniel tried to laugh, but I didn’t think he found it funny either.
“Is it weird that your dad can fight aliens and we can take out a super assassin, and now we’re trying to plan what we do this summer while avoiding talking about Alzheimers?” I tried to smile.
“Yeah, it’s like, rock stars may go to all the best parties, but I’m sure they still have to floss.”
I tried to think of something to say, and was spared the necessity by a weird shimmer in the air. Lee seemed to step out of nowhere and then he looked more like Gunther.
“Nick, remember that whole pact with your grandfather not to let you come to harm? I kinda need your help with that,” Gunther said, grabbing my arm.
I looked at Daniel and then he wasn’t there. We had transitioned from the lawn to a ethereal space, it felt like nowhere.
“What’s going on?” I asked, feeling a chill.
“Well, I’m an extra-dimensional being, your rules of time and space don’t really apply to me. I tend to travel a lot, is what I’m saying, and I try to keep things interesting.”
“So what’s going on?”
“Well, I may have inadvertently agreed to destroy the world. Ordinarly I wouldn’t have a problem with that, but I never break a promise and I did sort of tell the original Rocket I’d keep you in one piece, so that puts me in a bit of a pickle…”
“How about you tell me what’s going on?”
Gunther shrugged. “I take contracts, to get the blood pumping. World’s oldest mercenary. Well, a group of clients wanted me to save a man by killing a whole lot of people. It wouldn’t bother me, except I stumbled upon something.”
He snapped his fingers and we left that no-place, stepping into a den where a man with dark hair hunched over a computer keyboard, typing away. Only he wasn’t typing, he was frozen still.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“Someplace else. We’re between moments of time, so I can figure out what to do with this guy.”
“What are you supposed to do? He’s one of the people you have to kill?”
“Yeah. My clients wanted me to kill people named James or John, to save their friend. Well, this is Jim.”
“Is he on their list?”
“Oh they don’t have a list,” Gunther laughed. “They mean ALL the James and Johns.”
I blinked. “That’s got to be hundreds of millions of people…”
“Yeah, it’s kept me busy today. Anyway, I found out that this Jim, he’s not just any Jim. He’s a writer.”
“I mean he’s THE writer. Your writer. For all intents and purposes, he’s your dimension’s god. If I kill him, you cease to exist, and I break my promise. But if I don’t kill him, I break my contract and this other guy dies.”
“My… writer?” I tried to figure out what that implied.
“I don’t have time for your existential brain fart, Nick, I need to know where my obligation lies. I’m a world-destroying extra-dimensional monster, I don’t experience right and wrong the way you do!”
I nodded. “Right. Well, um… You’ve never broken your word, and you don’t want to start… But what if there was a way to make it all go away?”
“Well, you said you can travel through dimensions. Time is a dimension, the fourth one, so go back in time and invent April Fools’ Day. That way, the writer can give himself an out so the story isn’t canon, and no one actually has to die at all. That way you can still do what you have to, satisfy this group, and the writer gets you off the hook.” I took a deep breath. I’d had to think fast.
“See? This is why I like your species. The bullshit you guys come up with! Fantastic!” He clapped me on the back.
“Think we can peek over his shoulder and see what happens next?” I inquired casually.