Part Twelve

I lived with Charlotte for a year, bathing in the rays of an alien sun and a purple-blue gas giant that hung in the sky. During that time I learned a little about future histories that may or may not happen, and a lot about tilling the soil. Charlotte spent most of her time working on the great machine, and tinkering with the cold fusion reactor.

In the evening, she would spin clothes on her spinning wheel while I cooked dinner. The lake swarmed with fish sort of things. The gold ones tasted awesome, especially with garlic. Charlotte had a sizable store of garlic and cumin and saffron, and seeds for other plants.

For the first few months, I awoke from nightmares. Charlotte assured me things would be as we left them when we returned. Gradually I relaxed, and even found time to explore our little postage stamp of alien terrain. One day, hillside, the growth around my feet, grassy tentacles and ferny cyads, I saw a shape moving in the distance. I looked through Charlotte’s binocle, tiny thing like old-fashioned opera glasses, and took a closer look. An ambling creature, rather like a dark blue panther with extra limbs and a head that brought to mind the archaic term pachyderm, it stopped a minute and, I’m certain, looked in my direction, before making itself invisible among the overgrown undergrowth.

Mostly, we saw the fishlike creatures we caught, and the scuttling shelled beasts that scrambled into the water when we approached, and the cawing pterodatyloids.

Most importantly, I no longer read the pain of others. The only sentient others were Charlotte, and she had ample defenses against my abilities. Thirtieth century humans are a different breed.

I had questions, of course, and she would not always provide me with adequate answers. I never learned who bred the Blemîn, or why. Were they an experiment of terrestrial origin, a biological weapon, perhaps, that had gone completely out of control? Had we entirely pissed off some alien race, and this was our revenge? I shuddered when I thought of her reply to me, when I pointed out that this was genocide, the matter of fact manner in which she affirmed the word. Yet she otherwise respected life—and when I thought of Gospherus in the clutches of those monstrosities in the farmhouse, I knew that I could kill, even the final breeding pair, and their progeny, everywhere in the universe, in all possible timelines, forever and ever.

To that end, I learned a little about Tazi Fields or, at least, what sort of device I would find in the farmhouse, and how I might adjust it. The Great Machine produced several practice models.

The middle of the year went very well. The weather only slightly moderated the short-sleeve weather we’d been enjoying, to something like chilly autumn. In winter, the temperature hovered near freezing. About then, I knew we were going back.

The nightmares returned.

Charlotte prepared me as best she could.

Through means of a science I have no hope of understanding the reality of the previous year dissolves, and our quaint rustic cottage collide with the side of that foul farmhouse, splintering wood and sending it sprawling over that scene of horror only moments after we'd left it. The Blemîn have just recovered from our attack, and the male remains confused about where we’ve gone. Gospherus I see splayed on the table, pinned, mutilated, and sobbing, eyes filled with sorrow and fear.

I feel a nausea I only faintly recall, and then the pain overwhelms me again, the heffas without and my friend within. The traveler in the vannderjhee, at least, has expired in the fire.

Charlotte has put together some sort of simple pulse device, a thing that would give the Blemîn but small advantage if they copied it. The male coils up and scutter-writhes towards me, body upright like a cobra, teeth bared like an angry rodent. She flashes the device and the sonic pulse punches him, knocking him down. She then turns to the female.

I focus on potential pain. There and there and there. The wounded vannderjhee. The buried larvae. I could see them, through time and through the mind of the enemies, who cannot shield themselves from me as Charlotte can. Without, I find each of the heffas. Even Charlotte could not explain what my encounter with the Horsemen had done to me, but she knew she could use it to our advantage.

She continues to pulse-slap the Blemîn. Against her recommendation, I take my knife and cut the ropes that bound Gospherus. His eyes flare with helpless fear when he sees the blade; I try not to feel the pain, the layers of past abuse his tormentors have been seeking.

Each one! I hear her in my head. I check. I'm certain I have the locations. "We're here to help you," I tell Gospherus. He moans.

"Are you certain you have them all?" Charlotte asks.

I nod, and turn to the Blemîn. Though they are alien, I can catch glimpses of their minds. They are crude things, mechanical in their thought processes, yet capable of understanding in some arthropodal way the suffering of others, human others, on which they thrived.

In some dim part of unrecognizable thought patterns I find what I need, and know I can find it because it is something that can hurt them. Charlotte redoubles her efforts as I run to the back room.

I enter some abominable parody of a kitchen, a room that would sicken Ed Gein. I have to put the horror aside. I kick a rotted, dried arm off, inexplicably, a chiffarobe, and throw its closet door open.

A nonhuman squeal sounds from the other room and tightens around my brain. I turn back a moment. I see the male Blemîn on the floor and nearly bolt.

I hold my ground. Charlotte had drawn near enough to use her special knife. The monstrosity wriggles as it dies on the floor, its belly slit open. I see movement behind as someone stabs it with one of its own sharpened devices, ensuring it can come no further.

I turn to the device in the closet part of the quaint, blood-spattered piece of furniture. Suppressing the desire to vomit, I put a year of training to work.

Someone stumbles behind me.

I turn to see Gospherus. Blood and fluid cover him. He holds in his guts with one hand. I continue to adjust the device while slowly and painfully he asks, "What are you doing?"

"I"m sorry," I say. I have to link the Tazi Fields in the two cottages, stabilize them, deep enough that they contain all of the larvae and, of course, the vannderjhee. Then either Charlotte or I will do what we must.

I check my adjustments and then turn to him. "We have to die," I say. "To stop them. We have to kill them from inside the-- It's a force-field, sort of. But we have to destroy it from inside or they'll just go somewhere else."

"That would be bad," he says.

You can leave, Gospherus. Leave."

"My name is Sylvester Gossard." He seems to smile. "I am sorry I thought you worked with those monsters. They tricked me. They were inside my head. They were going to put me in a bad place. And they have babies."

"The larvae are underground. We know. Look, Charlotte-- that woman-- has it all worked out. Just go. We'll stop them. Forever."

The second Blemîn squeals.

"Let's go," Charlotte says. I understand a little about Tazi Fields. I know with the temporal shifts even these dead and dying vermin may be temporally backed up.

"Show me how to stop them," Sylvester says."I'm dying. This one time only I have to hit back. But you saved me and you do not have to die." I am already halfway to the farmhouse door when he says, "Let me die for you. Let me die stopping these things."