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Mr. Serious
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PostSubject: Surreal Earth   Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:17 pm

Damn. That pretty well summed up Horace Chance’s thoughts as he ran down the hall, leather shoes beating a fierce rhythm on the tiled floor, only emphasizing the smattering of bullets clicking at his heels. “That could seriously have gone better,” he muttered under his breath.

He heard the buzzing and deftly shifted to the left, feeling the displaced air of several near-misses. The world slowed to a crawl for a moment as Chance took stock of his world. He was running down an ornate hall lined with Greco-reminiscent pillars and the odd surrealist painting. The irony of the choice of art was just beautiful. He was being chased down said hallway by no less than three armed and no doubt well-trained gunmen. Why? He had misappropriated something from them which they had most definitely misappropriated from its original owner.

As he figured it, he had two options, continue running and hope that he is not filled with rather unholy holes before he can make an effective escape or standing and fighting. That made him smile wider. He was an unarmed man in fedora, vest, and dress slacks. Any outside observer with half a brain would have bet their lives on the outcome of that fight.

And then time slammed back into motion. The smacking of leather soles on tile echoed down the hall along with the clicks and sounds of racking slides of reloaded weapons. One of the gunmen chuckled as his magazine slid into place. And then Mr. Chance walked up the wall to their right.

Overcoming their shock, a few of the gunmen opened fire, still running towards Mr. Chance. The shots went wide. He started running towards them spiraling up the wall and onto the roof before coming down on the left wall.

They fired a few more rounds. And then he was too close. He kicked off the wall and flipped in the air, sending his left foot into the face of the nearest gunman. The high quality leather met with roughhewn features with a wet crack and the gunman fell to the floor. Mr. Chance was already on the next man.

It was the gunman with the reloaded pistol. He smiled. He couldn’t miss from two feet away. His brain sent the impulse to his finger to pull the trigger. There was a flash of steel, a loud bang, and someone cried out. It took a moment for the gunman to realize that there was a chain wrapped around his wrist and that very chain had pulled his gun to the side. The bleeding man was one of his colleagues.

With a deft movement, Mr. Chance pulled back his pocket watch, and returned it to his vest pocket. The force of the movement pulled the handgun into the gunman’s face. It struck his forehead with such force that he was incapacitated instantly.

And just like that, the fight was over. Mr. Chance smiled to himself, twisting the little jewel in his hand as he continued walking down the hallway. The other Surrealists would be pleased.

***

Mr. Chance glanced over his shoulder, making sure he was the only one there. Of course, he was just being paranoid. There was no one there. There never was. He was in some decrepit and abandoned art museum. The walls, bare of any of the paintings for which they were built to hold, were crumbling, and the corners were lost in shadow. The skylight above was encrusted with broken shards of glass through which a crescent moon cast its scarce light.

He chuckled to himself a bit. As a group, melodramatic served only as a gross understatement for the Surrealists. He stood in a circular room, once the effective center of the museum. It was where the people gathered to chat, sit on the benches to rest, tried to find a guide, or whatever it was that museum patrons did. It wasn’t as though Mr. Chance had ever been to one himself. Taking up a good portion of the room were two semicircular pools, separated by a walkway running between them.

He was staring into the depths of one of the pools. The water was so clear, so still, it was as though it were a sheet of crystal. “Well, here we go.” He took a deep breath and leaned forward. Farther, and farther, until gravity finally won, pulling him into the crystalline waters of the pond. There was a moment of disjointedness, a feeling of tumbling through a vast nothingness. Then gravity reasserted itself and Mr. Chance found himself falling out of the pool of water and up onto the ledge of the pool. He was in the museum from earlier, but not.

Great stained glass windows let in multicolored light from the ceiling and the walls were covered with beautiful tapestries and canvases covered in wondrous art. People fluttered about through the museum, women, men, children, all wearing the obscure clothes of the elite of history. All colorful and exuding culture. Then Mr. Chance caught sight of their faces. Just blurs. Every one of them. It was always the same, but it never ceased to unnerve him in the extreme.

He quickly hopped down from the ledge and crossed the crosswalk to the other pond, looking down the whole way and holding his fedora down over his face. In one step he was up on the ledge of that pond. Much faster now, he fell forward the crystalline pool.

Again, there was that disjointedness, that turning and flipping of the universe. Then the world righted itself and he found himself walking through a generic doorway into a half-lit room. The Surrealist sanctuary: more reminiscent of a poker den than the secret hideaway of some of the most extraordinary people in the world. The circular room was lined with doors, but they were of no interest to Mr. Chance at the moment. His eyes were drawn to the man in the center of the room, standing at a waist high table, dented and scratched with age.

Mr. Chance doffed his hat in greeting to the man. The other man did not. He just stood there, radiating importance and calm, in his generic grey vest, grey fedora, grey coat, grey dress slacks, grey everything. Everything grey, save those block-like sunglasses and night black gloves. The sights seen by those eyes, the works done by those hands. The leader of the Surrealists.

As an afterthought, Mr. Chance took the gem from his pocket and threw it onto the table. It bounced a bit before it came to a stop at the dead center of the table. The man at the table’s face creased into a small grin.

“Good work, Mr. Chance,” he said.

“Thank you, sir,” Mr. Chance replied, shocked by the high compliment. “What now?” he asked with his usual eagerness for the next mission.

“It’s time to make some plans,” Mr. Serious uttered as the doors around him began to rattle open, one by one.

The first door opened to a familiar face. A very familiar face. It was Mr. Risk, Mr. Chance’s twin. They shared every characteristic, the same face, the same height, the same eyes, that same half-smile and general self-satisfied look. Their only difference outwardly was that Mr. Chance wore a dark brown vest and lighter dress slacks. Mr. Risk wore the opposite color scheme. Mr. Serious forced them to do so. It was the only way the Surrealists could tell them apart.

Mr. Risk walked up to the little round table with a grin for his brother as the next couple of doors opened. Out of them walked Mr. Fallacy and Mr. Integral. Swiftly following their entrance, the door on the far right opened and out came Ms. Luck. An oddity among the bizarre, Ms. Luck was all angularity and grace. Unreadable and polar, one never knew where they stood in those cold eyes. For now she was smiling, which everyone else in the group took as a good omen.

The last door did not open at first. It shook, and it rattled, and then it stopped. And an eerie silence made its way through the room, as everyone but Mr. Serious tensed, waiting to see who the last member of the next group escapade would be. The door began to rattle again, more vehemently this time. Suddenly with the sharp crack of a boot colliding with the door, it flung open and Mr. Humor entered the room, his face split with a smile and laughter on his lips. He is bright white uniform contrasted sharply with that of the darker Mr. Serious, and the hypnotic swirl of the glasses worn low on the bridge of his nose only served to draw attention to the madness in those eyes.

“Good, everyone’s here,” said Mr. Serious to no one in particular, his voice flat and emotionless as is his usual. Mr. Serious looked about the group, taking in the scene. A group of exceptional individuals all… and they were absentmindedly playing with a gem of unknown importance, tossing it back and forth like a die among them. He sighed inwardly. This was why he led. Not out of unparalleled ability on his part, nor necessarily vast intelligence. It was his maturity of understanding, of vision.

“Tell me about your new toy,” he spoke to the group. Mr. Humor was silent, not partaking in the play, but grinning fiercely all the same. Mr. Fallacy’s face contorted into a scowl immediately and Ms. Luck tried to hide her amusement at the extreme nature of his reaction. Mr. Risk looked to his twin for help, who did the same. Mr. Integral had a distinct look of apathy.

“Come on now, think about it. It’s a surreal item,” Mr. Serious urged them.

Mr. Integral rocked back on his heels, releasing a low sound most easily described as ‘nghh.’ “The sides don’t add up.” He pulled a napkin and a pen from his pocket and began rapidly covering it with calculations. After a moment he became frustrated, threw down his pen and drew five dollars from his pocket and handed them to Mr. Fallacy.

Mr. Serious caught it instantly. “You two… placed a bet on the infallibility of math?” Mr. Fallacy nodded, beaming, and Mr. Integral made the ‘nghhh’ sound again. “Yet you’re members of a group that researches and exploits flaws in reality?” The same response. Mr. Serious shook his head. “Let’s just-“

Mr. Chance interrupted, “Wait, where’s Ms. Fortune?”

“She’s been banned from the meetings for some time, Mr. Chance,” Mr. Serious replied.

Mr. Chance leaned forward, placing his hands on the table, “She’s a valuable asset to the team, I don’t see why.”

Mr. Serious opened his mouth to explain but was cut off by Mr. Humor, who managed to get his words out between suppressed laughter, “I think you’re more interested in her assets, if you know what I mean.” He began to nudged and wink at the people next to him in an overly exaggerated manner. Ms. Luck just frowned at him.

Mr. Serious ignored Mr. Humor, and pressed on with his intended point. “Symbolism. Nothing is more important to the Surrealists than symbolism. Now. Can we continue?” For a man with no tone in his voice, he somehow managed to convey agitation. It was most likely from his repeated smacking of the table to emphasize his words.

Everyone nodded, so he laid out the plans.

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PostSubject: Re: Surreal Earth   Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:26 pm

***

Mr. Serious sat in his study, the only sound was the muffled cheery notes drifting over from Mr. Humor’s room, some old-style and wordless sound continually cranked bout by a record player which had no records to play. The only light came from a dim lamp in the corner, though the air was continually slightly opaque thanks to the smoke that always diffused through the gap under the door separating his and Mr. Humor’s rooms. It was the closest to mourning either of them would ever get.

He leaned back in his easy-chair, and cast his head up towards the ceiling, fists clenched at his sides and unwilling to look at the ownerless fedora on his lap. That could have gone better, he thought as he turned his thoughts backward, trying to see how he could’ve stopped what he perceived could only be his fault.

***

Every action requires a purpose, just as every plan requires a goal. The purpose, this goal, this time, was to liberate the sister item to the gem. A pendant. Mr. Serious smiled to himself; it was such a small item.

He stood on the roof of a mansion, in the dead of night, the only structure in this realm of rolling pastures and affluence. It was cold, accentuated by the occasional breeze. The moon hung high in the evening sea, a giant among the glittering stars with which it swam. They were somewhere in Italy. Mr. Serious found the cliché of his situation almost unpalatable.

Mr. Humor stood a short distance away, his only sounds were his smoky inhalations thanks to the thin cigarette he held in his off hand. He was wearing a white suit now, and had it been any other than Mr. Humor, Mr. Serious would have questioned him for it. But Mr. Humor was as bizarre and enigmatic as Mr. Serious was himself.

The plans had been laid out. The group had left the sanctuary had left the sanctuary and prepared, taken positions. Now, two measly days later, they were preparing to lay siege to what no doubt was a criminal operation’s stronghold. There came the sound of flapping wings, like a flock of birds suddenly taking flight. That was the signal to begin.

Mr. Serious looked down over the edge of the rooftop and into the courtyard. Already Mr. Chance and Mr. Risk were making their way towards the large oaken doors of the mansion. One of the guards at the door began walking down the steps to intercept and warn away the two intruders. The other guard had pulled out a hand-held radio.

”Perfect,” intoned Mr. Serious, as he picked up the bucket of paint at his side and began walking to the other side of the rooftop.

Mr. Humor stood up, and chuckling, muttered, “Alright.” He flicked his cigarette off the roof and followed Mr. Serious.

Mr. Serious paused, examining the memorized floor plans in his head. “Here,” he said, and set down the open buck of black paint. He pulled a paintbrush from his coat and dipped it in. In one deft movement, he withdrew the brush and painted a satisfactorily large circle on the floor around him. He then unceremoniously kicked the bucket over, letting the black paint fill in the circle. Oddly enough, the paint seemed to refuse to flow outside the painted line.

Mr. Serious admired his handy work for a moment, smiled, and jumped in. His world went black for a moment, and then with a thud he landed on his haunches. He was in a well lit chamber, with ornate tiles and annoying signs of opulence. White statuettes, gaudy pink walls, and copious amounts of gilt. Mr. Serious shuddered a bit. After a moment there was a second thud as Mr. Humor came down behind him.

They rose to their feet and began walking down the nearest hallway. The building felt deserted. Already Mr. Serious and Mr. Humor could hear the gunshots outside. Mr. Chance and Mr. Risk were doing their part. They passed a mirror as they walked, and for a moment, Mr. Serious was sure he had seen a familiar feminine face. He blinked and it was no longer there. He disregarded the notion.

Before too long they reached a large door, marking the end of the hallway and the beginning of an antechamber. Mr. Serious pulled up close to the door, listening. There were voices on the other side. He moved away from the door and pulled out his pocket watch. He mouthed to Mr. Humor, “Three… Two…. One…”

The lights went out. Just on time. “Thank you, Mr. Fallacy,” said Mr. Serious as he kicked in the door. Immediately there were shouts and commotion as the men inside began reaching for weapons and clambering to their feet. Now, Mr. Serious was not much of a fighter, he was a facilitator. He pulled a lighter out of his pocket and ignited it. For just a moment, he could make out eight men in the room, each in varying states of readiness. He put the lighter away. That should be enough for Mr. Humor.

Mr. Serious felt the rush of air as Mr. Humor flew past him, his gut-laugh literally whooping it up. Sounds of blows, yelps, and weapons clattering to the floor filled the darkness. In a moment it was quiet, save the tapering off chuckle of Mr. Humor. There was a quick flash of light as Mr. Humor lit another cigarette, which then shrank away to a floating ember in the darkness.

A bass thrum rumbled through the building as the lights came back on. Mr. Fallacy again. Right on time. As they passed through the antechamber into the vault room, Mr. Serious caught a glimpse of something in the mirror again. He almost had it when Mr. Integral and Ms. Luck came in through an adjoining door, catching his eye. When he looked back to the mirror, he could find nothing amiss.

In a moment, they were standing before it. The vault was a massive slab of metal constituting its own wall. On the front was a simple turn-dial lock. Mr. Serious did not understand the world sometimes. Mr. Integral did a few calculations, finding every possible combination of the lock and then systematically applying it. After a few fruitless tries, Ms. Luck laid her hand on his shoulder. On the very next attempt, there was a solid ‘boom’ of metal moving into place. An interminable grinding like the sound of a waking god rolled out from the vault as its massive door swung out on its hinges. Mr. Serious heard the sound of running and saw Mr. Chance and Mr. Risk coming down the hallway towards them.

“We took them all out, but I’m fairly certain they called for help,” said Mr. Chance when they caught up. The door finally finished opening.

“Then we had better hurry,” Mr. Serious replied. He stepped into the vault. It was… unnecessary. A large room, filled with gold and gems and bank notes. Mr. Serious shook his head. “This could be used to help people.” He called over his shoulder, “We’re only here from the pendant. We’re not common thieves.” Everyone nodded, save Mr. Humor who just grumbled inconsolably under his breath.

It took a full ten minutes of searching to find it, and even then it was only when Ms. Luck finally decided to help. She, of course, happened to pick a box at random which happened to contain it. She handed the box to Mr. Serious, who removed its contents for inspection. After a moment, he muttered, “Good,” and the group made their way out of the vault.

As they were making their way towards the front of the mansion, Mr. Risk stopped them. “Wait, do you hear that? It sounds like a helicopter.” The other noticed it now, too. They had planned to go to the sanctuary using the decorative ponds outside. That was no longer an option.

“Plan B,” said Mr. Serious. The group turned down and adjacent hallway, heading deeper into the mansion. There was an explosion in the background, causing the group to break into a run. Mr. Serious looked around, watching the gaudy statuettes pass by with increasing regularity. They passed another mirror and he saw the face. This time he recognized it and if he could show emotion, he would have paled. It was the face of Ms. Fortune, a bad omen indeed.

Before long, they were passing yet another hallway. Down at the far end was a dark figure. There was a single loud report. Mr. Chance wasn’t looking. He stumbled, and fell, his eyes blank. Mr. Serious could tell that he was dead before he hit the ground. Where had the figure come from?

The world froze. Everyone else was in mid step, save Mr. Serious. He walked over to the fallen body of Mr. Chance, knocking away the blood droplets hanging in the air. He scooped up the fedora of his comrade and held it before him. After a moment within that nonmoment, he turned towards the dark figure. The world snapped back into motion.

The man stood at the end of the hallway, smiling down the scope of his rifle. He took aim at the man in grey wearing the dark sunglasses and began to put pressure on the trigger. Suddenly, the face was gone. Startled, he lowered his rifle. What he saw made his mouth fall agape.

Gone were the ornate halls of the mansion. Gone were the ceilings. Gone were his prey, these ‘Surrealists’, as they called themselves. In their place was a great and barren plain of windswept dust that rolled off into infinity in all directions. In place of his prey were mighty towers rising high into the heavens. His mind told him that their name was Cordoba. Death stood at the top of the towers, black winged and void-eyed and hungry. The moon was still there, high in the ocean of ink, but alone, no longer having the shining minnows for companions. It shone red with anger, like the eye of a wrathful god.

Suddenly, the ground before him yawned open revealing the depths of oblivion. The man swallowed, for indeed, he was afraid. He did not notice the presence behind him.

He felt a push and before he knew it, he was tumbling into blackness. He glanced up as he fell, and his last sight was that of the man in the dark sunglasses, clutching a brown fedora in his hand. Then the ground closed up, and swallowed him whole.

They had not paused to mourn. Mr. Serious was back amongst the group again, running towards study. Why? Because symbolism means everything to a Surrealist. Finally, they made it to the door and quickly forced their way in. “Lights,” Mr. Serious called, and someone broke the only lamp in the room. Mr. Risk closed the door. All was dark save a little floating ember.

Mr. Serious cleared his throat. “Ehem, Mr. Humor?”

“Hehe, sorry,” Mr. Humor replied as he stomped out his cigarette. All was dark. And they were gone.


***

Mr. Serious’s mind was back in his study, his corporeal body. Mr. Humor had stopped the record-less-record player by now, and the smoke was less profuse. It was time to gather the group, pay their respects. And time to discuss recruitment.

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PostSubject: Re: Surreal Earth   Mon Nov 22, 2010 10:11 pm

But he was tired. He couldn’t quite tell why. He didn’t think it was a physical anomaly. And his mind was clear. But something was straining. He pulled himself from his chair, grabbing Mr. Chance’s fedora as he went. He walked over to the little phone on his wall. It was an old thing, little more than a bell attached to a wire and dial-ring. He pulled the phone off its hook and held it up to his ear, his finger on the dial-ring. He had a moment’s hesitancy, and then put the phone back on its hook. It could wait. He needed some fresh air. He set the fedora on the nearby hat rack, and stepped out of the door of his study.

Blue rolled on in every direction, melding into the horizon in the far distance. It almost gave the impression of being in a bubble of blue. He tasted salt on the air and looked down. He was standing on the surface of a large body of water, and little ripples were going out from his firmly planted feet. He turned behind him, seeing that the doorframe leading to his study was still there, standing on the surface of some ocean with him. He could see inside his study from where he stood. It never got old.

He looked up and saw that the sun was at its zenith. When was the last time he had seen the sun? He couldn’t remember, having spent so much time either in the sanctuary or doing missions at night. He normally sent others in his stead during the day.

He stood there for a while, looking up at the sky. He felt disturbed, and tired. He still didn’t know why. He pulled a silver case from inside his coat and withdrew a cigar. He rarely smoked, and even then it rarely consoled his fits of off-ness. After a few moments his dipped it in the water to put out the flame, then haphazardly threw the half-smoked cigar back in the door from whence he came.

He realized something after standing there for a while. He was wearing a long coat, long sleeve-collared-shirt, gloves, a vest, and dress slacks. He was standing in a very humid environment and in the hottest part of the day, but was not sweating. In fact, he didn’t feel anything at all.

This surprised Mr. Serious. When was the last time he could feel heat? He couldn’t remember. The concept of time befuddled him again. When was his last birthday? What was his birthday? A man like Mr. Serious is not capable of many emotions. Panic is not among them. The realization of the extent to which he was disconnected from reality did not stir fear in his heart. No. Instead an odd calm and understanding descended on him.

He was standing in the middle of an unknown ocean, walking on water, with a doorway behind him. This was where he had gone to find a breath of reality. Reality. As he walked back into his study, he had a guess at why he was so tired.

He was losing his grip on reality. Maybe he was getting tired of holding on. The door clicked shut behind him.

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PostSubject: Re: Surreal Earth   Wed Jan 05, 2011 10:02 pm

Chapter 2

***

Drip. Drip. Drip. That was the only sound echoing out the through the dark expanse. That, and the sound of footsteps. As he made his way down the interminable stairway, Mr. Serious sent his thought out, touching on the recent funeral. Distracting oneself was the only way to make the trip to the Workshop in any decent amount of time.

It had gone well. Most of the group had gathered to pay their respects to the unmarked headstone. Ms. Luck had stood at the outskirt of the group, as per her usual making the least conversation. Mr. Fallacy blathered inanely in Mr. Integral’s direction for some time, before getting distracted and wandering off somewhere else in the cemetery. Mr. Humor hadn’t come. His presence was generally considered disrespectful at such solemn meetings.

Ms. Fortune had been allowed to come. Mr. Serious shook his head. Heralded with both rain and ravens, and clad in a scarlet Victorian era dress, she bawled out her inconsolable sadness for the entirety of the funeral. She knew nothing of her part in the death. She could never know.

Mr. Serious’s thoughts came back to the present for a moment. He looked up, seeing the array of stairs going above his head in another direction, up and to the left. That was his turn. He shifted and fell up to the new set of stairs, flipping and landing on his feet. He was only halfway there. The path was wet now, and he had to focus to keep his footing. He looked over the edge. It was infinite blackness all the way down. And in every direction for that matter. His only light source was a candle burning faintly in his upraised right hand, the molten wax slowly enveloping his glove.

He walked and walked, thousands of steps trod by his feet, hundreds of twists and turns, up down, and backtracking. The candle burned down, getting ever shorter, and eventually it began to dim as the wick was finally burning out. Mr. Serious stopped, staring impassively at his only source of light. As it burned out, he tossed it aside and stepped off the stairway.

There was a moment of dislocation, a series of disjointed feelings, and suddenly he found himself crashing through a doorway. He regained his composure and nodded at the man inside the room, working diligently at his desk. It was Mr. Fabrication, and this was his workshop.

The walls were an array of spinning cogs and moving hydraulics. The room was humid from the constant sprays of steam from the many valves lining the walls and even portions of the floor. Doodads and other sorts of gadgetry were everywhere, spilling out of shells, falling off the desks, even scattered over the floor.

Mr. Fabrication had a partially disassembled pocket watch on his desk and was working diligently on it with tools Mr. Serious couldn’t name. “One moment Mr. Serious, Mr. Chance’s watchspring somehow fixed itself, need to put it back in paradox.”

So he didn’t know, thought Mr. Serious. “Mr. Chance is dead.”

Mr. Fabrication looked up, a foreign look in his eye. “Oh,” he said as he abruptly swept the pocket watch from his desk. “What do you need?”

Mr. Serious pulled the gem and amulet from his inside coat pocket, and threw them onto Mr. Fabrication’s desk. A frown came to Mr. Fabrication’s face as he picked up the two parts, already mentally trying to piece them together. “You know I’m not so good with non-Euclidian geometry,” he mumbled.

“I need you to try,” replied Mr. Serious.

The man rose from his desk and walked over to a shelf, grabbing tools almost at random from their containers. “No one’s put a detector together in two hundred years. But then again, no one’s as good as me. I’ll get it done.”

Mr. Serious was already walking out the door. “I’m counting on it.”
[u]

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PostSubject: Re: Surreal Earth   Wed May 04, 2011 9:24 pm

A dull, weighty hum filled the room. The little dressing room was warm from the array of lights burning over the looking glass. The dust motes drifted slowly through the air, moving carefully as though wary of waking the sleeping occupant of the room.

A man lay asleep on an armchair, appropriately disheveled from the usual night of soulless, unfulfilling revelry. It was his profession. Suddenly, a knock came at the door. When the sleeping man did not move to open it, it vengefully slammed inward, forcing the dust motes to stir and flee.

An unpleasant, old woman shoved her face in the door, all makeup and pearls and yellow eyes. Her over styled hair and over treated wrinkles gave a gave suggestion of the person under them: rich, arrogant, and generally curmudgeonly. “Get up, you’ve got a show in half an hour. And clean yourself up, for God’s sakes, you look worse than any of my husbands. And you’re even more useless,” came her gravelly voice. It was the voice of the uncultured rich. The lack of logic in her vaguely irrelevant insults never dawned on her. Her unpleasant head retreated from the doorway and the door gratefully slammed shut after her.

The man on the armchair let out a moan as he pulled himself to his feet. His tux was half unbuttoned, stained in places, and he couldn’t find his bowtie. He stripped off the suit, jacket and cummerbund and wandered over to a side-closet. In it was a full arrangement of ‘show-suits’ as that woman often called them. He took the necessary pieces and donned them.

He walked over to the dresser in front of the mirror, half shying away from the bright light of the bulbs above it. He cursed hangovers under his breath. After a moment of fumbling, he pulled open one of the drawers, revealing a pile of black bowties inside. He took one out and mechanically put it on. Finally, he looked up.

It was the usual sight. A thick layer of black scruff on his face, his hair wide from the night before. His eyes slightly bloodshot. A moment with a razor and some gel cleared that up. He looked at himself again, smiling. It was a dazzling smile, he liked to think, and in his profession he was glad that many agreed with him. It never really made it all the way up to his eyes though. They just looked, showing an emptiness that thankfully couldn’t be seen from the stage. They were just there, blue and cold.

He glanced at the clock on the wall. He had to be on stage. Now. Taking one more moment to be sure his hair was properly slicked back, he grabbed a mint and flew out the door, the occupants of the hall pelting his backs with looks of derision and scorn for his lack of reliability. A few more turns, and the curtain was in front of him.

He slowed. He could hear the sound of mingling people on the other side. Faint laughter, fainter conversations. He parted the curtains and slid his way though.

All that was on the stage was a lonely mike on its stand. The band was off in to the right, half hidden from view. The crowd quieted, just a bit, subtly. He was told that his was why many of them were here. As though his ego needed a boost.

The music began to play, but he barely heard it. It was rhythmic, probably of Latin roots. He didn’t really think when he performed. He didn’t really even hear himself sing, he just felt his mouth move and he watched the crowd to pass the time.

It was the usual crowd. The rich and high minded. They were enjoying themselves in one of the few ‘cultured clubs’ left in ‘modern America,’ as he often heard them describe it. He noticed a woman by herself at the bar. He remembered her, a pretty woman with low self-esteem. She was one of his favorites. On the a few tables from the front he saw another woman, this one was staring him down. She wanted his position. They had been rivals up until he had found his… knack. Now she regarded him with a bizarre mix of envy, hatred, and lust. He was fairly certain their rivalry would either end in poison, or… other pursuits.

He didn’t care so long as it didn’t end in poison. The song was almost over. He saw two or three other women he had manipulated in the crowd that night. He would do his best to avoid them when he went about his rounds being the ‘charismatic It-man’ or whatever it was they expected from him. The song ended, and he withdrew behind the curtain to the sound of thunderous applause. As he circled around behind the stage, he heard the whispers and mutters of the stage hands and other performers. He knew what they called him, and at times he felt connected to the name. Maybe it would make a good stage name, he thought, Mr. Conceit.

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PostSubject: Re: Surreal Earth   Sat May 21, 2011 8:26 pm

He mingled through the crowd, glass of wine in hand, exchanging small bits of conversation with the gaudy elite that frequented the establishment. Before long though, he found himself lounging in one of the booths, half hidden in shadow, away from the crowds. He only had so much patience.

Sitting there, enjoying the semiquiet of chattering bar-patrons, he began to drift away, losing himself in the colored swirls of his wine. He didn’t know how much time had passed before he heard the rustle of a man sitting into the booth opposite him. Surprised, he looked up to see who had come to bother him.

“Hullo,” the man said, an idiot grin on his face. “Mr. Romantic, if you please.” Mr. Romantic tilted his head forward as he introduced himself, the lip of his fedora obscuring the top half of his face. “Your name?” he asked the man in the tux.

“People around here have taken to calling me Mr. Conceit,’ he responded with a wry grin.

Mr. Romantic’s smile had disappeared, replaced with a look of genuine sadness. “I hate to be the one to do this bud, but I hope you understand that I have no choice.” He took off his hat, revealing a man with sandy-blond hair, and a boyish face. What startled the other half of the conversation was the unnatural pinkish tint of the man’s eyes. “Tell me your real name,” Mr. Romantic said slowly, as though it were against his will.

The singer laughed. What a dumb question, he thought. He opened his mouth to respond, and all the color drained from his face. He began to shake.

“I’m so sorry, Mr. Conceit,” said Mr. Romantic. Suddenly his manner changed, his idiot grin returned, and he leaned back in the booth. “Don’t worry though. You’re realizing that you’re an abnormality. That’s good.” He stretched out the word good, emphasizing it as though he were speaking to a child. “Now, let me warn you. There are some men coming for you. They’re coming to help correct your anomalies. But, if you resist, they will kill you, and I honestly don’t want that.”

Mr. Conceit nodded, only half comprehending. Mr. Romantic took that as a cue to continue, “Especially, since if you run, I’ll have to help them catch you. She always cries when I have to do that.” His smile faltered, and his eyes became distant. “I can’t stop thinking about her eyes.”

Deeply unnerved and fairly certain that he was dreaming, Mr. Conceit stumbled away from the table, going he knew not where.

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PostSubject: Re: Surreal Earth   Sun May 22, 2011 6:19 pm

***

Before long, Mr. Conceit found himself outside. Even at night the city was busy, and cars ran interminably down the streets in both directions. People were milling about every which way. Across the street, he saw two men in black jumpsuits, each with a red armband across their right biceps. He couldn’t get his eyes to focus on whatever symbol was on the band.

They were looking right at him. Suddenly, he remembered what that nut, Mr. Romantic, had said, “There are some men coming for you.” Mr. Conceit decided then that he did not trust Mr. Romantic. He turned and began to run the opposite direction, hearing the men shout behind him.

His heart was beating rapidly, the blood rushing in his ears. Why was am I so afraid? That went through his head about a split second before the first bullet went past his ear. “Oh, hell,” he blurted as he began to run as fast as he could.

The people passing to his sides began to blur as he ran ever faster. He glanced around. This was a big city, and one could hardly see the sky for all the building. But somehow he knew there were more of the black-suited men in the windows, and in the crowds. There was a group of bystanders ahead. He wouldn’t be able to get past them.

Just as he was about to despair, Mr. Conceit heard someone say, “Pardon me,” and was knocked into the blackness of the alleyway to his left. He felt a sudden sense of dislocation as he fell, almost tumbling. It made his head hurt. This problem was promptly exacerbated when he hit the ground, face first.

“Ugh,” he mumbled as he lay on the cool cobblestone floor, which was slightly wet with dew. Cobblestone? He pulled himself up, opening his eyes again. He cursed as he refused to accept what he saw. He was no longer in the busy city that he could no longer name. He was standing on what looked like an old cobble-stone bridge in the middle of the country side of nowhere. He could only think that this place was ‘nowhere’ as he was certain it did not exist. The world was grey, the grass, the bridge, the trees, the hills in the background; all was grey save the purple tinted sky, which held no clouds, no stars, no moon. It was just a lavender sky.

Standing about six feet away was a man in sunglasses, wearing an all grey overcoat. In his black-gloved hand was a pendant, the jewel fitted in its socket was shining with a bright white intensity. “So, it’s you,” the man said.

Tired of having people already know who he was and yet not knowing who anyone else was or even what was going on, Mr. Conceit was forced to ask, “Who are you?”

“Mr. Serious,” the man said. Based on his demeanor, the name fit.

“So you’re with them?” Mr. Conceit asked.

“With who?” was the reply, deadpan.

“C’mon, you’re name’s Mr. Serious, the other guy was called Mr. Romantic, and oh God, I’m going insane…” Mr. Conceit trailed off.

A melodic voice rang out, “I’ll take that as my cue.” It was Mr. Romantic, standing in the dry riverbed that the bridge spanned. He barely seemed to move, yet somehow he launched himself off the ground and landed on the side of the bridge, keeping both Mr. Serious and Mr. Conceit in sight. There was a depthless sadness in his pink-tinged irises. “It’s been a while, Mr. Serious.” He slowly pulled a handgun out of his inner coat pocket.

Mr. Serious’s brows furrowed, “The Surrealists don’t use guns.” Mr. Romantic nodded, pointing the weapon at Mr. Serious.

A moment passed. “The group that killed Mr. Chance?” Mr. Romantic nodded again.

He had one more question. “Why are you helping them?”

Mr. Romantic’s look change. It became imploring. “They have her. I- I’m so sorry.” He began to pull the trigger. Several loud reports echoed throughout the vastness of space.

Mr. Serious was already moving, his former position chipped away at by the handful of bullets. In a moment, he was in the air, coattails flapping behind him. He had leapt towards the man with the gun. In mid air, he turned, arm extended, smacking the gun out of Mr. Romantic’s hands. The gun skittered down the incline of the bridge and out of sight.

It had happened in less than a second. “And you never considered yourself a fighter,” smirked Mr. Romantic.

“I can manage,” was the reply. Then they were at it. Mr. Romantic ducked low, aiming a punch at Mr. Serious’s gut, only to have his fist caught and redirected. Suddenly, Mr. Serious twisted to his left, bringing his elbow inward and into Mr. Romantic’s face. He fell backward.

There was a genuine look of surprise on Mr. Romantic’s face. “I have no choice.” He stood up.

Mr. Romantic burst into motion. It shouldn’t have been possible. Mr. Conceit gave up.

Mr. Romantic leapt forward curled into a ball, and tumbling. When his feet were facing Mr. Serious, his legs shot out, slamming into Mr. Serious’s chest and knocking him off of the bridge. The romantic followed him off the edge. Mr. Conceit peered over the side of the bridge, and saw that Mr. Romantic was poised above Mr. Serious, knife in hand.

Just as Mr. Romantic began to bring the blade down and end it, he found his arms pinned to his sides as he was lifted off the ground. “Hehehullo, Mr. Romantic,” laughed Mr. Humor in his ear. Mr. Romantic struggled, but it was to no avail. Mr. Humor had him in a bear hug, and his grip was like an iron vice.

Mr. Serious stood up, “You got here just in time, Mr. Humor.”

“You’re welcome,” grumbled Mr. Humor as he started to apply more and more pressure to Mr. Romantic, who could only gasp for air. He was changing color. Mr. Conceit was certain he could hear the sound of the romantic’s ribs creaking even from up on the bridge.

After a moment, Mr. Romantic passed out, and Mr. Humor dropped him. As he did so, the pocket dimension dissolved around them. They were back in the city.

Mr. Conceit shook his head. He was losing his mind, he was sure of it. His knees were weak. With a sigh he sagged against the brick wall. He looked over at the odd duo. He looked at Mr. Serious. He didn’t know how to take in what he had just seen. It was then that he noticed the large dark stain in Mr. Serious’s side, spreading through his coat. “You’re bleeding,” he pointed out.

Mr. Serious looked down, opening his coat. There was a bullet hole in the dress shirt underneath. And a lot of blood. “That’s unpleasant,” he said without emotion. “We don’t have much time. Let’s go.” As they walked out of the alley, a grey car came to a stop in front of them, obstructing traffic. “Quickly now,” said Mr. Serious as he opened the rear door and slid in.

In the car, Mr. Conceit realized how large Mr. Humor was. The man had to lower his head to keep it from hitting the roof of the car. It was cramped in the back seat. “Thank you, Mr. Integral,” said Mr. Serious as he inclined his head towards the driver. They began moving.

“What is going on?” Mr. Conceited said after a long, uncomfortable pause. He coughed. At some point Mr. Humor had lit a cigarette.

“You’re now a member of the Surrealists. Other than that, I don’t know either,” replied Mr. Serious. Mr. Humor chuckled to himself and shrugged.

“Surrealists?”

“We break reality. I gather people like you to make you productive, as compared to becoming a danger to society.”

“I see,” said Mr. Conceit. It was quiet for several long minutes. He spoke again, “You knew that guy… Mr. Romantic?”

“Yes.”

That was it? He kept pressing for information. “Did he used to be one of the Surrealists?”

Mr. Serious reached up and lowered his fedora. He almost looked sad, but then he spoke, and it was the same robotic monotone, “Yes. He went missing a… while ago. We never knew what happened to him. And to see him today, in these conditions…” The group rode on in silence.

Mr. Serious spent the rest of the ride in thought. Mr. Romantic working alongside a mysterious group that hunts down surreal entities? Odd, he thought. He thought back to what Mr. Romantic had said. They have her. If he could, he thought he might feel pity for Mr. Romantic: A man whose soul is saved for heaven, but his heart is condemned to hell.

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PostSubject: Re: Surreal Earth   Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:07 pm

Chapter 3

Mr. Conceit pushed himself off the ground and to his feet, one hand massaging his face. Mr. Integral, Serious, and Humor had already sidestepped him and entered the room. Taking a moment to take in the room, Mr. Conceit saw that it was windowless, dim, had the general look of an old pool hall. A series of unmarked doors lined the back wall. “How did I get here?” he asked himself. A moment later, it came back.
***

The group had continued their quiet ride for some time, crossing the vastness of the city. Mr. Conceit had felt that he was in shock, doing his best to remember the name of the very city he had grown up in, the one they were in then. Hadn’t he grown up here? He began to wonder.

Mr. Conceit had sat on the right side of the car, and was looking out the window of the car, watching the ocean continue off into the distance. They were on a bridge. Tired of the silence, he piped up, “Where are we going?”

“Sanctuary.” Seeing the quizzical look on Mr. Conceit’s face, Mr. Serious continued, “You’ll understand in due time. On that note, here looks well enough, Mr. Integral.”

Mr. Integral nodded and, much to Mr. Conceit’s alarm, removed his hands from the wheel, instead opting to pick up a scratch pad and began to fill it up with numbers and symbols. “What are you-“ began Mr. Conceit just as Mr. Integral took a hand off of the scratch pad and tugged the wheel to the right.

Jittering and shaking all the way, the car veered to the right and off the bridge. Too terrified for words, Mr. Conceit screamed in terror as he saw the water reach up to meet them. He closed his eyes.

He heard the sound of the car striking the water, and he had a bizarre sense of tumbling, a vaguely familiar sense of disorientation. It was then that his nose slammed into the wooden door with enough force to knock it open, and he was flung face first into the Sanctuary.

“Nghhh,” was all Mr. Conceit felt he was able to moan through the pain of his face on the roughly carpeted floor.
“My line,” he heard Mr. Integral say as he stepped over Mr. Conceit’s prone form and into the room. Mr. Conceit felt as though he would just stay there, lying on the floor and tuning out the pain and shock of the past few hours.

He heard voices in the room he had so explosively entered, but he couldn’t bring himself to focus on them, so they remained indistinct to his ears. After a moment he felt a persistent dripping of water pattering on the back of his head. If there was one thing he would not allow, it was for something as inane as a leak to ruin his flawless façade, and his hair.

With a sudden burst of motion, he was at his feet, staring upward at the offending source of the water droplets. In hindsight, it was not among his best ideas, as he was immediately greeted by a droplet smacking him in-between the eyes. Cursing his own stupidity, he stepped to the left and took a moment to clear his vision. When he did, he was dumbfounded.

Mr. Risk stood above him, feet planted with a mop in hand, cleaning the ceiling. And upside down.

“Heh, you’ll get used to it, Champ,” was accompanied by a pat on the back from Mr. Humor as he stepped by Mr. Conceit.

Mr. Conceit shook his head. He couldn’t even bring himself to think anymore. He fell in a car into a body of water, and smashed through a doorway into an unfamiliar room, full of unfamiliar people, with no logical transition between them. The room itself seemed somewhat dingy, looking like an old pool hall. It was a long, rectangular room, filled with pool tables and with an empty bar on the nearest side. The far side was lined with unmarked doors.

Mr. Serious made a sharp motion, getting the attention of the room and the people in it. Mr. Conceit did not try to understand why he considered the room a separate entity.

Mr. Serious walked over to the nearest pool table, and stood at its edge, placing his hands, palms down, on its felt surface. In a moment, everyone was gathered around the table, drawn by his aura of importance. “Introductions,” he said simply.

With mechanical efficiency, Mr. Serious pointed and named each Surrealist in turn: Mr. Risk, Mr. Fallacy, Ms. Luck, -“You have already met Mr. Integral, Mr. Humor, and-“ he indicated himself, and Ms. Fortune. For a moment, Mr. Conceit was entirely distracted. He hadn’t noticed her until she was pointed out.

Ms. Fortune, who was standing across from him, was an exceptionally voluptuous woman, and between the crimson of the dress and the shining, golden ringlets of her hair, he wondered how he had not noticed her sooner. He found himself smiling brightly at her as he traced her curves with subtle movements of his eyes.

He was brought back to reality by another clap on the back from Mr. Humor, who was standing to his right. Mr. Conceit turned to see the shaking head of Mr. Humor, a look of warning behind the glasses and again behind the madness. More frightening was that Mr. Humor continued to smile. Mr. Conceit looked reluctantly at Ms. Fortune once more before pushing her from his mind.

As he cleared his thoughts, Mr. Conceit suddenly noticed the tension in the room. It had been there, in the way none of the other surrealists seemed to want to look at Mr. Serious, as though they were also trying not to notice something.

Mr. Serious didn’t seem to notice. “My apologies for my brevity, especially for such an event as introducing a new member,” he deadpanned and came to a pause. Mr. Risk walked over to the bar, and a moment later returned with a glass of water. Mr. Serious took the proffered glass, but a moment later it fell from his fingers and crashed to the floor. It was then that Mr. Conceit noticed that the man’s hands were shaking.

“This is Mr. Conceit. Now if you will excuse me, I am bleeding to death.” The tension snapped.

Ms. Fortune burst out in shock, “You’re bleeding!” pulling her hands up over her mouth. Mr. Conceit was struck by the sound of her voice: empty, melodic, and the words were only there to state the obvious. He deemed her unintelligent and found himself slightly disappointed. The others finally saw it, the great blotch of blood covering the lower quarter of Mr. Serious’ clothing, which they had been trying to hide from themselves. Mr. Conceit did not understand. But, how could he have known that they saw him as an invincible leader and that the blood had been as unreal to them as anything Mr. Conceit had seen that evening?

Mr. Serious simply nodded. “Ms. Fortune, would you be so kind as to bring me the first aid kit?” With that, he turned and disappeared through one of the many unmarked doorways. A moment later, Ms. Fortune disappeared through that same door with an unmarked box in hand.

It was then Mr. Conceit realized that he was alone among strangers, in a place he did not know or understand. He turned to the rest of the group, seeing the looks of obvious worry on their faces. He put on his best smile. “Hello.”
***

Mr. Serious collapsed onto the bed, something resembling surprise registering vaguely in the back of his mind. He hadn’t expected his knees to fail to lock. Seemingly sensing his need, the room on the other side of the door had manifested itself as an operating room, though it was a bit dim. It was a generous twist of luck. He thought of the girl in the other room, at least attempting to feel gratitude to her.

He shifted from lying on his stomach to his back. It took some time as many of his muscles were refusing to respond now. He heard the sound of light footsteps and let his head fall in the direction of the door. Ms. Fortune walked towards him, the kit in her hands more than just first aid. It was a surgeon’s kit. The knowledge that Ms. Fortune was the only one able to save him did not spark any apprehension in him. He was beyond that now.

She stepped beside him, and he heard the clinking of tools as his consciousness flowed out with his blood.

Tumbling in an infinite vastness that was neither light nor dark, but purely confusion. That was his state. He was trapped, his mind refusing to work. It offended him in the only way he could feel: conflicting with his calculating sense of his own ability, cold but absolutely certain. He could create worlds with a thought. He would not be lost within his own mind. The tumbling stopped.

He stood on a flat plane in the nothingness, his shadow stretching in front of him, made by the light of his will burning like a sun in the sky. With a thought he sent skyscrapers flying above him and out, as far as the eye could see or his mind conceive. They stopped, half-formed, little more than bare structures, like the skeletons of long dead thoughts. He had remembered why he was where he was. He had forgotten what it was like to be unconscious. When was the last time he had slept?

He let out a sigh. He thought it was the appropriate reaction for a man who would be exasperated or exhausted by a life without reality or consistency. If he felt. He started moving forward, wandering the streets of a city half-made with half a thought. His thoughts began to wander, too. No, that wasn’t right, he said to himself. He began to sift through his thoughts, as they were all he had.

Mr. Chance came to mind. He saw the smiling face of a cocky young man, lost to the sniper’s bullet of some enigmatic organization. Nothing. He felt nothing but the vague sense of an impingement upon his honor, as though it were his duty to have protected the boy, like all the other surrealists. And he had failed.

He began to wonder, how long has it been? Time is relative for one who does not perceive time. Did I ever feel? He was not sure. A man who cannot feel cannot be certain if he remembers the emotions of the past. Past, the word rang through his consciousness. Time is relative for one who does not perceive time.

He shook his head and looked up, clearing his mind. He caught a flash of red through one of the holes in the building to his right. That wasn’t right, the words drifted through his mind. He was in a world of grey.

“Well, I have time to waste.” Time is relative. He turned and entered the empty doorway. The floor was barren, with naked support girders hidden under layers of ancient dust. Even his newer thoughts were old. He could see a flight of stairs through one of the unfinished walls. The flash of color was on the eleventh floor. I’d better start moving then, he thought, moving to the stairway.

It was six-hundred and thirty-four steps. He knew every single one of them as a separate geometric shape in his mind. The entire city was an arrangement of individual polygons laid out in his consciousness, each one slightly different, and resonating in a way just beyond his ability to comprehend. Each step up the ladder responded with a faint buzz, more reminiscent of someone speaking a language he did not understand. His musing buoyed him up, distracting him from the relative time in which he existed, and before he realized it, he found himself staring out the window of the eleventh floor of a building that existed only in his mind.

At that very moment, as he looked out on the desolation, a cold wind blew through the city, reminding him for all the world of a sigh. “That’s your sigh, you know,” came the voice, soft like velvet, and just low enough not to startle him. That is, if he were capable of being startled.

Mr. Serious didn’t respond. He was busy. His thoughts roiled, spinning, and like a master of his craft, he plucked the ones he wanted out of the storm, one by one. The voice was feminine, that was easy. She was a surreal entity, but not one of the surrealists. None had the ability to come here.

Next thought. This was his mind, no one should be able to come here. Period. This isn’t my mind, he thought. It’s a separate pocket dimension. Instead of retreating into my own mind, he had retreated to a completely different ‘elsewhere.’ Next thought: but he was still on the operating table- as this went through his mind he heard, somewhere else a voice say, “I’ve got it!” Ms. Fortune had removed the bullet –yet he was also here. He was in two places at once. He nodded to himself. If it was possible in some circumstances in physics, it was possible under any circumstances for a surrealist.

That was all he could figure out on his own. Only an instant had passed. He turned to face the speaker. The light did not reach far into the building, and the inner recesses were bathed in shadow. All the same, he found her instantly, the little light coming from the empty eye sockets that were the windows of the building glinted faintly in her eyes, and on her hair. Even in the darkness he could pick out the reddish tint of wild curls.

“Figured it out already?” The voice was mocking. Mr. Serious paid it no heed, and with a swipe of his arm mimicking the movement in his mind, he wiped the top three floors of the building from existence, bathing them in light, and letting him see her. He could see nothing but her.

He struggled to take her in, to analyze and comprehend her, but he could not. She was familiar, infinitely so, and in a way that struck him as unimaginably important. He could not remember why. And while his mind worked so hard to pull something from nothing, he was locked, stock still, and unable to move anything, not even his eyes.

It was in this way he found himself staring into her eyes, with nothing else in all the world for him to analyze, and there was nothing he could do to stop himself. They were grey, merciless eyes. They burned with intelligence and the glint her eyes bespoke a depth of emotion utterly alien to him. He might have shuddered if he could’ve moved a single muscle in his body.

He heard her speaking, then. “Do you know what year it is?” He felt sudden freedom in his neck muscles. He shook his head, no.

“It’s two thousand eleven, honey,” he heard her say. She had sounded sad, wistful, like she remembered something lost long ago. Mr. Serious wondered how he had pulled so much meaning out of the inflection of her voice.

“Do you remember when you started the surrealists?” As he was about to indicate ‘yes’, she started again, “And I mean when.” He shook his head again.

“Seventeen ninety-three.” She saw the question in his eyes. He understood the numbers, but not why. “I’m just reminding you that time isn’t ‘relative’ for the rest of us.” One of the two eyes blinked. It took him a long moment to realize that she had winked at him.

“What have you done to yourself?” There was that sadness again. He started to wonder what she meant by that- and it was then that she kissed him. It was a kiss planted on a sheet of granite. He had not moved. After a moment, she pulled away, smiling and walking over to the edge of the roof.

He wiped the touch of her lips away. He had felt it, he realized a half-moment later. He heard her call over from the edge of the roof, “You’re a terrible kisser.”

He breathed out quickly through his nose. It was almost a laugh. That was abnormal. “I’m out of practice,” he called back, dryly. He looked at her, finally seeing her in her entirety. She wore a long white gown, the simplicity of which only served to emphasize the brightness of her long fiery hair. Lips of bright red, the same that had kissed him, wore a half-mocking smirk. She winked, and he watched as she turned and leapt off the edge of the building, out of his sight and out of this pocket world.

He shouldn’t let her escape so easily, not when he still knew nothing. Or perhaps, he mused, still hadn’t remembered something. He shrugged. He had a feeling he’d find out soon enough. Her turned and began walking down the stairway.

Immediately, he noted a difference. Every step sang to him of memories and their emotions he had never felt when he should have. A handful of steps became a cacophony of emotion, and before he knew it, he had put out a hand to steady himself. She’s poisoned me, he thought, then almost laughed aloud. I consider emotion to be a toxin.

“Enough of this,” he muttered aloud, letting the city dissolve around him, and the light above him go out. Again, he floated in the nothing, alone with his thoughts. But even then, he was not free of the new color infecting his world. He could not hold it back forever. He opened the floodgates.

A lifetime of exhaustion washed over him. Along with a vague sadness he could not quite place. This brought to mind the woman with the red hair. Immediately, he pushed the thoughts aside. An old sense of morbid curiosity came to him then, and he found his thoughts drifting to Mr. Chance. This time, he registered more than a faint sense of ‘impingement of honor.’ Now, having felt, he knew he had felt once before. He was angry, and he felt the betrayal of Mr. Romantic. However, it was not the burning, uncontrolled anger of the berserk. A cool intellect guided his anger, calculating the manner of its satiation. It was the anger of a man who desired Vengeance.

Then all such thoughts deserted him, and he was possessed only of a single wish. To wake up.
***

Mr. Serious’ eyes snapped open. He was in his study, at his desk, still wearing his bloodstained clothes. That’s… not right, he thought. It was then that he saw the deceased notice on his wall. He understood, in the way only a surrealist was able.

He looked down at his clothes, which were bloodstained beyond all recovery. He’d have to replace them. The idea of it was the same as changing one’s skin. He had worn this for a long time. He opened the closet in his study and smiled for the first time in a century.
***
Mr. Conceit sat at the table, bored out of his mind, and with a couple of cards in his hand. Mr. Risk, sitting opposite him, only wore a look of listless dejection. Mr. Conceit shook his head. Everyone had been wearing that same look for the past week, save Mr. Humor who kept smiling and Mr. Integral who sat in the corner with the same expression doing math. All the same, a general listlessness had taken over the group. Ever since Mr. Serious had been pronounced dead.

He didn’t want to be there, and with the group falling apart without Mr. Serious, he just might leave. At least, that was what he was thinking when one of the random doors opened and a man dressed in a black suit walked in.

“Hello,” the man said, somewhat cheerily. The man looked familiar to Mr. Conceit, but there was something off about him. The others recognized him instantly, looks of shock overtaking their faces. Save those of Mr. Humor and Mr. Integral.

He looked at each of them in turn. “How long have I been gone?”

“A week,” Mr. Risk, a smile creeping onto his face. “Wha-“

“I was on holiday,” came the interruption.

“But you died!” Mr. Conceit looked around the room to see who had blurted it out. A moment later he realized that the source of the sound was himself.

A graver tone overtook the man’s voice. “It was a rough holiday. Maybe I’ll explain it one day.”

Mr. Humor burst into laughter. Mr. Conceit realized why he hadn’t recognized Mr. Serious in the first place. There was a faint upturning of the corner of his mouth, the vaguest of smiles. It didn’t fit with his memory of Mr. Serious. He sat there, dumbstruck.

Mr. Serious began walking around the room, opening doors at random, peering in, and perhaps opening them a second time before moving to the next. “I imagine you’ve had plenty of idleness in my absence,” he gave the group a knowing wink. “We’ve got work to do. Mr. Chance isn’t going to avenge himself.”

Before the group had a chance to respond, he peered into a door, shouted ‘Aha’, and almost leapt through. He was stopped by a cry of incredulity.

“You can’t be Serious.” It was Mr. Conceit.

He reached up and removed his sunglasses. They were not the colorless almost lifeless eyes Mr. Conceit had expect to see on a man whose only communication a week ago had been monotone. They were the color of the ocean in a storm. The faint upturning at the corner of the man’s mouth became slightly more emphasized. “I’m Deadly Serious.” He leapt through the door.

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PostSubject: Re: Surreal Earth   Wed Jul 20, 2011 1:57 pm

Chapter 4

And all the world was thunder, and rain. Roiling incessantly, and falling like sheets of slate. The wind and water whipped about his prim clothes trying to catch him like a sail and pull him away. Casually and apparently without effort, he resisted. He resisted, in the same manner he did every action in the entirety of his life, with a vague sense of mocking amusement, and incorrigible defiance.

He breathed deeply of the wet air, feeling the charge of the lightning on his tongue, and for a moment he found himself almost overwhelmed by the absurdity of his existence. Of all existence for that matter, he amended the thought. He looked down from his mighty spire, tightening his grip on the lonely bar of steel holding him steady. With a jerk, he downed the last of his tea and dropped the cup, watching it fall out of sight into the darkness of the streets below. Absurd.

Lightning struck the building to his right. All the fury of nature, and it left no mark on the solid edifice, the work of human ingenuity. Yet it was already destroyed, ruined by neglect and the ravages of time. Broken, empty windows stared out into the stormy weather, the water running down its façade the tears of its own self-mourning. He laughed aloud, his voice intermingling with the sounds of rolling thunder. He tasted the air again, feeling that its charge had changed, and his grin split wider, revealing perfect, white teeth. “I have guests!” he called aloud into the storm, laughing again.

With his laugh still bouncing from building to building, Sir Prize swung himself around and through the doorway behind him.

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