I was hanging around in my room, relaxing after a recent bounty hunter job wherein I slew a horde of a thousand furious gargoyles. But enough about my boring personal life. The point is I was doing not much at all but hanging around, basking in the midday sunshine streaming in through my window. I was also thinking about how I would probably update my blog soon because I am clearly (but for a few rare exceptions), incredibly punctual and not at all lazy about these things.
It was at this point that I felt a strange sensation in my upper chest. As I wondered if my diet of snack food and chocolate might actually be causing what it logically should all the time, the sensation worked its way up my throat. There was a very brief pressure in my mouth and…
Startled, I shook my head and reoriented myself after what appeared to be the strangest hiccup I’d ever had. As I was getting my bearings I noticed something in my peripheral vision that caught my eye. I jerked my head towards it and saw…
…there were stars outside my window.
Not in the immediate vicinity, you dork. I don’t mean the stars were right there, or that they were any different in relative position to me than their default configuration. I meant to say that it was night time, but in a fancy artistic fashion. It’s something we writers do all the time that you wouldn’t understand, you buffoon. And now you’ve slowed down my important discovery and ruined the dramatic tension with your interruption. Sigh. Well, the point is, it was night now.
This surprised me, because it hadn’t been night time before I had that strange hiccup, and the earth instantly rotating 180 or so degrees was not normally the result of my abnormal respiratory spikes. I walked outside just to be sure, and yup, that sure was the night sky above my head. Huh. I walked back inside befuddled, pondering what ridiculous circumstance I was victim to this time. Was this some type of black magic that had been cast on me? Was it even only affecting me, for that matter?
I stuck my head out the window and shouted at the building across from mine. “HEY, IS IT NIGHT TIME FOR YOU GUYS TOO?!”
After a brief silence, what I feel was an unnecessarily belligerent voice called back to me. “Urgh, of course it is, you freakin’ asshole!”
So it was actually night then, as opposed to some elaborate ruse centered on me. Well, assuming the ruse wasn’t even more elaborate than I thought.
I stuck my head out the window again and shouted across the street. “HEY, THIS ISN’T SOME MANNER OF ELABORATE RUSE OR SOMETHING, IS IT?!”
“AAAH, SHUT UP!” came the again unreasonably hurtful reply.
Right, so no ruses of any sort were likely to be involved here. But then how was it that it had become night without me noticing? Did I fall into a short coma? Did I somehow contract an oddly selective amnesia for a really brief timespan? Did I perhaps…hold that thought, something weird seemed to be happening with my general chest and throat area and-
…that really is an odd sound for a hiccup to make, my brain absentmindedly noted as the rest of me looked around in startled astonishment. Whatever had happened before had happened again, it seemed. The sun was shining outside again, a more worrying omen than it usually was. Well shit, I thought. I wonder if…Checking on my hypothesis, I pulled out my phone and checked it.
It was tomorrow.
No, see, I know that can never be a technically accurate statement, don’t start with me again. What I meant to convey with that statement is that it was a day after the time I had last noted the time. A day after I had experienced two very strange hiccups.
“Well, that does it”, I said. “I need to see a doctor.”
But not just any doctor would do, I noted as I exited the house and whistled for Scrappy, my faithful riding wyvern. Whatever was happening to me was jumping me forward in time, which didn’t strike me as material normal medical schools were keen on covering. No, I needed to visit a very particular hospital to find aid for this peculiar ailment. I needed to visit Wolwurren’s Occult Hospital for the Exceedingly Strange.
The hospital wasn’t exactly well known, of course. Although it looked like a regular hospital, most regular hospitals aren’t located in an isolated alcove in the middle of a hidden part of the Rocky Mountains. But Wolwurren’s wasn’t an ordinary hospital by any stretch of the most extraordinary imagination, and it was in the aforementioned alcove. An alcove I was approaching on Scrappy as I hoped I didn’t hiccup again anytime soon. I had a feeling doing it hundreds of feet in the air wouldn’t be entirely advisable.
I had first found out about this mysterious medical Mecca when seeking a cure for a manticore sting, acquired in a string of events too complicated to recount now. One of my more well-informed clients pointed me in its direction and they managed to fix me up with no trouble at all. Well, no medical related trouble anyway. But I must admit even for me their facility and staff can occasionally be a bit…much.
Scrappy flew into the alcove in the mountainside and I could see the building before me. Weirdly enough, the facility looked not the slightest bit weird. It’s just a regular, professional hospital building in outward appearance. I tied Scrappy up outside next to the bike rack. Said bike rack was currently host to a tethered jet pack, a winged serpent, and a harrier jet. Giving Scrappy a parting pat on the head, I headed inside.
I walked through a lobby that looked like any other lobby and walked up to a middle-aged female secretary as dull and bored as any stereotypical description. The only hint that anything here was amiss was the pile of magical artifacts that would be well hidden beneath the front desk were it not for the propensity several had towards glowing with eldritch light. Disinterested, the secretary looked up at me and cocked an eyebrow, not even bothering to ask anything.
“Hello, it’s…Dolores, isn’t it?” I said, trying to remember from my last distant visit.
“Do I know you?” she responded lazily, her eyebrow still raised.
“I was in here a couple years back for a manticore sting”, I said. “I suppose you wouldn’t remember. To be fair though, I think I did save the world once.”
“Just this one world?” she said, reminding me of the typical type of clientele this place had. “I see. What is it exactly you do…?”
“I’m, err…a writer for a blog. About video games.”
There was silence.
“…among other things!” I mentioned in a not even slightly defensive fashion. “Important things! With lasers and super villains and time travel and, uh, giant robots and, and…”
Dolores sighed. “Look buddy,” she droned, “do you wanna’ just tell me what you’re here for so I can stop pretending to care about you?”
“Well…fine” I finished lamely. “I have this unique problem I discovered when I woke up this, er, I mean yesterday morning. It seems that every time I…”
“…do that I warp forward in time” I finished to a Dolores that now appeared to be mid-conversation.
“Oh. You’re back.” Dolores noted with a complete absence of emotion. “If you wouldn’t mind getting out of the way of the gentleman behind you…?”
I turned around to find myself face to face with what I could best approximate to be a snarling werewolf with a shark fin, a pair of demonic looking wings…and a bowler hat.
“Uh…” I squeaked, only the slight bit terrified, “sure”. At this, I somewhat awkwardly shuffled to the side.
“Right,” Dolores continued. “So we’ll schedule your next appointment on Thursday at 4:30, then?”
The wolf…thing responded with a few short barks, the snarl not leaving its malformed face.
“I know you’d prefer then but we’re closed on Sunday nights, you’ll just have to deal with Thursday”, Dolores countered.
The creature glared at Dolores and then growled low, slow and menacingly. As if this wasn’t enough I swear I could see wisps of smoke escaping from its clenched jaw. Dolores responded with a growl that was not only the same timbre as the first, but also somehow seemed to combine absolute menace and complete boredom simultaneously. I’m almost positive the room also became physically colder.
The beast paused, frowned, and reluctantly stomped out the way I’d come in. When the door closed, Dolores turned her attention back to me. “Temporal ailment, huh? You’ll want Dr. Drazzle.”
“Oh, okay”, I said. “Where do I have to go to see him?”
“Well let’s see,” she said. “The year is 2013, and taking into account the phase of the moon and…” she started mumbling what sounded like complicated calculations as she pulled out a ruler and measured the width of my head as I stood there awkwardly. “How much do you weigh?” she asked more audibly.
“Uh, I dunno, about 135 pounds maybe?” I said.
“Right, based on all that…” she said, sitting back down and punching something into her computer. She paused, then picked up the phone. “Hey Carol? She said. “What’s the status of corridor C in the west wing?” She stopped to listen. “Hm…uh-huh…okay, the whole sector?...and in reverse?...sheesh, well okay. But that part shouldn’t be a problem in this dimension?...alright, thanks.” She then hung up the phone and typed in something else.
“Okay,” she said after a pause. “What you’re gonna’ wanna’ do is go through the hall on the left, head up 6 flights of stairs, take the center path until the seven way intersection, turn around and go back the way you came, go down two flights of stairs, take the door on the other side of the indoor pool, take the elevator up until it stops working, and take the corridor right until you come across room 372-B. When you get there, knock 4 times on the right side of the door, not the left.”
“Why, will the left wall eat my hand?” I responded sardonically.
“No, just fresh paint there” she said calmly. She paused. “Though on a related note, don’t touch the door knob.”
“Alright fine” I replied, half irritated and half uneasy. I turned to face the left corridor. I stopped. I turned back to Dolores.
“Are you gonna’ need a print out?” she said in exasperated tones.
“You’re gonna’ need a print out.” She said. She tapped a few keys, grabbed a piece of paper with directions from the printer and handed it to me.
“Thanks”, I said. “See you later Dolores.”
Dolores gave a disinterested grunt and I left the lobby. My trip to the room was uneventful, or at least as uneventful as a trip through a building that may exist in more dimensions or periods of time than you’re used to can be. I swear I could hear faint sounds of the swimming pool breathing, but I didn’t stick around long enough to confirm this fact. Eventually I found myself knocking on the wall next to 372-B, while standing as far away from the door knob as possible.
“Ah, that’ll be him, I’ll let him in” came a muffled voice from the other side of the door. It opened to reveal a young nurse. “Please, come in” she said, standing to the side. As I walked into the room I noticed another person in the back, whose disheveled appearance suggested more mad scientist than medical professional.
This person looked at me with a slightly manic smile and said “Excellent, let’s begin!” He turned around, then turned back and looked at the nurse with a confused pause. “…where are the results of the diagnosis?”
The nurse smiled at the man patiently. “This gentleman just got here, Dr. Drazzle. I was just about to call you.”
“Ah!” he exclaimed. “Of course, silly of me. Well, I suppose you’d better get on that.” As the nurse started picking up the phone, the doctor turned to me and smiled. “Don’t know what I’d do without assistants to keep me tethered. Pleasure to meet you, I’m Dr. Drazzle! Hello, how are you?” At this he extended his hand and I shook it. I couldn’t help but notice what the nurse was doing in the background.
“Hello, Dr. Drazzle?” She said over the phone. “Someone is here to see you at 372-B.”
“Got it, I’ll be down there in just a few minutes of my time!” came a voice suspiciously similar to the doctors from the other end. As the nurse put down the phone she noticed my interest.
“The doctor is a bit…scatterbrained when it comes to keeping things in the present” she said. “It comes with the territory of being a temporal specialist.”
“Yes, thank you for stopping by, see you later!” the doctor said cheerfully.
“Um…” I murmured.
“Right, let’s get to it” the doctor said. “Young man, would you mind telling me what appears to be wrong with you?”
“Okay” I said. “Recently I-“
“Fascinating symptoms, really” he interrupted. “I can only think of a couple of things those could circumstances could describe. Have you by chance been in the Samanafofana Desert lately?”
I glanced awkwardly at the nurse. She tapped the doctor on the shoulder. “You’re getting ahead of yourself again, doctor” she said.
“Oh, am I?” he said, momentarily puzzled. “Ah, of course I am, let’s go back to you describing your symptoms for me, eh?”
“Uh…sure” I said, but the gears in my head were already turning. The Samanafofana Desert, huh...?
I described my curious time-skip hiccups to the doctor and he rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Well well well, I’d say what I think of those interesting symptoms” he said. “However, I think you’ve already heard my opinions on the subject. Most potential causes are highly unlikely. The least unlikely of them…well, have you been to the Samanafofana Desert lately?”
“As a matter of fact, I have” I responded, suspicion rising. “Why do you ask?”
“Well”, said the doctor, “the most probable cause of those symptoms is what we generally call the Chrono Cough Disease. The disease causes you to jump forward in time at increasingly quick rates, so it’s best to deal with it quickly. But it’s an exceedingly rare ailment for a number of reasons. The first is that it only has a relatively small chance of being acquired on contact. The second is that the creature whose contact confers the disease is a rare specimen only found deep in the Samanafofana Desert. The Temporal Leech.”
At this, suspicions confirmed, I groaned and put my hand to my face.
“Ah, recognition dawns it seems” said the doctor. “You’ve been bitten by one of these, I presume?”
I nodded glumly, recalling that being bitten by…a fair bit more than one of those wretched leeches was the unfortunate end to my last adventure. I spoke up nervously. “So, uh…is there any cure for…Chrono Cough Disease?”
“Oh plenty, plenty” said the doctor. “What you’re looking for is the rare insidiarum consilium plant. Small quantities will stop your symptoms temporarily, or at least stop them from accelerating. It’ll take quite a lot to permanently halt the disease, though. Not to worry,” he said, looking at my worried expression, “there should be plenty around here. Though, it’s…hang on a second. Nurse, what dimension are we in currently?”
“Let me check…”, said the nurse, grabbing a clipboard and handing it to the doctor, pointing to a point on the page.
“Ah, alright”, he responded after looking for a second. “And what year?”
“2013 sir” replied the nurse.
“Well I’ll just consult my chart here…” The doctor flipped through some pages for a second. “Yes, here we go, 2013 stores of…” He suddenly stopped. “Er, what day is it?” Starting to get worried, I told him the current date. “Ah…” he said, suddenly awkward. “Well, uh, I don’t want to alarm you or anything, but according to my chart it won’t be long before the day, er, where our entire store of insidiarum consilium suddenly and mysteriously vanishes. Specifically,” he continued in front of my incredulous face, “it will disappear sometime tomorrow.”
I paused with extreme prejudice.
“Er…” the doctor said.
I gave a quiet, yet seemingly gale-force cough.
“Um…” said the doctor, “do you need a minute or-“
“I need the bloody cure!” I replied tersely. “Where can I find it?”
“Oh!” he exclaimed. “Well, you should be able to make it to our personal stores just fine, one of my predecessors, or perhaps it was one of my successors, saw fit to plant a small garden of the stuff in a cave in the mountain opposite ours a few generations back. There are also some natural patches elsewhere, but they’re all around the world and usually well hidden. I can draw you up a map…” he continued distractedly, patting his pockets for a writing utensil and fumbling through drawers.
“Is this the only cure?” I demanded. “There’s nothing you can do to help me but direct me to distant locations of a rare plant? You can’t even delay the effects? I’m just supposed to go on my way and hope that I don’t suddenly hiccup myself into the heat death of the universe?!”
“Er…” said the doctor, “…I suppose I could recommend a glass of water?”
So shortly afterwards I took a hand-drawn map of the world with instructions on where to find the insidiarum consilium from the doctor and left. He also gave me his card in case I wanted to call him later, but he appreciated I wanted to get going while I still had time. As I was sullenly walking back the way I came, I could hear the doctor back in the room.
“Alright then nurse”, his fading voice exclaimed, “I’m here about the patient you paged me on, when is he?”
I left the building with a bundle of nerves, an obscene bill, and a glass of water. Walking briskly to Scrappy, I tried to remain calm. The timing was probably a coincidence. We took off, and started flying towards the peaks opposite the hospital, where their store of the plant was. It was entirely possibly this was a coincidence. Using the map the doctor gave me, I located the cave and landed at the entrance. It was almost certainly a coincidence. I told Scrappy to stay put and pulled out a flashlight.
There’s no way this was a coincidence.
I descended into the cave, walking down twisty, dank passages to the hidden stores of insidiarum consilium. You’d expect this would be about the point that I’d navigate some deadly traps or fight a horde of ravenous beasts. So would I, as a matter of fact. And yet apparently the hospital kept their stores of this plant well curated, because there was none of that. Compared to most of my experiences in new environments it was downright pleasant. Like a stroll in the park, except when I do that I usually have to deal with giant carnivorous plant mutants or some such.
So I had a fairly nice waltz through the caverns when finally the tunnel walls started to expand and I walked out into a large cavernous opening. Holding my flashlight aloft, I saw a large patch of what had to be the insidiarum consilium. It looked more or less like normal ferns, but the leaves corkscrewed out bizarrely in every direction. I proceeded cautiously towards the plant, knowing that whatever was the cause for its disappearance could be waiting nearby. It could be pretty much anything. A monster could pop out, or my own hubris could somehow screw things up, or hell, it could even be-
“NOT SO FAST, VIDEO GAME BLOGGER!!!”
Oh you have got to be kidding me.
“YES, THAT’S RIGHT, IT IS I!! I AM THE ONE SPEAKING TO YOU NOW!!! IT IS I WHO SHALL BE THE INSTRUMENT OF YOUR DOOM AT THIS PRESENT MOMENT IN TIME!!!! PREPARE TO HAVE YOUR PLANS FOILED BY-“
I refuse to believe that my life could ever be genuinely threatened by-
“DOCTOR ACIDMELTSKULL!!!!!” said Dr. Acidmeltskull.
And indeed it was him, as I reluctantly turned to find him standing at the entrance of the tunnel I had entered through. He stood there triumphantly smug for a moment when he noticed my disgruntled expression. He paused. “YOU KNOW, DR. ACIDMELTSKULL?!” he continued, still shouting.
My hand went en route to my forehead in an expression of exasperation.
“REMEMBER?!” the doctor shouted. “I TRIED TO KILL YOU A FEW TIMES?! WE HAD A WHOLE GOOD VERSUS EVIL THING GOING ON?! YOU KNOW I’M HONESTLY KIND OF SURPRISED YOU DON’T REMEM-“
“SHUT UP!” I interrupted. “I remember you, already, okay?!”
The doctor stopped and frowned at me sourly. “Well jeez”, he said at a more reasonable decibel, “there’s no need to be so rude about it.” Never before had I thought I would be able to describe a man with half his face melted off as “pouting”, but there was no better way to describe the appearance of the doctor right then and there.
“Alright…” I said, breaking the silence. “I don’t suppose you’ll just let me go about my business…?”
“Ha! This would be what you wish, I’m sure!” replied the doctor, picking up steam again. “But to no avail, for as your nemesis I wish the opposite of this! I went through the trouble of tracking you to this cave, and now we must have an epic duel of brains and brains yet again!”
“You mean like last time when you hit me on the head with a book?” I said dryly.
“There was nothing wrong with that!” replied the doctor defensively. “It technically required both brains and brawn!”
“Look, can we not do this right this second?” I said. “I know you’re looking to take a more direct route to my demise and I think we can agree it would be far more satisfying if I didn’t die a slow death from disease.”
“Of course!” he replied. “I apologize; I didn’t realize you were sick with fear! I just wanted to gloat about how my ingenious spy planes followed you to these mountains! Should I give you a minute to change your underwear?! To be fair, I’d be scared too if I knew I were about to perish in some remote mountain cave that didn’t even have any treasure in it! Or have you switched careers to botanist out of dread of my return?! I suppose my terrifying visage is quite…”
I had stopped listening to his self-indulgent ramblings a while ago, and had now paused in surprise. There were two reasons for this. One was that it was fairly clear to me now that my nemesis had no idea about my illness. I could still get out of this with the plant I needed.
The second reason was that I could feel a strange, yet familiar sensation building within me…
A dozen plans went through my, as often previously mentioned, excessively brilliant mind. Distractions I could pull on the doctor, daring escape schemes, and more. But the feeling in my stomach was rising, so I had to act fast and…
…wait a minute, he wasn’t even holding a weapon, why was I paying any attention to him again?
At that thought I immediately turned around and bolted towards the plant.
“…and clearly this fearful fear you fear towards me is – hey wait, where are you going?” said the doctor, fumbling around his person for something to stop me as I reached the plant. I grabbed a handful of the plant and started to bring it to my mouth as I responded.
“Here” I said. “Just later.”
I hiccupped before I could eat any of the plant, but it seemed to be to my advantage. For as I tried more successfully to start chewing on the plant, I noticed that after my latest time skip the doctor was now where to be found. I swallowed and grinned triumphantly as I shoved the rest of my handful into my jaw, and turned around to find-
-a cave floor covered in ash.
Where there had once been a large crop of insidiarum consilium, not a single plant remained. The whole lot of it had been burned to the ground. “Shit”, I exclaimed emphatically as I pulled out my phone. Yep. It was tomorrow, and the plants were gone. I chewed on the remnants of what I had picked up before the time skip and walked through the cave making sure none of it had survived. I didn’t find any more of the plant, but I did find a single note lying neatly on top of a pile of ash. I picked it up and opened it, to find these words in handwriting that seemed oddly familiar for some reason:
“Race you to the next garden.”
“Well double shit”, I cursed, pulling out the map of insidiarum consilium locations. It looked like I had more work to do, and my very life depended on it.
…but I could probably find time to post on the blog quick before I got going.