“I thought my ideas were so clear. I wanted to make an honest film. No lies whatsoever. I thought I had something so simple to say. Something useful to everybody. A film that could help bury forever all those dead things we carry within ourselves. Instead, I’m the one without the courage to bury anything at all. When did I go wrong? I really have nothing to say, but I want to say it all the same.”
I am not James Bond. Not in this universe, anyway. In this universe, I am walking down a hill with Ben at half past ten in the evening, and I am not James Bond. Perhaps in another reality, I have a licence to kill, but in this one, I don’t even have a licence to drive.
The hill is steep enough that I can feel my jerky movements, am acutely aware that I could topple and fall at any moment. Any fall could be my last, hypothetically speaking. Bones are brittle here. We’re all terminal in every universe, except for the ones in which we’re not. We turn left in a million and we turn right in a million and there are a million others in which we stop moving altogether.
It’s true. It’s physics. Every action that occurs is only real until it’s not. It happens until it doesn’t. And there are universes where it never happens, and universes where it never stops happening, and universes where it happens on Sundays and alternate Tuesdays.
Just because something’s red, doesn’t mean it isn’t blue. For every red book, there’s a universe where it’s green. For every green book, there’s a universe where it’s purple. For every purple book, there’s a universe where JFK was never assassinated. The possibilities are infinite. The combinations are more than infinite.
In a parallel universe, I am James Bond.
Ben looks at me, a wrinkle of worry between his brows. I hate it when he worries. I think he hates it, too. I wonder if there’s a version of him that’s as carefree as I’d like him to be, if there’s a Ben Joseph Watkins of 37 Kingfisher Drive who doesn’t spent two hours every morning arranging his cutlery drawer. I think I’d like to meet him.
- Are you all right? he asks.
I nod. I briefly wonder if there’s a universe in which nodding means ‘no’.
- Just thinking, I reply tersely, adding the clarification just in case the universe bleeds and I’m stuck unable to make my message clear, and Ben goes home and counts his spoons.
He nods slowly, and I find it jarring that his nod might just as well mean ‘no’ as ‘yes’. My blood runs cold. My breath is spectral in the night. A nod is both ‘no’ and ‘yes’. Ben counts his cutlery and he doesn’t care. Ben cares and his cutlery is a mess. The universe is bruised. Parallelisms run like spilled ink. Not spilled milk. There’s no use in crying over spilled milk, except for when there is. There’s a universe where spilled milk is like spilled blood. There’s a universe where spilled blood is like spilled milk, too, although sometimes I think that might be this one.
In a parallel universe, I am James Bond.
- Seems like it was important, he says.
I shrug. I know that there’s a version of Ben who doesn’t care. It’s not this version, not this universe, but if the universe is running, then I’d rather not take the chance.
- Not really.
We kick our feet as we walk down the hill, halfway to the bottom now. The incline is gradually steepening. This town is built on the graves of tall men, my father says, and we walk on their bones. They’re probably still alive somewhere, some realm where perhaps they didn’t lose. There’s a version of my town that’s flat. There’s a million universes in which my town doesn’t rise and fall like a breath. There’s a thousand universes in which my town flatlines and Ben doesn’t care, and there’s a thousand more in which the streets are vanishing points and Ben worries, counts crockery at dusk like he’ll die if he doesn’t.
It’s like veins, stretching out into the sinew and leaking all the possibilities that can only happen elsewhere. Here, Ben counts and cares and I don’t have a licence to kill. I don’t have a licence to drive. Perhaps another me is a race car driver. Perhaps another me is James Bond.
- Are you sure you’re OK? Ben asks, eyes narrowed.
And I don’t know. I always wondered what ‘OK’ actually meant. It must stand for something, like an acronym. Perhaps it doesn’t. I’m not sure. Another me knows, but I don’t. I envy the alternate. I look at Ben. He is small and thin, like a bird, and I wonder if all that counting helps him sleep at night. It doesn’t look like it. He wants to know if I’m OK. He didn’t ask me that elsewhere. Perhaps he asked me about the weather, or about my mother, or about the state of things in North Korea. Perhaps he was silent. It’s cold here and it hurts to speak. Of course, it might be warm elsewhere.
I wish I were elsewhere.
I haven’t answered Ben. He looks at me like I’ve vanished, and I clear my throat.
- I’m sure.
I’m sure. In a parallel universe, I am James Bond. In a parallel universe, I have pink hair and six fingers. In another world, I like fish fingers. In a different life, I was born a boy, or perhaps I was born a girl, or something else entirely. A cat, perhaps.
This me likes cats.
- You don’t look sure.
Ben still worries and his cutlery is aligned, but a version of Ben didn’t say it. A version of me can ignore it. I can be that version. The universe is bleeding and a nod of the head means ‘yes’ and ‘no’. The hill is getting steeper still. I could fall at the next step. Another me has already fallen at every step.
If me has fallen, then so have I.
The sky is red. A nod of the head means ‘yes’ and ‘no’. In this universe, I am James Bond.
the gist is that yes, Duskie can talk normally, but the only thing it does it repeat the last 15 minutes or so before she/it dies. in short, horrid screams and curses in a strange language are the only things it can say. it’s the sound of a young girl’s heart being ripped from her chest, and yes it is 100% guaranteed to be traumatizing for everyone involved. and also might reveal to some muses that she’s a she. i’m gonna queue this a couple times, but like for a lil smth to do with this event