Sheridan had read everything that David Arnover had ever written, and even some of the things that he had never let escape from his skull. Super-positional Libraries were an amazing thing.
How were you supposed to feel when you met a person that was writing about your life in a way that was more than likely creating the riptides under the surface that pulled you left right and centre? Well, you had to get used to it, didn’t you? How long had it been since they had broken reality, and how long had it been since they had started trying to unbreak it?
Travel to The Time Slot and you could see how the place where time travel had originated and how it had fared since that point, when the entire weight of existence had come crashing down on one single notional point and caused the entire multi-verse to buckle from the pressure.
A single sad Chanticleer sat there nursing a broken egg timer that never emptied because it was something that could never be fixed and in some superpositional sense was never really broken. They called the town Start’s Top, and they called the man Saa the Swahili word for clock. Saa had trained for a while with the Burundi drummers so that he might take his drum and be the heartbeat of Start’s Top. Sheridan first went there when he and Quint Essential were setting up The Quantum Elements, as part of The Quint Essential Directive.
He knew that he had entered a breakdown loop. As soon as the thing with Ardenti In Mundo had happened he saw his mirror image Dying Element fold in through a conjunction tesseract, and his compressed Bardo Thodol unpacked through a hovering Vector Flower.
They had all moved on. He sat there in that bar all alone. A jammed picture disintegrating in the gate. Life didn’t flash before the eyes of a Living Element. Death was a door slamming in the wind, smiling with a face you knew was the opposite of you. The Dying Element sat opposite him.
‘Greetings, brother, I am the dark hand come to clasp yours in friendship as I take the name Sheridan from you, and give you your new mask’
‘What is the word in the mouth of my new face?’
‘I am Death, father of your new self, and I shall call you Phelim.’
They shook hands, and Sheridan fell backwards off his chair, arms flung outwards, and he landed, posed like Christ on the floor. This death was necessary – his energy was recompense for the damage done to the universe by the havoc that Spay had wrought.
No one stepped near him. Everyone knew that when the green light shone from the eyes of a Living Element that death was upon them, and that birth would soon arrive. The entire bar was lit green, like an underwater grotto, and his face began to change – the visage of Sheridan faded, and the visage of Phelim settled into place. His back arched like a surge of electricity had passed through him and the force pushed him upright.
‘I have my mask, now I bid my shadow farewell.’
Death gripped the brim of its fedora span on its heel, and left the bar.
The bar was silent. Not many outside of The Living Elements were ever privy to the ceremony of death, though many had heard of the births. Death as a part of the cycle of the eternal life of a Living Element was not something that many people thought about. There were many people with tear tracks down their face. Phelim, who had been Sheridan was smiling widely. He knew it would be raining outside because the world always wished to lick a reborn Living Element clean.
He stepped through the doorway and the street was liquid.
Seymour, The Twisted Prophet had watched it all. It was always interesting for him and his kind – to travel alongside the Living Elements that they were bound to, and to see such change, and to not undergo such a drastic change themselves. Here, outside their own time, his Living Element had gone through such a profound change, he had to wonder what the ripple effect would be where they came from, when Phelim stepped into the world that Sheridan had left.
He followed close behind this new man as he stretched his legs.