Similar multiversal structure to the Jack Carter stuff, but with a few key differences. This is Kid Eternity to Jack's Invisibles, kinda thing.
One More Time
by Stewart Wilson
"History moves in cycles."
Harry's voice was quiet, he'd been hitting the bong for the past few hours and even my eyes were watering.
"But the cycles, these cycles, they close and open without most people noticing. Never realise they reincarnate. It's like a cosmic fucking gameshow, yanno?"
Harry had the unique ability to tap into the universal consciousness by getting ripped to the tits. I like Harry, I listen to what he says. Sometimes I do wonder if he realises what he says, but I don't give a toss.
"So, so, so... everyone lives a life in each cycle, on and on and on and on. Chloroform sends you back, unlocks the memories of your soul's past. You ever done that? Chloroform?"
"No, I've never touched the stuff."
"See, thing is, this thing, that if you do some things some ways during each cycle, you get picked up to power a war engine in the cosmic unconsciousness. Your soul becomes an E-M charge in God's big gun."
"Fuck. Who knew God had such a small dick he needed a gun?"
"Satan's worse, man. He's got a bigger gun and Law's trying to blow both of them away. People who stay out of the system, who fuck things up just right, they're chaos. There's your four big powers, yanno?"
I laughed and looked for the munchies.
I tried inhaling chloroform three days later. Swore I had to remember what I saw and had to get it out of me. The world fell away from my eyes, a pinpoint of light at the end of a tunnel, my mind regressing into the memories of my soul.
Trees around me. Black cloth wrapping my limbs. Chafing like a fucker, I'm already bleeding underneath it. Whoever says these Robin Hood types have it easy are talking bullshit. I look around. Other figured dressed like me. Bows. A walled city off to my left. A pair of pistol-bows under my robes.
Fucking hell, maybe I am Robin Hood. No. No green, all of this is black. Tight, too. The whole thing looks about right for the time-period, though. But I've only two men with me. Bandits, hired idiots who were supposed to look like me and take other ways in. Disposable selves. One went left, one right. I threw a hook up over the wall. No light in the city, fires were all out. Guards heard the hook. One with a bolt, one with a knife across the throat. Fast. Silent. Murder, but then that's what the people in this city had done to me and my people.
No more guards nearby. The mayor's house wasn't far. A rich place, but nowhere I couldn't get into. Silence was the rule. Wrong room, that's his children. They have to learn, killing them would give him the sympathy of the people in their beds. Just the man. Another room, the right room. Cloth in his mouth, rope around his wrists and ankles before he knows what's going on. Out of the window, ease him down. Keep him alive for now.
More guards as my feet hit the ground. A throwing-knife for one, I get close enough to stab the other in the side and cut his neck as he falls. Silence again. I dragged the bastard to a patch of mud, shoot a bolt clean through his head, and make a hole in his guts. The seeds fall in, and I water them with my own blood. There will be a tree there by first light, roots piercing his body. I will be long gone.
I didn't hear the guard behind me. The arrow pierced my heart, a clean kill. Better than if I had been caught. I fell forwards, onto the body. The tree grew up through me.
Light flooded my vision as I came to. The clock blinked, it's red LEDs showing only half an hour after I'd inhaled. Scary stuff. I spent the rest of the day in the pub, listening to the other drunks.
It was two weeks later that I tried again. Harry had been off on a bender, got himself hospitalised after mistaking washing powder for cocaine. He never met a drug he didn't like. I only tried when it was certain he'd recover. That was the first time I thought about what I'd seen, what I had remembered. Me as some kind of assassin in the dark ages, and something about a tree growing from me and my enemy. I had to know more. I blocked myself in the pub toilet and breathed deeply.
Sun high above the horizon. Few clouds in the air. Dressed in denim and leather, a dull ochre duster stained from the sun and the trail dirt. Hat brim low over my eyes. The sign in the distance over the only way to escape. "You are now leaving Providence". But I couldn't go back on this.
I'd tracked the bastard all the way from England. Followed him to America, out of the East and across the Mississippi. And here he was, about to die in a brothel in some arsehole town in the middle of nowhere. The real American dream that.
Spurs jangle as I walk through the doors of the general store. Not the saloon. I don't want to be too cliche about this. Ten bullets. The guns are special, five rounds in each chamber. A pentagram inscribed by a specialist of the Ordo Templi Orientis back in London on the back of the wheel. The revolver as the wheel of fortune. And some fucker is going to get his last game of Russian roulette tonight.
The saloon, when I do walk into it — because if I'm in the Old West I am going to do just one thing right — is a hole. Four people playing a quiet game of cards in the corner. And Lucas, with his whore, halfway between me and the bar. The trail has made me a harder man than I was when he killed my friends and family. Stubble poking through on a square chin, hard eyes set in a sun-worn face. Not the fop he thought he'd killed.
"Lucas, maybe your lady should go."
His face turned white. I'd kept my accent on the trail, he knew anyone coming from England would be after the only man who had summoned a Shoggoth and survived.
"I won't tell you again, Lucas. Are you going to show some honour, or are you the kind of coward I should just shoot now?"
The card-players were looking at me. He'd paid them off, the money they were playing with was too new. Four of them, plus Lucas, plus the barman if I tried anything in here. One of me.
"I'll see you outside, Lucas."
I faces away from the sun. They'd have to squint to look at me as they left the saloon, and there I had the advantage. The poker-players came first. Strutting like I was already dead and they just hadn't got around to killing me yet. Before they could think I'd sent six bullets their way, tearing flesh and bone and leaving four corpses in the noonday sun.
Lucas was next. He had one of those big shit-eating grins, like he was expecting the shots to have come from his lackeys. His face contorted as he saw what had happened. Words sprang to his lips even as I turned him into so much meat, and I could feel my blood boiling in my veins, leaking form my eyes and nose. An eye for an eye. A life for a life. That's how things are out here.
Light again, flooding my vision. The white porcelain of a pub toilet in front of me. I'm back, sat on the shitter with a handkerchief filled with chloroform in my hand and a pair of handguns in my jacket. I have no idea where the firearms have come from, but I know it's my time. I need to get off the cycle, to do something monumental and dumb and bloody to ensure that the world turns. Me and all the other agents of chaos.
I go see Harry again, in the hospital. I'm lucky. They're keeping him fucked up on morphine while he recovers from the massive damage he wrought to his system. Apparently he tried stealing other patients' drugs while the nurses weren't looking. That's the Harry I know.
The morphine is doing wonders for his perceptions. In a two hour speech he tells me about the secrets of magic and the things which make it possible, the keys to reality. I really wish I had a dictaphone. But the future-me next time around the cycle wouldn't know where to look unless he — or she, I guess — tried the chloroform. No point.
Then Harry goes on about the new Scots Parliament building. How the delays and the ridiculous costs are due to them not getting the basement sacrifice room right, how no contractor has been able to lay the black sigil Odegra in silver on the floor, how it's so hard to find people well versed in the secret tongue of the blasphemous priesthood of ancient Mu.
I leave the hospital and walk down to the Royal Mile. I'd wondered since the first time why I'd moved to Edinburgh, and now I had an idea. Harry would have to live without me. I returned to my flat, ripping up the floorboards to find the stash of explosives I'd made several years before when I was toying with the idea of violent rebellion. I put them all in a bag and head for the Parliament.
I was going to die again, but I was going to die doing the right thing. In the past as in the future, just the same as now. I walked to the new building, sure to find the bastards in charge there, they were on a site visit. Time to live out my destiny, one more time.