Four Hours Sleep
by Stewart Wilson
Jack lives on four hours sleep a night, a lunatic intensity fuelled by a lack of mental housekeeping. It started as a little thing, a minor habit of his, but the first time he realised the truth he never closed his eyes for more than four hours at a time. He had seen the the world that we ignore.
The Jaguar sped through the streets of Alternative London #239, roof down and headlights ablaze. Jack behind the wheel, needing the air to keep himself focused. He knew he'd seen something strange at the offices of Morcambe and Finch, but he'd passed it off as an insomniac hallucination. Now he knew the truth, he had to see if any of it was real. A gateway into the Tesserat was all he needed.
Above him, on the roof's edge, a Death Nun stands with her hand on a submachine gun. She is waiting for the chance she knows will come. She is waiting to kill the Eternal. She strikes a needless pose, hoping she cuts a dashing figure against the night sky. Since her garb is as black as the sky behind her, reality doesn't live up to her expectations. And it's starting as it means to go on.
* * *
The booth's a swimming mess of smoke, a not insignificant part of which comes from Jack's joint by the time he remembers Masoud's telling him something important.
"It's all about the eternity, right? Cycles. A new world every time. A new us."
"Do you always make this little sense or is it the drugs?"
"You will see, given time. I can only start you going, key your psyche with linguistic scratches to unlock the doors in future incarnations."
"Groovy. You do that. I'm going to see if I can get Becky's knickers off with the power of my mind."
"A useful skill. You and her have a future together."
"How do you know?"
"Read it in the cards."
"You don't believe in that stuff."
"Which is why I thought it worth mentioning."
Jack took a heavy drag and felt himself relax. The speakers were carrying some Jefferson Airplane and he swayed out into the club. Becky was close by, a beautiful killer in a gingham skirt. Rumour was that she used to be a Death Nun working for the Conspiracy, but nobody took those rumours seriously. Jack smiled and she smiled back.
"Want to talk me out of this skirt?"
"You mean I have to talk?"
She leaned forwards and kissed him, their bodies still dancing.
* * *
The Jaguar's parked out front. Jack's still not sure about his destiny but ever since he cut back on sleep he's beginning to realise things. Like how seven hours is three too many, three hours of time for subliminal brainwashing to seep out of the buried layers of thought and implant itself into the active subconscious. Since then he's had no problem seeing what most people don't think is there.
The human mind is capable, through meditation and drugs, of perceiving four-dimensional space. It's also capable of interacting with such a space, but not getting there on it's own. The Antipope's forces in the Conspiracy use refractive 4D shields to prevent seven-hour-sleepers from seeing them. Another cunning trick, hiding behind the bend in a straight line.
Jack had all of this in his head as he shot the lock off Morcambe and Finch's rear door. The stairs were easy to find, and from the looks of things would give him an easy run to the roof. Of course, that was where the real trouble would begin.
The Death Nun watched Jack from a skylight, running through a whole gamut of fantasies. Just the very thought of killing him excited her, even if he hadn't seen her pose. She would be the one to kill him, slowly and surely. She licked the barrel of her favourite gun, and waited.
Her patience was an archefact of her sleep routine, a change to a mere four hours suited her. She felt more enabled by the iopening of secret pathways in her brain. She could better use the three extra senses with the clarity of her perfect mental state. The constant sexual excitement was merely a fortunate side effect for her.
* * *
It was three months after Jack and Becky had met in the club when they found themselves in Paris, killing strange things that could only be agents of the Antipope. The Anti-Angels were the worst, winged nightmares that mundane people could not see, picking off Four Hour People without a second thought. Enforcing the order of the Antipope on the world.
In between their work, Becky introduced Jack to a number of tantric sex practices, heightening his perceptions and focusing his mind to take advantage of it's new state. That she was fucking his brains out at the time was a double bonus for Jack.
One morning, his eyes still adjusting to the light streaming through their bedroom curtains, Jack felt Becky's breath on his ear.
"Not that I want to say this, but now I've taught you all I can."
"You make that sound more ominous than it should. You're such a good teacher."
"So you say. But I'm needed in the Middle East. They want me there as soon as I can."
Jack took a deep breath, idly stroking her hair. "Of course, love. But surely you've got the chance for one last time."
Jack's head swam as she kissed him, drawing closer.
Vigorous sex ensued.
* * *
When the Death Nun dreams, she dreams of Jack. Not in a way that the Antipope would condemn, of course. She dreams of hunting him, of stalking the Eternal and killing him in the name of the Queen of Sorrows. Of tearing out his heart and offering it in supplication. She harbours such ideas now, at the worst possible moment.
A five-directional kick does for the door at the top of the stairwell and Jack is on the roof of a skyscraper. He recognises the form of a Death Nun ahead of him, clutching a gun to her chest. That she's oblivious to the world around her is a small mercy she doesn't deserve. Fingers jerk on the triggers of his guns, one bullet smashing her brain while the other crashes through her lung, and possibly her heart. It is time for violence, and Jack is not fucking around.
He knows the Queen of Sorrows will be crowned soon, but without the information in the Tesseract Jack has no idea of when or where. The Death Nun proves his hunch correct, there's a gate to the Tesseract that sits in the four-dimensional superspace above London up here. He just has to find it.
The vibrations of the place are his first clue. The other is the sudden urge to turn in a direction people normally can't, to turn ana and take that half-step away from the three spatial dimensions of the world. Jack does so without a second thought.
The Tesseract is lined with monitors, every wall a moving image. Some blare propaganda, some images from the ubiquitous CCTV cameras. Everywhere agents of the Black Church can see people going about their lives. But for all this output there seems to be nowhere to query for files.
Jack sees the gleaming spire of Canary Wharf and runs along nightmare corridors that shift geometrically with every step. Fragments of condensed Order, all sharp angles and protrusions, drift after him. At some point they're going to take decisive action and try to calcify him, lock him into their reality. But the spark of change is strong within him. It doesn't happen just yet, he's the first Four Hour Person to break into 4-space and they're not at all sure how to deal with him.
At the wall of Canary Wharf, a giant screen relays possible futures. The needle queries the dragon lines, the 4D hypergeometry of the world, and uses them to predict the future. Jack doesn't know how he knows it, but he does. One of Masoud's brain-keys, more than likely.
The clouds of Murder Bishops are gathering closer. Some are estruding weapons, razor-sharp edges in bizarre shapes only Picasso could love. Jack focused, bringing to mind the Queen of Sorrows' crowning ceremony. The screen displayed what he needed to know.
Jack pulled a lump of thermite from one of the many pockets of his jacket, and rested it against the wall. A polygon smashed into the wall beside him, a warning shot. He carved the sacred chao into the explosive, and lit the fuse. In seconds, he had blown a hole back to his reality, a short way away from Canary Wharf. He tensed, and jumped.