This article is part of the That Insidious Beast series.
"Why did you bring me here?" I plead.
"The end," they say and their teeth flash white.
I'm surrounded by a thousand surgically perfect smiles. I try to focus only on Don Early.
"What? I don't understand! I can't...I don't know what you're saying."
"Buddy, you're fleshborn," Don Early says "Like me. One thing at a time."
"You're like me," I try to slap my chest, but the press of bodies keeps my arms pinned to my sides.
"Right on, buddy," the voices say. "I had a mom and a dad just like you. Not those other guys. Got to take one thing at a time. Not those other guys."
"Right on, buddy. Those guys are bad news. Been mixing it up with Vic Mercer and the Snakes for a while."
"You've been fighting them for a long time, longer than we have?" I ask.
"Right on, buddy. Now you're cookin'."
"I don't give a shit," I spit and the smiles fade from a thousand faces.
Don Early looks disappointed.
"Should," Don says. "Genocide."
"You killed my wife," I shout. "You murder us."
"No. Not me," Don replies. "If you want to catch a crook, you've got to think like a crook. Hard to do. All of the little people. Not The Real Deal. It's a thing of the past. "
"What's done is done. You can't change the past. Everybody's gotta die some time. You can't bring back the dead."
Don Early frowns, furrows his brow as if concentrating.
"Moments. You are...in...moments. They are...unlimited. We are in between. You are...moving. In between."
"The sky, is it the sky? Something is happening. I saw myself and an Unfolder."
"Yes. Unfolder. Not fleshborn. Not since...long, long ago. Unlimited."
"But you're not unlimited?"
"Everybody's gotta die some time, buddy."
"I've seen Unfolders die. Seen them killed."
"You're kicked out of the club. Hit the road, jerk. Get out of here. Begone."
"Are they gods?"
"Makes sense...to you."
I feel dizzy. I look at the multitude of faces, searching for a sign. Some indication that this is all a gag. Or a dream.
"What does that make you? Angels? Aliens?"
"Are you from dimension X or something? What the hell are you?"
"Wrong answer, buddy. I'm...fleshborn, like you."
"Here. Third rock from the sun. The blue marble. Terra firma. Earth."
"Evolved on earth? In the future? A long time ago? You all look different. Evolved from what? Squids? Elephants? What are you?"
Don Early's expression becomes tortured. A thousand voices are suddenly thick-lipped and full of phlegm.
"I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!"
You say collaboration like it's a bad word.
The ocean is full of the stuff of nightmares and, no thanks to all that water, you can't even kill it with fire.
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