I'm alone in my sitting room having tea at my table. There's a large chair opposite me, Mr. Gryphon's chair. It was custom built just for him. The living quarters in my Library are crowded with library staff and the others. I'm mending quickly, of course. Since this is all happening in my head I can afford to grant myself a speedy recovery. Dr. Patel, a straightforward woman, administered to my injuries. She didn't talk about the Stranger. My ankle is still sore but not broken. Dr. Patel made me promise that I would wrap my ankle and wear sturdy boots when I went out again.
There's a knock at the door and the Rocketeer comes in. He's wearing jeans and a shirt instead of his usual jumpsuit. He looks at the large chair. "May I sit?"
"Sure," I say. I wonder if he's going to sit at Mr. Gryphon's chair but instead he pulls up another one.
"How are you feeling?" he asks. He's frowning, but only a little.
"How do you think I'm feeling?" I shoot back at him, my voice too sharp, then I contain my anger. I take a breath. "I'm feeling much better, thanks. I have to wrap my ankle when I go out next."
"Are you going out next? May I?" he asks, gesturing towards the teapot and the empty cup. I close my eyes but I nod. Mr. Gryphon and I have spent many hours having tea together. I don't remember if anyone else has ever drank tea with me. I hear the sound of tea pouring into the cup and open my eyes. The Rocketeer says nothing as he sips. Instead, he watches me.
I blink tears from my eyes. "Of course, I'm going out. I have to. You know that," I shake my head in irritation, "Do you have another name besides the Rocketeer?"
"Of course I do," he says as he sets the cup down, "It's Nick. You're going to need help."
"Yes," I say, looking away from him, "I have to retrieve Mr. Gryphon's head." The opposite wall has plate steel over it to keep the Stranger out. It doesn't do anything for the soft sage green wallpaper.
I look back at him. "So I can bring him back, of course. Why else do you think?"
"I didn't know you could do that. Can you bring back Rex too?" He asks. I notice that his eyes are hazel colored with green flecks, like my Mom's eyes. He is reaching for a cucumber crustless sandwich.
"Of course. This is my world. I'll tell you this thing will end one of two ways. Either I get everyone back, including Mr. Gryphon, or that thing outside will destroy everything." I didn't realize it but now I'm standing on my feet looking down at him. The coldness starts in my chest again.
"April wants to know what that thing is exactly. She's right, you know, we won't know how to deal with it until you tell us," he says. He has finished with his cucumber sandwich and is reaching for the other one. I remember he's a vegetarian. I'm angry now but I take another deep breath. I want to tell him I don't know what that thing is and they're the ones who should tell me.
"Call everyone in and I'll do the best I can."
Nick assembles everyone while I pace the floor. My ankle feels steady enough. I remember how the Stranger had grabbed my left foot and broke by twisting it. It knew that I have a weak left ankle. I wondered if that's why it killed Mr. Gryphon outright. It probably knows all my weak spots. Everyone pulls their chairs closer to me. I have a lot of chairs both in my sitting room and in my real apartment. Many more than a single person should have.
Everyone is done assembling but I am still pacing. I gather my thoughts and then look at my Dead Self. She is still worried, her brow is furrowed. "You didn't see this happening, did you?" She doesn't speak, only shakes her head.
"You may know how my life turns out in the real world but you don't know about this one," I say.
"I suppose not, Girlie." It's a comfort to hear her nickname for me. She smiles a little. "'Tell me, will this affect the real world?"
"Of course, I just don't know how. I suppose it's another way of me working through the fact that I'm going through a major transition in the real world. No job. Uncertainty." I shake my head again.
"You do have a habit of putting yourself through hell," says April. She is watching me carefully, her arms folded across her chest. She doesn't have to remind me that Mr. Gryphon was always fond of telling me that. "Now tell us what we need to know."
I look at them all. "The Stranger is me, as you said. Only I am capable of destroying any of you and only I am able wreck so much destruction but it's a separate part of me. A part of me that has been exposed and gotten out of control. I don't know why. Maybe it's anger and frustration." I am pacing again. "The thing, as you've noticed, cannot be killed by conventional means. It's almost indestructible, in fact."
"Why?" asks April.
"I don't know. Clearly it's trying to tell me something. I've had such monsters before. Maybe it goes back to that old quote about stories, monsters, and children. The stories are there not so children would know about the monsters but so they would know monsters could be killed."
"So how do we kill it?" asks Nick. He is sitting on the outer edge of the group near the front.
"We can't," I say. A murmur runs through everyone and my sitting room seems to have gotten larger to accommodate the number of people.
"But we can put it back where it belongs so it doesn't cause so much damage." I stop pacing. I'm dreading this next part because it will mean a lot more work and that this story is going to be longer than I thought it would ever be. "We do that by finding Mithra."
"Who is Mithra?" April sounds annoyed. She glances at Nick and he looks back at her. I feel a little tinge of jealousy.
"It's the only way," I say to them, spreading out my hands. "Mithra is a special sword I wrote about in a story years ago. I only got a little way through the story but Mithra is the only thing that will work. It has a special blade that only I can wield. It goes against everything in the Universe."
I close my eyes, feeling ridiculous. How the hell do I come up with all this shit anyway? And why am bringing the sword into this story for crying out loud? "The sword has a special blade. It's capable of destroying anything by obliterating its energy. In my story from years back the blade was capable of destroying angels, demons, maybe even God, because it absorbs any kind of energy."
There's a silence. "You mean like a Black Hole absorbs everything?" asks my 36 year old self. Of course she would know about this because she wrote the damn story.
"Yes, kind of like that but not really. A Black Hole absorbs everything, including light because of its tremendous gravitational pull." There's another murmur. I sit down again suddenly tired. There's a lot ahead of us. And yes, there will be more than one person involved in this story.
"Well, can't we just go get the sword and take care of things?" asks one of the library staff. I smile at him.
"We can't do that because it's not here," I say. I smile bitterly.
"And where is it?" asks April.
"It's in Hell where I last left it."
"You don't mean the place of fire and brimstone and Satan and all that," says my Dead Self.
"Yes, I do mean that place."
"How is that possible? A place like that doesn't literally exist, does it?" says Nick. I notice he is sitting up a little straighter in his chair.
"It does in this Universe," I say. There's a groan all around. I stand up again and put my hands on my hips. What have I gotten all of us into?