White marble houses were neatly alligned. They were all devoid of angles and their base left the impression of fusing with the marble-paved ground. It was as if some sort of mad architect had been given free reign to take care of the whole town. All along this alley, trees had been carefully planted in small patches of soil that had the forms of crosses, squares, triangles and circles, each separated from the next in a very precise order and at the exact same distance. On both sides of the road, marble canals. One meter in width and up to fifty centimeters in depth, they let clear and pure water flow through them. Strangely enough, the water’s level didn’t seem to go over thirty centimeters. Leo thought they’d at least reach fourty to fourty-five, especially given the marble footbridges in front of each house. Maybe the heat dried the river up and Leo arrived on an especially hot day ? It felt odd, but that didn’t deter him from continuing towards the Grand Plaza, as suggested by his guide.
Dogs, cats, otters… A lot of animals were roaming the streets. All were bipedal and wore clothes that felt were coming out of a history book about the industrial revolution or something like that. One thing was more than certain : they were all staring at Leo when they noticed him. Could you please refrain from doing that ? It’s already pretty embarrassing and this most certainly doesn’t help. That was what the boy wanted to say out loud, but he didn’t feel courageous enough to do so, especially since he was the center of attention and it was intimidating. Even worse was the fact that behind Stan – who was looking with wonder and great detail every house – some animals were following them out of sheer curiosity. Leo looked at them and shyly waved. Grant also was glancing at the boy from time to time. It quickly became annoying. “Could you… Please, stop that ? It makes me feel uncomfortable.”
The otter looked in front of him and apologized. “Sorry, sir. Not everyday we can see someone of your kind arriving here… Oh hey, look ! Here’s the Grand Plaza ! Our pride and joy !”
“Pride and joy” could’ve been considered as an understatement ! The alley widened to open up to a huge square, where sat a huge brown and white marble fountain, complete with a few scraps of gold here and there. The statue on top of it was showing a scene where an otter stepped on the inanimate body of a lion while blowing a finely crafted foghorn. Both critters wore badly damaged armor. Water came out of the horn right into a small pool that had thirteen small doors. Each door wore a different crest and opened on one of the canals that went through one of the six alleys the square went to. A seventh alley, much larger, had a much deeper canal and seemed to be the fountain’s source.
Leo stopped to look at the fountain, fascinated by its level of detail. From the base of the pool to the top of the statue, it was only seven meters high, yet the number of little touches was staggering. Stan arrived near the boy, him also sharing in the wonder. Grant showed the fountain in a dramatic pose and declared “Here’s the statue we built in honor of Daryl, also known as Daryl the Saviour. It was he who saved us all from the Raions’ impeding reign and let our people take back our land.”
Stan gave a small nudge to the boy. “So ? Did I have a good idea by bringing you here ?” The boy accidentally ignored the question, absorbed by the statue’s looks. His gaze went then towards the sun. He felt its warmth and closed his eyes to feel the wind and the city’s different scents.
When he opened them again, he saw his bedroom’s window, from which the sun’s light managed to barely pass the shutters. Letting out a small growl, Leo wanted to go back to sleep, but made the huge mistake of looking at his alarm clock. 10:32. Huh ? What the… “Ack !” He was late ! He started getting up… Until he realized it was Saturday1. The boy sighed. For a few seconds, he wanted to go back to sleep to further explore this weird Dream Otter World2. Unfortunately for him, and despite the next three minutes trying to go back to sleep, the details faded into obscurity, to the point the only things left were this weird concept and a blurred notion of a fountain. Dammit… It looked awesome, he thought.
He then remembered he had to see a friend on the afternoon. If he continued slacking off, he’d never go see him and stay at home. With that thought in mind, he got up and got dressed.
When he got out of his room, Leo noticed the house was quiet. Too quiet. Obviously the sign his parents were out. He knew his father was at the Hotel de Police3, but his mother ? Maybe she had left a note somewhere. The boy went to the dining room to check it there wasn’t one on the tale. Bingo ! There was indeed a small piece of paper on the table. He immediately recognized his mother’s frantic writing and had to decipher the message to learn that she went to do the groceries and also that she intended to go to Bordeaux.
Leo’s birthday approaching, he thought she probably decided to have a stroll around town to look out for a present… But why do that today, when her son wasn’t at school ? Elsa is a novelist after all, so it’s not as if she couldn’t do what she wanted when she wanted to4. Then again, that wasn’t a certainty, so Leo refrained to jump to conclusions and decided it was a better thing to take something to eat. He only took a croissant with marmalade, as, in less than two hours, he’d be off eating with his best friend, so it was a sound decision not to eat too much.
And after this rather small breakfast, Leo got prepared to go outside. He decided to wear a small vest underneath a big coat, put on his shoes, went to the entrance… Then he remembered he forgot to leave a note about his whereabouts for his mother, so he came back to the living room, took a pen and a piece of paper, then wrote the note he took to the place she uses to eat at in the dining room.
Finally ready, he went again to the entrance… Before noticing he forgot to take his wallet containing his bus card and his MP3 player with him. Twice in a row, that would’ve been like Hell ! Then again, considering the fact that forgetting it lead him to his two final deaths and him gaining the power to control Time itself… “To all mistakes, there’s a positive outcome”, as they say… Or something like that. Leo shrugged, then went towards the entrance for the last time. He did a little mental check to see if he had forgotten anything… Nope, all good ! Let’s go ! He opened the door and left the house.
The sky was at its bluest. Only a few tiny clouds here and there, but nothing too worrying, especially considering their cute shape and size. Leo was about to arrive to the bus stop when an icy gust of wind blew. And that was when the boy realized he had forgotten his woolly hat. He had only walked three-hundred meters, so he could just turn back to get it. Meh, can’t be bothered. He moved on, guessing the bus would be heated anyway and that he wouldn’t have to wait long before it arrived.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
11:28. The wind had already been cleaning Leo’s head as well as ruffling his brown hair for the past twenty minutes. And still no bus in sight… He did see one one minute later, but it was coming from the other side of the road. Grumbling, he decided to grab his MP3 player and ironically play When the Wind Blows from the Rayman Legends soundtrack, before furiously stomping his foot to maintain his body temperature high enough to the sounds of a really entrancing remix of Corneria City‘s theme from the original Star Fox5.
It was at the end of the track he decided to go back home and go see his friend a bit later. And, obviously, it was at this precise moment the bus decided to show up6 !
Leo sent a small signal to the bus driver for him to stop, then went inside the bus, assuring his card made the terminal beep the right way and avoiding tripping over all the prams7. Fortunately, there were a few vacant seats, so he took the one closest to the door and was relieved to feel the heater’s sweet embrace.
The journey went on quite well : Leo listened to his music while looking at the houses. He saw his reflection from time to time, and even his dark green eyes.
The bus neared Peixotto station. The boy rose from his seat and went to the door. He noticed another bus leaving at the station. He knew deep inside that it was the bus he was supposed to take, but he decided to squint at the plaque’s number just to be sure. 35. The one he had to take. Just great. He wanted to stop time to get it, but he could stop either the whole universe or just the bus. In both cases, that would not help him at all, because he’d be stuck in this bus anyway and if he froze just the ther bus, people wouldn’t take too long to notice something wasn’t going right.
Leo sighed, than tried to think of a quick and safe solution. He saw Tram B going towards Bordeaux. That’s it ! Bus 35 and the tram going the other way both stopped at the same station further down the road, just after two of Bordeaux’s four main universities. And knowing the tram was faster than the bus, thanks to its lack of red lights and traffic jams, he might have a chance to stop ahead of the bus and not have to wait an ungodly amount of time !
When the bus Leo was on opened its doors, he rushed towards the tram station. For once today, he felt lucky, as the tram going to Pessac was just about to arrive. And when it arrived, Leo got on it, took care of making the terminal beep with his card and decided to fittingly listen to Monty on the Run‘s main theme8.
A few stops went by to the rhythm of Rob Hubbard’s mad symphony, making the situation that much more dramatic and exciting.
It was about ten minutes later that both Université Bordeaux III and Bordeaux IV went into view. Was Leo going to study there next year ? To be honnest, he didn’t know yet, as he had yet to select what schools he wanted to go to. Possibilities were kind of endless, given his more than excellent results. And even though he chose the scientific route, he could change course to go to the litterary university that was Bordeaux III or the law school that was Bordeaux IV.
Then again, he didn’t know. So he just looked at the fairly uninviting buildings : they had seen much better days. It seemed architests from a few decades back fell madly in love with the project, but with the eye of the 2014 student, they seemed so dated9. At least the small woods on the side was a nice touch.
The tram continued on for one last stop : the tram and bus station Unitec. Leo got out of the tram and went to the bus stop twenty meters from there, only to wait.
Five people were waiting for the bus to come. That was a good sign : it usually meant there hadn’t been a bus for at least the past seven to ten minutes. That thought was comforting.
But still, three minutes passed. Did Leo manage to outroll the bus or did the bus outroll him ? He started to worry. He decided to grab his MP3 player to play Snake, oh it’s a snake ! from the Trine 2 soundtrack10. And as he pressed play, he saw something from the corner of his eye. It was bus 35, coming on the other side of the road. Leo saw the vehicule stop to let a few passengers out. The shadow of one of them caught his eye, as the person was starting to run. Probably the kind who will run like a maniac to catch the tram11.
Leo turned his head to see if his theory was correct, and indeed he was, as he noticed both his bus and the tram were arriving… Wait.
His gaze went back to the young woman running. She was going around her bus from behind. Leo bus, on the other lane, was going way too fast and was just a few meters away. Did she see it ? No ! She was still running and she just put a foot on the other lane ! Then she put the other foot ! Leo’s bus driver was saluting the other driver and noticed at the very last second the running woman. Leo started running, his hand trying to reach the woman, while the driver was putting all of his weight ont the brakes. The woman turned her head, finally noticing the moving vehicule. Nononoononono STOP !!!!
And indeed the bus stopped. The woman also. Both were frozen in time and deprived of their colours. Leo stopped running : he managed to stop time and temporarily avoided the worst outcome possible.
“Whoa ! What’s goin’ on !?”
The boy turned towards the voice : a bald thirty year-old man was looking at the scene. Still. Moving !
“Someone must go and help her !” Another man, much older and paralysed not by time, but by fear, was watching the scene unfold.
From the corner of his eye, Leo saw a yellow-dressed woman run towards the frozen bus. His heart seemed to stop for a second.
He realized he had only created a colourless time bubble. Both the woman and the bus were prisonners of Time. The people who had been waiting at the bus stop started dashing towards the prison, while people on the other bus got out try try and pry the bubble open and free the endangered captive.
Leo was paralyzed. Horrified by what was happening and unable to think straight. In less than twenty-four hours, he had received super-powers and managed to jeopardize them. That was bad. Really bad.
The track Leo had been listening to stopped and chance had it so that In the Space Pirate Ship from the Kid Icarus Uprising soundtrack played. The glaring brass instruments woke the boy up and the heroic nature of the music influenced him a bit too much. Determined, he moved forward.
The crowd surrounding the time prison was more than impressive for a place that was usually bereft of people. Leo moved on, trying desperately to make his way though the crowd. “Make way ! Pardon ! S’cuse me… Thank you !” He saw a few people banging at the bubble to no avail.
When he finally arrived in front of the prison, he put his hand forth. “S’cuse me again.” He thought about the lesson Stan gave him the day before and had the mental image of an armor. It was a resounding success, as he managed to enter the bubble without bursting it. The crowd was speechless. Leo went to the woman. She was probably wearing black and in her twenties. He stared at it for a few seconds, trying to figure out something. He tried taking her with him. Nothing. But maybe sharing the armor was possible ? He focused on this thought, then tried touching the woman’s hand again. Colours came back to her in an instant. She started moving again, nearly stumbling because of her running speed it it weren’t for Leo catching her on time. The crowd gasped.
She looked at him, shocked, then looked at the bus, that was frozen less than twenty centimeteres from her. She let out a small scream before she realized the bus wasn’t moving. She looked at her saviour again, then at the bus, then at the crowd, then the boy again. “Don’t worry, Ma’am, everything’s fine. I’m here to save you !” That was more than cliché, but Leo couldn’t think of anything else to say.
Embarrassed by this super-heroic behaviour – especially looking at the woman’s reaction – he gave a quick look at the crowd. “Erm… Maybe we should get out of here.” he said.
The woman in black nodded, then, while still holding hands, they moved towards the bemused crowd. When they were out, everybody started clapping and cheering. But that most certainly wasn’t the time to celebrate. “Everybody, move out of the road ! The bus might start back up again !”
That was most certainly one of the worst decisions Leo ever took, as people started rushing to safety in absolute chaos. Leo’s hand still gripped the woman’s as they both went to the pavement. “Are you okay, Ma’am ?”
“Erm… Yeah, I guess… Thanks.” She let go of his hand. “… Zoé.”
Leo didn’t know how to react. He blushed. “… My name’s Leo.” Not knowing what to add, he made a few weird signs, then said. “I… Erm… I must go ? I’ve got a bus to take and erm… Bye, Zoé !” He shyly smiled, then let her in the good care of the passers-by, who immediately surrounded her to see if she was alright.
Once he was sure everybody was safe, Leo resumed time. As expected, the bus stopped abruptly to avoid a now invisible woman. Seeing how long it took the bus to stop, had it not been for Leo, Zoé wouldn’t have had a chance to survive the impact and would’ve surely been scolded by Stan for not being careful crossing the street.
And as the driver was taking his time to understand what just happened, the day’s hero was being stared at by a lot of people. Leo felt uncomfortable. He could see their fascination and fear in their eyes, so he decided to look as inconspicuous as possible by looking at his reflection in the bus stop’s panels. He quickly noticed something rather peculiar : not that his awkwardly chiseled and spotty face was different or something – the scar he had on his chin had been there for years now, ever since that basketball incident – but some of his hair had become… Red and black ? Erm… Okay ? That… That is not normal, thought the boy, minutes after he created a time bubble to save someone.
Thinking his eyes were making somethig funny, the boy decided to take his phone and use the front camera to have a clear look at his face. Yep, definitely ginger. And really shiny ginger to boot… His gaze turned towards the others. Aaaaaand they noticed that too… Great.
He tried doing as if nothing had happened, taking out his pocket watch – actually making things worse, as people just saw him have a look at his phone just a minute ago and wondered why he had to double-check – to look at the magic gauge. Leo noticed the hand already one eighth of the way. And he had been using his powers for about eleven minutes, meaning that, whatever the power used, only the time spent using it was accounted for. Not its intensity. But was the hair thing a side-effect ? Most certainly. The good thing is, it was temporary, seeing as how he didn’t notice his hair being any different this morning, even though he used his powers for quite a while before sleeping. Then again, having a side-effect this noticeable wasn’t reassuring in the slightest… And being half-ginger for the next half-hour either.
Still, the hows and whys of this transformation should have to wait, as the bus driver finally regained his senses and the bus finally made the last few meters before opening the doors. The five people who had been waiting at the bus stop ran towards the vehicule and Leo followed soon after. He politely nodded at the bus driver, who looked at him funny, then the boy made his card beep before finally going to a seat located at the near end. He saw the other passengers oddly looking at him, especially the ones who had the opportunity to see his magic, so he decided it’d be a better idea to turn his head towards the bus’s window and close his eyes.
When he reopened them, he saw a more than familiar place, with someone smelling of apple pie staring at him.
“Leo ! Are you okay ?”
“Stan ?” The boy wondered why the god was in front of him. And why was the boy sat on the god’s chair ? Usually, he had to go through the garden first ! Then, as he moved his head, he felt something cold clutching at his lips. His hand reached to the cold crust, and, looking at it, he realized it was blood. His gaze then turned to his vest, which was drenched in it. Leo started panicking. “W-what happened ?”
Stan seemed embarrassed. “Well…” The god decided to sit down. “You want me to start from where ? Because I can either try to tell you what happened thirty minutes ago or right now.
Thirty minutes ? Leo rose up to the god’s own surprise and tried looking at his reflection on a window. He could only see something vague, but was thing was for sure : he was as ginger as when he got on the bus. Feeling something was wrong, he decided to roll up his sleeve and look at his arm. Not only did some of the hair darken, but they were more numerous than before at some spots. It was the same on his other arm. He considered looking at his belly, but was quickly reminded he was in somebody else’s house and public exhibition in front of someone you met just fairly recently wasn’t a custom considered acceptable in most places of the globe, his included. So Leo faced Stan with wide eyes. “What happened ?” he asked, before adding. “Just now ?”
The man rose up from his seat to go back to the boy. He tapped Leo’s shoulder with his gloved hand. “You… Decided to do an experiment and it failed miserably. And so it seems you have lost your memory… But at least your nose isn’t broken anymore !”
That last sentence was told in such a happy tone Leo couldn’t be any more horrified.
“My nose… Broken ?” The boy started touching it and noticed it was as well placed and painless as usual, which was in and of itself quite a good thing. But then again, that didn’t explain why he has had his nose broken in the first place, and even less how it got fixed. The god’s answer was raising way more questions than it did resolve ! “Sooooo… How did I do that ? Why was my nose broken ?”
Stan’s answer was even more surprising. “Not a clue !” The got went towards the library and took the book Leo noticed the day before. The one with his name written on the spine. “But this book knows !”
Curiosity was stronger than confusion. Leo dashed towards the god. “Don’t tell me this book…”
“If that’s what you think, then yes, it does. This book records every single thing you do, even down to your deepest thought if I want it to !”
The boy looked closely at the object. “But it’s so thin ! How can it record every single life I have, with all the… Branching paths, and whatnot ?”
Stan closed the book and looked at his protégé with great pride. “That is an excellent observation and a very good question ! You see, when you make a choice in life, the whole universe splits in as many options are offered to you at any given point. This book only relates to this continuity, and even though I don’t know why or how it does to write itself, I know for a fact it’ll only record the choices you made in this part of reality. So yes, it’s impossible for me or anyone else to know how you manage in a world where, for example, you’d be the leader of a band of thugs.”
Leo couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of leading anybody, but could clearly see what Stan meant. “So it’s possible for you to look at what happened half an hour ago ?”
The god’s expression went from enthusiastic to sad. “Well, after looking at it…” He seemed hesitant. “You can’t read it.”
The boy was disappointed. It was true the books were more than important and he could perfectly envision why people weren’t allowed to read them. “I understand… But can you tell me what happened ?”
Stan was deeply lost in thought for a few seconds. “Well, I guess I can do that. The abridged version at least. At to go straight to the point, when you used to powers to save that lady, some people got quite upset… So much so that one of them punched you in the face out of fear, hence the broken nose.”
“Wait… For real ?” Leo was horrified.
The god winced. “Well to be fair, the man was quickly evacuated, but that didn’t stop some of still being fearful of you. You were quite upset too for most of the trip, and when you decided to rewind time to heal your nose, you rewound it only on your nose, which was the thing not to do.
The boy frowned. The idea was more than clever, even though he guessed it came on the spot, but… “Why ?”
Stan hesitated. He knew it was about to get gruesome, but he had to be clear so that he could avoid the boy repeating the same mistake. “Hum… How can I say it…” he scratched his beard with his gloved hand. “I know : Imagine that all the cells in your body resound with each other at a very precise frequency. That… They sing a song and that your brain is the conductor.”
Leo smiled. He started imagining a cell chorus singing inside a brain chapel, with a small paper musical score in front of their little cell eyes and…
Stan coughed, making the boy jump. “Anyway… Imagine that your whole body sings the same tune and that, without a clear warning, a small group decides to sing a verse from a few minutes earlier.”
Leo tried to imagine the scene, before politely nodding. “Nyeeees ?”
“So imagine the main chorus starting to yell at the smaller one for being late and then the whole thing turns into some sort of tavern brawl.” The god paused, frowning. He realized he was starting to lose himself. “Maybe I should’ve directly started with the allegory of the tavern…” he muttered.
“I think I’ve understood.” said the boy, to try to get things moving.
“Yes. Yes. So as you might’ve guessed, your whole body went crazy and erm… I’m not going to tell you the rest, because it wasn’t pretty. But basically, you started panicking and you decided to come here. I immediately asked you to rewind time on your whole body and it seems it worked just fine… Though by doing that, you also rewound time on your brain, meaning your memories kind of weren’t created anymore.”
Leo looked at the god with a deeply concerned look. “So basically, I messed up pretty bad, huh ?”
Stan tried to comfort him with a smile. “Nah. It was just an accident. And even then, you’re still learning, so you’re bound to make mistakes. Don’t you agree ?”
“I guess you’re right… Thanks, Stan.” A huge feeling of guilt and shame went through the boy. He stared at the floor. “So now, it’s only a matter of time before people know of the powers I possess.”
The god stared at the boy with benevolent eyes. “You know, I think you might have forgotten a small detail.”
Leo raised his head and looked at Stan, confused. “Huh ?” The god made him look at his wrist by tapping it twice. “Oh yeah ! If I rewind time, then nobody will know !” Then he thought the idea further. “But if I do this, Zoé, will…”
“Not necessarily. Think about it.”
Leo followed the god’s advice. Maybe I can… He smiled. “I think I’ve got it !”
Stan opened Leo’s book and swiftly read it. He too, smiled. “Ohoho, nicely done !”
Leo frowned. “You read my thoughts !?”
“Oh, come on ! It’s not as if I haven’t been doing that all your life.”
The god’s reassuring tone didn’t sit well with the boy. On the contrary, it made him mad. “But that’s like… Privacy violation, or… Something.”
“And it’s freakin’ illegal !” said Leo, appalled.
“Hah ! Maybe in your world it is, but let us not forget what I am.”
“A god ?”
“Eeeeexactly.” Stan stretched his arms and cracked his knuckles for dramatic effect.
Leo crossed his arms and said, pouting. “Well you have quite a nerve…”
“Yup, but I do as I want, so that ends that.” Stan’s smile widened. “At least you have the guts to defy me. I appreciate that.”
Leo growled. Then he thought of the mission he had to accomplish, so he rose up. “Anyway, I have to save Zoé and live my merry life and stuff.”
Stan’s gaze followed the boy, still a sly and satisfied smile on his face. “Good idea. You do that.” And as the boy was about to open the door, he wittingly added. “And it would be better if you did that with a blood-drenched shirt. Just saying.”
Leo looked at his torso. “Oh…” Then he looked expectantly at the god. “Would you have some spare clothes ?”
“Can’t you rewind time specifically on your clothes ? I know you didn’t think about that earlier, but I think it might be possible on the clothes you wear.”
“Only on that ? What about broken objects ?”
Stan shrugged. “If the laws of this Universe are to be trusted, yep. Only your clothes. Think about that : if you were caught inside a burning building and had to rewind time on yourself to keep you alive, wouldn’t it be more convenient to get out with all of your clothes on ?”
The boy raised an eyebrow. Well that’s convenient… he though ironically. This rule was so arbitrary, but at least he was glad to know he would not have to show his unathletic body to the public if all the stars were really badly aligned.
He closed his eyes, trying to think only of his clothes.
Stan saw the bloodstains disappear at a pleasing pace. It would’ve been a shame to go out with a jacket in such a poor state. Then, as Leo was looking amazed at the sight of his vest, the god started thinking about something else, far more concerning. “Leo. Could you… Stay here two more minutes before going back ?”
Leo looked at the god and saw his unease. And this time, he knew why. “Its about my hair, isn’t it ?”
“So you know about it…” Stan winced.
“Well to be honest, it’s kinda obvious.”
“Yeah… Oh and I guess you forgot your beanie at home, didn’t you ?”
The boy sighed. “Yeah.”
“Still as scatterbrained as ever, I see.” said the god. He snapped his fingers, making Leo’s woolly hat appear. He threw it casually at the boy. “Here, catch.”
Leo easily caught it. “Thanks ! So you know what’s going on with this ?”
Stan shook his head. “Nuh-uh. I only know that it’s an annoying side-effect, but I guess that this is the price for making you Pass unpure.”
“I can live with that.” replied Leo, smiling. “I just hope I don’t turn into some sort of monster if I use them too much.” he laughed.
Stan did the same, only louder. “Yeah, that would be soooo dumb… Ahem.” In an instant, he became serious. “In any case, you’ll understand if I advise you of limiting the use of your powers to the bare minimum and only if absolutely necessary.”
“Sure. Seeing as to what happened, I understand. It kinda sucks, though, but I guess I can do without.” Then, after an awkward silence. “Soooo, about this making the world a better place business…”
“Eh, you can perfectly do without !” The god’s response was so direct the boy was surprised. “I’m most certainly not asking you to do too much, let us be clear on that. You’re but a simple man after all, and if you can at least make the life of those you love better, that will be a good thing. The whole saving the world shtick is mostly from the gods who didn’t botch the Passage and probably overestimate their protégé. So no, I will not be mad at you for not being a superhero.”
Leo felt reassured. “Okay, then. I’ll still try to do a good deed one in awhile. Maybe a bit of magic here and there… But not too much.” he added when seeing the god’s concern. “And that’s about it.”
Stan gave a quick look at the boy’s hair. Leo did the same with the window. “Guess I’m good to go, then.”
The god nodded. “Yep. In any case, if you want to talk to me, you know where to find me ! I’ll be glad to see you again.”
Leo smiled, then put his beanie on. “No problem.” He opened the door “See ya !”
Leo found himself in the middle of a pretty quiet tram. It seemed as if he went to see Stan when he was less than twenty minutes away from his friend’s house. The rare passengers were glaring at him, terrified and confused at the same time. Not only did he come back with a beanie on his head, but the cellular symphony that got him to see Stan seemed to have left a pretty bad impression on them. Must’ve really been horrifying to watch.
But Leo didn’t really care about that. He prefered instead to get a good look at his phone to know what time it was. Stan told him it had been about thirty minutes since the incident took place, so he prefered rewinding time of fifty minutes. Just in case.
The weird boy disappeared in front of many bewildered passengers, only to be replaced by a white hole.
Stan got up. He knew the afternoon was going to be longer than usual, but that was more than reassuring. His protégé would save someone and a balance he involuntarily broke. He’d rewind time and… And…
The god stopped to think about that. If Leo rewound time, he’d disappear from this plane of reality to go into a new one. What would his parents think about that !? And what about the place he’d disappear from ? Oh no…
It was a pure disaster ! Stan had to warn Leo about the consequences and how his parents would be devastated by his disappearance !
The god tried summoning the boy with a portal. Nothing happened.
Further panicking, Stan rushed towards the library. He had to make sure Leo didn’t rewind time already.
But to his great surprise, Leo’s book was missing. It had most certainly teleported to the new universe’s library he had accidentally created. Thankfully, there was still a faint trail of magic surrounding the missing book. Stan snapped his fingers to capture it with a conveniently created compass that would lead to the boy.
When that was done, Stan turned to face the window. He nearly screamed when he realized that there was a huge white hole where the Earth should’ve been. “OH NO ! NONONONONO ! NOT THIS ! NOT NOW !”
If the hole continued to expand, it would not only devour the rest of the universe, but also Stan’s house and the whole Multiverse if it could go through the door ! That’s not good. Not good at all at all at all !
Stan snapped his fingers to try and contain the white menace. He could make it slow down, but not entirely disappear. He clenched his fist. This world was done for.
Bursting with rage, he decided to let the hole do its thing. But he wasn’t about to give up. Not for the Multiverse’s sake.
Stan left his house by going through the door that lead to the Multiversal Corridor and mentally prepared himself. He knew the fight would last long, but with enough luck, he might succeed. The fate of all worlds rested in his hands.
“Oh hi !”
Stan violently jumped, letting out the loudest scream he ever managed. He turned towards the voice. “Woops… Sorry I scared ya.”
The embarrassed man seemed to be in his twenties. He had long frizzled black hair, pretty large muscles and skin darkened by the equatorian isles’ sun. He wore a blue and orange hawaiian shirt, dark green shorts and red flip-flops. And there was a ninety-nine out of a hundred chance that he was another god, seeing as how they were the only ones able to access the Corridor.
Stan couldn’t move. This man single-handedly killed any and all dramatic effect there was to this scene ! “Who are you !?”
“Oh, me ? Just a god happily walking in this corridor on this nice day !” The flip-flopped god held his hand out. “Emmanuel Frémont, but you can call me Manu.”
Stan didn’t know what to do or what to say. He looked at the god with a blank stare. Manu put his hand further from the god, anxiously waiting. “Erm… Stanislas Verdi ?” said Stan, totally lost.
Manu went to steps closer to reach the god’s hand. “Pleased to meet ya, Stan. May I call you Stan ? Or is it Stanislas ?”
“Erm… Well, I was kind of occupied with this thing and… Oh, shit !” Stan only then watched at his door. There was a white light emmanating from underneath. His hand retreated from the other god’s grasp. “Careful ! It’s dangerous !”
Stan held out both arms to contain the white menace.
Manu felt a bit lost. “Erm… Whatcha doin ?”
“Don’t you see ? I’m trying to save us all !
The flip-flopped god tilted his head sideways. “Ah ? How’s that ?”
“Listen ! I can’t chit-chat while something this important is going on, can I ?”
Manu shrugged. “We can if I help you. What do we have to do ?”
Some help couldn’t hurt. Stan couldn’t deny that. “We need to stop the thing on the other side of the door to get out, otherwise it’ll destroy every single world.”
“Oh ok.” The last sentence was said in such a calm and disinterested voice Stan was shocked. “So what on the other side ?”
“I don’t know !”
“You don’t ?”
Stan snapped. “God dammit… Will you help me, or not !?”
“Oh okay… Relaaax.” Manu went closer to the door.
“No ! No touching ! It might reach you if you do that !”
“Ok. Understood. No touching. So how do we do ? I’ve only been in this god business for like a week and I still haven’t figured out everything.”
Stan’s eyes grew as wide as oranges. “So the red door…”
“Yeah, it’s mine. Funny ya point that out, ’cause it’s the only one in the area. I would like a black door, like yers. It’s so cool.”
“No, I don’t think s…” He stopped. He saw a pink spot on the middle of his door. Ir was growing wider.
“Huh, funny that. It’s becoming pink. That’s soooo cool !”
Stan looked at the beginning god, shocked. How could he be so calm !? Was he mad ? But Stan had to focus to contain the white threat. There was no time to question the other guy’s sanity.
Manu observed his colleague, then imitated him. Stan noticed that helped him and felt thankful.
“So you know why this thing’s there ? Is it some sort of monster that devours worlds ?” asked the curious god.
“Erm… No. Just some collateral damage my protégé did. He tried rewinding time, but it seems it had some bad side-effects for the rest of the universe.”
“So your world has real magic ? Coooool !”
Stan frowned. “No. Not cool ! Leo is the only one able to use it, as I made him Pass.”
“Pass ? Whatzat ?”
“You… Didn’t the previous god tell you anything ?”
Manu gave Stan a worried look. “Erm… No ? To be honnest, he didn’t really get to chance to tell me anything.”
“What ? Why ?”
The flip-flopped god winced. “Well… Let’s just say I killed him by accident ? The elephant that killed me was with me when I arrived at his place and when I told the elephant to sit somewhere, he thought it good to sit on the god. Obviously, he was crushed, so I received all his powers without knowing what to do.”
Stan couldn’t believe a word. This was pure madness. “But… But… What !? To kill a god, you usually need to have an adamant will ! And why the hell was the elephant with you !? It was him that should’ve received the powers in any case !”
Manu shrugged. “Noooo idea. I guess it was because I gave the order ? Dunno, to be honest.”
Stan was appalled. This was just unthinkable. “So the previous god didn’t tell you anything ? At all !?”
“How could he ? He was crushed by the elephant.”
This sentence made so little sense, Stan had to accept it. He stayed silent for the next ten seconds. “You know what ? Once we get rid of this thing, I’ll go to your world to give you some lessons in erm… Divinology ?”
Manu smiled. “You’d do this for me ?”
“Listen. I decently can’t let you start doing your job if you know absolutely nothing about it. You see where I’m coming from ?”
“So I’m going to find my new home and starting tomorrow, I’ll teach you on how to be a god. Deal ?”
Manu held his hand out and shook Stan’s. “Deal.”
“Perfect ! Now help me get rid of this thing.”
The two gods spent the five next minutes containing the white threat away.
Instead of going to the bus stop and waiting for the events to unfold, Leo decided to cross the road and go directly near the other bus stop. He took his MP3 player and changed the track to put on an extended version of the minigame theme from The Legend of Zelda : A Link Between Worlds. He loved the violin solo and the upbeat tune was quite appropriate, given how the situation was about to get solved pretty neatly.
Two minutes passed. Just as previously, both buses and the tram started to arrive. The bus on which the woman was about to come out arrived first. Leo stopped listening to his music and grabbed his phone, faking a call. The bus stopped, the doors opened and the woman started rushig towards the tram.
“Zoé !” The woman stopped dead in her tracks. She looked at the person calling out her name. Leo saw she was staring at him, making him immediately nervous. “Erm… Yeah, Zoé ? Oh, the network sucks so bad here, call you back later.”
Leo hung up under the woman’s suspicious gaze.
“Your phone’s turned off.” she said in the most neutral voice possible.
Leo looked at the screen and realized it was indeed turned off. He forgot to charge it back up the night before, so the battery must’ve died after he checked the clock. “Ah… Erm… Funny, that.” An awkward silence settled during the next five seconds. “Woops ?”
Zoé got closer to the boy. “How do you know my name ? Are you some sort of stalker ?”
The boy started blushing. “Erm… I… Erm… Leo, and erm… I know your name because it’s a nice… Coincidence ?”
A five year old boy denying he’d been painting his father’s office with jelly while holding the evidence in his hands would’ve been more convincing. Zoé couldn’t believe him. “Ha ha, bvery funny. Now you’d better tell the truth, otherwise I’m calling the cops.”
“Ah ! Erm… Okay. So you see the bus that just… Left…” Leo realized his bus just left the station. “Well… In fact, you were about to go underneath it because you were so determined to catch up with the… Tram.” Zoé realized her tram just left the station. Extremely embarrassed, the boy tried finishing up his sentence, but found himself unable to.
“How do you know about the tram ?”
Don’t tell her you’re from the future. Don’t tell her you’re from the future. “Because I come from the future and if I weren’t there you’d have been even more crushed then you would’ve been last time, had I not messed up.” Gods. Dammit.
Zoé looked at the boy as if he was some sort of visitor from the future clothed with rags and bandages talking to him about the dangers of oysters and what would happen if she were to eat some12. “That’s… The lamest excuse I’ve ever heard this year.” She took her phone. “I’m calling the cops.”
Leo panicked. “No, wait Zoé. Stop !” And indeed she stopped, as did fortunately the rest of the world without Leo really wanting to. Ok, great… Now what do I do ? He considered rewinding time to start all over, or maybe he could…
Leo reached the woman’s arm and resumed time only on her. “Ok, I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but there. I really come from the future and now I’ve stopped time. Satisfied ?”
The woman looked at her surroundings and saw neither car nor passers by move an inch. “You…”
“Yes, I did tell you the truth, and yes, I did save you an hour ago… Well, two minutes ago, technically. And besides, I hate spying on people.” He gave her a desperate look. “You aren’t going to call the cops, are you ?”
“Erm, no. Nono. I’ve got enough evidence, I guess… But could you… Put everything back to normal ? It’s starting to freak me out.”
“Huh ? Oh yeah. Yeah !” Leo resumed the course of time.
Another tram arrived in sight. “Ack ! That’s my cue ! I must go !”
Leo saw another opportunity to redeem himself. “May I ?” He stopped time again, with the exception of Zoé. “You may go now. You make a sign when you’re there so that I can resume time. I can’t hear well past a certain distance.”
Zoé looked at this gentlesorcerer. “Thanks a lot… Erm ?”
“Leo.” he said in a more confident tone.
“Thanks a lot, Leo… Oh and thanks… For last time, I guess.”
“It’s okay. Just doing my duty, and all.” Leo noticed a strand of hair slipping from underneath his beanie. It was black. He started panicking. “Anyway, you may go now… But please. Pretty please, keep everything you was today a secret, okay ?”
“I promise !” she said, with the most sincere smile Leo ever saw.
Zoé crossed the road, then she ran towards the tram station. When she arrived, she raised her thumb while yelling an inaudible “thank you”. Leo resumed the course of time. She disappeared behind the huge vehicule. Its doors opened, then closed and the boy saw she did one final sign at the widow before the tram moved out of sight.
Smiling, Leo made sure no vehicule was on the road before crossing, then went to his bus stop. Looking at the leaflet, he noticed the next bus was about fifteen minutes from now. He sighed, but thought this small sacrifice was for the greater good13.
He felt a light breeze caressing his face and saw the grey sky. He smiled.
Stan rubbed his hands together. “Well, that’s that ! We made it !”
“Yeah. We saved the world !”
Manu’s excitement was contagious. “The worlds, you mean !”
“Ow yeah !” Manu raised his hand. Stan high fived it.
Then the god looked at the door was a satisfied, yet also sad stare. His house just vanished and he didn’t feel like looking at what happened to his world, so he snapped his fingers to summon a yellow and black tape. He decided to make a large cross on it, so that the other gods would know about it.
Then he realized something. “Manu… Why were you here ?”
The question surprised the flip-flopped god. “Oh erm… Well I wanted to have a look around to see if I didn’t meet any other god, ya know. I was feeling a bit lonely at home.”
Stan frowned. “Yes, but what about the Universe…”
“Hum ? Him ? Oh no, we’re cool. Told him I’d not be long anyway.”
Stan squinted at the other god. “Wait… You can talk to your Universe ?”
“Yeah yeah. Ya don’t do that ?”
“Erm… No. I know He’s there, but I never managed to actually speak to him.”
“Huh… Shame. Well, at least, I got to meetcha and you’re gonna teach me some valuable lessons, so I guess my little sightseeing tour wasn’t for nothin’ !”
Stan smiled. “We should both try to meet other gods… Though I hope we don’t meet ones like the one I met yesterday” he muttered.
“Oh ? Some not nice ?”
Stan tilted his head. “Well the Multiverse is probably infinite, so I guess there’s anything and everything… Even annoying gods. The one that I met yesterday despised me for no apparent reason. Never seen that before.”
“Seems like a nice guy.” said Manu ironically.
“Yes… His house is where you’ll find the first white door, over there. I can’t recommend you to see him.”
“Makin’ a mental note on that one, thanks. But yeah, I’m really grateful for your help, you’re so kind !” Manu’s smile got wider.
“Just doing my job. And thanks to you for helping me with the door. I can now find where Leo went knowing I’m at peace. Then again, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Oakey doakey. See you tomorrow, then.”
And with these words, both gods parted ways.
For the second time of his life, Leo was more than happy to take the bus. The first and only other time he’d been this happy was when he took one for the first time of his life… But that was when he was about three or four years old, so he didn’t know if it could count or not.
And he had every reason to be happy : nobody was currently looking at him funny ! Obviously, some people looked at him from time to time, but it was normal custom on public transportation to look at least once at the others, and sometimes, people’s stares crossed14. And here, people were looking at him with the same disinterest as usual, which made the boy more than happy15.
The boy decided then to leave the bus at the Pierre Mendès-France stop16 in order to catch a tram that was going to the center of Mérignac. Here again, nobody was looking at him too funny, which was quite reassuring.
Stan, meanwhile, was following Leo’s trail, thanks to the magic compass. Thankfully, he found the new door in about three minutes.
Upon entering, the god was more than surprised to find sitting in a chair someone that looked exactly like him. “Oh hello… Me ?” said the Stan sitting in the chair.
The original Stan closed the door, embarrassed. “Hey. Wait just a sec.”
Looking at the compass’ hand, he walked towards the library and took Leo’s book. He waved it left and right and saw the hand was following. “Yep, it’s here all right.”
The other Stan rose up. “What’s going on ?”
The original Stan took a quick look inside the book. There were a few things that hinted at the time travel. He handed it to his double. “Here, look.”
“Yes, it’s Leo’s book, and ?”
“Just look inside. You’ll understand.”
The clone obliged. “Oh.”
“Yeah… I come from his world… It’s been destroyed.”
The other Stan stopped reading and looked at the original Stan, wide-eyed. “Destroyed !?”
“Well… Probably. I don’t really know to be honest. And I’d rather not look.”
The double was panicking. “Woh woh woh… So rewinding time destroys the world !?”
“I guess so, yeah…”
“And I guess that, if I know myself well enough, you’re about to stay there because you consider this Leo to be yours, right ?”
The original Stan nodded. How could he not, given he was talking to himself, so lying about it would prove useless.
The clone started rubbing his eyes. “Well we’re in for a ride…”
“Well, we could still…”
“No way. And think about it ! The fact that we’re now two could be a really good thing.”
“You know, what you’ve been thinking about doing…” The clone smiled slyly.
“Ooooooh yeah, that’s a great idea !”
The two Stans smiled.
Leo met his best friend at the tram’s last stop. Thomas Dupuits was a boy about Leo’s age. And even though the increasing distance and different schools did separate them, they still were great friends as they talked to eachother nearly every other evening on Skype. Thomas was a little taller than Leo – which had been a subject for plenty of jokes a few years back – and wore round glasses. They went well with his short hair and thin face, though it did give him the look of a movie bad guy, which he took pride in. He looked at Leo in a confused way. “Didn’t you get my message ?”
“Huh ? What message ?” asked Leo.
“Well look at it.”
Leo grabbed his phone and tried turning it on. “Ah, dammit. I forgot the battery was dead.”
Thomas winced. “Tsss… You’re a real air-head.”
“Oh, come on ! I just forgot !”
“That’s precisely what I said, air-head.”
Leo let out a small growl.
Thomas sighed. “Eh, at least I thought about meeting you there. I wanted to chow down some Quick. I have some vouchers.”
Leo shrugged. “Eh, it’s as you wish.”
“Cool ! S’been a while I didn’t eat there and the guys over at the forum said this week’s burger was baller.”
“Yeah, well you know what they say about Quick17…”
“Yeah, I know. But then again, the people of the forum say this burger’s baller and they have really good taste.” Thomas raised his finger and said the the most serious tone. “Someone who loves Xenogears and Valkyrie Profile is bound to be the real deal.”
“Yeah, but there you’re talking about games…” argued Leo.
“Games, burgers, who cares. They have good taste and with the vouchers, it’s free anyway !”
Couldn’t argue with that. But that still wasn’t enough for Leo not to moan. “I kinda would’ve prefered a Sub…”
“Yep, but Quick is just five minutes from there, while Sub is litterally in Bordeaux. Am hungry and can’t bother going all the way there, so Quick it is.”
Leo sighed. “You’re the boss, brobro…”
Once the meal was devoured, the two boys went to Thomas’ appartment, where they spent the whole afternoon playing Super Smash Bros. and making jokes. Leo wanted to play the Brawl version, which he found easier to play, but Thomas convinced him of playing Melee. It was for him the better version, as it was snappier and was more played in upcoming tournaments. And the newest version they were desêrately waiting for was just months away, so they decided to compensate by playing “the better version18”.
They talked about all and nothing, so much so that Leo totally forgot about the day’s incident. It was only on the way home he realized he had saved someone’s life. And even though he wasn’t able to use his powers too much because of the side-effects, he at least had the option to use them, so he wouldn’t feel too useless if danger ever came by.
Maybe one day… Maybe he’ll get rid of those side-effects and maybe… Just maybe, one day, he’d be a superhero ? Could be fun, dreamily thought the boy.
1For a long while, the French student’s class week went on like this : Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and then Saturday morning. Then, the schedules totally shifted and since then, students work Wednesday mornings, so that they can have full week-ends. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on the student’s perspective, but having full week-ends is quite convenient if you have to go somewhere for two days.
2It was at this precise moment Leo’s brain decided to do a mental high five. The pun was so good he could not let it slide. Incidentally, that was also the same thing that happened in my mind when I discovered the pun worked in French AND English. Hooray for language convenience !
3Bordeaux’s central police station. A huge building located near the biggest concert hall and not too far off the town center. If you want something done quick (or as fast as possible at least, since, you know, administration and huge waiting lines and such), you’d better go there.
4That though, obviously, is the wrong one to have : a writer’s working hours solely depend on wether inspiration hit you hard or not. And I strongly advise against bothering one when they are in a writing or world building mood. A writer’s wrath is like none other, believe you me…
5If you can check both soundtracks out, you’d be surprised at how good they are. Also, not just to brag a little, Rayman’s composer, Christophe Héral, is the sweetest man on the planet and always fun to talk to. Just saying.
6Because, you know, Narrative Convenience is always a trickster and I suspect the bus companies work along with him. A chaotic bunch, those guys…
7They too are in it ! I’m sure of it ! Mothers are part of this worldwide conspiracy ! Damn you Narrative Convenience !
8An oldie, but a goodie ! Just be careful when first booting it up, as the intro is quite loud and screechy. We’re talking Commodore 64 after all, and if you don’t know what a Commodore 64 is, then you’ve proven my point. Though, if you know what it is without cheating, you get massive cool points and my eternal respect. It’s old, hence why this theme is so impressive for the time it came out. And if you wonder how a seventeen year-old boy like Leo know about a computer that is nearly two decades older than he is (and a decade older than I am as a matter of fact), let’s just say he read the right magazines, like Retro Gamer.
9And not just the architecture feels dated, but the stuff students have to work with is quite astounding. Who knew cassette tape players blending with the desks were still a thing ?
10One of my favorite soundtracks of all time !
11One of the funniest and saddest shows on Earth : seeing a bunch of people desperately running towards a tram. Replace the tram with a live human and the coffee deprived employees with zombies and you’d have a pretty tense scene in a horror movie.
12Obviously, this reference will go unnoticed by most of you, so that’s why it’s time for another recommendation : “The Visitor From the Future” (or “Le Visiteur du Futur” in French) is a webseries that started quite small, but went on to become one of the French side of the web’s biggest hits. And, as the title implies, it’s about a time traveller who tries to stop the world from being destroyed by basically erasing its evils at the roots. And if you thought a can not properly thrown in a recycling bin couldn’t destroy the world… Well, you’d be wrong. The series started off as a collection of small jokes, but as success went on the writers decided to expand upon the concept and boy did they deliver something ambitious ! By season three, it was even produced by one of the country’s biggest broadcasters, so they could basically do the same thing, but with more actors and better costumes and special effects ! I cannot recommend you enough to check it out, especially given you can find subtitled versions here and there. Did I tell this book was educational ?
13The greater good ! (Go watch Hot Fuzz by Edgar Wright if you already haven’t. One of the best examples of comedy and a masterclass in writing in and of itself !)
14Public paranoia ? Maybe, though I’d say it’s more that we are all curious and like to not feel all alone.
15Which, in a way, got him to receive more curious stares, as happy people in public transportations do not exist. Especially if they are alone and don’t wear headphones.
16At the time of writing the book in French, it was an Easter Egg. I lived there, in front of the tram station. It was so convenient… I miss that house…
17Quick is to fast food what Dreamworks is to animation : not the most popular, but close, though it always kinda desperately tries to de edgier than it’s biggist rival, which ultimately makes it fail all the more. Shame it was bought out by Burger King in 2015…
18Or the more overrated, depending on who you talk to. Personally, I much prefered Super Smash Bros. Brawl, as it had my favorite characters and was indeed slower-paced, yet as technical. In any case, the newer versions for Wii U and 3DS blew both out of the water for me.