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[Fiction] Hugin - A Man Who Was Wednesday

Regina Newcastle

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James ‘Prodigy’ Meehan had forgotten more things in his life than most people – novas included – would ever know, and he forgot precious little. Tonight was going to be a good night; New Grounds pulsed three floors beneath him with the kind of energy and unique life that only his clientele could generate, and among them this evening were such luminaries as Raoul Orazaiz and Scripture, and love them or hate them, their business was good for his business and helped heighten the tone. Meehan smoothed his immaculate eufibre suit in the body-length mirror of his private office and pirouetted on the ball of his right foot. He was feeling very Merchante tonight, and was in perfect form to greet his guests.

He summoned the private elevator and waited for its arrival, folding his hands neatly behind his back as he stared to the dazzling starlit Tokyo skyscape outside, silently judging and admiring his profile in the mirror out of the corner of his eye. The elevator doors opened as it arrived at his floor, and calmly, supremely confidently, he stepped inside, commanding it take him down. Calculations began to surge like lightning through his brain, as he anticipated the next several actions to be taken in what had come to be his favourite hobby, a globe-manipulating game he played with a handful of over novas he simply referred to as ‘The Game’. No doubt Barnes had his hands deep into the current Australian electoral race, something that caused Prodigy no small amount of consternation. He was happy to be no fewer than six more moves away from putting a ‘checkmate’ on Sakurako, but Machina was holding on to Russia with the tenacity of a bulldog, with his little endeavor in the Tunguska region. Smug bastard. Laslow was nearly out. Pong, meanwhile, remained as inscrutable as ever; Prodigy knew he was playing an angle, but it had yet to reveal itself. Soon, Pinella would—

Meehan halted the elevator as the door closed, his eyes flaring blue. He actually deigned to reach out and touch the inner compartment of the elevator to halt the doors from closing in an uncharacteristically physical gesture, his face taking on a sudden, shocked, manic, angry tone. Someone was watching him. How could he not have known? How could he have missed it? At the last second the door was closing, out of the corner of his eye, just a flicker of darkness on darkness, not even a flicker had not all of his quantum-powered senses been working in tandem, setting his mind to immediate alarm. Someone was watching him!! Furiously, James threw open the doors and stormed back into his office. Roderick had moved to the fore, and he was nearly mad with arrogant rage. He couldn’t even be bothered to call security; anybody who could fool his senses, even temporarily, wouldn’t be detected by anybody else, and besides, he meant to punish this interloper's rudeness personally. Racing to the window, he pushed outward with his mind, heedless of the reinforced triple-paned windows as he shattered them to ribbons that scattered like razorblade jewels to the street below, activating the sum total of his mental and physical defenses as he stretched out his mind to locate the intruder.

He was not prepared for what he found.

Psychic backlash hit him like a bullet to the head. He expected to find a mind, but this was something else. He found not a living brain so much as a chronicle, a book that contained everything and all at once, the dawn of time splitting his skull at the same moment that second filled his mind. It was somehow, impossibly, simply too much. James reeled, toppled, and fell headfirst to the ground, enveloped by darkness.

When he awoke, less than five seconds had passed. He hadn’t been out for long. A very human pair of eyes lolled behind his eyelids, flashing a brilliant azure in a coughing, ragged, stuttering spurt before turning and remaining on, returned to normalcy. James was as confused as he was angry. What had happened? Were his memories even accurate? He consulted his shattered office window to confirm that he was not going mad. That word, ‘memory’, it stung his brain like a migraine headache. Clutching his skull, he sat up, examining the room for evidence of the intrusion or clues left behind by his assailant, but found nothing save a suspicious and mildly terrifying streak of blood coming from his left nostril. A nosebleed? His head felt like a cracked sapphire. He grimaced, turning on his earpiece, and ordered his head of New Grounds security upstairs to do a full sweep and investigation and report back immediately with any findings. The man on the other end, a DeVries agent Meehan had hand-picked for his uncompromising scrutiny – what he had believed to be uncompromising scrutiny - confirmed that he was already on route to the scene, having detected the breach in security the broken window represented. Meehan clicked off, glowering. The security consultant arrived in short order, but Prodigy had already stormed out and left New Grounds. His night had been ruined, and he had a feeling he hadn’t seen the last of that dark figure.

* * * * *

At the top of the world, a man who was Wednesday sat atop a modest throne of ice and blood and iron. Nobody knew how long he had been sitting for, not even he himself, but it was sure that it had been a long time. He had not moved since he had sat, not even to breathe. His left eye – the only one had he – remained open, unblinking, shining like a diamond in a still pond. He was not asleep, but nor was he conscious. He was not dead, though he betrayed no signs of life. He only sat, impassively, placidly, as if waiting, waiting for time immemorial, and for what, not even he could recall.

A figure entered the throne room, an inky, amorphous figure that seemed to belch smoke from its body and murdered the light that dared to come near it. To see it, one would not be able to tell if it was man, or woman, or human at all, though one might swear it was one or the other, an object of desire, a horrid singularity of lust and terror, a consuming black hole that begged one to hurl oneself to it in sacrifice. The figure moved – for such as its locomotion was could not rightly be called “walking” in any proper sense – and silently approached the man on the throne. It reached out to him with tendrils that could have been arms or could have been wings and placed a pair of wispy talons that could have been hands but could have been feathers on his shoulder. The top of the entity, the part that might have been a head, leaned in to the figure as if it were going to kiss him on the cheek in welcome, but instead, it brought what one would call its lips (or was it a beak?) near the mans ear, and quietly, in a language no man had spoken for many years, began to whisper.

The man who was Wednesday opened his one eye wide and focused it in sudden coherence, as if finally woken from a great and long slumber. Confusion washed over him at first, a jarring plunge into realisation stabbing like daggers into his mind. He remembered his name, his companion, his home, his history, his life. He remembered his childhood in the world of men, of schooling and fighting and loving and warring. He remembered afterwards, when he became different, and he remembered many thousands of years beyond that time. He remembered things he had not even experienced: he remembered every love, every struggle, every battle, every defeat, every victory, every dull job and daring gambit, every drink and every smoke, every illness and every orgasm. Every life, every death. Of everyone.

He remembered who he was, and that he was a god.

“So”, he smiled knowingly, the corner of his mouth raising just so, “He spotted you. Well done.” The voice that erupted from the mans ancient throat was whiskey and blood and gravel and howling at the moon, the growl of a grandfather wolf. The figure that sat aside him now fluttered slightly, a low, burbling wail erupting from where its head would be. The man raised his deep-creased, work-worn hand to a long, scraggly mess of grey growing from his chin and stroked it pensively. “No, my child. No more tests. We have been without for too long. You have found a fine candidate. It will take him time to acclimate to his role, but he will, in time. We shall set the play in motion. But for now, rest.” The figure dipped slightly, as if in deference, and rested, weary of its journeys, as the man who was Wednesday sat on his throne and contemplated his choice. Many of these playful little new gods can think, the man who was Wednesday ruminated, but at last, I have found one who I am certain can be Thought.

The whole wide world, every day,

Fly Hugin and Munin;

I worrly lest Hugin should fall in flight,

Yet more I fear for Munin

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