I'd thought it was the end. I really did. I'd thought the boy was long gone, the instant he released me and the staff exploded. The instant Nouda ate him.
I was catapulted back to the Other Place, trapped there, and for the second time in my existence, I really wanted out. I wanted to go back there and save him, no matter how much I knew I couldn't. I wanted to go back and die with him.
For the second time in my life, someone I loved had died.
But the one thing I hadn't taken into consideration was how we were one at the time. He dismissed me from his body and Earth, sure. But somehow, he also dismissed himself. I know it's confusing, (1) but you're just gonna have to deal. I did.
Of course, I didn't find out about him existing for quite some time. Just as before, after Ptolemy, I purposefully allowed my mind to close off, almost forced myself to relax and let the Other Place heal me. I didn't think much of anything for eons really, and when I finally did, it took me a while to realize that some of my own memories were provoking unfamiliar responses – from myself. (2) For a little while I thought I'd gone crazy. Maybe not as bad as Honorious or even Faquarl, but definitely not quite sane any more.
But finally, I realized that I had memories that weren't mine at all. I mean, there is no way I'd have ever put up with an idiot like Underwood calling me "boy" and making me dust bookshelves. And I've never entertained daydreams of being Prime Minister.
But it was when I encountered a memory of summoning myself (3) that I realized what was actually going on, and began to search for Nathaniel.
It didn't take me long to find him. He is, after all, a part of me now. He was cowering inside his own mind, injured and terrified, and (much as I hate to admit it) I coaxed him out, showed him how to let the Other Place heal him.
It took a long time, but eventually he began talking to me again. And once he did, boy can I tell you I was regretting a few things –
Actually, Bartimaeus, you were yelling in joy. Don't think I've forgotten that melodramatic 'I lost someone I loved' thing you were doing earlier.
Actually, that was because I thought you were dead and I could come off as all understanding and caring. I never actually meant it.
Right… You do know I can read your thoughts, right? And, by the way, your voice was not intimidating. At all. But you can keep deluding yourself if you want, I suppose.
I am not deluding myself, Nathaniel!
Right… Anyway, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted… Well, you can see why I regretted helping him, but as you know I am ridiculously compassionate and caring like that –
Just move on, Bartimaeus!
So eventually we reconciled, somewhat. And we've managed to get along since, I guess. The hardest part was when we were summoned. As a bonus, it didn't hurt at all, (4) staying on Earth, but materializing was weird. For one thing, while I was trying to make my usual entrance, i.e. something dramatic or fear/pain inducing. (5) But at the same time, Nathaniel, who, lets face it, had never changed shape before, was appearing simply as himself. The result was he becoming Siamese twins with Ptolemy as a whirlwind of glass blew around us to the eerie sound of screaming voices. (6)
However, eventually he and I learned to divide things up pretty evenly, and we figured out how to materialize and change shape without too much problem. (7) Generally, he leaves it to me, but sometimes I let him take care of it. Only sometimes. His sense of style disgusts me too much for me to let him do it more frequently. (8)
But, I guess what I'm saying, is that it turned out okay. Nobody died, (9) and we had our happily-ever-after. Or at least as much of one as is possible when you're forever stuck sharing your essence with an annoying, ridiculous human that –
Have you ever heard the phrase, "quit when you're ahead"?
Have you ever been told to choke yourself on your own feces, in Egyptian?
Well then, in that case –
That's it. That is all we are saying. The end.
But, while we're here, maybe I could discuss the old days, maybe the Anarchist and the Oyster.
Don't even think about it. I'll know if you do.
And you'll do what? …Oh, that's not fair. Fine.
Nathaniel. You seriously annoy me.
And thank you. It's not that hard, Bartimaeus.
I'm not saying thank you to anyone, especially not some stupid...
(1) I mean, he basically split himself in two, here. But I'll try to simplify it. Remember Kitty, leaving her body to visit me in the Other Place? Well, basically Nathaniel did that, except without being able to go back, and with the added benefit of having his essence bound to mine. No ridiculous little blobby balls of light for him – he and I are literally one being. Except we still think separately. Still confusing? Sorry, I can't help you further.
(2) That was a weird feeling. A bit like meeting someone and greeting them by name, while at the same time thinking, who are these strangers and why am I talking to them in a separate corner of your mind.
(3) The weirdest experience by far. And, you know, my voice sounds different from human ears too. Actually more intimidating than I'd thought, at least from those ears at that time.
(4) In fact, shuffling back and forth between Earth and the Other Place doesn't hurt at all now. I guess because I'm technically a creature of both. I really am a crossbreed now. Half human. It's a disturbing thought, actually.
(5) Once, I actually gave a rather elderly magician a heart attack by appearing as a gigantic slavering ferret with red eyes and poison-dripping fangs, though I doubt he realized what I was. I ate him up sharpish when he fell out of his pentacle, and was back in the Other Place before either of us said a word. Fastest summoning I've ever had.
(6) Of course, then we fell over and the glass stopped whirling and simply fell on us, and the voices cut off very unharmonically. Not to mention the fact that Ptolemy had been wearing only a loincloth and Nathaniel wore a suit. On Siamese twins, it looked very odd.
It wasn't that bad.
Aah! You're invading my other planes of thought, now! I thought it confused you!
I got better at it. It helps when we're in the Other Place, away from distractions.
It's weird. Stop it.
(7) It helped when that magician subjected us to the Stipples to get our attention. You know, that really hurts.
Well, duh. Why else do magicians do it? And – you aren't allowed to start your own footnote! The footnotes are my thing!
Bartimaeus, you're over 5,000 years old; I really shouldn't have to say this, but… grow up.
(8) Well, at least he's gotten past the days of carrying small tents around and calling them handkerchiefs. I suppose I should count my blessings.
Nu-uh! Don't even think about it!
(9) Well, I suppose Kitty did, but years later, at a ripe old age, and both us boys are still alive. And Kitty's a touchy subject, anyway. We don't like to mention her.