Well, the response to the last chapter was very encouraging. Haha, everyone's so worried about Double D and for some reason that makes me smile. I must be a terrible person on the inside… X3
Five: Unstable Truth
The night had never seemed so long to Ed and Eddy. For the two boys it seemed to stretch on and on, growing darker and colder as each moment passed. And as time progressed, Eddy's anger at Edd began to dwindle away and fade into a mixture of worry and regret.
What if he gets hurt? The short boy wondered as they searched farther and farther from the center of town, What if something happens to him? Rolf is right, Double D doesn't stand a chance out here by himself. If he gets hurt then…then it's my fault.
"The sky's changing colors, Eddy!" Ed called, interrupting his companion's thoughts. Eddy looked up, staring up at the dark blue-black expanse, the fringes of which were beginning to lighten into a soft pink tinged with violet and blue. Dawn was approaching and there had been no sign of the last member of their trio. Not only that but they were getting further from town then they ever had been before and if they weren't careful, they were going to get lost.
"Where is he?" Eddy wondered allowed as they turned a corner. He pulled up short and Ed practically ran over him, "Watch it, Ed!"
"Why'd you stop?" Ed asked.
"It's just a graveyard, Ed, I wasn't expecting it."
"Graveyard!" Ed shouted and took off running towards the iron fence.
"Ed, you bloody moron!" Eddy shouted, chasing after his friend, "Double D wouldn't be in a graveyard! He's too scared! Ed! Ed!"
The early morning mist was just starting to creep across the grass, clinging to the edges of trees and blurring the distance. It made the graveyard seem eerie and far bigger than it probably was. Eddy caught up to Ed and managed to slow him down until they were moving at slow walk, peering through the fog, searching for a friend who may or may not be nearby.
"This is kind of creepy, Eddy…" Ed murmured, leaning over a bit in his fear.
Something shifted up ahead and the two boys froze for a moment, staring at the dark shape ahead of them through the mist. When it did not move again, they stepped forward slowly until it became clear.
"Double D!" Ed and Eddy cried together.
"Wha…?" Edd's eyelids fluttered and he squinted up at the two figures above him. He was stiff and cold and hungry but as soon as he saw the smiling faces of his friends, he scrambled into a sitting position, "Ed! Eddy! What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you, Helmethead!" Eddy answered with a grin, "And we've been searching for you all night! I hope you're happy!" The grin faltered a bit, "Are you all right?"
A light smile traced Edd's face, "I've never been so miserable in my life."
"A misery you'll make of me!" Ed laughed, dancing on the spot and clapping his hands together.
Edd chuckled, "I think we need to work on your grammer, Ed." His stomach gurgled painfully and he leaned forward, wrapping his arms around his middle, "Oooohhhh, would either of you happen to have some food on you?"
"I lost my biscuits!" Ed said cheerfully, reaching a hand into a pocket of his trench coat and pulling out a handful of old, stale, and slightly moldy biscuits. Edd cringed at the sight of them.
"Uh, no thank you, Ed. But the gesture was appreciated." Edd turned to Eddy, "You wouldn't happen to have any…Eddy? Are you all right?"
Eddy's gaze was fixed over Edd's shoulder, staring at something behind his friend, his face pale and his eyes wide. Edd frowned at the short boy's expression and glanced around, peeking over the top of the gravestone to see if there was something behind them. Seeing nothing, he looked back to Eddy but the other boy was still staring. Edd glanced back again and still saw nothing.
"Eddy, what on earth are you staring at?"
"Your name, Double D!" Ed grabbed Edd's shoulder and forcibly spun him around so he was facing the headstone behind him, "Look! Your name here!" And he jabbed a finger at the stone.
Edd had to read it twice to process exactly what he was seeing. And when he did, he felt sick and confused. For etched into the rock were the words,
REST IN PEACE, EDDWARD MARION AUGUST, BELOVED SON, MAY GOD PROTECT YOUR YOUNG SOUL
The world tilted radically under his feet and Edd fell backwards. He could hear his own heartbeat thudding in his ears, feel each rasp of breath as he tried to suck in air, feel every tingle at his nerve endings. His lungs didn't seem to want to work right, his brain was reading what was written on the gravestone but his heart was rejecting it, his vision swam, and he dry heaved, coughing and choking, suddenly glad he hadn't eaten. The words danced across his vision, even when he closed his eyes, making him feel out of touch, disjointed, wrong, and violated.
"'Here lie Robert Lee August and Cassandra Marala August.'" Eddy's voice seemed to come through a tunnel, from far away, echoing and quiet, "'Loving parents and esteemed veterinarians. Your souls live forever in God's eternal paradise…' Double D…I think…we found your family…"
"This isn't real." Edd murmured, his voice hoarse and cracked, "It can't be. I'm alive. I know I am. It's not possible for me to have a…a…a grave…"
"I've got one too." Ed's voice was not its usual, jubilant one. It was subdued and shocked, "Look…"
Eddy walked over to where Ed was standing and looked down at the gravestone, "Bloody hell…you're right…'Here lies Edward Dean McGoffin, God bless your soul'…what's going on here…?"
"Eddy," Double D had regained his ability to move and was now looking at a headstone beside his parents', "I think…I think you should see this…"
The shorter boy felt apprehension pressing a heavy weight on his chest as he walked up beside Edd. The pressure increased and his world spun when he saw his own name etched into the stone.
"'In memory of Edward Skipper Jacobshire. Loving son and brother. Gone but never forgotten…" Eddy read in a whisper. He spun to look up at Edd, "Double D…what does this mean…?"
"I…I don't know…" Edd admitted, his voice shaking. He wasn't sure how much longer he could stay standing, dizziness was making him sway on the spot, "But I…I don't want to stay here anymore." Tears pricked his eyes and he backed away from the gravestone slowly, "Eddy, I want to get out of here…"
"M-me too…!" Eddy agreed, scooting closer to his friend.
"Run! Evil! Bad!" Ed shouted and he snatched up Edd and Eddy and took off running, tearing through the graveyard with no regard for which direction he was headed. He tripped over a headstone and went sprawling, nearly crushing Ed and Edd underneath him. Eddy clawed his way out, grabbed Edd's wrist and Ed's sleeve and tugged them both towards the exit. Ed picked up his feet and started running again, dragging the other two along with him. They ran out through the front gate, tore down the street, and headed back towards London's busy center, fear snapping at their heels.
"Where the hell have you three been!"
Kevin's voice rang through the safe house, enticing a trickle of dust from the ceiling and making Jimmy flinched behind Sarah. Kevin's face was tinged with red, his eyes burning with anger, and his clenched fists quivering at his sides. He was absolutely livid with anger. And the three Ed boys were suffering the full blow of his wrath.
"We were looking for Double D." Eddy growled, matching Kevin's glare with one of his own.
"And it took you all night!" The gang leader roared, "What did you do! Travel all the way to Wales! You could have gotten yourselves hurt! Or worse! You could have been killed!"
"So you were worried about them." Nazz said with a smile.
"Wh-what! I was not!" Kevin stuttered in reply, "If something had happened to them I…we…we would have been short a couple of valuable gang members!"
"So you think we're valuable, eh, Kev?" Eddy teased, raising an eyebrow.
"Don't push it, Eddy." Kevin snarled, "You three are in so much trouble. In fact," A smirk crossed the redheaded boy's face, "Eddy…you, Sarah, and Jimmy are going out right now to scam people out of some goods."
"WHAT!" Eddy cried.
"How are we going to do that?" Jimmy wondered.
"I don't care." Kevin shrugged, "Pretend you're starving children or something. Loud-mouth over there's short enough to be the same age as you two anyway." He directed a sneer at Eddy who looked ready to strangle him.
"Eddy…" Edd murmured, laying a restraining hand on his friend's shoulder, "In light of the circumstances, it might be a good idea to listen to Kevin. Any suspicious behavior on our part may cause the others to become curious and search out where we've been. The last thing we want is for them to find what we found."
Eddy brushed Edd's hand off his shoulder, scowling a little, "All right, fine. I'll do it. Come on, squirts, we've got a job to do." He glared daggers at Kevin and then stomped out the door, Sarah and Jimmy at his heels.
There was a brief moment of silence and then Kevin threw his hands in the air and shouted, "What are you morons standing around for! There's work to do! Get on it!"
The rest of the gang scattered; Rolf and Johnny diving for the pile of unsorted goods, Nazz dashing off to mend clothes or blankets, and Edd and Ed up to the loft to continue working on weapons.
"Can I help, Double D? Oooh, can I?" Ed asked eagerly, perching himself beside his friend.
"Sure Ed," Double D smiled faintly, "Can you hand me that hammer over there, please?"
The day progressed slowly. Edd spent most of it on the second floor, working away at the weapons and occasionally breaking for something to eat or to stretch. But while his hands worked mechanically away at building, his mind wandered back to the graveyard and then down into darker thoughts.
His name had been on that headstone, there had been no doubt about that. But it wasn't just his, Ed and Eddy's names had been there as well. From their shadowed past, something none of them remembered anything of, all they could recall was their names. Edd could barely recall what had happened. He could pull up the sensation of a dark room that had reeked of blood, sweat, tears, human waste, and fear, the heart-wrenching terror of something he didn't know, and the desperate need to get away. But how he had escaped he could not remember. But he did remember the rain; cold and wet and stinging as he and Ed and Eddy tore through London's streets with nothing but their names. The rain that had made his arms ache, the rain that had made Ed whimper as his joints creaked and ran with water, the rain that had made even Eddy shiver, the rain that had forced them down alley after alley until they had found the safe house and sanctuary.
Edd paused, half-way through the motion of twisting a screw into a tiny steam generator, and frowned at the tubing poking out it. Sanctuary they had found, yes, but not answers. His dark eyes flicked to the wooden crate that was against the wall. Those were not answers but they were certainly interesting. Perhaps they would help?
"A shilling for your brains, Double D?" Ed asked, leaning into Edd's face with a wide grin.
Edd couldn't help but smile a little, "Your thoughts, Ed. The phrase is 'a shilling for your thoughts'."
"Oh." The other boy's smile dropped, "Why would I want to buy your thoughts?"
Edd chuckled, "How about I give them to you free of charge?"
"But Eddy always says to take the pigeons' money." Ed replied, his smile slowly creeping back onto his face, "Which is strange because I do not think pigeons have pockets."
Edd just sighed and shook his head, leaning over to continue building the generator, "I was just thinking, Ed. About…about our names."
"Knock, knock," Ed wrapped his knuckles on Double D's helmet, making the other boy wince, "My name is Ed."
"Yyyyeeessss…very good Ed." Double D muttered, "Now how about you hand me that wrench over there?"
Eddy, Sarah, and Jimmy returned late in the evening in a sad state of affairs. Their mission had not been a successful one. The scams had worked relatively well in theory, but the casual passerby was more willing to give sympathy than food or coin. They had managed to steal a couple of nice silk handkerchiefs and swipe a couple of loaves of bread off a stand while the owner was distracted by a wailing Jimmy but had had no luck pick pockets or gathering any decent amount of money, not to mention that Eddy got harassed by a couple of girls from the Kanker gang. But a day's spoils were a day's spoils and no one complained too much; at least they had a decent supply of food to eat.
Edd took his food upstairs to sit by himself and read more of the journals. He set down his piece of bread and apple and picked up the second journal. Laughter came from the first floor and peered over the edge of the loft at the group sitting together on the floor. Rolf appeared to be relating some sort of story, gesturing wildly and making odd noises while the others laughed and clapped at his antics. Edd smiled at their innocence, glad that his friends could take a moment to forget the horrors of the morning.
Then he settled back, took a bite out of his bread, and flipped open to the first page of the second journal…
Observatory Study of Mechanics and Organic Science – Journal Number Two. Property of Remington Tyler.
These studies have gone far beyond what I have expected. Not only have I been surprised by what Markusson proposes to do, but I have also found myself amazed at what we can accomplish.
It has become my belief that human understanding is narrowed into two simple fields; life and death. What is real and what is not real. What we can see and what we cannot see. We can see life, living organisms, and the universe, even if we are unable to explain some of it. Death, on the other hand, is a complete mystery to us. We do no understand it nor can we explain it, so therefore we fear it. It was this idea that led to Markusson's research.
I must admit I still find myself confused as to why we did not begin our experiments with animals. Markusson's reply to my inquiry on this matter was, "Animals lack a soul, Remy. They cannot rationalize a situation, they cannot argue, and they cannot retain memories. They are mechanical beings living on sheer instinct. This is what I am trying to recreate. I do not wish to start with a machine that needs no change."
He said this all with a gun in his hand. Afterwards, he beckoned me to follow and I, ever curious and loyal friend, followed. We entered his lab and found a man strapped to his table. I did not know this man but he did not appear in the best of health; perhaps a beggar from the street. Whoever he was it is no longer relevant. Markusson pointed the gun at the man's chest and shot him four times in the heart.
Edd dropped his half eaten apple into his lap in astonishment, mouth hanging open, eyes wide. A shiver ran down his spine and the voices and laughter from below seemed suddenly very distant. He wanted to stop there and then, to put the journal down and pretend he hadn't seen what he'd just read. But he couldn't. That insufferably curious side of him would not let him. He just kept reading…
I was shocked at first. Markusson—my close friend—had just killed a man. What was I supposed to say to that? Markusson himself appeared sickened by his very actions but he did not hesitate. He cast the gun aside and began to promptly dissect the man. He removed the heart and held it out to me, showing me the bullets wedged into the muscle and the blood still leaking from the holes.
I asked him what shooting a man in the heart was supposed to accomplish. He smiled at me—actually smiled—and set the heart aside. Then he retrieved a large wooden box from beneath his work bench. It was filled with machinery; wires, cables, tubing, metallic plates, thin steel filaments, and a large assortment of gears and small steam generators.
"We're going to build this man a new heart, Remington." Markusson said to me. I argued that even if we did, the man's soul had fled. A dead body with a working heart is still a dead body; the brain has ceased to function, stopping all normal bodily workings.
"Ah, but Remy," Markusson says to me now as I carefully watch him work, "That is the sheer beauty of it. For a soul and a brain are what make a man, no? Without such things, what does he become?"
I have no answer for him.
There were more diagrams and sketches for several pages depicting this supposed fake heart that Jacc Markusson had built. Edd studied them with hungry curiosity. While the idea was somewhat sickening, he also found it quite fascinating. To reanimate of dead human being with nothing but machines seemed impossible, almost bordering on lunacy. And yet…
Edd shook off the dark ideas pilling themselves into his mind, hunched over the journal, and kept reading, completely unaware that the laughter from below had faded into soft breathing and snores and that the candle beside him was burning dangerously low.
All our tries thus far have been failures. It has become my personal opinion that the mysteries of life are best left alone or to holy men who have God's express permission to delve into such dangerous waters. I have not shared such suspicions with Markusson; he is determined in his venture and I have not the heart to dissuade him. He is, after all, my friend.
But I have noticed the Markusson has become more distressed lately. He believes our funding is going to be cut unless we produce some results and I am beginning to feel the same way. Perhaps bringing a human back to life is impossible. Perhaps it cannot be done.
I am also under the belief that Markusson is conducting something behind my back. I confronted him about it and he confided in me that he was exploring other methods—some that may appear less than reasonable in the scientific community. I am not sure what he is up to but for the moment, I will leave him alone. He is my trusted companion and when he feels he is ready to tell me, he will do so.
Tomorrow, I am going to head out to the station on Markusson's word. He has ordered some new mechanical parts coming through on the Interlude Express and I am to pick them up.
Something tickled the back of Edd's mind and he grasped at it only to have it slip away. What was it? What was it that had triggered that odd—almost scary—sense of de-ja-vu? Edd glanced at over the last paragraph of the journal, trying to find what the trigger had been. But nothing came to him. He sat back with a sigh and the low burning candle fluttered in the wake of his breath.
In the silence, Edd realized that he was the only one still awake; his companions had already fallen into a peaceful sleep. The boy replaced the journal in the box, picked up an armful of blankets and the candle, and then crawled quietly down the ladder. He crept over to where the rest of the gang was sleeping, draped a blanket over each of them, and then settled down between Ed and Eddy with his own blanket bundled up around him, set the dying candle aside, and snuffed it out before closing his eyes. The only thing that remained was the thin trail of smoke disappearing into the darkness and the lingering smell of something that had long since ceased to burn…
There's the end of chapter five. Lots of plot poking out in this one. And lots of action in the next one.
So you should totally go find "Melody of Pandora" on YouTube and listen to it while you read the graveyard scene. It fits eerily well.