January 6th, 2015.
In Miami, there is an apartment. A studio one, stuffed with computers, beeping and booping, manned by a single, unwashed operator. There are many monitors, looking into seismic activities, weather, tracking anomalies, all sharing data with each other. It's a networking system with a rough approximation of the globe. It's the best they can do. There are monitors showing the snowy peaks of Siberia, the inside of strange dreamscapes, and urban decay and modern wasteland. Its affiliation is with a loose confederacy known as the Chaos Insurgency.
There is a field agent outside of this station, down on the street. He's a man named Anders Forsmen. Today, he is walking down the art deco district, looking out for a man. An individual their peers had been keeping a close eye on.
He has absolutely no idea why.
Leaning on a lamp-post, Anders casually brought a finger to his ear. "So this is the place, then?"
The technician glanced to an adjacent monitor, adjusting his glasses as the glow reflected off of them. "That's, uh, yeah. That's the target's pad."
"I don't see it." Forsmen frowns. "The dossier, it made him seem like he was some Houdini-type. This guy doesn't strike me exactly as an Olympian…"
Indeed, the man currently walking out onto the street was a slightly overweight, pale complexioned epitome of the white-collar worker. With a briefcase in one hand, a watch around the wrist, and lightly pressed trousers, he stood at the bus stop listening to his iPod.
Sniffing, the technician shuffled a sheaf of papers. "Looks can be deceiving. Last time we had a target like this, he, uh, looked completely, totally ordinary. Turned out, guy had a pocket dimension literally inside his pocket." he paused. "It turned out to be pretty useful, actually. Once the guy was done with."
"This is clearly a fix-up."
"They gave him way too much attention for this to be a fix-up, Anders."
Forsmen rolled his eyes. "Be respectful. And open your eyes, maybe. Look at this guy. He isn't shit. All we have is from the Foundation. Christ, is this all? I get called down, briefed, get to know the local people, and you guys don't check up that this fucker is just some guy, some random guy, like the ones they've picked before? The ones they tail, so that we tail, so that they can flush us out? Jesus Christ, man. Don't they teach you guys anything?"
Before the technician can open his mouth, the schlep on the screen steps behind the bus stop sign, and out of sight.
"… Son of a bitch."
Crouching by the sign, Forsmen examines the vanishing point. He's jumped. He thinks he's gotten away, but he's not expecting to be followed. He'll mess something up, they always do…
Sure enough, there is a shimmer in the air. A small brick to grab onto, to kick the door to the whole rotten wall down. Giving it a hard shove, he fell through.
He rose, brushing the invisible brick dust off his sleeves. A white concrete path stretching in front of him, with ancient trash bins and pieces of newspaper littering the ground. An attic silence permeates the air. The walls were all windows, leading to empty houses, family rooms, backyards. Some have snow, and some are barren wasteland. None are open.
He's still inside.
But he's not right here. Dropping to a crouch, Forsmen positions himself behind a trash can, and peeks over the edge. After fifty feet, the world either stops existing, or stops letting itself be seen. Either way, the guy wasn't coming out.
At least, that's what he was thinking until the man ran back at him, frantically waving his arms.
"Hey! What the hell are you doing? Get the fuck out of here!"
So much for stealth.
"What are you doing, man? I was just tryin' to walk to the bus, and I leaned on the sign! You get me the fuck out of here!"
The man stops, leaning against a wall to catch his breath. "That doesn't- there wasn't-… how did you even… there wasn't anyone there!"
Pausing, Forsmen pops his head up above the bin, keeping his gear out of sight. "Look, man, just tell me what's going on? This is weird shit, dude."
The man frowns. "Why're you talking like that?"
"I'm not talking like anything."
Sighing, he turns back towards what lay ahead. "Look, this isn't safe. This is not a safe place for, any, for you to be."
"Why not?" Forsmen squinted, trying to see what was ahead.
"This is… an in between place. It's the backdoor to the universe, through… basically every possible reality that didn't work out."
That's certainly important. "Now, you're going to have to explain that a bit more…"
Waving him down, the man shouted a response. "Look, you're screwed unless you follow me! I can take you through what could've been, back to what is!"
Before he can protest, another figure emerges from the fog. A tidal wave of molten flesh tumbling forwards, with a gaping maw and black tar coating its back. As it twists its liquid jaw into a silent roar, sloshing towards the pair, the man quickly digs into his shirt. "Look, I'm really sorry about this."
"Sorry? What the hell are you-"
With a BANG, the man disappears.
and without another word, the flesh rolls past him, and he falls into darkness.
When he wakes up, he will be lost.
All being lost turned out to not be so bad, after all.
The first thing he noticed was the sunlight streaming through the blinds, above his bed. Was it a bed? Seemed like one. It was a lot more comfortable than the cold stone he'd been on a couple seconds ago. Blinking, Anders sat up. He knew that old sinking feeling, and it was hitting him pretty hard right now. Looking around, he could see a room that looked pretty much identical to his first apartment. The one he'd shared with Julia.
Just then, a voice called out from the other room. "You awake yet, sleepyhead?"
Son of a bitch. This isn't just that old sinking feeling.
Glancing around the room, Anders checked for anything. Word of the day, cat calenders… settling on a computer, his body reacting before his mind, he checked the date.
September 18th, 1995. Twenty-crappin'-years.
Anders peeked out the blinds.
That was definitely not the neighborhood he'd lived in twenty years ago.
Instead, a purple haze lazily swirled by, with half-formed ideas and memories ambling by. The face of a first grade teacher, name long forgotten but with a face all too familiar. Villages, towns and cities, visited in the line of duty and elsewhere. Girlfriends, friends, enemies long forgotten. It was as if somebody had slowed down the tornado to Oz, dumped in a packet of kool-aid, and made it a personal shitshow.
The voice called out again. "Hon, you coming out? I made breakfast."
Anders decided the shitshow would be better to deal with than… whatever was out there.
"I'll be out in a minute!"
He opened the window, climbed out, and fell into darkness.