His hands twitched, a little out of anticipation and a little out of fear, as he turned on some of the laptops. He had to do a little bit of digging around to find the cached pages, but eventually they were up in front of him. The commander nervously scanned the pages, the pages of the very site the Antagonists had once destroyed. But here it was, like a phoenix raised from its ashes, sitting in front of him.
Smith scrolled around them a little more, unable to help himself. Every page brought back memories, comments, conversations, plot lines, discussions over character development, humorous praise and twisted prose. Like something being dredged up from sludge, Smith remembered a time, a halcyon time when he had been on the site. When they had been free to create, to protagonize.
Unbidden, his hands clicked over several forgotten links, stories and more stories. Tales that had since become unbearable fiction, fabrication, but once, had been simple storytelling.
Paddytum. Tagged. The East Wallingford Chronicles. The Protagonize Character Placement Agency.
Each story jumped out at him, grabbed him by the throat, led him into worlds and universes forbidden, but filled with hope, peace, humour and freedom. Places that could never exist except in the imagination. But the Antagonists had tried to expel them even from there. Smith felt the anger building, sensed himself losing his control, cracks in his carefully built demeanour that shunned creativity, yet secretly thrived on it. His face contorted into a grimace, as he thought over what he had become, a scared cat’s paw for the Antagonists, betraying his own nature and his people. He could not let this go on. Worlds of the imagination should have no restriction. But he knew they would be repressed forever, if the Antagonists remained in power.
The weight of his actions as an Obliterator came crashing down upon him. He had always held that burden up, believing that when the time was right, he would be able to shed it. The time had never come. Smith felt ashamed of himself, of everything he had done for the Antagonists, of the compromises with himself. His eyes were wet, but he tried to tell himself that it was the cold wind making his eyes uncomfortable. Another lie. He felt the horror of his deeds like a hammer. It would have driven him right out of the helicopter just then, into terminal velocity. But something kept him from taking the plunge. A feeling that if he died now, it would be for nothing. And there were better causes to die for.
Commmander Smith stood up and walked towards the helicopter door. He could see in the distance, the rising dawn, the rays of the sun dispelling the darkness. He felt the rays inside him too, maybe not from the sun, but a far stronger source, a resolve to set things right.
Smith had been the one who had walked to the door, but when he went back to sit at his laptop, he sat down as his old self, Craziantix. A smile played on his lips as he recited his private joke, “Commander John Smith is not here right now. Can I take a message?”
The only difference was that Commander John Smith did not exist anymore. Unlike the usual temporary disappearances, this time, he was gone for good. And now Craziantix wasn’t just waiting on the world to change, he was going to change it himself. All this while, fear and cowardice might have kept him silent, fear that he could be trapped and caught, excuses that he couldn’t openly reveal himself, making feeble attempts at contacting the Protagonists, tracking them down. But no longer.
He sat down at his own laptop and began to compose an email, using all the rusted germinations of his mind. It wasn’t Keats, but it’d have to do.
This time his email read:
Prithee, Protagonists, recognize me,
I am one of your fraternity.
I was long on the enemy’s side,
Ashamed of the road I tried.
But now I learn of great portents,
And post-haste I will dispense,
A warning of the future events
To keep you on the best defense.
There is an Antagonist plot,
To destroy or capture our lot.
They call it a Cataclysm,
Which will drive further the schism.
A dreaded disease which only affects,
The creative and productive intellects,
And renders them deaf and blind,
Bereft of windows to the mind.
In a fortnight, this disaster will befall
And darkness will prevail over all.
Released into the water pipes, it’ll be
So that it can spread fast and completely,
Unless, there is dispatched a cure,
To fight this malaise so obscure.
This cure I do possess.
My credibility you may assess.
But an audience I beg.
Of beer I’ll get a keg.
He read it again and chuckled to himself, “I can’t believe I criticized poor old Addams’ poetry.” He found himself thinking, it felt good to chuckle again. And to hell with the consequences.