You Are Now Leaving Jackalope Crossing - Part 3

With Eyes ever seeing
He glimpsed a world of red
His Eyes never closing
All that He knew was Dead

His Faith carried him
No words would be said
For Eyes see through fickle tongues
All that He knew was Dead

At the edge of time
Where His path had led
No Answers He would find
All that He knew was Dead

Past the edge now
All Blood has been bled
Renew those sacred vows
All that You know is Dead

---
Jackalope Crossing, Nevada - Present Day

Gus woke up in his trailer to the sound of howling wind. Eerie orange light poured through the blinds obscuring his window and cast the small space in sandy hews. As he sat up his head began to throb, the headache that wouldn't go away. The myriad of eyes pressing against his human skull, threatening to crack it open and spew forth. It was an ache he'd long since learned to accept. A quick hit off his bong settled the eyes for a moment.

Marijuana, the wonder drug.

Or perhaps it was due to its psychoactive effects? Dulling perception, something that Gus was in very good supply of despite having no eyes in his sockets. A series of old wrappings and bandages hid this from the world. Yet he still could see even through the fog of cannabis.

Carson sat in the sofa across the room. She was staring at him. She always stared at him.

"Another day in paradise." Gus said groggily as he moved passed her and to the kitchen to grab a soda from the fridge.

Carson didn't say anything in response. She just stared at him.

"Still doing the silent treatment I see?" Gus shrugged and sipped the Mountain Dew loudly. "Got nothing to say after everything?"

Carson remained silent.

"At least your people aren't dead anymore. Hooray, you're absolved of genocide!" Gus sighed and pulled one of the blinds down to peer outside. "Granted we traded humanity for Kakabel but I mean that was the price..."

Silence.

"So I failed. Yeah. That's something that happens in life from time to time. I failed to stop Big Daddy Mar from wiping out humanity and rewriting reality to bring his people back. Sue me. Sometimes the good guys don't win!"

Carson just stared at him.

"What do you want from me?" Gus asked.

Carson finally looked away from him and turned her gaze to the door.

"I'm not going out there." Gus said, he shook his head and took a seat at the small dining table. "I'm not leaving. The whole universe is a fucking mess out there! Mar decided to try and rewrite fucking Shakespeare when he barely has a handle on second grade English. It's all sorts of fucked out there!"

Carson continued to stare at the door.

Gus finally stopped talking. He sighed and shook his head before turning away. He found himself looking at Freddy Falcone who was leaning against his fridge with a beer in his hand. Freddy raised it in greeting.

"Hey, pal." Freddy said with a smile. "Gotta admit you got a nice place here... A bit cramped but you make due, right?"

"What do you want, Freddy?" Gus asked, annoyed with the new visitor.

"How do you maintain this little island of so-called sanity?" Freddy asked. "It took me ages to sift through the debris of space and time left over by Mar's little light show to find you."

"It's what I am." Gus said. "I'm some... spawn of an ancient thing that is beyond all things. A mere speck compared to what came before, but even a speck of Them is enough to shape reality given time and patience."

"I have no fucking clue what you just said, but I'll go with it." Freddy tossed back his beer and chuckled after swallowing. "So this is your little domain? You control it? You are God of The Mobile Home?"

Gus nodded. "Yet I can't seem to stop you people from showing up... I still don't understand why."

"You know that those who've passed get a better vantage point." Freddy said.

"Yes, but I should be able to send you away when you piss me off." Gus made a gesture which sent a shadow passing through the light that poured into the room. Freddy remained and shrugged. "See? You're still here."

"Have you considered that maybe we aren't the dearly departed?" Freddy suggested.

"If that's the case then what are you?"

Freddy shrugged. "Maybe we're just another extension of your mind? A part of you that still wants to make things right."

"There is no making things right. Mar won, the universe unraveled as a result. It's game over." Gus said.

"Yet you're here." Freddy said.

Gus sighed. "Only to be here. To remember. To be reminded."

"That's quitter talk." Trip Preacher appeared on the sofa where Carson had previously sat. "An' you don't look like a quitter to me, boy."

"The fuck?" Gus was bemused by his presence. "I don't even know where the hell you went. Why are you here?"

"Mayhaps your puzzle box of a brain conjured me here to remind you of the times you thought things were hopeless. Like'n when I killed yer friend."

"I hope you're burning in Hell for that." Gus spat.

"Maybe I am, kid. Who knows?"

"Go away." Gus said, turning away from the phantom image.

"Not till you get off yer kiester and do what you came here to do." Trip said.

"What?" Gus turned back and found himself alone. "What do you mean what I came here to do?"

"You should know." Allison said from behind him. He turned and saw the look of pity on her face. "You let this happen."

"I tried my best! I tried to stop him!" Gus exclaimed.

"You knew that wasn't the endgame." Allison said. "You're playing a longer game. You just lost your way."

"Everything's gone..." Gus said painfully. "Everyone's gone. They left. This world... it's gonna fade away. Everything we did. Stealing the money. Saving humanity. Destroying the mandala... It's gonna be forgotten."

"But you will remember. That's all that matters." Allison said.

"How? How will it matter?"

"You and I are a part of something greater. A part of the force that created this reality. It showed us the truth."

"That we're nothing but characters in a game. Nothing more. A game by beings with true purpose, true meaning." Gus shook his head. "What a joke. My life, Carson's life, everyone who has lived and died all for the entertainment of absent gods."

"Yet we're still here. What does that say?" Allison asked.

Gus paused. "That they're all not gone..."

Allison smiled, then she left.

"They're all not gone..." Gus sighed and thought for a moment. Then he looked to the front door of the trailer and tentatively reached out to it. "That's gotta be it..."

---

Oregon - Tom's Bedroom - 11:00 PM

As Tom typed away at his keyboard, his bedroom door opened and in stepped Gus who glanced at the young man in an old shirt and sweats. His eyes were tired.

So this was God? What a disappointment. Centuries of strife, arguing over the truth of who or what God was and his intentions and it turned out to be some pudgy guy in his pajamas pecking away at his keyboard.

Tom smiled at Gus and turned away from his desk. "Talk about meta." He said.

"So you're The One?" Gus asked. "The source of everything?"

"I'm just a writer, Gus. And you, are my character. So were a number of them. Not all of them, it was a collaborative effort." Tom smiled. "But I loved all of you nonetheless. You're my favorite group of characters ever."

"Why put us through all we've been through?" Gus asked.

"Because it was the plot." Tom said. "I know it's not the answer you wanted to hear. But it's the truth. And plot demands conflict, and for people to change. For characters to have a arc. Look where you started. A bum zonked out on pot to a business owner with a woman who loves and cherishes you. Even I couldn't manage half of that."

"Except you killed her. You killed everyone." Gus said.

"Again, all part of the plot."

"So what comes next then?" Gus asked. "You gonna type up some hackneyed plot device that brings everyone back? Set things straight?"

Tom shook his head. "No."

Gus frowned. "Why not?"

"I'm the only player left. The others who wrote for Carson and the Sawyers... they left a long time ago. The game died a long time ago."

"Why?" Gus asked.

"I made mistakes. I decided to focus on other projects. I felt it was time to let this game end. Except I didn't devote enough time to ending it right. So it ended up just... stopping."

"Then why am I here?" Gus asked.

"Because a part of me doesn't want it to end." Tom said. "Jackalope Crossing... it's one of the best games I ever ran. The people who joined it some of the best players I've had the honor of playing with. And I miss them terribly. I can let it go."

"So then what are you going to do?" Gus asked.

Tom simply smiled and turned back to his computer.

---

Jackalope Crossing, Nevada

The sun was high in the sky. The summer air was hot and arid. Yet the town was busy. People drove through on their way to Vegas. Some were stopping on their way to parts unknown. And the locals were going about their usual business. It was a typical day in Jackalope Crossing.

Gus Masters entered The World's Last Video Rental and nodded to his friend Antonio Vargas who was busy putting some VHS tapes on a shelf in the corner. "Hey Gus! I got that new Brucesploitation video in today. We gonna watch it later?"

Gus smirked. "Wouldn't miss it for the world. Carson's gonna come round later we can watch it then."

"Sounds good." Vargas said.

---

The Prickly Cactus Bar was busy. Hunter Sawyer, Jen Hitchcock-Clement, and Simon were all busy serving drinks and entertaining customers. Music played on the jukebox and laughter filled the booths.

Freddy Falcone entered and was greeted with a smile from Hunter and Simon. Jen was too busy to notice but did give him a pat on the shoulder as he crossed the room to reach the bar.

"Hunter, gimme a Bud, I just cracked another case." Freddy said with a smile.

"Congrats, Freddy!" Hunter said passing the private eye a cold bottle of beer.

"Your father and his folks helped." Freddy added before taking a sip. "Damn shapeshifting alien tried to steal some poor tourist's identity."

"That's one thing I'll never get used to in this town." Hunter said. "Is Kelli okay?"

As if on cue, Kelli Lee entered the bar and winked at Hunter as she approached. "You telling him about the shapeshifter?"

Freddy nodded. "Yeah. I didn't forget to mention your invaluable help in the case."

"Good that you did, otherwise Billy and Daniel would've been pissed." Kelli smirked.

Freddy downed his beer and shrugged. "Yeah they helped too I guess."

Their laughter was added to the mix already echoing in the bar.

---

Carson Phillips and Rayne Lee were playing golf at the mini-golf course, looking to beat the record score held by Gus and Vargas. As they played they discussed something of great importance.

"Do you think it'll have head tentacles?" Rayne asked.

Carson scoffed and shook her head. "The baby isn't going to have head tentacles!"

"You better let Gus know that, no doubt he's scared that will happen." Rayne said.

Carson rolled her eyes. "We've already talked about it. Everything will be fine."

"Good, because this place is weird enough without some crazy mutant space baby." Rayne said.

"Our baby will be a perfectly normal baby. A half-human/half-kakabel baby but normal nonetheless."

"You two think of names?" Rayne asked.

Carson frowned. "Is it not too early to think of that?"

"You saying you haven't?" Rayne asked.

Carson grinned. "Cosmo if it's a boy. Gus figured it'd be ironic. And if it's a girl..."

"Rayne?"

Carson shrugged. "A valid option as any."

Rayne whooped. "Little Rayne Masters!"

"Or perhaps Lily." Carson said under her breath.

"That's a cute one too." Rayne said.

---

Allison walked with Jackson as the sun began to set. They had spent the afternoon enjoying a nice dinner and now a walk. While the waitress had thought Jackson was Allison's father, it didn't stop them from milking the joke all night with Allison calling Jackson "daddy." Something he found enticing, especially the way she said it.

But now it was getting late, and the two were intending to go to The Prickly Cactus to visit Hunter and the others.

As they were heading back to their car they passed a familiar group about to enter a nearby restaurant. It was Isobel Vaughan and her family. Isobel looked to Allison and smiled.

"Hey!"

"Isobel, good to see you!" Allison smiled. "Sorry I wasn't able to join you on your last 'stargazing' trip. You know how work is."

Isobel smiled and shook her head. "It's no big deal. We're still on for this weekend, right?"

Allison nodded. "Absolutely. We'll have a blast."

Isobel's mother and father were eager to get into the restaurant, so Isobel bid Allison and Jackson good night.

"Stargazing?" Jackson asked.

"We watch the evening landings at the starport. I know it's supposed to be on the hush-hush, but half the town are aliens who know about it so..."

"I don't see a problem. Word is we may be going public soon anyway. A new era for mankind and all that."

"Isobel's just happy to have a friend to go out and have fun with. I think the poor girl's loney given her parent's are always working. And she's nice enough."

"I have no problem with it, babe." Jackson reassured her. "So long as you have fun."

Allison kissed him. "I love you, old man."

"Hey, treat your elders with some respect." Jackson said teasingly.

"I know how to treat my elders." Allison gave him a look that suggested more fun would be had later when they got home.

"That works too." Jackson smirked.

---
The Sanctuary - Later In The Evening

"The cosmos is a strange place." Charles River Dawn Lewis said to the group at his feet. "Vast and unknowable in its complexity. Just like each and every one of your. Your very nature as individuals is as complex and vast as the universe itself. Links form between everything, between the rocks and the trees. The birds in the sky to the fish in the sea. One thought in the mind of a single person sparks an entire universe. Ongoing worlds that span Infinity..."

Trip Preacher sat on a log and tilted his head as he listened to Charles' sermon. When he had been abducted he had been a paranoid whack job, and when he returned he was a new man. A man of peace determined to right the wrongs of his old life. And he listened to Charles' sermons intently.

"Even when our stories end, they live on in the memories of others and through them we live forever. Nothing is ever truly gone." Charles said.

---

It was getting late. The sun had set and Gus and Carson sat outside their home taking turns staring through Gus's telescope. A pastime they both enjoyed since the day they'd first met.

Gus looked at Carson and felt thankful. Life had been kind to him these last couple years. After a lot of craziness, and a lot of pain, joy finally came into his life in the form of Carson, and soon their newborn child.

Gus's eyes glazed over as he thought about the events that had led to this point. Yet now he was able to put the past behind him and focus on the future.

"What're you doing?" Carson asked noticing Gus' fugue.

"Just thanking someone." Gus said.

"Who?"

"It doesn't matter."

"You're being weird again." Carson teased.

"Says the alien with a half-human baby in her belly." He pulled her into a warm embrace. "You just better pray that alien baby doesn't go all xenomorph on you."

"I don't know what you're talking about." Carson said.

Gus chuckled. "Sorry. It's just been a long... life..."

"There's still a lot of life to go left." Carson said.

"That there is." Gus nodded. "And I think we won't have to worry about anything anymore..."

"That's a relief." Carson said, sinking into his embrace and smiling. "We deserve some worry free days."

Gus nodded and looked up at the sky. For the first time in a long time it was without a sense of dread at what may be lurking beyond. And at last he closed his eyes. For he had seen all he needed to see.

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