December 23, 1917̃, Gallup, New Mexico.
Jay wandered through the stinging rain, nearly blinded on all sides by the darkness. The stormy seas of the clouds blocked the stars, the rain all but blocked the last drips of dark blue left behind by the sun. He headed eastwards along the road, guided by lights few and faint, and growing more so. East, away from the few oases that were even slightly familiar. Shivering, he walked on autopilot - his mind was too far plunged into turmoil to give too much thought towards navigation. Had his world ended? Jay asked himself that question with an unreasonably straight face, one which suggested only mild concern. Granted, Perle’s letter been brutal and bullish as a mercy, and granted, this Alphy Pettigrew was probably the most qualified person in the nation. But a letter was no medium for matters so grave, and Jay, reasonably, had some doubts. What if they were wrong? Perle had mentioned that her source was in a bad way mentally, so perhaps claims of the apocalypse couldn’t be taken at face value. What if these “tears in reality” had simply squirreled every living being away to several parallel universes, as they rapidly began to cover the globe? The mere existence of these portals meant that reality was pretty much open to interpretation by now. But what if they were wrong? Nobody understood the mechanics behind this, and the possibly insane scientist had probably only had a short glance at very limited data. After all, these “gateways” had opened before with no apocalyptic aftereffects. Yes, that was it. Everything was fine! While a few confused souls thrown into this timeline grieved about the loss of everything they knew, they were really just a few weeks away from rescue.
…No it wasn’t. Jay saw where this was going. Even if many of his points were sound, he saw himself spiraling into a cycle of denial, stretching logic more and more to preserve his sanity. He was a realist, swearing off comforting lies like they were drugs. It was why he had been a high councilor in the first place. Part of him knew that something very bad had happened, wanted to accept the disaster which had been described to him like fact. Already, he had partially accepted it. And that led to why he was out here, almost numbed by the freezing rain. He had been told with absolute certainty that the entire universe he was from had ceased to be. That universe which contained billions of humans, and the extraterrestrial life which could easily exist in far greater numbers, all gone. Most dead - no, wiped from whatever constituted existence, with no physical record of the lives they had lived. The human intuition could hardly picture a unicycling donkey computing pi on a mountain. Even comprehending the smallest detail of a disaster which was likely far worse than just the end of the world, that was harder than him doing that donkey’s job for a day. And yet if many did not have the random fortune of being teleported away to a world unknown, if those who did have that fortune did not know them, then everything those people had done in life was cruelly, worthlessly gone. What if the same thing happened to himself tomorrow? It was likely Harry had been thinking along very similar lines. What a horrible fate. But Jay’s current thinking involved, in a way, honouring the dead. If his universe had been erased, the smallest thing he could do was to cry about it. Contrary to his behaviour, Jay thought he felt fine. He wasn’t broken, sobbing, or raging inside, even if he forced his body to act those out.
He reckoned part of it was a matter of scale. When one person is lost, it’s quite possible to grieve for them, to note who they were. When a disaster ruins the lives of a multitude of people far away, we often say no more than “Oh well, that’s quite horrible” unless it is made personal. But Jay was quite certain that he had lost people important to him, so his lack of feeling must have been due to the uncertainty. There was no body, no crime scene, quite possibly no crime at all. In war, many parents lose their children, but he reckoned the sons and daughters who were listed as missing took another toll. How can a family grieve if the soldier in question “might be” dead? He had the distinct feeling of one who opens his mouth, only to find no words to say. What would he do, what would he feel? Just go home like everything was normal? As a thought rose to say “Well, you can’t stay out here” he snapped at it. “Why not?” He snarled at himself. “I can’t just go home and sleep it off! I…I have to atone for being here!” “By doing what?” the smart part of him said. “Dying in the cold? How could that fix anything?” A few tears came down, certainly gentler than the rain that battered him. Jay took note of his surroundings, as there were none. He turned back around, following the feel of his waterlogged shoes kicking at the side of the road. One part of him tried to say that he didn’t even have the courage to die. The other part was proud, proud that he always knew he had a responsibility in his heart. There were people thrown across universes, many far more isolated than him. The alternate timeline he was in had connections to the old one, and the same was probably true for where everyone else had ended up. To discover the mechanics, develop the technology, bring everyone together, that would be his raison d’etre. If no rescue was forthcoming, Jay Walker would create a rescue, no matter how long it took or how close to impossible it was. Then, the silhouette of a person formed just ahead. And that silhouette threw a raincoat at his face.
Aw... thanks, that's really reassuring to hear. The biggest obstacle to writing is just thinking that it's not good enough to post, that it's not interesting, that it's not genuine enough, or might be full of enough grammatical errors to look like the end product of google translate. I hope that's not just me.