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II Finding Mnemosyne / Prologue

11 August 2004

A light rain had been falling on the eastern part of the city for most of the afternoon, but it stopped for about half an hour, during which time a man who carried neither a jacket nor an umbrella strolled casually towards the Jacinto General Hospital; it was as if he had been waiting patiently for the rain to stop before taking a walk. The young man wore loose-fitting faded denim jeans and a red t-shirt with the words ‘Child of the Past’ written on it with yellow in imitation of gang vandalism.

He entered the hospital, making his way past the empty lobby without a glance around, as if this was for him a normal occurrence, or as if he had expected this. Meeting no one in the stairs, or in the corridors of the basement floor where access was forbidden for patients and visitors, he walked on unconcerned, with none to reprimand him for trespassing save for the harsh glare from the white-painted walls, reflecting the light of fluorescent lamps hanging from the ceiling. Anyone who might have been following him would have thought that he was the only living thing in the building, or indeed in the world; not even a mote of dust flew past him as he opened the door to a room marked ‘morgue.’

He approached the bank of steel cabinets where unclaimed corpses and bodies of yet-unsolved crime victims were kept. His right hand reached for the handle of the cabinet marked ‘Theresa Santos (?)’, and, with a wave of his left hand, the lock clicked open, after which he pulled the cabinet open.

Inside was the body of Theresa Santos; that is, her original version in this world. It had been preserved remarkably—one could imagine that she was merely asleep, soon to wake up, had it not been for the deathly pallor that suffused its skin. The man bent over its face, as if to kiss its lips, and he whispered to the body.

‘You have no more place in this world, my dear,’ he said, as his fingers traced the outline of its cheek. ‘So I’ll send you to the world she has left. I hope that, for your sakes, she’ll be wiser than you were.’ He took a step back and stood up straight, his posture reminiscent of a priest about to deliver a sermon, or a wizard preparing to cast a spell. He passed his right hand through the air over the body, and slowly it faded from visibility; soon it disappeared without a trace.

The door to the morgue suddenly burst open, and a young woman in scrubs walked in, unaware that there had been an intruder until she had caught sight of him. The man looked up in mild surprise at the disturbance, and the young woman stopped in her tracks, shock etched on her face.

‘I didn’t see this,’ muttered the man.

‘Who are you?’ said the woman, and the finger she pointed at the intruder trembled, as did her voice.

‘Normally, I would have left you alone,’ said the young man as a black aura, the shadow of eldritch worlds, surrounded his right hand, distorting the space around it. ‘But I feel like killing someone today, so bad luck for you.’ He smiled sweetly at the medical professional as he took a step towards her; this expression, coupled with the killing intent that radiated from him, made his presence more fearful than if he had been in a paroxysm of rage.

‘What are you?’ screamed the woman. She didn’t take a step back, didn’t try to leave the room; it was as if the choice of fleeing from the death-stained room had been robbed from her, and her whole being was fixed on the man approaching him. The answer to her question seemed more important to her at that moment than even her own life.

‘My name,’ said the young man as he extended his fearsome right hand towards the unfortunate woman’s face, ‘was Peter Garcia.’

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