Chapter Three

Rather Idle, if that Means Anything

Of course, he hadn't actually meant that he wanted someone stick their face right in his when he woke up. No, see, he just wanted to know that someone cared—perhaps someone sitting in with him while he slept. After all, this William fellow must have been pretty important, and they had knocked him out and forced him into a bath. Even so, he really didn't want someone to be in his face the moment he woke up. It was just something that few people found to be desirable.

"God!" he exclaimed. He pushed away from her face and hit his head on the wall that took up two sides of the bed. He rubbed his head ruefully as he gave her such a look—she was out of her mind. He knew it.

"Sorry," she said, but she didn't seem very sorry. It was more like she was so shocked by his reaction that she wasn't sure what to do. She scooted back herself, the pads on the bottom of the chair letting out a soft groan. She stood up and then sat back down, like she wasn't sure of what to do. "You—you aren't going to go crazy again, are you?"
It was far more likely that she would go crazy, that was for sure. Ze was perfectly sane. He knew it. "I never went crazy to begin with," he replied huffily. He pulled the sparse blanket over him in case she tried to get close again. It made him nervous when people got close.

"That sounds like a very crazy thing to say," she pointed out.

"And it would be, if I were crazy to begin with." He didn't like where the conversation was going. If they continued down their current course, they would end up at the conclusion that Ze was crazy merely because he didn't think he was crazy. That was the problem with logic—it always broke down when it came to matters of illogic. It made him terribly nervous.

"Perhaps." She looked like she might decide to be logical with him, but then she looked over her shoulder and called out, "Patrick!" at the top of her lungs. Ze did wish she hadn't yelled like that. He had a headache for some reason or another. "You know, you gave us quite the scare last night, William. We thought that you had come down with the fever or something, and you know how that can be. Pop was up all night agonizing over it."

That was likely. He could distinctly remember hearing the loud snores of a drunk…

That thought struck him as queer. If he remembered hearing the old man snore, did that mean his adventure with the fluffy Chardin was not entirely dreamt? His nervousness was quickly joined by unease. Did that mean that he had actually unleashed a miniature demon upon that household? He wished he could feel bad about it, but he found himself rather indifferent.

"What makes you think I'm this William?" Ze asked. He figured that it would result in being knocked out again, but he didn't much care either way. After all, he had already let loose a vengeful spirit. Maybe they would be too occupied with Char to care about what Ze did or said. That's what he was hoping, at least when he didn't feel so indifferent. Maybe he was crazy.

"You look like him, you sound like him, you—"

"I know I don't act like him." Ze looked up slowly, and his expression was completely set and stoic. He knew the truth. He knew at least that he was not William."

Anna looked like she wanted to argue with him, but she didn't. She just smiled at him sadly and said, "No, you don't usually act this way, which is why we're sure there is something wrong with you."

"I bet I don't even look that much like him," Ze continued. He disregarded what she said past, "No." He knew he wasn't William—he just knew it.

"Oh, you more than look like him." She got up from her chair and walked out of the room. A few seconds later she returned with a photograph of a boy around Ze's age. "Just look," she said. She didn't have to add anything more.

Ze looked upon the image with unhidden curiosity. Did he really look like this William boy—this fool who treated people too nicely to be contrary? Indeed, when he looked through the small pane of glass and saw into the image, he knew that there was no question that they were very much alike. He wouldn't be surprised if he and William were genetically identical.

But…there were subtle differences, that was for sure.

Take, for instance, that their eyes were altered. It wasn't just that the photograph was in black and white—it was that the gray eyes that stared up at him were very different than the gray eyes that stared down. They looked the same, sure, no question, but they weren't the same. There was simplicity behind those eyes, humble qualities, average intelligence—the mind that rested behind those eyes was not as sharp as Ze's.

And that smile! So ridiculous! He would never smile that way. Not even if someone paid him! Not even if someone threatened to murder his entire family else he comply! There was just no way! It was so dopey, so goofy, so simple, like the poor kid had never once experienced any sort of hardship in his entire, dopey life. It was infuriating to be compared to someone who was obviously unlike Ze.

"This isn't me," he finally concluded with absolute certainty. The short hair, the jaunt face, the smooth nose—hell, all of them looked just like his. But it wasn't him. He knew it. God, did he ever know it.

"I'd ask you how you could be so sure, but," she shrugged, "that would be silly."

Ze stared up at her. "It would."

She chuckled anxiously, and then she looked over her shoulder again. "Where is that Patrick?" She left the room to go search him out, and so Ze was alone with himself, with this William.

"Lucky, at least, in having a name that isn't so bad," he told the image. "There's nothing worse than being named Octavian. What kind of name is that? Of course, you don't look like fit your name any more than I do. William." He laughed to himself. "You're no more than a William than I am a member of the Knights Templar."

He put the picture down on a small table next to his bed, which was covered with the sort of knickknacks that he would never entertain. One of them fell onto the floor. He considered ignoring its decent, but then he realized that they could somehow use his lethargy against him and ship him, an absolute stranger, off to a mental institute. The idea of being mistaken for someone else sort of loses its humor when it results in institutions and whatnot.

He leaned over the edge of the bed and groped around blindly until his fingers came across the jagged surface of a broken glass figure. He winced and pulled his hand back up quickly, sticking his injured index finger into his mouth right away out of sheer habit. He sucked on the wound while he used the edge of the sheet to scoot the glass under the bed. At least it would be out of sight.

He sat back up again, the blood rushing from his head, and sighed. "What's even happening?" he asked. He really wanted to know.

"Well, you woke up. That's what's happened."

It was Char, that terrible creature with the strange exterior. Ze wanted to be annoyed by him, but the sight of a black fuzz ball emerging from his otherworldly twin's closet was too humorous to make him angry—not to mention it was something familiar in deep contrast to all of the surprises he had received lately. Ze watching him drift lazily from the closet and flutter over to his bet, like a ball of dust and dirt floating through a dust mote in the morning.

"I get that. What I want to know, however, is what's happening. With an 'I-N-G.' You know, I wake up in a strange world, meet a strange creature, get mistaken for a guy named William. I'm so stressed that I can't even list things in chronological order." He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. They got tangled halfway through, and he spent the next few seconds freeing them.

Once he was through, he sighed and let his hands plop down lifelessly into his lap. "Today sucks."

"Yesterday sucked too, yes?"

"Yes, it sucked too."

"Then it hasn't gotten any worse, no?"

Ze cast a glare upon the demon. "No, it hasn't gotten any worse." The creature was within kicking distance, so Ze swung his leg around through the covers and knocked him off the bed. The he fell backwards onto the blankets and pillows and stared up at the ceiling. "I'm not even sure if this is a bad thing yet."

"It's not a bad thing," said Char. "Too many things can happen in the course of a few hours around here for it to be a bad thing."

Ze was about to question his new companion when Patrick entered the room, looking a little hassled and very much annoyed. "She told me I needed to make sure you got changed and everything." He wrinkled his nose, and then he tossed a fresh shirt and a pair of pants to Ze. They landed on his chest.

Ze sat up and looked at the clothes. They were like the ones he was wearing—a tad too big, but otherwise quite fitting. "You sound happy to have the job," he said to Patrick as he pulled of his shirt and put the clean one on.

"It's bad enough having you around to muddle with things as it is, but when you play at being crazy just for attention, it's even worse."

Ze looked up at him slowly, and he saw through those thick, thick glasses such a look of contempt. If there were anyone that would make his stay there less pleasant, it would be Patrick—he knew that for sure.

"What if I'm really not William?" he asked.

Patrick folded his arms crossly and snorted with arrogance and contempt. "If you're really not William, and Anna realizes that, then I have nothing to worry about. But," he turned and left the room, "that's unlikely."

"Well…OK then…" Ze wasn't quite sure what to make of that, but he took advantage of the fact that Patrick was no longer looking to change his pants. Once he was done, he wiggled off the very low bed and looked around. He figured he already preferred Anna's company to Patrick, which was saying something, since she sort of annoyed him.

"Come on out, Char," Ze said in a low voice. The ball of fluff emerged slowly, cautious because he wasn't even supposed to be there, and landed in Ze's lap. "Can't you make yourself invisible or something?"


"Then do it."

"I am."

Ze looked at him, saw that he was perfectly visible, and cocked an eyebrow. "Not from what I can see."

"Oh, of course you would be able to see me. You let me in. None of my magic really works on you." Had the creature been able to shrug, he would have. Instead his eyes just moved strangely across his face. He then lifted himself into the air and floated around the room, looking at various things that held no actual interest. "How alike is it to your own world?"

"Not very much at all," he admitted with a sigh. "I'm not sure if I like it or not. I guess I'll find out when I catch a cold or something." He shoved his hands into his pockets and left the room. Char followed after him, but he didn't say anything. Ze figured talking would break whatever spell he might hold over the household.

He ran into Anna on his way out. She seemed to have seen the very angry Patrick, and so she was checking on William—who was actually Ze. She placed her right hand on his left shoulder and squeezed it in the way that an estranged aunt might—stiffly, awkwardly—and then smiled at him sympathetically. "Patrick, I'm afraid, has been rather short with everyone lately. I told him that it wasn't how you behaved around someone was ill, but that only seemed to make him angrier."

"That's because he doesn't think there's anything wrong with me. For different reasons, sure," he inclined his head to the side and frowned, "but he still understands that I'm not ill."

"Well," she said with a chuckle, and then she stopped. She didn't know what to say to that. He didn't even know what to say to that. There were only two possibilities there—either he actually was William, and he was merely out of his mind, or he was actually Ze, and was therefore from an entirely different world (or identical twin separated at birth). Both were unlikely and unlikable.

Ze sighed. "How about you just humor me then?"

"Humor you? You'll mind me doing it even though you recognize that I'll merely be humoring you?"

"I guess I don't." He did, but, hey, it was better than being called by the wrong name.

"Well, fine. Ze it is. Ze, how about you come with me, and I'll get you something to eat."

"Food sounds nice." He placed his hand over his stomach. He wasn't starving, but he sure could eat.

"Good. There we have something I can accommodate you with." She headed off into the kitchen, Ze obediently following after her, and said over her shoulder as soon as she got into the kitchen, "Patrick, don't eavesdrop from the hall like that. It's hardly polite."

Patrick poked his head into the kitchen. "I can't help it. There's obviously something funny about him. I don't see why you let him in here."

"I let him in here because he's William—or at least he looks like him and is here when William isn't. Not to mention that, even if he's nobody, he's someone in need, obviously. I'm not going to let him stay out there by himself, sick and afraid. If you can understand that, then get in here. If you're going to pout, then go outside and help Pop tend to the garden. I know how much you like that."

Patrick rolled his eyes. "Don't condescend me." He walked into the kitchen and leaned against the counter. "Are we going to call a doctor in or anything?"

"No, we're not going to call a doctor in." Anna placed a kettle on the stovetop and lit it with a match while she spoke. "We can't afford a doctor, and Willi—Ze—hasn't yet showed himself to be dangerous."

"You thought it was the Fever yesterday."

"I know I did, but he isn't really showing the signs of the Fever, is he?" She pulled a bag of tealeaves from a small canister and then took down two teacups. "I don't want to waste our emergency money unless it's, you know, an actual emergency."

"Hm. Good, because it would be a waste of your money," Patrick said in a highly aloof manner as he looked Ze over.

Ze chuckled. "I feel the same way."

"Ze, how about you go outside and have a look-see. Maybe something will strike your memory in some way. I'm sure that's really all you need," Anna suggested. She seemed to be nervous, perhaps because the two of them were watching everything she did—Ze with deep curiosity and Patrick with infinite frustration. "Patrick, wouldn't you like to show him?"
"No, but I'll leave if I'm bothering you," Patrick said with a shrug, and he was gone before she could say that she merely wanted him to be hospitable.

"You have to forgive him, Ze," Anna said apologetically. "I know that you're in no condition to deal with unhappy boys, but he tends to be this way."
"It's not a bother," he said. He walked over to the door that led to the living room and leaned against the jamb casually, his hands still firmly planted in his pockets—mostly because the entire area had a sort of chill to it. "My siblings tended to be crazy in their personalities—cheery one minute and pissed the next—so I'm sort of used to it."

"Well—" the whistling kettle interrupted her, "—I'm glad, because he tends to be this way." She poured the boiling water from the kettle into the two cups. "It should be cool enough for you to drink if you come back in five minutes," she said with a smile.

Ze nodded and left the kitchen. He ducked into the living room, with its low ceiling and its dim light, and then emerged out into the freshness of the late morning. The sun was starting to tickle to tip of the sky, and there was a smattering of clouds on the horizon, gently providing a backdrop for the highly contrasting, dark, green conifers that surrounded them. It was a pleasant area and very much like his home, but there were differences. Perhaps the sun was larger than that of his world, or perhaps the clouds gathered in a more powerful way—subtle differences that were noticeable only if he looked for them.

It was, perhaps, like seeing a person after years of not being around them. At first one would accept them for who they are, completely sure of who they are and how they look, but as time goes by, and they spend more time paying attention to the features, they notice that something has changed—perhaps there is a slight crook in the nose from a baseball incident, or maybe their jawbones are far more predominate. The soft sort of differences that are there only to be noticed over time, not screamed at the highest frequency into the ears of an unwitting passerby.

He let his feet carry him across the landscape. It was different during the day, different when the light licked each facet of each object, illuminating features that he had originally been denied of. It was nice, because it made everything so clear. He could look around and just say, "Yeah, I lived in a place a lot like this."

Maybe, after several thousand years had passed, this would be his world. Maybe this was merely a futuristic expression of everything he had grown to know—a more mature tree, a more mature lake. It was his lake several eons later, yes.

That was it.

Chardin floated alongside him and clucked to himself in a birdlike manner. "Do you miss your world?"

"Haven't you already asked?"

"Maybe." It twitched in the way that it did when someone would have shrugged. "But I'm asking you now, when you can look upon this and see what you no longer have."

"Well," he looked around slowly, letting his eyes fall upon every single detail until he felt that he had it memorized, "I guess I miss it. But there was never really anything good about my world, never anything that made me want to stay. It was the kind of place that I would leave the first chance I got. It's just…I was forced instead of offered the chance." He scratched at the side of his face and then rubbed it, a habit that came, perhaps, from being uncomfortable under his own skin.

"But you mean your home town, yes?"

"Hmm…" He thought about it. "No, no—I was pretty sure, after living there all my life, that my city was merely a reflection of my world. If it were that ugly inside, it would be that ugly outside, you know?"

"I wouldn't, really," Chardin said sorrowfully. "It all runs together over the years."

"What's that—?"

"Ready for your tea, Ze?"

"Ah." He looked down to Char, glanced over his shoulder to Anna, who was hanging outside of the door with a dopey sort of grin on her face, and then turned back to the lake, which sparkled all too nostalgically. Of course, it never looked that pretty when he was glaring at it with contempt, cursing it for preventing him from his freedom. "Yeah," he said finally, "I'm ready."