I Will Be Everyone

by

TheIsekaiTruck

5. What Myths are Made Of [Part 2] (42)

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A note from TheIsekaiTruck

The Laws of Division.

  1. Don’t get noticed.
  2. Experience Everything
  3. Keep the Original.
  4. Don’t do crime
    1. Maybe a little crime.
  5. Stay Human
  6. It’s Lonely Being Alone

Team 4 was the first to feel the changes in strategy Jay suggested. The 300 sum that hadn’t been eaten by the fire tornado moved to simply hold the line rather than put out the flames. Each body stood barely six feet apart, splitting and tackling the flames every time they tried to spread. Rather than split a full body out, often my clones would slap a fire mid split, using the wet ooze that served as a transitional material to douse the flames.

I moved my attention along the team, following the fireline along main street, through a thin copse of trees, and out of the town. My numbers continued to grow as Fire Team 4 generated new bodies, constantly lengthening the line and protecting more farms and families in the process. Somehow, though, there seemed to be more and more fire. I took note of the gentle curve in the fire’s spread, awed at the radius of devastation.

With House Anchor and Jay working on tactics I was free to move my attention back to Fire Team 3. Everything was going remarkably well. Team 3 had managed to get ahead of the fire by several rows of trailers. Each dazed family followed a clone through town to one of the bridges across the artificial river that I had directed the cars away from.

I brought a rather large family to the bridge, then split another of me to head back. I shouted a farewell over their confused exclamations and hustled onto main street. There, two of my bodies held a tall man with a craggy face from re-entering town hall.

“I appreciate all you’ve done in evacuation, but I respectfully cannot leave, child!” He hollered, pushing me with surprising strength for his wirey frame. “If this building goes then what's the point of saving the rest?!”

I split twice more to finally expel him from the entryway, then put a hand on his shoulder as my bridge-body finally arrived on scene. He looked surprised for only a moment, then annoyed. I jumped back to House Anchor as he shook me off, relaying the situation to Jay in a confused scramble.

The mayor began to bullrush once more, but under my roommate’s advice, I stepped back, throwing my hands in the air.

“Okay,” I said quickly, throwing a body between him and the door just before impact, “I’ll help you get whatever you need out, lets just do it quickly!”

The large man fixed his vest and stroked his mustache - then bowed his head. I pushed in the door and spread out through the space. My clones took on a slight crouch, in my mind, looking like a cool and collected SWAT team.

In reality, I was closer to a copy and pasted herd of baristas with bowel issues looking for a bathroom. Worse was, I watched this painful truth in real time, with my own eyes. The longer you looked, the less I looked like a superhero.

I followed the mayor in a pack, checking each door and entering each room before letting him through. We weaved through the creaky old structure, grabbing up filing drawers and passing them like the concrete bags towards the bridge. I noticed everything from farming contracts to building permits, newspaper clippings to factory agreements. I was floored at the amount of paperwork even a town this small could horde.

Among the files heading back I found a list of resident names and addresses. I took it as soon as it left the mayor’s sight and passed it to a member of Fire team 2. I immediately began double checking homes and crossing off addresses if I evacced the right number of people. At the bridge, my bodies began calling names immediately.

A flare in the distance drew my attention to the night sky. A pulse shimmered in the distance, then roiled like a tsunami through the landscape. All of my clones braced, bringing out waves of bodies to take the brunt of it. I wasn’t half as prepared as I should have been.

Most of Team 4 were vaporized, demolishing the thin line that had kept the rural blaze in check. Team 3 lost as much ground as it had gained, and the town hall was in ruins.

“We’re not done!” the mayor shouted, shrugging a flaming wooden beam off of his dangling shoulder. He roared as he tried to pull another off of a number of me, his plaid shirt darkening by the second. I waved him away and split myself free, absorbing my trapped bodies while ignoring his stares.

We found ourselves on a sublevel of the building, kept relatively safe from the fire by the dripping, oozing remains of my less-lucky clones. The scrawny giant gave a grunt and grabbed a piece of burning lumber in his good arm. He stumbled to the far wall where a single filing cabinet sat crushed under rubble. He reached into a warped drawer, drawing forth a thick file and pushing it into my chest.

“Doesn’t matter if every damn building goes the same way.” He said forcefully, ice blue eyes boring into mine, “If this goes it might all be gone. All that work for nothing.”

I looked down at the manilla envelope, flipping it over to read the cover. Overhead, I heard myself begin to clear the rubble. I took a seat and began to read the file for a child named Mia.


I sat back, repeatedly running my hands through my hair. Mia. If he’d known… If there were so many years of notes… I cursed, then stalked out of the base cabin and out onto the grounds. The cool night air felt fantastic. Though this body hadn’t been all that warm to begin with, after so much time surrounded by flames, it was a welcome change.

She’d been there for years. Most of her memories were probably of that little town. The mayor’s notes made it seem like they’d come out of nowhere. Just one day, there they were, standing in the parking lot, looking for work. In a town that small it’s hard to say no to some cheap labor. Hard to say no to a young couple, their aging mother, and their energetic daughter. Slowly, they became just another working family in town.

I flipped back through the notes, reading intently by torchlight in the basement as I paced the bare soil at base.

It was harrowing, not least because of the obsessive and frantic scrawlings of what had otherwise seemed a reliable and dedicated mayor. He noted every uncanny fire and Mia’s distances to them. He had often pushed the town's budget to help replace old homes with new plastic, fire-resistant ones. He had known something was up, but without real evidence, there was little he could do. The words “It’s all going to burn'' were scrawled in margins, each iteration sending an uncanny prophetic shiver through my spines.

I closed the notes back in the folder as fresh air rushed into the basement, a horde of clones working to help the mayor out over the collapsed stairs. I returned back to the base, realizing my focus had been drawn away from the rest by this discovery. Team 1, I realized, had been nagging for my attention for several minutes.

I moved to Team 1, letting their memories wash over me as I caught up with their present emergency. They had powered through the fire, keeping to the highway and leaving countless copies to evaporate on the way. They’d begun to make great headway, each iteration of clone slightly sturdier than the last. Then, suddenly, the fire tornado ripped across their path. It had slid over the team, centering the eye above them, then let loose a massive pulse of fire that surged outward in all directions.

Now, Fire Team 1 lay hunkered in an oven of bodies. They had piled in a dome over each other, rapidly generating to keep the flaming tumbleweeds from penetrating to the core bodies. I split off another pair of core bodies, sending them to crawl and scratch their way out while I stayed here with Mia.

Above, the tornado screamed, ripping my bodies away and into the flames. I could see a small figure tumbling, contorted and writhing at the center of it all. I began to stack bodies, building a lower structure to move up to reach her. It was slow going, though, as they died almost as fast as I could create them. I called out her name, but my words were ripped away in the winds. Even if she could hear me, there was no way she was in control.

Frustrated, I moved over to Team 2. I felt frustration rise further as I found them chasing farm animals through the hills. They had crossed the aqueduct, chasing some loose cows after the pulse in the hopes their animal instinct would lead them somewhere safe.

I bounced back to House Anchor, cutting my conversation there short to pull up satellite maps of the area. At the same time, members of Fire Team 3 began to rifle through files from the town hall, looking for maps. A few townsfolk took notice, coming over to read with looks of growing concern. I quickly redirected the mayor’s evacuation towards one of the last cars to leave.

Finally, I found what I was looking for. I held up the page, asking if anyone was familiar with it. A few farmers came forward with hands raised and I urged them to lead the way. Meanwhile, House Anchor and Jay began to research mine safety.

I stuck with Team 3 as the herd of townsfolk began to set into motion. I’d lived in a city all my life and had assumed the town this size would have ten or twenty people at best. I was now shepherding the few hundred who hadn’t made it to their car... or that I couldn’t help in time. We began to hike up the hill, nearly cresting it when another flare lit up the night sky.

I herded the people faster, but left a body behind to watch the devastation. The fire washed over the landscape, scouring away the farms and houses and town. It was almost liquid in how it moved, how it poured over the hills, into the town, and into the aqueduct. For a moment, the deep concrete divot in the land held the tide, sending it down and away from the retreating survivors. Then a single tumbleweed twirled through the air, almost stationary. I tilted my head, confused as it seemed to be growing larger in my vision. Then, suddenly, everything was red and hot.

I quickly moved my attention through the hive, bursting back over to Fire Team 1, the only team left not retreating to the mine. Quite the opposite, as half of the team was crawling in a bubble of oozing bodies through the blaze, the other climbing on a careening stack to reach the source of it all.

“Mia!” I screamed, or thought I screamed, as my words were ripped away by the storm before they reached my ears. She was only a few dozen feet away. Fire bloomed from her hands and bubbled from her feet. Her eyes leaked molton tears as she tried to orient herself, her terrified pleading replaced by flame.

The entire stack tensed, then as one, lifted to make a lunge for the child. At the top, I was a blur of melting bodies reforming instantly. Every moment was a pain that grew hotter with each inch closer I got.

Then, all of a sudden, it went silent.

 

A blue light filled my vision, lanced through by a white beam.

 

The storm was gone.

 

The fire was gone.

I sprung forward, no longer held back by the winds, and felt my arms wrap around a body I could not see. The blue-white after-image burned through the hive, causing everything to grind to a halt for a few long moments. I began to fall towards the Earth, the stack toppling towards the ground.

My runner team, no longer hampered by the fire, quickly ripped out of their ooze bubble and began to take off. They looked back to see the stack topple and a white smoke-trail that crossed the horizon start to fade. I kept running, but followed the trail with my eyes to a glint in the distance.

Then, all of a sudden, it went silent.

 

A blue light filled my vision, lanced through by a white beam.

 

I fell to the ground, dead.

 

Both bodies with one shot.

Each clone in the hive coiled tightly, gripping our heads as the light filled our minds. At base, I leaned against a log pillar, nails digging into the bark as I felt my control slip. For a moment, the hive cracked apart.

My vision cleared and I moved my mind back to Team 1, to the only member left alive.

I still wish I hadn’t.

I found myself staring at a small, frail, headless body. I gasped, nearly dropping her in surprise. Tears rose to my eyes, the emotion rippling through the hive. I couldn’t quite comprehend the sight.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I heard the jangle of metal and the crunch of boots over blackened earth. I heard the metallic crank of a gun’s hammer being pulled and felt something cold press to the back of my head. I could feel it, but I couldn’t quite take my eyes away from Mia.

I heard a low whistle, heard a chuckle, and a guttural voice. The sounds mixed with the hammering of my heart like paints.

“Glad I caught you early, be a real fuckin’ pain to hunt a duper!”

Then, all of a sudden, it went silent.

 

A blue light filled my vision, lanced through by a white beam.

 

The hive shattered.

 

My nose bled.

I pushed myself up off of the wall, wiping at my lip and blinking away the light. I roared out a curse and slammed my fist into the pillar, then sunk down to lay on the cold floor. It still stunk of freshly cut pine. Slowly, I realized that this building didn’t exist this morning.

A little chuckle bubbled up in my chest. It built up into a loud, panicked, breathless laugh that echoed through the camp. It was so meaningless. All this power, but I couldn’t rescue someone as lost and new as I. All this dying and I was still shocked by her death.

I felt someone shaking my shoulders and I looked up, House Anchor blinking the blue light out of my eyes. Jay looked at me with intensity, his face pale. He shouted something, but I couldn’t quite understand. Slowly, I felt the connection widen and the hive knit back together in the familiar structures.

“Hey, hey! Are you okay?” Jay shouted, half standing. I realized he wasn’t trying to help me - he was preparing to run. I also realized I was still laughing.

“Sorry.” I said, wrestling the hysterical giggle down once more. “Jay, things might be a lot more complicated than we thought.”

He slowly sat back down, pulling a mug of coffee close as House Anchor began to explain.

I moved my attention through the hive, checking in with the rest of the house, where the artists huddled in the kitchen, to the barista, who was locked in a bathroom for several minutes and could hear knocking at the door. I moved to Mountain Anchor, who had the basement to themselves now, and the runners and explorers who’d collapsed. At base, construction had come to a stop with several clones left injured which were soon replaced. Finally, I moved to check in with the clones in town.

Ninety three clones stood alone in a valley, collapsed against the hillsides in an arc. They had surrounded the survivors just before the blue light, but had apparently frightened them off during the fracture. Papers lay strewn throughout the valley and were trampled along with some of my bodies into the mud. I spotted a manilla envelope among them, ripped and soaked. I trudged over and picked it up, biting my lip in frustration as I read her name once more.

I took in my clones, one by one, until there were only eight standing in the valley.

Fire Team 1 turned south to give the scorched land a wide berth before heading back east.

Fire Team 2 walked towards the hills, looking for the townsfolk.

Fire Team 3 hiked back towards the town to survey the damage.

Fire Team 4 started to walk back to base, one holding the manilla envelope to their chest.

And I collapsed back into my hard wooden bedframe, thoroughly exhausted by the events of the day. There was a lot to process and plenty more to deal with, but for now my original body could do with some rest.

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A note from TheIsekaiTruck

Bit of excitement, bit of tragedy, barely any dialogue, welcome to the IWBE experience.

This chapter has a bit of an edge factor, let me know if it's unwanted and if I should go back to nice, peaceful exploration and expansion.

This gutterally voiced individual will be our force of nature villain going forward, let me know if you hate the idea.

I was originally going to have this firestorm be a natural disaster but reactions to the poll made me entirely rewrite my nice team-structure in favor of something more dramatic.

 

Poll: Side Stories

Would you like to see side stories for IWBE? This would delay the release of main storyline chapters, but would explore characters further, expand on situations I gloss over in the chapter, and expand on side-ventures of The Hive. For example, a Side Story for What Myths Are Made Of would follow a day in the life of Mia a year or so before the firestorm.


Side Stories? See Author note
Yes, post them here
61.54% 61.54% of votes
Yes, but post them in a dedicated fiction for it
15.38% 15.38% of votes
No, just keep to the story
23.08% 23.08% of votes
Total: 13 vote(s)

About the author

TheIsekaiTruck

Bio: Busy with life and a broken brain, so chapter releases are a tad slow. I'm aiming for releasing a chapter every other Friday between my two active fictions (Ironically, my only isekai fiction is on hiatus until I figure out where the hell I'm going with it). Critique welcome, as I'm aware my style is a bit stilted and overly-wordy and my ideas half-baked.

Additionally, I am looking for any editing work. I focus primarily on flow and subtext analysis and only ask for exposure at this point in my career.

Please join my subreddit for release announcements and the occasional meme or billion.
https://discord.gg/J5r5GxBRv9

Fictions:
- La Fusilada: 20 chapter film-script-cum-novella following an alternative history where El Fusilada was a woman and kicked ass. Revenge western ala Kill Bill meets Hateful Eight.

- I Will Be Everyone: Fully pants-ed episodic superhero story following a hive mind of infinite-clones who are too polite for world domination.

On Hiatus:
- T.R.E.E.S.E.K.A.I.: Reborn as a dryad in a weird new world (will continue... eventually)

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