New York City went boom with the explosion of 27 Intercontinental ballistic missiles that hit simultaneously killing 24 million people. Most; immediately, some; eventually, and yet a few; get a pass. A pass to eke out an existence in the burnt-out hellscape of former-Manhatta. One guy, though, avoids all the other options and gets to discover a special little place those in the know call The Room of Many Places.
Kind of a stroke of luck, to be honest, with mass buildings coming down, raining debris, and the eventuality of fall out coming down over the entirety of the fifty-four thousand square miles of the megalopolis. It’s the fallout that helped create the perfect circumstance needed to gain access to his new home.
How did he get to be so lucky in a world on fire?
Be in solitary confinement, sub-basement level C, of the Brooklyn Federal Penitentiary on 3rd Avenue in Sunset Park.
Whatever the original crime was it has been deemed since that Barney was too much a danger to himself, to others, and to society to ever be set free. He has, as the technical term goes, a few screws loose. So when the radiation began to seep through the shoddy, lowest-bidder contracting, the reality that Barney has known his entire existence fades away.
Complete fluke really. Because turns out time and reality are soft and pliable when manipulated with X-rays and radiation.
There is a problem with bending reality and time, of making the status quo go bye-bye. It creates paradoxes. Truths, untruths, and a mixture of both. New realities might be based on the mind of the user, or random chance. For Barney, the Room of Many Places is bright. And the brightness has a physicality to it, the floor under his jail-flip-flops and what he assumes is a ceiling far over ahead but is shocked to look up and see the bluest sky filled with the fluffiest clouds. He wonders if he could leap and reach them when a loud cough pulls his attention back down to the brightness of the hallway. In front of him is a knight in black armor. He coughs again the sound echoing off the visor of his helm.
“Excuse me, I am very much allergic to x-rays.”
Barney finds himself thinking with the aid of every Barney in every existence to ever exist and they all make an agreement all at once, begging the question, “Who are you?”
“I’m a knight. I guard against invasion, for none are allowed here.”
“Where am I?”
The knight explains.
“What is The Room of Many Places?” Barney asks because even though he has the brain power of every Barney ever, most of the Barneys contributing also have a few screws loose.
And before the black knight has a chance to speak another voice assaults, this time from behind. He turns confronting a knight with gleaming silver armor. Through the visor a voice comes, “Do not trust this knight for he is the Black Knight of Lies and Betrayal. I am the Knight of Truth.”
Barney stops and lets his mind worry on this problem with all the collective Barney power of every Barney in every reality ever and as he is about to explain how absolutely confused he is by everything that has happened to him since the prison disappeared, like:
How can light be solid?
What is The Room of Many Places?
He has so many questions pop into his head all at once, that instead of fixing things they instead complicate things. Deciding asking one is better than sifting for the perfect one, so he goes with a simple one, “Am I dead?”
The silver knight says, No.
The Black knight says, yes.
And a voice from above answers, “How do you know you were ever alive?”
Barney looks toward the voice, “are you floating?”
“Floating? And by which definition would you like me to define the term? Maybe it is you who is floating. Maybe I should be the one questioning you about your status with gravity.” The speaker wears brown rusty armor and he is either floating or has somehow grown out of the white light-wall above.
And the infinite versions of Barney’s intellect sigh in unison deciding from now on no more questions.
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