If Tyler dreamed, he couldn’t recall. Perhaps he’d dreamed of the life he’d left behind and the people he knew. And perhaps there was no other world but this one, his memories of Los Angeles merely memories of a dream. But what prompted him to remember the dream of Los Angeles or to believe it was real? And what made him think he could leave this world in search of another?
There was no other world but Two Cities, his reality boxing him in with cinder blocks. Escape was wishful thinking.
Although if this was the only world he’d ever known, why had he forgotten so much of it? What did he do for a living and where did he live? Was he the victim of severe amnesia?
“You can’t stay here,” whispered a voice.
“Where else could I go?” asked Tyler, suspecting he had no home, and no purpose either.
“You’ll fade from memory,” replied the voice.
Tyler turned to find his father seated on the toilet, impeccably attired in slacks and shirt, and his hair neatly coiffed in place.
“How are you here?” asked Tyler, attempting to sit upright but discovering that even the slightest movement was excruciating.
“They put me here and expected me to stay.”
“How did you leave?” asked Tyler.
“I remembered I didn’t belong here, that no one could pin me down and lock me away. Though I was in here so long they forgot I was here, and I walked out. I would have vanished entirely if I hadn’t forgotten my purpose, and that was to get home and see you, and keep you from ever following in my footsteps one day, which I figured you would. But …”
West trailed off, his gaze cast to the ground. Words never felt so meaningless to Tyler. Was this man even his father?
“If only going home wasn’t an admission of failure. I came to seek my purpose here, but never found it. But there’s no reason the same things must happen to you.”
“I don’t know you,” answered Tyler, realizing West was a stranger. If only Tyler knew him better.
“That’s my fault. I didn’t want anyone to know me because it meant surrendering the truth and letting others take ownership of it. My truth was my own and I wanted to keep it that way.”
“Why are you here?” asked Tyler, feeling anger but not clear why.
“My purpose was never to go back but to wait for you to join me because you were meant to come here. My purpose was to stop running for once in my life. My purpose was to surrender so that you could claim the truth and make it yours.”
“It’s too late,” answered Tyler, remembering that truth was of no use if one couldn’t make use of it.
West stood up, shaking his head. “You belong in Two Cities but not in this jail cell.”
Tyler stood up, hobbling to the door and banging on it to prove West wrong. When West approached, he reached for the door knob and turned it, the door swinging back.
Tyler remembered this wasn’t where he belonged, and that there was a larger purpose at play. Peering outside, Tyler observed an empty hallway.
“Go on,” suggested West from inside Tyler’s jail cell. Tyler hesitated.
“I’m not going anywhere,” explained West. “But you are. You’re the reason all those people have come. You’re the reason everything’s going to change.”
“I don’t understand. How did you find me?”
West gestured to Tyler’s watch. “My purpose is yours and your purpose is mine.”
“And what’s that?”
“This place will vanish, one man turning it to his own purpose and then discarding it when it no longer suits that purpose. But it doesn’t belong to one man who, as it so happens, wants the future and the past all for himself. It belongs to everyone.”
Tyler remembered Murdoch. Was Murdoch the reason Tyler sat in a jail cell?
“I came to find Laurel and take her home,” said Tyler, remembering why he’d come to Two Cities, and remembering that he’d come from another world.
“You want to go home and forget this place?” asked West.
Tyler could barely remember his home, suspecting there was no alternative to Two Cities.
“I don’t know where to go,” he answered, panicked by the failure of memory.
“It’s easy to forget everything, but once you do, you’re nothing. ‘Cause if you don’t remember who you are, don’t expect anyone else to remember.”
“Who am I?” he asked, hearing the shuffle of footsteps. He turned.
A man approached, his features virtually identical to his own, his face similarly bruised and his gait uneven and labored. It was Magus.
Tyler remembered how Magus guided him to Two Cities. And he remembered a world he called Los Angeles which resembled Two Cities, a world where people only dreamed of strange places but refused to believe in them.
“I know you,” exclaimed Magus, with a toothy grin. For Tyler, it was like gazing into a mirror. He reached for Magus to make sure he was real.
Magus extended his hand to Tyler’s. “Did you find what you were looking for?” asked Magus.
Tyler wasn’t sure. If he’d come for Laurel, what happened to her?
“I forgot your name,” noted Magus.
“Tyler,” answered Tyler, releasing his hand from Magus.
“I should have remembered that,” answered Magus. “My name’s Ozymandias.”
Tyler was expecting him to say Magus, although he would have been surprised if he’d called himself Tyler. But he wasn’t expecting the name Ozymandias; although, he recalled that Magus called himself whatever he pleased and was, more or less, a man without name or purpose. Just because they looked alike didn’t mean they had anything in common.
“Ozymandias?” repeated Tyler.
“You look like me,” noted Magus, examining Tyler’s face.
“They say we’re one and the same,” answered Tyler, remembering what Grandma Vi told him.
“I don’t worry too much about what other people say,” answered Magus, taking a seat on the floor.
“Is there a way out?” asked Tyler.
Magus shrugged. “Depends where you want to go?” asked Magus.
“Where’s that?” asked Magus.
Tyler couldn’t remember.
“I don’t remember either. But it doesn’t matter.”
Remembering his father, West, Tyler turned, peering into the cell to find his father sitting on his bed.
“How do we get out?” Tyler asked West who turned, stood up and walked to the open door, surprising Tyler by closing it. Tyler tried opening it but he couldn’t.
“Dad?” he called, surprised to hear him utter such a word. Was the man behind the door really his father?
“I stay so you can go,” West replied from inside the room, his voice muffled. “This is my purpose. To take nothing and give you everything, everything I never did. Tell them they can have me instead of you.”
Tyler banged on the door. “We can all go,” answered Tyler before remembering that no door could contain West; and it was the same for himself, he remembered. When West chose to leave, he could leave.
“I know him,” observed Magus. “He called himself father, but I didn’t believe him.”
“You knew him?”
“He came to see me once after mother died. And then he was gone.”
Tyler pounded on the door again.
“Now I remember how to get out,” said Magus, beaming. “Trial by triumvirate,” he added, pleased by his answer.
“You know?” asked Tyler.
“Well, you can demand it. I can’t. But you have to make sure they know.”
As Tyler began searching for an exit, Magus began shouting. “Trial by Triumvirate,” he hollered.
“Quiet,” hissed Tyler.
“Trial by triumvirate,” howled Magus. “It’s the only way,” he added in a whisper before howling the phrase again and again.
“Shut up,” insisted Tyler, but it was no use. Magus screamed the words louder and louder until a distant door clicked open.
The clatter of footsteps presaged the arrival of men in blue jackets, eyes in shadow. Tyler and Magus were quickly surrounded and knocked to the ground. Tyler held his legs to his chest, exposing his back to their kicks as he was dragged along the floor through double doors and cuffed before thrown into a windowless room with two chairs and a table, a florescent bulb flickering its death throes.
No sooner did he clamber to his feet when Magus was also thrown into the room, grinning cheerfully as the door slammed behind him.
Magus giggled. “That was fun.”
Tyler didn’t agree, taking a seat in one of the chairs as Magus remained sprawled on the floor.
“You need help getting up?” asked Tyler.
“It’s happening,” said Magus.
“They know I’m here and they want me out.”
“You’re Ozymandias?” asked Tyler, in disbelief.
Magus grinned and smiled. Had he lost his mind?
“I thought you and me are practically the same.”
“We are the same.”
“I’m not Ozymandias,” insisted Tyler.
A door opened, and a youthful lieutenant with a flat top crew cut, marched stiff-backed into the room, a sheaf of papers in hand.
“Your name?” asked the young man, his gaze fixed on the papers in his hand.
“Tyler Hackett,” answered Tyler.
“Ozymandias,” answered Magus. “I’m Ozymandias,” he roared, answering the question a second time. “I’m Ozymandias,” he roared again.
The officer stood up, approached Magus and delivered a well-aimed kick to the face, silencing Magus as he sprawled across the floor.
Tyler flinched as if he himself had been kicked in the face. Anticipating similar treatment, he waited for the young officer to resume his seat across the table.
“Are you sure you don’t mean Hackett Tyler. You previously gave your surname as Tyler.”
The officer glared at Tyler, sizing him up as if gauging whether he’d be trouble or not. Giving Tyler the benefit of the doubt, the officer resumed his line of questions.
“And you’re requesting Trial by Triumvirate?” asked the officer.
“Yes,” confirmed Tyler.
“You understand that only a flatworlder can request trial by triumvirate?”
“Yes,” answered Tyler after some hesitation.
“And you understand that if claiming to be a flatworlder, you must prove yourself a flatworlder to the satisfaction of the triumvirate …”
“I understand,” he replied, wondering how to prove such a thing to the satisfaction of the judges.
“I haven’t finished. And that your failure to provide said proof creates an inference that you falsely claim the identity of a flatworlder, the penalty of which shall be left to the sole discretion of the triumvirate.
“Yes,” answered Tyler, but he was forgetting so much about the world that birthed him. How might he make his case without memory to assist him?
“Sign here,” directed the officer, handing Tyler a pen and pushing a sheet of paper toward him. Tyler scribbled his signature.
“And here,” added the officer, tapping another portion of the sheet. Tyler signed.
“And here,” indicated the officer, pushing another sheet of paper toward Tyler. He signed, but realized he didn’t know what he was signing.
Before he could read the typed form, the officer retrieved the sheets and stood up, walking to the door with hurried steps, opening and closing the door. It locked with a resounding click.
“Finally,” said Magus, still sprawled on the floor. “It’s happening,” he added, rubbing the side of his face where he was kicked.
“What’s happening?” asked Tyler, wondering how he had anything in common with a man he considered such a fool.
“The world is turning on its head,” replied Magus with a chuckle. “And it’s about time too.”
“What if I can’t prove myself?” asked Tyler.
“That wouldn’t be good,” answered Magus, no longer smiling.
“Now if you’re Ozymandias,” suggested Tyler, losing patience with Magus, “why don’t you get us out of here, ye mighty?”
“That’s a thought,” muttered Magus, throwing his body into a seated posture. “But why run?”
Tyler remembered his father sitting in his cell. Surely, he wouldn’t choose to stay there when he could go where he pleased? Had his father given up on the future?
“Does being Ozymandias count for something?” asked Tyler.
“I never asked,” answered Magus cheerfully. But how, thought Tyler, was there any reason to be enthused? Were the protestors outside of any use? They probably already realized the futility of the situation and, with bowed heads, resumed their customary routines.
The thought of their failure infuriated him, as did the possibility of his own failure. Was it really his destiny to fade to nothing in a place that wasn’t even supposed to exist? Would they assume he ran away like his father before him?
“How are you Ozymandias?” asked Tyler before realizing that he was only encouraging delusion.
“I’ve always been. Even before you called me Monroe, I told you my name was Ossie, only you didn’t like it.”
“I didn’t?” asked Tyler, wishing he could recall something, anything. Had his childhood so completely faded from memory?
“You figured you created me and that you should name me too,” explained Magus, amused by the memory. “But I’ve gone by so many names, I figured it didn’t matter what you called me, or what anyone called me.”
“Then we’re not the same,” said Tyler. “All this talk about you and me being the same is nonsense, isn’t it?”
“It’s not. We’re reflections of the same idea. In this world, I’m what you would have become, and in your world you’re what I would have become. We both started the same, but the results are always different.”
“Like Laurel and Faye are linked?”
“I don’t know anything about that. All I know is you and I turned out to be different and now we’re turning out to be the same. So don’t let them offer you your freedom without offering it to me because you probably won’t get very far.”
“I was miles away,” countered Tyler.
“They know about us now, and there’s no getting away with it. So best if we all come clean because there are no lies to hide behind. There’s just you and me.”
“Two of us are proof,” considered Tyler. “That there are two worlds.”
“They don’t need proof of that.”
“But they want proof I’m me.”
“Because there are two of us, and they don’t understand why that is any more than the people in your world would understand it. And what they don’t understand, they deny and ignore. But they can’t ignore us so now we have to explain ourselves.”
“And you can explain being Ozymandias?” asked Tyler.
“You’re the one on trial, not me. But don’t forget to include me in the terms.”
Tyler wished he could remember the years he spent with Magus, but his childhood once been rendered inconsequential and irrevocably buried thanks to a prescription of medication and solitude.
What could he say to prove he was Tyler Hackett without the usual identification? Everything would depend on the credibility of his testimony. But what if the triumvirate didn’t believe him?