Tyler no longer believed he needed Magus to leave Two Cities, and he was prepared to plead his case and claim his freedom, with or without him. They had little in common except their appearance; and Tyler was growing tired of seeing his reflection in another man’s face.
What irked Tyler the most was Magus’ undiminished geniality, chuckling when tears might have seemed more suited to the occasion. Tyler’s body felt like a pulsating sore, his face swollen and painful to the touch, his joints stiff and his muscles aching from all the punches and kicks he’d endured. His body felt numb and his head devoid of thought. If he felt anything, it was rage, but it was rage that held him together.
An officer, face in shadow, provided two bowls of slop, but only Magus had the appetite to devour both dinners.
The hours passed with little to do but seek out blemishes in the painted walls. Conversation was nonexistent, although that was Tyler’s fault, ignoring Magus while turning his thoughts to the case at hand; only he didn’t know how to plead his case. He’d hoped a rich collection of memory would be sufficient, but his memories of Los Angeles were meager.
Tyler couldn’t substantiate Magus’ recollections, and suspected that Magus may have been making everything up. He didn’t know how to trust anyone.
“You always wanted to come here,” mumbled Magus, “and I always told you I’d show you, one day, but that I couldn’t promise I could bring you back.”
“So why did you bring me here this time?” asked Tyler, wishing Magus had left him alone.
“I figured you were ready,” answered Magus.
“For what?” asked Tyler.
“To do something you always wanted to do. Though I never made you do anything you didn’t want to do.”
Tyler knew he could blame no one but himself. What did he hope to gain by rescuing Laurel anyway? Now he felt more of a fool for failing.
“You should have warned me,” conclude Tyler.
“I can’t see the future, though you can.”
“You decide what happens. That’s why they’ll make sure you go home the second they realize you’re for real. They don’t want you here, not if you can do what you want.”
“Murdoch does what he wants and they’re not sending him packing.”
“Because he sets the rules and he doesn’t want you here unless you belong to him because there can only be one Ozymandias not two.”
“Now I’m Ozymandias?” asked Tyler, amused there was so much veneration for a man who never existed. At best, Ozymandias represented the promise of something better, but who needed more broken promises.
Tyler hated his cynicism, but it was how he endured disappointment.
“You decide, though you’d better decide soon ‘cause you may not be here much longer.”
Some promises were still encouraging, like the promise he’d soon return home to the life he’d almost entirely forgotten.
“I remember that watch,” observed Magus. Tyler examined the watch with the leather strap. It was supposed to be a reminder, but what use was a reminder of a person he never knew?
“West gave it to me.”
“That was my father’s watch,” answered Magus. “He said one day it would mean something.”
“You want it?” offered Tyler, unfastening the strap. It served him no purpose.
“No,” replied Magus decisively. “It won’t do me any good.”
“Nor me,” replied Tyler. “He’s probably not my father anyway.”
“My father died, or my version of him anyone. And your version can’t leave unless …”
Magus trailed off, claiming one of the chairs.
“It’s almost time” he intoned, his gaze distant as if he were listening for something.
“For what?” asked Tyler.
The clatter of footsteps crescendoed until the door unlatched and swung open. Men in blue uniforms flooded the room, hands grabbing Tyler and Magus and pulling them to their feet before pushing them into the hallway. The jostling, pushing and even kicking didn’t stop until they were outside and squeezed into a squad car.
“Where are we going?” asked Tyler of Magus.
“To the fortress, I guess.”
The car ride was jarring, the car screeching as it circumvented vintage Model T’s and Mustangs, cars spanning the years, as if no particular year held hard and fast on the hurried and ever-shifting cityscape. As the familiar city hall building loomed high above its surroundings, Tyler could almost imagine himself on familiar turf, except none of the skyscrapers were visible.
They passed what appeared to be Union Station, a train stretching down the tracks, venturing to parts unknown. But what lay beyond Two Cities, Tyler wondered.
The car swerved again, throwing Tyler, hands cuffed, against Magus. But Magus was now pensive and silent, his gaze distant. How Tyler missed the lighthearted Magus who appeared to take nothing serious. Did this mean it was serious now?
They approached city hall, turning into a driveway and screeching to a halt. Within seconds, hands pulled him from the car, a cadre of blue tunics and caps guiding him through open doorways and down freshly waxed hallways through a cavernous rotunda and into a large chamber where he was unceremoniously thrown to the floor.
“Get up,” someone hissed. A slender bespectacled man with a broad moustache gestured for him to stand.
Tyler clambered to his feet to find Magus already standing, his cuffed wrists before him. Behind him, the room was a sea of blue caps, just about every seat occupied by a knight in blue, faces curiously indistinct.
“How’s that?” he whispered to Tyler, but it was loud enough to echo through the chamber, prompting officers in the audience to shush them.
A flash of light distracted him. He turned to his left to find several men of the press, dressed in caps and jackets, angling cumbersome cameras in his direction. Another flash prompted him to blink.
On a dais sat three gowned dignitaries, their faces solemn and their grey hair largely concealed by different sized hats. On one side sat an emaciated man with a maroon bishop hat, a cross emblazoned across it. In the middle sat a plump man with a navy green military cap. And on the other side sat a woman, her hair tucked under a mortar board, a bright red tassel dangling over her face as she scribbled some notes. No doubt, this was the triumvirate, and he was on trial before a formal charge had even been issued.
Once the man with the military cap cleared his throat, all movement ceased, not even a photo flash or scrape of a shoe to break the deathly silence.
And then someone pushed Tyler forward, pulling him by the arm toward the witness stand up front. He took a seat as the flash of cameras once again captured his every move.
“Are we set to proceed?” asked the judge in the cap.
“We are, Lord General” answered a man to his left, a solid girth clothed in an elegant three-piece suit. Presumably this was the prosecutor, a permanent scowl etched into his broad face.
“We charge Tyler Hackett with false claims designed to obstruct our immaculate code of justice, namely his claim to be a flatworlder when, in fact, he’s no such thing.”
“And how do you plead?” asked the General of Tyler.
“Not guilty,” he answered without hesitation.
“Proceed,” said the General.
“By claiming to be a Ozymandias, he’s played false with the people, turning them against the very institutions that protect them, inciting them to violence for which they have no one to blame but Tyler Hackett, a self-proclaimed revolutionary who happens to be an anarchist, a Communist and a terrorist, a danger to all residents and a threat to our two cities.”
“It’s not official yet,” said the woman to the General’s left.
“I’m sorry?” asked the prosecutor.
“The name Two Cities,” she replied. “There aren’t two cities, not yet anyway.”
“I believe the plans for Future City have been in place for …” began the prosecutor.
“One city is sufficient for our purposes,” answered the woman, cutting him off. “And it’s not clear that counsel is needed since we’ll be asking the questions.”
“We’ve come to prove his danger to the city,” countered the prosecutor.
“Counsel,” she said, “please approach the bench.”
The prosecutor, along with the mustachioed man, climbed atop the dais, dwarfed by the height of the bench which must have been at least ten feet.
As the woman conferred with the two men, the General stood.
“What’s taking so long?” he barked.
“I’m sorry, Lord General,” answered the prosecutor, “but given the gravity of the charges, we agree to leave the examination to you. Although it’s our opinion that our adversarial system is well-equipped …”
“I’m not examining anyone,” replied the General angrily, interrupting the prosecutor. “This was not what we agreed.”
“This is a trial by triumvirate, is it not?” asked the woman. “The triumvirate examines witnesses and issues a decision.”
“You want to ask the questions” suggested the General, resuming his seat with his hands crossed, “go ahead. Wake me when it’s time to make decisions. I don’t waste time with questions.”
As the General closed his eyes, the woman smiled.
“Any objections to the procedures as codified, Cardinal,” the woman asked the third judge.
“As it is decreed, Grey Lady, so it shall be,” replied the Cardinal, his fingers forming the sign of the cross.
“Very well,” replied the Grey Lady, who’s skin color was, in fact, somewhat blanched, though not quite grey. The prosecutor and defense counsel returned to their seats.
“Mr. Tyler?” she asked, startled him with her sudden address.
“Yes?” he answered.
“What’s your address?” she asked, reading from a sheet of paper.
“I don’t remember,” he replied. How was his memory failing him? “Los Angeles,” he answered, relieved to remember something.
“And by Los Angeles, do you mean angels Mr. Tyler?” she asked, eliciting muffled laughter from the audience.
“No. It’s the name of a city.”
“And where is this city?” she asked.
“It’s through a door,” he replied, almost forgetting how he’d crossed from one world to another.
“A city of angels on the other side of a door?” she asked, earning more titters from the audience.
“Just a city,” he answered. “Like this one.”
“And how like this one is it?” she asked. The prosecutor seemed pleased by the direction of the examination.
“Similar landmarks, and buildings only there are places here we lost in our world.”
Tyler wondered if he were mentally unhinged, his fading memory of Los Angeles only a dream of a mythical city. Had he been diagnosed with fantasy prone personality once? Was this a symptom of his disorder, believing in things that didn’t exist?
“Places lost?” she asked. “Like what?”
“Like Garden of Allah,” he answered.
“And this is where you were seen, without apparent purpose?”
“I was there with Laurel,” he answered, pleased that some memories hadn’t been forgotten. “I came here to find her. She’s from Los Angeles too.”
“There are more of you?” she asked.
“She’s in a holding room, Grey Lady,” announced the prosecutor.
“Bring her in,” she requested before returning her attention to Tyler.
“Was it your intention to go back home?” she asked Tyler.
“Why didn’t you?”
“She was looking for someone too.”
“I take it that wasn’t you?”
“It was a woman,” he answered.
“Did she find her?”
“Is she here too?” she asked the prosecutor.
“I’m not aware of this,” he replied.
“So you came here to find her, and you were going to take her to this city of angels but she was looking for someone else.”
“I don’t know if she wants to leave,” answered Tyler, realizing he knew next to nothing about Laurel.
“And why is that?”
“I don’t know.”
“And how did she get here?”
“Same way I did, perhaps. I don’t know.”
The Grey Lady paused to peruse a sheet of paper. “Now I have you listed at an address on Bunker Hill, on Bunker Hill Avenue.”
“That’s not my address,” he answered. “No one lives on Bunker Hill,” he answered, his memory returning.
“Can you see the future, Mr. Hackett?”
“No. In Los Angeles Bunker Hill doesn’t exist as a bunch of houses. It’s office buildings.”
“I asked you, Mr. Tyler, if you can see the future?”
“No,” he replied.
“Bunker Hill has yet to be demolished, but you say it no longer exists.”
“In my world …” he began.
“Which has yet to be proven,” she answered, drawing more laughter from the audience.
“Those buildings were torn down years ago,” finished Tyler. Although mounting certainty was falling prey to doubt. Wasn’t it possible he’d only dreamed of such a place? How, after all, could there be another world but for this one? And yet, he remembered the other world clearly; and he remembered leaving because he wanted he hated it.
“In this other world, it’s the future.”
“Or this world is the past,” he answered, wondering if he truly earned their mockery. “I don’t know,” he conceded.
“You don’t know?” she repeated, much to the prosecutor’s amusement.
“I never tried to understand it. I know what I’ve seen. I can’t prove it, unless, I suppose I took you home with me.”
“You’re inviting me to the city of angels?” she asked.
The laughter was barely disguised. What he told them was the truth, so why did he sound so ludicrous?
“If we leave and never come back, you’ll know its true,” he suggested.
“You and the woman who doesn’t want to leave?” she asked.
“Me and …” said Tyler, turning to Magus who appeared distracted by the vaunted ceiling. “And my friend.”
“Does he have a name?” she asked.
“Ozymandias,” exclaimed Magus, to the merriment of the entire audience. It didn’t matter that Magus was an alternate version of himself. Tyler despised him.
“So you and Ozymandias will walk through a door to a city of angels, never to return?” asked the Grey Lady, smiling at the seeming absurdity of the question.
The laughter was deafening. “He’s lying,” answered Tyler, but no one could hear him.
“Quiet,” roared the General who stood, eyes open, a withering glare enough returning the room to a respectful silence. He sat down.
“What did I miss?” asked the General, as if he’d just woken up.
“I’ve been invited to go to a city of angels with the two defendants,” answered the Grey Lady.
“Really?” he answered, an eyebrow cocked in surprise.
Muffled laughter was quickly silenced.
Once the General once again closed his eyes, the Grey Lady resumed her examination.
“Do you believe in angels, Mr. Hackett?”
“No,” answered Tyler.
“Then what do angels have to do with your city.”
“Nothing,” he replied, wishing he had better answers to give.
“Did they make it possible for you to travel here?”
“Magus brought me here,” said Tyler, glancing back at his alternative self, who sat distracted by the tiled floor.
“Ozymandias?” asked the Grey Lady. “Though it’s my understanding of our local legend that Ozymandias was an angel from another world?”
“I don’t know about that,” answered Tyler.
“Are you perhaps an angel too, Mr. Hackett?” she asked.
“I never said that.”
“Though,” continued the Grey Lady, her eyes to the papers before her, “I thought your friend’s name was Tyler Hackett too, which brings me to my next question. You’re twins, it appears. And yet you both have the same name.”
“My name’s Ozymandias” answered Magus with a smile. Tyler once again wished him dead.
“Can someone bring him to the witness stand?” asked the Grey Lady before a man in blue shirt and slacks grabbed Magus by the arms and guided him toward Tyler, directing Tyler to move aside to make room for Magus on the bench. It felt ludicrous sharing the same chair as Magus, when either of them could easily fall, to the amusement of the audience who’d come not for justice but for entertainment.
“Has anyone called you Tyler Hackett?” the Grey Lady asked Magus.
“Some have,” answered Magus.
“Is that your real name?”
“I have no name, but you can call me Ozymandias. You can call both of us Ozymandias.”
The room erupted with laughter, the audience falling silent before the General might wake up again.
“And how do you account for being called the same name?”
“Because we’re the same person,” answered Magus. “But try to tell him that,” he added, gesturing to Tyler with a shake of the head.
The audience could no longer contain its amusement. It felt like Tyler and Magus were a comedy duo, their examination played strictly for laughs.
“You’re the same person?” asked the Grey Lady, more intrigued than amused.
“We should be but he forgets himself sometimes,” replied Magus.
“You grew up together?”
“We played together,” answered Magus. The prosecution couldn’t have been more pleased with the answers.
“So you grew up together?” asked the Grey Lady. “As twin brothers?” she suggested.
“When I slept, I visited him and when he slept he visited me. Only he doesn’t remember any of that. But I remember everything. Two worlds: one we know while we’re awake and the other we know only in dreams, but it’s no less real.”
“It’s not helping,” whispered Tyler, wishing Magus would shut his mouth.
“So you dreamt about growing up together?” asked the Grey Lady.
“What do you dream about?” asked Magus. “Though I don’t know if there’s a Grey Lady in his world.”
But before the Grey Lady could reply, a side door opened to reveal two officers holding Laurel up, her head hung as if she could barely keep herself awake. They dropped her to the ground, Laurel falling to her knees.
She didn’t appear to be bruised or cut, but Tyler knew that she’d suffered indignities, that or she’d been drugged. Was it still the effect of the morphine injection? Tyler feared her testimony. What could she say that wouldn’t render their predicament even more absurd and hopeless?