The Architects Chapter One: Legos
I don’t have much time. She’s in the bathroom. Or... he’s in the bathroom.
It all started this morning.
Me and my girlfriend Amanda moved in together a month before this whole COVID pandemic got crazy.
We’ve been dating for three years. She says I help with her alternate personalities- apparently I’m something they can all agree on. She helps me with my depression.
I love her for all of her flaws.
But... this morning... she got weird.
I know this is going to sound insane. But I think it’s real. Not just an alternate personality. Someone is possessing her somehow.
I guess I’ll start at the beginning.
We were celebrating our three-year anniversary over legos. Childish, right, but we love it. With our budget and quarantine going on, our only options are our childhood toys. I guess we could go somewhere cheap like McDonald’s, but Amanda’s a vegetarian, and everyone knows McDonalds has no decent veggie meals (at least in her opinion). And legos are a classic.
Amanda’s brother, Carter, moved out the month before she did and he took most of the legos, so we didn’t have much to work with, but she was building a very nice office-type space.
We were building and listening to loud music. Amanda was TOTALLY BUTCHERING the lyrics. And the tune. I’m pretty sure Mmm-mm-ha-da-purple-chink-mmm doesn’t match any song I’ve ever heard. But Amanda listens to some wacky shit, so maybe there is a song like that.
First, I gotta say something: ME AND AMANDA ARE VIRGINS.
This might make no sense now, but trust me, it’ll make sense later.
Also, Amanda has split-personality disorder, and some of her personalities get really weird. New ones pop up ever so often, so at first, that’s what I thought this was. But... something was different. I don’t know how to explain it.
Third, Amanda takes a lot of pride in her accents. She has all these different voices that she uses sometimes. Some of them are pretty funny (like her mean girl voice). We’re both American, so I’m probably full of shit, but I think she does a BLOODY GOOD (sorry) British accent.
This is shitty writing. Pretty sure most good stories don’t have numbered lists like this. But I’m a shit storyteller. Amanda’s the writer. I’m just... ranting, I guess.
But it’s time to cut this short. Amanda... or whoever is inside her body... is coming back from the bathroom.
My name is Nicholas, and apparently, I’m a god.
The Architects Chapter Two: The Future
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. Kerpetski,” says the man who is not my girlfriend.
He claims his name is Alexei Karkaroff, and he’s a fifty year old gay man.
Oh, and I’m his boyfriend, 33-year-old Hayden Kerpetski.
Yeah, the age difference alone is a bit fucking weird.
I mean, often Amanda has aternate personalities that are different genders, or ages, but not by much. And all of them know who I am. This... this is different.
Apparently, we both work for Zeuski, a company made of gods.
But we’re not really gods, he says. We’re “Architects.”
“No... uh, no problem.”
That’s another thing: he talks in the shittiest Russian accent. It’s a cross between Count Dracula’s “I vant to suck your blood” and that bad YouTube video of the American guy with the British accent and his “Ello gov’nah, would you loike some tea and scones?”
Mash those two voices together, and you’ve got Alexei in a nutshell.
“Do you like my office?”
Remember how we were building legos? And Amanda was making that office thing?
Well, according to Alexei, whatever we build will become real.
Fucking trippy. This whole thing is fucking trippy, and I don’t like it.
“I.. uh.. yes.”
“It is for my sister,” he says, although with the bad accent it sounds like “Eet es for my seester.”
Amanda doesn’t have a sister.
“Um... Amanda? You don’t have a sister?”
“Mr. Kerpetski, Amanda is not my name. You know this. Are you... are you alright, Mr. Kerpetski?”
I stare at him.
This can’t be real. I just have to snap her out of this.
“My name isn’t Mr. Kerpetski. My name is Nick. We’ve been dating for three years. Your name is Amanda.”
“Mr. Kerpetski, I’m afraid you are mistaken. This... Amanda you speak of... is this my body?”
“My body. Like you, Mr. Kerpetski, are in the body of this American teenager, I am in the body of this... girl. These are just bodies. They aren’t real.”
“No, that can’t be right. That... Amanda, snap out of it.”
“Mr. Kerpetski, you must have had amnesia. Because if you were mortal, I’d have to kill you. No mortal is allowed to know about Zeuski.”
I gulp. I don’t want to die. Amanda’s never acted like this before.
What if this man is telling the truth?
What if he’s stolen my girlfriend’s body?
And if he finds out that I’m mortal... he’ll kill me.
I have to play along.
“I... yes, I must have had amnesia.”
“This is very bad,” says Alexei. “We cannot let the other workers know about this. We’re the best workers here. If you’ve lost your memory... everything could be yanked away. You must pretend. DO NOT let anyone know about this. Only me. Because if you’ve been Wiped... you’ll be kicked out. We will be kicked out. And I’ve worked too hard. I will tell you everything you need to know. Until I can finish my lessons, you must never talk to anyone else. NEVER. Do we understand each-other?”
“This is unbelievable,” snarls Alexei. “Mr. Kerpetski. Do you remember anything about this place? Anything about.. me?”
“Anything about yourself?”
“We’ve been dating for fifteen years. I found you as a high school dropout and recruited you. But we cannot tell anyone here about our relationship. Ever.”
“We must be professional. If they find out, they may accuse me of... favoritism. I am the head of this branch. You are the vice president. But it is because of your status as a builder, not my own personal bias. So we must remain a secret.”
“Our organization, Zeuski, employs people known as Architects to rebuild after times of crisis.”
“So... what’s with the office for your sister?”
“Well, this is 2020. We’re travelling back to rebuild. Since home offices are a huge thing now, I’m making my sister one.”
“Have I met your sister?”
“No. She is mortal, so I can no longer see her. But I can leave her gifts every once and a while.”
“Wait... you’re from the future? I mean, we’re from the future? What year is it?”
“The year is 2053. Mr. Kerpetski, I do hope you’re not lying to me about this. The punishment for impersonation is... worse than death.”
“I... I’m not lying. I have amnesia.”
“Yes, indeed. You would never lie to me, right, Mr. Kerpetski?”
“Then it is time to return.”
Alexei grabs my hand and yanks me towards the door. But it’s no longer an ordinary door. The cracks between it and the walls and the floor glow whitish blue. We step through together, and everything changes. The buildings are tall, futuristic-looking, like a movie.
I was right. This is no ordinary alternate personality. Someone is possessing my girlfriend.
I need to get her back.
But when I look at Alexei, he’s no longer in my girlfriend’s body.
And I’m no longer in mine.
My body looks like.. well, it looks like Mr. Kerpetski.
Jesus. I have to get out of here. Before I’m discovered. Before Alexei realizes that I’m not his boyfriend. Before Amanda is gone forever.
“How did you open that door?” I ask. “How did we get here?”
“Shh! I will teach you the tricks of the trade... re-teach you... when we are in private. For now, act natural.”
I wish I could know what that means.
Breath. One step at a time. I wonder if this is how Alexei felt in Amanda’s body. Uncomfortable. Legs the wrong size. Everything the wrong size.
“Thirty-third floor,” a voice chimes. “Hello, Mr. Karkaroff and Mr. Kerpetski. The usual?” Damn. The elevator can talk. And it knows my name... or it knows my body’s name. I guess in the future we’re less worried about AI.
So, I’m a highschool dropout with a slightly pedophilic boyfriend.
Life can’t get much better than this, eh?
I miss Amanda. I need to get back. Back to the real world. Or... the fake world, as Alexei calls it.
And I need to hurry.
Before everything falls apart.
The Architects Chapter Three: Blood Slushies
“Mr. Kerpetski,” Alexei says. “Would you like a slushi?”
“A... slushi? You have slushies?”
“A workplace without slushies is hardly a workplace,” says Alexei.
“Um... wow. Don’t remember that at all.”
“Slushies are like... like mortal coffee, since you seem to remember so much about the fake world. They give out energy.”
“Well, we have orange, blue raspberry, and the blood of our enemies.”
“Blood slushies. I gotta try that.”
“Oh, it’s not real blood. It used to be, but management called it quits after the Vampire Strike of 2005.”
“The Vampire Strike of 2005?”
“Twilight, man. That book started riots around here. People got angry that drinking blood has been glorified, so they went on strike until we got rid of the blood slushi flavor. Now it’s just plain cherry.”
“What... which one is my favorite?”
“Oh, you’re a traditionalist. You always drink cherry. Even though it’s not as good as blood.”
“If you can travel back in time, why not travel back to the blood slushi days?”
“The workplace goes in a straight line. All around us, the world loops and spins, and we can visit any time or place, but within the building, we cannot be anywhere but the present. So... I’m sorry to say that you won’t be getting any blood slushies.”
“Pity. Cherry it is, then.”
“Two cherries, Lazarus,” Alexei says.
“No prob, boss.”
I try not to stare, I really do.
But the guy has six arms. SIX. FREAKING. ARMS.
What is this place?
Did Amanda sneak shrooms into my OJ this morning? This can’t be real. It’s just a bad trip. A very, very, very bad trip.
But even as I think it, I don’t believe myself. I don’t know how, but this is real. The six armed guy, the Architects, my girl being possessed, the blood slushies. All of this is real.
I really have to get out of here.
I’m vice president of Freak Central. Even without my memories, Alexei will expect me to duplicate Kerpetski’s skill.
And if I can’t... GAME OVER.
But I don’t even know what I’m doing. Playing with legos is WAY different from rebuilding the goddamn world.
2020 has been one hell of a year. And now this?
A bunch of time traveling gods? Way above my pay grade.
But I love Amanda. I have to get her back. I have to get myself back.
And maybe along the way, I can find this Mr. Kerpetski guy and fix that, too.
“Alright, Mr. Kerpetski. Welcome to the office.”
I stare at the blank steel wall.
“Let’s get to work.”
The Architects Chapter Four: Three Days
Alexei studies me.
“Ah, yes,” he says. “Of course. Vith your.. amnesia, you must not remember zis part. Vatch and learn.”
He presses his hand into the wall and I stare at the space. His hands make the steel glow red, like he’s burning up inside and anything he touches melts.
When there’s a sloppy airbrushed red ring around his hand, the door slides into the floor, opening into a contemporary office.
I hope he won’t expect me to open that door.
Of course he will. Eventually. Until then, I’ll have to be extra careful. I don’t want anyone to suspect me, and it seems like everyone here has some kind of superpower.
What will happen when they find out I don’t have any?
A fate worse than death.
We’re rebuilding the world here, right? Rebuilding. Making it better.
So all I have to do... is build something. Build something that can get me out of here. Because here, where what you build becomes real... I could build myself a spaceship, or something. I could get out of here.
But that won’t help me get Amanda back. It gets half of it done. But until I’ve got it at 100 percent, I’m not taking any chances. I’m not getting out of here until I know I can save both of us.
Per Alexei’s request, I don’t ask any questions until the door slides back into it’s place, no more red-hot handprint to be seen.
“So... what happened to your mortal body? The one you were in out there? The teenage girl?”
“She will wake up, eventually, with no memory of me and feeling like she just woke up from a terrible dream.”
“A bad dream? Why? Why not give her a good dream?”
My heart throbs for Amanda. She’s always had a vivid imagination. What sort of dream monsters will she think up?
“A bad dream, because she won’t go searching for memories. If she woke up from a good dream, she would try to remember what had made her so happy. If she went searching, she might accidentally unlock something that would clue her in to all of this. And then we would have to kill her.”
“So... she’ll wake up? Right away?”
She must be freaking out. Maybe she thinks I left her. Oh, God, don’t let her think I left her. I don’t want to live without her. I don’t want her to leave me because of this whole mess.
“No. She should be still asleep. Using her as a vessel will drain the host. But she will awaken in a few days.”
“A few days?” I’m honestly not sure if that’s good news or bad news. On the plus side, I have time to get out of here. But on the negative side... days is a long time. What if something happens to her?
And on the other negative side, I have about three days to get back to her. Three damn days. And that’s probably the optimistic side. For all I know, she could wake up tomorrow. And then... we’re in the future. How will I get back to her?
We’re in the future. Damn, that thought is only just sinking in. Not only do I have to get back to Earth, I also have to go back in time.
So... I have to build a time-traveling spaceship?
And also... if I build a spaceship, Alexei will figure out I don’t belong here. We’re supposed to rebuild the earth, not advance human technology. I’m probably supposed to make something using the limited powers humans already have, not any new and improved ones.
At least... I think so. That’s what their business sounds like, anyway. Of course, I have no way of knowing that.
This place is giving me a headache. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m in so much shock that my head is just throbbing.
So... I have to build a time traveling spaceship that looks like a normal building, and somehow manage to not clue in my creepy “boyfriend” and also not get caught by a company full of gods. Oh, and I also have to pretend not to have amnesia, and simultaneously pretend to have amnesia.
“Vell, Meester Kerpetski, sit down. We have much to do, and much to discuss.”
“Oh, I love it when you play the submissive role.”
Maybe this will be even harder than I thought.
And I was already thinking it would be pretty hard.
I would say something like “God help me,” but right now, God is exactly my problem.
Or rather, gods are my problem.
Maybe I should start praying to Satan, though I bet he’s just laughing at my sorry ass.
No immortal being is going to save me.
I have to save myself.
The Architects Chapter Five: Practice Makes Perfect
His office is so... normal. If it weren't for all the psychotic craziness of my current situation, I'd feel like I have a legitimate job.
But... none of this is normal, and everything is weird, so I'm freaking the fuck out.
"So," I say. "How do we build stuff?"
"Oh, just think about what you want and it shows up."
Oh shit. If I have to mind-summon something, won't that mean I can't? Since I'm not actually Mr. Kerpetski, can I still do it?
I have to try.
Alexei is studying me with his cold black eyes.
I have to try.
I envision a pile of white legos. Hey, start simple, right?
I close my eyes, praying that this will work. If I mess this up... what will happen to me? What will happen to me?
A fate worse than death.
Why do I have to keep dwelling on those words?
I don't want to know what's worse than death. I don't want to die. I have to get back to Amanda. I have to save her.
I have to get away from this creepy god.
I open my eyes.
"Well, of course it worked, Mr. Kerpetski. Do you think I would lie to you?
"I... uh, no, of course not. You haven't lied to me at all since coming here. I guess it's all just.. a lot."
"Yes. Mr. Kerpetski. I totally understand. When I first came here, I was the same way. When you first came here, it took you weeks to master everything."
Only weeks? Wow. Mr. Kerpetski must be some kind of prodigy.
"So... I can summon legos with my mind?"
"You can summon anything with your mind. Well, pieces of anything. Assembly required."
So... if I ask for a giant time machine that looks like a regular 21st century building, all I have to do is build it and I'm good?
"Of course, you can't summon whole buildings at once. That defeats the purpose of our organization."
Well shit. It's like this guy can read my mind.
Holy shitbuckets, can he read my mind? He's a god, after all. Can he read my mind? Does he know I'm a fraud?
It's like when someone tells you to not think about pink fluffy unicorns and suddenly all you can think about is pink fluffy unicorns.
Alexei is giving me a weird look, but no weirder than usual. I guess that means he can't read my mind. Whew. Thank God.... gods... for that.
I wish more than anything that this was a dream. But, unlike Amanda, I don't have weird dreams. My dreams usually consist of nightmares about getting fired from my McDonald's job and not being able to pay my share of our rent.
Or there was that one nightmare about Amanda being shot in an alleyway, but that's about as weird as it gets.
This is no dream.
This is real.
And right now, I have to build something random out of these white legos. Something that will eventually end up in the real world, in marble or stone instead of plastic.
Damn, that's so freaky.
I take a sip of my "blood slushi." It makes me wish mortal workplaces had slushies instead of coffee. I'm not a huge fan of drip coffee. Amanda is addicted to the stuff, but I would much rather have complimentary slushies, a.k.a. sugar bombs.
Although I suppose slushies are cold, so they wouldn't be great in the summer.
Although this place is so weird that I wouldn't be surprised if they found a way to make slushies into a hot drink.
Maybe they eliminate the ice and just heat up a cup of syrup.
That sounds both sickening and delicious.
I take another sip of the slushie.
I have to commend these people. There are the cheap shitty slushies with too little syrup, and there's the build-your-own slushies that inevitably end up with too much syrup, but these slushies are actually good.
The one good thing about this totally wack place is their slushies.
Wow. This is so fucking trippy. I'm drinking slushies in the future, surrounded by gods and trying to build a time machine so I can get back to my century. Hello, George Lucas is calling, he wants to turn your life into a movie.
Although I guess in the future, George Lucas is dead. I wonder who his sci-fi successor will be?
Probably no one. I'm pretty sure Star Wars will still be just as awesome in the future as it is in the present.
Maybe they'd make a remake of it. Oh Jesus, the horror. How can one possibly make a remake of a classic? I can understand remaking animated things into live action (except Lion King, that one just made no sense) but remaking live action into more live action? Just weird.
I can understand continuing the series, but remaking it altogether? Ew.
Funny. I'm in the middle of a nutcase world and all I can think about is Star Wars. Typical me.
I think about Amanda's measley stash of legos, all the things I wanted to build but couldn't. Here, I don't have to worry about running out of pieces.
Maybe this could be fun, after all.
As long as I stay focused on what really matters.
I'll finish this project, and then start working on the big stuff. After all, to start out with something complex would be suspicious.
I have to be careful. Cautious.
And that means building some boring shit before I embark on a master build.
Practice makes perfect, right?
I just need to hurry up with the practice. After all, I don't have much time.
The Architects Chapter Six: Clicking Bricks
Clicking white bricks together is way too satisfying. Easy, almost. I move fast. Ever so often, I summon a new pile of bricks.
This is actually... kind of... fun.
Before I know it, I’ve got a massive white skyscraper. It’s futuristic but not too futuristic, modern but with a bit of classical charm.
I wanted to be an architecture major, but... college didn’t really work out for me. How ironic that now I’m using my architecture skills to blend in with a race of gods.
“Very nice, Mr. Kerpetski.”
I had honestly forgotten that Alexei was still in the room with me. Everything faded away. Just me and the bricks.
For a moment, I even forgot about Amanda.
God, that’s so horrible. Any elation I had at a finished project is replaced by guilt. What am I doing? I should be focusing on getting back, not some stupid lego project. I need to get back. Amanda could wake up any time now.
Focus, Nick, focus. You don’t have time to get sucked into side projects.
“Yeah? Sorry. Zoned out for a minute.”
Alexei laughs. “You always do that,” he says. “Good to know you haven’t lost your personality along with your memories.”
I don’t know what to say to that.
I guess my personality lines up with Mr. Kerpetski’s.
Does that mean that Alexei’s personality lines up with Amanda’s?
I don’t find that comforting. If anything, it only disturbs me more.
“The thing you might want to remember, Mr. Kerpetski, is that we only have to build a building a day. The only exception is with big projects. Then we work nine to five. Even small projects count. So, if you’d like, we can be done for the day. It seems like even without your memories, you are an efficient worker.”
“Wait... we’re done?”
“Makes for a good work environment. They go easy on us. The last time workers went on strike, nuclear bombs were dropped. Without us, it took decades for humans to recover. World War Two was a nasty conflict.”
I decided again not to comment. Millions of humans died. Cities were leveled. Bombs were dropped. Icons destroyed. And all it gets is “nasty?” Seems like it’s a lot more than nasty.
“Where do we go after we’re done working?”
“Oh, the apartments.”
“The apartments? Shouldn’t you guys get to live in, like, mansions?”
“Oh, Mr. Kerpetski. Mansions are a strictly human invention. They are... ostentatious. Unnecessary. Here, everyone lives in apartments. It means we all get along much better.”
“So... like communism. Gods are communists.”
“Similar, but no. Communism is everyone getting the same thing. We all get the same space, but how we use that space is a different matter entirely. We still have ‘status symbols’. It’s just not about size.”
“It’s about design.”
“Precisely. Now, try not to do anything incriminating. Like I said, your... condition—”
“Yeah. I got it. Secretive. Or else I die.”
“Worse than death,” Alexei says, his genial voice not matching his dark words.
“Right.” Like I needed reminding of the phrase that will haunt my nightmares forever. Thanks, Alexei.
The two of us walk towards the door— the one I arrived through— and for a moment, I feel a thrill of hope. Maybe he’ll take me back to the mortal world.
Maybe I won’t have to claw my way out of here after all.
But it’s stupid to hope.
The place we walk into is definitely not our apartment. It’s not like any earth apartment I’ve ever seen. Similar, but... off, somehow.
I guess I still have to claw my way out of here.
That’s fine, I guess. I wasn’t really expecting an easy way out. Hoping, sure, but not expecting. One thing I’ve learned in my less than two decades on this earth is to hope for the best and expect the worst.
And usually, the worst is what you get.
But something about the apartments is comforting. It’s something in the air, in the lighting, in the colorful furniture.
I file away a list of shit to look for next time I’m at IKEA. My mom always told me that furniture mattered, that every detail would contribute to a home.
I always thought she was full of shit. It’s about the people... right?
But being here... maybe she was right.
Maybe when I get back to Amanda, I should make our apartment a home.
Maybe it’s about the things and the people.
Maybe if I had focused more on us, none of this would have happened.
Shut up, Nick. Don’t think about that. This isn’t your fault. Nothing could have predicted this.
Just focus. Focus on getting home. You can make things right once you’re mortal again.
You can make things right once you’re human again.
The Architects Chapter Seven: I Have To Get Out Of Here
I have to get out of here.
After dodging an absurd amount of trashy pickup lines, I finally just locked myself in the bathroom.
I told Alexei that I was extremely constipated.
Of course, he probably knows that's bullshit, but whatever.
I think about the day.
A lot has happened in just a few hours. I got a new job (or... returned to an old job?) working as an immortal architect, my girlfriend turned into a horny Russian, I drank a blood slushi (which was surprisingly good), and I discovered that I should go work at legoland to build stuff.
If, of course, I ever return to the real world. I doubt Zeuski has a godly legoland.
My girlfriend is unconscious somewhere having a horrific nightmare. When Alexei possessed her, he had to wipe her mind of the whole situation.
So she's dreaming about her worst fears.
Meanwhile, I'm practically living a nightmare.
I have to get out of here.
That thought keeps resurfacing every few minutes. I'll be about to relax, let my guard down, maybe get some sleep, and then: I have to get out of here.
I'm in an endless spiral of anxiety.
My girlfriend is alone. She'll wake up soon. Scared. Alone. I have to get back to her. I have to get back to my mortal body and—
I'm in Mr. Kerpetski's body. Not mine.
And that means my body is in the same position as Amanda— knocked out.
But... what happens when I wake up?
I have to get out of here.
If I'm in Mr. Kerpetski's body...
Is he in mine?
Is he in mine?
If he wakes up, he'll be just as confused as I am. But since he's a god, he'll be able to do all kinds of crazy shit.
He could hurt Amanda. He could destroy me. And if he gets here and reveals that I'm mortal...
The punishment is worse than death.
Now it's not just Amanda who's in danger. It's me, too.
And if, for some reason, Mr. Kerpetski can't get back here... what will he do to Earth? Will he tear up the world to get back?
Great. Not just Amanda. Not just me.
I have to save the whole damn world.
The Architects Chapter Eight: Saving The World
I fall asleep in the bathroom, my nose filled with the frangrant scent of old piss and bleach.
I wake up to the sound of a buzz saw.
Yeah, that wakes me up fast.
“What the Hell?”
The buzz saw apruptly stops.
“Oh good,” says Alexei, peering through the crack in the door. “You’re alive. That means I don’t have to destroy the door.”
“Uh... looks pretty destroyed to me.”
“Nonsense.” Alexei snaps his fingers like a comic book supervillain, and the door is back to normal. “Can you unlock the door?”
I unlock the door.
Where in God’s name did he get that saw?
You know what? I’m not even going to think about it. I fell asleep in a bathroom. This is a new all time low for me.
I think that once I get back to my body, I’m going to forget that this ever happened. Block it from my mind. That’s some sort of coping mechanism or something. I forget what it’s called. Something amnesia. psychotic? Diss... dissapate? Destruction? I don’t know. It starts with diss. I’m pretty sure, anyway.
“You’d better open up,” Alexei says. He revvs up the saw. It’s probably meant as a joke, but I don’t think it’s funny. I think it’s fucking terrifying.
I open the door.
“Mr. Kerpetski, I believe it is time to return to the grind. Let’s get back to work.”
“Uh.. yeah. Okay.”
I follow him into the bustling sci-fi streets outside the Zeuski apartment building. It seems like everything here has Zeuski’s name on it.
For a moment, I don’t know where the word comes from. I know it’s Amanda’s mental illness, dissociative identity disorder...
Oh yeah. Dissociative amnesia. That’s where you forget about a traumatic event.
Funny how these things just randomly occur to me. Like I just about had a hemorrhage trying to figure it out, and now... poof. I remember it.
A rough hand yanks me out of my thoughts— and out of the way of a car.
“Pay attention, Mr. Kerpetski. The city moves on.”
The city moves on. It doesn’t matter if I’m frozen in my thoughts. Even when I’m a god, life moves on. The way Alexei says it makes me think it’s a popular phrase here. The city moves on.
I kind of like it, actually.
But then I hate myself for it. I’m not allowed to like this place. I’m not allowed to feel at home here. I have to get back to Amanda. Before the real Mr. Kerpetski wakes up and goes on a rampage, destroying everything I care about. After proving my skill yesterday, I think today I can finally work on my big project.
My portal to get back home.
I suck on my blood slushi as I step into Alexei’s office.
I’m sort of thinking of something similar to the Empire State Building. Big, bold, dark.
Why am I thinking so hard about this? The exterior isn’t important. Neither is the interior. I just need to focus on the portal. I need this to work. I need to get back to my body. To my time period. To my real home.
I don’t belong here. And I never will. It doesn’t matter that Alexei thinks I have skills. It doesn’t matter how comfortable the apartments are. It doesn’t matter. What matters is getting back to my average existence in a catastrophic year.
I don’t belong here. I just have to get to work.
After all, inter-dimensional time machines don’t build themselves.
Even when you’re a god.
The Architects Chapter Nine: Blueprints
I spent the day drawing. My fingers flew across the blue grid paper, like they had a mind of their own.
The ideas just flowed out of me, smoother than yogurt. I even used a pen, for God’s— gods’— sake. I never use pens. I always make so many mistakes that using pen ends up turning into a few sentences surrounded by great walls of scribbled out lines. Pencils are always my writing utensil of choice. But not this time. This time, it was thick, bold pen, and I made no mistakes.
I was so wrapped up in the drawing that I didn’t even focus on Alexei, which was okay, because he wasn’t focused on me, either. Apparently, he had the boss up his ass for a mistake he made in the White House that allowed the 123rd president to be assasinated.
It kinda sounds like a big deal, but I’m too focused on my own project to care. And besides, it works. With him distracted, it makes it easier to build a portal inside a building. The less attention he pays to me, the easier it is to survive.
Visions of the real Mr. Kerpetski terrorizing my brand spanking new apartment building spur me on, gasoline in my out of control wildfire of obsession.
Sometimes, I think, if it weren’t for Amanda, I might stay here. Immortality, eternal stacks of legos, free housing, and blood slushies. It’s not so bad here.
But I need Amanda. I need her “like a heart needs a beat,” like that one song says. And I can’t let Mr. Kerpetski kill her (which he most certainly will).
As I study my finished blueprints, the sun is setting. Holy shit. I did all this in a day? That’s honestly not bad. Considering that writing essays takes me a month, designing a buillding in a day is like climbing Mount Everest in thirty minutes with no gear.
It seems like I’ll need a lot of those really nice dark grey metallic legos. Not to mention the glass, and the...
Okay, Nick. Stop focusing so much on the exterior. It’s the inside that matters.
I roll the blueprints up as Alexei returns. He looks tired, his shoulders slumped like a druggie begging for change on a street corner.
“Get anything built?”
“No,” I say, “But I’ve got a blueprint for something cool.”
“Can I see?”
“Uh... no. I want... I want it to be a surprise, you know?”
“You know how I love surprises, Mr. Kerpetski,” Alexei says. “Or maybe you don’t, because of that amnesia stuff.”
“Yeah,” I say with a nervous, high pitched laugh. “So, remember my mortal body? How long do you think it has before it wakes up?”
Alexei shrugs. “I dunno. What, do you like that body or something? You can revisit it next time we have an Earth assignment. I’ll keep tabs on it for you.”
“Really?” I say. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. Thanks.” Alexei gives me a weird look.
“Don’t know why you like that teenage meat sack, but whatever.”
Even his disparaging comments about my “teenage meat sack” can’t get me down. I don’t even have to build a portal! I can just get back any time.
The next time we have an Earth assignment... now that’s the only problem. I get the feeling Earth assignments don’t happen often. But if I don’t get one in the next few days, I’m capital-F-Fucked.
“Hey, Alexei? What do we have to do to get an Earth assignment?”
“Well,” Alexei says. “With big projects, finished buildings and stuff, you can head down. Or, if you’re like me, you can build customs for humans. Like I do for my sister.”
“Big projects? How big?”
“Depends. It also depends on how easy it is to Translate.”
“From our Zeuski materials to Earth materials. We can’t have the Empire State Building made of legos. It just doesn’t work.”
“Huh. Okay. So... If I build a big project, we can hop down to Earth and get my— my host back?” I have to stop myself from saying body.
Alexei studies me, suspicion clouding his black eyes. For a moment, I’m scared I’ve blown it. I got too excited, and now I’ve screwed myself over.
But then Alexei laughs. “You always were a weird one, Mr. Kerpetski. Yes, if you build a big project, you can go jump into your pet human. But it’ll have to be massive.”
I think of my initial idea for the portal. Sure, I’ll have to change some things, but is it big enough? Could it work?
I grin. “Perfect.”
It seems like things are finally looking up. I’ve got a way out. I’ve got a massive building that I need to make in a few days, but I whipped out a blueprint in less than a day, so I think I can do this.
I can do this.
Amanda, I’m coming back to Earth. I’m coming for you. Just hold on. Keep Mr. Kerpetski asleep for just a few more days. I’ll fix this. I’ll fix all of it.
I just need time.
The Architects Chapter Ten: Wake Up Call
“Wake up, Mr. Kerpetski.”
I open my eyes. The blanket feels alien under me. Where am I? Who am I? What’s going o--
Ah. Right. I’m Nick. But I’m pretending to be Mr. Kerpetski so that I don’t get tortured for all eternity. I’m in a realm full of gods and freakish monsters with badass powers, of which I have none. We build Legos all day and use our creations to represent real buildings. My girlfriend is trapped with a man who looks like me but isn’t. I have only a few days before the real Mr. Kerpetski wakes up and everything goes to shit.
“What time is it?” I ask. I look at the floating alarm clock. Yes. Alarm clocks float. Which is probably good, because several times, I’ve tried to whack it and make it shut up.
I always miss. Which is bad, because it means I can’t sleep in, but also good, because if I sleep in, I’ll end up missing work, and missing work means missing my chance to get out of here, and missing my chance to escape means I’ll effectively doom the human race.
“Why are we up?” I ask. “It’s four in the morning. Way before normal work time.”
“You asked me to update you on your human pet. So I am. He’s awake. The girl, too.”
I freeze. It’s less of a slow, frostbite kind of freeze and more of a total, lightning-shock-induced paralysis.
Fuck. He’s awake? Already? I haven’t finished my project. I haven’t even started! And now he’s awake? What am I even supposed to fucking do?
Has he already hurt Amanda? Has the end of the world already begun?
“Come, Mr. Kerpetski,” Alexei says. “But put some pants on first.”
I tug on a pair of sweatpants sitting on the side of the bed. I don’t have time to focus on my appearance right now. All I care about is Amanda.
And also dying. I don’t really want to die. And if Alexei finds out that I’m lying... Well, he’s made my fate clear.
“Where are they?”
“Currently? In a coffee shop, drinking black drip coffees and lamenting their boring lives.”
That stops me cold. That’s what we always do. Every Friday. We always drink the same black coffees at the same coffee shop. It’s our ritual. How would Mr. Kerpetski know about it?
Does being in my body mean he has my memories? Is he pretending to be me? Trying to take my place so he can get closer to Amanda and kill her? Kill everyone?
Unconciously, I speed up, until I’m almost running towards the door. I’m pretty sure it’s the same door we entered from, the big glass one with glowing blue edges and a big EXIT sign on the top.
I’m getting out of here. I’m going to get back to Amanda. I’m going to--
“Mr. Kerpetski, where are you going? You know we don’t have an earth assignment yet. Unless you’ve finished my surprise?”
“Uh... right. No. Yeah.” I realize that I’m not being very coherent, but whatever. I’m so close. So close. And I’m not able to get there. What if I’m already too late? Mr. Kerpetski could already have sunk his meat hooks into Amanda. I’ll never be able to save her. I’ll never be able to get my body back. I’ll be trapped here until Alexei finds out that I’m a fraud, and then I’ll be killed and my atoms will be scattered across the space-time continuum. I don’t really have much brain power to spare on verbal conversation. I’m too busy trying to escape.
But I can’t exactly say that, can I?
“Come. The Window is this way.”
The Window. My view into the real world. I don’t care what Alexei says about my world being fake. It’s not fake. It’s very real, and I intend to save it.
Save it from myself.
Mr. Kerpetski guides me to another door, this one glowing red instead of blue. Inside, it’s like being immersed in virtual reality. I’m literally in another world. I’m in the real world.
Mr. Kerpetski waves a hand, and... bam. We’re in the coffee shop. With Fake Me and Amanda.
I listen and I watch. Fake Me uses the same inside jokes me and Amanda have. He does the same things, talks the same way...
Mr. Kerpetski is good, I’ll give him that.
As I keep watching, a pit of dread keeps growing in my stomach, consuming my insides, eating me alive.
He’s too good. Even if he does have access to my memories, he wouldn’t be able to mimic everything. He’d slip up, somewhere. Reveal something. Anything.
Whoever is in that body... it’s me. But I’m here. So it can’t be. But it is. But it can’t be.
But it most definitely is.
My world is spinning, mind moving so fast that I’m sure the friction is slowly burning away at the walls of my skull.
When we walked through that door, I changed into Mr. Kerpetski’s body. I get the feeling that, if I were anyone else, walking through that door would have changed me into them. Which means that, if I were Nick, I would have stayed Nick. The game would be up. The end. Game over.
But I changed into Mr. Kerpetski.
Which means... even though I have Nick’s memories... even though I have Nick’s feelings, his thoughts, his desires... I am not Nick.
I am Mr. Kerpetski.