The journey from Mars complete, all we had left to do was calculate the trajectory and land in the water, and I’d figured since we were landing smack in the middle of The Ocean we’d be totally fine but Morioh was waiting for us and we slammed straight into the Arrow Cross House, so whoops, too bad, we’re all dead. Or so I thought but when I woke up I was there, alive, and Narancia and Pucci were waking up too looking surprised they’d both survived and I could tell the stuff around us wasn’t the space ship but Cars turned into a sphere. Like a small version of the Eyed Balloon. Cars made a tear in the round walls, and we stepped out and it was either dusk or dawn cause it was chilly and dimly lit and there were stars and the moon in the sky. About half the sky was bright and half was dark. I looked for the North star. I found Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper, and then the North Star. The bright half of the sky was West, so this must be evening. Under the starry sky was an unfamiliar countryside, hilly, but no mountains, like Morioh but not the same. Wheat fields, not rice paddies. The houses I could see in the distance weren’t Japanese style but brick and stone, like old European landscapes. Then a gust of wind blew by and I caught of whiff of something sweet and turned around. Remnants of the spaceship were stuck to the outside of the Cars sphere, and Cars’ flesh was melting, smoke rising off it, making a bubbling noise. And the smell wasn’t that of animal flesh burning, but weirdly sweet, like fruit.
“Cars, you OK there?”
I asked, and Cars slowly returned to humanoid form, but had clearly taken quite a bit of damage. He wasn’t steady on his feet.
“The extra mes covering the ship burned up just above the surface,”
he said, hoarsely.
“Seems we were one me short.”
But he couldn’t exactly have just waited one more loop and obtained another extra Cars. And in this thirty-seventh universe, I met an astronaut
named Funnier Valentine, Cars had said. So even as the universe looped itself there were things that happened every time and things that didn’t.
“No, 36 should have been enough,”
Enrico Pucci unilaterally declared. Don’t think the number 36 will just work everywhere forever, I thought, but Pucci was lost in thought and didn’t even glance my way. Then I realized; Pucci was hung up on the idea of 36 souls. I could hear him muttering to himself.
“It wouldn’t have worked without 36. 36 is 12 x 3. 12 and 3 are both holy numbers in Christianity.”
The code in the Way to Heaven had clearly possessed Pucci.
Have the courage to cast aside your Stand, and as your Stand withers, it will gather 36 souls, and give birth to something new. It will befriend he who says the fourteen words. The place is 28.24 degrees North, 80.36 degrees West.
As far as the first phrase went, the only part of that that had happened was the number 36. Thirty-six Cars were assembled, but that wasn’t because anyone had thrown away a Stand. The ultimate thing had simply survived the death of the universe 36 times. And nothing ‘new’ had been born. As far as the Fourteen Words, these did seem to be lining up.
From this list, Pucci had clearly chosen to interpret Morioh and Nero Nero Island moving as ‘rhinoceros beetles’, and that made sense to me. They seemed to have pretty burly legs, and though they’d split open, they’d started out with those barriers on their back, armored. But if the phrase ‘rhinoceros beetle’ showed up four times, were there two other moving islands out there? I was also on board with calling our falling on the Arrow Cross House
“Via Dolorosa”. And because we’d fallen there, we were still alive, I guess? Giotto was clearly the probes Cars had made his ship out of. Otherwise…? I went back through events, and understood why Pucci had reacted to what Cars said. Cars had described the Earth as a a water vessel, which was the etymology of the word ‘hydrangea’.
28.24 degrees North, 80.36 degrees West was the location on Mars where we’d found Cars. So considering all these symbols,
it made sense that the Way to Heaven involved making friends with Cars, but did it really? The Ultimate Thing viewed us as food, so could we be friends? I couldn’t imagine it, and the scale of his every action was petrifying, but he had protected us from burning up on reentry. The idea was only just starting to settle in, since I hadn’t expected him to do anything like that, but saving us had come at no small sacrifice. He was standing bolt upright, his legs slightly apart, and the burns covering his body were visibly healing. A pus was squirting out of the wounds with an oozing, popping noise, and when it hit the ground it sizzled and evaporated.
“Yikes, that looks painful. Anything we can do?”
I asked, but he ignored me. Clearly, there was nothing I could do. But I said,
“Thanks for saving us,”
“You saved our asses! Thanks, dude! But why did you save us?”
Focused on healing himself, Cars did not deign to respond.
Narancia said, turning to me.
“Maybe we should run for it right now. Seems like he ain’t moving.”
“? Run? Where to?”
“Where Buccellati is.”
“Narancia, look around you. This isn’t Morioh or Nero Nero Island.”
He spun around, flustered.
“Uh…hunh? Seriously? Where the fuck are we?”
“But we fell right on top of Morioh and Nero Nero Island! I saw them!”
“Yeah, so did I.”
Specifically, we’d fallen right on top of the Arrow Cross House. So what had happened? Where had we ended up this time? Narancia dropped a few hundred tiny Das Boots on the grass, and sent them out in all directions to scout. Which reminded
me that I was still borrowing a Das Boot from Cars, so I did the same thing.
“Unlike Mars, there’s trees and grass! So nice! I ♡Earth!”
Narancia crowed. He had a point. The sky above us was the same sunset I’d seen all my life; the moon was bright, the stars were twinkling, and the countryside around us might be unfamiliar, but was comfortingly real. We could breathe without spacesuits, and the gravity didn’t make our movements heavy or light. This was Earth. So what about it was bugging me so much?
“I’m going in the houses, but there’s nobody there,”
Narancia said, peering into his headset periscope.
“Every house is empty. What the…? Oh, a town sign. Mm? Is this English? Wa…was…wast…”
I said, and kinda snatched the periscope off Narancia. There was a dirt road that crossed a grassy creek via a stone bridge, and right in front of it was a wooden sign, painted green, that read
“Wastewood? Well, that does sound like English. Is this America somewhere?”
But American countryside didn’t look like this. America would have paved roads so the cars could drive easier. The rivers would have flood control. The bridges would be concrete or at least have guardrails. But I saw no signs of any government work like that. Were we just that deep in the country? But did anywhere still look like this, these days? There were wheat fields and homes. If people used the roads, they’d have to pave them so cars could use them…but as I looked through the periscope, I figured out the reason. One Das Boot found a large manor, and entered the grounds. There was indeed a car sitting in the driveway, but it was a classic car. Like in a Sherlock Holmes movie. Like they’d taken the horses off a rich man’s carriage, and added four small tires. It matched the styling on the old manor, but it looked well-used for something a hobbyist kept. Like someone had just dumped it there. I got close, and this went beyond poorly
maintained; it looked to have been straight up abandoned there, at the mercy of the elements. The entire body was covered in a thick layer of dust; I couldn’t even see in through the square windows. But it didn’t look like it had been left there a century ago, either.
“Can’t find anybody,”
Narancia said, looking at the periscope over my shoulder.
“Yeah. But it doesn’t see like the place was abandoned a hundred years or anything.”
“A hundred years?”
I showed him a view from a different Das Boot, one that was looking into a small shop. It was a general store, and the packaging on everything was antique. And there were newspapers on sale by the door. The Das Boot was parked next to them, close in on the title and date. The Daily Mirror. November 11th, 1920.
That was 92 years ago. Were these really for sale? But the paper looked real, and so did everything else in the shop. There was a reality to the details.
“1920? How many years ago is that? Um…it’s 2012, so…20-12=8 and 20-19=1 so 18 years ago!? Before I was born!”
One should not become a gangster so young, I thought.
“92 years ago.”
Narancia flew into a rage, but I was used to it by now. I ignored him and began checking other Das Boots. There were Das Boots riding fish and birds, and I saw a lot of animals besides humans. They all seemed to be doing just fine. Only the humans had gone missing. One riding…I guess a butterfly? I could see big white wings flapping on the sides of the screen, and it was bobbing up and
down in the air as it flew. Anyway, it went in through the window of a home. Old art deco style furniture, and dishes on the table. Like they’d been eating a moment ago. Breakfast? They’d been eating a simple meal of bread and soup and coffee, but the people eating here had left more than a few minutes ago. These dishes had to have been there at least a month. The bread in the basket was almost all eaten by bugs, soup had dried in the bowls, the halfboiled vegetables rotting. The inside of the coffee cops was stained pitch black. What could have happened that caused the people living here to leave their dishes on the table, and never come back? The butterfly the Das Boot was riding fluttered further into the house when Narancia said,
“Hey, Jorge, your name’s Jorge Joestar, right?”
“…? Yes. Why?”
I peered over at Narancia’s screen, and saw a huge garden outside a large manor, with rows of tables and chairs, white ribbons and crosses hung everywhere. Also quite a lot of what had once been flowers. There were glasses and bottles on the tables. Like they’d been left there, not after the party, but, based on how little of the wine had been drunk, since before the party began. Beyond the tables was a white carpet running down the center, with rows of chairs lined up on either side, and an alter at the front. This was obviously a wedding venue, a wedding that had never taken place. In the dim evening light the abandoned party setup looked deeply forlorn. Near the garden entrance was some sort of welcome board, and as the bird Das Boot was riding passed by it, I had just enough time to read it. It read:
Welcome to the Wedding Reception for Jorge Joestar and
“Eh heh heh. See? Something to look forward to, eh?”
While Narancia yucked it up, I remembered something. In my world, there is another Jorge Joestar. That Jorge spelled his name the same way I preferred, so I figured right away that this was the Jorge Joestar Tsukumojuku had talked about. Tsukumojuku had come from 1904, from a world with a weirdo map. So was this La Palma? No, the Canary Islands were Spanish, so I doubt there was anywhere named Wastewood there, and the English only welcome board made little sense either. Since this other Jorge Joestar was a pure-bred Englishman, perhaps this was England? As I thought, the bird Das Boot was riding flew away from the house out of the front gate, and I saw a post box outside. There was a name written it; Joestar. This must be Jorge Joestar’s family home, and he’d been planning to get married in the garden. So perhaps there were more things belonging to this other Jorge inside the house. I wasn’t sure what checking those out would tell us, but I was curious.
“Narancia, I’d like to head to this Jorge Joestar’s house.”
“Hunh? Fuck yeah! Let’s do this! Ain’t accomplishing shit just standing around here!”
I turned towards Cars. Behind him Pucci seemed to have just become aware of his surroundings.
“Where…is this? What happened?”
“We aren’t sure yet,”
“But it’s possible we’ve gone back in time. Speed is a big factor in time travel, so maybe the ship’s falling speed was a little too fast.”
As I said it, I remembered that the speeds required would be close to light speed, and the air resistance on reentry would be so great that we’d never get
anywhere close to that. Our speed was slow enough we’d have landed safely if we’d touched down in the ocean. So what had happened? I wondered if Cars had used some power, but guessing out loud wasn’t going to get us anywhere.
“Anyway, if we’ve time traveled, it’s 1920, and…we appear to be in England. In a town called Wastewood.”
I waited to see if he reacted at all to this; after all, England was a myth, and was not supposed to actually exist. But Pucci just nodded.
“I see. Then we should head for the capital, London.”
“Something waits for us in ‘Desolation Row’,”
Pucci said, with great but unsubstantiated conviction. London? I still wasn’t sure the place actually existed, but we definitely needed to start moving, either way. We’d definitely fallen on Morioh, but instead we found ourselves wherever this Wastewood was. There was an entrance in Morioh, and the exit lay here. If we found that exit, maybe we could get back.
Narancia interrupted this chain of thought.
“Mm? Hunh? Found someone.”
He was staring at my screen, so I took a look, and the butterfly from earlier had fluttered into a storehouse or closet or basement or I dunno, a dark room of some sorts, and in the center of it stood three people. They were all men, and looked pretty beat up. There were rips in their old-fashioned shirts and pants, and one’s entire ass was exposed. The three of them were standing stock still in the center of the room, their faces very close together. Were they discussing something secret? But as the butterfly got closer, I could tell – it wasn’t three men, but three men and a little girl, about five years old, and the three strong men all had their teeth sunk in her neck, leaving the rest of her dangling in the air, hiding her until we were right up close.
“What in the
name of fuck!?”
Narancia yelped. I was pretty shocked myself. All three men had their eyes closed, but the man on the right swallowed, and the other two men twitched, and tried to pull the girl towards them. The man who’d swallowed wasn’t about to give her up, and pulled back. Since all three men were fighting to sink their teeth in her neck I got a good look at them; their mouths were filled with fangs, sunk deep into the body of the little girl. Three men were fighting to eat this kid. Another one swallowed, so it seemed safe to assume they were drinking her blood. But they weren’t just gulping away, so perhaps the three of them were taking their time, not wanting to waste her? After all, there was nobody else in town.
“Shit! Load up!”
“Fire! Shoot them!”
Psst psst psst, three cruise missiles shot out of the Das Boot, leveled out, and hit each of the men in the head, thwack thwack thwack. Their heads split open but no blood or brains came out. The girl fell to the ground in the middle, and looked for all the world like she was already dead, but… It’s like a zombie movie. The dead bite people, and those bit or who come in contact with their saliva turn and attack other humans, Shiobana had said. No way, I thought, and a moment later the girl stood up, her eyes showing only whites. Her little mouth opened wide enough her cheeks split, showing an awful lot of fangs.
“…what the…that’s not human!”
“It’s a zombie,”
“Narancia. Shoot the kid.”
“Ehh? I can’t do that!”
“Then Narancia, bring your Das Boots back here.”
I’d just cottoned on to our surroundings. There
were figures standing in the wheat fields around us. All I could make out was their silhouettes in the darkness, but they were shaped like people. But they didn’t feel like people. Things that looked human but weren’t were staring at us. We were already surrounded.
I hissed, but I guess they heard me, because the shadows around us all started closing in, and we could soon see the drool running down their chins, the nasty bared fangs.
“The dead are walking…”
“The end of the world draws nigh.”
Brushing off his dire words, I called back my Das Boots, and let out a hail of missiles, roaring into the explosions. Zombie after zombie exploded. Narancia’s Das Boots joined us, and we took out nearly all the zombies, but two made it through the fields and were right on top of us.
Horrible groans and horrible fangs and our missiles weren’t gonna be in time but just before they got us Pucci’s White Snake punched each one in the head so hard it split open.
“The end of the world is but the prelude to the arrival of Heaven,”
Pucci said. That was ominous.
More zombies were gathering. Narancia gathered his Das Boots and formed a big one, and we climbed in. Cars was still looming in place, emitting smoke, and when I suggested we get him on board Narancia looked reluctant, but Pucci insisted,
“We need all elements gathered so far. We can’t afford to leave anything behind.”
This astronaut was sounding more and more like a prophet. But apparently saying things with no discernible basis but oodles of confidence was the trick to overruling Narancia, like he assumed
there must be some reason beyond his comprehension or no one would act like that, and just went along with it. The boy had no faith in his own ability to think through things or work things out, and thus was easily dragged into the flow of forceful personalities. So I put my own oar in, too.
“For the same reason, we’ll need to check out this Joestar manor.”
At this, not just Pucci, but Cars, who’d been so busy healing he hadn’t even adjusted his gaze all this while, turned and looked at me.
Hunh? Uh-oh, I thought, but I soon switched to ‘oh well’ instead. I was feeling much the same way as Pucci was. Everything has meaning.
Narancia’s Das Boot took us through a meadow and some woods before we reached the Joestar manor. I hopped out of the sub and checked the mailbox. This was definitely the Joestar home. Then we sailed into the garden, knocking tables and chairs aside, did a circuit of the main building, parked outside the entrance, and I hopped out again, went up on the porch, and peered inside through the window nearest the front door. I was super careful while peeping, worried that there were a bunch of vampiric zombies clustered inside. The lofty entrance was empty, but I thought I saw someone moving down the back hallway. I reached my hand out to the door, and knocked. But there was no response.
I called, softly, but aloud. No reply. I sensed someone behind me – Narancia, I figured – and turned around to receive quite a shock. The figure behind me had its face painted white, green
stars around its eyes, larger lips painted over its actual lips, and brightly colored clothes. It was a clown.
“Who are youuuuu!?”
the clown shrieked, in high-pitched English. As it did, there was a huge racket as the front porch came apart like a tornado struck it, but instead of falling the bits combined in mid-air forming a wall leading to the porch roof. Beyond the porch wreckage wall, I could hear Narancia screaming,
“Jooooorge! What are you doing!? Ruuuun!”
I was too surprised by the clown to react in time, and the walls were already closed around me. Locked in here, in the dark, face to face with a clown. Uh… Narancia started trying to break down the walls imprisoning me, and I gave it a kick or two and tried ripping bits of wood off with my hands, but I didn’t get anywhere. In fact, I could no longer reach the walls. Before I knew it a rope made of the same wood bits as the walls had dropped down from the ceiling, wrapped itself around my neck, pulled tight, and was pulling at me, trying to drag me off the floor and strangle me. The clown laughed.
“If you’re not Penelope’s friend, you’ll have to hang yourself!”
Penelope? A girl’s name?
A clown. A locked room. The noose on my neck pulled me high enough off the ground my feet couldn’t reach the floor, and was getting very tight around my throat, but those two keywords jobbed my memory.
“Stop! I’m not the Locked Room Maestro!”
I yelled. The clown took a close look at my face. Thought so.
“Unh…Ja…Javier Cortez…is… Javier Cortez is
The Spanish police on La Palma beat him to death with their nightsticks, and sank his body in the sea at night.
It was like the soul left the clown’s body. His whole body went stiff, then began to spin faster and faster until it exploded, and the walls around me and the rope on my neck went with it. The floor of the porch collapsed. As I sat their coughing, I heard footsteps come running. The front door was flung open, and a Latin beauty came out.
she said, looking around, and without thinking, I said,
But when her gaze found me she looked very perplexed.
“Nice to meet you,”
“My name’s Jorge Joestar.”
“Don’t be ridiculous!”
she said, fixing me with a furious glare. She was clearly looking for the other Jorge, Tsukumojuku’s friend.
“I’m not, I swear! Penelope, right?”
She’d been the one controlling that clown, then. I took my wallet out of my back pocked, pulled out a business card, and handed it to her. My name was written on it, and not using the spelling on my passport or other official documents.
Jorge Joestar Detective
“? What do you mean, detective? Are you a cop?”
“I’m a private detective,”
“The kind that inevitably ends up solving the mystery.”
“? What are you talking about?”
“Have you not read Sherlock Holmes?”
Was this the real England? Had Conan Doyle not made the place up, after all?
“Oh…but why…you’re a Chinaman, aren’t you?”
“…Japanese, but I’m an English citizen.”
“Japan…oh…are you friends with Tsukumojuku, then?”
At the mention of his name every cell in my body shivered. I knew it. There was the world Tsukumojuku had come from. And after Tsukumojuku had left, something very strange had happened on this island.
“By the way, what in the hell is happening here? I mean, are you OK? Are you the only one here? Alive, I mean.”
As I was asking, Narancia yelled over me,
“Hey, Jorge! Who is she?”
in Italian, and Penelope’s attitude changed dramatically.
“I am the only one here. I have no idea what is happening. You need not concern yourself with me. Please leave.”
And with that, she tried to shut the door. Clearly she did not want to invite strangers in, but from behind her came a gentle voice.
A woman stepped into view, and the moment I saw her it felt as if the air around me had grown thin, and yet a strange warmth swept over me at the same time. Physics suggested if the air pressure dropped, so would the temperature, and yet…wait, that was irrelevant. Anyway, this woman was about forty years old, beautiful, and possessed of the sort of sincerity that ensured you’d feel horribly guilty if you ever betrayed or tricked her, a sort of solemnity that instantly stressed me out, but at the same time made you feel that if she was handling things, everything would work out just fine in the end.
“Let me greet our guests, at least,”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Erina Joestar. You’re Jorge Joestar?”
She was just standing in front of me, but her class and elegance had me breathless. I took far too long to answer.
“You seem awfully young. If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?”
“Would you perhaps be Japanese?”
“Um, yes. Sorry, I keep stammering, I’m not usually this nervous meeting people.”
“Ha ha ha, that’s quite all right. Please, be at ease.”
No, even your gentle chuckles are bowling me over here, no way I can relax. Behind me, Narancia was growing irritated.
“Dude, stop fucking around! You learn anything from them yet?”
God, he was rude. I went bright red.
“Heh, your companion is certainly a lively one.”
Erina said, glancing over my shoulder.
“Who the fuck is this granny? It’s fuck dangerous around here! You bringing her with us or not? Make up your fucking mind!”
“God damn it, Narancia! Shut up!”
I yelled, wheeling around…and there were three zombies running up behind him that he hadn’t noticed.
out, I began, but before I got the words out snap snap snap three phone booth sized boxes popped up and swallowed the zombies. These boxes were made from the dirt and grass in the yard. Just like the locked room that had swallowed me was made from the front porch. I caught Penelope’s eye, and she just sniffed huffily. Scary, but a little bit cute.
“These grounds are completely safe. But those things do keep trying.”
By those things, she must mean the zombies, but just what was happening inside those boxes? Was a clown appearing inside each of them to hang the zombies? I glanced around and there
were several other booths dotted around the garden, some fully intact, others crumbling, with holes in them, or only the bottom of the walls remaining. Through the holes I could see what lay inside, and there was a zombie hanging from a noose, but there was nothing below the zombie’s neck. Penelope saw me looking and said,
“They struggle after being hung, so they rip their own heads off.”
No sooner were the words out of her mouth than three splats came from the new booths.
“”See? But I’d prefer Erina not see that sort of thing. Would you please go now? Hmph, such weird clothes.”
I looked back at Erina.
“Excuse me. How did you know I was Japanese?”
“I’ve been running a trading company for some time now. I’ve done business with Japanese people in the past. Based on the inflections in your English, and…perhaps your facial features? You have a soft smile that’s very particular to Japanese culture.”
“I do? I mean, I guess people do say I look like an idiot.”
“And I knew a boy about your age. I believe he called himself a detective as well.”
“Yeah…I assume you mean Tsukumojuku?”
“Yes. He was friends with my son. Perhaps his only friend, at the time. So they were always together in middle school. We lived in the Canary Islands then, but that boy had to return to Japan quite suddenly, and my son was already quite upset by that when we learned that his ship had capsized. We kept the news from him for a while, but…if you know Tsukumojuku, then did he not die after all?”
Well, not in the ship crash.
“Where are you from?”
How should I answer that? From Morioh? From Mars? Um.
“Tsukumojuku had family in Japanese Fukui Prefecture, in a small town called Nishi Akatsuki. I live there, too. It’s quite far away. But I
met Tsukumojuku there, and quite a lot happened, and now I’m here.”
Really a lot had happened.
“Quite a lot?”
Erina echoed. Perhaps she picked up on the scale of things, though I doubted she could have known their full measure.
“But you did not arrive here by any ordinary means.”
“…no, we didn’t. Um, sorry, I forgot to ask but…how is it that the dead come to walk around attacking the living?”
“We still don’t know the reason. But I supposed that is for me and you and your friends to figure out.”
“Jorge Joestar, do you believe in destiny?”
Erina asked, looking me right in the eye.
I said, unable to suppress a smile at what I was about to say.
“I not only believe in destiny, I make a living from doing so.”
Anyone calling themselves a detective did. Erina gave me that lovely laugh of hers again.
“Well said. Jorge Joestar from very far away, I am glad that we met.”
“Um, yeah. Oh, sorry, I’m…aaaugh.”
“Ha ha ha.”
“Um, excuse me?”
“Where are you going and what are you going to do there?’
“Hunh? Well…apparently this is England, so we were talking about going to London.”
“I’m not really sure, but we’re looking for Desolation Row. Kinda seems like anyone still living will have fled London, too.”
“Why are you looking for that?”
Why were we? I wasn’t sure, maybe just the narrative flow lead us to it? I laughed at the idea. We were finding Pucci’s metaphors one after another, and using them to guide us. I couldn’t offer any other explanation for our situation, and I couldn’t help but laugh at that.
“We’re looking for the Way to Heaven. Ha ha ha.”
“The Way to Heaven!?”
Erina said. I was surprised by her surprise. I wondered if this mess, with all the zombies, made that line sound like suicide.
“No, I’m sure it’s nothing all that serious…”
I said, trying to cover.
“Well…I know this is coming out of the blue,”
“But can I come with you? You came from far away, right? I can protect you, I’m sure. Erina, I’m sorry. Do you mind if I go? My clowns will still protect the manor even if I’m gone, and I’ll come back as fast as I can.”
Hunh? But zombies weren’t that big a threat. We didn’t really need a girl to come protect us, I thought, but then rethought it; perhaps this was another important narrative being introduced. But Erina looked dubious.
“You’re a girl, after all.”
“…But Lisa Lisa…Elizabeth is already…”
Penelope suddenly sounded like she was about to cry.
“I…I do hate to put it like this, Erina, but if I stay where it’s safe just because I’m a girl and it’s scary and dangerous then I feel like I’ll just wind up left behind by all the boys. Elizabeth puts herself in danger, and nearly dies, but in the end she got to be with Jorge when it really mattered! She was happy, I know it!”
This seemed to strike a nerve with Erina, and she thought hard on it. Penelope turned to me.
“I know it’s a sudden request, but take me with you. I promise I won’t get in the way.”
“It’s dangerous? You probably shouldn’t?”
“I know it’s dangerous.”
“Please. And this whole mess is, in a large part, my fault. So I’d like to see if there’s anything I can do about it.”
“You made the zombies?”
“I wouldn’t do that! But I did turn the entire island of Great Britain into a locked room.”
The sheer scale of that statement left me at a loss for words. But at the same time, then she was definitely the cause of this state of affairs, I thought.
“Then I guess you have a right to be involved.”
But holy hell, how big was this locked room?
“Even so, I’d really advise against it…”
“I’m traveling with some pretty weird people.”
“But you’re with them, too? Don’t worry, I can look after myself.”
The Ultimate Thing ignored basically everything that passed for common sense with humans, though…
“I just can’t agree, Penelope,”
“It’s too risky.”
Penelope wasn’t having it.
“I’m going. Erina, thank you for everything. I was very happy. But I can’t take it any more. With Jorge gone, there’s something dark and hot and heavy churning around inside my chest and stomach and down below, chewing away at me from the inside. If I don’t hang every last zombie in England that churn is gonna eat me alive.”
“So please. I won’t demand your approval, but at the least, don’t stop me.”
“Ha ha. But I promise I’m coming back! Coming back alive! At the very least I’ll bring Elizabeth back with me. I’m not about to be the only one sitting around biding my time! Ah ha ha!”
Even her laugh was choked with tears. Erina put her arms around Penelope, and drew her close.
“Then go, Penelope. Just be sure you come back. I can’t lose any more family!”
“Mm! I’ll come back safe and sound. Sorry, this means you’ll have to look after Joseph all by yourself, I know.”
“Joseph will be fine. Straits and the others come to check on us from time to time.”
And like that, we’d gained a new companion, but…Joseph?.
Both women turned and stared at me as one.
I had them show me baby Joseph Joestar. There was a baby carriage in the room just off the entrance hall, and he was sleeping inside. His father was Jorge, and his mother Lisa Lisa/Elizabeth Joestar. So he might be a Joseph Joestar, but not the same one who was my adopted great-grandfather. That Joseph Joestar’s father was Jodoh, and his mother was Maria Urias Zeppeli. But I felt like there was some resemblance. Something inherently rascaly to him. Even as a baby. But most likely, this baby would become the man who went up against the Ultimate Cars this time, and sent him to the ends of space. He was a newborn, and already a bad ass. I grinned at the thought, but I had other fish to fry.
“Hmm, so this is Joseph as a baby. You can already see it in his face,”
Cars said, leaning in beside me. His wounds were totally healed. I froze to the spot, my mind utterly blank. Erina and Penelope both threw themselves between the half-naked man and the baby, protectively.
“Bwa ha ha ha ha! Fear not! I do not make a habit of killing children! And because this man sent me to me every time I am here before you! Besides, if I harmed him who knows how history
would be altered! Come, let us return to the place and time from whence we came, Jorge Joestar!”
Cars said, and walked away. I was so relieved. My knees were rattling.
“What was that!? What is he!?”
Penelop said, tears in her eyes.
“I never saw him come in!”
“That’s…one of my traveling companions,”
“You sure you’re up for traveling with a half-naked mystery man?”
I definitely thought she shouldn’t, but Penelope swallowed once, loudly, and said,
“I’ll be fine.”
She paused, then added,
“But he’s very scary.”
“I’m scared of him, too.”
Then I took Penelope de la Roza back to Das Boot. Narancia was hanging out inside, looking bored, and when he saw us he yelled,
“Yo, what the fuck, you picked up a girl? Here? Now!? Are you completely stupid!? Are you fucked in the head?”
He cackled wildly but I ignored him. Cars and Pucci were waiting inside, too, so I introduced Penelope to them, and explained that she was joining us on our trip to London, but neither of them seemed particularly interested. Pucci simply glanced at her face once, and went back to whatever he was thinking about it, so I let it be.
“OK, motherfuckers! Let’s go!”
Narancia yelled, but I was the only one who yelled,
“Yeah! Let’s go!”
“So, aren’t you ‘companions’? Why’s the mood so tense?”
Penelope asked. Right, I’d better fill her in.
“Penelope, you met him a moment ago, but this is Cars. He’s the Ultimate Living Being. And the gentleman in the space suit is the astronaut, Enrico Pucci.”
“Nice to meet you,”
Penelope said, but neither reacted.
“This is a little uncomfortable,”
she whispered, but there was not much I could do to change that.
But when Penelope explained what was happening here in England, Pucci’s expression changed dramatically. Penelope told us of Jorge Joestar’s life, of the fifteen locked room mysteries created by the Locked Room Maestro, Javier Cortez. She told us about her power to turn any material into a locked room, manifest a clown within to hang anyone trapped inside and make it look like a suicide.
“Jorge Joestar called powers like this Wounds. They are abilities born of pain inflicted over and over again.”
I remembered what Cars had said about the bow and arrow he’d made. In theory…to protect their own lives from the fatal wound, their talents would blossom, the energy would heal the wounds, and they would discover special abilities previously hidden within them. A wound – being damaged – could give you powers beyond what others had. What did it mean to recover, to heal? As a body attempted to heal itself, it must want to avoid suffering the same injury again, and provide a tool to protect itself. In that sense, both Stands and Wounds were a manifestation of inner emotions. Emotions given form. Thinking about this and listening to Penelope, she got to the mass suicide in the church on La Palma. The pictures of the mothman drawn while on fire.
“It took ten years for Jorge to find out,”
“But when humans are imagining something out of anxiety or fear, what they imagine remains behind, collects, haunts, and can even take on concrete form. That’s how there can be a spider with gorilla legs lurking in the darkness underground, how people can die painting pictures of the mothman on land, and why gremlins appear in the air.”
Gremlins? Like Mogwai and them? The Joe Dante movie Spielberg produced? Come to think of it, there was a scene where
a character is grumbling about having to send foreign made goods off to be repaired all the time because gremlins live inside and cause trouble.
“Airplanes are very new, and changing rapidly, so there’s a lot of trial and error, and people get anxious, which gave rise to the gremlins,”
Penelope explained. I was nodding as she spoke, but my understanding was quickly turned on its head. The zombie that had plagued Jorge Joestar as a child, Antonio Torres.
“Antonio had a Wound that allowed him to shed his entire skin once a year. He’d followed Jorge to England, and was attacking airplane pilots – this was the start of the stories about gremlins.”
And at last her story took us to recent events, events from a month before.
“A commander in the air force, where Jorge served, was actually possessed by Antonio Torres. When Jorge found out, he was killed…”
Penelope was silent for a moment before continuing.
“I went to the commander’s house with Elizabeth. It was here, in Wastewood. I saw Elizabeth kill that commander. Antonio Torres was inside his body, and Elizabeth…she was beyond furious. I could tell it was all she could do to keep herself from going mad. She’s normally so calm, and quick witted, but she said only one thing. ‘I’m going to kill every last one of you.’ But I don’t think there’s any way she can do that. Before she killed Antonio Torres, he said,
“Just go ahead and try! There’s 920,000 of me!”
And that same day, 920,000 Antonios surrounded Great Britain, and I accidentally made a giant locked room out of his bodies.”
Penelope trailed off, dejected. Cars had been listening with a massive grin on his face.
“The attempted invasion of England in 1915,”
“A few dozen units to attack the Hamon warriors, a few hundred to bombard London, but of those few hundred, the pilots themselves were zombies, and the sun wasn’t out, so there was no need for Antonio Torres’ power. In which case we can
assume no more than a thousand Antonios, at most, were used up in the war. If Antonio Torres became a zombie in 1900, and each Antonio shed a skin once a year, that’s 14 sheds by 1915, or two to the power of fourteen, so there should have been exactly 16,384 Antonios. Assuming a thousand perished, that leaves us 15,384. Then five more years passed until 1920, and each of the previous fifteen years of Antonios increased by two to the power of six, leaving us with 984,576. In twenty years, Antonio increased himself to nearly a million. But according to Penelope de la Roza, her wall was made from 920,000. So what happened to the 60,000 Antonios that did not die in the war or get turned into a wall?”
Penelope had no answer. Cars chuckled.
“What? Never thought to count the zombies before? If there was 60,000 zombies out there, they can turn ten times that many humans into zombies. I don’t mean one can take on ten men – one can take on two. But if one has to go after ten men, then if it manages to turn the first two, that’s three against seven, and a moment later all ten are zombies. Even if humans manage to win with their ten to one odds, seven versus seventy leads to all out panic, and if they have seventy zombies, a town of a thousand humans is wiped out. Ignoring the existence of 60,000 zombies is rather foolish.”
Right. From what I’d heard, the zombies here were nothing like the living dead created by George A Romero. They could think, and they retained skills and knowledge they’d had in life. A former pilot could still fly a plane, and they could even learn to fly one after becoming a zombie. Even a trained fighting force would be thrown into a panic if zombies appeared amongst them. At least 60,000? Trying to picture that nightmare in any concrete terms made me dizzy. Antonio Torres was just a flat skin, so if we folded him up and put him away maybe he wouldn’t spread out that much…but that was just my imagination running
away from it. This was a zombie that could fly under his own power, and knew how to fly a plane, too. If he tried doing anything to humanity, he’d be a fearsome enemy. This reminded me of the news Shiobana had given me as we fell to Earth in the collection of Giottos. There are actual reports of patients in Sardinia and the Touhoku region of Japan going berserk and attacking people. Their symptoms are contagious, and the number of victims is rising. It’s like a zombie movie. I’d remembered far too late in all the commotion, but it sure sounded like zombies had shown up in modern Japan and Italy as well. But that was 2012, not here, and in modern times, a few dozen times through the birth and death of the universe. What connection could there be between the zombie outbreak here and the news of zombies in our own time? Was a massive zombie outbreak just something that happened at least once in every history? It wasn’t out of the question. Our universe had produced Cars, the Ultimate Thing, every time, blown him out into space, and gathered him on the dark side of Mars. I’d gone my whole life without knowing the food chain had Cars and the other pillar men at the top, vampires below them, and zombies below that. They’d always been there. Of course, there were not many zombies who could fly. Zombies were humans to begin with, and there were almost no humans who could fly. Shiobana had also said, I suppose the key difference from the movies is that there are rumors of flying zombies. If flying zombies existed, then did that mean our time also had an Antonio Torres?
Had something caused Antonio Torres to time travel? I soon
realized the obvious way that might have occurred. Tsukumojuku had left La Palma, and fallen through time in the Bermuda Triangle. He’d arrived in Nishi Akatsuki, in 2012. I remembered what Tsukumojuku had said in the hospital. Come to think of it, I had Antonio Torres, 1900 – his skin – in my luggage…did it arrive here with me? I was gathering my belongings right before I passed out, and I’m certain I had the tube it was in slung over my shoulder.
Tsukumojuku had disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle in 1904. If a zombie Antonio Torres (zombified in 1900) had traded places with the skin sample, Antonio Torres, 1900, and traveled through time with Tsukumojuku, then…he’d been a zombie four years, so two to the power of four was sixteen, and that number was then reduced to fifteen. That number then doubled yearly and eleven years later, 1915, during the attempted invasion of England those fifteen would be two to the power of ten, and 15,360. Assuming a thousand had died that day, 14,360 would increase over the five years until 1920, and including the peeling day from ’15, that was two to the power of six, giving us about 919,040 Antonios. Since the assumption that a thousand had been lost in 1915 was a high estimate, the final figure of 919,040 was fairly close to how many there actually were. So Antonio Torres wasn’t hiding another 60,000 of himself somewhere, the two to the power of twenty math simply hadn’t reflected all actual events. One Antonio Torres had left 1904 and was making zombies in 2012, in Nishi Akatsuki. How long had it been since Tsukumojuku arrived in Nishi Akatsuki? It was less than a day, I was sure. But if their movements were already visible, that spoke volumes about how fast and strong they were at propagating. No, in 2012 there were already zombies, I just hadn’t known about them. Had they
made contact with Antonio Torres and started the outbreak? In both Japan and Italy? Seemed a bit too far apart, but maybe it had something to do with Morioh and Nero Nero Island turning into rhinoceros beetles? Of course it did. There’s no way that was just coincidence. Here in England, the island of Great Britain, Penelope had said she’d made a wall out of the zombies, but if that was the armor and it were to grow legs and this massive island turned into a really huge rhinoceros beetle…this thought made me jump to my feet. I went out of the room, up to the bridge, up a ladder, opened the hatch, and looked up at the orange Western sky from the highest place on Das Boot as it sailed through the forests and meadows on its way to London. The sky was still fairly bright. There was no substantial difference between the sky now and the sky when we’d first arrived. The west was bright and the east dark, stars and moon visible in only half the sky. We’d been here over two hours, but the sun still looked to have just vanished over the horizon, and stuck there. Or in this world, had time itself stopped? Or, I thought, was this island racing after the sun across the surface of the ocean? Onwards to the west. Towards the center of the Atlantic Ocean, the ocean that didn’t exist in my world. But if we were keeping up with the sun, we must be going really fast. Was it the armor that kept us feeling the G-forces and wind? When Morioh started moving, we hadn’t noticed until Arrow Cross House moved, and we looked down at the sea from the top of the hill. Same thing. No joke. Great Britain was the third rhinoceros beetle. We were riding the back of it again. Someone else came up on the bridge behind me, asking what was up, and of course it was Enrico Pucci, and I figured his religious fervor had sniffed it out. But there was no way to stop this flow now, and it would likely take us to whatever resolution lay in
I filled Pucci in, and before I was even halfway he’d figured it out, and got that gleam in his eyes again.
“We only need one more rhinoceros beetle, a spiral staircase, two singularities, and the secret emperor!”
“Hmm? What about the fig tart?”
Pucci turned and looked at me.
“Didn’t you notice?”
“When we fell to Earth, Cars’ body began to burn. With a sweet scent. That was the smell of a fig tart.”
Uh…I was a bit disgusted, actually. I’d noticed it was a fruity scene, but the reason I hadn’t compared it to smells in my memory because it was the smell of burning flesh – perhaps not human flesh, but of something humanoid that spoke like a man. Perhaps experiences akin to religious miracles overcame basic human impulses like that, or perhaps he just never cared for such things in the first place.
Pucci said, heedless of the look on my face.
“In many countries, figs are believed to be the fruit of immortality, and in the old testament, 2 Kings 20-7, they are described thusly. The prophet Isiah came to a sick man, Hezekiah, and knew at once there was no saving him. ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die. You cannot live longer’. As Hezekiah wept, and prayed to God, Isiah turned to leave…and God spoke to him. Isiah returned to Hezekiah and said, ‘Take some figs, and put them on that swelling, and you will be cured.’ Well? Seems appropriate that Cars’ body smelled of figs now, doesn’t it?”
He fixed his eyes on me, waiting as I desperately tried to
come up with any sort of response when from down below I was surprised to hear the pebble phone go plu pon pin para para pon. Wow. I know they ignored the laws of physics but to this degree? Narancia called up to me.
“Hey! Jorge? Where are you!?”
I said, going back inside the ship. Narancia gave me the phone, muttering,
“Not like I’d understand any of it.”
“Buccellati here. Where are you? Wasn’t that you falling on Morioh earlier?”
“I think it was. But we’ve wound up somewhere far away. In a way, even farther than Mars.”
“…? What do you mean? Stop beating around the bush and speak clearly.”
“We’re in England. The island of Great Britain.”
“…what? No such country or island exists.”
“We’re in a universe and time when they did. A world before the universe died and was reborn. Although I’m not sure saying that clears up much of anything.”
“It certainly doesn’t. Be that as it may, are you able to get back here?”
“We’re attempting to begin looking for a way to do that.”
“How are things over there? Did anything happen to Arrow Cross House? I think our spaceship hit it.”
“It did. You crashed through the ceiling and made a dent in the floor, but it’s fixed now. The building itself is basically a Stand, apparently. The Stand girl controlling it is fine, too.”
“Oh, good. That’s a relief.”
“The main casualty is the manga artist’s desk. He was quite irate.”
“Ah ha ha. What about the American army?”
“Thanks to you and Narancia, only minor injuries on either
side. No one dead or seriously injured. The navy units that landed are already starting to surrender. Apparently they’re unable to contact HQ at all. And nobody can get in or out. After you crashed, Morioh’s barrier came back up. The sky’s gone pitch black, no moon or stars. Since there’s next to no functioning electricity, the entire town is shrouded in darkness. Only Arrow Cross House still has lights, water, and gas. Thankfully.”
“No moon or stars? We could see the sky just fine earlier in the day, so the barrier wasn’t opaque or anything.”
“Right. But we can’t see anything now. We saw Nero Nero Island rear up from the shock of your impact, but it’s vanished now. I think it was knocked away outside of Morioh, but since the barrier came back up we can’t be sure. Diavolo’s minions remain, so we’d like to draw them out while we can.”
“That’s right, you said you found this boss? Diavolo?”
“His body, yes.”
“Who killed him?”
“Who indeed? I’ve no idea.”
Was this a mafiaesque lie or evasion?
“…can you tell me what you do know?”
he said, and I must have sounded surprised, because he added,
“Well, we have the other detectives here. Even without you there’s a lot we can have inspected. They’ve proven quite useful. I’m learning how to handle detectives myself; seems like it’ll come in handy.”
The mafia’s pet detective? I could see that happening.
“We found them both in the central room of the Arrow Cross House. The one Kishibe Rohan calls his study.”
“? That’s we were found them. Both lying on the floor.”
“On the study carpet?”
“Hunh? But that room was totally empty, nothing else in it but the desk!”
“Yes. You’ve been in and out of it all day. But that’s where the two bodies were. And judging by the progression of rigor mortis and the amount of blood in the carpet, and how dry that blood was, they were killed right there, and had been lying there for at least twelve hours.”
“Since eight this morning.”
“Eh…? But that’s right after Tsukumojuku’s body was found, and tons of cops were going in and out. And yet two people were murdered there and nobody noticed the bodies?”
“That’s the long and short of it. It is a mystery, but Joestar, is there really any need to solve it? The dead are a mafia boss and a serial killer. I’m not exactly an honest citizen myself, but we’re better off with both of them dead.”
“……….! But you’ve verified both bodies’ identities?”
“Yes. Want to see?”
“Eh? Uh, if there’s a way to, sure.”
“Then I’ll send them to you. Don’t tell anyone, but this is Abbacchio’s Stand, Videodrome.”
I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, I swear. So a display screen appeared on the surface of the pebble, showing two files. First one. First shot was of two male corpses on the floor. I’d never seen either face before. One was Japanese, in a suit, thin, with hair that was well combed except for a few stray hairs clearly deliberately let loose to suggest ‘fun’ in a way that just made him seem all the more fastidious. He was reasonably handsome, but there was something plain and unmemorable about his face, a quality that I knew was really common with serial killers. This type
made it a daily effort to not stand out, and not draw attention. The other had an obviously sinister set to his face. He had long hair, with a bizarre speckled pattern. His eyes were open, but not only were they not rounded, they were twisted, frayed, as if the evil dwelling within had caused an unnatural transformation. He was so obviously weird I didn’t see how he could ever live in normal society. The reason he’d hidden himself so thoroughly was clearly because, looking like this, it would be nigh impossible to find a double if his life was in danger, and it would be very difficult to blend into the crowd or avoid being noticed when out in public. Both their throats had been slit. As deep as Tsukumojuku’s wound, from ear to ear. They must have died instantly. This was filmed by someone crouching next to the bloodstained bodies. The crouching man was named Leone Abbacchio. One of Buccellati’s men. He first moved to the Japanese man, removed the suit, peeled off the shirt, and once the man’s scrawny torso was revealed, plunged his hand into his stomach. His hand went deep into the body, ten centimeters past the wrist, and felt around for something. When he pulled his hand out, there was a video tape in it. There was a title written on the spine, in Japanese.
“Kira Yoshikage, July 24th, 2012.”
There were control buttons directly on the corner of the tape, and when he pressed the triangular play button the tape unfolded until it was shaped like a man – the dead Japanese man. Kira Yoshikage, the serial killer who made people explode. He was in a state of absolute panic, covered in sweat, the last thing a man as fastidious and unassuming as this killer would want to be. Numbers appeared in the air, like a countdown in an old movie. 3. 2. 1.
the man screamed, and offered no real resistance as his throat split open, blood sprayed out, and he fell to the floor, dead. Tah dah! The words,
appears in the air.
Hunh? Was that it? Kinda anti-climactic, I thought. Kira’s form began to writhe, then folded itself back up into the video tape it had started as. Next, Abbacchio reached toward the corpse of the white man with the ultra weird hair and eyes, peeled off his shirt to expose his belly, and reached inside, rummaging around until he found a video tape. The title was written in Italian.
“AKA Diavolo, July 24th, 2012.”
The white man stood up, but he was as beside himself as Kira, his face crumpled in despair. There was a Stand behind him, humanoid but with a face like an insect, and another face on its forehead. The countdown began. 3. 2. 1.
“Ahh!”His throat split up, sprayed blood, and he collapsed. Hunh!? The same thing here!? As I watched the tape fold itself back up, Buccellati said,
“That’s it. Shortly after that your ship fell. It was all we could do to grab the bodies and get out.”
“…OK, listen close, Joestar. Videodrome records everything that happens to someone for twenty-four hours after midnight, but cuts off at the moment of their death. …you realize what that means?”
“There is no record of them from midnight until eight AM, the estimated time of their death. Normally Videodrome should be able to replay everything they did in that time. But no such thing exists for them. Until eight AM, these men were somewhere else, somewhere not of this world. They appeared out of nowhere in the Arrow Cross House just in time to die, lived for approximately one second, were killed, died, and then until quite recently, as piles of cops went in and out, and the home’s residents went about their business, nobody noticed their bodies lying in the middle of
“But it is the truth. Videodrome replays only truth. And yet, Jorge Joestar, this is a mafia boss, and a serial killer. I may be a cold hearted son of a bitch, but both of them were evil incarnate. This… Kira Yoshikage was calling himself Kawajiri Kosaku. He worked in manufacturing, did his job like anyone else. His wife’s an election official, his kid is on the soccer team at his elementary school. They seem like an ordinary suburban family, but as the investigation grew close he brutally murdered both his wife and child. Someone on my team has a unique power that allows them to investigate these things, but he found trophies from over a hundred different women in that house. And Diavolo killed far more than a hundred. And not all of those victims were from enemy crime syndicates. If someone was a problem for him, or if he merely stood to gain an advantage, he would kill civilians, politicians, law enforcement, even his own men, without hesitation. He forced the desperate poor to work for him and then abandoned them, sold women and children, licked the marrow from the bones of the rich, and forced the world around him and everyone he came in contact with to rot. These two men deserved to die. The world is better off with them dead. So don’t worry about it.”
“Get it? I’ll put this plainly. Don’t bother trying to figure out the truth behind their deaths. Don’t do anything. If you want to write their killer a thank you note, that’s one thing, but if you even consider trying to arrest them…in my opinion you’ll be barking up the wrong tree. Them dying is a good thing. Whoever killed them did us all a service. A service to all mankind.”
My head was going in circles, so I clutched it tight, asking,
“Do we know their Stand powers?”
“…yes. Between Abbacchio’s Videodrome and the owner of the Arrow Cross House’s Stand, we figured it out. This manga artist might be an eccentric, but he has the ideal Stand for uncovering people’s secrets. Of course, he’ll do nothing he doesn’t want to, even if you threaten him with force, but if you just convince him it’s the right thing to do, he’ll jump at it.”
That got a laugh out of me. Wish I could have seen Kishibe Rohan face down the Mafia.
“Kira Yoshikage’s Stand was named Killer Queen,”
“It could make someone explode directly, or turn them into a bomb. Two types of bombs – bombs Killer Queen had to trigger with a switch, and bombs that would explode on contact if someone touched them. It could even remove its left hand and turn it into a tank-like Stand called Sheer Heart Attack that would operate automatically, tracking people via their heat signatures. And Killer Queen had one more power. Bites the Dust. It remains a bit of an enigma, but it could turn someone into a bomb that would go off if anyone asked about Kira, or the bomb said his name. The moment it killed whoever was searching for him, it would somehow turn back time an hour. Only the person he’d turned into a bomb would remember the previous version of that day, but the fate of those he blew up would not change, and they would again explode even if the bomb avoided contact with them. With no apparent cause at all.”
Kira Yoshikage’s Bites the Dust had turned Kishibe Rohan into a bomb. And it could turn back time? Man, he really had the perfect power for what he was after.
“And the boss of our Passione Family, who called himself the devil, Diavolo…his Stand was named King Crimson. He had a face type stand on his forehead called Epitaph, and this could accurately predict the future, albeit for only ten seconds. He could
then erase that part of the future, leaving only the experience of it behind, with no other impact on what happened next. Say you ate something, and felt full. He could use King Crimson to remove the part where you ate, leaving you with no idea why you felt full. He could predict the future, and delete time! No wonder he survived so many assassination attempts.”
Buccellati explained a few mysterious events experienced during syndicate betrayals and conflicts, but I wasn’t really listening – I was thinking. Kira Yoshikage and Diavolo both had Stands that could, in some fashion, manipulate time. That was tugging at my mind. Time. Arrow Cross House. Tsukumojuku had died in the Arrow Cross House, but he had traveled through time, too. He’d come from England, 1904, to Nishi Akatsuki, and died in Morioh in the Arrow Cross House, but appeared out of nowhere in the middle of everything and taken me to Mars. Tsukumojuku had been the first to time travel, and he’d talked about Beyond, Hey! I am your instrument. Someone needs you. I’ll take you to him. The way he’d smiled made me just accept what he was saying, but the first time slip was entirely the fault of the Bermuda Triangle, or at least whatever it was that had created an area that, according to the legends, caused people and ships to vanish. I couldn’t explain it, and the logistics of it remained unclear, but if felt like reason enough. But the second? When he’d taken me to Mars? What led to that? I couldn’t see it. But obviously, time slip or whatever, if something happened there was a reason for it. I just didn’t know what it was, but when Tsukumojuku had smiled he’d had a reason for it, knew why he was acting, and could have explained it. Otherwise nobody who called themselves a detective could ever be so carefree. He’d had no time
for exposition, but Tsukumojuku had known everything. That was why all the confusion he’d displayed when he arrived in Nishi Akatsuki had disappeared. Yeah. Because Tsukumojuku had solved all the mysteries, he’d come to me, and died. And the reason he’d spoken in riddles wasn’t just because he didn’t have time explain properly, but because I was a detective too, and he was having a little fun at my expense. Like, you still don’t get it, do you? He was ribbing me because I was struggling with something I should have worked out by now. Tsukumojuku knew that I would figure it out. That meant I should be able to solve this. Being flung out to Mars and winding up in England in the distant past may seem completely batshit, but it all had meaning. I knew that. There was no reason to think otherwise. The rules of this world hadn’t changed at all. I just had to think it through. Time and the Arrow Cross House. We’d traveled through time one more time. Cars’ ship had definitely crashed directly on top of the Arrow Cross House. But we didn’t die in the wreck; instead we were thrown to England in 1920. Thrown? That’s right. We didn’t come here. Arrow Cross House had sent us here. That was the purpose of the Arrow Cross House. It could send someone through time and space of its own free will.
How? To pass through time, you needed a hole in the space time continuum, or a wormhole that linked to a different time and place, or you needed to somehow bend space time and take a shortcut. Wormholes were more or less fixed to specific points in space time, so the Bermuda Triangle was probably one of those. But the Arrow Cross House was different. We’d been thrown super
far back, to England in 1920 in a different history of the universe, and it had used poor dead Tsukumojuku to take Narancia and me from Budogaoka Academy campus to a spaceship orbiting Mars. Thinking about it, how much free will had Tsukumojuku had? When he appeared before me, he’d seemed to know I was there. Hey! I am your instrument. Someone needs you. I’ll take you to him. And after he took me to the H. G. Wells, he’d known there would be a spaceship, and wasn’t surprised by it at all. Whoops. Brought an anomaly along, but…it all means something, I’m sure. Bye! If he’d been just a victim, caught up in a time slip and flung here and there, he’d have been confused by it all. He’d never have noticed that Narancia came along. He’d been quite lost the night before, when he’d arrived in Nishi Akatsuki. Perdón. ¿Qué pasó? ¿Dónde estoy? That night, Tsukumojuku was not only super confused, he was even a bit frightened. But after he’d died, when he was taking us to Mars, he’d understood everything, was totally comfortable in his role, and even had time to give me the kind of smirk I could only take as a challenge. By then, he wasn’t just aware of what was going on, Tsukumojuku was controlling the time traveling of his own free will. If Arrow Cross House was a device to bypass space time, then Tsukumojuku had learned to use it. Arrow Cross House could bend space time, and create short cuts. It could choose a place and time, and send us there. It could even act like a delivery service, picking someone up and putting them where they needed to go. But how? How was it bending space time? There were two ways that modern science was aware of.
Speed and gravity. Giant celestial bodies like suns and black holes could bend the fabric of space time; light didn’t proceed in a straight line past them. But in Morioh? Nothing with that powerful a gravitational field existed or could exist inside Arrow Cross House. After all, to increase gravitational pull, you had to increase mass. Morioh and the Arrow Cross House were two small to contain something that large. To compress the volume of that mass required even more power, and if they succeeded they’d just end up with a black hole. Could Tsukumojuku control something like that? He wasn’t even a Stand Master. If Arrow Cross House’s Stand power was having a black hole, there’d be more to what it did than just time travel. Things would disappear, be crushed, and it would absorb all light and sound. I’d been in Arrow Cross House, and sensed nothing so chaotic. It was quiet, calm, elegant, and relaxed, like you’d expect the home of a working author to be. Nothing I’d seen suggested there could be a black hole hidden somewhere. Absorbing…? No, that wasn’t right, I realized. It couldn’t just absorb. Tsukumojuku hadn’t just traveled through time, he’d gone back to Arrow Cross House afterward, and died. If he’d just been absorbed, he could never have gone back. Maybe there was a way to reverse the gravitational pull, but before considering that I had to reconsider my initial premise. If Arrow Cross House was a device, could I determine the function from the construction and design? Arrow Cross House was a functional compass, but the core of it was still the Cube House. The Tesseract. The house was made of eight square rooms that allowed you to move indefinitely in any direction. The key quality lay in that infinite nature, not in any gravitational compression. OK then…I was about to start going over the idea of using
speed, when I realized something. Damn it, I thought. I’d already peered directly into the heart of the Cube House’s device. When we’d gone to Kishibe Rohan’s study with Grand Blue, we’d opened the door in the floor and realized if we went four rooms down we’d end up where we started. Later on, when they were about to open the door again, Sugimoto Reimi said, Wait! Make sure you don’t fall straight down. We’d all instantly pictured what would happen. The room below the room below the room below this one was the study, so if I broke through all three, I’d fall forever. What would happen then? If gravity increased my fall speed here, I’d fall until I hit terminal velocity. That was as far as I’d thought through it then, but perhaps that velocity wouldn’t be terminal, but instead bend space time. It already had. When we fell out of the sky, and landed on the Arrow Cross House. The main casualty is the manga artist’s desk. He was quite irate. We’d gone through the ceiling of the Cube House, smashed Kishibe Rohan’s desk to bits, burst through the door underneath it, and the floor below and the floor below, and gotten lost in the infinite loop. Normally air resistance would have been slowing us down, but inside the Cube House, we’d sped up, until we were going fast enough that time and space bent around us. And then what? Which direction had it bent? Without knowing it was a time travel device, we’d simply fallen. No conscious will was at work. We didn’t consciously want or try to go anywhere. If the device was activated, but received no orders, and we just kept going faster and faster, how would the device handle that? If the device could be controlled at will, and there was no will present within the device, then it must take input from outside
sources. The device would then connect us to the will of someone far away. That was it. The infinite vertical shaft at the heart of the Arrow Cross House was a device to bend space time. If the people falling through it wanted to go somewhere, it would send them there. But if the people falling expressed no such desire, then it could pick up on the desire of someone outside. Tsukumojuku knew this, which explained why he’d said Hey! I am your instrument. Someone needs you. I’ll take you to him. I had caught up with Tsukumojuku.
All of this took about thirty seconds. Buccellati was still going on about what a piece of shit Diavolo had been, and did not seem to have noticed that I’d gone quiet. What he was saying made a certain amount of sense. But he was a gangster, and didn’t understand.
“I can’t move forward if I don’t solve the mystery. That’s the nature of a detective.”
he said. And then said what anyone with a deep understanding of human work and duty would say.
“In that case, go ahead.”
“Yo, we can see London!”
Narancia said, so I hung up the phone and went up to the bridge, and saw a huge city covered in rubble from the fierce battles fought there.
“This must be Desolation Row!”
the priest said, collecting yet another of his symbols.
“We’ve been waiting for you! Our very own angel! Enrico
came a voice.
We turned, and two men stood on the deck of Das Boot as it moved through the forest. I recognized one of them; a welldressed man with distinctive swirls of hair.
“I am the President of the United States, Funny Valentine,”
he said. This was not Funny from 2012, but the Funny from this world. He was young, but looked exactly like the Funny and Funnier and The Funniest I’d seen on TV. Funny ignored us, speaking only to Pucci, who appeared to be at a loss.
“Ha ha ha! You look surprised, Father. As a man of faith, you did not think to be called an angel yourself? Be that as it may, all that remains is one rhinoceros beetle, two singularities, and a spiral staircase. For the last rhinoceros beetle, if you follow the bank of the Thames to the south, you’ll soon see it. Or perhaps since I am here, you already understand? We’ve come to meet you. To take you to the island that will become the center of the world.”
“It is, of course, in our United States.”
“Now, and when you were there.”
“….and there is a church.”
“Ha ha ha! Exactly! There is a also a church, named for that which we serve.”
“Indeed! There are three churches of that name in America, but only one on the island.”
“New York. Manhattan Island.”
“Precisely! I’ve just been to see it. The fourth Rhinoceros Beetle is Manhattan!”
Great Britain was headed west, the mouth of the Thames at its fore. It had crossed the Atlantic, and clambered up onto the United States. The giant insect’s countless legs straddled the Hudson, half in Connecticut, and half in New York. It headed north into New York harbor, the tips of the skyscrapers at eye level. But Great Britain showed no signs of slowing down.
“But Manhattan is not a real rhinoceros beetle, I’m afraid,”
Funny said. Great Britain’s southern extremity stepped up into Manhattan, tackling the skyscrapers and flattening the island.
“As President, I find this situation regrettable, but to build greater prosperity for America, it is time to cut the country loose. This is, well, a sort of ritual. An initiation.”
Thanks to the wall surrounding Great Britain, we couldn’t hear the sounds of it, or feel the vibrations, but we knew it must be a living hell down below. Narancia and Penelope were as shaken as I was. All three of us must have looked ready to faint.
“We must move forward, Father Pucci,”
“Have you found the singularity yet?”
“Think! What is a singularity but a point? A point is but part of a line. A line is a connection. And what is a connection?”
Pucci stepped forward to stand beside me.
“Time’s relation to man.”
“Ha ha ha!”
“Well put. Two are enough. And what are the two times?”
“Time I have lived through, and the time I am living.”
“Yes! That’s it! And the two that connect them?”
“Myself and God…is what I would have said, but judging from your arrival, that may not be the case.”
“In which case…me. And myself.”
“You have it! You are connected to yourself, Father Pucci!
As am I to me!”
“You know me well, but not this me. Correct?”
“But we are linked. How so?”
“I am me but at the same time I am not. How can this be true? I believe you know the answer, Father Pucci.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Because I can make a connection. Because I can’t make the connection.”
“Because what I create is the Spiral Staircase.”
“Very good! Just one last thing. Allow me to introduce the Secret Emperor!”
Funny gestured to the man beside him, a tall, muscular man brimming with power. I’d seen him before. In the photo Cars projected. The sinister man floating in the air above Cape Canaveral. The adopted son of the Joestar family, the one who’d botched a train robbery. Dio Brando.
“You may love me, Enrico Pucci,”
Dio said. There was a crown of thorns around his head. Holes in the hands he held out. And his bare feet. When he saw this stigmata, Pucci wept.
And Pucci began to cast aside his Stand. Arrows appeared
all over White Snake’s body, and Pucci began to levitate. In that instant, I could no longer stand normally on the desk of Das Boot. Unless I focused my mind on Pucci as he floated, I didn’t feel like I was standing upright, didn’t feel balanced. Everyone else was staggering, their gaze focused on Pucci’s head, like a shot from the music video for Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal. I could see Funny Valentine’s coat flapping, though there was no wind. Pucci had become absolute up, the center of all things, and everything radiating out from around him was now down. Dio and Cars alone stood normally, as straight as they ever had, but not because this force wasn’t acting on them, just they both possessed the physical strength needed to ignore the change in gravity. Cars’ long hair and Dio’s cape were pulled towards Pucci, just as we were. The higher Pucci rose, the closer we came to what had originally been bolt upright. Pucci was the center of gravity, and looking up at him, one thought ran through my mind. Gravity. If you could control it at will, you could bend space and time. And that was why Pucci was killing his own Stand. With the arrows covering every inch of it, cracks were beginning to run across the surface of White Snake, and as it shattered, a clock man on a two legged horse emerged.
“So this is Made in Heaven!”
Pucci said, enthralled. Cars stood behind us, paying Pucci no heed. His eyes were on Dio, who met his gaze, his smile as brazen as before.
“Now, let us go to Heaven!”
Pucci cried, and the moment before he activated Made in Heaven, Dio held up his hand, and the wall of air that covered Great Britain formed the upside-down upper half of a giant boy, which rose up and looked down at us. It’s eyes were open, but it had no eyes. This was a combined version of all the Antonio Torres that Penelope had made the wall from. Hanging upside-down from the sky wall, it reached out it’s massive
hand, and snatched Pucci out of the air. Dio looked up at Pucci, and said,
“Don’t be in such a rush, gutter trash. Your job is to sweep and clear the outside.”
Penelope yelped, and clapped her hands over her mouth. But trapped in the giant’s hand, Pucci’s expression was as rapturous as ever. Fused Antonio Torres swallowed him whole, sending him outside the armor. Normal gravity returned, and above us, Pucci activated Made in Heaven. Outside the rhinoceros beetle called England, time sped up. The sun and moon whipped round us, but the zombies were hiding in shadow, and would not die. In the blink of an eye, the universe ended, and began again. Trembling, Penelope reached out and took hold of my sleeve, as I started counting universes. Outside England, in Antonio Torres’s belly, the universe looped thirty-six times, bringing the island of Great Britain to the 2012 we had come from. We landed just in time to flip Morioh over. We were back.
Had our six month journey back from Mars taken only four hours because of Pucci’s Stand, too? I asked Cars.
“Yes, but not quite,”
“That man was in a small box, with a much more complicated time flow compressed within. At the same time as he was on the spaceship with us.”
“A small box?”
“Somewhere beyond the ends of the world.”
I didn’t get this at all.
“What was Pucci doing there?”
“Killing a man.”
That cleared up nothing, but when I looked up out of the rhinoceros beetle, Pucci was no longer floating above us.