Breaking the fourth wall: order and chaos
Breaking the fourth wall: order and chaosDisclaimer: None of the characters are mine, but belong to their respective owners.
The Anomaly Research Center stood in the middle of London, looking dark, almost mountain-like beneath a sky covered in storm clouds. Street lights from the nearby buildings shone on it, reflected off of it, giving the building a bluish tinge, but no light came from the Center itself – and why or how should it, for the latest Primeval season had come and gone, and the Center had submerged into another hiatus hibernation – its sixth one up to date.
Inside the Center the situation was the same as it was outside – lifeless. The settings and characters of Primeval just stood there like so many props and mannequins, oblivious to the dust and desolation that surrounded them as it always have for the previous five hiatuses. Everything was as always, everything was perfectly orderly, until, far away in the west, where the Atlantic Ocean melded into the sky, and there was a distant, tiny clap of thunder...
...and back in the Center, Connor Temple awoke with a sneeze.* * *
"Wha-? What is going on? Matt, Becker? Abby, do you hear me?"
Slowly, and feeling seriously confused, Connor straightened up (he fell full of pins and needles) and looked around. He was standing in the ARC, but this version of the ARC looked almost dead, with just the whirl of the air conditioning system and the on-again off-again blinking of the lights keeping the Center from sinking into utter gloom and silence – but that was not the worst. The worst was the people. They just stood or sat, frozen in their tracks, their facial expressions slack and vague, and their eyes almost as lifeless as buttons.
"Jess?" Connor asked his nearest teammate, "Jess, can you hear me?" But the normally perky, talkative and social team coordinator just sat there, looking as blank as the display screens she was looking at.
"Jess?" Connor repeated his question. "Can you hear me? ...Aren't you stiff from all that sitting around? Aren't you getting blind from all that staring at the blank screen too?" (After all, he was Connor and could not help himself from cracking jokes when he felt like it.)
Jess didn't answer, but as Connor leaned over her to look at the blank screen, a strange feeling came over him, a feeling that suggested that all he needed was to stand there like this for a while, and all of his discomfort would disappear and he would no longer feel like pins and needles, and-
With a jerk Connor scrambled away from Jess and her stations, almost falling over (he had problems with physical coordination from time to time still), as a realization hit: he was feeling pins and needles all over because he had been sitting or standing in one pose for too long, just as Jess currently was – and that was something Connor abhorred.
It wasn't particularly common knowledge (though it wasn't a secret either), but Connor Temple didn't like to be still and doing nothing – he had to be doing something, even if it was just playing video games: the actual idea that he could be stuck in nothingness, doing nothing and waiting for nothing in particular simply terrified him – and so did the idea that there was something in here that could make him do exactly that...
"I must get out of here," Connor muttered to himself as he stood up and checked his pockets. He still had his wallet and the keys to theirs – well, mostly Jess's – flat. "I need to get out and figure out what to do next," he muttered to himself (and he was beginning to have the glimmers of an idea just what to do next precisely, too), before turning around and walking towards the exit from the ARC.* * *
Now, technically leaving the ARC was very easy, Connor himself had done it many times in the past, but this time it was different. Physically, it was almost the same, but the silence that had been only disturbing as soon as Connor had come to his senses, became increasingly oppressive as the young man approached the exit, almost tangible. Several times Connor had to suppress the urge to run in the other direction, deeper into the ARC, to hide from whatever or whoever was sending him all of that tacit disapproval, until he, she, it or they left – but Connor did not. Sure, he was a mess when he grasped the door's handle, and as he pulled the door open and it wouldn't budge sweat ran down his back as he was suddenly hit with a great deal of fear, but then he still pushed the door open and finally it complied, and a great gust of wind and fresh air hit him – and Connor knew that he did the right thing.
"Right then," he muttered encouragingly to himself and stepped outside of the ARC. Straight away, a gust of wind snapped the door shut, almost hitting Connor in the process, if the young man had not jumped away in time.
"Right then," Connor muttered again as he looked at the ARC from outside – it did not look any less forbidding from that point of view – "go to Jess's and hack into the Center's computers from her place. Shouldn't be too hard." Muttering thusly to himself he turned his back to the ARC and began to walk to Jess's place.
He never made it. Instead, he found himself walking around the Center’s building in ever-widening circles, as if his legs had gained intelligence of their own (they didn’t, Connor specifi-cally stopped to check – no, no intelligence, but some strange looks from the other people on the streets) and they didn’t want to return to the ARC no matter what. That was impossible, which meant that Connor himself did not want to return to the ARC no matter what. That, in turn, was ridiculous, so Connor decided to go somewhere else and to think about it.
This time, his legs had no problems leading him wherever he wanted to go.* * *
Connor may have been a happy-go-lucky maverick, but he was also very, very intelligent: he was not one of the co-inventors of the first 'artificial' time anomaly for nothing: as he walked through the streets, he did two things: he noticed, and he made plans.
Firstly, he noticed that the further he got from the Center, the livelier the streets became. It was as if there was an aversion field of some sort centered upon the Center, no pun intended. If there was one, then it was quite efficient, and that worried Connor a lot.
On the other side, though, there was not any sign of any impending time anomalies, and that was good. Certainly, the fact that Connor forgot to take his time anomaly detection device could not be discounted either, but somehow Connor got a feeling that time anomalies were not a big factor in the life of this London, either. There was just something in the behaviour of other people, so casual and carefree, that implied a time anomaly free life to Connor, it just did.
That alone was thought-worthy, but Connor was busy with other concerns: the more he thought about it, the less confident he was about going to Jess's flat: somehow or other, he just could not remember a fixed address of Jess's flat either. That was ridiculous, after all, he and Abby have lived with Jess for quite a while now, so-
Thinking of Abby hurt: Connor realized that he was not a very good boyfriend, having rescued himself and not his girlfriend alongside him, but-
"I need more space to manoeuvre," he muttered to himself. "I've got to find out what's wrong with the ARC; I may need allies – I don't dare call Jenny and I really don't think I want to talk to Duncan. Who's left?"
It was then he ran into another person, who was leaving the American-style fast food eatery that Connor was entering (all that thinking made him hungry). That person was slightly smaller than Connor was, and also lighter, for he - or she - staggered back, dropping their take-out bag to the ground in the process... if Connor (who did become more athletic as time went by) had not caught it in time.
"Here you go, miss," he said politely, before he realized that his new acquaintance was anything but new.
"Hello, Connor," Caroline Steele said. "How – and where – is Abby?"* * *
For several moments Connor just stared at Caroline. "You're looking well," he managed. "And, uh, what was the question, again?"
"Abby," Caroline said in a neutral tone. "Your significant other?"
That was the last straw. Connor Temple was usually a mild-mannered, quiet individual, but today was anything but a usual day, and to hear Caroline to speak of Abby so neutraly - so unlike the rather vitriolic tone she used when speaking about the other girl - proved to be the drop that ran the cup over.
"In what fucked-up dimension did I end up in?" Connor exploded. "Aside from the fact that the entire Center is having a problem, Abby isn't my significant anything! I care for her a lot, but when I just suggested that we could be engaged, she had a panic attack! Abby and I... we're friends, but we tend to fight a lot and didn't you hear this from me before?"
"Yes, you have, just not as vehemently, on our dates," Caroline nodded, somewhat hesitantly, "you remember?"
Connor froze. Even though he met – re-met - Caroline just moments before, unexpected memories already began to circulate in his head, memories of their dates: it had been fun to unwind after a hard day's work hunting raptors or giant prehistoric blood-sucking worms, pretend to be a regular guy and go out on a date with a good-looking girl, who actually listened when he talked to her about scientific stuff (admittedly, toned down to a lay person's understanding, but still)...
"Yes, yes I have," Connor confessed, "and sorry about that – you're probably out with your own significant other or whoever, and really don't need to hear about my problems-"
"Actually, no, I'm not out with anyone at the moment," Caroline shook her head, looking briefly aside, "and what problems? Medical ones?"
"No, though I almost wish," Connor confessed. "I came to my senses about half an hour ago and found myself back at the Center only everyone and everything is frozen, dusty too, sort of in the manner of props on stage or in a shop's back rooms, you know?"
"Was there fog?" Caroline asked quietly even as the two of them walked through a parking lot.
"Fog?" Connor repeated, thoughtfully. "No, not really. Just that really, really oppressing, almost unnatural, stillness and silence. Why have you asked about fog?"
"Well," Caroline said thoughtfully, "remember the last time we saw each other? At Mr. Hart's funeral? That was his name, right?"
"Yes," Connor said, wincing. "Sorry for treating you so coldly back then, but Stephen was a good friend of ours, and you were associated with Leek...and why did Lester let you go? I thought that he was going to keep an eye on you by giving you a job at the ARC?"
"Ah yes, that was the idea," Caroline nodded in reply, somewhat wryly, "but here is how it went wrong."* * *The weather was already gloomy for Mr. Hart's funeral, and now that Connor and the others were gone, fog was beginning to roll in, obscuring everything in its path.
"Ms. Steele, come on," James Lester's voice sounded oddly muffled, "we don't have all day to have you settled into the ARC!"
Settled in... Caroline did not want to be settled in, she wanted to be out of here, away from the ARC. But this was a division of the Home Office; she could not go against the government, could she?
And then, there was movement among the tombstones, and the fog...not withdrew, but halted its advance, its' tentacles quivering, in an almost furious fashion. Another woman, around Ms. Lewis' age or slightly older, was walking through the clearing path, flanked by an army of identical-looking people, as if this was a scene in one of Connor's Star Wars movies.
("Hey, you remembered me talking about them."
"Yes, yes I suppose I did.")"Ah, a new character, of the series" the woman said dismissively to Caroline. "How... cute."
"Now wait just a minute!" Caroline, already feeling uncomfortable and miserable, snapped. "What do you mean, I'm a character? What do you mean, “Of the series”? I am an ordinary, real-life person, thank you very much!"
"Really?" the woman seemed surprised and thoughtful. "Well, my hubris has already caused quite a lot of suffering now, so..." Apparently having made up her mind, she turned and faced Caroline. "Well, then, Ms. Real-Life Person, here's the choice, or the chance, or whatever. You want to remain your own person? Then do you see the path I walked that led here? Go through it and do not look back. You want to remain a piece of the action? Go to Lester and do not look back either. It's up to you now."
Saying these words, the woman turned around walked to Mr. Hart's grave. Caroline briefly hesitated and then fled down her path, away from Lester and did not look back once.* * *
"And that was essentially the end of it," Caroline concluded her story. "All of you people have seemingly forgotten about me, there were no repercussions, no angry or intimidating visits, no anything! It hurt to be forgotten, of course, but then one day I received a short message in the mail – "Congratulations on breaking the fourth wall" – and that was weird. Any ideas?"
"I believe that's the term for the feature when a show's characters interact with the audience..." Connor determinedly shook his head. "No. No, I refuse to believe it – Helen must've messed with you somehow, and-" Connor froze. He and Caroline had reached Caroline's car, and two twin girls, of four or so years of age, were looking back at them.TBC