8:23pm, September 19, 1943 - current timeline, Royal Oak, Michigan: A shrill telephone rings in the fading evening light, startling the dark haired, dark eyed hero of our story out of his nostalgic reverie.
John EL Tenney looks over towards the offending sound, mumbling to himself and whomever else may be listening about the annoyance of not being able enjoy a classic love song in peace tonight. He audibly sighs, frowning slightly as the phone rings again, interrupting Maurice Chevalier’s accented crooning serenading from an old turntable tucked in the corner:
"Wonderful! Oh it's wonderful
to be in love with you...
Beautiful, you're so beautiful,
You haunt me all day through..."
Even though there’s no caller ID on the rotary-dial phone in his library there’s only a short list of people that would ever call him on this particular phone line, in this particular timeline, knowing he is on vacation. The mental list of suspects who he hasn’t heard from in a few weeks narrows and then focuses on a couple of possibilities as he rises from his favorite vintage chair, leaving a cloud of fragrant tobacco smoke in his immediate trail.
Already bracing himself for whatever news the caller has called to interrupt his relaxation with, he instinctively begins gathering his wallet, keys and tie as he makes his way towards the phone.
“Uh, Hiiiiiiiii,” a familiar, stressed female voice tries her best to sound cheerful, but he knows her too well to not know something's wrong. “How are you? How’s vacation? How--”
“What happened?” he bluntly asks her, realizing his intuition was right, dammit. It’s time to go back to work.
“Well it’s like this," she hedges slightly. "Matt and I have been working on creating a tulpa of the Michelin Man but made out of bricks, right? We watched Ghostbusters again and thought, okay, Stay-Puft is cool and all, but how about a dude made from bricks? That could really fuck some shit up! We can send his ass to smash some assholes. And what better bricks than old ass--”
“Where are you?” Recognizing Sara’s ADHD is likely spinning in overdrive due to the extra dopamine rush from whatever mess she and Matt just created John interrupts her excitable tirade truly not to be rude, but to get to the fucking point.
“Egypt, 2560 BC.”
“What the hell are you doing in ancient Egypt?” John sighs deeply, pinching the sides of his nose with his fingers and thumb. "This is just like when you two entered the door to Hell. It took months to round up all those cryptids you unleashed."
“Hey, in our defense that was to try to close the door that Tyler Strand opened to meet the Dero.”
“And the second time?” he dryly reminds her, finishing his vodka and ginger ale in one final gulp.
"I'm sorry," she whines, remembering their second foray into Hell with a slight wince and continues. "We went back to 2020 because it was such a shitshow we assumed no one would notice if I screwed up the timeline again. The Bird Army was supposed to help contain any unplanned consequences." He hears her nervously suck on a vape pen and the sound of what is likely gravel as she paces on the other end of the phone. "Anyway, we didn't plan on the fucking mummy tonight."
"Wait...did you say mummy?" It takes a lot to throw Tenney off of his game, especially since he's used to Sara and Matt's continual bullshit. One time after a long night of drinking at MIParacon John admitted he had not only been trained by the Vatican to document and assist with exorcisms but also as a specialist in eradicating cursed Mummies. Clearly they weren’t drunk enough that Sara forgot this detail. John had been training for this moment his entire life. Well at least since 1974, as far back as he can remember in this particular incarnation as John Tenney.
“Yeah. Like I was SAYING,” she begins again,”I was trying to, uh, borrow a brick from the Great Pyramid of Giza for one of my experiments and I guess I picked the wrong one to try to remove from the side. Someone must have enchanted it with a ward and I didn’t pick up on it until I touched it. Matt came because he was bored.”
“Magick 101 amateur bullshit, God... have you listened to anything I have said to you over the years? You know Egyptian magick is unpredictable at best!” Sometimes he can’t believe that he continues to find her amusing enough to talk to after all these years of her insane ideas, but somehow for whatever reason he still does. Typical, oblivious in her enthusiasm to the point where important shit was missed.
Someone must have followed Sara there into the past to learn what she was planning and she had no clue she was being tailed. Humans have been obsessed with capturing a part of Egypt’s magick since the beginning of time it seemed, of course their travels back there were noted. Occasionally TTSGA’s clandestine activities attracted a bad seed and they had to deal with an overzealous admirer or someone interested in good old subterfuge complicating their work. Matt and Sara should have understood the risks.
“Believe it or not, yes. I totally left the murder hornets alone after you said to, AND I didn’t drop a brick on Trump’s head when I totally had a chance. I still think that was a way better idea than letting Joe Fucking Biden be our hope for the future, by the way. But I have cursed NO ONE today!” she proudly proclaims.
“You know damn well everything’s going to be fine in the end, the unintended consequences of cursing Republicans aren’t worth it. Your magick is too chaotic, you just like bricking people. Don’t fuck with anything else until I get there,” he smashes the stub of his Winston Light out into the old glass ashtray on his left in frustration.
“Um, yeah, about that… Can you bring your necromancy kit again... please?”
“What? Why?” he asks, closer to exasperated now, grabbing an antique mood ring off of the dresser, sliding it over the knuckle of one of the fingers on his right hand. He also then grabs a hideously powerful ceramic frog medallion, looping it around his neck as he heads downstairs to the basement of his home. The energy from the frog necklace is so strong it sends visible ripples throughout the entire room as soon as the material hits John’s skin. This sacred object holds deep and powerful forbidden magick.
“Um, well Matt is kind of a little dead at the moment.”
“A little dead? Explain.”
“Yeah, maybe just a little. The Mummy bit him and he’s technically one of the undead now I guess? He’s like, okay-ish though, I made sure that he is safe until you can help me fix him. I have him locked up in a crypt and he’s occupied for the moment, I threw in a box of doughnuts and he totally went for it. You probably have about 15 minutes until he starts growling and trying to bust out to eat my brain again,” she finishes.
“... until you can help me fix him...” Tenney mumbles around the cigarette he just lit, biting back a snide remark that she clearly does not have enough brains for Zombie Mummy Matt to snack on, but she’d just laugh and agree anyway. It’s somewhat irritating to try to insult people with a warped sense of humor, turns out.
He has to admit to himself the doughnuts were a bit of a genius move. If there is one thing you can distract Matt with even when he is within the jaws of death it is in fact fresh doughnuts. The alternate timeline where Sara and Matt had “The Magickal Donut Tour” series on Netflix was actually one of his favorites, truth be told. Occasionally the two of them got something right.
“No Schick, YOU have about fifteen minutes until he starts growling and trying to bust out again,” he correctly points out to her. “I’ll be there in a few,” he finishes, replacing the old phone in its cradle after she thanks him in genuine relief.
Now armed with the addition of his favorite tie and two of his most powerful magickal tools, he casts a circle on the ground with specially consecrated chalk. He prepares an exacting astrological chart to use that aligns him to the precise moment where Sara and Matt have run into trouble. Confident in his calculations, he crouches on the ground and begins to draw the necessary sigils to open the doorway to the past.
Finishing up his sigil work, he rises after a few moments, cracks his neck, stretches and gives a slight bow to the ancestors’ altar in the corner. He takes a minute to thank them for their help, mentally steeling himself for what is about to happen so he can once again save his friends’ dumb asses. Bending down one last time to complete the final mark of his sigil and activate the spell work, he gently tweaks the time stream in a tiny loop just long enough to instantly charge the marks and create the opening he needs.
When he’s confident the microsecond loop is both strong enough to open a wormhole and be otherwise undetectable to others, he sets final protective wards for himself, marks his current moment in time to return to and steps into the time stream’s dark abyss towards the past.
When John initially discovered the secret to time travel years ago he initially had no idea what he stumbled onto, only recognizing that he had a terrifying near-death experience. It took decades for him to piece together what he was actually shown on one of the scariest days of his life. The blackness encountered though time travel can be terrifying and all-encompassing if you aren’t mentally and emotionally prepared for the void. While it was always nerve-wracking to bend through realities, Tenney was now an expert at holding onto the thread that united them all, allowing for crossover and repair as needed. He had been given the key to the in-between, he was the Time Traveling Wizard the world was waiting for.
Matt once gave him a t-shirt that read: “Are you the keymaster?” for Christmas one year. Tenney can now admit it was pretty funny, even though he threatened to clean his toilet with it when he first unwrapped it.
While John had been given the key purposefully, Sara and Matt had stumbled upon it entirely accidentally. When really strange things of note began happening in clusters around 2020, TTSGA headquarters began to admit that some of their members had figured out the key. In reality, Sara and Matt managed to get Reverend Stardog drunk enough that he accidentally revealed his knowledge of the equation that allowed them full access. Hail Eris!
Wrongly assuming Sara’s hatred of math would keep the general public safe from any meddling for decades, Tenney thought he had more time to establish safeguards or at least convince the two of them to stop trying to gather firm proof that the world was nothing but an elaborate simulation. They were of course correct, but constantly traveling in and out of timelines has unintended consequences. Underestimating them was akin to leaving a couple of puppies alone unattended, they just can’t help themselves from getting into trouble when they’re together.
Creating the tell-tale “bright light” that has accounted for many tales of visitation from angels, aliens, UFOS and other creatures throughout time, Tenney steps out of the time stream to emerge dramatically onto the BC scene just outside the Great Pyramid. Orienting himself slowly, the first sense that comes back to him is auditory. Brushing off the lapels of his jacket he is greeted with the sounds of ancient voices anxiously chattering in languages he isn’t yet familiar with. Soon panicked screaming pierces through the chatter from people running in the opposite direction from the Gaza’s pyramid, confirming the accuracy of his calculations - he’s in the right place. Pacing just outside the front entrance he finds Sara, wearing skull leggings, black boots and a t-shirt with the “Wu-tang Clan” logo on the front of it. She stands out like a sore thumb.
“Bricks, bricks, fucking bricks. Aren’t you ready to move onto something else yet? Why can’t you want to build a tulpa out of broccoli or something? And you couldn’t even try to blend in, could you?” he admonishes her, shaking his head as he approaches. They’d talked about appropriate attire to stay under the radar when time traveling and she’s applied none of it today.
“I did the math wrong. It was supposed to be the middle of the night when we arrived and I forgot to carry the one or some shit, I don’t know. I should have had Dave check my calculations... Thanks for coming, dude,” the relief in her voice is palpable.
“So, where’s the mummy?”
“Inside. Last time I saw him he had his head in one of the locals’ rib cages, doing his best Doctor Lecter impersonation.”
“Rude,” Tenney can’t help himself from quipping. Sara snickers like a ten year old child as she follows him back inside the pyramid.
“I still can’t believe you’re a Fannibal.”
“You can watch any TV show ever created in all of human existence, and all you still want to talk about after all this time is Hannibal. Aren’t you sick of it?”
“Aren’t you sick of Vodka?” she snaps back.
“Sacrilege!” he argues goodnaturedly as they take a fork left in the underground path, heading towards what could be described as a sort of wet growling sound.
“There’s Matt,” Sara cheerfully announces, pointing over at a room in the corner where the smacking sounds are coming from. “He’s about out of that second dozen now.”
In the corner of the room a visible pair black boots and denim legs are splayed out on the stone floor. In the man’s lap is a pink box that reads “VOODOO DOUGHNUTS” that has an open lid mostly obscuring his face. Part of a purple vintage western-styled shirt and the top of a perfectly styled pompadour is visible over the sides of the doughnut box. The creature that used to be Matt is completely distracted, grumbling happily into the box full of fried carbs, with what Tenney hopes is raspberry jelly filling on his face. There’s a large bloody bite that’s opened the left side of his neck. Blood has oozed down his neck past his collar bone inside of his shirt. He’s pale as death and his eyes are a glazed-over, strange grey.
“Well lucky for you I can tell by looking at our wayward weirdo here, that the mummy you have pissed off is clearly of the cursed variety. The good news is that these are easier to take down than the full on inhuman version, which are not only an actually different species but can't be undone with simple human magick like ours. The fact that the one that bit him was once a human makes it mostly reversible. Human bullshit is unpredictable but easier to handle than purely magickal.”
“Whew, thank God, I knew you’d know what to do.”
“Ahh, speaking of God, do you know how much work it’s going to be to track down all of these locals and convince them that we aren’t Gods now? Last thing we need is a bunch of Wu-Tang logos on UFOs painted in caves again.”
“We don’t have to tell them, you know,” she smiles devilishly, thinking about when she and her friend Guimo traveled to the past in a UFO once when they were bored. They ended up being worshipped as dark eyed hedonistic Sky Gods, it was a great weekend she always looks back on fondly.
“You fucking know that we do,” he reminds her, but has to chuckle at the thought of mysterious paintings of a smoking man in a tie showing up in Egyptian ruins anyway.
“Fine. Can we at least let them throw us a party again before we bail out and wipe all traces we were here?” He looks down and patiently raises an eyebrow at her in answer and she fake pouts and rolls her eyes in response. He can’t help but crack a smile at her ridiculousness, some things never change. He knows if she manages to live long enough she could be wandering around at 80 asking if anyone has a blunt or seen Mothman around, still yelling about the good old days talking shit on Twitter, invoking Pan everywhere she goes.
Rounding the next corner of the path underground inside the pyramid pulls them both out of their daydreaming, the unmistakable heavy iron smell of blood and viscera assaulting John and Sara’s vegan-super-powered olfactory senses. Pushing down nausea and bracing himself to look ahead, he sees what appears to be a clunkily animated rag-wrapped corpse desperately trying to gnaw on a fresh tan corpse’s head to get at the brains inside. He calmly reminds himself that none of this is actually real as he absorbs the horror in front of him.
“Just as I figured, minor cursed variety. You essentially tripped someone's burglar alarm mummy. There’s two ways to get rid of these, undoing the magick is the easiest. If you know the true name of who conjured it you can bring it under control easily and put it down humanely. It’s like magickal hacking.”
Tenney removes his sportcoat and drapes it over a large stone in the room, sweat on his temples beginning to slide down the sides of his face in rivulets due to the desert heat. He doubts that the source of this mummy is known to her but he can never resist an opportunity to pass on knowledge. It’s one of the things that has endeared him not only to Sara and all who are given the chance to know him through his work and his lectures.
“Okay, what if you don’t know for sure who programmed it? I have suspicions about who has been harassing me but what if I’m wrong?” she asks, as he expected.
“Well… then you have to fight it.” Tenney removes his tie and begins rolling it up to store it safely inside his jacket pocket.
“Wait.. like FIGHT, fight it?” her eyes grow wide with excitement at the thought of an actual brawl with her typically even-tempered friend at her side. It dawns on Sara what he’s now preparing himself for. He speaks in half-riddles and metaphors but that’s not what he’s alluding to here.
“Yeah, eventually the animating curse’s magick just wears out. It will tire enough that you can just put it out of its misery and send it back into the ether, then rebuild the human remains used to build it when you clean up and repair the timeline. In the meantime, it’s not an actual sentient being, so it’s a great guilt-free opportunity to brush up on your scrapping skills. It will just come for you again and again like a fucked up robot until it wears out. There’s no bad karma involved in kicking the ass of something that isn’t real, was never real or nor had consciousness,” He finishes, unbuttoning the cuffs of his white dress shirt and starts to roll up his shirt sleeves to his elbows.
Sara’s eyes manage to widen even further, she can’t believe Tenney is actually getting ready to throw down and she is going to witness it! Matt is going to be so mad he doesn’t remember this! “Since nothing is real,” she continues, “what happens to really undead Matt if we kill the not-real mummy that made him undead in the not-real timeline?” God, time travel is a pain in the ass!
“Well the bad news is that yes, he is technically now one of the undead. Just like taking the brick back that you came for, the consequences of moving an object from one timeline to another can and do matter. If you couldn’t take the brick back with you from here, what would have been the point of even coming to the past? A crossover without correcting this change to Matt’s body will have corresponding actual results if we take him back like this. In this false timeline when we kill the mummy, the undead Matt will be released and he will die in this timeline. There’s nothing I can do to prevent that,” he finishes. She looks stricken and he holds one hand up gently to quiet her for a moment before she can panic.
“We both know from experience bodies dying isn’t a big deal and you can come back as your primary avatar as long as you end up back in the right stream,” he continues. “He looks relatively whole so he should be able to reanimate without too many negative consequences, other than a hell of a stomach ache from his binge and some missing time he will never get back. He’s going to have a scar, though, but I can minimize it.”
“Oh thank God. That could just be the aftermath after we go drinking hard, honestly, we’re too old for that shit anymore. He’ll rally,” she allows herself to feel a bit of relief.
“Every time we have to reanimate someone there’s a slight possibility of a glitch, this shouldn’t be taken lightly despite the odds towards a favorable outcome, you know this,” he gently reminds her, forever the archetypical big brother trying to corral the younger sibling.
“I’m not, I promise, I’m sorry.” Their eyes meet and he nods, seeing the truth that she is taking their friend’s predicament seriously and hiding massive fear behind her verbal bravado.
“Unless things start going really poorly, do not intervene today,” he warns her.
“Okay...but I bet I can help. You know a lot about fighting mummies, Tenney.”
“Listen to me for once, please. This is important. You aren’t prepared for this. Your magickal speciality is in defeating hacks, charlatans, fake psychics and fascists. Please leave the more complicated monsters like cryptids, ghouls, goblins and mummies to me. It’s all important work to keep the timeline free from evil, your infiltration and take down of Zak Bagans was legendary and saved thousands of souls from his carny bullshit. All these years no one understood why you spent actual money to go to his crappy museum.” Tenney really was proud of her for that one. The majority of Sara’s true nemeses tended to rise out of Las Vegas for some strange reason now that he thought about it. Something is off for sure in that desert.
“Remember,” he continues, “I’ve been trained for this specifically. Your PhD is in Shit Talk and Synchronicity, not Magickal Repair Arts and the Undead.” He waves the hand with the mood ring in the air, somehow materializing a plain looking antique doctor’s bag from around 1930 out of thin air. It’s a neat trick and he knows it, always enjoys performing that bit when she’s around. Their shared Leo Risings appreciate the flair.
Sara teasingly named Tenney’s bag “The Tardis” some time ago, as his never ending magickal suitcase can produce anything he concentrates hard enough on conjuring. He wisely won’t let her get her fingers anywhere near it, preventing an endless stream of kittens and vintage resin monstrosities from the 1960’s from flooding his life forever. She’s pretty sure she could figure it out in an emergency though, and that’s precisely why he won’t let her near it.
“Just because you always do things three to six years ahead of me doesn’t mean I can’t do shit too, okay? No matter where we incarnate, every timeline you’re always ahead of me,” she complains, jutting her chin out. “Except for the bricks,” she smugly insists, “Those I started, old man.”
“Oh you start plenty of shit, I am getting sick of cleaning up and finishing it for you when I’m on vacation,” he admonishes her and she guffaws, again mumbling half-assed apologies and promising something about a getting him a new coffee maker as he tunes her out to begin to refocus on the task at hand.
Unlatching his bag, John begins pulling out weapons of various calibers - brass knuckles, knives, a crossbow, holy water, a Viking spear with etchings about Valhalla on the blade, even a medieval era club. While terribly tempted, Sara knows better than to touch any of Tenney’s stuff without asking first as so much of it is calibrated for only his use.
“Do you want my taser?” she offers. He shakes his head no and laughs.
Conspicuously absent from the arsenal he assembles are any guns - the TTSGA group vowed to not use them as weapons in any of their time traveling adventures, believing hand to hand combat to be the most sporting way to deal with supernatural problems they encounter. Guns also tend to be attention grabbing no matter the age they are used in, so it’s safer to remove them from the time traveling toolbox entirely in order to have their activities continue to be under the radar as much as possible. Plus kicking ass is fun and a good workout.
John lays out all of his weapon choices in front of them, weighing his options by preference and mood versus just efficacy. He is able to remove the pressure of having to have this fight be successful from his mind completely, knowing it already went perfectly. As soon as he envisioned it, it happened just how he intended to. He can revise the path to his victory as he desires in order to enjoy some spontaneous combat, but the outcome is firm.
This moment now is just one in the procession of steps leading to the result he has already manifested - true magick is as easy as breathing if you authentically believe in it. Feeling the ripples in the air as he solidifies the outcome, he feels a brief rush of peace in his guaranteed victory, closes his eyes and smiles. Anticipation is delicious when you can remove fear. The simplicity of now is powerfully astounding and could easily be addicting, which is likely why it’s designed to be so elusive to experience for the untrained mind. Staying in the present moment allows that anything can happen.
This feeling Tenney remembers… this is part of why he puts up with his sometimes chaos-inducing friends. While things may not always go the way they should when Sara and Matt are involved, their ability to continue to find novelty and engage with enthusiasm throughout time is somehow contagious.
After this world’s reality was proven to be influenceable, humans went through a genuine existential crisis. If nothing was real, was there a point to anything? If there’s no point, then what? Alternatively, if nothing is real, then everything must also be real. The wild unpredictability of Now is what reminds you that you are alive.
Realizing early in life that there were infinitely strange happenings in every town in every reality’s timeline, Matt and Sara initially connected through Liminal.Earth, a society started by revered Liminal Prophets Jeremy and Garrett that was founded upon mapping and celebrating the strange hidden within the seemingly otherwise mundane. Patterns and synchronicities were languages they all spoke and understood.
Matt and Sara happened upon John’s work on the internet, becoming fans far before they were friends. Tenney spoke many deep truths while he insisted “no one had any idea what the fuck was going on, so don’t be an asshole.” His humbleness and humor paired with a punk rock attitude of kindness impressed them both, and somehow over time as their paths crossed they became friends. Continuing to experiment with their shared false reality on occasion was another way they found to communicate with their version of Source. Just like Tenney taught them, they played, and the Universe played back.
Since there’s literally no way Tenney could lose this fight against the mummy, he might as well enjoy himself in the process. Turning his attention back to the pile of weapons he laid out for himself, he closes his eyes and lightly begins to run his fingers along the edges of the items in front of him. His fingers stop as they gingerly touch the handle of a pewter colored sword that is crusted with jewels… he’s found what he wants.
Sara has retreated about 100 feet behind John, far enough away that she’s not tempted to get involved but close enough to see what’s about to happen.
Rolling his shoulders and getting used to the heft of the weapon in his hands, the mummy has finished sucking the brain out of the husk of the former man he has been gnawing on since they entered the chamber. Suddenly the monster must sense John’s massive intelligence as he nears, the beast begins sniffing the air like someone threw a fresh brain on a barbeque right in front of its rotting olfactory senses.
Growling hungrily the corpse seems to be more animated now that John is closer to its immediate vicinity. Not only is he the perfect supernatural extermination expert for the job at hand, it turns out for this type of creature he’s also the perfect bait. The monster begins crawling his direction on its hands and knees, violently tossing the remains of its last victim aside that he’s now become isinterested in the fresh brains in the room.
Tenney decides to wait until the mummy can at least lift itself up to fill height to give it a sporting chance before he prepares to deliver a rain of blows onto the rotting mass. It’s already begun to stink sweetly due to the resins used in the mummy’s preparation and exerting itself as it slowly crawls pathetically towards John. Oddly, to Sara it seems to be getting slower with every drag as it pulls itself closer.
About three feet from reaching the base of John’s wing tipped oxford, the mummy reaches one arm out for John and lets out a pathetic wheeze and just stops moving.
“Oh, God damn it,” Tenney cusses, dropping the tip of his held sword to the ground in frustration.
“What just happened?” Sara confusedly asks from the corner.
“I hate this shit. Sometimes they’re built so shoddily that they just fall apart when I even get near them. I was really hoping I’d at least get to decapitate this one. It’s been years.”
“Wait… this thing that totally kicked me and Matt’s asses together, bit him, and turned him into a member of the undead was a shitty, cursed mummy?” she stops and looks over to formerly undead Matt in the corner who now is clearly as dead as the mummy’s unmoving corpse in front of them, “And it just died because it was you that showed up to fight it?”
“Yeah. I guess I’m mummy kryptonite. This is why I’m so irritated I haven’t gotten to fully fight one so far! They just fucking give up and die! Why the hell did they send me to years of training when I have never, not ONCE, had the opportunity to fuck up a mummy?” He lets go of the sword and begins padding his pockets searching for his Zippo to have another smoke.
“You know, back in 2020 some dork on Twitter said you were a secret government agent. I didn’t realize that part was even true until you admitted it later.”
“Yeah, some government agent, I guess," he chuckles, sucking a stream of nicotine back into his lungs.
“It’s too bad they didn’t code you to just make racists lose power and drop dead instead, that could come in really handy. Sorry about the raw deal,” she pads her empathy with jokes, as per usual. She never planned to be known as the Mythical Brick Lady either, but they just have to roll with it at this point. This is a very strange simulation they found themselves in.
“C’mon, let’s go fix the Mad Cowboy,” Tenney nudges her away from helping him pick up all of the weapons he laid out and towards Matt’s body on the ground instead.
"Will you teach me how you made the bag someday?" she asks, as she gingerly removes the pink box off of the corpse of her friend, getting ready to move him.
"I didn't make it. It already existed. I just needed to realize the possibility it could exist. The minute I decided it was mine and existed, it then existed. That's it." Tenney gathers the last of his weapons and straightens himself.
"Yeah, that,” she laughs. “Teach me how to do that."
"What, think?" He laughs heartily, finishing his smoke. "You already do that, this is how and why we all ended up here in this fine place together after all," he answers, bending down again to draw a large star on the ground with chalk. "We are all sharing a thought, or maybe a dream, right now."
"And here I thought it just was because we were all Virgos, we all overthink," Sara jokes as she watches him work, holding Matt’s body up by the biceps. When Tenney speaks in unintentional riddles like this it both enthralls and frustrates her with how he's able to make her mind race with possibilities. Again, she marvels at the proof of the reality of Magick, thoughts can and do have real consequences.
John comes over and grabs Matt’s legs, the two of them carry Matt over to the circle of symbols Tenney drew on the ground with chalk, being careful not to scrape him on the ground. After he’s gently placed on the pentagram, Tenney retreats a moment to center himself to work on bringing Matt back.
“Wait! Before we bring him back we have to fix his hair!" she howls, interrupting his concentration.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" he snaps.
"You don't understand. His entire divination power is linked to his superior follicle structure. Even if we bring his corpse back to life successfully if we don't get the hair right he won't regenerate at full strength...and Pam will definitely kick my ass."
"Well, you deserve it," John blithely answers, ashing his Winston Light onto the tomb's sand floor after seeing no alternative. Somehow the ashes evaporate before they hit the ground, a small hint that he doesn't belong in this timeline. "But, he had to have known that he would regenerate as a result of coming here with you. The cards would have told him."
"Valid," Sara agrees. "He had to have known the risks and didn't tell me. I don't know why... but I know that he would only want to come back as the Perfect Haired Motherfucker we all know and love". She pulls out of her pocket a small, round handmade booklet that's grown yellow over time. "We can rebuild him. I have the perfect hair ritual. He transcribed it and I was entrusted with it, there's not enough time to fully explain the nuances. I've been studying it for years trying to get it right. Just trust me on this, no bullshit. I got this." Sara rubs her hands together over the top of Matt's hair and starts humming and making what sounds like soft chants.
She reaches into her bag and pulls out a brown container of pomade and a comb and gets to work as she continues to chant as Tenney preps. After a few moments leaning over Matt she pulls back to survey her work. "It's not nearly as perfect as he gets it of course, but at least it's recognizable. He will be able to work with this. Should we wash all of the donut glaze and blood off of his face first too?"
"Mmm." John hums in assent. "Good idea. I don't want to take any chances we don't have to." Again he reaches into the Tardis doctor bag and somehow retrieves a gallon of distilled water and a clean washcloth so Sara can clean him off.
“Do you need to say any magic words or anything?” she asks when she’s done.
"Ommmmm... there is no spoon," he riffs back, helping her again perfectly arrange Matt's temporarily lifeless limbs over the pentagram and symbols he drew in preparation to resurrect his chosen vessel. Straightening Matt's head to rest above the point of the star he stands back and surveys the circle's symmetry.
"Damn, he really does have great hair doesn't he?" he admits, raising one eyebrow in one of his trademark moves.
"Yep," she confirms, admiringly. "So what's next?"
"You go over there and don't try to help," he instructs her. She's too tired to argue.
Sara only was able to follow about a third of the ritual Tenney performed to raise Matt's corpse to it’s formerly alive status. He wasn't kidding when he warned her that the magick involved was so deeply specialized that there was no way that a novice like herself could possibly hope to harness it safely. It took three hours of Tenney's work and two packs of smokes before Matt's eyelids finally twitched, signaling his slow return to the land of the living.
"Oh thank fuck, I was getting worried," Sara gasped, finally allowing herself to take a full, deep breath as she saw her friend's lungs also inflate up and down again for the first time. John didn't take Sara's doubt that Matt would be okay personally, he's one of the few he knows could actually pull it off anyway, she's right to remain skeptical.
"It's because you still are doubting your magickal abilities on some level… that's why you can't fully break through yet," John coaches Sara, lightly touching her shoulder as he walks out of the room and back to the path leading to back the front entrance of the pyramid. "You're grasping too tightly to rules that don't really exist. Let go. You can do this, anyone can."
Sara sits quietly in the pyramid room with her thoughts as Matt slowly comes back to the land of the living with a pounding headache but otherwise solid, just as John predicted he would be. As Tenney warned he might, Matt did end up with a scar on his throat that he’d have to explain to Pam when they got home. Fortunately Sara took videos of him inhaling donuts as a member of the undead to show her as proof so he wouldn’t be in the doghouse for doing anything other than hanging out with her dumb ass again.
Witnessing one of your friends raise another from the grave was definitely cooler than just watching an exorcism it turned out.
“Okay, listen. You two are NOT allowed to fuck with 1943 okay, that year is MINE,” John insists, rolling his shirt sleeves back down and re-fastening the cuffs together.
“Deal! We promise not to ever go there. That year is totally 100% free from our bullshit forever. We do not exist there,” Matt promises, bending and wincing slightly as he stretches his stuff and aching back. Lying dead on the floor for hours will do that to you.
He extends a hand for John to shake, sealing the deal, earnest as a boy scout in his vow to leave that year untouched.
“But Tenney there’s no vegan cheese in 1943! What if you need VioLife, or you--” Sara starts in.
“No,” Tenney firmly tells her.
“Okay. But if you change you mind you can always--”
“No,” Matt and John say simultaneously.
Sara briefly opens her mouth to argue an imaginary scenario but then closes it and nods instead. He earned 1943… without question. She walks over to a large shelving unit and returns cradling a stamped red brick in her hands:
“Thanks, Tenney,” she speaks softly for once, handing it over. It's the least she could do, after all.
John looks down at her and takes it from her hands, smiling and understanding the meaning of her offering. He tucks it into his magick Tardis doctor’s bag, which has somehow again reappeared out of nowhere when he thought of it. As far as parlor trucks go, that one is certainly useful.
As the brick disappears into the bag forever it's as good as setting a permanent padlock on a place that she would never be able to pick open, even if she later desperately wanted to. They hug briefly and somehow Sara already misses Tenney as she and Matt watch him walk away like some dark 1940’s noir hero who is somehow just beyond time.
“Aww, c’mon, he'll stop being mad eventually. He always does.” Matt says to Sara, making a face as he gains feeling back in his facial muscles, making her giggle as he too watches Tenney’s back retreat towards the open portal to what he hopes is a peaceful 1943. This isn't the first time John pulled them out of some serious shit and probably wouldn't be the last, if he were to be honest… which he always is.
Both he and Sara shield their eyes from the bright “pop” of light as Tenney goes back to his vacation in the past, having saved the mostly unknowing and unsuspecting world from probable doom yet again. After a quiet moment of gratitude for their selfless friend, Sara breaks the silence, whispers and nudges Matt, “Hey dork. Guess what?”
A devilish gleam in her eye, she reaches back and pulls a tan sandstone brick out of her bag to show him. Despite the narrow escape from Egypt back to the present with all three of them in one piece, she somehow managed to grab the Giza pyramid brick after all.
“Yesssss!” he hisses happily and high fives her with a shocked grin, grabbing the clay model of the brick red Michelin Man from the table that he had been working on before they left for Egypt. "And by the way, now that I'm back, I can't believe I forgot to tell you… wait until you hear what Obscura has been up to this week…" he promises, yawning as he leads her back towards the car in the abandoned lot where they decided to open the portal. "Actually, I'm glad you drove today. I'm still pretty tired after being dead for a while and all. Mind if I snooze on the way home? I'll tell you about Mark later."
She totally didn't mind.
After checking in with Pam and Dave and somewhat minimizing the day’s events so they didn’t needlessly worry, the two of them both fell safely into their beds and crashed, sleeping the dreamless sleep of the exhausted.
Meeting up the next afternoon, Matt and Sara head back out towards the old brick shop hidden deep in the woods behind TTSGA headquarters to work on their Brick Man project. Their rowdy laughter as they argue about what they are going to name their Egyptian brick tulpa creation for when it’s eventually noted in the media echoes through the forest, overpowering the gentle sounds of their own footfalls and other quiet sounds of life around them.
The owls sit and hoot admonishments down at them from the dark lines of trees, forever watching.