Together Again, Never Apart
Doctor Skin barged past Max, stepping into the apartment as if he belonged there. He looked around the room, his nose wrinkling in disgust. “Smells a bit, doesn’t it?”
“What?” asked a dazed Max. She glanced out the front door to see if there were any more surprises before closing it and following Skin inside.
“I don’t know,” said Skin, taking a seat on the sofa and putting his feet up. “I always thought reality would be a bit more exciting.”
“What?” asked Max again. She walked around the room, not taking her eyes off Skin for a second. But the more she looked at him, the more Max realized she somehow knew him in a way she could never articulate.
Doctor Skin smiled. “I know this must be a bit confusing for you.”
“That might just be the biggest understatement of the year. Look, who are you?”
Skin leaped up off the couch and offered his hand to Max. “I’m sorry, how terribly rude of me. I’m Doctor Skin.”
Max took the offered hand and shook it weakly.
Skin breathed a sigh of relied. “That’s lucky. I thought there was a chance everything would blow up if we actually touched each other, but it looks like there was nothing to worry about.”
“Gee, that’s reassuring,” said Max sarcastically. “But wait a minute. Did you say Dr Skin? That’s my last name!”
“Yes,” nodded Skin. “Interesting, isn’t it? I bet your first name is Max too.”
Max didn’t reply, but nodded just a little.
“Excellent!” said Skin, slapping his hands together and rubbing them in glee. “It appears I was on the right road after all. I was a little worried I might have got sidetracked again.”
Max had had enough. “Look, just what is this all about? How do I know you? Where did you come from? What are you doing here? What the fuck is this all about?”
Dr Skin’s face clouded over as he frowned. “Are you sure you want to know?”
“Okay,” said Skin. He took one long, deep breath before launching into his explanation. “I’m another version of you who lived in worlds and dimensions you could barely understand. I have traveled through time and space in every possible direction and had my mind expanded in more ways then you can possibly imagine. I have fought gods and monsters, loved far and wide, lived every moment to the fullest.”
He paused to catch his breath again and Max started in with a sarcastic remark, only to be cut off as Skin got going again.
“I lost my one, true love in a terrible accident that was purely my own fault. I have never got over it, but I have pushed myself on in a quest for the purpose of life. I discovered, with no small regret, that there is no purpose in my life.”
“Really?” asked a bored Max, but Skin waved away his cynicism.
“I did discover that I existed in a world that did not conform to any normality and I resolved to find out why. In the most part, I failed, but I discovered along the way that there was another world, a stronger world, where reality was more defined.”
“And this is it?” said Max, waving her arm around.
“I certainly thought so,” said Skin, pacing around the room. “It took some considerable hardship to get here, with the help of some and the hindrance of many. It took almost everything I had to get here, but…”
Dr Skin moved over to the window and put his hand in its surface as he stared down onto the street below. “This place still feels a little wrong. I think my journey isn’t over yet. I may have to move on again.”
“Wow,” said Max in a dull monotone. “That’s remarkable. All that for an explanation and you still haven’t made a single fucking thing clear.”
“I have to find the answer to my existence!” cried Skin, grabbing onto Max’s shirt. “I am lost without any meaning!
“That’s a shame,” said Max, twisting in Skin’s grip and looking at the clock on the wall. “Look, I have to get to work, so…”
“No,” said Skin firmly, letting Max go. “I have been pushed here to meet you. There is something out there that has pushed us together, the same force that has propelled me on the path to this place. I need your help.”
“Why exactly should I help you? What’s in it for me?”
Dr Skin’s eyes blazed. “You are just as lost as I am, aren’t you, Max? You can’t explain it, but you feel it in the very core of your being.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The vague sensation that there should be more to life, that there is something missing in you, something that you need.”
“Doesn’t everybody feel like that?” said Max in a very, very small voice.
“Maybe,” said Skin with an absurdly cocked eyebrow. “But not everybody gets the chance to do something about it.”
Max found herself nodding and gave in. Skin was right. She had to do something and it was being handed to her on a plate here. She would be a fool not to take the chance.
“Okay,” she said, moving over to her phone. “Just give me a minute.”
“Suits me,” said Skin. “I need to take a piss anyway.”
“Bathroom is through there on the left,” said Max, pointing over to the right as she picked up the phone and dialed the number for work. She only had to wait a moment before it was answered by Farrar.
“Hello, dispatch department.”
“Hey Farrar, it’s me.”
“Oh. What do you want? You’re running late, you know.”
“I know. Look, I’m feeling pretty bad this morning, so I’m just going to stay home.”
“Really?” asked Farrar down the phone line, just as Max heard a howl of joy come from the bathroom. She covered the receiver just a second too late. “What was that?”
“Nothing. Look, tell Kubrick we’ll sort out that other thing tomorrow when I come in, okay?”
“I don’t know, Max. You don’t sound very ill to me. I think you should just come in and make an effort.”
“Fuck you, Farrar. I’m sick.”
“Well, there is no need for language like that.”
“Fuck you, Farrar,” Max said again. “I covered your arse when you went to that stupid conference.”
”It wasn’t stupid, it was important business.”
“Whatever,” sighed Max as Skin came back from the bathroom with a huge grin on his face. “Look, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Farrar began to protest more, but Max cut him off and hung up, turning back to Skin. “What the hell was all that about?”
“What?” said a beaming Skin, the very picture of innocence.
“That howl! What the hell was all that about?”
“Oh, that. It was the piss I took.”
“What about it?”
Skin scratched his leg. “It was, without a doubt, the most satisfying piss I’ve ever had in my entire life. This world might not the best I could hope for, but it has its merits.”
“I’m happy for you. Now, what do we do now?”
Skin walked back over to the window and closed his eyes. “I just have to follow my instincts. That’s all I’ve been doing so far. Pushed and pulled in all directions, but my gut feelings have always been straight and true.”
“Uh-huh,” said Max, wondering again why she was putting her trust in this man. “And what is your gut saying now?”
Skin rubbed his belly. “That I’m hungry. But I think I need to head back to the spot where I came into this world. Reality is weak there. I think we can break through into something else.”
“Terrific,” said Max. “I’ll get my coat.”