Starring:Cleavant Derricks as Rembrandt Brown
Wes Charles, Jr. as Malcolm
Elise Neal as Janine Brown
Darius Carlos Rucker as himself
It was late by the time they left the club, and Janine had insisted that Rembrandt and Diana stay with her and Malcolm in their home above the rectory. They had accepted, of course, not wanting to be rude. Malcolm had insisted that Remmy sing him to sleep like the Reverend used to, and the two of them went off to Malcolmís bedroom.
When Janine went to look for Rembrandt half an hour later, she found him in Malcolmís room, still singing. She leaned against the doorframe, listening. It had been a long time since she had heard that voice.
"Hush, hush, go on and dream. Daddy is always near, by the window, by the window, by the window. Hush, hush, safely inside, calm as the sea you drift in, shifting. Hush, hush, go on and dream. Daddy is always near." He stopped when he saw her standing there.
"No, keep singing," she urged. "Itís beautiful. My father used to sing sometimesÖ."
"Shh, I think heís finally asleep, come on," Rembrandt whispered, creeping quietly out of the room and motioning her to follow him. Once he shut the door, he began to speak in a normal tone. "So your father was a singer, too, huh?"
"No, not really. He used to sing to us sometimes, church hymns and stuff, but he was never really serious about it. Too devoted to the church and to his causes." She smiled at that, remembering.
"On my world, I was a singer," Rembrandt told her. "The Crying Man. I was on my way to sing the National Anthem at a baseball game when I got sucked up in this mess."
"That was a beautiful song you were singingÖ did you write it yourself?" Janine asked.
"Yeah. I wrote it for my unborn son on a parallel world." He was about to mention something about him being pregnant, but he stopped himself.
"Could you sing something for me?"
"Sure thing, sweetheart," Rembrandt replied. "I know just the song for you. Straight out of heaven, you are an angel, better to me than life itselfÖ."
The next morning, Rembrandt woke to the smell of coffee and bacon. "Oooh breakfast," he said as he wandered into the church kitchen. Diana and Malcolm were already sitting at the table and Janine was scurrying around the kitchen, cooking.
"Sit down, itíll be ready in a sec," Janine told him. A few minutes later she set plates down in front of them. "Breakfast is served," she said, smiling.
"So, if you donít mind me asking," Diana said, in between bites, "where is the rest of your family? And Malcolmís parents? It canít be just the two of you living here."
"It is," Janine returned. "As for Malcolm, his parents were killed in a riot a few years ago. Their house was set on fire and only Malcolm survived." Malcolm became noticeably solemn at the mention of his parents. "My father took him in," Janine continued. "After my father was killed, my mother took my little sister to her parentsí house up north. Malcolm and I decided to stay here. And thatís the way itís been ever since."
Diana was shocked, forÖ what was it, the third time since they had arrived yesterday? These two children had been living alone? Well, Janine wasnít a child, but she was barely an adult. Diana remembered when she was that age, she was still living at home with her parents. She could never have survived on her own. She didnít have to. Her world wasnít like this.
"Thereís going to be a riot tonight," Malcolm piped up. "You coming, Remmy?"
"Um, no, I donít think so," Rembrandt said. "Iím not really the rioting type."
Janine nodded. "Like my father."
Malcolm wasnít appeased, though. "But you said last night that this was unfair, and something should be done!" When Rembrandt looked surprised, he continued, "I heard you whispering to Diana. Last nightÖ I heard what you said. About us never having the civil rights movement in the í60ís. And about that guy from your world, Martin Luther King." He sounded almost accusing, as though by not going to the riot Rembrandt was doing something terribly wrong.
"Now, Malcolm," Janine interjected, "if Rembrandt doesnít want to participate in the riot, thatís his choice. This isnít his world. He doesnít have to go if he doesnít want to. He can stay hereÖ with you. You will be staying here, right?" The tone of her voice implied that he would be staying here whether he wanted to or not.
"Aw, butÖ" Malcolm started to protest. Then he saw the look on her face. "Yes maíam," he sighed.
Rembrandt looked up at Janine sharply. "Does that mean you will be going?" he asked coarsely. He hadnít expected this.
Janine nodded slightly, embarrassed. "Once my father was killed, I joined a rioting group that caused a lot of trouble. We were just kids then, you know, crazy teenagers, but now weíve gotten serious."
"Youíve joined the people your father was opposed to?" Rembrandt asked her.
"Yes," Janine replied, after a slight hesitation. "My father fought his way. This is mine. Darius and the others, theyíve shown me how to get things to change."
Meanwhile, Maggie was getting a little worried. She had called the hotel again, and again Remmy and Diana werenít there. "Why arenít they there? Where are they? What if something happened to them?"
"Donít worry," Michael assured her. "Iím sure theyíre fine. Theyíre probably just out."
"But they were out last night, too!" Maggie whined. "What if somethingís happened? Weíve got to go over there and find out!"
"No we donít. Nothingís happened. Meanwhile, I donít want to go out if we donít have to. I donít like the feel of this world. All the stuff on the news about those riots. Itís better if we just stay in the hotel."
"Oh, you donít like the Ďfeelí of this world? Since when are you the resident expert on parallel universes?" Maggie snapped. She didnít really intend to be mean, she was just anxious about their friends. Luckily, Michael realized that, and didnít get mad at her.
"Iím sure theyíre fine," he repeated in a more soothing tone. "Weíll call them again later. But Iím sure theyíre fine." He put his hand on her arm, and it appeared to calm her. She turned and threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly.
"Thank you, Michael, youíre the best," she said, burying her face in his shoulder. Michael just hugged her back, a little taken aback by her sudden mood change. This girl was like a rollercoaster. After a little while, when she showed no intention of letting go, he pushed her away gently.
She glanced up at him, almost puzzled at first. Buried in his shoulder, she had almost convinced herself that Quinn was holding her. She missed Quinn so much, she hadnít realized it was going to be so hard to let him go. Michael was a lot like him. Sometimes she felt so close to Michael, it was almost like being with Quinn. Almost.
Rembrandt caught Janine that afternoon to try to talk some sense into her. "Please, sweetheart," he begged her. "Donít go tonight."
"I have to," she replied. "Darius and the others will be expecting me."
"There are other ways," he tried to convince her. "Peaceful ways. Take a lesson from your fatherÖ."
Janine broke free from his grasp. "No," she said. "My father always preached about peaceful ways to bring about change. Well, look what that got him. They want a fight, those white boys. Weíll give íem one." She was obviously bitter in relation to the subject. She turned to leave.
"Violence is not the answer," Rembrandt started, but she was already gone.
The phone rang. Maggie snatched it up before it even had time to complete the first ring. "Hello?" she said anxiously.
"Maggie?" Diana asked. "Is everything all right? You soundÖ"
"Yes, Iím just fine," Maggie interrupted. "Iím so glad you called! I was worried about you guys! Where were you?"
"Rembrandt met a friend of his, Malcolm. Weíre staying with Remmyís daughter."
"Remmyís daughter," Maggie chuckled, a little too loudly. "Now thereís something! Whatís the number?"
Diana gave it to her. She was surprised, Maggie seemed so excited to hear from her, youíd think they had been separated for weeks. She and Maggie werenít even that good of friends yet. Then Michael came on the phone.
"Hi, Michael. I was just calling to let you guys know where we were."
"Yeah, thanks," Michael said. "Maggie has been flipping out."
"Whatís the matter with her?" Diana asked.
"Donít worry about her, sheís just being emotional." Michael wasnít too sure about that diagnosis, but he didnít want to worry the other two.
After saying goodbye and hanging up the phone, Michael turned to Maggie, who was sitting on the edge of the bed.
"Iím glad they called, I was worried," Maggie said unnecessarily.
Michael sat down next to her. "Whatís up with you, Maggie? I know we havenít known each other for that long, but something tells me you arenít normally like this."
Maggie looked up at Michael, locking eyes with him. His eyes. So much like Quinnís. She shook her head, as if to clear it of the thought. She had to stop thinking like that. Michael was not Quinn, and no amount of wishing would make him Quinn.
Meanwhile, he was waiting for an answer.
"A few worlds ago," Maggie started, "Quinn and I shared a bubble universe. We grew up together, dated, went to the prom, got married, had kids, a whole life. I always wished we could actually have done that, instead of sliding. I loved Quinn. I guess I convinced myself that, maybe, if we found the right earth, we could just settle down, you know? But nowÖ" She started to cry slightly. "Heís found his home. Heís on Earth Prime, a world that I can never live on because I canít breathe." Michael hugged her to him and let her cry on his shoulder, stroking her hair.
"I donít have a home," Maggie looked up at him, sniffling. "My earth was destroyed. Quinn was my world. I thought maybe I could be his, but now I know thatís not true." She buried her face in his shoulder again.
Once she was finished crying, she pulled away, wiping the tears from her eyes. "You know, StevenÖ my husband, Steven, and I always wanted children. But we put it off because of my career. How was I supposed to make command with a baby on my hip, right? Then Steven died, and it was too late." She paused a moment, and Michael just sat and listened, waiting for her to continue.
"I thought Quinn was my second chance. Now even thatís goneÖ."
Diana came to sit with Rembrandt and Malcolm in the small living room of the apartment above the rectory. "I talked to Maggie," she told them. "She seemed veryÖ wellÖ" She trailed off, not quite sure how to describe Maggie.
Rembrandt nodded. "Yeah, she misses Q-Ball," he said. He didnít think it was too serious. Sheíd get over it.
"Janine went to the riot," he informed Diana. Janine had just left in fact. He thought of what she had said before leaving. "My father always said to stand wherever the Lord puts you," she had told him, much calmer than she had been earlier that afternoon. "No matter what it seems like, youíre there for a reason. ĎGod has his plan for all of us,í he said. Well, this is where Iíve been put. And this is what I have to do." And then she had gone out the door.
"What do you think will happen?" Diana asked, bringing him back to the present.
"I donít know," he admitted. "I hope sheíll be careful, and nothing will happen to her, but I just canít help feeling that sheís gonna get into trouble."
"Sheíll be fine," Malcolm assured them. "Sheís gone to lots of riots like this, and nothingís ever gone wrong." Somehow that didnít appease Rembrandt. Call it premonition, call it mere anxiety, but he just knew, he could feel it in his gut: something was going to happen.
Finally, Rembrandt couldnít ignore it anymore. "I canít just let her go by herself Ė Iím gonna check out this riot. Malcolm do you know where it is?"
Malcolm nodded. He gave Remmy directions, and with that, Rembrandt left.
The scene of the riot was truly a sight to behold. Buildings everywhere were being set alight, the flames dancing merrily. People were running everywhere, many of them carrying torches, most likely the cause of the fires. The flames glowed brightly in the darkness. It reminded Rembrandt of the "living flame" they had encountered many worlds back. Quinn and the Professor had rigged up a way to communicate with the little flame. That was the one cheerful thought in his mind among all the worry and concern fluttering about in the foreground of his thoughts.
Meanwhile, in the heart of the riot, Darius could tell something was bothering Janine. She refused to admit it, though, insisting she was fine. Truthfully, she was thinking about what Rembrandt had said earlier that day. Perhaps he had been right. The thought was pushed from her mind as she heard the cry go up: "Here come the white boys!"
Rembrandt also heard it. It caused a chill to run down his spine. He then heard the first gunshots being fired. "They got guns! The white boys got guns!" someone shouted a warning.
But it was too late for Janine. She heard the crack of the gun being fired, and felt the sharp pain in her chest before she even realized what had happened. She crumpled to the ground with a whimper, and immediately Darius was at her side, cradling her in his arms. He whispered in her ear, trying to keep her with him, but she slipped farther and farther away. He gently picked her up and carried her to an alleyway, out of the way of the fighting, and laid her down ever so carefully. He looked up to see Rembrandt standing in the alley entrance. The two men looked at one another, holding each otherís gaze and, without either saying a word, they both understood. They didnít need to say anything; their eyes spoke volumes.
Rembrandt returned to the house an hour or so later. He ushered Diana and Malcolm out the door. "Come on," he said. "Weíre going to the club."
Darius had promised to play at the night club that night, and he couldnít shirk his duties, despite what had happened. Besides, he felt that playing would help him. Music was his therapy.
Rembrandt explained the events of the riot on the way to the club and told Diana and Malcolm that he thought Darius needed them there. Now they sat silently at their usual table in the corner, just like the previous night, only with one glaring exception. Snippets of the lyrics reached Rembrandtís ears, and he noticed the difference since the night before.
Sometimes weíd laugh and talk, seems like yesterday
Then you let the white horse come and take you away
They came to get you, it was cold and black
The wheels were in motion, there was no turning back
Darius sounded like he was about to break down and cry on the stage, but he never did. He just kept singing, and he gained strength with every passing song. The music helped heal him. He would grieve tomorrow, but tonight he had to be strong.
Alone as I sit and watch the trees
Wonít you tell me if I scream will they bend down and listen to me
And it makes me wonder if I know the words will you come
Or will you laugh at me
Or will I run
Little boy says to me,
"Where you goiní now son"
I said, "I don't know where I'm goin' boy
I only know where I'm from"
And it makes me wonder
If the stars shine when my eyes close
Or does my brothers heart cry
I don't know
I'm a stranger in my home
Now that everybody's gone
Someone please talk to me
Cause I feel you cry
And you're sitting with him
And I know I'll never see you again
Lying down in Charleston under the Carolina sky
You see I'm tired of feeling this pain
I'm tired of living my own little lie
And it makes me wonder
When I see you in my dreams
Does it mean anything
Are you trying to talk to me
I'm a stranger in my home
Tell me are you feeling alone
Someone tell me what to do
'Cause I'm feeling strong
And I wonder how you feel
Do you realize my pain is for real
I see you in my dreams
And I wonder if you're looking down at me
And smiling right now
I wanna know if it's true
When he looks at me
Won't you tell me
Does he realize he came down here
And he took you too soon
And now my days are short an my nights are long
I lay down with memories of you keep that keep me going on, going on
It makes me wonder as I sit and stare
Will I see your face again
Tell me, do you care
I'm a stranger in my home
Living life on my own
Right now I just can't see
'Cause I'm feeling weak
And my soul begins to bleed
And no one is listening to me, not even the trees
After the song was done, he got down off the stage and came over to their table.
"How are you doing?" Diana asked him, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder. He nodded to show that he was all right. He would survive, at least.
"Iíve decided what to do," he announced. "I decided while I was up there," he gestured towards the stage, "and Iím moving back to Charleston, my home town. I came here after my mother died. I met Janine, and decided to stay. Now Iím going home." Rembrandt nodded his approval. "Malcolm, youíre welcome to come with me," Darius continued. Malcolm agreed.
Darius headed back to the stage, and Rembrandt looked at his watch. "We gotta go," he leaned over and whispered to Diana. "We slide in half an hour." She nodded.
Rembrandt wished he could stay with Malcolm a little longer, but they had to slide. He accepted that he would be safe with Darius, but secretly he longed to take Malcolm with him, just like he had wished the same about the Malcolm from Maggieís world. He turned to Malcolm to say goodbye.
"You leaving now, Remmy?" Malcolm asked him. His face was still tearstained, but he was calm and composed. Rembrandt admired that. He was strong for a boy his age.
"Yes," he answered. "Malcolm, I want you to remember what I told you about Martin Luther King. How he was a peaceful man, and he succeeded. I want you to be like him, Malcolm. I know itís hard, but you can do it. Go out and tell the story, to anyone whoíll listen. Make them hear you, and you can help change the world. Itíll happen, when they hear you, and think of me, Malcolm. Think of me."
"I will, Remmy, I promise." The two of them hugged each other, so tight that they might never let go.
As Rembrandt and Diana made their way out of the club, the strains of Dariusís song followed them.
Tomorrow used to be a day away
Now love is gone and youíre into someone far away.
I never thought the day would come
When I would see his hand, not mine,
holding onto yours because I could not find the time.
Now I canít deny
nothing lasts forever
I donít want to leave
and I see the tear drops in your eyes
I donít want to live to see the day we say goodbye
Now there comes another part of life that I call alone
sitting at a bar with Chris
and I can't leave because my house ainít no home, no.
I just wanna touch you girl
I wanna feel you close to me
Without your love I would give up now
and walk away so easily.
So maybe while youíre young
Weíll figure out together
that even with the pain, thereís a remedy
and weíll be all right
I don't want to live to see the day we say goodbye.
When I first met you I couldnít love anyone
but you stole my dreams and you made me see
that I can walk under the sun
and I can still be me
and now I canít deny nothing lasts forever.
But I don't want to leave and see the teardrops in your eyes
So baby while we're young letís figure out together
that even with the pain there's a remedy
and weíll be all right.
I donít want to live to see the day we say goodbye,
we say goodbye, oh goodbye, goodbye.
Rembrandt and Diana were silent when they met up with Maggie and Michael at the park. "Remmy!" Maggie shouted, running to meet him. "I missed you!"
"I missed you too, Maggie," Rembrandt answered, but his mind was clearly on other things.
"You donít sound like you mean it," she pouted dramatically, sensing there was something wrong, and trying to cheer him up.
"Hey, whatís the matter with you guys? Take a vow or silence or something at that church?" Michael also sensed his friendsí preoccupation.
"Well, time to go," Maggie said cheerfully, pointing the timer in front of her.
"Wait!" Michael stopped her. "Can I do it? I love doing that." Maggie grinned and handed him the timer.
"Letís go!" Michael said. He pushed the button and a vortex formed. He jumped in, followed by Maggie. Rembrandt and Diana looked at each other before joining them.
"Hell of a first slide, huh?" Rembrandt asked her. Diana just nodded as they clasped each othersí hands and jumped in the vortex together.
Once they came out on the other side, they were in a forest. A dark forest. They had no idea which way to go in the pitch blackness, so they decided to wait until morning before trying to find civilization. Michael approached Diana, who was leaning against a tree with her eyes closed. "Do you want to talk about what happened on that world?" he asked her.
Diana opened her eyes to look at him and shook her head. "No. I just need some time to think." Just as she said that, they heard a drum beating and a wild yell.
"No time to think," Michael said, grabbing Dianaís hand and pulling her along. "We gotta run!" And the four sliders took off running through the forest, being chased by who knows what.
DISCLAIMER: Lyrics from the Hootie and the Blowfish songs "Hannah Jane," "Drowning," "Running From an Angel," "Not Even the Trees," and "Goodbye" used without permission. All songs written by Mark Bryan, Dean Felber, Darius Rucker, and Jim Sonefeld. Ó 1994 Atlantic Recording Corporation.
Alternate Earth 117
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