‘Computer, start recording’ declares the Beast (Dr. Henry McCoy) in one of his labs, where lying on the examination table in front of him is his badly wounded teammate Cannonball (Sam Guthrie). The Beast begins listing Sam’s injuries - broken collarbone, maxilla and scapula, along with compound fractures to upper and lower leg bones. The Beast concludes that Cannonball’s blast field was not functioning at full efficiency when he escaped the Marauders by punching his way out through several walls. Hank remarks that of more immediate concern though are the brain-scan readings, which show cerebral activity as both sluggish and discontinuous, while neural connectivity is greatly impaired.
‘Temporary or permanent’ the Beast wonders out loud, remarking that until they get the deep-scan results and until Sam regains consciousness, there is no way of knowing. Suddenly, ‘Damn it, Hank. That’s not good enough!’ exclaims Iceman (Bobby Drake), Hank’s fellow founding X-Man and Cannonball’s close friend. Hank pauses the recording and tells Bobby that it will have to be good enough. ‘I know how you feel, but there isn’t any more I can do until I get the rest of the results’ Hank adds, before remarking that in regards to brain injuries, the wrong treatment is usually worse than no treatment at all.
Iceman replies that he knows that, but that this is eating him up. He informs Hank that he made the call to stand and fight the Marauders. ‘If we pulled out when they first showed up, Sam wouldn’t be lying here with half his brain burned out!’ Bobby exclaims. The Beast replies that Sinister would then have the Destiny Diaries, to which Sam replies that perhaps they should have let Sinister have them, as it isn’t worth this. ‘Nothing is worth this’ Bobby declares, to which Hank points out that that the fact remains that the X-Men won, and in spite of everything Sinister threw at Iceman, he did was he was sent to do and got himself and Sam out alive. Bobby stands by Sam’s table while Hank remarks that may be cold comfort right now, but that it is the only variety he has got, before asking Bobby to bear with him while he goes and checks his other patient.
‘Hello Doctor McCoy’ the precognitive young mutant Blindfold (Ruth Aldine) remarks as Hank enters her ward. Beast greets Ruth and asks her how she is feeling now. ‘The prognosis is mixed, but when is it not?’ Ruth replies, before exclaiming that everything tends towards death and that it will get better before it gets much, much worse. ‘But I appreciate the company’ she adds sincerely. The Beast remarks that he doesn’t think Sam is going to be particularly chatty for a while, to which Ruth replies ‘Thank you. No. Not Sam. I mean the others’. Beast looks worried, and asks Blindfold ‘What others. What do you mean?’ Ruth then announces several names - Hellion, Pixie, Nightcrawler. ‘And I think I’m missing someone. I think someone else gets hurt’ she adds….
Meanwhile, elsewhere within the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, Cyclops (Scott Summers) is remembering the past - a time with his deceased wife Phoenix (Jean Grey) and their son from a possible future Cable (Nathan Dayspring Summers). ‘The Time-line?’ Scott recalls Nathan saying. ‘Even with all the experience I’ve had with time travel - look maybe in the end, nothing is certain’. Nathan told Scott and Jean that by them going into the future, they changed his life and gave him a family. ‘How wrong can that be?’ Nathan asked, before declaring that all he knows about time is that it is precious, and doesn’t regret for a single moment being their son.
Suddenly, ‘This again? Scott, you’ve passed beyond obsession into uncharted psychological waters!’ Cyclops’ current lover and co-headmaster of the Institute, the White Queen (Emma Frost) exclaims as she approaches her lover. Annoyed, Scott tells Emma that if she doesn’t like what is in his head to stay out of it. ‘At least you have that option’ he mutters. But Emma replies that she doesn’t have that option, that she is too closely attuned to Scott now, and his feelings are too loud to shut out. Scott replies that his son is dead, and therefore he cannot help what he feels. ‘If you came here to tell me to suffer in silence, well, you ought to know by now that that’s what I do best’ Scott remarks.
Emma leans against the banister next to Scott and replies that she is not a big fan of stoicism. ‘I know you’ll rise to the occasion. You always do’ she remarks. ‘Then what?’ Scott asks. Emma replies that she would like to understand why Scott keeps going over that particular moment so much. Scott quotes Cable, “You gave me a family”. ‘That’s what we always did, for friends and enemies alike’ he tells Emma. ‘If there was one thing that defined us, it was the fact that we kept the door wide open. And that’s why Nathan died - because we gave too many people too many second chances’.
Elsewhere, at the diabolical Mr. Sinister’s base. ‘Well? What progress have you made, Sinister?’ Mystique aka Raven Darkholme asks the man she is currently allied with. ‘Yeah, and when do we get to break some heads? If I wanted to sit around doing nothing, I’d have stayed with the X-Men’ Lady Mastermind aka Regan Wyngarde asks while examining her nails. Also present is Gambit and Omega Sentinel Karima Shapandar currently possessed by Malice - and all four of which are former X-Men - along with several of Sinister’s Marauders – Scalphunter, Harpoon and Prism.
Sinister, along with Mystique and Gambit, are beside a table where the unconscious Rogue lies. Sinister assures Lady Mastermind that when the time comes for action she will be among the first to know. ‘In the meantime, enjoy this lull before the storm - and be thankful it’s not you that has to sift through Rogue’s shattered mind for some vestiges of sanity’. Mystique frowns and reminds Sinister that Emma Frost was unable to locate Rogue’s consciousness among the eight billion minds she absorbed from the Hecatomb, and remarks that she assumed his resources would be more adequate.
‘You speak lightly about things you don’t understand, Mystique’ Sinister replies, assuring Raven that if her daughter’s mind were still intact, he would have found it by now, but that it is broken into pieces, a memory here, an impulse there. ‘Keeping her alive may have been a wasted effort after all’. Suddenly, Gambit tells Sinister that if he wants to kill Rogue, then he has to go through him. ‘So you’re saving a little effort there’ Remy warns Sinister, who replies ‘A very little’ and warns Gambit not to try his patience. ‘You’ll find it has limits’.
Mystique declares that this is futile, and remarks that Rogue is alive because she has the full text of Destiny’s Diaries locked in her mind. Raven adds that the full text would still give them a useful advantage, whereas killing her serves no purpose at all. Sinister stands up and looms over Mystique, reminding her that he offered to scan her mind too, pointing out that she has read Irene’s Diaries too, and therefore the memories are recorded in her consciousness too.
‘And I remind you that I wear a psi-shield for a reason. We agreed to work together. Not to trust each other’ Mystique retorts, before storming away, suggesting Sinister leave her daughter with Gambit, pointing out that if he she sees Remy when she wakes, it may bring her own personality to the surface. ‘We should never underestimate the power of a friendly face’ Raven points out.
Back in Westchester, Cyclops, the White Queen, Wolverine, Iceman, Beast, Colossus and Shadowcat have gathered for a meeting. ‘So - it’s about the future’ Cyclops remarks. ‘The Diaries, the Momentary Princess, the Witness, Gateway, Vargas, Blindfold, Cable…’ He adds, listing off the targets of Sinister’s attack, before pointing out that Sinister was trying to remove anyone and anything that could give them access to knowledge about future events and timelines. ‘And alternate timelines. The Marauders killed William Kimpton - Quiet Bill’ adds Colossus. Kitty remarks that, from what she has seen some of the alternate futures are very like their own.
Cyclops remarks that the first question they have to ask themselves is what Sinister is after. The Beast replies that it seems possible that Sinister has advanced knowledge of something that is just about to happen to them and wants to keep them all in the dark, to which Wolverine exclaims their best bet is to take the fight to him - and get Rogue back at the same time so they can finish this before it even gets started. The White Queen remarks that Logan makes a compelling case, which she is not disagreeing with. ‘But whatever action we take’ Emma points out ‘We ought to be trying to fill the gaps in our knowledge. Flying blind is poor strategy’.
‘That’s a valid point’ Scott agrees, before asking Hank how Blindfold is. ‘Conscious and coherent - as far as that word ever applies to her’ Hank replies. The White Queen declares that Blindfold’s mind is impossible to scan and that her thoughts are in constant flux. ‘And I got nothing of value from Kitty’ Emma adds. ‘You want to rephrase that?’ Kitty frowns. Exasperated, Emma declares that Ms. Pryde has read the Diaries widely, ‘And I sifted her mind for residual memories and possible insights. For the most part I came up empty’.
Beast reminds everyone that there is also Bishop, and points out that since their former teammate is from a future, he might have relevant knowledge. Scott replies that he has already called Bishop and asked him to come as soon as he can, before he asks Kitty if she can work with Emma on those memory traces. ‘Sure. I store them right next to my irrational resentments’ Kitty replies, frowning at the White Queen. Scott announces that he will assemble the team which is to find Sinister, adding that he will be talking to everyone individually about that. ‘To your stations, people!’ he orders.
As the heroes take their leave, Kitty glares at the White Queen, while Logan and the Beast notice Iceman lagging behind. ‘Something on your mind, Bobby?’ Scott asks his long-time teammate. ‘What happens to us, Scott? To Rogue’s team? Bobby asks. ‘You’re going to shut us down, aren’t you? I saw it in your face back there’. Scott tells Bobby that he is speaking as if the team still exists. ‘It doesn’t’ he points out, reminding Bobby that half of it defected, Cable is dead, Sam is critical and Rogue herself is missing in action. ‘Right now the team is you’ Scott remarks.
‘You know what I mean!’ Bobby replies, grabbing Scott by his jacket. ‘Yes, I do. Are you going to make me say this?’ Scott asks. The temperature in the room begins to decrease, as cold air is breathed out by Scott when Bobby begins to ice up. ‘I was wrong about Rogue. Her choices didn’t pan out’ Scott begins. ‘I put her in a role she couldn’t handle’ he adds. But an annoyed Bobby replies ‘That’s garbage!’ Scott reminds Bobby that he warned Rogue about Sabretooth, to which Bobby replies ‘I know you did. I was there. And it doesn’t change a damn thing!’.
Seriously annoyed now, Iceman declares that Mystique was not Rogue’s mistake. ‘You led the vote on that!’. Iceman adds that Karima isn’t an enemy any more than Polaris was when she was possessed by Malice. ‘What’s your point?’ Scott asks. ‘Just this’ Bobby replies as he declares that Rogue chose the team she had to choose to get the job done. ‘And we did!’ he exclaims, reminding Scott that they saved the school when the Children of the Vault attacked, and stopped the Hecatomb from eating the minds of every living thing on Earth. ‘So if you disband us now, it won’t be because Rouge got it wrong. It’ll be because of what happened to Cable. And that isn’t a legacy he would have chosen!’ Iceman exclaims. ‘You know I’m right, because you’re thinking the same thing yourself!’.
‘Very impressive, Bobby. If your ice powers let you down again, mind-reading could be a useful second-string’ Scott remarks as he brushes the ice off his jacket, to which Bobby snaps back ‘Cut the sarcasm and answer me!’. Scott touches his ruby-quartz glasses, an optic beam ready behind them as he assures Bobby that nobody is being disbanded, sidelined or censured, as they need everyone that they have got for this. ‘And for the record - I’m not blaming anyone for Nate’s death except Sinister and the Marauders. And I promise you - they’ll find out what that means soon enough!’.
Meanwhile, back in Sinister’s base. Gambit holds onto Rogue’s hand as she still lies motionless on the table, a light above her breaking the darkness. ‘So here we are again, chere. Like I never left you’ Gambit utters, breaking the silence. Gambit remarks that it is a pity that Rogue cannot hear him, as he was looking to apologize. ‘Yeah, I know. Not something I was ever any good at. Even before I went and had that little talk with Apocalypse’. Gambit admits that he went a long way away from Rogue, without explaining, without saying goodbye. ‘And then I went a long way away from myself’.
‘Now I come back - and you’re already gone’ Gambit tells Rogue that she will survive this - even if she spits in his face, never lets him explain. ‘You don’t end here, and you don’t end like this’.
(In Rogue’s thoughts, various flashback illustrations)
‘We ain’t talking about the past, sugah - we’re talking here and now. And for the moment, Gambit walks on the side of the angels’ Rogue once said.
‘Kinda fun to see you all fidgety and scared, Remy!’ Rogue exclaimed. ‘I assure you, gal, that I am the definition a’ calm!’ Remy replied as Rogue took him flying.
‘We’ve had out moments. They’re not enough. They’ve made me greedy. Ah want a lifetime!’ Rogue declared.
‘Where would you like t’ go?’ Remy asked once. ‘Anywhere you do, Remy’ Rogue replied. ‘Now y’sure thas how y’wanna phrase it to me, hon?’ Remy replied with his thick accent. ‘Yes’ Rogue assured him.
‘But I love you!’ Remy exclaimed. ‘You’re honest with the people you love, Gambit. Otherwise - it’s a gamble!’ Rogue replied, hovering above him in her pink and yellow costume.
Strange language also fills Rogue’s mind and bizarre scenes are played out.
(Present / Reality)
Suddenly, Rogue’s eyes burst open. ‘R-Remy!’ she gasps, sitting up on the table. Clutching Remy’s trench coat, Rogue exclaims that she had this sick, stupid dream, when she bursts into an alien language, before her eyes roll back in her head, ‘Dark, it’s too dark I can’t even…’ she mutters, before the strange language is heard again. ‘By five lateral from galactic core, we found -’ the incoherent sentences end when Rogue passes out. ‘Rogue! Can you here me!’ Gambit cries, trying to rouse Rogue. ‘You should take off the gloves, LeBeau’ remarks Mystique as she enters the chamber.
‘Think about it. Touch Rogue’s bare skin and you’ll die instantly. But a part of you will live on, inside her mind. That’s your happy ending, right there’. ‘Very funny, Mystique’ Gambit replies. ‘No. It isn’t’ Raven replies, adding that he doesn’t need to protect Rogue from her, as she is not here to harm her daughter. ‘No? You’ve tried to kill her twice’ Remy points out. ‘Then we’ve got something in common at last. Haven’t we?’ Mystique replies, smirking. Raven stands over her daughter and puts one of her gloved hands on Rogue’s forehead, remarking that her daughter is more isolated than ever, now. Trapped inside her own mind - and even there she is not alone, not at peace.
‘Are you saying you care, woman?’ Remy asks Raven. ‘Whether Rogue lives or dies? Whether she’s happy or in pain? Yes. I care’ Mystique announces. ‘I don’t understand you’ Gambit replies. ‘And I don’t ask you to’ Mystique tells him, before remarking that they have a long way to go - a lot of blood to wade through. ‘Pace yourself. And keep an open mind - while the pieces fall into place…’.
Elsewhere, ‘Let me be plain with you, Sinister’ Exodus begins as he tells Sinister that he has thrown in his lot, the Acolytes, with him for only one reason. ‘This isn’t a conversation we need to have right now, Exodus’ Sinister replies. ‘I think it is’ Exodus retorts, informing the diabolical villain that he needs to know that their alliance has limits which are precisely defined. ‘I came to you because you said you could rebirth the mutant race. That the future could be reclaimed for out kind. If that was a lie -’ Exodus remarks, until Sinister interrupts, ‘Does a man so many centuries old still need to learn patience?’ Sinister asks, addressing Exodus by his true name, Bennet Du Paris.
‘Aye, you told me. And yet we wait, endlessly’ Exodus replies. Sinister declares that they must wait for the moment predicted in Destiny’s Diaries, and confirmed by a dozen seers and prophets - most of them killed to stop their knowledge going any further. ‘We wait while the final moments of the decimation tick away. And then we act’. Sinister takes his leave, adding that they will win the prize, the day and the way before the X-Men even know what it is they are fighting for.
Back at the Xavier Institute, Bobby sits beside Sam’s bed in the med-lab, telling his friend that Hank told him he was awake, but wanted to see for himself. ‘Thank God you’re all right!’ Bobby adds. ‘Then why the long face, sport? You look like you lost a twenty and found a live grenade’ Sam replies slowly. ‘Because I did this to you! We crashed and burned for a reason!’ Bobby replies glumly. But Sam replies that it was lots of reasons - Sinister and the Marauders mostly. ‘Yeah, but I made an idiot of myself. Let my guard down’ Bobby replies. ‘And your pants - let’s not forget them!’ Sam exclaims.
‘Seriously. I almost got us all killed!’ Bobby declares. Calmly, Sam reminds his friend that he gave Mystique the benefit of the doubt, which is just how she planned it. ‘You got robbed and rolled by an expert, Bobby. There ain’t any shame in that’ Sam assures him. Bobby replies that there is more to it than that, as he let himself care for Raven, even knowing what she was and how it was probably going to end. ‘And now I can’t get back to the way I was. I can’t even hate her’.
Sam points out that the same thing happened to him with Serafina - he loved her, even had a family with her, so now there is a hole in him where that life used to be. ‘And how do you live with that?’ Bobby asks. ‘You don’t. You live around it’ Sam replies.
Suddenly, nearby, Blindfold convulses, blood drips from her nose, and she screams, and everything in the room short-circuits. ‘Either I just flat lined, or -’ begins Sam to which Bobby replies that it was a power surge, all the electronics blew, so he will go and check with Scott, but it was probably nothing. Suddenly, Blindfold enters. ‘Oh, no. You’re wrong Mister Drake. You’re as wrong as you can be!’ Blindfold utters, while Sam and Bobby stare at her in shock. ‘It’s not nothing. It’s everything…’.
‘Is it still falling? I can’t tell anymore’ Dr. Henry McCoy a.k.a. the Beast asks as he and his dear friend Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch sit and watch sand falling through an hour glass. ‘Close your eyes, Henry. A watched pot never boils’ Wanda replies. ‘Close your eyes and it’ll soon be over’. But the Beast replies that he doesn’t know that he wants it to be over. Hank narrows his eyes as he tells Wanda that this isn’t fair, as she caused so much damage and hurt so many people. ‘Sand. Sand is sand’. Wanda replies as she looks off into the distance. ‘No!’ Hank exclaims as he puts his hand down on Wanda’s. ‘Lives aren’t sand, or dust, or anything else. Don’t ever say that’.
‘Then don’t sit here and mourn the passing of what passes. I didn’t make the glass. I didn’t invent death!’ Wanda replies. ‘But you still delivered a death sentence!’ Hank exclaims as both former Avengers get to their feet. ‘I spoke my mind, and what I brought was change, not death. No more mutants. No more pain’. Hank disagrees. ‘No more pain for you - what about the mutants who were happy as they were?’ he asks. ‘You’ve stolen something from them. You’ve stolen something from all of us!’
Wanda looks around as sand begins to fall down upon them. It’s still falling. You probably ought to try to get clear of it’ she remarks. ‘I can’t! Not unless you help me!’ Hank replies. But Wanda just casts her eyes downwards, and soon, the Beast begins to drown in the sand….
(Reality / Present)
‘Oh God!’ Hank exclaims as he rises from the small bed he was sleeping in. Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner appears at Hank’s window and asks if he had a bad dream. Hank pours some water into a bowl and replies it is the same one he has been having for the last three weeks. ‘I don’t even wake up screaming anymore’ he adds. Kurt tells his friend that they have all been worried about him. ‘You disappeared and not even the Professor could find you’ Kurt points out. ‘I’ve been out of town’ Hank replies, to which Kurt points out that is clear, and suggests that now Hank is back, he should return home to the school with him and be with his friends. ‘I’m still out of town’ Hank replies sternly.
Kurt tells Hank that there is a limit to what he can achieve by himself, to which Hank replies that he hit that limit early, ‘This isn’t a vanity project’ he assures Kurt, adding that he has consulted widely. ‘Widely enough to appall you, if you knew’. Hank exclaims that he approached the problem from every angle he could think of but kept coming up empty. ‘And with my hands a little dirtier each time’. ‘That’s why Cyclops wants you to -’ Kurt begins, until Hank interrupts, ‘It’s Wanda!’ he declares. ‘What?’ asks Kurt. ‘I’m dreaming about her. She talks to me in my dreams’.
Kurt looks rather nervously, and tells his friend, frankly, that does not sound like a healthy development. Hank reveals to Kurt that Dr. Strange took him to a realm where he could see Wanda’s magicks as physical things, and he actually touched them. ‘And since then, it’s as though something is pulling me in a certain direction’. Holding out his passport, Hank asks Kurt to tell Cyclops that he has got one more stop to make. ‘Just one, and then I’ll call it a day. However this turns out - I don’t think it’s going to take long’.
On the other side of the world, Hank arrives in a quaint village. Clad in a large coat, glasses and wide-brimmed hat to hide his appearance, he makes his way through the village. Stopping at a stall to buy an old watch. He soon sits at a table outside a café, and places the watch down on the table. ‘It’s not real’ a voice soon exclaims, startling Hank, who peers over his glasses at the beautiful woman standing before him, clad in pink and red - it’s Wanda! ‘What? What did you -?’ he asks, stunned.
The former powerful mutant brushes her tresses aside and smiles. ‘The watch. It’s not real. Did you think it was real?’ she remarks, explaining that they take na old case and put a modern watch movement in it. ‘Cheap made in Hong Kong or China’ she adds, warning him that it keeps excellent time for a week, or a month, but then stops. ‘Sometimes the idea of stopping time is an attractive one’ Hank replies. ‘Yes. I suppose’ Wanda remarks. ‘Or - perhaps - of reversing it’ Hank mutters, before apologizing that he did not catch her name, and informing her that she reminds him so much of someone he used to know.
‘I’m Wanda’ the woman replies, before asking him if he writes fantasy. Hank introduces himself, ‘Doctor Henry McCoy. No, I’m a scientist. I do research’ he explains, before motioning to the other seat and asks Wanda to join him. Wanda smiles, ‘Well, thank you. Yes, I will, just for a moment’ she smiles, and reveals that she is waiting for her aunt, who stopped in the market to get her fortune read. ‘You’re local?’ Hank asks. ‘Oh, yes. I’ve never lived anywhere else!’ Wanda replies, to which Hank points out that she speaks perfect English with an American accent.
‘The movies were my teacher’ Wanda replies, ‘Aren’t they everybody’s?’ she asks, before remarking that she imagines America as the only country in the world that has its own musical score. A waitress approaches the table carrying a tray with two drinks on it. Wanda looks surprised - ‘You ordered for me before I even spoke to you?’ she asks. Hank replies that it seems bizarre, he knows, and explains that he is in the eye of a storm, and had a feeling that someone might come. ‘Does that make any sense at all?’ he asks. ‘No. Not really. That sounds like magic. I don’t believe in magic’ Wanda replies assuredly.
‘When push comes to shove, neither do I’ Hank replies. ‘Then you order for two in the hope that the universe will revolve until someone is sitting opposite you’ Wanda points out. The Beast begins to tells Wanda that he used to belong to a group of - ‘What about wishes, Doctor McCoy?’ asks Wanda, interrupting. ‘Do you believe we get what we wish for? She asks, stating that she has a reason for asking. Wanda examines Hank’s new watch, while Hank, taking off his glasses and scarf, revealing his self to Wanda, replies that he thinks in some situations, it is possible.
Wanda slams the old-style watch shut, then tosses it to the cobblestone ground, where it smashes. ‘Then while we wait for time to start again - I’d like to tell you a story’ Wanda exclaims. Wanda stares at Hank intently as she begins her story: ‘One morning, a fisherman took his boat out much further than he ever had before. And cast his net in a place that was new to him…’.
The fisherman has lost sight of land and was a little afraid, as people had said that strange things swim in those waters. And as it turned out, they were right, as the fisherman snares a mermaid in his net. ‘Let me go free - and I’ll give you everything you desire!’ the mermaid wept. The mermaid plucks the comb that she is wearing in her hair and holds it out, exclaiming that it is magical and it will grant three wishes.
The fisherman accepts the comb, and the deal, and returns home to show his wife the comb. The wife is far from impressed. ‘You fool! If you’d brought back the mermaid we could have charged everyone a copper to see her and our fortunes would have been made!’ the angry wife exclaims. ‘But what do you bring? A toy! A trinket! You must be the stupidest man alive!’.
(Present / Reality)
Hank asks Wanda if they can skip this, as he knows how this story comes out. ‘And I’d rather talk about…this person in my past, who reminds me of you’ Hank adds. Wanda grins, and tells Hank that of course he knows the story, as it is one of those stories that get everywhere. ‘The furniture changes, but the moral is always the same!’.
‘You’re a shrew and a scold’ the fisherman yells at his wife. ‘And you always put me down!’ he adds, clearly upset. The fisherman mutters that he wishes his wife had no eyes at all if she can see so little good in him. The magic comb begins to tingle oddly under the fisherman’s fingers and he realizes that he has said too much. But the words have already been uttered and cannot be unsaid. The fisherman’s wife is now struck blind - her eyes sealed over with smooth unbroken skin.
Understandably furious with her husband, the now-blind wife begins groping for the magic comb, eventually snatching it from her bewildered husband and exclaiming ‘If I’m to have no eyes, then I wish you a thousand eyes - to see your own folly night and day!’ Eyes begin to sprout all over the fisherman’s body - his hands, arms, chest, everywhere. The fisherman is now a monster, even stranger and uglier than his wife.
Sitting in the kitchen, they argue for a while about whose fault this is. ‘You started it!’ ‘No, you started it!’. However, it is not like they have any choice, so in the end, the fisherman uses the magic comb for the third and last time: ‘I wish we just had four eyes between us once again’ he exclaims, holding the magical comb. And thus, the fisherman receives his wish - sort of - as they both examine themselves in mirrors, the wife with her two regular eyes returned, and now a small one in the middle of her forehead, while the fisherman has one large cyclops-like eye.
The next day, the fisherman rows back out to the deep waters and gives the mermaid back her comb. ‘I’ve got a magic earring too, if you’re interested!’ the mermaid exclaims. But the fisherman figures that he has had enough of that particular game.
(Present / Reality)
Wanda notes that the Beast is just sitting and staring blankly at her. ‘Oh. Sorry. “And they all lived happily ever after”’ she concludes. ‘Right. Except that they didn’t’ Hank replies, before asking Wanda if she is warning him off here. ‘Are you telling me not to ask - who you really are?’ Hank asks. ‘Who am I? I’m a woman you met at a sidewalk café, Doctor McCoy’ Wanda replies, adding that she doesn’t know him and has never visited America - and probably never will for that matter.
‘But a man gets a certain look in his eyes when he’s fishing for omens’ Wanda remarks. ‘When he’s trying to nerve himself up to do something that he knows, deep down is wrong. You’ve got that look. So yes, you can get what you wish for and still be worse off than you were before. Like you said, everyone knows the story. Everyone’s heard it a million times’. Wanda exclaims, before getting up and pointing out that her cup is empty, she thanks Hank for the tea, adding that she shall go see how many tall dark strangers there are in her Aunt Agatha’s future.
‘No! Wanda!’ Hank exclaims. ‘Yes, Doctor McCoy?’ Wanda asks, turning to the Beast, who approaches her, declaring that it doesn’t end like this, as it makes no sense. ‘What do you mean? It’s just a story’ Wanda replies as she picks up her basket. ‘Not the story’ Hank replies. ‘You. Your life. Here in this dead-and-alive place. If it’s no, it’s no - but - you could do anything. Be anything!’ Hank rambles.
‘Do you think I must be unhappy because I’m not married? Or because I’m stuck out here in the sticks looking after an elderly relative?’ Wanda asks. ‘I’ve made my own choices, Doctor. I guess the quiet life just suits me’. Wanda wishes Hank good luck with his research, and adjusts his jacket. Trying to detain Wanda further, Hank exclaims that he would be happy to tell her more about it if she has the time, but Wanda replies ‘No thank you’ and that her Aunt will worry if she is late. With that, Hank watches his one-time friend walk away, before turning and picking up the shattered pocket watch.
Later….Henry McCoy. Field journal. Closing notes. I left Transia that day. I found nothing. But, then again, I don’t really know what I was looking for. “History is a nightmare I’m trying to wake up from”, James Joyce said. The past is full of horrors. Pandora’s Box, gaping open on madness and nightmare. And the present takes its shape from the past. Just like the shape of someone’s face reveals the structure of the bones and muscles beneath. We are flesh. The thinnest possible veil over the bones of history. Things long dead and done shape our lives, and our purpose.
Hank returns to Neverland, and sorts through all the remains of the inmates killed in the final purge. Giving each one, as far as he could, a separate grave with its own marker. Hank decides that the camp’s records, so stubbornly silent about genetics, were very helpful here. And while he doesn’t not say a prayer, he stands there a while and thinks about their lives - and their deaths. Friends. Comrades. Enemies. Strangers.
I buried the dead. I gave the past its due. Which is all you can do, in the end, for the dead and for the past. Well - that and live.
With that, Hank throws down the shovel and makes his way through the countless gravestones he has erected for the nameless dead of Neverland, and a ray of sun breaks through the gray clouds covering the sky.