At last, the final chapter is here and you get to find out what happens. Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride. Keep your arms and legs inside of the chapter at all times.
You can catch up with the first installment of this piece here. It started as somewhat of an experiment. It seems to be taking the form of a supernatural thriller, set above and below the streets of Los Angeles. In this one, the shit hits the fan.
Simon and Joshua, Jrs.
After realizing the how of the thing, Simon and Joshua still took a few more days consulting with Pearl, Danny, and Preston on how to pull it off and make it look like an act of nature.
They finally decided that the best approach would be for Simon and Joshua to enter via the emergency exit, with Danny and Simon’s help, then get to the main room, and head on up to the top level stairs.
From there, they would score a break in the concrete ceiling with very powerful lasers they’d brought, all while the cameras and other surveillance were disabled.
Once the ceiling was weakened, Pearl and the Hadas would bring on some nature in the form of hard local rain, resulting in some underground flooding and, unfortunately, a total saturation of the ground right above a point in the ceiling that would give out, and…
And it could not have worked out better, Simon and Joshua realized, once they’d taken up their spots on the observation deck and let Pearl and Taamit know to unleash.
Except for one little thing.
The concrete in the ceiling crashed down beautifully, followed by copious amounts of water. It hit the pipes and broke them apart, then kept going, and the plasma escaped and cooled, and then so did the tachyons…
And Simon and Joshua were standing right on the edge of the stream as it blew upward.
Instantly, they lost not quite all their ages, but both wound up as about thirteen years old — the beam wasn’t quite at full strength this far down. Their car keys vanished from their pockets.
Fortunately, they had left their phones at home. More fortunately, they had decided to wear their steampunk hunter garb for this mission for luck so, since it was vintage, they didn’t wind up naked, only going commando.
On the other hand, since they were a lot smaller at 13 than they had been as adults, they would need to do a lot of cinching up and securing and whatnot.
Unfortunately, Danny and Preston were nowhere to be found. Neither were the lasers. “Those were some damn nice portable industrial lasers,” Joshua lamented to Simon.
“We can always buy more,” Simon reminded him, “But it’s probably best that that evidence is gone. We should get home.”
They both stumbled down the stairs and to the exit, at which point they had to awkwardly walk to their car holding their pants up. Only after they finally opened the doors with their thumb prints did they look at each other and say, “What the fuck, dude?”
Fortunately, the car knew how to drive them home. They hopped in, pushed the button, and were on their way, Simon making sure to set the AI to “Obey All the Laws” mode.
That’s not what it was officially called, but that was the name they’d come up with for it.
Once they got home, they managed to make it up to their unit without running into anyone — it would have been very embarrassing in their current state of dress, after all, and with Halloween almost two months away, they couldn’t exactly make the “They’re costumes” excuse.
Especially not when it looked like they were wearing their fathers’ clothes. Fortunately, they could unlock their door with either a key or the app on their phones, which had been in the car, so avoided vanishing.
Once they got inside, they hunted around for anything that would comfortably fit their de-aged frames without them swimming in it or their pants falling to the floor, and then changed.
They looked everywhere to see if Preston and Danny had popped back home, but they weren’t here and didn’t seem to reply to their shouts.
“Probably celebrating with the other Rêves,” Joshua suggested, so he and Simon cuddled on the sofa to do some binge-watching.
About an hour later, they both got a text from Brenda. “OMFG. ARE YOU WATCHING THE NEWS?”
“This can’t be good,” Simon said, and they clicked around until they found a local network news channel, which was showing footage of lots of confused-looking naked people wandering around a cemetery.
“No, but it must have been our doing,” Joshua said. They watched the screen intently, trying to make out any faces they knew.
“Oh my god,” Simon exclaimed, pointing. “That’s Paul Walker. Right there.”
“Come on. You remember that scene in Joy Ride as well as I do, when they had to walk naked into that diner. I know you never forget a nice ass, and neither do I.”
“Holy shit, you’re right,” Joshua agreed.
Simon was already tapping his phone and he announced, “Forest Lawn, Glendale. That’s where he is.”
“That’s where Preston and Danny are,” Joshua realized. “And I mean I guess literally are, right now.”
“We have to go get them,” Simon insisted.
“Should we really go out like this much?” Joshua asked.
“That’s got to be a good ten mile walk back home, and they are not doing that butt-naked.”
“Preston would probably prefer it that way.”
“Don’t be a dick, dear,” Simon shot back.
“It was a joke, honey. Of course we’re going to go get them. Let’s raid our closets again and find shit that’ll fit them.”
They eventually settled on a couple of old longish, slim-fit T-shirts and two pairs of sweat pants with drawstrings. With the legs rolled up and the strings tight, they should work.
They made it down to the car again unobserved, then set it on course.
When they arrived, the entrance was blocked off by Glendale PD. Joshua pulled up and stopped, rolling down the window as Simon muttered, “Shit!”
“Good afternoon,” the officer said. “The cemetery is closed right now. And aren’t you a little young to be driving?”
Joshua suddenly called back on all his old acting and improv skills and burst into tears. “Our mom and our older brothers are in there!” he sobbed. “I mean, buried in there, but probably not now, and we need to find them.”
The officer looked confused, but then she pulled out her radio. “Hang on, sweetie,” she said. “Let me see what I can do.”
She stepped away from the car and Joshua shot Simon a conspiratorial look. Simon just shook his head in awe.
“I still got it, baby,” Joshua whispered.
The officer came back to the car. “Is there any reason that your father didn’t drive you?” she asked.
“Um… they’re divorced and he moved out of state,” Joshua continued, keeping the emotional upset at just the right level. “This is our uncle’s car.”
“And he didn’t bring you because…?”
“DUI, restricted license,” Joshua ad-libbed.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, hon.” She stepped away for a moment, then came back one more time. “Do you know exactly how to get to their graves from here?” she asked.
“Of course,” Joshua replied.
“Perfect,” she said, motioning behind them with her right hand. A motorcycle cop pulled up next to them. “This is Officer Pérez. He’ll accompany you up to the gravesite, then help you find them if necessary.”
“Thank you so, so much,” Joshua replied, looking at her badge, “Officer Thrower. The two of us have just been… you know. Ever since the news stories.”
“I understand,” she said. “Now go find your loved ones, and good luck.”
They drove slowly through the entrance and up the road to the familiar grave, Pérez using bleeps of his siren and flashes of his lights to direct the wandering undead Rêves out of their way.
Eventually, as they neared the gravesite, Joshua and Simon saw three clothed figures — a woman and two men — walking toward them, and realized instantly that they were Anabel, Danny, and Simon, only dressed up as Colonial-era Americans.
Joshua honked the horn and stopped, he and Simon jumping out of the car.
“That them?” the motorcycle cop asked.
“Oh, yes,” Joshua replied.
He and Simon raced up to the trio, Joshua calling out, “Mom! You’re back,” the two of them getting close enough to be able to whisper, “Play along if you want to get out with us.”
“Who the hell are you?” Preston asked.
“Um… Simon and Joshua,” Simon explained. “We managed to kill the machine, but it kind of took a few years off our lives. In the wrong direction.”
Danny and Preston stared back and forth at the two of them for a long moment, then suddenly had the realization.
“Oh my god,” Danny cried out. “It is you!”
“Freaky,” Preston added.
“Yeah, not as freaky as finding your asses wandering around in the flesh. Want to go home now?”
“Fuck yeah,” Preston said, Danny nodding agreement.
“Anabel?” Simon asked.
“No, I have someone else I should meet up with now, but thanks.” She nodded, and then blinked away.
“Wait,” Simon said. “You all can still do that shit?”
“Um… I guess?” Danny offered. “But we’d rather ride home with you all.”
“Then let’s go,” Joshua said.
They headed back to the car, Simon starting for the driver’s seat, but Pérez called out to them. “You should let one of your older brothers drive. Obviously, they don’t have ID, but it just looks better.”
“Right,” Simon called back. “Thanks!”
Danny hopped into the driver’s seat and Preston took shotgun. Simon and Joshua sat in the back. When the windows were up and they were driving back down on autopilot behind Pérez, Joshua turned to Simon.
“Brothers?” Preston asked.
“Joshua had to improvise to even get in here,” Simon said. “And where did you get the clothes anyway?”
“Some weird museum attached to one of the chapels,” Danny explained. “This place is freaky like that.”
“What I want to know,” Joshua announced, “Is what the fuck do they put in the donuts at the station to make Glendale cops so goddamn nice?”
“Who knows?” Simon replied. “Just be grateful it worked for us.
Once they’d left the cemetery grounds, Preston turned back and asked, “Okay, dudes, what the hell happened to you two?”
“We could ask you the same,” Joshua replied, but they proceeded to explain everything on the trip home, and then they all retreated back up to Simon and Joshua’s front unit to figure out what to do next.
Clearly, Simon and Joshua would have to stay out of the public eye for a while, and they’d probably be able to handle most all of their needs online using their adult digital identities. Danny and Preston, who at least appeared to be adults, could handle any necessary interactions with delivery people.
They could also go back to coding and creating apps again, so there was that.
The four of them brainstormed on any potential gotchas that might come up, but as long as Simon and Joshua stayed inside, they were pretty safe.
And even after they ordered new clothes in their sizes and could go outside again, they’d just be a couple of teens of no major interest. Simon did rig up some pretty convincing student ID cards for Walter Reed Middle School, just in case, and they were obviously too young to have Driver’s Licenses.
Sure, they had Social Security cards if asked (wink wink), but if anyone ever asked for those in person, the easy answer was, “Our parents have them in their safety deposit boxes until we’re 18 or get a job.”
And then Simon suddenly sat up in an “oh shit” moment because he’d realized the one really tricky thing. “Jury duty,” he announced solemnly.
“Well, fuck,” Joshua agreed.
“Can’t you just ignore that shit?” Preston offered.
“Probably not a good idea,” Simon suggested.
“I did, a couple of times,” Danny said.
“Yeah, but you lived in buttfuck Idaho,” Joshua reminded him.
“Although, you know,” Simon added, “The last three times I got called up, I never got called in. My secret was always to reschedule for the nearest week after the original with a federal or religious holiday in the middle of it. Thanksgiving and Christmas week, for example, or if Yom Kippur or the Fourth of July fell on a Wednesday.”
“And?” Preston asked.
“Well, we have a call-in system,” Simon explained, “And the reschedule is only part of it. See, you call the night before to find out if they need you tomorrow, but the trick is never, ever call early. Always call late in the evening, after nine or ten p.m. Why? Because they don’t have some random selected order. They just tend to go first caller, first called. If you’re some dumb schmuck who calls the first minute after the phone lines open, you’re probably going to get your ass dragged down there for sure.”
“Or just blow off the notice,” Preston reminded them.
“When was the last time either of us got called?” Joshua asked.
“You, in 2020,” Simon told him, “So you’re probably safe for a while. Me… around 2014? So… I might be coming right back into their sights soon?”
“Why don’t we just drive off that bridge when we come to it?” Joshua suggested. “I mean, we kind of have Brenda as our secret weapon when it comes to County shit, right?”
“I guess,” Simon agreed.
Once their discussions had come to some sort of resolution and sense of safety, the boys excused themselves. “Wow, we have bodies now,” Preston announced, “And they actually get tired.”
“Who knew?” Danny added.
They adjourned to the bedroom, and Simon and Joshua continued snuggling.
“Speaking of Brenda,” Simon said, “How do you suppose she’s dealing with all of this returned Rêve stuff?”
“I don’t know,” Joshua said. “Do you think we should call her?”
“Kind of late in the day now,” Simon replied, “But for sure.”
And then, things in Danny and Preston’s bedroom got really noisy, with the bed frame thumping the floor and wall rhythmically, and then their moans and exclamations getting louder and louder
“I guess that was inevitable,” Joshua said.
“Well, wouldn’t you, if the opportunity came up?” Simon asked.
“In a hummingbird heartbeat,” Joshua agreed.
Their moans and outbursts of “Oh fuck,” and “God,” grew in a crescendo until a moment of silence, and then almost simultaneous and very loud grunts.
Joshua and Simon smiled at each other again. They both knew that sound very well. The guest room went quiet after that.
“You don’t think they’d mind living in our second unit, do you?” Joshua asked Simon.
“No, but I think the neighbors fifteen floors down and a half mile away might,” Simon joked.
“Hey, if anything, it would give us a valid delivery address for shit that we don’t have to accept ourselves.”
“Damn… bonus points!” Joshua agreed.
It didn’t take them long to offer Danny and Preston their second unit rent free in exchange for being their adult proxies when necessary, and then to set up all the trappings for their personal porn website, including ecommerce and marketing and all the whatnot.
The hardest part was creating the corporation that would accept all of the payments, since Danny and Preston returned still didn’t have legal identities. It was technically registered to and run by Simon and Joshua, of course, but Danny and Preston did not appear anywhere in the paperwork.
In fact, that didn’t happen until after a long time when the boys asked Simon and Joshua if they could come to dinner — well “dinner,” since the revived Rêves didn’t actually eat, and explained that since they could not use either of the names of the one adult entertainer they both used to be, they would have to become his previously unknown identical triplets.
So… they kept LeCard, but Preston wanted to use Silas or Sy, and Danny wanted to go by Josh or Joshie.
And Simon and Joshua could not have been happier about that, so they gave their blessings.
They still had their own situation to deal with, so they sent a message to Brenda, asking her to come over for a meeting. They figured that face-to-face with the four of them would be the only thing that would work, and they were right.
She had come up to their place expecting the Simon and Joshua she knew, and the Preston and Danny she knew as phantoms, but instead got all four of them in the flesh, the former two suddenly teenagers.
“Oh sweet tap-dancing Jesus, what happened?” she exclaimed when she walked in the door.
“Long story short,” Simon explained, “We agreed to help out one particular Rêve, but have kind of created this weird fucked-up mess with the dead brought back — ”
“And with us de-aged. There might be more people like this, maybe. It all depends upon who was aboveground at JPL when the machine cut off.”
“You did that?” Brenda exclaimed.
“Not officially,” Simon warned her. “We were just witnesses. It was the Rêves who did it.”
“Well, Pearl and the Hadas,” Joshua added. “You know — the stormbringers.”
“But, now… you two are stuck as teenagers again, and these two have come back in the flesh but have no legal identities, right?”
“Right,” Simon said. “Plus the real complication with Danny and Preston here is that they were really only one human before they died, but shit happened, so they kind of got split in two, and then both of them came back.”
“Wait… they’re not twins?” Brenda gaped.
“No, technically they’d be…” Joshua paused. “Shit. Help me out, honey.”
“Non-corporeal clones?” Simon suggested. “Identical, sure, but only one of them existed in life prior to, well… everything thing going pear-shaped.”
“God… damn,” Brenda quietly replied. “Okay, give me a couple of days, because I think I can help you all deal with this shit. All right?”
“All right,” Joshua replied. “By the way, how is your family doing?”
“Mostly good,” Brenda replied, “Although my mom is being a bit smug about it.”
“I’m sorry, “Simon said.
“Don’t be,” Brenda told him. “She’ll get over it.”
Brenda called Rita and asked her whether the state position was still open. An hour later, Rita told her it was, by which point Brenda had already written down her requirements, and that afternoon, the California Reintegration, Education, and Employment Program for Entities Returned Act was passed, although Brenda really wanted to throat-punch the petty bureaucrat who had wasted time giving it the acronym CREEPER Act.
On the other hand, a week after it passed, she’d realized that way too many humans had a total disdain for the returned dead, despite a massive media campaign with lots of celebrities — including previously dead ones — doing spots of the “These could be your parents or grandparents, friends, or family” variety.
The official investigation into the destruction of the machine ruled it “Accident due to force majeure,” but the committee of scientists studying it couldn’t quite figure out how it had caused what it did.
They tried to contact Joshua and Simon several times, the two of them avoiding replying at first for obvious reasons, until Brenda convinced them that they should respond, just not meet in person.
“You two still sound pretty much like your adult selves,” she said. “Just don’t do any Zoom meetings.”
They finally agreed to answer the committee’s questions, but explained that they could not do it in person or via any form of video, explaining that they had been rushing to the lab when they checked the weather near it, but were still aboveground over the place when the machine must have been destroyed, and were suddenly a lot younger.
The committee expressed their understanding, although did ask for a Zoom meeting, given the explanation. Simon and Joshua reluctantly agreed, and could actually see how they slowly convinced these well-educated people that they were telling the truth.
Most thirteen year-old couldn’t rattle off advanced science like they could, or answer a lot of their questions.
Simon and Joshua ended up giving the full scientific explanation as they knew it of how the machine’s destruction resurrected the Rêves, as well as took about twenty-five years off of their own ages.
They were thanked profusely at the end of the meeting and they thought that that was it until a couple of months later, when they got a huge surprise.
Somebody somewhere must have really appreciated what they did — and had done their homework, because they were issued new birth certificates, both of them same-named but juniors, and each of them showing their parents as Simon and Joshua (now senior), and their status as adopted. Their birthdays were the same, but now taking place in 2010.
But there was more. They also received death certificates for their original selves, their own passports and Social Security cards, and were also recipients of the death benefits due from their “deceased” parents, who were, of course, them.
In other words, they had been legitimatized as the thirteen-year-old versions of themselves.
It didn’t end there, though. That homework had been super extra, and Danny and Preston also got the treatment, with Idaho birth certificates for Joshua Simon LeCard and Silas Joshua LeCard also being issued, along with passports, Social Security cards, and documents making them the legal guardians of Simon and Joshua Jr.
It was impressive in its scope and bowled them all over, and all any of them could mutter about it was, “Who the fuck…”
The best part, of course, was that Simon and Joshua Jr. became their own heirs, untangling the whole mess of their assets possibly falling into the hands of trustees — although Danny and Preston technically had Power of Attorney and Fiduciary responsibility.
Simon and Joshua decided to take advantage of their new-found youth and suddenly real people status to become influencers themselves, like Danny and Preston, except not as porn stars.
Instead, they started up various channels called The Science Squad, later followed by The Coding Crew, and they taught really difficult concepts to their peers, using Danny and Preston’s help in keeping up with the lingo and trends, although having been dead for three years before coming back, they were technically at the 26-year-old level of pop-culture awareness, so possibly out of the loop as well.
Luckily, Simon and Joshua’s stuff really caught on huge with the 12- to 15-year-old demographic, and they commented and discussed things ad nauseam on all of their sites, which gave the two of them a ready study-guide for the proper slang, pop culture references, and an ongoing what was hot or not guide, so they were able to fake it and make it.
By the time they both had celebrated their nouveau 14th birthdays, their first two channels, over all social media, had gained a cumulative 3.5 million and 2.4 million followers. Before that, they had started The Vote Boat early in 2024, and hit 4.6 million followers on all channels by June 1st.
Their popularity also shot up in the 16- to 23-year old demographic but, oddly enough, among the 65 and up demographic as well.
“You know,” Simon told Joshua sometime around October, “I hate to say it, but getting our asses blasted back to just after puberty has actually turned out to be the best thing that’s ever happened to us.”
“No shit,” Joshua replied. “We’re multi-millionaires in this sweet pad with no parents, we’re world famous, and our dirty-old-man brains are having sex using our ‘could go all day and half the night’ bodies. What’s not to love?”
“Yeah, well, other than the ‘Lasts four seconds part,’ I’ll get back to you on that.”
Despite despising the name of the CREEPER Act, the ad campaign had finally had some success, at least among younger people, and Brenda’s project also started to take off in rehabilitating and reintegrating the resurrected.
One of her big innovations was identifying “lost” job skills that were still vitally needed, like the ability to code in certain languages, or to operate antiquated computers, or perform repairs on really old cars, or fix ridiculously dated telephone lines and equipment.
Ultimately, she wound up exporting a lot of the returned and reintegrated Rêves to rural areas, because those places were most likely to be dealing with really outdated infrastructure. Ironically, they were also the places most likely to be biased against the “Ooh, boo, scary” Rêves.
Sending them into these communities to work their magic turned out to be exactly the trick. It also didn’t hurt that, despite being taught about modern liberal mores and beliefs, Rêves sent into more conservative areas were allowed to fall back into their original personalities.
So… send someone who died in the mid-50s back to a place stuck in that era, let them fix up the failing phone system, and it would win hearts and minds when it came to accepting the formerly dead back into society.
It reminded Brenda of how the LGBTQ+ community had managed to turn the tide so fast between the late 90s and late 00s. It was basically a matter of playing a big game of “Meet a queer.”
Or, in this case, “Meet the dead.”
But, at the same time, she was seeing that while the Rêves were being more and more accepted nationwide, people like her daughter were not — and not even among the so-called LGBTQ+ community.
In fact, there were even groups online, mostly made up of older gay men, radical lesbians, and feminists, that went by some variation of “LGB, hold the T.”
And that made her blood boil.
It wasn’t until Malia had finally completed all of her counselling, hormone therapy, and gender confirmation surgery — and had started dating an absolutely gorgeous Filipino-American cis-man named Mario — that Brenda finally said “Fuck it,” and ran for the U.S. Senator for California.
She won in a landslide, and it wasn’t lost on her that at least some of her daughter Malia’s 10 million TikTok followers had something to do with that.
Years later, Simon and Joshua Jrs. sat down to a formal dinner to celebrate their new 21st birthdays on Joshua’s, which was the latest one in the year in November. After dessert, Simon sighed, took Joshua’s hands and said, “There’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you for the longest time, but I had to wait for the right moment.”
“Okay…?” Joshua replied nervously.
“Nah, it’s nothing relationshippy, okay? No, it’s… okay. You can either be inside or outside of a closed time loop and a paradox. Part of you got caught inside one, part of you didn’t. The one who didn’t is the one I’m looking at right now.”
“What paradox?” Joshua asked.
“August 23, 2023. Ausmann murdered me,” Simon explained. “He threw me off that balcony, and there were no airbags. You were devastated — thank you! — but managed to kill Ausmann and break the machine, pretty much the same way we did in the timeline you remember. The big differences being that I was dead, so I came back like Danny and Preston did. Meanwhile, you managed to get out of range of the freed tachyons, so you didn’t dial back to thirteen at all.”
“Whoa,” Joshua exclaimed.
“Oh, it gets a lot more whoa-y,” Simon continued.
“How come you can remember it and I can’t? Am I the only one who can’t?”
“No, I’m probably the only one who can because I was the center of the event that split the timeline in the first place. I have ‘memories’ of that one even while I’ve been living this one.”
“That’s pretty whoa-y,” Joshua replied.
“Oh, there’s more. In the other timeline, Danny and Preston still had porn success, but you and I had to flee for our lives because we were somehow associated with bringing the dead back to life. Brenda did what she did on only the county level, and I think that’s about it.”
“All right,” Joshua replied. “But other… you and I are sitting here, at this table, celebrating and alive, and besides our ages, what’s different?”
“Well, okay, other version, we’d be hiding out in a converted nuclear missile silo, and we’d both be well over forty, although you’re the only one aging. I’m stuck looking about forever 25. In this version, we’re in our condo in NoHo, and we’re turning 21. And the biggest difference between one timeline and the other is that I didn’t die in this one.”
“I’m really happy that you didn’t die in this one, babe,” Joshua replied.
“Thank you,” Simon said. “But since I’m aware of both timelines and you, by definition, are not, you know what that makes me?”
“Um… lucky?” Joshua offered.
Simon laughed his ass off. “No, darling. Like it or not, you turned me into the first living human example of Schrödinger’s Cat. Meow!”