The Dharma gecko felt consciousness eek to him, a drip-drip-drip of awareness that eventually accumulated into awareness. He felt unsettled. He felt unbalanced. He felt wet and sticky.
He was lying on the ground. Still at the top of the mountain monastery. Yes, he was certain of it. There was no mistaking. He remembered the feel of these particular stones. And the scent of that particular moss. But he could not remember how he had came here. It was like his mind was rattling around in his head while at the same time trying to swell larger than his skull could contain.
He sat up, crossed his legs, closed his eyes, and let the world drop away. He reflexively entered into a meditative state of enlightenment. Slowing his breathing. Clearing away the clutter of outside everythingness. Replacing it with a calming nothingness. Then he slipped down the enlightenment spectrum into the ultra-zen. Where his mental state of now and nowhere became more real than the flimsy temporariness of reality. Where he could blend together the passing moments of solidity like morning jam on toasted bread. He remembered his body at a better time, at a healthier time, unhurt... and as it was then, so it was now.
Opening is eyes with a smirk, he stood up and brushed off the dust from his robes. Or tried to. It was then he could see he was covered in blood. As were his hands. Sticky and red. A visceral thrill overtook him for a moment as he wondered what he had done until he looked around the mountain top.
All the ground, all the shrubs and and all the moss, even the remains of the small building built here. Covered in a thin sheet of the same red uneven mass. One entire side of the mountain was painted red. The mist below had a new pink tinge to it for miles in every direction.
Movement caught his eye, a flopping slapping just a pace or two away. As he got close, he could make out a fish on its side. It looked desperate and frightened, out of its element. How had it gotten all the way up here? Had he brought live seafood up here to eat? Upon closer inspection, he recognized the milky stare of its eyes, the dull faded shade of its scales, the slight radiating motion tickling the outside of his emotional sphere. This was one of the Infinite School, one of the great ghost shark's students. He looked like he was stuck, his usually phantasmal frame wavering too close to a substantial state.
Easily fixed. Reaching into his robes, he pulled out his dull iron gong and his little rubber mallet. He took a moment, trying to judge the best angle to strike from, then lightly tapped the instrument. The single note vibrated the scared fish, giving it a harmony to match its frequency to. Within seconds, it was comfortably back in its spiritual state, floating up into the air.
"Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" it repeated with psychic bursts of gratitude. "Did not expect to be affected. Did not think the echo would reach this far. Got shook real."
"Hee hee hee! My marvellous skill has apparently corrected you, little ghost! Or transparently, perhaps. Either way, you can now oblige me, like a grateful debtor paying his due. What brings you to planet Amity, so far from your school, and" waving a hand at the blood-stained landscape, "what has happened to my mountain?"
The little ghost fish did a slow circle around the tall gecko, a little confused. "Happened? Do you not know? Do you not remember?"
"Naturally not. I would not need to ask otherwise," he replied flatly. He was kind of regretting not eating the fish.
"Oh dear. Oh no," the fish flipped upside-down, a blue-green thickness to his telepathic thoughts. "You tried to warn us not to use the Gong Ago. Tried to say the music might have adverse effects."
"The Gong Ago?" he glanced over his shoulder into the valley, where the sacred instrument should have been strung up between the two great peaks. It was empty! Gone! Only strands of snapped ropes and the shattered remains of the wooden bridge remained. A boiling anger welled up as he snarled, "My sacred relic! It was irreplaceable! What have you done, you little bait?"
The small blue shade blinked in surprise and darted a distance. Up into the air and away from the mountain peak. But not out of range for a master hero of the invisible monks. With a growl, he reached for the glass beads of his necklace... and discovered they were missing. Expended earlier when he needed ammo against the charging Rex.
Wait. That was new. A picture of a memory of a moment.
Narrowing his eyes, he let the nothingness of tranquility make unimportant everything but that fragment. It was ragged and shabby, a piece of a piece of something that was hard to focus on, but distinct. And recent.
"You remember?" came the pastel swirl of curious thought from the annoying spectre, drifting closer.
"Yes, but not everything," he admitted. "It's there, but broken into pieces, a stain glass window shattered upon the cathedral floor. I think... hm... I just need some time to put it back together."
"Then back to the balcony, I suggest. Back to the others, I suggest. They are older. They are wiser. They can help."
"That is a good idea," he nodded. The others. Space champions visiting Amity for the cosmic tournament. Witnessing the challenge of the Super Wizard From Space and Sharkasaurus Rex. Who was brought here by Geisel. And Theodor.
Theodor. Yes, that was the little ghost's name. Like a puzzle, the edges were quicker to reassemble than the centre. But it was coming together.
He led them into the small building at the peak, in which there was a set of spiral stairs leading into the monastery. Though the ghost fish could simply have drifted through the stone and walls, it was polite enough to follow the gecko down the many, many steps. They passed hallways and rooms as they descended, inside which the feng shui had obviously suffered. Tables and chairs shifted, tapestries at aesthetically unpleasing angles. The sounds wave that the fish described must have shook throughout the entire mountain.
As they descended they started to hear violent sounds. Booming and yelling and crunching sounds. Hopping down at a faster rate, they eventually emerged in a circular hall constructed entirely of white marble and white diamonds, its impossibly large fractal floorspace filled with thousands of fighting monks.
It seemed to be more like hundreds upon hundreds of smaller, individual fights rather than a single concentrated battle, but there was distinctly two sides. One was more defensive, trying to outlast their opponents, while the other was more aggressive, trying to overwhelm instead. And both groups of monks were striking with the measured practice of space-kung-fu, the infra-zen based martial art only taught here by the Dharma family.
One pitched battle came particularly close, the defensive monk successfully wearing down his faltering foe. The gecko snarled and made a leap onto the wall, sticking to it with his adhesive toe pads. With the speed of decades of practice, he scrambled along the wall toward the fight. When the conservative combatant was distracted, the gecko wrapped his tail around the puny man's neck and slammed him face-first into the wall. Then, just for the hell of it, he slammed him against the wall a few more times.
The remaining monk immediately took the chance to catch his breath. As he stood there, panting, the gecko eventually dropped to the floor and approached cautiously. "Explain this!" he demanded.
"An invasion, my most honoured master," said the panting monk as respectfully as he could between coughs and pants. "It occurred when the Gong Ago's magnificent music echoed through our humble monastery. Every man shook with the sound... and was inexplicably duplicated!"
"All the monks? A double?" asked Theodor.
"No. Not a double. More like an opposite," said the monk with obvious distain.
The gecko's memories tumbled together at a faster pace. A debate on a bridge with the super wizard. A pleading to not use the treasured Gong Ago. The possibility of consequences. Damn his hide, they should have foreseen this. The gong's sound can reverberate through every plane of existence. It must have echoed off a unknown dimensional barrier... mirroring not only the tone but also the inhabitants of the mountain!
All of them...?
"To the balcony, Theodor," he said with a growing urgency. "We have to get to the others."
"What of us, illustrious master?" asked the monk.
"No surrender. No mercy," was the reply. "They are everything we are not. One will never be compatible with the other. Fight on!" The monk slammed his fists together and bowed respectfully, but the gecko and the ghost fish were already racing down the corridor.
He remembered everything now. The pieces had all fit together, forming a clean and clear image. He had to reach the balcony. To see for himself. How far had the echo reached?
Just before they reached the balcony, they came across golden liquid form of Queen Buzz. Naturally she would be in here, not wanting to be out in the open. Despite the fact she was here as a transmission only, a holographic projection composed of nanomachine honey, she was still lurking in the back.
"Majesty! Something terrible has happened..." started Theodor before she cut him off with the glare of royal command. Her usually impassive expression melted into a suspicious glare.
Raising a hand, she pointed right at the gecko and demanded, "Theodor Ghoszt Fish, who isz this?"
Theodor dropped an inch or two, a shimmering ripple of grey confusion spreading from his psychic centre. "Oh no. More amnesia. This is..."
"No, thisz isz not," she cut off. "Hisz head isz bare. A coszmic crown doesz not szo easzily abandon itsz perch."
The ghost fish turned in surprise.
"Hee hee hee. I'm afraid so," admitted the gecko with a malicious smile. "I remember now, the stained glass window put together to reveal a picture reversed. I'm not the master hero who invited you to Amity and faced off the beast Rex atop the mountain. I am his echo.
"My name is Andy Dharma, master villain of the Invisible Monks."