The Ever-Wheres were the ones who made history.
They made change.
They created destruction.
For all intents and purposes, they are the answer to every “why” question you may have.
And most importantly: they are everywhere.
Anne first met an Ever-Where when she was five years old. It didn’t look like an Ever-Where, but then again: they never do. It approached her in the form of a police officer, bending down to ask the little girl if she was lost. Anne’s face was wet with tears, her cheeks flushed from running, her half-made plait that her mother hadn’t tied with a hairband yet falling out of place like a halo on her head.
“A strange man came into our house,” Anne sobbed. “Through the back door. Daddy told Mummy to run but she fell on the floor when a bang happened. I think she fell asleep.” Anne’s hands were shaking now, her nose running. “But she wouldn’t wake up.”
The Ever-Where stood up immediately, squinting as it peered down the street. Anne had the strange sensation that perhaps the officer was looking through the houses for the strange man, which was not far from the truth. It was looking at the possible scenarios that would follow, and deciding on the best one.
When the officer didn’t reply, Anne spoke up again: “There was red stuff on the floor, like the wine Grandma split on the carpet at Christmas. Daddy got really angry when that happened.” The Ever-Where looked back at Anne. If it had been human, it might have felt sympathy. It might have been able to comfort her. Ever-Wheres are disconnected from humans, unable to feel, unable to understand. They merely act and stick to what they know – causes and consequences. “Do you think you could clean the red stuff up? I don’t want Daddy to get mad again. I don’t want anyone to be mad ever again.”
The officer made a phone call, and in a blink of an eye, Anne found herself at her Grandmother’s house.
If the Ever-Where had not been there, Anne would not have seen the sun rise the next day. Anne didn’t know that. She would never know that. It was simply the truth, one that could never be proven unless you were an Ever-Where too.
The second time an Ever-Where interfered with Anne’s life, Anne was 12 years old and racing for the bus she took to school. She was always on time, without fail. So she couldn’t understand why her bus was peeling away from the road without her, ten minutes before it was supposed to leave.
Panting, Anne finally let the bus leave without her, falling to her knees on the pavement as she tried not to think about having to explain this to her Grandmother.
Meanwhile the bus driver looked back in their rear-view mirror, and smiled when they saw Anne on the pavement. Alone but safe, the Ever-Where thought.
When Anne got home, her Grandmother burst into a monstrous rant about public transport, claiming she would complain to the local Council (she wouldn’t), that there was no silver lining to the situation whatsoever (there would be), and that she would not fix the holes at the knees of Anne’s trousers again (even though she would).
They heard the news about a bus crash on the radio while they were cooking dinner. When they read out the number of the public bus Anne got, dinner was forgotten for a few precious moments. Anne dropped the potato peeler, and her Grandmother was so stunned that she didn’t yell at her Granddaughter for her carelessness.
“Four injured; six dead,” Her Grandmother repeated. “Well that’s… that’s…”
It was horrible, that’s all it was. It was ghastly that one decision could cause the removal of six lives from the world. It was terrifying to think that it was so easy to have your existence taken from you without getting a say in the matter. That you would never be able to fix upon the point at which you were ready to take your bows, because life was not a performance. It was a disaster.
What neither of them knew was that if Anne had caught her bus that morning, six would have become seven. Maybe it was better this way. Maybe.
After all, an Ever-Where had certainly decided that this was the best course for Anne’s life to follow.
Anne is 20 when the library she’s in goes up in flames.
Reporters will later debate over whether the attack was meant for the library, or if it was for the bar next door, or if it was even intentional. One thing is certain: there is no way that Anne should have survived. Even when the flames were still devouring the building, those who had scrambled out claimed there was no way anyone from the top floor would be able to see the sky again. The stairs were collapsing, the fall would be too great, and the fire was moving too fast for it to be tamed quick enough to ensure any survivors.
On the highest floor, Anne lay with smoke in her lungs and ash in her hair. Unable to call for help, even though the act would have been futile. She could only cough weakly as her body pleaded for air.
She felt hands brush against her skin, as if trying to soothe her into waking. Anne blinked her eyes open, shocked to find that flames were wrapping around her legs, but didn’t burn her. Closing her eyes again, Anne saw a face. It wasn’t ugly or beautiful, or fat or thin. It just was, looking at her, vaguely human and yet distinctively not.
When she woke up, coughing and spluttering, her eyes fell on the roof of an ambulance before flickering around to see all of the doctors examining her, looking for signs of the face she had dreamed about.
“Hey sweetie, what’s your name?” A doctor asked, her voice gentle.
“Anne.” Anne replied.
“Do you know what’s happening?”
“The library caught on fire.”
“What did you do? When that happened?”
“I ran to the stairs but they had caved in,” Anne explained. “After that I passed out.”
The doctor had a kind face, Anne realised, as she smiled. “When we found you, everything was burnt. The whole building was as black as night, no corner left unscathed, but you... You were left untouched.”
“W-what do you mean?”
“Honestly, sweetie, at least your lungs should be damaged from the amount of smoke you inhaled. But everything is perfect. Not even your hair is singed. I’d go as far to say that you’re healthier than everyone else in this vehicle.”
“But that’s impossible,” Anne whispered.
The doctor smiled again. “If I didn’t know better,” The woman said as Anne’s eyes flickered closed again, her whole body heavy with exhaustion. “I’d say you’ve got yourself a guardian angel.”
The Ever-Where stood over Anne as she slept in the hospital.
It was unable to explain why it had acted in such a peculiar way to the rest of the Ever-Wheres. All it knew was that there was this strange pull, a force that propelled them into action. Somehow it was different from the way it felt to be shaping a pivotal point in history. When affecting the future of everything, there was pressure to do it right. Each choice had advantages and disadvantages. Making the right one was all about ensuring the best outcome in the furthest future.
When it came to Anne, there was no internal war over which choice was best. There was no decision to be made, because the Ever-Where had already decided that the only desirable outcome was one where Anne was still alive.
The Ever-Where was about to leave, when Anne suddenly mumbled “Thank you,” under her breath. Surprised, the Ever-Where flickered, its instincts telling it to run, already half-way gone when Anne’s hand found the Ever-Where’s.
Her grip was a barely-there presence. It would have been easy to pry her fingers away and disappear. But the Ever-Where admired their joined hands and remained standing beside her, this human girl who would not be remembered by history. A human girl who would one day be forgotten, who lived in a world that would one day bare no traces of her existence at all.
“You’re welcome,” The Ever-Where replied, revelling in the beauty of having an anchor to the world.
From the moment the woman had sat down across from her in the coffee shop, Anne knew that she was not human.
Anne could see traces of the face she had seen when she had dreamed a week ago while the flames flickered over her body, able to touch but unable to unravel her. The features were all there like an imprint over the human features, and Anne tried to swallow the twist of fear and unexplainable joy that fluttered through her chest.
“It’s you,” Anne said simply, the words caught in her throat. Because what else was there to say?
The woman nodded. “It’s me.”
Later, when Anne felt a little braver as they sat in her apartment, Anne decided to make her curiosity more plain. “There’s so much I don’t know about you,” Anne stated. “What are you?”
So the Ever-Where described their race. The history-makers in disguise. The ones who played with fate, who hid in the shadows and made everything happen.
“Why me?” Anne asked, terrified of the answer. There was a part of her that woke up at night, trying to grasp that answer. That wouldn’t find peace until she could understand. That needed to be needed by someone else.
“Ever-Wheres cannot feel.” The Ever-Where said, unable to look Anne in the eye. “We do not connect, we only make the choices that we feel are necessary, and we continue. That is our purpose. That is how we live.”
Anne shifted closer to the Ever-Where on the sofa, her gaze fixated on it. “But why me?”
The Ever-Where sighed as it closed its eyes and tried to find the human words that would make Anne understand. “My people have a word that does not directly translate into your language, I am afraid. But I will describe it as best I can. It means something indescribable is happening, and you cannot pull away. It means I cannot find away to pull myself out of your orbit, not due to a lack of power, but because I do not want to disappear or part from you. It is a word of impossibilities and beautiful potential. It is something that can break you. It is a word that means I am risking everything by acting in the way I have, but I am willing to lose it all for you. Do you understand? That is why. That is why it is you.”
Anne blushed, beaming at the Ever-Where. “I think humans might have a word like that.”
“Yeah.” She whispered. “We definitely have one like that somewhere.”
Anne was not the first human to care for an Ever-Where. But she was the first to be cared for in return.
Being friends with an Ever-Where was a strange thing. The Ever-Where’s human form was constantly shifting, to the point where Anne began to notice things shift even when they were in public.
“You ears have changed again,” Anne pointed out, her thumb brushing against the now more pronounced point at the high curve of its ear. “How does no one else notice?”
“Humans rarely look at other humans for an extended period of time,” The Ever-Where stated. “If they do, they are unlikely to notice gradual changes.”
Anne hummed in thought. “Do you have to change all the time?”
“Some members of my family are able to remain in one form for as long as they wish,” The Ever-Where told her. “It is easier to recognise each other if you remain in one way. Many of us find a form we are happy with and stick with that, but I have yet to find one I feel any more comfortable in that I do with the rest.”
“There are humans who would kill for that,” Anne couldn’t help but grin at the Ever-Where’s expression, completely aghast.
“Then humans are stupid,” It said. “You have one body, and you need never worry about all of the different ways you could look. Ever-Wheres have an infinite number of possible ways to look like humans, and we are never sure if we look the right way at all.”
Anne’s smile faltered. “You look fine how you are.”
“But this isn’t-“ The Ever-Where gestured to its body. “This isn’t really me, though, is it? I’m not human, despite how much I would like to be one.”
“Oh.” Anne paused, unsure of how to continue. Before she could say another word, the Ever-Where had swiftly changed the topic, clearly not wanting to linger on the thought.
“Do you have a name?” Anne asked when teaching the Ever-Where how to cook spaghetti.
“No.” It said sharply. “None of us have names. We are all equal, we all have equal power and equal influence in events. So we are all equal without names.”
Anne explained to the Ever-Where how names work, and what they meant to humans. “You get to call me Anne,” Anne explained. “That helps, doesn’t it?”
“Well, like yesterday. When I nearly walked right past you. You called out my name, and I knew that I was wanted. I can’t exactly call out ‘Ever-Where’ in a public place: half of your race might turn around.”
The Ever-Where thought about this for a moment. “A name? Just for me?”
“Do I get to choose it?”
Anne leaned her head on the Ever-Where’s arm, happy that today its body had shifted into a taller form. “Of course you do.”
“What do you look like?” Anne asked into the darkness, somehow aware that even though the Ever-Where’s eyes were closed, it had not yet fallen asleep.
“Hmm?” It mumbled in response.
Anne sat up as the Ever-Where’s eyes flickered over to her. “I know you don’t look human. So what do you look like? Behind it all?”
The Ever-Where opened its mouth. Then closed it again. “I…” It faltered, trying to come up with an answer.
“Could you show me?” Anne asked, shifting closer to her friend on the twin bed.
“You won’t be scared?”
“You’re still the same creature who spent an hour laughing over a cat video I showed you last week,” Anne said with a giggle. “I don’t think you could ever scare me.”
So the Ever-Where showed her.
At first the change was hardly visible, the Ever-Where’s skin slightly brighter. Then Anne noticed the symbols that seemed to spark beneath the surface of its skin, the way the pupils of her eyes expanded, until the entirety of the eye was pure black. Its nose became thinner, the mouth a flat line, ears smaller and the chin more pointed. The Ever-Where’s skin glowed, with different pictures of a range of ever-changing colours sparkling over the surface.
“These,” The Ever-Where explained, noticing the way Anne’s eyes lingered on the things that seemed to dance across the skin. “Are all of the decisions I’ve made. All of the pieces of history that I’ve influenced.”
A few seconds of silence. And then:
“Look. That’s you,” And the Ever-Where pointed to the curve of her right elbow and along to her wrist. For a flicker of a moment, Anne saw fire and blood and a bullet that never hit her, until suddenly they disappeared, replaced by other decisions the Ever-Where had made.
“I’m afraid I’m not human at all,” The Ever-Where said, sadly. “This isn’t even the full transformation, you see, since-”
“You’re more human than you think you are,” Anne whispered, pressing a kiss to the Ever-Where’s forehead to silence them on the matter.
The Ever-Where appeared in Anne’s apartment out of thin air. Anne cursed, pulling her towel around her more tightly. “I thought we agreed that you would warn me –”
“Sky.” The Ever-Where announced.
“My name. Sky.” It said, their happiness causing their skin to glow a faint golden hue. “I want the name Sky.”
The Ever-Where called Sky knocked on Anne’s door.
Anne rushed to open it, ready to throw her arms around her friend. So she froze when she found Sky curled up on the floor, bent double in pain.
“S-Sky!” Anne cried when she found her voice, immediately rushing to help her friend into her home. “What happened?”
“I tried to make history,” The Ever-Where called Sky whimpered. “I don’t understand. It should have worked. It was only a small interference – but it wouldn’t… fate wouldn’t let me."
Anne scanned over Sky’s body looking for an injury. “I don’t understand. Where does it hurt?”
“Everywhere,” Sky breathed out. “And I can’t change form.”
“Sky…” Anne said carefully. “When you said you wanted to be human, did you mean it?”
“Of course I did.”
Anne kissed Sky the second the answer was out of her mouth. Which is when Sky understood what was happening: Ever-Wheres didn’t feel. Ever-Wheres didn’t connect, and they couldn’t – they would never – kiss a human, because that would mean giving up the power to change the world.
Sky had given up that power long ago, they realised, from the moment she first saved Anne. So Sky made the easiest choice they would ever make, and kissed Anne back.
“What did that mean?” Sky said, the pain disappearing instantly.
“It means I choose you. Above everyone else. Above everything else. I choose us.”
“We have a word like the one you describe to me, the first day we properly met,” Anne reminded her. “But I never told you it.”
Sky frowned. “What is it?”
Anne reached her hand out, her fingers cupping the side of Sky’s face. “We call it ‘love’.”