Chapter 8: Within Walls
Phoenix Air Base
The makeshift conference hall descended into yet another awkward stillness, following the hour-long scientific exposition by Dr Elizabeth Harlem for the eighteenth time in the month. From the very day the military boys spotted her out on the barren wasteland, her life switched into a wildly different sort of turmoil than the one outside. The high-stakes rescue operation of one of the world's best virologists had to be chaperoned with soaring expectations. A cure for the incurable virus, to quote the exact words of General Phil Klezmer.
But out of all the presentations she delivered, this one stood different. Not because of her poor presentation skills somehow obtaining a professional steadiness and stature all of a sudden, but for the man who listened to her words-- Mr Dale Caruthers.
Dale was a senior in the university Elizabeth did her graduation in. Their fields and interests were as different as a dry desert could be from a fresh waterfall, but what was meant to happen had to happen. Fate brought the two together on a group project, and soon, the hot athletic Astrophysics dude was passionately in love with the brilliant, beautiful genius from Virology. The news spread like wildfire throughout the uni, but as time went on, the two had to diverge ways, knowing one staying with another could only shatter their dreams. A mutual agreement made of love so that their loved one could achieve their best. But here they were, time playing its games again.
"So, Lizzie, what you're saying is that we need a zombie-- alive?" Dale concluded on a confusing note, not solely because he was confounded whether zombies were actually alive or not, but also how they were supposed to apprehend and contain one of them. At first, it was almost impossible to kill one of these, and now they are evolving and hunting in packs. It would be a suicide mission to venture outside the walls and capture one among them. But Elizabeth was right-- she always was. If they were to find an antidote for the whole zombification stuff, one of the first things they needed was a zombie. To test things on, to know whether it will work the way they want to. But how?
"Yeah, you're right, Mr Caruthers. We need one. Alive." Elizabeth's response made Dale realise that years had passed since they passed uni. Mr Caruthers, that's how Lizzie wanted to address him. Not even Dale, not her unique, sweetest variation of the term 'darling', but Mr Caruthers.
But forgotten in the lost memories that soared across the silent chamber was another man who survived the horrors humanity always had coming. Brad Macroni remained uncharacteristically quiet throughout the entire session. He couldn't survive a day without someone appreciating how sarcastic he was, and his silence went unnoticed on a day when all that noticeable was love. But there was also something eerie to his quietness that the conflicted lovers in the room failed to see.
A low grunt was how it began. Brad fell off his seat, sinking his fingers deep into the concrete. He tried his best to remain calm, but a piercing headache was all he could feel. Like sharp needles prodding every inch of his skull, he screamed in pain, which grew crisper and crisper with every moment. His vision blurred. A shining light enough to send him into a seizure overthrew the dim, melancholic lighting of the hall. Teeth clenched, nails digging into the rugged floor-- it didn't take them long to realise they were in trouble.
"Brad, are you okay?" Dale slowly sauntered towards Elizabeth, standing between her and his old friend. He was no longer a friend-- he knew that within his logic, but his heart told him otherwise, "Brad, look at me." But it was too late. Brad Macroni was only a shadow, deep inside a carnivore, if not lost forever. Dale placed his hands on the holster, sensing the gun inside, preparing for the worst case. There was only one way out of the hall, and it wasn't an easy one. If there was any way he could contain his old friend within the makeshift chamber and defend his old lover until they escape the room, he would have done that. But when Brad looked straight into his eyes-- when the monster looked straight into his eyes, he knew it was hopeless.
His movements had to be quick. Dale clutched the hands of his old lover, shaking her out of the stillness that took over her. The moment Brad leapt at them from the top of the table, Dale took his gun outside the holster and squeezed the trigger as tight as he could. But the firearm hesitated to let out its true might, forcing Dale to push Elizabeth aside towards the door, and engage in hand-to-hand combat with the beast. He lunged the monster away with his elbows, added with a kick to the thighs to send him further away from the two of them.
But before Dale could retain his fighting stance, he felt a sharp pain on his shoulders. Canines sank deep into his flesh, almost scratching against his bones. He yelled in anguish and threw a punch to its right chin, sending it crashing against the whiteboard that Elizabeth used until then. If the creature were to rebound one last time into a fistfight, that would have marked the end of life within the walls. But Elizabeth got hold of the firearm, which had slipped past the chairs, and reloaded it yet another time. This time, whatever Brad had transformed into did not stand a chance. The fire scorched him to the very core, not leaving an inch of his body free. It was rage that took the form of fire from Elizabeth's palms. After all, love knew no bounds from the day it crashed on the shores of societal life. Murder was the least of crimes committed in the name of love.
As the burning monster crashed against the floor on the other end of the room, Lizzie threw the gun away, raising Dale from the ground. She clasped him around the hips to ensure he wasn't harmed when she shouldered him out of the room. Though the bite hurt him with such vehemence, Caruthers felt good to hold her tight like the old days, "Well, I think I got your zombie. That wasn't so hard, was it?" He gave her a slight smile despite the pain, trying his best to extract that precious pleasantness from her facade that he hadn't seen for long. God, she is still beautiful.
No matter how many times Andre cracked and popped his neck, the soreness remained, unwilling to leave him at ease. For the past few weeks, his sleep schedule had been messed up, and everything seemed to be going south. He was in desperate need of a break, but the horrendous circumstances barely left him any space to breathe. Nothing is ever going to be the same.
But at the very least, the narcissist has shown slight symptoms of letting down his humongous ego. There was absolutely no way the presidential house could keep the mindless creatures at bay all on its own. The helpless soldiers lay down their lives every day, listening to the mad ramblings of an old man. Antoine Quessmann was never a good President, but the apocalyptic event had driven him even more nuts. If they were all going to die any sooner than they were supposed to, there would only be one person to blame.
Peace of mind-- Andre whispered as he turned the doorknobs to the top-floor guest room. Although it took a great deal of patience and immense self-control to serve under an ignorant psychopath, it left Andre with the luxury of a furnished chamber and ample sustenance while hundreds roamed the streets in terror. After all, humankind has always wanted a place to return to. Something to call their own, somewhere to belong. The guest room wasn't essentially his home, but it played out all the necessary functions: a place to stay, relax and sleep, though the latter procedures weren't at their best.
"Hey, big belly! Having fun?" He spoke while turning to the couch as he tossed his official coat and ID onto the mattress. He had always loved taunting her from the very night they met each other. It wasn't a Christmas night or a Halloween, but only the tiresome evening of a regular workday. But love crept its way in, and destiny converged the two together in the grand calculus of the universe. They were often misunderstood as a duo of mischievous siblings rather than a bickering couple. But their senseless squabbles only bound them together even more, never even leaving a crack in their unbreakable bond.
"Dinner outside?" Andre smirked as he searched through the contents of his shoulder bag, "Honey, haven't you heard the news yet? Turns out, zombies are roaming the streets. If anything's getting served out there, it's us." He giggled at the uncomfortable joke, picking up the reports on the Phoenix Camp and walking off to the fridge. A ton of files to study overnight diminished his morale in a split-second, but the notion of having her by his side somewhat eased his conscious, "Sweetie, you can't skip your dinners every day." He spoke as he carried the supplies for the night to the dining.
"Come on now, don't be lazy. We can't teach our offspring bad manners, remember?" He spoke into the darkness of the empty cabin. After all, how could a couple of framed photographs react to all his little quips like his lost beloved?
Outside Phoenix Camp Wall
"To the barracks." Margo roared, her voice crisp and scary. They had run so far, and yet, a single misstep would have left them meals for the undead. The barracks were the only spot that could probably protect them from the massive, bloodthirsty cluster. It was only a few metres ahead of them, but Clint and Jules could already feel their legs failing them. The shock of the plane crashing down into the woods, the notion of Elena possessing a zombie legion-- it was too much for them to handle. And Margo being able to wade and rescue them from a giant gathering of the mindless, while being one among them, was a fact they did not know whether to be scared or comforted about.
"Why don't these things walk funny?" It was Jules who raised his concern. Obviously, the lies that the popular media speculate about the events that are yet to happen and even the ones that had happened often confuse the regular viewers into doubting their surrounding reality. As the trio darted further into the woods, they spotted the metallic door, able to save their lives. The distance between the footsteps grew wider and wider until a point they were almost hurdling their way through the rugged earth. The flesh-eating mindless beasts almost grabbed them by their clothes and pushed them back into the mushy dirt land many times, but life gave them another chance.
"Close the doors!" Clint screamed as he barely made it inside the barracks. Jules and Jessup were already inside, both being comparatively better athletes than Clint ever was. A severed hand joined the three behind the sealed doors.
"You can't be right. Phil would never do that. He can't." Clint almost protested within the darkness and emptiness that surrounded them. He was sure Phil could never do that. A biological weapon? Warfare? Domination? That can never be what Phil stands for. At least, not the Phil he knew. He could never do that!
But Margo's face remained intact. She led the two down the sealed doors through the darkness, careful with each step of hers. Any of these hallways could hide one of the undead, and she wasn't ready to take the chance. Her conscience remaining without flaws wasn't something she could solely rely on. If it ever affected one of her two accomplices, that could only end up with her having to kill them. And she wasn't prepared to lose another.
She ceased and shifted towards the two in front of another sealed door, "You don't have to believe me, Clint, but you will have to believe them. In fact, I am pretty sure you will be convinced without even a trace of doubt the moment I open these doors." And he was. How could he possibly not believe his own blood? It was all he wished to see from the very moment he returned to this godforsaken planet. He embraced both of his sons tight within his arms, not willing to let go yet another time. But he couldn't help but think, who are we even fighting against anymore?
Chapter 6: Akira (The Chronicles of Time)
Natsumi paced up and down the stairs, pausing every few moments, expecting to hear returning footsteps only to be disappointed.
‘Where did Yuu go?’ She pondered, then looked out the window. The wind pounded against the glass, and wailed along with its concomitant forces. Heavy rain crashed down, and the streets were vacant besides of the large streams of water tumbling down. With such terrible weather, just where on earth could Yuu have gone? And it wasn’t just him, but Koru has suddenly, and magically, gone missing as well!
“Don’t worry, Natsumi.” Sora assured her, sipping on his freshly made hot cocoa from the kitchen. He carried a tray with two other cups with such balance, that he looked like the perfect quintessence of a waiter. Currently, they were supposed to be watching a horror movie (Himari came up with the idea since it was the perfect weather), but Yuu disappeared halfway - leaving Natsumi to fret over his vacancy. The only one that was actually enjoying themselves was nonetheless: Himari.
He handed her a cup, then headed back to the living room where Himari resided with another hot cocoa.
She continued to be restless until she heard a large slam and a muffled quarrel at the entrance.
“Yuu where have you - !” She stopped short and gaped at the sight of an unfamiliar identity.
“Uwah!” The boy with snow-like colored hair jumped in surprise the second his eyes met hers. “I-I….”
“What are you acting so shy about?” Yuu said in a disapproving tone. The other boy glared at him, but his attention returned back to Natsumi’s perceptive stare.
“Who is that boy?” She set down her cup on a nearby table.
“Oh, him?” Yuu elbowed him, and pushed him forward. “He’s - “
“Don’t tell me, could that be…your brother?” Natsumi gasped loudly. It didn’t take long for the others to join them after hearing her exclamation without giving Yuu a chance to speak properly.
“Whoa!” Himari said, peering over the new boy. “Who’s this? He’s so pretty! He looks like a doll!”
It also didn’t take long for the girls to start fawning over the new addition, and for the boys to ignore their squeals and head to the living room.
“What have you guys been up to since I was gone for a bit?” Yuu asked, taking over the bowl of popcorn that used to belong to Himari. He completely blocked out the irritating noises the girls made from his ears.
Sora took a seat beside him on the couch. “Nothing really. We’ve just been continuing the movie without Natsumi and you.”
“Without Natsumi?” Yuu tilted his head in confusion. “But I was the only one who left?”
The girls let out another excited squeal as they adorned the new boy’s hair with ribbons.
“Oh yeah, but after you left, she started to worry about where you’ve gone off and loitered around the stairs.” Sora replied casually, pressing the play button.
“What’s with your old fashioned clothes?” Himari lifted up his sleeves. Flustered by the amount of attention he’s receiving, he didn’t answer.
“Hey, what’s your name?” Natsumi asked, filled with curiosity. He flinched at the sudden question and mumbled something underneath his breath. “Hm?”
“I-it’s…” he glanced at Yuu for assistance only to be briefly ignored which hit his sore spot. “Hey! You brought me here in this form, a-and you’re going to neglect me like that?”
The change in attitude made the girls blink and think that they must’ve heard his tone wrong.
“Huh?” Yuu slowly diverted his attention away from the movie and looked back at them from the couch. “Who said that I have to tend to your every need, and lend a hand? If anything, shouldn’t you be talking to your master about that?”
“Master?” That word piqued Himari’s curiosity. “What?”
“It’ll be easier to explain this way,” Yuu snapped his fingers and with a poof! - white fluffy ears sprouted out of the boy’s head and a luxuriously soft tail.
“Wow!” The girls both blurted out simultaneously. Natsumi groped his tail while Himari took over his ears, both of them captured by how insanely silky and satisfying it felt. The boy blushed, and his ears twitched whenever Himari’s fingers got too possessive.
“He’s so sensitive!” Himari teased, looking at his red face.
“S-stop!” He whined. Blinding white light surrounded him, forcing the others to cover their eyes. When they regained their senses after the abrupt dazzle, instead of a boy, they found a white large dog instead.
“Koru? So this is where you’ve been!” Natsumi said, astonished.
“Is that what you really got from all of that?” Yuu said, dumbfounded. “Even an idiot can tell exactly what occurred just now.”
“What are you - ?” A belated realization smacked her in the head. “Oh! Koru is that boy!”
“Yay! She got it!” He replied sarcastically. “What a genius idea! Who would’ve thought?”
Natsumi bit her bottom lip. “You can stop now. No need for the unnecessary rude remarks.”
“But who really would’ve thought that Koru was actually a human in disguise?” Himari questioned, glancing at the dog who hid underneath his paws. “If you didn’t come along, just how long would he have hid his true identity from us?”
“Who knows,” Yuu shrugged nonchalantly. “And also, he isn’t a human. He’s known as an ‘Okami’.”
“‘Okami’?” Sora said, puzzled. “Hold on, what's with all this unrealistic stuff happening?”
“Oh right! We haven’t told Sora yet!” Himari smacked her forehead. “So you see, Yuu is actually a magician! Ta-dah! Big surprise there!”
“Are you really?” Sora turned to him skeptically. Yuu snapped his fingers and the empty bowl of popcorn became full within seconds. That flipped his attitude. “Are you kidding me? A real magician? I thought that they only belonged in fictional stories!”
“Yeah, well that’s what Natsumi thought too in the beginning, and now look how wrong she is.” Yuu grinned.
“Oi!” Natsumi snapped. “Well who would even believe you to begin with? If it was anyone else, they would deem you as a lunatic and ship you off to the mental hospital!”
“...anyway, back to the ‘Okami’ thing,” Himari cleared her throat, and the mood became serious, “did he choose to protect Natsumi or destroy her?”
“Protect her, duh!” Yuu said. “Anyway, it seems that it has made a contract with you since you were young, so it's practically bound to you. It also seems that your parents also were conscious of that fact and continued to let the dog stay.”
The room became silent, and Sora shut off the television, intrigued by Yuu’s words. Koru whimpered and looked up at them with a questioning gaze.
“Oh…I see.” Natsumi said quietly. “So the whole time, I really didn’t know anything, huh? It felt as if…my parents were hiding everything from me for some reason; was it because I was too naive back then?”
Koru quickly reverted back to his human form frantically. “N-no! It wasn’t like that, master! Your parents were just worried about your safety, that’s all! It wasn’t like that so don’t cry - “
“Aww!” Natsumi shrieked, filled with adoration. “Do you think I didn’t know that? Were you trying to console me? So cute!”
The shift in her mood left him speechless. “Eh?”
“Well, well! You really could’ve just shown yourself earlier you know?” She put her hands to her hips with a huff. “I would’ve been super surprised as well as grateful! You’re really cute after all! And you’re some sort of deity as well! I couldn’t feel more honored! In fact, I feel super elated!”
They all grinned broadly besides Yuu who had a faint smile on his face.
‘Really, just how foolish can she even be? She hasn’t changed…at all.’
“He’ll sleep with me!”
“Huh?” Yuu choked on his spit at her bold declaration. “W-what are you - but Himari is already sleeping with you!”
“Oh, we can squeeze in another person, it’s fine.” She shook him off lightly.
“Yesh’ ples.” Sora said as he brushed his teeth. He spat out the toothpaste then reattempted to repeat what he meant to say. “Yes please. I really don’t want to share a room with someone else.”
“I-I will do my best, master!” Koru said obsequiously. His eagerness made him shine so much that Natsumi just couldn’t help but pet his head.
“So cute! So dedicated!” She purred with satisfaction. For some reason, it made Yuu uncomfortable seeing how much affection she poured to another male.
“But still - !” His mind jumbled up, and he became more perplexed. “Ah, whatever! Do what you want!”
He stormed off to his room in an annoyed manner.
“Geez, why is he so mad?” Natsumi said, racking her brain for a plausible reason. “Oh well, whatever.”
“Should we also apply Koru - I mean, Akira to the same school as us?” Natsumi suggested. It was a Saturday morning, and there weren't any classes. Recently, Koru came out of his shell, and started to speak more. But the name ‘Koru’ - which he was granted when he was a dog - didn’t suit a human boy. Although it sounded as cute and as lovely as the boy himself, it didn’t match. So the others gathered together and voted on a suitable name for him resulting in ‘Akira’.
Akira sat obediently in front of Natsumi who sat behind him, playing with his silky hair. His ears flickered sensitively, and his tail wagged behind him in pleasure. He had a new outfit and his old one was stored away. But since he didn’t want to part from his bell, it was fashioned into a mini necklace with the bell shrinked. It hung around his neck like a collar, and rang softly whenever he moved. “S-school?”
“Yup!” Himari added enthusiastically. “To put it simply, it’s like a building where all sorts of other people go and study and stuff!”
“Yeah, he knows that already,” Yuu scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Considering the amount of time that he spent stalking Natsumi - he’s just pretending to be as blank as a sheet of paper. He’s just acting ignorant!”
“You don’t really have to say it that way,” Natsumi shot back at him. “But having such an adorable stalker - well, how could I get angry?”
Yuu stared at her idignantly and sighed deeply. “There’s something wrong with your head. You call him cute, but when I was in my child form, you called me arrogant. How is that fair?”
“Mind you, you were pretty cocky back then; you still are now though.”
“Hold on, Yuu in child form?” Sora butted in, inquisitively. “I wanna see what he looks like!”
“He had really long hair back then,” Natsumi nodded as she recalled the memory.
“Yeah, I was really handsome and cute.” Yuu added.
“I wanna see!” Sora said, interested.
“I told you before, Sora really favors kids.” Natsumi said, shrugging.
“Then how come he doesn’t fawn over Akira like that?” Himari blurted out.
“That’s because we’ve been hogging Akira, of course!” Natsumi answered. That fact was quite conspicuous. Ever since Akira broke away from his disguise, he’s been the center of attention for the girls. “That, and I bet he’s into how Yuu will look like as a child, aren’t you? After all, Yuu is pretty standoffish, so literally anyone would like to see how he looks when he’s small and innocent - not that he even was innocent in his mini form.”
“Come to think of it, I never saw you in your child form either!” Himari realized, and automatically turned to Yuu sharply. “C’mon! Show us!”
In the end, he escaped from the persistent requests, and teleported out of the house for a breath of fresh air.
Chapter 5: Secret Identity (The Chronicles of Time)
It has been weeks since Yuu first appeared, bringing mayhem and all sorts of trouble into Natsumi’s mind and life. It did seem a bit weird to her how fast she quickly adjusted to the new addition in the house, and that her house has suddenly become some sort of boarding house. They also all lent a hand in cleaning up her parents room after a long debate of whether to make it into a guest room or to leave it be. In the end, Natsumi made the final decision, and granted permission to redecorate with a heavy heart. After all, the past has to be washed away either way. That cut off the strings that held her to the past, although she can’t refuse herself from reminiscing her childhood memories.
“You guys! Stop!” screamed Natsumi in annoyance. In her hands carried a mop and a bucket of water. “Ugh! Why do you all try to escape when it comes to cleaning?”
“That’s because nobody likes to clean!” Yuu shouted back from the end of the hallway.
“You too?” Natsumi scoffed in disbelief. “What are you talking about? Before, you used to be the maid of the house and scrubbed every corner ’till there’s no speck of dust left! What do you mean “nobody likes to clean”?”
“Well, no longer!” Yuu laughed, leaping down the stairs, then grabbing hold of the banister and jumped onto the floor below.
“Yuu, hurry!” Himari urged him from the front door with her shoes on, ready to go. “Hurry before she catches you!”
“Himari, I heard that!” groaned Natsumi from the second floor. “You both better come back soon! I’m not cleaning this entire house by myself! Ugh!”
“It’s fine! Sora will be back soon!” Himari assured her, then accompanied by Yuu, they both ran out the house hurriedly with the door slamming behind them. “I think he’ll return soon.”
“Haha! That was fun though!” Himari said, stretching her arm above her head. “Well, let’s go over this once again. Our motive for escaping cleaning duty - I mean, for leaving the house today, was to fetch a present for Sora; leaving Natsumi to prepare the house for the party.”
“I can’t believe your idiot brother fell for that trick about how your mom is calling for him.” Yuu snorted. “Now he won’t be back very soon. Your mom is going to make him work even though she didn't ask for him.”
“Ha! That’s what I always do to get him out of the house.”
They took a left, and after a while of riding a subway - with Yuu examining every inch in wonder - they arrived at a shopping mall. They looked through the windows of shops filled with many accessories and other products, but shook their heads at it.
“I don’t know what to get him!” Himari groaned, collapsing onto a bench. Yuu handed her an ice cream cone. “It’s not time for sweets, Yuu!”
“But you still took it, though?” Yuu smirked. “What should we do now?”
“I just said I don’t know!” Her head was getting more muddled. “If only Natsumi was here!”
“Regretting dumping her at home to do housework now?”
“Not really,” Himari shrugged, licking her dessert. “Mm! This flavor is really yummy!”
“What does Sora even like?”
“That’s not what I meant, and even if we do give him that, his “alone time” will probably only be during his cleaning duty.”
Himari laughed then slowly quieted down. “...this isn’t getting us anywhere.”
They wandered around the extensive building repeatedly walking in circles, and in and out of stores only to be empty-handed.
“I...really wish we didn’t abandon Natsumi at home.” Himari sighed.
She squeezed the excess water out of the towel and groaned.
“I can’t believe those two ditched me like that!” Natsumi grumbled, throwing the damp steaming towel onto the counter grudgingly and began to wipe. “Seriously! Those unappreciative no-good so called ‘friends’ of mine! I’m never helping them again!”
After cleaning every corner of the house to the point where it sparkled, she began arranging the table, and hanging up a large banner with the words “CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR 17TH BIRTHDAY SORA!” largely imprinted. A large dark blue table cloth covered the table surface, reaching all the way to the floor. She struggled to flatten the cover out since her arms were only that short and could only reach that far.
Then after setting up all the decorations, she finally took a break feeling a bit dizzy. Exhausted from all that preparation, she took a deep breath and fell onto the couch, motionless.
“Ruff!” A large white ball of fur came into her blurry vision, and she smiled a bit. Her consciousness faded in and out, and her eyes threatened to close.
“I wish...you were a human. You’re the only one who didn’t leave me, you loyal dog….” She drifted off to sleep.
White fog gradually accumulated on the floor and eddied every step he took. The boy who wore a silk jōe with a bell tied in a red rope as a necklace paired with wooden sandals, stood over her. Three red dots forming the shape of a lotus were imprinted on his forehead, and his snow white hair and his sharp red eyes shining with admiration and care made him look divine. A gold aura was emitting off him, but gradually dimmed over time. The dog was gone, and in his place stood a godly-looking boy.
“I...really wish I could show you in my human form as well, master.” He kneeled down, and placed his forehead on her hand. “I pledge that I’ll do everything for you to my utmost ability.”
“Mmm….” a tired groan escaped from her mouth, making him smile gently.
“I shall...do my best to support you, master.”
The incessant routine of going in and out of shops tired both of them out, and they eventually ended up purchasing a shiny silver watch as the gift, and stopped by a bakery to get the cake. As a ‘thank you gift’ for Natsumi’s hard work, they also bought a variety of different cake slices.
“I think that it wasn’t such a bad idea leaving Natsumi at home.” Yuu said as they made a left turn down the street.
“I think that it was a bad idea leaving Natsumi at home.” Himari sighed. “At least we bought something for her, that’s pertinent if we ever have to face her in a sour mood.”
They arrived at the footsteps of their home, and slowly unlocked the door. He spotted a little white cloud surrounding the surface of the floor that gradually faded, which made him doubt his own eyes. Something felt off. He was suddenly filled with trepidation, but his confidence in his power soon consumed the unsettling feeling.
“You give it to her, and explain why we abandoned her under the pretext of going out to complete a secret mission for her or something!” Himari whispered, nudging at Yuu’s elbow and pushing him forward.
“Really? I have to do it?”
“It was you who propounded such an idea of leaving her behind!” She hissed back. “Now deal with the consequences!”
“Huh?” He exclaimed indignantly. “That’s not how it works!”
“Yes it is!”
He was pushed into the living room with a box of cake slices in his hands, dumbfounded. Himari gestured for him to get a move on, and he rolled his eyes in agitation. He looked around, trying to spot an angry figure ready to claw through someone’s throat, only to find Natsumi sleeping on the couch.
“Uhh...she’s sleeping.” Yuu whispered and turned around but only to find Himari gone. “She left me? How rude!”
“Hmm….” beside him, the girl began to stir.
“Morning, sleepyhead.” He plastered a sly grin quickly onto his face and bent down so he’s face to face with her.
A spiteful expression met his playful one. “I can’t believe the first thing I see when I wake is your face. You got some nerve coming back.”
He gulped, sensing danger, he pulled out his backup. “I brought you cake.”
“Oh really? Did you think that would please me?”
“But you’re still taking it either way, aren’t you?” He eyed the box that she took from his hands as she sat up.
“Well I shouldn’t let it go to waste,” she muttered. He smirked triumphantly. “Anyway, I prepared all the stuff needed, you guys did get the present right?”
“Yeah, we got him a watch.” He showed her a white box with a shiny silver watch placed delicately inside on top of a plush.
“Whoa!” she exclaimed. “Good choice! Anyway, where’s Himari?”
“I don’t know,” Yuu shrugged.
Moments later Himari poked her head into the room expecting a raging fight breaking out only to find the opposite. It was tranquil, and her two friends were occupied with preparing dinner in the kitchen. She cautiously stepped into the kitchen and was immediately spotted by Natsumi who shot a glare in her direction. Slowly mustering up her confidence, she started to lend a hand with Yuu smirking at her everytime she had eye contact with Natsumi and flinching. It didn’t take long for Sora to arrive as well and join them to be surprised with a table filled with food and a welcoming aroma which made his irritated mood dissipate.
“Happy birthday!” The girls shouted while Yuu waved his hands dully.
“Whoa, what is this?” Sora gasped, attracted to the warm meal on the table.
“Uh, we’re over here, remember?” Himari said with sarcasm.
“I know, I was just more allured by the food than your betraying faces.” Sora snapped,
“Yeah, mom made me mop the entire floor of both the store and our house. Then she went on to make me carry all kinds of luggages, and I didn’t even get a congratulations for my birthday! I also got surrounded by a crowd of girls and - did you know one of them clinged on to me? It was so hard to shake them off! Thanks to you all!”
The others laughed at his troubles and eventually they settled down and celebrated the joyous occasion. After dinner they all crowded around the couch, and presented their gift.
“What?” Sora said, puzzled. “It’s just one?”
“Hey!” Himari said, displeased. “It was expensive, you know?”
He opened the box to find a watch and he sighed. “...Well, guess that’s all I’m getting this year.”
“We didn’t really know what you wanted.” Natsumi said quickly.
“I made it quite obvious that I wanted a new anime figure to replace my limited edition Monkey D. Luffy one that got broken.” Sora huffed, disappointed in all of them.
She recalled the past few days only to realize that Sora was correct. The many times where he stated conspicuously in front of them of an anime figure repeatedly.
“D-did you?” She laughed awkwardly, scratching her cheek in guilt.
“Well I wasn’t listening to begin with,” Yuu said, nonchalantly, “at least we got you something.”
Sora, who was already attuned to their behavior, tossed on the watch and sighed. “Yeah.”
He absolutely disdained this feeling, the thought of being overpowered constantly oscillated in and out his mind.
“No, I’m sure it's just a sneaky fox somewhere.” Yuu muttered to himself. The cold night air blew past him and ruffled his silky black hair which flowed like long threads in the air. “There’s no way it can be him.”
Just a quick flashback of the overwhelming and immense power he felt that day made him shudder, but grin and tingle in excitement. It was such a thrill that he almost lost his entire existence that time - as well as his purpose and almost eradicated the entire world. Until that tiny whisper made him hold onto that sliver of sanity he barely managed to have.
He blinked, and shook his head. “What am I thinking? The dead are dead, so why am I thinking back to such an old memory?”
“You dirty scoundrel.” A low growl made Yuu smirk. It was just as he anticipated.
“I’ve been waiting for you, you know?”
A silhouette emerged from the shadows, and the scenery suddenly became blurry and cloudy with a dense fog. It vanished, then reappeared from many locations. Yuu remained unfazed, and stood rooted to his spot.
A sharp claw shot out from the cover of the fog, striking at Yuu who dodged it so casually.
“Feisty, huh?” Yuu said, taking a step back before he gets pierced.
“You bastard!” The shadow made another attempt to maim Yuu, but only to stumble and trip. The fog cleared away, making a tall white-haired man naked to the eye, conspicuous. He clenched his eyes, expecting a blow in the head for all those relentless attacks, but only to find the complete opposite transpiring.
“Get up,” a hand came into his view, offering to help him up. Mortified by such an embarrassing defeat, he slapped the hand away, and quickly straightened himself up. His long white robes with a huge bell that bounced and hit his chest whenever he jumped, made him look like he was from the old era. A red eyeliner highlighted his rose-like ruby eyes which was similar to Yuu’s, but looked much more pure. Furry white ears twitched on top of his head. Even though he was a man who looked to be older than Yuu, he acted like a child. How weird.
“Ha! Did you really think that I would fall for your dirty tricks?” His sneer threatened to falter.
Yuu stayed silent. The atmosphere felt tense. The man was cautious, and watched Yuu perceptively, anticipating his next movement. After a moment, Yuu smirked and proceeded to move towards his opponent.
“Y-you! D-don’t come closer!” He growled warily. His reactions didn’t conform with Yuu’s actions.
“Stay still, I’m trying to revamp your appearance. You’ll look way better, and Natsumi for sure will prefer you in that form.”
The moment the man let down his guard a little at the mention of Natsumi’s name, Yuu - availing this - swiftly approached him and within a few seconds, a tremendous amount of mist burst forward when Yuu touched him.
Yuu waved his hand, and striked it down towards the ground violently, and a gust of wind was conjured; blowing the mist away only to reveal a small boy wearing a jōe, and a red lotus symbol imprinted on his forehead. His crimson beady eyes shined with confusion and daze, then widened, abashed.
“Y-you - !”
“You look better now, don’t you think so, Koru?”
Excerpt from working novel , “Radio”
If we didn’t continue to train, we might lose what little advantage we have over the normies that were once our overlords. However, “loitering” around each new town or city and going to the local public school also proved to be a great way to gain information about our surroundings and the outside world, when the internet became not the best resource. We’ve discovered, with each small town we moved to, the normie townies preferred, for the most part, to gossip through word of mouth instead of directly posting it on all or any of the social media sites. Shocking, I know. In this day and age, most people post every little thing going on, whether it was a piece of gossip or not. This was just another reason as to why it was so important to integrate with the locals and more specifically those in our own age group. And we obviously didn’t want to come across as socially awkward, sheltered, or just plain idiotic freaks, regardless of the fact that we were abominations and considered second rate citizens.
Geez Louise, if I had to put a number on it, we must have changed schools at least four times within this past year alone, so you can guess how well those two efforts of blending in and integrating with the locals had worked out for us.
However, since we used ASL, also known as American Sign Language, when we were all out in public together, we still stood out regardless. During the first month, after our escape, we noticed how much we attracted weird looks and murmurs when my friends would hold full on conversations with me without signing, so we decided to buckle down and learned and practiced ASL as quickly as we could with the help of Dialect— of course. We could have easily faked because most of the locals had either never or rarely seen anybody using sign language, let alone an unknown group of six teenagers. However, we didn’t want to risk being called out on the off chance we came across somebody who was actually deaf or knew how to sign fluently. If learning and using ASL wasn’t difficult enough, while we were out in public, it was just as difficult to convince strangers that I was not deaf, using the excuse of just being mute.
But those rumors! They never changed. Never! Rumors that I was faking it would spread, and ploys to prove I wasn’t mute would always eventually follow. While I obviously was, it wasn’t as if I could exactly explain why I didn’t talk without risking the exposure of myself and my unit in the process. Though we had learned to ignore the weird looks and rumors, I still couldn’t help feeling less than human with each blow from hearing directly or indirectly. These hurtful names and rumors didn’t just come from my “peers,” but from teachers as well. If you don’t mind, I rather not go into detail of both the rumors and actions.
Yet, there were times either or both would make me so frustrated that I almost wanted to send a sonic blast at them from just a whisper causing them to become temporarily or permanently deaf without care of the consequences. I never did, but there were a few times I came close. Luckily, I always had Feather, in most of my classes, to prevent me from ever doing so.
Then there was the importance of changing our names with each move, which was almost as equally frustrating because it could be difficult to remember, at first. One time I had heard the name I had used in a previous school and turned to the person saying the name and it would take me a few seconds to remember I no longer was going by that name. It was an honest mistake, but had the name been used by an undercover Grey-M operative, it would also prove to be fatal to myself and my unit.
You may be asking yourself, regardless of the importance of integration with the local normies and the false names as a way to protect ourself from being detected by anyone linked to Grey- M Industries, how did we manage to pay for everything? Especially with none of us having a job or an adult with us to pay for things. Well— we paid for everything in cash. From the new phones with ghost chips (to prevent anyone being able to track our whereabouts, in case Surge wasn’t around to put up an electric shield around all of us) and new phone numbers to the new identities we were given by drug dealers, who dealt in many other shady dealings. Not always the most safest people to trust, but it gotten us this far without being recaptured. And cash for a new contact that would help us when we would have to inevitably move again. Initially we had used the cash that Vapor had managed to steal from Grey-M Industries’ vault during our escape, but now we used cash we had stolen from various small-town banks along the way. Always going in the middle of the night to use our abilities to turn off the cameras and the alarms, silently slip in and out of the locked vault, and, on the rare occasion, erasing the memories of anyone in or around the bank. No guns. No hostages. No trace. What we did wasn’t morally right, but the consistent need to move every four to six months didn’t leave us much of a choice.
Then my mind unexpectedly drifted to the drilled in history, during my first five years at Grey-M industries. It was the last thing I wanted to pass through my thoughts and yet there it was, like a fly that you can neither swat away or kill. It was a history I had briefly mentioned to you earlier and oh how I wished again it would have stayed in the past instead of rehashing it. Grey-M Industries had convinced to the public in the early 1950s that anyone suspected or seen with any form of “unnatural” abilities were a danger to society, giving us the name “abominations,” a mistake in the natural order. A mistake not created by God, but by Satan himself. And if we were allowed to “populate,” regardless of the law passed in 1958, it was thought that it might lead to the end of the world as the normies knew it. During the first couple of decades, until the Grey-M scientists discovered each abomination received their abilities genetically, it was well believed by normies that any close contact of us would result in “normies” to be infected with whatever made us inhuman and cause carnage and destruction.
Us? Infect others with abilities we had no control over? What were we? Zombies, werewolves, or vampires? Hardly. And were we really a threat? If only the general public or “normies” knew that we simply wanted to be treated with respect and human decency. The true threat occurred behind closed doors in Grey-M Industries’s remote base of operations would prove the threat did not come from us but from the employees of the tyrannical company. They were the true monsters as they treated and trained us as if we were wild and savage dogs, each of us implanted with a tracking device in our necks. And when they felt we were sufficiently trained, we were forced to carry out missions that most governments didn’t want their soldiers to be associated with. Associations such as capturing or execute terrorists, politicians, or whoever else the government thought to be a threat, which occasionally included celebrities. If the general normie population were aware of these things, then maybe they wouldn’t see us as something less than human. While there were a few abominations, throughout the near seventy years since Marcus Grey had made his televised speech announcing our existence, who were incredibly angry with how we were treated by normies and vengeful because of it, that was hardly the point. There were plenty of normies in history who were more of a threat than any of us abominations. One in particular shared my birthday of April 20th and was the main reason for the start of World War II.
Regardless, most of us “abominations” developed our ability around the age of five or six and on the rare occasion at three years of age. And when we reached the age of thirty, if any of us survived to live to that age, were released and declared “retired” with the understanding that we would be carefully monitored through the tracking device implanted in our necks to insure we wouldn’t release any information of what Grey-M Industries really did and that any off-spring produced would become property of the company, when and if the child showed signs of developing “unnatural” abilities.
This unwarranted history reminder, only made my desire to be a normie or the hope that all of us “abominations,” not just my unit alone, would one day be free from Grey-M Industries and free to settle into a semi-normal life. That would only become a probability, if we had a concrete game plan in bringing down Grey-M Industries. A plan we didn’t have and therefore, again, was the reason we kept on moving. Though part of the plan, were we to have or a hint of one, would most likely require us to stop running and fight back. I know this may sound like very conflicting thought processes, but I guess one could call me a “wandering dreamer of contradictions.” Yet, if I really thought about it and as much as I did want to take down Grey-M Industries, how did we expect to do so when we didn’t have their resources? We were merely six teenagers with extraordinary superhuman abilities and despite our training and the atrocious things we had done with great success according to Grey-M Industries, they still had thousands of abominations, who knows how many operatives, and military grade weaponry on their side. If only we could convince those thousands of abominations to fight back with us without fear of the tracking devices in their neck or whatever else Grey-M Industries would do to them. If only… what an impossible task that would be. Almost as impossible as having my mom come back to life.
It’s not impossible, my sweet girl, I thought I heard my mom’s voice say in my mind.
I tightly closed my eyes as I tried to tell the voice to just go away and that I was totally losing it to think it was really her.
Radio, are you okay? Dialect thought to me from the seat behind me.
Damn it! I had thought I had fully closed the doors to my unit members, while I was trying to distract myself, but I guess I hadn’t. Normally I always kept everyone’s doors open, during my waking hours. It gave me a small sense of normalcy in an odd sort of way, if only with the people I cared about the most. I suppose I figured that if normies aren’t alone when they’re speaking aloud within earshot, then I could do the same with my telepathy.
I’m fine, Dialect, I thought to her without turning my head to look at her. I wasn’t fine, but she didn’t need to worry about it.
No, you’re not. But if you need a distraction, I suppose we could ask Blank and Vapor? Maybe they’ll finally tell us, Dialect thought, the last sentence being directed at the twins in a teasing and prying tone.
“Does it really matter?” Vapor said, not liking to be talked about instead of asking directly.
“We won’t be there for another five hours.”
“Please!!!” Dialect pleaded in her most innocent and child-like voice.
Just humor us, I said in a non-mocking tone.
“Eleverson, Pennsylvania,” Vapor said with a deep exhale of annoyance. “There’s a small two bedroom house there and partially surrounded by woods. Is that enough.”
Yes, thank you, I answered for both Dialect and myself.
Remnants of a Writer’s Block: Part I
Failure. It's hard to accept. Ursula's burning eyes and clenched teeth said the same. The plated sword went straight through her chest, blood splattered on her armour. There she sits, knees on the snowing ground. Unable to see how this could have happened. How senseless? Did they ever stand a chance?
Hundreds lay behind her. Dead. As cold as ice beneath their rotten corpses. Yet, she stays up. She could never accept failure. Now, she puts up a fight against death. Why, sister, why? Just die. Die.
Herman laughed a laugh louder than the howling winds. The winds smelled of death, of defeat. A feud that lasted his whole life, and it ends without him having moved a finger. He only wished if he could be closer. Staring right into her eyes as darkness carries her away for one last time. Holding her by the sides of her gentle neck, whispering how arrogant she always was. Never grasping when to stop trying. Never knowing when to accept defeat. His stupid little sister.
Ursula stood again, proving Herman right. She didn't know how to stop. One might call it brave. Or perhaps, courage. Fools. Teaching their children virtues they never kept themselves. But Ursula was too naive to understand. And Herman too wise. He knew how the world worked. Knew when to turn around and grab the sword before getting stabbed from behind. He knew when to run and when to stay. But not his little sister.
And time has left them both at their righteous positions. One on the icy ground, putting up their final fight. And one on the balcony of their citadel, waiting for the other to fall down to their death. Their eyes met for one brief second before another arrow pierced right through her shoulder. Herman could hear her scream in anguish, but he wasn't sure. A battle cry, it seemed to be. But with none to follow. A single young girl against the greatest army in the West. It was only a matter of time.
If Ursula had a bow and an arrow, she would have used her last breath to send Herman plummeting down into the snow. He knew it too. Why else would he stand behind his two best guards? Fear, some call it. Or cowardness. But Herman knew better. It was wisdom. It was what a true King would do.
Another arrow pierces her left shoulder. This time, it sends her back to her knees. Kneeling. There was only one way this could end. And it was about time.
Blood isn't red. It's more of a crimson. Darker. And denser.
Blood isn't warm. It's cold. Almost frozen, that it sends a chill down your spine.
Blood isn't like water. It's thicker. Sticks to your skin like paint. Hard to remove once stuck.
Or perhaps, it's the royalty. Maybe, the starving children out in the streets have blood bright red. Maybe, the fragile slaves in the newest forts have blood with warmth. Maybe, the young women in the royal halls have blood like water. But not the blood of the king. His blood is cold. His blood is thick. His blood is crimson-- nearly purple. At least, that's how Naziya feels against her face.
She shoves the rotten corpse down from the dusty throne. As it rolls down the stairs, nearly detached, Naziya can see the purple stain it leaves behind. Of course, the rugs will have to be changed. So should the lights. And the tables. And Norvamyne. And it will. It has to.
Naziya never expected her to be the one to sever his throat in the end. With what time had left her, she no less than deserved it. And now, she has completed her purpose. Her destiny. Her wish. Her dream. Her life. A faint smile creeps its way down her little cheeks.
She has never felt this emotion in a while. The last time she did, she lost the only person who could have saved her. Or, in fact, saved the king from what was to come. He should never have killed the one she loved. He should never have hurt Naziya. Not again.
And there it is. A bit of fantasy, I know. For a while in between all this mess, I have to admit that I was kind of captured by the thought of being able to create an entirely new world right from our desks. I mean, creating new characters is something I love to do, but a different realm-- that's a whole another level! And I know I posted this about a day late, but what can I say? Life happens (: I hope something about the two short tales that never made it to the end will inspire your creative self to do something marvellous. Keep writing! Keep loving! And stay happy! Lots of love <3
Wandered off 3
The blue line goes lots of places, of course. But, unless you live out there somewhere along the beaches north of the city, you might live in Boston for many years, and never have reason to ride the blue line.
I have no reason.
But, we may all do whatever we wish to do, whenever we wish to do it. We don’t have to provide an explanation, or an excuse.
Travel, just to travel. Travel randomly. It’s very liberating to travel without a destination.
I’m enjoying the clickety clack of the blue wheels beneath me.
The words come to me in the Distinctly feminine, yet handsomely dark voice of Hollister Blue
Is this a musical? I hear her exquisite piano in the distance…..
Transported by my sister’s fingers kindly, softly caressing the keys.
“Off track…..on track……..it’s your choice”
”…….found your voice.”
I wonder: could we write our musical in the key of Km ?
“There’s no such thing as the key of freakin’ K minor.” She corrects me in her nonjudgmental, sisterly way.
Keyboard cover slamming shut. BAM!
I am sweating profusely now. Do I have a fever?”
Something is suddenly very different. The winds have shifted. A hint of a flowery perfume perhaps?
The scent is familiar. I’m here for the opposite.” Life is unfair.
I fear that I am not alone. When I admired the shine on my shoes, There were others. Smaller.
Familiarity is a threat. I feel threatened.
A light scuff of the soft soles were her only betrayal as she too paused before crossing
“Do not cross this line!”
I had / we all had assumed that we all knew the answer to his unspoken riddle.
Soft, leather-soled shoes moved nearly silently across the pavement. The fairer / kinder gender? Nonsense! Soft leather soles tap softly on the floor of the train car, nervously tapping to some unheard song. Her feet betray her, again.
“Do not cross this line!" He said. We assumed, incorrectly perhaps, that the consequence would be immediate, and irreversibly final. “Fatal?”
Did I say that aloud?”
I could hear the viscous sound of many eyeballs slowly turning in sockets in unison.
I am considering the other passengers. The firing squad of conformity.
All sat knitting. All were knitting the same sweater. Knitting furiously. That was the old hag’s story, her cover.
“Sweater” I considered: A garment so named because it makes the wearer sweat?
To the innocent bystanders she appeared as the kind old granny.
Her voice jabs at me like a knitting needle in my ear.
Knitting, knitting furiously the sweater of the American dream.
The collar was too tight for me.
The click and clack of busy, busy needles is deafening!”
The sound is both a blessing and a curse. It does drown (for the most part) her 40 year veteran smoker‘s cough and her continuous stream of insults.
When deeds become too heavy for the hands of simple men……….
The knitting needles are suddenly knitting in unison.
Louder! Louder!…….………When the pain is too great for the fiercest bear of a father to bear……
All knitting in unison now.
I am suddenly in charge!
I am the conductor!
Of this musical, of this train.
“Mess with me will you?!” I shout out suddenly!
We are strong of muscle, weak of mind…….Foolish beasts!….those are the tasks placed firmly, ingloriously, and rightfully, on the shoulders of a woman.
But they have misjudged me!
The eyes that so recently looked upon me in cruel judgmental scrutiny have since made note of my crisply ironed shirt and new tie. Certainly I am one of THEM!
Again, for the second time today…
the piano is angry now!
my sister’s fingers pounce and pound on the poor defenseless keys.
The singer’s name, and voice wash over me simultaneously! So pleased that my memory has not fully failed me….yet
”Calgon, Take me away!“ I scream out as I recline into a giant bath of bubbles and beautiful music.
The riders smile. I’m “preaching to the choir”.
"If you can’t stand the heat…….”
The old saying comes to mind: do not feel too much pity for the piano. It’s a piano. That’s its job.
Holly closes the cover firmly but kindly over the keys. The job is done.
a closing door. The music is gone, but its essence remains perpetually in the air. Comforting.
I feel the same piano respect for any tool, even she of the tapping toe.
I turn to her now. I turn to her now with respect, not pity. She, like the piano, is but a tool.
They are both beautiful tools, to say the least.
I am momentarily disarmed, and disappointed. She is younger, much younger than I expected; and far more beautiful!
Have they so misjudged me?
Have they sent a girl to do a woman’s job? Flowers instead of thorns?
She sits across from me with her feet on the seat. Her legs are pulled tight to her chest, in a near fetal position. Her hands cover her ears in defense from the thunderous knitting needles. In her haste to protect herself from the assault of conformity, judgement, and shame, one of her shoes remains on the floor of the train. Her toes are naked and vulnerable for all to see.
“This little piggy went to market ….”
A most unlikely assassin.
A single, quick, movement and the needles fall silent. The train continues onward. I am the conductor, not the engineer.
A most unlikely assassin?
Do recall the most important lessons of nature: The soft flesh of the mushroom is most delicate. The brilliantly colored tree frog is like a jewel, just begging to be taken. The most beautiful fish in the sea, are the most deadly.
She meets my stare with eyes of fire. The truth of nature is soon revealed.
#Rachmaciej #hollanderblue #psychology #psychological #fiction #abstract
Someone left the gate open. It's not my fault.
Okay, maybe it wasn't quite open. But, it wasn't latched. I only had to push just a little bit, and
I expected bells, alarms, urgent voices, or the sound of boots running on pavement. I absolutely dread that sound: Hard soled boots colliding with even harder pavement. It's almost always the precursor to sounds of anger, hatred, and pain. But, I did not hear that sound. I did not hear any objectionable sound.
Dogs! The fierce, snarling dogs that I was promised. Where were they?
I will not soil this beautiful memory by mixing it with others. I heard no running boots. I heard no snarling dogs.
A command to myself. A command in that ongoing internal debate and discussion about everything. to silence the fierce and ugly memories of the past. "Keep this memory pure." I say to myself.
But the voice, her voice intrudes. "Shut up you damn fool", was her standard response to all I said. Her voice was jagged like a rusty saw. Hatred mixed with 40 years of cigarette smoke will do that for you.
"Shut up you damn fool."
It worked this time.
Then, I can't help but bring her back in again. I wonder at those 40 years of smoking. Sucking smoke into one's own lungs....for 40 years straight? That, is a special kind of foolish! "WELL aren't you all high and mighty!" the old hag taunted me through the gaps of her rotted teeth.
But, forgive and forget. Turn the other cheek, It's all good stuff. She's gone. Gone, for the moment anyway.
Silence! Other than the squeal of the seldom-used gate hinge, there was nothing that broke the silence as I gazed out onto the cloudless blue sky of a new world.
"But, isn't it just the same old world Bob?"
Silence is his reply.
I sometimes forget that he can't hear me.
An industrial accident left him completely deaf. We used to talk for hours at a time. We talked about everything while slowly getting drunk over hands of cribbage. It just wasn't the same in sign language. A wave of guilt passes over me.
How clear the world looked when viewed through the open gate. No wires crisscrossing my view. "Not a cloud in the sky", I heard my grandmother say.
Can this be true? Is this a dream? Will I wake up in a few moments in a place of misery again? Will I begin yet another day with tears of frustration?
Dreams have often been my refuge. But, they have also been so cruel, and so deceptive.
I stood motionless for many minutes with my toes aligned with that white line painted on the pavement. "DO NOT CROSS THIS LINE!" he said crisply and clearly from the other side of that very line as he sipped a steaming hot cup of coffee. It was almost like he was daring me, daring us to cross that line.
What if we did?
Life's greatest question: "What happens after?"
I've no reason to fear gunshots. With a muzzle velocity of thousands of feet per second, I would never hear it.
I hear something quite different. A match struck on the outside of a book of matches. "Shut up you damn...". But, no. It's not her. She lights her cancer sticks with a lighter. She did anyway.
I used to have a large collection of matchbook covers. No kidding. I had one from he playboy mansion even. Shaped like bunny ears.
After the brief sulfur scent I smell pipe smoke, and I know the identity of the striker of the match. I expect to hear him speak. He will invite me inside. He always does.
Not today. Today, he walks away. I know he's shaking his head in sad frustration. Sorrow for himself? Sorrow for me?
I was only 10 years old. I had never been to the playboy mansion. I wonder who went? I did have a pet rabbit once though.
Just a slight push at the gate was all it took. I never thought that it could be so simple. But, I never tried. Did anyone?
A cloudless blue sky.
A silent, sunny summer day.
But, now there is something. There is a sound breaking the silence.
A single bird calls out "Bob White, Bob White." I turn back toward the yard, the past, and strangely, innocently I turn back to see if there is indeed someone named Bob White behind me. It is apparently his day, not mine.
I'll return to my treehouse overlooking the pasture. I've replaced comic books with a thick black book.
There's no Bob White waiting. There is nothing waiting.
Emptiness. Vast emptiness behind me. Did I not just pass the basketball court? Yes, there was that one sad, partially deflated basketball there.
All of this time I've feared his white line. Finally, today I step up. I stand up tall and proud, I push my formerly timid self to the front of the crowd. I push open the gate.
All for the benefit of an empty room.
Abandoned toys have always brought me sorrow. The one red pail left on the beach. Does it truly deserve such a fate? Hours ago it brought such joy, only to now wash out to sea on the next rising tide.
Am I that toy?
"Bob White" he calls again. I will not turn back again. "Bob White. Bob White".
Still I stand at that white line. But, strangely I now wear different shoes. I've decided that the shoe shine was well-worth the five bucks.
Movement on the pavement. The next blue line train is approaching.
I briefly glance at my watch to confirm what I already know to be true.
I am late.
I am always late.
But, they'll wait.
They always do.
I cross the white line into a new day. A piece of cake. NO PROBLEMO!
The next blue line train screeches and grinds its way into the station. Perhaps its the noise of the train, or the thunderous applause in my own head that left me deaf to the sound of my own impending downfall. Only applause did I hear as I broke the rule and crossed the line.
Mine were not the only feet to cross the line that day.
#streamofconsciousness #fiction. #psychological #psychology #mystery #unknown