#i drew so many scars but when i added the lighting its super hard to see :( maybe if u open in full view
I made this just abt as self-indulgent as I legally could thank you
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✦ Let’s fix this ✦
I’m a day late, but happy saiouma/oumasai day! This is fluffy with a hint of hurt & comfort and was super fun to write. They share kisses and sweet promises. I want them to be happy together ♥
Trigger Warnings: brief suicide mention
“Let’s fix this.”
Lavender eyes gazed upon the band aid wrapped around his finger. Years in the past, a cut had graced his left index. Now, the patch was secured around one of his pale fingers like a ring. Sitting on the broad windowsill with his back against the wall, Kokichi watched as golden rays of sunlight made his nail polish glimmer. It was a dark purple shade, reminiscent of amethysts, one that Shuuichi had complimented him on. As they had grown older, both decided to express themselves more freely. It was a gift they had bestowed upon themselves, one that came in a vast palette of colours.
Back then, everything had been drenched in stoic grey, contrasting the sickening colours of blood and neon. Their bodies had been sleeping, kept alive by strange machines and losing muscle with the passage of time. When Kokichi had consciously breathed again for the first time, his legs had failed him, the tears dribbled down his cheeks and searing pain threatened to conquer his heart. A broken reality and a broken will had clashed down on him, ones that left him crushed below the burden of his guilt. Those words, full of determination and kindness, resounded in his ears to this very day.
“Let’s fix this. Let’s fix this, Ouma-kun. I know it’s late, but… I accept your request. Let’s work together.”
A nostalgic smile adorned his lips as he played with the sleeve of his sweater. Years ago, he had been ashamed of showing weakness, of revealing the marks he carried on his body. But now that he had grown, he carried them like battle scars, proud and unrelenting. What slumbered below the peaceful facade of their home, the green branches of herbs and flowers and the welcoming warmth of fuzzy blankets was the fiery determination to live, like plants taking root and forcing their tender heads through the cracking asphalt.
“Here you go.”
To his own surprise, he hadn’t heard the detective approach. His gaze locked onto the steaming mug of tea Shuuichi offered him and he accepted it gracefully. With his own mug in hand, the taller man sat down alongside him on the windowsill. Fading sunlight cast shadows upon the room. Shuichi’s sun-kissed skin stole his breath, before he managed to tear his eyes from the sight of his beloved. The liquid comfort in his hands warmed his palms. Kokichi inhaled deeply as the tea filled his lungs with the fragrance of vanilla and roses.
“Is this your new favourite or are you doing me a favour, Shuu-chan?”
Shuuichi curiously tilted his head, before he gave a soft chuckle. A strand of raven hair fell into his forehead and Kokichi reached out to brush it behind his ear. It felt smooth.
“Hmm, maybe both… you look peaceful drinking it, Kokichi. I love seeing you smile.”
“Help, my boyfriend is trying to seduce me! Oh, wait, I forgot”, Kokichi snickered and shifted on the spot before setting down his mug. They were sitting directly in front of the tall glass panes, an amazing view they had indulged in many times since moving here. He draped the snow-white blanket over both of them, before knocking their shoulders together in a playful gesture. “Shuumai always has to make doubly sure he can’t make me any more gay.”
A tender shade of red dusted Shuuichi’s cheeks as he huffed, albeit in embarrassment. Nonetheless, a smile snuck on his lips right after. The detective returned the gesture and rested his head atop Kokichi’s.
“I-It’s only fair. You do it all the time”, he retorted, though it lacked oomph, “I can’t let you do all the work on your own… right?”
Kokichi gingerly shook his head against him and closed his eyes shut.
“You gotta take a break sometimes. Shuumai always works waaay too hard…”
“Mmh”, Shuuichi gave an affirmative hum, for he had read between the lines. Today was their day off, a time reserved to bask in each other’s presence and let go of the stress of their daily lives. Kokichi pondered how different things had turned out to be. Never had he expected that someday he would embrace the quieter sides of life – but he was glad to have given them a chance, for they were the happiest he had ever experienced. Alongside Shuuichi, there was nothing that could bore him. His presence cast a gentle glow on all things ordinary, shedding a new light upon them, just like the detective he was.
Silence lingered in the room as they held each other warm and shared tea. Kokichi’s breathing slowed as he let his gaze wander. Small pots with plants and flowers lined the space next to the windows, arranged so they’d allow a small seating area on top of the windowsill. They had hung up fairy lights and placed cushions to sit on. Despite living in such a busy city, the view was marvellous. The sun gleamed against the skyscrapers and tall mountains in the distance, casting its evening glow across the land. An eternity seemed to pass as gold slowly melted into rich shades of purple, giving room to the starry night sky. A hand full of clouds hung above, yet the stars still managed to peak through alongside a crescent moon.
He blinked when Shuichi’s voice tore him out of his thoughts. It was rare for him to get distracted despite saying nothing. He gave a questioning hum.
“I’ve… been thinking…”, Shuichi started, with gentle sincerity in his voice, “I’d like to spend our lives together.”
Ah. He didn’t expect that. Kokichi shuffled to look at him. When he cupped Shuichi’s chin, the detective met his gaze head on as if trying to showcase his honesty. The gears started spinning inside Kokichi’s mind, putting together the pieces.
“…are you surprised?”
There was something unnerving at how easily Shuichi could read him by now, despite him not having said a word. Kokichi’s eyes flitted back and forth between his lips, his eyes, his palm resting against Shuichi’s cheek. It was as if he were trying to find fitting words in the other’s expression, but it turned out to be a struggle nonetheless.
“No”, he lied, only to correct himself, “…yes. I didn’t think Shuumai wants it.”
Shuichi’s gaze softened in an instant and he reached out to cup the hand resting on his cheek. After nuzzling it, he pressed a featherlight kiss to his palm. It caused Kokichi’s breath to hitch.
“I do. At this point, I can’t imagine a life without you. You… don’t have to answer right away. I just wanted you to know.”
Shuichi’s confession did a number of things to him. He swallowed thickly as his stomach twisted, before heat rose to the tip of his ears. Commitment was scary. Being tied down, being vulnerable, being known. But as he kept gazing into those longing, golden eyes, he grew breathless. Yes, a voice inside his mind urged him, I want you, I’ve always wanted you.
Kokichi willed himself to tell the truth, just this once.
“I’ve never trusted anyone with my life, ever. Since… since…”, his words trailed off and so did his mind, but Shuichi was quick to press another kiss to his palm. “…but I wanna. If it’s you, then…”
Something inside of him crumbled. Perhaps his desperation had shown in his eyes, since Shuichi drew him into a heartwarming kiss that sent pleasant shivers down the curve of his spine. Kokichi melted against those velvety lips. Once he had wrapped his arms around Shuichi’s neck, he pulled him closer for a row of kisses that made both of them sigh in content.
“I’ll treasure it. I promise.”
He had never been so ready to blindly trust someone’s words.
Kokichi brushed a strand of hair out of Shuichi’s face, before he nestled their foreheads together. But the detective wasn’t done, for he added something else in a quiet, meek voice.
“Back then, I… I wanted to die.”
It hurt. Hearing that, it was like needles piercing through his skin. But he knew.
“But Shuuichi doesn’t feel that way anymore, does he?”
A tear escaped his golden eyes, one Kokichi managed to catch just in time. He held him close as he caught the salty droplets rolling down his cheeks and kissed his forehead as if to heal his pain. Relief washed through him when Shuichi shook his head, despite the fact he knew. Things had changed for the better, but it never failed to ease his nerves.
“No, I don’t… it’s because now, I look forward to tomorrow. Because everyone’s here, because Kokichi is… I love you so much, Kokichi.”
“I’ll make every day worthwhile. That’s a promise.”
Despite being teary-eyed, the smile Shuuichi offered him was dazzling. There was nothing better than summoning a smile on those lips when he needed it most. He mirrored it and they shared another kiss in silent understanding.
“I love you too, Shuumai… I wanna try… ”, Kokichi added before hugging him tight, their hearts beating close to one another.
“You make me so happy, Kokichi. So happy…”, Shuuichi accentuated this with a tiny kiss to his nose and smiled, “I’ll do my best, too.”
The young leader couldn’t help but break out into a toothy grin when he took his hand.
“Mh! Together it is. I always wanna be with my beloved, after all!”
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OK THIS IS CHAPTER 5
dammit why are these things SO DAMN LONG??? my two-chapter story turns into 7 chapters. But when I see a killer last line I MUST END ON IT.
They talked a few minutes more about more intimate topics (“Did you like that half-crouching position?” “Dear god it was amazing, I thought I was going to die, but it looked hard on your knees.” “No more than the super-hero landing, I promise you.”) and the post-coital analysis that Peter loved so much. (“When you put your hand on my neck and pushed me into the bed I thought I was going to come on the spot.”) But those were secrets that had to be shared with foreheads together, which put them back in each other’s arms, which brought Peter’s thigh up against Tony’s erection, which Peter remembered had NOT been taken care of.
Peter insisted on riding him, and Tony waited until the boy was fully seated before asking questions.
“Did you take a lot of your study-buddies this way?”
“I TOLD you this is the most LOGICAL position.”
“Should I close my eyes and think about someone I really like?”
“Give me a break Tony, we were ALL there dreaming about someone else we had a crush on – that was understood.”
”Do you know that for a fact, Babyboy? How do you know those boys didn’t have a massive crush on you?
“You’re an idiot.”
“I’m an idiot who wants details.”
Peter TRIED to gain the upperhand – he was riding the man’s turgid cock for godsake, you would THINK that would give him SOME advantage, but Tony argued otherwise (“That’s the trouble with dating an older man, little boy, that doesn’t matter NEARLY as much as you think it does. Details or I stop,” - and Peter didn’t want him to stop.)
Recounting how many boys he had ridden in dorm rooms, study cubicles and once in a deserted library was NOT easy while being bounced around like a ragdoll, but Peter did his best.
It was late in the night, or maybe early in the morning, before they were finished. Peter refused to let go of his lover until he received the appropriate amount of analysis and compliments.
“Your ass was made for my cock…but unfortunately for you, it’s time for my Solo Shower,” Tony said, kissing Peter on the head before he sat up.
“Sorry kid,” he said to Peter’s exaggerated groan. “Reap the whirlwind.”
“What does that even mean?” Peter groused.
“Don’t they teach you good Bible in Queens?” Tony said casually as he rose, then looked down in surprise at his wrist, now caught in Peter’s unmoving grip. It prevented him from standing up straight, so he paused, mid-rise, and looked at his lover cautiously.
“I know what the Bible means, I want to know what you mean,” Peter said, quietly, but seriously. He moved his body into a sitting position at the end of the bed, without ever moving the single hand that was keeping Tony in place. “Given what you were doing to me WHEN quoted the Bible AT me I think I deserve to know.”
His confidence wavered just a bit – afraid the older man wouldn’t understand the question or at least not respect his right to ask i - but he held his ground.
Tony did not disappoint. Bending down to look Peter in the face he drew very close and spoke slowly.
“I offered to be your fuck-buddy.
“I asked you .....what it was your friends called it? I believe you said something like ‘NSA’ and “Friends with…..” what was it? ‘Benefits?’
“And you agreed. And I thought we were good, but then suddenly I get this missive, this……manifesto. Via text message on my phone. And now I’m being lectured on “Living-In-The-Moment” and “Life-Is-Too-Short” and I told you this meant that you get the whole package.
“And I warned you that you might not like it. I told you that it wouldn’t be pretty. But it’s what you wanted, and now you’ve got it. As you sow, so shall you reap. I am Tony Stark. I am possessive. I am territorial.
“And I’m pretty sure you’re going to get sick of it someday,” he said quietly, straightening his back and moving Peter’s hand, gently but firmly, away from his wrist, and Peter complied.
They looked at each other for a moment, and Peter nodded. But then he reached for Tony’s hand, putting his fingers through Tony’s own and motioned back toward the bed.
“That’s fair,” Peter said as Tony voluntarily sat down beside him. “But it goes both ways. You’ve got my “whole package” too. And this is how it works – there are things I need to know.”
Tony nodded and Peter moved closer, rubbing his hand on Tony’s bicep, stroking it through the shirt as he chose his words carefully.
“Now you know what’s in my “Hate” Territory, I need to know what’s in yours.”
“I’m a trisexual, kid,” he joked. “I’ll try anything once….”
“…except showering with company. That’s your Hate Territory. You have it too – and you know mine - and now I need to know yours.
“I need to know about the other boys. You never complained before, in fact if I remember correctly you encouraged me TO experiment with them AND gave me tips, remember? But then I “Reaped The Whirlwind” and suddenly you need to know the names of boys that were in my ass or my mouth before you. Now….”
He softened his tone and stroked Tony’s face. He had thought long and hard about this, thought about the things he and his lover had done and thought about how often they talked about it, moments or days afterward. Words seemed to be an aphrodisiac to Tony and Peter found that a very pleasant sex act in itself. So he lay his open hand on Tony’s face and whispered
“If it turns you on, I’ll go find boys to fuck and I’ll tell you all the details. If it makes you hard I’ll write a 5,000 word description on the subject. But due to my “Damn Millennial Ethics” I can’t record every one of them and I need to know where you stand on this.”
“Yes,” Tony said, and he seemed unhappy, almost defeated, when he said it. “I do want details. I’ll need details. Yes, I’ll need descriptions.”
“Because it turns you on? Because right now – you don’t look like it’s turning you on.”
“Yeah…you’re right,” he said, shaking his head. “I guess it’s different now…”
“No, listen Tony. I don’t need to be with those boys, not anymore. I’ve got all I needed from them. And frankly being fucked by your epic cock means there’ all going to pale in comparison so….” But his attempt at humor didn’t seem to amuse Tony at all.
Still, he pressed forward. “I need to know – now that we’re together – is other boys ‘Hate Territory’ or not?”
“Kid, that’s stupid, I’m not going to forbid you from…”
“That’s not what I’m asking, Tony. I need to know if this is Hate Territory.”
Tony looked away. He shook his head, stopped, and then nodded. “That’s fair. I don’t know kid, I’ll have to think about it.”
“I accept that. Now the shirt,” he said, touching Tony’s chest and stroking him with both hands. “You shower alone, I get that. I can deal with that. But taking off your shirt…it feels so good when you take it off and hold me, and I don’t care if the lights are on or off, and you know I don’t care about….them” he added, referring both to the scars and each story they told. “…..but I care about you. Is this Hate Territory?”
A momentary look of aggravation crossed Tony’s face and he opened his mouth to speak, but stopped himself. He looked, for a moment, and the floor-to-ceiling windows that made up one wall of his bedroom, windows that let in a lot of light at night no matter how many lamps were turned off. He started to speak again, but changed his mind.
“If you want me to hold you, I’ll take it off in a heartbeat,” he said quietly, looking into Peter’s eyes. “But after that, it goes back on. Yeah, I guess that’s Hate Territory.”
Peter was disappointed at the answer and touched at the same time.
He kissed the man in response, then he cupped Tony’s face and whispered, “One more thing.”
This one was tricky.
“About that sexual favor you wanted to trade for the soundfile … I was wondering….” He started to speak more than once, pulling closer each time, until finally, Tony pulled them forehead to forehead, holding him there. He wrapped his arms around Peter and, rubbing his back, encouraged him to speak, smiling.
“Come on, baby, I mean it. Anything. Anything your perverted little heart desires.”
“It’s …. this,” Peter said, and he pantomimed wiping tears from his cheek, indicating what “this” meant. “It’s embarrassing, crying in the middle of sex but… oh Tony, if I knew it didn’t matter…if I didn’t have to hide them and didn’t have to explain…God Tony it would just feel so good if I could just let go and let them happen. Because it feels so amazing…”
He took a deep breath and sat up a little.
“I can’t even describe it – it’s so complete – letting you be in control - knowing I can just let go of everything – knowing you’re here and you’re with me and it’s all real.”
“But I know you don’t like it when I cry and, if it’s too much, if it’s really Hate Territory then, well, I’ll do what I can.
“But mostly its going to mean you can’t fuck me in that position and that’s going to suck.”
“God kid, that’s…..no if that’s …” Tony pulled him close, hugging him, all while hiding his face. His eyes were wide in horror, both at what he was being asked to do AND at the suggestion that they never fuck in that position again!
“If that’s what you want, I told you. I’d do anything for you. I mean I was hoping it would involve fishnet stockings and leather but… and if that’s what you want in bed…well I guess that’s ‘anything.’ But…”
He gave up speaking in frustration. He let go of Peter, but then put both hands on Peter’s face and brought their foreheads together again and tried to make himself understood.
He gave up before he even began.
He turned away.
“I promised you ‘anything’ and I’m as good as my word. If that’s the ‘anything’ you want I’ll do it. It’s just that…”
He tried to look calm, and partially succeeded. He reached out and stroked the same cheek Peter and indicated and whispered “But you’re making me break a solemn promise to you. And that’s a lot, kid.”
Peter’s brow knitted in confusion. “Break a ….. what?”
He pulled away a bit, his eyes looking up and to the right as he searched his memory. “No, you didn’t break any promises to me.”
“Well,” Tony conceded, “I didn’t make it in FRONT of you.”
He took his hands off Peter and turned away slightly, trying to explain.
“After I told you, after I explained that we would be together, that you and I would be serious, that we’d could be a couple, that we’d be honest with each other…..”
“Tony,” Peter sighed in exasperation. “You texted back exactly two words. And those words were ‘Yes’ and ‘OK.’”
“Well I did a lot of thinking in between those two words!” Tony snapped.
“I thought a very long time before the first one,” he tried to explain (but he didn’t even attempt to explain how he had felt at that moment, standing alone in an empty, echoing tower, reading those ranting, pleading messages, his whole body vibrating, his fingers shaking so badly he could barely reply.
(He didn’t tell the story of the longer texts that he had to delete, the ones about scars, both physical and emotional, about failure and the acceptance of failure, and about hope and all the pain and agony that hope could inflict.
(Nor did he tell Peter how he had simply typed the word ‘yes’ - typed it like a man in a dream, nor how that dream had turned into a nightmare and he found himself, barely aware of how he got there, standing naked in front of a full length mirror, his thumb hovered over the “send” button, muttering to himself “This isn’t happening. This isn’t real. This isn’t possible.”
(And if he wasn’t telling THAT story, why bother talking about how COLD he had gotten, how detached, and how he had fled into a scalding hot shower just to feel back into his body again, before wrapping up in a towel, finding the phone and hitting “send.”)
“And I was only able to hit that button because I made a promise. In between that first message and the second I vowed I would never do this to you kid,” he said emphatically, suddenly grabbing Peter by his face and pressing his thumbs to the dry cheeks. “I made myself a solemn promise I would never make you cry. And you’re making me go back on my word. And I don’t know what to do with that.”
“Tony,” Peter said gently. He snuck his hands in between Tony’s arms until he, too, was holding Tony by the face, thumbs on his cheeks. He looked deeply into the older man’s eyes tenderly, and whispered gently.
“That’s the stupidest damn thing I’ve ever heard.”
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YELLOW MEADOW (a short story)
Have you ever thought that you could become... a sacrificial lamb? Yeah. Neither have I. But here I am...
* * *
I had this recurring dream. Always the same. Started when I was six, maybe seven. I know, because I drew it and brought it to school. I misunderstood the project. I wasn't supposed to draw that kind of dreams. I guess it was supposed to be candylands, new bikes, rainbows, unicorns, dolls. Not a yellow meadow. With red river in the middle. Well, it wasn't a river but a scarf. I was a kid and not every kid had mad drawing skills sucked with their mother's milk. The scarf was supposed to float, dancing in the wind. So I get why everyone thought is was a river. Especially that both meadow and sky were desert yellow.
So there it was: name, age and a note at the back that I had to see school's shrink. I didn't understand why. Neither did my mom. But they asked me to draw dreams again. And I aced it. Teddy bears, dolls and lollipop castle did the trick. I might have peeked at my best friend's drawing and listened my mom's whispered suggestions to show them how I loved lollipops so the would forget. And they did. Most of them.
There was this teaching assistant. He would look at me funny way (no, not like that you pervert). Like he knew something, but couldn't share. And I just thought he was weird with his greenish hair combed back and shining from some gel or whatever hair specific he used to make them this way. With his black plastic glasses, half framed. He said once they were “vintage” from 60s in Twentieth century...
Mama kept my drawing – she said it was pretty. But when I brought few more like this she told me to stop. Then she took the first one from the fridge's door. I was standing in the shade of the hallway and watched her. I wasn't sure back then but now I know I what I saw wasn't my imagination playing tricks. Tear on her cheek. It gleamed blue and purple. Then she noticed me and there was no tear. I thought it was the light that danced and reflected on her face. But there was nothing there that could do that. Now I know.
Then I dreamt another dream. That one only once. Yellow bricks shaped into ruins. On history classes teacher told us those were castles – Earth's ancient history. So I went through some books in the library, some data but I couldn't find anything similar to what I dreamt about. And none of them were yellow or this particular hue. The images of that dream haunted me for long. It was more nightmare than a dream. My scream woke me up and at first I couldn't tell where I was. Sunny ruins left lingering cold sensation that cut deep through my bones.
* * *
I was a very lonely teenager. With my scream I woke up everyone in the dormitory. In that particular boarding school it was believed that punishment was the best recipe to make upstanding citizens out of unruly kids. No one, especially teachers liked to be awoken in the middle of the night. So the sensation from the dream had been perfectly prolonged by iced cold “shower” in a form of a garden hose in the middle of the courtyard for everyone to see and then stone floor of the broom locker. Well, no more brooms there – just an empty, dark, damp and cold space. To think through wrongdoings, bad behaviour, etc.. I promised solemnly to respect others' rest shivering in soaked clothes. Promised to not to wake up others in such an awful manner (like I had any influence on that, but fine). Somehow I kept the promise. I didn't dream at all until my stay at boarding school was over.
Two years of deadbeat sleep later and grades screaming “average” I was done with the school. At least one of the subjects could, well would be better if I didn't ask too many questions. That's what the professor said. She added it was “NOW” that we were focusing on. The great present time and well tailored society. I should have shut my mouth (you would think I've learned it by that point, I guess I was rather resistant). I asked about future. And I could have walked and locked myself in that broom storage myself right after last words echoed way too loud through the classroom. Kids' buzz ceased abruptly – sound cut off like when you put those headphones on, the ones you use in super loud places: airports, heavy duty or what I know. I saw her eyes burning with hatred so great I have never seen in my life, not even in my step-father's eyes when I didn't want to let go off my mom and go willingly into the bus taking kids to that goddamn school. I didn't want to let go, 'cause somehow I knew I would never see her again. I couldn't explain it. But I told her that anyway and I saw in her eyes that she knew that as well.
So the hatred was burning with red rage in professor's eyes, so before she spoke I told her I would go to principal's office and report my inappropriate behaviour.
'Vocabulary' she corrected me and I frowned. 'Purposeful dwelling on incorrect thinking process' she said and seeing my face she wrote the note telling me that she would know if I didn't deliver it to the headmaster. If she didn't say it I wouldn't know from the note, I couldn't tell. Her writing was somewhat challenging, especially when she demanded replies or corrections according to her notes under many assignments she loved to give.
They didn't lock me in the “broomstick” locker straight away. They called some board of shrinks and serious looking people. I was sat on the chair in square, grey and empty room. It was big, cold and the chair was in front of long table where six sets of eyes were watching me. They ran some tests too. But those people were there to ask me questions. Loads of questions. And in my head I had my mother's whisper about lollipops. I aced it again. Must have answered it the way it fit in their box. Because there it was: “broomstick” locker not something worse.
But before I was sent they scribbled and scribbled for what it seemed like ages, looking from papers every now and then, then they told me to wait outside for the decision. Then their verdict (that I didn't get to know) was attached to my files and grades sheet. Like it wasn't enough my English teacher lowered my final grade. I wanted to say it was out of the blue, but... There was this library incident and books 'unsuitable for teenagers'. I thought it was just one of those things adults say, the things their adults told them when they were discovering world and testing boundaries. One of those things teenagers simply do. I was very wrong.
Anyway, I didn't expect to get high end job. Not with common background and no money for internship/course fees... Well, bribes. But that word apparently was distorting the nature of this practice. Learnt it hard way. Of course. A clerk pushing papers would be something nice and well paid. I think some accommodation were one of the perks at some point, especially for exemplary service. But my big mouth wasn't something that was falling under 'exemplary' so nothing fairy secure or comfortable was in store for me. So this plus serious people's opinion about me and I landed as a server in the diner. Could be worse. And it wasn't bad all the time. Just when people were dickheads (so almost all the time). But let's face it: ambition gives strange courage to pick up on ones who are supposedly worse than you.
But sometimes... I listened to the stories so great it was hard to believe they were true. Stories about times when it was alright to dream a dream. Sad ones about times long gone. And a war that desolated half of the planet, because “humans are good in losing control”.
And then there was 'Preacher'. He wasn't one actually. Or maybe he was? No one knew exactly who he was. Just like where he came from or where he was disappearing when he wasn't coming to the diner. Then he was emerging after days of absence with handful of stories/ sermons said in voice strong as church bell calling people for a morning service. This voice stood in awful contrast to his ragged and hunched posture, scarred face and bushy beard. Kids either were scared of him terribly or were mocking him mercilessly. But he seemed not to notice. Focused on his mission given by no one. With madness as its driving force. He was walking opposites: he could be quite incoherent at times with no sense in words repeated viciously, then he talked about times when single mind mattered, when idea was a saving grace not enemy of the system. And times to come that would restore the balance between individual and masses. People were usually treating him as free entertainment, he was never aggressive, never caused problems. Every now and then I was giving away my shift meal, couldn't really do more for this poor guy. My pay wasn't the best but I was getting by. And he seemed bit embarrassed when I brought him meals but hunger was more powerful. It wasn't really a big deal and there was something wise and kind in his eyes. And his stories fascinated me. The more I heard the more questions I had. [And he answered as well as he could].
I still remember our last conversation. Every word of it. Sometimes I wondered if I could know back then what would happen. That it was the last one.
- Dreamers... - he started lazily looking outside the window. At first I thought he was referring to the traffic, oddly fascinated by it. But then he pointed at bits of the sky between buildings. It was so... blue. Intense and vivid like precious gem. The colour looked like perfect photo's paradise blue. Almost impossible. My thoughts started to float carelessly and suddenly he continued his thought. - … dreamers were allowed to dream back then, you know. - it wasn't a question. Strange statement. Had I bitten my tongue then I wouldn't be in deep now. But I looked at him but puzzled and said.
- I've got a dream that I was told to forget, bury deep...
- Oh? - he looked at me furrowing his brows, he listened so I carried on.
- Colours as intense as today's blue skies. But it's yellow and red that are so vibrant and strong... - I stopped startled, because there was something strange in his eyes. Madness? Total clarity?
- Tell me more. - he lowered his voice for the first time ever since I met him. I told him about the meadow, the anxiety that accompanied the vision. I hesitated for a second seeing him listening so intently, but then I told him about the yellow castle.
He was silent for a long while. So long that I started to feel absolutely silly that I actually told him all this nonsense. But then, again in whispers, he asked me
- Did you tell anyone about this? The castle?
- Not really, no. At school they didn't ask for details. They wanted me quiet... - I replied warily wondering where this was going.
- Good. Good. Most of them have already forgotten about the drawings by now... - he said more to himself than to me. Then he raised his eyes and looked at me. They were so bright blue, just like the sky that day. - You need to meet someone. He'll explain everything to you. But until I can get you to him you need to be the most ordinary, bite-your-tongue, eyes-on-the-floor girl. Do you understand? Promise me!
- Eeee... sure.
- No. Promise!
- I promise? But who's this person I have to meet? Why should I meet him at all? When? What is it?
- No, no. Not now. You drew enough attention to yourself. No more. He'll find you... When I tell him all about it, he will. - he lowered his voice even more. - You might know him, his face...
Conversation was interrupted when three people entered the diner. There was something off and odd about them, though I couldn't say what. Trouble. I didn't expect the turnout though. He told me to get up and get to the kitchen, he stood up and blocked their way. Pushed me towards the bar.
- Go! Through the back door, now! - he scribbled something on the napkin and shoved it in my hand. - Don't look back, don't stop until you get there. Hurry! Go! - I was confused, but there was something in his voice, this urgency that told me to not to ask questions and do what I'm told. I was by the kitchen door when I saw them rush towards the Preacher. Two of them grabbed him, third one turned towards me. Preacher raised his voice, bit hoarse but loud saying that the spark and idea will live on, that they would not surrender. When I was racing through the parking lot I heard two dull sounds. My brain was screaming scared, cause I knew exactly what it was but I didn't want to admit it. The levels of fear coursing in my body hit the newest high and adrenaline kicked in. it was enough to lose that guy in the alleyways. I slowed down when I realized that no one was chasing me. For now. My left palm's knuckles were nearly white, I closed my fingers so tight around the note they were numb. Straightened out the note, drenched in sweat, revealed the address. Ink partially wore off but I could still read it.
Suddenly the fear was gone and strange feeling came over me, calm and clear: a sense of purpose. And with it, a place to belong, maybe. So I focused on finding the address. And it wasn't easy to find. It was safer not to ask anyone for help so that didn't help.
I wandered around, trying to calm down and analyse, well over-analyse the situation. My whole life I was told to keep quiet, fit it and stop with the questions. Suddenly someone let me ask and tell all the things tumbling in my brain and he met his end faster than I could say 'bullet'. And after that I was supposed to dive in and trust a bunch of complete strangers. Not to mention that I had to tell them what happened. And no one liked bad news. Especially this bad. And they didn't know me – another reason to not to expect a warm welcome. I only hoped that I would be able to say anything at all when I finally find whoever 'him' or 'them' were before they decided I was one of the bad guys. I was lost in that stream of possibilities when I got the feeling I was being watched. When I looked around I didn't see anyone. Either I was getting super paranoid or I wasn't alone. I stopped to take a look at the piece of paper again. A proof that I wasn't going insane and I actually met the man. But maybe he was? What if they were just asylum workers who finally found him. Maybe the noise wasn't what I thought it was? What if...? I turned towards the alley to get to the building I thought it pointed at. I folded the note and put in into my apron's pocket. Breathe in. Breathe out. I saw a movement behind me but didn't get a second to react. There was a sharp pain at the back of my head. I fell onto the wall as a gasped from pain. Then everything went black.
I opened my eyes. What a relief... Or was it? I realised I was bound to a chair. Right after that thought scared the shit out of me the light was turned on and blinded me. I struggled helplessly to shake the rope off my chest and my wrists.
- Where did you get this address?! Who are you?! Who wrote this?! WHO ARE YOU?! - someone was shooting questions in a speed of a machine gun's series. I was blinking furiously and as soon as my vision adjusted to the light I saw the goddamn note lying in front of me at the table. Someone was repeating all the questions and few more. On and on. Then just: WHO ARE YOU?!
- I'm... no one. - I finally stuttered.
A punch was too quick and too strong to take a look at the person in front of me somehow hidden in the shade. All these questions. I had a headache. I couldn't focus. I closed my eyes filled with terror and fear. I shouldn't have come, I shouldn't have listened to that old man. I should have forgotten about that fucking dream... And it hit me.
- The old man said: 'Dream your dream'. - I said louder than I wanted and expected another punch. But silence fell after my words. I opened my eyes slowly. I could feel the gaze placed at me.
- Say that again.
- I... I met this guy. He was talking about things, dreams. So I told him mine. He told me to dream the dream and that I was to meet someone and... - my voice broke. - … he told me to run. - I stopped frightened that he would recognise in my voice I didn't say the whole truth. But there was silence again. Then the door opened and closed. I was left alone, trying not to sweat under the heat of the lamp and see through the shadows of the other side of the room. I tried to free myself again, desperately thinking that I wanted out of that place but then I thought I couldn't be sure there was anything good waiting for me outside. And what was the worst – I had no idea who was after me. As for 'why'... I learnt that there didn't have to be any reason, really. It could always be 'found' one, conveniently shortly before a brief trial. Suspicion of a crime or wrongdoings, something against the ruling party was enough for questioning. And it never ended just on the questioning. And system always (yes always) showed rightfully and truthfully, with conviction and everybody's good that a shadow of a stain was indeed a stain. Suspicions were uncovering hideous crimes...
Suddenly I didn't care about anything anymore. If that was it: there was nothing I could say or do to change it. I heard two voices outside the door. Then someone came in. I looked at the person that walked in. Those funny glasses...
- I know you... - oh, that was very smart. Great job me.
- I'm sorry for this... - he pointed at the ropes. - It's a...um... precaution. - he said somewhat embarrassed and freed me from the bonds. - The old man... What happened? To him? - he asked but there was an undertone in his voice suggesting he already knew.
- He... he listened and told me things, all the stories... And when he heard about my dreams he told me I had to meet someone. But before he explained some people came and dragged him out of the diner. He told me to run... - I explained quickly wondering if I could actually trust him. Probably shouldn't, maybe they played bad cop, good cop. But it didn't matter anyway. He knew about the yellow meadow. He saw the drawing. I looked at him as he sat down at the other side of the table. Funny – there were still green shades in his hair. His eyes were very tired now, worry wrinkles were telling the story there. He was still skinny, but his shirt's sleeves were rolled up and I could see his arms were muscular. Full of bruises and scars.
- There were shots. I think that's what it was... - I added quietly. He rested his forehead on his hand with very heavy sigh.
- He knew the risks. - he said more to himself than to me. Then he raised his eyes at me. He cleared his throat. - I know that in school they teach kids to trust the system and to not to believe, abandon the faith. But... this system is broken, it's evil. And you'll probably think I'm insane, but... there's a prophecy. A promise of a better world. We've been looking for so long, checking and analysing every available bit of it. Thoroughly, carefully. We kept track of few children. It was the start. But nothing came through. You see, we needed the second dream. We're losing. Somehow they have found us and tracked so many. Many lives were lost defending the idea of free will and dream. So it's very, very important... - he grabbed my hand. His eyes were burning with strange passion as he continued, squeezing my fingers more and more. - We need a win, people are losing heart and hope. In me. In our cause. So you need to be sure what are you're dreaming about! Do you hear me?! - he nearly shouted. And in the next second he was calm again. He let go off my hand. Mumbled 'sorry'. I massaged my wrist and fingers, frowned trying to understand what he thought I was and what was going on.
- I... I dreamt about a yellow castle. - I said quietly, ashamed. - It was nothing but a scary dream.
- The sense of fear was tangible. - I replied after a while trying to find right words, still it didn't really do the justice. It's been ages since I have thought about it. - The sun either was setting or raising. It was blood red with this gritty veil over it, like sandstorm. It was warm, but castle's stones were ice cold...
- How do you know?
- I was inside. My skin must have touched it. - I recalled the sensation and I shivered.
- Okay. Anything else?
- I think I was in pain. I woke up screaming, the hurt felt very real. And the surroundings, the castle they were like from another world. I mean, I didn't recognise strange constructs around it. Some sort of piles of metal maybe. But I don't really know because of that sand like pollution was blurring the vision. - I finished describing the dream. He was silent for a longer while.
I didn't understand at first, but then I knew exactly what he meant. It wasn't it. My dream was just a dream. And he looked so distressed.
- We lost...
- No! No! There must be something?!
- There's no more. Our resources are empty, our net is crumbling being hit by military forces...
- But we can surely give people hope somehow? Let me help. I'm new to all this. Maybe new perspective is all you need right now. Try finding new hiding places, reshuffle and then you can continue the search for The Dream. - I cried to him. These people needed a motivation to carry on. The old man died thinking they had a breakthrough. They needed to strike back, show the strength, avenged him, keep fighting so his sacrifice wasn't for nothing. He believed in change and it's been ripped from him. Let's take it back. I told him all these things until I was breathless. Where did these come from? Where did the courage came from to say it all out loud?
- You're right. You need to tell them that. Your enthusiasm and his martyrdom might be something to tip the scale our way.
- Yes! Everyone. They need to hear this. That speech can lift spirits, give people incentive. Maybe some ideas to fight this uneven fight will be born. Maybe it's not lost. You might be right... - he smiled slightly. His face looked so youthful for a split second. Then he looked at me like he just noticed me. - But you must be starving?! And you probably quite cold too. - Oh, yeah I was still in my uniform. There was no time for me to grab my jacket nor my backpack (so I had no money, no ID, nothing) and when I thought about it I didn't eat from breakfast. Who knew what time it was and how long was I in there.
He lead me out through hallway to another room. It looked like a storage – shoes, coats, clothes, loads of stuff. In better or worse condition.
- We share, bring what we can and help each other out. It's the only base that wasn't discovered yet. - he explained when I looked around. - Take what you need. I'll be back in few minutes, find you some food. I'll gather everyone. Introduce you. What you said to me was good. It was pure. - he left noiselessly. I've found trousers, boots, a coat. Tucked my uniform into the jeans, took off my apron. How weird I didn't lose it somewhere on the way, when I at work there was not a day without it being on the floor or when it was coming undone during peak times at my shifts when I had no way of fixing it.
I figured I would wander around but I was almost knocked over by people rushing through. Then there were three more: two dragged an inert and bloodied man, yelling for help. I hurried after then not giving it a second thought. I entered something like a makeshift hospital wing. Not much medical equipment there, most of it outdated. There were three people tending the wounded. They had their hands full. The ones that ran in there put the man on the nearest cot. The doctor, I assumed, prepped quickly the station to operate. But it was all chaos around, so many people in need, in pain and not enough hands to help. Nurses were busy with others. I couldn't do anything for the old man but I could... I jumped towards cabinets and started looking for bandages, scalpels and any medical supplies that could be useful. Doctor gave asked for few things as he realised what I was doing. Frightened gasps mixed with tired sighs and angry grunts and conversations lapping into each other. But he didn't seem to notice the noise, he cut the clothes, removed two bullets and started swearing when he started to remove the third one. I guess that was what doctors called 'a complication'. Me muttered 'Press here' and stitched other wounds. His hands moved fast with experienced precision. Suddenly the patient started to seize and shakes were getting worse and worse. I knew it was bad. 'We're going to need blood!' doctor yelled to no one particular. Few people raised their heads, either nodded or stood up. I guess they volunteered.
- Okay, on three you're going to take your hands away and I will try to get that hot damn bullet out. - he said to me and it took me good few seconds to record it was directed at me. - On my count: one, two, three...
Untamed stream of blood exploded as soon as I took my hands away. The reading on a very old machine and monitor went berserk. It was easy to see it was worse than bad. It just spiralled down. Suddenly the doctor was sitting on the guy doing CPR and trying his best to keep him alive. But I knew he was already gone – flat line and monotonous sound announced the sad truth. He started pounding on dead guy's chest on and on again. I tried talking to him to make him stop. But he was in a trance. I grabbed his arm then – he pushed me away. The despair, anger resonated within this gesture which sent me towards cabinets. It was so unexpected I couldn't catch my balance and I fell right onto them, knocked most of the surgical instruments, landed on the floor and hit my head on the cupboard's handle. The noise drew the attention: doctor's and everybody else's. I was a bit dazed but it didn't stop me from trying to get up. I heard 'Doc!' over me and green haired guy (shit, what was his name again? Did he even give me one?) picked me up off the floor like I was weightless. I stood up shakily. Pain in my skull and being a witness to senseless death brought tears to my eyes. Green Hair still held my arm in tight grip like he was afraid I would slip back on the floor. Doctor's face expressed utter horror as he realised what happened. But then it was replaced with something else.
- You... - he mumbled something else, then he raised his voice pointing at me. - YOU! - I took a step back not knowing what did I do to get this strange attention. Tears rolled through my cheek. I wiped them off not giving it a second thought. His eyes followed my gesture. I looked at my hand – there was blue-purplish trace. I frowned and reminded myself that I have seen that before. - You found... It's her... - he turned to Green Haired. People were staring, started to whisper and come closer. They seemed to be awaken from a slumber. But he was mistaken. I wasn't what he wanted me to be and this was taking way too dramatic turn.
- You're wrong. This is nothing. This... - I wiped all the traces of my tears quickly. - It must be some genetic mutation, weird condition that runs in my family, my mother... - he didn't listen to me.
His face brightened up lips that seconds before were a thin and tortured line revealed rather white and even teeth in an ecstatic smile. The finger pointed at me wasn't an accusation, it was a triumph. The grip on my arm strengthened. I looked at Green Haired. His face expressed strange urgency, he wanted me to just go with it, put on the cape and became 'The Hero'. My heart, my mind were yelling desperately 'No!', but before I denied everything with firm statement I've became the fucking 'Face of the Revolution': the room full of hungry, exhausted, decimated people with voices full of fear became a roar of relief and an illusion of hope.
* * *
I tried telling them that it wasn't me they were looking for. That I was one of them, I wasn't special – it only cemented the fact that they chose the right one to adore, so humble in her ways. I tried to convince the Green Hair it wasn't fair on people, that it was wrong but he said that I re-lit the spirit, inspired more people to fight for their rights and who knew maybe there was no hero to be found anymore.
News travelled fast. Too fast. Soon 'The Hero' was worshipped citywide, zone wide. But I was a fraud. They told me I was destined to do great things but I never wanted people to die with my name on their lips. Because the acts of rebellion became bolder, more frequent. And all I wanted was for the 'dying' part to stop. The more rebel actions the more military responses. War rooms, strategies, distribution of propaganda, codes and secrets. Great expectations became greater. People were waiting. Waiting for me. I was supposed to know, supposed to end it all. How could I? I wasn't aware there was resistance until I met the Prophet. I was working in a diner, ignorant to the big game, cog in the machine. A nobody with big mouth. I didn't know shit about leading wars, but I could fight. Yes, I needed to fight. At the front lines, arm in arm with those naïve zealots hoping for better tomorrow. But no, I wasn't allowed. Apparently I was supposed to be protected. At all costs. I didn't like it. So I started to find ways to sneak out: one battle, diversion, extra pair of hands. And it only helped 'The Cause' when people found out. Oh, my courage inspired them again. But it wasn't the courage, it was desperation. I needed it to be over. I needed the right person in the right place. So whoever it was would do what had to be done to finish this bloodshed. The real one that would take the mantle and unite people, help them live lives they deserved. I voiced my concerns so many times, but Green Haired shrugged it off, Doctor wanted to give me pills. He thought the pressure was making me say these things. And I was afraid that one day they would realise that I was just a coward, ordinary citizen, caught in the conflict I didn't fully understand.
* * *
- RUN! - I yelled on top of my lungs. Small group of people that was with me dispersed in chaos, like gazelles that spotted the lion. Or rather sheep attacked by wolves. Lesser chance of survival. Mindless flock trying to get away. So lost without its shepherd. Paralysed by fear. I heard scared screams of those hit by bullets, the ones cornered. I couldn't let the die. Couldn't leave them even though fear was taking my breath away. Makeshift weapons, Molotov cocktails were not enough. I caught their attention, they listened and ran after me as we gained the distance from the military. I've sent distress signal so someone could fight for the captured ones. I spotted an abandoned warehouse and headed there so we could hide. It seemed to be perfect – loads of rubble, metal, concrete walls, plenty of doors and levels. I thought we were safe there. But then I've heard commands barked through the radio, the building was being surrounded and people with me started to panic again. I had to think fast. The plan formed in my head so naturally it scared me for a moment. Clear and cold as a morning rose after dawn's fog. I've noticed a passage to adjacent building. But we needed a distraction in order to get people safely to the other side. The enemies were at the door. I told them to stay out of sight, wait for my signal then run like hell without looking back. They hid and I waited by the stairway, the moment first soldiers appeared I slammed the door hard yelling to no one 'save yourselves!' I turned around to a swarm armed to their teeth. I couldn't see their faces, balaclavas covered their smiles of satisfaction when they realised who they have caught. But their eyes were emitting poisonous triumph, that shot through to me like a radiation. It made me sick. But there was no going back. No other way. I stood there trying to look defiant. They searched for weapons – I had none, we were on the scavenger mission, we didn't expect company on the landfill. Their commander approached and grabbed me by my throat. Lifted me of the floor slightly so my feet barely touched it. I started to struggle for air when he slurred, his voice distorted by fabric and microphone (?).
- We knew you would screw up eventually... Bunch of amateurs. - he squeezed my throat tighter and lifted me higher. Desperate whizz came out if my throat as my feet dangles helplessly. Then he released the hold and I fell onto the floor. They brought me to my knees,cuffed my hands at my back, barked something through their comms. I understood it after a while. 'Search the floors, burn it all, let the rats flee.' Knowing there was no one upstairs I smiled. A sense of serenity came over me, it would be over soon. I think I started laughing.
- What are you laughing about? Don't you believe we burn them alive?! - he lifted me off my knees, he was filled with rage. - You lost.
- Did we though? - I knew I shouldn't antagonise him, I still did.
- They'll be lost without you, just like before. They will crumble, they're weak without you. - his eyes shone with unhealthy passion.
- Without me... But who am I? Today it's me, tomorrow someone else. It's the idea... - I didn't manage to finish the sentence. My head exploded with pain of thousands of needles. I blacked out hoping that the sheep I left behind would know that right after I was dragged out of there and soldiers ran upstairs it was their cue to run.
* * *
Through my jaded mind, in half asleep state, a dream appeared and played:
My mother took me to see full moon. Not the ordinary one, a blood moon. A rarity. A sensation. Something both terrifying and fascinating for a four-year old. I loved night sky and stories she told me about stars and beyond. It was very strange summer day. The air seemed electric and forecast had a warning about high levels of pollution. Yellow. The air was yellow when we took the road out of the city. Heavy clouds seemed to be a prelude to something ominous. Cumulonimbus gathering all around. But she said it was alright. It would clear by the end of the day. The rain tingled my skin. Temperature was unbearably high. But it was slightly easier to breathe as soon as we left the city's infrastructure behind. It was warm – the rain. It was a disappointment. I really hoped it would be cold. It made the surroundings quasi tropical. It was salty. And yellow. She said it wasn't pollution. 'It's sand. Desert's sand. Nature's trying to tell us we're not holding Earth's reigns. But we never listen.' she said.
It did clear before sunset. Still skies had this yellow hue, it was cast strangely at everything around like a shadow. Including big old house with towers on each of four corners. I wasn't sure about its colour. It looked like it was painted white, but then maybe it was a sandstone? Sunset bathed it with light and it was vivid yellow...
I opened my eyes confused. My dream wasn't a dream. It was a memory. As my confusion grew I gained enough consciousness to remind myself about my sorry situation. Held captive, waiting for death. It kind of surprised me. I was still alive. Would they torture me? What was the plan? Public execution then? Oh, they loved a good show. Making an example.
But nothing happened. I was locked, fed. No one spoke to me, no one interacted with me in any way. Nothing. Then they started to move me around. The cold steel's feeling lingered long after the cuffs were taken off my wrists. When they put a bag over my head, shoved me into the car, when city streets became outskirts roads I figured that was my last stop. That they didn't need to be careful that someone would find out where I was kept. Even though I never wanted to be 'The Hero' I wished that the idea, that hope would fuel the rebellion and lead it to win. I didn't want it to end with me. That madness, cruelty, discrimination had to stop.
They dragged me out of the car after a long and bumpy ride. The pulled the bag off my head, sudden light's saturation blinded me so much I nearly landed on the ground. When my eyesight adjusted I noticed that the air was tinged yellow.
- Fucking sandstorms. - someone muttered. That was the first thing someone said around me since I was imprisoned. I couldn't be sure who said it. The visibility was actually quite low. There was a thin layer of dust covering everything around. As they dragged me through gravel path I've noticed strange rusty construct, winding up and wired up. The antenna. Well, if they wanted to broadcast the kill the storm was an issue. They pushed me to walked faster, little stones crunched under their boots and my feet were hurting. I looked around trying to see more of the building we were heading to. I regretted it instantly and gasped as I recognised it even though it was in ruins now. West wing was completely collapsed. But east tower stood tall and showered in sunshine. Yellow. The air was hot just like on the day we went to see that blood moon. Funny, I couldn't remember if we did see it. It wasn't painted. It was a sandstone. Very worn now. Time did the deed. Looking at these yellow ruins I felt deep horror coming over me. For the first time I started to resist. In hopeless effort to delay the inevitable I strained my muscles to counter their strength. I recalled stone's cold overpowering my body. The dream was a premonition.
My struggle was cut short – few punches were enough to shift whatever power I put into fighting guards off to being able to walk at all. I had trouble breathing: bloody nose and sand in the air would do that to you. Only by the front door I realised that they were filming already. The one who was recording showed teeth in mean smile as my struggle and poor state were thoroughly documented.
- Yellow castle. - I said slowly raising my head. I looked straight at him. - It was always a yellow castle. End of me, beginning of something... - sentence interrupted, powerful as ever. Pain in my head and neck. Darkness. Piercing cold sensation to wake up to.
I would never say that stone could be so cold. I could have guessed, after all those nights spent in that broom locker. Guy with a camera. Someone else. Talking.
- … human... nothing more... bleeds like everyone else. - he pointed at me. He talked about me. What did he mean? I tried to move. But metal clanked and echoed, my arms were heavy. It wasn't only the weight of chains pulling it down. I thought they were just numb at first, then pain hit all my receptors and I moaned surprised by this sensation. My eyes surely widened as I noticed slits running down my arms. Camera was pointed at me for brief second then they cut the feed. I heard people enter the room, couldn't see much. The only source of light was a window up high letting in thin sun beams through. It must have been one of the towers then. Someone lit a candle and put it at my feet. Oh, so dramatic. They seriously could have end the theatrics and finish it. Whispers turned into blurry buzz. I heard someone's voice over my ear.
- You'll be gone before this candle's flame dies. - I knew that voice. Pull from my veins distracted me and it took me a while to put the pieces together. People stood on four corners of my stone bed. I saw the red light, it was recording again.
- I... know... you... - I stuttered and strained to focus on what I wanted to say. But it seemed that words have failed me.
- Shut her up. - I have seen that strange passion before. Someone stood over me. I saw a glimmer on hidden in the shadow face. A blue-purple tear gleamed in the sunbeam..
- Mother? - couldn't say anything else as she put a gag in my mouth. My eyes watered. Her tear fell on my cheek and soon it mixed with mine in unnaturally coloured stream. The gag muffled my scream. The discovery. The betrayal. It made me want to cling to life. To understand. To uncover the truth. To expose them. The Green Hair, man of as many names as people he came across. My mother, silent supported as I was lead to believe, by people feeding me stories, people I thought I could trust, on the right side of the barricade... They stood there watching me helplessly trying to break the chains until breathless and exhausted I stopped silently accepting my fate. I shivered. Shiver turned into convulsive shakes. The stone, the fatigue, my blood flowing in scarlet ribbons from my veins.
- You played your part well. Too well. Gave them the courage to fight the tyranny. The power will be ours soon. - she whispered to my ear before she took the gag off. Like she knew I wouldn't speak anymore. I couldn't take a deep breath, let alone say something. My body was hanging between pain and numbness. My mind was on the line between staying awake and nothingness...
I have done enough for The Cause. My need to belong, the yearning to something else was easy to prey on. Telling me I wasn't The One was the way to crush my spirit and keep me in check. In case I wanted to start my own revolution. I wasn't the special someone but I could compensate in other ways, because people needed to believe in something. Might as well in me. And I was ridden with guilt of not being 'it', easy to manipulate. The puppet of the rebellion. Poster girl when politics were taking its toll in numbers of dead, when politics were in place for ambitious hyenas to get where they wanted to.
They didn't plan to dispose of me so soon, but he's authority was gaining cracks as I questioned his methods. Thank you, good-riddance. Next.
* * *
They showed the lifeless, bloodless body of their hero on nationwide stream. But they made a mistake, abandoned the location. Didn't care about leaving it behind. It could rot there, they said. The rebels found the house and searched every inch with their green haired leader at the front. Oh how lucky he was to seize enemies communications. They looked, to bury her with all the honours... But there was no body. His surprise was taken as a sign. Good omen. His speech was beautiful, a mea culpa, that he failed to recognise the Hero, that he doubted. The thought poured over the machine and oiled it to carry on with double power: either she was alive somewhere plotting the win or she was indeed divine. The fight for freedom flared with admirable viciousness.
* * *
- Rebellion's clashes with 'government' forces in various locations decimated the population about 5%, raids and bombings further 3%, data is still coming through...
Images appeared and moved through screens along with statistics. We were watching the footage. Rebellion. It's ignition and how it spread. Civil war decimating city after city. A construct, our creation to control the Earth's population. So our planet was preserved or rather whatever was habitable was saved and monitored. Simulations were running constantly, different extent in different locations.
Someone could question moral side of it. That was very human thing to do. We weren't them. We did what was necessary. Why the process was spread over decades then? If there were no scruples involved it could be “sorted out” quicker: emergency state after emergency state, power struggle after power struggle, constant war until number were at satisfying levels. Our extended analysis of world wars and conflicts calculated that this long lasting simulation was the optimal option. It reminded regimes and tyrants ruling countries drowned in fear, misery and... hope. The hope for a change fuelled economy, society's morale was always lifted and more compliant with whatever newly formed government proposed, illusion that the change they've seen was a good change. Then the liberties, right after right, slowly were taken away, intricate construct so people wouldn't notice that their position didn't change and it was too late to escape the scam. When the thought of rebellion is born the military forces are way too strong, they're trapped. The despair is back on the table, nations shrivel when people's will die a little with each day, stagnant hopelessness ensues. That period is essential: people do what they told – experiments are done, technologies developed at any cost. In the meantime defiance is growing in their hearts, burns red with rage, plans are being made. When it bursts free the flame takes more lives at once than small wars would even imagine to do. It cauterises the earth, cleanses it so it can survive a bit longer. The massive event gives earth time for its rebirth.
- They never realise that they don't really pull the strings. So self-righteous. - she said as we watched the results float through screens. Then she fell silent again. - I still don't understand why YOU insist on being a part of it. You know that Rebel Zero bots are sufficient. This social experiment of your is failing. You've done this time and time again... - she said after long silence. She referred to my project where I was trying to prove there's still something worth saving in human race. That one of the groups wouldn't go for a sacrificing a life, that they would chose another path. Fight for a cause without personal agendas involved. Ideally a peace treaty and we would have to find another way to keep the species growth steady. So far it was always the same – time, opportunities and scenarios varied but the outcome was unfortunately the same. But I still thought there was potential in them. They were fascinating. And sometimes I wondered if the project wasn’t too cruel, after all it was bloodshed and they surely believed in all those divine concepts, and fate... Yes, the religious zeal. I guess that’s why there was the altar and the whole fuss about the death of the Hero. It worked both ways: the faith instilled in crowds made them brave and was becoming a weapon, a tool in wrong hands. What was it this time? Did they decide to mock the prophecy? Or was it ‘a missing piece’ that was found and someone wanted to prove it wrong, so they performed the ritual and showed the death of their Hero. But it bit them in the ass, didn’t it? When the dust settled and they came looking for the body to bury it with honours it was not there. And everyone have seen it on live TV. The surprise on his face was indeed genuine. Rather constant behaviour showing through my data.
But Evolved (as we chose to call ourselves) were losing patience. They couldn't really argue with numbers in my reports though. For the time of the simulation I was locking away the knowledge and a memory of being something else than a human being, the only thing that was an indication I could have been something else was the yearning for more, but that could be easily dismissed as ambition, having high inspirations, a dreamer. The anomalies like purple-blue tears were happening to humans, this one was a kind one, there were vile abominations, remnants of nuclear wars and playing with genetics, bio and chemical weapons as one could expect from humans with pumped egos. In fact it was my android nature fighting off the virus – the human part, funny how organic it all was. So I was almost human with reactions and emotions like pain and sadness I was experiencing probably in more extreme way than most people. Apart from that I was a programme crucial for running this simulation. My results were always better than designated bots'. A paradox: it was the “human” part that was improving the numbers. It's been decades and decades of these simulations, decades spent on trying to prove the humane side of homo sapiens sapiens.
No one ever asked about the dreams. I guess the assumed it was just part of the story I was feeding humans with. I had results so they didn't question anything. Evolved didn't dream. It wasn't helping with efficiency so it has been eradicated at early stages of modifications Evolved applied on themselves. No dreams. They thought I just prepared for the role. Dreams could be so essential for humans. Premonitions. Good and bad omens. Reading dreams. The books, people explaining them, people building lies and scamming others... Evolved deemed it redundant so I didn't tell them I actually had few of those. The castle, the red scarf and moon. I wondered sometimes if it meant anything. Was it some other consciousness trying to get through to me? The human in me? Or rather an error in simulation? If so who was running it and on whom? Simulation of simulation? Was it all planned and calculated like mine? How did it end? Did it end at all? Could we influence the outcome? Get other results? Just as I hoped for changes in mine?
Beyond the Surface || Self
Location: Boston Massachusetts, unknown urban neighborhood
Time: 1:15 pm
Andres was always one to find the beauty in rather unorthodox places, and given his rather nontraditional upbringing that’s not very surprising. What was surprising was the lengths at which he’d go to satiate that artistic craving for the perfect composition, the serendipitous moment at which the lighting and scene all mesh together for one beautiful once in a lifetime photo. Or, at least, that’s the words he used to justify to himself why he was casually using his gymnastic skills to trespass and hop a fence onto a rather old and particularly unsafe property. What was art without a little risk, right? This place was worth it, anyways. What most would see as a skeleton, a shell, holding the scarce remains of something that used to be great -- he saw as a treasure trove of a special sort of aesthetic that was beautiful in its own right.
After making it past the fence, the boy is sure to keep his camera gripped tightly and his eyes peeled, just in case he needed to run, but it’s also good to be prepared for the next shot. The grounds of this place were super quiet and empty, most likely the aftermath of the company not having enough funds to complete the project -- which was good news for Andres. He’d be left undisturbed while he turned this empty canvas into a masterpiece. And so the exploration began.
There was something so peaceful about being left to your own devices in this giant space that had been scarred and weathered throughout time, each broken window and graffiti tag adding a piece to the story of it’s eventual demise. A small part of Andres felt more at home in these abandoned buildings than anywhere else honestly, that’s why most of his photos had that recurring theme. As he traipsed through the dusty rooms and balanced himself on the rusting beams that were once floors, the only noise that could be heard was the faint click of his shutter. With each photograph taken, the more his curiosity grew.
Before long, Andres had spent almost 2 hours in this old place -- navigating the ravaged environment much like a child on a playground. He’d managed to find some pretty cool spaces that wreaked of urban grunge aesthetic and capture just about every angle his camera was capable of, one was never enough. With a small layer of sweat building on his forehead and his legs growing tired, he finally decided it was time for a break. So, after locating a decent patch of concrete that didn’t have too many glass shards or rubble, he plants himself down. The broken window behind him provides a nice breeze as a small white joint is pulled out from the front pocket of his shirt, a nice long inhale is taken as a review is conducted of the images he’d captured so far.
While clicking through the progression of photos, his mind wanders to the memories that he had associated to places much like this one. The most prevalent of those memories being back when he was in junior high, at the time his older sister Mariana resented their mothers for forcing her to undergo the humiliation of having a weird family. Needless to say, two mothers who worked hard to have the life they did and raise good children were not about to sit back and take that from a moody teenage girl, so every day after being dropped off from gymnastics he’d come home to a household full of screaming angry Latina women. At first Andres would try to mediate and calm everyone down, but once he learned how useless that was he knew better than to even try. Instead, he’d get home only long enough to change clothes and then once the inevitable yelling began he’d leave and say he was going to the arcade -- when in actuality he was just wandering around wanting to be anywhere but in that house. That’s when he found solace.
That solace came in the form of an old gym, which had an empty pool that was tagged up and used as a makeshift skate park. Even that had been left abandoned at this point. He himself was unsure as to quite what it was, but something just drew Andres to that place -- it spoke to him. So, whenever he could spare the time, the boy found himself there exploring, practicing his routines on the old gym equipment, playing pretend. This broken down remnant of a place full of life was a nice escape from his “perfect” little home. In a sense, both Andres and this lonely location left their marks on each other through the years. This time of reminiscing was cut short when something dd caught his eye.
From seemingly nowhere the boy thought he saw a yellow glow of some sort. Being the opportunistic fine arts major he was, Andres immediately bought his camera up to his face and looked through the viewfinder to see if he could capture it. But as soon as the shutter released, it was nowhere to be found within the image. Thinking to himself that he was just stoned and saw some weird reflection, he turned the camera off and stood up. He needed to head back to campus soon anyway. So, it was back to business as usual as the boy made his way out of that particular room and went to navigating his way out of this fractured building when the yellow light returned -- this time in a dark area, so that there was no denying it wasn’t a strange coincidence of some sort.
This was the time when Andres had a decision to make, for half of him wanted to shrug off the strange happening and carry on with his life and the other half was too curious to let it go and sleep at night without wondering. He would be the one to follow a mysterious light and end up being abducted by aliens. Nevertheless, Andres chose to explore further and see just what this strange thing was after all. It was then that the small floating light seemed to respond to his presence. There was a sort of familiarity to it, a welcoming vibe almost like an old friend. By the time he’d gotten close, the thing.. orb... wisp? began to move. It swayed side to side slowly almost akin to a slither, urging him to follow suit. So, he did.
Almost as if it knew precisely where it was going, the wisp navigated the weathered remains of the building until the two exited through what was once a back door. Through the door was an open area covered by empty remnants of a parking garage filled with rubble and garbage. Continuing to follow, Andres wondered what this thing wanted and where it came from -- if only he could sneak a photo. At least if this was some weird alien angler-fish seeking to steal his body, there’d be some evidence of the event. Finally the glowing entity stopped. It was right in front of a particular pile of rubble when the glowing seemed to get brighter and warmer, this was the destination. The boy couldn’t help but to wonder what sort of surprise lay buried within the pile that his new extraterrestrial guide wanted him to find. After placing his camera safely on the ground, Andres did what he assumed the wisp wanted of him and began lifting what he could to dig through the large hill of various building parts.
After what felt like an hour but was in reality like five minutes, he’d managed to pull a decent amount of wreckage out of the pile to reveal an interesting object. Within the rubble there appeared to be what looked like a crystal, that’s when the wisp really grew reactive. It practically leaped from the spot it was in to begin gravitating around the edge of the stone he saw. Upon further digging, Andres was able to reveal the entire crystal, it was a beautiful shade of yellow. Before he had time to question how it got there (or how much money it could be worth), the sound of a murmured voice in a radio caught his ear. Looking in the direction that the noise came from, he saw the light from a flashlight bouncing around nearby -- too close for comfort.
“Yeah, Officer Merryweather here following up on a call for potential B&E. I’m checking the perimeter now, I believe I may have a visual on the perp in the rear parking facility. Standby for further reports. Over.”
“Oh shit.” Andres whispered to himself, heart beating as he tried to think of an escape that didn’t involve his murder ending up on the evening news. But there was no time. By now, the wisp was pulsating and wrapping around his hand as if it was making him grab the crystal. He wasn’t quite sure how he’d manage to win in this situation but all he could do right now is have some faith in anything. Wasting no more time pondering , the boy checks behind him to see where the officer was. Now the flashlight was pointed in his direction. Out of time. In a desperate attempt to finish what he started , Andres yanks the crystal out of the pile and attempts to run away when suddenly everything goes white.
Was that a crocodile.....?
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