Go read Box: Detach instead!
"I understand that you may be terrified, but you should at least open your ears to me.
I couldn't bear that same heart-wrenching fear again. Not one more second. It felt like I was going to die, even if this was all just-
"Nope. Not gonna say it. You can't make me," I shouted to myself as I kept my eyes closed. I relied entirely on my sense of touch to relay me information. My voice sounded strange, like it was being muffled underneath a surface of still water, though it could really just be because of me covering up my ears. I still did not dare to sense more about this strange dream any more than I should. Not that I could, anyways.
"Why not? Why do you not want to believe it? If it makes you more at ease, would you not believe anything?" the voice said.
"What? Are you insane? Are you one of those guys that just believe anything others say?"
The voice laughed, a sound loud enough to almost shatter my eardrums even with them being cupped by my hands. I winced and wilted under the sheer volume, and the voice spoke again, this time in a softer and more humorous tone.
"In all my years, I have never once met a single person who can tolerate my voice nor sight. I am starting to think it is my problem instead of yours."
"No shit. Tone it down a bit, yeah?"
"'N never have I ever met a single person who talks to me like that," the voice muttered, and I squeezed my eyes shut even harder, before I shifted and sat up straight on whatever flooring I was now on.
At this point, my 'house' dream had already faded. I didn't need to see it to know it. Could I be simply hovering in the void, imagining the cold solid block that I'm perceiving as the floor? Was I still in control of my mind?
"Were you ever in control?"
"Of course not. I'm not so stupid as to think I have any control on my own dreams. Dreams are something else entirely."
Neither of us said anything for what felt like an entire hour, though as I've said, everything was screwed with this dream. I was still aware enough to realize this is still a dream - a strange one, yes, but still a dream - and as such, am just waiting for myself to wake up. It'd be comical if it turns out I'd not slept for a single second, and that when I do wake up, Samantha would still be sleeping next to me like a sack of potatoes.
"You do not ask questions," the voice mused.
"Why would I?" I replied and changed into a more comfortable cross legged sitting position, then placed both my hands in my lap. At least I still felt my body. "You're in my dream, so you are something that I created. You can probably read my mind or something, so you will just answer my questions without me asking them anyways."
If I could see the voice, I imagine he would be grinning with a set of wickedly sharp teeth right now. "Remarkable. It might be a side effect."
I blinked mentally, even though I was technically dreaming and already 'mental'. Side effect?
Could I read the voice's mind?
I attempted doing exactly that myself, even though I was simply blindly - heh, blindly - poking and prodding at nothing. If this was still a dream inside my head, I should be able to do something.
But nothing. Nothing happened, and though I kind of expected it, I still found myself disappointed. And along with that emotion, a long drawn-out sensation of anxiety and nervousness crept out from the back of my head. I never noticed it before, but it had always been there, waiting until something triggered my amygdala so it can barge in through the door with imperial might. It certainly worked, and I began to stir in my seat.
"Finally, you seem to understand that this is a bit more than just a dream. Still, you remain relatively at calm. Most freak out right about now."
"Eh. I'm actually quite afraid right now." I smiled straight forward at where I thought the voice came from, though I knew that it was coming from all around me. Perhaps above? That seemed more probable than from below.
"But you do not show it on your face. I commend your self-control."
"I had practice keeping it in. I see myself as an in-control person."
"Oh? Why is that?"
"Can't you read my mind or something? Just do that, I don't really want to explain it or anything. Also, can I wake up already? I feel like something is going on out there that really needs my attention," I complained despite the fear settling in. I wasn't lying; I really found this entire situation a bit frightening to say the least.
Between the voice that seemed out of control, the unnaturally realistic pain I felt not a moment ago, and the fact that I still continued to hold my eyelids shut, I would say that this might be the worst nightmare I had ever come across.
"Interesting. You yourself admitted that this not a normal dream."
"A 'not normal dream' could be seen as a nightmare. Is this anything short of a nightmare?" I shot back at the voice, and wrinkled my forehead together as a wave of migraine rolled over me.
"A nightmare would imply that this is all fake and constructed by your mind, however unconsciously. What if I told you that I am not a figment of your imagination?"
If the voice could blink, it just did that. "Pardon me?"
"You said you're not something I created in my dreams. So prove it to me." I demanded from the voice, which caused it to laugh again, a thundering and colossal roar that made me flinch in surprise. I hope I won't wake up from this bleeding from my ears.
"I will prove it to you in the form of words, since your eyes have not acclimated yet. Is that fine by you?" His voice sweetened, and I nodded to no one, hoping that the voice saw my silent response.
"Go. Say what you want to say, and then I'll wake up."
There was a loud screech, as if someone was grating his teeth on a piece of bone, and the pressure around me dropped. It wasn't like a subtle drop. It felt like I was suddenly dropped off on Mount Everest without any prior preparation, and my head promptly exploded. Not literally, but it might as well have.
I screamed and collapsed onto my side, feeling snow and some other mucky substance licking at the back of my hand where I touched the ground. Was I really on Everest right now?
"You chose the setting, not me," the voice said. "You want me to prove to me that I am not a part of your dream, correct?"
I was shaking too much from the violent howling winds of snow to respond properly.
The voice saw that as his cue to begin.
"You came to Chicago looking for someone. A twin."
"A figment of my own imagination would know that. Keep going."
The voice cleared his throat.
"Would you like to know his name?"
And at once, the world fell silent.
I stopped shivering, and the howling winds ceased their assault on my body. If I fell over sideways, I was now sitting upright once again. The temperature immediately rose to return to room temperature, and I was vaguely aware that I might now be back in the training room, facing the abyssal tunnel without my eyes open. My gut feelings told me that nothing was staring back at me from that hole in the wall, so why was my entire body prickling all over?
My brain shot up into full focus mode if it wasn't before, to the point where I thought it impossible for me to be so aware in a mere dream. Hell, I didn't think I could ever be this focused in the waking world.
What the voice said switched something on in me. It wasn't just normal fear.
"Tell me," I rasped, my own voice coming out as nothing more than a gargled whisper.
"I see you are taking this seriously now."
"What. Are. You?" I enunciated every last word, and allowed myself to breathe in hard in order to feel everything that I needed to feel. I won't open my eyes. I couldn't open my eyes. My eyelids had a mind of its own, and they adamantly refused to spend the slightest iota of energy to open. It was physically difficult for me to do so, and that was really bad, because this wasn't even happening in real life. It's all fake... is what I thought.
My heartbeat grew significantly louder.
"Do you want me to answer the first question, or the second?" When he sensed my obviously directed anger, the voice chuckled. "I am merely joking, of course. I cannot answer the second question, so you will have to settle with only getting answers to the first."
"Is there any reason for that?"
"I cannot have you be biased. Anyways, your 'twin' is called Roya. Or rather, he calls himself Roya. Call him whatever you will." The voice casually dropped.
"Yes," he said briskly, and my mind spun into action. Roya? Twin? So it's all real? It may not be real. This could just be my over-imaginative thoughts taking over. This could just be fake. All of this.
"So there is actually a twin here."
"So that wasn't a joke from mom."
"You know who I'm talking about. Rose. My mom. You can read my mind," I said bitterly, knowing that this was far too convoluted and complex for my mind to make up. This was for real, just not in the real world.
"There is no need for such hostility against me. I am on your side."
"How so? Aren't you keeping me here against my will? Or are you going to say 'You are never trapped, you were the one locking yourself in'?" I mocked in a high-pitched tone of voice, which caused the voice to stifle in a laugh.
"I was, indeed, going to say that, but it seems you are wise enough for your age to already realize that yourself. However, realizing the platitude does not mean you can act on it as easily as you can say it. Here is something you do not hear every day."
"Let's get back on topic."
"Confident, too. But I feel that your confidence is such of a blind one. You are out of your element here, so please, just relax and not think of any plans to murder me." The voice pointed out, and I dropped my smile immediately.
"Cool, you can read that part of my mind, too," I muttered.
"To reiterate, yes, I am on your side. If you cannot believe that - which is a good thing, I might add - then you can simply think of me as someone who wishes to win alongside you."
"Win? Win what? I wasn't aware that I was in a competition."
The voice grimaced here, or at least, that was how I interpreted his irritation.
"Think less of competition, 'n more about living through the next two m- days. You do not know this yet, but right now in the waking world, your sister is getting chased through the blocks by those pesky golden ants."
"Those people. The dots on your map. You know who I am talking about."
"You must remember something that your mother told you. About the eradication."
"And what about-" I started to grow impatient at his vague wordings when the thought came to me. I don't remember much about it, nor do I remember mom even talking about it much, but the memory was there. It wasn't a happy one. Rather, it was always told to me as a story full of dread and sadness. The last I heard of it was maybe half a year ago, when the uncomfortable topic was brought up during dinner. Mom hated telling that story, so we never prodded too deeply.
"Ah, 'n there it is. The realization settling in. I can see oy now, the questions stirring up within your mind," The voice said mischievously. "I do not sense fear, though. Unusual."
"That's because I really don't remember much about them. The Aerilosac."
"You remember their names, so there is that."
"So they are here. On Earth. Did they chase us here?"
"Do you think the mighty golden legion chased three Raixiens across the full expanse of space? Of course not," the voice scoffed, and I frowned as best as I could with my eyes closed. "They have more troubles to attend to than to hunt down escapees."
"Then why are they here? What are they doing here?"
"You would have to ask them, but I do not recommend you to do so. Listen- Your sister is coming over to wake you up right now, so there is not much time." The voice suddenly hurried, and I shifted in my cross legged position, feeling pressure gradually build up on my forehead.
The voice spoke in a commanding tone this time, and I knew that this was now full serious mode for the both of us.
"To summarise, you have a twin here called Roya. By the way, that world map with the purple dots? Those are all your twins, and all the yellow dots are the Aerilosac Divisions. Understand?"
"Wait-" The voice didn't miss a single beat nor allow me to press him for questions, and merely continued his massive information dump on my poor, poor brain.
"Ah, they are coming," the voice muttered. "Quickly, final thing: When you see your twin, or any of your twins, really, you have to kill them. Or let them kill you."
By this point, the voice had completely dropped the ruse of sounding like a classic video-game villain, and started to panic a bit, too.
"What?" I shouted, and winced when I realized that shouting burned my throat horribly. "Why? Kill - what?"
"Simply put, when you see your twin, one of you has to die. If both of you exist together, you will suffer, and you will eventually wish for death. I do not want you to die, so you two will have to make a decision between yourselves. Kill yourself."
"No time. When you next fall asleep in peace, I will contact you. Now prepare yourself, I am going to return you back to your sister. Good luck. Oh, 'n please, do not tell anyone about me. Keep this conversation between us and us only, yeah?"
Then I screamed as I felt what remained of my mind tear free from my ethereal body, coalesced with the world around me and merged together into a single unit. I had not expected such a wild and rapid experience ever before, and the pain that came with moving at that speed finally made me go snap. It was like something inside my brain just shut itself down, and for a moment there, I lost everything. My senses, my voice, my body, and my thoughts.
The entrance to this nightmare was a peaceful one. It entailed my head hitting the soft pillow, and that was it. If I had a death like that at the end of my old ages, then I would have been content
The exit was much more... vivid. And terrifying.
The only way I could describe it was living hell, though I was neither living, nor was I in hell.
I woke up in the motel room bed, with Samantha ready to slap me square on in the face.
I managed to push myself further into the bed to dodge the slap, and Samantha flinched at my incredulous reaction time as I kicked off the blanket with full force. It flew into Samantha, who batted it off while I leapt up. Light poured in from the front door, and the moment I noticed Samantha gripping my kitchen knife in her hand, my entire body froze.
My stomach gargled, and then I doubled over immediately to spat out a bloody mass of something mushy and black. My chest heaved and gasped for air, my biceps trembled uncontrollably as if they were being electroshocked, and worst of all, there was an unbearable headache on my temples that made me unable to stand back upright by myself. Thankfully, the room was still only dimly light by the outside world, so I didn't have to see what horrors I had just regurgitated from my mouth.
Samantha didn't even bother asking about me, and instead moved to help me sit back on the bed.
I was briefly aware that it was probably now mid-day, though I didn't understand why Samantha had my kitchen knife in hand, nor why she was shaking me by my shoulders violently.
I might just spit out blood again.
"Rivin, we need to go." There was urgency in her voice, but I was still dazed, and things like these usually don't improve until- "Hey, hey! Listen to me, we need to pack up all our stuff and leave this motel right now!"
Despite everything, I blinked and tried to my focus my vision on my sister, and her only. I pushed away the distant sounds of police sirens out on the street, the rumbling noises deep in my stomach, and the pain that came with that sensation. It was ever growing, but it didn't matter right now.
Focus. Take a deep breath.
Remember that dream.
Remember. I got this.
I nodded to myself shakily while I moved my hand to pull Samantha off of me.
"Yeah, I know," I slurred. "Aerilosacs, right?"
Samantha gave me a face that could murder. "How did you know? What happened, did they come here?"
"No... Let's go." The words almost didn't seem to register, but she snapped back to attention not a second later.
We nodded to each other, and she pulled me to my two wobbly feet.
Come on now, adrenaline. I need you.
"Think. What do we need right now?" Samantha tapped her chin as she picked up scattered clothes all over the floor, dumping them all into her open backpack.
"We can't take everything with us, it'll look way too suspicious." I chuckled, but only ended up coughing even harder. "Ha. Just imagine two kids, one screwed off his mind, running on the grass holding two bags of luggage above their heads like goddamn wookies. And then there's a Tom & Jerry style Aerilosac chasing behind us with his fist pumping in the air, just think about it."
Both of us belted out laughing at our own imaginations, and strangely enough, my completely offsetting joke made us both work harder and more efficient. I stumbled towards the front door after slipping on my lightweight blue backpack onto my shoulders, then stepped out into the living daylight looking like a zombie.
I wondered how pale I looked, and for a second there, I debated going back into the bathroom so I could take a look at myself. Thankfully, Samantha stopped me from making that unnecessary - and rather stupid - move and left the motel room, then hooked the door shut with her right foot.
Like me, she poured everything absolutely essential into her pink backpack. Hopefully, that meant she had all the money inside that thing, plus her cell phone. Anyone could survive anywhere with those things on your back.
"You really are insane. It's like you're drunk or something." Samantha said suspiciously, and I supressed in another cough, only to have it explode inside my mouth where it disappeared. I rubbed my jaw roughly as Samantha made her way down the staircase on the left. Desperate not to get left behind, I trailed after her with my hand on the railing while my eyes rapidly scanned the parking lot and the street beyond that for anything out of the ordinary.
What was I looking for? Samantha confirmed that thing about the Aerilosac, so that voice... that voice wasn't lying. I had more questions than a baby first learning about the miracle of birth, but I really couldn't afford to be thinking about that right now. Besides, my headache and overall discomfort wouldn't allow me.
Would they be pursuing on cars? Or were they coming for us on foot? How many of them were there?
Now that I was awake and reclaimed my rightful memories, I could clearly remember mom's gentle yet grim face whenever she talked about the Aerilosac. What did she always say about them?
Only an Aerilosac can beat another Aerilosac in a one-on-one fight. Unless you are Batman, always choose to run.
It was funny at the time, I suppose. I'd taken it with a grain of salt whenever she said the exact same phrase out loud, never imagining that there would be a day in our lives where we would ever encounter them for real.
Come on. That's so unfair.
How and why are they here on Earth, which was coincidentally where mom and dad escaped off to?
I could tell from how rattled both our breathings were as we ran past the frowning motel owner that Samantha, too, had been completely caught off guard by this situation. It made sense, though. That explained the golden dots. I should have made the connection back then. I must have been too focused on trying to figure out what was about the purple dots that I disregarded everything else.
What was the black dot, then? The one in Antarctica?
"Where are we running to?" I asked Samantha, who then proceeded to whirl around and drag me by my fingers through a wide gap in a fence. I barely caught the sight of five tall, looming men draped in heavy yellow jackets and jeans heading our way before we ducked into our new escape route. They looked like they were wearing raincoats. You know, if they're going to disguise themselves as humans, they could have done a way better job than that stupid getup. They're obviously not normal.
My sister stopped and froze for a moment at their sight, and I noticed her face twitching almost uncontrollably. She only did that when she was angry.
Then she caught me staring at her, and she smiled soothingly not a second later, returning to the usual her.
"I don't know." Samantha finally answered, and together, we pulled ourselves over the wooden fence onto another street. We stopped for a moment to recall our mental map of this area, but my eyes twitched in frustration when I found myself unable to focus on where we could go, the pain and sickness only intensifying for whatever reason. Samantha scowled at my uselessness in this time where I was supposed to be helpful, and I could only manage to shoot her a weak smile.
"Think, where would they come from?" I muttered. We moved left instinctively, curious onlookers staring at me all the way. I must really look like crap.
"They're the strongest combative force in the universe. They should have everywhere under lockdown. We'd be surrounded." Samantha replied and looked all around for anyone who might sneak attack us. Her eyes shone purple, and I was about to chew her out for using her ability in public, before I realized it didn't really matter anymore. If we got caught here, it means we're going to die. Besides, nobody would pay much attention to us when there's the merry raincoat gang right behind us.
"Yep, so our only option is to cut right through them, yes?" I proposed just as five more Aerilosacs in disguise appeared in front of us, stalking forward slowly.
"But mom always said that only an Aerilosac can beat another Aerilosac." Samantha grimaced.
"I can twist that line for you. She said 'In a one-on-one fight'. There's two of us."
"And potentially hundreds of them. And you're sick or something, so you're basically useless."
"Oi. I can still stand, and they might not know we are Raixiens, so we still have our first factor advantage with our Parallel Eyes."
"They know. I kinda... showed it off to one of them just now." she said sheepishly, and my heart dropped.
I didn't want to die here.
Samantha glowered at the approaching soldiers.
"We're going to do this. There's five coming towards us in those yellow raincoats. Here's the kitchen knife. Now go stab the two on the left." Samantha turned to me and shoved the knife discretely into the palm of my hand, and I scowled at her.
"And what weapon do you have? You didn't come with your guns, did you?"
"I didn't think we'd have a need for them. My fault. I'll beat them all to death with my bare fists, then." Samantha grinned wickedly, but I couldn't reciprocate her excitement, and my mind scrambled for any other methods of escape.
This was hopeless. There's no plan, no semblance of calmness between us both, and if we tried to engage them in melee combat, it wouldn't matter at all how skilled we are.
If mom wasn't exaggerating a single bit, we'd both be eviscerated by getting close to them. Sometimes, overwhelming power is just that.
"Look, just do your best. Worst case scenario, both of us die here and end the lineage of the Raixiens. But if we can kill all five of them, then we get to live a little longer. Isn't that nice?" Samantha puffed.
I get it, though.
I needed to stop thinking about it. If I was going to die, then I might as well bring some of our eradicators down with us.
I hid the knife behind my back as the five Aerilosac gradually approaching us. My sister smiled at me for the final time before she drew on her war face - the murder face whenever she got truly serious - and flared her eyes in the darkest shade of purple yet.
Her fists clenched and unclenched as a warmup, and I did the same, but my eyes weren't trained on the direct threat in front of us.
Because someone else came at us from the sidewalk, and bumped into my left awkwardly. I stopped walking, and synchronously, the stranger and I sneezed explosively. My nose might have just blown up right there and then, but I wouldn't be able to tell. My heads was in the stars, and everything felt dreamy and swirly in my eyes. It was like getting punched in the nose, and having the pressure sent right up into your head, only it was much worse than that. The worst so far.
The stranger clawed onto my shoulders tightly, then drew down his sunglasses to show me his purple eyes underneath. It was only then that I realized I was looking at a perfect replica of myself. Samantha also stopped to gawk at my twin, though she didn't seem as surprised as I thought she would be. Maybe she also believed in my utterly retarded theory back in Oakwood, and had prepared herself mentally for the sight.
And as for myself... I couldn't really be bothered to think much about him. I probably would start freaking out if not for this sudden plague befalling me. What was his name again? Roya?
"You look stupid with pink." I slurred frankly, but my twin was having none of it, and moved in to glance at me and Samantha.
"What? Be quiet, keep your heads down, and let me do the talking." My twin hissed at us quietly, and then we were promptly dragged forward into the Aerilosacs. Civilians parted to both sides like we were Moses parting the red sea, making way for the two groups about to clash head on with each other: The five raincoat gang on one end, and our drunk little family of Raixiens on the other. This must look pretty ridiculous from the other side of the street.
Neither of us had any time to comprehend the appearance of my twin.
Where had he come from?
Not important. Focus.
As ordered, Samantha and I kept our heads dipped low as I sensed my twin pulling his face up into a grin. The Aerilosacs slowed their pace as they spread apart, and the two on the sides also parted away for us three to go through. The Aerilosac in the middle almost slowed to a complete halt, and I couldn't resist a peek at his hardened face as he spoke.
The Aerilosac spoke in fluent but janky English, and I panicked as I remembered where I first hear his unusual accent. The kind driver that drove us to the motel.
"You should not have let yourself be found. That was not part of the deal." he rasped, and I heard my twin chuckle nervously.
"Thanks for the assist, guy." my twin said softly, and I spotted the Aerilosac twitching his face muscles angrily. So was Samantha, whose entire body was shook from being in so close contact with our mortal enemies.
"You will leave the package for us all according to plan in two days. Do not fail me." He threatened, and my twin coughed right into his face.
I swear the Aerilosac would have killed us all if not for his agreement with my twin.
"Sure thing. You'll definitely get the promotion you want." And the three of us passed through the wave of Aerilosac with no further words, with only the centremost Aerilosac eying me and Samantha curiously from the back. I ignored him, and once my twin led us down another corner did we begin to run as fast as we could down the street.
It was now burning hot under the sun, and my body twitched involuntarily all over. I just wanted to get out of the sun, and thankfully, my twin seemed to have the same idea. As we ran past sets of v-shaped trees on the sidewalk, the road gradually widened into a two-way street, the people began to appear only in sparse groups, and I frowned at the white building on the cornerstone of the street. This was the Southeast Unity Church, where my twin was supposedly first spotted around in the document.
Samantha noticed it, too, and her reaction was much more adverse than mines. She grabbed my twin by the collar and shook him all while she shouted into his face.
"Why are we back here? That Aerilosac girl could still be in there!" She demanded.
"Shut up. Just go back in there. Sister will take care of us." my twin shot back, and he tore free from her grasp to start running up the stairs towards the multi-coloured front door of the church. "You can stay up here if you want, but they should be doing a secondary sweep again with a different team this time. Your choice."
Then, my twin disappeared through the door with the swiftness of a ghost - not that I'd seen ghosts before, but I assume they're pretty fast if they do exist - and left a tiny crack open as a subtle invitation into the church. Samantha and I stared at each other for a second before making a silent agreement to travel up the stairs, and lightly pushed open the door to step into the praying area.
My twin stood to the side of the church, behind a stone column that didn't quite fit in with the rest of the modern church design. No one else was in here with us, but the air felt heavy, like someone was watching us from afar.
It could just be my sickness screwing with me. Better to just not think about it.
We followed after my twin - Roya, I've decided to call him - and stood by the wooden walls ominously. He pushed on the wall confidently, and a hidden door that I hadn't noticed before slipped open, which revealed a straight staircase heading downwards into what should be the basement of the church. Huh. I'd have to keep note of doors like these from now on. That was the second secret door I'd almost missed in the span of twenty four hours.
As I peered down the dark staircase, I noted that there was sunlight at the very bottom, which meant there's an open port somewhere connected to the outside. I started to panic at the thought of the Aerilosacs dropping a bomb down on us from above, but Roya didn't give me the chance to do so, and instead dragged us down the damp staircase and into the basement. I heard the secret door close behind us on its own. Was it automatic?
I jumped as an elderly woman appeared in front of us right as we stepped foot into the basement. I was not expecting anyone to be waiting for us.
Well, Roya did say something about a 'sister'. Could she be a nun?
Ha. A nun. In Chicago?
She didn't look the part either. She was a rather tall woman dressed in all black, with saffron robes unbefitting of that of a nun. She should in her late sixties, though it could be way younger than that. I couldn't really tell with my head spinning like a countertop. She gave all of us a warm smile that reminded me of mom whenever Samantha or I got hurt during training, and that lightened my pain just a bit, but the smile disappeared and turned into a raging scowl the moment she tried to look at both Roya and I.
"Damn! What in God's holy name is up with the two of you?" the woman exclaimed, and Roya stumbled forward dizzily to stand by her side.