Go read Box: Detach instead!
"I thought a date was supposed to be between two people only?" I heard Lyla whisper from in the backseat as we neared our house back in Oakwood. Since we had stayed an extra night at the burned-down warehouse because there was no real reason not to, Leki was now driving us all - including Lyla and Losar, who had strangely insisted on coming with us - back to our house in a Honda Accord. It was not as cramped as I had thought it would be, especially since I had the middle seats all to myself. Samantha was up in the front with Leki as the driver, and Lyla wanted to stick with Losar in the bed, so I had the best two hours in the past three days.
Leki was going to drive us back anyways, but the other two in the backseat were talking about taking a break. By the looks of it, Lyla was complaining about a 'date' while Losar was jamming it to the car radio. There were no worries at all except for school. Samantha had faked her own voice to call in two more sick days for us both, so we didn't have to go today even though it was about eight in the morning. We could definitely make it back to school, but do I really want to? The last three days took a heavy toll out of me, but the best and worst part was...
No one knows.
No one here remembers what had really transpired in the past three days. Not my sister, not the Aerilosacs, not a single person in the world.
It confused me at first when everyone talked and acted like he never existed. They made up stories and fake realities that jumbled up their memories, and they all believed in my version of the story even though they could easily find loopholes within it if anyone of them here thought about it for more than a minute. For starters, if Samantha really bolted from Lyla back at the church, why didn't Lyla catch her? How could Samantha and I have slipped through the Aerilosacs if it weren't for outsider help? I had cringed and held in my breath the entire time I made up the story, but all of them had accepted it so readily, as if they really forgot about the truth.
I didn't know what was going on. His final words still stuck by me like scalding hot glue.
"No one will remember me but you."
That was what he had said.
I smirked to myself. He had died with secrets, and though that may cause me more troubles down the line, I still was content that he went out with a smile. I didn't see it, but I could imagine it on his face as he uttered that prayer.
I needed to find out what was going on. There was one purple dot in Chicago. We followed it, and that led us to Roya, my identical twin. That could only mean that the other dots are also the same thing. They're all me.
The thought scared me.
But it was also exciting at the same time. It wasn't like I felt incomplete knowing that Roya no longer in this world. I didn't feel any more powerful or healthy, either. Everyone forgot about Roya, and I'm sure if any unfortunate human managed to stumble on the incident and the fights that broke out last night, they would come to the conclusion that it had all happened without Roya's participation. Sister would still be remembered, but Roya would just vanish without a trace.
Something has changed, but what?
I had debated whether I should tell my sister about this. In the end, I couldn't do it. Did I really want anyone else to bear the burden of Roya's death? Samantha doesn't like to show it, but she was still harbouring some thoughts about Sister. I was, too. If I told her the truth, that Roya had also died, then wouldn't I be putting on unnecessary pain on her?
No. That would be selfish. This secret would be known by me and only me, at least until mom comes back with the answers.
Besides, I hadn't forgotten what the voice had said back then. Everything regarding 'us' had to be kept between 'us', whoever he was.
"This will be fun. We have never left Chicago on a break," Losar whispered back to Lyla. It seemed like they were on a date, and thought I desperately wanted to turn around and make fun of them both, I could sense that Lyla was pretty doubtful of his words, so instead, I decided to help the boy out.
"It will be fun. We have video games, a training facility, and Samantha will cook for you. She's great at cooking," I said with a cheerful smile, which made the both of them jump. They probably thought they were being quiet.
"I'm not cooking. You need to buff up on your cooking skills if you ever want to get a girlfriend," Samantha said, and I smacked her on her head.
"Stop it with the girlfriend thing, and yes, you are cooking, since you royally screwed up the vegetables last time. I'm giving you the chance to redeem yourself, so you should just take it and cook." I snapped at her, so she picked up an air-freshener from the front seat to throw it back at me with the speed of a bullet. She must've forgot that I could also see the future, because I dodged it and allowed it to fly back at Lyla, who also caught it out of the air while barely looking at it. Everyone excluding Leki blinked. That was a series of inhuman feats all in two seconds.
It was then that I remembered that none of us in this car were normal people.
Lyla chucked it back at Samantha from the backseat while Losar tried to stop her, and the two began throwing random car assortments at each other while I moved to the side to let the woman fight out their wars. Losar also moved away from Lyla, and the two of us shared a nod. This was supposedly a date for the two of them, and honestly, if this was my first date, I would be putting on a face like Lyla's one too.
Leki pulled over at our doorstep, and we all jumped out of the car after being stuck inside for so long. Samantha raced up the curb to unlock the front door first, then yelled inside to see if mom was home. Of course she wasn't, since the note said she'd be back once she ascertained something. Now I know. It had to be something related to my twins. Samantha turned back to us glumly while I invited the three Aerilosacs into our house.
It hadn't been long. Not at all. It was just three days. Four, technically, but since we left at the middle of the night and came back at breaking dawn, my rhythm of time was severely disordered. Especially with all the running around the past few nights. Still, it felt like I had been away on a long journey away from home, and now that I was back, I realized just how much I had missed a safe place.
By every sense of the word, this place wasn't safe. There were three ultra-powerful Aerilosacs in here with us, and though they were busy gawking at the rather fancy living room, I reminded myself that there were knives and weapons very close to me.
Lyla immediately took off upstairs to follow Samantha, and the two immediately started to argue once more about something trivial. Leki resigned himself to the kitchen to likely rob my house of every conceivable piece of food as revenge for us stealing the hotdogs, while Losar paced around the living room with a curious glint in his eyes.
"Is this how normal people live? This is..." He seemed to struggle with finding the correct word.
"Nice?" I offered. I knew that most households weren't like this. Disregarding the obvious extensive training room underneath the house, mom had an immeasurable amount of money for reasons still unknown to me. She didn't need to work at all, but she still does at an insurance firm just to fit in. Yet another thing that I don't know about mom. For the lifestyle that we lived and could continue living, I was grateful. This certainly was more than nice, but for Losar, it was the best word to describe it.
"Your mother hangs a lot of pictures." He observed, stopping at the wall underneath the stairs where we hung up wooden picture frames. I froze for a second as I was reminded of the dream three days back, when I had seen this exact scene before, only without Losar. I shook it away quickly and focused on the pictures instead.
"None of them have you in it. Do you not follow them on their trips?"
Honest to god, I didn't remember. The pictures were from all over the world, and they all depicted mom and Samantha in some faraway exotic land. I wasn't sure if I just never liked travelling in general or if there was something else. The trips had stopped since last year, I think, but the lack of myself in the pictures didn't bother me. I hardly ever stop to scrutinize them anyways.
Losar had already moved onto the next extravagant attraction in my house, the OLED plasma TV that dominated half of the living room wall.
I could tell he was interested in it, so I roared at the top of my lungs for Samantha to drag Lyla down, which also happened to catch Leki's interest from the kitchen, who poked his head out while sipping on a cup of apple juice. Lyla came tumbling down the stairs with a stack of less-than-glamorous undergarments, and Samantha followed shortly after with a snarl and two Raixien pistols in her hands.
Oh no. Someone's going to die soon, and it won't be Lyla.
I jumped in between and slapped one of the guns away from Samantha, which fired off a single purple beam of light that sizzled into the floor. I glared at her momentarily for actually having pulled the trigger at that last moment, before we scrambled to the kitchen for water.
We doused out the fire while Samantha kept on shouting at Lyla, the latter of which was desperately apologizing for having caused a mess so early into the visit. Meanwhile, Losar plopped himself onto the couch to turn on the TV, and I could see from the corner of my eyes that he was marvelling at the big, bright colours on the screen like a little kid.
So he does like something other than work.
After we got the fire settled, all five of us took our spaces around the couch to play a game or two. The Aerilosacs being Aerilosacs had never played a video game before, but they were frighteningly talented at every character they came across in the fighting game. They had gotten used to the controller so quickly that even Leki was able to beat Samantha after three games, and she was fuming at her wits' end. As such, she challenged me to a series of games, where I lost over and over again to refuel her pride as the best player in the house.
This was mostly how we spent the first hour in the house. After a while, I sensed that Leki was getting bored with the virtual games, so I took him down for a tour in the training facility. Now that he was interested in, and the rest of the group slowly came down as I gave them all a first handed trial with all the moving walls and the light controls. Needless to say, the Aerilosacs were having a blast. At the expense of Losar wrecking half of the room by himself and the other three doing their best to... well, not die.
Around the halfway mark during the second hour, Losar had asked me to join in the training with him. I had politely refused him, knowing that it probably wouldn't end well for me since I was the weakest in the group. Samantha called me a killjoy for that, to which I tried to shoot her with a pistol from the weapons table.
Though, that wasn't it.
I was simply too attracted to the hole in the wall that none of them seemed to have noticed yet.
It was still there, totally open and unchanged. If anyone turned to that side of the wall, they would immediately spot that something was amiss. Yet, not even Samantha pointed it out, and she knows for a fact that it was there.
Maybe it just wasn't important.
Yeah. Maybe that's the case here. Shouldn't I forget about it and try to have fun for at least today before we had to go to school tomorrow?
After another fifteen minutes, Leki was too exhausted to go on, claiming that an old man like him wasn't fit for such extended fights anymore. I wanted to ask him how old he actually was, since I knew the Aerilosacs could live up to five centuries. This middle-aged uncle could likely be in his two hundreds, or maybe even the three hundreds. It would be rude, though, so the two of simply sat by the side lines as we watched the three best fighters in the room duke it out at full force.
"I can't believe that you're an Aerilosac. That you were our driver that day," I said absentmindedly, watching Samantha and Lyla work together trying to run past Losar's crystal tendrils.
"And I can't believe you and your sister were Raixiens. Small world we live in."
"You were right. Your boss really is amazing."
"He is. Look at him go." He cheered for Lyla to beat Losar up, which distracted the girls for just long enough that they were slammed in the stomach by a crystal gong. "Though, you're not too bad either."
"I was with you most of the fight."
My expression darkened. "So you were watching me when I killed the first?"
"I was there even before that. Lyla and I cleaned up our group pretty easily."
I didn't know what I should say. This meant that he could've easily interfered and saved us all a lot of time and effort. And it also meant he could have saved Roya. I bit down on my urge to say his name out loud, swallowing the shout that was going to burst free from my throat.
There was no point asking why he chose to stay neutral during that night until he saw that he needed to step in.
He already forgot about Roya.
"Why didn't you help?" I asked, allowing myself to cool off a bit. I wasn't going to just throw a temper tantrum at him. He must have had his reasons. My hands drifted down to my pockets to feel the syringe I hadn't yet removed after last night.
"You were handling it just fine. You Raixiens don't get as much credit as should be given by everyone."
"By everyone, you mean..."
Aerilosacs. If those insurgents had even held a smidgen of wariness
against you, they would've given you a very hard time. While you
had luck on your side, I can also recognize strength, kid."
"Mind over matter." He tapped at his skull and smirked at me. "I saw what you did at the end there. You didn't have to pick up the dead insurgent's masks. You did it to screw around with their heads. That play with the fire to desecrate their bodies was just another part of your plan, was it?"
I scowled. The sound of the Aerilosacs and Samantha fighting were getting quieter now.
"I didn't like doing it, if that's what you mean."
"I'm not judging you. I've done plenty of horrible things myself." He took another swig of apple juice from a glass that I hadn't seen around here before. Where'd he get that? "If you two are really going to be helping us, then we need you to be on high alert."
"Why is that?"
Leki shrugged. "Things always go wrong. And when things go wrong, you need to make sure you're in the right state of mind. You have it. Not sure about your sister, though-" He gestured to her laughing at the top of her lungs as she held down the trigger to her rifle. "She's pretty strong in terms of brute force. I wouldn't worry too much about her."
Leki lightened up a bit after that sombre message.
"I once followed a mentor around. He's still a good friend of mines, though we don't see each other that often anymore."
"Uh-huh," I said again, unsure of where he's going with this.
"He taught me that in times of uncertainty, when your state of mind is at the edge of crumbling, you need to focus on what you value the most, and reassess whether doing or not doing something will betray that value."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"You don't really want to help us, do you?"
I said nothing.
I didn't want to.
Leki smiled sadly. "It's not too late to back out of this. We shouldn't be forcing you into our fight after what the Lyosa and I had done to your people. It's unfair."
With that, Leki settled down his glass of apple juice by the weapons table and re-joined the fight with more vigour than ever before. That old man was lying. He wasn't tired a single bit at all.
Everyone was well and truly tired after another half hour, so I hurried everyone upstairs to cool down from their fight. I shot a smile at Samantha and told her that I'd be up in a few minutes, that I was going to clean everything up, and waved away the Aerilosac's offer to help me. I was barely helping during yesterday's clean-up, so I can't be asking them to help me now.
The lights clicked off the moment I stopped hearing their footsteps.
"You should not have allied yourself with those golden ants," the voice thundered in my ears. "They do not even have a plan."
Was I in a dream? Had I fallen asleep right when the lights clicked off and left me in total darkness? I had to be, since I last encountered the voice in a dream. I wondered if I slept out of fatigue or if I just dropped unconscious. It'd certainly be interesting to see once I wake up.
The voice sighed. He wasn't happy, but he didn't seem to harbour any anger either. If only he offered an explanation for why I should do this and why I shouldn't do that.
"As I said, I cannot allow you to become biased."
"And what does that mean? What happens if I become biased?"
"I cannot answer that."
"Then why am I asleep? Why am I here?"
The voice seemed to pace around me, and that was when I noticed that I had a body in my dream. This one felt far more real than the previous one when I had first come into contact with him, and if I stared hard enough at my own body, I could even see the light scratches from when I had fought the Aerilosacs yesterday. This was awfully accurate. I was still in darkness, of course, but it didn't really feel like it.
Because through the darkness, I saw an even gloomier shade of black in front of me.
The hole in the wall, and subsequently, the tunnel that held no end.
I wondered why I was being shown this in my dream.
"Do you know anything about the tunnel?" I asked.
I tried again.
"Are you responsible for making everyone forget about Roya?"
I blinked at the actual response. I had not expected such a curt answer, and my gut told me that he wasn't lying. He really wasn't responsible for that. Then, who was? There had to be someone who was messing with everyone's memories, right? That's how it always works. Find the top dog and confront him or her directly.
The voice chuckled, and my eardrums shattered. It wasn't that unpleasant, though. Had I grown accustomed to loud sounds from the guns, crystals and explosives that I had seen and used quite a bit over the past few days? Hopefully not, since I should be focusing on getting back to my normal lifestyle from now. At least, until the Aerilosacs decided that it was time to get a move on their plan. We should still have some time before that, though, so I shouldn't be worrying about it too much, with their Division in shambles and all that. I wondered if the voice already knew all of that and was simply asking me because he had nothing better to do.
"I am not a frivolous being."
"Speak for yourself. You're the one who dragged me into another dream while I have guests over."
"Your 'guests' will one day betray you."
"And how would you know? Are you an omnipotent god pulling at everyone's strings from above? Or are you really just something created by my mind. You know, I'd been thinking for a while. Maybe I knew what Roya's name was for the same reason he could read my thoughts when I thought hard about it. Maybe it's because we're connected in some way."
The voice scoffed. "Of course you are. You all are. But does that mean I am just a reflection of your own deluded mind?"
"I'm not counting out the possibility."
"Then you are wiser than most."
A gust of wind blasted out from the tunnel in front of me, and I stumbled backwards, falling on my ass quite ungracefully. It hurt, but since this was all a dream, I'd simply wake up back in this room as if nothing had happened at all. Was time passing on as usual on the outside? I remembered that the last time I had this vivid dream, the voice had urged me to wake up because he somehow knew Samantha was coming. That could also be jotted down as my intuition I had with Samantha. Don't some people say that siblings have a connection that no one else can replicate? Maybe in the same way Roya and I just knew things applied between me and Samantha.
I waved my hand around in the dark, noting that there seemed to be a slight ray of light coming from somewhere. It was multi-coloured, yet I had to squint really hard to even be able to catch it in my peripheries. It eluded me, and like many other things in this dream, it confused me. Dreams aren't supposed to be like this.
"What is it supposed to be, then?" the voice asked.
"So your definition of a dream is based on a staple you had experienced before. If someone had asked you to describe a dream, how would you describe it? You would not say 'not this', no?"
"If someone asked me that question, I'd hit them over the head for the stupid question, first of all. Everyone at some point has had a dream, so it's their own fault for not knowing."
"Not everyone has dreams." The voice drifted from above me to behind me. "Do you remember the last time you had a dream? Before three days ago?"
"That's not the point, either. I'll define a dream by previous experience, and if I say this isn't a normal dream, then I know I'm right, because... I would just know."
"To a certain extent, that is a good way to put it. But," If the voice had tangible hands, it would've pointed forward at the tunnel that now glowed a soft hue of purple. "This feels incredibly real."
I didn't really care if I was having an in-depth conversation with myself. While the question the voice proposed was truly dumb, it did make my mind wander as I moved closer to the glowing tunnel. What is a dream? I could easily say that the past three days were a dream, and that would mean that it was fake. But it wasn't. So, I suppose if I had to define what a dream was, I'd say it was something 'not real'.
"Do you think dreams could be something else other than a negative of something?" the voice mused.
"Do you know the answer, O' mysterious voice?"
There was a rushing sensation. It wasn't wind. I had entered the cavern through the hole without myself noticing, and when I turned back around, the metal wall was sealed shut behind me. This must be what it looked like from within if we had never found this cavern. Utterly devoid of life and light.
Well, that wasn't exactly true. The swirl of colours only intensified as I neared the entrance to the tunnel, so I shrugged and kept my cool. It was only a dream. It wasn't like it was really going to do anything to me.
"I would laugh, but again..." the voice whispered in a hush. "It would be terrible if you were to become biased."
There it went again. Biased. I stopped trying to analyse his words and decided to just solely pay my attention forward, towards that one glowing spot at eye level that entranced my legs to move forward. I was pretty sure I could stop myself if I really wanted to, but I was also curious to see what would happen once I touched that little star in the dark.
Would I get whisked off to another dream? Another vision? These things were always hard to predict, and yet I found myself thinking of what would be the best thing I could possibly get out of this. Maybe I'd meet someone new, someone from a faraway world, connected to me by this dream that could transcend time and space.
I chuckled. I'd watched too many Earth shows. Reality is often disappointing.
My fingers brushed at the aura of the little star - which I now realized shone a shade of blood red - and I immediately tried to draw them away. It felt strange, like I was sinking my flesh into jelly, but before I could pull it out, the rest of my body started to contort and twist. It began with my fingers, which intertwined together into a singular strand of silver, then my arms, torso, and my head. My legs tried to dig into the hard rock beneath me, but there was no foothold for me to anchor myself onto. It was fast, and before I even got the chance to shout a curse at the voice, the world blinked out before my eyes.
The voice cackled.
"It was never supposed to be easy."
It was like staring into a black hole.
Then I landed face first on a muddy puddle, the freezing water instantly soaked up by my vest and trousers. I couldn't find the strength to look around, much less to remove myself from the puddle before I could start to get hypothermia. It wasn't that cold, but combined with whatever the hell that transition was, I was sure I was going to pass out within the next minute or two. Which meant I had to ask fast.
Where am I?
That entire thing wasn't a dream. I realized that a bit too late now. Had I thought it was a dream and blindly waded forward into the tunnel like it was nothing? I could swear I saw the silver linings during the talk with the voice, but now, they were all gone.
No, scratch that, I wouldn't be able to tell. My head was throbbing wildly from the unexpected transition, though I knew in an instant that it wasn't just from that. I recognized this, the gradually increasing pressure in both my ears, the churning in my stomach as it tried to break free from my flesh, and finally, my eyes that burned like hot chili whenever I tried to focus on anything above me. This was just like how I felt whenever I got close to Roya, but that couldn't be right. Roya was dead. That I was certain of.
I groaned and writhed around in the puddle as every muscle in my body started to contract, and I bit my tongue in order to hold in the screams that threatened to explode from my mouth. As I rolled, I saw bright and flashy lights all around me, though the ground level where I was at remained pitch black. Was I in an alleyway or something of the sort? Even the air smelled damp and revolting to my already non-existent sense of smell, which meant I was no longer in my home.
Haha. No shit.
Was the tunnel a warp gate?
Mom had told us about the Raixien's most powerful tech. She was proud that our people were the ones who invented the indispensable mode of travelling in this universe, but to think that she had one right beneath the house?
It all made sense now.
And where did it take me?
My ears shot up as it latched onto any other sound except for the ringing to ease myself of the pain, and to my surprise, I thought I heard delicate footsteps tiptoeing their way towards me. I forced myself to stop convulsing like an absolute maniac, but to do that, my mind had to clench down on my body with what fleeting strength I had left. I blinked rapidly to shove off the effects of the peppers in my eyes, though they were still blurry as I looked up at the person in front of me.
Who was this?
My heart wrenched, and I snarled unconsciously, grasping at my chest to stop my heart from stopping its motion.
Not like this.
The angel knelt down before me and cupped its hands around my face, and in an instant, the pain was swept away.
"Are you an angel?" I murmured as the hand started to slip off my face.
My mind drifted off into sleep.