Rivin finds a computer underneath his house, and mom disappears.
Dust spilled out from unseen corners around the perfectly square hole, and I ducked my head in through the revealed secret entrance.
I saw nothing but pitch black darkness in sharp contrast to the brightly lit training room we stood in. I was shooed away by my sister to move aside while I tried to pull at the edges of the hole to enlarge it, the steel peeling away like cardboard. I definitely had not expected that sort of softness.
A hole large enough for my entire body to fit through appeared into view. I took out my phone and turned on the flashlight, the white ray piercing through the darkness to show me only the barest of details - grainy and coarse rocks lining the cavern. Further inspection with the flashlight revealed a set of tables and a singular chair that sat gloomily at the left end of the cavern. And on top of the middle table directly facing the chair...
I looked back to see if mom was here, watching us discover the secret room underneath the main house. Was this always here, or had I just never noticed it before? The air immediately shifted from cool to absolute freezing temperature, and I hurried forward to the black desktop before the cold could get through to my nerves.
My flashlight swivelled around in my loose wrists as Samantha joined me inside the tunnel.
"What the hell?" I said, half-laughing and pointed aimlessly at the inactive computer. It wasn't an old model, and there weren't any dust on my fingertips after I ran them across the wooden table. There must have been another way for mom to access this secret room without kicking the whole damn wall down, and I wondered if she'd be mad at us for coming in without asking her about it.
Then again, mom kept it from us, so she can't complain now.
"It's still on," Samantha said as she knelt and pressed on the power button once, which flashed orange as it jumped back into life. "I never knew mom had a secret room down here."
"Me neither," I said, and scooted over to the right so as to let Samantha study the world map that filled the entirety of the screen. Seeing that the screen now illuminated half of the cavern with its back lighting, I pocketed my phone and scrutinized the map littered with various brightly coloured dots like Christmas lights on a tree. I loved those. It reminded me of something I couldn't quite recall clearly, but seeing a beautiful mix of colours always soothed me when I felt scared.
Not that I felt scared now, but it was delightful to see.
Samantha pointed at two dots separated far from the rest of the main continents in Antarctica, one yellow and one black, which both stood out from the snowy continent like a sore thumb.
"Look at those two dots. They're like you and Edward. Supremely awkward and cast out from the rest of society." She laughed.
"And that's you." I pointed to a singular purple dot surrounded by a hexagonal layout of yellow dots somewhere below China. Would that be Hong Kong? "So hated by society that they perform a ritual of sacrifice for the blood gods."
We pointed out anything interesting we saw to each other, and it was almost an entire minute of stupid chit-chat before I remembered what we were doing here in the first place. I'd never known we had a room here before, but now that we found it, I wanted to check everything out, however little there may be in here.
I looked back at the hole in the wall, which looked like a doorway to heaven separating the ancient cavern from the advanced training room.
"No, wait. Look." Samantha spun me around back to face the cavern and shone her own flashlight inwards. My eyes widened when the abrasive rocks curved inwards, forming a claustrophobic tunnel that led further into... somewhere. Both of us hunched down to stay low and silent the moment we noticed the tunnel, though I wasn't sure why or how we felt the need to do so. It's wasn't like the tunnel harboured any inherent danger.
Or maybe that was what the tunnel wanted us to think. How many times has the main characters in horror movies died because they were unwary of the obvious unknown in front of them?
Samantha yelled into the tunnel, and I smacked her head for her stupidity. Thankfully, there was no response. It would have been terrifying if there was.
I pulled out my phone again to amplify the light shining into the tunnel, but they were nowhere strong enough to reveal what was at the end of the tunnel, stopping short and leaving us staring dead into the abyss. The more I stared at the darkness, the more my nerves began to tingle violently as a response. It unnerved me that mom had made this without us knowing about it, and for a moment there, I considered running back up to the kitchen to get mom to come down here and explain everything.
Calm down. She's busy cooking, and we can always tell her anytime. I told myself as I watched Samantha tinker with the wired mouse on the desktop, then scrolled and zoomed in the map on the Americas.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
Samantha ignored me, and so I sighed and leaned in forward, knowing my sister likely reached the same conclusion as I did and had decided to tamper with the screen even though mom may be mad when she finds out later. This had to be some sort of bunker - if the training room itself wasn't bunker enough - though I had no idea why she would have this hidden behind a metal wall.
My attention was smoothly captured when Samantha finally clicked on a purple dot, quite literally overlapping with another yellow dot over in Chicago. It wasn't too far away from our town of Oakwood, settled right in the middle of Wisconsin, but that thought drifted away from my mind quickly when a document expanded from the purple dot.
It was a word document, and I grabbed the mouse from Samantha. I scrolled down the document and marvelled at its length. There must be at least a dozen pages of this, and there was not a single picture or image in sight.
I read the first paragraph aloud. It was written curtly and filled with the standard spontaneous writing patterns that I recognized as mom's right away. From what I could tell, the entire document seemed to detail the features of a person, and very specifically if I had to add. The more I continued to read out the document, the more worried I got, as if this were all building up to some horrifying truth.
I kept going despite my gut telling me to stop. Even after Samantha lost interest in hearing me recite the exact height and shoulder-to-shoulder width of said person, and started to fiddle with her fingers while sitting in the creaky wooden chair. My eyes never left the document, and finally, between the second and third page, I spotted an image link that I hadn't noticed before.
I clicked on it.
"What the shit?" I exclaimed, and Samantha sat up in her chair.
We were looking at a picture of myself. Though, I couldn't remember for the life of me when I wore a pink t-shirt and matching shorts out in the streets. I liked bright colours, sure, but that didn't mean I liked wearing them for the entire world to see. I looked embarrassing.
Just because I'm an alien doesn't mean I'm not self-conscious about how I look.
"You look so gay in this photo." Samantha joked.
"No, wait. This isn't me." I squinted closer at the picture, at the way my hair curled up at the edges and the back, which made me look like some sort of slick drummer. If I could play drums or even have the slightest of interest in music. The bloodshot eyes I had in the picture didn't add to my self-image as well.
"Of course this isn't you. My brother isn't this gay-looking."
"No, not that. This literally isn't me," I said again, though I snickered faintly at Samantha's snide comment about my looks nevertheless.
Then I stopped and blinked hard.
This couldn't be right.
I clicked off the image despite Samantha's complains to download the image onto her phone, and scrolled back up to the beginning of the document to re-read it from start.
"Age: Fifteen. Gender: Male. First spotted: 22nd November, 2017, wandering around Southeast Unity Church in Chicago," I repeated. "Did we ever go to Chicago?"
Samantha thought for a moment. "Nah."
My eyes rapidly glossed over the rest of the word document, and my disbelief grew as my fingers clutched onto the mouse tighter and tighter. Samantha noticed this, and looked up at me with a suspicious gaze.
"What are you on about?"
I ignored her. My reading soon became murmurs, which became whispers, and finally, I stopped speaking out loud to maximize my reading speed. Samantha stuck a tongue out at me and proceeded to join me in reading the document, and I scrolled down to the final page.
"Subject fully identical to Rivin. Unexplainable appearance. Unexplainable ability. Treat the same as Rivin," I said, and my mind spun in ten different directions as I tried to take in the words. Without further delay, I closed the word document and zoomed back out of the world map quickly, then clicked on one of the other purple dots located over in Iceland, and found the same document.
Well, it wasn't the same. The format was the same, detailing another person that fit my description eerily now that I thought about it. In the middle, another image link that opened to reveal another person again, only this time, he was wearing a fur jacket and sunglasses that covered his eyes. Yet, without a doubt, I recognized this as myself.
Samantha stayed silent once she saw my frantic clicking, and now stared intensely at the screen.
Another purple dot, this one in Hong Kong. Same description, and a picture of me again.
I didn't bother reading the words in the document after that one, and instead, scrolled back up to the world map and stood up straight. There were five purple dots, and they were spread all over the continents as if someone had scattered them like dice in a game of DnD. With my sparse knowledge of the world geography, I made a mental note of every purple dot in my mind and their general locations. One in Hong Kong, one in Iceland, one in Brazil, one in Chicago, and the last one...
For the final time, I zoomed back in and clicked on the final purple dot.
"Age: Fifteen. Gender: Male," I muttered, noting that the first appearance and location wasn't recorded down unlike the others, before I scrolled down to the very bottom of the document. "Progenitor of the five clones. Appearance similar to Samantha, reasons unknown. Ability identical to Raixiens, however limited."
This document was longer than the others, and there was a final page which held only one ending paragraph.
My fingers trembled as I spoke the final words.
"Progenitor calls himself 'Rivin'." I breathed out, and neither of us said anything. We simply stared at the empty space underneath that final paragraph. It felt to me as if the document was incomplete, and that there was obviously something more to be added after that ominous ending. But, what?
"Well, if that wasn't the fakest piece of report I'd ever read. I'm going to go up for a shower," Samantha finally said as she patted her knees and pushed the chair back to get up. I grabbed her hand and stopped her from leaving.
"No, Samantha. What do you think this means?" I asked coolly.
"It's just some report that mom wrote in her free time, and there's probably a reason why she never told us, so let's just go!" I held her firmly while she wrestled away, and I realized it was a bad move all too late when she pulled back with her godlike strength, and sent me falling onto the rocky ground with a grunt.
I forgot about that pretty quickly, if I had to say so myself. She was stronger than me. Did I really think I could hold her back?
"You always question her, though," I said as she tried to help me up with a worried look on her face. "Aren't you a little curious about this cavern? About the tunnel? We should ask mom about this."
My sister stared at me blankly, and I met her intense eyes with my own.
"Samantha, do you know something about this cavern?"
"Of course not."
"Then why are you leaving this place? Don't you want to know?"
"No, I don't." She snapped back at me while heading back towards the entrance to the cavern, towards the gate to heaven. "I'm sure mom has an explanation for this. Just go ask her, and let's go."
I grinned. "Ooh, are you scared of being in the dark? Did that document scare you in some way?"
"I will shoot you in the face the next time you say that." Samantha warned half-heartedly, and I frowned. That didn't sound as enthusiastic as usual. Could it be that my alien sister, the hardest and boldest person I know, the girl that slit her finger open with a kitchen knife and didn't even let out a single whimper, and the girl that can murder almost anyone with her unmatched physical prowess, felt unsettled by this all?
"Alright, then. You go find mom and ask her to come down here again. I'm going to keep messing around with the computer." I waved her goodbye as she left me alone in the quiet cavern, and once I heard her faint footsteps leading back up to the living room above, I began to study the world map and its many dots with more meticulous inspections. Next to every purple dot was at least one other yellow dot, and the one in Hong Kong even had six of those surrounding it.
Now, what could those mean? I clicked onto the yellow dot overlapping the purple one in Chicago, and another word document popped out.
This one was only one page long with only one paragraph in it. Just words, no image link or anything at all.
"Danger. Danger. Danger. Must never approach," I said under my breath. My brows twitched at the almost threatening message to whoever read mom's passage. It must have been for us, right? No one else would have been able to come here and read this document anyways.
I screwed around with the document to see if there was anything else that I missed within, and just before I could close the document to open another one, the screen winked out.
And coincidentally, so did the lights in the training room, which plunged me into total darkness. I remained calmly hunched over at the now shut-down computer, feeling at-ease within the dark.
This was just like how I spend my time from twelve to three in the morning, since I could never sleep easily, and instead linger around the house looking for something to do. I suppose that was why I never found the dark to be particularly scary or threatening. It was only scary when it was hiding dangers within its shroud. Like right now.
I remembered just too late that I wasn't in the safety of my own house or the training area. I was in a strange cavern connected to a strange tunnel, and I found myself stepping back nervously, faced towards where I assumed the tunnel would be. Would something jump out at me and bite my face off? Would there be a jump-scare? Would I get a heart-attack?
That'd be kind of amusing, though.
Questions I'd rather not be answered, and so, with a determined fist pump to no one in particular, I turned back around to go back through the hole in the wall to yell at Samantha, who must have fiddled with the light switches as a prank on me. Mom should be screaming at her, too, so I probably wouldn't need to do it myself.
Then, something hard rammed into my forehead, and a resounding gong popped into my head as I fell backwards onto the ground for the second time today. I clutched my forehead in agony and writhed around a little while, moaning in pain.
The hole wasn't large enough for me to get through standing upright. I deserved walking right into the metal wall. I began to pat my head gently, hoping that brain damage steer cleared from me all while chuckling to myself for my stupidity.
Stay calm, and use everything I have to stay safe. That's what mom always told us both.
I pulled out my phone and turned on the flashlight. I stood back up after a period of resting, and shone the light around the cavern one last time like a lighthouse before I hunched down slightly to let myself through the hole. I traced the walls of the training room with my flashlight until I spotted the light switch on the far end, but I stopped walking once I saw the switches were indeed on. My teeth grinded against themselves at the nuisance that is my sister, and proceeded to yell at upstairs at the top of my lungs.
"Samantha! Turn on the lights!" I roared. I had not expected any sort of response, given how reinforced this house was, but I found it nice to be able to shout at my sister for once without being scolded by mom.
Footsteps travelled down from the spiralling staircase in front of me, and I snapped the flashlight onto the stairs. My Parallel Eyes activated, and I prepared myself for the eldritch horrors that might descend down from above. I dared not blink so as to not miss even one second of my foresight. Crouched down in a fighting stance, I also scanned my immediate surroundings for anything I could use as a weapon, but only clicked my tongue in annoyance when the only thing I could see were the plastic bullets we used for training.
The footsteps grew louder. Ah well, I'd just have to overwhelm the attacker with my arms and legs. No big deal. I huffed in and out to get my adrenaline pumping just as a shadow of a different black gradient appeared into view. It was just a single foot, then two, and finally, the shadow of an entire body drew across the back wall around the staircase.
I almost jumped forward to whale on Samantha, but once again, I was sent tumbling to the floor by her superior combat ability. Even without using her Parallel Eyes, which doesn't work on Raixiens anyways, she beat me down almost immediately.
Goddamnit. My precious pride and ego, how fleeting they were.
"Oh. Sorry." She didn't sound entirely apologetic, and I reluctantly accepted her helping hand just as the lights flicked back on again in that one instant. Both of us winced under the rapid change in lighting, covering our eyes with our elbows. "Mom's said she'd be down here in a second."
"Cool. And just for the record, the light thing didn't scare me. You should know that by now," I said as I ducked back into the hole in the wall, and my jaw dropped.
"I didn't do that. I thought you did that," Samantha replied, but I was no longer paying her any mind.
I lost count of how many times I found myself surprised in such a short span of time. Where the CPU once was, underneath that table in the centre, a hissing and fizzling mess of metal now lay. I rushed into the cavern, careful to avoid hitting my head on the edge again, and knelt to place a hand on the CPU that was functioning and intact less than a minute ago. Samantha came back in after me, and she gasped.
How was it destroyed?
"Samantha, go get mom to come down here. Right now." My voice steeled, and my eyes locked onto the tunnel that seemed to swirl with shades of black. Samantha did not even demand for an explanation, and I heard her running back upstairs, yelling out for mom as she did.
I wanted to run. To get out of this cavern and away from that tunnel. It wasn't about the dark anymore. This was something else, though I couldn't place it into coherent words or thoughts. It was a sensation. One that made my entire body tremble with trepidation. One that made my mind trip over itself as I tried to imagine what lied within that tunnel. I would not go in under any circumstances, at least not until mom came down and explained everything. How could something like this be made in the first place without us knowing?
Then, after what felt like hours of staying in that cavern by myself, keeping guard over the utterly silent and void tunnel, I heard Samantha jumping down the flight of stairs.
Her face poked out from beyond the hole, and it was nothing like I'd ever seen her make before.
"Mom's gone," She said simply, and I frowned.
"What do you mean she's gone? Did you check the bathroom?"
"Yeah, no shit! I checked everything, and she's gone!"
"Maybe she went out to get something. You never know." I suggested, but Samantha joined me in the cavern and stared into the tunnel as well, drawn in by its inexplicable lure.
"With the water still boiling, and the cabbages completely charred up? No way," Samantha said.
That's when my heart started to beat in my ears.
And I knew Samantha's was, too.