The Center of Gravity

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Episode 9: Invisible Conversations

The ride back to our houses had been silent. Seth said nothing about the helicopter or if he remembered anything. I didn’t mention it. He glanced at me throughout the ride, obviously concerned. I didn’t want to talk about it.

I was so happy with my family, and then they had been stolen from me. I didn’t know if I wanted to remember them, it only made my longing deeper.

But I never said a word.


» Day 59 «

On the morning of day fifty-nine, I felt truly alone. I felt terrified. Every time I saw the kitchen, I saw us as a whole family. Now, who knows where they were.

Cassius was probably waiting for me, holding them at gunpoint if I didn’t go.

It wasn’t like any of it really happened anyway. If I made Seth up, I very well could’ve made up Cassius.

At 1 a.m. I realized I should’ve gone to at least know what he wanted. Maybe Seth wanted to go. I didn’t really want to bring it up to him though. Now, my life was literally on the line.

Every noise in the house made me jump. My eyelids would droop with sleep, but then another terrifying thought would enter my mind.

By the time it was two, I was shaking in fear. I considered going over to Seth’s. Almost immediately I concluded that I couldn’t, he was already irritated with me earlier.

At dawn, I fell into a restless sleep until evening. Even then, we didn’t speak to each other for a whole day.

» Day 60 «

I had heard nothing from Seth. I never saw him either, not outside or in the windows of his house.

By the evening of day sixty, I was scared out of my mind. I had convinced myself not to be worried since Cassius most likely didn’t exist, but the fear still consumed me.

Dusk had just started to fall outside when I trudged my way over to his house in the snow. By the time I climbed up the steps to the door, I was panting in a cold sweat.

Then, just as before, I was plunged into a scenario, a memory.

I gasped as the setting unfolded around me and spun around. I was in my highschool.

The hallways were filled with people. I immediately spotted myself, so I followed.

“You’re a dork sometimes,” Adria, my sister, said as she rolled her eyes.

“At least I’m not swooning over Kasey Farland,” I shot back, laughing.

It must’ve been before they started dating. I grinned a little at my sister’s appearance: brown curls, long lashes. I always thought she was beautiful.

I wish I told her.

I followed myself earnestly, some part of me enjoying it.

“Hey, I heard your Freshman class is getting a new student tomorrow,” she declared.

“Nice, who?” I replied, taking out my phone to reply to a text.

We turned into the lunch room and quickly sat down at a table with a bunch of our friends.

“I think his name is Stefen,” she said, shrugging.

“Sounds cute,” I mumbled, texting away.

“How can someone sound cute?” she laughed.

I rolled my eyes and smiled at her.

Just like that, I was back in reality, gazing into Seth’s empty living room.

I stepped back against the wall and tilted my head to the ceiling, thinking of Adria.

“Where are you?” I whispered, heart hammering against my chest.

Suddenly, a door slammed from upstairs and a scream rang throughout the house. I jumped away from the wall, immediately making my way up the stairs.

“Seth?!”

A door slowly swung open. His bedroom.

I stood in the doorway then recoiled in shock.

Seth was sitting there, leaned up against the wall. His chest heaved up and down while he glanced at his injured hand, face contorted in pain. His bones were prominent, even through his t-shirt. My stomach turned as my gaze went from his sunken cheeks to his shaking shoulders to the blood and bone of his open wound

“Rowin..,” he breathed, closing his eyes.

“What--”

“I’m so sorry about what happened yesterday,” he gasped, trying to play off the pain. He turned his face toward me, sorrow in his expression. “I know it was wrong to be upset with you after you comforted me. Could you forgive me?”

“O-Of course,” I stuttered, dropping to my knees beside him.

“It’s just that, I’ve been forgiven so many times and I’d be a hypocrite if I rejected your comfort after you did nothing to wrong me.”

I was shocked by what he was saying. I assumed it had to do with his belief in God or whatnot, but I thought I discouraged that. And why did God forgive anyway? I always thought of Him as angry.

“I remembered something else but I... Slipped while trying to open the door and slammed my hand in the door.”

“Why did you slip?” I asked, bringing my eyebrows together, relieved to get off the topic of forgiveness. I didn’t think he was clumsy.

“My knees just gave out,” he breathed, leaning his head back against the wall.

I didn’t know what to do. His glassy gaze seemed fragile as if I could look into his colorless eyes and break him.

“Could you... comfort me? Like my brother did?”

I slowly looked up. I didn’t know he had a brother. I sucked in a breath and nodded, sitting close to him so our shoulders were touching. I nearly pulled away when I felt how cold he was.

“You had a brother?” I asked, trying not to be rude with my shock.

“He was older--”

“So was mine,” I muttered.

“--and I fell out of a tree trying to untangle something. I broke my wrist, and he was there to helip me.” He paused, swallowing. “I was only ten, I think.”

“Back when things were easy,” I commented.

“Not when I fell,” he laughed weakly. “But he did something else while I was in the hospital. I think it was called praying.”

“You want me to pray?” I said doubtfully, aware that we could have the conversation about God all over again.

“I feel like if I talked to God, who knows who I am, then He’d tell me,” he replied.

I felt the doubt being evident on my face, but I continued to look at him. Talking to someone invisible because I didn’t want to figure out my problems myself? Why would I do that? I made it this far on my own, haven’t I?

He searched my expression, smiling a little.

“Besides, just knowing I believed in Him gave me a part of my identity back.”

“How so?” I asked grimly, feeling uncomfortable with where the conversation was headed.

“I just feel like I knew something about being a person again. God is a lot of things; love, peace, just. I remember wanting to be like that,” he elaborated.

“Does your belief really mean that much to you? That without it, you don’t feel like you know who you are?”

He nodded.

“It means a lot to me.” He paused, gazing at me with a thoughtful expression. “You mean a lot to me, Rowin.”

My heart fluttered and I glanced shyly down at my lap.

He began coughing suddenly, uncontrollably. He leaned forward, a hand on his stomach, trying to stop. I patted him on the back, feeling helpless. That’s when I noticed he was coughing up blood.

I stood, running to the bathroom and grabbing a trash can with shaking hands. By the time I reached him, his cough worsened.

Finally, he stopped, sucking in air through his nostrils.

“I think I’m dying,” he joked half-heartedly.

I felt my eyes grow wide, not realizing that he was only trying to lighten the mood.

“Forget that,” he said when he saw my expression.

For the next moment, we stared at each other. I memorized every part of his eyes, them being the most captivating thing about him, even if they were worn. I felt myself longing to know his memories, what he felt, what he thought. And I knew I’d do anything to save this wanderer I meet only six days ago.

I glanced out the window and a thought flew into my mind.

Cassius had the compass.

Cassius wanted me to bring Seth to him in the first place.

Cassius knew everything about what I’ve been through. He threatened me. A spike of terror was driven through my heart. I knew I couldn’t stay. If he wasn’t real, how come Seth was suffering? And why were my memories being replayed?

“I’m going to get help,” I said, jumping up.

It was Seth’s turn to be shocked.

“What?”

“I want to find someone to help,” I said. Though I wasn’t sure if Cassius was the helping type.

He looked to stunned to argue, so I started for the door.

“Wait,” he said.

I turned and he struggled to stand, coughing like crazy. His knees shook and the rest of him trembled. Eyes afraid, he stared at me.

“Come back,” was all he said.

“I will.”

With one last glance, I ran out of the house. The thoughts of prayer tugged at the corners of my mind, but I ignored it and instead stopped at the road to scream for help.

For Seth’s sake and for mine.

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