The Center of Gravity

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Episode 8: Overture

I don’t see any bodies,” I stated as I walked around the helicopter once more.

“Maybe we’re not looking hard enough,” Seth replied, crouching down to stare into the entrance. By now, snow was falling fast.

I sighed. He didn’t even tell me the whole memory about this place, just made me drag him here.

His crying on my shoulder didn’t last for long. In fact, he seemed embarrassed afterwards. Once he regained self control, he pushed himself away from me and went to investigate as fast as he could.

I tried not to be hurt by this, but I had been ignoring my feelings for so long that it’s was becoming more difficult not to show them.

I crouched beside him.

“Are you going to tell me the whole story?” I asked.

“Why do you want to know?”

“Wh-- why do I want to know?” I stuttered.

He gave me a look of annoyance.

I bit my lip. I should’ve known better. I didn’t really tell him anything about my past either, so why should I be prodding him about his?

“Rowin,” a whisper said.

“What?” I mumbled, assuming it was Seth.

He looked at me, eyebrows raised.

“What?” I asked again, more pointedly.

“I didn’t say anything. You’re probably just hearing things,” he said evenly. I pressed my lips together, hurt by the jab.

"Rowin.”

A chill ran down my spine as I glanced around. I was finally going insane.

Seth crawled through the small opening of the helicopter, but I didn’t follow.

Rowin!” the voice said loudly.

I jumped and turned.

The debris of the house made a small opening, like a cave. Within, just where the light reached, was a pair of boots. Which lead to legs, waist, chest, hands, arms, shoulders. And then a human face.

My jaw dropped and I blinked to try and clear my vision. This couldn’t be real, it was impossible.

He motioned for me to come over. I glanced at Seth, who was searching though the helicopter. I pointed to myself, hands shaking.

The man nodded, smiling at me.

“I won’t bite,” he said, barely audible.

Trembling, I stood. Something about the man -- how he knew my name and why he wanted to talk to me -- that drew me in. He looked to be in his late twenties.

He stepped back into the shadows.

Seth was still captivated by the helicopter, so I left him. He didn’t seem to want me around anyway.

I felt myself become nervous as I approached the man. I didn’t think there was anyone left.

But Seth was here and there was the compass-- I shouldn’t be surprised there were still people. Not everyone could leave, right?

Cautiously, I followed to the opening about the size of my small bedroom. In the corner, the light reached the man who was huddled in a coat, hat, and gloves. His dark hair swooped across his forehead, green eyes boring into me. He was tall and scrawny with an expectant expression.

“How do you know me?” I asked.

“I believe we’ve met before,” he stated, cocking his head as he shoved his hands into his pockets.

I scrunched my eyebrows together, planting my feet a couple yards away from him.

“You wouldn’t remember though,” he sighed. “Much has happened in the past fifty-eight days, hasn’t it?”

I felt eyes widen.

“I-I guess...”

“I’m sorry I didn’t come earlier. It wasn’t the time,” he said, coming toward me. “Rowin, I wish you remembered me.”

“Why? I don’t know you,” I replied, backing away.

“Because I know you’ve been struggling.” His eyes searched my expression that sent a chill down my spine. I backed up and he didn’t approach me anymore. “I know Seth is confusing. He’s still trying to find who he is, like we all are.”

“I don’t understand.” I shook my head. “How did he find me in the first place? I hardly know him. And I gave--”

“Him memories, yes I know.”

I stared at him, shocked.

“How--?”

“I can’t tell you that, not now.”

“You seem to know everything else.”

“It isn’t time. You have to know who you are first. Help Seth find who he is.”

We locked gazes. Suddenly, the scene around me changed. The world swirled around me, then landed in one picture like someone flipped a switch.

I opened my eyes, like waking up from a dream. The world was fuzzy around the edges, colorful, whole. A soft glow came from the bottom of the steps and I realized I was in my house.

Tears rose in my throat as laughter broke below me. My family was home. Where had they gone?

Before I could stop myself, I ran down the steps, heart pounding. I could finally hold them, talk to them, know them. How had I survived without--

I saw myself. I was sitting at the kitchen table with Adria, Jonathan, and my parents playing Monopoly. My dad’s laughter floated across the room, hitting me hard at the heart. Cautiously, I walked over to the table.

None of them seemed to notice me, not even the version of myself.

“Four-hundred dollars, please,” Jonathan said in an accent.

“You don’t own that property! What are you talking about?” Adria shot back.

“But I do, see?” He held up a card and I watched myself giggle.

“You totally cheated!” Mom exclaimed, playing along with Adria.

Jonathan gasped, clutching his chest.

“Me? Cheat? Never!”

This caused me to laugh harder and I realized how much younger I was. It was like the whole scene was happening from two years ago.

I felt my bottom lip tremble, tears blurring my vision. This was my family, or at least, was. I didn’t dare speak, not wanting to interrupt their joy.

Then it was all taken from me. The scene just vanished before my eyes, leaving me breathless and cold in the small opening under the destroyed house.

Immediately, I knew what had happened. One of my memories had been replayed before my eyes. When the compass was turned, Seth remembered things.

I spun around, looking for the man. He had to have the compass. He took it, used it.

Stuck into the gap between two bricks was a white sheet of paper. The wind pulled at it as I snatched it from its spot and read the contents.

Rowin,

I know about all that has gone on in the past 58 days, and I have the power to change that. For the sake of your life, bring Seth to me here at midnight tonight and I’ll give you something beyond what you can imagine.

Don’t take too long.

Sincerely, Cassius

My eyes widened as my hands shook. I turned once more to make sure I didn’t miss this “Cassius”.

He was gone.

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