It’s been two or three days since that night, yet I still can’t come to terms with what I read. To think Captain put me and Anna specifically on this mission with the intent for us to escape and disappear somewhere where the ON wouldn’t find us, I... still can’t quite understand that. Sure in Anna’s case I can see why he would want for her to leave and reunite with her allegedly alive sister, but what good does risking my escape do for him? I don’t want to believe it, but maybe by putting me on this mission he just enlarged, the already big target on his back... I guess a bullet was going to hit it at some point and that point was a couple weeks ago. I don’t know how to feel about all of this, knowing that he potentially sacrificed his own life for Anna and me to escape, why did he do it? What was the point in getting just us two out?
Whatever the point may be, it doesn’t change the fact that I am on a mission right now. We arrived at the docks of the Dry Rain, and proceeded to make a quick stop at a friendly little town with an equally friendly name of MawGate. From what I’ve been told, and from what I’ve seen, this town is another one of those mercenary or bandit safe havens, like Purgatory that’s a bit more north from here. It’s chock full of mercenaries, hit-men, small ragtag groups of ex-military psychos, and the circus just goes on. I’ve been told that this city is the least stable compared to the other ones, if it were up to me I would just steer clear of this madness, but alas we needed some info and supplies, we expected that the locals wouldn’t take to kindly to ON agents and that’s exactly what happened, but a couple of tense showdowns and some broken bones, not ours thankfully, we got our hands on some rough directions that SkyJumper took while getting out of the city.
On that note, I’m still not sure about pursuing SkyJumper, at least not with just us three. I’m not too familiar with her or her capabilities, but I know that she’s a User, though a last-gen she still has impressive powers and even more impressive physical capabilities. While on the boat we were given copies of her file, which says that her ability allows her to jump to extreme heights, and choose to either not make her landing completely silent, or transfer that impact energy onto whatever unfortunate thing lies underneath her, of course she doesn’t suffer any damage from the fall. Pretty nifty thing to have, with addition to that she was trained by the more ‘darker’ units in the ON, after a while becoming a top tier assassin for the ON only being beaten by a handful of other agents. That leads us to her history. She appeared one night at the front door of some high ranking agent, who’s name is redacted, in a cardboard box covered in blood and the pouring rain, yet calm without making a single noise. She was taken in and given the name Sonya, though nobody calls her like that, and was raised from practically birth by the ON, which in itself isn’t the best thing to begin with. Her parents were never identified... blah blah blah, long story short she’s a killing machine and I really don’t want to fucking go against her! I highly doubt this bold zealous prick would stand a chance against her! But here we are, in a fucking cave on the side of the mountain, keeping a look out into the huge ass swap area in hopes of seeing her, and when I say we of course that I mean me, because the other two are useless at this range and the only god damn reason why I was sent here was because of my fucking eye ability!
Now, now... deep breath, yes you are tailing a very dangerous tail of a very dangerous individual, but at least we have an advantage of distance and a good hiding spot, right? Sure, let’s go with that for now, distance and hiding, not a bad combination if I say so myself...
I never answered Anna to her question, as to whether or not I want to leave, like her. I honestly didn’t know what to say, not like I was capable of doing so anyway with there being a camera in the room, but also because my throat was completely locked up similar to the rest of my body at that time. I was riding a very thin line of killing her and everyone on board, and realizing that I don’t have much of anything if I choose to stay with the ON, no future, no life, no freedom, no nothing. If they were going to kill Anna after she loses her usefulness then that would be the fate that befalls me eventually as well, there’s just no chance of me winning in that scenario. But on the other hand I couldn’t just transition to living in a shit hole like MawGate, there’s nothing I could do in the way of protecting myself, and I’m no good at anything that takes physical work, an environment like that would eat me alive in a matter of days. Tagging along with Anna doesn’t make sense either, having someone like me wouldn’t do her any good, considering ON agents are scattered everywhere it would only be a matter of time before someone recognizes this black shit covering the whole side of my face. I would be a beacon, and that’s not what she needs, it wouldn’t be right to weigh her down, not when she has a sister to reunite with.
While I’ve been lying on the rocky floor for the past hour or so, and getting my thoughts in order to the best of my abilities, my ears begin to pick up a subtle noise that I’m not familiar with. I open my eyes revealing a beautiful starry night, and quickly glance around not moving my head and hear that same noise coming from somewhere behind me. I turn to my side cautiously and look behind me and see Anna sitting on the ground not too far from me, with her back leaned onto the rugged walls of the cave. Her eyes are closed and her head is tilted back like it’s looking at the sky, and now I recognize what is the source of the noise, she’s humming a very quiet toon.
I slowly sit up, feeling pain shoot through my entire body thanks to this very comfortable floor, and position myself a bit closer to her and just sit there in silence, listening to the toon she’s humming and looking at the sky. At first the melody is unfamiliar, it sounds vaguely like something before our time and it certainly doesn’t have a happy tune to it. But as I keep listening to it I find myself filling in the notes before she even sings them, it’s like I know the song, but from where? I certainly don’t remember hearing it in my time at the ON, but where then? Maybe from back home, but why would I remember something like a random song and yet know so little about my own parents? Damn it, why is everything a blur when I try to remember my past? Did I even have parents? I must have, there’s no way I don’t have parents! Where was I born? It was a small town by the coast, that I’m certain of, but what was it’s name? How long did I live there, did I have friends, what were my hobbies? Why don’t my parents come for me?
In an attempt to block out the sudden torrent of questions, I open my eyes wide and sharply exhale. But what I find in front of me isn’t a sprawling swamp land in the middle of the night, but a clear sky and a wast sea in front of me. I look down and see that I’m sitting on something wooden, a boat most likely, as I look down to my left I hear the same melody that Anna was humming and as I look to my left I see nobody. Instead, after paying closer attention I realize that the sound is coming from the other side of the boat, I stand up and take another look out towards the sea, there appears to be no sign of land or islands anywhere nearby, the one thing that catches me off guard is the sudden strong smell of salty sea water, and fish. After taking into consideration that there’s no safe way off this boat, I take off my knife and slowly approach the edge of what looks like a one man control cabinet, and after a deep breath I poke my eye from around the corner. What I see is two people, one obviously older then the other, maybe in his sixties and the younger one is probably no more then ten, and both of them are faced away from me and towards the sea, with what looks like fishing rods and two buckets half full with fish. After that quick look I slowly move my entire body from around the corner, and I finally realize where the melody is coming from, it sounds like the old man is the one who’s doing it, his voice definitely proves my thought of him being in his sixties, it’s a low, rugged, and rusty voice but surprisingly easy to listen to. The man himself isn’t anything special from the looks of it, plain clothing with a wide straw hat, a small string of smoke rises from above the hat so I presume he’s smoking. The kid on the other hand is more interesting, the clothes are just plain clothing, nothing special about them, but his hair, it’s strangely similar to mine, hell I would even go as far as to say that it’s a carbon copy of mine! Sure it’s a bit rugged and shorter and less kept then mine, but the white roots and the bright pink ends are exactly like my hair, and I’ve never met anyone with that kind of hair colour except for me.
As I approach the two individuals I start to pick up on the lyrics that the older man is singing, something about ‘counting my blessings’ and ‘not leaving that easy’, it sounds so familiar to me for some reason, I know I’ve heard it before but I can’t remember where... mid way I start to feel a weird feeling in my legs, almost like I’m not moving them myself, I look down and my legs are still there and they are moving as they should, but my body feels light and like it’s floating, I look up and for a split second see something that sends a deadly shock straight down my spine.
In a blink of an eye I see a red sea, with upside down sharks and whales and god knows what other monstrosities, all motionless and bleeding. The sky is black with a single radiating red moon shining down onto me, I look down to the two people and see them both with their heads chopped off and each put into the buckets where the fish were. The boat starts to sway uncontrollably and a large tear starts to form going straight down between my legs, that’s when I realize that I’m completely paralyzed and unable to move a single muscle, and as the tear opens up and fills with now crimson water, I see a single spark of bright red light, as an immeasurably large monstrous eye, opens up beneath my feet and a loud mind shattering screech that turns into screaming fills my mind, that’s when I realize... that my own hands are glued to my ears, and the sound of my own screaming filters in as it overtakes my mind, and I fall onto my knees.
My screaming continues long after the vision is gone, until the point where all that’s coming out of my mouth is a failed attempt to produce any noise whatsoever. I drop my head to the wooden floor, still gripping my ears tight, and start to cough and struggle to take in any amount of air for me to breathe normally. After a couple of moments I drop my hands to the ground and catch what little breath I can, my eyes are locked wide open and my jaw refuses to close, trembling uncontrollably after the nightmare it just witnessed alongside my entire body. I slowly regain my ability to breathe normally, and as I do, I swallow all the saliva that has built up and that was falling down my wide open mouth, without moving my head I take a look around, noticing that it’s back to clear skies and blue water. I reluctantly raise my head up inch by inch until I’m able to see the two Individuals, both of which are in the same position with the older guy singing the same song as before like nothing happened. I stare at their backs as I force my body to stumble up onto its feet, and as I do the singing stops, at the same time my whole body freezes once more.
With my eyes locked onto the old man, he slowly turns his head and says in a low voice, “My, what a good looking boy you have become, York.”
It sends shivers down my spine, I try to take a closer look at his face but it’s covered in shadow, but it doesn’t matter as right after he says that he turns around into his previous position. The only word that manages to make it out of my mouth is, “What...”
As I say that I see a shift, a quick shift of colour, of space and time, like a glitch in a game, then another, a different colour this time and more geometrical then the previous one, then again, and again, up until all I see is every colour and every shape and size in every possible dimension of comprehension flashing before my very eyes. Before long I find myself at the edge of the boat with my back pushed up against the railing, with a mind piercing ringing entering through both ears, and without realizing I find myself screaming out into nothingness, “NO, NOT AGAIN, NO!” And then... nothing.
In the darkness that now surrounds me I hear a melody, yeah I know it now, I know it all too well. As I open my eyes I notice that the humming of the song is not coming from my left side like it used to but is now coming straight from me, the melody flawlessly being recited by me. It’s now that I see the open swamp lands and the mountains in the distance, all covered by a bright moonlight night, I look to my left and see Anna staring at me with awe as I continue to sing the toon, that later transitions into lyrics that somehow manage to come out of my mouth, despite me not actually knowing them, right? Or was that...
Despite the horrors that I witnessed not just a second ago, my mind is entirely calm, like none of that ever happened, all I can focus on now is the song and it’s lyrics. Shortly after looking at her, Anna smiles and looks away and towards the swamps and starts singing as well. After a bit of adjusting, our voices finally connect and sing the last part of the song in tandem, as we both look out onto the area below us.
After finishing the song we sit there in silence, one next to another and look out onto the wast lands in front of us. I keep thinking back to what I just witnessed and trying to figure out what that was all about, but my mind just plays it off as nothing noteworthy, like it’s something that I’ve known for a long time and never really forgot. But how can that be? The only memories of my past include my love of rain, and recently remembering that chemistry was one of my hobbies, I don’t remember any boat or open seas or an old man singing the song that I somehow recognize, but my mind keeps telling me that I do, it doesn’t make sense but then again nothing has been making sense for the past week or so.
While in this state of trying to figure out where exactly I lost control of my life, I feel a light touch on my left shoulder that snaps me out of my existential crisis. I look to my left and see Anna with a somewhat worrisome expression on her face, “Hey, you alright? You seemed pretty out of it for a second, and I kinda got a bit worried,” she says.
“Oh yeah, I’m just busy thinking about a lot of things.” I say as I stand up and stretch my body. “Anyway, I think I’m gonna go for a little walk, clear my head for a bit.” And with a forced smile on my face I turn around and start walking down the side of the mountain, using the same way that we got up.
The weather is surprisingly calm, maybe a bit too calm, and looking up at the sky I start to see a wave of dark clouds covering the entire horizon, a picture perfect example of the calm before the storm. Not too long after my descent do I hear quickened footsteps coming from behind me, knowing who it probably is I just keep walking but turn my head to see Anna, who’s now put on a heavy cloak, walking straight towards me.
“I’m just going for a walk. No need to babysit me every second of the day.” I tell her, but without stopping she catches up with me and wraps her arms around my left arm and continues walking forward without saying anything, forcing me to quicken my steps.
“Um... if you want to join me you can always just ask?” I say.
“I want you to come with me, I have to tell you something.” She replies rather quietly, without making any eye contact.
“Oh yeah sure of course, I didn’t plan on doing anything anyways... just you know, wanted to take a nice stroll through the woods, but sure this sounds like loads of fun.” I mumble quickly, kind of hoping she doesn’t hear what I said. But not a second passes before she lets out a sigh, of what I presume, is annoyance at my behaviour, but hey we all have our own flaws.
Rather quickly we reach the bottom of the mountain, not like we were extremely high up anyway, once we do, Anna pulls on my arm to the left and leads me into the forest that surrounds the swap, seemingly knowing where she’s going. A few minutes pass and I’m already confused as all hell surrounded by all of these trees, but Anna keeps going in a single direction without stopping or saying anything. After yet another couple of minutes she slows down a bit, now moving a bit more cautiously, as she does I take a look out in front of us through the darkness, I focus on my right eye and clear out all of the shadows around us, but of course only for me, and a good fifty meters ahead of us I see a small shed of some kind, the roof of it is almost completely caved in and the windows are smashed, but it’s still standing.
“Are we looking for a small shed?” I whisper.
“Yeah, how do you... oh right, you have that eye of yours.” She replies.
“It’s just up ahead, there doesn’t seem to be anybody else around.”
“Perfect, then I guess you can lead the way from here. Why didn’t I think of your eye before? It would have made this so much simpler...” She mumbles to herself.
Guiding us towards the shed we finally make it. Walking around it and to where the door would be, it wasn’t much of a surprise when we found zero traces of a door ever existing in the first place. We both walk in taking a quick glance in the inside, nothing much of note, some long destroyed furniture like a table and a chair, and piles of rubble scattered about. As I’m looking around the interior, Anna goes straight towards a small pile of rubble in the far corner and starts to dig through it.
“So... Any particular reason we came here? This definitely isn’t the nicest spot for a date you know?” I say in a lighter tone, trying to get her to talk about this whole turn of events.
After a bit of silence, apart from the noise of rustling debris, she finally answers, “I’m leaving tonight.”
“Wait, you’re running away?” I ask and start approaching her.
“If it means that I’ll be able to reconnect with my sister and go back to living a normal life.” She says as she stands up now holding a small backpack, and turns to me, “Then yes, I am running.”
“It’s as good a time as any. You know it yourself that the longer we continue with this mission the more likely we are to get killed.” She continues and walks up to me and grabs my right arm with her left. “And I want you to come with me, if we’re together then its more likely we are to get out of this with as little amount of problems as possible.”
“I... I don’t know, I still haven’t figured everything out. I don’t know where I would go, what I would do...”
“That doesn’t matter! You and I will go far away, we would go and get my sister and we would leave this doomed piece of land for good! We will figure things out as we go, so please!” Her grip on my arm tightens. “Please come with me... you’re the only person that I know, the only one I can consider my friend, the only one who can understand me...”
I can see the tears building up in her eyes, she really doesn’t have anybody else but me. How can I just leave? There’s nothing for me out here, whether or not I choose to stay or leave my future stays the same, a freak like me doesn’t have a place to belong. I can’t go with her, I would only slow her down, someone like me is a bright beacon for any ON agents scattered about in the mainland. But on the other hand I want to go with her, I want to stay by her side because she’s the only person I can trust right now, the only one who can help me get out of this madness.
“Tell me just one thing... that man who gave you a chance to escape, what did he say about his last mission?” I ask without looking at her.
“What? I mean, he said that he was sent to hunt down two Users with his small team of two extra guys, and that they got jumped and that they had to kill both of the Users to survive. By the looks of his wounds the fight was probably pretty rough, but why do you want to know?” She answers quizzically.
It’s probably true then... “Did he say if the two Users were twins?” I ask as my expression grows grimmer.
“Um... yeah I think he did mention that... How did you guess? Did you know him?” She asks.
I stay silent for a moment, everything seems to be lining up perfectly. Everything is starting to point to one answer. “Do you know what happened to him?” I ask.
“What happened to him? Wait, did you know him?”
“Just answer my damn question! Do you know anything about what happened to him a couple weeks ago?” I answer sharply and look her directly in the eyes. She jumps a bit due to my sudden tone, but her response is exactly what I guessed it would be, exactly what I have been trying to deny ever since I left for the Sun Valley.
“Last I saw of him was a couple of days before I was sent to the Sun Valley. I was working at my lab and some men in suits brought in a large group of ON agents, told us that they were to be kept there for future testing, and one of those people was that man. Shortly after they were escorted to the holding cell, and I put his name on the...”
Before she finishes her sentence I yank my arm away from her and step back. She stumbles forward but catches herself, I on the other hand am just walking backwards, with eyes glued to the floor. Can’t say I’m surprised... I had a feeling that I was never going to see Captain again, and yet my body still refuses to accept reality, while my mind has accepted the notions a while ago. I feel my body making every step backwards with each step becoming heavier and heavier, but my head feels lighter then ever, after a couple of steps I end up hitting a wall and as I do my legs simply give out and I slide down to the floor.
My head doesn’t think anything, it’s like the nightmare I experienced before is finally catching up with me, my throat is dry, unable to make any sound, my eyes are unblinking and unable to shed a single tear. Is this it? Is my body finally refusing to keep going? If so, then good riddance, I’m sick of this miserable existence anyway. Now I’m all alone, again, feels like I’m reliving that night that made me into this, all alone in the woods, with no one to help me or to hear my pitiful screams for help...
“York? What’s going on?” Anna asks with a shaky voice, but I barely hear it as now most of the nose around me has become dull and hollow. “Oh no... no, it can’t be...” She falls to her knees and breaks down in tears. “I’m sorry... I’m so sorry... I didn’t know...”
What are you sorry for? For sending Captain to be experimented on like some lab monkey or a rat? You had nothing to do with his death or anything in regards to it. Captain knew what he was doing, he knew the risks, he gave his life for a chance that we get ours back, so get back on your feet and brush yourself off and go, be free... Well, that’s what I would say if I was able to... My throat is dry to the point where it hurts to even breathe, let alone speak or weep for the death of the only person who treated me like a human, the only person I could rely on, the person who is now dead because of me...
My eyes are too heavy for me to move them, but for some reason they start going down, shifting my gaze to my lap, where I find the envelope that Captain gave me gripped hard by my two ice cold hands. What’s in this envelope I wonder... do I even have the strength to open it, do I have the courage? Did he give this to Anna as well? I look up towards Anna who is on her knees with her head tucked towards her chest and covered by her hands, still in the middle of a breakdown. By no input of my own my body stands up and walks over to Anna, kneeling down next to her and putting my hand on her trembling shoulder.
“Go.” I say, with no emotion or thought behind the words. “Go as far as you can, and leave all of this behind you. I’ll find you once I’m done here.”
She weakly looks up at me with her now puffy red face that’s covered in tears, and with a barely audible voice says, “What?”
I stand up, still not fully in control of my body but now accepting the necessary actions its taking, and start to make my way out of the shed. As I’m walking, behind me I can hear the sobbing voice of Anna who I left on the ground in tears, saying, “York! Please don’t go... don’t leave me...”
As I start to make my way out of the shed, without turning back or saying a single word, I listen as the last of Anna’s words hit my ears, “Please don’t leave me alone! I need you, I can’t do this alone... York...”
I slowly retrace my steps back through the forest and up the mountain path, not thinking about anything in particular but also remembering all the events that lead to this point, all the pain and confusion, the tears and blood, the mystery of it all, maybe never to be solved. That might be for the best, forget about everything, leave it all behind and start anew. I mean at the end of the day, I’m just another freak in the freak kingdom...
Before I realize it I have already made it to the cave in which we set up camp, the zealous fuck is asleep, thank god, and taking a closer look I do see a distinct lack of any of Anna’s stuff, it was most likely taken by her. Doesn’t matter now, I do feel bad for leaving her in that state all alone, but it was for her own good, I wouldn’t have been of any help to her anyways, though what I meant when I said that ‘I’ll find her once I’m done here,’ I still have zero idea, it just came out of my mouth and I just went with it, either way she’s better off without me but who knows, maybe down the line if I’m still alive I could go look for her, apologize for what I’ve done and maybe make amends. But anyway I feel exhausted, well I don’t necessarily ‘feel’ anything right now and that includes my body, the fact that I got all the way up here is a pure fucking miracle, but still I can imagine how it will feel once I’m back in control, so I think I deserve a good nights rest.
As I close my eyes and let my mind completely shut down, one last line echos through my thoughts, “I’m sorry Anna... Please be safe.”
. . .
Darkness. The dreams I have usually start and end in darkness, and this one is no different by the looks of it, another dark and empty night, or so I thought. A faint red glow catches my attention, it’s coming from behind me, slowly glowing brighter and brighter. I turn around to find a familiar crimson red star floating right behind me, it stands there all alone with nobody but me by it’s side, quite a sad existence but who am I to talk... I’m exactly like this little star, a singular beacon glowing in the sea of darkness and shadow, for good or worse? Who can tell at this point... Everyone is capable of destroying the world, killing everyone and bringing on the end, but at the same time there are people, maybe not a lot of them, but there are people who can save this world, stop the brutal bloodletting and free us all from the pain and suffering that we fell each passing day.
Who am I? Will I bring destruction and death to the world, or am I one of the people who will save it, if not directly then at least assist the one that would. I can’t say for certain, nobody can, but all we can do is just wait and see. I reach out my hand and touch the crimson star, it feels warm to the touch, a warmth that I haven’t felt in a while, it feels... comforting. But no good thing lasts forever, as I hold the star in my right hand it begins to grow brighter and brighter, not changing colour but intensifying the crimson glow that it originally had. It becomes warmer to the touch, and warmer and warmer, until the idea of holding onto it any further is impossible, but I push on, girting my teeth I hold on because I know what it’s like to be alone, to be the only one of your kind, no matter how flawed you are or how undeserving of life you may be, I know what it’s like to be the only light in the sea of darkness, whether it’s for better or worse. That’s why I’ll hold on, even if it means enduring the pain and baring the burden of another, I don’t care because I know what it’s like, and if I can help someone like that by holding on, then so be it, I don’t care if my hand gets singed or if my entire body burns up alive, because I’m not giving up on a star, no matter how flawed it may be, no matter how sad and desperate it may be, I will be by its side till the bitter end.
Through the searing pain I hear a voice, a female voice, one that I haven’t heard before, it cries out to me with it’s last remnants of power, and hope. It screams a powerful cry that soon becomes the tears of a losing battle, “I’m not done! I will not let it end like this! I can’t lose now, not after everything I’ve done! Not after everything he’s done, I can’t... I can’t let his death be in vain...”
The intense crimson glow slowly fizzles out until there’s nothing left in my hand, I take a look at it and to my surprise it’s clean, no scorch marks or blood, just my hand and nothing more. That’s when I start to hear rain, I look up and all I see is darkness, but bellow me raindrops hit the ground as if I was standing on water, it sings me a story one of a hero, the one who will save us... now I understand, now I see what must be done. I’m not the hero of this story, not by a long shot, but I do now understand my role, I understand my position in the story that is to come. The story of a hero, of his allies, of his enemies... It is not a story that has a happy ending. It is a story of a hero and his allies, who will die in the dark, so that everyone else can live in the light.