6 Months Prior
Drenched in cold sweat, Nora was ripped away from her nightmare as she awakened with a start. Lovely way to start the day, she lamented sardonically, sighing in resignation at the fact that her meds were doing little to nothing to rid her of her recurring nightmares. It was times like these that she couldn’t help but feel that weekly sessions with a shrink were nothing but a waste of time and money that she desperately needed. She chewed on the skin of her dried lips in irritation―a habit that she had picked up at an early age, of which she was never able to rid herself of. Taking in a deep breath, she slowly counted to ten.
Blinking a few times after realizing that she’d spent a great amount of time staring at her ceiling, Nora quickly rose out of bed. Swinging her legs on the ground and standing up at once, she cringed at her own idiocy within seconds of doing so. Immediately, her vision blackened and her body swayed as a result of having stood up too fast. Straightening back up once the wave of dizziness had passed, Nora walked towards her window, pulling open the blinds to reveal a clear view of the forest behind the house.
The sun had begun to emerge. Squinting out into the brightly lit scenery, Nora took in the view. Autumn had always been her favorite season. The leaves changed a whole spectrum of colors and the temperature was never too cold or too hot. Tearing her eyes away from the view she moved to her closet.
Choosing a simple white long sleeved that fit loosely along with an old pair of well worn jeans, Nora started towards her bathroom, laying her clothes out on the bed along the way.
Once she’d brushed her teeth, Nora then proceeded to strip off her clothing before hopping in the shower.
“Damn!” Nora released a string of curses under her breath as a stream of ice cold water blasted out of the shower head.
“Robyn! Diana! Who the hell used up all the hot water, god damnit ?” she yelled out in frustration.
“No one! Landlady came by yesterday and turned off the boiler. Said we were using too much hot water.” Diana hollered from the room next door.
“Fuck,” Nora groaned in disbelief.
After having made sure to scrub her body thoroughly, the aggrieved female pattered onto the cold marble flooring. Dashing towards her bed with chattering teeth, she hurriedly tossed on her clothes. Tucking the white blouse into her pants, she then attempted to half-assedly run a comb through the tangled mess of dark brown hair on her head only to give up halfway in exasperation. Unplugging her night light on the way out, Nora trudged down the stairs and into the kitchen.
Tossing on a faded apron, Nora wasted no time in getting straight to work. The kitchen was her territory. This had become a nonverbal agreement amongst the housemates once they had realized that none of them possessed an affinity towards cooking aside from Nora. As a result, Nora ended up taking care of most meals and had no qualms in doing so —as long as the others covered the weekly grocery expenses, that is.
It seemed like it was just yesterday when the old high school friends had resolved to all move in together. It was not long after her father had passed away that Nora Lucile Castro found herself having a difficult time in making ends meet after having practically become a single mother to her own sibling almost overnight. Had Robyn and Diana not proposed the idea of cohabitation, Nora honestly wouldn’t know where she’d be by now. A high school dropout raising her kid sibling with very little income flowing in —she would’ve certainly ended up homeless at some point.
Wrapping up breakfast, she turned off the stove and carefully placed a lid on the pan. Trotting up the stairs, Nora slowly crept towards the adjoining room to her own. Opening the door to the blue room that belonged to her younger sibling, Nora was unable to hold back the smile that broke through at the sight of her sibling’s tiny frame all bundled up in her thick woolly blanket with her long wavy tresses spooled around her small figure.
Nora crouched at the side of the bed, prepared to nudge the eight year old awake, when a cyan colored orb popped open and stared at her lazily.
“Morning,” Samantha grumbled at the sight of her family’s eldest child gleaming at her with a broad smile that extended from ear to ear, so early in the morning.
“Morning Sammie,” Nora chuckled softly. “You planning to get ready for school anytime soon? That is, before your breakfast gets cold?”
“Crap! I... overslept again didn’t I?” she exclaimed irritably as she finally opened both of her eyes.
“Yup.” Nora deadpanned, unable to hide the smugness that laced her words.
“Well, I’m glad you find my misery amusing,” she intoned dryly, scowling at her elder sibling in blatant displeasure.
Nora’s grin only widened at that. Samantha propped herself up and proceeded to childishly stick her tongue out at Nora; an act that clashed against the rather eloquent use of language she’d utilized not even moments earlier―which far exceeded the vocabulary of most children her age.
Lifting herself up slowly as she crawled out of bed, Sam shot Nora one last glare before making her way into her bathroom.
“Seems like someone’s a little grumpy. How about we make another bet? If you can somehow manage to wake up early tomorrow, I’ll consider letting you raid that cafe you like so much sometime this week!” Nora teased, chuckling from behind until Samantha slammed the door in her face. Shaking her head Nora walked out of the room still laughing to herself.
Minutes later, Sam walked down the stairs, plopping down right in between Robyn and Diana, both of which had already begun scarfing down their eggs like starved wolves, without any regard towards basic table manners. Nora served her sister a plate before finally settling down to eat her own meal. The loud chattering of the four females filled the house and as they finished up their meal, Nora collected the dishware and placed it in the sink. Leaving the cleaning up to Robyn and Diana, she hurriedly grabbed her long coat along with her car keys, with Sam following in suit. The fallen leaves crunched beneath their feet as they walked towards the car.
Tossing her bag in the passenger seat and buckling her seatbelt on, Nora reminded Sam to do the same before backing out of the driveway and heading towards Sam’s school.
Upon their arrival, Nora parked out right in front of the building and couldn’t help but poke fun at Sam one last time.
“Hey Sammie! Don’t forget, Danny’s eighth birthday party is next week! I already rsvp’d to his mom that you’ll be there. You did lose the bet after all,” she grinned triumphantly as Sam got out of the car.
“Bye Nora!” Sam rolled her eyes as she walked away from the car. Nora smiled as she watched her little sister swing her school bag over her shoulder and enter the building. Taking a deep breath before starting up the car again, she turned the radio on, mindlessly flipping through a few stations before randomly sticking with one. Turning up the volume, Nora tuned in and paid close attention to what was being said.
“New reports state that the bodies found contain multiple lacerations, having been carved unknown symbols onto. The authorities are still trying to decipher the meaning of these acts and whether there is a possibility that the designs themselves are meant to convey some sort of point. So far no evidence of these symbols having any sort of significance has been found. The uncertainty of these acts of manslaughter being caused by an individual killer or group, has many at unease.
“Local civilians are becoming more insecure and now prohibit their children from roaming the streets unsupervised. The body count has slowly been rising in the past weeks and many are even debating the idea of these acts as being part of some sort of cult ritual or the possibility of them having been attacks from terrorist groups originating from the second plane. The authorities are now advising people to avoid-”
Nora turned the radio off as paranoia began to creep into the edges of her mind.
Two days from now, marked two hundred years that had passed since the Great Revelation. And it certainly was not a biblical revelation that’s for certain. Prior to the Great Revelation, humanity believed that earth was home to the only intelligent life forms capable of higher thinking that existed in the universe. To their misfortune―unsurprisingly―it had later been proven that humans had simply been naive and arrogant with this assumption. Not much was known about the other worlds but from what Nora knew, in this universe there existed a total of five planes.
The worlds coexisted within the same universe, oblivious to one another preceding the Great Revelation—each plane located where humanity’s earth resided, only intangible and completely invisible to the others. Frankly, Nora always found the concept of other dimensions rather confusing, and it didn’t help that she never really paid much attention in either history or the science courses offered back in high school.
To put it simply, although only the second plane out of all five, of which is home to the world known as ‘kailohk,’ had had contact with humanity, it took nearly seventy years for the Treaty of World Passage to be put into place. Humans by nature are skeptical creatures and have always feared the unknown, ergo when it was discovered that there were other highly intelligent beings that existed in the universe of unknown origins that could potentially pose a threat to mankind, well… there were definitely varying reactions. Consequently, it took more than half a century for humanity to come to terms with said fact and acquiesce to the cooperation with the second plane in order to enact interplanetary laws that would protect the interests of both planets earth and kailohk.
Once she’d entered the parking lot, Nora made sure to park far away from other vehicles as she usually did in order to avoid the chance of someone accidentally scratching her car—not that her primordial Volkswagen didn’t have its fair share of battle wounds already. Stepping out of the vehicle, Nora trekked across the parking lot, passing by a group of youth that were failing at their attempt to discreetly smoke pot. She shriveled her nose in disgust at the scent of it and spared no efforts in moving faster to get away from the stench.
Releasing a puff of air in relief as she entered the building, Nora was glad she had made it to work on time for once. Weaving through the large crowds, she made her way to her cubicle, opening the top drawer to drop her bag inside whilst making sure to take out her keys and cellphone. Placing the items inside her coat pocket, she turned on her computer screen, praying that she could make it through the day without getting an aneurysm. Clocking in, Nora geared up and adjusted her headset, hoping that Mr. Sullyvan wouldn’t choose today of all days to call her out. Admittedly, it probably wasn’t the best move for Nora―who had the shortest attention span known to mankind―to be working in a call center for a financial group of all places. Furthermore, it had become a well-known fact that she wasn’t exactly the best at dealing with callers in the office. Frankly, even Nora herself was aware that it wouldn’t be long before she found herself out of a job and as of late had even begun to consider her options.
Her coworkers had all arrived and had already gotten to work when Mr. Sullyvan finally made his appearance in the office. While taking calls, Nora had begun to unconsciously gaze at the digital clock that hung on the far end wall, watching as minutes passed by, her mind drifting, as the old lady on the other side of the line continued to drone on and on about her four cats. She then began to wonder how things would have panned out had she attended college or at the very least had strived to finish her education and attain a high school diploma.
Although she had been a year older than her classmates at the time, Nora did have decent enough grades to have gotten into college―despite barely passing calculus. However, with her mother’s pregnancy and relapse, Nora ended up being left with no choice but to drop out during her senior year and help her dad out with his carpentry business at the young age of nineteen. Not that it mattered, seeing as how they ultimately ended up having to pull out a second mortgage on their house just to pull through.
Shortly after her dad successfully managed to drink himself to death― five years after their mother’s passing during labor―Nora was no longer able to keep both the business and her childhood home afloat. As a result, she was forced to sell the house and move in with her close friends Robyn and Diane. Legal guardianship of Sam went to Nora and her maternal grandmother ended up being placed in a retirement home, seeing as Nora couldn’t handle taking care of her on top of having to raise her sister all on her own. This, undoubtedly, worked out quite well for both parties seeing as how neither of the two siblings had ever really gotten along well with the old woman and the old woman herself didn’t seem to reserve any kind feelings towards her granddaughters in turn either.
Although Nora felt guilty at times to feel this way about her own grandmother, for some reason she’d always felt that there was something a bit off about the elderly woman. It wasn’t that she ever treated her granddaughters badly, it just had to deal with the way she carried herself. As if she were just a distant memory of a person she once was. There were times when the girls would catch her in a state of nostalgia, almost as though she was trying to remember something that she’d lost long ago.
It was this emotional detachment that made her aloofness all the more evident. Hence, Nora would easily become agitated when around her because of the mere fact that she could never figure the woman out. The sisters didn’t really know much about her either because whenever either sibling would attempt to start a conversation with their grandmother, she would usually end up shutting them out by answering brusquely, rarely going into depth about anything.
A loud bang startled Nora out of her thoughts, snapping her back to reality.