You cry out in pain, throwing the shield as far and as hard as you can, hearing it knock against the one of the identical walls of coding that surround you. You kneel over, clutching your stomach as if you might vomit. The shield mocks you, as you believe it always has. You try to work up the nerve to mock it back, but only empty curses slip past your lips.
You are in exactly the same place you started. The same four walls. The same emptiness. The same lack of memory. Only, now you know loss and it is deafening. You think now would be a good time to lie down. To never get up again. The thought is sweet to your ears, almost drowning out the sound of loss but not quite, like trying to erase the odor of something pungent by placing flower petals on it.
You see the Shield in the corner and wish to throw the object again when it begins to glow. You think it is trying to give you a message.
You lean closer, and listen.
“Aren’t you going to leave too?” Myos asked quietly, averting his gaze from the other green eyed man. His hands wanted to rise instinctively to lightly touch the casings of his headphones but he quelled the urge and looked up to Zeke again.
“Why?” Zeke asked, quirking a thin brow. “I have no desire to get lost in this citadel by myself.”
Myos’s lips curled upward slightly. Knowing this man for as long as he had, he knew that was as close as he was going to get to any sort of affirmation of friendship from the person who had always been there for him since childhood despite their ups and downs and completely dissimilar personalities. “Well, don’t go thinking I want your ass slowing me down.”
“Same goes to you,” Zeke replied with a slight smirk, and then the two lightly tapped their knuckles together, shining silver thumb rings flashing in the unnatural purple light.
Even though he had someone by his side, the crushing weight of despair starting to nestle itself in his chest, and Myos could feel himself slipping into that pitch black dimension again. His entire team had left him. He was alone. The air was heavy with guilt of the things he must’ve done wrong to drive the people with whom he thought their bond was forged in fire. The outline of the cold star on the back of his neck prickled and burn. His stomach turned. His fists clenched.
Myos couldn’t breathe.
You are Alone.
The mocking words once again flicked across the front of his screen, and even though they were inches from touching his face he felt like they were driving into his skull and infecting his system like some sort of computer virus.
Myos couldn’t breathe.
He was alone.
He was -
“Myos?” A voice beyond the lithe young man’s sensory perception called.
Voice? How could there be a voice here, he was -
“Myos?” The voice called again, echoing with the reverb of a bullet ricocheting around a tightly compacted space creating a clang clang clang that shook his brain.
Go away, Myos called mentally to whatever voice was trying to summon him. Just go away I want to be -
“Myos, get a fucking grip!” The voice called, louder now. Angrier. More urgent. This time the voice was accompanied with a pain that rippled across his cheek and through his teeth and crashing through whatever glass had held him beneath the black murky water.
The glass shattered and Myos reached his hand upward through the scattered pieces, catching glimpses and reflections of the past.
“Zeke, what do you think is out there?” Myos asked, the young boy pressed against the glass pane of the view to the only thing they had ever seen outside since childhood. The vastness of space littered with glowing lights of the cosmos, a world so close yet so unknown to the two children. Myos brushed back the untamable fuzz of his wild red hair so he could get a better view of the glittering stars, pressing even closer and holding the oversized headphones on his head so they wouldn’t fall off yet again - he really needed to buy ones that fit.
“Stars, duh,” Zeke rolled his eyes, the boy with shaggy hair the color of a raven’s feathers replied, playing off his interest with nonchalance as normal.
“Don’t be dumb, Zeke, there has to be something after that,” the small young boy retorted, pouting. His parents never told him about the world out there, but Zeke heard from his parents and relayed the information about the Earth they used to live on. The sweeping fields and glittering oceans, palettes of color instead of the coldness that now lay outside the wide window to a world he longed to know yet desired to escape from. “Anything.”
“I highly doubt it,” Zeke scoffed, turning up his button nose. “But if there is - on that way off chance, Myos, we’ll find it okay?” The taller boy’s eyes glittered much like the stars, giving off the same look that his friend sometimes got in his brilliant green eyes - color so similar, yet a shade so different.
“I’ll hold you to that, buddy.” Myos laughed as they scampered away from the window, will all the innocence and bliss a young child should possess.
Like a kaleidoscope, the focus of the glass shifted in the murky water, like a path illuminating his exit.
“I swear, it was huge!” The gangly middle schooler exclaimed, waving his lanky arms that he had not yet grown into controlling. Myos had all the awkwardness that one expected to experience at his age and his shocking red hair that erupted from his scalp with no rhyme or reason just added to the already present factors.
“Don’t lie to me, birds don’t get that big,” Zeke sneered, arms crossed tight to his chest. Muscle had started to develop, so he was caught in the phase between losing his baby fat and gaining the muscle of an adult, leaving him just as awkward as the other. “Everybody knows that. You always have these outlandish stories, it’s dumb. You’re just being dumb.”
Brushing the fiery locks out of his face - maybe one day he would cut the darn stuff - for the umpteenth time, a knowing look fell onto the lanky boys face. “But how often am I right?”
“That doesn’t make you right this time,” Zeke said pointedly, huffing. Just then, a loud screech sounded overhead and they looked towards the artificial heavens to see a bird with a wingspan larger than their bodies fly above them, back to its owner’s living pod. The avian flew with majesty and grace, seeming unreal to the two boys watching below.
Myos looked at his best friend with a goofy, triumphant grin eating his face, glad to be right again.
The glass felt like it was piercing through him, driving straight through to the other side and propelling him upwards.
“Zeke! Check out what my mom got me for my birthday!” Myos called, running over to meet his friend outside the tall building erected in the center area of the Astraia’s cityscape to serve as an educational center for the youth. The two were on their first day of what was referred to most as high school, only four more years remaining until they were free to go about their lives however they wanted.
“It’s not another game is it? We haven’t even played through the other one yet,” Zeke replied, shaking his head and disturbing the long crow’s feather locks. He had cut his hair in middle school and despised it, so the shaggy look from his childhood was once again adorned on his scalp.
“No, it’s not,” Myos said sheepishly, the other knowing all too well his obsession with the latest games. He awkwardly fingered his own shorn locks, getting tired of always having to tie it back during all the running around they did when they gamed, so he finally cut the red tresses to just an inch in length. “It’s kind of for both of us.”
“Well, what is it?” Zeke asked, trying to hide his excitement. Though they fought often, they never really meant it for long, and had basically always been best friends.
Myos reached into his pockets and pulled out two sleek thumb rings, both a shimmering silver. A small star adorned both of them; with opposite sides engraved so that it was obvious the star fragments meant to join to make a whole. “Best friends forever, dude,” Myos laughed, punching the other’s arm lightly after handing him the ring.
“Only if you stop cheating off of my tests,” Zeke snorted and placed the ring on with a bit of quiet reverence.
“Never, that’s what best friends do!” The red haired boy replied, grinning widely.
The glass flew by him faster, shards and pieces of broken memories flitting much faster than they should in a suspended state like the crushing water Myos was in. Though, the pressure seemed to be grower lighter, and the cold around him became warmer.
“Really? You’re gonna just up and fucking do that?” Myos spat, throwing his headphones down in a tic most often associated when he lost a gaming campaign. “I thought we were gonna be partners? We can’t enter gaming leagues without a partner, you know that!”
“I’m not just ‘up and leaving you’ I’m doing something more with my life, Myos. I’m not going to be a bum like you, drifting through life,” Zeke said, not backing down in his choice. His hair now sported a two toned undercut, groomed back smartly because not but ten minutes ago the two had been attending their high school graduation where Zeke had been announced as Valedictorian as well as one of the lucky few who had been accepted to start training to become a guard in the Empress’s force. The honor was prestigious and set for only a select few; if Zeke became a guard he would never have to worry about his living conditions or anything at all really, something that had never been afforded to him. Though social class wasn’t as rampant as a distinguishing factor as it had been back on Earth so says his parents, those who worked as government officials were better taken care of.
“You’re such a traitor, we planned to do this all through high school and now you’re just gonna walk away?” Myos said angrily, bunching his hands into fists. Is this why the other had become more distant, provoking these obnoxious fights? To lessen the blow when he up and left him? The red head - hair steadily growing back - threw a wild punch which the other dodged easily due to the fact there was no real effort behind it.
“I’m not a traitor. I’m making my choice and this is it,” Zeke stated simply. “If I have the time we can still game together.”
“Thanks for the effort, don’t hurt yourself though,” Myos spat quietly, quickly losing his outward venom, instead it all built inside. A tension that would always be wormed between the two, which would never go away.
A large pointed memory pierced his chest, illuminating the water around him for the briefest moment.
“You idiot, I’ll always be there!” Zeke yelled, his usually calm demeanor broken for once. A winged heart pin now adorned his lapel, but the silver ring still found its home on the man’s thumb.
“What do you mean?” Myos scoffed, “You left to join the Empress’s bitches.”
“We’re always going to be friends you idiot, whether you like it or not,” Zeke said, calmly at first before balling his fist and pulling back before the fire maned young man had time to react. “Myos, get a fucking grip!”
The fist connected hard in his jaw, knocking him out of his idiocy like Myos liked to think he had done with Zeke hundreds of times before. The blow smarted where it had hit, but Myos was left smiling like an idiot.
Thoughts and memories erupted to the surface of the water, flashes of smiling children and fights, and heartache, and scary stories, and adventures, and all the things that came with growing up flooding like a current through his mind until one image was left in perfect clarity to stand out amidst the spray and foam.
I am not Alone.