Man of Time

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Chapter 12- What We Become

“SALENA!” Edith wailed, vines wrapping around the women’s neck til she fell.

Edith sank to the ground. Eyes locked on the official’s unconscious body. Trevor’s dead body laid still against the pavement. A bullet engraved into his skill… His soulless gaze burned into my memory.

I- I should have been faster. Should have saved him. If I wasn’t so focused on Ralph, I could have made it in time.

But instead, I was staring at a corpse…

“We need to leave.” Edith mumbled.

“What about Trevor?” Ralph looked to him with uneasiness.

An numbing silence fell over the three of us as we stared, “There’s nothing we can do now.”

Edith sighed, shifting her attention back to the official. She crawled to her, sliding her shaky hands around the unconscious woman. Expressing a broken smile, Edith unwrapped her silky blue scarf from her neck. Her coarse hands delicately draping it over the official’s hair.

Ralph took this moment to check on me, “Are you okay?”

I nodded, my vision glued to Trevor’s paled face. I felt, sick. My stomach hollowing from the inside out.

“What do we do now?” Ralph asked.

Edith stood up, lifting the woman with her, “I have a plan…”

***

“She knew her name.”

We stood in the factory. Ralph and I had pushed our awkwardness aside to support each other on more pressing issues. Edith had decided to bring this “Salena” with us. And was currently downstairs taking care of her. We, no... Edith had decided to leave Trevor in the alley. With a bullet in his head…

“How is that even possible?” I asked Ralph, sitting on the couch.

“I have no idea. Edith hasn’t mentioned a ‘Salena’. Granted, she’s not exactly talkative.” Ralph shrugged, now in his wheelchair.

As our conversation continued, small footsteps stomped up the stairs. Helda came marching up, dressed in fashionable clothes with her phone in hand.

“You guys good?”

“There was an alert earlier, and we went to investigate.” Ralph informed.

“And…?”

“The corporation was there. And they shot him.” Flashes of Trevor’s body clouded my vision.

“Holy shit.” Helda froze, her jaw hung open. “Do you guys need anything?” She sat herself beside me.

“No, but thanks.” Ralph shook his head.

Helda’s concerned stare fell to me, “Raymond?”

“Yes. I’m alright.” I forced a grin.

“Where’s Edith?” Helda peered in the kitchen, and around the hall.

“She’s downstairs, with the corporate official.”

Helda’s eyes shot open, expressing disbelief in Ralph’s statement, “What do you mean?!”

“Edith recognized her. She knew her name. ‘Salena’. Have you ever heard her mention her?”

Helda’s back sank into the couch, “No, Edith wouldn’t tell me anything even if I tried...”

A wholesome laugh disrupted our somber remarks, echoing from the stairs. Ralph’s face wrinkled in delight as we both recognized it as Blake’s voice. We faced the stairs where Blake, Catori, and Bhaskar were carrying bags of groceries. Erupting in laughter after a comment Blake had made. They saw us seated in the living room a couple of feet away, and greeted us as they passed.

Blake’s care free attitude shifted when they passed us. Halting in their tracks and overstimulated the emotions circling the room. They handed their bags to Bhaskar and asked us what was wrong.

I wanted to explain, but my body shut down. I picked at my nails, trying to maintain my grip on reality. Ralph spoke for us, and informed them of the new Forgotten. This attracted Bhaskar and Catori’s attention, leading them to join the circle. And right before Ralph continued the story, Edith entered from the stairs.

“Edith?” I spoke softly.

“Dear, what happened?” Catori’s gentle tone joined Edith’s side.

“Where’s the Forgotten?” Blake asked.

Edith ignored all of us. Her dried eyes staring blankly across our concerned faces.

“He was killed.” I said.

The others gasped, turning back to Edith for a reaction. But she gave none. Which led Ralph to speak for her. “We brought the official with us. She’s here.”

“Why the hell would you do that??” Blake bickered, folding their arms.

Edith remained muted as her gaze traveled to Ralph and I. Mouth parted for words that would not come. Her eyes fell to Catori, who stood beside her. Shaking her head with tears glossing her sight.

“... It’s Salena.” Edith’s voice cracked.

Catori’s composure melted. That name meant something to her too… Catori’s eyes filled with tears as she engulfed Edith in a hug. Her head rested below Catori’s chin. Sobbing into her chest. Catori stared off into the distance where she too began to cry.

“Where is she?” Catori pulled away, her arms still clutched to Edith’s.

An emptiness consumed Edith’s sharp features, “She’s tied up downstairs. I- I didn’t know what else to do.”

“That lady could be a spy!” Helda spoke out, her normal teenage tone being inappropriate in this moment, “We have someone from the corporation right under our noses and we aren’t doing anything about it?!”

“Helda, some respect. Please.” Ralph scolded.

“She’s not just anyone.” Catori responded.

Blake’s shoulders rested, “I know she means a lot to you, but is it the wisest choice to keep her here?”

“Where else would we take her?” Ralph commented.

Blake tapped their bicep, analysing the situation, “You asked me if I could restore people’s memories… I can’t make any promises, but, I can try to trigger something that’ll remind her of who she is.” They suggested to Edith.

Catori’s somber expression turned to Edith, “It’s worth a shot.”

“...Okay.” Edith nodded.

“I’m going to need one of you to help me.”

“I’ll do it.” Edith let go of Catori, “I need a drink first.”

“No.” Catori grabbed her arm.

A deep sigh escaped Edith’s lips, “Please… I don’t know what to do.” She begged.

“You’re not seeing her unless you’re sober,” Catori whispered, “I’ll go with Blake, why don’t you take a moment to unwind. I can come get you when we’re finished.” She coaxed, holding Edith’s hand.

“Okay.”

Once Blake, Catori, and Edith dispersed, the rest of us started dinner. Soon eating in silence as we digested today’s events.

My stomach turned, twisting my fork at a full plate. Any food I managed to eat reminded me of my failure. I wasn’t hungry. And I didn’t deserve to eat either.

Overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts, I stood up, taking my plate to the kitchen so I could distance myself from the others. Walking out, Catori appeared from the corner of my vision.

She came from the stairs. “Is everything okay?” Ralph braced his chair.

Catori paused before responding, “We thought she was dead.”

“Who was she?” Helda leaned on the table.

“Salena was one of Edith’s closest friends before the Lothar Corporation slaughtered us like pigs.” Catori’s bitter tone faded as she continued, “The sweetest person I’ve had the honor of knowing. Not an ounce of bitterness in her heart… She always brightened Edith’s days. Honestly, I was a bit envious of her.”

“Why…? Oh! Were they secret lovers?!”

“Helda…” Ralph glared.

“What?” Catori blushed, “Oh, no. Edith was dating the leader of the Forgotten before I arrived. His name was Horus. He died alongside the others when we stood against Alexander. Edith watched the people she loved most die in the hands of the corporation that day.”

Both Helda and Ralph crossed their arms, looking away to reflect the tragic information. Something appeared on Helda’s face that I had never seen before; Guilt. Crawling up her throat and clouding her rationale. Her usual care free attitude consumed by grief. I’ve never seen her so empathetic… I suppose I had misjudged her compassion…

“And what about you?” I asked.

“I had only been there for two and a half months. Edith was leading my rescue team, that’s how I met her. Back then, the corporation was worse at time travel than they are now. People would be found throughout the states. There used to be enough people to run a full scale operation right here in Brooklyn. There used to be a base in England, but it was destroyed before I arrived. That’s where Edith came and trained before they were forced to seek refuge in America.”

“There was another base?” Ralph turned.

Catori nodded, “The corporation bombed it. It was the only other formalized place for Forgotten to go. There were other places, with around 20-40 people in Seattle, Denver, Fortworth I believe... But I’m talking hundreds of us, just…”

“That’s awful…” I said.

Catori gave a reluctant nod, “Edith has experienced much death in her time here. You must forgive her for her cold behavior, she just wants the best for us all.”

“Why hasn’t she said anything?” Ralph slouched against his chair.

“Because the past is difficult to visit. You’re reminded of what you were, rather than who you’ve become.”

I can’t do this…

Whatever sentences followed Catori’s, I could not hear. All comprehensive noises blurred as my body gasped for fresh air. Gripping onto the stair’s rails, I clawed my way to the roof. Shoving the door open frantically. The cold air embraced my skin, grounding me to reality. It’s chilly aroma slithering down my throat. Exhaling my negativity into the open air.

I centered around every physical sensation I could grasp. The air. My sweater. The soles of my feet pressing into the ground with every step. Now I stood at the edge of the roof, hands clinging to the freezing rails. I shifted my hands, feeling the inconsistencies in the metal, trying to ease my thoughts.

“Hey…”

A voice drew my attention, the sound of the door closing behind it. I sighed, exhaling deeply before turning around.

Ralph stood shly on the other end of the building. Hands clasped within themselves. His limp was more noticeable than usual. The toll of today weighing heavily on his body in more ways than one.

“Hey.”

He joined me by the railing, glancing off into the distance, “What are you doing up here? It’s kind of cold.”

“I know.” I stared at my freezing hands, “I wanted some fresh air.”

Ralph tilted his head with a tiny smile formed around his lips, “You know, I’m not an empath, but I can tell when something’s bothering you.”

“We have spent too much time together.” I laughed, shaking away a stray tear.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.” He smirked, “Would you like to talk about it? Only if you’re comfortable.” His soft tone encouraged vulnerability.

“I always heard stories, or known people who have been killed by gun violence. Or just violence. I never thought I would experience it. You hear these horrors, and pray they aren’t true. And you can’t imagine it being true until it happens to you.”

The glow in Ralph’s eyes faded, “I’ve felt that before.” Haunted by his subconscious, “My dad, he’d tell me awful things. And I didn’t want to think it was true until I saw it with my own eyes. No one should have to see that.”

“I could have saved him.”

“What do you mean?” Ralph asked.

“I could have saved him!” I repeated.

“We were dealing with our own fight, and Edith had made it clear she wanted to handle Salena on her own…”

“I should have been faster.” I gasped. “Stronger.”

“Ray, calm down, please.”

Tears consumed my sight, “If only I trained more. Not have been so slow.” My lungs screamed for air.

“Raymond.” Ralph grasped my shoulders, his facing hovering close to mine before pulling me into a hug.

THUMP THUMP. I melted into his embrace. Hot tears trickling down my complexion. Arms wrapped tightly around him. His warmth felt nice. Safe. And for a brief moment, I could put aside my burdens as he held me.

“It’s not your fault, okay? We did the best we could.” He pulled away, his left hand still resting on my shoulder.

“We should probably go back inside.” I admitted, wiping away tears with my sleeve.

“Only if you’re ready to.” He acknowledged, waiting for me to move first.

“Thank you.” I smiled before heading inside.

Entering the top floor, most of the group had dispersed. Catori and Edith were the only ones left, whispering among themselves. Our movement caught Edith’s attention, leading her to make her way over to us.

“Can I speak with you?” She asked me, gesturing away from Ralph.

“Yes.” I shivered.

Ralph rested his hand against my bicep before dismissing himself. “What is it?” I asked.

Edith folded her arms, “I wanted to check in on you.”

I flexed my brows, “I don’t think I understand.”

“Are you holding up okay?” She blurted, “I’m sorry I didn’t really ask if you were comfortable joining earlier. I should have asked. It was fucked of me not to and you shouldn’t have seen something like that… I’m sorry.”

I exhaled deeply, “I’m alright.”

“Okay.” Her features tensed, not believing my lie, “Um, if you ever want to talk, about anything that’s bothering you… I hope that you know I’m here.”

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