Man of Time

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Chapter 21- From Here

Nothingness.

That’s what I felt. Devoid of thoughts. Possibilities. Optimism...

I don’t belong in this world. Never did. The finer details of artifical light. Exclusivity. Time.

The cold, stale air relinquished me of an understanding. Why I came here. Why I deserved this... Why I fought my way to the finish line only to have my freedom swept from under my feet.

Is this what it meant to be free? To walk along cracked pavement in bitter conditions. Holding a bouquet of sunflowers between my palms with the tattered traces of my coat flowing behind me. My orange sweater soaking in the flakes of snow landing upon my chest.

Home.

I stood right in front of it. But I was far from it. The crumbling bricks told a tale of it’s testimony of time. The life that breathed within it’s walls. The heartbreak. The turmoil. Death.

I’m a man out of time.

I held so much attachment to this house yet when I look at it it means nothing at all. I feel nothing. See nothing. As if this house is the same as every other one down this road. I sighed, fingers curling around the flowers for a tighter grip. My gaze faltered to the isolated footsteps that led to my person.

A itching sensation fueled me with muted anger, urging me to leave the step of my house. Trailing down familiar streets tears glossed my eyes. The bitter air amplifying my raw emotions, stinging my lids. Anxiety clawed my chest as I rounded a corner, in view of a grave yard.

I grazed across it’s eerie complexion. Searching through the light fog and snow. And then I found them.

Lena Walters. 1881-1931

Poppy Walters. 1915- 1956

She never married. I hunch over my family’s small graves, seeing my father’s to the left of Mama’s. 1925. 5 years I would have had to protect my family from my father. 5 years of abuse. 5 years of abandonment from their protector.

My knees indented the static snow. A soft crunch echoing through the desolate graveyard. I scourged for happiness. Contentment. Anything other than this numbing pain inside. Tears bursted from my lids, sliding down as crystals formed in their wake.

“Dear god, I’m sorry I have not spoken to you enough. I don’t know what I did to deserve this. I should have been before her...” My vision hazed over Poppy’s grave. “I beg for your forgiveness. Please. PLEASE dear god all of this has been a mistake. What did I do? What did I-”

I sobbed harder. Head burrowed within my knees with the flowers rested in the snow. My connection to my sister gone. My light. My hope.

“I don’t know where to go from here. I’m lost. And I want to be found. Please... Please.”

I punched the ground. Hands quivering from the cold. Pent up rage causing unrest to my tired soul. I picked up the frosty flowers and placed them over Poppy’s grave, taking the time to wipe off the snow from both her and Mama’s grave. I leaned back after exhausting myself of my energy to soak in this moment.

This reality.

After an unknown amount of time, a sliver of light cascaded from the broken sky. Stripped a line between the sunflowers and me. I reached to rearrange the flowers but the warmth of the line stopped me. My hand wavered in isolation as the light stretched to cover the rest of my arm. Flipping my palm over a familiar tug at my skin blossomed an orb of my light. Shimmering alongside the sun’s golden hue. Hesitantly releasing a smile, I opened my other palm, sending out more orbs of light into the atmosphere.

With the curvature of my finger the orbs morph into more defined shapes. Constellations. Creating an aura of of enchantment. A tear slid down my cheek, giving one last light show. I would miss this, miss her.

In all this chaos, my mind still went to her...

***

The silent halls echoed my steps through the choking numbness. A simmering anxiety of the next event to occur. But my preconceived existentialism corrupting all tranquility.

I haven’t talks to Ralph in days. I’ve tried to reach out in a way he’d do to me, but he shut down all communication. Cowering in the late hours when the rest of us were by ourselves. Locked away in our thoughts in our own rooms. No one had spoken a word to each other... Other than the hushed slurs of Ralph and Edith in the night. The clinking of glass. The pour of toxin.

Cold steel coerced my grief as I slid into the factory. The stiff air brought lingers of dissociation.

Throughout the last couple of days, Bhaskar, Catori, and I were left to our own devices. Dealing with reality in our owns ways. Unable to grasp our failures. But I longed for his touch. His olive gaze. I needed to be there for him.

“Ralph?”

I knocked against the thin wall, hovering against the curtain. But there was no answer.

“I know you want to be alone, but I worry about you. I- I think I love you. You do not have to feel the same way but it’s the reason I care for you.” still no answer. “Please can I come in... Ralph?”

I tossed opened the curtain to have a wall of alcohol smack my face. Scrunching my nose to witness a horrific sight. Ralph laid sprawled across his bed. Hair tossed in a mess with reminents of liquor sparkling down his chin.

Rushing over, I snatched the half empty bottle away from Ralph’s frail hands. Making noise moving his papers around.

My hand fell to his chin. “Ralph!”

THUMP THUMP. Please no. Wake up. Dear god start moving. Ralph please!

“What’s the matter?” Catori asked through the privacy of the curtain.

“Something’s wrong with Ralph.”

Catori bursts in, her expression reading the situation. “Go get Edith, I got him.” She swooned over and I jolted up.

My heart pounded with the rhyme of my feet. Scrambling to Edith’s office with tunneled vision. I tried my best to compose myself while knocking at her door. I waited. Then knocked impatiently again before the door creaked open.

“Mm?” Edith appeared with a slurred grin.

“Edith? Are you okay?” I stepped back, noticing a bottle in her hand.

“Mmm hm.” She nodded through crazed hair, stepping out.

“You have to be kidding me.” Catori sped over, brows narrowed.

“Heyyy.” Edith slurred as she framed herself in front of her door.

Catori expressed a wave of sympathy while her hands clasped Edith’s shoulders. Gently urging her to the side as she entered the candle lit room.

“I need your herbs.”

“They’re-” Edith pointed with a shot glass, “Yeah I have no clue.”

We stood awkwardly while Catori came back with a handful of supplies. “Go get them huge glasses of water please.” She instructed.

I jogged over to the kitchen, filling up glasses of water before hurrying back. I handed Edith hers, persuading her to hand off her bottle and sitting her down on her bed. I drapped a thin throw blanket over Edith’s shoulders before making my way to Ralph.

He stirred awake, crunching something small while bending over his water. Hastily setting down his glass, he rolled to his back. Hand gliding over his forehead with regret.

“Ralph?” I piped.

His fire eyes widened while his composure froze. Remorse glistened across his watered eyes as he turned away from me. Ashamed.

“Ah.” Ralph winced, holding his head as he propped himself up, reaching for an open bottle.

“Please.” I begged.

Ralph’s unsteady movement ceased. Eyes wavering in guilt while he crawled back to a resting position. His glossed eyes avoided my contact, closing them while his hands slid to his face. I lingered in awkward isolation as I watched someone I cared about suffer. Trying to determine how to help best...

“Why don’t you shower? Um... I think that may help.”

Ralph nodded in agreement. Stubbornly standing without help, hopping over to his wheelchair. I opened the curtain allowing him to pass while I awkwardly accompanied him to the end of the hall. He left his chair behind, stumbling into the bathroom locking the door behind. With the click of the lock I remembered he didn’t have any clothing. My heart skipped at the fact, returning to his room trying to find something comfortable for him to wear.

“Ralph?” I gently knocked once returning to the bathroom door, “I have some clothes for you.”

He didn’t respond, although I heard him shuffling around. The loud pattering of the shower drowned out strange mutterings. I leaned against the wall beside the door waiting for him to finish. He was in there for quite a while, causing my nervousness to bubble.

When the door clicked open I handed him an outfit and waited once more. Steam poured from the room as he exited. His stance more stable with sobriety. Ralph avoided my help until he sat in his chair, looking across the hall with a sigh. His thumbs curved around the grip of his wheels before asking for assistance. There were no handles on the back so I crafted some with my light, careful not to damage the chair in the process.

Ralph’s weight shifted onto my arm as I helped him back into his bed. Rings of tears circled his lids when he looked to me. Ashamed of himself. I’ve never seen Ralph so defeated.

“I’m so sorry.” Droplets trickled down his cheeks.

“For what?” I asked.

“I failed you.”

I grabbed Ralph’s hand and pulled him into an embrace. Arms wrapped tightly around his as he buried his head into my neck. My vision glossed with tears, fading to the hazy ceiling that deprived emotion. The air grew stale. Promoting fear outside of Ralph’s touch.

His fingers glided down my wet cheek, shakily holding my face as his lips connected with mine. These kisses were desperate. Desperate for affection. For validation. After another hasty kiss, Ralph pulled away, his nose brushing against mine.

“You didn’t fail me.” My thumb guiding his chin to make contact, ” You didn’t.”

Ralph frowned. “It was her pulling the strings the entire fucking time.”

“You found your brother.”

“I have no idea what’s happened to her. How she- God I don’t want to know. I don’t know where to go from here.”

“Neither do I. But we’ll figure this out together.” I forced a smile.

Ralph’s brows curved inwards. “What about your family?”

“They are not here with me right now,” I held both his hands, “But you are. I’m here for you in this timeline, and until we find out how to stop your sister, we’re in this together.”

“My sister...” He scoffed.

“Please don’t get angry.” I begged as he stood up.

Green mist hovered around his fingertips. His jaw clenched as he went to pace, but he stopped with built up energy wrapped around his shoulders.

“She’s the creation of my family’s legacy...” He turned to me, “I have to stop her.”

“And everyone will be here to help you.” I reassured.

“She won’t give up, or back down. She killed Alexander for a reason. Allowed us to infiltrate the compound for a reason.” Curiosity laced his tongue. “No, we can’t do what we did last time. Go in, and hurt a couple of people here and there. We- we...”

I shook my head,“Ralph what are you saying?”

Ralph bit his lip. Arms crossed in hesitation. He looked to me with a lift chin;

“The next time I see Helda, I’m going to kill her.”

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