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Visions: Faith, Wrath, and Zeal

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4/13/2010 10:16:32   

Can you see the Visions?


Vision is a mysterious power that amplifies the human ability to see. Little is know by much, and much is only known by little. There are two ways of obtaining it: the natural way wherein the process in unknown, and the homicidal way which is to kill a Vision’s current host.

Examples of Vision powers are but not limited to the following:
1) Seeing the past from the angle where you stand as if you were there.
2) Seeing the future from the angle where you stand as if you were there (this power has no flaw... what the person sees will be a reality. If the person tries to defy it, it would create a paradox making him see what the defied reality would be).
3) Increases the speed of the senses of your eyes and mind. It seems as if you can slow down time but even your movements are affected.
4) Detecting Lies through eye contact by sensing tension
5) Tracking (the "prey" will be the only visible object while everything else disappears from one's sight)
6) Viewing one's memories
7) Seeing one's emotions
8) Vision Hack (can see through another one's sight)
9) Partial Omniscience (Omniscience towards everything within a certain range. This includes reading minds)
10) Reflective Vision (allows the user to see things as if they were mirrors, letting him/her see things that its angle reflects)
11) Branched Foresight (time freezes while person’s senses are transferred to a prototype universe wherein he can act different actions and see the outcomes)


“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” ~ John 20:29

Comments: http://forums2.battleon.com/f/tm.asp?m=17493956

< Message edited by Crimzon5 -- 5/31/2010 7:50:55 >
AQ DF  Post #: 1
4/13/2010 10:32:26   

Prologue: The Future Lies in the Hands of the Youth

Four white walls surrounded a class, nurturing the mind of a child that would one day leave a stain on history. The door opened; the teacher greeted the students with a smile as she entered. “Class,” she began, placing a straw basket tray of her teaching materials on her desk. “Can anyone lead the prayer?”

“I’ll do it!” one of the energetic boys volunteered. The student proceeded to the front and recited the Our Father:

Our Father in Heaven, holy be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as in Heaven.

The class responded with the second half of the prayer:

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Do not bring us to the test, but deliver us from evil. Amen

“Okay Class, please bring out your assignments,” the teacher said aloud, reclaiming the center stage from the pupil.

Ryan, a young boy with brown hair, raised his hand. “Miss, what assignments?”

“The family photo, silly!” came his lively seatmate’s reply.


The students started to murmur among themselves with increasing volume, causing the teacher's irritation to grow. “Class, quiet down please!” she shouted with a slam on the chalkboard to supplement her commanding voice. The class was silenced. “You’re always so noisy! All of you! When will you learn to be silent?! If you can't learn by the end of the school year, I won't have a voice left to teach!”

The class remained wordless. One of the children who knew he was innocent, for he spoke not a single word, looked at the adult with a gaze fueled by anger. His fierce eyes blended in so well with the half-open eyes of his classmates that the teacher was oblivious to the true emotion he conveyed.

“I also told you to bring a sheet of short bond paper,” she continued with a different tone. It was very calm; her duty to teach overlapped her duty to discipline. Her reddened cheeks served as the last vestige of her short-lived anger. The release of tension unstiffened the child’s eyes, but his heart still harbored resentment and hatred.

It’s like this all the time! “A rotten apple rots the rest of the basket,” they say. Must she scold everyone and think we’re all at a fault?! I don’t want to get shouted at for things I didn’t do! The child’s musing was interrupted by a sound coming from somewhere outside of his head.

“Miss!” a child from another corner of the room called out. “Can it be long?”

“I said it should be short,” she replied immediately with a sigh afterward. “Now, I want you to paste or tape the picture on the center of the paper.”

“Done!” Ryan exclaimed before ten seconds could pass.

“Don’t start without Ms. Shirley’s go-instruction!” Danielle, the young boy’s seatmate scolded.

Ignoring the scuffle between the two, the teacher resumed giving the students directions. “Then below the picture, I want you to copy what I’m about to write on the board and fill in the blanks with your own answers.”

“I look like my father because…” a boy seated at the back read to himself silently as Miss Shirley wrote the next sentence. He stared at the photograph he had brought for his assignment. He saw himself on the lower left portion of the picture, his attention immediately drawn to his golden hair, comparing it to father’s dark hair.

He compared his image with that of his father’s on the photograph he had brought for his assignment. He saw himself on the lower left portion of the picture, observing his golden hair – a distinct feature of his in his family.

“Hey Danielle, you don’t look like your twin brother,” Ryan said with a voice that could be heard across the entire room.

“My sister looks like Mother… they all have the same hair color. I’m the only one different,” the blond at the back of the room whispered to himself in his isolation. With his hands sweating from apprehension, he wrote down the remaining sentences to be completed and tried answering them. “I look like my father because…”

< Message edited by Crimzon5 -- 5/29/2010 1:11:32 >
AQ DF  Post #: 2
4/13/2010 10:33:50   

Christmas Eve

Landon sat by the brilliant staircase, occupying the three lowest steps while playing with a pen in hand. His practiced hand maintained the pattern of rotating the ballpoint between two fingers thrice before swinging it twice to a full 360 degrees with his thumb and ring finger.

Noise filled the Derem Residence. The radio played redundant Christmas carols while the family entertained itself as its members took part in lively conversations; fireworks could evidently be heard as their sounds penetrated through the mansion’s walls. Winter’s breath traversed across its scheduled route, growing weaker as people who were yet to come home became obstacles that forced it to split in order to remain in its direction.

The Derem Residence was a sufficiently large building with a prevalent style with those of prosperous citizens, situated in the center of a two-acre plot of land that was labeled as its garden. Noteworthy, especially for thieves, a concrete wall twenty-two feet high surrounded the mansion while the only gate, practically positioned in coordination with the front door, from which one outside, by looking through the steel bars, could witness the majestic statues and the main showpiece which was a fountain that sprouted water up to eighteen feet high, stood a foot and a half lower. Trimmed grass occupied most of the surface area, but there were a number of trees too distant from one another that prevented them from looking like a forest.

But as winter came in this temperate location, the fountain was turned off, the supposedly-green grass either dried up into yellow or was drowned in white snow, and the deciduous trees, those that are not evergreen like the coniferous (if not artificial) Christmas trees, seemed like narrow skeletons, brittle and fragile as if hollow and decayed marrows.

Inside this enormous building, orange lights from lamps and electronic candles tinted the white walls with a yellowish aura. The shadows cast were light, though each individual object was linked to two or three of them.

Landon was the only one quiet. The oddball of the family, was he not? As a matter of fact, this young man at the age of nineteen did not have the Derem blood within him. His head wore golden hair in contrast to the brunet trend of the family, and his dark blue eyes conveyed emotions that were very far off from the cheerful Derems. A black coat with a silver fur collar kept him warm. A firearm was holstered to his leg while he laid one hand on it.

A boot serving as part of the wearer’s costume landed on the stairs. Impulsively, Landon turned to the direction of the thud. “Oh, hey Landon. We’re all in red and green. Are you sure you still want to wear black? Think of the holiday!” a feminine voice dissuaded.

The blond examined her features briefly before giving a reply. The girl was about his age. Brown hair cascaded down to her torso, long enough for her to sit on it. Red contact lenses concealed the true color of her eyes which was the very common brown. She wore a green coat strapped with red belts and small bells. A miniskirt exposed her unflawed legs and fair complexion. There wouldn’t seem to be any right to reason not to admit that she was indeed a beauty, but for one particular reason did Landon fail to fall victim to her spell of infatuation – they were brother and sister, twins in a way but not really quite.

“I don’t look good in bright colors,” came his reply. His sister’s lips pursed with irritation.

“Ryan will be back tonight,” she said. “And today is when the Lord was born. Your black attire makes it look like you’re mourning!”

“Ryan… Oh, the more you should rejoice then. It’s a good thing he has not a single clue that you have this crush on him,” Landon threw back, standing up. “And they say that December 25 isn’t really the day Jesus was born. When the Romans finally accepted Christianity, they made His birthday on the supposedly date of birth of one of their gods. Now was it Zeus or Apollo? Actually, sources vary, but they all have in common that some pagan god was born on that day. And Jesus Christ is not a pagan god.”

“All right! You’re right again as always…” she replied with hinted sarcasm. With reddened cheeks and a scowl on her face, she excused herself from the conversation and left. With each pounding step, anger resounded through the vibrance of the small silver bells that decorated her costume.

As he watched his sister descend the very few steps that did remain on the staircase and pass through the living room, Landon felt a tap on his shoulder. “You know Danielle, my dear. She really likes that boy.” From the warm, familiar touch and her soft voice, he could tell it was Evangeline, their mother.

Landon relied on his memory to envision his mother. Her hair had the same color with that of Danielle’s, but for many reasons was it cut short down to her shoulder level. In spite of developing wrinkles due to her age, she maintained elegance and beauty, or at least in Landon’s opinion that is. But he was not alone in terms of sharing his belief.

His eyes continued to escort Danielle through the hall until she entered an intersection and disappeared from his sight. “I doubt Ryan will come in red and green as well. Despite being one of the most devoted Christians in terms of faith and beliefs, I know Christmas isn’t one of his favorites. That, and he has his fashion sense.” There was a short pause, a silence that pushed the young man into saying more. “Once, I even told him about the December 25 conspiracy. Ryan said that if Christmas isn’t really the correct date, it could be at least for celebrating His birth.”

“If you agree with his conviction, then surely you’ve found a reason to celebrate on this day, too, right?” his mother replied.

“What do we do when we celebrate? We do things that make us happy. Wearing black which is my favorite color should make me happy right?” Landon halted there.

Mrs. Derem smiled and tapped his shoulder once more. “I understand. A mother always does. Just make sure your sister’s all right.”

“Will do,” he replied immediately. The young man made it imperative to settle things with his sister not just for Evangeline’s sake but as well as Danielle’s. “A mother…” he whispered, holding back memories of resentment.

Landon opened a black trifold wallet. Inserted in the central pocket was a family photo that dated nine years back. In comparison to his younger self as portrayed in the image, his cheeks and chin developed into the picturesque shape, a muscular build replaced his chubby arms and thighs, and his sideburns were allowed to – and so they did – reach down long enough to cover his ears instead of having to take compulsory shave. In that image, he was positioned near the right edge next to his father Alger, a tall man distinguished by his enthusiastic character. Mr. Derem’s appearance had nothing in common with Landon’s: a rectangular face in contrast to his son’s inverted triangular one. The only chance they had of any resemblance was on his tan skin which they called a “sunburned Landon-skin-color.”

Landon shoved his gloved hands into his pockets and went up the staircase. The corridor displayed several paintings; most shared a common subject, either a flower or bouquet. The stereotypical table and vase was placed by the end of hall that branched into the bed rooms; each carried a wreath by its door.

The young man then entered his room and came out with a Christmas hat on his head a few moments later. He was comfortable that no one was around to see him, but he readied himself for being seen in his minimal-themed attire once he reached the living room.

Landon passed by the dining room that already contained a numerous number of guests, most of which by far were very distant relatives whose names he could not recall. He even had the idea that some guests bore no knowledge of him being the son of the host and hostess. It wouldn’t be hypocritical, for he too knew from nothing to very little of the guests.

While searching amidst the crowd for his sister whom he expected to be greeting someone like an aunt or uncle by blessing their hand, he overheard some conversations, perceiving laughter from things he was probably never ever going to laugh at. He may have been the inactive type, but the lack of laughter was not one of things that made him incomplete. He would enjoy witty jokes and stories, old-people humor even, but not what amused the generation of his parents. He thought that perhaps they laughed at lame jokes to spare each other from the humiliating awkward silence that was supposed to follow. Suddenly, he felt his cellular phone vibrate with a text message. He discontinued his search to give time in reading the message.

“So Ryan’s at the door…” he uttered.

< Message edited by Crimzon5 -- 5/9/2010 8:02:07 >
AQ DF  Post #: 3
4/13/2010 10:35:16   

Greeting the Guests

I remained under the staircase. There was no need to move because regardless of how big their house is, Landon will still remain within a specific radius of thirty kilometers from me as long as he and I are both here.

Oh? Hi there, dear reader. Hmm? Something bothering you? For my sake, it would only be fair for me to talk to (I’d prefer to use the word “with,” but I know as much as you do that it just isn’t going to work out.) you as I narrate, isn’t that so? I was employed to observe Specimen SOE-TS2 AKA: Landon R. Derem, and so here I am stalking him. However, I took in the interest of the other characters, so I believe it wouldn’t hurt to eavesdrop on them as well…

You see, I have something that makes me special. And no – not that “special,” mind you. A shame that euphemism had to pair such a wonderful word that fitted my description perfectly with a negative connotation…

Anything within my plane of existence that is also within a certain range is under the watch of my special eyes. Even with my eyes closed, can I see all that is around me; that includes their thoughts if they are capable of making such a thing; though, I haven’t yet met anyone who is “truly special” to not exhibit any. I do, however, prefer to view my targets directly to spare myself from a possible headache.

I can even read your mind, you know. If you want proof, then I’ll give it to you. I will tell you something about you. If what I said is true about you, then that’s your proof. Makes sense? Good. You… you… Wait. Let me concentrate.

Ah! You can read!

Fine. If that was not convincing, think of a whole number between one and threeeeee… –million.

Your number is – oh wait, he’s come!

An usher guided Mark Ryan F. Kristen to the door at the instant he set foot on the red carpet that stretched to the first step of the wide stairway overlaid with glazed tiles. There was nothing striking about him in the midst of the gathering other than his black suit and handsome brown hair. He was still young, a mere two months older than the Derem twins. Judging by the shape of his brown eyes, this man showed slight effects of his Asian descent. He carried a wrapped present, with four smaller ones on top of it.

“Ryan! Long time no see!” Landon greeted.

Darkness, despite the brittle white and yellow lights from the lamps outside, failed to hide a young woman a few steps behind Ryan. The distance between was small enough for him to assume that they were coming together. Landon eyed her with more interest than curiosity, nearly forgetting what to do next. Reading the expression of the blond’s eyes, Ryan reached his hand out to the girl and brought her forward. “It’s been some time Landon. Jhenine, may I introduce Landon Derem; Landon, may I present Jhenine Russel.”

The light unwrapped her features from the shadows’ bind, illuminating her ponytailed honey-color hair and emerald eyes that resembled that of an innocent child’s. Her white gown made of the soft and lustrous silk draped over her legs, barely touching the floor. Underneath that elegant layer of clothing was a pair of black heels that raised her height by an inch.

And if you want more details, I would be very delighted to take another peek and give you an even wider description of her. On a second thought, I do must be get back narrating.

“The most pleasant evening, Jhenine,” Landon greeted with the initiative to shake hands. The young lady extended her hand but faltered to accept his. Landon and blonde were both losing in eye contact.

As she finally shook his hand, Danielle entered the scene, seeing Ryan first before anyone else. She wanted to approach him with her most winning smile and give him a friendly hug that for her meant more that what it would seem but took into observation his female companion. “Landon, who’s this?” she asked without greeting her long-awaited Ryan.

“Oh. Danielle, this is Jhenine Russel. Jhenine, this is Danielle Derem, my twin sister,” Landon replied.

“Oh… Can you tell us anything about yourself, Jhenine? Like… where’re ya from? Your parents, school, and how about your hobbies?” Danielle pushed through.

“But before you do, please do come in,” Landon insisted, trying to fix the mistakes of formality his sister had committed (as if wearing a Christmas hat on top of his head despite his getup wasn’t a mistake at all).

“Thank you,” Ryan replied in the behalf of Jhenine as well. Landon widened the door’s opening to its full extent as the two guests entered.

“Ahem…” Danielle interjected to remind them of her question.

The blonde remained quiet. Danielle raised a brow, eyeing her expectantly. Ryan could sense the pressure put on Jhenine. Landon realized the ill will Danielle had for the newcomer and how she tried to – while failing – bury it within a masquerade of welcoming interest.

“You see…” Ryan answered, catching the question for his companion, “I met her not long after I left for my trip. And well, shortly after… she lost her family to a fire. She doesn’t remember much though. It must be due to the trauma.”

A solemn silence within the group of four followed. Jhenine lowered her head only to meet their expectations. Aware that she lacked the knowledge and her memories, she could only mourn for not mourning for her parents.

“I’m… so sorry to hear that,” Danielle responded. Although Danielle dropped her gaze onto the floor, Landon noticed that her eyes were with but a stiff glance downward; her sensitive heart failed to produce a glint in her eyes. He could not see any heartfelt condolences, but he knew she took no rejoice in Ryan’s statement either.

“Why...?” he asked himself silently.

“Anyway, I got you guys a gift over here on top of this big one for parents,” Ryan said, balancing the gifts on one arm while handing over the topmost gift to Landon. “Now if you will excuse us, I will be greeting your parents and introducing Jhenine.”

“Dad’s in the dining room, but Mom is somewhere in the living room,” Danielle informed.

“Thank you,” Ryan responded, making haste as he exited with Jhenine.

Landon could sense a strong aura of unease and doubt emitting from his sister. Danielle had always been described and known as a kind and cheerful girl, but I guess this change in her is nothing more than the effect of what many perceive to be “love.” Thus, such reason for her counterfeit sympathies could only be envy. But let me tell you: that statement is only partially correct; thus, a bit wrong.

“Don’t believe Ryan’s story?” Landon assumed, rubbing his chin.

“Yeah!” Danielle exclaimed. “I just know what he said was a lie. She didn’t lose her family because of some fire!”

“Wow. You seem terribly sure of yourself right now,” her brother replied. “It would be inappropriate to ask for the location where the fire took place, but we could ask for a bit wider location like where he met her or her hometown. Then, we could check its local news archives if there really was a fire.”

“There’s no need, Landon. I’m totally sure that he lied about the fire.” There was a short pause. Suddenly, Danielle placed her hands on Landon’s shoulder and began to shake him. “What if those two eloped?! What if those two aren’t even virgins anymore?!”

Landon shoved her hands off. “Don’t think like that. Hmm… at least you don’t seem to be sure about your last two theories.”

“It’s not fair! I saw him first. I was already a part of his life before she came along,” she sobbed.

I promised to Mom that I would make sure that Danielle’s all right…

“Once Ryan is done giving his gift to Mom or Dad, he should be back here with us. Perhaps that would be the best time to give him a proper greeting,” Landon suggested. “I don’t recall you ever having done that tonight.”

“Man! I screwed up again! This has got to the worst Christmas ever! I even discovered the possibility of it not being the real birthday of Christ,” the less stable one of the twins said. The way she tilted her head down at that moment could have been the way she responded to news of Jhenine’s unfortunate incident. However, she had her doubts earlier, and up to this moment did she carry her disbelief.

Landon pursed his lips, sharing her grief.

“I may not have the right to interfere with what’s going on between the two err… three of you. But the best gift I could give you this Christmas is to clear your mind of the situation.”

“Thanks, Landon.”

< Message edited by Crimzon5 -- 5/25/2010 21:07:52 >
AQ DF  Post #: 4
4/13/2010 10:38:04   

Mankind, the Destroyers of Worlds, Creators of Cities

Who is this Ryan-guy anyway? Why did he leave and where did he go off to? What’s so important about that girl he brought along? If it wasn’t really a fire that killed her family, what or who did then? Does Danielle even have any chances with this guy? Yes, I am curious to that aspect, too.

To answer these questions, we must venture into the memories of this young man. But first and foremost, let me inform you of what had taken place for the last couple of years.

With the increasing population of humanity, the United Nations was able to stabilize their predictions, limiting its range of estimation. Statistics had shown a world population count of approximately 9.8 billion people. More land will thus be needed not only for production, but – more importantly – space to live in incase the rate of population growth in the future would to become too much of the lithosphere to handle. Several ideas were constructed, but most could not be used because of those “universal ethics.” Tsk… I personally loved the idea of annihilating half of the world’s population. Seriously, the only reason why it lost was that information on their plans wasn’t leaked. If the public knew about it, surely the “unethical way” would have gained more supporters!

After months of arguments and debates that led to the defeat of the plan that I would have rooted for if I were alive during that time, the United Nations agreed to spend billions in the construction of an artificial continent.

The said landmass is located somewhere in the Pacific, occupying nine million square kilometers, nearly the size of the United States of America. The actually difference in their area may be large, but in terms of millions, it really is quite close. In reference to Greek mythology, the continent was given the name: Atlantis. It took nearly a century to complete this entire project. Most of its difficulties were due to faults and plate movements. I’m not really sure of these terms, but maybe the word “earthquake” will suffice. I wonder if I could read a geologist’s mind from here…

Anyhow, the country eventually divided itself in less than half the time it was built. Of course, putting together different people with different origins, principles, beliefs, and religion especially, things could turn into chaos. To satisfy everyone’s demands – or so it would seem – the United Nations decided to split the Atlantean territory into three: North, Central, and South Atlantis. Of course, the Christians found it ideal if they weren’t the only ones practicing what they labeled as “moral,” but as long as every continues to mind their own business, I’m sure with everyone else that all three can live in peace.

South Atlantis, the country that contains the setting of story, is populated mostly by Christians. A third of the entire Atlantean territory is within this Christian realm, but only twenty-three percent of the whole continent’s population. That could be the reason for this area’s diluteness that allows a large mansion such as this one to take up such a large space.

Perhaps the population here isn’t concentrated as much as the others because acts such as abortion are illegal in this place. It’s not only illegal, but it’s also hard to find someone here to operate on you. It’s hard to find alcoholic wine or just plain liquor. The bars here just don’t have them. Can you really call those bars? Oh, they don’t manufacture nor sell cigarettes here as well. Every place is a non-smoking zone, though some people with guts manage to use their privacy to bypass this restraint. If not much people are here because of all these restrictions, then who knows? I could read everyone’s mind… but I’m too lazy.

< Message edited by Crimzon5 -- 5/9/2010 8:05:21 >
AQ DF  Post #: 5
4/27/2010 6:44:07   

A Star Whose Shine Pierces Through Daylight

“Hey Ryan, can we talk in private for a while?” one of the twins requested at the moment when the group of four reunited near the staircase. Ryan kept a firm yet gentle grip on Jhenine’s hand which led to Danielle’s setback.

“Uhh… sure thing, Landon,” he replied, unsure what to expect.

“Landon, you better not do anything like spilling the beans or going too obvious, okay?” his sister whispered.

“Don’t worry. This has nothing to do with you,” the blond whispered back, winking an eye. Landon then turned to the other male, signaling him to come with him upstairs.

“Danielle, could you do me a favor?” Ryan asked, giving an end to the siblings’ secret conversation where the girl was about deny her brother’s words.

Please don’t be about Jhenine, she pleaded in her head, crossing her fingers. “Sure thing, Ryan. Anything!” she answered with a feigned smile.

“I need you to keep Jhenine company for a while,” he said, shattering the brunette’s hopes. “It’s hard for her to trust anyone but me, and she’ll get frightened when I’m not around. She’s just like Rebecca when she was three years old. You just have to win her trust and friendship.”

Danielle continued to smile attractively despite how her envy and discontent weighted her chest and slightly affected her breathing. “Sure. Jhenine and I will be BFF’s before you even know it! Your little sister wasn’t much of a problem to make friends with anyway.”

“Thanks. I’m counting on you,” Ryan replied before submitting to Landon’s dismissive gesture.

Danielle stood lopsidedly as she watched the two boys ascended the staircase. For a moment, she stopped thinking about Ryan and started to ponder about Jhenine’s condition. The blonde could only stare at the floor, holding one wrist with her hand and waiting for Ryan to return.

“Hey Jhenine. Let’s take a seat on the sofa over there,” Danielle invited. Jhenine replied with a very small, barely-noticeable nod and followed. Nothing changed from what Jhenine was previously doing except for the fact that now she was sitting down.

Danielle made a few attempts to start a conversation but withdrew her words at the instant they left her lips. “So…” she said, finally equipped with the words which she believed she could push through with, “how are you?”

“Fine…” Jhenine replied immediately but slowly, still looking in the same direction.

Danielle sighed. “Is there anything you want to talk about?” Her companion slowly shook her head. There was a short pause. On the verge of giving up, Danielle took a deep breath and exhaled. The words that came out after took a lot of courage to blurt out.

“Jhenine, do you… ummm… uhh… l-l-love… Ryan?”

“Of course not!” she shouted hysterically. Fortunately for the two (or rather only the one wearing a green coat, for the other one was most likely not going to care) everyone else in the party was too busy with their own concerns to give the girls any attention.

“Oh really?” Danielle replied, not sure whether to feel more surprised or more relieved.

“I don’t like eating him!” Jhenine explained.

Danielle raised a brow. “Wha?” was all she could reply with.

“The first time Ryan took me to a pizza store, he said that he loves pizza,” the blonde narrated, talking as if she was giving her newfound friend a lecture.

Danielle slapped her forehead. “So the ‘love’ Ryan taught you is the one about food. Why am I surprised?”

“Sorry. I do not know.”

“That was a rhetorical question. You don’t have to answer it. I mean, you aren’t supposed to answer it,” Danielle replied with a soft laugh. She noticed that her companion was no longer staring at the floor but rather straight into her eyes as they talked. There was a sensation of achievement for the brunette.

“Oh. I probably would have known that if I still had my memories. Ryan always says that when he laughs because I didn’t know something. At least I get to make him happy,” Jhenine replied, withdrawn a bit by embarrassment. Danielle flinched by the amnesiac girl’s last statement. She began to question herself if Ryan ever did refer to her, a childhood friend for nearly half of his life, as a source of happiness and companionship even to the slightest bit.

When Ryan said that she lost her memory, he wasn’t kidding – no, he wasn’t lying. But… this girl knows much less than what I expected her to, Danielle said in her head. “So, what do you want to talk about next?” she asked with a welcoming smile.

“I… umm, I want to ask you what your meaning of ‘love’ is then,” she answered. Danielle was held back. “Why is it that you seem hesitant to answer?” she asked shortly after noticing a change in her friend’s posture, one that started to lose its essence of assertiveness.

For someone who sort of just got a hit on the head or something, she sure is pretty good in reading people, the brunette continued to muse. “Well… it’s like…” she began, making a long pause before continuing. “Well, there are many definitions for it.”

“Oh! So it’s someone’s opinion whether he or she loves someone?” Jhenine interrupted. Her widened eyes during the interjection indicated her enthrallment toward the topic.

“Not exactly. Sometimes, people love without even knowing it. And even though you don’t know something, it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, right?” Danielle’s passion strengthened her conviction. She began to speak from the heart, the source of all the world’s ideals. But sadly, when conviction fades, so does everything it stands and fights for. A world made from ideals is an ideal world, and as stated by the word “ideal,” is but a mere idea. Or so believed by many.

“So what is it then?” she further questioned. “I mean… what is it for you?”

“For me?” she assured, but in reality only said such to stall for a little time. “I guess it’s when you can’t stop thinking of someone, wishing the best for him, and when you want your purpose to be one who makes that special someone smile.”

“Heehee… If Ryan loved the way you do, then I think I could say that he loves me. Too bad his love means enjoying something as a meal,” Jhenine said with a smile.

She still doesn’t seem to get it, does she? Danielle remained speechless, only to regain her words upon the end of Jhenine’s next dialogue.

As the two girls continued to converse, Landon led Ryan to the end of the second floor’s hall. A peculiar golden chandelier caught the guest’s attention. It was awfully low in elevation, heightened to merely his chest level. It had six lower feather-like arms, holding three brass cylinders in between each adjacent pair. The upper layer only comprised of four arms that each held a silver orb. The absence of the bobeche (And it’s pronounced as boh-besh not boh-be-che. Oooo, try saying that very fast for five times.) and the perfect smoothness of the candles made him infer that they were electronic. His presumption only proved to be right when his eyes confirmed a glass bulb around a light which he hed thought to be fire flickering off the candle.

Landon placed his right hand on one of the spheres. The orb reacted, causing streams of red light to branch out and gather at his palm’s point of contact. As the scan finished, the wall in front of them moved back by six feet and divided into two toward each half’s respective side.

“Another secret passage?” Ryan commented with mock surprise. “At least it seems easier to pass through unlike the chimney in your room. But wouldn’t it be suspicious since your house doesn’t have a single chimney?”

“And yet no one has bothered to go up in it, now has one?” Landon replied. The blond took a step into the newly-formed path. “Scared of the dark?” he said, looking back.

“Not the dark, just heights. Heights can kill you, darkness can’t,” Ryan replied, making his first step.

Glass prisms on the sides of the secret hall began to emit lights of different colors which were limited to that of the rainbow’s. Darkness was not completely ridded, for the lights reached a radius of one meter while each prism was three meters apart.

The alternate flash of darkness and light began to irritate Ryan’s eyes. “So where does this one lead to?” he asked, concealing his face with his hand while peaking through the small gap between his fingers.

“Just the rooftops.”

Satisfied with the answer, Ryan chose not to reply anymore. Landon remained quiet as well, intending to save the conversation for the time they reach their destination. Eventually, they reached a ladder by the end of hall. Silver light welled down from where it led to, hinting it was an exit. It was not, however, the moon that painted the area with illumination; no, it was just a lamp that stood on the roof.

It was a flat surface, but it began to slope down near the edges, which was where the trap door exit was placed. After opening the glass hatch, Landon placed his open palms on the surface. He took a deep breath and then pillared himself with a thrust that allowed his feet to reach the opening. Ryan followed, clutching on the black tiles to support him as he crawled out of the hole.

A few short pillars stood half-drowned in the layer of snow, ornamented with a few prisms whose glows rivaled with moonlight.

“Sure is cold,” Ryan uttered, kicking some snow off toward the edge. “So… what was it you wanted to talk about?” The brunet looked around before a reply was returned to him.

“It’s Jhenine.” Landon’s words caused Ryan to tense.

“What about her?” he replied with smooth-tongued tone of curiosity.

“Can you tell me about your trip? I have a feeling that meeting her led you to decisions that are far unrelated to your original intensions.” Landon began to eye his friend with detail. Ryan’s hands started to perspire, but Landon doubted it was because of his system’s attempt to keep warm.

“Why is it,” he continued, “that you left?”

“To kill him…” Ryan answered unconvincingly.

“‘To kill him,’” Landon quoted, sauntering to Ryan’s side. “And yet he’s still alive, spending time somewhere perhaps over a thousand miles away. And why is that?”

“I had several chances. But I lacked the strength of assurance that he was indeed the killer.”

“So you gave up on your mission? And… perhaps found a new one?” Landon eagerly awaited a reply.

“Yes,” he admitted. “I need to protect her.”

“Isn’t that making the love story a bit too dramatic,” the resident of the mansion construed from the previous statement.

“It’s nothing like that,” he spoke as if tired. “The death of Jhenine’s parents was no accident.”

“‘Accident’ is an overused term,” Landon intruded.

“I met with the killer,” Ryan added. Landon froze. He was astonished to hear such an absurd narration. He shifted his original intent to gather information that could give a clearer view on Danielle’s situation into an interest balanced by his curiosity and skepticism. “I have a new set course. And when the opportunity to pull the trigger comes, I’ll know that I’m aiming at the killer.”

“And how about the police?”

“It’s a tough spot. It would be risky to supply them with information.” His speech was cut after pronouncing the last words. He decided that it was a mistake to blurt out such words, but all he could do was act as if nothing was wrong.

“Risky, huh? I doubt you’ll tell me if I asked what’s going on, so I won’t bother.”

Ryan gave no reply.

“But just remember, you might be able to count on me when a tight situation comes.” With a grin, he bent down and gathered some snow into a pile which he used as a pillow after lying down.

Silhouettes gathered behind the clouds, while moonlight bled through the gaseous crevices. Resting on two layers of his palms, Landon tinted his head with a skyward glance. A frozen tear descended from the heavens, gliding in the wind to parachute its fall into an abyss of darkness. More tears reached for the earth, pouring at the pace of a greater outflow, but the two remained on the rooftop, the first with his back turned on his companion, the second with life cornered next to an empty space three stories above ground.

< Message edited by Crimzon5 -- 5/29/2010 1:19:59 >
AQ DF  Post #: 6
5/7/2010 5:46:40   

The Seed of Eden

People born of the womb, Words spoken from the lip
Die unless they continue to live, Become lies unless they hold true
Through pages crumpled and torn, his eyes take a dip
He struggles, searching for the truth, only to find a clue

I hope my constant babbling did not bore you. No, it’s okay. Don’t pay it too much attention. It means nothing, trust me. It’s just something I wrote while trying to sleep. I don’t think slacking on the job while the target continued on till morning would disappoint my employer. After all, he’s incapable of being disappointed now. Remember, the verse over there is not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not – nevermind.

The sun had risen by the time the last pair of guests took their leave together. Clouds veiled the sky from the city and darkened it. Several footprints on the garden combined into large yet shallow holes on the snow. Dim light revealed some of the fallen precipitates within the area were colored with sodas and fruit punches, something the careless young – and even the grown – guests left behind along with their presents. Danielle stood between her parents as she watched Jhenine and Ryan pass the water fountain on foot.

“They look cute as a couple.” Those words struck Danielle painfully.

Danielle and her mother looked at each other, the child scowling, before the adult played along with her husband’s words. “But our daughter’s more beautiful than that girl, isn’t she?”

“Of course she is!” was his parental and biased answer. The flattery did not cheer Danielle up. Alger turned tail from their lawn and began to unbutton his red puffed Santa coat. He found it hard on his third button and started to murmur to himself. The idle moment somehow reminded him of Landon’s absence.

“So…” he said, his voice deepened by chest compression brought about by his strenuous effort, “where’s Landon? None of the servants claim to have seen him.”

Evangeline suggested the hidden passage in the chimney while Danielle stood still, head lopsided, an arm at her waist, and all her attention on Ryan and his companion as they began to board his motorcycle. The steel gates opened before them; they were a mere minute away from a turn which would allow them to escape from the grasp of the mansion’s view.

Traces of scorn raced over her face.

“Climbing that thing makes my back ache,” was Alger’s comment. “Only Landon goes up there, right? I wonder how he makes it down…”

Without a word, Danielle raced for the stairs ruefully, constantly telling herself that she was not crying. Oblivious to the situation, Mr. Derem barely noticed her exit.

Located a floor above the living room was the household’s balcony where the young brunette soon arrived. There always seemed to be a cool wind there when she needed it. The chilling breeze was a balm for Danielle’s frustration. It gave her the silence she needed and the cooling sensation to cure the blood boiling in her head. In the previous weeks when it was announced that Ryan would visit, she spent most of time there, either writing poetry or reading a magazine. No one was allowed to take a look at the poems she had written, and the closest they came to was seeing Danielle’s pen inking the middle pages of her poetry journal. She could write with either hand, mainly with her left, but she was naturally right-handed. When nearing the age of three, she and her brother were taught the English Alphabet and how to write both in script and print. When they were four years old, the twins were enrolled in a nursery. Danielle became envious of the special attention given to those children who were left-handed, and so she forced herself to become one, becoming an ambidextrous child after half a year’s struggle.

The moment gave Danielle nothing to do but to examine the surroundings. The balcony was tiled with granite bricks; twisted marble pillars served as posts for the railings, and much smaller ones as the balusters. She leaned her back on the balustrades and for a while, remained in that position. Then she felt the urge to move somewhere; anywhere would do, but she did not like the idea of going around in circles nor going back inside.

A panel operated a ladder that led to the roof, and both were to the left of the balcony’s entrance. The nearer foot heel of the steps was two meters away from the control console. There were no switches on the roof; therefore it could only be activated from below. Danielle took a few steps toward it, momentarily pausing to make sure she was to press the correct button. The ladder subsequently extended upward to twice the initial height. The girl started to climb; half-way she took a deep breath. The exchange of air took place so fast that when she exhaled, it seemed to her as if the air she had just taken in was the same one that left. At the instant her head became inline with the surface of the roof, her eyes caught someone on a wooden chair painting on a canvas in front of him.

It was Landon.

The blond man sensed her presence over the edge of his eye but was unaffected. His right hand channeled straight strokes through his brush. Landon knew there was no way to hide the image, nor did he bear the will to threaten her to go away. He remained silent, keeping in mind that his sister was one who loved to talk.

“So there you are! What are you working on?” Danielle soon found the answer as she came close enough. The canvas was oiled with a familiar color scheme. Crammed snow-topped houses, dark blue over the distance, occupied the lower portion of the image. The sky portrayed was a vast amethyst dome; sections were dotted with white, some containing more layers in order for Landon to manipulate the opacity. A small empty border divided these two halves of the unfinished work.

“How long have you been working on this?”

“Started…” Landon paused to count, “… four days ago. I just filled the sky this morning.”

Danielle was enthralled by the painting. The strokes and colors captured the scenery. The lines were smooth, some were crooked and curvy where needed. It did not take long for her to see the resemblance between the picture and the surrounding landscape. The city before them was presented unrolled map. Familiar with the setting, the girl didn’t pay much attention to the buildings and the seaside. There was enough light to reveal the details on the roof which Ryan had missed during the time of his visit.

“Wow! It looks perfectly like Lea Atlantra! I never knew you had so much creativity.” Danielle smiled as she praised him.

“That’s because I don’t!” her brother hollered. Danielle was startled, her eyes widened in anxiety. Landon remained seated and pointed to her the view with his brush. His arms swayed and his wrist twisted as if painting the air. “This is no creation. It is a mere imitation of what’s in front of our eyes!” His sister could not tell if it was bitterness that caused his words to blaze with conviction, but she knew that his closed eyes were hiding tears.
“What’s wrong with that?” She needed to know before she could do anything to help or at least try.

“The Earth can sue me for plagiarism,” he replied. Danielle did not react, unable to tell whether it was some horrible joke or not. “I can’t create anything on my own. I need to rely on memory and sight. That’s all my mind’s capable of doing.”

“Is that what your little drama was all about?!” Landon was not intimidated by her changed tone, not by a single bit. “If you weren’t content with what you were doing, then why did you still do it?”

“I just… wanted to,” he replied slowly, avoiding eye contact.

Have I finally beaten him in words?

Landon dropped his brush carefully. “A sunrise like the one a while ago is something rare,” he continued, retaining the former tempo of his voice. “And these hands… couldn’t capture it in time.”

Danielle found his response to be the answer to another question, one she still had not asked. Out of care and sisterly love, she chose to spare him from a struggle of thoughts. “I see,” she said. “But what you did took a lot of skill and talent.”

“Landon…” Her voice became motherly which triggered warmth in him. “You already excel in so many things, and yet you want to accomplish so much more. The reason why God gave us different strengths was to make sure that we help each other overcome a weakness that we can’t even with what we have.”

“Heh, that’s a Ryan-line, isn’t it?” he commented, recovering his smile.

“Sure is. I’m not the shallow type that just goes for athletes with good looks.”

Landon rubbed his eye. “So, how was the party?” he asked, slouching toward Danielle.

“Well, Ryan told us what you wanted him to, that you wanted to stay upstairs. And Jhenine and I became friends at an instant! She really is like a little child, so pure and so innocent, except in a body of a teenager. I taught her a few things, too. Hey, did you know that spending time with Ryan made her think that if you love someone then you’d want to eat him?”

The twins chuckled together. “If you’re not the shallow type, why didn’t you take that into consideration?”

“It’s not like he was going to teach her the real concept anyway.”

“And so you did then,” Landon took over, reclining.

“No better teacher,” she replied vainly.

“Indeed. The one we’re talking about knows that I want to be spared from her lecture.”
Danielle giggled. Landon was not done talking. “So teach, Ryan gave you as much attention as he gave Jhenine when you guys talked, right?”

“In terms of quantity, yes. But quality, no. Jhenine requires ‘special’ attention.” Lifting the topic, she asked, “Landon, how come we don’t talk about your love life?”

“Because I don’t have one,” he replied without any traces of unrest. Not a single muscle twitched nor withdrew.

“Fair enough.” Danielle made a light movement of turning her eyes away.

“You believe me already?” he asked, brows raised and chin placed over his knuckles.
“Well… How was that again? Oh yeah.” The brunette cleared her throat. “‘I doubt you’d tell me if I continued to bug you, so I won’t bother,’” she replied, mimicking how Landon would speak when using his trademark sentence structure which ended with the phrase “so I won’t bother.”

“And that’s a Landon-line. You really are my sister,” he said with mock satisfaction but with contentment, nonetheless. “Yeah. You and I are sister and brother despite that fact,” Specimen SOE-TS2 concluded.

< Message edited by Crimzon5 -- 5/16/2010 3:57:05 >
AQ DF  Post #: 7
5/14/2010 3:34:43   

Lea Atlantra

Okay, so I can’t really read your mind! …What? The world might end at any second, and I would rather die an honest man.

The sun continued to hide behind the shield of clouds, a disruptive wall rather than a protective buckler. The air, nonetheless, was very cold. After a break he had to make because of the red traffic lights, Ryan returned his gaze to the Derem’s household. The turns they had to take led them to side of the mansion’s posterior wall – at least twenty feet below it, that is. Not many were familiar with who the Derems were, but the townsfolk referred to their house as the “Big House on the Hill.”

Ryan only appreciated the city from afar and when it was night. Like a child, bright lights would enthrall him as long as it did not cause irritation. Much more like a child, Jhenine was no different. The brunet eyed his surroundings with displeasure but also a familiarity worn out by his travels. His case of nostalgia grew worse as he believed that much had changed beneath the snow, yet nothing in particular had taken any form of transformation. He had been gone for three months, chasing a man that he believed was responsible for the death of his father – but the situation was different now.

Lea Atlantra was a city that housed all kinds of people, from the wealthy to the financially-struggling. There were several vacant lots, green areas on the map during spring and summer. They served as a great spots for snowball fighting, making snow angels, and caroling. As depicted by Landon’s painting, the houses were bunched together, allowing the unoccupied land to gather in more practical concentrations.

A car blew its horn and returned Ryan to reality. He turned to the driver to apologize, and with a firm grip on the handle, ignited the engine. Ryan drove swiftly; he beat yellow traffic lights and slipped between two cars that were about to close the gap between them. The distance behind him grew longer.

“I wonder what the twins are doing now.” Jhenine said all of a sudden, her emerald coat rippling against a wall of air. Honks and beeps drowned her soft voice.

“What?” Ryan asked, failing to hear her statement.

“I said,” she replied shouting, “‘I wonder what the twins are doing!’”

“Oh,” he replied with a raised voice but not a shout. “Probably sleeping. We should do the same. We should be near home by now. I’m going to introduce you to my mom.”

“Your mom? It would be nice to finally meet Mrs. Kristen.”

Ryan overtook two cars before replying. “Lesson One: don’t call her that.” Even without seeing her face, he could tell she arched her eyebrows with surprise. “It’s not that it’s offending or anything, but it does confuse people into thinking that Kristen is her birth name. Her name is Madeline if you’re wondering.”

Jhenine nodded. “By the way,” Ryan continued, “I know you’re nodding, but it’s better for you to say yes. At night when I ask you if you’re okay and when you’re on the phone ordering pizza, sometimes I see you shake your head like that. The person has to see you to know you’re saying yes when you do that. Since I’m driving, I have to keep my eyes on the road to prevent accidents, so I can’t look at you right now.” Man, it’s hard to be using simple words all the time.

“Oh. Sorry.” Shortly after the apology, she asked another question. “The thing which I can’t remember. The… umm… ‘fire.’ Are you going to tell Madeline about it?”

Ryan’s face was consumed by an expression of dismay. “I haven’t really thought beyond bringing you home,” he admitted, laughing. “But I know you’ll make a great addition to the family. Don’t worry, I’ll think of something to tell her.”

Not a single word but a nod from Jhenine followed. For the rest of the ride, their lips were silenced by their own will. Ryan carved a path through the traffic until they reached a long bridge built over a river. There, the cars had enough space between them for him to quickly weave a way to their destination.

Slowly, the clouds slipped away from the sun’s domain in the sky. Lavender walls became orange in the light; gray ice turned to crystal-blue.

Jhenine looked to her side. If the bridge were to collapse by any chance, they would descend a height of sixty feet before crashing onto the water surface. She would have loved the view, but an immature fear ignited her heartbeat. Having the girl clutch her arms around him, her chest in contact with his back, Ryan barely felt her accelerated pulse. The Algrunix River’s vigorous flow gave it immunity from freezing. Sharp boulders lay half-buried on the water, reflecting small white glints and sparkles on their exposed surfaces. Beyond that, the river continued west to the sea where several ports created profits and job opportunities for the people. There was a small settlement next to the stream’s shore with barely enough houses to call it a village. The cabins near the jetties were wooden in exterior but built upon a foundation of metal wires and cinderblock. Ryan took a second’s glance; it was enough to remind him of the flowerbeds that used to surround the river.

The village, Crestens Corner, was a renowned tourist spot. With an experienced helmsman, one could rent a boat and cruise through the waters safely. There were models of machinery such as bulldozers and cranes as well as statues, carved and perfected with detail, of the community’s founders. Smoke billowed from food stalls that served roasted corn, barbecues, and several other meats, while the air was clean and fresh near the merchandises.

After crossing the bridge, much to the blonde’s relief, they continued their straight path until three blocks where they took a right turn. They skipped many poorly-maintained alleys. Trashcans were toppled and turned into fire bins, litter was scattered here and there. There was a particular building with walls which needed a fresh coat of paint; true enough, some vandals had decided to give it one.

Ryan gritted his teeth; he would have clenched his fist if he was confident enough to drive with one hand. “We’re near home,” he said regrettably, for the ugliness was not far away. “But don’t worry. It’s in a village where only residents can enter without permission. It’s way better than this place.” Just then, his eyes widened slightly, and he reversed the motorcycle’s direction.

“Why are we going back?”

“We borrowed that gown you’re wearing, remember?”

“You mean we didn’t buy it?” she said sadly.

“If you want, I’ll buy you one the next time you’ll need to wear one.” Jhenine smiled. “Besides, we left our stuff in the store. We should really stop there first.”

The two returned to a building located three intersections away from the main road. A trailer the size of a wagon leaned on the outer corner of the infrastructure. Its metallic components shone with black luster, proving that it was well maintained. Fighting the urge to close his eyes in a battle he could not triumph, Ryan became impatient to finish his business here. He pushed the door open; a set of chimes rattled with a soothing sound. A small light bulb barely illuminated the room. A line of black suits and trousers for men stood on one side. The other displayed gowns and dresses for women. Human-sized figurines wearing featured clothes for rent stood in the exhibit, but unfortunately, they gave off an aura of lifelessness. “Hello, sir. Merry Christmas!” Emily, a girl of moderate height, greeted as if automatically before the chimes’ last note was played. She wore a bandana over her hair which was tied behind her head with a ponytail. Her hazel eyes were focused on the floor, preventing her from recognizing the customer who happened to enter when she was still sweeping dust off the floor with a broom.

Ryan replied with a smile and entered further. Jhenine followed. “Merry Christmas, Emily. Glad to see you helping your mom in the shop. Is she here already?”

The young woman recognized his voice and looked up with her body still bended down. “No, but I think I can help you with any business you have with her.” The shopkeeper-in-training then diverted her attention to Jhenine who was fascinated with the clothing. She touched a turquoise gown with rose-shaped sleeves; strokes of reflected light on the dress rose in response.

“Long time no see, Ryan. Is that your girlfriend,” she questioned mockingly. Ryan denied the statement, but Emily was not convinced.

Jhenine was confused with the situation. I’m a girl and his friend, right?

Addressing the emerald-eyed blonde, she said, “Can you tell me your name?” Jhenine replied with her name. Emily gave hers in return before offering her work-strained palm for a shake.

Ryan predicted that a series of questions would follow, eventually leading to an inquiry about how they met. Many answers would have come in mind, but assessing the circumstances gave him a headache. Amidst the darkness, a small spark of a clever idea flashed through his mind. Clearing his throat to draw all the attention, he told Emily of their business in the store.

The young woman laughed in reply. “But you’re still wearing the borrowed clothes. How do you plan to return them?”

“We left our stuff here yesterday. I think your mom said that she was going to place them under the counter.” His words held true. A pair of suitcases, a backpack, and two plastic bags were safely stored under the desk. Emily offered to assist him, but Ryan insisted on getting them himself.

Handing one of the plastic bags to his companion, he said to Emily, “We’ll use the dressing rooms, okay? Sorry we couldn’t clean the clothes but…”

The storekeeper cut him off quick on the trigger. “There’s no need. It’s Christmas. Besides, you may not be a regular customer, but we’ve known you ever since you and I were both still children.”

“Aha… So being friends with you does have it perks,” he said monotonously in a joking manner. Emily squeezed her eyes and curled her lips into a frown, pretending to be angry. Laughter followed at an instant.

Jhenine tucked Ryan by his shirt. “Can I start dressing now?”

“Yes,” Ryan and Emily replied, the latter pointing to the fitting room. Jhenine thanked them and went on her way. The brunet hauled his plastic bag over his shoulder and entered a different room.

Moments later, Ryan returned to the counter, wearing a gray shirt with red sleeves and a pair of loose black jeans.

Waiting for Jhenine to finish, he looked around. None of the clothes captivated him, but he remembered his promise to Jhenine upon eyeing the section of gowns. “Are any of these for sale?” he asked, hoping to buy one.

“Last time I checked, all of these were rent-only.” Ryan sighed. “But we do have these for sale!” she said enthusiastically while pulling out a small box from a drawer. Ryan hoped it was an elegant dress of some sort, but knew one could not fit in such a small container.

“What’s in it?” he had to ask.

“Chocolate bars!”

“Why? Is this some other Christmas-thing? I think I’m starting to enjoy this holiday more,” he chuckled.

“Mom thought it was a great idea since most of the women customers often brought their children along. As long as they don’t leave a mess, I’ll have to agree with her. Here, take one,” she offered.

“No, no. It’s too much now. I’d really rather buy one. Well, two actually.”

“One for you, and one for her right?” she assumed with a teasing voice.

“You got the second part right. I haven’t seen Rebecca in three months. I think buying her some chocolate is the least I could do.”

“Yes; I was surprised when Madeline said that you left. When I asked for the reason, she told me to ask you when you’d come back. Since you’re here, I might as well.”

Ryan was apprehended by fear. He had thought that he evaded the question by a mile, but now he had to answer it. Was there a way to make a distraction? No, it wouldn’t suffice; he needed to change the topic somehow or at least create a story and stick with it in case others were to ask again. He hated lying. It was not only his tongue that was never trained for such a dishonest thing, but also his heart that held his faith. Sweat nearly drenched his palms when suddenly Jhenine came out wearing an apple-green blouse above her pink shorts. Ryan glanced at her, his brows raised upon seeing her footwear.

“Jhenine, how come you’re still wearing high heels?” he said as if questioning a four-year-old regarding her foolery (innocence if you insist on a euphemism).

“I can’t find my rubber shoes,” she moaned, her cheeks reddened crying over spilt milk.

“Are you sure? If it’s not in the bag, it might be in your suitcase.” Avoiding Emily’s eyes, Ryan reached out for the baggage. Both cases were identical, but by luck, he happened to open the right one. “So they are here. Come put them on, Jhenine.”

Jhenine nodded and approached the counter. While she was tying her lace, Ryan handed the storekeeper some money amounting to more than enough to cover the rent. Emily quickly counted the money and split the bundle into two uneven parts. “Here’s your change,” she said.

Ryan lightly pushed her back. “Nah, I want you to have it. If it makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, then maybe I’ll just take a few more bars.”

“Help yourself then,” she replied, shoving the money in her pocket. “I think you’ve taught me how awkward it is when offered too much charity.

“Be a blessing to others,” Ryan quoted from an unfamiliar source. A twitch of his eyebrows was enough to say goodbye. Before he took the last step through the door, carrying all of their belongings, he heard Emily’s concerned voice from across the room.

“Hey, how are the two of you going to carry all of that home? I have my bicycle with me. I think I can help.”

“It’s all taken care of,” he said with a smirk, placing the baggage in the black cart outside. What was left was to hook it to the rear of the motorcycle.

Ryan drove back in his village’s direction with more caution this time. They stopped in front of a house near the end of a narrow road. The residence stood two stories high and was fair in size. A pillar of smoke hovered above the shingled roof. A white fence not higher than a meter was the garden’s only defense.

Ten meters from the front door, in the remote corner of the wooden barricade, stood a twelve-feet-tall mango tree. Its branches were known to block one of the second floor’s windows with a cloud of leaves, but winter had taken the liberty of clearing the obstacle.

Ryan parked the vehicle outside the fence’s boundary and told Jhenine to wait next to it. He leapt over the short wooden gate and approached one of the windows. A fog prevented him from seeing anything, and he discovered that it could only be wiped from the inside. Ryan paced toward the door and rang the doorbell.

He heard the sounds of hooks being unlock, the twist of the doorknob last. He came into eye contact with a woman a few inches shorter than him, and before he knew it, her arms were wrapped around him. “It’s good to have you back, Ryan.” The woman had brown Chinese eyes, very fair skin, and raven-black hair that almost touched her shoulders. She wore a beige bathrobe atop her house clothing, though it was hardly evident. Jhenine was shocked by her appearance. Madeline looked incredibly young for someone to have a child as old as Ryan. Jhenine justified what she saw by thinking that it was God’s blessing.

The young man could feel the side of his face against hers. When Madeline’s first embrace ended, she kissed Ryan on the cheek. Her eyes gave a strange expression upon noticing Jhenine’s presence.

Ryan took a deep breath and said solemnly, “There’s something we need to talk about.” He wished his first words could have been “Merry Christmas,” or anything fitting to return the embrace. He hated himself, he would have stared disgracefully at the pitiful man he had become if he could, but a firm resolve told him the best option was to continue what he had started. Another stressed breath, visible in the air, left his mouth.

“Would you mind coming in then?” Madeline could not ascertain what tone to use, more importantly, what to feel. Several theories came to mind that might explain why Ryan brought a stranger, a girl to be precise, home. She shuddered at every idea, feeling guilty with every thought.

“She can come in too, right?” With her permission, Ryan led Jhenine to the living room.

There were three black fabric sofas facing an oval table from different directions. The seat paired adjacently with both with the other two faced the entrance. There was nothing that separated them from the dining room, save the buffet table that held untouched documents in its drawers. The top was usually bare, unclothed and polished to sparkle, but an Advent Wreath was placed on to commemorate the holiday. Bells and chimes hung with scarlet curtains – often times, they would be brown or beige depending on the homeowner’s mood. Two socks were nailed near the fireplace, one seemed to fit on a kindergartener, the other on an adult.

Madeline took a seat on the sofa. Folding her right leg and placing it over the other, she clasped her hands together and rested them on her thigh. She gazed at Ryan with both curious and intimidating eyes.

He felt like a criminal, watched discriminately. He had a bit of reason to get angry with her, but his control of actions yielded his temper. He was present in a court, Madeline being the judge and jury – in addition, the persecutor if the worst were to come.

Ryan sighed. It was difficult for him to start. Ryan decided that casually introducing them with one another would help improve the flow of what he was trying to accomplish. He addressed the adult first, letting her know the guest’s name. He already started to regret his solemn approach, if only he had taken the situation with a casual gesture.

“It may sound weird and uncommon, but…”

Jhenine could sense his uneasiness. She started to tremble like a child facing the dread reality of parent’s incapacity to provide absolute protection. Ryan noticed this and decided that his assertiveness needed to remain firm to help Jhenine remain calm.

He started to speak frankly but not unkindly, unfrightened but without the lack of respect. “I brought this girl over because she needs my – no, our – help.” Madeline remained silent and politely listened. “She…” Ryan braced himself for another lie, “…lost her family to some accident. But that’s not all. She lost her memories, too.”

“That’s terrible!” she exclaimed in terror. She found this loss hard to believe, but found no way to prove it false. Madeline followed up with a few questions of clarity. In return, Ryan answered them confidently without inconsistencies, lies were the main ingredient of his words.

“What motivates me is because I owe her my life. That’s why I’ve taken the responsibility to take care of her,” he said all of a sudden.

“Owe her your life?”

“If it wasn’t for her, I’d probably be still out there, an unresolved man chasing someone he was never sure of for being his father’s murderer.”

“I see…” Jhenine sensed a repressed emotion of sadness, but the sorrow did not root from the death of a loved one – it was Ryan that caused it. “So how can we help her?” Madeline said, turning away to hide a glint in her eye.

“Adopt her to the Kristen Family,” he said straightly.

“Ryan! I want to help her, too, but we can’t do that until we have legal consent. One thing’s for sure though. We’ll need to find and contact her relatives.”

Ryan concealed a grin underneath a layer of dried lips. “I already thought about that. But the thing is… Jhenine doesn’t recall her last name.”

The blonde remained silent and scowled. He’s lying again… But what’s going on?!

“We can keep her around in secret from the officials with all their documents and useless crap!” he snapped. “I can find her a therapist or something to help her regain her memories. Then maybe, if she gets them back, she’ll be able to contact a relative.”

“You sure have thought things through,” the woman remarked.

All just in the nick of time. I just have to make sure that the twins and Emily play along. “So will you stick with the plan?”

“This has been the weirdest Christmas ever.” Madeline sighed and thought for a few moments. “She can stay for now. But perhaps after some rest, you and I will be inspired with a better idea.”

“Sure thing, Mom,” he said emphasizing the last word. Madeline looked at him in surprise. Before she could react through words, Ryan approached her and whispered, “For Jhenine’s sake… could you pretend to be Mom? I know you wouldn’t pass for someone to be my parent, but this girl’s really slow on things.” Madeline was actually his older sister.

“You got to be kidding?! I’ll play along, but this better not get any more difficult, okay?” she whispered back. After those words, Madeline left the two to get some sleep.

Ryan went outside to get their belongings while Jhenine helped herself to a seat. When he had finished, she looked at him with an expression of distrust.

“Ryan, why did you have to lie? You told me it was a bad thing.”

“She wouldn’t let you stay if I told her that I knew your last name,” he replied landing on the couch. Because only the two of them were around, he purged his lips of untruths.

“But why can’t we call a relative to pick me up?”

“It’s too dangerous, remember? The killer’s out there still looking for you. You’re safer here, trust me.”

“Then did you lie about what you said?”

“Which part?”

“The terofis,” she replied.

“Ahh… You mean the therapist? Don’t worry, I’ll try my best to get your memories back. After that, we can have an intelligent conversation on what to do.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Now Jhenine, can it be my turn to ask you something?”


“Were you paying attention to Mom’s emotions with your Vision?”

“Yes. She was confused and a little bit frustrated. She is also trying to force herself into believing the situation. She seems nice though.”

“I don’t blame her for having doubts,” he said miserably. “I had to mix lies with the truth to get what I wanted… to get what I needed.” What’s happening to me? I’m not like this! Please forgive me, Lord.

Ryan closed his eyes. “Let’s get some rest.” A calm voice was enough to bury his contempt, but not enough to hide it. “I never actually thought that we could stay all night till morning without falling asleep. That party sure was a long one! Hey, do you need a bed?”

“No thanks. I’m fine here,” she said before lying down.

“Okay then.”

< Message edited by Crimzon5 -- 5/20/2010 9:44:04 >
AQ DF  Post #: 8
5/18/2010 11:19:42   

A Dire Invitation

It was approximately 4:25 in the afternoon, five hours since they had arrived. Ryan woke up with blurred vision. He stared blankly at the ceiling, reluctant to start moving again. The ticking of a clock was the only thing he could hear. He tried ignoring it, but the sound only became louder in his perception.

That motivated him to get up. He curled his upper body and bent his legs. Consequently, a few envelopes fell from his lap onto the marble floor.

Letters? Six of them…

He bent down to pick them up and began to tear the sides, reading the contents subsequently. The first was from Danielle. The date showed that it was written three days after he left for his trip. It was merely a “Welcome back,” that was written early by the writer, accompanied by questions regarding the journey. Ryan read the items carefully, answering them for the sake of recollecting memories and confirming his motives.

He moved on to the next which proved to be junk mail from no one other than Landon. Ryan threw it away with a smile on his face. The following two were from Emily and Katrina, a friend he could only keep in touch with through web chat and other modern means.

He went on to the fifth. Like the previous ones, the paper was folded in half, but this one in particular was evidently dented by crayons from the inner side. There were balloons in the picture; trees, clouds, grass, and a drawing of him, too. A masterpiece of a seven-year-old, no doubt!


Acting on impulse, Ryan looked behind him. There stood a young girl, her small mouth curved to a smile. The child was barely three feet tall, slightly below Ryan’s chest level.

“Rebecca!” he replied, using a perky tone. “Did you draw this?”

“Yeah.” The smile on her face grew wider, exposing her two rows of front teeth. One of them had fallen out. That seemed new to Ryan, since he was already gone by the time it happened.

“No wonder there’s no address and date,” he said. Ryan stood up and patted her head before slightly messing up her black hair. “Thanks.”

“It was Madeline’s idea,” Rebecca said slowly as if mastering her syllables. “Other people gave you five letters a long time ago, so I wanted to make you one, too.”

“So you were the last to write, huh?” Ryan concluded that out of her excitement, Rebecca was the one who had placed the envelopes on his lap. If it had been Madeline, then the letters would have been placed somewhere more practical or given to him while he was awake.

Something bothered Ryan. “Did you do this today?”

“I did it, at uhh… Three O’clock.”

So Madeline told her to do this after we had the talk. He became wary of the situation. Despite coming into terms with Madeline, Ryan never had the chance to talk with her about his self-bestowed mission. She was aware of his bloody objective, and reacted violently upon first hearing them. But Ryan never explained himself. Instead, he left without hesitation, bringing with him his belongings which he had secretly packed. I need to talk with her. I need to explain myself. In her perspective, I was totally unreasonable. But…can I really tell her why I left? Even Landon only knows half of the story.

“Ryan… did you and Madeline fight?” Rebecca said all of a sudden. He grew tense over these words.

Ryan turned his back on her to lean on the sofa. “No.” There was a small gap of silence, enough for him to formulate his next words. “The two of us are playing a game of pretend.”

“Pretend?” she said, rubbing her head.

“See that girl over there,” he said, pointing his finger at Jhenine who was resting quietly.

Rebecca nodded. “Who is that, again?”

“A friend,” Ryan replied with a grin. “Her name’s Jhenine. She’ll be staying with us for some time.”

“How long?” she asked at the instant.

“Maybe six months? I dunno.” Ryan yawned, draining himself of drowsiness. “But don’t get excited for the time when she leaves. The two of you are sure to be friends.”


“It’s just a hunch, really. But you two are actually pretty much the same in many ways.”

“How are we the same?”

Since Rebecca was only seven years old, Ryan believed there was no need to act contrite. “She got hit on the head and lost her memory.”

“But I didn’t lose my memory!”

Wishing Jhenine a peaceful rest, Ryan told Rebecca to keep her voice down. After a short moment of scolding her, he continued on. “Remember the fairytale I read to you many times? The one with the princess who got amnesia. She was like a kindergartener!”

“But I’m in grade school now!”

“But you still have an innocent perspective on this world.”

“What?” She looked puzzled.

“Oh yeah. That must’ve sounded too deep for you. Wait – We got so carried away that I haven’t told you how we’re playing.”

“But you started talking about her,” she countered.

“I’ll comment on that later. Anyway, we’re pretending that Madeline’s our mom.”


“Fun. Besides, it makes no difference. Being the eldest and above eighteen, she’s practically our legal guardian. Also, the one who loses first can’t eat chocolate for an entire year.”


Ryan repeated his instruction to keep her voice down. “Don’t worry. It’s so easy. All we have to do is call her ‘Mom.’ We don’t normally call her ‘Sister,’ and if we call her by her name, then there’s nothing wrong. Also, since we’re pretending, we’re supposed to act as if this isn’t a game and everything’s real.”

“Is your friend going to play, too?” Ryan could not tell whether she asked this out of concern or because she was anxious about her presence and involvement.

“Actually, we’re doing this to fool her.” He eagerly waited for how Rebecca would react.

“Why?! She already got amnesia.” Ryan grinned at the results. He got Rebecca to reveal her concern.

“Fun. Besides, she needs to think that there’s an adult. She’s sort of like a child. Pretty much like you.”

“Aahhh…! So she’s not smarter than me!” A childish expression of delight ran over her face.

Ryan sighed. “You prey on the weak.” Rebecca did not comment but helped herself to a seat instead.

“By the way, I bought you something,” Ryan said, showing a handful of chocolate bars.

“Chocolate?! But we already got a lot as presents!”

The brunet laughed at himself. “I can’t believe that I forgot about that. Should’ve gotten you something else instead then.”

“It’s okay. Since you came home and brought someone with you, that chocolate’s sure to go away fast!” she reasoned out.

Ryan chuckled. “Anyway, could you put these in the fridge then?” he requested. “They’ve been in my pocket for hours. And I still got one more mail to read.”

Rebecca agreed and left him for a few moments. Ryan did not bother wondering who the last letter was from. He was about to find out anyway. Or so he thought…

A small note was written on the back of envelope: “Don’t you dare, Jhenine!”

“As if she knows how to read,” Ryan said, laughing as he upended it and pulled the paper out. Concluding it was from his older sister, he uttered to himself, “I wonder what Madeline has to say…”

At the instant, he noticed an inconsistency. Wait! Rebecca said that there were already five letters before this day! Who could… What’s going on?

There was no turning back. Some scheme had already gone into play. He had to read it or forever dwindle with fear in his heart, amplified by his lack of knowledge, uncertainty, and the fact that someone was able to predict that he would bring Jhenine home. Could it have been a stranger? Someone who knew him without the relation being mutual? But who? And more importantly, how? Those were the first questions that came to his mind. In the worst case of danger, his only hope relied on the message, whether it could say something to guarantee their safety.

There was only one sentence, nothing more. “Why don’t you use your Vision to see for yourself if your suspect is guilty or innocent?”

He flipped the page and found nothing else. Every bone in Ryan’s body trembled. Someone knew him too well.

Did Madeline hear me and Jhenine talk about her Vision? No. Even if she did, I never mentioned having one, nor did I mention how mine works. I only mentioned hers. So what’s going on?

I know! I’ll use my Vision to track where this came from! Ryan was not utterly convinced by his plan. Wait. I recall seeing an address on the back. I only thought it was there because the envelope was recycled.

Ryan took a deep breath. Mustering every bit of courage he had left, he flipped the envelope. He gaped in shock. If the information was not false, then the letter was written on October 12, the day he met Jhenine.

“This address… This is… where my father died. This… this has to be an… invitation.”

< Message edited by Crimzon5 -- 5/18/2010 21:55:26 >
AQ DF  Post #: 9
5/25/2010 0:38:01   

Resurrect the Past, Destroy the Future

Time was moving fast, yet the scenery of snow remained unchanged. Every gust of air felt like the phenomenal sensation of having a ghost pass through one’s body. Unfortunately for Ryan, a poltergeist would be a mere child disguised in a white blanket compared to who he was up against.

After a quick shower – the first step he felt necessary to ready himself for the encounter – Ryan instructed Rebecca to keep an eye on Jhenine, claiming he was going to take a stroll somewhere. He made his first step outside and examined the vicinity in anticipation, but there was no one on the streets of the secluded village.

His chest felt heavy, his exhales were relieving and lasted longer; thus, a slow pace sounded like a good idea to him. He left his motorcycle chained to a metal pole on the sidewalk, bearing the thought that he should have, and could have, been at home, spending time with what remained of his family. And the more he should because he had not seen them for nearly a quarter of the year. He passed some houses. Laughter and joy existed inside each one. He hated it! Only because it was something he did not have – no, he despised it… because he could not have it.

When he left the village, the roots of his envy all suddenly disappeared. The roads were busy, the sidewalks were crowded, and stores were still in operation. Ryan felt an awkward comfort. If the majority of the world was in the same state with what was before his eyes, then what he desired was nothing more than an inessential aspiration. He irrationally welcomed the possibility with delight born of resentment. He took his time while crossing the pedestrian lanes, ambling. By the time he halted at a bus stop, it was almost dark. He stared at the surrounding people and withdrew his gaze whenever there was the risk of someone gesturing to return his glance. Ryan no longer considered that the writer of the enigmatic letter was within sight. The possibility of him or her waiting in the designated address seemed the most probable to him.

Christmas was never his favorite. He was sick of people using the holiday as the reason to be kind and charitable. Kindness should not be seasonal, he believed. He wished the world could realize that, but his voice alone was never enough.

The bus was nearly filled with passengers when it arrived. Ryan managed to squeeze through the lines and find himself a seat before it was taken. He inclined his back on the window, closing his eyes.

Nearly an hour had passed by the time he exited the bus. The sun blazed with a golden conflagration over the terrain… somewhere on the other half of the planet (I don’t need omniscience to tell you that). Night had conquered the sky above Ryan in a battle against daylight. The fleet of starts was yet to arrive; the pale moon was the sun’s last vestige, a sign that it had not forsaken them. The forty-five-minute bus ride had taken him to Karlana Nur, the business central of the region. Highways, tunnels, and bridges were tangled in a web of roads. One wrong turn could spell a detour of twenty minutes or so. City lights came from windows, lamps, automobiles, and Christmas decorations. There were no houses; skyscrapers dominated the area. The commercial buildings with the least height were shopping malls that stood at least four stories high.

A few minutes of walking on the sidewalk parallel to wide streets had passed by the time he reached his target destination. Ryan stared at the ruins of a three-floor parking lot wherein a cruel memory resided. There were irregular-shaped holes on the walls. Debris gathered in scattered piles, without any credit to human effort. Withered pillars had collapsed, some overlapping another, and portions of the third floor had sunken to the first level.

Ryan looked at the ground and was apprehended to see footprints on the snow. On the other hand, he felt reassured. Tired, he threw himself on the snow-topped ground, neutralizing the heat in his body with the cold. There, he inspected his ankle if his gun was still holstered in its case that was attached to his lower leg, and it was.

He spent a couple of minutes lying on his back, thinking. Not a single star gleamed in the sky, representing the darkened dome as an empty void. Satisfied with a bit of rest, he entered the ruined building. At his first step, lights flared into illumination. A footstep echoed, and an eerie shadow passed him. Someone knew he was there! He grew tenser and scanned the area in search of the source but did so with no avail. A large chasm rendered a spiral ramp, whose purpose was to connect the first two floors, unusable. The gap was too large form him to leap across. Fortunately, the same person who had activated the lights – or so thought Ryan, at least – had also placed a wooden plank that could serve as a bridge. It was wide enough for him to walk on without the risk of falling due to not enough space for both of his feet, but the question now was if it could endure in supporting him.

He transferred weight to his feet, bracing himself, then dashed through the board and crossed safely. The plank rattled because of his swift yet reckless movements and nearly slid off the edge; luckily, it did not. Ryan adjusted it to lessen the chances of it suddenly falling, hoping to use the plank once more when going down.

He looked around, his body bathed by moonlight. He happened to stand on a portion of the floor that was devoid of its ceiling. His eyes caught something in the darkness but could confirm what it was. When he tried to concentrate on the figure, another burst of light surged and filled the room. The object was actually nothing more than an old car, abandoned by its owner while thought to have been crushed along with the wreckage; though in reality, it was undamaged with a portion of the area. There was one large hole in the opposite side of the room. Ryan gave the undamaged area another glance. Still, there was no one. He inspected behind pillars and looked behind stacks of debris, but his target was too quick for him.

He then remembered what he was here for.

He activated his Vision. His pupils shrunk then expanded insignificantly. The hue of his brown eyes was tinted by a bit of yellow. He felt a flow energy poured through them. His eyes became wide open; his iris shook in resistance against something. Alas, tears formed but remained on his lids as he witnessed a memory which was never his.

A cloud of flames consumed everything within sight. A shockwave ripped everything in its path, tearing a man’s black suit and flesh, his skin was split then burned. Ryan watched as metal bits were blown away, cracks formed on walls, and as the ceiling collapse. Dust mixed with smoke and ash, obscuring the dread sight for moments. When it subsided, blood was seen on broken glass, on the floor… and on dead bodies.

Ryan’s eyes returned to normal. With a blink, the tears landed on his cheeks. While he saw the dread visions, he heard nothing. He saw fires around his body, but he remained unharmed and his clothes were still in one piece. Ryan reactivated his Vision, calling his father’s name, yelling him to run. The man gave no response. In a desperate attempt, Ryan ran after him and tried to touch him. To his dismay, his arm penetrated the suited man like a ghost through a wall. It was as if he was partially existent in the world he had seen, hopelessly watching the events unfold as all he could do was observe, unable influence the outcome. Ryan felt a transfer of weight to the front portion of his body. One of his shoes was on the hole. He swung his arms to retransfer his weight, preventing his fall. If he had continued to pursue the man in his vision, he would have dropped into the first floor with shattered bones.

He was about to reattempt creating an intervention when a man’s hollow voice halted him. “There’s nothing you can do to change the past.” Ryan remained wordless, wishing he could say something to rebut. “There are only two things you change about it: how you feel and what you are going to do.”

“I want revenge… and I’ll get it,” Ryan snarled. He stretched his fingers while trying to locate his gun without relying on sight.

“You won’t. Even with your Vision, you won’t be able to find out who set up the bomb.” The speaker revealed himself to Ryan, but the young man seemed too distressed on what had been said to react at the stranger’s appearance. The man slowly walked closer to him with a commanding height above six feet. His hair was florid; his sideburns were constricted by a gartered headband. The tail of his hair covered his nape. His shoulders were wide, a leather pauldron was equipped on the left. His iris possessed an orange hue and they eyed Ryan predatorily “Tell me… how do you think your Vision works?”

Impulsively, Ryan kicked the wall and leaned his leg. Before he could reach for his gun, the sound akin to the unlocking of a firearm rang. “Don’t move,” the man demanded, coming closer with his weapon aimed. Ryan felt uncomfortable in his position but considered the advantage of having his gun within reach. All he needed was an opportunity to grab it and return aim.

“Who are you?” Ryan said, his shoe slowly slipping down the wall.

“That hurts. I wrote to you twice some months ago. The first even came with a package, a black motorcycle.” The man ended his displacement with a meter between them. “For now, call me ‘Racer.’ Easy to remember, right?”

“So what do you want?” The leg of Ryan’s pants submitted to gravity’s pull and revealed the firearm attached to his ankle. The man who had revealed himself as Racer gave no hint of planning to take it, but Ryan kept alert.

“How rude,” Racer said monotonously. “I was the first to ask, and you still haven’t answered. And now you want me to answer another question? I believe it’s your turn.”

Ryan gritted his teeth. “Fine,” he surrendered uncomfortably, the joints of his leg started to burn.

“Good,” the man said, pleased. “How do you think your Vision works?”

“It lets me see the past,” Ryan replied after some hesitation.

“I didn’t ask you to tell me what it does. I asked you to tell me how you think it works.” The redhead lowered his gun. “Perhaps you are too uncomfortable. You can stand straight now.”

Ryan used the moment to arm himself, unlocking the trigger. The man grinned. “Why are you assuming that I’m an enemy? Is it because… I’m a threat?” Ryan was out of words. “Silence means yes. But I say, ‘Silence means the answer you don’t want to say.’”

“Yes. You are a threat,” Ryan admitted. “So answer my question. What do you want?”

“Assuming that I’m an enemy. Tsk tsk…” he replied, unpetulantly shaking his head. “Would you believe if I said that I wanted to help?”

Ryan’s finger slipped from the trigger. “Of course not! I can’t trust a stranger.” In his mind, he was arguing with his words.

“I know you have an enemy. But do I have the same silver hair as him?” The brunet froze. Before Ryan could ask, Racer said it for him. “How do I know about him? He’s my enemy, too.”

Ryan did not want to be convinced but could not argue with his logic. “Who is that guy? And what does he want?”

“You always ask what people want, but I bet you never give it to them.” Bitter laughter followed. “We can call him ‘Hunter’ or ‘Tracker; your choice.’”

“Why those of all names?” asked Ryan.

Racer sat on the floor, inviting Ryan to follow. The boy did not budge, still aiming. “You should know by now that you and Jhenine aren’t the only two with Visions.” Ryan was shocked, but what he heard was expected. “Tracker’s Vision allows him to track anyone from anywhere. So despite circling around the entire Atlantis Continent, you never succeeded in hiding. All you managed to do was run.”

“So what do I do?” Ryan felt heavily concerned for his own safety. How could he sleep through the nights, knowing how capable the murderer was? Was he doomed to always run away? He could not tolerate the undesirable need to abandon his family again without giving them an explanation. He focused all his thoughts into finding a solution, but not even the least brilliant of ideas came to mind.

“Tracker knows how far you are. He knows you are here. But he won’t come yet. He will need the right moment. Right now, you are several miles apart and yet you’ve never let your guard down. But do you think you can endure long months without ever falsely concluding your complete safety?”

Ryan swallowed his breath. “Where is… Tracker… right now?” Referring to the murderer with such a name felt uncomfortable.

Racer grunted at the young man’s habit of refusing to answer his questions. “I may not have his Vision, but I know he’s in Northern Atlantis.”

“Why that far? I thought he knew we’re in South Atlantis,” objected Ryan.

A scowl of disappointment curled Racer’s lips. “I think I overestimated you, boy. Can you tell me the effects of Jhenine’s Vision?”

“She can see emotions.” His answer was unaddressed. “Wait! How does she?”

“So you never asked,” Racer said, dissatisfied. “Jhenine sees colors emitting from people. Yellow represents joy. Red is for anger and violent intentions.” The man bent his legs and rested on his arm on his knees. “And you’ll love to hear this. Some emotions can affect her senses instead of just her sight. When she senses fear, her pulse accelerates. But that does not mean that she herself is afraid.”

“What’s so good about that?” Ryan interrupted.

Racer’s forehead furrowed. “I wasn’t done yet. If you keep on changing the question quickly, you’ll never hear the complete answers.”

“Sorry,” said Ryan unconvincingly.

Racer let it pass and continued, flicking his hand as he talked. “When someone, let’s say Tracker, goes near her enough with the intention to kill, she gains the same ability as Tracker’s Vision, but she can only target the one with the brutal intention. Also, she will suffer from a headache, but it will last just for a few seconds.”

Jhenine could detect the killer? This was great news for Ryan. His muscles settled down, and he sighed in deep relief. “So you mean –”

Racer cut him off. “Yes. Jhenine’s Vision is like a bomb. When Tracker goes near enough, it will trigger, allowing you to ready yourselves.” Ryan glowered at Racer’s badly chosen choice of words. Those black memories were enough to completely rid him of focus. He envisioned the flames, the rough winds that tore everything. He wished he could blame Racer, but realizing there was no right reason to, he returned sober.

“I think you know more of my Vision than I do, so can you tell me how my Visions actually works?” Ryan did not want to look like he was starting to depend on him, so he tried to speak flatly.

“I’d like to hear what you think first,” the redhead said with the intention to test him.

“Well, based on my observation, it allows me to see the past of a certain area. In particular, the one I’m looking at.” His answer was immediate like when stating a known fact.

“Here we go again.” Ryan could feel that Racer was starting to get annoyed. “What it does and how you think it works are two totally different things. Try to understand the question carefully.”

Ryan was frustrated, but accepted his error. His disliked the man, but knew Racer could provide the answers he was seeking. How does my Vision work? There’s no such thing as magic, so this has to have some scientific explanation. Silent moments had passed, and still no answer. He tried recalling some lectures, but the facts only answered the question ‘what’ and not ‘how.’ “I give up,” he said.

Racer stared at him unfavorably. “Perhaps my expectations were too high. I’ll give you a clue. When we seen an eclipse, is it happening or has it already happened?”

“It already happened,” he answered. “Ah! I get it. Normally, we see things that already take place since our eyes gather light and our brain processes it. Even if it’s near, there will still be a delay of information, but just by an incredibly small amount of time. And if it’s far enough like the sun, it could take minutes.”

“Good.” Racer clapped sarcastically. “Continue.”

Ryan used some time to analyze and interpret the information. “So my Vision can somehow absorb light information that no longer exists. So when I use my Vision to see the past, I can see whatever had happened at the exact same space in the area that I’m looking at.”

The man shook his head. “You were right until the last part.”

“What’s wrong with it?” the brunet retorted.

“The Earth rotates at its axis and revolves around the Sun. And in theory, the universe is ever-expanding, which would lead to our galaxy moving farther away from the center of the universe. Of course, this won’t apply if we were located in the center of the universe, but the odds are very, very low. And yet, we feel no displacement because of gravity,” he explained.

“Then how does my Vision view certain locations if they don’t occupy the same space as before?” Ryan queried.

“Good question. But if knew a little bit more of Visions, then asking a question like that would make you look like a total fool. The area of effect – which is based on your sight – has a relative position to the Earth’s core. Putting these together, we can say that the information your Vision gathers is not based on the space occupied by the area, but by its relative position to the core.” Racer enjoyed entertaining questions which he deemed intelligent. He awaited the continuation of the boy’s inquiry.

“How does it do that?” Ryan was very eager to find out.

“Having a Vision makes you a host to a certain organism. It’s a strange one though. Outside our bodies, the organism has a body made out of light. It hasn’t been given a name because only the Vision seems to be the significant part. But if you wish to talk about it, we can refer to it as the ‘V-Parasite.’ Once it enters us, it becomes one hundred percent undetectable. It does not feed, nor does it harm the host. The only effect is the enhancement of our eyes and other senses if applicable. Being an organism, it has bodily functions. When a bird migrates during winter, it uses the planet’s magnetic field to navigate. The V-Parasite has a similar effect.”

Several possibilities opened up to Ryan. He never knew how complex the structure of his power was, mainly because he had never given it much of a thought. There was so much to ask, he could not decide right away where to start. Making a choice, he asked, “How come I know it’s called a ‘Vision?’ When this power awakened in me, I instinctively knew what to call it. And when Jhenine lost her memory, the concept of Visions remained in her head. It’s like we knew it out of instinct.”

“You just answered your question,” said Racer. “Instinctively, one with a ‘Vision’ will name the power with the most fitting word in his or her vocabulary. I happen to know someone who called his ‘Sight.’”

“Wait! So this… V-Parasite… how did it exist? How can it be made out of plasma? And what allows it to do extraordinary things. And why do they work differently?” Racer failed to answer instantly, so Ryan added a follow up question. “And how did I get infected by the V-Parasite?” It seemed like he was very fortunate to obtain his Vision. He wondered if he was just lucky or if destiny played a role in his life. He started to question who Jhenine actually was. What was her involvement with Visions?

“I don’t know the answers yet. But it seems miraculous, don’t you think? It could be artificial life. But that’s just my theory.”

“Only God can perform miracles.”

“Oh. So you’re a man of faith?” A vague expression crossed his face, but Ryan could not identify what it meant. He recognized how useful Jhenine’s Vision was in a situation such as now.

“D’uh! South Atlantis is a Christian Country. And that’s where I live. We both know that,” he said.

“Not everyone here is a Christian. And even if everyone was, there are those who are only labeled as Christians but their doubts and selfish works show otherwise.”

“So I guess you’re one of them, huh?” Ryan wished his assumption was wrong.

“I still doubt His existence. And I wonder… Can a Christian really be selfless?” Racer’s voice was solemn, being unsure fueled his sadness.

“What do you mean?” Ryan felt a switch of roles, now seemed the best time to help him.

“If I don’t believe in God, then I don’t believe in Heaven either. Heaven, the Eternal Paradise, is a reward for good acts. Is that why Christians do what the Church says is ‘moral’ and avoid what they deem ‘immoral,’ so that they can attain Paradise?”

“I don’t discriminate non-Christians. I believe they too can learn to love and fight for justice. And as you said, some nonbelievers are better off than those falsely-labeled Christians. Humans – Christian or not – are like and are above animals. What we have in similar is instinct. If we do an act which makes something good happen to us, we’d continue it. And if we get hurt or punished for something, we’ll try to avoid it. But as humans, we can learn to love and follow moral ethics.”

There was a moment of silence. The two exchanged glances, waiting for the other one to talk. “See how easy it was to talk, knowing we could trust each other,” the man with orange eyes suddenly uttered.

“Yeah. I’m sorry for acting the way I did.” Ryan returned his gun to its holster.

“No one’s to blame. Even I brought a gun. That’s just how human instinct is.” Racer tapped the floor, inviting Ryan to take a seat. The boy gladly accepted the offer. “Now before we get carried away again, allow me to explain what I said earlier. The reason your Vision cannot help you is because the bomb was placed over there.” Racer pointed to the large hole. “There used to be a wall over there. If you stood here and used your Vision, you still wouldn’t be able to see passed it. And that’s where the bomb was set.”

“H–How do you know this?” Ryan started to speculate. Chances were that their newfound trust was going to shatter.

“I know the bomb is there because of its blast radius. As for the wall, why don’t you try using your Vision to verify my claim?” There was something in Racer’s voice that seemed lacking.

“But that doesn’t explain how you knew of the wall, unless – your Vision! How does yours work?”

“I’d prefer not to say,” he said sadly. “You did something to make me think you’re not ready to know. It’s something you can’t handle. Not with the way you are.” Ryan wondered what it was.

Racer casually changed the topic. “Sorry for your loss. I could have scheduled this meeting on some other day.”

“It’s okay,” he replied. What Vision could he possibly have that allowed him to predict my actions? And how does he know so much? Shaking the questions off his head, Ryan said, “It’s sad that they’re just leaving the place like this, huh.”

Racer grunted. “No one wants this place anymore. They’re trying to ignore in the futile attempt to forget everything.”

“So why don’t they rebuild this place or build something else?”

Ryan’s idea felt rational enough, but it was quickly overridden. “No one wants to risk spending on this land. If I build a hotel here, people might think that I’m not in touch with reality, that I have no respect for the people who died here.”

“I wouldn’t mind if they rebuilt this place,” Ryan commented, looking away.

“Perhaps neither does everyone else. Those with money are too scared to take a risk.” His words seemed to target the officials and business, but there was no proof to that.

Ryan had nothing to say.

“Ryan,” he called, “for now, just live your lives normally while you can. When Tracker approaches, I’ll contact you.”

Racer was about to leave when Ryan said, “Wait! How can contact you?”

“When you need to, I’ll contact you instead.” And he left, but his voice could still be heard. “The Ablisbey Hospital will stop letting visitors in at eleven. I suggest you visit your mother. I don’t want to get too involved, but you’re missing too much because of me.”

Ryan remained silent. Darkness poured in as a tear fell from his eye.

< Message edited by Crimzon5 -- 5/27/2010 9:50:36 >
AQ DF  Post #: 10
7/26/2010 9:51:53   

Four in the Morning

“Hey wake up!”

A familiar voice interrupted the stillness of an early morning. Landon was the unfortunate victim. The weight he felt on his eyes indicated that his desired sleep of eleven hours was lacking. He tried not to shift, pretending to have heard nothing, but the sudden jolts that accompanied the constant repetition of words were too much to abide. “Wake up!” Danielle said for the last time, still clutching onto his shoulders.

Landon was wearing a black sleeveless undershirt, a personal color choice. Green shorts served as his leggings. Lightly rending his clothes from his chest with one hand, he brushed his golden hair with the other. Sweat gathered at his palm. Danielle was outfitted in an almost similar manner, with a white blouse atop lavender shorts.

“What time is it?” A pillow on Landon’s face drowned his voice. He spoke without frustration, forcing himself to believe in the unlikely chance of a reasonable explanation. “And please get off my legs.”

Danielle considered their position and returned to the floor. She seemed calm now; Landon cherished the moment. “It’s uhh… around 4:10.” He did not respond, bluntly imitating a snore. “Hey!” she shouted, shaking his shoulders. “If you don’t, I’ll sit on you again.”

Landon turned to face her, revealing his blue eyes. “Okay, okay. Just spare me from your weight.”

“Haha! Very funny,” she replied sarcastically.

“So why this early? What’s going on?” Depending on her answer, Landon was ready to throw his head back onto the bed.

“Oh yeah, I almost forgot!” she exclaimed.

I shouldn’t have said that, he thought, rubbing his eyes.

“I got solid evidence that Ryan’s lying about Jhenine!” she continued. Landon mumbled against her hysterical behavior, tolerating the overstressed commotion. “Why did he have to bring her along when he could just contact her relatives to take care of her?! Isn’t ‘Russell’ her last name? I told you they eloped! He wants her for himself!”

Danielle had a point. Landon was about to admit the ingenuity of her deconstructing when he decided to side with Ryan instead. Clearing his throat, he said, “You only thought about that now?” The young woman blinked curiously in response. “I already took those facts into account. And to get clarifications – and maybe some excuses to go with them – I talked with him.”

“What did he say?!” she said, thrusting herself onto the bed. Landon bent his legs to avoid her.

“What misled us is that ‘Russell’ isn’t her last name. ‘Russelle’ is her second name,” he lied. Danielle was too concerned for him to continue the half-truths, so he tried to smoothly change the subject. “I wonder why Mom and Dad didn’t give us second names. Most of our ex-classmates have one. That includes Ryan. And I remember Michelle having a third name.”

Danielle did not comment regarding the issue on names, denying Landon’s success. “But… is ‘Russelle’ even a name? I know there’s ‘Russell,’ but a girl version of the name seems well… uncommon. And what if – Jhenine isn’t even her real name? He could be lying about everything!”

Landon tried to dodge the last two statements. “Her name doesn’t sound strange to me,” Landon replied. “Most names that end with the letters E then L become feminine names when they suffix L and E. Think of your name for example. Daniel is a biblical figure, so people decided to use it to name their children. Then they made a version for girls, which is pronounced the same way but spelled differently.”

“But ‘Russell’ ends with two Ls – ff that is her real name.”

Landon blinked lazily as he scratched his head. “Unique spelling… And whether it’s her real name or not, ‘Russell’ regularly has two Ls.”

“Still… remember how he introduced her? He sort of implied that it was her last name,” she argued.

Landon concealed a grin as he quickly thought of a clever response. “That’s because he wanted to. If would have been perfectly fine until you pushed her into Ryan revealing the horrible truth. He’s the type of person with a grudge against lying, so he had to tell the truth.”

“Oh?! So there’s something wrong with asking an acquaintance about herself?” she shouted back.

“Right things can be done the wrong way,” he said calmly, believing the argument could easily be won.

“What did I do wrong then?! Was I rude or anything?!” Danielle’s cheeks started to redden, a very familiar sight for Landon.

Landon invited her to sit on his bed despite the awkward timing. Danielle’s temper dissuaded her from accepting the offer as she moaned, pouted, and grunted. “You let your envy control you in the same way your anger’s doing it right now.” As he talked, he observed his sister’s reactions, using them to determine his methods. “I felt your animosity towards Jhenine that night. You had too many negative emotions. The time when you forgot to greet Ryan proved it. Back on the roof when you and I talked, despite my tears, I wasn’t blind to not see a repressed emotion from within you. Frankly, I think you’re trying to distract yourself from hating Jhenine.”

“Maybe you’re right…” she admitted sadly, sitting down. Danielle looked away, hiding her face from Landon. “But I don’t hate her. And I don’t want to. But I can’t help it but feel envious, right? If you really love someone, you at least want to be the one with him, right?”

Landon managed to hold back an expression of shock. It took him longer that he had expected to comprehend his swift victory, mainly because of what Danielle had said afterward. “A justification for envy? I doubt Ryan doesn’t have anything to say against that,” he uttered to regain himself. Finally, he grabbed his blanket and leaned back. “You have to ask yourself sometimes if all the things you’re doing is worth it for just a crush.”

“Wait! Since you’re always right, why don’t you tell me what to do?”

Light twitched a brow as memories of their past arguments resurfaced from his mind. Whenever Danielle had thrown the compliment, “You’re always right,” there had always a bad hint of sarcasm. Regardless of how often he would go overboard in their arguments, usually replacing his purpose of wanting to help with the motive to win, Landon loved his sister.

“It’s December 28,” he said. “New Year’s Eve is three days from now. The earlier we invite him to come, the higher chance of him managing to place it in his schedule. He’s just arrived after a long trip, so I’d expect him to make up for all the lost time.”

Danielle remained distressed. “What if he can’t come? Wha–”

“Once it’s confirmed that he can’t, you can consult me,” he interrupted, tucking himself in. “But since it hasn’t, give me and my brain some rest.”

“I’m hungry,” she replied surprisingly.

“Shamelessly changing the topic? I’m ashamed of you!” he said mockingly.

“Uhh… yes?” she replied, smudging tear marks off her face.

Landon pushed his blanket aside. “Let’s go see what’s in the fridge then. I think you woke my stomach up.”

Landon searched the carpeted floor for his sandals, relying on the sense of touch alone. Upon finding and wearing his footwear, he followed Danielle as she left the room. The hall remained with the holiday décor of wreaths, bells, plastic snowflakes, multicolored lights. Despite all the years he had lived in the mansion, Landon had not grown familiar enough with the paintings. His sense of satisfaction never withered. Transient moments of happening to cross paths with the artworks were enough to enthrall him. The pieces appeared to be simple flowers, and indeed they were, but to Landon, they were more beautiful than what they portrayed. He envied the talent behind the masterpieces, pondering if he would ever surpass mere imitations.

“Hey! Watch out!”

Landon’s senses sharpened. It took him half a second to identify the threat. “A mistletoe?” he uttered with mock disappointment. He maneuvered to avoid the aforementioned ornament, then returned to a regular pace.

“What? You want me to kiss you or something?” she responded as soon as he caught up.

Landon shook his head. “You don’t have to.”

“But it might be bad luck! What if Ryan denies me a kiss?” Danielle actually looked serious.

“You should let the guy do the initiation.”

“Why can’t the girl be the one to do it, huh? Why does it always have to be you guys?! Where does it say all of these ‘rules,’ anyway?”

“The Rule Book,” he said jokingly. Danielle’s response was a gentle elbow punch, which Landon dodged, followed by another that hit. The two argued whether the hit was successful because Landon had allowed it or not. They talked until they ran out of words to say, which obviously did not happen.

Silence vacated the staircase upon their arrival. An aura of loneliness engulfed the room. Visions of the vacant house replaced their reminiscences of the servants and chaperons attending to most, if not all, their needs. The black sky behind the windows remained untouched by a tint blue. Sunrise was an hour away at the very least.

Allowing their eyes to do the talking, the twins agreed to slide down the railings. The thrill tempted Landon neither to shield his eyes nor to blink. His eyes nearly watered as the air pressed against his body. Often held up by gel, Landon’s bangs tickled and itched portions of his face. The rushed morning had given neither of them enough time to comb or style their hair.

Eventually, the two made their way to the kitchen. Landon took a seat on a counter, resting his chin on his palm. “I guess we’re the only ones up,” Danielle said.

Landon slid his head until his palm covered his forehead. “Indeed we are.”

“So what do want? A snack from the fridge or how about I bake some pancakes?” she offered.

Landon retained his posture while speaking. “I think the appropriate term is ‘cook.’”

“But it’s a cake,” she replied, searching the refrigerator for something to satisfy her appetite. “And ‘bake’ and ‘cook’ can mean the same here.”

“Bake: verb, to cook something by heat. I think the dictionary will give you something like that.”

“And we use the frying pan to regulate the heat as we use it to cook the pancake,” she reasoned, emphasizing key words.

“Touché. I was just testing you. I wanted to see if you could break free from the trend of me being right all the time.”

“As if!” She defied him as Landon had expected.

“You really are my sister…” he replied, laughing quietly. Danielle pulled out a carton of chocolate milk and a cylindrical container of hollow wafer sticks. Upon seeing her prepare a snack, he added, “Maybe we should wait for breakfast.”

“Why? Don’t you trust my cooking?” she chuckled. Danielle poured the milk in a cup, dipped in a wafer stick, added sugar, and lastly, stirred. Landon was worried when Danielle simultaneously held too many objects in her hands, but she managed to accomplish the act flawlessly without a single spill.

“No. But that looks like a better insult than what I had in mind,” he admitted with a more mischievous than conceding voice.

“Oh, and that was what? Hm?” Danielle’s raised her eyebrows in disbelief.

With a slight grin, Landon verified his bluff. “That you should go on a diet. Your weight made you land before I did.” He quickly readied his next words for a possible counter.

“Veeeery funny,” she hissed before sipping the beverage, using the stick as a straw. “I landed first because we didn’t slide down at the same time. And you know, you should probably be used to my sarcasm by now.”

“You mean you actually never meant all of those stuff?” was his witty remark. “Oh yeah. We didn’t slide at the same time. I slid down first, but somehow, you overtook me.”

Danielle placed her unfinished meal in the fridge before closing it. “Lost you appetite?” he taunted.

“Thanks to you,” she said, pretending to be sad.

“You know… that’s not working,” he said, standing up and making his way back to the living room.

“It was worth a shot trying.” Danielle hurried to catch up with him in the dining room and slowed down when they were alongside each other.

“I’m getting bored,” said Landon. “But there’s no point in going back to sleep either. I think seven hours is enough.”

“Hey, why don’t we take another ride then? That way, I can prove that I’m not heavy as you say I am.”

“I know how heavy you are. You sat on me earlier, remember?” Landon could not prevent a smirk as he spoke. “But okay. Sounds like a good idea.”

Danielle ignored the mocking comment and ran up to the second floor. She rode the stairs down without waiting for Landon. Her descent was without any anxiety, the pressure on her body felt like nothing. Her brown hair stretch to its full extent behind her, waving as it glided the air. When she was near halfway, Landon stood on the edge of the steps near the railing and held out his hand. Danielle slapped the upraised hand, piercing the air upon her continuous descent. In a failed attempt to control herself, she uttered screams of excitement, quickly shutting her mouth upon realizing how early it was. To conclude her ride, she dismounted by performing a backflip, landing feet-first and bowing to her one-man audience.

“Bravo,” her brother clapped, approaching her.

“Aren’t you going to take a ride, too?” she asked.

“After seeing your stunt, I’m a little scared of not being able to match it.” Landon’s voice came with an aura of feigned fear.

“Good,” she said, smiling at what seemed to be a victory.

“But I got something even better,” he finished off, surprisingly skipping the staircase.

“Where are you going? I thought you said that you have something better. Are you bluffing again?”

“There’s no need to bluff when you got something real to brag about,” Landon countered. “I’m headed downstairs to the shooting range. The indoor one of course. There’s something I haven’t shown you yet.”

“Even if you manage to hit a bull’s-eye fifty feet away, I don’t think it will look as impressive as a somersault. Not to sound presumptuous or anything,” she said, smiling.

“You’ll see,” he replied, about to head outside when Danielle reminded him to bring a jacket and a flashlight. Landon took what he needed and brought a backpack containing half a dozen metal cans. When asked what they were for, he replied by saying they were part of his act.

For a few minutes, they circled the garden, throwing snowballs at each other from time to time. In separate occasions, Landon turned off his light and hid, watching and secretly following his sister while she complained. Whenever Danielle tried a similar trick, the light from Landon’s gadget always managed to home in on her.

The brunette’s beauty, accompanied by her voice that would lure men like the Sirens of Greek myths, and the young man’s dashing features were easily mistaken as the ingredients for a perfect chemistry. Landon’s charm and intellect triggered envy in the hearts of a few men. How and how often he spent time with Danielle sparked even more jealousy. Admirers who knew about them a bit more then the rest were given the consolation of knowing the two were twins.

Eventually, the young pair reached what appeared to be a small wooden storehouse. Within the radius of their flares stood a portion of the mansion’s surrounding wall. Landon unintentionally took note of some weathered bits, mistaking small gaps between blocks as cracks. Snow poured in as Landon opened the door. With a push of a button, white light, faster than a blink, made every possible contact with everything in the room. Rakes, shovels, garden scissors, and a few other tools were stored in rakes or shelves while larger objects like mowing machines stood in the corner.

Danielle took a seat on a wooden chest while Landon pulled a hatch open. The floor revealed a pathway large enough for a piano to fit in. A few ladder steps were visible to their eyes, and the rest were consumed by shadows. “Ladies first. But since there aren’t any, I might as well go in now,” he said, before diving into the darkness. Danielle smirked and pretended to be annoyed.

It did not take long for them to arrive at the firing range Landon had talked about. The room facility was divided by an invisible, bulletproof wall. Cords on which paper targets hung stretched to twenty yards; the facility extended farther. A fine selection of firearms was displayed in the safe zone.

Landon removed his jacket, placed his pack on the floor, and selected five random handguns. He attached four holsters onto his belt, juggling the firearms as he fitted all but one into their respective sheaths. After inspecting and reloading them individually, he concluded the arrangements by stuffing his pack with extra ammunition.

“So what are you planning to do?” Danielle asked.

“I just finished doing some preparations. Can you clear the firing zone? Just push the yellow button at the right side of the panel. It’ll take some time for all the targets to gather at the wall.”

Danielle nodded and did what she was told, though her question had still not been answered. While the cords turned like tapes, Landon entered the firing zone with one hand armed. His free hand searched for a can that was in the backpack. Upon sensing a cylindrical object, he blindly tossed it immediately.

A spark flared into existence and quickly died off on the surface of the metal as the first bullet was shot. The impact caused the object to fling to a higher altitude. Landon twisted his body, fired again, and threw another can. He replaced his current gun with one that was held reserve and shot another. The first can was half a second from touching the floor when Landon drew another gun and pulled the trigger, standing on one bent leg. And then a third can was thrown. Landon spun the firearms before replacing them with another pair. He shifted from backhand postures to fully extended arms while rapidly unleashing a burst of his guns’ ammunition.

A total of six fragments landed on the surface; the three cans were torn to halves by a connected line of bullet holes. Danielle gawked in amazement. “That was awesome! How’d you do that?!”

“Practice,” he claimed, grinning.
AQ DF  Post #: 11
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