So.. here’s the second chapter!
I poured lots of work into it; I hope it’s awesome (well, I think it’s awesome). Just to tell you, I like it when my audience is waiting with anticipation because I know that as soon as my next post is out, the anticipation will turn into cheers. I want my work to make everyone squirm with anticipation because of they do that, I’ll know that they’re my loyal fans.
Anyways, here’s the second chapter – don’t forget the feedback. Enjoy!
2 – Wish it was a dream
The expensive sandy-coloured Persian carpet was torn to pieces; the blue polka-dot wallpaper was in shreds along with shards of glass and splinters from the broken photo frames. There were also parts of the wall that seemed to have been blown off by a great blow. Vega looked behind his door – there were massive scratch marks that nearly tear the whole door down. Thinking about it made him realise how fortunate he was to be unscratched.
Putting that aside, he turned to left and ran the top of the stairs. Below, he could see the living room under debris, bricks, concrete and wooden logs on top of the dirt-stained white furniture. The lights were flickering and bits and the right side of the room – including the walls – was nowhere to be seen.
Very slowly and taking cautious steps, he descended down the stairs with a plank in one hand while his free hand slid down the handrail with every step. Landing on one foot, Vega couldn’t see the scene beyond the living room considering the room was only lit up with the streetlights across the street and the faint moonlight. However, he could see vague greyish-blue notes of near-death breathing. His mind went wild at the very moment. He strained his eyes to see in the dark but to no avail.
As he took a step forward he felt something fleshy below his foot. Lifting his foot up, he could see the most disturbing object he had ever seen in his life.
There, lying like a dead fish, was the disfigure head of a dark-haired man. His eyeballs were nowhere nearby, his mouth cut into a Cheshire grin and his nose and cheekbones completely crushed. His whole face was completely covered in dried blood, and the shallow slit on his neck had produced a pool of dried blood around the severed head.
Vega tried his hardest to muffle his petrified scream by biting his arm, for he sensed that someone other than the Professor was in the house. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply but the stench of dead bodies were so overwhelming that he almost spill his stomach. At first, he had thought it was the Professor but after noticing the tattoo on the man’s neck, he felt a wave of relief wash over his panic-stricken head. Calm down, he thought to himself. It’s not him. He’s probably safe and sound.
Turning back to the faint notes, he carefully approached it, being very aware of the ground and his surroundings. When he reached the kitchen entrance, he popped his head into the dark light. It took a while before his eyes adjusted to the darkness. He could make out the unclear shape of a table split in two and disarray of broken ceramic bowls and plates and wooden and stainless steel kitchen utensils. Even the marble-topped rosewood counters were blown into nothing but confetti.
Among the mayhem he saw something move rigidly. Afterwards he heard some painful maroon- coloured moaning from the same figure. Vega’s heart was lifted but was dragged down at the same time. He inched closer to the moving being, his heart nearly jumping out of his ribcage from anticipation.
Sweat trickled his forehead, his body heat rose and his limbs were trembling in fear. “Pr-Professor?” Vega stammered in fear that the Professor may be injured, or that maybe the figure was not the Professor. “Professor, is that you?”
Suddenly, Vega heard a gasp. “V-Vega?” It was the Professor! He sounded sore and tired but Vega was glad that it was him.
“Oh, Professor!” Vega stumbled over to the dark figure to help him out of the rubble, his sweat suddenly becoming cool. “I’m really sorry for what happened earlier. What happened here? And who did this – Argh! I’ll ask later. Now, I’ll help you out, get you treated and then –”
“…What are you doing here?” the Professor said in an almost inaudible voice.
“Why? Well, I just woke up and wanted to apologise to you. When I got out, the house was already in a mess. It wasn’t me though, honest! Anyway, are hurt anywhere? Gosh, what am I thinking! Of course you’re all cuts and bruises everywhere!”
“No… Go away…” Vega froze.
“… What? W-what are you talking about?”
“…Get out of here now; it’s not safe!” the Professor managed to raise his voice a bit, his tone spicy red but at the same time, it was warm peach with concern.
“Why? I don’t get it! What’s happening?”
“Just run and get out! Don’t worry about me, just save yourself!”
“Just get out of here before –”
“I’m not going anywhere unless you explain everything to me!” Vega protested. However, as he yelled the bold statement, a large muscular man crept up behind him with an oversized bloody axe, ready to guillotine Vega.
The Professor’s heart nearly stopped when he finally saw the man. “Vega! Run!” the Professor howled. But it was too late, for the blade swung almost in an instant, as soon as Vega turned to face the murderer…
A short sword sliced through the air and pierced the man’s nape, causing him to drop his axe and writhe in pain, trying to stop the fountain of blood, before dropping down lifeless because of blood loss. At this moment, Vega’s brain seemed to have switched off – as all Innocent Souls do when they’re completely in panic or extremely shocked or frightened – and put him into an automatic sleep. The Professor jerked his head to see the flaxen-haired man and the ginger-haired woman. “You –”
“We’re here, like you asked,” the woman said, approaching the Professor and carefully pulling him out of the rubble. She then turned to the blond man. “Get rid of ‘him’.”
“Sure,” immediately, the blond man picked up the massive man with ease and disappeared into the dark. The woman took a quick glance at Vega and proceeded in taking out a first aid kit from her travel bag.
Resisting at first, the Professor finally gave in when the woman gave him a sharp glare with her bright hazel eyes. They both sat there in silence but it was soon broken when the man walked back in, covered in dirt and resting a shovel on his shoulder. “You actually buried him?” the woman said.
“He’s human, too,” he looked at Vega, who was very much unconscious, “Is this the boy?”
“Yeah,” the Professor groaned.
“He’s changed, didn’t he? He looks like him, now – he used to be like a doll.”
“Well he still is,” the Professor sat up, clinging onto the woman for support, “Take him away as soon as you can.”
“What about you?” the woman turned, concern painting her face.
“I’ll be fine. I’ll call the police and others later; I’ll tell them it’s a gasoline explosion or something. It’s a good thing our house was isolated.”
The woman and the man exchanged worried looks with each other and after some mental discussions, the both agreed on leaving the Professor and taking the boy with them. They settled the Professor on a nearby ruined sofa and situated a phone next to his dangling arm. After some lecture from the woman, the two visitors boarded onto their steel-gray caravan, complete with a satellite dish and other electronic devices, inside and out. The man laid Vega on the bed, carefully tucking him under the blankets. “Why’s this guy sleeping, anyway?” the man asked, curious.
“I heard that when an Innocent Soul is in a state of shock, panic or fright, it will automatically go to sleep, to make everything that happened seem like a dream,” the woman explained. The man seated himself in the driver’s seat, buckling up his seatbelt while thinking taking a mental note about that fact. He had never heard of it before, not even from the professors at different institution he’d visited.
The man started up the car, turning the car keys to wake up the sleeping lion. He let engine roar for a while before he released the handbrakes and drove off, accelerating steadily. The woman sat at the dining spot, watching over the boy. “Do you… think he’ll remember?”
As they drove off, the man looked at the woman via the rear-view mirror. “I doubt that,” he said, “It’s been about, like, ten to eleven years now? He was just a mindless decoration and you know about the situation back then, right?” The woman nodded, still watching the sleeping boy but her mind was elsewhere. “I guess it was the same with the others too.”
“What are we going to do with him, then?”
“Him only is not enough; we need to get the others. They’re like scattered jigsaw puzzle pieces and to complete the big picture, we need all of the pieces.” The man went on to a steady pace, driving like an expert traveller. “And there is no reason for us to not be able to get the required materials for an important project. Sure I could give this mission to someone else, but I don’t trust impotent noobs – and I hate being idle.”
The woman completely understood what how he felt, as she had been with him for years. “So what are we going to do with them after?”
“Make them lead us to –”
“Oof!” Vega fell off the bed with a loud grunt; he fell face first, as he was turning around in his sleep. The woman was startled and soon was helping Vega up on his feet. Vega sat at the edge of the bed, rubbing his sore forehead, not noticing where he was until his drowsiness had dissipated a little. “Where am I?” he turned to the woman as jerked his hand away from her. “Who are you? Are you going to kill me?”
“No, we’re not going to harm you,” explained the woman, “We came to save you… from that thing earlier.”
“Where’s the Professor?” Vega’s memories started to flood back.
“He’s fine, boy, real fine.”
“Where are you taking me?”
“Somewhere only you know,” the man said gruffly, eyes fixed on the road.
“Somewhere only I know?” Vega repeated, “But the only thing I know is the kitchen, the living room, my bedroom, and other rooms in the Professor’s house.”
“Ugh… This is why I hate Innocent Souls,” mumbled the man, “Acting all innocent and dumb and we can do nothing about it.”
“Armada, keep your comments to yourself!” the woman snapped. She then turned to Vega, speaking soothingly, “Excuse him; he’s not really friendly to begin with, anyway. Right, introductions.” The woman clasped her hands together and then stretched one out for a handshake. “I’m Celestia Dreyhl from the I.S.I.S. Organisation, co-leader of Field Investigation Branch. This cranky big guy is Armada Aimer, the leader of the pack.” She stuck her thumb to the man’s direction.
“I still don’t understand who you are, though,” Vega started to feel uneasy.
“Let’s just say we’re Uly’s friends,” explained Celestia.
“Ulysses Xylon.” Vega still looked puzzled. “You know, the Professor.” Vega then gasped, finally knowing his guardian’s name. He looked at the woman and then the man – the fact that they know the Professor must mean they’re trustworthy and harmless. He looked Celestia again since she seemed to have taken his eyesight for herself.
Instantly, Vega felt that he could at least trust Celestia. She had warm ginger hair cut into a straight bob, her fringe hiding her darker-coloured eyebrows. Her lovely hazel eyes matches perfectly with her smooth oval-shaped face. She had pale skin – not as pale as Vega, though – sprinkled with freckles, and a distinctive smile that could somehow be a substitute for the sun. Her lean figure sat at the dining chair in a boyish manner. She wore a loose baggy white blouse with rounded collars and cuffs, dark beige shorts with braces to support it, knee-high black socks and knee-high adventure boots, its laces tied in numerous crosses. To top it off, she had a big brown newsboy cap. “Why’d you wear that?” Vega asked, indicating the cap.
Celestia took it off and looked at it, smiling. “Before I was a co-leader, I used to run errands and stuff. But this was my sister’s; I was the kitchen girl.” She placed the hat back neatly on her head. “Pretty lame, right?”
“Not really. I mean, it is so old and stuff, and no one wears something that dates back to hundreds of years nowadays, but it looks good on you – like you live to wear it. It reflects your personality and background clearly,” complimented Vega.
Celestia was stunned at Vega’s praise. “You’re charming, aren’t you?”
“No. I only say what I think.” Vega ruffled his hair in embarrassment, his cheeks gradually becoming redder.
Meanwhile, Armada had been observing the two – he would glance at the rear-view mirror with a frown in his face, a pack of wrinkles forming between his eyebrows. The road was not as dark as when they were in the mountains – the government have installed street lights in the mountains – since they’re beginning to enter the town which, by now, would be quiet and peaceful, as opposed to how it would be in midday; lots of markets packed with housewives armed with shopping bags, or the arcade which would be the perfect hiding place for delinquents to skip school, though teachers seemed to know all of their bases by now. At night, the bright neon lights from hotels and bars would light up travellers’ way. Jazz and classical music could be heard from cafes, restaurants and 30s’ favourite gathering place. Other than that, the town was a lively fair at day and a sweet heaven at night.
Armada didn’t like the town; it’s too noisy and bright with extremely vivid colours… for him, anyways. He’s a man of work who would not let any hindrance drag him behind. He prefers working alone but would only approve of people he thought was up to his standards, like Celestia. And the fact that Celestia is being naively distracted by the subject proves her to be vulnerable, and he didn’t like it.
Colourful lights peeped through the gaps in the curtains of the caravan. Loaded with curiosity, Vega went and slid open the lemon-printed curtains. There, he saw things he had never seen before.
All sorts of different coloured lights adorned the city like a Christmas tree. Lavishly dressed veterans either entered or exited from theatres or expensive restaurants, while there was a group of young men and women laughing heartily, linking their arms and in a big group. The electronics store was advertising the newest pet-robot product from the well-known company called “miFrobo”; there were tri-coloured – brown, black and white – English Springer Spaniels on display, looking very life-like and about to jump out of the shop window. For a moment, Vega thought that the company’s name sounded familiar but he just couldn’t recall when or where he’d heard it. Must be on T.V., Vega thought.
Watching Vega staring out the window in wonder, Celestia sat beside him, looking out at the night life. “Pretty, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Vega said, still dazed, “Is it like this too, at daytime?”
“Much lovelier,” Celestia replied – she remembered that Innocent Souls couldn’t go in daylight. An idea suddenly struck her. “Want to see some pictures?” Vega’s face brightened up instantly.
“Yeah! I’d love to!” he beamed.
Celestia went over to the filling cabinet near the driver’s seat; it was stuck to the caravan wall – to prevent it from toppling over while the caravan is moving. She pulled the second drawer from the top and took out a large emerald green photo book with floral patterns imprinted on the cover.
She sat down at her previous place next to Vega and gently opened the cover to reveal a series of photos in sceneries Vega had only seen in films, cartoons and the news – there were noble mountains, empty deserts, vast arctic wasteland, lush green rainforests and the multicoloured deciduous forests and meadows, consisting of flowers like daisies, anemones, daffodils and maereos (they’re flowers with a large amount of needle-like petals of different colours, though the most common ones were the golden maereos while the rarest were black and red maereos).
There would always be a group of men and women dressed in sandy or dark coloured uniforms in every picture and Vega could recognise some of the people to be Celestia, Armada… and the Professor, Ulysses Xylon.
The Professor looked younger than he was and had more colour to his skin – he was almost tan in all of the pictures. Judging from the uniform he was wearing, he was also in the same organisation the other men in the picture, including Armada and Celestia, were in.
All men and women were wearing dark beige jumpsuit with pocket belts and sturdy hiking boots, or rubber boots as seen when they were in the swamps. Gloves were worn only when they needed them, like when they were digging for treasures – Vega wasn’t really sure about what they’re digging for – or touching “inanimate bodies”, told Celestia.
Even though the people’s jobs were interesting, they didn’t capture Vega’s attention as much as the landscapes did. He watched in awe at the brightly coloured leaves and flowers, and the sparkling blue water in the seas, rivers and lakes; the skies were as clear as the water too, though he could see clusters of clouds in some pictures. Vega remembered how the clouds were formed, though he had never seen one before – the real thing was fluffier than he had imagined.
Vega asked if the place he’s going to was going to be as exotic as the places in the picture, to which Celestia responded, “Of course! Even better, if possible.”
“But…” Vega seemed to have remembered something he was about to ask for a while, “Will I be able to see the Professor again?”
Celestia fell silent, her smile slowly dissipating.
“Is he… alright?” The warm presence patted his head gently.
“He’s alright. Along the way, you’ll be able to call him from time to time.” The woman’s smile returned, lighting up a candle inside Vega’s heart. “You’ll be able to tell him about your awesome adventures and if he heard about your successful ‘mission’, I’m sure he’ll be so proud of you.”
“He will?” Vega was still uncertain. “But.. I said some mean things to him – I think he hates me now…”
“No, he doesn’t. He’s not the type to hate people over something like that. He understood how you felt, I’m sure.” Celestia reached out to hold Vega’s hand. “You could apologise to him on our next stop, if you want. That is, if there’s a phone booth or some sort.”
“Yeah, I’d like that – thanks.”
It was very late and Vega felt his head getting heavy. Celestia told him to sleep on the bed, while she took the bed above his – it was a bunk bed – and Armada could take the couch. Vega snuggled the soft duvet, making himself more comfortable than he already was. Celestia was already sitting at the front seat next to Armada, talking quietly about something he couldn’t comprehend.
Armada was a solemn man, according to Vega’s observations. Not only that, he seemed to hate children too – he showed his annoyance very clearly. But he could be a great guy deep down, Vega thought. It would be nice if the two of them got along.
Vega’s eyelids dragged themselves down. He didn’t have any more strength to force them up so he let them be. Images swirled in his head as he drifted off to a dreamless sleep…
… “You’re getting too friendly with that kid; stay as just an acquaintance,” warned Armada, muscled arms resting on the steering wheel.
“You’re wrong,” Celestia’s face was now a hard mask, a very different image than the previous motherly lady, “We have to get his trust. If he trusts us, he’ll do whatever we want; it’ll be easier for us to complete the task. Great, now you’re making me feel guilty…” Celestia rested her head on the window, watching street lights fly rapidly.
“Why would you feel bad?”
“Because… he doesn’t know anything, and what I said just now made me sound like I’m taking advantage of him, even though I didn’t want to.” Her face softened as she closed her eyes. “She kind of reminded me of her.”
“– They’re different.” Armada cut in, anger visible in his voice. “Don’t you dare compare them with each other.”
“Fine. But just to remind you,” Celestia added, “It was your entire fault.”
Celestia’s words hit his head like a hammer, sending him wincing as the forgotten guilt suddenly took over his concentration. He glanced over to look at Celestia, who was already asleep.
It was your entire fault.
If she had said it instead of Celestia, he would’ve killed himself on the spot. No, he wouldn’t; he would’ve killed himself before, because he was too scared to hear those words. Come to think about it – why was he doing this? It’s not like he wanted her to come back and forget about everything, act like it never happened. He just wanted to…
“… I’m such an eyesore,” he mumbled, eyes burning as he focused on the road.
When he woke up, the caravan was deserted. Through sleepy eyes, he could see thin pillars of sunlight near the dining area – just seeing the blinding pillar of light made his eyes sting.
The doorknob rattled and Celestia’s head popped out from outside; Vega shielded himself from the sudden burst of sunshine. “Close the door quickly! It hurts!” he let out a hoarse plea.
“Oops, sorry – my bad!” Celestia entered hurriedly with Armada close behind her. As soon as the two entered the caravan, they dumped a mountain of shopping bags – paper, plastic and re-usable bags – onto the couch glued beside the door.
Vega eyed the bags suspiciously. “What’s inside?”
“Wear them.” Armada commanded, grabbing a change of clothes from the wardrobe before disappearing into the bathroom.
Celestia unpacked a bag and pulled out the black clothes. She then threw them over to Vega, who was even more puzzled than before. “Wear them; we’re going outside!”