Lilli and the Library

Lilli and the Library

Lilli musings…. Everybody needs a theme-song. Of course, in my head there’s a song playing all the time; each lyrical moment in time a perfect accompaniment to, not just describe but, enhance the events going on around me, to me, and because of me. Those songs are fleeting, much like the bits of story they describe during their time they spend entertaining my mindset. But a theme-song? Those are never-ending, well, never-ending until the moment you, yourself, end. Die. You caught on to that right? I was being metaphorical. Anyway, if I was to have a theme-song, it would be Sympathy for the Devil…maybe. I know it would be the opening song to a movie centered around yours truly. In my movie I would be driving a fancy car with a slight grin, nay, a smirk on my face with big dark sunglasses covering my piercing black eyes and my hair waving wildly as I sped down an empty road surrounded by dust and rocks and cliffs giving way to golden, sandy beaches that surely were regularly used to surf from. And I would wear fancy, slightly revealing clothes like the movie-stars do with one perfeclty tanned arm on the wheel at one o’clock and the other resting nonchalantly on the rolled-down windowsill. I’m sure the ending wouldn’t be as mysterious, as majestic, and as enviable, but I would still be there somehow. Some way. Because a movie isn’t real life. A movie starts and ends when the protagonist is at the height of her story, not when the pretty girl driving the beautiful, antique convertible has shriveled and grown old, lost her mind, her friends and her self as is so common in reality. In the movies, the director decides when it’s over and, after some hardships that trigger the characters to grow as people in polarity, some become more devious and others find themselves the martyer or the valiant hero of some personal or worldy woe, the story ends with a clear cut triumph to one of the two sides presented. Until that moment the viewer is holding onto their seat like a passenger in my fictional car down my high, vacant, highway, wondering when the next turn will come. This isn’t a movie. This is real life in words on paper. This is the story of a lost mind, but never a lost soul. It’s my goddamn story and I’ll tell it as I see fit, but I can’t promise it will always make crystalline sense to you. You see, by the end of this story I may not be the protagonist you will come to know and, obviously, love. I may have nobody, have nothing, be no one to anyone save myself, but I will still be the centre of this world until the day I let this pen drop for the final, crescendos time. In the meanwhile, buckle up because I don’t want to be the one responsible for you when you are shot out of the pretty car’s passenger seat as we plummet a hundred or two feet to the bottom of the cliffs I drive us off. If you want to jump, you’re more than welcome to. But in life, if this car is my metaphor-of-the-day, I don’t get to choose when to stop; God does. And it’s only after the gas runs out can I stop this journey, unless I fire us off the edge and stop the journey the old-fashioned way: in flames and pain and burning and hurt and finality… and freedom. …to the next room… (story?) Somewhere far away, amidst the highest and most jagged peaks of blustery winter mountains with slategrey bodies and towering intimidation, there was a man. But not just any man, a hybrid. One of the first, the longest-converted, hybrids whose brain was irreversibly altered to become a vessel of destruction. This handsome man (as they all are wont to be), with jade-green eyes and pale, flushed skin, stood alone in the caverns within the mountain. His plush lips turned down in a frown of concentration with the corner-creases tweaking ever-so-slightly upwards with triumphant realization that he had figure something out. But not just any something, a revelation. A shiny coat of what looked like pure nothingness unless its use was known to the user. This thin, plastic-like sheet draped across the man’s hands like a small, translucent towel; only the light reflecting from the snow which surrounded this hybrid made the object visible through a rainbow shimmer that coursed across the revelation like a wave in the ocean, not-so-very far away. This object was a cloak. A tiny, near-invisible cloak only the length of someone’s forearm; so unnoticeable that nobody would realize it existed if not explicitly guided to see and touch it. It felt like a fabric; rough but satiny and cold. The handsome man, now grinning wildly like the insane and viral thing that he was, gazed imploringly at his creation, his revelation, his discovery. The hominids were getting too wise to the hybrids’ habits and faces; this handsome man needed something to hide his poison from the world; a beautiful deception that his who he was until he, himself, could decide when to make his noxiousness known. This was a cloak for his face, for his hands, to make them rugged and less perfect. Nothing normal could look the way he did; so spellboundingly immaculate that surely God, if there was one, molded him from his own radiating compounds. This cloak would roughen his hands so that they appeared like those of some rural young man that grew up chopping wood and tying knots on salt-encrusted ropes attached to wharves and boats and harpoons. The man would still be handsome, as his appearance was far too perfect to conceal entirely, but his face would be salt-swept like his hands. He would look like a boy who had grown up cherished, but with burden and conscience. He would feel like a real man with faults much more probable and forgivable than those that the hybrid-breed were passionate toward. And as the cloak banded to his body, the beautiful man was made slightly less beautiful, but his eyes remained mesmerizingly green with tiny gold specks found only in the eyes of first hybrids. Those little gold slivers that would be the only thing to give his evil away, had anyone who had stood close enough to a hybrid and lived would know. The smile was enchanting, and he looked like a man that would save girls from their abusive boyfriends and fathers. The man ran his lumberjack hands through his thick brown hair that lid windswept a-top his head, and he knew he would fit into society once more. That is, until he started killing everything and everyone around him. (2nd Story), preliminary. “covered in sequins, diamonds, we’re happy because we’re shining” “Come gather ’round, I’ll tell you a story” the old man began while the fire licked and danced in the middle of a crowd of children and adolescents. Their eyes huge and round, like british tea saucers and pizza pie pans. The story, it went like this: There was a man who was perfect, but wasn’t. And, I suppose, that makes him perfectly evil. But nothing’s ever perfect, and this man had his flaws. His flaws was that he was susceptible to love. To the love of one woman: the one person who would stop him from his madness that perfect evil promises to those who follow down that sick and twisted path. Monday came and the man took over a town. he strode in majestically with piercing eyes and smooth, cherub-like skin. His smile made every girl melt and he knew this. He used this tidbit to ruin the town in a fortnight. The girls were so in love that after every heart broken (as was his trademark, since there simply isnt the time to make love to every girl in sight; sex and fucking takes much less effort) they were left broken. The girls, one after the other until the count fell in the hundreds, killed each other or themselves in horrible ways after he turned his beautiful eyes from theirs and onto the next piece of ass. In a fortnight, he left and the town had no sane women, if any women at all was left unburied, unburnt or undrowned. The men that watched this sorcery happen, they witnessed the madness and were left speechless. Only months later did they realize what had really happened: the strange but beautiful man had tainted their town with his majesty and ruined the lot of them. They, too, perished in time since we all know there isn’t a man on this planet that can care for himself. Tuesday delivered the same old story: a new city, bigger than the last. Nevertheless, at the end of another fortnight the women were all crazy or decomposing… perhaps both, who knows? This man was unstoppable. The second town, akin to the first, was left to its own demise without a soul to care for them. From what I have heard, the young men of the town, insane with jealousy and disgust, burnt the remains to the ground. Wednesday it rained. Drops fell from the heavens like tears or a leaky bathroom faucet hidden high in the sky. The man rolled into town, now richer from taking all those poor women’s monetary belongings and claiming them as his own. He wore garments of the most expensive brands and materials; he looked like a god or at the least, a prince. The third town had already been burnt to the ground: the men had heard of this beautiful creature and decided to take fate into their own hands… in the stupidest way possible but then, men simply are incapable of thinking sensibly. The perfectly evil gentlemen drove onward. This pattern continued for a year, maybe more. The women of the world were idiotic, and deserved the treatment they gave to each other for being as stupid as they were to believe that they would be the one to change this man for the better. They were dismissed to their demise simply for their vanity in the thought that either one of them would be able to tame such a man. Far from where he began, the man fell asleep on a thursday and drempt a dream; a commodity that he had never experienced before. Evil beings have no need to dream, since dreams are only for those that need the guidance of their subconscious to deliver them to goodness and righteousness. That night, while the pale and perfect eyelids of the beautifully wicket man laid gently over the vivid eyes that twitched wildly beneath them, a story unraveled of a different girl. This girl barely knew she existed, but she was the one that would save the world from this vicious creature. Her eyes were dark like coal, and her hair was long and wispy and perfect in an untamable, unruly way. She smiled in the dream, and the ice surrounding the evil mans heart melted only for her. He woke up in cold sweat, screaming. He could not understand this feeling the people called ‘love’. Not long from then, maybe a sunday, he drove into a field that was the most beautiful place that ever existed. Everything was rainbow and bright and perfect in the way that all the Gods in every religion ever invented intended it to be. His eyes squinted at the sight since, being evil, he didn’t understand why people could ever fathom such visual business as a good thing. But, despite his distate, he parked the lexus he drove and decided to walk in the giant fields of perfection that felt like nothing to his cold, indifferent body. In the middle of the field, hidden in the grass was the girl he had drempt of. She laid alone, asleep. His heart felt like it would explode should he stay any distance away from this stranger, as small as that distance may be. He raced toward the girl as quietly as he could, and as he approached looking as nonchalant as he could muster on his evil face, the girl opened her eyes in his direction. She smiled. And the days of the week stopped. He smiled back. The evil inside him seemed to click the ‘pause’ button on his life’s remote control. And, instantly, he fell in love. This girl had no idea who he was; she had spent so many months and years alone that she heard no rumors from the towns he had destroyed. he seemed like a nice guy; his eyes were captivating, but he stank of deception and lust and she knew not what to do with such a physical trophy standing before her. So she opted to pat the grass beside her, offering him to join her in her relaxed nap in under the eternal blue sky that reached farther than either of the two people could fathom. The evil boy lid down, though the grass scratched his skin and made him itch and uncomfortable. As he lid beside her, never leaving her gaze from his own for even a moment, the grass felt as if it was bleeding the evil from his heart that had been buried since birth under his innards and had left him tainted forever before this meeting. In the perfect land, the couple lid beside each other, still eons away. She reached her hand to him, palm facing his own and he placed his palm against hers as teenagers used to do when “high five”-ing. They lid like that for minutes, and his eyes bulged at the sensation of purity, a feeling that no other girl provided his body regardless of the extent that he touched them or pushed inside them. The evil bled, and he knew he would never be the same. A smile passed her lips again, so innocent and unknowing and she offered him her name: “Hi mister, I’m Lilli. How did you find me?” and the beautiful man had nothing to say but a name someone else had once called him, as he had no name to call his own. He told her that even though he was a stranger he loved her, and she laughed without malice to his profession. The time remained exactly where it was, though the clouds found their ways to pass as they are always wont to do. Though those clouds, they were different from all the other memories Lilli had stored with them in tow. They were just clouds and nothing more. They were no longer imagined creatures and buildings that Cage may have contrived long ago. They were nothing but what they were: clouds. And that was all she ever had wanted them to be. The fire licked and flickered, and the children and adolescents didn’t understand. But the elderly man, he knew his story from so many decades ago would never get old because it was perfect. Perfectly without evil or malice or judgment or hope or disappointment. It was nothing more than a man falling for a girl unconditionally and without reason. It was the story of how he had saved the world. Lilli and the Library (Book 2) It was that season when snow falls. Light and beautiful it syncs in harmony onto the trees and buildings below so gently you could almost mistake them for soft touches of lips on every part of your face. The snow fell more-so as the day went on. It became so thick the sky looked cloudy and the buildings became hard to see. Still later, the snow turned to ice pellets which hammered the cars and hills, people and pets alike. They hurt. They were nothing like the way they once were such a short time ago. It seems without meaning that something to perfect could harden, could pelt each simple folk so that they felt like they were causing bruises. The people took shelter indoors, in the old abandoned buildings that once were businesses, banks, grocery stores and schools. I did the same. I sat alone in a cold, desolate library with walls painted orange and white. I watched the snow turn from secretive and romantic to bitter, biting, hard, ice. What else was I going to do? I could turn the chairs that faced the windows away from to the center of the room so that nobody (if there was anyone actually in those chairs, which there weren’t) could see the damage that misleading beauty was inflicting. I could hide under the tables themselves, put my coat over my head and wait for the windows to shatter from the pressure of the continuous beating like so many nails being hammered by an evil God’s minions. Or I could pretend it was still beautiful and soft and perfect and walk outside with the hopes that the ice would turn to flurries once more kissing the cheeks on my face so gently I could almost imagine it being the ghost of some lover that left me long ago. None of these options were appeasing, and so there was nothing to do but wait. Maybe the ice would turn to rain and melt the sheets of frozen hardness that coated everything within my eyesight. The rain wouldn’t be as pretty as the snowflakes, but water droplets do not hurt the skin of the living standing beneath its source. I’ve seen others do each of those options and none result in happiness. Not that happiness is anything more than a word in storybooks at this point in time. It’s been so long since the sun shone steadily through threatening clouds that I imagine it as a hide-and-seek player who is just so good at the game that I have no prayer of surfacing it without it finding me on its own accord. There has been so many terrifying things happening on a constant calendar of pointlessness that survival is the only real goal, and even that seems as inconsistent or fickle as the bright little orbs that once warmed the land I walked on. No. There was clouds and rancid, old, buildings with ground-floors moist and the air drying to feel almost like invisible sandpaper to the lungs as each floor rose higher above the road. There were papers that might have been faxed, or books that might have been read laid everywhere as if someone felt inclined to throw a temper tantrum after blaming the putrid remains of their failed life on the trees that were sacrificed to make the paper and books when things seemed good, normal. Not everything was ruined like the many buildings before-mentioned. Some were just deserted, like the library I sat in still watching the snow, knowing fully well that although I wasn’t close to the glass, I was no where near far enough from the glass to remain unharmed. The one good thing from this pointless scene is knowing that the Altecs and the hybrids were outside, somewhere, being inflicted by this ice storm. Their blotchy, skinny bodies with clumped and matted tufts of hair left un-ripped from their heads (unlike the bald spots with scars for skin) were surely feeling the pain of this satirical precipitation. I sat on the forth floor, poised with Cage’s old magnum, waiting for intruders to my quiet haven that may be hell-bent on killing me. I left my sister a while back, though she understood that someone as damaged as me would never fit in across the oceans in The New World. My mind was too twisted and seared from the deaths of loved ones I once thought belonged in my life but so vividly proved otherwise. I’m sure Jenn was happy where she was. I would see her again someday. But for now I’m wandering broken cities, trying valiantly to destroy every piece of evil that had the potential to bring to others what it had thrown at me. I am my own personal superhero. Too bad there’s nobody human left alive to be grateful for my efforts. No matter. Clearly I was meant to be alone anyway. So I sat here, my hair growing longer from the hack-job I consented to a million memories ago, thanks to the hybrid that tried to destroy my person, but succeeding only in making me ugly like them with their scars where a full head of hair used to sit. I liked it long, but I knew it was probably a bad thing to keep it long enough to be strangled, or to hang myself, with. Alas, there were no barbers and hair stylists to throw money at to cut it. My eyes were black because there was nothing left in me but whatever this presently is: some fictional character running around yet another Gotham City-wannabe and, as we all know, fictional characters are rarely deep enough to require Iris color. The only time that matters is when something changes, or something is hidden and the reader is supposed to figure it out and urge the protagonist silently in their minds for her to figure it out as well before it’s too late. This library suited the way I think. Maybe thats why I chose it. Maybe thats why I’ve been sitting here day after day with a wild-west-like handgun like I think I’m cool or something. I could go to the new remnants of the Colony, but Vanessa is just as obstinate as I and twice as crazy, so that option is merely a last resort. I’m sure they would benefit from my assistance while they rebuild what they thought was once an almost holy land, but those people are lost and, like so many castles in these history books, want no outside-help or sympathy. So I give them none. Im not as dogmatic as that crowd, anyway. As for food, it took me a while but I compiled more than enough dried meats and whatnot to keep me functioning which was all that mattered seeing as it wasn’t like I was going to be comparing my diet to some fine-dining restaurant any time soon. On my travels back to Contantinapole I stole clothes that could suit me for any weather, although there is nothing that could spare my face from the hell-ice outside banging on my library’s windows. As my mother aways told me before she disappeared like so many others: layers are key. So I dressed lightly at first, then wandered through a museum and found one of those midevil chest-armour shields made from metal chains, followed by another shirt to cover the heavy protection that made me feel invincible and leather-inlayed coat since we all know that leather is less likely to tear or let me down in tete-a-tete accostings. But wait. There was another rhythm of banging, like someone trying to get my attention and let them in the barricaded door. … ….. I sat and contemplated this change and resolved to not give in to this probable trap. But as I continued to sit and stare at the ice, the banging wouldnt stop and, seeing as I’m only back in this god forsaken city to save people, maybe I should take the chances to determine if that was a creature worth saving out there ruining my solitude with their knocking on the doors. So I hoisted myself up under the 20 pounds of artillary (guns and knives, mostly) and clothes and jogged down the infinity number of stairs to the main floor. The knocking continued erratically, quite human in its ferverence. I cocked my magnum, prepared myself for a quick and deadly attack, and removed the deadbolts and barracades that had taken me a week to set up. The ice pellets hit my face like daggars through the small crack that let in free air and the unknown chemicals that I hoped were now just memory rather than a real threat to my remaining sanity. The first thing I noticed other than the glassy appearance of every piece of land before me that surely would cause rapid deteoration of many of the buildings left standing, were eyes. They were beautiful. And for a second I was left dazed or hypnotized by the vibrancy of color that stared back at me as mesmerizingly as a lava lamp. ————————————————————– In this world of misanthropy there is no time to stop and smell the flowers. Everything is a danger. A second could very likely be a second too long for Lilli to leave herself vulnerable, which she knew. The darkhaired girl shoved the gun into the stranger’s face and started barking questions: “WHO ARE YOU” “WHAT DO YOU WANT” “WHO ARE YOU” “ANSWER ME OR ILL BLOW YOUR FUCKING BRAINS OUT” and other creative terms. The man seemed startled, as any normal human being should given an unyielding madwoman pointing death at your face, and put his hands up in front of his chest to show he was not protected and trying to kill her. He was shaking from the cold and his hair was frozen in the ugly way that wind and ice creates. Lilli noticed that he had hair, which meant he wasn’t a hybrid. Since hybrids were all that she had ever known in way of the savage monsters in the cities, she knew he was not going to rip her throat out with the malace and erratic energy that was common within that species. Even with the condition of this delapidated world, it felt as though time had frozen with the storm. Everything was on pause. What that meant, Lilli had no idea but she was just as caught in it. She found it near impossible to stop staring into his almost-inhuman eyes, but she knew she had little time to analyze the situation and make a decision: friend or foe. He looked cold, scared, and harmless. Like a terrified but hominid man in his twenties that was lost in a city that once was exactly that: a city, but now was equivilent to a post-apocalyptic horror film. He was the type of person she had prayed still existed in this world of Edode but had never seen since her return from saying farewell to her sister on the other side of the Diamond Mountains. In this two second stand-off, the man edged away from her, leaning to run; they had both heard hybrid hyena chuckles and yips. He hadn’t much time to hide, not that he could anywhere in this city in this weather in this world. His movement made the world feel like it was turning again and time returned for the soldier-girl. Lilli put down her gun. “Get In.” She commanded. The man scrambled into the library hallway, but slipped on the ice that had frozen his sneakers to the concrete outside. He fell to the floor as Lilli slammed the door shut and locked the locks strategically welded to stave off the hybrid invasion. Lilli turned back to the manboy, cognisant of her gun in her hand at her side should she be attacked by the person on the floor on account of his probably-lost mind. How he had survived on his own in street clothes, she would never know. She realized there was water on his face that was not froze: he was crying. The silence of a massive empty building amplified the sound of melting ice from his body dropping onto the wide linoleum hall. There was no noise but this, and the sound of their breathing, and of his nose which sniffled loudly from cold and parasympathetic histaminergic reflex. Drip… drip… drip…. The seconds ticked quietly onward, though the hyenic noises were just outside the door. Opening a door without barging or breaking through it was not a concept the monsters-that-once-were-people comprehended after this long being tainted by the airborne toxins several years ago. They were safe from the hybrid attack for now. Lilli looked on the man, still confused as to where he came from and why he had showed up at this, of all buildings, in the middle of a city filled with nothing good. He had edged his way up to a sitting position, and she stared down from her standing point by the door with her gun in hand, though she doubted the weapon was necessary; the guy was shaking like a leaf and looked like something had broken inside him. “Why are you crying” she asked “I’m not crying,” he interjected, while wiping his face with the back of his dirty hand, “I’m covered in snow and you’re saying I’m crying. That’s pretty stupid.” He stood up and Lilli’s arm shot up like a slingshot, cocking the magnum with her thumb and taking good measure to ensure she had perfect aim between those pretty eyes. Lilli wasn’t taking chances with this stranger. She’d rather he stay on the floor like some kind of child than get up and make this entire ordeal more unpredictable. “Man!” The stranger protested as he ducked behind his hands again like he had done outside the door at the beginning of their short interaction. “Would you stop with the gun? Do I LOOK like someone who’s going to do anything to some Rambo chick? Take the fucking gun out of my face!”. He was obviously panicked at Lilli’s reflexes and quick-to-accuse trigger finger. “What are you doing?” She asked, though her eye remained in the scope-site of the heavy metal gun. “I’ve gotta take a piss” he retorted. His sneakers squeaked on the floor beneath him as he did his best to stand composed beneath her critical distrust. He shuffled slightly, and those drips made splotch noises as chunks of ice ripped from his noname black jacket. Lilli hesitated. “Seriously, I’ve got to take a leak. Can you fuck off with the craziness for five minutes? You can come watch if you’re that into following me around.” He wiped at his face again with the scruff of the dirty burgendy plaid shirt sleeve that trailed out haphazardly from beneath the coat. He was still crying. Though it had been quite a while since she had been around normal human emotion, Lilli realized he was ashamed of the sobering activity his face continued to give away. She still didn’t trust him, but she didn’t want to ruin what sanity he may have left by being too severe. Lilli nodded in consent. “…behind you to your left, then take a right. The plumbing still works so don’t be a pig.” He turned and walked in the direction she had provided with loud sniffs and a heaving sigh. Lilli figured just to wait where she stood in the main hall. The scratches and moans and snarles of the hybrids still played their soundtrack behind her and the door that lay between them. She figured that if the stranger was going to attack her, she was much more likely to win given his snivelling condition. Lilli wondered how he could even allow himself to feel that much human emotion after two years of this nightmare-riddled world. Eventually he returned, as promised, and she brought them both to the seats on the forth floor where she had been perched before his arrival. “Where did you come from?” Lilli asked. “I dont know.” “What do you mean you don’t know?” She asked. “I wandered here. I really don’t know where I was before that. Kalika maybe? Some city. It was a hole, just like this one. The whole worlds a hole.” The stranger quite bitterly spat those words at the floor; he had yet to look her in the eye again and for this she was grateful. Lilli nodded. She had heard of Kilika before, but he was right about it being unmemorable. Still, it was a good walk away. There was no way this coarse individual came from there without some kind of help, especially not in those clothes. She mused this aloud. Interestingly, he continued the conversation though his face was still blotchy from the tears that had finally dried up from his red-rimmed eyelids. “I had a brother. He drove us in some shitbucket care we hijacked from whatever other place we were before Kilika. He’s dead.” His eyes began to well up again, so she sad in silence instead of pushing the issue. Several minutes went by before either spoke, but onward the stranger continued, “The car got a flat so we walked. Those things, the hybrids or whatever, they showed up. Farrel, my brother, he used smoke so he didn’t last long. His face… it was…. i saw his wrist bone where his hand was and he tried to scream but they tore out his jaw… I ran. He’s dead.” His face grew stony on the recount of his brothers gruesome death. The man nodded to himself for a few seconds as he processed his own words. “yeah…” he continued, seemingly more to himself than to her, lost in his thoughts, “…yeah he was dead. I took off. He must have been dead. No way anyone would make it through that crowd. As if he wanted to anyway”. He scoffed. So apparently, Lili gathered, the brother didn’t want to live either way. She guessed that this stranger was repeating that to himself to convince himself that he didn’t abandon the only thing he had left from the old world. He looked out the window, his face still stonewalled and cold. He was beautiful. Even in this monstrous meeting point, with his hair starting to dry but still strewn everywhere, dirt on his face and clothes, Lilli could depict how handsome he must have been before the world decided to collapse. She imagined his body must have been just as perfect… but then she realized she was thinking like a person with needs and emotions, and that was the end of that train of amusement. His stupid emotions must have set her off, lilli concluded. She hadn’t felt anything since Marr left. Even when that crazy idiot blew himself up, she didn’t feel the emotions that she should have. Everything had been dulled after the conversion Marr had put her through, and as time progressed that dulling turned to something cold and hard. More silence. “Do you have a name?” Lilli asked, since she was getting tired of referring to him as random nouns like ‘stranger’ and ‘man’ or ‘beautiful’. He sighed and turned away. “Not anymore” he whispered. The sky turned dark, though the ice kept throwing itself at the windows and the outside walls of the library. Days passed and they sat together watching the weather as it continued its relentless pelting. They spoke softly, although there was no one there to disturb. The nameless boy and Lilli talked about their lives, since there was no music or movies or restaurants to discuss anymore in this world without goodness and electricity. And they sat in the dark, listening for anything to change but expecting nothing more than the timeless centricity of their snug little placement beside tables and chairs that were used and worn, and between the bookstacks that smelled like bibles. Lilli told the man about her family and what once was her life. She spoke about her journey through the forests which laid beyond the golden pathway that held her prisoner, even though she had dozens of miles to roam. She whispered stories about her sister and their dog who had ran off so long ago nobody thought much of him anymore. Biscuit was finicky like that. They decided together that they would call him Orion, after reading books about religion, about mythology and astronomy. Orion’s story was the most apt, according to Orion himself, and Lilli didn’t know him well enough to care enough to disagree. The story they found went as follows: “On the island of Chios, Orion wooed Merope, daughter of King Oenopion, apparently without much success, for one night while fortified with wine he tried to ravish her. In punishment, Oenopion put out Orion’s eyes and banished him from the island. Orion headed north to the island of Lemnos where Hephaestus had his forge. Hephaestus took pity on the blind Orion and offered one of his assistants, Cedalion, to act as his eyes. Hoisting the youth on his shoulders, Orion headed east towards the sunrise, which an oracle had told him would restore his sight. As the Sun’s healing rays fell on his sightless eyes at dawn, Orion’s vision was miraculously restored.” Orion said it seemed fitting, since they both were waiting for the sun to shine so that they could leave this place and find the next best thing. And so there they stayed for a month, the star god wannabe, Orion, and Lilli, wandering through the bookstacks to find novels that were fun, riveting, gory or fantastical. Any type that caught their eyes. The two made a game over the course of the month where they would both start at opposite ends of a floor and scan for the most interesting book they could find. When they finally met in the middle, they would walk back to their tables by the escalade of weather-beaten windows and read the others’ story aloud for them both to discuss or poke fun at. Since there was no electricity, Lilli and Orion would light books from the day before on fire in a garbage can and read by the light the ashes of singed pages brought: “Ozymandias I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed: And on the pedestal these words appear: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away” Lilli brought stories of all kinds, as did Orion, but neither could ever understand the others’ choice in reading material. Even still, they continued their game until too many books littered the floor around them of which they figured to build a fort. Then they built another at the end of that hall, still in direct view of the other. They used them as indvidual houses to sleep but after a single night apart, Lilli awoke to Orion gently scratching her arm. “I can’t sleep” he said. Lilli grunted and rolled over. Orion paused for a moment but just as Lilli was sinking back into a bilssful oblivion, she felt him scratching her arm once more. “Can I stay with you? I keep having nightmares.” She rolled back toward him and opened a single groggy eye, too tired to care she sighed. A gesture he took as consent and so the not-so-strange boy lid down beside her. He felt warm and human and, though neither had seen a shower and had only the toilets to use for cleaning water, he smelled the way she remembered people to smell when she had feelings and a soul and a heart. Back before the fall of civilization. They slept beside each other from that night onward. The other fort was abandoned and dust collected around its baseform, though neither of the two noticed. It was on the fourth night together that Lilli awoke again during the late night hours to the sensation of him twitching and mumbling in his sleep. They both lid on the musty old carpet that now was worn after years and years of strangers wearing it down. Several feet away, Orion shivered as he spoke in tongues to himself, and Lilli figured this to be another nightmare. She bridged the physical gap that had always been between the two, and put her arm around him, laying her head on his contracting erratic chest. Lilli stayed awake for a few more minutes as she listened to his heart return to normal, and she heard him sigh; the nightmare had ceased. It was the sound of his steady heart that lulled her back to sleep. Story. Lilli & the Library 4 “Oh my God, no! let me do it! You’re gonna burn them!” Lilli playfully attempted to grab the handle of the popcorn-bag Orion held haphazardly close to the trashcan bookfire that the two had lit a few hours prior. Orion cackled maniacally as he dodged the brown-haired girls vain struggle for popcorn-duty. “That’s the best way to eat popcorn! It’s gotta be burnt or it tastes nasty!” Lilli swatted at him some more, but knew that the wine they had been drinking was hindering her agility and soon she resigned to his overcooking. “Oh well then at least now I know I’m going to eat poison popcorn, you dirty popcorn ruiner!” She was sure that her witty retorts were not as quip as she heard them to be. The handsome man giggled, equally as intoxicated as the protagonist as he made empty wine bottles scramble with his lackadasial leaning, his hands unaware of their precariousness toward one of a few bottles still containing fermented red grape juice. “Yoooou’ll love it!” he declared triumphantly. Orion’s eyes glittered with the reflection of dancing fire with little orange flames licking the aluminum base of the popcorn popper. Lilli tried her best to look irritated, but the contours of his near-immaculate jawline and the shadows of the darkness outside their little bonfire-circle sillouetting one half of his face were distracting. The girl still couldn’t look at him directly; every time she stared in his eyes she felt like she was falling into some hole she’d never try to get out of, if escape was even a possibility. Lilli hadn’t been drunk since her Marr adventures. The severity of life had made it imperative that she remain sharp and sober at all times to fight off the dangers and near-death events that seemed to accost her at every street corner. But the week or two with Orion had made something warm in her frigid heart, contradictory to the ice storm still spread like a battalion outside. Though he was clearly harmless and more than likely too stringy too be of much worth in a fight, Lilli felt as though his presence kept the monsters away. Indeed, there had been no noise outside, no movement in the icestorm that they watched day after day after day. They had ventured into the storm earlier that day to find more supplies. The land was desolate; they were lucky that the library located nearby to a gas station. The fact that a liquor store just so happened to be attached to that gas station was nothing more than simple luck. The duo grabbed plastic bags from behind the counter and stuffed what they could in way of groceries (though Orion decided to make haste to the wine that wasn’t yet snatched by previous scavangers). They had spent the afternoon perfecting a fire and flirting with various ideas for a meal, as well as with each other. A casual slug of wine with ‘supper’ consisting of canned beans and popcorn led to an epic massacre of half of their wine rations. As the alcohol continued to be passed around, Lilli found herself becoming more and more uninhibited about her human desires and antics. She swore a few words, and stopped thinking before talking to the object of her fairly blatant desire. When she blinked her eyes moves separately. When he smiled his face lit up and she told him that he looked like a goof. This made Orion smile wider. “you’re beautiful” she blurted after a moment of drunken smiling at each other without reason. She smelt burning and knew it was the popcorn; they wouldn’t be eating that tonight unless their human bellies figured out a way to absorb nourishment from ash and black. He looked up from the fire, directly into her eyes and mirrored her proclamation, “You’re beautiful.” There was more silence. It was so thick that if the tension wasn’t so obviously sexual one could wonder if they were about to have an anxiety attack. Lilli couldn’t look away from those unimaginably mesmerizing irises. She couldn’t even determine exaactly what color they were, only that they glimmered and shone like the stars he’d been named after when he laughed. Lilli wanted nothing more than for him to laugh. But instead he held her eye and downed the remaining bottom half of another bottle of Chianti. Lilli couldn’t look away. He was everything she had ever let herself imagine. More silence. The fire cracked and glistened as embers begged for attention. She reached for her own bottle of wine, but it was empty. He leaned into where her face was frozen in harmony with those eyes embedded under his perfect eyebrows under his perfect head of average brown hair that somehow shone more amazing than the embers. Lilli remained frozen. Why can’t he laugh so she could laugh too and they could get out of this stiff thick silence that always leads to every duo’s demise? He kissed her. She kissed him back. If there were heavens, they would have opened up for angels to sing but instead all there was were the noises of the fire in a giant empty building with books for nobody to read and only two to burn. In her inebriated state, Lilli never would have stopped, but somehow Orion did just that. He sat back and asked her the most arbitrary of questions before he had time to recapitulate what had just happened between them. “What was your life like before this?” She assumed he meant before him, but he clarified he meant before the world fell apart. As if that world even mattered anymore. He had finally looked away and broken his spell on her long enough for her to breathe again and take a second to compose what sense her drunkenness allowed. Somehow, she successfully avoided the question with the same question directed at him. Orion was probably more drunk than she was. He had polished off at least three bottles, and Lilli was pretty sure that was more than enough to bring someone of his stature down to neanderthal-mentality. “Sure. You know what? I’ll bring you through a day in the life of Orion, before I started being Orion and before I ever ended up here with you having the best time of my life” he winked. Her heart stopped for a second. But what came after was so far from the perfection he emulated. It was a story so hideous and grotesque that Lilli concluded there was no way he realized what he was saying, because if he did he would have been cognisant that his words were stupid and wrong and everything bad about the old world she no longer missed after hearing his micro auto-biography: ———————————————– Orions Micro-Auto-Biography A raindrop. A snowflake. Slick roads and eaves decorated with icicles that shone clear and incandescent. I spend every day lounging in a basement apartment painted white to make the space seem larger than what it is. I have a couch, a chair, a sink and a counter all in the same room with expensive entertainment components scattered throughout. My flat-screen television’s the latest frivolous expenditure, a token of my own boredom and inadequacies for social situations that are not based on a videos and X-box games. If you keep walking straight you’ll either bang into a wall, or find yourself in my master bedroom, the only bedroom in the apartment. Hardwood flooring. White panels and a single window to your left that lights a halo around some exercise machine I’m promising everybody that I’m using when its evident from my lackluster appearance that I am not. Every day I wake up and talk to myself in my head about nothing in particular as I shuffle about, preparing for another day’s work at a job I’ve convinced myself I like. Sometimes I wake up alone, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I make myself breakfast, sometime’s I don’t. More often than not I’ll just hop in my car, another frivolous expenditure since I already had a car that worked perfectly but was simply not flashy enough to portray the success I felt the desire to push onto others’ retinas, and drive to some fast food store. I’ll swear that it’s an incidental choice and that I’m just too busy to eat the right things and work out on my dusty machine-turned-towel-rack. Really though, does it sound like I live the life of the rich and busy? The friends I’ve made since I moved here have been based around getting my dick sucked on a night like tonight, and every other night that I find myself staring at the ceiling, reminiscing about the mistakes everyone else made to turn my life this way. I had a girlfriend once. If you asked her, she’d tell you all about how she did everything she could to make it work between us. She cooked, she cleaned, she’d drive across town in the middle of a winter night because I yelled at her enough to do so. She kept her mouth shut and never went out because she couldn’t string a sentence together in social situations. The only time she went out was to a party my friends were throwing, but she never drank so you can imagine how much fun she was to have around. My friends are great people. They make money, they play sports and subscribe to TSN Sportsdesk, they drink beer and own the same game consoles that I do. It’s her fault that she was so weird with her perpetual over-exhertion on everything pointless like the arts and volunteer. But still, if you say my name to her even now she’ll go off on her practiced soliloquoy on the topic of my monstrous personality. So it’s probably for the best that you know how stupid she was to me: always running around with other men, a skirt to chase for every guy who led her to believe that they could treat her better than I could. She never went to me about her issues, because they were things she should have been able to handle on her own if she wasn’t so weak and immature. Can you picture the type? A perfectionist, a workaholic, a depressed young woman with too much drive and not enough follow-through or self-confidence to get anything worthwhile done. She was a minx in the bedroom, though, which is what kept me around for so long. The thing with the depressive, ‘daddy-issues’ kind of girl is that they are obsessed with making you happy. Things are about you. If you saw what she could do on her knees or bent across that couch I told you about ten minutes ago, you’d get it. But all good things must come to an end, and so I left her. Yeah, I left her. Don’t let her tell you otherwise, she’s a nut job. Always the control freak, she couldn’t ever get it through her slutty little noggen that I was the one pulling the strings. ————————————————————– There was silence again, only this silence was the sobering kind that reminded you how imperfect this world, and everything and everybody in it, was. The stark difference between who Orion was before and after Lilli’s existance was undeniable. So undeniable that it was near impossible to believe this story was actually about him. Lilli no longer wanted to look in Orions eyes and see the worlds that never were and would never be given his complete lack of compassion for the female species. Orion must have noticed, because he was far more intelligent than he led on most days, and so he sat in silence with her as they both stared at the fire and the useless popcorn from an eternity ago before he stepped his foot on her ecosystem of make-believe para-perfection. And there they sat for the rest of the night with nothing but silence and lightyears of emotional distance between them. Silence that no longer held the captivation of a short while ago, no. Rather; silence that felt more like an anxiety attack that would never reach completion, nay, would go on forever until life ended once again for the brown-haired girl. The embers died. Still silence. They slept in forts alone. Orion. The ice storm finally stopped, leaving drizzle and grey outdoors with fog intertwining between buildings long forgotten. It was early morning and Lilli was still asleep in her book fort far, far away from Orion’s. They hadn’t spoken much since the night that they had been drinking liquor and watching the fire, but Orion couldn’t stop thinking about the brown-haired girls lips and the way they felt. So soft and surprised but inviting. He remembered how he felt her cheek muscles lift into a smile when he had pressed his mouth onto hers for the first time. Orion hoped to a God he wasn’t sure he believed in that there would be more, although, his proclamation of some censored story he invented about his life as a ‘human’ before the chemicals came. Truth be told, he had no idea who he was before he was a hybrid. Orion didn’t hold memories from a normal life that Lilli obviously believed in, but his intoxicated false-confessions had left her distant and forlorn. It wasn’t a new emotion for him to see in girls, but this was the first one that made him want to change that mental anguish she revealed through the furrows in her brow. Orion had read enough books to know that girls needed romantic gestures to forgive and forget the mistakes that the common man seemed to perpetually make. His err was fixable, since girls are hell bent on believing the best in the boys they infatuate themselves with and so he knew that this was an issue that would pass if he played his cards right. Orion tried his best not to panic when thinking of the fact that he genuinely wanted to be with this strange warrior girl who had locked herself up in the most interesting of places; in a building where she would forever be surrounded by fiction and romantic ideas of long-dead authors that could fill her head with the hope that she so clearly had worked quite hard to squelch. He was excited that he felt something new since every other girl and village was so dull and easy to destroy. Orion didn’t feel the urge to destroy this one. And so he ventured out before Lilli’s eyes opened and went in search for something that would satiate his need to make her appeased with him once more. Clearly the hybrids scouring the delapadated city weren’t going to attack one of their own, so there was no urgency in his actions. As time passed with Orion wandering down alleys and streets, feeling invincible and revered by the ghosts of the millions of dead idiots that surely rotted in the buildings and sewers around him. He wasn’t expecting to meet anything living, and so the silence enveloped him like a fuzzy wool blanket; he liked the surreality of this collapsed Constantinopole. Clearly, the city was worth something to the world once upon a time. But as he wandered through shopping malls and abandoned homes, he heard a female voice behind him gasp some noise of surprise. And so he turned to see the source of the noise, fully expecting it to be the wind or something. Around him were darkened glass walls of hallways and pretty ceramic nic naks that people had loved to fill their houses with long ago, but in front of him was a lonely girl. Her blue eyes were pooling with those tears he had forced himself to squirt out that first day he met Lilli and knew he had to convince her of his humanity, and her cheeks were flushed though her skin was ghostly pale. “John?” This random blond wearing the same dirty rubbish that everyone was wearing these days, given that nobody cared to wash or change their clothes anymore. She was definitely familiar, and clearly she knew him. Orion recalled that he had chosen the boring name John in Kalika when he had first showed up there to exterminate that town’s entire population. This must have been one of the girls he thought that he convinced to kill herself. “Oh my God John, I thought I’d never find you!” The blond cried out with what sounded like lovesick relief pushing passion behind the way she voiced his name. Anabelle, that was her name. Orion was surprised that the girl had survived Kalika, but he knew how to remove the error. “I thought I saw you go into that library place or whatever a while ago! I waited for you! I knew you loved me too! You didn’t mean to leave me! We can be together now! Oh my god, I love you so much John you’re everything in the world to me.” Anabelle was still blathering on her crazy talk, quite evidently driven to insanity since he was fairly sure he had convinced her to maim her entire family while he sat and watched, simultaneously enjoying some other broad who was expressing her idiot love the only way those women were good at: on her knees with her face between his legs. Orion turned his face to show surprise and mirrored relief, “Anabelle oh my baby. You’re face has never been more beautiful than it is now. You’re my angel, come here!” The blond quickly sprinted to close the few metres of distance between them, her bare feet making pluck noises on the cold ceramic tiles below them. As she placed her hands on either side of his neck and face, the welling tears started rolling. Orion was disgusted at the smelly idiot, but smiled like she was the only sun in the sky. “I love you so much” she whispered. She stepped onto her tiptoes to reach his lips, and just as their faces met, Orion reached his hand into her hair tangled on the back of her head, which of course she mistook as affection or passion or some other stupid emotion. He kissed her face for less than half a second before yanking his arm, and in turn her hair, backwards. In one swift and smooth movement, Orion rotated Anabelles head to the side and smashed her face into one of the glass walls beside them. It was a sickening crack, of which Orion could not be sure was from the glass splintering or her skull giving way to grey matter and bits of skull. Orion was impressed that the glass wall didn’t completely shatter. It must have been some excellent craftsmanship and really was a shame he had to ruin it with this pathetic creature. He leaned in to breathe the scent of her blood and grinned; Anabelle was still conscious. For now. “John…” was all she said. “By the way, my sweet,” Orion (or John, to Anabelle) whispered into the one ear that wasn’t pulpy and full of wall, “You’re the ugliest piece of ass I ever fucked. Nobody will ever love something as ugly as you. I know I won’t”. He chuckled as he watched the light in her eyes flash out, and licked a hot, thick gob of blood that had begun to slime down her broken cheek. The copper taste of the red liquid was salted with her tears, just the way he liked it. Orion let go of her body then, and turned away as it slumped to the floor. But just as he was about to walk away, he realized the gloves she was wearing; leather with two little red hearts stitched into the wristband. Lilii would love those. So he snatched the gloves off Anabelles body before any of her rank blood and brain and bone stained them, and headed back to the library, whistling while he walked. Orion after Imagini Candles. Fire. Electricity. Lights. The moon. The stars. The Suns. Everything shines. Everything is bright. Nothing stays the same. The light you consider isn’t all that there is. UV. Infared. X-ray. Color wheel. What’s in a color? What does the light comprise ? Is it everything you’ve ever seen and everything that has ever been? Was there darkness before this? Will there be nothing after? Where is this going? Who is this I see in my eyes in my cornea in my iris and my optic nerve? Does the image cross over or does it all stay the same? What’s wrong with me? I know what I was and what I need to be. Who I need to be. What I need to do. There has to be redemption for the pain that I’ve caused and the blood on my hands that I can’t scrub off no matter how many layers of skin I tear and how much of my own flows through those scratches I keep making to get the poison out. She’s beautiful. She’s perfect. She’s everything that I’ve ever thought the world could never be or give or have or want. She’s more than that. She’s the Goddess in this universe that I’ve ruined with my touch and words and being. I can’t stay this way forever and i know one day I’ll go back to who I was unless I take things into my own hands. Like so many lives before, two more need to go. She can’t stay in this world of imperfection. She’s too perfect to live with the truth that I know that I’ve caused and if I stay going on this trail I know that she will too. I had a nightmare once of the most wondrous place on Edode. It was a place I never thought was real, I never thought I’d see because I knew that if I did it would bring my own demise since something as flawed as I could never stand in that light. The flowers of every color, including the ones my eyes will never be evolved enough to appreciate. There were even unicorns, I think. And there in the field, she lay in her perfection though her body would never be complete like her soul that shone through so searingly bright it could blind the world, build prophets that would die to spare just a smidgen of what she represented. There have been many, there will be millions more that will erupt from the inside out. Her eyes and heart like a beacon at the apex of a lighthouse embedded deep in the molten rock that someone else created to destroy everything that man could make. Everything that the inventions of hominid-kind would ruin with its pollution, its selfishness, it’s incessant need to live with a greedy dominant hand. She drew me to her like so many more just like me but not as evil. Not as impure as I’m sure the chemicals have made me. Maybe one day long ago I was the same as her; built of unsurpassable snow-white incandescence, but I doubt it. I think the story I told her so long ago, drunk with both the wine and the elixer that was breathing in her air, was truth. I don’t think I was ever a good person, but she made me think it was so. I know now that with everything my brain has made me do, these hands will never be clean until I remove everything bad from this world before it tarnishes the goddess. I know now that I’m one of those prophet guys, even though my life has been pointless and horrible and falsified since the day I learned to talk. I mean, for god’s sake I’m talking like them now and everything. I think all intelligently and I write in yeold English or some other bullshit. Imagini let me know that I’m here to share a story that has been passed on through my nightmares from the Creator of the planet I’ve inhabited for twenty-one years. I’ll listen and try my best to understand, but Imagini has proven that my mind will never be well enough again for me to hear exactly what I should; the chemicals have turned important parts to mush. But I know the Creator has told me what to do time and time again, night after night, while I lid beside this sleeping Goddess who needs to change the world so it can all start again and be perfect. But what i hear is distorted; my hybrid status ruins the reception and my brain keeps being too loud replaying the screams and cries of every girl I’ve ruined, but I think I’ve heard enough to know what I’ve got to do. Chapter 5 Brown hair that had been displayed all over the floor, tickling Orions cheek, vanished from its lazy posotion to whip onto Lilli’s back as she shot up from her lying position in the book-fort that has once again become ‘theirs’. “Let’s go somewhere!” she exclaimed, the light in her eyes flickering wildly with a glint of adventure that Orion could so easily pretend was eroticism. He grinned. She was so full of life it amazed him with every waking second. “Where do you want to go?” he asked as he disappointedly watched as Lilli hopped to a standing position and started scrounging for her clothes. “I had a dream” She murmured, distracted by her search to find a sock. Orion paused, waiting for the beautiful girl to say more but when he realized she had forgotten he had asked her a question, he quipped with sarcasm “Well fuck, that was so descriptive I felt like i was there!” Lilli glared at him but swatted him playfully and, with a laugh, she explained “it was a beautiful place, and the weather’s been getting better and we have no reason to keep ourselves holed up here! I haven’t even seen any altecs wandering around outside”. She gestured to the windows before them that showed an almost valley-like panoramic of the heart of Constantinopole. Once he realized that she wasn’t going to lie back down, Orion looked for his own clothing but felt bitter that she didn’t feel another day of staying holed up with him was reason enough never to leave. Additionally, he couldn’t afford Lilli meandering in the city; for all he knew there were more crazed girls from the town’s he’d destroyed BL (before Lilli) waiting for him to leave so they could ruin this amazing feeling of warmth in his heart as of late. Once he realized that Lilli had meant she wanted to leave the city, however, Orion was quick to allow himself to be caught up in her child-like enthusiasm. She was a completely different person from he shadowy, rugged soldier that had screamed at him with skepticism while he stood at her library door like a popsicle in the ice storm. Lilli was always laughing now, which made Orion laugh too and it was a laughter that he truly felt, unlike the forced impressionism he had based his life on since the day he came down from his high perch in the mountains?*. Her eagerness was infectious, and he suspected that it was from him feeling as though he was falling in love that everything she said seemed like the best idea he had ever heard. So they left the city, after packing up whatever supplies they could find from local stores and putting it in a car that they had found with a full gas tank. Orion insisted that she stay in the car and he grab what they needed; he refused to take the chance that Lilli meet any survivors from his BL days, should they accost him on their journey out of Constantinopole. Lilli perceived it to be cavalier chivalry. As he wandered through the grocery stores, Orion picked up arbitrary trinkets that he knew Lilli would enjoy. She was all that he thought about, and he was more than happy about it; he loved her. A concept completely unheard of for a hybrid. Orion wondered if his brain was fixing itself and he would be normal. He wasn’t sure if that was something he wanted, as he knew that he had always enjoyed causing carnage and misery wherever he walked. Being an unsurmountable mutant sociopath made him feel powerful, unstoppable. But being with Lilli made him feel like the Christmas Grinch when his heart grew three sizes in a day and for as long as his chest stayed warm and Lilli stayed the same, he believed that she could provide him with the same feelings of unsurpassable preeminence. So they drove out of the city to the west, where the diamond mountains separated Constantinopole from two distant areas of Edode: The golden pathway leading to thick forests and the ship to the New World, and to a land that neither of the duo had visited. Indeed, not much was known about the most western route but Lilli was adamant that they go there. The car would only take them so far and then they would have to hike with the hopes that they would find another form of transportation on the alternate side of the mountains. Hours droned on with lifeless scenery. Occasionally they passed a town or community but more than several were only ashes, sticks and broken building foundations. Lilli commented that she wished the news was still playing on the radio or on the television so that she could know why these little places had all become ghost towns. She commented after Orions silence, as he told her he was concentrating on the road which was littered with debris from those cities they were passing, that she figured people had probably lost their minds and burnt the places to the ground to get away from all the murders and such that she had been hearing about before the electricity stopped working. The gas handle dipped closer to the empty side, and Lilli suggested that they stop in the next bigger town to steal a new car that had more gas. Orion was extremely adamant about stopping, saying that those places were probably already wiped clean long beforehand. But once the little orange empty light clicked on, there was little he could do to argue such an issue with such an obvious solution. A giant green highway sign showed that the next town was named something irrelevant, and they took the turnoff with the hopes of finding a new vehicle to keep them traveling toward the mountains. The trees were green on the sides of the road, and the dirt was pale like silt. They had driven far out from where the ice storm had been; it was actually quite nice of a day which was probably a main contributing factor to Lilli deciding this would be the day that they leave Constantinopole. As they rounded a turn, the city came into view; demolished like many of the last, but clearly had been destroyed long before the others as there were grass patches growing out of ashes where there never could have been before a massive fire. Orion, who had been driving thus far, pulled into a gas station that was still surrounded by longabandoned cars and trucks. He was silent since the turn off. As he shut off the ignition he looked Lilli in the eye with his mesmerizing eyes and told her “Stay here”. He was clearly uncomfortable in this ghost town, which Lilli figured was fairly understandable given that perhaps it reminded him of his brother or something. She complied, although it was difficult to sit in a parked car under a now blue sky. He jumped out of the car and slammed the door, but not before leaning back in to state “lock the doors and don’t roll down the windows”. The minutes ticked on after Orion had walked through the mess of cars toward the back of the store where the parking lot expanded. Lilli heaved a sigh and poked at the glove compartment for a while, then scanned their location which was still just as constant as it had been five minutes before. Only something was different. There was a girl. She was standing inside the gas station, staring outward directly at Lilli. Lilli could see the strangers eyes boring into hers with such fire that it felt as though it could have set her a flame had witches been more than a fairy tale. Lilli didn’t really know what to do. The girl looked like a hominid, only that was basically an impossibility given that the only people she had seen in the last two years that were not hybrids or altecs were her sister and Orion. What were the chances that she would meet another one so shortly after her other half had arrived in Constantinopole? Lilli tightly shut her eyes and opened them again, thinking perhaps she had been hallucinating from the arbitrarily bright, almost normal, Pre-apocalyptic sky. But when she opened her eyes once more, not only was the girl still in her line of sight, but she was several feet closer to the car in which Lilli sat waiting for Orion. Where is he? She thought to herself. Though the strange, angry looking girl was several feet closer, she was still standing stiff as though she was a statue or a mannequin for a very boring, disturbing, clothing line. Lilli averted the strange girls gaze, and, feeling panicked she stupidly turned around to see behind the car; maybe Orion was on his way back from another direction that she hadn’t realized gave way to the rest of the parking lot. When she turned back to the front to face the girl again, the figure wasn’t a few feet closer. She was just outside her passenger window. The strange girls angry face was terrifying. Her dirty and scarred hands slammed their palms onto Lilli’s window as the protagonist noticed that there was blood under the nails of the girl. She realized that several of her fingers had no nails at all. The girl was still staring, her face unchanged, directly at Lilli with an implacability that looked almost intimate; as though Lilli had done something to personally provoke such malignancy. Between them was a mere few inches, though there was nothing but the silence that comes with a haunted house and the sound of the wind and the sound of the thunder of her own heart racing. They stared at each other for seconds that felt like hours, nothing changed. The strange girls long blond hair blew slightly in the breeze; chunks of once surely-beautiful strands were matted with a rust-color: dried blood. The girl’s eyes were crazed. Before anything could change between the women and their stare-down, the figure of a handsome man appeared walking from the direction in which Orion had last been seen. The deranged girl noticed Orion as well and, in a frenzy turned back to Lilli and started screaming “GET AWAY GET AWAY GET AWAY GET AWAY” over and over again. Her bloody little hands were slamming on the window hard enough to cause cracking noises that surely came from both the window glass splintering as well as the bones she was clearly breaking in her palms. Lilli saw Orion sprinting like an olympic runner toward the convulsing car. As he neared the strange girl’s pleading strengthened in fervour. “YOURE GOING TO DIE RUN LEAVE GO LEAVE HE’LL KILL YOU GET AWAY GET AWAY GET AWAY” she lamented. Her hands were nothing more than pulp at the point when Orion reached the young woman and, before Lilli even knew how to react, he grabbed both sides of the girls head and wretched her neck impossibly so. Her tortured face ceased pleading; the young woman’s eyes looked dull and lifeless. Orion let go of her head and snatched at the driver side door, which was still locked as commanded twenty minutes ago. Lilli fumbled for the latch to unlock the door and, although the car was nearly empty, Orion leapt into the car, turned the key and pealed out of the abandoned gas station with dust billowing up behind them. Lilli turned to look back and saw the crooked broken neck of the creature that had screamed so much and so hard with warnings that made no sense straight at lilli’s face. Though Lilli had killed many monsters, she had never killed a human being. The girl’s death disturbed her, but her actions leading to her demise perturbed her all the more. Orions knuckles were white from tightly gripping the steering wheel. His eyes were wide and scared and angry. They drove in silence for miles until the car started sputtering from its empty tank. They had no choice but to take the next vehicle they saw; an old truck much like the Carters’ beater that Jenn had stolen to save the two sisters two years ago. The couple were lucky that the truck was even there, though it too had not much more than half a tank. Nevertheless, Orion shut off their car with the cracked apart passenger window and hoisted all of their belongings into the new vehicle while Lilli sat, still stunned, until told to get out of the car and get in the truck. Orion drove them again farther to the west with more silence as Lilli thawed more to the idea of not being in some form of hominid-shock that came with the development of emotions and feelings thanks to her love for Orion. He was looking at her, not watching the road despite the odometer stating they were driving well over 120 km/hr. “I thought she was going to kill you” he blurted finally. Lilli breathed out a single, long exhalation. He continued. “I was searching for a car with keys that had gas, and when I turned this lunatic hybrid was banging on the car trying to rip you apart. I can’t go through that again. Never. Not after what happened to my brother.” Orion’s voice cracked and he stopped his soliloquy to save himself from the lump in his throat threatening to make him cry. Lilli softened to his tortured proclamation, but whispered, “she wasn’t a hybrid”. There that silence appeared again and hung between them in the truck cab. “Yes she was” he replied. “She was. I didn’t kill a person. Don’t Tell Me I killed a person. I think I Know a hybrid when I see one trying to eat my fucking girlfriend!” More silence. It was easier to digest the pros than the cons of this deteriorating conservation and so Lilli responded with the question that seemed more likely to receive well: “I’m your girlfriend?” Orion froze, then smiled uneasily again in her direction with those eyes glistening like precious metals, “if you want to be.” Lilli sat in silence, but edged her hand into his. And again, they drove in silence. Only it wasn’t as awkward and heavy. Really, it was kind of nice. They didn’t mention the crazy girl again. (Orion dream) “…percussive feet serve cobweb headaches as a matching set of marching clocks …” Last night I had a dream where I opened my eyes and it was blinding the sun was white, as was everything else that its light had shone down on; the world was too bright to see. White hot yet cold So bright yet uncaring at least not for me. And in my chest, it ached like the way it must feel to have someone you love ripped from your arms and your life forever and ever more, be it for them to run into the arms of someone more deserving, or into the ground in a stiff stained oak box like so many other people that this world has given as its own gift, only to steal them back again. I stood in the light with my heart burning as my blood ran hot and sludgy through veins that I never gave much thought to until that moment when they hurt so much from the viscous fluid forcing its way through to the core of my soul that I wondered if it was actually made of oil or petroleum; another part of humanity that I never considered to be part of my own being. I tried to see my hands, and miraculously did but they were weird, off somehow from the image i usually have scanned onto my retinas when I look at those falsely calloused limbs. It was almost as though they were orange. Or rust-colored. Maybe copper? Something like the color of pennies when they’re shiny and new. Not the kind that are worn and considered useless like those that every idiot person throws on the ground as if those tiny pences weren’t worthy of their meagre weight, no. The kind that people stopped to look at for that extra fraction of a second before handing them over to their new owner, or slipping back into their pocket in trade for a different, soiled version of the same worth since, surely, they had more than one of those little brass coins. I turned them over and my palms were white, but not white like the day-glo of that one massive sun that looked as though it was growing big enough to eat the whole world and barf it up again since if probably tasted like ass with all us monsters dirting it up. Disgusting. Certainly not palatable for something as majestic as this huge white orb threatening to engulf us all. There was only one other figure beside me, but as time went on more and more stood behind this other figure, and myself. Soon there were hundreds of non-faces looking at my shadow-buddy and I. Why they would choose to look at two creatures as virtually as immemorable as the masses rather than the sky, I have no idea. But I thought maybe my friend would. So I turned to her, and she was nearly white like the sun. So close to that perfection I had to blink threefour-five times, really squeeze my eyes shut until I almost gave myself a migraine, then open them wide to be able to tell the difference. She was the color of expensive pearls like mothers wear with pride; a heirloom penchant for their mother, and her mother’s mother, and her mothers mothers mother before that. Her eyes were bright but colorless. I can’t explain that to you any better than that. Her cheekbones were high, her hair was long and flowing down her back like a waterfall made of magic and fantasy; She was perfect to me. She must have been a goddess. I understood then, just by being in her presence, why the ever-growing crowd stood in reverence of the two of us: she was the reason that any of us were in this field of flowing grasses and exotic flowers, bird songs and probably Bambi for all I knew. But my hands were itchy and red now. I must have been allergic to those fancy vegetations. My legs were starting to feel like they were being perpetually bitten by fire ants, my heart felt erratic and my face felt flushed. I touched it with my ugly wet hands and pulled them back to see why everything felt so soggy. I was covered in blood. My face was dripping My hair was dripping My clothes were dripping Everything was wet. I flung off my shirt I tugged off my pants, but slipped and fell to the ground like a fumbling idiot in the process. The pretty lady beside me bent to help me stand, and it was then I felt the softness of her hair . When I looked up at her beautiful face, I realized that feathery feeling was from a mass of blonde. I reached my dirty, gross, wet and bloody hands toward her, and she held them as though they were worth millions upon millions of the pennies that they were tinted to look like. She tried to help me stand. I was so grateful. Her touch felt like nothing I had ever felt. My heart beat faster: “tachycardic” as Lilli would say with her fancy science words she absorbed from all those books at the Library back in Constantinopole. Every cell that I’m made of swelled in that way that the cartoon skunk, or whatever, did with hearts beating out of his eyes whenever he saw that cat that he thought was a skunk. You know, that stupid black and white feline that he felt looked like him so much that he could never see the truth; he only saw what his love-blind self wanted. But my heavenly friend, her face stopped smiling. It was filled with the pinch of pain that I know I’ve seen a thousand times before. Her mouth gaped open and she gasped but didn’t get any air. Her hands let go of mine and clutched her chest. The pretty white dress she wore was clumped and dirty, muffled and torn beside the place I figured someones heart or stomach or ribs or whatever must be, and her hands covered a single spot. A hole. No, not a hole. She was holding something. Something dark. Her eyes turned the color of the thing she held that had bore itself through her chest, and she turned her gaze to me. I looked at my hands, of all things, disgusting as they were, and pushed them onto the space where her chest should be whole in an attempt to plug up the ugly imperfection I saw. My hands scrambled to stop the gushing that was coming out of her chest. The goddess couldnt breathe My hands were covered with blood. Her blood. My face was splattered with it. It stung my eyes and I knew my eyes were red now, too. I tried my best to save her, and she held my crimson eyes as she collapsed into the grass and flowers that were stained with colors of the insides of her body. Nothing was white from the intensely white light of the sun anymore. The crowd stayed away, hushed. Some chorus from that trio-book from Sophocles. I caught her as she fell and laid her as softly as I could. There was new wetness on my face and I knew I was crying but my tears mixed with her blood and turned it salty. I was such a pitiful sight. The blond lady looked so lost and my heart felt as though it had been stabbed by a blade made of ice from some cold dark part of hell that people like me belonged. This was all my fault. I was so sorry. I didn’t want to do it but I had to do it. What I did, I have no idea but this was entirely my doing and it had to happen even though everything about it was agonizing. Her hair was so blond and her skin, so pearly now ashen from blood loss, though her hands remained warm and clutched mine once more. She understood. She didn’t hate me. I don’t know how that could be possible, but even though she nodded off to some other world or reality that I’ll never step foot in since nothing as noxious as I belonged in, or deserved to be considered for: heaven. She held my eye and I knew that I had just ended the life of the only person who loved me for everything I was, am, and will be. She sighed, like she had just fallen asleep in my arms. Peaceful. The world was still and quit. So many people had seen. They didn’t understand. In the world of white and bright and itchy body parts, I saw something else that didn’t belong. I picked it up, almost surprised with its weight but apathetic to everything now that my mission in life, as detestable and resentful and horrific as it was, was done. I felt the rigidity of its handle; a pistol. The little bumps to help the grip of a skilled-marksman I’m sure. Its barrel was cool, as though it had been buried in that coffin I thought about a lifetime ago. My right hand lifted it swiftly to my temple I cocked it safety off. My hand shook but remained unwaivered from what I told it it had to do . .. … ….. …….. Click. …I woke up. “…and when its over, and it’s gone you almost wish that you could have all that bad stuff back so that you could have the good…” They pulled over into a hotel that had been long abandoned. They sky was dark, and only the little critters and moths that had long ceased to be fluttered quitely through the night. It was time to go to sleep. Lilli couldn’t remember that last time that she had done just that. Orion and herself had been taking turns driving the old beaten up truck across the continent toward the mountains that seemed so much farther than they did the last time that she had made her way from A to B. The hotel was tall and much like some Holiday-Inn wannabe, but that was fine; not like the two were going to be requesting a turn down service or asking for extra towels to go with their jet-set bathtub big enough to be mistaken for a swimming pool. It was nice just to have a place that was quiet and away from the mysteries and disturbing lives they had worked so hard to abandon far behind where the trees stopped and the city that sucked hoped and dreams from the living and dead alike. Orion was being sweet, as was the usual ever since he had proclaimed his affection for her in the label of ‘girlfriend’ a few days prior. Since that word had been uttered and agreed upon with idiot smiles and blushing cheeks, they told jokes and stories in the cramped jalopy’s cab. Just the two of them. They hadn’t seen another person since, well, the girl that would-not-be-mentioned had accosted the car they had originally skipped town in. That was fine with them. The fewer the distractions the better from this ball of warmth they basked in that was each other’s company. Though the days and nights were long and stoic, they passed with ease and joy. It was an odd sensation for Lilli, and she had been thinking Orion was in the same boat, so to speak. He held her little gloved hand, another token of his never-ending thoughtfulness for her comfort, and they walked up a few flights of stairs to a floor that they figured was high enough to keep them safe should someone stop by to rob the place, or molotov-coctail it. It wasn’t until they unlocked the door with the card the had stolen from the front lobby information desk that the realized there was electricity in this building. It was as though God had given them a gift that had never before touched the walks of life. The dim little lamp on the opposite side of the generic hotel room, stood like a one-foot lighthouse in their sea of perpetual darkness that had encapsulated the last two years. Its little orb of yellow reflected off the glass that stood behind it; a window overlooking the rest of the world which was nothing btu trees and road and the Diamond Mountains so very far away. They stood in silence and stared at this small piece of liberty that had long been forgotten, much less needed. What could it mean? Was there a normal world out there, somewhere still? Was this just the sign of many more lights to come? Maybe a real town with people that smiled and lived lives with jobs and children’s laughter and pet dogs named Marco or Buttons or whatever? Lilli’s heart fluttered at the idea. She realized inside herself she felt hope. It was the first time that she had felt hope since the day her fiance died. Since the day she killed him. Lilli shook her head as if to shake that last thought out of her mind, and realized then that God wasn’t finished with his miracles that this nameless hotel brought them: Orion had found a stereo and had turned it on. There wasn’t even static on the radio which lent an eerie sensation that faultered the little candle of hope that Lilli had been harvesting, though when Orion clicked on the CD format and sound played through that candle stood stronger than before. They heard music. It didnt matter what it was, it was beautiful. The melody of sounds linked harmoniously in a slow strum enhanced by a soft, constant, thumb of bass and drum. Like music had never been invented before this second. Orion smiled, and Lilli melted a little inside. His green eyes sparkled in the little lamp light he stood beside, and with his mouth upturned so unwaveringly and unconscientiously sexy the man looked like a mirage of a time and a life that Lilli barely remembered. A life that Lilli had refused herself to remember, or find solace in. He outstretched his hand, and wrapped hers inside his own. Without losing her gaze, he tugged off each finger of each of the little black leather gloves. Orion let them drop from her hands with their little red hearts fluttering to the floor. He kissed each of the tips of her fingers. She sucked in a breath; her heart thumped wildly in her chest. No other man in this entire universe could make a girl feel this way; she was the only girl in the world to him. Orion smiled an impish grin and asked so quietly that if there was anymore than the hum of the lamp and the notes of the song that sung low and lazy like breathes on glass windows of cars on top of a makeout spot, she wouldnt have heard the proposition: “Could I have this dance, with you?” THUMP THUMP THUMP Lilli hoped that he couldn’t hear the rush of blood that thrusted hard and fast through her veins. They started swaying. Like it was their wedding night. He stroked her cheek and his hand was so soft and nubile. His face looked so gentle, like an angel. “You can’t be real” she whispered. Orion did nothing more than continue their private ballroom dance and smile while his eyes, so hypnotizing, finally left her eyes to trail to Lilli’s mouth. He put her chin in his hand that had stroked her cheek like tiny snowflakes, so innocent and pure. His eyelids fell slightly, and Lilli felt like she couldn’t breathe. Their lips touched. Once. Twice. They stopped dancing. The song had ended, or maybe Lilli was too far in to this rabbit hole to experience anything from reality anymore. There was nothing but this moment in the silence of the dusty hotel room that surrounded them like a museum of a time that neither had ever known. The kisses stopped being soft and sweet. His tongue felt hers for the first time: hot and wet His hands trailed down her body to her neck then her shoulders and he pushed her body toward his. Fever-like. Like it was their last night on Edode. His hands pressed deeper, she slipped his shirt over his head and ran her hands through his simple brown hair that felt like it had been built for a princes head; so perfect. Lillis eyes opened finally and she saw Orions body for the first time. So perfect. THUMP THUMP THUMP Her hand was on his chest. It wasn’t her heart’s thumping that she felt. The strum of his own personal base pumped hard and fast from his chest, just like her own she knew. It was all downhill from there. A passion that has no definition. A life that neither ever thought they would live. Ferverence. Reverence. No sense at all. He trailed his tongue, hot like the fever she felt in her face, down her chest. Stopping only to flick quickly against her breasts. She pulled at the button on his jeans, and he looked back up to her face. A love so pure it could have been contrived from Disney’s manufacturing plant gleamed through his flushed cheeks and eyes that bore so deeply into her own that she felt he could see every gyrus of the brain that she long thought was too tarnished to be in this situation again. He pushed her gently with his hands and his mouth never leaving her face and body to the double mattress with the 80’s- scratchy plastic-like comforter that smelled like cigarette smoke which had long before their time been censored from hotels like this. He fell on top of her, the muscles in his chest and arms and back felt like they had been cut from marble too good for Michellangelo’s sculptures. Things advanced, though time felt as though it has ceased to matter in the realm they had found themselves pushed into. He pushed himself inside her Her breath whooshed out as her eyelids lowered low and her lips parted as though she felt surprise almost akin to a pain that one could become addicted to. His body was her a heroin needle His eyes were the drug itself And nothing mattered but this addiction that would never, ever, end. There was nothing but them in the world that breathed so evil and wrong everywhere except for here in this one unfathomable, undeniable, moment. The hours passed His sweat mixed into hers between her heart and his and her toes stood on end. He felt like his body was about to come back to life after 21 years of nothing but loneliness and dreamless sleep. They breathed in sync and she lost control of her body long before he stopped. Long before either wished it, the sun rose again. They slept, finally, as its pink rays turned orange then yellow and white. The blankets, white beneath them with pillows so plush and real they felt ficticious. Lilli fell asleep cradled in his arms. The first time in two years that she slept without clothes, or guns or knives. There was nothing but skin between them. And just before they drifted off, Orion kissed her forehead and breathed the only confession in this world that would matter from that moment onward: “I love you”. Sabor Real Vroom Vroom Vroom The wheels on their now-car (since the truck lost all momentum after driving it into the ground after going 50 miles with the empty light on) chugged along the highway as they weaved in an out, to and fro amongst the stalled cars obstructing the route. They had taken turns being driver for a while, but that resulted in the imbecilic idea, compliments of Orion, to drink through a quarter of their liquor ‘rations’ during the journey. Not like it mattered seeing as they seemed to be the only people alive on this side of the country. In Orions words, “who’s gonna stop us? The police car in the ditch over there? Not fuckin’ likely!” Who could argue with logic like that? And so on they drove, weaving in an out of stationary traffic as the lights of their new found vehicle flashed on bumper after bumper of abandoned vehicles that probably cost more money than either had seen transacted in the last two years. Not that money was a hot commodity at this point in time in Edode. It was a while back that they had seen their first burnt community, and a few days running into weeks since their pinnacle night on that high floor of the roadside hotel that changed their little world-that-waseach-other. Of course, there had been many nights with similar activity since then, but nothing would ever replace the moment Orion admitted he was in love. It was as much a surprise to himself as it was to Lilli, although Lilli was adamant that she had seen it coming. Orion wasn’t so sure that it was even possible for a hybrid such as himself to feel the emotions he had been feeling, but he went with it because for the time being it seemed as real as the pavement beneath them. Vroom Vroom Vroom There had been electricity ever since that fateful night in the first hotel that defined the past two weeks for the two strangers-who-believed-they-knew-each-other. Though electricity is really only required when there are people in the world to use it. And while it was exciting to turn on a lamp or see the rainbow-tvchannel with the piercing high whinny noise, neither Orion nor Lilli cared much for the magic of manmade power since it only applied when they stopped for the night. And then, really, who needs light when sleeping? Though, it was still nice to view a street lamp swiftly approaching on the side of the highway as they sped onward to a destination not yet completely known. Orion had been non-quizzical concerning where, exactly, Lilli was blindly guiding them. All he knew was the sparse sentence she had mentioned almost a month ago, just as they were leaving her hometown Constantinopole: “I had a dream”. What did that even mean? He asked as much in a manner that was clearly in the bland unimaginative manner that his brain was designed to think: “What’s the point in chasing some dream, Lilli? Do you even know what we’re looking for?” Lilli laughed, a joyous trinkle of a laugh that sounded like water flickering off tiny round stones worn down from beautiful waterfalls untouched by the flaws contriving the mistakes of humanity , at his remark. She replied in her convoluted manner that made him grin whenever she attempted to explain her mind’s logic. The concepts she based her life on were never anything Orion could make sense of, but the way she argued so heatedly for things she never had proof for was enchanting to him. “I mean, the reality in my head is clearly not perfect since I spend 37 percent of my life in near-insanity, but at the same time the world is so much prettier when someone can think of ways to make it that way. without creativity what would we have? concrete squares without windows and cars shaped like boxes with people that didnt want mirrors cuz appearance would never matter in any way?” How could you argue with logic like that? They worked amazingly together, her mind perpetually in the clouds (though she tried her best to avoid that characteristic for so long after they had first met) and his like a diamond in the rough; a genius who was simply not placed in the right environment to flourish and advance the population for the positive. So they drove on for another while in comfortable silence, speculating on the images the shadows around them: did the mass ahead of them look like a truck or a car? A dinosaur or a giant boulder? It was all they could do to pass the time as they both continued their journey to no where certain. But Orion was curious. What was so great about this place Lilli had drempt of? Why bother wasting so much time, albeit time that would have been spent doing something equally unimportant only somewhere stationary rather than mobile? So as they drove along this nightly highway with stars overhead that neither bothered to gaze upon since they were too blind to see beyond each other’s immaculate misperceptions on each others indefectibility, and Lilli decided to tell the story of her dream. “So its about this place called Imagini” She hesitantly stated, as she rolled down her window to feel the wind flying through her now-long brown hair. Orion scoffed, “Imagini? What did your brain run out of ideas?” She chuckled but quipped a retort “No, I was just thinking about the design of the english language and their plurals. Deer is to deer, as bottle is to bottles, is to octopus is to… octopi? Octopuses?” “Octopode, I think.” He interjected. Lilli gave a scathing look at his immaculate intelligence of nothing useful whatsoever. Orion smiled at her attempt at looking angry – he knew she was too happy with their whatever-this-was to actually be as such, but replied as an attempt to concede “sorry, sorry, it’s a lovely name. Please, tell me your dream. Tell me about Imagini.” Lilli continued her scathing looks, which made him laugh, which made her laugh and swat him in the arm in protest. “Hey! I’m trying to look angry here! Stop being so good looking!” Her retorts were always lamely hilarious when she was drinking the sickly-sweet red liquid people had been calling wine for centuries. He remained silent but smiling, and motioned his hand as though to display the road before her as a simile for his feelings, “we’ve got nothing but time and distance, my love.” he said, “tell me your story. I want to hear it. I promise.” So she did. Imagini On one side of the world were beaches; sandy, near-white beaches with quartz rocks the size of boulders and basketballs marbled with tan colors resembling a similar color as the beach itself. The trees were vibrant and diverse like some imaginary jungle that you’d see on the cover of national geographic while waiting in a doctor’s office. There were small, furry animals that ran in packs; harmless and vegetarian. Of course, where petite creatures live, larger more predatory beings also resided. On this corner of the world, those predators were lizards and reptiles large enough for a person to ride on, if there was ever a person stupid enough to approach such a beast for said purpose. These lizards varied, certainly, but most were wide and dark grey, leathery creatures that stood imperceptibly still for the majority of the day before dodging and squirming toward whatever animal that wandered within its reach. Also in the trees surrounding the warm, sandy beaches were birds, of a species named Miikae, the size of horses with white bodies and multi-colored wings; each feather a different color than the one beside it. These birds, with their beady eyes and long, stark necks perched wherever they wished; obviously the largest of all the animals within this area. Reptiles and birds are wont to get along, and the giant lizards known as Ceranadons were no different with the Miikae. Perhaps the meats of each were poisonous to the other, but no matter. These massive beasts lived in harmony, if not apathy, in the branches and ferns and flowers and trees; wherever they wanted to tread, as the tiny furry critters pranced in blissful ignorance through meadows of vibrant flowers that camouflaged the Miikae with their plethora of pigmentation. The flowers, they were breathtaking. Really, this land surround and including the white, sandy beaches was like a paradise. It was the single-most enchanting place in the world of Edode. This ethereal place was only further made bewitching by the flowers that were so diverse no one person could imagine them all without first-hand experience, nor could they believe the plenitude from photographs alone. More-so, some of the plants contained tonics with chemicals that could cause a multitude of effects on a person; hallucinogens, psychotics, stimulants. If a person ever visited this place, which was surprisingly rare, they would soon find themselves feeling as though they were intoxicated on the most brilliant of Ecstasy drugs. Unlike the synthetic street-drug, however, these flowers were pure and non-toxic; you could not die or feel ill-effect if you were hominid. Really, if one were to stumble upon these parts there would be absolutely no reason to leave; the lands were like the heaven described and imagined by so many religions for so many thousands of years. Surely, that was why so few people found their way here; if you found the beaches and the rainbow forests of Imagini you surely would stay forever and forget the rest of the world in a serotonin and norepinephrine-induced fantasy made entirely from the imagination of your pleasurecentres. There were no altecs or hybrids here; they could not tolerate the majesty and the colors. It was unknown, but would be interesting to see, what would happen if something so devious as the antagonists created by the many toxins that the world emitted came into contact with the fields and the forests around Imagini. The water that washed along the sandy white beaches of Imagini was shallow with a gentle decline into the oceans that eventually led back to the five seas. The water was warm and green. Like everything else in this isolated area, the water was akin to paradise. The whole place was perfect, in a calm and serene way. Surely there were storms; Imagini was not immune to the weather of Edode. It didn’t matter either way; nobody ever came here. Which, really is a shame because the place had the ability to bring any person with a good heart back to life, back to normal, back to health and happiness. Anyone that wandered this earth would benefit from even a single day in this place. The place was untarnished and picturesque. Sabor Real Prt 2 “Whimsical” Orion stated. Lilli swatted his arm again. “Be supportive!” she protested, “I’m pouring my heart out here, all over this dirty, smelly old car’s seats and dashboard and floor!” Always full of snidy comedic comments, Orion responded with “I’m pretty sure the car’s pretty much a new release, and whoever owned it before we stole it was definitely more meticiulous than either of us, because the thing is so clean I’d eat off it!” And with that, he wiped his right index finger across the part of the dashboard encasing the odometer, plucked it in his mouth and sucked “MMMmmmmmmm!” he exclaimed. Lilli rolled her eyes, “whatever. It’s where we’re going. You’ll see when we get there.” Realizing his girlfriend was losing patience with his smart-aleky-ness, he nodded with conviction. “Definitely. It’ll be even better than you remember it!” Orion smiled his winning smile and looked in Lilli’s direction on the passenger-side of their ritzy silver BMW. He knew she could never stay mad when he let his face lit up the way it did when he smiled and thought of her. And so they continued driving for another day and night until they ran out of food once more and agreed that they would take the next turn off that advertised a department store in which they could relieve the building of its necessities. It was another day and night before that turn-off appeared. By then Lilli was completely intoxicated and driving and it was more than time enough to pull over for a break. And Lillie? She was too out-of-it to have an opinion that mattered. Even a reckless, malevolent-loving, damage-inflicting, covert-hybrid like Orion could figure that out. So off they pulled to the merger that took them to some city that didn’t matter of which the only defining characteristic was the fact that it had power…. Orion was relieved that, of the two involved in this relationship, he wouldn’t be the one to put his foot in his mouth this time around. Diamond Mountains Prt1 – “He had sworn not to be the one he was before” It rained for the rest of their drive to the base of the Diamond Mountains. Huge gumdrop sized blips of water thumped against their windshield by the hundreds as days drifted by and by and by. The munificent trees that grew tall and thick around the roads that flew onward behind them for what felt like an eternity eventually fell sparse and thin, though their height remained the same. Huge skinny giants like the kind that harvested Tree Stars for Little Foot and company in the Land Before Time movies. You know, the kind that entire species died for during their futile race to the land beyond the rock that looks like a long neck, through the molten lava tar pits where creatures went to suck hot blackness into lungs that breathed no longer. And on they drove as the kilometers edged toward 200,000 km on their stolen flashy silver BMW. It had been several weeks since Lilli and Orion took the turn off to some nameless department superstore to pick up all sorts of toys and necessities. Lilli even took part in Orion’s childlike enthusiasm over thieving trinkets and useless objects as tokens of memories that more than likely neither would remember, or want to, if the world went back to the way it was before the hominids pushed it to sink and drown in its own metaphorical tar pit. She picked up a series of colorful bottles of arbitrary liquors, and a plethora of pharmacy items: miscellaneous prescription medications with their labels sogged off from leaks, wet naps for ‘showers’ while they journeyed through those luminous mountains looming ahead, and even a box of hair dye. Orion laughed when she told him her rogue trophies from the department store pharmacy, and snickered when her cheeks flamed hot and pink when she refused to show him the girly chemicals she planned on coloring her hair with. Orion picked up foodstuffs and his usual weakness of rich red wine. The handsome man seemed to get a thrill from smashing the glass out of the locked mahogany cupboards in the liquor store that housed the wines priced so obscenely that nobody sane would ever commit to their purchase. Lilli didnt’ mind; the joy he found during his destructive adventures was contagious. So they continued onward and the road beneath them was darker than tombstone grey with the wet stains of rain flooding over the pavement and they hydroplaned more than once during their final few days northward. Still the rain went on. The water beneath them made shush-noises at their feet and they took to listening to the CDs that each had stolen from that department way back: “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags Let’s have a toast for the assholes Let’s have a toast for the scumbags Every one of them that I know Let’s have a toast for the jerkoffs That’ll never take work off Baby, I got a plan Run away fast as you can” After a while the duo had learned all of the lyrics and chanted them out as if they were surrounded by verbose hoodwinks at some Hip Hop concert, hopped up on prescription pills and weaving back and forth the blinking yellow line in the middle of the highway. It was exciting because it was dangerous and unabashedly pointless. But then, that was the way their relationship had began, so why not keep it going as long as the smiles felt real and the road kept speeding them away from the nothingness left of Constantinopole and all those other towns they’d driven by? Somehow they made it to the mountains. Breathtaking as always. The rocks were translucent and shimmered like the jewels they were named after; so clear and perfect they almost felt like physical fiction thought up by an 8yr old girl dressed as a princess imagining unicorns dancing on fluffy pink clouds. Those were Lilli’s words, not Orions. Though he laughed and his eyes crinkled at the outer edges when he nodded in agreement. They packed their belongings into giant hiking knapsacks the size of a giganticism-acromegalic patient’s torso with way too many pockets and compartments, and they waved goodbye to the trusty car that had brought them from nightmares to the base of this dreamland precipice. And once their brand-new boots were laced up tightly (since ankle support was key, so said Lilli who still remained oblivious to the fact that this is where Orion came down from to unknowingly find her) they started hiking upward. As beautiful as this landscape was, the journey was clearly treacherous. The land slanted upword precariously, and many a time Orion and Lilli were forced to turn back in pursuit of a new way that wasn’t so steep and barbed. It was a difficult passage, to say the least, and with each passing meter upward lent more perilous, impassable pathways that obstructed their footworks. After the sweat had stained their shirts and matted their necks, after they had both skinned knees or elbows or found themselves bruising the skin on their palms from falling face-forward onto needle-like diamond shards, Orion stopped them by pointing toward what looked like an opening to a cave. Lilli agreed that if there was a way through this godforsaken rock-monster, it was much more survivable than continuing upward. So they panted toward the entrance that laid above them at an almost vertical angle, hand over hand over head as though they were true mountaineers (though, only Orion had lived in this type of altitudinal hazard). The cave was dark. So dark, in fact, that neither of the two could see past their hands if put in front of their faces. Conveniently enough, Orion had brought a flashlight along for the journey. So onward and inward they went, and the tunnel deterred downward. Lilli realised that they were walking down stairs carved into the dirt beneath them. The diamond walls were a stark contrast to the mud-colored ground their boots tromped on. There was even a bannister to hold made of metal, though it was old and worn like the steps with curves in the middle from feet that long ago walked up and down for hundreds of years. As they de-escalated into the black abyss a few meters below, Orion clicked on his flashlight. Nothing but more black appeared for another few seconds of stair-walking, but like the imagination of ghouls waiting for resurrection, pillars, columns, stalagmites and stalactites grew out of the gaping nothingness before them. There were still a few steps remaining when the couple stopped to peer out from their perch. “Looks like a haunted ballroom” Lilli commented. Her words hung hollow in the gaping chamber they were approaching. “a haunted ballroom with ogre fingers ramming themselves out of the ground” lamented Orion in response. They stared out from the steps toward the underground world that had been hidden below the most beautiful landscape that either had ever laid eyes on. Even Orion had never set foot in this cave. So onward they tromped down the little worn steps… “The firemen worked in double shifts with prayers for rain on their lips, and they knew it was only a matter of time…” They ended up outside just as the ground started convulsing like the world beneath their feet was having a seizure. The sun was as bright as it had ever been, and the trees were thick and majestic, but that was basically the only difference that distinguished this side of the mountain from the one that they had came from. There was even a silver car just like the one that they had driven to the base of the other side of the mountain. And next to the shiny silver car, with its thick black tires with tread thick enough to suggest they were never once driven full circle, was a stream that held rounded-edged stones smaller than a child’s fist which clinked melodies as the small flush of water tumbled over them. Neither of the two had seen the stream on the original mountainside, although the one Lilli presently looked at led into the translucent rocketing cliffs and boulders that made up the Diamond Mountains which suggested its beginning was either far beneath the earth comprising wherever they had just scrambled through, or on the face closest to Constantinopole. She thought she heard a bird-song coming from the forests but that would be insane; there were no animals alive in this world. At least, none that were left normal enough to sing to each other as though the world had never been cursed and plagued. Orion had already begun packing their knapsacks’ things into the luxury car, though his face was pinched with worry. There was a tightness to his features that Lilli understood was likely to come from stress, but that taught skin grew more burdened since they had made it back to the light. Odd. Neither had any idea where they were or why this fancy vehicle was parked perfectly at the location they had manifested from, out of the mountain, but other than the strange birdsong and the water trickling like laughter from the stream to their left, there was nothing in this small clearing. The dirt led way to green grass. Lilli wondered if it was scratchy like the grass she used to know back home. They got in the car, keys in ignition, and drove away down a little one-lane winding road into the country. As a habit, Lilli and Orion took turns driving while the other took shots or drank wine from the bottle after poking the cork out with a knife. Usually the passenger seat of their ‘borrowed’ cars was littered with flecks of the spongy wood that shot erratically from the bottle as the passenger jabbed and hacked away to free the liquid beneath. It had never mattered before that they were halfway to intoxication while driving at whatever speed the drivers’ foot pushed toward, and it seemed as though there were no other cars in this new environment since they came across no abandoned metal monsters haphazardly strewn in the road. But the road here was winding with hills and troughs, and having no knowledge of where they were or where they were going increased the agility needed to stay driving on the tiny pavement strip. No matter. Neither cared much about safety anymore, given the way life was on Edode, so they went about their journey committing the same acts as before. The farther they drove from the mountain, the fuller the branches on the trees like evergreens were. The sky was dotted with tiny, fluffy clouds; the only blemish on an otherwise bright blue sky. The river on the side of the road tolled onward and Lilli imagined she could still hear the rocks clinking. It made her smile. The longer they swept along the winding pavement, the more Lilli thought about Imagini: maybe it really was a perfect place. She mentioned it to Orion, but he did not really respond. His brow furrowed. Orion told her he was trying to concentrate on the road. So Lilli opened another bottle of wine, the shavings of the cork speckling her pant-legs and dirty hiking boots. She tried not to think about the tiny coinpurse-like bag of Joobe rings that Orion had stolen from the unmarked gravesite that sat in the backseat like a third passenger. Instead, she told stories about the house she would build on Imagini if it proved to be real. She fantasized that there were other people there too who were happy and cured from the tarnishing Edode’s long-dead government had branded on the population. Orion said nothing. And Lilli wondered more as to why he was so filled with stress, but said nothing since she knew she would never get the answer. Eventually it came time for the brown-haired girl to steer their way. The sky was teasing toward twilight after a sunset so majestic and multicolored that it took sheer will power not to cry when Lilli looked on it. Orion sighed with relief when Lilli took the wheel, and lid back in the passenger seat with a baseball cap covering his face from the last of the rays of the most beautiful sunset in the history of their relationship. The yellows, oranges, pinks and reds faded to blue then purple then black and stars started appearing. Lilli did not remember ever seeing stars before; the pollution from the ground’s chemicals had always blocked out the meagre little white dots. Though Orion was sleeping, Lilli needed to talk to keep herself awake, so she started singing aloud until her words fell hollow and empty in the stale air between her lover and herself. So she woke Orion up to fill the void. “Orion why are you so stressed out?” Lilli asked as she shook him awake with one hand, trying her best to keep her groggy eyes on the road. Orion opened his eyes, but remained silent. Choosing instead to look out the window at the crumbling edges of the road. “Eventually you need to tell me what’s going on in your head. What else are we going to talk about until we get to Imagini?” She questioned, attempting to sound jovial since saying the word of their destination made her chest feel tickled from anticipation and hope. But Orion continued to look out the window in silence. Time passed. Only seconds, though it seemed quite lengthy to the protagonist. “Orion-” she began. Orion interrupted her perpetual, and somewhat annoying (even to her) plea for the man she loved to let her know his thoughts. “Would you stop making shit up? Just because we’re in some random world that for some reason hasn’t been abolished like your hometown is, doesn’t mean that the things you dream and have the gall to share are real. It’s not real. You aren’t psychic, Lilli. So stop acting like a nutjob.” Silence once more. Lilli’s face felt hot and she knew she was turning red. From embarrassment or anger, she wasn’t sure but it was an emotion one way or other fuelled by too much liquor. She jerked her body toward him and raised a finger to his face, “don’t tell me I’m a nut job. I am NOT a nut job.” “Oh yeah? Well why are you so convinced there’s a world thats just so special only the perfect can live there? Did you ever stop to think how imperfect you are? What if they never let you in and you’re stuck outside to die with me, looking in at a place that caused more pain to you than Constantinopole?” Orion, in his mind, was trying to save the only girl he loved because he, himself, had had that dream that haunted his mind since the day he first started dreaming it. Every night it remained the same or similar story. She always died in the end. Orion loved her too much to want that ever to happen. But he knew that ruining her hope was the only chance he had to change her mind and make her turn this car around to stay forever away from this perfect world that probably existed but was never going to truly be perfect since it was created primarily for Lilli’s death. Orion knew he had to make her angry enough possibly to stop her from loving him in order to prevent her from forever leaving Edode. And calling her insane was one of the little buttons he knew never to push unless he wanted to deeply upset her. But Orion had forgotten that if someone is inebriated, that someone doesn’t have the mental capacity to simultaneously voice violent opinions of adversity and drive a fast car down a dangerously unfamiliar road. He felt pebbles flick up against the bottom of the car and realized they weren’t entirely on that road anymore, He felt panic rising in his chest just before he looked back up at what came at them through the windshield. Orion shot his hand out to grab Lilli’s arm and shouted her name in alarm. “Lilli!” But it was too late for her to hit the break before the base of a giant tree came at them head on. Lilli swerved the wheel as hard and as sharply as she could, and the car started to rotate Need For Speed Driftstyle but they were going way too fast to stop the collision. The front of the car imploded on contact with the hulking tree’s stump. It’s lumpy roots raised like legs trying to run far away from here. The front right wheel was the first thing to hit, and it caused the BMW to fling upward and over itself vertically. The cascaded beyond the edge of the road where the little pebbles laid, away from the quiet little stream on the left-hand-side, and shot like a bullet out of a handgun into the thick of the forests below. When they hit the ground, the bullet was more like a shotgun shell; the windows in the car, and all of its belongings, shot like a full-circle firework up and out from the landing point. Shoes and bottles, stolen cds and bags of unhealthy salted food, everything but Lilli and Orion, ejected everywhere. Successfully lighting a multitude of trees alight with flames of wreckage and sharp jagged pieces of metal from arbitrary pieces of car. The body of which landed upside down, on its roof, and the fancy airbags that surely the intentioned owner paid extra for to ensure his family’s protection, they didn’t even go off. Faulty mechanical engineering. There was blood and darkness and, other than the sound of flames licking at everything around the couple, there was silence. The last Lilli remembered was looking at Orions beautiful face, that laid sleeping and puncutres with a three-inch-long metal shard injected somewhere between his eye and his zygomatic arch. Tiny glass pieces were sprinkled like twisted confetti over them both and Lili unclicked her seatbelt to try to reach the reason she felt happiness at all in the last year or more. She fell with a thunk onto the roof-now-floor, and felt a snap in one of her fingers as it contorted on the mangled steering wheel. She crawled the few inches to where Orion still sat, and laid her head in his hand that now was limp and bloody, and closed her eyes to sleep beside him just one more time. The last Orion remembered before completely losing consciousness was feeling the softness of Lilli’s long brown hair on the palm of his limp and bloody hand, before seeing shadows outside sweep toward his beautiful bride-to-be (though he had yet to ask her about that concussion-induced idea) and hands clutch her tiny body to gently take her away from him forever. He tried to call out to the things that tugged Lilli from the wreckage, to tell them not to take her from him. To tell them that she was everything to him. To tell them that she was the reason his heart started beating again and his thoughts cleared enough to stop him from being the noxious entity that he was. But his voice made no sound, and his eyes drooped too heavy for him to open. The last he saw was his beautiful girlfriend being carried away by moving blackness. And then he slept like her. “…In My Own Game, You Beat Me.” They say everybody’s special. Everyone is different. A beacon shining bright through the depths of mist in a cold turbid ocean. They probably didn’t mean in the way that people fall apart. Not emotionally, though I’ve seen plenty of that, too. No. In the way that people don’t like to think about. A hominid body is a pretty amazing thing. All those organs and bones and the various nervous systems that work antagonistically and synergicically with everything else that makes up a person. It’s interesting that those pivotal parts of all those individuals that lie suspended inside every one of those sparkling white snowflakes, all so different and unique in their own special way, Rot the same. Sure there are basic timing differences: will it be this week or next when the kidney starts spewing purtrid garbage; will the gallbladder go before or after the heart, etc., but ultimately we all came from the same compost heap. And we’ll all go back to the same dirt pile that the bible says we all grew out of, like flowers, flourishing. Its my own personal opinion, but I think it’s pretty gaudy of the elmisephtiphyte population to compare themselves to something as fragile and beautiful as a flower. We’re more like weeds, infesting the planet with our hideous crab grass and stinging nettles. But that’s besides the point. We spend every waking second buying things that are suppose to emulate who we really are, deep inside those suspended hunks of meat that pump blood and feces from birth to death in all of us. We travel to every corner and crevice of the planet with the hopes of finding a reason for our being here. Finding nothing other than lies we tell to appease ourselves of the pointlessness that is our existence. We feel chemical alterations in our brains that ricochet throughout the rest of our physical selves and we perceive those changes that our nervous system so wickedly contrived to be feelings. Emotions. Grey area that turn to rainbows when the sun hits them just so. Those sensations course through our veins making our hearts beat faster and our eyes have a glimmer that nobody would ever be able to fake, Unless they were a hybrid, but that would be because of our neural overgrowth. Amygdalas and frontal lobes are intriguing; those parts that let us experience that deep ‘emotional connection’ we call love are the same places that distort reality enough to make us psychopaths. Hybrids just have more of them both. I guess, theoretically that means we can feel more affection, pain, harmony and hatred than any normal being. Theoretically. But I highly doubt that is the case. I digress. Breathe in Breathe out Breathe in Breathe out Those rhythmic gestures that prove to us we’re alive. That give us the air in our lungs to bring blood to our brains to make us feel as though we’re worth something. When, in reality, those movements are just movements. And the air is just air. Our brains are just mangled heaps of electricity and those sensations we swear to God are feelings, are nothing more than the side effect of a bored-as-shit nervous system. Depressing, right? And us hybrids understand we really lucked out when the world collapsed because we didn’t have to feel that stuff anymore. We finally had the ability to turn off the useless aspects of being alive to focus on more important things. Well…some of us anyway. Most of us just gave into the basic desires of carnivores and scavengers and decided to become something out of a Resident Evil movie. But the select few, the best of the best (myself included) focused on growth of our knowledge. That led me down a pretty unfortunate path, since nobody is entirely above their hominid derivations, and I ended up learning all kinds of fancy things only to use them for the purpose of destruction. It was fun and it passed the time and made me feel invincible, so why not? I developed a real knack for ruining women. I knew a girl, just when the chemicals were beginning to trigger an effect on me, and before I completely changed, I was hominid and we were feeling those crazy hormones that people call love. I don’t remember the way that felt all that well anymore, since it’s been so long my brains been different, but I remember doing the stupidest things all for this girl. She did the same sort of things for me. Around the time of this girl’s existence, I started losing my ability to see color. I knew I was turning into some kind of monster like the ones they reported on the news every night. But even though my brain was evolving into whatever it is today, I’m sure my life was beautiful. I would imagine especially so when I saw more than black and whites. But change happens and I lost the ability to feel guilt and conscience. Eventually that girl left me, or maybe I killed her. That seems a lot more likely. When the changes first began, I had no idea what was happening. My memory would flash in and out. I tried my best to fight the blackouts, but it was like tugging on a rope attached to a five hundred pound anchor at the bottom of the ocean; a useless waste of energy. During those blackouts when my mind was draining colors and the concept of beautiful things out like a leaky bathtub faucet, I remember things got weird. I know as much as I do about killing people because of the flutter of memories around the early months of my conversion. There’s a million ways to kill a person, but everyone rots the same. There’s a comfort to that, since in a way one day I won’t be any different than the next Joe Blow buried down the street. But then, maybe not. There haven’t really been all that many studies on the decomposition of a hybrid. Maybe those chemicals are embalming, who knows. The thought isn’t so comforting after all. Bodies decompose faster in dirt than they do on concrete. Wild beasts prefer the taste of soft facial and hand flesh over all others on the buffet. Interestingly, Bog-Men is a real concept: those who are dunked in bog and muck will remain virtually perfectly preserved Like an insect in a dollop of amber. Like a wooly mammoth in a tar pit. Why do I know all of this? Experience. Curiosity. The need to learn and know everything about everyone. Maggots prefer wound-holes over natural orifices. A week before I met Lilli, there was a girl. I buried her in her backyard. I left a pylon on top of the mound so that people could find her, because I was growing tired of hominids forgetting the obviously recognizable people that their brains lied about, saying that they mattered. I wanted someone to find her. To mourn for her. To dust off her remains and let her sleep in comfort and peace. Such a weird thought for a hybrid. The ground I buried her in was frozen; winter was approaching. So I didn’t bury her deeply since I have not the enthusiasm for burying bones like a dog and the sky was growing dim. I wanted to be on my way to Constantinopole. I have no idea why. Just to clarify, I’ve never had a brother. Well, I did once when color-blindness wasn’t a personal characteristic. But he disappeared too, after one of the many blackouts, similarly to my pretty lover of whose name I simply cannot remember for the life of me. Ha ha. Good one, Orion. Turns out that girl I buried not long before meeting Lilli, well, she wasn’t dead. Apparently she had taken to hovering around gas stations waiting for an opportunity to go berserk at my passing company as we made our way to Imagini. What are the odds! There was nobody around when she attacked the car, though. So sad to think that she clawed her way back from the brink of decomposition only to be just as alone and forgotten about as she was the day I buried her. I tried. Don’t ever say I didn’t try. The first time that I saw color was at Imagini. Everything was so bright! It was unbearable, so we left. In a bit of a mangled array but we abandoned the perfect world Lilli had dreamed of for what felt like months because it made me… upset… I guess is the word. And not ‘someone’s-catching-on-that-I’m-a-monster-I-better-act-like-i-have-feelings’ upset, Real upset. Hominid upset. My nervous system pushed and pulled at my cardiovascular system and my blood pressure rose (I didn’t even know my body still had blood!) and my eyes were fuzzy and my voice grew shrill like a stupid sissy girl at the sight of a rat. Lilli was still divininated from Imagini. And when I woke up from a fitful sleep in some motel bed located wherever we had been staying, hidden away from the village of black shadow people, Lilli had dyed her hair. I knew she had bought dye a million years ago. Why the hell would I have gave a shit about some aethsetic ameliorating female pseudopurchase? Apparently I should have destroyed it when I had first been informed of it’s existence. Lilli’s hair was blond. Like the hair of the girl I loved before I grew into this…this… demon that I’ve been longer than my memory is comfortable thinking about anymore. Blond like the hair of every girl I’ve murdered all these years. Through blackouts and through times when the blackouts were permanent, forever thrusting me into a world of actions so vicious I grew proud of my ambivalence toward mankind. Only, when I looked at Lilli’s hair now long and bright like the sun my eyes burned with when we stood in those perfect fields that I so clearly did not belong in, I felt a profound and horrible feeling. Guilt. A guilt so massive that I know I will never be able to live with it. I can’t look at the face of the girl that is meant to save the world and lie to her. I can’t be in a world where every step I take, every waking fucking second, the rotting bloted maggot-infested corpses of everything I ever led to believe I loved, haunt me. They’re behind my eyes, in my mind, on my lips. I can smell the putrification on my breathe, though I’m the only one who can. My head hurts. And I don’t understand. I just don’t. Everything was perfect and now that stupid existential world of imagini has done something to my mind and I can’t stop it from growing like a black plague of breadmold all over my prefrontal cortex, all through my amygdala and killing all those parts that made me angry, made me strong. There’s nothing there but guilt and sorrow for causing love and ripping it apart. And nobody will ever be able to love me back ever again because I don’t have the perfection in my thoughts that let me contort the world to do whatever I wanted. I’m alone. Finally, I’m the one alone. Story 2 – G Minor When he awoke, he was alone. The light flickering of burning embers in his peripherals, the remnants of a fire that surely someone built with skilled hands the portions of each log which remained unscathed by the licking flames carved meticulously into creatures and creations of the night: Deeply etched Bats heads screaming, their puckered noses upturned with their grimacing mouths taunting Stars cut, no, pentagrams, made from sticks that surely took hours to compose. Orion undoubtedly knew with a sinking rock in his stomach that these artist masteries were portions of an incantation against him. Scriptures in some ancient language nailed deep with their elvish font from carving materials unbeknownst to him. Must have taken someone hours of effort. Mesmerized momentarily by this fire, meant as a sign that the dark shadow-people knew him for all that he had done, Orion felt spellbound by the archaic efforts of these strangers. He found himself in a log cabin, of sorts, with a ceiling made of crystal or glass – the stars hung magnificent and in plethora overhead. Though it was dark, he could see that all the walls were just as translucent. Orion made note as he saw shadow-folk walk outside the doors of his little log cabin that they could not see him in return. It was as though he was surrounded by a one-sided mirror. The handsome hybrid mused in entertainment through the fog of his concussed form as those shadowfolk stopped to check their reflections in the walls outside. They knew not that he was awake. And his head was pounding, though his face had been washed clean. The only blood he could find was the black dirt of his long dried fluids underneath his nails. Or was that Lilli’s blood, he saw in the dim lighting? The shadow-folk must have learned of his true nature when they washed his wounds, realizing that he had no creases of imperfections in his skin. One of the two giveaways of his true hybrid condition. He had no doubt that they learned quickly of the second – the flecks of gold that shone in his eyes in firelight. Those flecks of pigment from the precious metals that tainted his brain so very long ago. Orion rubbed his eyes. And felt the pounding of blood coursing through the vessels in his temples. What to do, now? Where was Lilli? He knew he would not find her there. Not with him. Not if they knew his truths. The man grimaced as he made his way to sitting position from the soft white animal pelt he had been laid across. And the light from the fire danced on. In its somber glare, he saw a parchment laid strategically across the floor beside him. The old, yellowing paper was frayed at the edges but had been clearly kept with care. crawling from the bed to the parchment, holding his throbbing head throughout the movement, Orion felt inclined to read this message so obviously left for him and him alone. He scanned the wordy document quickly. Though he had never once laid eyes on such a scripture, it was as though he knew every word already: The Book Of Enoch The book of the words of righteousness, and of the reprimand of the eternal Watchers in accordance with the command of the Holy Great One in that vision. I saw in my sleep what I will now say with a tongue of flesh and with the breath of my mouth: … As He has created and given to man the power of understanding the word of wisdom, so hath He created me also and given me the power of reprimanding …. your petition will not be granted unto you throughout all the days of eternity, and that judgement has been finally passed upon you: … And from henceforth you shall not ascend into heaven unto all eternity …and drew nigh to a large house which was built of crystals: and the walls of the house were like a tesselated floor of crystals, and its groundwork was of crystal. Its ceiling was like the path of the stars and the lightnings, and between them were fiery cherubim, and their heaven was (clear as) water. A flaming fire surrounded the walls, and its portals blazed with fire. And I entered into that house, and it was hot as fire and cold as ice: there were no delights of life therein… …Evil spirits have proceeded from their bodies; because they are born from men and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origin; they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called… …And the spirits of the giants afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth… … these spirits shall rise up against the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them. …You have been in heaven, but all the mysteries had not yet been revealed to you…. Orion stopped reading. It appeared, his story had already been told and was only history repeating. And yet, he knew, he knew deep down inside that he was here to be a good person. He was meant to save the day. His time with Lilli, she had changed him. And he dreamt the dreams that foreshadowed her demise, a sacrifice to save the world and he knew he could never lose her. He knew he could stop the deamons inside her, if only he could get them out. Because he had deamons too, but she had cured him. Her white blond hair, though bleached and fictitious, meant more to him than she would ever know. For it helped him see color once more. And so, in his feverish state with his bruised skull and blackened blow-out fractured face from the car accident that he no doubt caused on purpose, an unforeseeable hitch in the plan, Orion devised a knew ingenious plan to save the only thing he knew. The only thing he loved. From sacrificing herself to the shadowfolk to save the world as they once knew it. He would stifle those demons inside. And he thought long and hard in the mirror room with the glowing embers of the fire that he hoped had purified his soul. For he knew time was limited before the shadow folk came to find him, and either finish him off or free him to be with his soulmate. Only he could save her from such a grave mistake. ‘Forgive her’, Orion prayed for once in his life since the conversion to the monstrous creature that he had always remembered being, ‘for she knows not what she does.’ And with his prayer, though brief it contained such frank and honest vehemence from the depths of his little black soul, Orion turned to the fire and its beautiful calligraphies with artwork almost as fine as his own perfect image. A hot metal poker sat beside that fire its black weight felt warm from the reflection of the heat. And Orion did what any sane hybrid would do: He took away the things that his captors used to brand him. His hand shaking, quivering, sweating he heated that prodding metal stick until the tip turned red then orange then white and turned it toward his self. And with every pain staking second he had left alone, he took away those beautiful things that labeled him perfectly evil. The smell of burnt flesh stank the log cabin with its purity-white fur blanket and in the final moments before he knew the odor would bring the shadow-folk he placed the prodder gently, and with intent, onto his beautiful Irises. Let’s see them convince her now, he thought. Let’s see them take her away. I’d like to see them try. Story 2 -..”Another promise, another scene, another…” It started all of a sudden. A few thousand miles away. The ground shook, convulsed, ruptured and the desert sands swirled with the winds, overpowering. Those that stood in the turbines way were pelted relentlessly with gold white flecks of rock beading and boring holes into every inch of them and their blood didn’t even hit the ground just swirled up with the rest of the world, into the third sun that red drawf spinning, hovering, consuming all that the world once knew. The end was coming it was approaching Asphodae. The mirror city saw it in the distance as their government held ownership to the finest equipment well aware, through the Sapphire visions of the wizards, the shadow-people. The enlightened. They knew the time drew nigh. And the deamon that slept soundly, a self-induced coma from the pain of full-body burns blinded of everything but murky shapes a sacrificed he gladly made to fool them. But there was no fooling the shadowfolk. They saw his eyes. They knew his fate though he did not yet admit it to himself. And the Chosen one slept on, through the nightmare For the shadowfolk did not yet know what she knew of her own life of her calling of her need to save them all. But still they held their confidence, and the sandstorm approached from the distance. They knew it was only a matter of time until she awoke to fulfill the destiny that was that recoded by the wizards, the shamens, whatever. Beep Beep Beep went the little blips on their machinery as they saw the path the chosen one had taken be obliterated from their maps. They had but days to wake her, days to decide what to do. Days before the sandstorm hit. And they were not afraid, merely fulfilling their own devised plans that the sapphire dreams told them of. The wind was about to begin. Lilli When I was a little girl, I loved to play outdoors. The sun was my favorite memory. My sister Jenn and I, we would run around pretending to be wild animals – climbing the massive boulders that laid just past our home. And every night was a family supper. Cooked from the vegetables that our mom grew in her garden out back. I’d help when I could, when she gave me a big aluminum bowl and asked me to go pick some pea pods, or maybe pull some carrots, and I would dust them off in my pants legs and eat them raw. My favorite were the strawberries. The little garden only produced tiny bobbles of the juicy red berries, but in the heat of the sun those berries, unwashed and blushed with the heat. Those really tasted the best. My mom always told me that I didn’t need to wash them. No pesticides, no fertilizers other than the compost that she made herself. And my dad was a businessman. He was home for every supper, and I loved him. He was always too busy for me. But he played music every saturday morning that would wake Jenn and myself up. It’s thumping bass pounding throughout the living room and up through the floorboards of our second story bedroom. The smell of a big cooked breakfast would waft up those stairs, and I would wake up with a smile in my rainbow colored room with my carebears twin cotton bedsheets to the soon to be events of that day. My dad would pretend to play drums on the bottles and jars on the table. And he would challenge me to keep up with his rhythm. But never could I make the sounds as melodious as his. He would laugh, and mom would get exasperated at the noise. I would be frustrated that my tappings always sounded stupid, and Dad would be the first to point out their arrhythmic tendencies. But being less than ten years old, that was the best I could do. And my birthday parties were massive. I would play my tape cassettes of disney soundtracks and my mom would dress me in the prettiest dresses that she either bought from a fancy catalogue, or made herself from scratch. And every year I would rip my pretty white tights, pretending to dance which always resulted in me skinning my knees on the carpet. The laughter would resonate through the house. I loved my home. My family. My life. And we got Biscuit when I turned eight. I dressed him up in my dolls clothes, and pranced him around the house like a living porcelain figurine. He would yip his puppy barks, and my sister and I would fight over who he loved the most. I always won out, because he slept with me the most. Mainly because I would sneak down after Mom and Dad went to bed, let him out of his cage that he was crying in every night, and carry him up the stairs. Clutching to his fur with my chubby little infantile fingers. I remember it wasn’t until the year I planned to move away with my sister, after our high school graduation, that my mom stopped letting us grow fruits and vegetables. We had a greenhouse by then, because the air smelled kind of funny, and the strawberries grew brown and rancid without every turning their plump and juicy reds. Sometimes I still ate the things she grew without washing them; a reminiscence of my childhood. But in my adolescent years my mother would scream at me when she saw me doing so, and she would smack the produce from my hands. She eventually took all the big colored boulders and convinced my father to drag them onto the garden beds, and spoiled all our foods with bleach and bathroom cleaners so never again could I taste them. My sister stayed stoic the whole while, but I hated the change. I hated no longer getting to run free in the meadows, climb on the rocks and pretend I was a Sesame Street character. I hated growing up and being told that my stuffed animals weren’t really alive. The cartoon characters I fell in love with in my elementary years? They weren’t real either. My dolls never sang me songs, outside the ones that their music boxes allowed. Their plunking tones sounding hollow to my vapid teenage ears. It was around that time that I met Slaytor. And he promised me the world, and he was perfect in my eyes. He didn’t have a dog, but he pretended to love Biscuit and that was good enough to me. And we fought, sure, like all angst-ridden teenagers did, but when it came time to grow up, he was always the one there for me. One time, I remember, the last time that I ate from my mothers garden I awoke that night so sick, I was sweating. My sheets were drenched in the warm salt from my body, and my insides wretched before I could even drag myself to the bathroom. My family were away on business, and I had nobody. Not even Jenn, who was always out with friends. And I called Slaytor, in the middle of the night, and he drove to me. He brought me to the hospital where I had my stomach pumped. Where they told me I had ingested a toxic amount of poisons. I was lucky to have arrived so soon, because the poisons left no long-term brain damage. After the garden was ruined, and my mother heard wind of my hospital overnight, my parents traveled much more. And I saw them significantly less. It was Jenn, and Slaytor, and I against the world. And I loved them like i loved the garden. And just like those plush amazing berries, my little family too, fell apart as the years passed. Slaytor died. Jenn moved away to the new world and I was left alone. And that was fine, because I was damaged. And damaged at best was all I could hope for. I was not as worse off as that girl Vanessa, because I never truly lost my mind though I definitely flirted with the idea as the years went by and the world went to hell. I holed myself up in that library after my sister left and I lived there as the ice storms ruined what little remained of Constantinopole and I was unhappy, but it was a reality I had accepted. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was willing to do it alone because everyone I touched fell to despair and demise, and I can’t keep doing that to others. And then Orion came. And he was so scared and alone with his massive blue eyes with their luminescent gold flecks like nothing I ever saw before, though they always felt so familiar like that feeling you have falling into your bed after a long trip away from home. And I loved him. I love him. And I always will. Because he was never ruined by me. He never fell to a demise. He never took his own life. Like Marr and he never made me kill him, like Slaytor. Though, I know, neither really was my fault and my fault alone. I loved Orions stories, and I loved relaying mine to him. I loved the little book forts we built together in the library for months and months at a time and all the little trinkets he brought me after the ice storm finally ceased its torrential battering. He was beautiful. He still is and always will be, in my eyes. When I came to after the accident, everything was so bright. Everything was a reflection of everything else and even me, in the mirrors surrounding me, I looked immaculate. Washed and dried and cleansed and primped and perfect I felt the way I did as a child, running amok in those fields behind my house with my dog and my sister and my freedom to pretend and believe whatever my heart desired. I stood, with great effort mind you, from the beautiful ivory bed with its white blankets like royalty on my skin and I looked at my hollow face in the mirrors that were the walls. My eyes were huge, and dark. Almost black, as they always had looked to me. ‘expressive’ some people called them … I could never understand that. They looked like cold dead fish eyes, to me. But in the light of the room that could have been built from Imaginii itself, I saw those flickers of life inside them that everyone had always sworn that my mother used to tell me she loved. Long before her and I stopped speaking Long before she told me I ruined her life Around the same time her and my father disappeared on their final business trip, four years ago. I didn’t understand my face, because it looked crooked, in a way until I realized I had been smiling at my reflection. I had no idea what a smile looked like on myself anymore. Until that second. And that was perfect, too. So I spun around with my arms outstretched, like that woman in that movie in that meadow… what was it called? The Sound of Music? No matter. But my head started pounding, and it was then I remembered the car accident. I noticed, on closer examination, that my skin underneath its drapes of the flowing white chemise gown was covered in little scars where shards of metal and glass once had been embedded, that someone meticulously cleaned out of me when i was unconscious. I had no idea how long it had been that I had been sleeping. But I imagined it had been quite some time, because the scars were scars, not festering wounds of coagulating blood and flesh. Maybe days maybe a week. And there was nobody but me in the room. No Orion. Wait… I was mistaken; I was not alone. There was one window in the mirror room, and in it appeared hovering faces wrapped in white shrouds. Only their eyes could be seen. Sapphire in color, so bright, so clear, like a lake without rocks that had never felt a draft of wind or the flecks of bird talons against it’s mirror-like basin. The lashes around those eyes were thick black, like mine. And the skin surrounding them was ivory. As though the sun had never once touched it, almost ethereal. Who were these creatures? Their eyes much bigger than a normal human face, though I could not see the rest of their bodies. Their hair was white, like their porcelain skin, and they reminded me of the dolls whose clothes I used to peel off for to dress up Biscuit, despite his dismay and best efforts to thwart my childhood ambition. Those eyes, there was two faces… maybe three, I couldn’t tell. The glass in the mirror seemed clouded or maybe it was my eyes and I realized then I was about to faint. And as the stars in my vision started fading to a tunnel of black narrowing my line of sight more and more until I felt blind and my head felt light and fuzzy and my muscles in my legs went weak I started to fall to the floor, and I felt the arms of those beings around me cradling me like a prized treasure the way I would carry those strawberries of my mothers in her big aluminum bowl, flashing dances of prisms of the sun in the sky overhead and though I had no idea who those people, what those creatures were, I felt safe in their serene azure eyes and gentle touch. Their cloaks were soft and white against my feverish skin. Cradled inside their protective arms. And so I decided to close my eyes and sleep. Story 2. “…A man of two minds…” When she awoke, there was music not the tinned-can radio sounds that she heard in the hotel with Orion, no. These were real sounds. Deep vibrating resonance within an instrument meant solely for this purpose; to make you listen. To make you stop what you’re doing, and change the chemicals, the electricity in your brain for long enough to appreciate what your ears were letting you process. Her eyes opened, and she was in another room different from the one she had fell unconscious in. This room was of similar size, intimate, and white just like the last. The walls were carved beautifully and with grace of all the finest ivory, with mirrors cascading between antique architecture and expensive, hand crafted furniture that surely took the maker years to craft to such perfection. Lilli’s eyes were spellbound by the intricacy of the room she lid in. She found herself in a bed, again. Wearing a long white gown, flowing and ethereal in its make. The entire experience from the moment of waking was esoteric. Mystical, even. But the sound of the piano was what captivated her above all else. And so she stood, and though her mind was fuzzy and her body was weak, Lilli found herself able to walk with grace. Surely someone had been treating her medically, for the scars she had fingered gently when last she woke were less puckered and more faded than before. Almost white or translucent, rather than pink and swollen or red gashes bleeding, tainting the fabric someone had dressed her in. She walked in a daze toward the sounds, which came harmonic from a large white baby grand on the opposite corner of the room. Its edges were rimmed in gold or platinum. Lilli knew without approaching the side of the bench that the ‘black’ keys were made with expertly crafted diamond. The most beautiful piano that ever was. And behind it, facing her, was a man. Though he wore a robe like all the other shadow-folk she had seen so far, this man was not ashamed of his face; the massive heavy white hood draped his broad shoulders, though his head was bowed; deep in concentration with the music his graceful fingers played. Different to the rest of his world around then, was his short dark brown hair. Though she could not see his eyes, she saw his eyebrows were just as deep chestnut as that which covered the top of his head. Both were fine and proper, like a church boy playing a long anticipated recital. “What are you playing?” Lilli asked the stranger, more out of compulsion than for an answer. The man looked up, and immediately his round dark eyes captivated hers, “nothing you would know” he replied simply. Then he smiled. And in that moment, Lilli found herself holding her breath. This man could have been an angel, though if he had wings he held them well beneath his long heavy white cloak. The ends of his smile turned up when he laughed, and his dancing eyes glanced back down to the piano’s keys as he moved hand over hand up the octaves. “I wrote it myself” he explained. And Lilli found herself smiling in response to his chuckle, though she knew nothing of this creature before her. He didn’t seem a stranger to her. She walked silently toward the cherub and his music, and noticed quietly that she was barefoot; the cool consonance of white porcelain tile lay beneath her toes. “Be careful,” the man said gently, “you’ve been asleep for eight days. We kept you fed and hydrated, but I can’t guarantee you’ll know how to walk on your own.” He looked up again, and those giant brown eyes pierced through hers. He smiled again warmly, as though they had known each other and had this conversation forever. “It’s a lovely song” Lilli responded, choosing to ignore his cautious tone outwardly though she slowed her step to examine every inch of her movement. She really didn’t want to ruin this moment with another blackout. “Thank you.” he responded simply. His fingers continued their rhythmic dance across the keys. When she approached the piano, Lilli laid her fingers on the instrument to feel the vibrations of each key deep within it as the man pranced a melody more byzantine than she ever could have invented herself. “Did you write it for anyone in particular?” His fingers stopped their intertwine, as a lingering note held the silence between them. Though the quiet was comfortable, not tinged with emotion outside simple joviality. He looked up at her again knowingly, and Lilli remembered how beautiful she felt when she looked at her appearance in the bedroom she woke up in last time; somehow she knew he saw exactly what she did at that moment. And he smiled once more as he took his fingers off the keys. “I didn’t mean for you to stop playing–” “-no.” he interjected, “it’s alright. It wasn’t finished yet anyway.” A second or two passed before either spoke again. But the silence was comfortable, as though this was just another of every day that had forever been between them. “Where am I…?” Lilli asked “Asphodae is the city. They call me Eros.” She smiled, “that’s a nice name.” “thank you.” More silence. They spent the time just staring at each other as though continuing the conversation with nothing more than glances and facial expressions. “Where is Asphodae?” Lilli inquired. The man, Eros, now paying full attention to her though the massive piano stood between them, answered without ever losing her gaze “we’re right outside Imaginii.” And Lilli’s breath sucked in just for a second, “so it’s real.” “Oh yes!” He laughed. “Of course it is! It was made just for us to see!” Her head was a whirl of excitement and confusion – she had yet to inquire about Orion, the man so held her inquisitive ideals. But of all the questions, the first to come from her mouth was, “what does Eros mean? Who named you?” Eros paused, and the smile with the crinkled upturn returned, “yes.” he said, “alright. You would ask the most random of questions. Eros is a very old name. I don’t think I named myself, as I believe someone once gave me the name long ago. It was what I was always called, and I’ve always lived here – never left. Never had to. The entire city reflects the majesty of Imaginii, and I’ve never felt the need to leave. Being this close is close enough, or has been until now. I’ve been waiting to bring you there. I thought we could go see it together.” “I’d like that.” “I thought so.” They smiled back and forth again. And the man asked her if she’d like to hear the song he wrote from the beginning. “Of course,” Lilli responded, “I’ve got nothing else on my mind to hear.” And so the man played, and Lilli watched his brow furrow with concentration, though he never once lost his calm collective nature. And the keys flowed naturally, as though every note was meant to be. And never once did Orion come to mind. Halfway within the song, Eros stated to her without once losing his concentration on his task at hand, “you can listen to it and know the next note. Not that the next note is the prototype definition of “perfect”… but it’s perfect for that moment for that song. And just knowing that note, you know that the one before it made sense because it leads to the next… the one you were looking for. And the melody is exactly the way it should be. ” Lilli smiled, she couldn’t have said it better herself. Story 2. “…this time we’ll get it, get it right…” He was not the Commander in Chief, the President, or any other political figure in Asphodae, he was just a man. Nothing special on paper, nothing more than a person who played piano as if his entire soul depended on it. He told her nothing that she did not already know. But he lived and he breathed air just like Lilli, and his eyes were exactly the same. Somewhere inside was a story, and maybe someday our heroine would know it, but today was not the day. As quickly as their mutual reverie began, it was interrupted by the reality that was the world Lilli had brought to the mirror city. Lilli and Orion. The shadowfolk with their hidden faces, their hidden everything except their hands, made their way to the antique room with the beautiful baby grand piano. In tow, was her beloved, or whatever was left of him. They carried him in vehemently and with ambivilance. As if just the effort of touching the man enough to drag him from point A to B was revolting. It didn’t matter how many potions, herbal remedies, medics, whatever, touched the remains of this beautiful man, his entire body was scarred for life. The shadowmen, they dropped Orion on the poreclin white floor without words, interrupting the silence between Lilli and Eros with a clammer. The protagonist gasped at his state. Black worming scars crossed every inch of his visable flesh. His skin pulled taught and pink and rubbery across his cheeks, and his eyes – oh! His eyes! It was as though someone had taken a hot iron to his corneas. They looked glassy and opaque, cataracted. And he coughed when he hit the floor on all fours before crumpling into a ball, fetal position, his chest heaving with effort and pain. Lilli turned her back to the piano, to the only shadow-folk willing to show his face, and ran to Orion’s side. “Orion! What Happen-” “These savages!” Orion screamed, interrupting Lilli’s panic and dismay, “they tortured me! They’re evil! They’re-” “Enough.” Stated a shadowfolk, and the creature moved like a katana, kicking Orion in the ribs. Lilli was shocked. What was this world? Who were these beings? She turned her face to Eros, who’s face was now tinged in shock. His eyebrows arched upward, wrinkling his forehead in pinched stress. “Who the fuck are you people?!” Lilli screamed at him, and tears started welling in her eyes. Orion was the only thing she knew was real. The only person she had left alive on this continent to love. “Lilli, I had nothing to do with this.” Eros replied sympathetically. She didn’t believe him. He dressed and looked like his counterparts. He clearly was just as awful at everything else in this room that she didn’t know as affectionately as her beloved boyfriend. “The man lies.” States the shadowfolk flatly, and the words hung in the air like chlorine gas. And Lilli had no idea who they were talking about anymore. Her mind was a flight of everything bad that a hominid could feel. “Lilli…” Orion whispered, because it was all the noise that he could make with the wind knocked so deeply out of him by the shadow-folk, “don’t listen to them.” Eros remained seated at his piano. Lilli cradled Orions head with his matted and singed hair, and stroked him as gently as she could without making his tortured face wince more than it seemed permanently etched to do now. Hot tears rolled simply down her face, and Lilli felt the swelling flush through her cheeks and down her neck. “what have they done to you?” She whispered back. He coughed again, so violently it shook his entire body. “They’re going to kill you.” He whispered. “I tried my best to stop them.” Lilli turned back to Eros once more, “Is this true!?” She shrieked. “You know that’s not true.” Eros replied, and his face pinched with worry even more. “I know NOTHING!” She shouted. And the guards remained silent, unmoving. Statues. Witnesses in this awful moment. Eros sighed. “You should go,” he said quietly. “I cannot allow her to be alone with him” Responded the guards to Eros, though the Piano shadowman was clearly speaking to Lilli. In that moment, Lilli was reminded then of a book that her and Orion had read together. So many months ago, in the library, was a book on invisible monsters. And in that book, there had been a beautiful party that ended in so much blood and fire. Its convalescence with this room, these people, the girl had no idea what to make of it. She felt her reality be clouded in those memories, and she knew absolutely nothing about what to do. The guards hoisted Orion back to his feet, and this sudden ruckus made Lilli want to do nothing but attack and hurt everyone that ever dared touch her true love. “GET OFF OF HIM!” she screamed, and she clutched to Orion’s clothes like a lost child. But another guard stood in her way, and Lilli could not throw her entire body toward her boyfriend as she wished to do to protect him. The guard gently, but with much more strength than any human should have, backed her away from her beloved, and shook his head. She still could not see the shadowfolk’s eyes. As the guards took Orion away from, shutting the massive gold-rimmed white doors behind them, Lilli heard her loved one screaming for her to run, to save her own life. And don’t believe a single word they say. Then the doors clicked shut, and clearly they had been soundproofed because there was nothing but silence and Eros in the room with her. The man was still sitting, unmoving behind the piano. What in the hell had just happened? Minutes ticked by, as they tend to do regardless of the chaos time brings, and Lilli did nothing but stare at those doors, willing them with everything inside her heart to bring Orion back to her . But nobody came. And though the silence hung deep into her bones like a winter chill, She heard Eros speak to her back in his calm resigning voice, “I guess we should talk.” She sighed, fully knowing that there would not be a choice in this matter, “yeah. I guess we should.” Story2. “…if I could be who you wanted. If I could be who you wanted all the time, all the time…” They went for a walk, Eros and Lilli, around Asphodae. It was Lilli’s first time outdoors since the car accident. If Eros wasn’t lying, that was at least eight days ago. It felt like years since that part of her story was told, but she supposed that time is relative; lessons to learn sometimes take longer than expected. And if it wasn’t for the dark cloud that was Orion’s appearance, the journey would have really been quite nice. Asphodae was, like the rooms she had born witness to so far, unimaginably beautiful. The sands surrounding the city were bone white, reflective of the suns high above. Though the wind had seemed to pick up by the hour, Lilli could see for miles and miles around. There was nothing but desert past the city as far as the eye could see. White and more white. Reflections of the sun so bright Eros handed her a special pair of sapphire glasses to wear during their time out of doors. He wore a matching pair. The walls of every building were glass and mirrors which reflected the reflections of everything around them. It was as though they were walking through some new age art deco photograph where some hipster artist held a camera to a mirror of a mirror of a mirror reflecting himself a thousand times over. And everyone they saw wore a heavy white cloak with the oversized hood drooped steeply over their faces. She saw nothing but white and reflection all around, it was dizzying not being able to pin point what was real and what was mirror images of someone moving tens of yards away. She opted after a short while to simply look down at the cobblestone bricks beneath them which, of course, were all varying shades of white. Compressed sands and crystal joobes, no doubt. The pair walked in silence through the center courtyard of the city, where a massive manmade waterfall fountain proclaimed the nucleus of it all. The water was too bright to see. Lilli was the only person not wearing one of those outfits, and even still the dress she wore was white lace and a million other materials; a priceless gown of which she had no idea of its owner. Somehow, she doubted it had been worn or made for anyone but her self. Eros kept his hood down, however, and for some reason this was a small comfort. His dark hair the only thing that wasn’t a shade derived from the sun; even Lilli’s dyed blond hair fit in this mirror city of a perfect hue. They had initially left what could have been considered a palace. It even had turrets and a drawbridge, and had been surrounded by the waters that waded from the waterfall in center city, she now noticed. The whole time they walked in silence, Lilli felt Eros stealing glances of her, and each time she saw his face stifle back a smile. She had no idea why, but she seemed to signify something spectacular to him. Really, the whole thing was sort of nice. Picturesque. If only for the haunting tortured Orion that still held in tune to her minds eye. She hoped that he was still alive. Her heart broke just thinking of the pain he must be in – all those burns. His eyes… “If we walk a little further, I can show you something amazing.” Eros stated, a gentle persuasion in his voice that made her feel he spoke only to break her from her horrific thoughts. She nodded. And so off they walked past the courtyard, and the sands grew steep and winding. A pathway up a hill, of sorts. And they walked up that hill for miles. Lilli had no idea what to say, as she knew she controlled nothing at this point, so she stayed quiet waiting for Eros to break their silence with whatever his explanations were. “I used to walk up here all the time when I was a kid.” he stated, “it’s my favorite place to go when I want to think”. Up and up they went the gentle incline, and Lilli noticed that the slope went full circle around the city that lay embedded in a deep nook of the desert. No doubt it had been dug many years ago solely for the city itself to be hidden and protected. And as they approached the top of the climb, they took a sharp turn at some massive white chaulky rocks. It was there, beyond the rocks, that she saw it. Imaginii. Her entire vision was filled with more colors than she ever thought her eyes would see, and she couldn’t help but gasp. Her jaw dropped. The place was everything she had ever dreamed, even moreso. “It’s only here, when you look at Imaginii that you’re eyes will be able to see the colors you see. For some reason, you get privileged to extra rods and cones that help you fully appreciate the world.” Eros explained the kaleidoscope that he knew was the reason Lilli was awestruck. And it’s unfortunate, because it’s impossible to know exactly what they saw for without those extra pieces of brain matter, neither the reader nor the writer can imagine exactly the way things were. But it was for those moments that they stood high atop this cliff, that for some reason everything that ever was and ever will be made perfect sense. There would never need to be an explanation, for the limitations of words used to describe would never be able to account for the experience. The wind whipped Lilli’s hair everywhere, and it got in her eyes with bits of sand that stung like the glass from the car accident she barely remembered in the company she held. Basking is the only word she could use. And even that felt flat and insufficient. “Wanna sit with me?” Eros asked her, taking his eyes away from the expansive world below them long enough to look deep into her eyes. So innocent. Lilli sat. And Eros sat beside her, with their legs dangling outward from the jutting white rock cliff precipice. She had no words in the company of this heaven below her pendulous feet. “I’ve never gone there.” Eros said quietly “Why?” She whispered “I was waiting for you.” He whispered back. She couldn’t bear to part her eyes from the vision of Imaginii, though his words were almost eerie in their certainty. “How do you know who I am?” She felt him smile, and the warm air felt strong against her face with her hair whipping back and forth like a turbine. “In Asphodae, you grow up being raised to learn about all that was and all that ever will be. They used to call it the Akashic records. This city was built by druids and monks who wanted nothing more than to be as near to Imaginii as they could attain. And in the enlightenment that comes with being so close to heaven on earth, they wrote the secrets that Imaginii would whisper to them on this cliff. For hundreds and thousands of years, these people sat in silence. Wanting nothing more than to hear anything the winds would tell them, and they were happy knowing whatever it is they were blessed to know. I grew up here, and anything those ancestors had learned, they wrote out and taught to us kids from the moment we were old enough to listen. It was really, kind of nice.” Lilli shook her head, “I don’t understand how that has anything to do with me.” Eros laughed, such a simple gesture that took such levels of melody so close to such a place as Imaginii Lilli wanted nothing more than to hear him laugh once more, “Oh Lilli. We may not have everything that the Creator ever said and did, but we learned about you. We learned about your life, your meaning, everything that you were capable of. And I’m sure I knew these things long before they happened to you. I’m sorry you had to kill Slaytor. I know how much he meant to you.” In any other company, in any other place, the knowledge of the darkest parts of her life being uttered so honestly by the voice of a man she barely knew a day would have terrified her. Angered her beyond all recognition. Blinded her from the world around. But this was Imaginii, and he was Eros, and though it was strange thinking of a city that knew nothing more than the entirety of her life, Lilli didn’t seem to mind. It made sense, in this place where they sat. She nodded. Eros responded, “he’s happy now, you know. With the creator like all the others that have passed away from this world. Your parents, your dog, Marr… everyone. They’re all living in Imaginii somewhere, somehow.” Lilli felt a tear blow across her face; she hadn’t realized she had been crying. “It was hard, getting here.” “I know.” He whispered. They sat gazing at the world below. “Lilli, I need you to look at me for a minute, okay?” She nodded once more, and with great difficulty, forced her eyes to leave the place she had dreamt of to look back at the man that gave her the freedom to witness it. His eyes were the same as hers. The darkest shade of brown. Eros held his hand erect, palm facing her. He smiled. Lilli couldn’t help but smile back. And though the wind was fierce, and the reflection of the sun on their clothes and her hair made it hard to see, she raised her hand to mimic his. Theyre palms touched, and his hand felt warm and human. “It’s the way everything was meant to be.” Eros stated. “I know.” She replied. “You’re hands are perfect.” She murmered. “No, Lilli. They’re not.” She looked away from their hands and back in his eyes once more, “I don’t understand.” The smile left his face, “My hands are human. Orion’s hands are perfect.” She frowned. “I want you to listen with your heart. Look at the world below you and listen to what the Creator can tell your hominid mind. I know it’s going to be hard, because we’re not evolved enough to hear, but all I ask is for you to try.” Lilli nodded, and realized she had been holding her breath. She sighed. And turned her face back toward Imaginii. She felt Eros intertwine his fingers around hers and lay their hands together to the ground. And when she looked out, it was as though the wind was singing words into her ears, but it was impossible to decipher their meaning. It was spoken in tongues of old. She closed her eyes to listen, but what the world told her made no sense. The hybrids. There are two characteristics in a hybrid that distinguish them from the hominids: Their eyes with flecks of gold – a remnant of the precious metals that had poisoned deep inside their brain, and their skin. Their bodies were made of what could have been marble; not a blemish, not a single line or indentation out of place. As though they had never once touched anything callous, never held a stick or felt the weather that comes with the storms that Edod perpetually experienced, on their skin. She remembered her time with Orion. His perfection. His eyes that sparkled in the firelight. And it was in that moment her eyes snapped open, and nothing but Imaginii laid in front of her. If it wasn’t for that place, that cliff jutting out with the man she barely knew sitting beside her, Lilli never would have heard. Never would have believed anything that these prophesies tried to say in the winds so high above the land. But in this place, where everything made sense… where everything that was, and ever would be, was all exactly as it had to be, Lilli felt a part of her heart breaking. Orion. “They say we’re all here to learn.” Eros said simply. And he held her hand as she looked out beyond the horizon. It was the only thing keeping her from jumping to her death. “You’ve always needed someone to listen, to be here, to bear witness to all that you’ve suffered. I know those stories, Lilli. I can’t love you as a person; I barely know you. But the creator has taught us our souls are all alike. At least, yours and mine should be. I know that makes no sense, it makes no sense to me either. But I’m here. I’m real. And I swear to you, I see you for who you are, not for the things that have happened. It’s not your fault. I promise, it’s not your fault.” Lilli nodded. “I’d like to go there now, if that’s alright.” It was the only words that came to her mind. Eros nodded, and he finally took his gaze off her face to stare back at the heaven below. “I told you I’d wait for you.” Story2; Explorers. They walked through the city of Asphodae, and with the memories of their hike to the cliffside high above Imaginii, Lilli was beside herself in some dream-like state. She wouldn’t believe that the place of her dreams truely existed! And she walked, side-by-side, hand in hand, with some oracle of a man who knew everything about her who was born to bring her to that place of wonder. A part of Lilli’s heart was sore from the realization that Orion was nothing more than a farce of a being that had pretended to love her all these months as she trampsed through life like a naive imbecile obsessed with him as if he was her air. She was disgusted with herself for believing such lies from him, though part of her found it hard outside of the lights of Imaginii to truly believe that Orion meant to destroy her. But his hands… Lilli felt Eros’ hominid hand squeeze hers inside his, and as he stroked the back of her hand with his thumb she felt the imperfections of his fingers – proof that he was who he claimed to be. Proof that Orion was not. And Eros walked calmly, his shy smile protruding from his face. His upturned almond eyes sparkling behind his hologen-blue glasses as he eagerly stated to those shadow-folk walking past “she’s ready! We’re going to Imaginii! She’s come to save us all!” The shadowfolk in their long white robes whispered in hushed tones to each other as an aura of anticipation swept throughout the crowds that began to follow the only pair of hominids who did not have heavy hoods cloaking their faces. Lilli was still amazed at the lack of transparency in the hoards and droves of people; she had yet to see another face because of those hoods. ‘The chosen one” Lilli heard a stranger sigh, as though the mere possibility of her existence was ecstasy to the populace. But as they passed through the white cobblestone streets, and beyond the giant cascading waterfall of the center of the city, the people slowly ceased their following. “Nobody can go to Imaginii” Eros explained. “Nobody but you.” “Why?” Lilli asked “Because,” Eros’ smile grew wide, “you’re the chosen one.” And with his quiet, simple yet powerful statement, Lilli heard a person clap. Then another. And another. And soon, the wave of society behind her and the musician were all clapping an accolade to nothing more than her. They had waited their entire lives for this day, the day that the Chosen one would come, would receive the knowledge of all the universe in the one true gateway to the Gods, and return as their saviour. Eros explained to her that when she returned, Lilli would have all the answers to the curse that had befallen this world, and they would wipe out the Altecs, the hybrids, the monsters and the evil so that they all could forever live in the happiness that was truely meant to be Heaven on Earth. They needed her. And though Lilli did not understand, and her eyes could no longer bask the light of Imaginii in the distance for the mask of buildings and infrastructure deep within the valley beneath the cliffs, she believed that Maybe this was her reason d’etre. Maybe all her pain and all her suffering was built to lead her to this one day, this very place, where she would become the Chosen One that would make all her past have meaning. “No hominid that is worth only the equivalent of what the rest of us are worth would have ever been able to overcome the things you have, Lilli. You’re the only person left alive on earth who has come back from the dead. You’re special. You’re the only one. The only one in this world with a soul until the day you can make us all the same again.” Eros whispered these words in quiet murmerings, though she was the only person for what seemed like miles at this point as they walked out deep into the desert, against winds that made every stride require the effort of three to be made. “That’s an awful lot of responsibility to put on one girl’s shoulders, Eros.” Lilli responded. He squeezed her hand again, never once letting it leave the caressing grasp of his own. “Look,” he said, “I know everything here is crazy. But this entire world has gone insane. People’s lives have been destroyed for nothing. Nothing! People lose their loved ones, watched them get ripped to shreds by those mutants that the old society’s rulers allowed to be born and prosper as our world’s cities collapsed in ruin. An entire civilization has turned to dust, even less than that! Turned to savages that maim and destroy for their own pleasures. I can’t begin to tell you the stories of the things that just one man, the one man still alive that you love – Orion, has done. He’s ruined entire villages because of his devious psychopathy. And my kind, all kinds left alive on Edode, none of us know what to do to fix anything. I’ve heard all the stories from the elders in Asphodae, I’ve listened to all the communication prefixes that have allowed me to learn from the best and brightest, the lowest and the least welcoming, creatures on this planet. Nobody knows how to fix this mess. But the only thing I do know, the only thing I truly believe, is that you are meant to go to Imaginii, speak to the Creator, and live out the destiny that fate has meant you to have. ‘My entire life has been spent growing and building in a way that has led me to this moment. And it’s all I’ve ever wanted just to be here with you. I’m so glad you finally found your way. I really am.” “This is kind of overwhelming, Eros.” Eros’ smile disippated and he nodded, “I understand. I know. I wouldn’t have any idea what to do if I was you and some demented stranger was saying all this crazy stuff to me.” Lilli frowned and shook her head, “I don’t think you’re demented or crazy. I believe you.” “You barely know me.” “I feel like I’ve known you forever.” Eros – “well, you kind of have.” Back to that shy, choirboy smile. And through the desert, they began a trek downwards. Down and down and farther down on a giant manmade staircase of first white rock like the cliffs Eros had taken Lilli to earlier that day, then hard sand like the rest of the world around them, and then wet sand, then grey clay, then boggy dirt, then vines. Dark green jungle vines braided in an elegant interwoven pattern as they went farther down and down in a giant spiral. Soon the walls that etched around them broadly as though they were entering from the top of a colosseum were green and vibrant and leafy, with large wooden beams holding the braided jungle back from the steps that widened into a grand-ballroom staircase form. Eros took Lilli beyond the stairs onto heavy wooden planks, with the air heavy and damp like a rainforest, though even at this depth the winds still pummelled their trek. But in this heavy humid dank vineyard, Lilli and Eros both heard a mumble. That mumble turned into murmer then a shout of persistent agony and vigor. They heard the protagonist’s name being screamed at the sacrifice of someones vocal cords and lungs. “LILLI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Lilli stopped dead in her tracks – the voice belonged to Orion. “Oh God” She breathed. “God’s got nothing to do with it.” Eros stated flatly, the edges of his voice held the inflectious tones of what could have been mistaken as impatience, even anger. The pair turned, and behind them ran, as pristine in appearance as every day besides that of their last meeting, none other than Orion. His burns and scars, even his pale cataracted eyes, all those imperfections were gone from his body. Left in their place was the mythological wonder that was the magnificient hybrid, probably coming to kill them both. Eros stood in front of Lili, “you stay away from her you savage!” he shouted at the hybrid. In a hushed tone, Eros whispered to the Chosen One, “do you still have those blue glasses I gave you on the cliffs? Put them on – you need to see him for what he really is.” Lilli fumbled to put on her blue hologen glasses, and gasped when she realized that in the world with the multimillion colors, Orion’s skin was grey. Grey and mottled, like the Altecs in the forests that she wounded and slain so many years ago on her journey to The Shipyard on the other side of the continent. Only Orion’s clothes held color. That and his eyes – the majesty of the gold flecks from the precious metals stood more virtuoso than anything else in sight. A real monster. “Lilli listen to me, you can’t go with this guy. Don’t follow him for God’s sake!” Orion screamed, his voice raw with emotion. Even through the blue glasses, she saw that he was crying. “Orion, I-” Lilli began, but Eros stopped her “DON’T TALK TO HIM!” Eros urgently stammered. “He’ll fool you like he always did!” “I swear to God, Lilli, I’m not going to hurt you,” Orion pleaded, “I love you. I know you think I’m evil but I’m not. I’m not anymore. You saved me. You’re the hero in this story. I see color because of you!” Lilli’s heart was conflicted and on the inside she felt as though she it may have been shattering into pieces, but With these glasses carved from the meticulous stones of Asphodae, the only city that could remain standing so close to the paradise of Imaginii, Lilli could not refute the truth – Orion was a hybrid. He couldn’t be trusted. He was the image of pure manmade evil. She felt her cheeks wet from the stains of tears, “No, Orion.’ Was all that she could say. Whatever she felt breaking on the inside, it was everything in her not to run to the man she loved – he looked exactly the way she felt. Lilli couldn’t bear it. “Lilli, you’ve got to listen to me. Please!” Orion clutched his chest, as though he too felt his heart exploding inside him. Eros stood between them, stoic. Unafraid. Orion’s vision turned from Lillis face, and his face enveloped in a raptured hatred as he screamed as his opponent, “You piece of fucking shit I swear to God I’ll-” Eros interrupted him; he was full of interruptions today, “I’ve had ENOUGH of you taking my God’s name in vain like you know him! You know NOTHING you SAVAGE!” A gutteral animal cry erupted from Orions mouth as he screamed, racing toward Eros with a murderous glare, “You’ll NEVER take her away!” Lilli took a step back, as Eros took a single step toward her once true-love. She realized that with all the colors of these glasses, the rash movement before her between the two men was unregisterable. The ability to see the tornado gusts of wind and all the particles and gases within them in combination with the emotional apocalypse within her soul made it impossible for her to follow the actions before her. Lilli had only her ears to tell the story of what her eyes could no longer grasp. There was a struggle, though it was vapid and brief. There was a sickening “slurrrrrk” noise, a rapid indrawing of air, then the thump of a body falling. What had happened, but what she could not see, was Eros draw a single sharp blade and with the grace that only a pianists hands could maneuver, Orion was jerked one hundred and eighty degrees, as the metal slid like butter across the throat that had sounded so raw and harsh with heart break. The spatter of blood sprayed on the sleeve of Eros’ heavy white cloak, and Orion’s body crumpled to the earth. Even a hybrid can bleed out. There was silence. No sounds remained to tell the story to Lilli, though with the cease of bodies moving, she realized the struggle had ended. Lilli moved to take off the glasses, “Lilli, leave the glasses on.” Eros said quietly. She froze, “why.” The man sniffed as he wiped a streak of Orion’s blood off his face with his already darkened sleeve, not that Lilli could see the action, “Because if you’re going to make it to Imaginii before nightfall, we have to go now. And as much as I know you’re here to save the world, you’re still hominid – you can’t see what just happened right in front of you. Please listen to me: leave the glasses on.” She felt the hot tears flowing over her face, though in the stormy winds the water dried instantly leaving nothing more than crusted salt-stained lines. “Is he-” Of course, Eros the enlightened one interruppted her once more, “Lilli, please.” Silence. Eros – “Just look at how beautiful the wind is when you can see all the colors of Paradise. All the colors of the Gods.” Lilli nodded, sullen. She knew there was no point to argue. And so Eros hurried back toward her side and enveloped her hand inside his own. She did not see how blood stained the hands really were. They just felt rough and human to her. “Trust me.” he said. With his other hand, he caressed her salt-stained face, “I promise you, we’re soulmates. God put me here to save you from him. I promised I would bring you to your Imaginii. It was made just for you. Please talk to me.” “I have nothing to say.” Lilli responded quietly. Eros nodded. Though the wind blew steady and uprising, Lilli could see the intensity, the kindness, the purity within Eros’ eyes that mirrored everything she couldn’t see inside her own. They were one and the same. “Can I love you instead?” she asked. Eros’ shy smile crept back along his face, “I don’t mind. I was probably meant to love you, too.” She nodded. And like all the other conversations they had had between each other using nothing but the emotions in their eyes, the pair stood as Eros held the protagonist from falling completely apart in the midsts of her loved one’s demise. She knew that Eros was the only thing that she had that had been telling her the truth. He was the only one that would bring her to Imaginii. Lilli had never realized moreso than now just how important that journey was. “Come on,” Eros said softly, “it’s really time to go.” And he turned her back toward the wooden planks that would bring her to her destiny. Would bring her to the only thing that she had left. “Alright,” she said. “Let’s finish this journey I’ve spent my entire life fighting to get to.” She felt his fingers intertwine in hers and squeeze. “I promise you, not everything makes sense, but I swear it’s all meant to be.” And off they walked, together. Story 2. “…fables from your head…” So they walked through the ravines and the forests, and time passed because the sun that hung high began to dip deep beneath the trees beyond them. Lilli tried her best not to think about the things she had lived through, the most recent death of the man who she loved, Orion, but thoughts tend not to listen to the wants and needs of the carrier of said thoughts. Long ago, Lilli remembered, she watched the clouds pass with a man who had been dead for years. She had been haunted by the same man until the day she became so uncomfortably obsessed with the strange boy that came to her in the library, half frozen from the whipping ice rains that pelted down hard and fast and destructive. She realized that everything she had ever loved, save her sister who was God only knows where, had died. And for some reason Lilli couldn’t shake the idea that it was entirely her own fault, though how she could not decipher. Eros led her deeper, and her melancholy kept her company as her thoughts betrayed her hominid wants and needs. All she had ever wanted was to feel a purpose, a sense of love and belonging. She supposed, perhaps, that’s all anyone wanted. But now in this world of desolation and destruction where everything is not what it seems, that concept seemed foolish and childlike. Who had time for such meandering desires when life and death was on the line every breathing second? She broke her own silence as she questioned aloud, “what kind of God would destroy the entire world?”. They walked some more as the wind began whipping leaves and vines all over Lilli’s line of vision. The wind gusted worse and worse the farther they went. She remembered a book she read long ago. A book she often found herself stuck back in, though she had read it as an adolescent who was no less lost and confused at her existence than present-day Lilli. In the book, Lilli recalled, there was a girl. A protagonist girl who was hemorrhaging on an abortion table, though the she did not learn of this until the end. In the book, the protagonist was in a world that was completely falling apart. She collected people that she knew, however sparsely, throughout her life, and they travelled in this awful malicious memory of a town that they had all grown into young adults within. The group was being chased by some being, some entity, that wanted nothing more than to kill them all. The group simply wanted to escape. But try as they might, they could never outrun the lurching unseeable talons of the creature that wanted them dead. The protagonist hijacked a car with her boyfriend, and they tried their best to leave that cursed town that was engulfing everyone within it. But the farther they drove, the more the wind swept, and the more the desert surrounding them ate the paint off their car. The wind grew so strong that they soon realized that the car was moving backwards, though the pedal was pressed hard into the floor. So they turned around, accepted their fate, and somehow the protagonist found herself back in the doctors office. She realized she had made the entire nightmare up in a fleeting hopeless attempt to maintain some semblance of a life that was quickly pooling out of her. The only way the book could end was for the girl to die without ever saying goodbye to her boyfriend, who waited scared and alone in the waiting room. And Lilli walked with Eros, still stuck in this thought, until she found herself blurt the words “I refuse to believe there’s some greater being who would put me through this torture over and over again. It’s bullshit. There just can’t be a God.” Eros stopped, then, and she saw his neck muscles clench beneath his beautiful white clothes with the nowdried black blood of Orion spattered across the arm. He rubbed his hands across his face, a pained expression hid beneath his long piano-fingers. With his furrowed brow, he glanced back at her, staring more deeply into her eyes than any other human being ever had, “you used to read Christopher Pike, yes?” The fact that Lilli had spent the last ten minutes contemplating that very author seemed like more than coincidence to her. But then, everything to do with Eros made absolutely zero sense, so she just nodded and let him explain his question. “Did you ever read the story about the lady who came from another planet, from what she called the fourth realm, and she fell in love with a human; a being who was third realm. She sacrificed her perfection and her divinity to be with him, and of course he immediately fell in love with her and all her unworldly beauty. Both inside and out. “Anyway, they were together for a while, but nobody ever consented to it outside their little relationship. There was an egyptian queen, she was jealous that the divine girl forever remained youthful and beautiful as she aged in her third-realm physical limitations. She convinced the guards to kill her lover and bury them in a stone sarcophagus together. because the girl had sacrificed all her friends and family to be with the boy, there was nobody to come save her. But because she was from the fourth realm, she maintained her eternal life and youth. So she remained trapped in this big stone coffin that had a little light in the bottom solely put there to torture her as she spent the rest of eternity watching the one thing that mattered more to her than divinity, rot.” “That’s awful!” Lilli said. “Yeah, I guess it is.” Her own brow furrowed, as Eros ceased his disturbing story and went back to walking alongside her in silence. Lilli understood less now than ever, and this angered her. But try as she may, the mysterious man would not speak any more until they reached a bleached-wooden bridge. It was there that he finally stopped walking. The sun was almost set. The bridge was small, with wooden railed built delicately and beautiful, like much of the architecture in Asphodae, the mirror land. Eros held the rail gently, almost caressing it. She realized without asking that he had made it himself. “I’m the only person that has come this close to Imaginii.” He stated, “this is as near as I’ve ever made it. I had to wait for you.” “Who told you that?” “God.” Lilli frowned, “I doubt it.” She snorted. Eros looked out onto the tall deep marshy grasses that the bridge overtook. His face was wistful, almost sad. “So are we going any further or what?” Lilli asked, impatiently. It was hard to act normal to a man who was so full of secrets, demented stories, who knew everything about her but of which she knew nothing of him. A man who just willingly killed the only person she had left that she loved, though she knew he did it only for her protection. He would not kill another, nor had he ever killed anyone before. He was a good man. He shook his head sadly. In his silence, though she believed with all her heart that he was a man of this “God”, she wasn’t sure anymore if that essentially meant they would see eye to eye on what was ‘good’ in this world. “I can’t go any further. I can’t bring you any closer to Imaginii.” “Why?” He asked for her hand through gesture, and she placed it in his. They stood with their hands clasped atop the wooden railing. “I need you to look carefully.” He said. So she did. It was then that she realized how far they had come, long outside the outskirts of Asphodae, long away from the Imaginii that she overlooked with him atop that bleached white cliff not 24 hours ago. This was not Imaginii. This was just more Edode. Not only that, but she realized then that they were back in the territory of the hybrids and the altecs. In the waters beneath her, she saw eyes. Yellowed. With vessels broken and burst, unblinking. Altecs. Their fleshy skin grey and swollen from waterlogged marshes, their entire bodies underneath the windswept water. The reeds shuffled not only from the wind, Lilli realized, but from bodies. Hundreds of thousands of bodies of sunken hybrids, bloated and beaded. Their skin literally crawling from water-insects deep underneath their skin, eating them from the inside out. A shard of fear stabbed deep into the pit of her stomach, and she looked back at Eros with terror in her eyes. “what is this?” she whispered. He held her body between him and the wooden railing, the four-inch barrier between her and the monsters that surely waited to rip her flesh from bone. He wrapped his arms around her waist, and for the first and only time, he pressed his lips against her forehead. She blinked, and in that blink felt the burn of hot tears underneath her eyelids. A split second later she felt the burn of the same blade that killed Orion thrust deep into her chest. “I’m sorry.” Eros whispered. “You will never understand how sorry I am.” “Why?” Lilli tried to ask, but instead of words a red bubbly froth spewed from her lips. “I’ll never let them touch you. I promise. I’ll keep you safe; perfect in body and mind forever.” Her body slumped against his, and he held her close to himself. The rustle of altecs beneath them grew vehemently with the first drops of the protagonists blood rippling against the waters above them. “Nothing in this life is fair, Lili. But I swear to you, it has a purpose.” And through all this, even though she knew the last man she irrationally trusted was the one who finally ended her constant struggle at living like a normal human being, she still knew she loved him with all her soon-to-no-longer-be beating heart. She closed her eyes, as Eros’ own beautiful brown reflections of her own was the last thing she knew she’d ever see. GAME OVER CONTINUE? 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1…. Story2. “…see the way through the trees…” A white planet where holy things wander. Coalesced with a world of green and blue On top of another made of strife above yet another one built on darkness, rocks, mountains and monsters. Fell the wind through the trees. Those branches caress oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and all those other molecules you’ll never see for as long as you stay cemented to the place you were born and raised. Maybe on your next attempt to breathe, you’ll find the named of things you once thought you knew. You’ll remember what a smell is when the tiny hairs in your nose ruffle as your lunged expand, your diaphragm stretches downward toward a ground you never imagined you wouldn’t walk on. You’ll return, you’ll go back. They’re calling your name, not mine. They don’t even know I’m here. They don’t know there is a here to live in, and I guess they’re right because it isn’t really living. There’s no atmosphere, no others, no ponds or roads or stars or meaning. Whatever is, is. It’s acceptable because you have no reason to question anything if you make it here. So bright that nearly no one on Edod could see the forest through the trees, when the trees don’t even exist And I guess the forest doesn’t either unless you count the questions you hear silently on the ears you no longer have, except for this second since you have to go back. Its your job. Not everyone gets to pick their career Sometimes their life finds them first and decides exactly who you need to be Sometimes us God’s find a way to learn, too. Yes, I said ‘Us’. You’ll learn. You can’t look back. There’s nothing more than here, and now, when time ceases to have meaning. When the only meaning still worth believing in is that in which you inherited from an apathetic, oblivious world so beautiful yet flawed and scarred. Imagine, if you will, that Edode is not a linear passage. Everything you see and hear is not everything there is around you. String theory? I have no idea. Just another idea of yours that I haven’t had time to consider, muse at, or care about. Look around, what do you see – or, what did you see when you were among the trees you’ve been standing on top of since you got here and you would see if only you could look beyond what your fallible eyes allow. The universe is exponential, and if there is no time or space, than why would that exponentiality require itself to move beyond the land that was already built? Do you realize how much thought it took too create an entire world only for your kind to do the things it has done without reason? No matter. This world has four realities, at least, four worlds I am aware of that I feel are important to you. Of course, the levels deescalate infinitely. There is no end to an asymptotic graph. Let me try to explain, though I know that it will be hard for you to understand even if we may have been equal once before, and may be once again: There are the bacteria, the protozoa, the invisible critters that wander around without eyes or thought or process, save the sensation of pain that all things feel in one way or other. Nothing can live without pain. THey would never know what stimulus to avoid, and never be able to recognize their own impending doom should they not change their course. Microbiologists call it Tumbling, for this reality. This level. Unconsciousness. The little things, most of which your kind will never acknowledge are present, they wander the world through the silver streams of Lo, on the boats of the pirates and the feet of those that walk around you every living day of your life. The bacteria, the prokaryotes, they see only their level. The very most basic forms of life. To them, the land is endless, the air is plentiful and not even necessary, really, and their growth is limitless should they ever decide to move on from what they were born into. Its nice, really. I didn’t expect them to engulf each other and become one with themselves in a cohabitation much better than their independence allotted. Some grew to the next level. Others decided to stay the same as what they had always been, and there they remain to this day. Bugs. No, not even insects: critters. Surrounded by dirt. Level two, The plants, fungi, and sponges. Multicelluar, these creatures derived from the first reality that still remained beneath them both physically and evolutionarily. They feel pain, as all others do, only now some of them have grown in a manner that no longer allows them to Tumble. Plants and fungi and probably sponges too thought it was best to extrapolate into the ground that they once fed solely on. They grew roots or suction or other, and used their inability to up-root as an opportunity to find-tune to the environment that they chose to inhabit. They developed moisture-suckers or chlorophyll and the ability to expand upward toward a sky they worshipped. They, too, had no consciousness. The second level worked quite well for quite some time, until the third level came from those that saw no comfort in stationary life. They grew more still and fed on the second level creatures, as the sun’s energy was no longer enough to satiate their gnawing hunger. The third level expanded incredibly first as insects, then fishes and land animals, etcetera. They lived like a clear sheet of plastic over another clear sheet of plastic containing paintings of the inferior second reality. Both those plastic sheets overlayed the first, concrete, tangible bristleboard base of the First level. The third realm saw the second and felt the first, the second saw the first but could not sense the third. It was amazing to watch this happen over the course of millions upon millions of years. Extradordinary. I wished that there was something, some way, that I could share this wealth with others of my kind but alas, I have not been made knowledgable of others like me for almost as long as I can remember. My level was derived from light. We didn’t eat the light, like the second level. Nor did we eat anything else. We basked solely in the warmth and brightness that this white world provided. Yes, I know, to you it looks a lot like an empty sheet of paper; no base, apex, colors, even shades of grey or contrasts of black. An uncommon fact is that all colors mix to form this white translucence; so flawless it could be mistaken for clouds without billowing. The Gods, as some people call my level, the fourth realm which overlaps all others I have already explained, are more than happy to feel nothing more than curiosity at the lower levels desires and complications that they bring. That, and the warmth of the light on our faces. I use the term face only for the purpose of simplifying your understanding of all that was and is and is meant to be. Because everything is meant to be. Above me, I’m sure, are more and move realms and realities that all share the same small speck of ‘space’ in this spaceless, timeless void you refer to as the universe. So where does your kind fit in? I titled your level, Three and a half. You’re the cloudy sheet of wax paper thats been shaded onto the level three plastic to cause opacity and reflection. You are the first to have true consciousness, though still no where approaching the levels above you. You are not a reality entirely of your own from the Third because animals can see you too. Originally they preyed on you as you grew into your character in this storyline I created for you. To an extent. Your evolution begat the ability to think and reason. Reason is another word I only use here for you to use your preconceived definition. You can’t look me in the eye and honestly tell me that all your movements throughout these few thousand years you’ve been attempting to perfect yourselves are made with reason. And that’s fine. If there were no mistakes, there would be no learning and if there was no learning there would not be growth to the fourth level. Your kind is the first that begs for intervention to allow your evolution. You will destroy yourselves before you can grow and face the world that is above your omniscient point of view. Your stubborn notion that your species is the best that there is, and all that there can ever be. You think you know everything, when it was only a few years ago that you realized how nearround the world is. You destroy your older versions, the ‘natives’ of countries you keep ‘discovering’ and in doing so prevent yourselves from taking what knowledge they have that you do not. That piece of the puzzle those societies may give to help you move along in this life are gone. They continued to deplete as you killed off the animals, sucked marrow from the innards of Edode, causing collapse and illness and death. You built a world that needs martyers as prophets to reteach the way of life that every one of you has felt by being able to feel the sun on your faces. The other reason why you are Three and a Half: halfway from animals and Gods. Somewhere stuck in between a reality that you can’t belong in because that world no longer exists. Somewhere trapped in a realm of hominid ‘reason’, yet close enough to my reality that you can feel the warmth the light brings and smile when you feel the warmth it’s offered to provide since eternity began its asymptote. The chemicals that have escaped from the earth that are killing off your people; the chemicals that have been derived from dying levels beneath you in protest. The chemicals emitted from your technology so ‘superior’ to all other options, or at least, so you believe. Those chemicals made from your eyes aren’t mature enough to see, mixed with the hopelessness and loss surrounding the semi-conscious levels and their worlds that you are ruining while you throw away your own like garbage out a window. Like a jellyfish dying on a beach alone and viewed with contempt and disgust. They come from all other realities except my own and whatever lies above me that I, myself, am not evolved enough to see just as the vast majority of your kind are unable to see me. They feel pain like all the others. The only difference is you can voice that pain with words that can hurt others and change the world, for better or for worse with each syllable that you utter into the ether.. You were once like me. Eros. You are by no means the only other in our world that lays a top the same world four times over, still bound to the land but no longer dependent on all its treasures, landscapes, resources. You have built a zealous army that continues to martyr themselves, Their brains too simple to hold the information of the fourth reality that lays around you, that breathes the same air as you, they perish. They try to help you, and your continuous circumstance fast-forwards their demise only so that you can hold their information as your own, only you yourself are too underdeveloped to consciously know what to do with everything your brain locks away after each soul that dies for you. Once, long ago, we were alike. We were. You chose to stay with the level below our species and you grew old and died with them with each generation that went on. You came to that point in the world when the hominids all but destroyed all hope for redemption and survival. You lost your hominid mind. You changed as time went on. Though time is a fictitious fracture your species still requires; the fourth realm no longer feels its progression. Which is why you are here now, with me. But they’re calling for you. If you listen hard, you’ll hear it as well. I think the time has come. Don’t blame them for their mistakes. They think they know what’s right and they try their best to help bring their loved ones to the reality that I’ve been wandering in since the day that fourth realm existed. They mean well. Your prophets have loved you since the day you were born into Edode, though they mistake that love so often for something too hominid to handle that which you are meant to bring to the Hominid race. Blame not the monsters your peoples’ mistakes have created, they cannot help the changes that happened while they slept and they walked and they talked just like you did. They were just born with different missions, in different circumstance. I think we’re prone to agree. You know who you are, who you love and who you need to be until the rest of the few catch up. Believe in the prophets like they believe in you. They do not know the mistakes they made and they cannot be held account. They do love you as much as you them, and you are the incarnate; you know where you need to be. Though your time here with me is fleeting, you will return again. Our brief re-introduction into all that is and all that there will ever be is enough to let your mind hold what information you need to bring the world back to a reason more sensical than the one your leaders have contrived. Find the cure. Bring them back to us. Bring them back to me. Maybe we’ll speak again, someday. “…she sleeps; there is a fever dream.” I remember the way that wine tasted My tongue, unfamiliar and unprepared for its acrid flavor and dying-blood appearance. I waited with its juices stuck in my mouth, then my throat, as it flowed like down through my insides like a warm, stringent waterfall. The kind like that which the Joobes created billions of years ago in the forests that I hoped never to return to. Everything was beautiful, then, when the alcohol hit my belly and diffused through layer of cells and mucous, into my veins and arteries where the other red fluid runs. Glass after glass, we lid by a fire. The oranges and whites, yellows and ambers dancing on my eyes like the golden flickers of a hybrids irises, just like the gold flakes in yours. I knew what you were, what you still are, though I’m sure it was much too late for me to be saved from their unforeseeable menace. I love you anyway. Your eyes like orbs emulating a moon many miles from anywhere my hominid eyes will ever see. Your mouth, so plush and full hiding a smile so bright I, myself, could not compete. You’re perfect, as I’ve said so before so many times though I’m sure it fell empty and meaningless to an individual such as yourself who’s heard it all before. In past lives, surely your kind would be worshipped and danced around like totem poles the simpler people believed would bring them what they needed to feel alive. With shamans that lied, saying they felt your presence and knew the words you wanted to hear to make you accomodate their falsivities that they believed could save their people from perishing. Though you, yourself, did the perishing to those individuals that believed in you. Even now, in a world centuries away from that type of living, you’ve destroyed everything that thought you were all you appeared to be. All that I can do, is hope you make it through this night so dark and bleak in your eyes with the sky hovering like ceran wrap. Suffocating. You doubt your actions, for once in the meaningless life that the poisons humanity pumped into your lungs day after day until one day you no longer were who you thought you would be. You believe you must have made a mistake, I see it in your face. That perfect mouth pulled down, with a sadness acute and perfected as though you looked a mirror for hours making faces at yourself until you got the appearance of this emotion down to a tee. But you really feel it, this sadness that would have been a lie if you were completely irreparable. You’re still a good person, though you do bad things. The shroud you’ve hid behind is faltered, but you look more immaculate than ever before. And I still love you I always will. The creator told me you would wait, that you were sad, that you missed me. All I can do is believe. I no longer need to hope, I Know. It’s a dark, cold night and the stars are a million miles away. We never looked, never saw, them for what they were. Just give me the time that people believe in, like you believed in yourself not too long ago. A prophet. It wasn’t a lie. It hurts right now, I know; I’ve been where you stand before. I’ll make it back to you. There’s ground for a floor where you’re lying, dirty and sore and sad. And theres a fire in the middle of the room, between you and the door of a makeshift house that you’ve built near a mound of dirt encompassing a hole that you’ve dug with your fingers, just for me. I know how those scratches and missing finger nails feel. I’ve dug that hole to find what I thought I knew, too, not too too long ago. It’s warm in your teepee, or hut, or cabin… whatever. I don’t know if can even you feel the heat in the flames you built but you knew I loved them. At least, I think you did. Where we’ve been, there were no toxins. Those few brief days that we basked in a normal atmosphere like so many that took advantage of before, those days changed something in your head, in your mind, in your thoughts, in your brain. If I had my books, if I was still in the library, I’d be able to tell you something that makes more sense. But I don’t. I’m sorry. There’s hope for you, the creator told me. There’s something left inside you, somewhere, that wasn’t tainted with the evil you’ve lived by and engulfed yourself in long enough to somehow perversely enjoy. You don’t have as many gold specks in those vibrant green irises as you once thought you had. You won’t see that fire without me, Orion. …. ………. Rewind. None of this is real. You died. You’re gone. I promise I’ll solve this problem. I promise I understand. None of this is comprehensible, but from this view somehow everything finally makes sense. It’s all in how you disappear… and what brings you back to life. —————————————————————————- The world came rushing back with the sound of wind at the force of gravity inside hominid ears that have never fallen so far for so long and so fast before. And Lilli’s eyes opened. And the world began again. END OF BOOK 2

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