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ab aeterno

Life itself is only an illusion. A dream. Nothing exists save empty space and you. And you are but a thought.

CREATORS sinsinatonement & saigennaku

GRAPHICS saigennaku CODING eiennoame

STATUS under construction & full

Intellectual Property of members. © 2014

To read from the beginning, click begin.

The knock at her door finally came. The police were there to take her away to an asylum, as the government had decreed. It felt surreal, but despite knowing her fate she had continued working. She had thrown herself deep, deep within theorems and percentages, not allowing herself to accept the consequences she had been handed. Amalie scrambled through her workshop, scattering her prized equipment across the floor. She threw the back door open, pulling herself to a sudden stop. The authorities were there too, standing in the alleyway, uniformed in black with no discernible features. They were dark dogs, chasing her, wanting to take her and crumple her up, and throw her into the darkness. She slammed the back door shut, locked it, and got to her knees, crawling inside a low, small cupboard and pulling it shut behind her. Amalie heard the officers break through the front door and make their way around the room.

“Come out, hands in the air. We aren’t here to hurt you,” a man’s voice said, barely disguising its impatience.

“No! Go away!” She yelled, breath coming faster and faster, her head feeling light and her cheeks flushed.

“We will use force. You have one minute to come out.”

Amalie felt around in the darkness for anything of use, but there were just papers. Papers and papers of her work, most unpublished, some unused, and some stolen long ago by Asus.

“I’m sorry…” she sobbed, keeping the door firmly shut. “I just had to tell someone, please understand. You had to know. It’s so important.”

“Just come out, no one has to get hurt.”

“Leave me alone! I won’t try to tell anyone anything… please!”

“Move away from the door, we’re breaking it down.”

“Why does nobody hear me?” she screamed, and a moment later they pried the door open with a crowbar and dragged her out. She screamed and thrashed, pleaded and sobbed. Anger and fear unravelled within her. Their hands were unwelcome on her arms, and she lashed out in hopeless desperation. They threw her in the back of a car, into the cage, with little regard for how hard she fell into the cold metal. She curled up in a ball, hands grabbing handfuls of her hair at the roots, the pain of pulling it distracting her from her internal anguish.

Through small cracks in the window’s tinting she could see the city outside. Candore had once been a place that embodied a noble ideal and set a standard for the rest of the world. Now, it was a warning of the effects of dreaming. Litter ruled the streets, their shopfronts abandoned a long time ago. The pavement was dusty, the bins overflowing, and the alleyways sprouted reaching hands and moaning, gaping mouths. Amalie had become accustomed to living with disappointment; it was a constant in her life. This was different though, this was a dull ending to a dull life. Despite knowing and having proof that she was capable of innovation and creativity that could change the world; she also knew that it would never reach the eyes of anyone who would care. The frustration was overwhelming. She wanted to scream and tare open all the dreaming pods until she found someone that would be excited over her findings- someone that would recognise her ideas as valid and most importantly, not insane. Any small recognition would be enough to keep her from collapsing in on her, but all thoughts of retribution or appreciation were behind her now. Only despair lay ahead.

They dragged her from the car and into the facility. It was a bland, practical square. Inside the hallways were crisp white, with high tech holding cells that kept patients drugged up around the clock. Amalie tried to struggle, but was struck when she almost succeeded in toppling an officer over. She felt warm blood drop from her forehead, and any strength she had left drained from her. They cuffed her in sharp plastic and two rough nurses took her to the showers and stripped her, hosed her down and had her dress in a patient’s gown.

“I’m not crazy!” She yelled, so they muzzled her. She struggled wildly at her violation, so they put her in a straitjacket. When they were finished, they pressed her into a cell at the end of the hall and informed her of the meal times. Amalie backed into the wall and writhed, choking on her own spit from sobbing and screaming. The walls were padded. She smashed her head back onto it over and over, thudding and thudding, until she collapsed on the floor, chest heaving breath through a dribbling mouth. She closed her eyes, and curled up, her poor abused body finding comfort in rest. A deep darkness came quickly, and she accepted it gratefully as a mercy. After a while she began to notice light behind her eyelids; natural light. Curiously, believing she was dreaming, she opened her eyes and blinked, finding she was able to move her arms freely. Hazily, she sat up and looked around. It appeared she was in a park of some kind, but it was so much lusher than any she had ever seen before. Amalie coughed, finding she had breathed in some kind of dust. Unsteadily she stood, surveying her surroundings with wide and curious eyes.

Something told her this was not a dream.

She had always been accused of straying from reality, but felt that it was her work that validated reality as worthy of attention over fantasy. In this sense she prided herself in tactility and observation, and what she was seeing even her mind could not have conjured up in some half-comatose state. Two long strands of hair hung at her side, and she felt a fringe at her forehead. She stroked the strange front-pigtails and looked to her feet. No longer bare, they were clad boots. She wiggled her toes, and watched the foreign feet move.

“Brilliant,” she whispered, holding her hands up to investigate them, before feeling herself up. She felt a face with higher cheekbones and smaller lips, wider hips than she had once had and more breast than her small frame had ever come to possess. Her eye told her that her skin was paler, but with more freckles. This body was not her own, but here she was in it. Suddenly struck by the facts of the situation, she spun around, eyes hungrily searching for more data. Overcome with ideas, she dropped to the ground and wiped a flat layer onto the dirt below her, using her nails (bitten) to mark any or all of the possible ways that something like this could have happened. In her haste and excitement, she kept looking up to check it was real, even bit her hand until it bled to make sure she was definitely not dreaming, although of course there was still a small possibility she was under some kind of drugs from the institution. Out of the corner of her eye she spied movement, and squeaked in surprise, jumping up and drawing in on herself, eying the individual suspiciously. Man, mid-twenties, with a serious face. His attention was focused on her, and she found herself blinking a lot more than was natural and digging her nails into her thighs in agitation.

“You there, if you’re sober and conscious, I can provide adequate compensation for showing me around” he said clearly, projecting a confidence that frightened and interested her.

“I-I don’t know… Where- or when, for that matter- we are, exactly,” she muttered, a nervous hand tugging at a strand of hair. “Are you from here or somewhere else?” She asked, looking around more, the factors of their environment soaking up a lot of her attention. “Candore- is that familiar to you? Probably not… I shouldn’t think so… No, shouldn’t think so at all. Hmm… but how… what are the variants…” she continued, barely aware of his response. “It is certainly possible. How, not why, why comes later. How! She said angrily, chewing on her lip before becoming self-conscious of her outbreak. “Apologies. I’m Amalie. Well, this,” she gestured to the body she was in, “isn’t, but.. up here I’m Amalie,” she pat her head, taking a deep breath. “Tell me what you know,” she asked intensely, walking up to him and standing very close indeed, staring suspiciously up at him. This body didn’t seem to make her much taller. A siren sounded in the distance, and Amalie’s heart jumped into her throat, and before she knew it she was gripping his arm like a vice. “Oh no, oh no oh no oh no,” she mumbled, eyes wide, terrified. “No, we’re not there. We’re here.” She said to herself matter-of-factly, promptly removing herself from the man’s personal space. “Sorry,” she said, head still whirring, trying to make sense of it all. “This is quite the anomaly.”

In Zweiten Erde, the only light Rowan’s people had was an artificial and orange glow. They could only produce so much electricity from burning coal as well, so the lights that filled his home were always dim and could barely fill the space. When he had been a child, the darkness had always seemed to threaten to consume what meager light there was, and it had been one of his few nightmares. He’d eventually grown out of that fear—had to, really, considering his profession—but the unease still lingered, and every so often the shadows would taunt him in his sleep.

Aware of his fear, his mother had spoken to him about the light above ground a few times, though she was technically forbidden to speak of such things. In the darkness, she whispered about how the sun kissed her skin, making it tingle with pleasure, and how the sun made every colour seem that much more vivid. It had been their secret, one that neither his sister nor father knew of, and Rowan had held onto her every word with bated breath, greedy for any information she would spare.

Despite everything she’d told him though, Rowan had never imagined the sun could be so bright. He squinted his eyes, staring up at the globe in awe. Eventually, he had to look away, his eyes throbbing a little dully, along with his head. Rowan did his best to ignore the pain though, too curious about what was going on. Was this a dream? He certainly didn’t remember falling asleep. In fact, last thing he remembered was…

A frown marred his face. What had he been doing? There had been a meeting, he thought. One between himself and…and the leader of the Scouting Legion. His leader too, really. But Rowan had never set eyes upon the great man until that meeting. Despite his mother being a well-respected Eagle, Rowan had been given any special attention. Unlike many other professions in Zweiten Erde, membership to the legion was not based on blood, and most everyone started off doing underground exploration. Only a select few were ever elevated to the more revered status of exploring the surface, and it was apparently Rowan’s turn now. He doubted it had anything to do with his ability though, knowing that he inherited far more of his father’s physical capabilities than his mother’s. The promotion was more likely tied to his recent murmurings and the growing dissent. Whether it was as a bribe to shut him up, or as a means to earn him more followers, as the position was considered an honour, he wasn’t sure.

Exactly what had happened after that, Rowan did not know. Hopefully the memory would come in time and provide answers to his current predicament. As it was now, he would have to cope and hope for the best.

Rowan let out a deep breath and focused on his surroundings now that his eyes hurt slightly less, making a conscious effort to not stare back at the sky again. Around him were trees, though again, they were nothing like the few trees back home in the agriculture area. Those trees were small and frail, while these towered far above his head. There were also two large poles sprouting from the ground, joined by beams of wood far overhead. The architecture was nothing like back in home.

Rowan pursed his lips and shook his head. No, obviously it would be nothing like Zweiten Erde. Between lacking an acrid smell of sulphur and whatever clothing he currently had on, Rowan was fairly sure he was no longer anywhere close to home. It was possible that he was longer in his body, even, he surmised as he inspected the dark skin of his hands. Other than the scouting legion who went above ground, no one in Zweiten Erde had such a dark skin tone. And even then, their skin would be considered fair to his present one. Also, it might have been him, but Rowan felt taller. It was hard to judge though, as he lacked anything to compare himself to at the moment.

A moment later, he realized there was a strange weight on his face and his fingers flew to his temple. Something strange and metal rested there, and he pulled whatever it was off. The moment he took the apparatus off though, his vision became slightly blurred. It wasn’t so bad, and he could still make out individual leaves on the trees above if he squinted, but it was still strange. His attention went back to the peculiar device, inspecting it from several angles. From what he could tell, it was a wire frame with two pieces of glass meant for each eye to look through. What he couldn’t understand was how glass could improve his visibility.

The young man hummed, a little startled by the slightly deeper sotto of his voice, but put the object back on. It was uncomfortable, now that he was aware of it, and he blamed his being disoriented for not noticing it sooner. Whatever the glass and metal item was though, it gave Rowan more questions. Perhaps it was time to find someone who could answer them. Fiddling with the soft fibres of his sleeve, Rowan strode towards the only other person in the area. “Excuse me,” he asked, tapping the young woman’s shoulder. “Could you tell me where I am, please?”

Yes, he reflected with a small grimace, it was definitely strange speaking in another person’s voice.

In a halfhearted duet, the apathetic strum of rain drops accompanied the moon’s insipid luminescence. Slowly, each and every drop passed by the beams of light, splattering the greyscale cityscape. And despite the blasting music and substance induced screams of ecstasy, one could say that the last night ever to be spent on Die Gottlosen Welt was actually quite tranquil. The police sirens had gone silent weeks ago but tonight especially came with an unnatural ataraxia. The entire population of 10 million that called the last remaining super city in the world home had now been housed inside the tower of Babel since daybreak. And since daybreak the debaucherous New Years Eve celebration had been all that filled their senses- or, by now, whatever senses that were sober enough to be filled. Global peace was something that mankind had sought since the dawn of the modern age but it’s difficulty may have been misjudged. After all, one party was apparently all it took to unite the people right? Sure, global really only meant one city now- and it was the last party for humanity ever. But even so, it was about the closest to global peace you could have gotten. Within the 400 floors that rested upon a foundation engraved with the words: in peccatis expiatio, the survivors discarded their titles and occupations. There were no bosses or supervisors. Coworkers drank themselves into oblivion. Debtors and creditors sold themselves to the various shaded pills that scattered the building. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons shared perverse incestuous skin ship. And of course the peacekeepers joined in. Officers, detectives, judges danced with the whores, rapists and murderers. Because tonight, they were all whores, rapists and murderers. On the eve of mankind’s suicide, they would be a united Sodom.

And no one was more disgusted about it than him.

He lazily swirled the glass of zinfandel before bringing it to his lips. The alcohol, colored a deep Davy’s Gray, smoothly trickled down his throat. And as this man that went by the sole label of Merkurier sat upon his dated ornamental throne seat on the rain drenched roof, he mused condescendingly at the idea that people used to criticize the wine as being too dry. He swallowed and savored it. In his sixty five years, no other drink had been able to give him the same elegant burn. The feeling dissipated quickly after and Merkurier was left again in his despondence. Against the dullness of a neutered world, he couldn’t resist the heartbroken sigh that broke through his wrinkly lips. He supposed there wasn’t much to be done about it now. He had lacked foresight and was paying for it. As if coordinated with his thoughts, he took another sip from his glass. He wondered what today would have been like if he had shown some restraint. If he had only realized that the world was so easy to conquer. Secretly, he wished nothing more than for the some 10 million underneath him to break into hysteria last second, realizing their mortality. Unlikely. It was practically scientific fact that he had broke them. People, like cars and courtesans, seemed to crumble quickly with overuse.

“You shouldn’t weaaaar such a nice tuxedo in the rain, missssssta emmmm- unnnnnngh. You’ll catch a cold,” half-sang a girl, whose barely legal body had been wrapped around his so tightly it would’ve seemed as if she was using the dull old man as a substitution for her lack of clothes. She paused for a second to make a thinking face before she hitched her head back to let out a carefree, sincere laugh. In her cloudy consciousness, however, she had let go and immediately fell backwards onto the cold, water stained glass. She let out no sign of noticing that she fell. In fact, there no were signs she noticed anything at all. Her eyes were already closed and she continued to lay where she had fallen. Probably unconscious, possibly dead.

Almost irritated, Merkurier ignored the entire gesture and took another sip but the second girl that had seemed to have been passed out with her head in his lap stirred at the sudden noise. With the same delusional smile that everyone seemed to wear today, she picked her head up and looked around before letting out a sudden laugh followed by an honest groan. The crashing and tumbling downstairs had been growing louder since they started the past thirty minutes. Somewhere only a floor down, another set of windows broke and someone screamed an audible Asshole! loud enough to stir the multiple girls that had been laying around the roof. The girl that had awoken earlier picked her head up again in response. “Your guest is going to be late at this rate,” she noted before her head fell face down back onto the dark black fabric that covered his thigh. At this point, she probably had no idea what she was saying, but the concern was something that dwelled in his mind today. Yes, there was still one last game to play. One last person to respect enough to call an opponent. In the midst of sheep, there was still one guard dog who’s pride had prohibited him from participating in tonight’s pre-suicide festivities. The thought produced a calming smirk on Merkurier’s face. His heavy heart seemed to lighten up at the thought. Within a few minutes, he would officially have conquered every person left in this world and with nothing left to challenge him, Merkurier would impart his boundless generosity on the last man who failed to withstand him. The officer would understand why it was Merkurier’s empathy was what won the hearts of the people. Through his wise and gentle tyranny, he had united the people as their messiah. The little police chief will come to admit this tonight. The man ran his hand through his styled white hair and chuckled. Of course, Merkurier didn’t believe any of those delusions but he was sure that his guest had imagined Merkurier to be yet another pompous dictator. On the contrary, he had only given the people what they wanted. The demons that lurked in every mans heart begged him for release and so he did just that. In the end, he was not a king but an enabler- he was a salesman only meeting the needs of his customers; the customers were, after all, always right. And if the customer was always right, was he wrong for doing right? Merkurier took one last sip from his almost empty glass.

A prime example of the artificial nature of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. To be paradoxical was in the nature of artifacts made to assign meaning to that which does not have any.

The last gunshot was fired just below and the loud bang had echoed up the glass and steel spiral staircase. Immediately, in an action so characteristic of his foe that it had made Merkurier’s heart flutter, the door that had been the last barrier to the roof launched off it’s hinges and slid along the floor. Where the door had fallen, the glass roof floor had partially shattered and in the gaping black doorway stood a monster of a man. With a quick throw, the hulking officer jettisoned the bodies of the two guards from the other side of the door onto the floor. They landed right next to the broken door, bodies splotched with the dark gray visceral fluid from numerous stabs and gunshots. He turned towards Merkurier, eyes burning with an insatiable bloodlust. Now that his face was visible in the moonlight, the old man couldn’t help but admit that the officer had become an ugly sight. His hair which had been so neatly parted and waxed on previous occasions now drooped over his snarling eyes in messy bangs, wet with rain, sweat and blood. The light gray coat that covered his broad shoulders was torn in every thinkable location and the man’s face- the face of what used to be promising young officer that had sworn to take him down by legal means was now a horrific caricature brimming with Ashcan influences. For a moment the two men looked at each other but the officer was quick to break the quiet and began slowly walking towards the ornamental throne that now seemed comically out of place against the destroyed scenery. Taking the advancement as a cue, Merkurier feigned a worried face. “Oh, but you killed them.”

He bit.

“They resisted,” the young man growled, never ceasing his slow saunter towards the old man.

The comment had broke Merkurier’s somber and serious mood and he let out a toothy, energized smile. “That’s funny, I specifically told them to let you through without resisting,” he commented snidely. It was true though, the other few hundred guards had orders to kill the man but the two at the door? No, they were peaceful gestures. Merkurier knew more than anything that the officer had slaughtered the guards- exactly as he had expected him to do. He stared momentarily at the dead bodies of the guards again before looking up with another smile. “Well, I guess our definition of resisting has just gotten looser since last time we met, I suppose haha. But times change so this sort of didactic ambiguity happens.” The officer responded with a single exhale detectable only by the momentary flaring of his nostrils. He slowed to a stop in front of Merkurier and briefly glanced at the girl that was barely conscious, face down on the old man’s lap. Merkurier had caught the eye movement however, taking all too much joy in knowing what the man had just realized. In actuality, Merkurier himself had forgotten until now. It was hard to remember that the girl, now shamelessly intoxicated and attached to a man three times her age, was the world’s first and last superhum- well superhero. Right, right. Honestly, in the hours he spent waiting, this was a minor detail that had slipped his mind. But he would make amends. “Ah, I forgot you two knew each other! She mentioned she wanted to say hi,” he exclaimed in fake surprise before pulling the girl’s face up by her hair. This only confirmed her lack of consciousness, complete with a square sheet of white paper with a cartoon character between her lips. Merkurier quickly let go of her hair, letting her head fall back down. “Err, maybe I caught her at a bad time.”

The next inhale the man made was even louder than the last and with little hesitation, he pulled his pistol out of the torn black leather holster and pointed it straight at Merkurier’s forehead. “I should’ve done this a long time ago,” he snarled. Probably. But Merkurier was having too much fun by now.

“We weren’t done catching up.”

“I am.” His finger inched towards the trigger.

“So I take it you’ve at least given up on the whole law charade.”

“There are two bullets left in this. After I’m done with you, I will make a makeshift arrest and execution for the culprit of your murder. Rest assured.” This had been the longest sentence he had ever heard out of the officer and it was rich like the taste of black coffee. Still, things had turned out less than satisfying. Leaning back in his chair, he sighed. It seemed that the man had been intent on ending their little playtime and frankly, Merkurier was tired of forcing the elegant tone from his voice. In the end, the officer had given up his ideals too easily. Like with the rest of the world, the rush that came from a good challenge seemed ephemeral at best.

“Well, go ahead then. If your going to be so compliant with my victory, just take your reward. You don’t exactly have much time, it’s almost midnight. Wouldn’t want the whole world suicide business interrupting your little arrest, would we?” With that, the old man simply closed his eyes and sat back. He was resigned to the disappointment. The cold nozzle of the gun pressed against his forehead. Merkurier wondered for a moment whether he was at fault for the hungry emptiness. Would it have been different if he had been born in a different era? Would people so easily have surrendered themselves to him? He hoped not. Somewhere out there, maybe there would be a different Merkurier having more fun than he was having. A Merkurier not bound by the weaknesses of his time.

The gunshot was ear-piercing and he could feel the initial sound vibrate through his skull.

And instinctively, he opened his eyes and gasped. Only to experience a pain far worse than the impending bullet. His eyes flooded with painful hues he had never even seen before. Quickly, he clenched his eyes shut, placing his head in both his hands. He took a few breaths, quite aware that there was the issue that the gunshot hadn’t killed him. Heck, he couldn’t even feel pain. Slowly, head still down, he opened his eyes and peaked through the slits between his fingers. The ground beneath him was a familiar, grainy black as if he had fallen onto the streets but the light or something. It was so off. As if it was a photographed with a filter, the the light that breached through his eyes looked so unnatural. At the very least, the searing sensation he had felt faded quickly with eye adjustment. As he looked up, he could feel the breath being snatched from his lungs in confusion. It would seem that he had indeed fallen onto the street or something but it had now been filled with all these shades he couldn’t even describe. Had he gone crazy? Quickly feeling his forehead for a wound, he not only found none but also realized that his forehead itself felt… off. And as he pulled his hand down to check for blood, he realized that his skin no longer had the wrinkled texture it had only moments ago. The tone of skin seemed off as well. Even his clothes, and although he approved of the texture, were different. Slowly, he used his hands to get up on his feet. They quickly buckled but he caught himself and managed to stand straight after a few seconds. Next to him was a store it seemed and despite the odd colors of the decorations that had surrounded the large window, the oddest part of what he saw was what he could only assume to be his reflection. He had not gotten younger, he had become someone else entirely. He felt various parts of his body to make sure the reflection was accurate and with the confirmation, he had no explanation for what had just happened. Were the colors just from the shock of being shot? What happened to the officer. How long did he have his eyes closed for? It couldn’t have been long. There were only two or so minutes left before the tower was to be detonated in an act of willing suicide for the millions in there. Quickly, he fumbled around the unfamiliar pockets of his attire and retrieved what seemed to have been a phone. 10:35Am.

What the fuck?

No signal either and no wireless. Shrewdly, his narrowed eyes scanned through the contents of the phone’s contact list. No recognizable numbers. This wasn’t his phone. Merkurier raised his right hand to cover his mouth as he looked up to observe. Like his own jaw line, he could feel the invisible stubbles of hair from shaving but they felt unfamiliar at the same time. As for his surroundings? Certainly not Die Gottlosen Welt. No, he recognized every part of his city to know this was foreign. Was this another city? But the streets were barren save for a crumpled figure nearby. Another dimension then? Heaven? he jested to himself. Surely, this was no heaven. Such a thing didn’t exist. Yet, there was nothing to explain the plethora of questions that had popped up in the last few minutes. It was absurd to imagine so, but it was hard denying the possibility that he had encountered something supernatural. A smirk pierced through his expression. This was new territory, whatever it was. And when there’s new territory, there were new playthings. Perhaps not the best time to mention it but Merkurier’s mind wandered to his previous regrets. Maybe he’d take his time conquering this one. Or maybe he wouldn’t conquer it at all. Truth be told, he was getting tired of the incessant attention of others. There were far more interesting tasks than demanding the worship of natives. The more he thought about it, the less he cared about what had actually happened. More important was what was going to happen from here.

And like always Merkurier had plans. Plans of great things to come. He chuckled at the opportunity that fate had granted him. Narcissistically, he glanced one more time at his reflection. Not quite what he would’ve gone with for a youthful appearance but he didn’t quite mind the formal fashion sense. He prided himself in flexibility so this was more than enough to work with. Certainly more fitting for a new adventure than his old one and while he grew some attachment to his hair style, Merkurier wasn’t one to cling to unnecessary details. No need to stare a gift horse in the mouth. In fact, he could feel a sense of clarity that he hadn’t in a few years. Perhaps it was partly youth, but somehow, he could almost be sure that this body had been untouched by chronic narcotic use and the sort. At least somewhat more clean. Ha, alright then.

His mind turned back to his surroundings and he immediately recalled the crumpled figure nearby. Without even turning back to face it, he projected his voice as he usually did only to meet a strange voice that echoed what he had intended to say- “You there, if you’re sober and conscious, I can provide adequate compensation for showing me around.”

Well. His new voice certainly lacked the rich timbre of his old one. Eh, whatever, it- like all things- will do.

The first thing that she noticed was the air. It tasted… dry. She took a deep breath, coughing as the bitter air filled her lungs. She spluttered, all but choking at the unpleasant taste that settled at the back of her throat.

Her body felt heavy. Valdis opened her eyes, blinked, and stared. She was. Where was she? Around her were stone buildings with glass windows, trees lined neatly in rows. She was sitting, leaning against one of the buildings, and there was something heavy in her lap and clinging to her legs. She looked down. Wh…?

There was a rectangular bag on her lap, but more pressing were her lack of skirts. Frowning, she smoothed her hand along the dark blue cloth, wondering at the stiffness, before the thought finally occurred to her.

Where was she? She’d never seen such strange buildings before, so wherever she was, it wasn’t some place she knew. And… How did she get into such strange trousers? They were tight, unpleasantly so but not yet painful. The light turned her pale hands darker, and—

The small jacket she wore was also strange. Her hand reached down and lifted the little cord dangling off the collar, pulling gently. When nothing seemed to happen, she dropped it, leaning back against the wall. She was in a strange place, wearing strange clothes, and the air tasted foul.

Valdis gave her head a light shake, trying to remember. She… she had been… She remembered trees, screams, the Wall crumbling, the crimson army. They had… They had invaded, had suddenly turned up in her kingdom, and she had panicked, had dug her nails so hard into her palm that they bled (strange, how her palms were smooth but her fingertips calloused) and she had fought to keep her voice from shaking, had failed as her shrill girlish voice rang out and was silenced.

She didn’t remember what happened after that. Valdis wrapped her arms around herself, curling up as best she could with the tight trousers hindering her movement, and sat there, weighed down by misery and worry and fear and she was so useless, in a strange place away from her kingdom and her people, and so relieved at being alive, at the silence that meant safety and there were no solders in bright crimson and no screaming and here she was, alone and unharmed and—

Tears welled up in her eyes, and she scrubbed at her face with her sleeve. She was alone and unharmed and all she could do was cry like a stupid baby. It took considerable effort, but she managed to stop herself from actually crying, though the lump remained in her throat. She. She had to do something. Something, anything, or she would sit here against this wall forever and never move, and she couldn’t do that because then she’d just give up. And as much as she wanted to give up, she couldn’t She was supposed to be a queen, wasn’t she? Queens didn’t give up like that, not if they were real Queens. Mother never did, and Valdis wanted to be like Mother so very badly.

One hand pressed against the stone wall, she pushed herself upright, wobbling on unsteady feet. Strands of hair brushed her face, and she shoved them aside impatiently. The ground seemed to lurch underfoot, and was it farther than it used to be? She couldn’t tell; she was still dizzy. The bag bounced against her thigh, apparently attached to her with a strap over her shoulder. Valdis lurched, hitting the wall with side. Only then did she realize that there was something digging into her rear.

It was rectangular. Thin. Mostly black with a border of white that was wider at the top and bottom, and smooth to the touch. When she flipped it over, she could see something that looked vaguely like an eye. She stared for a few more moments, and watched as it slid out of her careful grip. Valdis made to catch it, but her body reacted sluggishly, fingers just barely brushing the thing as it clattered to the ground. She frowned, glancing from her outstretched hand to the thing before picking it up. It didn’t seem broken, and she tried to put it back in the pocket, squirmed as it continued to dig into her rear, and decided to put it in her jacket pocket instead.

Valdis pushed herself away from the wall, wobbling as a hand shot out automatically to stop her from falling. She felt heavy and sluggish, but the brief panic was pushed aside as she spotted a figure a short distance away.

One step. Two. Good, she was still upright, even without the wall supporting her. A few steps more, and she was closer to the stranger, dressed in strange clothes that vaguely resembled the ones she wore.

”Pardon me, but—“ Her jaw snapped shut as she raised trembling fingers to her mouth, eyes widening as realization hit. The clothes, the slight change in her reach and sense of balance, the disconnect between thinking and moving, her hands, her voice.

This was not her body.

Valdis started to shake, breathing speeding up until she could barely suck air into her lungs, and promptly burst into tears.

He awoke to a pounding at the door. A knock on his consciousness that began like a deep thrum in his chest but began to rise in both pitch and intensity until it physically hurt not to answer.

Ironically, it hurt when he woke, too. It took him a moment to calm the noise in his ears and another to stop his head from swimming. His stomach throbbed But eventually, he picked himself up and dared to open his eyes, not wanting to attach any truth to the frightening thought he had possibly made up.

Pale smoke filled one half of the sky, filling the clear bright sky with almost-clouds. It was deceptively dreamlike, luring him into a sense of detachment. And then, as it clicked, it confirmed his rising panic. He scrambled to his feet and was rewarding by a new slew of hammers in his head, drumming away madly until he began to see lights across his vision. He crumpled, crouching down with one hand pressed against his temple as the other tried to calculate…something.

What exactly was he forgetting? Why was he here? Where was here?

This time, he looked about just a tad more carefully, squinting at his surroundings. One familiar sight blended into another until he began to piece things together.

Right. He had been on his way to the airport. To go…where? No, to see someone. To see…who exactly? He bit his lip in frustration, trying to gather up the scattered pieces of sanity before anything else went wrong.

Almost habitually, his hand wandered down to his pocket and withdrew his mobile. The screen flashed a warning as soon as he unlocked it. ’Train lines closed down. Please return to your homes. Return to your homes. Return to your homes.’ He dismissed the warnings impatiently and scrolled through a list of numbers, instinctively going to reach her. He got as far as the calling screen before the call dropped and he finally noticed the small ‘x’ at the top of the screen. He fought the urge to throw the phone away. Instead, he took a deep breath. Eyes closed, he could feel imagine his lungs expanding, his ribs contracting, his heartbeat evening out. Another, and another, and another. When he opened his eyes again, they were sharp and alert.

10:35. Jun. Airport. Things to do. He slipped the phone into his pocket.

Only now that he was processing more clearly did Kyo realize why his skin kept prickling at every far-off noise. The street around him was empty. Cars on the street were stalled—a few even had doors resting wide open, abandoned in their owners’ rush for safety. He spun in a half-circle, catching his reflection in the mirror-like walls of the glass building rising above him. Some dirt clung to his clothes and he swept those off with an odd feeling of embarrassment, as if anything so completely miniscule mattered at all in a situation like this. No injuries—though that was not really surprising.

Sweeping a hand through his hair, he glanced again at the pillar of smoke in the sky and sighed softly. Definitely not a part of the plan. The bigger question remained though: what had happened? There were no policemen in sight, an anomaly Kyo just couldn’t rationalize. He had seen the plane glide overhead, had heard the explosion and felt the ground shudder under his feet. Why wasn’t the entire area swarming with emergency officials? If they had cleared ground zero, shouldn’t he have been taken as well? He felt faintly sick, though he couldn’t be sure if that was due to stress or a severe lack of answers.

”That can be amended,” he said aloud, and almost instantly felt better hearing his own voice in the silence. There were far-off alarms, but in this area, the only thing he could hear was wind rustling in the trees and it was driving him slowly insane. He clapped his hands together before the silence could overwhelm him and turned decisively towards the shrine, prepared to find the answers he sought by himself.

He hadn’t taken more than two steps before he noticed the girl.


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—breaking news coverage of the plane crash in Yoyogi park just hours ago. The plane is believed to have gone down around 10:00 am in the Meiji Jingu Gardens, right beside the Memorial picture gallery. We have a crew on the ground but at this time, police have already cordoned the area off. At this moment, everything from Sangubashi to Omotesando has been fenced off by local law enforcement and all requests for an official statement or news of any kind have been refused.

Eyewitness reports claim that they had seen the plane descend unusually low before the abrupt crash. This was followed by a sudden rush of police into the area. Many reports claim that the aircraft was a commercial passenger plane, with what apparently may have been the logo of Korean Airlines. Korean Air has so far declined to answer any questions regarding the incident and an official flight number has been confirmed by neither the police nor the airlines company. 

Never before has a plane flown so close to a commercial or residential district and our team has confirmed that the plane was not in designated airspace. Why was the plane there in the first place? The lack of information coming out of the area and police have left onlookers puzzled and suspecting terrorist involvement. Officials, despite denying accusations of terrorist activity, seem intent on monitoring the amount of information divulged. 

The incarnations wake up in various parts near Yoyogi Park. The time is 10:35AM, March 24th 2014. Watches will still display the appropriate parallel time from the time zone from which the modern body was in. Electronic devices that rely on a signal ex. cell phones, tablets, will not have a working signal. Modern bodies come with accompanying items that they had on them prior to losing consciousness. Streets are mostly abandoned, the police seem content to guard the fencing on the perimeters rather than patrol although there may be an occasional officer or straggler. A pillar of smoke can be visibly seen coming from the direction of the museum but the fire is contained. 

❈ SCALES ✁ Omotesando St., in front of the Emporio Armani (near spot 11 on the lower half of the Omotesando map)
❈ VELVET ✁ Omotesando St., in front of the Emporio Armani (near spot 11 on the lower half of the Omotesando map)
❈ NOTES ✁ Shinto Shrine, in front of the main shrine
❈ STONES ✁ Shinto Shrine, in front of the main shrine
❈ FEATHERS ✁ Shinto Shrine, Iris garden (6 on the Shrine map)
❈ BLOOD ✁ Takeshita St., in front of Angel Hearts (near spot 85 on the Takeshita map)
❈ GLASS ✁ Takeshita St., in front of Angel Hearts (near spot 85 on the Takeshita map)

Kaylee sat up abruptly, pushing aside the sheet and scrambling to find a piece of paper and pen. It was still dark outside. The theorem was clear in her mind now, but it was racing ahead without her, spiraling fast and faster. It went far beyond her initial understanding. She could see all the pieces falling into place. Her heart raced as she stumbled out into the living room, taking a left into the study and rummaging through drawers. Ren’s apartment was clinical and bare, with no sign of his academic pursuits. Kaylee gripped a notebook and pen, dropping to the floor to sit cross legged and try to catch up with the formula unraveling in her head. She scribbled like that for a few hours, totally absorbed in the work. 

Ren was a professor of hers. He was the leading expert in biochemistry, and not unlike other professors, felt himself drawn to her raw intellect. He had everything material he could want, but she offered him something more interesting. In her he saw all the unbridled passion he once had for science, but also the talent he desperately wished he possessed. That was why, despite her many and unpredictable flaws, he had taken a personal interest in her, and tried to influence her learning. The sex was incidental and often unsatisfying, but it meant that she spent fewer nights alone. She had no friends to speak of, with the occasional acquaintance that put up with her because of her usefulness. Eventually she would learn all she could from him and she would leave before he started to get resentful of her progress as they always did. 

Footsteps drew her out of her intense concentration – he had arrived home. The clip clop of high heels on his wooden floor proclaimed he had brought a companion. Slightly curious, she finished writing the last of the theorem and slid the pen behind her ear. Gathering up the paper, she peeked her head around the corner to the living room. Ren was there, lips locked with a young woman who she recognised from one of her classes. She felt a slight pang, but its origin was selfish and irrational so she dismissed it. 

“Hi,” she said, walking out as she pulled her sweater over her head. 

“Oh, Kaylee… You’re still here-” Ren started, standing rigid. He didn’t know how she would react and the colour was quickly draining from his face as he thought over the possibilities. He had gone away for two days and had said she could stay for awhile. She ended up prolonging her visit, it was a nice place after all. 

“Yep,” she said, pulling her hair into clumsy pigtails and grabbing her bag from the counter, stuffing the papers and pen into it. 

“Is that Crazy K?” The girl asked, perplexed. 

“That’s what they call me,” she replied, walking past the pair towards the door.

“What are you doing here?” she asked incredulously, obviously not all there upstairs. Kaylee paused at the door, looked back at Ren’s pleading face, and spoke clearly and calmly.

“Fucking Ren, and stealing his stationary,” as she walked out, she heard Ren’s desperate pleas. What surprised her was that he actually followed her out into the hall. 

“Kaylee wait- I’m sorry- C’mon- Kaylee!” He yelled after her, but she only pulled her headphones over her ears and turned up the volume. She sprinted down the stairs and out into the lobby, getting disdainful looks from the staff. She was used to it though; she trained herself not to notice it. Once out on the streets, she bustled through the crowded streets until she found a suitable alleyway to divert into. There she reached into her bag and pulled out two drops of Sunshine, swallowing them dry and fishing through the junk in her bag for some money. After she had acquired coffee and three cans of assorted energy drinks, she made her way across town. Tokyo was alive and buzzing, and she smiled at the way the light mixed and bloomed. The acid was well into her system as she approached the library, standing outside staring at the door. She stood frozen for twenty minutes, watching the poster on the door swirl, and listened to the dog’s mouth whisper. Upon recovering, she took in a breath and pressed on, picking up the textbooks she needed and making a bee line for her usual spot. She cracked open an energy drink; the library staff had given up on stopping her. 

She studied like that for quite some time, feeling her head buzz and watching her hands flash in front of her. Where she sat was right at the back of the library – in a nook where no one ever went. It was great. Occasionally people would come up to her – usually first years that had been dared or wanted to prove something- and she would ignore them until they became too problematic. When that time came, she would throw books at them. There was a while where she actually kept books she didn’t need for that very purpose. 

Despite this, the library was a generally safe place for her. She could connect with people here, people that had written about interesting things; sometimes years ago, sometimes last week. People who might not think she was crazy- people she might be able to have conversations with. That was why she slept with old professors, but that had been largely disappointing. Kaylee felt alienated, and part of her knew it was good for her to be. It helped her work. Her heart, however, wasn’t so sure it was a good thing. Work, drugs and sex were the tools she used to fill the hole in her chest. Her parents were ignoring her existence entirely. She had no friends. But she was not a victim, she was a discoverer. Her ideas would change the world, and loneliness was the price she paid for greatness.

To her surprise, she felt her eyelids were hard to hold open, and her world seemed to slow down. She placed her pen down and held her hands out in front of her, watching them fade in and out of reality. She’d been on acid for about three years, and she knew what tripping was, and this wasn’t it. Fortunately, she was too euphoric to worry. Her head thumped onto the desk, spilling the remains of her drink onto the carpet below. 

The headache hit near the end of her shift, just as she was refilling a customer’s glass. The sudden wave of dizziness surged out of nowhere, and she almost spilled the water. As it was, Sabrina was just barely able to lock her muscles and only filled the glass a bit more than was probably appropriate. The customer didn’t notice, simply bringing the glass to his lips as she muttered something pleasant sounding and backed off. Hannah gave her a weird look as she passed, concern flickering over her face when she forced a smile and gave a quick shake of her head. Sabrina could feel the older woman’s gaze on her retreating back, but then she turned a corner and the other waitress went back to work. A muscle in her cheek twitched as she blinked rapidly, trying to clear her mind. She could almost feel herself slow down, feel her mind turn to mud like there was a stupid wall blocking her from her thoughts.

"Sabrina, you okay?" Carol. She tried to fake a smile, but the other girl rolled her eyes and leaned in, peering up at her face. "Shit, you don’t look so good. Sure you’re not sick?"

“‘m fine. Don’t worry.”
 Pushing past, she almost made it to the kitchen before Carol called after her.

"Hey. Just. Take it easy for once, okay? We’re almost closed, anyway, and I can take an extra table if you’re not feeling great."


Sabrina kept going, heading into the kitchen to pick up the slice of cake table C15 had ordered, along with the ice cream requests from the table next to them. Her hand trembled slightly, but she made herself keep moving. She couldn’t crash. She couldn’t. Not when she’d finally gotten Manager to give her a few more shifts. She had to keep going, had to prove that she could handle so many shifts. She’d almost reached 7k, and there were only a few more months to go before she had to pay Lily’s tuition. So she worked as many hours as possible, in the hopes of scrounging up the last few thousand. After the bills were paid, of course. The thought of bills made her grimace. It wasn’t Dad’s fault, really. And tuition would be higher than what she would’ve paid… but then, she’d been offered a full scholarship. Unlike… unlike Lily…

Shaking the thought out of her mind, she brought the desserts to the appropriate tables, serving them with a smile that was a bit too strained, but no one actually paid that much attention to the waitress. Well, the mother at table C13 had a sharp eye, but she was fussing over the youngest. Time ticked by. Tick tick tick. The sound was driving her insane, making her head throb in time to the hand on the clock. She moved mechanically, bringing cheques to the last two tables in her section and systematically cleaning up. Tick tick tick, until she wasn’t sure if she was hearing the clock or her heartbeat anymore. A hand landed on her shoulder and she jumped, only for Carol to flash a sympathetic smile and hand over the dustpan. Only then did she realize she’d been scrubbing at the same spot for God knows how long.

Her tables cleaned up, Sabrina wiped her hands and headed for the staff lockers, after making a detour to grab a glass of water. Thankfully she had some advil in her messenger bag, and the bottle found itself into her hand with only a brief moment’s rummaging. Her phone rang, and Sabrina ignored it, throwing back the glass of water and the advil. According to the bottle, it was okay if she took two, and hopefully “extra strong” meant that it’d kick in faster. A pause, and she squinted at the label on the bottle. Oh. Advil fever reducer. Whoops.

…it’d still work, right? She wasn’t running a fever, but for all she knew her system would crash. No harm done, she supposed, but her headache was really getting worse. It’d only been a minute, but Sabrina was already impatiently waiting for the meds to kick in and make it go away.

Her phone rang, more insistently this time. With an annoyed growl, she slammed her locker door open, rummaging inside for her phone as it shrieked some catchy theme that was just pissing her off even more. Without looking at the caller ID, she rammed her thumb on the flashing green button.

"What," she snarled.

"Sis? You okay?" At the familiar voice Sabrina sighed, tension disappearing as she slumped against the locker, phone pressed to her ear.

"It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. Why’re you calling? Is something wrong?" A sudden thought made her heart jump into her throat. "I-is it Dad?"

"What? No! It’s. Um… I’m really sorry, but I just realized that I’m actually down a reference for my essay, and the prof wants marked up photocopies. I can’t find it online for some reason and…" A pause, followed by a nervous giggle. She could almost picture Lily holding the phone slightly away from her ear, like she was going to shout like that angry friend of hers.

"It’s kinda due tomorrow, and Dad just got home so… There’s a lot of bookstores near your work place?"

"Lily, it’s eleven thirty. Even if I could find a place, they might not even be open.”

"Just. I’m really sorry, ‘brina. But I really need this and— please?” Her sister sounded so meek and pitiful she couldn’t help but sigh, resigned.

"Fine. Text me the details and I’ll try to find a copy."

"Yess! Thank you so much! I swear I’ll make it up to you!"

Shaking her head and wincing at the spike of pain that caused, stupid advil didn’t kick in yet, Sabrina changed out of her uniform and tucked her phone in her back pocket. Normally she didn’t have any problem with being out so late, but she had a splitting headache and a full day shift tomorrow. She tugged on her jacket, thumbing through her phone for directions to the nearest open bookstore. Nearly everything around her was closed, but according to her phone there was a small place about ten minutes away on foot. 

"Sabrina?" She paused, hand on the door, and turned. The manager gave her a look, then signed and shook his head. "Get some rest if you’re not feeling well, alright? And give me a call if you don’t feel better in the morning." Dammit, Carol. 

"Y-yeah. No worries." She gave what she knew was a strained smile and walked out, relaxing as the first breath of cold air hit her lungs. It felt sort of nice, in a lonely kind of way. The streets were far from empty, but everyone minded their own business, and she managed to walk an entire block before her headache got to the point where her vision blurred.

Another wave of dizziness, and then the world went black.