4 - Mama's Strange Friend
May 20th, 2055:
- Why only me?
Emotionless in appearance, Alys cried from inside. Between her hands glowed a silver pendulum suspended at a tiny chain. She focused her attention on the Oriental rug that decorated the living room to avoid Hitori’s concerned eyes. She was supposed to feel enthusiastic after this memorable birthday party. But grief overwhelmed every other feeling, stole away the joy of their long-wished reunion.
- This is a charm to keep you safe while I’m gone.
Alys looked at it shining in the curve of her palm, conscious that even a priceless jewel from coming times was unable to grant her most ardent desire.
- Back then, why did you erase my memories from the battle?
- Although you have endured many hardships, all your actions are emotionally driven. You’ve been growing up under my protection for almost ten years and considered me as your second father. In return I had to erase your memory in order to hurt you less,
If I took the wrong decision, I deeply apologize.
- Everyone knew, except me.
- Come to your senses, you should not be crying Hitori reproached her gently.
He took her between his arms. She freed herself from his embrace briskly.
- Protect the widow and the orphan... fight in the name of justice ... spread the word of goodness and wisdom around the world... what for? When the show ends ... the almighty hero... becomes again... the irresponsible man... doesn’t he?
Speechless Hitori stood up from the couch to admire the ephemeral beauty of nightfall beyond the window:
- You’re surprisingly a quite good judge of character.
- I’ve gone through a lot the last fifteen years.
- You were only ten years old when the Traumatism occurred, you had a life full of hope and opportunities ahead from you, unlike those who had lost everything they possessed and everyone they loved, forced to run away at any cost from their homelands. But, at the age of ten, it is normal to feel profoundly attached to your siblings, which made you believe nothing could ever separate you from your mother and big brother, even a nuclear disaster, yet it happened for real.
- I knew all this, however it did not alleviate the pain of loss.
- Well, it can’t be helped unfortunately.
- If only we could redo the past.
- You must go on.
“Easy to say” Alys thought for herself.
Remorseful at the idea of abandoning his loved ones twice Hitori came outside on the terrace to breath fresh air, what did not succeed to make him feel better. He readjusted his glasses pensive:” Think of it as a farewell. We probably won’t meet ever again”. Reaching eternity implied to make sacrifices in order to alleviate the sorrow of the living you leave behind Faeri said. He knew exactly what she meant. His heart raced inside his chest at the thought of it, at the realization they saw each other for last before his departure from the nowadays world to a distant future.
He glanced at the silver ornament he wore at his left ring finger:
- Soon the world you used to know will come to an end.
Alys shrugged her shoulders:
- Politicians like to debate about it over and over. It makes no sense to me. What if a meteorite suddenly crashed somewhere on Earth? Or rival countries kept waging war against each other for a mere puddle of fuel? Causing another cycle of disaster? Life would disappear from Earth in seconds, annihilated. Let’s live as long as we can on what’s left of this dying planet, like there was no tomorrow: we’re condemned anyway since we reached a point of no return!
- It could have been prevented from happening in this period of time.
- You who know everything could not do anything? Do you try to escape your responsibilities once again? Mikael screamed from the threshold.
Alys assumed he had been eavesdropping their conversation the whole time without interfering. She adjoined him to calm down, however it only made her brother angrier:
- Do not forget that you are a man before all so you must bear responsibility for your actions, you who pretends to be a supernatural being able to leap through time at will, unable to protect his loved ones!
Silent, Hitori did not turn around. One could read indifference in his cold gaze while he stared blankly at the rising tide. He then looked at the silvery hourglass tied around his neck. "Already?" he wondered as the last drop of blue meth inside it reached the other side. "It cannot be real ... " He did not believe Faeri's words when she intended to convince him that the Chosen Ones no longer belonged to this lowly world once they endorsed the burden of their abilities.
- Let's not get too emotional, ok?
He then summoned a portal floating ten feet off the ground In a swift hand move and took a deep breath: « You’re right Mikael, I probably am a coward, but I shall comply with my duties as guardian of the past, present and future even if it so breaks my heart to depart for last and forever. Because ... "
- Because you are supposedly some kind of hero able to save the world in the next thousand years! Stop kidding me, you're nothing more than any human being to whom was granted a destiny you were forced to embody against your will!
- The laws of the space-time continuum are strict. One can only judge on what has been done, not what is to be done. Convince those who can make society change for the greater good accomplish their destiny. You know what it takes when you're faced with the true face of a world decaying over centuries due to atrocities committed by mankind itself!
- I disagree. There are no chosen ones, there are simply us! Even though we are merely pawns on the universe's exchequer, great people can make great things happen!
-That's a childish point of view to think you can bring back peace without conflict.
Mikael's eyes were burning red, drilled on his interlocutor:
- You still don't get it?
- Get what?
- When a disorienting feeling of emptiness engulfs you whole when you're all alone in a foreign society led by an authoritarian oligarchy, there is no longer hope. Fear dictates your choices and actions. You can only wish that a kind soul will come to take you home someday.
- Do not judge on circumstances too quickly. I did what felt right to my consciousness.
Mikael flinched involuntarily before Hitori's coldness. It felt like, for once, the man let out his personal concerns before his so called duty and this was rather unexpected from him whose sense of justice prevailed over his heart, putting his life in the line to save everyone and the world around from destruction whatever might happen next.
July 13th, 2030
Like thousands of citizens running away from the capital, Ashley and her offspring left home at birdsong without a look back after the Minister of Defence's speech last night.
"Ashley!!" That morning the central train station was unusually overcrowded as if people were running across the hall for their lives towards the railways. "Ashley!!" She did not pay attention and kept walking forward, faster and faster, until she almost started to run.
-Mommy, who is that guy yelling at you? Mikael queried with anxiety.
-Hurry aboard angel, we're already late!
-Ashley, wait! Listen to me!
Ashley took a halt.
-There is nothing but friendship to unite us. I'm glad we met and became close friends. It proved me that I should not lose trust in men. Sadly, our paths shall part here and now because I want Mikael and Alys to grow up safely outside the capital.
-Will you be okay travelling on your own by roads and mountains with very young children?
-I have made my decision long ago. Ever since Fritz and I broke up to be honest.
-Then, there is nothing I can do to make you stay I guess.
-Be well and take care, I hope this is only a goodbye, Ashley pronounced in a lighter voice as she jumped inside the train. I wish we'll meet again someday, somehow Hitori.
Voiceless, the man stood still for a handful of minutes while the train to the south faded in the distance, only then turned around, Meanwhile on the road to the coast, Ashley was curled up in a corner of the cabin, crying her eyes out over their forced separation. But she had no choice. There was something she had not told Hitori. He had a life full of opportunities to look forward to. He could easily find a special someone to share a flat together in the next five years. Her was the mother of two little birds at twenty-five, compelled to run away because she would be soon targeted by authorities for taking part actively in the opposition. She did not want Hitori to get involved in her affairs with the government in power: she knew he would put his life in the game just to save hers. She admired him for his bravery, although she called it recklessness.
Mikael witnessed the whole scene, puzzled. Ashley swiped away her tears and sketched a faint smile: "No worries honey, Mommy's sad to depart so suddenly."
Ashley rolled her eyes with reproach: "Don't judge a book by its cover too easily Mikael!"
-He loves you, right?
-Why do you ask?
-If he truly loved you, he would have come with us, no?
Ashley shook her head: "Love is not an easy question to deal with." She took her son between her arms comfortingly: "You can't understand how it works at your age." Memories of her relationship with Fritz unexpectedly resurfaced. She fought hard to hold them back. Her feelings had been deeply hurt, she no longer planned to get engaged with anyone from now on. She once had stated to herself she would rather live alone for the rest of her life than marrying another man who would let her down for the sake of his career just like Fritz did. She watched over her nestlings tenderly while the countryside unfolded quickly by the window. Her life was going to take a whole another turn outside the city that gave her birth although she did not feel scared. It felt like a new beginning to let go her past and restart a living from scratch.
May 20th, 2055:
Later, Alys and Shinichiro reunited online for the first time in three weeks since Shinichiro went on report overseas.
" - You okay, sweetie?"
She ducked her head into her pillow to hide her eyes red from crying.
He sketched a faint smile:
" - Cheer up, has something happened?"
- Nothing serious Shin, really...
His girlfriend intended to smile: " You know me all too well, am I so easy to read?"
" - You make that grumpy cat expression when something goes wrong."
Alys laughed at Shinichiro's joke without enthusiasm. At the time she needed most to be comforted, he was away on trip across the world. She regretted that the professional constraints of a reporter's life compelled him to leave home every few months. More than five years of relationship had been meaningless. She utterly wished that she was not going to reproduce the same mistakes as her mother's, getting engaged with a man who was never there, unreachable, only a ghostly silhouette in the distance whom she waited on at home, forced to embrace loneliness as her sole company. This is notably the reason why she never got to meet her father in flesh and blood, which she learned to accept with time.
- To make my 25th birthday party memorable, Mikael had invited a very special guest to join us. I don't know what to feel about it. I'm thankful for his attention but sad in the meantime.
" - That idiotic brother of yours is always up for the stupidest things. I hope he did not make you cry again!"
Alys harboured a pale grin:
- He cares for me like a mindful big brother watches over his little sister.
" - What a jerk in my opinion!"
- I'd rather say he knows how to cheer me up in the hard times.
" - I am deeply sorry to not be there to wish you happy birthday in person. Be good and if anything drags you down, feel free to call anytime. I wish I would be by your side more often."
- You applied for it.
" - I could not let this amazing opportunity to boost my career pass, otherwise I'd still be sitting behind an impersonal desk writing articles for local newspapers on a day to day basis!"
- I know, Alys nodded.
" - I gotta go sooner than usual today, see you online tonight. Happy birthday again angel, take care until my return!"
The screen turned blank. Alys logged off from her voicemail account with a weary sigh, an unpleasant feeling of loss suppressing her joy to have turned 25 a few hours ago. She outstretched a hand outside her blanket to switch off the lights and lied down in bed with the impression they already had had this argument so many times before. She even began to wonder if their relationship could withstand their forced long-time separation. She used to think quite naively they were meant to be heavenly matched. It left her to live with bitter memories of the caring boyfriend he had been at the beginning, always there to give her the support she needed. Maybe it had been all but a teeny love affair and they were unable to admit it. Lonely and sleep-deprived in the lovebirds' flat at midnight, she felt betrayed by the one she loved, abandoned on side of the road to happiness.
Feeling downhearted brought back sorrowful memories of the hopeless times. Instead of giving in to nostalgia, she got up and walked to the terrace to admire the clear night sky.
-I can grant your utmost wish, whistled a whiny voice behind her back.
She startled, caught off guard. She dreaded at the idea someone might have intruded her apartment. No one. She stated to herself she must be hallucinating. A cold breeze sent chills down her spine. She went to the kitchen to pick an instant coffee cup in the fridge. Cappuccino: her favourite one to battle against exhaustion when she had to stay up late past midnight. "Come on girl, there is nothing to worry about!" she admonished herself. "It must be a mere consequence of your wild imagination." Having said that, she dipped into the obscurity of the stairs leading to her bedroom when a sleek-textured material brushed against her shoulders. She cried for help in vain, a sticky liquid filling up her mouth. She used her last strength to fight off the drowsiness that invaded her body bit by bit. She caught glimpse of her aggressor whose face was hidden from view under a black-hooded cape. He harboured a devilish smirk:
-Want to jump in the future?
She groped for her bearings, losing her senses one by one. She thrashed about to break free on attempt to defend against her assailant. Her limbs no longer obeyed to her brains. She clung on to the striking pain that irrigated her forearm.
"What are... your intentions?" she articulated in a weakening voice. Her field of sight narrowed as if the world had been switched off. "You don't need to know anything." someone retorted. She then realised she was deadly trapped, by who, for what motive? She lost consciousness before she could even figure out the answer.
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