Chapter 0 – Flickering Memories

“And when the dreams go dark.”

Somewhere in the distance, a soft female voice sang sweetly, a pleasant sound like wind blowing through the grass. Kyle watched the faint flicker of lights, streetlamps bathing the sidewalk in a calm greyish tint. His footsteps clunked against the pavement like a slow beating drum.

“You’re the only thing I remember.”

It was a lonely evening. It was a lonely voice singing a lonely song.

“Like tomorrow’s never going to come.”

All around, the twilight hues of evening cast shadows through the trees. Trees that stood silently attendant, witness to every moment of history. The wind rustled the leaves as if they were chimes.

“Cause today is your lucky day.”

A breeze rushed through the leaves again, lifting the flickering scarf. In front of him, a girl he’d never seen before. Long blond hair falling into deep blue haunting eyes. Soft pale skin under a red winter coat with a yellow scarf swinging in the wind. A green plaid skirt swishing silently in the wind. He felt a tinge of recognition.

“Your last day before the end of the beginning.”

A strange song, being sung by a strange girl on a strange evening on a strange street.

“Falling from the sky.”

She was standing in his way. Snowflakes drifted between them.

“Trying desperately to fly.”

Kyle stopped walking. The sky was turning a hue of dark red and bright magenta and a million shades in between.

“Please don’t, don’t die.”

Her hand moved elegantly, pointing something black and long at him. A hint of tears in her eyes.

“Nothing left but the air we breathe,”

A bright flash. A sound like thunder. A fading scenery. The sky was the wrong shade of green.

“Falling angels and make believe…”

Her voice a faint whisper to his ears, and then Kyle forgot about the world.

Chapter 1 – Make Believe

Something was loud. The first thought that came to Kyle’s mind was he wanted it to go away. He leaned over in his bed to give the alarm a whack, hitting the sleep button on the third try. Six minutes later something was beeping again. A few more whacks, a few more minutes, a futile attempt to delay the inevitable. Groggily, Kyle lifted himself out of the wrinkled covers and turned it off.

He stared for a moment at the reflection in the mirror. Messy brown hair, tossed like a salad, and something that looked half awake and half dead stared back. What time was it? Looking back at the alarm clock, it read, in bright red digits: 8:41.

Still half asleep, it took all of three seconds for Kyle to register this fact. He was out the door approximately seven chaotically rushed minutes later.

Bicycling at top speeds is sometimes considered dangerous when obstacles such as fences, small dogs, and cement trucks are taken into consideration. Disregarding such things had become a Kyle trademark, and he arrived at school approximately 20 minutes late, which was another Kyle trademark.

He spent most of class staring out the window daydreaming about clouds and girls with green plaid skirts acting crazy. Were green plaid skirts part of a school uniform? Aren’t yellow scarves for winter? He wondered what she looked like underneath that red coat. A boring class forgotten in the intensity of such important contemplations. Kyle’s Imagination: 1, The Education System: 0.

He was still immersed in the celebratory mood of having successfully outsmarted himself, when it happened. She passed him as he meandered towards the cafeteria. She was wearing a white blouse under a blue t-shirt and grey plaid skirt. There was a red hair band, her brunette hair up in a ponytail with streaks of blond, loose wisps of hair falling over her face and blue eyes, framed by silvery glasses. She ignored him completely as she walked down the hallway and turned a corner, out of sight.

No one Kyle talked to could remember there being a transfer student or anything. He wondered if he was seeing things. He wondered how he’d ever get his English assignment done.

After classes he headed over to one of the gyms, where the Sword Club was meeting. The first rule of Sword Club was that you didn’t talk about Sword Club, though no one ever followed the rules. Founded shortly after the Fencing Team challenged the Kendo Club to a sparring match, only to find their systems too different to compare, the Sword Club sought to teach practical usage of the sword. In practice it was an excuse to wail on people with padded and bamboo swords. After suffering a rather severe blow to his head and his ego, Kyle decided it was time to depart.

The schoolyard had an eerie feel to it in the orange glow of the evening sun. The fall colours of the trees seemed to blend into the sky with a surreal sense of chaotic beauty. Momentary reflections aside, his bicycle was missing. Had he forgotten to lock it up as he was rushing to class? Stupid, stupid, stupid. Kyle started walking down the cement sidewalk, its cracks and dents making funny zigzags in his path. A gust of wind made him huddle in his brown jacket, hands in its pockets.

“Forgotten dreams and burning fireflies.”

A familiar voice, quiet and distant.

“Echoes of past and future.”

A faint, whimsical melody coming from somewhere to his left.

“Somewhere in the sky.”

The old city park. Kyle turned and walked towards the lyrical whispers, entranced.

“The stars are sailing by.”

A swing set. Swinging emptiness. All around, the trees swayed and sighed.

“And I’m waiting for you to fall.”

Through the trees, a long forgotten path, overgrown with weeds. A broken chain-link fence at the edge of the woods, standing like a hunched over sentry, a large opening beneath its arms.

“Fly and save me from this world.”

A girl in a red jacket, a yellow scarf, a grey plaid skirt. Her hair looked blond in the sunset. She threw off the hair band. Opened her arms. Train tracks.

“Take me away.”

An ominous whistle. The sound of the unfeeling machine. A metal giant at the edge of vision. A girl embracing the darkness.

“No! Wait!” yelled Kyle as started to run. A yell drowned by the screams of steel storming forward, an enormous mountain of darkness peaked with a single blinding eye of light.

“And… when… when the dreams go… d-dark…”

Kyle ran into oblivion.

Chapter 1.5 – Dueling Shadows

A gust of wind sent her hair, silvery in the moonlight, fluttering about as she stood atop the roof of the densely packed school complex. All around her traces of blue light flickered like dancing flames, illuminating a faded grey uniform with a grey skirt, the insignia of an hourglass inside the circle of a clock face on her shoulder. The buildings seemed to have lost all colour, leaves falling from the trees floated in mid-air, as if frozen in greyscale.

“Do you truly understand the consequences of your actions?” the stern voice of man in the shadows behind her. A figure stood in a black trench coat, wearing sunglasses that emanated a faint green glow, and holding a dark metallic cane. Tentacles of white hair snaked from a wide brimmed black hat.

“I know as well as anyone,” she said dismissively, turning from schoolyard to face the shadow.

“Then you’ll understand I cannot allow you to continue,” an almost threatening air of authority in his voice.

“Hmm, you think you can stop me Crosman?” she smirked defiantly.

“I taught you everything you know. Unlike you, I know which is true and which is insurance…”

Green light flickered through the dark figure’s hands. An arc of greenish white lightning flew towards the girl, the light revealing her blond hair whirling as she spread her arms in front of her, and the lightning seemed to deflect off a spherical barrier, faintly blue energy tracing lines as her fingers moved.

Suddenly she took one step and leaped ten feet into the air, just as green lines traced the rooftop beneath her, etching sharp angled almost circuit-like patterns. Where the roof had been spikes of cement shot forth, as though the very structure of the building had been reshaped. A graceful back flip and she landed cleanly in the yard below.

The man held out the cane in his right hand and green light surrounded it, becoming almost fluid as it took the shape. The light dissipated to reveal a strange metallic rifle. He pointed it below and blasts of intense fire shot forth. They deflected harmlessly around her, but as she focused on shielding herself, the man seemed to blink out of view and reappear directly behind her, a long curved blade cutting towards her exposed neck.

She dodged, the blade inches away from her skin. He slashed again, but his advantage was lost, and she pushed him back with an expanding bluish bubble of light. Then he was gone again. She scanned her surroundings, uncertain. A flash above her, she rolled to the side just as bullets struck the ground she had been standing on moments before. The tracers followed her as she got up and ran for the cover of the trees.

“You still have much to learn of the power of the AEGIS,” said a voice behind her. The trees in front of her seemed to come to life, stretching their branches out like arms, enclosing her in a shell of thorns and sticks. She tried to form a blade of her own to cut away the foliage, but roots and branches twisted and wrapped around her arms and legs.

He stood in front of her trapped form, holding the blade high above his head. As he swung down, she closed her eyes, imaging the rock beneath his feet suddenly surging upward to form a spike of solid rock. She opened her eyes. Blood ran down a solid stalagmite of rock, the man facing her impaled, unmoving. She fell to the ground as the trees returned to their normal state. The lifeless body began to evaporate as a brilliant greenish light enveloped it. She walked swiftly to scoop up the fallen wide brimmed hat. She held it, mesmerized as it began to vanish in a greenish hue. Soon there stood only the stalagmite. For a while she just sat there, holding her legs against her body shivering, holding back tears. Eventually, she looked around at the craters and scorched buildings.

“Restore,” she said, holding out a glowing blue pocket watch, seemingly made of a strange fusion of metal and crystal, its hands turning rapidly in circles, alive with motion. The rock descended back into the ground, the cracks in the ground melded back together, and the scorch marks seemed to vaporize from the surroundings.

“Close,” she said, holding the pocket watch out in front of her. All around what was grey was suddenly colour. The hands of the pocket watch clanked to a stop, the bluish glow dissipating to a solid silver. A single hand on the watch began to move, sluggishly compared to earlier. She was wearing a red jacket, her hair tied back in a ponytail. The leaves fell to the ground.

Chapter 2 – Dreamscape

“Somewhere the sky is falling.”

Kyle could hear that girl’s voice again, singing in an almost melancholy tone.

“And the world that ceases to exist.”

Everything was hazy. It seemed like he could barely see, barely move, barely breathe.

“Lasts another day.”

The sky was a bright, overwhelmingly golden red.

“And the show must go on.”

Where was he?

“So fade away today.”

Atop a cliff, overlooking a strange sight. A massive tree as tall as the sky, grew out of an endless ocean of clear blue water. Surrounding it were spikes of rock protruding from the surface of the water, their tops flat like glass. Turning around, he realized the cliff was one of these spikes, surrounded by crashing waves of blueness.

“We’ll meet again another day.”

As he turned he felt two hands on his back shove him forward. Losing his balance he fell off his perch. The water, a strange almost sky blue, rushed towards him like a train. As he fell he spun back so that he could see the spike he’d fallen from. A little girl in a red jacket, blond hair and yellow scarf scattering about in the wind. The sound of a child’s laughter.

A whooshing sound as he fell into the water. Unable to swim, he felt himself being pulled downwards. It was getting darker. He couldn’t breathe. Everything faded away.

He opened his eyes. Stars everywhere. He realized he was lying on his back. For a moment he wondered if he was still alive. His legs hurt. He sat up on the grass. Around him, the moonlit park with it’s rusted swings. He stood up, wandered around in the twilight. The train tracks lay empty, the woods deserted.

Back home he closed the door quietly, crept up the creaking stairs. As he lay on his bed in his room, the moonlight sifting through the blinds and casting shadows that moved silently about, Kyle wondered if he was going crazy.

Chapter 3 – Snow

It was snowing when Kyle saw her again. She was sitting at a bench in front of the park, by the sidewalk, waiting. A red winter coat, yellow scarf, green plaid skirt, black boots. She looked almost exactly like in the dream. She hummed a strange tune. The same melody that he always heard.

“It’s too cold to sing,” she said as he walked by the bench. “Bad for the vocal chords.”

“Ah,” he said, unsure.

“Why?” she asked.

“Why what?” he replied.

“Why’d you stop me?” she asked.

“Why not?” he replied, sitting down beside her.

“You don’t even know me,” she said.

“I don’t know you,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t care.”

“Are you sure you don’t just want to sleep with me?” she replied. “Just like most guys-”

“Uh…uh –no! I mean! You’re beautiful! But I’m not that kind of guy! I mean-”

The girl laughed. “I know you have. That day in class. The first day you saw me.”

“Wha- how’d you?!”

“Ha! I knew it!”

“This doesn’t make any sense!”

“Hee! You told me!”

“What? I haven’t talked to you before!”

“Oh right…”

“You are weird. Aren’t you worried about strangers sitting down next to you?”

“You’re not a stranger.”

“Oh? What’s my name?”

“I dunno yet.”

“It’s Kyle. Kyle O’Brian”

“Grace… Lynn.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you again.”

“Why do you sing?”

“It reminds me of home.”

“Where’s that?”

“You’ve never been there.”

“I see.”

“Please, don’t try to protect me again.”

“Wh- Why?”

“Just don’t.”

“I can’t just stand by and let you hurt yourself.”

“You don’t understand!”

“Then tell me.”

“It’s too late for that now. I have to go.”

“Wait, what?”

“Bye Kyle.”

And with that she stood up and turned to walk down the sidewalk.

“Grace! Whatever is going on in your life, there’s no good reason to kill yourself!”

“Who said anything about that?”

“I thought…”

“It’s too late for that now.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You don’t understand.” With that she walked away.

Kyle wondered whether he should follow. He suddenly felt very tired. For what seemed like hours, he watched the snow make tiny hills atop the ground. He wondered what it all meant. Eventually, he got up, the snowflakes all around him like tiny stars falling from the sky, and walked home.

Chapter 4 – Madness

“Hmm, well I’ve checked it again. We don’t have anyone named Grace Lynn here,” said the secretary. Everyone in the school had said the exact same thing.

“You’re sure,” said Kyle.

“Positive,” replied the nonchalant secretary.

Kyle left the office in a huff. This was getting frustrating. As he walked down the hallway a girl with long black hair in a white t-shirt and blue jeans turned towards him.

“You’re looking for Grace?” said Sarah, a girl Kyle had known since kindergarten.

“Yeah, I thought I saw her the other day…” replied Kyle.

Sarah glared at him for a moment, but softened when she realized he was being sincere.

“You should check out CGH,” replied Sarah tentatively.

“The hospital? Is she alright? Did something happen?”

“You really don’t remember?”

“Remember what?”

“…I have to go,” said Sarah as she started walking away, her face masked by long strands of her night black hair.

“Wait…” Kyle started to say, but she was gone.

---

The hospital was a massive grey granite rectangular blob that cast a shadow on the bus as it pulled up to the stop. It seemed surprisingly desolate in the cloudy overcast daylight. Kyle walked through the sliding doors and up to the receptionist’s desk.

“Hello I’m looking for a Grace Lynn,” he said tentatively, after waiting to no avail for the nurse to look up at take notice.

The nurse typed something on the computer, then turned to a stack of papers and rummaged through them for a moment.

“You’re a relative?” she asked, not looking up.

“Uh, a friend,” replied Kyle.

“Hmm? Alright, well she hasn’t had any visitors in a while. She’s in long term care wing, room 417.”

“Thank you.”

After spending a few minutes wondering about trying to find the right wing, Kyle stood in front of a door. He knocked a few times, waiting for a familiar voice. Hesitantly he turned the knob and stepped inside. Sunlight from an open window momentarily splashed the room in brightness.

The chart at the foot of the hospital bed read, “Grace Lynn”. Beneath a mountain of wires and tubes, the partial figure of a human form, missing several pieces. Breathing up and down. Long, uncut blond hair flowing from the sides of a face obscured by a clear plastic mask.

He remembered. Seven years ago…

Chapter 5 – Nostalgia

A little boy with tussled brown hair in a blue jacket and jeans, chasing a little girl with long flowing blond hair, a red jacket and yellow scarf.

“You’ll never catch me!” she laughed as she ran through the park.

“Just you wait- ow!” he shouted as he tripped and fell face first into the sandy gravel.

She sang as she ran.

“Angels fly high in the sky.”

Her arms outstretched like wings.

“Too high to catch by silly Ky.”

“Ow, I think I scrapped my knee,” he said.

“Are you ok?” she asked, turning back, arms still outstretched.

“Hah! You’re it!” he said as he sprinted back up and lunged towards her.

“Missed me!” she shouted as she scampered away, giggling, running into the woods. He ran for a bit then stopped, clutching his knees, out of breath.

The fence was broken, the fence that should have prevented her from even reaching the train tracks.

“Ah! Oof!” sounds of a little girl falling between rusted steel rails. She laughed, tried to get up, fell down again. Still laughing, though more out of confusion than anything else. Her small foot seemed stuck in between the grooves of the rail.

“I’m stuck,” she whispered matter-of-factly. She realized she was talking to no one.

In the distance a loud low whistle. She started to panic, twisting and turning, but she couldn’t move. It hurt to move. The unstoppable metallic monster. She screamed so loud it made his ears hurt. He ran, saw her crouched there, screaming, crying, closing her eyes. At her side now. Pulled, but she only screamed louder, pain from the twisting. A brilliant sweeping luminescence, surrounded by a massive metallic darkness. Screeching metal. Too late. The fear, him running away, turning to see… Unable to stop crying… Red skies and burning eyes. Snowflakes falling like tears. Just wanting to make it never happened…

Chapter 6 – Angel’s Curse

“It’s a funny feeling, seeing yourself at the edge of existence,” came a familiar voice as Kyle exited the room.

Kyle whirred around to see Grace sitting in a chair.

“How…”

“The first successful mind transfer into an artificial genetically replicated body was made in 2056, and tested on coma patients on life support.

“Right.”

“I’ve waited forever just to come back and live my life again.”

“So…”

“I’m not really here. Well ok I sorta am, but I’m not the same Grace as the one lying in there.”

“But then what are you? A ghost?”

She sighed, realizing his confusion. “Say you had a second chance? Say you were given a young new body. Say they made a discovery that allowed certain people, those whose consciousness existed back then, to go back in time? Wouldn’t you take that chance, even if it meant you had to do certain things for people you didn’t want to?”

“What do you mean…”

“You heard about the murder of Eric Kensington? Dr. Rosh? Senator Kelly?”

“I haven’t been reading the news… but no I haven’t.”

“…I suppose they haven’t technically happened yet.”

“What?”

“I’m sorry Kyle, it was the only way I could come here. It was wonderful to see you again.”

She turned and entered the room. Kyle followed.

“They say time travel is like going the wrong way on a one way street. I’ve always wanted to know what happens, if you go back in time and kill yourself, what happens?”

She pulled a pistol from her pocket, pointed it at the lying figure.

“No! This isn’t right!” Kyle pushed himself between the two Graces.

“Do you have any idea what I’ve done? Do you know what feels like to not really exist?”

“I don’t care, you’re here now.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better? I killed people. I did this just to see everyone again, but they didn’t even recognize me. Except you. And you didn’t even really remember. I didn’t want those people to die. But see if I didn’t do it, they’d send others to do it… I- I don’t want to live this way, on the lives of others.”

“We can find a way out.”

“There’s no way out, they know everything I’ve done, they’ll send someone else to get you and everyone here. I can’t. I don’t want that.”

“If you’re gonna end up killing me, kill me now,” Kyle grabbed hold of the barrel, pointed at his chest.

“Please… don’t make this harder than…” She dropped the weapon as he embraced her.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Would you have believed a strange girl if she said she was a time traveler?”

“I dunno, I like to think I’m open minded.”

“Then would you believe me if I said I’ve already done something terrible… something wonderful…”

“The killings?”

“No… I knew when you’d die. The reason I came back now, it was to try and keep it from happening.”

“How’d I die?”

“Bicycle accident. You need to stop ignoring trucks.”

“So you’re the one who stole my bike.”

“That’s a good idea actually.”

“What?”

“Never mind. I don’t know how much longer I can avoid them. The others from the future. I already had to kill one… They told me if I messed with the timeline, they’d correct it.”

“Heh, I guess I’m a dead man then.”

“No… but I don’t know what to do. They say time travel makes you go crazy.”

“There’s nothing wrong with crazy, it makes you more interesting than most people in the world.”

“That’s not what I mean,” she said clasping his hands.

A sudden, momentary flash blinded Kyle. When he recovered, he rubbed his eyes, the whole world seeming as though all the colour had been drained, leaving only infinite shades of grey.

“What was that?”

“They’re here,” said Grace as she quickly pulled a strange metallic and crystalline pocket watch from her jacket.

“What is that?” he said, looking at the strange device.

“Global Environment Manipulator… a GEM. It’s the core of the AEGIS, the power that allows us to kill people without anyone noticing. Makes localized reality fields.”

“Right.”

She closed her eyes, pressed a small button on the watch. The watch began to glow an intense blue, hands coming alive with motion. Floating luminescent lines and shapes sprouted all around her. Some sort of holographic projection? He stared, mesmerized at the pretty lights.

“Sequence dreamscape.” she whispered as the lights surrounding her changed colour and tiny symbols began streaming down like water drops in a water fall.

“Heh, so the little mischief maker has brought her pet primitive,” a low booming voice from all around.

“Establishing sequence control,” said Grace, ignoring the threat, her hands running through the shapes as though playing a three dimensional keyboard.

Kyle looked around for something, anything he could use as a weapon.

“He’s placed it over the whole hospital compound, we need to get out of here.”

“I hear that,” said Kyle as he fumbled with a fire extinguisher.

The wall behind him exploded.

---

Before Grace could react he sprinted into her so hard he tackled her off the tracks. They collapsed in a heap as the train came barreling past. She realized she was lying on top of him, his head having hit the rocks with a thud. A trickle of blood came along the side of his forehead. She shouted words at him, but they were drowned out by the sound of rolling train.

After the train had passed, she pulled the pocket watch from her jacket. Her hands glowed bluish white as he held the unconscious boy’s head. The blood stopped flowing.

---

Kyle was momentarily deafened by the force of the explosion. A faint blue glow around him marked a perimeter between the clean tiled floor and debris. Some sort of force shield? Where the wall had been, a huge hulking form of a bald man in dark plated armour. In one hand, what could only be described as a hand cannon. The other hand brandished a sharp, jagged metal sword. Half of his grinning face was covered in metal, with a camera-like lens where an eye should have been. Crimson fire and electricity crackled around him.

Grace pointed her gun at the figure and fired. The shots pinged off the armor of the man.

“Ho ho ha! The little girl is protecting her pet primitive,” bellowed the man.

“I don’t have time for this, Ziegfried.”

Grace held her palm out towards the window, which promptly shattered as though struck by a shockwave. With her other hand she grabbed Kyle’s arm and pulled him towards the opening.

“Hey wait a—,”

She dived out the window, they both fell head first toward the grey cement. Lines of blue light traced the air around her, and clear, translucent bluish white wings, unfolded from her back. The wings slowed their descent like a parachute, until his feet touched the surface and he let go. She touched down gracefully, and the wings dispersed in an explosion of feathers that melted into the air.

She’d barely regained her composure when two shots rang out from above. Instinctively, she crossed her hands over her chest and explosions enveloped an area around her, a dome of untouched air surrounding her and Kyle.

“Find cover,” she said as she sprinted across the courtyard and jumped onto the roof of a small building. Blue light arced around her as she dodged explosion after explosion. Ziegfried jumped from the opening and smashed feet first into the ground below. He raised the sword above him, and over a dozen massive metallic shards flew from somewhere above him like arrows towards her. In one hand now, what seemed like a cross between a crossbow and a rifle. Skidding to a stop she aimed and fired repeatedly, each shot causing a shard to explode. At the last second she leaped out of the way as the remaining shards buried themselves into the ground.

At that moment he came at her with both hands wielding the sword, slicing the ground and carving up the walls of the buildings as she danced away, avoiding every swing with impossible speed and grace. Each slice came closer, and every dodge was becoming a little slower with each passing second.

At that moment, Kyle ran out from one of the buildings wielding a large metal rod. He struck Ziegfried clean in the back of the head. Ziegfried continued to swing at Grace with one hand as he grabbed around for the rod with his other hand. Before Kyle had any idea what had happened Ziegfried threw the rod, and Kyle with it, from behind his back directly at Grace. She sidestepped the rod and Kyle as he landed with a thud, the rod clanging and rolling away.

“Ha, the little primitive human wants to fight!” said Ziegfried, chortling.

Grace had an idea. She closed eyes and an explosion of light blinded Ziegfried. Kyle couldn’t see, but he felt Grace touch his shoulder.

“Why don’t I give a little gift?” she said.

He felt heat all around his body as though his whole being was being electrified. Though the world around him was nothing but the whiteness of an untouched sheet of paper, he could now see himself. Kyle realized he was covered in dull silvery blue armour. He heard whispers in his ear.

“This power suit is temporary but should last just long enough. Use your imagination to make weapons and defend. Distract him.”

He needed a weapon. If only he had a sword, like the ones he practice with at the Sword Club, except real and deadly. He imagined a katana-style blade, but longer and lighter. Blue light liquefied around his hands. An elongated shape took form, the sword, exactly as he imagined.

“Good enough.”

The blankness around him dissipated to reveal Ziegfried, sword held high and charging at Grace who stood with eyes closed, immersed in some strange preparation. His steps leaving small craters in the pavement, Ziegfried was almost on her, and she seemed almost unaware. Kyle stepped in front of Grace and blocked Ziegfried’s swing. The swords rang loudly as Kyle and Ziegfried traded parries and strikes. The world seemed to shake with each of Ziegfried’s swings, but Kyle saw each strike coming and parried reflexively, deflecting the brunt of the energy as their swords slid across each other, sparks flying. Kyle twisted sideways as he sidestepped another attack, and with a quick shift in weight attempted to cut from behind. The sword sliced along the armour, leaving a gash in Ziegfried’s back.

“Bloodly little pest!” yelled Ziegfried in anger. An explosion of reddish energy surging around the giant of a man sent Kyle spiraling away.

“Ziegfried! Hurry up!” shouted a high pitched female voice from up high.

“My lady, these moments cannot be rushed. They must be relished!” he shouted as he charged towards Kyle.

“This bores me Ziegfried, take me sometime important!”

In spite of the large armored man bearing down on him, Kyle couldn’t help but peer up to see a small child in a long black dress, with white lace, and long strands of strikingly white hair. She stood on the highest rooftop, watching with what seemed like casual disinterest.

“My lady, we must first avenge your father.” Ziegfried said slashing at Kyle. Kyle blocked with both hands, desperate.

“My half-father, only a quarter progenitor, pssh.” The little girl said, her arms folding.

“Lady Salicia Crosman, what a pleasure to meet you at last,” said Grace as she opened her eyes. Storm clouds amassed overhead.

Ziegfried turned. “And I’d thought you’d fainted from fear of m—AUGH!”

A single, all-encompassing flash of light blinded Kyle’s vision, followed approximately 500 milliseconds later by the loudest thunder clap he had ever wished he covered his ears not to hear. He stumbled about, for a second, seeing only white, and hearing only silence. Then gradually the world returned into focus. Where a hulking armoured figure once stood instead a crater of ash and melted steel now stared at Kyle.

“Y-YOU KILLED MY CHAMPION!” screamed a clearly annoyed scary little gothic girl. Her hands traced violet lines of light as she raised them from her sides.

“Heh, you have a strange taste in champions my lady,” replied Grace.

“Please die!” said Salicia as the world seemed to erupt with violet darkness. All around, shadows seemed to twist and turn, growing larger and more menacing. They moved with intelligence.

The voice of Grace whispered in Kyle’s ear. “Don’t let looks deceive you, a child’s imagination is far more dangerous with an AEGIS than the strongest enhanced soldier.” He wished he understood what half that meant. He took a step forward, and found that his feet were moving through what seemed like molasses.

“Hold still while I unmake you,” whispered Salicia’s voice through the reverberations of the wind. At that moment a million stars of darkness fell from the sky.

What was the strongest substance in the world? Steel? No titanium? No diamond! Kyle imagined being surrounded by a dome of solid diamond. Bluish light traced around him an interweaving lattice. A brief flicker and he could see through a crystal dome, cutting the world surrounding in a hundred images like connected shards of a mirror to the outside. Like a hail of arrows the shadowy violet bolts thudded against his new shell.

Grace danced through the maze of darkness on wings of light. She waved her hand and about a hundred shards of ice materialized in mid air streaking towards Salicia. She seemed to fade into an ethereal shadowiness as the shards passed through her harmlessly, impaling the cement she stood on, as she yawned disapprovingly and skipped to the next rooftop.

A hundred tentacles of darkness shot through the air towards Grace as she landed on the opposite rooftop and tried to leap away. A web of darkness weaved around her until she was trapped. Desperately she tried to image what light had looked like. The strands pulled her down. She spiraled towards the ground below, pulled by invisible strings.

Kyle cut and slashed at the shades around him with a blade of light. Though they seemed to exist of their own free will, they also seemed to shy away from the brightness, which meant he could keep them back with every slash into the dark yielding substance of their existence. The strands of darkness had almost completely enmeshed the world around them.

He saw the little girl point towards Grace, and realizing he had to act, he cut himself free and threw his whole being into being between them as the point where she pointed exploded in a fiery burst.

“No!” yelled Grace.

The armour that encased Kyle seemed to wink out of exist. Salicia smiled.

He had less than a second to feel simultaneously good about himself for at least temporarily saving the girl and confused and then terrified as the dark things around him grew mouths and claws and devoured him. He felt himself blurring, like being torn apart while drowning. He realized he’d never finish that English assignment, and that it really never mattered to begin with. He remembered a million things he could of done differently, a million things that would never happen now. He tried to focus, just to recollect the face of Grace, his last thoughts would be…

“N… no…” Grace struggled to free herself from the webs of darkness. Struggled to think of something. She grasped at anything she could remember that had the power to break the limitless depths of the imaginary. She closed her eyes and the world lit up.

Chapter 7 – Paradoxes

Lights danced around the hospital.

Like a thousand fireflies.

Or a thousand fires in a city of ruins, with no one to put them out.

“I’ve always wanted to know what happens, if you go back in time and kill yourself, what happens?”

She pulled the pistol from her pocket, pointed it at the motionless body. A shot rang out. The monitors flat-lined. A shaking hand dropped the gun to the ground as she sank to the floor.

“I don’t get it,” she said to no one in particular. She turned to face the door, opened the pocket watch. The world around her moved, night to day and day to night. She turned around and saw the motionless, slightly breathing body, the steady beeps of the monitors piercing the silence. She looked out the window at the quiet, untainted cityscape.

---

Snow fell all around the girl in the red coat, her yellow scarf swishing back and forth. The swing set creaked as she sat there. She sang softly, so soft that only a dreamer could her. She walked through the familiar woods, through the hole in the fence that should have been fixed years ago.

She walked to the train tracks, collapsed on the harsh steel.

She lay there, waiting for the end of eternity.

---

A boy lay in his bed at home, and heard the whistle of a train through the window. For no good reason, he shivered, then fell asleep and dreamt of a forgotten girl singing a forgotten song.

“And when the dreams go dark.”

Somewhere in the distance, a soft female voice sang sweetly, a pleasant sound like wind blowing through the grass. He watched the faint flicker of lights, streetlamps bathing the sidewalk in a calm greyish tint. His footsteps clunked against the pavement like a slow beating drum.

“You’re the only thing I remember.”

It was a lonely evening. It was a lonely voice singing a lonely song.

“Like tomorrow’s never going to come.”

All around, the twilight hues of evening cast shadows through the trees. Trees that stood silently attendant, witness to every moment of history. The wind rustled the leaves as if they were chimes.

“Cause today is your lucky day.”

A breeze rushed through the leaves again, lifting the flickering scarf. In front of him, a girl he’d never seen before. Long blond hair falling into deep blue haunting eyes. Soft pale skin under a red winter coat with a yellow scarf swinging in the wind. A green plaid skirt swishing silently in the wind. He felt a tinge of recognition.

“Your last day before the end of the beginning.”

A strange song, being sung by a strange girl on a strange evening on a strange street.

“Falling from the sky.”

She was standing in his way. Snowflakes drifted between them.

“Trying desperately to fly.”

He stopped walking. The sky was turning a hue of dark red and bright magenta and a million shades in between.

“Please don’t, don’t die.”

Her hand moved elegantly, pointing something black and long at him. A hint of tears in her eyes.

“Nothing left but the air we breathe,”

A bright flash. A sound like thunder. A fading scenery. The sky was the wrong shade of green.

“Falling angels and make believe…”

Her voice a faint whisper to his ears, and then he forgot about the world.

Page last modified on January 20, 2018, at 05:21 AM
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