Adrian Dakota

An aspiring writer's writings and pieces.

Hi there! I’m still undergoing the process of moving from another blog service to here, meaning that most of the links provided on this blog are still defunct and need updating. It’s great to have you here, but I’m afraid that I still need to go through and update the post links so they don’t go into the depths of space!

I’m one person updating 99 posts, and it’s a really tiring job. :(.

Great to see you, and do enjoy your time here!

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Letters

I remember the day when they told us we were conscripted. He clasped my hand tightly and told me to write to him, murmuring his address as we left. I spent the next couple of hours on the military vehicle committing the address to memory, refusing to let go of the final strand that connected me with civilian humanity.

At first, we wrote to each other eagerly. Through the military and civilian post systems, we’d get a daily letter from each other. I would sit anxiously on my own civilian-issue bed, reading and rereading every single bit of paper, and treasuring the handwritten ink that scribed the words I so loved. Some of the older letters got torn and worn at the edges, but I kept a special box underneath my bed, each time waiting anxiously for a new envelope that would tell me he was okay.

As time passed, the letters slowed. I started to concentrate on my work, and then the letters slowed, so it was no more than once every two days, then three, then a week, then a fortnight. I knew this was a bad sign – for I would not notice for a month if he had left me forever – but he sounded so exhausted in his letters, I dared not press him to write more.

Finally, half a year passed, and it was a full month between one letter and the last. It was short, the handwriting stretched, with patches of ink, as if he had scribbled it in a hurry. I read the words slowly and carefully, afraid that I would misunderstand his urgent meaning. He did not say much about it, but only wrote that he was sent on an emergency military dispatch and that it was unlikely he could write in a while. I wrote back quickly, hoping I might catch him before he departed, but there was no reply.

Time went on. When a month passed and it became clear that his letter was not arriving, if it had even been written, I lapsed into a period of depression. My work, my experiments, all of it, I just stopped. I couldn’t bring myself to read my own notes. It was all too far, too foreign, too meaningless. I simply couldn’t see the point anymore.

I was pressured to continue, but soon it became clear to the military authorities that I was not going to work. Unable to force me without risking permanent mental damage, I believe the superiors did the one thing they were so good at: they lied.

They told me he was coming home, and the falsified news gave me hope. I renewed my energy in my experiments in anticipation for his return, believing that we should have good news for each other in the first time we’ve seen each other’s faces for over a year. All was going well, and I waited for his letter.

It didn’t come. I waited, and waited, and eventually finished my experiments and was rewarded with the rank of commander, something I didn’t even expect or want. I shredded off the responsibilities and simply waited for his correspondence. When it didn’t come, I was teetering on the verge of depression again.

I kept most of the innovation going to take my mind of him, but it didn’t work. So I left. One night, I simply packed my belongings, took careful care of the box of his letters, and departed.

I had barely made it through the corridor when I heard voices. Slinking into the shadows, I stood still, blending perfectly into the darkness. The voices were indistinct, but the tones clear enough; one was easily recognisable as my fellow commander that I had heard many times in the mess hall, but the other was faintly familiar, almost as if I heard it before, but not quite.

When I ran over to him, he smiled at me and passed me one final envelope. It had my old address on it, but no stamp, no military approval. He never managed to mail it, and held onto the letter in the belief he would see me again.

I ripped open the package and read the first few words.

Dear Raymond,

I love you.

He bent down and placed a soft kiss on my cheek.

Memory Capsule

“And that’s basically how we started dating,” she said, her eyes wet with desperation.

Kingsley remembered.

He remembered how long it had taken for him to con those words out of her. He was not proud of it; he could not be proud of having to coerce her into saying it. But he needed to know. He needed to know.

Kingsley swirled his foot through the cold seawater. Hell, he wanted to know.

“Kingsley? You okay?”

The voice broke through the thin sands of silence that Kingsley had erected, the only voice that was capable of breaking through. Kingsley did not respond. He did not need to look up to see who it was; the only person that could find him here was Sky.

The stupid, worthless, adorable thing that Kingsley had unwilling fallen in love with.

He heard Sky approach, scrambling unsteadily down the soft sands. “Kingsley?”

“Here.”

His voice was bland and emotionless, and it hurt Kingsley to even hear it. It hurt him how similar he sounded to the beginning. Before everything began, back when life was simpler but a lot less bright than it was now.

“Kingsley,” said Sky softly, repeating the name. “Kingsley, Kingsley, Kingsley. Kingsley.”

Kingsley simply dragged his foot through the water, watching the interesting formations in the moonlight. “Yes?”

“Why are you here?” asked Sky softly.

“Why can’t I be here, Sky?” retorted Kingsley.

“You’re only ever here when you’re sad or depressed. And you haven’t been here for over a year.”

“Yeah, I know,” said Kingsley, looking around through the darkness. He saw Sky’s thin, outlined figure, but let his fire-bright eyes gloss past them easily, taking in the night trees and evening sea breeze. “It’s changed.”

“I know. I watched it change.”

“Like how I watched you change, Sky?” said Kingsley harshly. He didn’t mean it, but the words tumbled out of his mouth. And he regretted it. He shouldn’t be mad at Sky, since it was Kingsley’s own fault that he had fallen for him. Not Sky’s.

Kingsley saw Sky’s face fall in the darkness. “You found out?”

“It wasn’t hard.”

“How much did she tell you?”

“Everything,” said Kingsley heavily.

He saw Sky raise his eyebrows. “Eventually,” added Kingsley.

Sky sat down on the edge of the water line and splashed the saltwater quietly. “I remember when you used to sit here,” he whispered. “All day. Just looking out toward the stars. And I remember how you told me how terrible it was that there was no one to see them.”

“Yeah, I did.” Kingsley turned his eyes to the horizon, and realised how terrible it was now. He could pick out the individual houses on the distant island, even count the trees lining the originally invisible shoreline. But the stars, the wonderful, bright lights on the dark canvas that Kingsley had memorised, were gone. Washed out by that glow.

“You can’t see them anymore, can you?” asked Sky.

“No. They’ve lost their glow to artificial human lighting.”

“Do you regret it?”

The answer came easily to Kingsley’s lips.

“No.”

“Really?”

“I’d willingly pay this price for the advantages it brings me,” said Kingsley. “Given that choice of enhanced night vision again and I’d still take it.”

“Why?”

“Because… I never really thought about it. Back then, everything was just so confusing, people were dying, fights were going on, and I simply wanted all the fighting to stop. All the suffering to end.”

“Or did you just do it for me?”

Kingsley looked at Sky sharply. Sky didn’t have night vision; he couldn’t possibly have seen Kingsley’s face, worked out Kingsley’s emotions…

“I realised you were in love with me a long time ago, Kingsley,” said Sky quietly.

A large silence fell between them. Kingsley could see it; a shimmering glass of awkwardness that Sky would not break. If Sky knew…

“Why?” growled Kingsley. “Why didn’t you say anything if you knew?”

“Because I didn’t want to see your reaction. I didn’t know how you were going to respond.”

“Respond to what?” demanded Kingsley. He began to feel the energy bubble inside him again; a bad sign, but he failed to find the self-control needed to stifle it. Why? Why did Sky betray him so? Why had Sky not said anything to him, and let Kingsley suffer through all that pain alone?

Unless…

“You were going to reject me, weren’t you?” said Kingsley emotionlessly. “You were going to outright reject me since you loved her instead.”

“I don’t love her, Kingsley,” said Sky defensively. “It’s just I feel inclined to date her more than I want to date you. You know, with you being a guy and all-”

“So it’s fear,” smashed Kingsley. “Simply fear of losing with your so-called friends. Since you know that they’re going to laugh at you and ridicule you and bully you once they find out that you were going out with another boy. Fine. Fine!”

Kingsley jumped up and ripped the small vial from its chain around his neck. Inside, the poison boiled away dangerously, reminding him of the potential effects — but Kingsley didn’t care about it anymore.

“Remember this?” demanded Kingsley, holding it up in front of Sky.

“Your memory capsule.” Sky’s face grew pale. “That holds your personal memories from the past two years -”

“I know,” said Kingsley. The grey liquid was bubbling in his stomach more than ever. “The past two years that I’ve been secretly going after you. And you know what? I don’t want to remember.”

He crushed the vial slowly and purposefully, feeling the silver of memories trail down his arm and dribble onto the ground, until it was washed away by a sudden wave.

“You’ve changed a lot, Kingsley,” said Sky sadly. “I didn’t know you would ever throw a rage like that.”

“Yeah?” said Kingsley venomously. “Or maybe it’s simply because you know nothing about me. Nothing.”

Kingsley turned away, feeling the tear-wetted sand curdle slowly under his feet.

“I regret ever calling you a friend, Sky.”

Lifesaving Embrace

The blood trickling from his finger told Kingsley everything he needed to know.

“Hell,” he swore, crossing the bland kitchen for the towels. “What where you doing?”

His eyes were hard from holding in signs of the pain. “Trying to cook,” he said softly.

“Why the hell would you do that?” snapped Kingsley, tearing large pads of the paper up into smaller sections. “You know how terrible you are with kitchens. And knives. And anything that could be a weapon.”

Kingsley set out the paper on the kitchen table and motioned. “Rex, sit.”

Rex sat. And Kingsley drew up a chair and settled next to him, dabbing at the wound.

“Please,” said Kingsley, hiding his eyes behind his long fringe of hair. “Don’t try again.”

When Rex spoke, his voice was filled with hurt. “I was trying to help, Kingsley. I feel so useless. I’m supposed to be older than you, and yet it’s you that worries about everything, both in this house and out. I feel so guilty… I feel like I’m leeching off you.”

Kingsley crunched the tissue into a tight ball, and took up one of the torn pieces. “So you can’t work out your place in this relationship, is that it?” he said.

“I just can’t work out why it is that you picked me. You must have terrible taste. You, Kingsley Corcoran, head of the Universal Peace Command Post, could have had anyone in this world, and probably several others. Why me?” said Rex softly.

“It had to be someone, hadn’t it?” laughed Kingsley playfully, carefully wrapping the paper around Rex’s finger.

“I suppose… Kingsley… why was it me? How am I contributing to this relationship?”

“How are you not?”

Rex laughed, but it was a cold laugh, with no emotion in it. “How am I contributing?” he said sadly. “You’re the Universal Peace officer. You’re the one that wakes up earlier in the morning to cook breakfast. You’re the one that goes out every morning and spend the day making big decisions that affect entire galaxies. Then you’re the one that comes home every evening and makes the most amazing suppers ever. And you’ve always got a lunchbox waiting for me, even on the busiest of times when you have civilisations to save. And what do I do? You care for me, but I… I can’t even do the simplest of things for you. I can’t even share the burdens with you.”

Kingsley knew what was wrong. Rex was blaming himself, blaming himself for all the troubles Kingsley was going through. Kingsley didn’t want him to know the truth, since he knew that it would only cause the other boy distress. No wonder Rex was in the kitchen, trying to cook. He saw himself lacking a place in this relationship, realised Kingsley, and he was trying to change it.

“Rex…” began Kingsley, letting the name slide on his lips. The same way he’d said it for the past two months. Since even before the Starway Wars.

Rex shook his head dismissively. “Kingsley, I can’t work out the ways in our relationship. I keep feeling as if I’m taking advantage of you. You’re too nice. You’re too good. You’re too pure, you know what I mean?”

“I’m not pure,” said Kingsley. “You know it. I can’t even count the number of individuals I’ve killed to date. All in the name of justice.”

“You know it was necessary,” said Rex. “And I know how much it kills you. That’s why… I think you deserve much better than me. I don’t even know how to comfort you when it’s too much for you to bear.”

Kingsley tied off the makeshift bandage with a small knot, and looked up into Rex’s brown eyes. The same, deep, dark velvety eyes that he had fallen in love with. The same eyes that took him out of the darkness of his emotions. The same eyes that protected him from the dark spears of guilt.

“Rex, it’s never been too much for me to bear,” said Kingsley evenly.

“It will be,” said Rex. “And then I won’t know how to handle it. And I’m scared… I’m scared I’ll hurt you more. And then I’d feel the guilt, I’d feel the guilt that I couldn’t help you, and I’d just have to stand there watching your own guilt eat you up, helpless, unable to even do the tiniest thing to help you out of your misery.”

Kingsley got it now. He leaned forward and rested his head against Rex’s chest, hearing the heart beat rapidly inside.

Badump. Badump. Badump.

“You don’t know it,” whispered Kingsley, “but you help me every single day.”

Kingsley heard Rex take a sharp breath.

“It does hurt,” continued Kingsley. “I felt the guilt prickle on my heart, more than once. I was about to succumb, about to go insane. But then that was the day you confronted me and demanded to know what was making me act so weird, as you put it.”

Kingsley closed his eyes.

“I remember your face,” he said. “You were so… so concerned at that point. And I was so weak at that point. Emotionally. I knew I was on the verge of being unfit to command. The papers were already on my desk when you came up to me.”

Rex didn’t say anything, but Kingsley heard his pulse quicken.

Badump badump. Badump badump.

“I thought you knew after I spilled everything to you,” pressed Kingsley. “I thought you knew that the way you helped was by protecting me.”

“I don’t protect you-”

“You do,” said Kingsley. “You don’t protect me physically, but you protected me from the harsh knives of my own emotions. Something even I wasn’t able to do.”

Kingsley pulled back.

“Just promise me that you won’t touch knives again,” he said sternly.

“Fine,” said Rex.

Kingsley smiled as he let himself be drawn into one of Rex’s lifesaving embraces.

Fighting

Searing, white-hot pain erupted as the sharp-edged blade cut neatly through my skin.

“One,” he said, his face a supreme, set calm. It was the same calm I’ve seen before; the total control, the utmost rationality. It was the calmness of a war.

I breathed in deeply, clutching onto my right arm and trying to stench the bleeding. Blood was dripping onto the floor uncontrollably.

My palm tightened around the hilt of the sword.

Without warning, I lashed out with my arm, feeling the stretched his left temple. At the last second, I twisted my wrist. The blade whistled through the air.

Clang. Yellow sparks erupted from where our blades scratched. My blade quivered in the air and I flicked my wrist, the tip notching against his cheek.

Blood poured from the new cut.

“Two,” I said.

He didn’t say anything — just put on a face of grimace and attacked.

Stay calm. Don’t let the power get to your head — thrust, parry.

His supreme strength was beginning to set in — if I wanted to win this, I had to end it before I tired. And quickly.

Watch. Eyes flicker — finger twitch. Right swing.

Clang. Metal screeched against metal as I dragged my sword across the edge of his blade.

Blink. Direct engage.

I bent backwards as the tip of his sword came rushing up to my chest, and used this opportunity to swing my sword underneath, balancing my position. For one second, I was perfectly balanced; then.

Return to neutral. Clenched palms — there! Left!

The silvery metal came sailing up toward my head, and I ducked.

Loosed legs. Slight positioning — up!

I didn’t even bother to look — I simply collapsed flat on the ground as the metal came rushing across, and pushed myself right through his outstretched legs. Jumped up the other side, arms poised.

Let’s end this. Slight bite of the lips, so right thrust. Parry, sidestep.

His blade appeared on my left and I swung my sword, clanging the metals in the air. Methodically, I took a simple step to the left, then flipped my sword around the hilt of his and wrenched it easily out of his arm.

Twirl.

I spun and my blade rushed up to point at his throat.

“Dead,” I said confidently.

Ghosting

“Perhaps, if we’d actually cared about him, it might have turned out differently. But like all machines, we completely disregarded what he wanted and only cared about our own.”

He couldn’t believe it – it couldn’t be happening – but there it was. The inevitable truth.

Raymond couldn’t believe what he knew his eyes were telling him. He had heard it himself.

“The system’s now ghosting,” said Cody softly. “Soon Ivan’s internal programming will completely disintegrate. I’ll give you a few minutes.”

Raymond just stumbled, unsure, forward, standing next to Ivan’s side. Shouldn’t he be crying? Feeling sad over the fact that his friend was dying? But he wasn’t. Why? What was he feeling?

Ivan’s voice issued out of one of speakers. His body was dying, now.

“Hey, Raymond.”

Raymond choked on his own laugh of despair. Ivan never changed. Not across the years that Raymond had known him, and he still didn’t when his entire system began to ghost. Raymond had only begun to know what that term meant.

“Hey, Ivan,” he said, trying to inject a sense of optimism into his voice. “You’re ghosting, then?”

He hadn’t meant for it to be so blunt.

“Yeah,” said Ivan cheerfully. “Finally, after so long. How far am I?”

Cody poked Ivan and pointed at a screen. “Uh, about a quarter of the way in,” said Raymond truthfully. “Why?”

“Just wanted to know. So, what’s up?”

His vision clouded, and Raymond felt his face getting hot. Why? Why didn’t Ivan care? What was wrong with him?

“Raymond, you okay? You seem awfully quiet.”

“Ivan, seriously!” yelled Raymond. “You’re ghosting and you don’t even care about it?”

Static of surprise issued out of the speakers. When Ivan returned, his voice was warm and comforting.

“Hey, Raymond, it’s fine! I’d known it was coming along for ages. It’s not like I didn’t prepare for it. Why, you missing me already?”

Raymond looked down at the small, lifeless body lying down next to him. There were no instruments wired up to the body, nothing that the movies so loved to stick in whenever someone died. Then again, Ivan wouldn’t need them. Why would a software program need them?

“Maybe,” choked Raymond, half-laughing.

Ivan laughed. “It’s okay, Raymond. I’ll be back before you know it. Perhaps after a body change.”

Raymond cast a look at Cody, who seemed surprised.

“Ivan, you’ve prepared for a body change?” said Cody. “How?”

“Oh, hey, Cod! I’d wondered where you went. Yeah, it should be ready now. Weren’t you informed?”

“Cody was telling me how your program had disintegrated so much that it would be impossible to stick it in another interface system,” said Raymond. “Or something along those lines.”

“So he has been educating you well,” said Ivan interestedly. “I’d be interested in taking over after I get better.”

“When you do, Ivan,” said Raymond, a single tear rolling down his cheek. “When you do.”

“I love you too, Raymond.”

The Stars: Part Two, Life Star

Part One

I felt myself spiralling into his arms. I could have stopped it — I should have — but then, a split second later, he was there, and his arms surrounded me in a tight embrace.

“No, Raymond, I’m not letting you go,” he said firmly.

I struggled gently to try to get out of his hold. “Jace… stop…”

“Never.”

“Jace!”

A wave of dark energy overtook me — dark energy I had been trying to avoid for years. My muscles spasmed and my head jerked up involuntarily, my skull crashing straight into Jace’s jawbone. He let go immediately.

I moved away as quickly as I can, out of reach. Thick blood poured out of his mouth.

“Sorry,” I said, but there was no emotion in it. I couldn’t be compassionate. It wasn’t one of my emotive states. I just didn’t know how.

Jace wiped his mouth and stared at the blood idly. “It’s in your nature, isn’t it?”

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. How could I refute it when I was a Death Star myself? My existence brought nothing but destruction. I hated it. I hated the fact I was a Death Star. I didn’t want to be.

Why didn’t I get to choose? Father, why did you create me?

“I can’t believe you dared to hurt me,” said Jace. Was that malice in his voice? I couldn’t tell. Light malice was so much different from dark.

“I didn’t want to,” I said flatly. “I can’t help it.”

“Perhaps,” said Jace, hurt. More blood leaked out of the corner of his mouth. Angel blood. I had probably broken a couple of teeth. Jace would be fine, though. He’ll heal.

I turned away from him to get through the door.

Leave. Leave now, before you hurt him more. Before you —

“Wait.”

I stopped, and my eyes met his for the last time. “Yes, Jace?”

“I love you.”

I smiled. Or tried to. But there was no emotion in it, only pain. Because I knew that I couldn’t return the love. It would only be corrupting love, a love that would turn him away from the Light into the Dark. An unfortunate quality of darkness.

You can blacken the light, but never brighten the dark. Why… why do I love a Life Star? Why?

The door closed, hiding Jace from view. And I sighed.

I’ll never see you again, Jace. So I wish you the best. As much as a Death Star can bring. 

I felt a slight force dragging me into the sky. Where I belonged.

I’m sorry, Jace. I’m going to have to use you again.

I closed my eyes.

And this time, I’m probably going to kill you.

Immigration Day

Raymond looked at the long queue in front of him. Immigration Day. He could hardly believe it – he was here – but at long last, he had made it! He’d managed to survive through everything. He’d made it through the last year. And finally, finally, he was chosen.

It was worth it.

The group in front of him slowly thinned out, as immigrants filed through a set of double plastic doors at the end of the glass corridor. Raymond looked out and saw the destroyed cityscape beyond. He wouldn’t miss it. He would force himself not to. Read the rest of this entry »

The Stars: Part One, Death Star

“Raymond, I love you.”

Jace’s voice echoed in my ears. Again. And again.

No. No. It was impossible. It could not happen. A relationship between the two species was banned. Even though… even though I probably loved him, I couldn’t dare it. I wouldn’t dare it.

The consequences were too disasterous.

“Jace…” I said, wondering how I say phrase it all. “Jace… why now? Why do you tell me now?”

His black eyes disappeared behind thin eyelids for the briefest of moments. Then, when they opened again, I could see them brimming with determination.

He’s not going to back down.

“Because I only realised,” he said, his overgrown black hair tossed behind carelessly. “Only when you said you were leaving. I realised that I couldn’t survive without you.”

“You knew that I was going to leave sooner or later,” I said shortly. I tightened my hold on my bags and looked at his solemn face straight in the eye. “What made it different now that it’s actually happening?”

“I didn’t know. If I knew, I would have told you earlier.”

I laughed, and it was a high laugh, one genetically inherited from my father. I never liked to use it because of the effect it had. And when I opened my eyes again, vision blurry with tears, I could see Jace flinch. He was afraid of it. Just like anyone else would be.

Especially an agent of the light.

“Jace,” I said plainly, “you knew from the beginning who I was. You knew I was a Death Star.”

I saw him hesitate. His firm, outlined face looked crestfallen. And at that moment, I knew.

It’s time to leave. Because you don’t deserve him, Raymond. You don’t.

Perhaps. But I still wanted to.

“Raymond, I –”

“You can’t,” I said firmly and quietly. “You can’t.”

And, against every single cell in my body, I turned and walked past him for the door.

“Wait.”

A hand grabbed hold of my arm and pulled me back.

A/N: Expect Part Two soon! (But not so soon. I’ll be in Singapore and won’t be able to write for a while.)

Part Two

The Story of a Heartbeat

What would you do if you knew a secret that somebody else deserves to know? Then what would you do if you can’t tell them?

The door swung open, weightless on its hinges. I should have known. Weightless. It was impossible.

Tick. Tush. Whoosh.

The sound of a gunshot is unmistakeable. Especially to the trained ears of an active duty fourteen-year-old. Firstly, there’s the ever-slow motion click as the gunpowder is struck. Then there’s a rush of air as the gunpowder ignites, burning the surrounding oxygen in a nanosecond. Then the bullet is ejected out of the barrel and straight for its target. Deadly.

My natural instinct should have kicked in. I should have let my knees buckle and fall to the floor, the bullet passing harmlessly over my head. But instead, I didn’t. Because I knew that nobody would be shooting at me. And so, my body went into overdrive when my brain processed the images I was seeing.

The gun wasn’t pointed at me. It was pointed at him.

Out of some form of desperation born deep in my mind, I dug my feet into the carpet and threw myself forwards with all my might. It was futile. Useless. The bullet was travelling at over nine hundred feet per second. I had to cover a distance of eight yards in that time. I could never outrace it.

But then a small pressure around my heart told different. I felt the metal touch and pierce my chest, the bullet still hot from its rapid progression out of the barrel. I was shot.

It travelled a short distance into my body and stopped right next to my heart. I swear I could feel it beating. Badump. Badump. Badump.

But it wasn’t over. I continued moving, my momentum taking me across the gap between the barrel of the gun and him, and then crashed into the far wall. The bullet was still lodged in my heart. Badump. Badump. Badump.

My vision flickered black for a moment, then resumed, now a bright, bleached grey. All the colour had gone, sucked out of existence. I could barely focus my eyes. Someone might have called my name, but I couldn’t make sense of what I was hearing. Just a heartbeat. Badump. Badump. Badump.

I slid down the side of the wall, my shoulder wet with some substance. Probably blood. It took all my effort to just look down, look down at my white shirt. Stained with a dark, sticky sort of grey. Blood. Pouring out by the pints. Badump. Badump. Badump.

I knew who had shot me. I didn’t expect them to come so fast, but it was them. They knew. And they were going to try and stop it. And in that instant, I knew that I was going to die. I had to die.

Badump. Badump. Badump.

It was over.

I tried to move my hand. I had to stop the bleeding. For some weird reason, it didn’t hurt, but training came in and I remembered the instructor’s words: Always force yourself to try to stench the bleeding. If you can’t, then you know it’s your time to die.

But my arms wouldn’t lift. They seemed to be made of heavy lead, just lying there, and I could summon no energy to lift it up to my chest. To press down on the wound. To keep myself alive. This was… it was all over. My vision blinked black, then returned. Darker. Again. Badump. Badump. Badump.

Then his face appeared. It spread all across my vision, blocking out everything else. But my eyes weren’t focusing. I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t force myself to look at him one last time.

“Raymond, look at me.”

His voice was soft, comforting — but wavering out of earshot. No. It wasn’t. My ears weren’t working anymore.

I tried. I really did. But my eyes just wavered and I could barely catch onto his blurred outline. Black and white. My vision was dying. Soon, I would too.

Badump. Badump. Badump.

The blood kept pouring out of my heart. I could feel the warmth spilling away. And then, suddenly, I realised how cold it was. It felt like being thrown into the freezer. I would have shivered if I had any life force left. But I didn’t.

Badump. Badump.

Then warm hands pressed over my chest, right over the wound. They seemed to know what they were doing, closing the cut, stopping the bleeding. The bullet was still there, but it was the best that anyone could do for now. It was what I would have done, if I could have moved my arms.

“I’m not going to let you die, Raymond.”

The words triggered something in my fading mind. I could not think, I could not breathe — the blackness ate away at my eyes — everything was fading…

Badump. Badump.

Everything went black. But I still feel his hands, pressing here, right over the wounds in my heart. And I wrenched against the universe and summoned the last draught of energy from some hidden reserve deep in my body to say my final words. The words that I had been dreading to say for years.

“I love you.”

Badump.

“I love you too, Raymond.”

Dump.

Then his voice was covered by overwhelming static noise — and everything went quiet.

Ne… why do I hurt myself over and over again? Why do I love you?

Who do I love?

Clink. Clink. Clink.

Jeron stepped across the pebbles carefully. It wouldn’t be much trouble, but he really didn’t want to trip now and crash his head against the side of a sharp rock. He picked his way across the stones, knowing it was probably a futile attempt and Skyler wouldn’t be there anyway.

Why am I even looking for him?

The bed of rock eventually gave way to a soft, fine sand, the surface bleached grey by the moonlight. He could hear the crashing of the waves now. He had made it across.

He squinted and scanned the horizon. There was no sign of him. Skyler wasn’t here.

Jeron sighed. After the fight, it seemed like everyone had piled all their celebrations on him. At first, he’d accepted it, but then realised that Skyler was missing. He’d been searching for the boy for hours, but to no avail.

This beach was the last place that Skyler would probably come to. Jeron had heard him mention it once before, but he’d never been here.

It wouldn’t do any harm to look around.

He strolled across confidently, his eyes searching through the darkness for any sign of movement. Skyler was probably here, just hiding, not wanting to show himself. He was probably afraid.

Then Jeron chuckled. Skyler has nothing to fear now.

His shoes shovelled into the soft sand, leaving deep impressions in the powdery beach. The sharp smell of sea salt stung in his nose, but he ignored it. He’d been through worse. Besides, the seawater wasn’t splashing into his hair yet.

If it wasn’t so dark, he’d probably have noticed him. But then again, Skyler was much more a person of the night than Jeron was.

“Where are you going?” broke a sharp voice.

Skyler suddenly appeared out of the fabric of the darkness, some distance away, his figure blurred and distorted. For a moment, Jeron thought his eyes were deceiving him, but then the image wavered and focused and he realised that Skyler was actually hiding himself.

“Looking for you,” he said. That sounds so cheesy.

Skyler was crouched down on the sand right before the shoreline, his legs pressed against his chest, feet occasionally tapping the surface of the water in front of him. Jeron noticed that he had thrown off the jacket he always wore, and it was now lying next to him on the sand, wet from the bash of the waves. It was unusual to see Skyler like this — for the first time, Jeron appreciated him for who he really was. Just a growing, confused teenager. Albeit one that was approaching seven hundred years old.

“Oh,” said Skyler, his voice hanging in the air. “Don’t you have some parties to go to?”

Was that bitterness Jeron could taste in his voice? Why? Why would Skyler be so bitter about releasing the curse? He should be happy. His race was resurrected. Why…?

Jeron sat down next to him and sighed. “Are you okay?”

Skyler sniffed, but didn’t say anything.

Skyler, sniffing? Something’s wrong.

Jeron stared out into the distance, and watched the stars blink into existence in the night sky. One. Two. Three. Four. Without realising it, he began counting, until the silk of darkness was filled with individual sparks of bright light and they all merged into one, beautiful canvas.

“Stop wasting your magic. It’s not going to help me,” snapped Skyler.

The voice drew Jeron out of his trance. He shifted and turned toward his friend, searching… searching… he had to know why Skyler was acting like this.

“Jeron,” said Skyler, his figure still and frozen. “You should really be going. You’re late.”

“Why are you forcing me away like this?” asked Jeron softly.

He saw Skyler hesitate. The other boy was going to say something. And Jeron somehow knew, just somehow, deep inside him, knew what Skyler was going to say. He could feel it.

“Jeron… all this time, I’ve realised so many things. I watched you grow. And it took me so long to realise what I was doing to you,” said Skyler quietly. “I knew that I had to help you achieve your destiny. But now that you have fulfilled it, it is my time to leave.”

“Why?”

The single question echoed into the distance.

“Why?” repeated Skyler. He lay back and spread on the sand, and for a moment, looked like the world’s prettiest angel. “Because my place is not here. Not next to you.”

“Skyler, you’ve helped –”

“Jeron! You have to understand. I can’t. I can’t place myself next to you.”

A fragile silence fell between them. It was a silence of pain, of frustration, of unspoken thought. It was the silence of a six-hundred-year-old’s troubles.

Crash. An especially strong wave hit the shore and splashed up the beach, engulfing Skyler and Jeron in water. Jeron watched as Skyler’s trousers and shirt were soaked, then, as the water pulled away, he was half-buried in sand. He knew the same had probably happened to him, but he didn’t care. He was too deep in shock.

“Skyler…” said Jeron, not knowing how to help. He could see Skyler struggling to find words, but he didn’t know how he would say it himself. But he knew he would. He knew he should.

“Jeron… I don’t want to let people hurt you. But I know… I know the person who hurts you the most will probably be myself.”

“No,” denied Jeron. “It’s not true. You’ve helped me. Encouraged me.”

“And look what you’ve become,” said Skyler. “Look at yourself. I want to keep you for my own. But how can I? You belong to the people now; and you always shall. And I… I have searched for six hundred years. I don’t think another century or two will make much difference.”

“How could it not?” said Jeron hoarsely. “A century. Then another century. Skyler, how many centuries will you endure before you actually settle down and find someone to love?”

“How do you expect me to?” he retorted. “Everyone just ages and dies. But not me. How many people in this entire universe would live as long as I do? How many people will endure?”

Not a lot, actually.

“Skyler, just because you’ll endure over others doesn’t mean you don’t deserve the same things others do.”

Another silence. But this one was warmer, more welcoming. Jeron could feel Skyler’s control slipping away. He was keeping everything inside him for too long.

“Jeron… even if I did, I don’t think it’ll happen.”

“Why not?” demanded Jeron.

“Because the person I love… is you.”