Monday, January 30, 2017

Chapter Forty-Nine - Dissociation





The walk was long, and cold. The bitter wind brushed against her skin as she took every step through the snow. "You did this, you know that?" Her own voice echoed through her head, and she ignored it the best she could. "You know you're responsible. If you hadn't told Jack about the Torrans, Annabelle and Tom would be living a normal life. Possibly together." Every word rang through her mind like a high-pitched bell, screaming its accusations against her uncontrollably. "And you wouldn't have tried to kill her. You did this. You did this all." 



Time passed, the world changed in front of her eyes, and she eventually found herself standing in front of the house she'd been staying at. Inside the home held all the only good memories she'd had of her life, but even they intersected with all the worst thoughts she could possibly imagine. Every single frozen step towards the house felt like that of a condemned criminal stepping towards the gallows. "You know she won't believe you." The voice returned, "You leave with him, and you return without him? She'll call you a witch again, possibly kill you herself. You know it. Why bother even going there?"  




Those words hit her more than any others, and much like someone would while walking through the cold darkness emanating around her, she froze in place, unable to move at the snowflakes fell. "No," she said to herself. "No, she'll forgive me, she has to."

 
Andromeda stepped forward and up the stairs, with her cold hand reaching for the frozen doorknob. The door opened and she stepped inside, the warmth of the house hitting her with a complete sense of contrast as she had felt outside. Kelly walked over from a nearby computer area and smiled, but the exuberant look  quickly faded as she looked into Andromeda's eyes.


"What happened?" Kelly asked, worriedly. "Where's Tom?"


Andromeda looked at her, and her expression remained sour and dim as she simply shook her head. When Annabelle asked the same question again, she finally spoke, her voice creaking higher with every word that escaped her lips. "I don't know."


"What do you mean you don't know?" Annabelle's voice pierced the room as she stepped out of the living room entryway. "Where is he, Andromeda?"


"I heard a noise and went looking for him. When I got back to where he was, Tom was gone."



Annabelle turned to Kelly and nodded. The latter, however, simply shook her head. "She's telling the truth. I don't even have to read her mind, I just know it."


"Are you positive?"

"Yeah, I know when someone's lying. That's one of the things I studied in college for my career path."


Annabelle turned back to Andromeda. "Well I trust Kelly more than I trust you, so I'll take her word for it. In the meantime, I know exactly what we can do to see what happened to Tom. I'm going to go see my brother."

"John?" Kelly asked, confused. "Why him?"


As Annabelle walked upstairs, her voice trailed behind her. "Because he did something that led me to distrust Andy completely. I need him to do the same thing for the opposite effect."

----------------


Tom opened his eyes and found himself in a dark room, filled with different relics from all over the world it seemed. After adjusting his sight to the darkness, he looked over to the back wall and noticed a sarcophagus standing up and leaning next to it, with the Vornek who had attacked him in the graveyard standing nearby. He walked over to get back at the creature for what happened, but just as he tried he felt a surge of energy strike him. 



It did not take long for him to figure out he was blocked from reaching the creature by some sort of energy shield, which had trapped him into the back corner of the room and was projected outward by a series of strange pyramid-shaped artifacts. The sudden sound echoing through the room did not escape the notice of the Vornek, who turned around and walked over to the corner to look Tom straight in the eye.

"You... do not... move.", The Vornek hissed at him, turning back to tend to the sarcophagus.

Tom rolled his eyes. "Wow, what great company you give. Do you do children's parties? Because I'm sure you'd be quite the hoot."



 "Silence!", The vornek yelled through gritted teeth. "Master will have word with you soon."

"Well I'm glad master will have word with me. I so want to meet your master. And kill him. Did I mention I want to kill him? Because I totally do. Like, insanely so."



"You talk with such malice, such hatred, for beings you have never even met before." Another voice, much more refined than the last, pierced the room. "Do you really think, Thomas Jameson, that you are going to harm another living being."

Tom looked around the room, but could not find the source of the voice. He realized that the voice was inside his own head, and something was talking directly to his mind. "Are you him? Are you the bastard that killed my parents."




"Your parents? Those two fools who decided to disturb my grave? Yes. I am the one."

"SHOW YOUR FACE!! I would give anything to smash it in!"


"Oh I don't think you'd want that right now. My appearance at this moment in time can be quite off-putting. My body, decaying as it is, is separated from my mind, but soon enough that will be taken care of, and those two shall become one. All it takes is a little darkness."



The Vornek lifted its hand, and as it did a shadowy form began to lift off the claws and take shape next to the sarcophagus. After a moment passed, two piercing red eyes formed in the center of the darkness. The Vornek then shifted its body and the dark veil covered the sarcophagus itself, which shook violently before flying open.



A humanoid form fell from the coffin, which closed back in on itself. From what Tom could see, this new person was an alien, but his skin was purple and his eyes were sunken in. He stayed on the ground for a few moments before standing up, carefully walking over to Tom.



"Here's my face, Thomas. The face of Vorik Z'rath'nek. Are you ready to 'smash it in'? Or was that a vague threat? You seem to be reliant on those, threats. I don't think you are strong or even willing enough to follow through. I'd drop the force field so you can prove your worth," he said, coldly, "However, my pet can be a bit abrasive, any physical action towards me will be responded in kind and he doesn't know when to stop. And I need you alive for now."

"I'll take you both down." Tom replied, his eyes filled with rage. "I don't care if I die in the process."



"Oh you do care, I know this. I can see into your mind, into your thoughts. You care a lot, especially for Annabelle Kethrin. A hybrid of Torrans and humans... I would laugh at the concept but I myself have sired a child or two in the time I've been here."



"Stop looking into my head you purple demon!" Tom yelled out, "and what the hell do you need me alive for anyway?!"

"Your ability. You see, you have something that I want, that would be very helpful in this war of mine against the rest of Torra Sev and the Feen itself. You know what that is?" Vorik smiled, then continued. "You are immune to the effects of magic. Something of your parents' doing, no doubt. I want that immunity.  I will pull it from your body, your soul, and infuse it into my last Vornek." 



"Then with the help from my Abyss, I will create an new army based entirely on the Vornek itself. Each soldier completely immune to magic. With an army of that magnitude, no agent of the Cosmic will ever be able to defeat them or me. I will be unstoppable." He turned around

"My parents died to give me this ability." Tom angrily replied, "If you want to do the same then I am not going to stop you."



Vorik turned around. "You're far more clever than I initially gave you credit for. Very well, I will get that ability, even if I have to tear the flesh from your bones inch by inch."




Tom glared at Vorik, who suddenly fell to the ground wincing in pain. He stood up again, hissing, and limped back into the sarcophagus on the back wall. Tom, taking note of this, began to wonder how long he could stay out of the sarcophagus without becoming frail again.

----------------


Back at manor, Annabelle stood next to the door to John and Scarlett's room, waiting for the former to step outside. While waiting, she pondered if it was too soon to have let Andromeda go on her way for what she did in the past, and whether she was truly responsible for Tom's sudden disappearance. Considering the circumstances, she felt she just might have been too forgiving.


As Annabelle stood there, wondering, Maria walked up to her with a worried expression on her face. "Kelly told me what happened with Tom. She also said you were going to talk to John about some sort of surveillance footage?"


"Yeah. A while back, John found an image from a surveillance camera that implicated an innocent woman in a crime. I need him to find evidence that someone else isn't guilty as well."

"You mean Andromeda? At the graveyard? How would you manage that?"


"There was an ordinance passed not too long ago, the Emergency Response Act, that put security cameras all over the venues around town, including across from the local graveyard. John hacked into the security system and is trying to find footage from the graveyard this morning to ensure Andromeda was not responsible for Tom's disappearance. He'll also hopefully see what happened to Tom."

"Well I don't agree that surveillance footage across the city is moral... but if it helps out, who am I to argue the ethics?"


"Trust me," Annabelle replied, "If only we could solve this problem without the use of spying. Besides, Kelly used her clout at the police station for them to allow the use of only what we need."


Just as Annabelle said this, the door to John's room opened and John himself stepped out, scratching his head in confusion. "Andromeda was away from Tom when he vanished, but there's no footage of Tom's disappearance anywhere in the files. It's like he dropped off the face of the earth. He's there among the rocks and tombstones, and then he's gone."


Annabelle shook her head in disappointment and started to walk away, "Thanks bro." She said, the words quiet and solemn. Suddenly, a thought came to her and she lifted her eyes to the window nearby. "Rocks... rocks... I know who to talk to about this!"


Within seconds of the revelation, Annabelle rushed down the stairs and out the front door, not even taking the time to don her winter coat before she left.

----------------



"So you realize that I will eventually get out of here, take you down, and crush your master with his own sarcophagus, correct? Just so we know we're on the same page here."

"Silence!" The Vornek growled. It had been a while since Vorik had retreated back to his coffin, leaving the creature to watch over Tom. 


"Silence? Never heard of that. People tell me all the time that I talk too much. 'Oh Tom, you're talking too much. Oh Tom, you're making too many jokes. Oh Tom, my skin DOES NOT LOOK LIKE A GREEN BEAN!' Those three are usually said by hopeful girlfriend who is going to come down to wherever hole you dug in here and kick your shady ass."


"SHUT UP!"


Tom put his hand over his mouth, smiled, then continued. "No I think I'm going to keep talking. Blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda you're a stupid monster. How often do you bathe? Do you understand the concept of hygiene? Do you eat human food? Do you dance in the moonlight? I know you do. You're a dancer, a type of dancer that dances when there's dancing to be danced."


"I... said... quiet!" The vornek hissed again, but Tom simply snarled and continued on.

"You know my friend Annabelle, she was recently captured by idiots like you, and she told me that she talked the ear off the guy who was supposed to watch her. Good old whatever his name was. I never learned it because it wasn't so important. He was so weak that I kicked his ass myself once. But that's beside the point. Annabelle? She's the one I mentioned before. She's gonna come here, and knowing her I'm pretty sure she's going to use her newfound fairy powers to turn you and your master into beaten pulps, echoes of your former selves."


"And I'm going to watch. I'm going to sit back and just let it happen. And when you and Vorik over there are beaten and bleeding, I'm gonna end both of you myself. Don't you worry."


The vornek growled at Tom again and turned around, walking back to attend to the sarcophagus. 

----------------


"Thomas Jameson has vanished. I cannot say I saw this as a possibility."

Annabelle stood in front of Shale back at the Feen hideout, having realized that he could help her find Tom. The rest of the Feen, aside from Nizume, stood outside in a different room while Annabelle consulted with the talking rock.



"Just tell me if you know where he is. You can transfer yourself to different rocks in the world, right? Your spirit?"


"Strangely enough I cannot sense half of this town. I am afraid the town's energy is being masked and it has to be the Abyss and its minions who are doing this."

"Is there any way to break through this 'mask'? We have to find Tom and we have to get him back!"



"OOOHHH!" Nizume said, jumping up and down multiple times to the point she was practically flying. "What about the big mountain thingy? Big mountain on the mountain means large rock! You could transfer your sprite into that! You can then use brute force to PUNCH THROUGH THAT EVIL MASK OF DARK EVILNESS!! YEAH!!"

"Well we could do that," Shale replied, with Annabelle practically speechless, "or you could reduce a search pattern to an area within the mask itself. The epicenter of the dark haze is located around the town square. The Feen can look around there and see if they can find any sign of the Abyss or the vornek.



"I sincerely doubt the Feen would be able to walk around town looking like..." Annabelle made a gesture towards Nizume who was in the middle of kicking plants over and punching walls. 

"I see your point. Perhaps waiting until nightfall-"

"NO!" Annabelle's voice hit a high note as she yelped out. "We have to find Tom as soon as possible! I'm not waiting until night!"


Suddenly Nizume stopped abusing the houseplants and walls to chime in with an idea of her own. "OH what about the movie studio! We could walk around town with goofy costumes, and no one will bat an eye! I once saw a guy wearing a pirate costume and I lunged at him because no one takes me treasure ARRGH! Kinda hard to explain to the police about that one."


"I can't believe I'm saying this, but she actually has a point." Annabelle replied, "Hidden Springs is a studio town, after all."

"Very well." Shale replied, "I would suggest you gather as many people as you can to expand your search options. And if I dare say, you should leave no stone unturned."


"HA!" 

===

An hour had passed and Annabelle, Verena, Andromeda, Nizume, Miabelle, Kelly, Scarlett, Maria, John, and Keera stood in an empty lot just across from Hidden Springs' most central park. Annabelle had returned to the house and collected some volunteers to help look around the town, but not so many as to draw attention to themselves. 

the group split off into different pairs and began walking in different directions. Annabelle and Nizume headed west, Scarlett and John headed in towards the movie studio, Keera and Verena started off towards the east, Mirabelle and Kelly walked north, and Andromeda and Maria stayed inside the park itself to search around it.

----------------



 Verena stood in an alleyway near the park, looking straight at a brick wall, while Keera stood nearby. 

"So mom tells me you're my real grandma. I mean you and Maria are both my real... biological... I barely understand genetics and biology in school as it is so this whole alien thing is starting to really drive me up the wal-what are you doing?"


Verena stood in place, looking determined as she did so. "My people have natural psychic powers. I am using them to see if I can connect to Thomas Jameson."

"So how's that going?"

"Not well. Whatever's blocking the talking rock from detecting Thomas, it is also strong enough to stop me."


Keera scoffed. "Wow, even alien biology can get us nowhere in this."

Verena sighed, then looked over at Keera. "I understand the idea can be difficult to grasp. I never was very good at biology myself. I barely realized what was going on with Project Hybrid when I agreed to take part." 


"Do you regret doing it?"

Verena shook her head. "The end result was your mother. So no, not one bit."



Keera turned around and sat down in the snow. "I always wonder if the scientists who cloned me regretted doing it. From what I gather, they didn't expect to grow me in a lab. I wasn't there, and then I was. And what for? Four years into this artificial life I was blown up and scarred horribly. What a great destiny that is to have. Pointlessness. Regretful pointlessness."


"That is just four Earth years. It can take much longer to forge a destiny in this world."


"Oh I am sooo ready to forge my destiny. That's a joke! I can barely look at the movie studio over there and not have the nightmares and the memories come back. No matter what I do."

"You can let time take its course, that is something to do. You're something special, my granddaughter. I know this for certain. And I know you are going to do a great many things. Like they say on Earth, I don't need to be a psychic to know that."


Keera remained where she sat, and didn't look back at Verena. "Thank you, I'll think about what that means to me."

----------------


Kelly and Mirabelle walked calmly through a small field north of the park in Hidden Springs. Around them, there was nothing but endless trees and an old barn that they had already searched inside of just a few moments before. Mirabelle kept walking a bit ahead of Kelly, frantically looking around, getting more visibly anxious with each passing moment.


"Are you alright?" Kelly asked, as she walked up beside her.

"I am just so worried about Tom that I can't think of anything else at the moment."


"No, that's not what's bothering you."

"Are you reading my mind again?"

Her cold reply caught Kelly off-guard. "No! I nev-... I never do it intentionally. Is that what's troubling you? My ability?"



Mirabelle stopped in the middle of the snowy field and turned to Kelly. "That's not it at all. It's just, so much stuff is going on right now that it is hard to pinpoint which one I am supposed to feel weird about. I am a clone of an alien hybrid! My fiance is a psychic! An alien and a genie are staying in my house like it's a Sunday get-together and my best friend has vanished into the ether! I am not sure if I am going insane, or the rest of the world is!"


Kelly shrugged, feeling unable to come up with a response that she felt Mirabelle would appreciate. "I occasionally wish our life was far less exciting, but out of all the bad, all the strange, all the oddities that we encounter, I believe that something good is waiting for us at the end of this all, in the future. I believe we'll find Tom, get married to each other, and start a family of our own, away from all the weirdness."

Kelly reached out to hug Mirabelle, but the latter did not return the gesture. "I wish I could feel that way, but right now I don't even know if any of us will have a future." Mirabelle lowered her head and continued walking, leaving Kelly stunned as she stood in place as the snow fell around them.


----------------


"You should have seen her face when I told her Tom had vanished." Andromeda said as she and Maria stood under a tree near a small pond on the edge of the park. "She didn't trust me, even after she said she'd forgiven me. It was terrible. It was like all that time I'd spent over the years, hoping she'd forgive me, was for nothing."


Maria shook her head. "I understand what she's going through, but I also understand that when she forgave you, she meant it. Annabelle is... she's unique. And not because she is from outer space. She's headstrong, cocky, and everything that's happened to her has made her jaded and desensitized to what should be life-altering events. That's why when she forgives someone for actually causing pain in her life, you know it is supposed to be sincere."

"How do you know all this?"


"Are you kidding? She's my daughter."




Andromeda sighed. "Family... I don't know what that's like. I was sent to Earth when I was sixteen, and seeing as I was a hybrid, the first one in years, I was always hounded by others and told to be an example to the Torran people by my parents. They didn't even treat me as their daughter, more like a prop. A ticket to a better life."

"Well if it makes you feel any better, my parents were five-star celebrities. And this was in the eighties. The EIGHTIES. The era of sitcoms and science fiction. They were always off doing their own thing at movie studios like that, while I was stuck at home. I got more familial interactions with the family maid than them! 'Shape up, Maria' they always told me. 'You wouldn't want the tabloids to make you look unflattering, and you don't want us to look bad either'.  I told myself at twelve years old that I would be there for my kids no matter what, and I am still doing it."


"Is that why you're here in Hidden Springs?"

"Yes. John told me what happened to Annabelle, her wings and the whole fairy thing, so I rushed out here as soon as I could. I wasn't sure what to expect." Maria stopped in her tracks and chuckled, "Heh, you know what's funny?"

Andromeda looked puzzled. "What?"


"In all honesty, 'not being sure what to expect' is pretty much what it means to be a parent, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. I tell you what, Andromeda, it's not easy, but it has its own little quirks."

 "Yeah I get what you mean." Andromeda was the one to stop this time. "Oh and by the way, there's a name I was wanting to try out from now on. It's a bit shorter, sweeter, and more to the point."

"What's that?


"Andy."


"Okay, Andy Roshali. It's nice to meet you."


"It's nice to meet you too, Maria Kethrin." Andromeda smiled as brightly as she could, and the two continued on their search, both more focused on that task than they were before.

----------------

"Do you think we'll find him?" Scarlett asked as she and John searched around the movie studio. "I mean, there is a small chance that he could be..."

"No we'll find him, I just know it. He's alive and knowing him, he's kicking butt." John didn't miss a beat as he answered while looking into the movie studio. "Trust me, he's still around." 


"Hmm..." Scarlett's voice and facial expressions let out a sense of worry that John quickly picked up on, that didn't even seem to be related to Tom's disappearance. Before he could ask what was troubling her, however, she instead said a question of her own. 


"What would you do if I went missing?"


John stopped dead in his tracks, momentarily stunned by the question. In truth, he had never thought of the possibility of her getting in trouble, even through all the things they had been through. He always thought she was strong, capable of taking care of herself, and he himself would be the one needing rescued. 


"I don't know. I would do everything in my power to get you back, even break through time itself if I have to. Annabelle is doing what she can to get Tom back, I would do more. You mean too much to me."

Scarlett smiled, but looked worried again moments after when she though John had turned around completely. Again, he didn't know if she was worried for something else than Tom, but in a sense was heavily focused on the search at the time. Just as he was about to ask her again, he felt a warmth coming from a nearby storage room with a small red door.

"Hey Red, what's this?"


Scarlett walked over and the two tried to open the door, but it was locked from the inside. "That's odd," she said, "this is a backstage door to the prop room but it shouldn't be locked like this. What is going on here?"


----------------



Tom heard Scarlett's voice from outside, and smiled. "Well, it looks like my friends are already here. You idiots lost, and just a tip: maybe next time you should pick a better hiding spot."


Vorik emerged from his sarcophagus, his own face covered in a sinister smile as well. "You would like to think that, wouldn't you. Do you want to know why the Abyss is so feared? It's because the entity is practically a god. And I believe it is time we show these humans what gods can do."




Vorik turned to the sarcophagus behind him, and a black mist emerged from around it. In less than a second, the mist flew through up the ceiling and out the room, leaving a confident Vorik to remain smiling and Tom generally confused.


----------------


"So there's like totally so many things to talk about right now that I totally cannot think of how to say them."


"What?" Annabelle shook her head Nizume and herself walked down alongside Hidden Springs' massive riverbank, looking out to the freezing water. Annabelle began to wonder why she should have paired up the Feen in the first place, and instead decided to focus bringing someone whose attention span could be measured in more than just nanoseconds.

"This is just so cool I mean we're like two detectives on the case I'M ON THE CASE!"


"Nizume, do you ever shut up?"

The tone and question caught the young Feen off guard, and she tried to come up with a response but, on the spot, couldn't. Annabelle shook her head and continued stomping on, kicking over rocks and small plants on the ground that weren't laid dormant by the frozen winter. Nizume, on the other hand, stood in place.


"I only do that when the nightmares come back."


Annabelle stopped in the middle of the riverbank, and the air around them grew still. Annabelle didn't turn around, but instead closed her eyes. "What do you mean?"


Nizume's voice periodically dropped and rose as she spoke, wavering between that of a confident young woman and the voice of a scared child. "Ten years trapped in a tiny fairy house can really change someone. That's how long I was trapped."

"What happened?"


 "The house burned and he told me to hide. I listened to him and I heard the noises. I couldn't figure out what happened. I was young, and the monsters came into my room." 


"They clawed my face. I shrunk down and hid in my safe fairy house, and the monsters left me alone. It's dark, it's so dark."


"Why is it so dark? So dark and cold and quiet endless quiet endless QUUIIIEEETTTT!!!!!"

Niume screamed out the last word so loudly that birds halfway across the landscape began to fly away, startled. "Why is it so quiet?"


Annabelle walked over to her and gave her a quick hug, and the two stopped talking to look out into the wilderness. It wasn't long after, while they had continued walking down the riverbank, when Annie's cell phone began blaring. Annabelle answered it, and a after a few seconds of conversation her voice began to get frantic. 

Nizume looked at Annabelle and shrugged, and Annie put her phone back into her pocket. "John and Scarlett, they think they found Tom! Come on, we have to go to the movie studio... wait..." Annabelle looked up at the sky, prompting Nizume to do the same.


 "...what the hell?"



Above them, the snow had stopped falling and the sky turned red. It wasn't long after that Annabelle and Nizume began to hear panicked screams from inside the town. Then the sounds of glass breaking, and cars smashing into one-another.

"That's not good," Nizume quietly said.



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