Welcome to Volume 1 Arc 6. (FYI there are 8 arcs in volume 1 so far)
I hope you’re all ready. Sweet calm devoid of dramatic emotion chapters are going to be far and few between.
Monday, 7 :30 am
I’m going to throw a fit if this soap keeps slipping out of my hands.
I fumbled helplessly as it shot out of my hands and hit the wall again. I groaned and resisted stomping on the soap. The scene playing out in my mind of me slipping on it and dying in a bath tub due to head trauma was embarrassing enough.
“Zac sweetie!” My mom called out as I dried my hair.
“Just a sec mom!”
“Breakfast is ready! Blueberries or strawberries?” She asked.
“I’m almost done!”
“I guess there’s always kiwis…”
I opened the door a crack and stuck my head out. “Do we have bananas?”
“Bananas it is!” Mom grinned as she flipped a pancake.
I glomped my breakfast, took the lunch bag my mom prepared, slipped on my jacket and jogged out of the apartment building.
I have two exams today, but a movie for the last class. Which means it’s easily missable.
The day went by pretty fast. It’s not like it was particularly interesting, but something stuck out to me.
Something was missing. I kept looking for it in the corridors. I couldn’t put my finger on it. It kept me distracted the entire day and I got frustrated fast.
“What are you searching for man?” Maelig asked.
I shrugged. “Something stupid probably.”
“Do we really need to graduate?” Venkat asked hopelessly. “God I had math.”
“Didn’t your girlfriend help you out?” Maelig asked as my gaze traveled the corridors again.
“She tried to teach me university level math.”
It finally clicked when I sat down for my second exam. It’s one of the classes I have with Salandra. But guess what? She wasn’t there.
The teacher didn’t even comment on it, her seat was just left empty. Ice queen missing an exam? That seemed unlikely! Thinking about it, I hadn’t seen her at all in the corridors today. She wasn’t the only one…Niko was also suspiciously absent.
When it comes to grades those two are as goody two shoes as it gets. Both of them missing exams?
Heh, oh god.
Is this really what it’s come to?
I’m here doing my exams like a good student, and they’re out ditching and doing who knows what else together?
This harsh irony hurts me.
The teacher gave me a warning look for my wandering eyes and I went back to my exam.
Dang it Niko, you’re not even here and I’m annoyed at you.
Monday, 6 :30 am
Ha ha ha
34 + 27
I clutch the cup. Grind my teeth.
Don’t throw the cup.
Don’t throw the cup.
You could throw it since it’s empty
You could throw it since it’s full
A gust of rain poured in, bringing in its intruder.
He hopped in, stumbling onto my toppled over bed.
He climbed over it and I let my cup roll off my dresser.
I followed it.
“Sorry to drop in unannounced!” He said.
He didn’t glance at my room. But I did. I saw nothing. Hear, say, see.
He spoke again, pulling out a wand from his back pocket. “I hope I wasn’t interrupting anything, I was hoping-”
The world suddenly wavered in black and white with a hint of blue. It grew bleak and fuzzy and someone appeared in front of me.
A familiar face.
“I’m sorry.” He said. “I’m so sorry. You don’t need this right now.”
The world grew bleaker and my skin started to glow.
He tugged me to the side as a figure rushed past me.
“I didn’t mean to involve you, but I had to warn you. He’s my current problem.” He said, as the other him caught my body as it went for the ground.
“He calls himself Oscar.” He explained. “He’s a product of the game glitching. He takes over my body when he feels like it. One of those times was right after the game.”
…Oscar gently lowered my body. “I’m sorry I bothered you. I just wanted your help with Nikolas.”
Nikolas rubbed the back of his head. “He has some dramatic exaggerated views of how things are at home. He had me run away.” His eyes traveled, glancing around my room, my barred door.
I opened my mouth to speak, but I closed it. I have nothing to justify.
“Oh yeah, um, I have this power.” He said, gesturing nervously at the whole scene. He seemed to want to attempt to explain, but he gave up. “I’m sure you can pretty much guess what it is.”
“He’s from the game?” I asked, my voice sounding hoarse. I rubbed my throat.
“He’s his own person. Living in my brain. Thanks to the tattoo on my neck.”
My eyes drifted down to my outstretched palm, to the markings on it. Then my eyes snapped back up, fueled by a surge of anger. “How…” I began, having to force the words out. “How is my mother dying more important than this?”
All of a sudden I was angry at him. Angry that he’d let me be selfish. “You let me whine about my mother when you had this going on!” I stuttered out, gesturing at the scene. I clutched my hair and kicked the wall. Well attempted to. My foot went through it.
“It’s my fault.” I said with a shaky voice, stepping away from the wall. “What we did…It was all for naught. It was for nothing. Nothing good came out of it.” My mom died anyway.
She died anyway.
Nothing I did helped.
And now, Nikolas has to pay the consequence for my reckless choice. A choice I made for something they told me would be useless, by doing something they told me I shouldn’t.
I formed fists, needing to release this anger. But I didn’t want to cry, and I’d already tried to hit a wall. Nikolas must think I’m a crazy mess.
What am I saying.
It’s obvious that I’m a mess.
Why do I care? I can’t make it much worse.
“Sallie…” Nikolas said. “You know I made the choice to participate right? I should’ve known better. It did say no supernaturals. But I went anyway. He’s my problem, not yours.”
I opened my mouth to counter, to bring it back to being my fault. Pity me.
I ended up shutting myself up, because he was right. I didn’t force him to go. I tried to convince him otherwise.
Pity me…where had that come from? I hate pity. I glanced around the room and grabbed onto my arms.
You’ve done your breakdown, I told myself. I fought the need to drop and hug my knees as this horrid dark empty room tugged at me again. Close your eyes.
Time to do something productive.
Nikolas watched me walk towards Oscar, who’d let my body drop to the floor.
“We’ll fix this.” I affirmed out loud.
I turned to Nikolas, to make sure he’d heard me.
“Eh, don’t feel obligated or anything. I’m sure you have other things to do.” He said looking apologetic.
I took a firm stance. “We’ll fix this.” I declared again. “It’s because of your tattoo?” I asked, examining Oscar’s neck. I glanced back at Niko, who now had a huge pleased grin.
Something stirred inside of me, something that almost made me smile.
Let’s not get sappy now. I turned back to the problem at hand as Nikolas joined me.
“Because if the tattoo is the source,” I started. “The lady told me they would fade on their own in a few days.” Nikolas’ eyes drifted momentarily to my palms.
“I heard the same thing.” He said. “That fixes long term, but short term…he’s really troublesome. After two conversations with my dad he decided on his own that apparently my house isn’t ‘healthy’ for me.”
“Why did he bring you here?” My uncle’s house doesn’t even have a welcome mat.
“He said he was going to bring me to someplace better, safer. I guess that meant you. It’s not surprising, you’re the only other person he’s seen me with. And it’s obvious that you’re important and good to me.” Nikolas stated.
I really am smiling now.
I cast him a glance, but it was clear he was focused on a new brainstorm idea. He didn’t even have to think about it did he? That’s how it is with Nikolas. I really am important to him.
There’s still someone left that I’m important to. My eyes prickled and I blinked them several times.
“I need my dad’s help.” Nikolas said. “I’m sure he’s got a solution to this. There has to be a spell.”
“You just need to get to your dad then. Put me back, I’ll convince him.” I said.
“Yes ma’am!” Niko said with a mock salute. “Good luck. If you want me to bring you back just show a sign or something.”
The snap back to a colorful reality was dizzying.
Colorful, yes, but it’s bleaker. Darker.
“Oh you’re awake now! I was just about to leave.” Oscar said.
I made to get up, but my emotional exhaustion made me lose my strength. Guess I left most of that behind when Nikolas pulled out my spirit.
Oscar instantly reached over to help me get up.
The shorts and the lack of a bandana don’t make it too hard to see Oscar instead of Niko.
“It’s probably just your blood pressure being down. I wouldn’t worry too much that you passed out.” He said with an excited smile. “Water and salty foods! Easy solution.”
That….seems oddly like a Niko thing to say, even if it was delivered in a different tone of voice.
“How do you know my self-tilted name? I hadn’t chosen it last time I talked to you. Huh! Nikolas talked to you didn’t he!? Just now! That wasn’t you passing out! You can talk to him?” He exclaimed, his arms shooting in all directions. “Did he have anything to say, about well…you know. He’s not angry is he? It’s really just NO fun over there! There’s no point wasting time on idle disputes and misunderstandings you know? It gets really tiresome and drains your opportunities!”
“He wants you to go back home.”
He instantly deflated. “What? No, can’t we hang out here? I wanted to go to the amusement park! I saw advertisements in town and it looked really cool. We could go all three of us, and Nikolas and I can switch. Like, he could do the haunted houses and I could do the pirate ship-”
“Os-” I attempted to stop his train of thought.
“Cause I don’t think I’d like the haunted houses very much. The creepy clowns on the pictures gave me shivers-”
“Hey!” I cut in sharply, before softening. “You can’t do that to Nikolas. He loves his family.”
“He has a dog you know.” He said, leaning in and whispering.
“He loves that dog too.” I said. “Look, his dad is a very powerful sorcerer-”
“Yes, I saw, I don’t like him.” He wriggled his nose in disgust. “He put a spell on Nikolas too you know. He definitely knows we’re here thanks to it.”
I’m not well informed on witch etiquettes…but that seems a little weird. “A spell?”
“Mhm! Can you believe it? It’s very rude.” He hmphed. “He used a spell to try and stop me from leaving too. I had to use the magic in the tattoo.”
“See?” He said with a slightly proud smirk. I had to blink to stop seeing Niko. “It’s foul magic though. Can you tell? Bleh, it was created, it’s not very fun to use.”
My hand reached up, as if I wanted to touch the swirling purple mass, but he closed his hand and it poofed. The magic from his tattoo…I glanced at my open palm.
“Oh yeah, you have tattoos from the game too!” He said. He grabbed my hand. “Fake magic in there too.”
He touched my tattoo with the tip of his finger and it lit up, sending tingles to my fingers. “Ha, hey look at that!” He said as if surprised by the reaction. I had the urge to smooth out my palm because of the tingling. “Can you see how artificial it is? It’s too…solid. Real magic is flightier, because it’s difficult to control. This is easy to control, but it just reeks of disgusting.”
“How come you know so much?” I asked, closing my palm. The tattoo faded back to normal.
“Huh. I don’t know. It just seems obvious?” He shrugged.
“Then do you know how this happened?”
“Ah no, I don’t. But, hey, thinking about it, the game was made with fake magic.” He piped up. “I don’t think it reacted well with Nikolas’ real magic you know? It doesn’t really feel attached to anything, which makes it a little unstable I guess?” He shrugged again.
“And that somehow made you and Nikolas…” I tried to get him to go on. I just know Niko has a keen ear on things right now. He’d want to know more.
“Oh well I don’t know about that. I don’t even know how I came to be. I’m just happy that I am!” Oscar grinned with a childish smile.
“But wouldn’t it be better, more fun for both you and Nikolas, if you had your own body? That way you could talk to Nikolas and you wouldn’t have to switch.” I suggested.
“Of course, that would be a lot more fun.” He nodded.
“Well, I’m pretty sure Niko’s dad has a spell that can help you. We should go back.” I said, bringing back the subject.
“You really think so?”
“He’s the most powerful witch alive right now. If there’s anyone who can find a solution, it ought to be him right?” He considered it, before nodding.
“Yeah you’re right. I knew this was the right place to go!” He grinned.
“Great! Let’s not waste any more time-” I said, turning to my door. I deflated a little. That’s right, I’d built my barrier of furniture, so my uncle wouldn’t come in. I wonder if he’s up yet.
I wonder if he fell asleep and I woke him up with all my moving around.
I wonder what he thinks of me right now.
Not that I should care.
“Where are you going?” Oscar asked, perched on my bed.
“Where are you going?”
“Back through the window.” He gestured behind him.
“But I have a door we can use.”
“But the window was so much more fun!” He exclaimed.
“I’m on the second level!”
“It’s ok I found a ladder.” He said with a smirk. A very Niko-like smirk. I can see this is Oscar, but I’m still getting Nikolas vibes from time to time…is it really just because they wear the same face?
Either way, I’m making my way to the window, shaking my head at myself.
It’s still raining outside, so we run.
But I don’t care? The rain is soft on my skin, and the slippery ground under my feet makes me feel like I’m flying. The grey landscape is so….refreshing.
I’m still in my pajamas. I’m going to be drenched from head to toe by the time we get to Nikolas’ house.
Haha, but I don’t care. At least I’m doing something. I don’t know how long I spent in my room. All night easily. I hadn’t realized how toxic the air had gotten.
Nikolas’ father was waiting for us when we arrived. Oscar instantly regretted his decision and tried to make a quick escape, but I grabbed his arm.
“On second thought, I’m really totally fine with sharing. I’m sure Nikolas is too.” Oscar whispered in my ear.
I hesitated, looking up at the stern man standing on the porch. I’d never really met Niko’s dad, but I’d heard the rumors. The most powerful witch.
I’d also heard the judgements. People wondering why he didn’t play a more active role in helping the supernaturals. People claiming he poisoned naturals with his magic because he was too powerful. People making connections between him and a dangerous vampire serial killer from before I was born.
I thought he’d be a little scarier, a little more intimidating. Someone with that much power.
But he looks just like any other man. Any other father.
I cleared the rain from my eyes. “Nikolas needs your help. There’s someone else sharing his body.” I said over the rain.
The man turned and opened the door. “Come inside.”
Oscar wandered inside and Nato came over, dragging his behind on the floor. The two seemed to have a weird moment, both not wanting to greet each other, but both making efforts to.
Nikolas’ dad made space for me to come in as well, but I didn’t want to. My feet were glued on the porch. The warmth and dryness of the house was inviting, but I preferred the damp outside right then and there. I felt I belonged more here.
“Come in,” He offered again and I could feel the warmth seeping out of the house. I spotted his other father, and his sister getting up from the kitchen. The place radiated an aura of family that was strange to me. I was afraid I would taint it.
I took a step back, shaking my head slightly. “No.”
“Are you sure?” He asked opening the door wider.
I glanced behind him, where Oscar looked up from his silent argument with Nato. Our eyes crossed and his eyes softened – with pity if I’ve ever seen it. I must’ve looked really ridiculous for him to look at me like that. With my hair clamped to the sides of my face and the water dripping off my chin.
He looked away, fidgeting with his hands. At least it didn’t look like he planned to run off again.
“I’m fine thank you. Please take care of Niko.” I said, taking a step back into the stairs.
The man hesitated, before nodding and closing the door.
I backed further off the porch, my feet touching wet stone again. I hugged my arms as they began to shiver slightly. The rain had seeped into my clothes, but I still didn’t care.
I don’t care.
I blinked and blinked, but the rain fell freely from my eyes without any warning. I sniffled and wiped my nose as thoughts of her inevitably came back.
She used to say, that as long as there’s one thing in the world that makes you happy, you don’t need anything else. I always felt bad for being so selfish, because I needed so many things to be happy. I needed my mom’s smile, I needed to know I wasn’t a horrible daughter to my father, I needed friends, I needed a family, I needed a pony, a musical concert, good grades, a bicycle, a pretty necklace, a cute boy…I couldn’t be happy with just one. I always need more.
She used to say, that I was her one thing.
She became my one thing. Everything else could be left as superficial.
But now…I squeezed my arms.
I jolted as I heard the rapid footsteps of someone running down the porch.
Niko-Oscar had come outside, an umbrella in his hand. He jogged up to me, just a step away so the umbrella was covering us both.
“Oscar decided to let me have control. Guess we were having the same train of thought.” He said in a voice and mannerism I recognized a lot better.
“Here.” He handed me the umbrella and I took it without any complaints. He, however, hesitated before letting go of it. “Thank you.” He said as he relinquished it.
I gave a slight shrug. “It wasn’t hard really.” Oscar practically convinced himself.
He made a face, as if I’d misunderstood him.
“Thank you…” He said again clasping my hands and looking straight into my eyes. He enunciated the words carefully, to make sure the meaning got across. “…for existing, okay?”
I laughed. I didn’t mean to. It wasn’t a harsh mocking laugh, or a self-deprecating one. It was just two seconds of pure laughter which got interrupted when Nikolas wrapped his arms around me.
He caught me by surprise, with the umbrella between us, but I slightly shook my head with a smile, wrapping my free arm around him.
“You’re welcome.” I said with a smirk, my voice lightly muffled.
I felt his chest move as he chuckled.
He pulled back. “I’ll call you when this whole situation is fixed okay?” He looked out into the rain again. I almost saw the lightbulb over his head as he thought of one last thing.
He pulled his leg up, prying his shoe from his foot.
“Take my shoes,” He said, as he took off the other one.
I reared back slightly. “Nah, I’m fine.”
“Come on, take them. I can’t believe you came out in the rain barefoot.” Nikolas said, shaking his head. “They are wet, but not that much and it’s still better than being barefoot.” He said, insisting again.
I gave in and slipped them on, tying the shoelaces as tightly as possible, since my feet floated a bit in them.
His father opened the door, beckoning Nikolas back in. “I’ll talk to you later!” He said, running back inside.
I clutched the umbrella and nodded, with a smile.
When I got back home, I found my uncle in the kitchen. He had a cup of coffee, but little interest in it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him not all prepped and ready for the day.
My tired eyes traveled to the guitar on the counter.
“I wanted it to be a surprise.” He said in his monotone voice. “For when she got better.” My uncle’s voice cracked at the last word and he hid his head in his hand.
I reached over, my fingers grazing the unused guitar. Then, I sat down on the floor with a small sigh. “I wanted her to meet my friends.”
He set the cup on the counter and, slowly, made his way around to come sit beside me.
“I wanted to buy her a ticket to one of my concerts.” He added.
“We were supposed to sneak into the behind the scenes of the Talent Troupe.” I replied.
“She was supposed to cure me of my addiction to coffee.”
“She called me Firefly and sang me a lullaby to sleep.”
“Even when I stopped playing the piano, she kept believing in me.”
“We didn’t deserve her.” I said. “But we were lucky to have her anyway.”
“I’m sure she’d say the same about us.”