Chapter 1: Shooting StarA Chapter by Haeshin
Part 1: Human
We don't understand what it is
Yet we can't deny that it's there
Knowing it has hurt us before
This isn't my body.
In the dark glassy reflection of the floor he could see that. Jay wasn't this tall or bright-haired and with such ruby red eyes. RED eyes! Vividly, brightly ruby red, with bits of gold stuck in them like flecks of shiny dust.
This was all wrong. He didn't have a body encased in slim muscle, deft fingers (he always thought his were long and stumpy), or perfectly sized features evenly spread out over his face. He wasn't supposed to be dressed in a robe as if he were some kind of priest, and he wasn't supposed NOT be wearing anything else under it! Who the hell stripped him! He burned with fury and humiliation until he couldn't tell either of them apart.
This isn't me.
Yet the wide eyes that stared back at him from the patterned tiles precisely mirrored the terror on his face. He couldn't think, couldn't breathe--He really wasn't breathing, was he? He couldn't feel his lungs! Then was his body...a corpse? No! Clapping hands onto his chest and stomach, he would have jerked them away if he hadn't frozen in panic. That's when his chest started heaving.
So he was 'breathing' now. So what? This isn't human.
Oh, he had two arms and two legs, feet, a torso and shoulders and all the rest of that, but was he really human? Suddenly his knees wobbled and he fell down hard on a wood floor. It made a clear thunk that made his heart leap, or, at least, what he thought was his heart. Was that the sound a living body was supposed to make? Was it just his imagination that conjured a nonexistent weight in his chest, and then made it leap?
This isn't home!
Shivering uncontrollably, Jay struggled to get a hand out from under him. He touched the glassy tile and it was cold. Some senseless terror made him believe that his hand was stuck there, but he was able to take back his hand and hold it with the other.
He feared that he'd been transformed into a Barbie Ken doll. Had he really been turned into a DOLL? Was he actually a five-inch doll made of plastic in a kid-sized party house? Frantically he ran his hands over the joints of his elbows, hips, and shoulders. They were neatly sheathed in a single case rather tha multiple parts pushed into hollow sockets. He could move his limbs as if they were made of real flesh and skin.
Where was he? There were glassy tiles and and slender columns, sharp and silver against the moonlight coming in through the windows. He could see a sliver of white moon and the buildings of a city, dotted with countless lights that dulled the blackness of a night sky. For god's sake, the light was actually reflecting a little off the buildings. That never happened except in postcard pictures.
But the point was that he knew where he was supposed to be, and it definitely wasn't here. He nearly laughed and cried, but he didn't know which one he wanted more. Could he do both at the same time? He didn't know, he didn't know, he didn't know!
Somebody please tell me I didn't become some freak sci-fi experiment! he wailed, but only with the silent screaming voice in his head. No one could hear him there.
No! Stop it. He still had to stop it! Stop screaming, even if it was inside his head. He wasn't some doomed patient in a nut house! He had to stop doing, no matter how tempting it was to continue. Choking on a breath, or maybe what he only perceived to be a breath, Jay leaned forward and cried.
Nothing in his entire life had startled him more than the sensation of liquid drops squeezing from his eyes and flooding onto his cheeks. He was crying? More or less having accepted the fact that he was some kind of doll, he didn't think that he was capable of tears or any bodily function that involved liquids...or, now that he thought about it, any body function at all! More tears came as he laughed and sobbed alternately.
Where am I? Where is this? Where, where...?
Still a little shaky, he ran his hands against each arm. Softer. More elastic, yet solid and holding the tautness of muscle, tissue, and bone underneath. Was he transforming?
The sound came right then, the steady tap-tap-tap of someone walking at a sure pace. Jay whipped his head about so fast that a sharp twinge of pain stabbed him in the neck as punishment. His eyes dimmed black as he was about to register the sight of a long haired someone walking towards him through the sea of columns. Still wincing from the neck stab, Jay felt a stab of pin needles in his eyes, a more bearable twinge because of the gently rosy glow of firelight reflected off the floor.
“ What, you're up?”
Jay's brain first told him that the person he was staring at was a girl, a young lady from the height of her, but though the black hair reached down the back, the face was that of a young man in his early twenties. He wore pale cream clothing that Jay had only seen on a male nurse on TV, except the sleeves were longer and there was a collar that would never quite stand up as it should. It flopped over like a dog's ear.
In one hand the stranger held a glowing ball of yellow fire. Flames slowly licked and curled against the confines of curved fingers, and if it hurt there was no sign of it. Bright amethyst eyes slid down to rest on Jay.
“ How long are you going to sit there?” Again, no sense of sympathy or sensitivity or even the lowest form of pity. “ You can't wear my stuff forever, you know.”
“ ...I'm not supposed to be here,” Jay heard his voice sound hoarse. It was his voice, wasn't it? It hadn't cracked or whined at all to a high pitch.
“ Say something new. This place is an archaeological monument, you know, an entire structure of etheria. Not even the city leaders are supposed to be here.”
It was the voice of someone who clearly thought that Jay was an accident. What was 'etheria' anyway? Sounded like something from a fantasy game. Jay choked through a pressure growing on his chest, trying not to cough as he said:
“ What the hell do you care? Go away if you don't. I'm nowhere near where I'm supposed to be and this sure as hell isn't my body!”
“ I should say that it isn't your body.” Instead of being irritated the stranger was calm and complacent. “ Your soul came down and merged with a Keystone. Sent quite a shockwave throughout the city.”
If he'd had the wind for it he would've laughed. Instead choking further, Jay managed some version of a chuckle.
Musing to himself, the stranger said vaguely, “ The AMP should already be on their way...”
“ Yeah...right,” Jay wheezed. “ Soul, Keystone, whatever. You talk like you're playing some video game. Where am I?”
“ You tell me.”
“ I don't know!”
“ Where are you supposed to be?”
“ At home!”
“ Where is it?”
“ Which country?”
“ In the state of California, in the country of the US!”
“ US? 'Us'?”
“ No, United States!” God, who HADN'T heard of the United States? Everybody in the world hated the United States, didn't they? Or something like that. On the news Jay was always hearing about some country who hated the US because it was too nosy and powerful and capitalistic.
“ There is no such country.”
“ Yes there is! Everybody hates it!”
“ Aono. Something about white capitalist pigs.”
“ You mean they're Magus?”
“ Where are you supposed to be?”
“ How the hell should I know!” Jay hissed. “ The continent of North America! The planet Earth! Solar system! Milky Way! Milk"” He stopped short before he said 'milk shake'.
“ Never heard of those things. Except for milk. Bland stuff. Hard to come by as well.”
“ Like hell it is!”
“ Like what hell?” said the stranger. He seemed somewhat amused. “ If you mean this one, this world is called Regaia, not Earth, and there is no such country known as the United States. This one is called Verenna.”
Ah-ha. Jay laughed inside his head. If he laughed out loud he'd lose all control of himself.
Ah-ha-ha. What a joke. What a big bad joke. His mind reeled away from him, and he could feel a tug at his head as if he was about to roll into a somersault and bash his head somewhere.
Suddenly the light had dimmed, and Jay felt the stranger touch his forehead with the backs of his fingers. Was his head burning with fever? The twisting pressure in his chest and the reeling sensation remained but faded. The bone of his skull was so heavy. Had his head literally swelled? “ Your soul is still adjusting to the Keystone.” The stranger leaned away, straightening his back. “ Be proud of yourself. No soul has ever touched a Keystone that big and raw without being torn apart and scattered through worlds.”
So which was more insane and worse to hear, the part about being torn apart, or the part where multiple worlds were being mentioned?
“ What...I didn't...you can't think there's...” Jay almost laughed. “ What, other worlds? It's crazy.” He felt so incredibly stupid just by saying it.
The stranger snorted. “ No one in my profession will deny that concept,” he said, “ though certainly no one will try it. That's just too dangerous a theory to prove, too many unknown variables.”
“ I'm not...how the hell could I be in...another world?” Jay forced himself to blurt out the word. “ And my body...! This isn't it!”
“ Of course it isn't. But powered by etheria, the Keystone probably looked into your head and gave you a human form, if that's the idea you had in your head.”
Jay was dumbfounded. “ What's etheria?”
“ Don't you know?”
The stranger closed his eyes in a silent sigh, enduring Jay's lack of knowledge. “ It's a magic amplifier. Multiplies the strength of a single spell at least double, depending on the fundamental strength of the caster. Rare metal nowadays, except for the Sky ruins. They all seem to be made of it, including a few artifacts.”
“ The what?” Jay shook his head. Everything he was being told kept getting messed up. Backtrack, backtrack... “ Keystone?” He was supposed to be...made of this stuff.
“ Condensed magic. Like water turned to ice.”
Magic, magic, magic. The only kind of magic that existed was the kind where rabbits were pulled out of top hats. Oh, and huge white tigers walking around with guys in tights.
Jay noticed that the stranger was eyeing him, thoughtful and interested in some idea of his.
“ You'd make a nice research subject,” he thought out loud. Jay's head snapped up.
“ Oh no,” he said, trying to rise. His legs were stiff at the joints and weak as jelly everywhere else. “ You are NOT making me into some kinda lab rat you stick needles in like a pincushion!”
The stranger blinked. “ Needles? What the world for?”
That was not the response Jay had expected. “ What,” he said slowly, “ no experiment tests or anything?”
“ Oh, there'll be tests, but not the kind--whatever that is--that you're speaking of.”
“ What...just get away from me.”
With a loud snap high powered lights thrust their beams through the windows. A magnified voice called out, “ Whoever's in there, come on out with your hands up!”
The cops? Panicked, Jay's insides performed acrobatics that shouldn't be possible. The stranger, on the other hand, regarded the lights with calm. When silver spheres studded with crystalline red craters came hovering at the windows, he looked at them as if they were flies come to rest on the glass.
The stranger snorted. “ Are they serious? Come up with my hands up?”
“ Come on out peacefully!”
Lifting the hand that had once held fire, the stranger answered, “ Try and bring in this.”
Light burst from the palm of his hand. It didn't look like much, just a imitation of aurora lights that looked weak and thin as the pastel rainbow slipped ghost-like through the glass. Then the pretty light exploded in a blinding flash, and the red-eyed spheres went rocketing out of sight. A split second later they exploded hard enough to make the windows shudder and rattle in their thin frames. Jay had no idea what was going on, but he pretty much got the idea that the stranger had just blown up police property, and that was a big no-no.
“ What are you doing!” Jay shouted. Big no-no, he kept thinking. Big no-no!
“ Getting my clothes back.”
Jay gave a start as the robe on his body melted to liquid and slipped fast off his waist and shoulders, wrapping itself around the stranger. Watching a long, sleeveless sapphire tunic materialize on top, Jay was terrified that he was being stripped naked. Then to his surprise he looked down to see himself wearing pants and a loose long-sleeved tunic with a sash at the waist. What a relief.
But wait a minute. How did that happen...?
Briskly the stranger flipped long black hair off his shoulders and bent over for a gray cloak Jay hadn't noticed before. He tossed it about himself like a huge shawl and, of all things, he plopped a pointed gray hat on his head. A witch's hat with a drooping point. Jay choked on a snort of laughter.
“ Sez you,” said the stranger, picking up a pale staff that had been leaning against a column. It was topped with a bright crystal the color of a tropic sea. “ Come.”
“ Come?” Jay felt stupid. “ Where?”
“ How should I know? But I'm not staying here.”
“ I can't...” Jay didn't know what to do. How could he place his trust in someone who blatantly said he'd use Jay as a research subject? He'd heard mention of human experiments in regards to World War II, the Nazis, and from the way people talked human experimentation were horrible things, inhuman and painful and supremely frightening.
As if reading Jay's mind, the stranger said calmly, “ If you turn out to be a Magus then nothing I do can be compared to what they'll do.”
“ Magus?” He still had no idea what that was. “ They? Who's 'they'?”
“ I'm human!”
“ Not with those eyes.”
Oh, of course. Anyone with red eyes just had to be monsters. People always alluded red eyes to blood and murder and things like Frankenstein gone on a killing spree, right? Unless the reflection on the floor was a complete magic trick anyone would take him for a monster.
“ Come out or you will be destroyed!”
The stranger snorted. To Jay he said, “ Come.”
Shakily Jay tried to rise, but slipped and stumbled hard onto his hands. “ Ow!” The staff came down to bar under his chin and force him up. “ Stop it!” Jay tried to whack it away.
“ I AM moving! Quit getting in the wa--Hey!”
The stranger was striding fast down the column rows. He was going, going, gone! Had Jay been left behind? Oh, no surprise there. He couldn't imagine anyone wanting to wait for him or actually doing so. But it had happened so suddenly and he was confused.
What the heck is going on? It took so long for him to stand, and then longer for him to steady his legs so they didn't wobble. He pushed off a column to take a shaking step. Try, try, try. You're not trying. Becoming enraged, Jay hobbled from one ribbed column to another, going step by step. The magnified voice spoke again but the words echoed too hollow for him to hear.
Breathe, he told himself. It wasn't easy to breathe. Jay's mind blurred as his vision dimmed, so he had no idea how he got down to a clear hallway where the doors ahead were thrown open, and filled with intense white light. He'd probably walk straight into some lights and some cops at that if he went that way.
Looking down Jay checked his reflection again. It hadn't changed. No matter what he did, touching his face and the age-old method of pinching his cheeks until it hurt, he had a face he'd never seen until a couple of minutes ago.
What was he supposed to do now? This body was real, not hard and smooth as it should be if it really was made from magic rock.
People were coming in. With his head bowed Jay could only hear them coming in padded boots, but something was clanking, like plates of tempered steel. Cops didn't wear metal suits as far as he knew, so their clothes should be all vinyl and padded vests. Where did the clanking come from? Jay was too unsteady in body and mind to care when guns clicked into place, probably aimed and ready. He had to be hearing things.
“ My god, his eyes are red.” He had to be hallucinating about that voice too, breathless with shock and awe.
“ He's a homunculus?”
“ A what?”
“ You know, a magic doll! I've heard that Magus can make 'em sometimes.”
“ You two shut up. Somebody contact the Tower!”
“ What's a homunculus doing here?”
“ Take it into custody.”
They came fast and sudden. He was stunned at first, feeling an arm and shoulder touch the wall behind him. Then the pain was there, everywhere, thrashing violently through every nerve he had. Jay lashed out in a spasm of hurt more than self defense, and a flare of red-gold light seared through his eyelids. Bodies crashed against the opposite wall.
He tweaked open his eyes, enough to see what they were wearing. But what were they wearing? Stream-lined versions of medieval suits of armor? Maybe they were the newest version of bulletproof Kevlars. But rifle guns? Why rifles? Joints were covered in shiny black material.
“ Was that magic?”
“ What...the hell is wrong with you people!” Jay had to force the words up his throat.
“ On your knees! Hands in the air!”
“ Get away from me!”
“ DOWN on your KNEES!”
“ Go to hell!” Jay shouted. Energy flicked from him as if it were deliberate. He thought it was adrenaline, a good strong rush of it. Then what he saw changed his mind.
A star-like rose compass flashed within a double circle. It lit up long enough to explode with a sonic boom and a liquid wave of brilliant reddish-gold light that crashed the offending soldier into the wall.
Normally Jay would have been horrified with himself. He didn't like to fight because he wasn't good at it. But right then he really could care less. Thoughts were spinning far too fast in his head for him to feel anything but fear.
Pushing from the wall at his back, Jay ran blindly past the men and their strange medieval suits. He rushed headlong into a doorway that held milky-white light beyond its threshold. It was the only way out that he could see.
He could only take in what came next as smeared pieces of color and detail--a wide staircase that spilled out from his feet, a narrow bridge lined with slender trees, leading towards a city of skyscrapers and highways that wove in and out between black bejeweled structures.
More of those armored soldiers! Jay felt something in his stomach squeeze to see them at the bottom of the stairs. A small army was spread out and waiting with their backs to a series of big emergency lights. One was swiveled on its base to point directly into Jay's eyes.
He drew up an arm to shield his vision, but he could see what lay behind the lights themselves. Crowds of more ordinary-looking people were either streaming past the soldiers or standing stock still out of shock. Were they staring at him? He couldn't see much detail past the lights.
“ Ow!” Something small and hard hit the side of his head. “ What the h--Ow!” People were throwing stuff at him!
“ Damned Magus! Get out of there!”
“ Get away, you monster! Leave us alone!”
“ Go away! Leave what belongs to us alone!”
“ Go to hell! Get out of here!”
Jay didn't understand. Those people weren't making any sense. What were they throwing stuff at him for? He couldn't figure out why their faces were dark and overshadowed, but he thought he could see the furrowed brows that made their eyes narrow, their faces primitive, faces that grew long to open their mouths and scream. Some of them were running. He saw a mother hastily gather up her two small children, look at him and give a visible gasp. She ducked her head, practically carrying up her kids like luggage and running with them down the street.
“ Go away, damn it! Or better yet, just die!"
“ Your kind aren't wanted here!”
“ What the hell you doing without a collar, huh?”
“ There shouldn't be any of you out and free!”
“ Just die out already! You monster!”
“ Disgusting b******s, wearing human faces. Get out!”
But he was human, he was. Jay knew he wasn't exactly Mr. Movie Star Looks, but he was definitely human, anyone could tell that on first sight. He had two legs, two arms, and he had a head. Come ON already! Somebody make them stop, they being were crazy people!
“ WE SAID DIE!” A rock smashed against a second, smaller magic crest that sparked beside to his head act as a shield. Then came a soda can, a case of lipstick, a wallet, some keys, a plastic coffee cup and someone's paperback book.
“ What do you think you're doing, huh? Are you gonna try and 'conquer' us like the rest of your kind!”
“ You're nothing but criminals born and bred!”
“ Go to hell, Maggite!”
“ Get out NOW!”
Block it out. Block it all out. But it wasn't working very well. Although they sounded muffled, and though his eyes were half-blind, Jay could still hear and see everything. He wished the crazy people would shut up already. Why was everybody telling him to die? His temper plucked like a fine harp string, the magic crest glowed nice and strong, something flew like a bullet, and that was when he heard the crash of steel and glass. People were shouting to get down, get down. Some of the light in his eyes was gone.
At the first flash of a muzzle Jay threw up both arms in an unconscious move to defend himself. As if he could really block bullets! But ripples of air brushed against his forearms and tickled his skin so that he looked up in surprise. Close to his face was a large version of the so-called magic circle. It was much bigger now, seven feet in diameter as it floated in the air in front of him as a shield, intensely bright and almost throbbing with translucent streams of gold, touched with the softest waves of rosy red.
What the heck was this? He gave a start when the magic circle crystallized into fine glassy lines of reddish-gold. As Jay felt his spirits drop, the circle fell as droplets of liquid, transparent gold. Unable to move his eyes, Jay didn't see if they splashed or disappeared before they hit the floor of the landing at his feet.
Somebody...tell me what's happening.
“ Reload. Aim!”
“ Somebody contact the Tower! We might need heavier artillery.”
“ What the hell kind of magic is that?”
What was so important about a circle of pictures drawn in light? Taking a step back Jay started to turn when he remembered the soldiers he'd knocked out a short while ago. God, what had he been thinking? He didn't kill them, did he? But he'd shattered the wall, and that crater...
save us, save us
dying…the earth is dying
crying, screaming, wailing, hoping
A hand moved over his eyes.
It was incredibly dark. Something was there, lying just below the surface, but without any light there was no way to see for sure what they were. It was just a blur of black and darkest gray. What a stark difference from the tall mirrored buildings he'd seen above, lit up and beautiful like stained glass windows. These houses were nothing more than solid blocks of rock and cement that were barely two stories high. Massive pillars rose and disappeared into a black void hovering above. It went on in every direction without any sign of an end.
This place was too empty of features to be...anything. Yet it was still the essence of humanity's first attempt to survive after a global disaster.
One living occupant moved his foot and felt the soft crunch of sand and gravel. The underside of all cities looked like this. He melted without effort into this world where there was nothing more than darkness and the hint of homes long past.
He was eating, or rather chewing, a straw-shaped cracker that he suddenly bit in two. Two ruby eyes slid upward to watch a brilliant flare of red and gold tearing through the darkness, suddenly throwing back the cloak to reveal a bluish night sky. A tail of silver dust alone cast such a strong glow that the stars higher up faded in and out of sight.
The shooting star shone on the surface of the red eyes, smoothly moving from one side to the other to briefly expose darker red lines set in a pair of geometric mazes. A long, long distance from where that person stood, a different pair of eyes also looked up at the same sparkling blaze. They watched it land somewhere with one last flash.
Neither of them showed much emotion, if any at all. They just reflected the light above their eyes, thinking the same thing.
The chance of revival has arrived.
© 2013 Haeshin
About*Please provide feedback! Pick a story, any story, and try it out. I dabble in various genres, mostly in action and adventure with comedy thrown in, I do attempt to diversify on occasion with roman.. more..
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