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I still forced myself to believe it was a dream. On Xistis, no one would believe me even if I hadn’t manipulated my own mind. When my eyes finally opened, it felt like trying to move a pile of bricks. Adjusting to the harsh light glaring down into my eyes, I sat up and observed my surroundings. A hospital room. I was seated on a hard bed in a white room with one bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. A small TV hung from the low ceiling. Looking down, I noticed that I was wearing a pathetically small and awfully ugly white robe, fitting right in with the room’s other bland features.
Seconds after I looked up, I heard the doorknob unlatch and saw a petite and pale nurse walk in. As always, she was wearing a white robe over some baby blue clothes. She nearly jumped three feet in the air when she noticed me sitting up.
“Oh goodness! You nearly startled me to death! I was just surprised that you woke up!” she exclaimed.
“Sorry. Where am I?” I asked.
“You’re in the Alectorian Hospital. We found you at our doorstep after your… departure. Those Lithians sure have a way of transporting you to just the right spot. You weren’t in any serious condition, but we did find several fractured bones. We assumed they were just from the Main Portal transportation. I’m sorry… you probably have no idea what I’m talking about,” she lengthily replied.
“Why wouldn’t I? Those stupid Lithians took over our home planet, Xistis, and now they’re tracking any Xistians still in hiding, and transporting them to various planets. I was found. The funny thing is, everyone kept telling me that if anyone was to never be found by those slugs, it was me. And here I am in this… Alector, did you say?” I asked.
The nurse’s eyes seemed to bulge right out of her head in that split second.
“Y- you remember? The- the Lithians are supposed to wipe each one of their victim’s memory clean. You’re not supposed to remember anything about Xistis. They don’t want any rebels trying to get back to Xistis to try and put up a fight. Wh- what’s going on? We’ve only had one other case like this before,” she nervously mumbled, dashing out of the room, yelling for other doctors, I assumed.
That’s right! How could that slip my mind?! They said that when I woke up, it would be like entering a whole new life! But… here I am now, and I remember everything. I remember little Ka-lyn, grouchy old Jupiter, and even baby Coraline. But then… then they found me at that old grocery store. I didn’t think it would be that hard to blend in with those… things! And then they knocked me out with that gun and sent me on my way without a care in the world. Yet- how am I remembering all of this?
I didn’t have time to wait and find out. I could already hear the storm of doctors rushing down the hallway, and I didn’t feel like waiting here to talk hours on end about this strange event. Opening the window, I prayed to God that my special ability was still enabled and I jumped out. I landed five stories down with a light thud on soft grass. Obviously, the Lithians hadn’t thought it necessary to disenable any special abilities. After all, only ten in every thousand people were gifted with one. Mine had just so happened to be the ability of jumping from far heights without receiving one scratch.
Running into the surrounding forest, I tried to find cover in the overly large area covered with trees and bushes. I ran blindly through the wood, my eyes constantly smarting from the loose tree branches that just tried to make my flee difficult. It wasn’t until I was on the ground, that I realized I had rammed into someone… or something.
“Ow… watch it! I swear I’ll knock your brains out if you’re trying to get me back to that cursed hospital!” I heard someone exclaim.
It sounded like… a woman. About my age, but with a definite attitude. Rubbing my smarting eyes, I slowly opened them to meet them with a woman of about twenty. Ruffled dark blonde hair, pale blue eyes, and smears of dirt across her face. She wore a simple gray T-shirt and a pair of Designer jeans that were now ripped and torn to near shreds. For an unknown reason, I just couldn’t take my eyes off of her.
“Yeah, well… what are you staring at?!” she suddenly blurted out, startling me right out of my daydream.
“Uh, nothing- nothing at all. I just- I just was getting back up. I- I’m Braden, for your information. I- I’m gonna get going,” I quickly said, not being able to make up my mind. Should I be friendly and introduce myself… or just get going and be on my way?
Going for the latter, I turned my back and started moving deeper into the forest, when I was stopped by the woman’s blatantly unique voice,
“Telly. I- I was transported from Xistis to this wretched place… against my will.”
I froze dead in my tracks, slowly turning back to Telly.
“What did you just say? Did you just say Xistis?” I anxiously asked her, the tension growing inside of me with each second.
“Yeah, what about it? If you’re some super-intelligent doctor from this Alecrap of whatever this place is called… forget it. I don’t need your help and I don’t want it,” she harshly told me, still crouched awkwardly on the ground.
“No- no, I’m not from here either. I- I was transported by the Lithians from Xistis. They were supposed to erase my memory clean, but their was some sort of malfunction. Whatever it was, I remember everything about Xistis and I don’t plan on forgetting it anytime soon,” I hesitantly explained to Telly. Even if this was some sort of scam, the worst they could do was take me back to the hospital.
Telly’s jaw nearly dropped to the ground. The world seemed to stop revolving for at least two hours. Telly finally must’ve snapped back into reality, as she then blurted out, cutting the awkward silence,
“How do I know this isn’t some sort of trick or scam or something? I won’t go back to that hospital.”
“Well, look at it this way: if I start taking you back towards the hospital, there’s not much stopping you from kicking me in the skull. I’m unarmed,” I told her, showing her my empty pockets.
Telly hesitated for several seconds, before reaching her hand out to me.
“Here, help me up.”
Taking a hold of her hand, I pulled her up off the ground and allowed her time to brush off her leaf covered backside. Shaking her head and clearing her thoughts, she looked at me and said,
“Come on, we should get going. I have no idea what we’re doing… but I need to know your story and I think you need to know mine. We’re allies now and we need to look out for each other.”
We walked on through the dense shrubs and brush, dodging every time we passed a loose branch hanging down from one of the trees.
A burning fire was crackling underneath the shade of the canopy of oak trees that Telly and I were seated around. Two hours after we had reluctantly allied together, we had found a clearing in the forest, and had decided to call it a night. By now, the sun had sunk behind the horizon and the moon cast its silvery glow on this strange, new world.
“So… it looks like you have some explaining to do,” Telly told me, cutting the silence like a two-edged dagger.
“I could say the same for you,” I replied back.
“You’ve got me there. Well, if you really want my whole life story… I was gifted with the gift of premonitions at birth. They’re still somewhat hazy, but I can see enough,” she began.
“Then… why didn’t you see me?” I asked her, interrupting her story.
“As I said… they’re not perfect. I might’ve once seen a blurry clip of you, but it’s not like I can remember everything I see. My visions come and go. I lived in hiding with my mom and my baby girl… little Jacquelyn. We hid out in the basement of an abandoned apartment… it was only a couple blocks from a grocery store, and for a while… we were set. Then that day came. Jacquelyn and Mama were sleeping, and I was keeping watch. I thought that the area surrounding the apartment was deserted… I didn’t know anyone still came by,” she said, quickly catching her breath.
“Well… what happened?” I asked her, the tension already growing inside my heart.
“The Lithians found us. One of them was taking a walk by the area… they were walking right past the apartment, right as Jacquelyn woke up and began to cry. I tried to silence her as quickly and quietly as possible, but by the time she had actually quieted down, the Lithian had found us and reported us. Now, I’m here and they’re somewhere else… maybe even in another world. Obviously, there was some sort of malfunction… it looks like you and me both remember our past, even though we weren’t supposed too. I don’t know what the heck is going on, but I just want to find my baby girl and my mama. They’re out there somewhere… I need to get back to Xistis. It’s time to fight for what’s ours,” she sternly said, slamming her fist down on the ground with the last remark.
Taking a deep breath, I exhaled and whispered,
“I’m sorry. I know what this must feel like.”
Hearing only silence from Telly, I assumed that it was now my turn to give my story.
“Well, you see… my family went into hiding too. We stumbled onto an underground tunnel one day. It was just the right place to fit my family. I- I almost don’t know what happened. You know? Back home… don’t get me wrong, I loved Xistis… but I just didn’t know what to do with my life. I always felt so clueless. Like I could never find myself. Who I was. What I wanted to be. Sorry, I’m getting off track. Anyway, we had decided to go shopping; we needed food. We… thought we could just walk on down to the grocery store and shop… we thought we could fit right in with those… things. I don’t know what we were thinking, but I decided to go along with my father. Unfortunately, the Lithian police carry “Stopper Lights.” They… process whether or not you are a human or not. You probably already know where this is going, but I was caught and my dad was just barely able to escape. He pushed over a few shelves and made his escape by just inches. I was knocked out with their guns, and… you know how the rest of the story goes. Yet here we are… with complete memories of both our pasts. Incredible,” I murmured, seeming to ramble on.
A frigid and harsh gust of wind blew past our faces and I shivered, barely even feeling Telly’s hand suddenly reach across and grasp mine. When the wind lowered down, I realized that despite my shivers for the chilly gust of wind, that I also shivered because of the delicacy, the gentleness, the unexpected and beautiful wonder I felt with Telly’s hand intertwined in mine.
That sudden urge of… hope, was suddenly overpowered by a loud and blurring noise that sounded off in the distance. Propellers… engines… loud hovering noises. It was the sound of an airplane. And not just one, but what sounded to be two.
“Oh gosh… do you think those are for us?” I nervously asked Telly.
“Of course not. They don’t care that much about us. Unless of course, they want to get rid of us now that we have our memory. They could… I don’t want to know what they’d do,” she replied back, an uncertain quiver to her voice.
“I’m putting the fire out… just to be safe,” I quickly explained, reluctantly letting go of Telly’s hand and grabbing the bucketful of water we had gathered to pour over the fire. With a low sizzle, the fire instantly faded, leaving only a small trail of smoke in the air.
By now the noise of the planes were nearly upon us. Praying to God that we weren’t seen beforehand, I reached out and took a hold of Telly’s hand once again right as a plane swooped down into view and crashed through the forest, knocking over trees, its main direction: us.
“Telly, they did see us! I put out that fire too late! Now they’re coming!” I exclaimed, pulling both of us back up and diving for shelter in a mangled pile of nearby brush. From outside the pile, the deafening noise of the airplane’s propellers swept past us with a shaking of the earth and a rumble.
I then noticed how hard I was breathing. I guess, in some situations, the breath is just knocked right out of you. Peeking out from the brush, I saw the two planes flying through the forest and destroying its trees a good length away. We were safe… for now. As long as we didn’t start up the fire for a while, we could stay undetected. Turning back to Telly, I realized that she was nestled right up next to me, our shoulders and necks touching, lips only inches apart.
“I think we’re safe. This is pretty uncomfortable, so we should be fine to get out of here now,” I assured Telly, whose panting breath brushed against my face.
“No, it’s fine. I’m perfectly comfortable,” she said, regret immediately showing up in her eyes. I knew that she hadn’t meant to say that.
Not wanting to make it anymore awkward, I disorderly climbed out from the brush, landing on the ground in an awkward position.
With that slight fall to the ground, my life was altered forever. In that split of a second, my whole life came into focus. I realized the track my life was now on, and the track I wanted to steer onto. I realized what I wanted to do with my life, who I wanted to be… who I was.
As impossible as it sounded to me… I had found myself.
“Braden… Braden, what is it? You look like you just got stunned by a Lithian gun.”
Telly’s voice barely even registered in my mind. How could I have been so blind?! After all of these years and I’m just realizing it now?! Is this possible?! Vaguely remembering what Telly had asked me, I turned to her and let up the biggest smile I could manage at the corners of my mouth. The look she gave me was not excitement, was not at all cheerful… it was confusion and a bit of annoyance.
“Would you just tell me what’s going on?! You’re acting like a madman!”
“Telly… I know what I need to do. I know what I want to do with my life. Telly- the realization that’s been so- so hidden from me for my whole life has finally come into view. The door that’s been locked my whole life has just opened!”
The fact that my words sounded hollow and corny didn’t even register in my mind.
“I want to help people! I want to save them! I want to- fight… for Xistis… for my life! For our people! I don’t want to stay here in Alector all my life, with all of these regretful memories of Xistis bottled up! I need to get back to Xistis, and… and do something! Help hide people. Help protect them until we win back over our land. I won’t give up. If I have to die for Xistis, I will! Those moronic Lithians won’t stay in power forever! All this time… all my life I have just been hiding. My own light shadowed by my own blindness! Just now, protecting you, helping us both take cover from those planes… I had never done that before. I have always been the one to run and hide… to never really know what I’m doing. I just did it. You- they- everything has just come into view. Telly- I have to go back. Now. There’s no turning back,” I rambled, gasping for breath at the end. Gosh, that felt so good.
Telly sat on the edge of the brush, pants torn and hair matted. For a minute, I thought she was going to stand right up and walk away. Either that, or slap me across the face before ranting on about my insanity. Instead, she did quite the opposite. The most least-expected. She reached out and took my hand. Her bruised, cut up hand that felt like an angel’s in mine. She stood up, pulling me up with her and said,
“You can’t expect to do this on your own.”
Without even giving me time to reply, she began to walk away, her fingers just barely motioning for me to follow. Staring in shock, my feet feeling disjointed and numb, they began to automatically walk, barely without my knowing. Shaking my head, I couldn’t believe Telly. I couldn’t believe what had just played out. I couldn’t believe that right now, in this run-down forest, in the middle of this unknown planet that smelled of soot, there was hope. That we were now heading back to Xistis. Back to our home-planet… ready to fight. Ready to stand up for everything we are, together and separately.
But, that was Telly. That was life.