Peripherals, a short story

It’s the week of Halloween, a time when we are more susceptible to the subtle energies of our 3D world. This is known as the thinning of the veil, the veil being what usually blocks us from the spirit world.

About a year and a half ago I started seeing things out of the corners of my eyes. It culminated in a moment when I clearly saw a red car drive in a quiet school parking lot I was in, only to see that the next moment it had vanished completely. When I told my then flatmates about it one of them suggested that I was seeing into another realm.

I can’t say for certain if these flashes of visions I get are a trick of the mind or not, but I can say that during this time of year they happen much more frequently.

So today I decided to share something unique here on my blog. This is a short story I wrote earlier this year, inspired by my own experiences but far more exciting than anything I’ve actually encountered.

Peripherals

“What are you looking at?” Kevin asks.

“Wha?” I half answer back. I don’t look at him, my eyes are still glued to the empty air next to me. Despite my avoidance of eye contact, I can feel his gaze pointedly looking at the side of my head.

“Did you see something?” Kevin tries to rearrange the question to make it easier for me to respond.

“Oh, no,” I answer, finally returning his gaze with a feigned confidence. Still he looks at me, brows pulled together, “I mean, I thought I did…” I stammer. I notice that the woman sitting at the table next to us is staring at me as well. I hold her gaze for a moment and she quickly looks away from me, embarassed.

“Ahh,” he says, comforted by his understanding. “Peripherals,” he murmurs half to himself and half to the lukewarm coffee he has been drinking for the past two hours. My cup, long since empty, sits next to me like a smudged stamp from a night club, proof that I have paid to be here.

Kevin and I are friends, I suppose. We met last year in a community writers group. It was one of those things you see on Craigslist and think, either this is going to be great or this is how I’m going to die. Since the thought of death isn’t one that particularly frightens me, I went to the weekly meet up.

It was at a diner on the other side of town. Most of the attendees were middle aged men with varying lengths of long grey and black hair all named something like John. Amongst the sea of John’s were a few others like me. By ‘others like me,’ I mean people in their mid to late twenties. Over the course of a few weeks the group dwindled naturally. No one was offended or concerned, all of us aware that nothing lasts forever.

There are a few of us that have managed to keep the group going. Destiny, Mark, Kevin, and Deja, rotating characters in the novel that is my life; they come and we sit and we write. We talk in pleasantries, polite and shallow. On occasion we help each other edit or proof read, and for a brief period of time we see each other’s souls. Its like looking under a microscope at bacteria, it’s interesting, it’s there, but it has nothing to do with me and how I conduct my day to day life.

“I think I’m gonna head home,” Kevin says while folding his laptop over and sliding it into the modest black case he uses to carry it around. It’s a laptop case that says, ‘I am an average dude with average taste, please don’t look at me.’ We exchange goodbyes and I wave as he leaves the shop.

I can feel the absence of him next to me. The suddenly free space feels enormous and foreboding. I stay in my seat even though I desperately want to leave.  I have to give Kevin time to walk to his car, start the engine, and leave the parking lot. We already said goodbye, it would be rude of me to force another awkward fairwell as I pass him to get into my own car. So I sit there and try to focus only on what is right in front of me, that damn unfinished novel.

5 minutes later I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of my car letting the engine warm up, pleased that I’d managed to avoid an awkward second goodbye with Kevin. Then I feel something approach my vision from outside the passengers seat window. I choose to ignore the primordial instinct that is screaming for me to look to my right. Instead I slowly ease my sedan out of the coffee shop parking spot.

The freeway is unusually packed for a Monday evening, so I lull my four door down the road at a calm 30 miles per hour. An aggressively normal pop song starts playing on the radio, the kind you think you know the words to but also maybe you’re hearing it for the first time and it just sounds like another pop song that came out last year, last month, last decade. Its familiarity is comforting.

I feel it, that same pull I felt a few minutes ago. My ancient reptile brain is telling me that there is some sort of danger just outside of my direct vision and it is demanding that I look at it. From the corner of my eye I see a person in the passenger seat, but that’s ridiculous because I would know if I had been driving a stranger around for the past 5 minutes. I relent despite my rational judgement and quickly turn my head to the right. Nothing and no one is in the car with me.

I sit hunched at my kitchen table trying to decide what food I’m going to have delivered for dinner tonight, Monday being as good an excuse as any to shy away from the grueling effort of making my own food. But there it is again, like a song I can’t get stuck out of my head, the feeling that I am not alone. This time the person is in front of me. I feel the piercing stare on the top of my head, which is nearly parallel to my kitchen table at this point. It feels as strong as earlier today when Kevin was looking at me, except Kevin is a real person and this is a figment of my imagination.

I jerk my head up and yell, “HA” to the empty chair in front of me. No one is there. It’s just me yelling to the empty spaces of my kitchen. I shake my head, disappointed in my own declining mental state, and order the Thai food I had been staring at.

I haven’t admitted it to anyone, but these bizarre moments have been happening more and more frequently. And it isn’t just people I sense, the other day I saw a red car drive by just outside of my main focus point, but when I looked to see the car it was no where to be seen. The image had been so vivid that I was forced to freeze for a few moments while my brain worked through rationalizing the whole experience.

The other day I had been the first one to arrive at our writing session. I sat alone and worked while I waited for the others to arrive, not an unusual occurrence. As I sat alone a voice spoke to me. It was clear and close to my ear, “I’m here” it said but when I turned, expecting to see Deja, there was no one near me.

The best reasoning I could come up with is that I’m going insane. I probably suffered from some traumatizing event in my childhood that I have completely blocked out of my memory and now my brain is going haywire from the pain. I put ‘find a therapist’ on my list of things to do once I actually have money. Writing the next great American novel isn’t fortuitous until you’ve actually finished writing it.

After a Netflix binge, I figure I might as well go to sleep. I stare at myself in the bathroom mirror, wholly uninterested in my own appearance but with lack there of anything else to do. Then I see her. It looks like a woman. She’s right next to me. She’s just outside of my line of vision in the mirror yet she feels as real as I do. So, I turn my gaze slowly to the right and for a brief moment her image remains there, leaning against my bathroom wall. Her mouth opens for a moment before she disappears like an early morning fog.

“fuck,” is my eloquent response.
I play the radio far too loud as I drive to meet Kevin and Deja for another writing session today. The music surrounds me, almost suffocating me, and I wonder if this is the same pop song that was playing on the radio yesterday.

So far today I have not spotted any strange cars or people, that I am aware of. I feel manically chipper as I pull into the same spot as yesterday, almost as if the cheerier I act the less likely it will be that I see anymore phantoms. As I turn the key to kill the ignition the sensation of someone else being in the car overwhelms me. I close my eyes and lean my head against the steering wheel in defeat.

“Go away,” I moan into the cracked leather.

“Spring?” I hear an oddly familiar woman’s voice call my name.

Yes, my name is Spring. My parents had too much fun in college in the early 90s, and in that haze they wondered why no one named their children Spring. Plenty of girls were named Summer and Autumn, some even named Winter, But Spring? No, never.

“Spring, can you hear me?” the voice rang in my head, mellifluous and high pitched. I answered “no” silently as if the voice would go away if I lied to it.

“Spring? Spring?” the voice asked again. “Guys, I don’t think I’ve made it, she’s not responding,” she said with a slightly lower voice, one that wasn’t meant for me. “I don’t know, still not enough power I guess,” she continued in that hushed voice as if she wasn’t a figment of my imagination sitting in the passenger’s seat of my car.

“What?” I ask more so to myself than to my imaginary friend. When I look up I see the same woman that I’d seen in my bathroom last night. We lock eyes for a moment and I watch as hers grow with recognition. She opens her mouth to say something but I don’t hear any of it before she fizzles away yet again.

I don’t know how long I was sitting there with my mouth half perched to scream or wimper, but eventually Deja knocks on my window and wakes me from my shock induced stupor. “C’mon girl, let’s go” she says commandingly to me as she walks away from the car window. Deja is a beautiful 6 foot tall woman. Her legs stomp on the pavement with the residual confidence of a man. I take her command and hop out of the car.

I continue a few paces behind Deja, the gap widening with each of her long commanding strides, by the time I walk inside she’s already set up her laptop at the table Kevin has saved for us. She stands up to get in line for a coffee and I set my laptop down, following her every move like a road map. By the time we sit back down at the table, Deja let’s out a loud sigh, “Girl what is up with you?” She says to me.

“Nothing,” I lie, trying my best to look flummoxed  from my shock enduced ght. We lock eyes for a moment and I watch as her gby her insinuation. She sees right through this and repeats the question. I look at Kevin who looks nervously back at me, not having the keen skill of perception nor the confidence of Deja. Her brown eyes tell me that lying is pointless, so I do my best to tell the truth without giving too much away and landing myself in an institution.

“I’m seeing things. Mainly people. They’re there but they’re also not there. I don’t know.” Kevin and Deja sit silently for just enough time to make my palms well up with sweat.

“You’re definitely crazy,” Deja says with a certainty that is almost comforting. Almost. “But everyone is crazy” she finishes.

“I think I might be clinically insane though,” I plead, needing more than one line of assurance to believe anything contrary to this statement.

“You’re a writer. Writers are insane, if we weren’t we wouldn’t write.” She continues in an authoritative tone, “my crazy is pretty evident,” She gestures to herself, clad in a hardly daytime appropriate amount of neon. “Kevin has got to be some closeted freak. Probably thinks he can talk to Jesus or some nonsense.” Kevin opens his mouth to retort but closes it again without uttering a word. “Your insanity is a gift,” She says this quietly like I’m the only other person in the room, “write about it.”

I’m not convinced but I follow her advice anyway. I start a story about an invisible woman who struggles to hold her visible form. I have no plan for it, no idea where it’s going. I cut it out of myself with the skill of a trained physician, like it’s a tumor that had been rotting my brain slowly. The three of us sit there in shared silence. The sounds of our pounding keyboards and the slither of slurps from our cups are white noise, background music. I’m so filled with wild, pent up creative energy that the story is flowing out of me as if some divine spirit were doing the writing and merely using my body as a conductor. So enveloped in the story, I continue when I get home, skip dinner, and only stop at 3:38 am because I finally finished it. Well, I’ve finished the first draft of it.

“SPRING!” The yell pierces my consciousness as I watch my laptop screen turn black upon shutting down. I can feel her behind me. I can also see her reflection in the now black screen of my computer. I look at her fragmented depiction in my laptop screen, which is badly in need of a cleaning. “I think she sees me but I don’t know if she can hear me,” the specter says in that voice that isn’t meant for me.

“I can see you and hear you,” I say with the delusion and audacity of someone who spent her entire day checked out of the real world, enveloped in an imaginary one she had created.

“Really?” she says with a glee I find hard to place. “She can see me and hear meefor me.

s in that voice that isn’eing her clearly.turn black upon shuttinof slurps from our cupse !” She says to that other person I cannot see nor hear.

“Who are you talking to?” I ask from a place of curiosity and aforementioned delusion. I turn around slowly and take in the fantastic sight of her in front of me. She’s average height with dark brown hair. Her eyes crinkle around the sides from a perpetual cheeriness that’s as foreign to me as she is.

“Buster and Skip” she says as if this information should be common knowledge. As if everything about the present moment were a totally normal and explainable event. “You don’t know who Buster and Skip are?” She asks upon seeing my face of confusion.

“Should I?”

“What’s the date today?” She asks, disregarding my question.

“Uh,” I fumble with my phone, not knowing the date off the top of my head. “July 20th.”

“We’re too early!” She exclaims to the illusive and probably equally imaginary Buster and Skip.

“Too early for what?” I am exasperated and annoyed at this point. I don’t care if she’s real or a figment of my imagination, I just wish she’d let me sleep.

“Spring, my name is Octavia. Keep writing. I’ll see you in…” She scrunches up her face and looks to her left where I assume Buster and Skip are supposed to be, “six days. I’ll see you in six days, I promise.” And just like that, as soon as she came she was gone again. I slunk down the short hallway to my bedroom and fell asleep fully clothed.
The next six days passed without seeing the image of Octavia. Well, at least not in that sense. I began writing about Octavia and her side kicks Buster and Skip. In my stories they are interdimensional time travelers. Buster and Skip are gargantuan aliens from the other side of the Milky Way Galaxy. Octavia is one of the last known humans. The three of them ride around time and space uncovering the mysteries of the universes, all the while Octavia was in search of her long lost sister. They had been separated after a spaceship crash which killed their parents. Octavia had been wedged between two pieces of the ships hull and came to when Buster and Skip were pulling her from the wreckage. She called out for her sister but she was no where to be seen. Buster and Skip said it was unlikely that she’d survived the crash but Octavia felt differently. She could feel her sister’s life force burning brightly within herself.

I’ve never written science fiction before and, to be fair, I don’t have much of a brain for science. So, it’s light on the science and hard on the fiction. Regardless of whether anyone else likes, or even reads my stories, it doesn’t change the fact that I haven’t written with a ferocity akin to this in I don’t even know how long. I know enough about this world I live in to know that this is special.

“Today’s the day!” Deja sings as I sit next to her, alluding to the fact that it has been six days since I’ve last seen Octavia. Deja is very invested in my life as of late. “It’s the most miraculous thing to happen to any of us!” She sung a few days ago as I tried to protest her praise.

“I may very well be going insane,” I retort.

“Who is to say what sanity is? What you’ve seen has sparked a creative energy I haven’t ever seen in you, It’s beautiful. I’m jealous,” She slapped me lightly on the arm and I felt instantly better. Kevin, who has never been one much for conversation, nods pensively next to her.  “And Kevin and I cannot wait to read it when you’re ready to share.”

The three of us are no stranger to reading each other’s work but I had been hoarding this project, reserving it for my eyes only. It feels more personal than my other pieces, despite it being set in a made up future with a cast of characters I have completely imagined.

I don’t want to share it. I like living alone in this alternate reality.

We put our heads down and set out to do the noble task of writing, a job that someone has to do. Octavia and Skip were in the Danae Galaxy searching for Buster, who had gone missing during their hunt for the rare Celestine Diamond. I am rudely roused from this world when I hear the text alert sound ring from my phone next to me. I rarely get texts, so the curiosity is too strong of a pull to ignore. I flip it over, type in 1-2-3-4 on my lock screen, and watch as a text message from Destiny unfolds in front of me.

Hey, SP, how are you doing? Do you want to grab dinner? Watch a movie?

Destiny is the only one who calls me SP, my initials, Spring Peters. I sit there and reread the text message trying to decide the best way to respond, but before I can, she sends another one.

I am here for you if you need it. Don’t hesitate to ask.

We all used to sit around and type on our laptops in various coffee shops together. That is until Destiny and Mark eventually began dating and I found that spending time with them was insufferable. So a few months ago I started writing with Deja and Kevin excvlusivly. Destiny doesn’t like Deja and Kevin, and Mark just thinks whatever Destiny thinks.

Despite her huge room filling personality, Destiny always ignored Deja. Ignoring Kevin I can understand, he’s quiet. Kevin has this supernatural ability to blend into his surroundings. Numerous times I have completely forgotten that I was with Kevin until I looked next to me and realized that he’d been there the whole time.

Deja notices me staring blankly at my phone, “What is it?”

“Destiny wants to hang out,” I say with my eyes still glued to my phone’s screen. I can feel Deja roll her eyes at this, despite not looking her way. Hiding her emotions is not something Deja practices nor believes in.

“Tell her that you’re hanging out with me and Kevin tonight. Let’s get Thai and sit around your apartment. I’m dying to meet Octavia,” She leans forward on the table with bent elbows as she says this.

Do I want Kevin and Deja to come over tonight? Besides the fact that neither of them have ever been to my tiny apartment, I’m not sure I’ll see Octavia tonight if they’re with me. I’m still pretty sure she’s a figment of my imagination, but at this point I don’t care. I want to see her whether she’s real or not.

I’m hanging out with Deja and Kevin tonight, sorry. But let’s hang out soon I respond to Destiny and then put my phone down with the screen facing the table. I shake off the reality of talking to an old friend and allow my mind to delve back into Octavia’s. Today they are going to find the Celestine Diamond.

I look up into my rearview mirror to make sure Deja and Kevin’s cars are still trailing me as I make the last left into my apartment complex. I park my car in the numered spot and decide to wait a few moments here while the other two park their cars in the visitors lot. I fish in my purse for my phone, which I haven’t looked at since Destiny’s texts earlier today. She still hasn’t responded to my last text but I don’t have the emotional capacity to hypothesize what she is feeling right now. Deja knocks the large rings of her right hand against my window, and so I get out and lead the pair to my modest living space.

“And this is where the magic happens,” I say with my arms stretched wide. Deja walks in with a piercing gaze, sizing up the surroundings. I forget that Kevin is here until I hear him quietly close the door behind him.

“Girl,” Deja drags out the vowel, “what is this place?” she stands in the middle of my shamefully bland living room with her hands on her narrow hips.

“I’m not much of a decorator,” I relent.

“I’ll say,” she walks around the room and starts an unstoppable diatribe about what color throw pillows I should put on the loveseat and a painting of hers that she’ll lend me to put on the empty wall behind the end table. Kevin and I are happy to be her audience as she crosses the room and sings her suggestions.

I look down at my feet and notice white, circling smoke enveloping my converse. I kick my feet lightly upwards through the smoke, testing to see if it is real. “What’s going on?” Deja says, unable to miss anything. “what do you see?” she asks again as she covers the distance between us in two strides.

“Smoke, or-or fog, I think” I mutter as it thickens and spreads throughout the room. It starts to envelop, not only me, but everything in the space. Kevin and Deja are looking around the room with the same silent gaze. Soon the whole room is filled with the thick white fog. I can feel the cool droplets of moisture on my skin. Goosebumps run down my arms, a physical reaction. A silence hangs in the air as well, just as dense as the fog.

As soon as the room fills up, a threatening gust of wind dissippates the fog, and standing there in the middle of my studio apartment is Octavia and two figures that I recognize, from my own imagination, as Buster and Skip. The six of us stand as though our feet are superglued to the stained carpet below us. I notice that Octavia is panting and soon realize that I am as well, despite having done nothing to trigger this physical response.

“This is Deja and Kevin, I assume” Octavia says still firmly planted to her spot in the middle of the room. Deja’s hand jumps to her mouth, her silence more foreign than the unidentified people in my living room. “We’ve got a long night ahead of us,” Octavia says at the end of a long sigh.
It is an intense relief to know that Kevin and Deja can both see and hear Octavia as well. Deja is in such a state of shock that for the first time in the year that I’ve known her, she has been silent for almost 10 minutes. Surrounded by the others, Octavia and I are engaging in a rapid fire dicussion. Buster and Skip are laying on the loveseat, limbs thrown over the sides and back of it, too big to fit onto the truncated couch. Kevin is sitting at the dining room table that sits adjacent to the large couch that the rest of us are on. I notice these things but truth be told, I can hardly focus on anything but Octavia. Her mellifluous sentences dance in the air between us like a song I know but haven’t heard in years.

She’s explaining to us all what the hell has been going on the past two weeks. “I’m real,” She starts off, “as real as anyone here, as real as that chair or the sun or gravity, but I don’t belong here.” She starts to tell us about the universe in which she, Buster, and Skip all live. Though I didn’t need to be told, it is all exactly as I had written it. The lost sister, the time and space travel, every character and rock I described without forethought had a home in Octavia’s reality.

I couldn’t not believe her at this point. The shock in Deja’s eyes is proof enough for me, this is real. This is the begining of the rest of my life.

“But how do I come into play? How do I know about you guys, your universe?” I interject.

Octavia crosses and uncrosses her legs, her mind obviously shifting through her thoughts. “You… created us” She finally says. A silence lingers for a few moments.

“What?” I finally spit out.

“Your science is about a thousand years from understanding the concept,” Octavia begins.

“957,” Skip interjects, “957 years to be exact.” The disruption shakes me hard. I had forgotten that there was anyone else in the room besides Octavia and myself. After the initial shock, something else bubbles up inside of me and a laugh bursts from my mouth. That was absolutely something that Skip would say.

“Unnecessarily accurate, Skip” Octavia says with a twinge of annoyance that feels like I wrote it myself. She turns back to me with a pointed stare that makes me catch my breath and hold it in my throat for a moment.

“You would be more familiar with the term ‘God'” My breath still has yet to return to me. I open my mouth to no avail. Octavia speaks again, “it’s a very gradiouse term. It’s not quite like the almighty God of Christianity or any other religion you guys believe in right now on Earth.”

Buster and Skip begin to laugh, first quietly but quickly it gains speed and rhythm until the laughter is beating on the walls and my chest and the inside of my head. Octavia pulls out a small cylindrical device from her pocket. I instantly recognize it as a Mana Ray, something of my creation. It’s like a cordless taser, shocking the recipient using energy harvested by solar rays. She points the device back and fourth between the pair of laughing goons as if deciding which one to shock first. They notice her gesture and quiet down before she follows through.

Once the room returns back to silence, Octavia launches into her next speech. She explains that human brains have the ability to manifest much more than we are currently aware of. With the proper reasearch and training, we gain the ability to manipulate not just the world around us, but also to create things out of nothing using our minds. There are infinite universes full of creatures and stars and planets, all crafted knowingly and unknowingly by brains like ours.

“S-so I’m your g-god?” I stammer. My fingers are playing with a hole in my leggings right below my left knee, making the hole bigger and bigger. Buster and Skip begin to laugh again at the mention of gods but Octavia’s stare quickly dissippates their revelry.

“Yes,” she says, placing one hand on my left knee. I stop fidgiting with the hole. Without anything for my fingers to do, my hand’s shake. I feel embarrassed, far from godlike. “And we need your help.”

A moment later we are all rushing out the front door of my apartment. Deja offers to drive Buster, Skip, and Kevin while Octavia and I take my car. We drive two blocks to the closest drug store and get a few stares from the braces clad teenager working the register. It’s certainly not Kevin or me catching their eye.

I lead everyone to the far end of the store where the cold beverages are. We start filling our arms with as much cola as we can hold. “You guys really drink this stuff?” Buster asks me, his long arms easily holding four large bottles. “It is literally poison. You couldn’t pay me to drink even a drop of soda.”

“It tastes good,” Kevin mumbles from the other side of Buster’s elbow, making him jump slightly at the realization that Kevin was there next to him.

“Human’s are weird,” Buster says as he grabs two more bottles and walks away towards the front of the store.

“He’s not a human?” Deja blurts as she watches him walk away with strides longer than her own.

“Nope, he’s a Caypid” I tell her.

“What the hell’s a Caypid?” She asks.

I shrug, “something I made up.”
The cola is in bags in my backseat, a nearly empty highway is in front of me. Octavia is to my right in the passenger’s seat, a place she has been before. The lights from Deja’s car are bright in my rearview mirror, a reminder that I am not alone. A reminder that I am not crazy. We’re heading east outside of town, out where the lights of the city can’t block our view of the night sky.

After about an hour’s drive, the six of us are parked on the shoulder of a little used highway. Deja lights up a cigarette as Octavia goes over the plan to destroy the Celestine Diamond. It’s then that I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. I look at the screen and see Destiny’s face looking back at me. I silence the call without a further thought.

The Celestine Diamond isn’t even a diamond at all. It looks like one, hence the name, but it is actaully a hunk of rock from the long exploded star Polaris. It is also known as the Heart of the Universe. I had just finished writing about Octavia and her cohorts finding the precious rock earlier today. To see it here shining in Octavia’s hand is overwhelming. She only holds it for a moment before stashing it away again in her pocket with a fear in her eyes. I feel my phone vibrate from another call but I press the down volume button and the vibration stops.

“So it’s as simple as that, pour some cola on the ancient space rock and it’ll just… dissappear?” Deja asks as she stomps out her cigarette. She bends over and picks up the butt from the ground and puts it into a small metal cannister that she fishes out from her purse.

“Not quite,” Skip interjects. “It will however strip the rock of it’s celestial energy.”

“What does that even mean?” Kevin asks.

“Oh shit, you scared me Kev,” Deja says with a manicured hand to her chest. “You are the sneakiest straight man I have ever met” She says with an exhale.

Soon we begin walking into the tree lined horizon behind our parked cars, each of us carrying a bag or two of the cola. Skip said that when I created the Celestial Diamond a tear, three planets long, had ripped in the Danae galaxy. Not only was it threatening to rip the galaxy apart, the news of the diamond and its rare celestial energy was sweeping through other planets and galaxies and dimensions. In the wrong hands, this diamond could do unthinkable damage.

“But how?” I ask Skip.

“You know what these are?” He swings his own Mana Ray in front of us and I nod my head in recognition. “Well, the Celestial Diamond is like having more than a hundred thousand of these, all in one. In the wrong hands It could destroy galaxies or control the minds of an entire species. It’s power is nearly endless.”

“And the cola will stop it?” I stumble on a fallen twig, too enveloped in the conversation to pay attention to my feet as we walk through the forested area.

“It will paralyze it in a way. The acid in the cola will neutralize the energy enough so that it won’t be able to do any of what I just described.” He then runs ahead of me, searching for a clearing to do said neutralizing.

I walk along in shared silence with the others for the next few minutes but a knot is twisting and wringing out my insides. I feel an imeasurable guilt at creating this thing, this utterly destructive thing. I so desperatly want to be a creator of things but I constantly find myself destroying everything I touch. Octavia must have noticed my melancholy because she appears next to me. Feeling her near me is enough to calm me down, albeit temporarily. I imagine reaching out for her hand but the complicated ethics behind it all stops me.

Skip finds a clearing and, upon his order, we all begin to clear the ground of debris. Once the floor is clear, Octavia unwraps the Celestine Diamond from the thick black fabric it had been hidden inside of, and places it in the center of the ground. It shines like the star it once was, enough so that I no longer need my phone’s light to see. “Alright, what’s next Skip?” Octavia asks, her body looks posed to attack or defend, like a cat with its shackles up.

“One by one we are going to pour the cola on the diamond. It’s very important that we do this slowly, if we try to neutralize it too quickly it could backfire and surge.” Skip informs us.

“Surge?” I ask. Buster mimicks an explosion with his hands and makes a ‘boom’ noise to really drill the image into my mind.

“If anyone wants to back out, now is the time,” Octavia says forcefully. I look at Kevin and Deja and they both nod slowly. We’ve gone this far, there’s no alternative at this point.

Skip starts the procession off. He stands over the diamond and pours the bottle over it. As the final drops fall, he points to Buster who walks up and takes his spot by the diamond. Buster does the same to me when his bottle reaches near empty. And so we continue in a circle, each of us taking our turns. The bright shine from the diamond is diming slowly as we pour cola after cola on it.

“How do we know when it’s done?” I say quietly to Octavia next to me.

“I don’t know, you’re the god here” She responds with a smile that hits me in my chest and sends a fury of warmth throughout my body.

The number of bottles is slowly dwindling and we are all looking to Skip for some reassurance. His brow is furrowed in concentration, completely unaware of our gazes, or at least pretending to be. Kevin walks up to relieve Deja and her quickly dwindling bottle of cola. He stands over it just like we all had, only this time the diamond isn’t growing dimmer. The light of the Celestial Diamond is growing brighter and brighter every second. “STOP!” Skip yells, “RUN!”

I don’t think, I don’t have the luxury of time to do so. I grab Octavia’s hand and I run as fast as I can back towards the cars. We both hear a loud crack and it throws us to the ground. Kevin runs past us as we peel ourselves up from the ground gingerly. Skip isn’t far behind us, I can hear his voice yelling from a few yards away. It takes a few seconds but I realize that he is yelling joyously.

We stand in a huddle around Skip. The diamond is right there in the palm of his hand, no smaller than before but its brilliance has dimed. It is no more than a rock now, and so Skip drops it on the ground.

“We should get out of here,” Buster says to Octavia and I feel my chest tighten. Skip pulls something from his pocket and begins pressing buttons on it, I recognize it as their ship’s portable control panel.

“I don’t get it, why did you have to come here to Earth to fix the diamond?” Deja asks Skip.

“There’s nothing more destructive in all the galaxies than the soda found on Earth.” Skip and Buster begin talking in a language I don’t understand, despite having written about it. I use the opportunity to pull Octavia to the side, “I want to go with you” I tell her in a voice meant only for her to hear. “I can’t stay here.”

“I don’t know” She says after a few moments. “It’s never a good idea when a Creator goes to the universe they created.”

“Please” is the only plea I have. I squeeze her hand with an unashamed desperation.

“It’s more complicated than that. You don’t have the Dot” She motions to a small black circle on her temple, the thing I created that allows them to travel through time and space.

“It’s not even real science” I point to the Dot, “I just pulled that out of nowhere! It was actually pretty sloppy writing,” I admit.

“It’s real for us,” She sighs and places her hand on my face. “But I have an idea.”

We say goodbye to Buster and Skip but Octavia stays behind to help me. Kevin and Deja follow us in her car as we drive half an hour to the bridge just outside of the city limits.

Octavia leans over the bridge, sizing up the drop to the bottom while Deja holds my shoulders and gives me a kiss on the side of my head. “We’re gonna miss you, crazy girl,” She whispers. Well, as much as Deja can whisper. I suddenly feel a deep love for her, Kevin, and the easy friendship we’ve cultivated. Despite the sudden and unexplainable onslaught of emotions, I have long known that this city, this planet even, isn’t the place for me. I’ve always been a visitor here.

“Is it gonna work?” I yell to Octavia. She gives me a thumbs up in response. The wind is slashing our bodies as I hug Kevin and Deja goodbye. It’s only fitting that the first time I have ever hugged them is also the last time.

“So tell me the plan again,” I ask now that I am standing next to Octavia at her spot next to railing, wind and space and water below us.

“Well, first we need something small and metal” she says through a clenched jaw, it does nothing to diminish how beautiful she looks with the crisscrossing lights of the bridge shining on her face. The light and the shadows mingle and move like a dance I’ve known for years.

“Deja!” She yells, “Still got that ash tray?” Deja throws the small metal box to Octavia. She catches it with one hand and passes it to me. “Put this in front of your heart,” I unzip my jacket and slip the box under my bra to keep it securly in place.

“Perfect, now all you have to do is jump and right before you hit the water I’ll point this guy at you,” she holds up her Mana Ray, “and boom, you’ll be on the ship.” She smiles at me and the idea of jumping off of a bridge seems perfectly rational.

I put my feet up on the rail and lean over to see the water rushing below. A deep breath helps me to lift my leg over the rail to the other side, but before I can bring the other over, I hear a car’s horn. The driver holds their hand down for a few seconds to elongate the dissonant noise. With one leg in front of me and one behind, I turn my head to see Destiny’s car.

“SP! No! Please! Stop!” She yells as she jumps out of the car towards me.

“It’s not what it looks like, Destiny, ” I say calmly as I bring my leg over to join the other. I lean back in order to stay up on the railing until Octavia can give me the go sign.

“I know it seems endless right now. I know, I know, I know, but you don’t have to do this,” She pleads with tears running down her cheeks. “It won’t bring her back!” She screams as I lean forward slightly. “It won’t bring Octavia back!”

I lean back again and sit down on the railing to look behind me. Destiny’s hands are up by her eyes, squeezing the skin around them. Mark is leaning against the hood of his parked car, worry written plainly on his face and in the hunching of his shoulders. “How do you know Octavia?” I ask too quietly, neither of them hear me over the striking wind.

Destiny continues to shriek at me with a mouth full of tears, “It wasn’t your fault! Please don’t do this! SP! Please!” Her voice grows more shrill with every syllable she utters.

“How did you find me here?” I ask, this time loud enough for her to actually hear me.

“You weren’t at home, I figured this is the only other place you’d want to be tonight,” She moans and coughs up some mucus from the sobbing. “Please SP, I’m really worried about you.”

I look out at the black night sky ahead of me. I feel for Destiny but my mind is made up, I’m leaving this galaxy. “You don’t understand, I’m not killing myself,” I tell her as calmly as possible, “It’s hard to explain but you can ask Deja and Kevin, they know everything” I say gesturing to them.

“No I can’t, I can’t, I CAN’T” She smears the tears on her cheek with a new found resolve, “Deja and Kevin aren’t real!” She protests through the tears. I turn to look at Deja but she’s nowhere to be seen. I flip my head to the otherside to find Kevin, Octavia, anyone. Deja’s car isn’t even here anymore.

“Where did they all go?” a sob forms in my throat and errupts out of me, as shocking as anything else that has happened tonight.

“Please come down!” Destiny ignores my question. I reapeat it and she looks at me with a new saddness. She is overcome with this new saddness and can no longer form sentences between the sobs escaping her mouth, so Mark comes up beside me and tries to bring me down from the railing.

“What did you do? Where did they all go?” I quickly jerk my hand away from Mark’s and it causes me to almost lose my balance, an act that causes Destiny to wail in misery.

“Deja and Kevin are figments of your imagination, Spring. Last year your girlfriend Octavia got in a car crash on this bridge and it killed her and your two dogs.”

“Buster and Skip,” I half whisper.

“Yup, Buster and Skip. After that you started talking about Deja and Kevin… and we didn’t know what to make of it.” He looks at me earnestly, but it’s all so much harder to believe than anything else I’ve encountered in the past two weeks.

“The Celestial Diamond,” I say more to myself then to Mark. “I can show it you, It’s real. it’s all real I swear. They were all here.”

“Spring, when we pulled up, you were the only person on this bridge. No other car. Nothing.”

“That can’t be real. It was real.” My hands are starting to sweat as fast as my mind is running. The rhythmic sobs coming from Destiny are twisting the cogs of my brain and spinning them out of control. I start to see little lights in my vision. I can hear Mark still talking to me but it’s almost as if my ears decide not to hear him anymore.

I didn’t realize I was falling until it was happening, the water below was cascading ever closer to me with each passing nano second. And then I felt it, the pierce of the Mana Ray. We did it.

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