At all alive.
Three times four.
Like clockwork we spin,
Along an axis with hands pointing.
By a simple factor of twelve our lives are ruled,
Forward forever which never reverses. Time and time again.
The decision ate away at Hales all morning. Ultimately, however, she could not find it in herself to accept. Her friends were going into the military to defend and fight for Garghent. Leaving would be betrayal. The military had given Hales her Aspect, for that she was forever indebted to them, whatever their purpose for her. How could she decline? Her life was nothing, powerless, aimless. Hales owed everything to the military, they knew it and she knew it.
Others had broken contract already. Lo, Winnow, Aulus and Antho, four extraordinary students and Specters all joining a different path.
Was Garghent worth fighting for? Her siblings lived here so of course the answer was yes. She was now officially recognized as a weapon, what good is one if it’s not used? The military couldn’t be too terrible. Millions of people relied on the military to keep them safe. If it really is as corrupt as Deo says than she could change it from the inside, her and the rest of the class…
Rabio is never wrong and he never loses. The voice in her head argued. Become powerful, become the best that is what Klyle advised. Hales, a sore loser to the core, wanted to be on the winning side, the team with the highest likelihood of success. A once in a lifetime offer. Being a bodyguard for Rabio doesn’t sound too bad.
You don’t know a thing about him. The voice argued again. Hales had put off the interview, saying she was still too injured to attend. Rabio, apparently, was a patient man, his “agent” saying to take all the time needed to recover.
On top of everything her final year of school started up again tomorrow. The choice would drastically change her life. A bridge had to be burned, no way around it.
“What to do, what to do.” Hales said aloud to herself, tapping her fingers together anxiously.
Hales spent the last hour walking through the city. She was meeting up with Deo today and finally tossed aside thoughts of the future when she came upon the spot they were meeting at. She forgot the inner turmoil anyways when she saw Deo standing by a small patch of flowers outside the grand library.
“Hey.” Hales greeted casually, despite her racing heart.
Deo turned and smiled, “Good morning, Hales.”
“Checking on the flowers?” Hales accused, trying still to uncover his Aspect.
“Yes, they all look healthy and strong.” Deo replied, ignoring her sly expression.
“So what are we doing today?” Hales asked, looking at the flowers thoroughly. There was no sign of the strange characteristics she saw when she first met Deo. These were all alive and normal.
“I’ve got to check on a few spots around the city.”
“Are we walking?” Hales asked, a centimeter too close to Deo. Her eyes studied his. As always Deo’s piercing ianite eyes, a sure sign of an awakened Aspect, lay deep set in his dark complexion. His hair long, messy and black adding to his guarded and mysterious nature. He stood slightly taller than herself and wore a long sleeve hoodie despite the summer heat, though the hood was down. Both his pants were black and shoes were black. His physique didn’t look particularly built but neither did he look weak. Hales guessed he was about average in terms of athleticism. Neither failing nor excelling. Finally he had a small bag hung around his shoulder and earphone wires threaded under his jacket, the buds hanging around his collar.
Hales knew what Deo was looking at. A somewhat rounded face with tawny eyes and light brown hair cut longer in the front and shorter in the back. Insomnia gave her bags beneath her eyelids which darkened her general complexion and lines along the sides around her nose adding texture, age, and definition to her contour. Her body had become leaner during the camp, more muscle and an overall sharper toned physique resulted in her build appearing more mature. Her self confidence skyrocketed after the awakening of her Aspect as the general sense of peace and oneness centered her dreamy personality.
Under Deo’s up close and intense scrutiny, however, Hales became self-conscious, suddenly hyper aware of all the flaws she associated with herself. She reddened.
“We are walking.” Deo said after what felt like an eternity to Hales, though in reality couldn’t have been longer than mere seconds.
Hales recovered better than she thought possible, her months of training aiding her from the worst of the embarrassment. “Do you always walk?” She said keeping up with Deo, which was undeniably easy as his pace was undeniably slow.
“Yes, always. Walking helps kill time and you miss too much in a car or bus. Besides, I usually just listen to stuff on this.” Deo pulled out a phone from his jacket pocket and flashed it before sliding it back in its place. Hales nodded but her mind already centered on his walk. His movements were lithe, but unlike a hunter, unlike Master Klyle’s or Professor Vandle’s walk, theirs were silent, dangerous and ever-wary, ready to pounce and quite literally in Klyle’s case. Deo’s walk altered somewhat, similar, but less aggressive. Efficient perhaps, as if he were aware of how he moved and each muscle worked in the most optimal way, wasting no energy. Deo’s walk at least had purpose and direction. There is a psychology to walking that is intimately tied to a person’s character. What Deo’s walk said about him, Hales concluded, is a personality obsessed with knowledge. The walk of someone extracting every sight, every smell, every feeling and internalizing it all.
“You are lost in thought.” Deo stated without a sideways glance at Hales.
“Point proven,” Hales said. Deo shrugged, accepting her response without further question.
“You do this every day, right?” Hales asked to keep the conversation alive.
“Yes, Garghent is a big place. There’s always work to do.”
“I enjoy it.”
“What about school? Where do you go?” Hales pressed.
“Full of questions are we?”
“It’s part of the ‘getting to know each other’ process.” Hales retorted. Deo smirked.
“True. I don’t go to school, though I suppose I would be in the college phase this year.”
“Where did you go to high school?”
Hales pursed her lips. “Uh… Should I even ask about middle school?”
“I’ve never been to school.” Deo kept walking but Hales had to pause for a second. She jogged to rejoin him.
“You’re parents never sent you to any school?” Deo stiffened marginally at this.
“They never had the opportunity.” He said seriously.
Hales turned pale. “They didn’t-” Deo cut her off before she could finish. “No no,” He chuckled. “I live with them.”
There were times when Deo’s choice of words unsettled Hales, the way he phrased some sentences were eerily off…
“You’re a strange one.” She noted.
“I think that humans are the strange ones.”
“You don’t consider yourself human?” Hales teased jokingly.
“We are a different breed, Hales. Don’t allow this world to decide for you anything…” The conversation died out after that as the city continued on with its daily cycle, uninterrupted by either’s quiet lonely thoughts as the hours flowed by.
At last Deo stopped midstep, planting his foot in the place he lifted it from. They crested a hill and stood upon the highest point. Looking down, the view changed from the typical, impressive architecture into a sprawling mess of shanty, poverty-stricken houses arranged in waylaid and chaotic patterns, clear evidence of an extorted people living in the waste of Garghent’s wealth. A second city, the city within Garghent. Here the buildings are made of landfill garbage and the only economic system is one’s wits. Death rates are unbelievably high, yet the population only growing each year. The second city consists of almost a quarter of Garghent’s entire population. The poor, criminals, the sick, those evicted from their homes and anyone down on their luck live here, not because it offers a new start but because it is free.
Garghent’s previous autocrat, Janiform Amenais had sectioned off a large plot of land within the border of the metropolis for the impoverished and criminal to live in. It filled and expanded within years, now hosting a significant subculture inside Garghent. Hospitals, schools, businesses, gangs which function as the de facto police, and the whole panoply of the modern city operated in the second city… just dirt poor.
“Why are we here,” questioned Hales, suddenly anxious. The stenching bog already watering her eyes. She wiped them.
“I wanted to see this place with you.” Deo responded, then elaborated. “Millions of humans live here in less than human conditions. This is Garghent’s doing, more specifically it is the greed and corruption of people that caused this. You don’t need anyone to explain to you the unfairness of the world, the injustice of nature. Our birth is undecided, Hales, our bodies merely following the genetic code it was given. In some cases our very brains are out of our own control. No, you know all this Hales. Perhaps we are a destined race, destruction and abuse written in the stars. Death and jealousy written in the stone structures we live in.”
“The only belief is in ourselves and within our self’s is a force called the Aspect, a permeation of some universal power through the inner conscious or soul. This alone gives us nothing. What we have are dreams, Hales. It is through dreams that we exist and by dreams that we create. The very world built by us things that dream.”
Hales stood silent, expectant, in a trance as Deo continued speaking, the backdrop of Garghent on one side and the second city on the other, with the sun glaring its brilliance indiscriminately upon the whole stage and only the shadows lurking behind each construction daring to defy the light. Only the shadows…
And Deo who stood as a deviant heretic acknowledging nothing, not the sun, not the city nor the land or sky nor any ideology manmade or not.
“Gods, Hales, that is who create worlds. Gods who dream, for only a god can turn dreams into a reality. My dream is to recreate this world. Schools becoming centers of art and poetry, businesses turn to markets of trade and charity, cities are demolished and in their place are sprawling paradises of hanging gardens. Words become songs. No one will be the subject of cruelty and hate, a world where humans love each other and nature. That is my dream Hales, my philosophy. And I will awaken that dream one flower at a time. Change through peace will never bring change, merely more war.”
“The people that live in this poverty stricken district are considered to be the scum of the planet. Vile criminals and drug abused addicts who rape and torture and terrorize the pure and civilized people of Garghent. Understand the censorship of your reality and the cognitive dissonance of the history of our species in relation to the current narrative of modernity. We have not evolved past violence. It exists in the same brutal savagery that a spider inflicts upon its entangled prey as it does in us humans. Peace is the lie of civilization. To pretend that bloodshed is a thing of forgone cultures of rustic lifestyles is an inexcusable pretense fed to us by the most barbaric breed of creatures that ever lived. Us.”
Deo took on an expression that joined burning hatred with forlorn depression.
“But I don’t want to kill anything…” The sardonic nature of his words tearing his conscious apart. That much was obvious to deduce.
He is crazy, thought Hales. Deranged, insane, a man on the edge smiling. He is mad and that madness is infectious. All her life Hales searched for a purpose, afraid to think big… Now she had the power of galaxies, the universe in the palm of her hand. A trite existence with only upwards to go. Shoot for the stars?
Pathetic. I am the stars.
Hales took his outstretched hand in her own and stepped close to Deo. “You want to change the world? I have that power… Or rather that power is within my reach. All I care about is my brother and sisters. If this place is unsuitable for them, then I will change the very planet we live in.” Hales’ voice was hard, set, almost unsteady.
The sun began its decline along a predictable path and somewhere, somewhere in the world an elderly bone-thin man laughed a ragged blood spurting laugh.