Continued from Part 1 :The Depressor
Key: Plot, Rant,
I ran home as quickly as I could; along the way I couldn't help but feel this crushing pain as I passed places and people that I used to know only to have missed them changing so much over the last ten years. Was I really so absorbed that I had missed all of this? Was that even possible?
When I got to my penthouse I felt a sigh of relief. I had hypnotized the owner of the building when I moved into the city and in return I had been given the penthouse of the building. It was lovely, with the perfect view of the city, and I was pleased to see that the building and my good old front door still looked the same. Sometimes we take comfort in little things, and that's okay.
However, when I opened the door all of that comfort faded. All around the apartment was the shambles of my life. My penthouse had always been in pristine condition. But now, I found it dull and worn. The walls had scuffs and peeling paint, the couch was worn and faded. The pictures on the wall were uneven and the plants had withered long ago. I couldn't believe that this was how I had been living. I also couldn't understand how it happened since housekeeping was supposed to take care of these things. But then I realized I had told them to stay away. I didn't want to be disturbed, I was too depressed to deal with them.
I saw pictures on my end table all overturned, I lifted them up one by one to see the faces of
my friends. My memory of what had happened wasn't quite as bad as it had been before. But in the end I had always tried to be there for my friends. But when I needed them, many weren't there for me, and the ones that were there I had slowly pushed away or managed to hurt in one way or another. I wanted to be angry, but all I felt was sadness and pain. I still felt angry, don't get me wrong. But I wasn't sure if I was angry at them, or me.
I spent several moments looking around my living room and finally moved to the mirror that was covered in dust. If I was going to beat this I had to do something, so I grabbed a small cloth and cleaned off the mirror that was hanging on the wall. As I did I realized that years ago I stopped looking in the mirror, any mirror. Sure I had them, and I would use them from time to time, but I never looked at myself in the mirror, or I would stand off to the side so I couldn't see my reflection. It just hurt too much. But now I was going to face it, I wanted to see who I was again. What I saw made me let out a deep, painful scream. Sitting before me was my face... but my hair, had turned white. I had grown old. I wasn't supposed to grow old.... I was immortal.
Seconds after I let out the scream the balcony doors burst open, and my oldest, closest friend, the angel Veo, burst through the doors. Her large burnt wings had shattered the doors open as she flew, then extended to bring her to a graceful stop a few feet inside the room. Her dress blew forward before hanging limply along her firm body as she stood in a posture that made her look like she was ready for battle. “What?” she asked “what’s wrong?!”
I ran to my old friend and hugged her, tears streaming from my eyes. I thought I had lost her, thought I had pushed her away, too, but when I needed her the most she showed up instantly. But all I could manage to do was hold her and sob and mumble out 'My hair... My hair is white!”
Veo sighed and hugged me “Oh honeybun... your hair isn't white, you have a few strands here and there but it's still 99% red like it's always..... wait a minute, how do you know it's white?!”
I looked at her with tears in my eyes and told her that I had looked in the mirror, how else would I have known? I didn't want to be sarcastic with her, but when I am in pain it just kind of comes out. I knew that she understood, but I still didn't want to be too much of an ass just now. I was so happy to see her and so scared she might fly away.
To my delight she simply smiled and hugged me again for a moment, she could always tell when I was in pain. Even when no one else could. But then she pulled back and looked me in the eyes. “yes I know that... but why do you realize that it's white? The Depressor has been preventing you from seeing it for... where is the Depressor?!” Her question came as she looked at my wrist, confused and excited. Her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.
I explained to her what had happened, the situation with my old, now-pregnant, friend, and how the device had exploded. I felt completely defeated, but was surprised when the angel nearly crushed me in a hug.
“Oh honey! I'm so proud of you!” she said excitedly. I just started to sob again. “What's wrong?” she asked in that tone that always seems to soothe me.
It took me a few moments to compose myself before I could manage to explain that it had finally beaten me, finally broken me. That it had manage to take from me whatever it had been programmed to take from me, so that I would never again be a 'menace to society'.
I felt so much pain, and yet my friend hugged me more excitedly then I thought she should have given the defeat I had just suffered. But then she said something I didn't expect. “It didn't win...” she said with a gentle smile “You did. Depressors don't explode when they are finished, they detach. They only explode if, despite everything they tried to do, you manage to pull off something that they can't stop. You summoned up all of your energy, and gave it to someone else. You helped two people, and then took away something that would possibly cause a person pain in the future. All selflessly. It can't handle that... you won.”
I don't know how she does it... but she always manages to make me feel better. I sat on the floor against my couch, and she knelt down next to me, rubbing my shoulder. I still couldn't understand how my hair had gone white. Even if it was just a few strands, it looked all white to me. I was immortal.
She took a few moments to explain that even immortals suffer the effects of stress, and that over time my hair may even go back to being fully red. But that it wasn't that bad.
That helped a bit, but was still a shock. I looked around and started to comment on how the world around me was changed. How my life had fallen apart around me, and my friends had moved on. And I never even realized it.
She did her best to comfort me, while explaining that the people in my life did the best they could, but didn't know how to handle the situation. It hurt them to leave, but they couldn't fix the situation. I understood what she was saying, but still, I had been there for all of them. And when I needed them the most they left. That tore a hole in my soul I wasn't sure I would be able to fix.
But then I realized something else... I had pets, living creatures that depended on me. I hadn't thought about them in years! Holy shit! I got up and ran to the room where I kept them, but before I could open the door Veo stepped in front of me and put her hands on my shoulders “They aren't there, Xander.” My heart was crushed.
All I could do was look at her with more tears forming in my eyes as I asked what happened to them. I asked if they died because of me. To my surprise Veo shook her head and said in a soft voice, “No honey, I took care of them for you. But hamsters only live for two years. I promise they lived a long and happy life and had...”
I cut her off before she could finish, and asked a simple loaded question “what about Quinn?”
To my surprise, Veo started to laugh, “Quinn is just fine!” she said with a smile “I just had to move her to a better location. She's fine and I'm sure she will be happy to see you HoneyBun.”
I felt a little bit better after hearing that, but was still very down. I had let down everyone in my life. Which begged a question I had to ask. I looked at Veo and managed to compose myself long enough to ask... “Did I drive you away too?”
Veo grabbed me and pulled me into a very hard hug “of course not Honeybun... I have always been here and looking out for you, you didn't always know I was there, but I knew you would beat this, and even if you didn't I would always be here for you.”
I held her as tightly as I could and let out years of pain, crying into her shoulder. It was a good cry and I'm not ashamed to admit that I did it. I didn't feel much better when I was done, but I did at least feel a little lighter in my chest. Like a weight had been lifted off of me.
When I finally let go, I walked out onto the balcony, stepped up to the railing and sat down, swinging my legs over it and looking out at the city. I hardly recognized it. Not that it had really changed all that much visually. But it no longer felt like home, it no longer felt like where I belonged. I looked at Veo, who had followed me out, and asked her “What do I do now?”
She took up a place next to me, leaning on the railing from the side and took a breath. “Well,” she began “The way I see it you have two choices. Choice number one, you stay out here as long as need, and when you’re ready we turn around, go into your apartment and fix this place up. It will take time, but you rebuild your life from the bottom up. Reconnect to some old friends, make new ones, build the life you want again from scratch.”
I looked over my shoulder at the life that I had; it seemed like it wasn't even mine anymore. Like someone else had moved in and destroyed it. It didn't seem like it had ever been mine. It just felt...wrong. I turned back and looked down onto the street many stories below, and told Veo how wrong it sounded.
She nodded slowly then said “Well option two is simple. You jump.”
My head whipped to the side to look at Veo in shock. “What?” I asked, confused “First off, even weakened if I jumped I'd be fine, I'd be hurt but I'm still immortal...I think. And second, that wasn't the best advice you have ever given...you know that right?”
Veo laughed a bit and put her hand on my shoulder. “Honey, I would never, ever, suggest you do something that would hurt you. I don't want you to jump to the street floor. I want you to jump and fly. Leave this place behind and start a new life completely fresh somewhere new.”
As crazy as it sounds, through this whole thing I had forgotten that I have wings! They shrink down and hide inside of my back and I hadn't brought them out for years. So many in fact that I had honestly... and completely... forgot I even had them! I looked back at my old apartment; in my heart I had already left it years ago. Then looked at the one thing that I still had in my life that I did not want to lose. “What about you?”
“Honeybun, no matter where you go I will always be there for you. Besides it's not like I live around here right now.”
That thought had never occurred to me. In all the years I had lived in the city I never actually knew where Veo lived, I just assumed she lived in the city but I guess I was wrong. I smiled and made her promise that no matter where I ended up, she would be there. Of course, she promised.
I looked down at the street below, and gently slid off the railing. I could feel the wind rushing along my body as I angled myself down, headfirst towards the street. The rush of air was exhilarating! I opened my eyes in time to see the cars rushing closer and closer. And for the first time in years I spread my wings. I felt the air catch underneath them and my body jerk into a glide. I cut it so close I was able to put my feet on the hood of a van and push off.
I glided gently along the breeze between the buildings as I looked down at the city below. I had had a lot of good memories here, and a lot of bad ones. I had had some great adventures, but now it was time for the story to take a different turn. I gently angled my body and let the wind guide me towards the moonrise. East seemed like a good direction, a good course to set. I would head that way until I found where I belonged, no matter how far that took me.
I looked down as I passed over the edge of the city and over the beachfront. I would miss the look of the city. But after one long, last look I turned my head forwards. And began my long journey across the ocean...the Pacific Ocean.
What could go wrong?
The End of the Beginning
Characters: Xander, Veo