Chapter 20 – Almost (4)

Almost – Part 4

     “I’m really worried,” I tell the others as Rose is brushing out my hair.

     “For Charlotte?” Mimi asks in between bites of some kind of fruit.

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     “That too, of course. But this is getting absurd, isn’t it? I haven’t been here long but, the violence has increased dramatically.”

      Rose tugs on my hair as she works out a knot.

     “It isn’t our concern Zero. The workings of the everyman are separate from your duties.”

     “And what are those duties Rose? Or Mimi, perhaps you could tell me? Kay? Now that you’re better, can you explain to me why I’m sitting here- why we’re sitting here as the city burns below, and people are losing their lives. Why am I allowing Charlie to put her life on the line and yet am keeping to myself here, having my hair groomed?”

     “It’s not our place to say,” Rose chimes in as she finishes my hair.

     “So let me get this straight. It’s not my, the Zeroth’s place to say what it is I do. Nor is it the closest people to me. Nor is it the people in charge. So you’re saying absolutely no one is qualified to decide what the Zeroth can and cannot do?” Exasperation and disbelief falls out of me.

     “I…” Rose looks to Kay for help, who only shrugs in return.

     “Hm. When put like that, that’s actually kind of strange.” Mimi speaks around the final bite of her fruit.

     “Then why do you, and everyone else profess it?”

     BThey look at one another.

     “I… don’t know?” Kay says with her signature head-tilt.

     “I’ll confess Zero, you’re the first to ever bring it up, at least that I’m aware of. My whole life at least-” Rose looks around at the others before continuing, “Our whole lives, we’ve been told to obey the Zeroth, not question. We’ve been told that the Zeroth doesn’t bother with us, below his station.”

     My head sinks into my hands. “Ok. I’m going to go pay Dom a visit. I didn’t see him outside so he’s probably in his office.”

     I stand up, and they follow. “No. I’m going alone. You three get some rest.”

     With that, I leave the room.

     Dom is standing in front of the window with a sour expression when I enter his office. “Yes?”

     “It’s me.”

     “My city is burning and you think me too distracted to notice a lumbering Rizhack?”

     “I don’t know what that is, Dom.”

     He sighs and turns to me with a stoney face. “Yes?”

     “How’s the research with Nina going?” His face turns even more dour as a scowl crosses his brow.

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     “Even now you seek to run?”

     His rebuke cuts me deep. I don’t want to be a coward. But I don’t belong here. I don’t belong in a world where I can change someone else’s life. I don’t want that responsibility; nor am I deserving of it.

     “Yes.”

     That’s all I can say. I have to own my shame, if nothing else.

     Dom’s face relaxes some as pity encased his eyes. “Your honesty is admirable if nothing else.”

     He nods and continues, “Ninavin has made great progress. We are on the precipice of an advent never before achieved. But for the specifics, you should consult her.”

     “And your own research?”

     “Few and far. ‘Tis trifling but unavoidable.”

     “I’m sorry. Even at my best, I still can’t help you…”

     Dom twitches his fingers and two chairs come sliding across the floor. He offers me a seat alongside him.

     When seated he begins, “Zero. Have you noticed issues with those closest to you? Changes in personalities perhaps?”

     “I suppose? I didn’t know anyone before I came here, obviously. I still don’t really know them. But, sure. Some of their actions have seemed off at times.”

     “I can’t quantify it. And it’s purely conjecture but, I believe it’s something you’re doing.” He looks at me, deep in thought while stroking his beard.

     I’ve always known it’s because of me, because of this b******* cursed upon me. But to have him point it out pisses me off.

     “I understand my misfortune plenty Dom. You don’t have to be an ass.”

     He gives a hearty laugh and shakes his head.

     “No, Zero. It isn’t to discourage you.” He reaches out and takes my hand.

     “It is a gift child. You have control over something no one else does.”

      I yank my hand away.

     “That’s the problem! It’s not! I can’t be responsible for shaping another’s life!”

     His nod answers me dismissively.

     “I’m leaving now. Thanks for your time.”

     I can’t stay here.

     I scurry across the room to the door just in time to hear the violent sounds of explosions in the distance. I turn to face the window from before and join Dom again.

     “My, my. The fighting intensifies.”

     I start chewing on my bottom lip in worry. I’ve tried so hard to ignore this feeling inside of me- the worry and guilt I feel at leaving the events in the city to Charlie and the others. My cowardice is all consuming, but I am me. I can’t change that. I have to run.

     That’s been my entire life- my raison d’etre.

     I ran from Rachel and it killed her. I ran from Him and ended up here. He probably thinks I stood him up. And now, I’ve ran at almost every step in this world.

     “They fight, don’t you know it. And with each blow delivered… and every taken, they set in motion an event to come. Every life taken is a mother, daughter, son, father, wife or husband.”

     Dom turns to me, his words thrumming inside my skull.

     “Who really plays at fate then? Those who stand and fall? Or those who take to inaction, letting things around them run their course.”

     “No. Our situations aren’t the same, you can’t compare them. No one is capable of understanding what is happening to me.”

     Tears threaten to fall. My fate- too much to bare. Why can he not understand? And yet an answer comes.

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