Chapter 2 – New Beginnings

New Beginnings

     I jog around the next corner. The wind blows through my hair as I navigate the twist and turns of the back alley shortcuts. Sure, maybe normal people would avoid these areas but please – bad stuff like what most people think basically only happens on T.V. Real life simply doesn’t have time to be fantastical. It just keeps moving on and on without a care for anyone or their life. That’s why humans are the way we are. We find solace in what small virtues and happiness we find. That’s why we greedily eat up everything in excess. Because life- life doesn’t care about you or me.

     With those kinds of thoughts weighing heavily on my mind I see the clearing in front of me. The light is bright as I come out of the alley. It’s so bright as to be blinding. “Eve! You made it!” I hear his dreamy voice call me as I try and slide to a halt, part in the excitement of his presence, and in part because of how bright the light is. As I approach a stop I realize that the ground is no longer below my feet- I’m falling.

     My world twists and turns and is contorted. My blood runs cold and like a wildfire, it bursts through me, out of control and ever consuming. Yet my body, forgotten by its life-sustaining blood, turns chill and freezes over. I observe my existence as it unravels into its rudimentary particles; with a detached mind, I’m able to see how the fire of my blood spreads into the surrounding darkness and forms the bases of stars.

     Portions of my body chip off and float freely through the void; as they reach the new stars I watch on as they take shape into worlds. Before my very eyes, I witness the birth of the cosmos and I scream. I scream as I watch life eternal bleed into existence. And so I did the only thing one can do in such a position. I looked upon my creations and dismayed. So I screamed- It echoes in the darkness; and I am reborn as if never apart, I am become whole.

     The first thing I notice is the way the world smells. It’s a subtle thing to notice. Generally, you get used to smells and only notice differences when they’ve fallen under the “good” or “bad” spectrum. But this is neither. This smell simply is. The smell of the earth, of the wind, the smell of the sunshine. That’s what hits me- how much I can smell the rays of light as they beat down on me from above. Then what I notice second, perhaps should have listed higher on the scale of importance.

     What I notice, as I lift my head, are people. People everywhere. I scan the sea of people and notice among the crowd the young, the old, girls and boys. All of them are wearing clothing that would fit right in with what you’d imagine from the olden days. Like, old, old days.

     Like – nevermind, this train of thought is hardly important. I scan from the faces to the scenery- scenery that simply shouldn’t be.

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     Instead of a concrete jungle, I see a field of lush, blue grass and trees both small and tall. Both big and short. Some are donned with red leaves, others green, some blue. I continue my gaze to the side and notice the buildings. The architecture is beyond what you’d see in the cities. Instead of sharp, hard curves and shapes that are more for efficiency than aesthetics, these buildings in the distance seem almost castle-like. If I weren’t sane, I’d say some of them almost look like actual castles.

     I notice a man with blue hair down to his shoulders just behind me. He’s got a glare that could kill seemingly levied against me. I can’t imagine why, and in my current state, I wouldn’t even attempt to guess. My gaze lands on an old man. His clothes are more robes than anything else. They’re a mix of colors, primarily purple and red. There’s a symbol of a tree on his chest. Falling from that tree seems to be some kind of fruit, apples?

     His face was craggy, with known years. His beard is long and gray, nearly down to his waist. I half expect to see a pointy hat on his head, but alas, no. He wears some kind of cap on his head, yes, but not a pointy kind. Some kind of flat cap, the kind you’d imagine yourself wearing on graduation day.

     “You. Are. The Zeroth!” Bellows from the man’s throat. It was then, moments before the pain, that I realized his arm was extended with his hand in a familiar gesture- he was pointing. He was pointing at none other than yours truly. Why? I couldn’t tell you. In fact, I’d rather not try to tell you. I would never again want to relive that experience. A single thought crosses my mind, maybe it wasn’t me he was pointing at.

     Mere seconds after those words I felt the world alight in fire. My blood boiled; and unlike so many times before, my body did not run cold. Oh no, my body joined my blood and together they seemed to work in unison to cook me alive. The heat was horrible, the smell of burning flesh was one that would never leave my psyche. In this moment I realized I was dead. This pain would end me even if the wounds did not. I shook and convulsed as a soundless scream escaped my lungs. It lasted a lifetime, and yet after a moment, it was done.

     I crumpled over with unsteady breathing as I gasped in attempt to fill my lungs. My nerves were on fire, yet no pain was present. Instead, it hurt- it hurt so bad, not from the pain, but from the memory of the pain. How my mind did not break I’ll never know. Slowly the murmurs around me became sharper and more in focus. I listlessly raised my head, and what I saw around me, surprised even me.

     In a radius of at least three feet around me, was scorched earth. What was once vibrant, blue grass was now a smoking crater. I lift my head further to see a dozen or two people, jaws nearly on the floor. Looking at them you wouldn’t think I was the one who just went through an almost literal Hell. The murmurs turn louder as I begin to make out words. Chief among them, reflections of what the old man said before the pain. “Zeroth” I hear. I hear from all around me- each one of them uttering in some fashion, that word.

     I cautiously shake my head and set up straight. My body felt… good? Great even. Yet the residual memory of the pain makes me act with fear. I tentatively look toward what I can only assume to be the source of my woes; I stare daggers at the old man. His hand drops to his side upon meeting my gaze. His aged brow furrows deeply as he rubs his beard in apparent contemplation. He takes note of me if only briefly, before turning to the crowd. “The crowning of the Zeroth Knight has-” I don’t get to make out the last of what he says as my world falls to darkness.

     I open my eyes to the feeling of someone stroking my cheek. “Mmm, Rachel stop.” Not even a moment passes before what I said registers with me and in a panic, I shoot straight up. The dizziness hits me hard and I’m forced back from nausea. I take note of the girl sitting at my bedside as my head meets pillow. Scouting the room with just a quick glance tells me I’m in a house, top floor judging by the view from the window just three feet to my right. The interior is mostly bare and wooden. The unmistakable scent of antiseptic hits me. Judging from what I saw before, this appears to be some kind of old-timey hospital.

     My eyes flicker in an erratic fashion, trying to take in everything possible. Before long, I take note of the woman there. “Good, you’re awake. Three weeks would have been impossible for a normal person. But I suppose our Lord Knight is hardly normal, ne?” She says as she pushes a strand of hair behind my ear.

     I’m mesmerized by her touch- so gentle. In my world, even the thought of touching another without explicit invitation would be unthinkable. Funny how impossible this situation is and yet I am fully able to process what I know the be the truth. This is not my city, not my country, not my world. Yet I allow this woman to nonchalantly brush against my hair. Her hand is warm, slightly damp, possibly from the cloth I see in her other hand. Her touch is soft and carries a woody smell briefly before it’s returned to her side.

     “Three weeks?” I ask through a haze. “Surely you aren’t about to tell me I’ve been asleep for three weeks.” Why is this what I’m asking? I should be panicking more…

     She studies me for a moment, “Sleeping isn’t quite what I’d call it. You seemed to have fallen into a stasis of sorts- to accelerate your natural healing speeds dramatically. Why it’s such an advanced technique as to be nothing short of amazing. But I suppose it’s but a trifle for the Lord Zeroth Knight. But don’t you know it, for my doctorate I did a dissertation on such lost magiks. And don’t you know it, the stasis effect is one-”

     She shoots off word after word in faster succession. Like a machine gun she devolved into words I couldn’t even begin to understand let alone reproduce. Something in my face must have given her a hint of some sort because I notice her cheeks turn rosy and she goes silent.

     She clears her throat as she stands up from my bed. The way her dress sways is elegant; it’s a full body dress that ends just below her knees that gently raises some as she stands her self up. She’s small, not quite Jamie small, but probably around five four. Her dress is a dark purple with white frills, but is a little darker than what the old man was wearing. The frills give me a “maid” vibe that I’ve read about in fantasy stories. She looks down with a weak smile, framed by a delicate face. Her smile’s softness is reflected in her eyes, a startling green- deeper than even my own.

     “You need sustenance my Lord Knight,” Is the first thing she says to me as she stands

     Never one to be outdone, I try my best to stand again. My body sways from the exertion and she rushes around the bed, places her hands on my shoulders, “No. You still need rest” she says and she pushes me back onto the bed.

     In aggravation I retort, “I’ve evidently spent three weeks resting, I can do without it, thanks,” while forcing myself up despite her weak struggle to force me back down. Her eyes crinkle in worry as I stand. I feel dizzy and begin to collapse.

     “As your doctor, I simply must insist that you listen to me,” this girl says while catching me.

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     To be in the embrace of another is a strange sensation. In my world, only the most severe of circumstances allow for such an intimate gesture. Even professional doctors have to be careful; especially with the paperwork that always follows. Documents and more documents have to be signed by the touchee waving all legal repercussions from the physical contact. Still, as strange a sensation it is, I don’t hate it. Nonetheless, my aggravation intensifies and I push her off and protest her attitude.

     She does not look amused and backs away from me. I feel bad, seemingly hurting her feelings but I feel so good knowing I won – or so I thought. How foolish of me. I’m not one who’s spent a lot of time in the hospitals, what few remains. But I’ve always heard of the perseverance of proper doctors. Her eyes flash again, literally flash and there’s a small shock to my lower body. I start to fall backward and move to stop myself but am unable. I fall onto my back into the comfort of the bed; in confusion as I try to stand up.

     “What the hell?” is all I can get out as the doctor moves my legs up onto the bed and pulls the cover up to my chin.

     “You’ll stay there and listen to your doctor. When your food is here I shall reverse the paralysis.”

     “What? You did this?” I try protesting more by sliding the cover down but she stares at me, her eyes half lit, “Ok, ok. Please don’t zap the rest of me too. That would be hell.”

     “Good. Lord Zeroth or not, you’re still my patient,” she says as she makes her way to the wooden door. As she pulls it open, she turns a glance my way, seemingly checking on me one last time, and then sees herself out.

     My gaze wanders over to the window. I try to move my legs, but whatever it is she did to me still remains in effect. I study what I can see of the world outside. Now that I have a moment to myself, I summon all of the effort I can muster in my current state and focus on the here and now. The first thing I should focus on is the fact that I’m not as freaked out as I should be. Human beings tend to be easily broken. Studies and experiments have shown that when reality doesn’t mesh with what’s in a person’s mind, the disconnection causes horrific mental instability.

     My reality shifting to one separate from my own world, should have given me severe PTSD at bare minimum. Yet here I am, calmly analyzing everything. Yet, another issue upon this issue is how… familiar? everything is. I don’t recognize the world, the environment, nor any of these people. But my mind buzzes at its deepest part with knowing; and I believe it’s this “knowledge” that’s saving me from a breakdown. But why do I have this knowledge? It’s like a string of déjà vu moments tickles my mind and won’t go away.

     Why am I in this world? Why am I being made to believe in the fantastical when the world has denied it for so many others?

     The thoughts swirl around in my mind as the blanket of sleep threatens me. The exhaustion from it all is bearing down on me. I don’t want to fall asleep because in my dreams, come what may. I’m torn between this reality where I’m not myself, my caution and fear dampened, or the world of slumber where I may see her again… but I cannot resist it any longer. I try to resist this world, and the nightmares to come, but I fail. I always, always fail.

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