So, the boy’s story began with an awakening, literally.
He opened his eyes after seemingly sleeping for an eternity. Couldn’t be helped, seeing that he was out the night before with a bunch of friends, celebrating his hard-earned and much-deserved promotion at work.
After drinking up a storm, he remembered stumbling into his apartment, and not even bothering to undress, he plopped down on the bed and promptly passed out. It was Friday evening, and he vaguely remembered that his presence wasn’t expected on Saturdays anyways so even if he slept in, there wouldn’t be any issues.
As he slept, he was dreaming of various things, which he could only partially remember. There was coldness, there was pain, bright light – there was warmth too, mixed in there somewhere. The point was, he had one helluva weird dream.
But when he woke up this very morning, he noticed something was amiss.
For one, there was a lot of light coming from what he presumed to be a window without glass. Looked like either a midday or early afternoon, judging by the warmth and the color of the entering rays. There were unfamiliar, old-school drapes drawn back, letting the light and breeze in.
The ceiling above him looked rather unfamiliar, with antique wood paneling rather than the usual gray plaster. The overhead fan was gone too.
Huh. Ain’t that something.
He was dazed for a moment and found it was a bit difficult to gather focus. He felt thirsty, cramped – and wondered what time it was. He turned his head to the side to check the trusty alarm clock he picked up in a shady shop down by the China Town.
He couldn’t see it. It wasn’t there. No, the bedside bureau itself that had the clock on top, was gone.
Even more dazed, he stared absentmindedly at the dark drool stain appearing on the bed sheets. Drool was his, of course.
Uhh…. What the hell. What time is it? Hope I didn’t forget any appointments. I’m not getting fired for missing work, right? No wait, where’s my clock gone off to? Is this my room?
His dazed and confused eyes wandered off to the opposing wall, and immediately he felt anger swelling up: he just realized his wall-mounted, battered Korean flatscreen TV and the shiny new gaming console which should’ve been visible by the foot of the bed were nowhere to be seen as well.
Oh god, did someone break in while I was out cold??
That was his first line of deduction. Normally, he’d have been correct. But too bad, this wasn’t normal. Which became crystal clear only a few moments later.
The bed he was lying on wasn’t his. The room he was in wasn’t his. The window which let warm rays of the sun into the room wasn’t his either. Everything as far as his eyes could see, wasn’t his at all.
And then there was this fragrance, a pleasant and nostalgic smell of a flower he couldn’t quite recall. His place never smelled this nice before – it smelled of a boys’ dormitory, casually decorated with, y’know, the assortment of empty beer cans, littered socks, and half-filled pizza boxes. Totally playing to the stereotype, without fail. Well, after all, he was a card-carrying member of The Hairy Chested Caveman Club and he had no time for some sissy, metrosexual stuff.
Still, he could tell there was something wrong here, just unsure of what that was.
Definitely feeling creeped out of his alien surroundings, and wondering if he was suffering from a Grade A hangover, our protagonist tried to massage his forehead while sitting up. Surely a splash of cold water and a mug – no, make that a jar – of black coffee would wake him back to his senses.
Except he couldn’t move his arms. Nor could he sit up. In fact, he could do nothing.
To his surprise, he found himself totally wrapped up tightly in cuddly blue wool, like a Christmas present from Santa. Only his face was exposed. To say he was thrown off by this development was an understatement of the decade.
Almost immediately his head was filled with scenes of many horror films he’d watched with his girlfriend – a cackling mad scientist chopping all his limbs off; an evil cult leader performing a forbidden ritual with him as the sacrificial lamb; he even thought that he might have become the main character from the movie Source Code.
Unfortunately, things his mind cooked up was getting worse by the second. Like a drowning sailor stuck in a whirlpool, his imagination ran wilder and wilder, plunging him deeper into a spiraling state of panic.
Then it suddenly hit him – his mouth wasn’t covered up. At least he could make a noise, call for help!! A ray of hope descended on him like a kiss from an angel.
He forcibly pried open the pair of unwilling lips and cried out. His throat felt so dry and hoarse as if he’d chugged down a mug of gravel.
The only sound escaping from his mouth was “uwoo, ahwoo~”. Even worse, the voice was that of an infant.
What The Eff??
Unable to comprehend, again and again he tried to speak, to shout out. To scream his lungs out.
In the end, he could only gurgle out some incoherent baby noises.
At that precise moment, his inner table got flipped; he began to struggle with all his might like a nutcase in a straitjacket, trying to free the arms and his confined body. He’d had enough of this confusing crap, and he wanted answers. But first, he wanted freedom from the binds of this…. whatever this was.
After a protracted battle with his bindings, he was finally successful in freeing his right arm. With that done, he tried to prop up the upper torso so he could sit up; yet he stumbled quickly as very little strength, if any, gathered on the freed limb. He surreptitiously looked at his right arm, and another hot knife of horror ruthlessly cut him down.
He was looking at a tiny, tiny-ass hand. Baby fingers, digits so underdeveloped that they couldn’t point straight yet. Yup, those fingers.
And he knew instinctively, that they were all his.
The initial confusion gave way to a shocking realization: that he had suddenly become a baby. A new born, no less.
Well, at least that was his intention anyway. But rather than a horror movie-worthy screech he bawled instead, just as a baby should.
Hmm, to a baby crying comes naturally, it seems.
He made a right royal ruckus. When a baby throws a tantrum that invariably summons the child’s minder; and in this case, that happened here too.
In between his cries, he heard a pair of footsteps hurriedly approaching him. Automatically he stiffened out of fear.
Such a thing was unwarranted, however.
The first person he encountered after becoming a baby was a stunningly beautiful brunette in her mid-to-late twenties. Her hazelnut-colored hair pulled back in an elegant bun, she possessed this gentle countenance that could warm the cockles of the hardened convicts and set them up straight and narrow. If those convicts could look past the homely and drab one-piece dress she was wearing, that was.
Alongside her, was a little girl, maybe of three years old, maybe less, who resembled the woman quite closely. As if they were a mother and a daughter. They probably were.
This beautiful woman gently held him to her, uh, rather well defined bosom, and began rocking him slowly back and forth all the while whispering in a soothing voice. He didn’t understand a single thing she was saying, but her methods were super effective in calming him down on the double.
Just like how he was able to recognize the baby fingers as his own, he also recognized this woman as his…. mother. Which was disorientating, since he already had a mother and she didn’t look anything like this woman.
Before he knew it, however, he was totally entranced by this woman’s voice and her dazzling smile. It felt wrong to keep on crying while comforted by such a beauty so, like a good little boy that he was, he turned off the waterworks for now and simply cooed.
Just like a baby.
She was relieved to see her infant son relaxing from what was troubling him, and carefully placed him back inside the crib.
She murmured gently, “There now, Kain. Mommy’s right here. Please don’t be alarmed. Your sister’s here too. You’re safe.”
He didn’t understand her still. That wouldn’t have surprised her in the slightest, as he was still an infant. And infants weren’t supposed to understand words yet.
Confirming her son was secure, she walked to the rocking chair nearby while holding the hand of the young girl.
“Mommy, is Kain alright?” the little girl asked her mother, while slightly tilting her head. Her large, curious eyes remained fixed on the crib, and the baby visible through the thin but sturdy slats on the side.
“Yes, Kaleena dear. Your little brother Kain is just feeling a little restless, that’s all. Now, shall we continue with the reading of the story book?”
The beautiful woman sat on the chair and placed her daughter, Kaleena on the laps. Opening the page where they had left off, they resumed reading the book.
As for our protagonist, who didn’t know yet that he was named Kain in this world, was now occupied with trying to organize his jumbled up memories. He believed that the clue to unraveling all of this confusion lay somewhere in the depths of his mind – and all he needed to do, was to remember them. Chronologically if possible.
Now that he was reasonably calm, missing bits and pieces of information began to flood back in. The process was painfully slow but hey, at least he was getting somewhere. However, honestly speaking what he remembered wasn’t encouraging at all.
He remembered falling from the sky like a skydiver without a parachute while butt-naked. Really, quite an unsettling thing to recollect, when one was trying to piece together possibly a puzzle of the century.
Disturbed at how ‘exposed’ he felt by this bit of memory, he tried to go back further in time – back when he was out drinking with his buddies at a local bar. Right, he was in that smoke and noise filled joint to celebrate his new promotion, from being a glorified gopher AKA intern to a fully-paid-up-with-benefits employee in a middling business solutions & IT company.
Right, he got that job after spending a few years in the hostile wilderness called unemployment, after graduating from a no-name college. Actually, he didn’t land the job fair and square – his older sister called in a favor to a former squeeze and then that got him in through the door. That’s how it was.
He was digressing from the point, so he quickly shoved that traumatic period of his life deep down inside the box marked ‘Do Not Reopen’ within his mind and concentrated on the rest.
Right, so he imitated a sailor enjoying a shore leave, drank and made merry like there was no tomorrow. There was a karaoke machine at the bar and he remembered belting out a handful of Bon Jovi numbers in a falsetto. That was rather embarrassing, in hindsight.
Right, he went home without getting into an accident from the get-together and crashed on the bed. He didn’t bother to undress. Right, right, right, he remembered all that. Then….
Then he woke up in the middle of the night. The sleep had left him rather stealthily and he found himself in a hazy stupor, in a state between being wide awake and being unconscious. Something like this had never happened to him before, so that was weirding him out just a wee bit.
He thought that either something foreign had forcibly woken him up, or that he was having one of those fabled, out-of-body experiences. If true, then he swore to drink excessively more often from now on – imagine the story he could tell to his family and friends!! Hah.
He was lying on his back staring at the familiar gray ceiling above. A motionless overhead fan stared back at him, its twin cords slowly swaying back and forth in a hypnotic dance to the tune of some invisible breeze.
Feeling the need to use the john, he tried to get up. Suddenly a strong wave of dizziness swept over him like a tempest and he couldn’t move. It only got more scary after confirming that he could not even move a single finger no matter how hard he tried.
His brain snapped wide awake at this alarming development, with all the previous haziness gone in a flash. His mind ran like a bolt of lightening, shooting past all the likely reasons why he was immobile. He tried to recall those throwaway TV shows that talked about what it was like to have those outta the body experiences to see if it was supposed to be like this.
Nothing came. He was totally blank.
So, his next thought was him going through some kind of medical crisis. Searching for his cellphone with his eyes, which he was certain of taking out of his trouser pocket before falling on the bed, he desperately looked all over the place – and saw something straight out of a bad acid trip.
The ceiling was growing taller.
No, that wasn’t quite right. It was just him getting further away from it instead.
He was sinking into the bed, literally. Like that scene, from that famous 80’s slasher flick.
He screamed like a damsel from that movie too. Or rather, tried to. Of course, his lips wouldn’t move.
He continued to sink deeper and deeper, and the further he was pulled in, the faster his head spun.
What the hell is this? What’s happening to me? Help me, anyone!! Ah crap, this can’t be real. I’m just an average Joe, stuff like this doesn’t happen to a guy like me, god damn it!!
His silent plea didn’t change the situation one bit.
The aforementioned scene from the movie had a grisly and a definitely bloody end – the poor sob who got sucked into the bed got ejected out in a fountain of blood. Too bad he knew that movie well – the scene kept on repeating itself over and over in his mind.
He genuinely thought that was going to be his fate.
Oh crap crap crap!!
The sheets closed in and began to suffocate him, obscuring and coloring his vision jet black. Only the sound of his heart pounding away accompanied his silent doom. It was the most terrifying experience in his entire life so far, being stuck in a total sensory deprivation while unable to move a single limb.
He knew there was no going back from this. Might as well call it, he’s dead.
Suddenly, he was overcome with sensations of weightlessness and oddly enough, coldness.
When he opened his tightly-shut eyes while expecting to see either the inky blackness that went on forever or the gut linings of the carnivorous bed, his expectations were betrayed by the sight of a clear and very starry night sky instead. Above and to his right, rather than a ceiling fan he spotted a large, pale and undoubtedly pretty, pair of full moons. One was smaller than the other much larger lunar body.
What the hell. Those can’t be real, can they?
And those sparkling stars – so many of them blinking away like precious gems thrown up to the heavens by a naughty deity. Well, he wasn’t worried about that, rather he was thinking along the lines of, no way in freaking hell this is a Californian night sky. No way, Jose.
He wasn’t incorrect in his assumption; there were pollution and smog and all that global warming stuff to thank for his skepticism.
Oh, and for him being cold – that was from the chilly night winds whipping against his bare ass cheeks like… ahem, a pro. Around him, there were several fluffy white clouds minding their own business. At first he thought they were fog, but that was nothing more than a momentary delusion on his part. They were definitely clouds.
Because he was in the air, falling. Completely buck naked to boot.
He was like, what the hell is this? Why am I naked? And I’m flying? No wait a minute, I’m not flying!!
Yep, he wasn’t flying, but free falling instead.
Like a buttered-up toast slipping out of a flailing reach, he flipped top to bottom, and that allowed him to see the ground far below. And boy, was it closing in real fast or what.
Now his worry no longer involved dying in a fountain of blood, but rather, that of looking like a DIY flatpack cabinet from a local IKEA, being scrubbed off the floor with a shovel. Or maybe, a burst pancake topped with ketchup, whichever was visually less revolting.
For some reason, he began to feel a little relieved inside. At least he got to see where he was going to die, poetically illuminated on the way by the ghostly pale moonlight.
Oh, and the vista was pretty stunning as well, which was a bonus. Who’d want to die in a cramped and anonymous one-bedroom apartment smelling full of old socks?
In a distance far far away, he saw a very impressive mountain range to his right. Shaped as if a large asteroid crash landed there, the jagged peaks and curtains of imposing heights standing tall into the sky gave off an impression of an impregnable fortress.
To his left, he spotted a concentration of lights, which probably meant a town was that way, maybe a city. He couldn’t tell for sure, though. Below him, there were more spots of lights, here and there. Houses most likely.
Sound of Music-esque rolling hills of grass surrounded the supposed houses below, with vast expanses of forest stretching into the horizon like a verdant green ocean. So much nature, everywhere.
He was impressed. Being a city slicker, this much greenery was a dazzling departure from the norm, and he very much appreciated it.
To bookend the scenery, a wide river cut through the landscape like a snake trail on desert sand.
His mind calmed down from seeing the sprawling, tranquil scenery. Sure, he was still scared but he wasn’t so frantic anymore. It was like, he finally accepted his fate since there was nothing to save him at this point in time anyway.
He’d given up, and decided not to feel bitter about it.
The light below got closer and he was able to confirm for sure they were indeed coming from several houses. It wasn’t easy making out the shapes and types of the buildings due to the darkness but at least he was falling near where people were around, which felt like an extra bonus to him.
Imagine dropping dead in a middle of nowhere, like say, in Death Valley – nobody would know whether you died or not, and thus nobody would come to collect your remains. Your loved ones would never be notified properly, and you’d be forever listed as a missing. No closure there.
But now, the world should know of his fate. The big issue he had to contend with was that he had no clothes on at the moment. He had to wonder whether his DNA could be used to identify him, seeing that his fingerprints, or for that matter his face, wouldn’t survive the impact of the fall.
He belatedly mused what kind of perverted killer would strip a man before throwing him off a plane. Too late to lodge a complaint now.
Before long, the house had gotten real close. At this rate, he was going to land on a roof or near one. Either way, it was far too close for comfort, as he didn’t want his very last act as a living, breathing human being to be that of an accidental murderer. That would be just so wrong on too many levels.
One blink later, and he could see a chimney puffing out smoke.
Oh, how quaint.
Another blink later, the thatched roof got close enough for him to count the number of straws on it.
Relentlessly, the house was closing in.
He heard not a single sound; every one of his senses had died.
He closed his eyes, and silently whispered his goodbyes.
He hit the house.
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.